John’s Blues Picks
January 2011 – Vol. 27. No 1 (download issue)
Angel Forrest Come Alive Wonderland/Select
Quebec vocalist Angel Forrest has received much acclaim for promoting the music of Janis Joplin, culminating in the album Sings Janis Live. She has moved on from that now to release several other albums, including Wonderland, a recent Christmas disc. On this CD, she’s on a mission. She wants us to stop dwelling on our difficulties and ‘come alive’, preferably through music. Song titles such as “Tell My Why (you won’t come alive)”, “Courage”, “Move On” & “Breakdown” give you the idea. The songs are all written, arranged & produced by Angel with Denis Coulombe & Rob MacDonald, her guitarists. The trio has done a remarkable job: the songs have memorable lyrics & melodies and avoid preaching. The best example is the title song, which takes the rather unusual perspective of the singer telling her audience how much she enjoys singing for them, especially when they’re singing along with her. And her singing is especially attractive, a voice of obvious power used in an understated way. The arrangements are attractive as well, using acoustic and electric guitars to maintain that understated quality. The rest of the band deserves mention as well: Sly Coulombe on drums, Alec McElcheran on bass and Bernard Quessy on keyboards. For the most part, the songs were recorded live off the floor, and hence a good indicator of how we’ll hear these songs at their Blues Summit V Showcase. The web site is www.myspace.com/angelforrest.
Fraser/Daly Fraser/Daley Self
As the cover suggests, this is Old Time music, in the best sense. It can be seen as an extension of Broken Joe, a band that MBA-winning bassist Alec Fraser was a part of for a few years. He’s the same Alec Fraser who’s the MBA-winning engineer & producer of many of the CDs written about in this column. Mike Daley is a member of the early jazz group, The Hogtown Syncopators, and is the guitarist in the band that does the Classic Albums series, although he refers to himself as simply a professional musician. They met while both were members of Jeff Healey’s Blues Band. They both sing, often with ‘uncannily close vocal harmonies’. Daley plays various guitars, acoustic & electric and Fraser adds banjo & mouth trombone. The beauty of this album lies in their success at incorporating that Old Time feel with contemporary subject matter and in blending these new songs with some fine country blues performances. Blind Lemon Jefferson’s “Bad Luck Blues” opens the program with a duet vocal & Daley on electric. On listening you realize how many other songs sprang from this one 78. This one’s also a lot easier to listen to. “(Driving) 140 on the 401” is the first of several fine trucking songs. Fraser’s “The Relentless Gambler” features some fine dobro from Daley – the gambler is unrepentant, of course. Jesse Fuller’s She’s No Good” gets a rousing treatment as does Charley Jordan’s “Keep It Clean”. The enjoyment these two get out of playing together shines through here. Daley’s “Put It In Writing” is a masterpiece, the singer being a bitter, unemployed fisherman dealing with a bureaucrat who thinks money can replace a livelihood. “Turn This Rig Around” channels Johnny Cash in a tale of a truck driving man with a wife who has a drinking problem. “My Girl Sadie” is one of a couple that adds some humour to what may seem to be a rather dour set list. We go rocking out with “Homesick Daddy”. It’s a good example of Fraser’s ‘brushbass’ technique, which allows him to play bass & drums at the same time. The CD Release Party is at the Rex on Saturday, Jan 8th from 3.30pm till 6.30pm. No cover. They are also playing the Electro-Fi party at the Silver Dollar on the Summit Weekend, Saturday the 15th.
Brent Parkin Vintage Rhythm Self
Vintage Rhythm is indeed what Parkin supplies here: classic songs and a few originals, with a rather eclectic set of rhythms. The slashing opening of “Woke Up This Morning” announces he has some fresh ideas. They extend to the delightfully different middle section. There’s no shortage of versions of this B.B. King number but this one is a keeper. The Winnipeg-based veteran follows it with an original, “Bad Luck Women”, which effectively maintains that fresh look at tradition. He contributes a slide guitar part that’s as glistening as the spider’s web he sings about. His view of tradition incorporates some jazz as well, with a fine take on Count Basie’s “Jumpin’ At The Woodside”. It’s followed by “Fishin’ Blues”, credited to Henry Thomas but staying close to Taj Mahal’s famous version. When Richard Moody’s violin joins in, however, all is forgiven – another highlight. “Dedication Blues” is a mid tempo original and the centerpiece of the album. In T-Bone mode, he tells the story of his near death of cardiac arrest three years ago. Only the early CPR of ‘his angel’ Laura pulled him through. Moody returns to add his important touch to a Western Swing song, “Big Time Woman”. It segues very nicely into Little Walter’s “One Chance With You”, proving once again how limiting labels can be. “Love Key” adds a fine original jump blues to the mix before a gorgeous version of Lowell Fulson’s “Reconsider Baby”. “Crosscut Saw” is an obvious choice with its signature rhythm and the song gets an equally vital performance. “That’s Alright Mama” is the Elvis version and we go out with “Stella Rag”. Ken McMahon is on drums and three different bass players are on board, including Ken’s former partner in the Perpetrators, Ryan Menard. Ken Gold played the saxes and Graham Guest added piano & organ, proving once again how valuable an addition he can be. Brent Parkin has far too few recordings to show for his long career. We should all be thankful that his angel’s quick response has allowed him to make this one. His web site is www.myspace.com/brentparkin.
C.C. Ryder Blues Band Blues My Dog Likes Self
C.C. Ryder is Ron Fraresso, a guitarist with ten years in the Sonny Rhodes band behind him, a tough finishing school indeed. He has assembled a fine band for the CD: Jim Morgan is on bass with Phil Manning, Graham Howes or Brent Eikhard on keys, Frank Woodcock on drums and Ernie Grimes on vocals. Glen Hill, from Robbie Lane & The Disciples sits in on harp and there’s a fine horn section and back up singers where needed. He had a gig on Sunday nights at Alleycats this past fall with a different trio although that has ended. The set list alternates some fine original instrumentals with some dance floor fillers. Fraresso is an excellent guitarist, a soloist with ideas to spare, so the instrumentals shine. “Dee Blues”, “Bluezin’” & “Just One More Thing” are highlights. “7th Son” is my favourite of the vocal tracks but “Groovin’” and a couple of the others are beyond salvation to these ears. Check out our listings pages and welcome a hot new guitarist.
Albert King & Stevie Ray Vaughan In Session Stax/Universal CD/DVD
It doesn’t seem likely that an Albert King album would have a local connection but there is a major one. Those of you with long memories will remember the In Session series on CHCH-TV in Hamilton. William F. Cooke was the Executive Producer, Ian Anderson the prime mover and Greg Quill was one of the talent coordinators. Other shows, done over two seasons in 1983 & 1988, featured duos such as B.B. King & Larry Carleton and Dr. John & Johnny Winter. Albert was in town for one of his shows at the Brunswick and Stevie Ray Vaughan was just recording his first album for John Hammond. He never hesitated to credit Albert as a major influence and had sat in with him in Texas, as Albert recalls during the taping. In hindsight, the pairing was, as they say, a no-brainer and that it actually came to be is a boon to all of us. This CD/DVD package finally makes available the TV show. The CD has been available for ten years or so and it has not been altered, so you may wish to buy the DVD only and it is available separately. Whichever you choose, you can retire your videocassette and also acquire a wealth of new material. Two half-hour shows were originally broadcast, including commercials. The DVD runs for almost 90 minutes and the CD still includes three more songs not on the DVD. In a nice bit of symmetry, the DVD has three songs not on the CD. Throughout the set list we get blues soloing of the highest order. Albert is in top form and in very good spirits. Stevie Ray is very much the disciple in the presence of the master but don’t be dismayed – he more than holds his own. In this setting, he’s obliged to dispense with some of the excesses that featured in his later work but he seems only too happy to be here. The backing band is Albert’s of the time, with Tony Llorens, the bandleader, on keys. The empathy in this set makes for an interesting contrast with another Canadian Albert connection. Just released is Albert jamming with The Doors, Live in Vancouver in 1970 (DMC/Rhino). It takes Albert out of his comfort zone, playing some songs not on his discs: “Little Red Rooster”, “Money”, “Rock Me” & especially, “Who Do You Love” – something a little different for his fans, especially with Jim Morrison on vocals.
– John Valenteyn