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Kenny Wayne Shepherd CD Preview

Thursday April 17, 2014

Kenny Wayne Shepherd's Goin' HomeKenny Wayne Shepherd has never been accused of being overly prolific in the recording studio, the guitarist releasing but two studio albums over the past decade. He's been busy honing his craft, touring with blues legends like Pinetop Perkins, Henry Townsend, and Hubert Sumlin and delving deeper into the blues than your average young blues-rock fretburner. Then there was last year's collaboration with Stephen Stills and Barry Goldberg as the Rides. Shepherd comes full circle on May 20, 2014 when Concord Records releases Goin' Home, a collection of classic blues covers as only KWS can deliver.

His eighth album overall, Goin' Home is the first to be recorded in Shepherd's hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana. Working at Blade Studios with album co-producer Brady Blade, Shepherd recorded with an all-star line-up that included longtime band frontman Noah Hunter, bassist Tony Franklin (The Firm), keyboardist Riley Osbourn, and drummer Chris Layton (Double Trouble). Among the classic covers performed by Shepherd and his crew are songs by Albert King ("Born Under A Bad Sign"), Bo Diddley ("You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover"), John Lee Hooker ("Boogie Man"), and Muddy Waters ("Still A Fool") as well as songs from Magic Sam, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Junior Wells, and Freddie King.

Shepherd and his band weren't alone in the studio, either, joined by friends of the guitarist like Joe Walsh, Warren Haynes, and Kim Wilson of the Fabulous Thunderbirds, among others. "I dug through tons and tons of songs and artists' catalogues, trying to find songs that I thought would be right for this record," says Shepherd in a press release for Goin' Home. "That brought back all these distinct memories of sitting in the living room in front of the record player and cassette deck as a kid and learning how to play this material."

The band recorded Goin' Home in just 11 days, putting a total of 22 songs on tape before whittling them down to a dozen for the album's release. "We did it the way records used to be recorded," Shepherd explains. "Everything, including the vocals, was basically cut live in the studio with everybody in the same room, with the instruments all bleeding together onto two-inch tape. I wanted to record these songs in the same spirit in which they were originally recorded, so the 11-day time frame was self-imposed. That put pressure on everybody to get it right the first time, and I had the utmost confidence in everyone's abilities and knowledge."

"This is a homecoming in more ways than one," says Shepherd, "I felt like I was retracing my steps and reliving all the good times that I've had in my life because of this music. And hopefully, that amount of happiness comes through on the album."

Photo courtesy Concord Records

Weekly Blues Music Report: Robert Cray's Big Debut!

Tuesday April 15, 2014

Terry Hanck's Gotta Bring It On Home To YouWell, who would have expected the upset we're seeing on the blues chart for the week ending April 19, 2014? Robert Cray's In My Soul album made its big debut this week, knocking Beth Hart and Joe Bonamassa out of the top spot and claiming number one for his own bad self! Although I guessed that Cray's latest would perform well, it looks like quite a few fans (myself included) pre-ordered the album, or bought it on the day of its release, so it hit the chart high. I haven't received my copy yet, so I don't know how good it is, but it's Robert Cray so I have high expectations. Hopefully it will have the legs to stay in the Top Ten for a while!

The week's other big debut comes from our old friend George Thorogood and a new compilation album called 10 Great Songs, 20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection or something like that. It's really hard to get the story behind this one...the budget-priced anthology was released on April Fool's Day and features pretty much the same "10 great songs" as every other Thorogood "best of" album, including 2010's 10 Great Songs CD. By my count, there are ten various Thorogood anthology albums currently for sale on Amazon, eight of them released over the past ten years. How long is the label going to keep flogging this horse?

If the label had put as much effort into promoting the guitarist's excellent 2120 South Michigan Avenue album as they do in marketing "best of" albums, well...let just say that Thorogood's Icon at least includes a new song. There are a lot of new releases this week, none of which are from the talented guitarist from Delaware, the list dominated by a trio of albums from the Delta Groove label featuring harp master Bob Corritore, guitarist Shane Dwight, and sax-blaster Terry Hanck. Throw in albums by singer Jim Byrnes and harmonica wizard Mark Hummel, and you'll have to work overtime this week to buy 'em all!

Here are this week's Billboard Top Ten blues albums, ranked by sales:

10. Hugh Laurie - Didn't It Rain (Warner Brothers Records)
9. Joe Bonamassa - An Acoustic Evening at the Vienna Opera House (J&R Adventures)
8. Paul Rodgers - The Royal Sessions (429 Records)
7. John Nemeth - Memphis Grease (Blue Corn Music)
6. Tommy Castro & the Painkillers - The Devil You Know (Alligator Records)
5. Tedeschi Trucks Band - Made Up Mind (Sony Masterworks)
4. George Thorogood - 10 Great Songs, 20th Century Masters (Capitol Records)
3. Gary Clark, Jr. - Blak and Blu (Warner Brothers)
2. Beth Hart & Joe Bonamassa - Live In Amsterdam (J&R Adventures)
1. Robert Cray - In My Soul (Provogue Records)

New releases this week: Bob Corritore's Taboo (Delta Groove); Hans Theessink's Songs From The Southland (Blue Groove Records); Jim Byrnes' St. Louis Times (Black Hen Music); Mark Hummel's The Hustle Is Really On (Electro-Fi Records); Shane Dwight's This Home (Delta Groove); Terry Hanck's Gotta Bring It On Home To You (Delta Groove)

Photo of Terry Hanck's Gotta Bring It On Home To You courtesy Delta Groove

Doheny Blues Festival 2014

Friday April 11, 2014

Buddy GuyWhat are you doing next month...specifically Saturday, May 17th and Sunday, May 18th, 2014? Might I suggest that if you're anywhere in Southern California, you plan on spending the weekend in lovely Dana Point, roughly halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego? That's the date of this year's Doheny Blues Festival, to be held at the 62-acre Doheny State Beach park; the event a raucous affair that includes music on three stages, an international food court, microbrew sampling, and a "Vendor Village" featuring over 50 unique booths.

This year's Doheny Blues Festival is the 17th occurrence of the annual festival, and it offers what might well be the best musical line-up to date. Saturday's headliners include Chicago blues legend Buddy Guy and Southern rock & blues legend Gregg Allman, but the line-up also includes a bunch of great performers like the Mannish Boys, Kid Ramos, Smokin' Joe Kubek and Bnois King, and John Nemeth with the Bo-Keys, among others.

Sunday's roster of talent is equally impressive, from headliners like Gov't Mule, the Doobie Brothers, and the James Cotton Blues Band to mid-card performers like Ruthie Foster and Keb Mo' to Eric Sardinas, Vintage Trouble, and others. If I won the lottery, I'd be hopping a plane and heading out to Cali that weekend. Check the Doheny Blues Festival website for more details.

Buddy Guy photo courtesy Blind Raccoon

Walter Trout's The Blues Came Callin'

Thursday April 10, 2014

Walter Trout's The Blues Came Callin'Walter Trout is facing the fight of his life, yet he's still thinking of his fans. In spite of his recent illness and hospital stay, the legendary blues-rock guitarist has been hard at work finishing up a new album to celebrate the 25th anniversary of his solo career. On June 10th, 2014 Provogue Records will release Trout's The Blues Came Callin', a twelve-song celebration of life in the face of mortality. Ten of the tracks are new Trout originals, one is a J.B. Lenoir cover, and the other was penned by British blues-rock legend (and Trout's former bandleader) John Mayall specifically for the album.

The Blues Came Callin' was recorded throughout 2013, whenever the guitarist was in between tour dates, and while he often struggled in the face of his illness, Trout found playing for people to be helpful. In a press release for the new album, Trout says, "to play my music for people has become even more important to me. When I think about looking out into the crowds of people and connecting with everyone on a soul level, and sharing the experience of music with them, this is what keeps me fighting to get back: My family and my music is my lifeline. These days, it means more to me than ever before."

Also on the horizon for the popular bluesman is an official biography co-written by Trout and noted British music journalist Henry Yates (full disclosure: Yates is my editor at The Blues magazine). Titled Rescued From Reality - The Life and Times of Walter Trout, the book features previously unpublished stories from Trout's 40+ years in the business, including his early struggles and impoverishment while trying to get started in music; the hard-partying years spent playing with heavyweights like Canned Heat and John Mayall's Bluesbreakers; and his success in kicking drugs and alcohol to the curb and launching his successful solo career in 1989. Trout is a fascinating talent, and a heck of a nice guy, so the bio should please his many fans around the world.

Keep in mind, though, that Walter is still suffering from a life-threatening disease and badly needs a liver transplant in order to return to health. He's lost over 100 pounds during the past few months, and while his once-imposing stature has diminished, his spirit and creativity remain unconquered. Both his medical and living expenses have skyrocketed, however, while he remains sidelined and unable to perform live (and thus earn money to support his family).

An online fundraiser has been launched to cover Trout's ongoing expenses, and you can visit his page at YouCaring.com to make a donation. If you'd rather donate by check, you may send it to Walter Trout, P.O. Box 246, Huntington Beach CA 92648 and your donation will be manually added to the online total. With roughly a month left to go (as of this writing), the fundraiser has achieved 70% of its recently-adjusted $250,000 goal, so every penny helps.

Photo courtesy Provogue Records

Weekly Blues Music Report: Beth Hart & Joe Bonamassa Liven Up The Chart!

Tuesday April 8, 2014

Wilko Johnson & Roger Daltry's Going Back HomeNo big surprises on the blues chart for the week ending April 12, 2014, although there's one big (and not entirely unexpected) debut. The third collaboration between singer Beth Hart and guitar-man Joe Bonamassa, Live In Amsterdam, hits the chart running at number one. Considering that the pair have, together and separately, had a strong presence on the chart for a couple of years now, a two-disc live set from the duo seems like a no-brainer to sell a lot of flapjacks.

The other debut this week is from soul-blues singer John Nemeth, who recently packed up his harmonica and left the west coast for the lovely environs of Memphis, Tennessee. Memphis Grease, Nemeth's first studio album since 2010's Name The Day! and an equally fine collection, hits the chart at a very respectable number five. This week will see only a couple of new releases, but both are good 'uns - blues-rock guitarist Albert Castiglia makes his Ruf Records label debut with the rockin' Solid Ground, and the long-awaited collaboration between guitarist Wilko Johnson and singer Roger Daltry, Going Back Home, on Chess Records (the label reactivated specifically for this release). Enjoy!

Here are this week's Billboard Top Ten blues albums, ranked by sales:

10. Robben Ford - A Day In Nashville (Provogue Records)
9. Joe Bonamassa - An Acoustic Evening at the Vienna Opera House (J&R Adventures)
8. Samantha Fish - Black Wind Howlin (Ruf Records)
7. George Thorogood - Icon (Capitol Records)
6. Michael Bloomfield - From His Head To His Heart To His Hands (Legacy Recordings)
5. John Nemeth - Memphis Grease (Blue Corn Music)
4. Paul Rodgers - The Royal Sessions (429 Records)
3. Tedeschi Trucks Band - Made Up Mind (Sony Masterworks)
2. Gary Clark, Jr. - Blak and Blu (Warner Brothers)
1. Beth Hart & Joe Bonamassa - Live In Amsterdam (J&R Adventures)

New releases this week: Albert Castiglia's Solid Ground (Ruf Records); Wilko Johnson & Roger Daltry's Going Back Home (Chess Records)

Photo of Wilko Johnson & Roger Daltry's Going Back Home courtesy Chess Records

Record Store Day 2014 Is Coming!

Thursday April 3, 2014

Big Mama Thornton's Sassy MamaApril is here and along with spring flowers comes the annual event known as Record Store Day. This year's RSD will be held on Saturday, April 19th at an independent music retailer near you, and if you're not sure where to go drive with a handful of currency to undertake your buying binge, the Record Store Day website has a list of participating stores you can check out.

Like previous Record Store Days, the 2014 event offers up a few blues-related gems among the 400+ special releases that will be made available that Saturday morning. RSD specials now come in three flavors - Record Store Day exclusive releases, which will not be available anywhere else in the same format; limited edition releases that may be regional in focus and available in quantities of 1,000 down to a few dozen; and Record Store Day first releases, those titles that will first come available on April 19th at participating dealers, but will be afforded wider release a few weeks down the road.

So, what's on your blues shopping list for Record Store Day 2014? Exclusive releases include the Allman Brothers Band's Selections From Play All Night, a 12" vinyl album excerpting performances from the band's 1992 Beacon Theatre show (which was released in its entirety on CD a month or so ago). An interesting exclusive is the vinyl reissue of Big Mama Thornton's Sassy Mama, a 1975 album whose RSD release was voted on by fans at the Vanguard Records website. Another cool release is that of British blues-rockers the Animals' self-titled second EP, which features the hit "Boom Boom." The four-song EP, originally released in England in 1964, was never released in the U.S. but is presented here in glorious 10" vinyl at 45rpm for high fidelity.

The Animals EPOther RSD releases of interest to blues and blues-rock fans include Jorma Kaukonen's Quah, on 12" vinyl, the former Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna guitarist's 1974 solo debut album. Jimmy Page & the Black Crowes' Live At The Greek is a three-album vinyl set comprised of a 1999 live performance by the former Led Zeppelin guitarist and the blues-rock band (originally released on CD in 2000); and a 12" vinyl reissue of the Yardbirds' 1967 LP Little Games LP, which also features Jimmy Page on guitar.

The Record Store Day release that I'm personally lusting after, however, is Bobby Rush's Upstairs At United. Capturing a February 2014 performance by Rush at United Record Pressing, the session was recorded live to analog tape and cut as a 45rpm 12" EP for super high fidelity. For more information and a complete list of releases, check out the Record Store Day website.

Photo of Big Mama Thornton's Sassy Mama courtesy Vanguard Records, photo of The Animals EP courtesy ABKCO Records

Weekly Blues Music Report: George Thorogood's Icon Returns

Tuesday April 1, 2014

Robert Cray's In My SoulThere's a little more shuffling among the Top Ten on the blues chart for the week ending April 5, 2014 than in previous weeks, with a couple of re-entries of old favorites. We're happy to see the Michael Bloomfield box set, From His Head To His Heart To His Hands, reappear at a very respectable number six, a nice feat for a multi-disc set with a higher price tag than your usual CD. The Royal Southern Brotherhood's Songs From The Road set comes back at number five, and Tommy Castro & the Painkillers' excellent The Devil You Know returns to number eight.

Not surprisingly, George Thorogood's compilation disc Icon reappears at number ten, the album bouncing back and forth on the chart like a rubber ball. Thorogood's constant touring status always helps bring fans back into the store for a taste of George on record, and the budget-minded $5.98 price of Icon doesn't hurt any. There are a handful of new releases this week, including a couple of solid efforts from blues veterans - Robert Cray's In My Soul and the Holmes Brothers' Brotherhood, both of which are worth your time if you're a fan.

The odd man out this week is the import reissue of Lightnin' Hopkins' Free Form Patterns, a 1968 album released by the notorious International Artists label. Based in Hopkins' hometown of Houston, Texas International Artists was owned by country music legend Kenny Rogers' brother Lelan, and was known for its psychedelic rock albums. Over a five year period, IA released albums by such psych-rock legends as the 13th Floor Elevators, the Bubble Puppy, and Red Crayola. Free Form Patterns was a definite outlier, the producer putting the Elevators' rhythm section behind the bluesman to create a rockin', and often-overlooked album from Hopkins' extensive catalog.

Here are this week's Billboard Top Ten blues albums, ranked by sales:

10. George Thorogood - Icon (Capitol Records)
9. Joe Bonamassa - An Acoustic Evening at the Vienna Opera House (J&R Adventures)
8. Tommy Castro & the Painkillers - The Devil You Know (Alligator Records)
7. Robben Ford - A Day In Nashville (Provogue Records)
6. Michael Bloomfield - From His Head To His Heart To His Hands (Legacy Recordings)
5. Royal Southern Brotherhoods - Songs From The Road (Ruf Records)
4. Joe Bonamassa - Beacon Theatre: Live From New York (J&R Adventures)
3. Tedeschi Trucks Band - Made Up Mind (Sony Masterworks)
2. Gary Clark, Jr. - Blak and Blu (Warner Brothers)
1. Paul Rodgers - The Royal Sessions (429 Records)

New releases this week: Robert Cray's In My Soul (Provogue Records); Lightnin' Hopkins' Free Form Patterns (Snapper Records); The Holmes Brothers' Brotherhood (Alligator Records)

Photo of Robert Cray's In My Soul courtesy Provogue Records

A Celebration of Blues and Soul DVD

Thursday March 27, 2014

A Celebration of Blues and Soul DVDIf you blinked, you may have missed it...the Reverend wrote about the long-lost A Celebration of Blues and Soul concert a month ago and mentioned its impending broadcast on a PBS station near you during March. If your local PBS affiliate is anything like mine, however, it showed the concert during the middle of the night or sometime mid-afternoon when only the insomniacs and bedsitters might watch. It certainly didn't receive the prime time broadcast real estate that it deserved (at least not here in WNY).

Fear not, faithful readers, 'cause if you missed this all-star bash of blues and soul talent, Shout! Factory has your back. On May 6th, 2014 the archival label will release A Celebration of Blues and Soul on DVD for your home-viewing pleasure. The commercial DVD release of this 1989 concert includes an additional hour of unseen concert footage that didn't appear on the fleeting PBS broadcast, plus an essay by noted music historian Peter Guralnick, liner notes about the vent by former Washington Post music writer Richard Harrington, and a photo gallery of never-before-seen pics from the concert.

In case y'all have forgotten, the original A Celebration of Blues & Soul show was part of the greater festivities surrounding the January 1989 inauguration of U.S. President George H.W. Bush. Arranged by R&B fan Lee Atwater, who had been Bush's campaign manager and was the new chairman of the Republican National Committee, the concert featured some of the greatest talents from the blues and soul worlds performing for the new President.

The line-up of talent for the show is like something out of the blues and soul fan's fondest dreams: Stevie Ray Vaughan (with brother Jimmie), Bo Diddley, Albert Collins, Dr. John, Delbert McClinton, Sam Moore (of Sam & Dave), Carla Thomas, Percy Sledge, Willie Dixon, and many others! A Celebration of Blues & Soul was filmed with a professional-level seven-camera set-up and afforded a separate 24-track audio recording, so you know that it looks and sounds great. The original recordings were relocated six years ago, after which the video was restored and re-mastered and converted to HD while the audio was remixed to a more modern six-channel 5.1 format by Emmy® Award winning sound engineer Ed Greene. Thanks to the good folks at Shout! Factory, if you missed the PBS broadcast, you can add the A Celebration of Blues and Soul DVD to your collection in May!

Photo courtesy Shout! Factory Records

Weekly Blues Music Report: The Piano Man Returns!

Tuesday March 25, 2014

John Nemeth's Memphis GreaseNot much to crow about, really, with the blues chart for the week ending March 29, 2014. Much of the Top Ten remains the same, maybe shuffling a couple of places here and there. Gary Clark, Jr. still holds down the top spot, guitarist Robben Ford is nipping at his heels from number two, and Joey Bones still has a pair of aces in the Top Ten. This week's outlier seems to be the return of the piano man, Hugh Laurie, whose Didn't It Rain album returns to the chart after a five or six week hiatus. I'll give Mr. Laurie this...the album has legs to match those of its predecessor, Didn't It Rain still selling well some six months after its release.

It's another good week for new releases, leading off with the Beth Hart/Joe Bonamassa concert disc Live In Amsterdam. A double-disc CD or DVD release, also available in Blu-ray, Live In Amsterdam should follow the duo's recent success and debut somewhere (I'm predicting) in the top three. You shouldn't overlook this week's sleeper, however, John Nemeth's Memphis Grease, which is a great showcase for the talented singer's soulful vocals and spry harp playing. Nemeth is backed by the legendary Bo-Keys on 13 red-hot numbers, including covers of songs from Lowell Fulson, Roy Orbison, and Jimmy McCracklin. Don't miss out on the reissue of the week, Sid Selvidge's The Cold Of The Morning a great collection of roots 'n' blues music from a bona fide Memphis music legend.

Here are this week's Billboard Top Ten blues albums, ranked by sales:

10. Jonny Lang - Fight For My Soul (Concord Records)
9. Hugh Laurie - Didn't It Rain (Warner Brothers)
8. Buddy Guy - Rhythm & Blues (Silvertone Records)
7. Joe Bonamassa - An Acoustic Evening at the Vienna Opera House (J&R Adventures)
6. Kim Simmonds and Savoy Brown - Goin' To The Delta (Ruf Records)
5. Joe Bonamassa - Beacon Theatre: Live From New York (J&R Adventures)
4. Paul Rodgers - The Royal Sessions (429 Records)
3. Tedeschi Trucks Band - Made Up Mind (Sony Masterworks)
2. Robben Ford - A Day In Nashville (Provogue Records)
1. Gary Clark, Jr. - Blak and Blu (Warner Brothers)

New releases this week: Beth Hart & Joe Bonamassa's Live In Amsterdam (J&R Adventures); John Nemeth's Memphis Grease (Blue Corn Music); Sid Selvidge's The Cold Of The Morning (Omnivore Recordings)

Photo of John Nemeth's Memphis Grease courtesy Blue Corn Music

Walter Trout Needs Our Help!

Sunday March 23, 2014

Blues-rock guitarist Walter TroutThe Reverend has written quite a lot about blues-rock guitarist Walter Trout over the past six years, and for good reason. Not only is the popular bluesman a great talent, he's also a heck of a nice guy. His kindness and consideration for others is as well-known as his "leave it all on the stage" live performance ethic. Trout has been entertaining blues fans for better than 40 years now, first as a sideman for legends like Big Mama Thornton and John Lee Hooker, later as a member of two legendary bands - Canned Heat and John Mayall's Bluesbreakers - before launching his own solo career 25 years ago.

Trout has been fighting severe liver disease for quite a few months now, depending entirely on medical treatments and his love of the music to keep him on the road, doing what he loves best - performing for people. Unfortunately, the aforementioned treatments have been a stopgap measure at best, and after several weeks in the hospital, his doctors have diagnosed liver failure, necessitating a liver transplant in order to save Walter's life.

Trout has health insurance, but it won't pay for the full cost of such a pricy procedure. His overall medical expenses, including medicine and therapy, are going to be oppressive. Like most musicians, if Walter doesn't play, he's not making money for his family, and this complicated surgery will force him to cancel his 2014 tour to concentrate on healing.

Some of Walter's many friends have gotten together and launched an online fundraising campaign through YouCaring.com to help cover Trout's ongoing medical expenses. Click on this YouCaring.com link to make a donation. If you'd rather donate by check, you may send it to Walter Trout, P.O. Box 246, Huntington Beach CA 92648 and your donation will be manually added to the online total. With 46 days left to go (as of this writing), the fundraiser has exceeded its goal of $125,000 but, as anybody who has faced an enormous medical expense like this knows, you can never have enough money in the bank.

It's kind of funny, and I'd never thought of it before, but on the YouCaring page for Trout, they state that other than his wonky liver, he's in good shape and with a transplant he's expected to make a full recovery and be back on the road and in the studio, making new music for all of us. "You will own a little piece of this success every time Walter takes to the stage in years to come when you help support this effort," they write.

I hadn't thought about it, but they're right - ten years or so ago, I was prompted by my buddy Bill Glahn to donate to a medical fund for roots-rocker Alejandro Escovedo. Although my small donation was just part of a much larger fund that helped Escovedo recover from a near-death experience, I feel a certain amount of joy with every new album Alejandro releases. He's released a lot of great music since 2003, and so will Walter Trout. Our efforts definitely make a difference, and although I know that times are tight and money scarce for many readers, if you can give, please do so...our donations will be paid back with interest in the future in every note Walter plays on stage and every album he releases.

Walter's YouCaring.com page

Walter Trout photo by Austin Hargrave, courtesy Provogue Records

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