Any year that you get a new Janiva Magness CD is guaranteed to be a good one, so tighten your wigs and crank up the stereo because on June 24th, 2014 the award-winning singer and songwriter will release her new album, titled Original, on her own indie Fathead Records label.
Original offers eleven songs that feature Magness' usual mix of blues, roots-rock, and soul music. Working again with producer Dave Darling, Magness lays her soul bare with a brutal slate of songs that present the artist at her most transparent. Inspired by the end of her 17-year marriage, and more deaths of friends and relatives than a person should have to endure in such a short timeframe, Magness co-wrote seven of the album's songs, backing up her words with some of the most powerful vocal performances of her career.
"I always want to push myself," Magness explains in a press release for Original, "but this album demanded a high level of vulnerability to tell the absolute truth in every song, holding nothing back. It was frightening, at times, to be so raw in public. Dave drove me and even tricked me when he needed to. This is also an album that couldn't be made with another record company, because we needed to be able to go wherever we wanted musically to tell its stories."
On top of her personal tragedies, Magness faced a seemingly insurmountable obstacle when a December 2012 surgery left her unable to speak or sing. She was forced to regain control of her remarkable instrument, a journey assisted by L.A. based vocal coach Nate Lamm for helping her sing again, with an even greater range and control than before. The injury came at an inopportune time, following the release of her Blues Music Award nominated Alligator Records release Stronger For It and just prior to her BMA win as "Contemporary Blues Female Vocalist of the Year."
"I've always wanted life to be simpler than it is," says Magness. "When I was a young girl, and then a young woman, I really yearned for that. Now I'm a full-grown woman and I understand that life is never black and white. Losing loved ones, losing attachments and relationships, and grieving over it all are things we have to live with. If we can get through that with our souls intact, we learn how to become stronger and to move on with hope and dignity toward whatever comes next."
Photo courtesy Fathead Records
It's been a good year for blues guitarist Ronnie Earl. In the spring of 2013, Earl and his long-running band the Broadcasters celebrated their 25th anniversary with the release of Just For Today, a red-hot live set recorded in his home state of Massachusetts. This spring saw Earl walk away with a Blues Music Award as "Best Instrumentalist - Guitar" as chosen by members of The Blues Foundation.
Earl has another reason to celebrate on June 17th, 2014 when Stony Plain Records releases Good News, the eighth album for the label by Earl and the Broadcasters. Good News features a veteran Broadcasters line-up that includes bassist Jim Mouradian, keyboardist Dave Limina, and drummer Lorne Entress with, of course, Earl banging on his Stratocaster. Special guest vocalist Diane Blue appears on several tracks, and guest guitarists Nicholas Tabarias and Zach Zunis also lend their talents to Good News.
Good News is named for the classic 1964 Sam Cooke album Ain't That Good News, which includes the incredible song "Change Is Gonna Come," which is provided a loving interpretation on Good News. Although most of the album features original material, there are a handful of covers aside from the Cooke classic, including "Blues For Henry," a song co-written by Earl and the great guitarist Hubert Sumlin. Earl and the Broadcasters also tackle Junior Wells' "In The Wee Hours" while the album's closing song, "Runnin' In Peace," features lyrics written by Ilana Katz Katz, who was near the finish line when the tragic Boston Marathon bombing occurred in April 2013.
"My greatest love in music is the blues; this is my 'mother music'," says Earl in a press release for Good News. "And I dig deep - I have no choice; playing, for me, is a very emotional experience. I put every particle of my soul into it. I'm just trying to get into peoples' souls and reach their humanity."
Photo courtesy Stony Plain Records
05/27/14 Update: A donor liver came available over the Memorial Day weekend and Trout had transplant surgery on Monday, May 26th, 2014. As reported by his wife Marie on Facebook Monday night, the operation went great - Walter's heart and lungs are strong, and the new liver is a good fit. The surgeons and OR staff listened to Walter's music during the procedure. The first 48 hours after major surgery are always the most critical, but Trout is looking good, and the hope is for a full recovery. The love and prayers sent Walter and Marie's way on Facebook are truly amazing, and we wish the guitarist a quick recovery.
Original post: Many of you have been writing and asking me about Walter Trout's current condition. To be honest, it's not great - he's struggling every day with the disease while waiting for an organ donor - but he's hanging in there and staying upbeat in spite of the maddening uncertainty. His wife Marie has posted a video on YouTube that says more than I ever could about Walter and organ donation, and she's released the following statement to the press:
"Walter has been hospitalized for over two months - in and out of the ICU - and has been ill for over a year with end stage liver disease. His liver is progressively failing, and he is constantly on the edge of survival. He lives with the knowledge that no matter what he does, no matter what his doctors do, no matter where he goes, he is dependent on something that is extremely elusive: Organ availability. We simply don't have enough people who have signed up. To have to wait for an organ to become available is something that can happen to us too, or to people we love. And to have to wait for months when the body is failing is like playing Russian roulette: You can die at any moment - knowing there is a cure - it was just not able to get to you in time in the form of a needed organ. Please follow the link and sign up - and help spread awareness about this issue by sharing the video."
Trout is celebrating the 25th anniversary of his solo career this year, and his new album - The Blues Came Callin'- will be released on June 10th, 2014. The new issue of The Blues magazine in the U.K. features a cover story on the beloved blues-rock guitarist in advance of the publication of his bio, Rescued From Reality, on June 2nd. Both the magazine article and the book were written by Henry Yates with Trout and promise to be a great read on a larger-than-life personality. The Blues is available here in the U.S. at Barnes & Noble stores or direct from the magazine online (full disclosure: the Reverend contributes CD reviews to The Blues).
Award-winning roots 'n' blues lifers the Nighthawks have announced a June 17th, 2014 release date for their new album, 444, which will appear on the EllerSoul Records label. 444 was produced by the band and recorded at Montrose Studio in Richmond, Virginia. Featuring thirteen new songs infused with the band's trademark fusion of blues, soul, and rock 'n' roll, 444 is the follow-up to the Nighthawks' 2012 Severn Records release Damn Good Time!
The Nighthawks have been burning up the road since forming in 1972, releasing their debut album, Rock and Roll, two years later. The current band line-up, including guitarist Paul Bell, bassist Johnny Castle, drummer Mark Stutso, and founding member Mark Wenner, have traveled thousands of miles and played hundreds of show together over the past half-decade, and many fans consider this version of the Nighthawks to be the best. The Blues Foundation agreed, the organization's members awarding the Nighthawks an "Acoustic Album of the Year" award for their 2011 album Last Train To Bluesville.
Like most Nighthawks albums, 444 features a mix of reverent cover songs and inspired originals, including a raucous acoustic take on Muddy Waters' "Louisiana Blues." Wenner's original "Honky Tonk Queen" reminds of the Rolling Stones, while Castle's swamp-rock original "High Snakes," was co-written with esteemed roots-rock guitarist Bill Kirchen. The album also includes a pair of songs that first appeared in early Elvis Presley movies; "Got A Lot of Livin'" is from his 1957 film Lovin' You while "Crawfish" is the opening number from Presley's 1958 movie King Creole, but songs that obviously influenced the teen-aged Wenner. Another cover, of the Everly Brothers' "The Price of Love," was a number two chart hit in the U.K. for the brothers in 1965, and although it was previously recorded by the Nighthawks (1991's Hard Living LP), it's done here again in different form by the talented modern line-up of the band.
As usual, the Nighthawks will hit the road in support of 444, and we have the first batch of tour dates listed below (more dates to be announced). The Reverend has been lucky enough to see the band live many times, and they never fail to rock the house. Check 'em out when they come near your hometown!
The Nighthawks' Tour Dates
5/29 @ 34th Annual Herndon Festival, Herndon VA
5/30 @ Ramshead Tavern, Annapolis MD
6/07 @ National Whitewater Center, Charlotte NC
6/20 @ The Birchmere, Alexandria VA
6/22 @ Capital Ale House Music Hall, Richmond VA
6/26 @ Thunder in the Valley, Johnstown PA
6/27 @ Blues, Brews & BBQ Festival, Charleston WV
6/28 @ The State Theatre, Culpepper VA
7/04 @ Evenings on Main, Luray VA
7/05 @ High Tides on Potomac, Colonial Beach VA
7/06 @ Bethesda Blues & Jazz, Bethesda MD
7/20 @ Gilligan's Pier, Newberg MD
7/26 @ Peekskill Rock & Blues Festival, Peekskill NY
Photo courtesy EllerSoul Records
What a week for the blues! The blues chart for the week ending May 24, 2014 features not one, but three liver-quivering dynamite debuts, not the least the coup that awarded the top spot to the Gregg Allman tribute album, All My Friends. Released by Rounder Records, All My Friends: Celebrating the Songs & Voice of Gregg Allman is a three-disc (2 CD/1 DVD) set that includes contributions from talented folks like Warren Haynes, Derek Trucks, Susan Tedeschi, Keb' Mo', Vince Gill (who has certainly been hanging out with a lot of blues people lately), Eric Church, and the Allman Brothers Band. I haven't heard it, but on name value alone, there's a lot of grease in those grooves!
There are also a couple other debuts of note this week, including that from singer, songwriter, and guitarist Jarekus Singleton, whose Alligator Records debut, Refuse To Lose, hits number seven on the chart. The week's other debut follows closely, New Orleans musician Glen David Andrews' album Redemption hitting number eight. Andrews is the cousin of Trombone Shorty and an accomplished brass man in his own right, and Redemption - his studio debut album - features guest stars like Ivan Neville and Anders Osborne cranking out Andrews' high-octane brew of blues, jazz, and gospel sounds.
Here are this week's Billboard Top Ten blues albums, ranked by sales:
10. Hugh Laurie - Didn't It Rain (Warner Brothers Records)
9. Tedeschi Trucks Band - Made Up Mind (Sony Masterworks)
8. Glen David Andrews - Redemption (Louisiana Red Hot)
7. Jarekus Singleton - Refuse To Lose (Alligator Records)
6. Beth Hart & Joe Bonamassa - Live In Amsterdam (J&R Adventures)
5. George Thorogood - 10 Great Songs, 20th Century Masters (Capitol Records)
4. JJ Thames - Tell You What I Know (DeChamp Records)
3. Robert Cray - In My Soul (Provogue Records)
2. Keb' Mo' - Bluesamericana (Kind of Blue Music)
1. Various Artists - All My Friends (Rounder Records)
New releases this week: Al Basile's Woke Up In Memphis (Sweetspot Records); Kenny Wayne Shepherd's Goin' Home (Concord Music)
All My Friends photo courtesy Rounder Records
For blues fans, Stony Plain Records has come to represent a certain quality in roots 'n' blues music. Founded in 1976 by Holger Petersen, the Canadian label has since released music from an impressive line-up of talent, from Ronnie Earl and Duke Robillard to Rory Block, Eric Bibb, and MonkeyJunk, among many others.
On June 17th, 2014 Stony Plain will launch an exciting new series of compilation discs titled Best of the Stony Plain Years, which will feature tracks from the label's vaults along with rare and previously-unreleased material. The first two entries in the series will come from Joe Louis Walker and the late Long John Baldry, two of the more critically-acclaimed artists on the Stony Plain roster.
Singer, songwriter, and guitarist Joe Louis Walker is a 2013 Blues Hall of Fame inductee and Blues Music Award winner. Walker recorded three albums for Stony Plain - 2008's Witness To The Blues, the following year's Between A Rock And The Blues, and 2010's Blues Conspiracy: Live On The Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise. The eleven songs compiled on Walker's Best of the Stony Plain Years album were culled from all three albums he recorded for the label.
British blues legend Long John Baldry recorded several albums for Stony Plain between signing with the label in 1991 and his death in 2005. A leading figure of the 1960s British blues-rock explosion, Baldry worked with fellow pioneers Alexis Korner and Cyril Davies to establish a thriving and influential scene that spawned talents like Eric Clapton and the Rolling Stones. Baldry's Best of the Stony Plain Years features songs from several of his albums for the label, including two previously-unreleased tracks as well as a live duet with legendary R&B vocalist Jimmy Witherspoon on the song "Time's Getting' Tougher Than Tough," backed by the Duke Robillard Band.
Each Best of the Stony Plain Years CD includes liner notes by Petersen with personal memories of the artist. Check out the Stony Plain Records website for more info on the series and other fine releases from the label.
Photos courtesy Stony Plain Records
Back in December 2012 we reported on the medical condition of legendary blues singer Finis Tasby, who had suffered a stroke and had been hospitalized. Mr. Tasby's friend and caregiver Angie Jackson-Steward got in touch and let us know about a fundraiser that has been launched on YouCaring.com to raise money to help Tasby with his medical and living expenses.
Tasby remains paralyzed on one side, and is currently sheltered at a long-term care facility in California, unable to work and thereby earn a living. Aside from the complications from his stroke, Tasby also suffers from diabetes, emphysema, and other ailments. Medicare won't pay for his long-term custodial care, making Finis directly responsible for his daily room and board co-pay along with other (mounting) expenses, thus the need to raise funds.
For a minimum donation of $25 US ($35 internationally), you will receive your choice of one of Finis' recent CDs or a "Supporting Finis" t-shirt, while supplies last. This is a chance to get a great CD or a cool shirt and help out an artist that has provided us with a lot of fine music. Fans that wish to donate by check, or would like to send the singer a card, can do so to this address:
The Finis Tasby Medical Fund
P.O. Box 244
Fullerton CA 92836
Tasby was born in Dallas, Texas in 1940 and grew up surrounded by the rich blues tradition of the Lone Star state. He began his career playing drums for local bands before switching to bass guitar, picking up gigs playing and singing back-up with artists like ZZ Hill, Freddie King, and Clarence Carter. By the 1960s, Tasby was fronting his own band and quickly earned a reputation as a soulful vocalist and electrifying performer. Tasby would later become an inaugural member of the blues and R&B supergroup the Mannish Boys, where he was able to bring his smooth-as-silk vocal style to an entirely new generation of blues fans. He's spent much of his adult life singing the blues for fans worldwide, so now it's our turn to help out. Contribute to Tasby through his YouCaring.com page.
Finis Tasby photo courtesy Delta Groove Music
You guys have just a week or so to make your plans to spend Memorial Day weekend in Kansas City, Missouri. From Friday, May 23rd through Sunday, May 25th, 2014 the good folks behind The Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise will be hosting their annual "Cruiser Reunion Show" at the world-famous Knuckleheads club.
The Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise was launched in 2001 by Roger Naber, the former co-owner of the popular KC music venue The Grand Emporium, and the twice-yearly seagoing event regularly sells out far in advance even as it attracts the best roots 'n' blues talent to take the ride along with the fans. Naber is also celebrating 35 years as a music promoter with this "Cruiser Reunion Show," which is as good a reason as any to throw a party.
The "Cruise Reunion Show" features a half-dozen red-hot artists performing over Memorial Day weekend, including Blues Hall of Fame inductee Otis Clay and his ten-piece band. The Royal Southern Brotherhood, which includes Cyril Neville, Devon Allman, and Mike Zito, will be performing, as will Chicago blues lifers Rick Estrin & the Nightcats. Blues royalty Ronnie Baker Brooks, son of the legendary Lonnie Brooks, will pay his respects to Naber, along with boogie-woogie pianist Eden Brent and young British guitarist Joanne Shaw Taylor.
If that line-up of talent isn't enough to grab your ticket money, the weekend's special guest is pianist Leon Blue, who performed with legendary guitarist Albert King 35 years ago for Naber's first show at the Uptown Theater. As an added incentive, there will be a drawing for a free cabin for two for the October 2015 Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise, to be chosen before the final performance on Sunday night. Check with the Blues Cruise website for more details on both this anniversary celebration and the cruise itself. Congrats to Roger Naber for 35 great years!
Royal Southern Brotherhood photo courtesy Ruf Records
After a couple of exhilarating weeks, it's forward into the past with the blues chart for the week ending May 17, 2014. Keb' Mo' still holds down the number one spot, Robert Cray is at number two, and the latest collaboration between Beth Hart and Joe Bonamassa sits comfortably at number three. Kudos to JJ Thames, who has been hanging tough on the charts with everybody these past few weeks, her Tell You What I Know album moving up to claim the five spot. This week's lone debut is from guitarist Albert Castiglia, whose Ruf Records debut Solid Ground hits the chart at number ten. Castiglia is a triple-threat talent with a soulful voice, a natural storytelling songwriting style, and immense guitar chops.
There are a couple of new releases this week, beginning with John Mayall's A Special Life, his first new studio album in five years. A spirited eleven-track collection, A Special Life sports a bunch of originals by Mayall and band members Rocky Athas and Greg Rzab, as well as covers of songs by Albert King and Sonny Landreth. The Black Keys' Turn Blue is the pick hit of the week, a certain-to-chart collection by the popular duo and producer Danger Mouse that features the same sort of blues, rock, and soul hybrid as the band's past two Top Ten discs, 2010's Brothers and 2011's El Camino.
Here are this week's Billboard Top Ten blues albums, ranked by sales:
10. Albert Castiglia - Solid Ground (Ruf Records)
9. Joe Bonamassa - An Acoustic Evening at the Vienna Opera House (J&R Adventures)
8. Hugh Laurie - Didn't It Rain (Warner Brothers Records)
7. Boz Scaggs - Memphis (429 Records)
6. Tedeschi Trucks Band - Made Up Mind (Sony Masterworks)
5. JJ Thames - Tell You What I Know (DeChamp Records)
4. George Thorogood - 10 Great Songs, 20th Century Masters (Capitol Records)
3. Beth Hart & Joe Bonamassa - Live In Amsterdam (J&R Adventures)
2. Robert Cray - In My Soul (Provogue Records)
1. Keb' Mo' - Bluesamericana (Kind of Blue Music)
New releases this week: The Black Keys' Turn Blue (Nonesuch Records); Catfish Hodge's Different Strokes (Ace Records); John Mayall's A Special Life (Forty Below Records); Terry Harmonica Bean's Catfish Blues (Wolf Records)
Photo of the Black Keys' Turn Blue courtesy Nonesuch Records
The Blues Foundation held its annual Blues Music Awards ceremony on Thursday night, May 8th, 2014 and like usual, reports are that the event was a real blast! A bunch of great people got on stage and performed, dozens of talented people had been nominated, and a handful of those were honored for their work.
The legendary Buddy Guy took the coveted B.B. King Entertainer of the Year Award and the Tedeschi Trucks Band were honored twice - with "Band of the Year" and "Rock Blues Album of the Year" for their Made Up Mind album - three times if you include Susan Tedeschi's "Contemporary Blues Female Artist of the Year" award. Bluesman Doug MacLeod also won twice, receiving honors are the "Acoustic Artist of the Year" and "Acoustic Album of the Year" for his There's A Time set.
The big winner, however, was the good folks at Blind Pig Records, who received both "Album of the Year" and "Traditional Blues Album of the Year" for their wonderful Remembering Little Walter compilation album, which stars talented harmonica wizards like Billy Boy Arnold, Charlie Musselwhite, Mark Hummel, Sugar Ray Norcia, and James Harman. See who else won a 2014 Blues Music Award...
Remembering Little Walter photo courtesy Blind Pig Records