Thursday, December 31, 2009

Whoa! Man! Jesus! - Must I Holler?

Whoa! Man! Jesus!

Must I Holler

Review by Georgetown Fats

I have a dirty secret I need to share. I don’t get the whole Bob Dylan phenomenon. The ‘Bob Dylan gene’ was not included in my genetic make-up. I do not get the vibe, the music, or the people who will pay lots of money to see a somewhat incomprehensible diva strum away at his guitar and mumble away poetry. In fact I often find myself chuckling both internally and externally when someone sits in with my own band and wants to know if we know any Dylan material and then cringes as we all chuckle at the prospective jammer. In fact, it was not until I was exposed to Boston’s own Whoa! Man! Jesus! that I had to potentially rethink my ‘Anti-Dylan’ stance.

Must I Holler opens with “O Rosalyn”, a Wayne Rhodes original. The band uses sparse instrumentation to great effect in their trance blues sound. Rhodes hammers on the riff, while Julian Jefferies offers understand slide work to compliment Rhodes guitar work. Drummer Jason Beek holds it all together by offering a rock solid drum groove, at no point does the band miss a bass player.

On “Jesus was not American” another original written by Wayne Rhodes, Rhodes puts both those who use religion as a crutch and the deeply xenophobic in his crosshairs and fires away. It is a convincing and thought provoking tune.

Bukka White’s “Shake ‘em on Down” is approaching the “Stormy Monday” or “Mustang Sally” for the Deep Blues set. Whoa! Man! Jesus! still manage to do the tune justice with their minimal arrangement. Jason Beek’s vocals while Rhodes rides that one signature guitar riff are accented by Jason Beek’s drum groove and Julian Jefferies lead guitar work. Again due to the level of instrumentation going on there isn’t a lot going on within the track but the drum groove and both six string guitar lines are only there to advance the tune. It is a risky cover version of a classic which has been done properly by the trio.

Probably my favorite cut on the disk has to be “Your Jesus Doesn’t Rock”. Again the combination of the droning guitar hook and Rhodes’ Dylan-esque vocals prove to be infectious.

As mentioned previously, none of this is not to say Whoa! Man! Jesus! is yet another Dylan knock-off or cover band, it is just the the inescapable reality of vocalist Wayne Rhodes has similar vocal tones to Dylan but he is much more coherent and audible and backed by a far-more interesting band.

Whoa! Man! Jesus! are the equivalent of if Bob Dylan took the marbles out of his mouth and spent some quality time down in the Mississippi Hill Country backed by an established trance blues band. Whoa! Man! Jesus! tunes are not for the “musically ADHD’ but they are a band worthy of respect and repeated spins of their disk Must I Holler.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

BBBBBQ Blog - Top 13 releases from January 2000 to December 2009

As we close out another decade writers and journalists looking for one more submission, often resort to a "Best of" formula piece. I want in.

So here is my take, a personal hyperbolic trip down my memory lane of blues music over the last decade. These are my favorite releases of the decade, disks which I would spare no expense to release of ever damaged or if they ever "disappear" under mysterious circumstances.

In no particular order, the my Top 13 releases of 2000-2009

Up Close & Personal

Watermelon Slim

Southern Artist - 2004

Ah yes, it was the Handy Awards of 2006. "The Boss" were enjoying our first trip down to Memphis, and found ourselves in awe at the relative ease we were able to mingle with the artists, and at just how impressive Sam Lay dressed. As an unknown (to us) artist Watermelon Slim brought the house down with one of his a cappella Truck Hollers. I mean, not just fans, his own contemporaries were floored too. “The Boss” and I vowed that night, by hook or my crook we were going to see this man play with his full band before we left Memphis. Thankfully the night later Watermelon Slim & The Workers tore the house down at the Rum Boogie and became the face of Fred Litwin’s Northern Blues label. Blues Review has “Watermelon Slim & The Workers”, their first with Northern Blues, in their top 25 of the decade. It is hard to argue against this, I am just saying “Up Close & Personal” still merits more “spins” with me.

Charlie Musselwhite

Rough Dried - Live at the Triple Door

Henrietta Records - 2008

If seeing a master perform live won’t get you to shell out your hard earned scratch for a ticket, or if witnessing the Merrimack Valley’s own Matthew Stubbs work it out at his day job, then Rough Dried - Live at the Triple Door is worth the price of admission alone. Charlie Musselwhite only sells Rough Dried - Live at the Triple Door after shows. So, GO ALREADY!

Live at Checker’s Tavern

Jason Ricci & New Blood

Blue Sunday- 2005

Admittedly I am no blues purist, neither are Jason Ricci & New Blood. Probably the biggest compliment to Jason Ricci & New Blood is that I was introduced to his music by Watermelon Slim himself. In between sets of a show at the old Sit N Bull, Slim & The Workers hung out with the audience. To a man each of them said Jason Ricci & New Blood had that it quality. So far this is my favorite of all of his releases as it seamlessly blends blues, jam band, and punk vibes all by four road tested musicians. Probably the easiest way to track this disk down is to go see Jason Ricci live, so get out and support live music.

Live @ The Bottleneck

Toby Walker

Indy Release - 2004

Part of a premium for contributing to the Bandana Blues ( podcast, again it was a case of being floored by another artist who was as-of-yet unknown to me. Walker combines a unique story telling aspect throughout the solo disk, spectacular work on his acoustic and dobro, and a voice which manages to keep up with his guitar playing ability. With so many boutique and independent labels out there I am surprised this Live at The Bottleneck has not been picked up and re-released.

Sweet Tea

Buddy Guy

Jive - 2001

Blues Review picked Sweet Tea as their most influential disk of the decade. In my own not-so-humble opinion, they’re right on the money. In my own experience with Guy’s studio releases, or releases without Junior Wells, the music tends to be clinical. Guy drops the incendiary singing and playing, and the disk loses it’s life or has to slow himself down to match the level of one of the many guests making an appearance on a Buddy Guy release. Sweet Tea is the exception. By taking one of the proprietors of the Chicago-electrified blues sound out of his own element, depositing him in the middle of North Mississippi Hill Country with a group of North Mississippi Hill Country musicians Guy shows himself to be the often imitated and seldom credited legend.

Burnside on Burnside

RL Burnside

Fat Possum - 2001

Ultimately Fat Possum did right by RL Burnside, but they did mess around with his music on occasion. Skip the RL Burnside offerings which feature remixes and samples and by several copies of this live gem. Recorded live on the road in Oregon, Burnside on Burnside has the band leader, bawdy story teller, slide guitarist, Grandpa to the Deep Blues where he was at his best. Live, and unfiltered.

One Kind Favor

BB King

Geffen Records - 2008

I’l admit it. I could listen to BB King sing his grocery list, and just be enthralled. In a previous Blues Review interview Taj Mahal called BB King ‘The Greatest Bluesman alive”. Taj is correct. One Kind Favor has a “who’s who” for studio musicians (Dr. John, Jim Keltner) with production and some of the song writing credit belonging to T-Bone Burnett. There may be star studio musicians on board, and a star producer, but BB still has the ability to outshine the others around him and inject his own style in every cover song.

One Kind Favor is another release covered in Blues Reviews Top 25 of the decade, and once again they got this one right.

Natch'l Blues - Reissued

Taj Mahal


OK, so I cheated. This wasn’t originally released from 2000-2009 but, for me, it really isn’t a “Best of Blues” article without some mention of Taj Mahal. Though “Maestro” is a solid release it is a compilation of all of Mahal’s work it lacks continuity for those of us who still listen to entire disks track by track. So, I’ll cheat.

Live at Theresa's-1975

Junior Wells


Recorded in 1975 at “Theresa’s Hole”, Junior was in his element. This recording illustrates Junior at his best, somewhat sober, constantly toeing that line between feisty and irascible and genuinely inflecting his playboy spirit in his material and into the audiences. Including the extended bull sessions with the audience only lends to the homey feeling of a whole night recorded on just a couple of condenser mics and left unedited.

Pushin' My Luck

Robert Belfour

Fat Possum - 2003

On one of my many trips to Dyno Records in Newburyport for some retail music therapy, I mentioned to the clerk I was looking for something new/raw/and dark. Without even missing a beat, or giving me a look usually reserved for the mouth breathers and emo kids who now staff Newbury Comics, the clerk went straight to the racks and pulled this disk out especially for me. With personal money back guarantee (meaning if I didn’t like it he would take money out of his own pocket), Steve the clerk at Dyno Records helped push me towards my current Deep Blues bent.


Alligator Records - 2000

Shemekia Copeland

It was long enough ago at the TD Bank Pavilion that we do not remember which corporate entity had bought out the place formerly known as Harborlights. As part of BB King’s blues festival it was King headlining a night with Dr. John, Elvin Bishop and an artist we only knew as Johnny “Clyde” Copeland’s daughter. It it was not for an overwhelming urge to soak up some rays, drink a few beers, and blow off work for the day we never would have gone to Harbor Lights for the opening set at 1PM. Thankfully we did. Since this release Copeland has released several other quality releases on Alligator, and a somewhat pedestrian pop release with Telarc. Wicked is still my favorite of the bunch.

The Delmark Sessions

Frank Morey

Delmark Records 2002

In a nod to the local music scene, Lowell’s own Frank Morey also needs to be included in this list. One part americana, one part acoustic blues artist Morey has a growl which invokes Howlin’ Wolf and a look which invokes Rocky I extra. The Delmark Sessions, Morey’s only recording for the legendary Chicago blues-and-jazz label Delmark, finds Morey at this best howlin’ his hipster poetry over a roadhouse backing band. Scott Pittman’s work on a vintage traps kit keeps the entire recording from ever venturing too far into americana, and always keeping the raucous blues feel.

Full Tilt

Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials

Alligator Records - 2008

While the the sharp dressed, fez wearing, self professed “King of the Slide” does have the J.B Hutto bloodlines and does borrow from Hound Dog Taylor’s house rocking sound, Lil’ Ed is his own man. Full Tilt is more than just a name of a disk, but the baseline principal behind all of Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials music. Every tempo is pushed, and maximum effort is thrown into every measure creating an infectious and raucous sound.

Kent Burnside - Live - Back By Popular Support - Gilreins-Worcester

Due to popular demand Kent Burnside is returning to New England.

Last time thru Kent brought his new cotton field disco juke joint music and you all just couldn't get after many a requests from you New Englanders, Kent Burnside & The New Generation are making their return on Saturday February 6th in Worcester! So if you missed it last time, don't miss it this time....members of the Burnside family do not make many appearances around these areas too often.

Here is the show info:

Saturday February 6th


802 Main Street

Worcester, MA

The Lineup for that evening...and it's an earlier show.

8pm - Jon Short

9pm - Ten Foot Polecats

10pm to close - Kent Burnside & The New Generation

Advance Tickets are $10 and can be purchased via paypal/credit card. Please see the link below.

Tickets will be emailed to you. But you must print the ticket and bring it to the show

Tickets on Day of the event will be $13 and purchased at the door.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Tis the season

So they say ‘tis the season...

I ask, ‘Tis the Season for what?

what I’d like to do is share a good Christmas moment, and that is the opportunity to give a copy of Scott H Biram’s “Something’s Wrong/Lost Forever” to the guy who first hipped me to John Lee Hooker, Robert Johnson and Howlin’ Wolf.....

But what I’d also like to share is how comical I find it to be that after 12 years my brother’s wife still does not spell “The Boss’” name her preferred way.

So, this of course leads me to the major question or the point of the blog entry....

Please share either your coolest musical memory around the holidays, or your ‘the hell were they thinkin’ moment’?

Naturally, I ask you change the names to protect the guilty...



Friday, December 25, 2009

The Michael Fioretti Band -Live at The Strange Brew Tavern - Manchester NH

The Michael Fioretti Band

Live at The Strange Brew Tavern

Manchester, New Hampshire

88 Market Street

Manchester, NH 03101-1911

Review by Georgetown Fats

After a long week of commuting very few things get me out of the house, into the bitter cold willing to do eighty more miles of driving. Give me the prospect of a good live show by a respected local musicians at a brew pub which of yet has been unknown to me, and I gleefully hit the road.

The Michael Fioretti Band, featuring Michael Fioretti on vocals and guitar, Steve Tatarunis on bass and John Medeiros on the drums are not another group of guys happy to pump out overdone cover songs. Any live performance of The Michael Fioretti Band is going to be a night of deep tracks and interesting musical arrangements.

The Strange Brew Tavern is a unique hang out. Near Manchester city hall, The Strange Brew Tavern features pub food, television screens set to pool tables and an extensive list of beers on tap. With a stage right in the middle of the dining room, and a vintage motor cycle set off to the side The Strange Brew Tavern brings in a healthy mix of locals looking for a quick pint, and the suit and tie set.

As we placed our order with our waitress, The Michael Fioretti Band started the evening off by opening with a jazzy rendition of The Sesame Street theme song. The tune and trio quickly won over the crowd which had initially come over to the stage area in order to watch The Bruins game.

After some conferring among the band mates the trio rolled out a cover of a personal favorite of mine, the late-great Professor Longhair. Using a well-crafted guitar tone from his own line boutique amps, and tenor vocals the cover song was a loose interpretation of the tune rather than an imitation. With John Medeiros and Steve Tatarunis holding down the rhythm like a couple of New Orleans natives the cover song arrangement did not miss the horn line and rollicking piano in the original.

By the time out food had arrived, Little Richard’s “Miss Ann” was next up. By this time those who had assembled around the stage area to watch The Boston Bruins game on the TV above the stage gave up on the game in order to listen to the band.

As we chomped on some sweet potato fries, tater skins, onion soup and clam chowder the trio offered up “Red Sky” by John Mayall and “Lonely Avenue” by Ray Charles both tunes well received by the assembled crowd.

All-in-all a great night of music and food which had to end too early due to the ride home and having to get to work the following day. If you are looking for a great hang out, some pub grub and a good draft brew then The Strange Brew Tavern is the place to go. If you are looking for something different in the form of musical entertainment, then The Michael Fioretti Band is the band for you.

Review of Scott H. Biram's "Something’s Wrong/Lost Forever"

Scott H. Biram

Something’s Wrong/Lost Forever

Blood Shot Records - BS 167

Review by Georgetown Fats

During this holiday season, I enjoy adding my musical snobbery with the gift giving season. The music lovers in my extended family can expect to receive copies of Scott H. Biram’s "Something’s Wrong/Lost Forever".

“Hospital Escape” is an interesting opening track. Including two voice mail messages left while Biram was in a patient in a hospital is an interesting way to open up a disk. Clearly there is a wild back story, and Biram is not just another corporate produced image.

The second track, and first actual song, “Time Flies” kicks in with some Hammond Organ, some foot stomps and a heavily distorted guitar riff. Biram’s vocals, delivered through a tube amp and green bullet microphone, only add to the raucous sound.

On “Sinking Down” Biram, “The Dirty Old One Man Band”, increases the tempo ever-so-slightly while offering up more Hammond Organ, foot-stomping guitar riff and more distorted vocals. The tune is written about the difficult life Biram has set for himself in order to chase his dreams of making it as a professional musician. Though not lacking in it’s punk edge, the track shows that in addition to being a multi-instrumentalist Biram is also a strong song writer. “Time Flies” should be garnering Biram significant radio airplay.

Due to the 365 longest days of my life spent in Buckhannon West Virginia, I have an adverse reaction to country music. I normally hit the floor in the fetal position and scream until the song is over, but “Still Drunk, Still Crazy, Still Blue” is just that well written. Largely just Biram on his acoustic with some lead fills on an electric guitar, and another backing track with the Hammond Organ, the sparse arrangement compliments the song about love loss perfectly.

Showing his gospel roots, Birham’s “Aint It a Shame” is a rueful account of how conditions would improve if we all got a little more religion in our lives. Genuine in it’s delivery and frank in it’s nature “Aint It a Shame” is a powerful tune.

“Draggin’ Down The Line” is another song which proves corporate, main stream radio has lost it’s way. There are pop sensibilities all throughout the tune, written about the nomadic life of the professional musician. Again it another powerful tune that belongs in heavy rotation from college radio and AAA radio stations alike.

Closing out the disk, “The Dirty Old One Man Band” offers up of Leadbelly’s “Go Down Ol’ Hannah”. As an a cappella piece with heavy use of reverb, Biram’s voice shows that in addition to being an accomplished guitarist, an accomplished songwriter and an accomplished harmonica player his is by no means a slouch with his vocals. They are rough-hued, genuine and gritty. The bluesy link throughout all of his music and cover songs on Something’s Wrong/Lost Forever.

Biram’s ability to combine blues with americana, country, pop, and punk make for an

irresistible listen worthy of multiple repeated plays. It is clear he deserves all of the accolades the Deep Blues community heaps on him. Now If only commercial radio would catch on the contemporary pop music world would be a much better place.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Thank you Drew Bancroft

Rules are made to be broken, and I am sure no one would begrudge me a public thank you for an incredible act of kindness.

Having listened to Drew Bancroft's "07" several times today the song brought me back to a very special Saturday afternoon in the spring of 1997. I can still smell the musty studio walls, the dank air, and the dusty consoles of WBIM-91.5 FM. I can still see Jen's unsuspecting face bopping away to the tunes while studying in the WBIM office. As I podded down some song that was not mood appropriate I began to speak. My voice quivered and shook in my headphones, I held my great-great-grandmother's engagement ring in my right hand as I watched the woman of my dreams race in through the news studio and into the on air booth. Having popped the "B" sound in Campbell, the lump in my throat began to build. I knew I had to spin a song and get off the air quickly. There was no way Jen was going to answer this question on the air and it was clear I was a dead man if I was pulling yet another stunt.

The perfect song choice for the not-so-perfectly set moment was Rosemary Caine's "'87". I took off my head phones, turned up the studio monitors, and got down on one knee to attempt to ask the most important question I would ever utter. For one of the few times in my life I have had trouble speaking, your music helped me through a tougher than expected moment.

She said "Of course!" It was probably the biggest moment in our almost 18 years together. Thank you for being a major part of it.

I have come to the point in our story where Jen will have officially been a part of my life longer than she has not been a part of my life. Thank you so much for being a such major part of yet another special moment for the two of us. Sure '07 may lack studio polish of '87, but it lacks none of the power of a truly great song.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Open Rant to those within the Boston Blues Scene who just can't get over themselves

I am not a journalist, I am not a professional musician. I am merely a fan of blues who has been given a voice through my work with the BBS and a person who has modest musical skills to keep my own band afloat with the smarts to realize I should keep my day job.

Though I do work for the Boston Blues Society, I only represent the views and opinions of one loud fan/critic on this blog. That loud fan/critic is me.

This rant is not directed towards the majority of musicians here in our humble little Boston Blues community. Keep following your bliss and recording your passion, and I will continue to promote the content I like and just do my best to help you do something I don't have the chops or drive to do. This rant is directed at the vocal and whiney minority who, quite frankly, I'm tired of listening to and about. Get over it, and get over yourselves.

For those of you not in-the-know, those of us who work for the Boston Blues Society do so out of a love for the music. Like you, none of us are getting rich preaching the Blues. We at the BBS are a volunteer organization. What money we do raise goes to you, not us. Can we get that through your Ivy League educated fucking skulls? We are volunteers. I am sorry you are frustrated because you have always gotten everything your own way, and have had everyone fawn over you. If you're thinking our organization to fawn over you and cave to your every will & desire, why don't you go PAY another outlet for the publicity we provide? Quite frankly there just aint enough Tic-Tacs to continually have to eat your shit sandwich.

When you accuse a King within our small community, and a chief reason why the BBS exists, as well as a person I have an incredible amount of respect for then I feel the need to "drop the gloves".

It is you bunch of assholes who don't want to let the cold hard facts get in the way (face it, you just were not good enough to win) who will drive us volunteers to find other and better things to do with our time. Then where will you be, huh?

By the way, who the fuck from Harvard has 'the blues'? You guys give 'the blues'.....and naturally if you would like to debate the issue I'm not a hard fat man to find.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Simple - Yet so True

“Life is what you make of it. You wanna make it bad, you can make it bad. You wanna make it good, you can make it good”

-LC Ulmer

Friday, December 4, 2009

My Deep Blues Manifesto

Attention Deep Blues bands, acts and fans. I have that bug and am loud and obnoxious enough to preach the Deep Blues gospel to any and all who will listen.

I have nothing but respect for my predecessors Robert Mugge and Robert Palmer (not that Robert Palmer) not to mention Chris Johnson, Roger Stolle, and the many other supporters who have proceeded me. I am clearly not inventing a new wheel, just trying to help keep that wheel going forward (especially in this not-so-receptive New England market).

If you are still reading, here is my ‘Deep Blues Promotion Manifesto’

Everything under the ‘Deep Blues’ genre to the BBBBBQ Blog will not receive a stellar review.

  • If I don’t like the material, I’ll tell you why
  • Sorry, instead of “keeping the blues alive mantra” I only want to keep good blues alive

I have no initial intentions of making money off of your music.

  • I do this for the passion of the music and the passion for cramming my musical opinion down the throat of some ‘Ernie and the Automatics’ fans
  • And, it is your music

Every CD issued to the Boston Blues Brews and BBQ blog will be treated with the utmost respect

  • All disks issued to the BBBBBQ will be reviewed.
  • The review will be first offered to the Boston Blues Society
  • If the BBS does not pick up the review, reviews will be published on the BBBBBQ Blog
  • All disks offered up to the BBBBQ Blog will be offered up to potential ‘Deep Blues’ fans

So if this is of interest to any fans, bands, or labels though I am a somewhat shadowy and sometimes drunken figure I am not a hard man to find.


Georgetown Fats

Monday, November 23, 2009

New Projects

So I was hoping the Ten Foot Polecats winning at The Boston Blues Society Blues Challenge would bring a new acceptance to the Deep Blues sound to Boston. Sadly through no fault of their own, the Polecats who played an exceptional set at the first round of the Blues Challenge, the Polecats and I are still ahead of our time.

So, as my contribution to the Deep Blues anarchy there will be a concerted effort to seek out Deep Blues material and continue to spread the Deep Blues gospel to all who will read & listen.....

Stay tuned reviews of the 2008 Deep Blues Sampler and “Must I Holler” from Boston’s own Whoa! Man! Jesus!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Matthew Stubbs Band Feat. Sax Gordon Sat Nov 28 Mal's Haverhill MA

Matthew Stubbs Band Feat. Sax Gordon Sat Nov 28 Mal's Haverhill MA

Hey Folks,

Come catch the Matthew Stubbs Band Feat. Sax Gordon at Mal's Lounge in Haverhill

MA. Mal's is a great new venue featuring national Blues and Roots Acts.

Matthew Stubbs is currently on tour with Blues Legend Charlie Musselwhite. Come

see Matt and Sax Gordon play thier own brand of rocking Soul, Roots and Blues.

Mal's Blues and jazz Lounge (above George's Restaurant)

77 Washington St

Haverhill MA

get tickets here

Heres what people are saying about Matthew Stubbs;

"Once upon a time, blues greats like Albert Collins, Freddie King, Gatemouth Brown, Earl Hooker, and Magic Sam cranked out hooky instrumentals, but now with a few exceptions (notably Rick Holmstrom and Ronnie Earl) it's become an almost extinct species. It's great to see it back in such capable hands.”

-Dan Fort Vintage Guitar Magazine

“Now here is a guy who understands taste. Nice, compact, to the point instrumentals. At only 25, he has a maturity beyond his years... It’s not the note, it’s the space in between them... Way to go Matt Stubbs! Check him out!”

-Junior Watson

“It would be hard to hear another guitar player doing any better on this material. The parts get quite intricate at times. Matt Stubbs has a great vocabulary. It’s not just the same licks over and over”

-Kenny Lee Smith KY Blues News

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Tokyo Tramps - With These Hands - Boston Blues Society December Newsletter

Tokyo Tramps

With These Hands

TT35820 - Vagabond Entertainment

Review by Georgetown Fats

Being blown away by a band at a live show which had been previously unknown to me, is a magical moment which fuels my passion for live music. I had heard great things from reliable sources before regarding The Tokyo Tramps, but it was not until the first round of the 2009 Boston Blues Challenge did I have a chance to witness why so many people spoke so highly about the Tokyo Tramps. I went into the Blues Challenge having only second hand knowledge about the Tokyo Tramps, I left a fan their music and back story.

Stay tuned for the BBS December Newsletter. I have a hunch The Society will want to support such a great local blues rock trio.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Deep Blues show at Harper's Ferry w/ Kent Burnside & The New Generation

Kent Burnside & The New Generation

w/ The Ten Foot Pole Cats

& Whoa! Man! Jesus!

Live at Harper’s Ferry

November 8th, 2009

While a large portion of the Massachusetts blues scene was offering support to the Boston Blues Society Blues Challenge, another group of blues punk renegades happened to be catering to a younger and under-served audience. With a headlining act of Kent Burnside & The New Generation and support of two local acts turned a hard rock bar with area enough to land a small jet engine into a quaint cinder block juke joint.

Some refer to the sound as Deep Blues, while others call it Hillbilly Punk, while still others refer to it as a Punk Blues. The name of the genre is meaningless, but you should refer yourselves to some of the purveyors of that sound. If there is any justice in the blues world then blues fans and blues societies will start supporting this sub-genre as it combines an originality and energy level to an under-served audience, and that is a college crowd which has not had the opportunity to create a preconceived notion as to what is blues.

Not only did the packed house filled of blues fans and drunk dancing college co-eds provide the inspiration for one hell of a show, knowing there were members of Boston’s A-List of blues acts (Satoru & Yukiko of The Tokyo Tramps as well as the sometimes mild-mannered “MartySax” formerly of Hoodoo Revalators) helped raise the bar. The best part of the night had to have been all three acts involved more than met the challenge.

Local act Whoa! Man! Jesus!, a local act with a Deep Blues sound did not show any rust after a band hiatus and set the bar high for the rest of the acts tonight. Jason, Julian and Wayne locked in from the opening set and peppered their material with tributes to the innovator of trance blues, Mr. RL Burnside.

Next up, after a spectacular opening set last sunday at The Boston Blues Society Blues Challenge was The Ten Foot Polecats. Featuring a majority of original material, especially a new instrumental dubbed “Scratch Ticket”. The Polecats had the dancing drunk co-eds alternating between trips to the bar & to the merchandise table.

To close the night Kent Burnside & The New Generation proved that musical talent may in fact be a gene passed along through generations, with no intended disrespect to John Lee Hooker Jr and Big Bill Morganfield, the real good music gene skips a generation.

Part of being a somewhat anonymous reviewer is the ability to just blend into the background. Sometimes it pays to not announce my presence in order to have to deal with the fall out of a bad review, other times the pure enjoyment of the show makes it damn near possible to fight the urge to drop my notebook and just enjoy the dancing revelry. Tonight was one of those nights where just being a part of something great was just to overwhelming. Luckily with the support of the right people, I left with more than enough disks to hip people to the North Mississippi/Deep Blues/Punk Hillbilly scene. Please stay posted to The Boston Blues, Brews & BBQ Blog as well as my monthly work with The Boston Blues Society. Judging by the large turnout on a sunday night, a lot of you are already hip to this sound however it should not be a secret for those who have yet to experience it. So just grab a dancing partner and shake your hips!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Just call me Carnack The Magnificent - Boston Blues Challenge Round II

Having sat through the first round of the Boston Blues Challenge last sunday and having fallen right on my face trying to predict the winners, I figured it would be an interesting exercise to take a stab at predicting the winners for tomorrow night’s show.

Before I proceed, please let me reiterate my picks for last Sunday were wrong. 100% across the board wrong. I am also not a judge, so my preconceived notions are my own and will not be influencing anyone. I would just like to document the attempts as after sitting through last week’s show, I am more comfortable about thinking like one of the judges.

The acts featured tomorrow are Geezer, Alley Blues, the Mike Crandall Band, 2120 S. Michigan Ave. featuring Sweet Willie D, and Sit Down Baby! The show starts at 8:15 and runs to about 11PM. You can either check out this show and contribute to a great cause, keeping the blues alive in Massachusetts, or come across town to see Kent Burnside at Harper’s Ferry.

In their own words off of their website ( “Geezer is a hard-rocking blues and R&B band. We pay homage to the living and dead giants - including Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Jimi Hendrix, and others - and we write our own tunes inspired by them. With two (sometimes three) guitars, electric bass, harp, keys and drums, we produce a driving, danceable sound that's a throwback to an earlier era, yet thoroughly up-to-date - after all, the blues never goes out of fashion. With the addition of the LakeView Horns, the sound is big, beautiful, and authentic. Having lived and played through many musical eras, we are today's answer to the question: "What has eighteen legs and still sits?" We have over 300 years experience playing for indiscriminate audiences and we've shared the stage with such acts as Kim Wilson, Sugar Ray Norcia, Roomful of Blues, Southside Johnny, and Brian Auger. We were even semifinalists in the Boston Blues Society's Blues Challenge. We stick to rockin' electric blues because that's what we do best. And at our age, we can't afford to waste time on anything but the best. Plus we've all lived the blues - teenagers, mortgages, IPOs in the tank.... Despite suggestions to the contrary, we ignore the clock and calendar and just keep crankin' out great music.”

Next up for the night is the Alley Blues Band. In their own words on their site (; “Emitting soul-shaking vocals over earth moving grooves, the neo-soul/retro R&B outfit Alley Blues is a female fronted funk machine. Carrying the echoes of the vintage blues masters through the vibe of the new breed, Alley Blues summons an aura of "the Old Soul" immersed in gritty, captivating vocals. Invoking the essence of Aretha Franklin, mingled with Janis Joplin, in lock step with today's grooving diva's, Amy Winhouse, Joss Stone, Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, Me'Shell N'degeocello, backed by the rich, earthy grooves of the Dap Kings, the Meters, and the Roots... you have Alley Blues. In 2008, they were selected as Finalists for the Boston Blues Challenge. The band brings a refreshing blend of groove based Funk, Soul and R&B to the Northeast Music Scene. Featuring Alley Stoetzel's powerful, vibrant vocals and alluring stage presence, backed by Eric Vincent's tasteful, ear-pleasing guitar riffs. Louis Ochoa's infectious; fat, funky grooves hold down the low end on bass. Rounding out the rhythm foundation is Justin Oliver's solid, core-shaking pocket on drums. The band has been touring extensively throughout the New England region.”

On 3rd tomorrow night is the Mike Crandall Band. Via their Myspace site the Mike Crandall Band is a powerful original band that plays traditional blues, uptempo jumps and swings. Crandall is a gritty vocalist and master of the diatonic and chromatic harp. His diatonic tone is reminiscent of Sugar Ray Norcia; his lush chromatic tone is influenced by William Clarke. Rick Harrington is equally adept at scorching leads and a mean slide guitar. Guitarist Ricky “King” Russell played with John Lee Hooker, Eddie Clearwater, Kim Wilson, and Susan Tedeschi. Bassist Ed Parnigoni played with Roomful of Blues and Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson. Danny Banks, a phenomenal 14 year old drummer, played on David Letterman, who called him “a young prodigy” and invited him back for another appearance. Discography: Black Rain, the band’s debut CD in 2004, drew a rave review Blues Revue magazine: “great tone all around, “ “harp is thick and creamy without being brash,” “righteous vintage (guitar) sounds.” “The talent level is evident from the opening one-two punch.” Tracks from the CD received heavy rotation on non-profit college radio stations throughout New England, and cuts have also been played on Sunday Night Blues with Beef Stew on The Rock 106.9 WCCC in Hartford, Connecticut. Set List: The band’s set is always different; they never go on stage with a set list. The band plays three sets – the first set is 90 minutes, the other two are 45 minutes each. The Mike Crandall Band’s repertoire is 75 percent original material. Their cover songs include hard driving harmonica tunes by Little Walter, Magic Sam, Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters. The band’s original tunes include “Jump Blues,” “Black Rain,” “I’m On My Way,” “Howlin’ At The Wolf,” “Don’t Let Me Down,” “Listen to Me,” “So Many Times,” and “Out Alone.”

The fourth act is a hybrid act, Sweet Willie D with 2120 South Michigan Avenue. Due to a lack of website and promotions, I will have to take a stab on this one. Sweet Willie D sings a Texas Jump style while 2120 South Michigan Ave feature a Chicago Blues sound. It could be an interesting combination.

The final act of the night is Sit Down Baby! Per their website

( “They’re something to behold live….. They fear no challenge” Motif Magazine, March 2009 issue. Sit Down Baby! is redefining the world of Juke Joint music. It’s Delta music on Steroids. It’s an archaic gut-bucket riot taken into the 21st century. Sit Down Baby! travels pre-war from Mississippi to Memphis, Texarkana to Chicago and back to New Orleans. From trance to dance, Sit Down Baby plays jump, blazz, grinding delta and reeling train-time bar-b-q boogie. David Roscoe Tippett (guitar and vocals), Mark Milloff (guitar, slide guitar and vocals), Richard LaGuardia (drums), and Harry Milloff (bass) bring their shared musical experience together to create Sit Down Baby! This band is the real deal, the authentic experience. Sit Down Baby! is a runaway train spiraling the mountain of the Southern Blues Tradition.

I encourage everyone out there reading to see each act live to form their own opinions, however I am predicting the two bands advancing to the finals will be Alley Blues and 2120 South Michigan Ave Featuring Sweet Willie D.

Let's see if I can handicap this competition correctly, good luck to all participants.

The Coupe Deville Band - Live

It was just one of those nights when all I wanted to do was just stay inside and curl up with a nice bottle of Jamesons and listen to Robert Belfour over and over again. But a promise was a promise, and I didn’t want to go back on my word to “Johnny B” so I set out for The Roma to catch The Coupe Deville Band live.

And, I’m damn glad I did. Based on the turn out on a rainy Saturday night, it is pretty clear why The Coupe Deville Band is a well-respected band within the Merrimack Valley.

The Coupe Deville Band goes back some 30 years. Started by Dale Stubbs & some friends/coworkers from Hewlet Packard, with an ever evolving line-up The Coup DeVille Band continues to play to full houses throughout the Merrimack Valley. Keeping a band together for any length of time is an impressive accomplishment. Playing music at a semipro to professional level requires passion, dedication, commitment and humility. For every “packed house” story there are several stories of “long hours for short money”. What makes The Coupe Deville band so much fun is all five guys enjoy just about everything to do with playing music live. They are often at the venue early, chatting up old and new friends and their enjoyment of playing live is infectious.

The bar at The Roma bar is a local watering hole where the drafts beers are tall and reasonably priced and the cheeseburgers are cooked to perfection. A medium rare burger is medium rare, nicely red and juicy, not medium well. Patrons come to the bar at The Roma to drink, eat and gamble. Expect to catch a ration of shit for ordering an Apple-tini from the bar staff and expect to sit next to a stranger at the bar and leave strangers. It is about as perfect a setting for blues music as we get in the Merrimack Valley. Since relocating their Tuesday night blues jam to The Roma ( it made sense to catch a live show at Coupe DeVille’s unofficial home base.

Before the gig I had a chance to catch-up with both “Johhny B” Schiavoni and Matt Stubbs. Johnny B was beaming over the positive response their tuesday night blues jam was receiving and Matt was continuing to spend time as Charlie Musselwhite’s road guitarist, taking some spot gigs with Coup DeVille while also prepping for the March release for Medford & Main, Matt’s solo release scheduled to drop in March of 2010. Blue Bella Records, out of Chicago Illinois, will be releasing Medford & Main and Matt was planning several CD release parties for February 2010. After catching up with some of the guys I headed to the bar, placed my order and prepared myself to be entertained.

Coupe DeVille has a bar friendly and danceable blues rock sound by five guys with superior chops. This is not your average bar band. There may not be a lot of deep tracks in their encyclopedic catalog of cover tunes, but the execution is near flawless. Though the line-up has changed throughout the 30 years of the band, signals, communication and cues improve over time. This superior communication is key, especially since Dale & the band often like to jam out instrumentals when the moment suits them.

A standard Coup DeVille line-up features the father and son team of Dale & Matt Stubbs on guitar, with “Johnny B” Schiavoni on vocals. Watching and listening to Matt & Dale play off each other it is easy to see that while other fathers and sons spent countless hours tossing a ball back and forth, these two spent countless hours tossing phrygian scales back and forth. Schiavoni with Dale Carnegie inspired front man skills, delivers smooth vocals sounding somewhere between a cross of Paul Butterfield and Stevie Ray Vaughn. None of this firepower is possible without a rock solid and airtight rhythm section capable of pushing the tempo when necessary to keep people dancing, or keep rock solid time if a six string guitar player decides to play over the bar line. Coupe Deville’s current rhythm section of Steve Tatarunis on bass and Phil DeLaine on drums are just that section. Tatarunis and DeLaine obviously have more chops than on display, however they propel the band by locking in an airtight groove.

The Coupe Deville Band hosts the Tuesday Night Blues Jam at The Roma every week, starting at 9PM and play throughout the Merrimack Valley several times a month. For more info on The Coupe Deville Band check out their schedule at or keep posted with Matt’s solo project at . As with all live shows recommended here, please tell them Georgetown Fats sent you.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Jeff Healey - Songs from The Road - Ruff Records

Jeff Healey

Songs From The Road

Ruff Records: B002JIH8N8

Review by Georgetown Fats

A poor review of the recently deceased will probably earn me a place in Hell someday, at least it will be warm and Hell has a much better jukebox.

While it is true Jeff Healey was a gifted guitar player and vocalist, who over came physical constraints and complications to tour and record extensively only to die prematurely from Cancer, he just wan not a blues musician.

Healey’s heart and considerable talents were wrapped up in hot jazz, while his most famous recorded work are 80‘s Pop charts. Songs From The Road are tracks culled from shows in Nottenden, London and in Healey’s own Toronto club which unsurprisingly does not feature blues every night of the week.

This disk is clearly intended for those who own other offerings of Healey’s pop rock recordings. The majority of tracks are pop rock standards, and Healey did little live to rearrange the tracks in order to make them his own.

Two tracks of the eleven tracks, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and “Come Together”, are Beatle related tracks. Both tracks are remarkably similar to the original recordings and do very little to show Healey in a different light musically then any good local bar band. "Whipping Post" is strikingly similar rehash of The Allman Brothers Band original and while “I’m Ready” is an actual blues chart by The Great Muddy Waters, it is also a rehash of the original tune. If I did not read the artist involved with this recording, all of these tracks could be mistaken for a local wedding band’s rendition of these pop rock charts. While “White Room” is a strong rendition of Cream’s blues rock song, again this is a song which is common to many working wedding bands catalogs.

By the time Crosby Stills Nash Young’s “Teach Your Children Well” and “Santa, Bring My Baby Back (To Me)” came through my speakers I found myself desperately searching for some Howlin’ Wolf and Hound Dog Taylor to cleanse my musical palate.

While I understand I am not intended to be considered a target audience for Songs From The Road I still found this to be an incredibly curious release. This recording was clearly intended for sentimental Healey fans willing to shell out a few more shekels for previously released material.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Tommy Castro - Hard Believer - Alligator Records

Tommy Castro

“Hard Believer”

Alligator Records

Review By Georgetown Fats

Tommy Castro has earned legions of fans through 20 years of paying his dues on the West Coast. First with the much-loved Dynatones, and then with The Tommy Castro Band, Castro built his rabid following by combining virtuosity on guitar and vocals with countless days spent on the road performing live. Fans of Castro will find much to love as it is more of what they have come to love Memphis Soul with old-school rock & roll. Castro’s detractors will also have plenty of ammunition as even though this is Castro’s first release with Alligator Records, as it is still more of the same.

“Hard Believer” opens with “Definition of Insanity”, a mid-tempo memphis soul tune. It is a tune about a dysfunctional relationship, which has been done before. Castro & band have a very heavy orchestration which there is no note out of place. The horn section has a tight arrangement, Castro’s backing vocalists are mixed low, and there is an emphasis on Castro’s “Memphis Soul” voice. Unfortunately due to the mix, and the tight arrangement and orchestration, there is nothing new to hear.

The second track, “It is, what it is” is another AAA mid-tempo shuffle, bogged down with a heavy hand in the production and enough cliches to supply several more years of American Idol. Castro’s talent is evident, unfortunately so the formula to each Castro original.

The time signature switches up, from 4/4 to 6/8, on “Hard Believer”. But again the tune has the watered down ‘Stax Records’ feel which is commonplace for a Tommy Castro recording. There is an simplistic-yet-unnecessary piano line delivered with a heavy right hand which has all the skill of a child learning how to play chopsticks, more cliches, and even more heavy handedness with the arrangement. I understand this is a Tommy Castro project but a horn solo, or a hammond solo would have been a much-welcomed change of pace.

On a tune I have personally mistaken Buddy Guy for writing, Wilson Pickett’s “99 & 1/2”, though Castro can play the notes on the chart it is clear he shouldn’t. Pickett made his living penning and performing raw-souled tunes, a sort of medium-rare greasy and delicious cheeseburger if you will. Buddy Guy added “hot sauce” to his rendition to the rendition of Pickett’s “99 & 1/2”. Well if Pickett’s original is a greasy cheeseburger, and Guy added the hot sauce, the Castro’s rendition of Pickett’s “99 & 1/2” is an overdone tofu burger.

Castro’s talent is evident throughout this release, but I have come to expect more from Alligator Records. For a label which gained notoriety by being formed to release Hound Dog Taylor recordings and has given a home to contemporary trend-setters “Lil Ed” & The Blues Imperials (as well as many others) “Hard Believer” comes up short.