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.

Escape From the Chicken Coop - Watermelon Slim

Watermelon Slim

Escape From The Chicken Coop

Northern Blues - NBM0054

Review by Georgetown Fats

I am not sure which was more troubling to read in the April/May edition of Blues Review, reading that Bill Homans, better known as Watermelon Slim, wanted to make a Country CD, Watermelon Slim was seriously considering a semi-retirement from his extensive touring schedule, or that he was intending to record in Nashville without The Workers as his backing band. Watermelon Slim already is known for playing an electrified countrified blues sound, every live Watermelon Slim show is an event, and The Workers are a road tested backing band full of accomplished musicians.

Given Fred Litwin’s track record for singing Watermelon Slim and Slim’s ability to garner countless awards with his recordings with Northern Blues, Escape from The Chicken Coop warranted consideration though the sounds of a fiddle normally cause me to break out in hives. Fred Litwin is also a musical executive willing to so it makes sense he would green light this project and surround Homans with the best of the first call musicians in Nashville.

The opening track “Caterpillar Whine”, is another up-tempo infectious tune from Blues Music’s current Renaissance Man. With a driving rhythm section, lyrics based on Slim’s truck driving past and liberal slide guitar accents and barrelhouse piano playing, Caterpillar Whine could be a track on any other Watermelon Slim recordings. Though “Skinny Women and Fat Cigars” adds a fiddle line from Stuart Duncan, there is enough blues content as to not exacerbate my fiddle allergy.

By the time the third track hits the speakers, I found myself looking for an inhaler. “You See Me Like I See You” is full on radio friendly country music. “You See Me Like I See You” is a duet with Jenny Littleton, and features Paul Franklin’s steel guitar work. If Contemporary Country is your thing, it is a tune that will resonate with you.

The gospel heavy “Wreck on The Highway” provides proof Homan’s got his start to singing in the church choirs in North Carolina. It is a convincing track full soul conveyed through Slim’s baritone vocals. “Wreck on The Highway” is slow and soulful track probably written about those who have created their own personal loss and trauma without finding their personal redemption.

“Friends on The Porch” is a convincing spoken word piece which reminds the listener Slim’s life as an academic has much influence in his sound as does his background as a long haul trucker.

The rest of the tracks are a mixed bag. If true country music is your thing, Escape From The Chicken Coop will be a welcome addition to a music library. For those who prefer the countrified electric bluesman, there are enough Country Blues tracks to help satiate those hoping there will be another Watermelon Slim release with The Workers.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

More from Scott Iwasaki

This guy is rapidly becoming my favorite Music Critic.....

Mr. Georgetown Fats.
Thanks for emailing back. For some reason my replies kept getting kicked back. So I posted on the site.
And, yes, it seems the Grammys are both — complements and indictments — these days.
I wish my job would let me listen to music I want to, rather than the stuff I have to.
I hope all is well. And I can tell you are beginning to become unhinged. But it’s for the good fight, right?
Thanks for your time as well. And for the record, I don’t humor people who have concerns.
Scott Iwasaki

Just because I need to get the last word - All Ernie all the time


Thanks for your reply. I stand corrected.

Though I find the music to be nothing but pop rock pabulum for the great unwashed, you did in fact term the music "blues-based rock". My apologies.

We are in agreement though, this CD could in fact win a Grammy, I am just not sure that is a compliment to the music or an indictment of what passes for quality music.

Can you tell I am beginning to become unhinged from Mr. Boch's constant marketing campaign for this ego trip?

Thanks for your time and for humoring me.

Georgetown Fats

Reply from Scott Iwasaki

It seems while I was in the process of spewing some venom, I got some of my facts wrong....

Kudos for the reply and correction. I may not agree with him, but Scott Iwasaki does earn some respect.

Greetings Mr. Georgetown Fats,
Thank you for your email. It’s nice to know someone is reading, even way out on the East Coast.

I see that you have an issue whether or not Ernie & the Automatics is blues rock.

In my story, I didn’t call the music “blues rock.” It was Billboard Magazine that catagorized and charted the album a blues album. I called it a “blues-based rock album.”

That may be a no-brainer, because the classic-rock sound has a base in the blues.

I hope that clears some things up.
Take care.
Scott IwasakiDeseret News music editor30 E. 100 SouthSalt Lake City, Utah 84110

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Open Letter to Steve Morse & Scott Iwasaki - Ernie & The Automatics

Every time I hear or read someone uses Ernie & The Automatics and Blues Rock in the same sentance the twitch in my eye lid hits overdrive and a throw up in my mouth...

Fortuantely for me, and this blog, I have a buddy who likes to push my buttons and hands me my soap box. The letter below went out to Steve Morse of the Boston Globe and Scott Iwasaki of the Deseret News. I probably shouldn't hold my breath while awaiting a response.

Good afternoon.

I hope this message finds everything in your world well, at your convenience, I would appreciate the opportunity to communicate with you.

Having read your recent review of Ernie & The Automatics Low Expectations disk I am left wondering if either payola is not yet dead or if we are in fact listening to two separate bands/disks. Though Ernie Boch Jr is an accomplished businessman, strong marketer, accomplished amateur musician, philanthropist with his "Music Drives Us" foundation and from every indication seems like a nice enough guy, to associate him or The Automatics with blues rock is utterly ridiculous. Understanding s I,IV,V progression does not a bluesman make.

When you have the ability to own your own label, pay for your own disk, hire your own band and keep them on salary, own your own booking/marketing company, rent out concert halls, or have actually owned radio stations before you can not produce blues rock. Blues and blues rock music are about the cathartic experience of struggle, when you don't have to struggle, you can't make blues or blues rock. Ernie & The Automatics are nothing more pop music, churned out by yet another large corporate entity.

Thanks for your time, I await your response.

Best regards,

Georgetown Fats
Boston Blues, Brews, and BBQ Blog


Saturday, October 24, 2009

Coup DeBLOG!

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 Coup Deville Band live.

And, I’m damn glad I did.

Based on the turn out, a lot of you managed to come to the show too....but for the few who didn’t I will be posting a live review for the Boston Blues Society.

Friday, October 23, 2009

A 2nd Generation Spectacle

Like traditional Blues Guys I have been fortunate to have honest to goodness mentors...

“Cousin Curtis” was the first who knew a kid who kept throwing up in his mouth every time other members of the family said ‘The Beatles were the end all, be all’ and then there was ‘The Oracle’ who knew enough back in the days of Hamilton Wenham Regional High School it was going to be a fight...but he was going to find the right button to hit order to squeeze the best out of me....

And then there is “Uncle” Billy Mitchell. Needless to say without Uncle Bill, there would be no Georgetown Fats. Uncle Billy was just starting to get The Spectacles off the ground while Fats was a drummer in a piece of shit 80’s cover band...

He didn’t realize it then, but their West Coast Blues sound put Georgetown Fats on the path of good music before he was even named Georgetown Fats (we lived in Newbury at the time...).....

Well, Uncle Billy is now “Grandpa Billy” and having talked with him throughout the pregnancy it was awesome to just see how happy he was for the addition to his family.... my mentor, and one of the few men I look up to in this world....NOTHING BUT THE BEST FOR YOU, MY MENTOR & MY FRIEND....

On assignment - The Coup DeVille Band - Saturday 10/24/09

I am headed out to The Roma (29 Middlesex St. Bradford, Ma. 01835) this Saturday night to catch the Coup DeVille Band live. Having written a feature piece on their blues jam last year, it was about time to touch back in with these guys.

The piece will be submitted to The Boston Blues Society, but may also see the light-of-day at The Boston Blues, Brews & BBQ Blog.

And if you meet any of the guys or come on out to the show, tell them Georgetown Fats sent ya. They won't care, but it always amuses me.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Fat Belly BBQ - Georgetown MA

Thank you Otis! You truly are man’s best friend, and I will make sure to remember how you did me a solid the next time you have an accident in the house.

So, the story goes a little something like this. After 2 long weeks on the road for back-to-back conferences I kicked back last Friday at The Grille and just enjoyed myself. After consuming a few bad ice cubes and not having a karate class to drive me out of my slumber/stupor sleeping in was the preferred solution to fix my hang over which left The Boss to handle Otis walking chores.

While I slept off the Jameson’s The Boss was walking Otis down and around Crosby’s parking lot and that all-powerful beagle nose locked in on the BBQ scents wafting from the Fat Belly BBQ Trailer. As The Boss will tell you, when that little guy locks in on a scent, he becomes 28 lbs of determination. If it is food related, or involves a woman rubbing his stomach, he also becomes very shameless. He will beg, walk on his back legs, sniff, beg some more until you either give him what he wants or you can separate him from The Scent. That is just what he did too he inhaled, checked out the trailer, stood up, sniffed again and even pawed at the door to the truck (or something to that effect). All of this was done in a crowded parking lot, in full sight of Neighbor Jimmy, numerous shoppers. Apparently, it was all quite a scene.

By the time Otis returned with a thoroughly embarrassed Boss, she was still chuckling over the scene he created. Through the haze, all I could hear was BBQ. I didn’t even have both legs in my pants before running down to Crosby’s with Otis’ same determination. I had to have BBQ. BBQ was EXACTLY what I needed in order to shake off the fuzz and haze.

$26 bucks later.....OH....SO HAPPY! The Boss and I lunched on two Pulled Pork Combo plates, and I left with a party pack for Football Sundays. OH!!!! SO UNBELIEVABLY HAPPY!

So the word is, there is no immediate plans to open up a permanent restaurant/lunch counter but they do deliver. So if you find you have a BBQ Deficiency, you will have to do some planning.

For additional information about Fat Belly BBQ, check out their blog at;

Or e-mail Kevin & Elaine Tighe at;

Monday, October 12, 2009

Too good not to share -Scott Biram "Still Drunk, Still Crazy, Still Blue"

Normally, due to that long year spent in West Virginia, country music makes my skin crawl and make me want to hit the fetal position...

But when a song and an artist has that "it" factor I am more than happy sharing the information and links for others to check out their music.

Blurt posted a link to the new Scott H Biram video

and it needs to be shared.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Reviews In the Queue

I long ago swore off corporate terrestrial radio. It was an action I took well before the “blues overtook me”, but it was a conscious decision that I do not regret. For you see, between “Al Gore’s internet” and a close circle of musical friends and mentors I still manage to get “hipped” to various artists that either corporate radio can’t either sell or has yet to figure out how to water down and make them sound like every other artist on the air.

Over the last few months thanks for Cousin Mark, Jim Polecat, and Beardo of Bandana Blues I have managed to get my hands on;

Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears - Tell ‘em What Your Name is

Barrence Whitfield - Raw!, Raw!, Rough!

Various Artists - 2008 Deep Blues Festival Soundtrack

And they are just too good not to share. So between my work with The Boston Blues Society and writings and ramblings on The Boston Blues, Brews & BBQ Blog reviews will be posted.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Nine Shots with The Ten Foot Pole Cats

Nine Shots with the Ten Foot Pole Cats

By Georgetown Fats

Whether at a martini bar or a gutbucket saloon, the right bribes and name-drops never fail to help one gain access. That is how I wound up in the back room of this local blues joint. It shall remain nameless, but it’s the type of hangout where several different smokes fill the air, fire codes are laughed at and ambiance is provided by bare light bulbs hanging from the ceiling.

What sounded like a good idea at the time—challenging Jim Chilson of the Ten Foot Pole Cats to their version of beer pong—quickly became a regret. When I asked how they played, drummer Dave Darling offered only a maniacal laugh while filling cups with what seemed to be white lightning. Vocalist and harp player Jay Scheffler grabbed the house mic, assumed the role of color commentator and let the assembled miscreants know what was at stake. If I won the match I would be given an advance listen to the Pole Cat’s follow-up to their Sterno Soup EP, which is as-of-yet untitled and scheduled for release sometime this fall. If I lost Chilson would be claiming my soul, which on that day meant my ’59 Fender Bassman reissue.

When he opened the match by sinking his first three ping-pong balls into my cups I knew I was in a lot of trouble. There would be no joy in Georgetown. As my mouth dried out and consciousness drifted, I said my peace and wished "Blondie" the best with her new owner.

When I woke the next day, my bloodshot eyes focused on "Blondie" and a blank disk labeled "Raw Tracks - Ten Foot Pole Cats - Scheduled Release - Fall of 2009." Due to the liquor I can’t be sure if I beat the champ or not, or if the showdown even happened at all. All I’m sure of is that I have a copy of the tracks for their new release and it is good. It is damn good.

Sterno Soup garnered the Ten Foot Pole Cats bookings nationwide, opening for “Steady Rollin'” Bob Margolin and deep blues artist Scott Biram. It also helped expose them to new audiences with invitations to the Deep Blues Festival in Minneapolis and punkabilly shows in Boston and Worcester; shows where most blues bands will not ask—nor be asked—to play. From the initial listen of this new release, I expect even bigger and better things in the near future.

The album starts with a string of original tunes. On "So Good To Me, Baby," Chilson lays down a churning mid-tempo groove, Darling pounds on his traps kit and Sheffler howls out lyrics loaded with double entendres. "Tears On My Windshield” epitomizes the Pole Cats sound, where musical lines and solos are only added if they help propel the groove. On "Squeeze" the pretense of double entendres is dropped entirely, leaving just the raunchy musical fun. This music is not for the faint of heart.

"Bar Hopping" picks up the pace considerably and the topic is clearly one close to their blackened hearts. Chilson and Darling lock into an up-tempo deep blues/punk groove while Sheffler rips through a debauched tale worthy of any juke joint.

The album then shifts gears to classic covers. Paying homage to Jessie Mae Hemphill, the Pole Cats offer up "Broken Hearted." In another nod to one of the greats they cover R.L. Burnside's "See What My Buddy Done." Chilson's polyrhythmic work is reminiscent of a time when a bluesman would hop a train with acoustic in hand in search of the next gig, paycheck, woman and bottle. This cover is as appropriate for the punkabilly crowd as it would be if the trio caught a steam train headed north.

I was concerned that a recorded version of Tommy Johnson’s “Big Road” would lose the magic that whups a lifeless crowd into a sweaty dancing throng, but my concern was unfounded. Short of including a stale-beer-and-whiskey-scented Yankee candle with the track, all of the charm is on the album. On T-Model Ford's “Chickenhead” Chilson's opening guitar salvo mimics a train whistle while Darling offers subtle accents on drums. As the tempo picks up Sheffler professes his love for all parts of the chicken.

The final track is Charley Patton's "Peavine." Patton is considered by many to be the "father of delta blues" and the Pole Cats have both the musical chops and the knowledge to pull off his music. "Peavine" is an ode to longing for a lost loved one and their rendition is a fitting tribute to the man who inspired both John Lee Hooker and Howlin’ Wolf.

If these first nine tracks are any hint as to what will be available on their full-length release then the delta blues are not dead; they have just plugged in and relocated to Allston. The Ten Foot Pole Cats have ignored the general consensus on the blues scene by stripping down their sound and offering deeper blues covers. This makes them likeable to the diehard blues fans for their discerning taste and to fans of other forms of roots and punk music for their aggressive, unyielding style.