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Blues CDs New Releases - September 2013

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September brings one of the longest lists of new releases that we've had a long time as labels prepare for those "make or break" fourth quarter sales. Plenty of great music this month too, all killer and no filler with new albums from folks like Bryan Lee, Cyril Neville, Jonny Lang, Lightnin Malcolm and many more as well as vital reissues of discs from Bumble Bee Slim, Mississippi Fred McDowell, and Roosevelt Sykes. No matter your taste in blues, here's what you'll be listening to in September...

Bryan Lee – 'Play One For Me' (Severn Records)

Bryan Lee's Play One For Me
Photo courtesy Severn Records

For better than 20 years now, veteran New Orleans bluesman Bryan Lee has released his music through Canada's Justin Time Records, and considering the man's immense six-string talents, I'm really surprised that no stateside label has poached Lee before now. Play One For Me is the blind bluesman's debut for Severn Records, a red-hot poker that hopefully will introduce Lee to a wider audience outside of The Big Easy, where he's a musical institution on par with the Neville family, Dr. John, or Allen Toussaint. Play One For Me is a mix of original tunes and choice covers from folks like Freddie King, Bobby Womack, and Howlin' Wolf, among others, and features a guest appearance by Fabulous Thunderbirds frontman Kim Wilson. If you haven't heard Lee, you need to because, aside from his apparent guitar skills, the guy's a strong songwriter and singer as well. The Rev says "check it out!" (Release date: 09/17/13)

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Bumble Bee Slim – 'Back In Town!' (Cleopatra Records)

Bumble Bee Slim's Back In Town!
Photo courtesy Cleopatra Records

Bluesman Bumble Bee Slim isn't one of the better known artists in the Piedmont blues style, but he was a reasonably popular singer and guitarist during much of the 1930s, recording for labels like Bluebird, Vocalion, and Decca Records, among others. He brought the Piedmont style to Chicago in the early 1930s, recording with and influencing artists as diverse as Big Bill Broonzy, Memphis Minnie, and Tampa Red. Slim ended up in Los Angeles in the 1940s, trying to break into the movies while still recording his own hybrid style of blues. Originally released in 1962, Back In Town! was the last record Slim did before dying in 1968, an underrated slab of early West Coast styled blues. Recorded for the Pacific Jazz label and featuring guests like the great jazz guitarist Joe Pass, pianist Les McCann, bassist Leroy Vinnegar (The Crusaders), and drummer Ron Jefferson, Back In Town! will be released both digitally and on vinyl for the hardcore collector. (Release date: 09/24/13)

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Cyril Neville – 'Magic Honey' (Ruf Records)

Cyril Neville's Magic Honey
Photo courtesy Ruf Records

New Orleans music legend Cyril Neville follows his Royal Southern Brotherhood bandmates Devon Allman and Mike Zito to Ruf Records for the release of Magic Honey, Neville's first solo work since 2009's Brand New Blues. Recorded in Bogalusa, Alabama with producer David Z (Prince, Buddy Guy) on the board, Neville is joined by guitarist Cranston Clements, bassist Carl Dufrene, keyboardist Norman Caesar, and drummer "Mean" Willie Green on a collection of New Orleans funk, soul, blues, reggae, and roots-rock music. Guest stars on Magic Honey include fellow Crescent City legends Allen Toussaint and Dr. John as well as guitarist Walter Trout and RSB bandmate Zito. Should be one hell of a party! (Release date: 09/10/13)

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Guy Davis – 'Juba Dance' (M.C. Records)

Guy Davis' Juba Dance
Photo courtesy M.C. Records

Acoustic bluesman Guy Davis has been pretty busy as of late, pursuing a multi-faceted career as a musician, songwriter, actor, and director. Juba Dance makes the sixth album released by the folk-blues guitarist in the past decade, a prolific pace by contemporary blues standards, the LP following hot on the heels of his acclaimed 2012 story-song album The Adventures of Fishy Waters. A 13-song collection, Juba Dance is a relatively stripped-down affair, featuring mostly Guy and his guitar and harp player Fabrizzio Poggi working out on a mix of Davis originals and inspired covers from folks like Blind Lemon Jefferson and Blind Willie McTell. Juba Dance also features a guest appearance by The Blind Boys of Alabama, which is always a treat. (Release date: 09/10/13)

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Jim Allchin – 'Q.E.D.' (Sandy Key Music)

Jim Allchin's Q.E.D.
Photo courtesy Sandy Key Music

Guitarist Jim Allchin's career arc is somewhat odd for a bluesman…born in a one room shack on a Florida dirt farm? OK, so far so good...began playing guitar as a teenager enamored of the Allman Brothers Band? Getting warmer...dropping out of college to spend years as a starving artist honing his craft? Well, if Allchin had stopped there, he'd be just another typical blues story...instead he decided to go back to college, attending Stanford University and Georgia Institute of Technology where he earned a Ph.D in computer science, eventually going to work for Microsoft where he worked himself up to an executive position. After 16 years working for "Big Blue," however, Allchin decided in 2007 to return to his first love, the blues. Q.E.D. is Allchin's third album since leaping headfirst into the abyss, a perfect showcase for his stunning guitarplay and solid songwriting, which blends blues with jazz, rock, and soul. Definitely an underrated player, and possible the smartest man in the blues (well, along with Watermelon Slim, that is!). (Release date: 09/10/13)

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Jonny Lang – 'Fight For My Soul' (Concord Records)

Wunderkind guitarist Jonny Lang returns to the fray with Fight For My Soul, his first studio album since 2006's Grammy® Award winning Turn Around. Lang has been working on the new disc for three years now with producer and songwriter Tommy Sims (whose songs have been recorded by Eric Clapton, Bonnie Raitt, and Susan Tedeschi, among many others), the two artists crafting an elegant collection of rock 'n' soul music buoyed by Lang's strong vocals and amazing guitar playing. If you've been wondering where Lang has been these past seven years, the guitarist has been busy raising his family and touring sporadically, working on the new album as time permitted. I suspect that it will be worth the wait... (Release date: 09/17/13)

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Lightnin Malcolm – 'Rough Out There' (ShakeDown Records)

Lightnin Malcolm's Rough Out There
Photo courtesy ShakeDown Records

The second solo album from blues singer, songwriter, and guitarist Steve "Lightnin" Malcolm showcases his underrated songwriting skills, his versatility as a vocalist and, of course, his immense six-string talents displayed across a mix of blues, rock, and throwback soul on Rough Out There. A veteran of the hardscrabble contemporary Mississippi blues scene, Malcolm was schooled by the master T-Model Ford and hung around enough Burnside and Kimbrough kin to be considered family (and, with drummer Cedric Burnside, recorded two badass records as the "2 Man Wrecking Crew"). Rough Out There includes North Mississippi Allstar gitman Luther Dickinson's slide-guitar on four tunes; otherwise it's just Malcolm and drummer Stud (a/k/a Carl White, another T-Model Ford school of hard knocks alumnus) banging out the hits. Malcolm recently hooked up with the Allstars as the band's bassist, and will be touring with them this fall, playing songs off Rough Out There as well as from the upcoming NMA disc. (Release date: 09/10/13)

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Little Joe Washington – 'Texas Fire Line' (Dialtone Records)

Little Joe Washington's Texas Fire Line
Photo courtesy Dialtone Records

He may not be well-known, but Texas bluesman Little Joe Washington is certainly well-traveled. Raised in Houston's roughneck Third Ward, where the legendary Sam "Lightnin'" Hopkins held court, Washington began playing music as a child, eventually earning a place on the drum stool behind Albert Collins. He later toured with Roscoe Gordon as his guitarist, recorded in L.A. with the Champs and as a solo artist, and performed with his band on the dangerous El Paso/Juarez Mexico circuit. Essentially homeless throughout much of the 1980s and '90s, the new millennium has led to a rebirth for the singer and guitarist, and Texas Fire Line is his second album since 2003 for the Texas-based Dialtone Records label. Washington mixes the spicy R&B of his youth with a hard-lived, downtrodden blues sound that is as real as a rock upside the head. Texas Fire Line features a band that includes Fabulous Thunderbirds Johnny (guitar) and Jason (drums) Moeller, but the album is an unvarnished showcase for the overlooked talents of Little Joe Washington. (Release date: 09/10/13)

Mississippi Fred McDowell – 'I Do Not Play No Rock 'n' Roll' (Water Music)

Mississippi Fred McDowell's I Do Not Play No Rock 'n' Roll
Photo courtesy Water Music

This may be the most-frequently reissued album of Mississippi Fred McDowell's extensive and somewhat scattered back catalog, and for good reason. I Do Not Play No Rock 'n' Roll, originally released in 1969, is one of the North Mississippi Hill Country legend's best and most cohesive recordings, as well as his most controversial, representing the first time that McDowell recorded with an electric guitar. Although the album may have angered blues purists at the time, McDowell's performances here rock, his vocals loud and ringing clear, his red-hot six-string work accompanied by a strong rhythm section on classic tunes like Big Joe Williams' "Baby Please Don't Go," Sonny Boy Williamson's "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl," and originals like "61 Highway" and "Jesus Is On The Mainline." This new Water Music reissue is a stripped-down affair with only the original album's nine songs...for just a few dollars more you can find a copy of the two-disc 2006 Capitol Records reissue featuring the 1995 remastering, eleven more songs from the original studio sessions, and liner notes by Bonnie Raitt. Either way, this is an album that demands a place in your collection! (Release date: 09/17/13)

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MonkeyJunk – 'All Frequencies' (Stony Plain Records)

MonkeyJunk's All Frequencies
Photo courtesy Stony Plain Records

In the four years since Canadian blues outfit MonkeyJunk released its 2009 debut album Tiger In Your Tank, which earned them a Blues Music Award for "Best New Artist Debut," the trio of singer and harp player Steve Marriner, guitarist Tony D, and drummer Matt Sobb have walked away with a whopping 15 Maple Blues Awards. The band's sophomore effort, To Behold, won them a Juno Award (the Canadian equivalent of the Grammy®) for "Best Blues Album," so expectations are high for album number three, titled All Frequencies. The new disc features nine new original tunes as well as a cover of cult artist Bobby Charles' classic "Why Are People Like That?" Marriner himself has said that All Frequencies expands the band's traditional blues influences with "greasy rock 'n' roll, swampy blues, uptown funk and soul, and even a little taste of Appalachia." MonkeyJunk ain't funkin' around, and I expect All Frequencies will take the band to the next level. (Release date: 09/24/13)

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