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Johnny Drummer with Liz Mandeville, Mary Lane & Shirley Johnson CD4972

Johnny Drummer with Liz Mandeville, Mary Lane & Shirley Johnson
Angels Sing The Blues

Liz Mandeville, Mary Lane & Shirley Johnson join forces with Johnny Drummer & the Starliters. Studio cuts intermixed with live cuts for an album with a distinct Chicago attitude. From start to finish this album is pure power ... blues power, overflowing with emotional power that cuts straight through to the heart. While the band is superb and plays with 100% of their heart and soul, you can throw the technical aspects out the window. The key here is play and sing what you feel, and do it with everything you’ve got. Earwig records have done it again. There is something about the performers who take the stage age proceed to pour 100% heart and soul into what the produce. I might show my true colors but there is something special about a band that has what it takes to lay themselves open for the world to see and hear. Studio takes and live performances blend seamlessly for an album that is powerful from top to bottom, front to back, side to side and beginning to end. This is Chicago Blues at its best.

The band is in top form and the vocalists, whether male or female put everything they’ve got into getting their message across. While the album as a whole is immaculate, my favorite track just might be “Angel From Montgomery,” which features spectacular vocals from Liz Mandeville, Mary Lane & Shirley Johnson as well as great solos from so many of the participating musicians. This is the real deal, complete with double entendre and some saucy ballads that are hot enough to melt the soles of your shoes. I recommend this one wholeheartedly. This one burns with a passion that is seldom captured on recordings. If you like your music hot and spicy, “Angel’s Sing The Blues” certainly fills the bill. — Bill Wilson, Reflections in Blue

Tommy McCoy CD4971

Tommy McCoy
25 Year Retrospect
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Tommy McCoy is a native of Warren, OH, and was playing guitar in his own band in the sixth grade. By the mid-Seventies, the other band members were bitten by the disco bug, so Tommy bade ’em all a fond adieu and headed south to Florida to pursue his love for blues. Over seven albums recorded since 1992, Michael Frank and Earwig Music has compiled the “25 Year Retrospect” collection, a whopping thirty cuts over two CD’s of every shade of blue one can imagine. Tommy’s on guitar and vocals throughout, and features him playing with the Double Trouble rhythm section, B-3 master Lucky Peterson, and Levon Helm, and Garth Hudson.

There is so much good music on these two discs that we are going to hit our favorites, and let listeners decide for themselves what they like. A chugging shot of SRV-inspired boogie finds Tommy Shannon on bass and Chris Layton on drums, where every man knows that there’s “No Love Without Any Green,” and the fellows do a spot-on read of Pink Floyd’s “Money,” from that same session, with Hall and Oates alum Charlie DeChant on sax.

Switching gears, Tommy gets down with an icy-cool “Blues Thing,” where Lucky holds down the B-3 and Tommy name-checks all the greats, Albert Collins included, on this swingin’ blues history lesson. They slow that groove down and dig into some deep, slow blues on one of Tommy’s originals about a lover who “hurt the only thing you couldn’t steal,” “A Bitter Soul To Heal.”

Tommy joins forces with ole Commander Cody on a cool Sun-kissed rockabilly tune, where the body shop “painted my Black Eldorado Red!” He tells it like it is on his autobiographical story of his “big ole Gibson guitar that Don’t Play Nothing But The Blues.” For us, tho, the set’s most powerful cut led the whole thing off. It is one of three new songs recorded for this compilation. Tommy was in Athens, Greece, in July when he heard of B. B.’s passing, and “The King Is Gone” is a monster tribute. Tommy reworks that classic minor-key riff of “The Thrill Is Gone,” and uses the titles of many of King’s most revered songs to great effect. And, plaintive harp can be heard in the background, courtesy of Kostas Tenezos.”

Thirty songs from a deeply-soulful guitarist and singer makes “25 Year Retrospective” from Tommy McCoy one of the best sets we’ve had the pleasure of hearing this year! Until next time… — Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Les Copeland CD4970

Les Copeland
To Be In Your Company
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Les Copeland may not be a household name in Chicago, but Earwig Music’s newest CD release of Les’ “To Be In Your Company” (TBIYC) is sure to change all that! A native of British Columbia and lifelong musician, Les has spent his career fronting hardcore blues bands, jazz bands, pop music bands and everything in between. However, like so many versatile and talented musicians, Les’ first love has always been the blues. He was bitten by the Mississippi John Hurt bug early on, and his affinity for pre-war Piedmont and ragtime styles is very obvious, playing with an authenticity and ease that belie a deep talent. Primarily a solo performance, “TBIYC” reveals Les to be both a gifted vocalist and brilliant instrumentalist. His guitar work combines elements of Mississippi John Hurt, Blind Blake, Barbecue Bob, Furry Lewis, the ghost of Robert Johnson and Chuck Berry to name but a few. Combining this rich and colorful instrumentation with a wizened and playful vocal delivery, Les creates an intimate and heartfelt atmosphere that begs the listener to dig deep into the songs and arrangements!

While “TBIYC” is a solo performance, it’s certainly not your run of the mill “Man with a Martin” style of guitar strumming. Les appears to be using an archtop jazz guitar for most of the selections, and when combined with his syncopated bouncing bass treble counterpoint picking techniques, it gives the material strong sonic and rhythmic elements that invoke an intimate evening one moment, a crowded juke joint that’s a rockin’ the next. Don’t bother knockin’, come on in! The sound and dynamic of his particular guitar set up lends Copeland a distinctive sound that’s fresh, fun and familiar!

Copeland’s superior guitar playing could easily steal the show were it not for his sublime vocals and storytelling ability. Like the classic prewar stylists he’s channeling, Les creates sonic sonnets that relate the struggles and joys of a life lived hard but well. Some of the standout tracks include the title track, “To Be In Your Company,” a loving ode to Les’ friend and companion, late Delta legend Honeyboy Edwards; “Knucklehead,” a playful love song for Sarah, his wife; and “Sunny Afternoon,” Les’ free and easy interpretation of the Kinks ’60s classic. Copeland evokes the ghosts of Ledbelly and BBQ Bob on the 12-string driven “Borderline,” “Bessie” and “Crosstown”. “Bessie” is notable for its heartfelt account of Honeyboy’s adoration for his wife Bessie. Les unwinds a deep cut written by Bob Dylan with “Moonshiner” and owns every lyric and turn in the process!

Les Copeland’s “To Be In Your Company” is one of those uncommon recordings that linger with the listener long after initially hearing it. Whether it’s the haunting celestial guitar playing or the clever lyrical vocals, it reveals more depth and nuance with every subsequent listening. And while Les Copeland is not widely known beyond his home base of British Columbia, this recent recording on Chicago’s Earwig imprint will loom large in increasing his stature and notoriety outside his Canadian base!

“To Be In Your Company” is highly recommended — for both solo performance and prewar ragtime/Piedmont blues, it doesn’t get any better. — Mark Baier, Chicago Blues Guide

Andy Cohen CD4969

Andy Cohen
Road Be Kind
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Andy Cohen is a fantastic guitar player, storyteller, and all-around keeper of the flame for traditional music. It is not all necessarily blues, but true American music and music from the British Isles. He’s a walking encyclopedia of this music, and has spent his whole career “folkin’ around with the blues!” His latest set for Earwig reflects his vast knowledge of this music, and is entitled “Road Be Kind,” a collection of covers and Andy’s originals written in that authentic style.

These cuts pre-date today’s tendency to name them as part of a particular genré, and Andy’s deft fingerpicking and warm, easy vocals bring them to life. He starts off with his personal favorite, an original, autobiography of sorts, as he classifies himself as a “guitar picker,” “sidewinder,” and, “bullshitter!” There are classic “character” songs such as “Seldom Seen Slim” and “Mysterious Mose,” a song that led to a cartoon that introduced the world to Betty Boop.

Andy’s picking skills take center stage on two instrumentals, the Irish-themed “Blarney Pilgrim/Jig McCoy”, and John D. Loudermilk’s “Windy And Warm.”

Songs with a historical bent are well-represented, too. Check out “The Goodnight-Loving Trail,” which tells of the route used to deliver meat to the U. S. Army, stretching from San Angelo, Texas to Cheyenne, Wyoming. And, Mary Brooksbank, an early proponent of women’s rights in Scotland, is immortalized in the tale dealing with her epic struggles, “Ten And Nine.”

We had two favorites, too. Andy closes the set with a sweet instrumental read on Lennon and McCartney’s “Blackbird,” one of the few “popular” songs Andy plays. A laugh-out-loud funny song of growing up is “Talkin’ Hard Luck,” and, for us, it was like having a front-row seat down at Alice’s Restaurant!

Andy Cohen has a keen sense of purpose as he respects and keeps alive the traditions of the music set forth in “Road Be Kind.” It is a literal musical history lesson, played at a high level from a consummate troubadour! Until next time … — Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society

Johnny Drummer CD4967

Johnny Drummer
Bad Attitude
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Thessex Johns chose an interesting stage name in Johnny Drummer as drums is one of the instruments he does not play! However, with some 50 years in the business he does lead a big band, writes all the material, sings, plays harp and organ – not a bad list of accomplishments. This is Johnny’s fourth Earwig CD and it features a fine array of Chicago sidemen: Anthony Palmer on lead guitar, Sir Walter Scott on rhythm guitar, Kenny Hampton on bass, Jeremiah Thomas and Terrence Williams on drums, Ronnie Hicks on keys, Rodney ‘Hot Rod’ Brown on sax and Kenny Anderson on trumpet.

The overall sound is funky, urban blues with lyrics which could cause offence if the listener was particularly sensitive. However, most blues fans are quite at home with tales of infidelity, lust and sexual boasting, so will feel right at home here! An example of each of the above will give a flavour of the material. “Star 69” is the dialing code to retrieve the previously dialed phone number. Here Johnny decides to use the code having overheard his lady on the phone, only to discover that she is planning to cheat on him! Johnny reminds her to clear the line in future as the horns push the melody along and Anthony takes a fine solo. Opening track “Is It Love Or Is It Lust?” gives us a clear message about Johnny’s thinking about this lady – he simply cannot decide whether he’s in love or just overtaken by desire. The music here is funky, the horns accentuating the core riff and ‘Hotrod’ taking a short but effective solo on tenor. When it comes to sexual boasting “One Size Fit All” is classic stuff: short or tall, petite or full figure, Johnny has “what you need”.

Elsewhere Johnny shows a good sense of humour on the comic “Bit Her In The Butt” in which an unfortunate young lady struggles to get past a dog to enter a store, with the inevitable consequence of the song title! Taking a ‘standard’ blues analogy, “Another Rooster Is Pecking My Hen” also demonstrates some bawdy humour and the title track introduces us to a girl who sleeps “with a straight razor under your pillow”. Johnny is also fiercely protective of the things he holds most dear, as he explains in “My Woman, My Money, My Whiskey”. He can also be more serious though, as on “Make You Happy”, a ballad with some hints of reggae in the rhythm guitar work, in which he states “I’m gonna be good to you, give you the best time you’ve ever had”. In the slow blues “Ain’t No Secret In A Small Town” Johnny’s words warn of the wagging tongues if you put a foot off the right path and in “Don’t Call Me Trash” (possibly the standout track on the album) he sings of the people who don’t have a lot of money or fall into financial problems: “I may not have cash to stash, because I live in a trailer, don’t call me trash”.

With the horns doing a superb job on most of the tracks here this is a solid CD, well recorded and produced, which gives us a flavour of what Johnny’s regular shows in Chicago must be like – an entertaining evening of blues with a sense of humor. — John Mitchell, Blues Blast

Tommy McCoy CD4966

Tommy McCoy
Late In the Lonely Night
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Guitarist Tommy McCoy has been playing the blues since the early ’60s, and has been a member of the Florida blues scene for over four decades as part of local bands like the Backdoor Blues Band, the Screamin’ Bluejays, and the Telephone Kings. He also served as band leader for soul singer Johnny Thunder, and has played on recordings with Levon Helm, Commander Cody, Garth Hudson, Lucky Peterson, and Double Trouble’s rhythm section.

McCoy’s 7th CD, Late in the Lonely Night (Earwig Records), features a dozen tracks of diverse contemporary blues. He wrote or co-wrote ten of the tracks and the two covers interestingly are sturdy remakes of a pair of ’70s R&B hits from fellow Floridians, the Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose (“Too Late To Turn Back Now” and “Treat Her Like A Lady”). The originals are uniformly excellent, including the minor key title track that opens the disc, a song puzzling over a love gone wrong. “Angel on my Shoulder, Devil on my Back” tells of a battle between good and bad and features some sizzling slide from Joel Tatangelo. “Never Should Have Listened” is a clever vocal duet between McCoy and Karyn Denham, and “Spacemaster” is sizzling blues/rock. Other highlights include “Cars, Bars, and Guitars,” the answer to the question, “where did all my money go?”, the introspective “Life’s Tides,” and the appropriately titled “Dance Your Pants Off.” The disc closer is “My Guitar Won’t Play Nothin’ But The Blues,” and gives McCoy an opportunity to display his fretwork.

Late in the “Lonely Night” is a first-rate set of modern blues that features some strong songwriting, seasoned vocals, and amazing guitar work from Tommy McCoy. Though his last couple of efforts have focused more on Americana, this set shows that his roots are firmly in the fertile soil of the blues. — Bill Mitchell, BLUES BYTES

Guitar Mikey CD4965

Guitar Mikey
Out of The Box
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Whew! Let me catch my breath! Guitar Mikey and the Real Thing’s new CD “Out Of The Box” just took it. This is not traditional blues, but screaming in your face new stuff. Mikey can play the heck out of a guitar, and slide as well. Helping out on harmonica is Billy Gibson. Billy is a harp blaster from Memphis. He really unloads on here. Another favorite is David Maxwell on Piano. Some of the finest blues I have ever heard was from David Maxwell and Louisiana Red. Rest in love Red, and thanks for your music. Back to the CD. A more than generous 15 cuts here, and a little of everything. If you are a blues lover it will be played at your house. There is one acoustic cut, in fact the longest one on there called “It’s Going’ Down.” Guitar Mikey shows off his slide work on some great old school sounding stuff and Billy does the same. Very nice. “Blues Head” features Mark Yacavone on organ and Mikey slows it down just right. Love it. This is just straight ahead blues for you. Loud, proud, and moving forward, no holding back.

I would say this is a fabulous live band. Guitar licks, and great vocals, and fine musicians. You need to check it out. On “The Bigger Fool” we have David Maxwell on piano, Bob Margolin on guitar, and Billy on harp. Geez! The title cut “Out of The Box” is a bluesy progressive almost calypso sounding venture that works. Everyone is on it too. We even have a horn and string section on this one, and some accordion. Get out of the way Guitar Mikey McMillan is “Out of The Box,” to stay. Give it a listen. Even after several times around the player there are new things I hear. Eventually I’ll get it all. Good stuff … — Blue Barry, Smoky Mountain Blues Society

Albert Bashor CD4964

Albert Bashor
Cotton Field of Dreams
pseudo registration

Well-travelled blues and roots musician Albert Bashor’s debut, all-originals solo project not only showcases his amazing songwriting talent but his ambitiously panoramic acoustic-guitar chops and rangy, jazz-tinged vocal approach that, at times recalls the soaring intensity of the late Dino Valenti of Quicksilver Messenger Service. This is one of those albums that you know you are going to enjoy from the first few seconds of the lead-off track – in this case it’s the imaginative, name-dropping saga of “Jukin’ Down On Johnson Street.”

Followed by thirteen other great, often slide guitar-fueled selections, like his chicken-shake, boogie-styled “Rockin’ Red Rooster” (with Ron Holloway on sax), a downbeat break-up song “One Last Time” and the lengthy title composition – that relates the north-bound dream of many a 1930s Southern bluesman. Also checked is the spoken-word tall tale “Poodle Ribs Story,” that adroitly introduces the next number “Poodle Ribs,” and a desperate “Fetch Me” – with bluses-rocker Pat Travers enlivening affairs on electric guitar. Great notes by Bill Dahl. More please. — Gary von Tersh, Big City Blues

Grady Champion 4963

Grady Champion
Back In Mississippi Live at the 930 Blues Cafe
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Grady Champion, grew up on a farm in Canton, Mississippi. He released his debut album, Goin’ Back Home in 1998, drawing ever-larger crowds to blues clubs around Florida and Mississippi before signing with Shanachie Records, for which he did two albums, in 1999 and 2001.

From the inception of his career as a blues performer, Champion has sought to tackle new lyrical themes with his original compositions. He is a charismatic performer, poised to bust out worldwide, with the international release on the Earwig Music label, of his cd Back in Mississippi Live.

David Whiteis of the Chicago Reader had this to say about Grady in 1999, “…His greatest strength is his voice, a tough, raspy mix of youthful swagger and wounded weariness …

He’s one of the most eloquent blues songwriters coming up today, making music that combines emotional depth and unrestrained celebration …”

In January 2010, Grady won the 26th International Blues Challenge beating out 110 bands from around the world. As a result, Grady has been booked on high profile festivals and events, including the Chicago Blues Festival, and the Ultimate Rhythm & Blues Cruise.

Tim Woods 4962

Tim Woods
The Blues Sessions
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Tim Woods has been singing and playing acoustic and electric guitar for more than 25 years. This album showcases his distinctive style; he picks using his thumb, playing both lead and rhythm while interchanging chords and licks. As a young adult, Tim was immersed in the legendary Macon, Georgia music scene, which had a profound impact on him, influencing his appreciation of the blues. Delta Bluesmen David “Honeyboy” Edwards, Big Jack Johnson, and Bob Stroger and others are featured guest artists on this debut release. From the acoustic “Bad Whiskey & Cocaine”, to the rollicking “Clarksdale Boogie”, to the scarcely played (and not recorded since 1942) “Wind Howlin’ Blues”, these recordings take you on a celebrated journey that weaves across diverse fan bases of early Delta, boogie and Chicago-style blues.

Andy Cohen 4959

Andy Cohen
Built Right On The Ground
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Andy Cohen has studied and played old music all his life, wandering North America as a songster. He lives by playing old songs. On this cd, Andy plays acoustic guitar, piano, dulceola and sings. On some pieces he is accompanied by his wife Larkin Bryant, on haunting vocals and mandolin. Here are unadulterated songs from the early days of the blues - 2 piano rags done as guitar pieces, 3 blue country songs, 2 piano boogies, one of which has passed between the piano and guitar for over seventy years. The rest are a variety of blues numbers, including a talking blues by Woodie Guthrie, 2 tough ones by Memphis Minnie, 1 each by Big Bill Broonzy, Teddy Darby, and Henry Spaulding. For Andy, these songs are some of the central chunks of his troubadour life, especially “Cairo Blues”, the weirdest blues ever composed, by a barber from central Illinois.

Les Copeland CD4958

Les Copeland
Don’t Let The Devil In
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Les Copeland started his professional career as a country blues guy with a bottleneck stuck on one finger. From down home Delta to uptown Chicago blues, Les can improvise anything. Primarily self-taught, his unique sound has developed out of a rich mixture of influences including blues, jazz, Spanish flamenco, pop and classical music. This album marks Les’s Earwig Music label debut. It showcases Les’ fine finger picking, melodic sensibility and chordal finesse, and his wry and ironic lyrical observations about everyday people. Blues legend Honeyboy Edwards, with whom Les has toured in Canada for 14 years, guests on guitar on 2 tracks, and Honeyboy’s manager Michael Frank plays harmonica on 3 tracks. This cd is a healthy dose of Americana roots and blues, done Les’s inimitable way.

Jutta & the Hi-Dukes CD6901 On the World Beat

Jutta & the Hi-Dukes
On the World Beat
(816) 484-8563

“ … an exceptionally interesting and enjoyable CD. For all the different origins of its songs, one attribute stands out: All of them insist that their listeners start toe-tapping, hand-clapping or finger-snapping, and finally, that they get up and dance.” — Natalie Wainwright, Arts & Life reviewer for the Evanston Round Table
Click to read more of this review.

From grooving Balkan Gypsy songs like “Ushti, Ushti, Baba,” “Rumelaj,” and “Djelem, Djelem,” to “Valravnen,” a meditiative Medieval Danish song about Ravens taking away the bad luck, this World Music CD has something for just about everyone to like.

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