John’s Blues Picks

Colin Linden - Still Live (File Under: Music/Outside)

Colin Linden - Still Live (File Under: Music/Outside)

Colin Linden has lived in Nashville for some years now and this club recording was done at the Douglas Corner Café there on October 29, 2010. Its journey as a CD available in stores here has been a lengthy one. It was released last May on CrossCut Records in Germany and has been available on itunes since then as well. File Under: Music is also the new label for the supergroup Blackie & The Rodeo Kings, so presumably various things contractual have resulted in the delay. The album is available in the US on Yellow Dog Records now too. With that out of the way, we can get to the music, which is mostly drawn from his then recent solo releases and performed with his usual bandmates, John Dymond on bass & harmony vocals & Gary Craig on drums and with very special guest Spooner Oldham on organ. It’s his first live album in thirty years, since Live, recorded in 1980 at Larry’s Hideaway (!). “Big Mouth” loses the overdubbed guitars but we get a virtuoso slide solo. A formative influence was an early meeting with Howlin’ Wolf and in this live set, it shows up as a lovely take on “Who’s Been Talkin’”. “Smoke ‘Em All”, from From The Water, is a tribute to the late Richard Bell, who really could smoke ‘em all. Colin takes this one solo, with some masterful Piedmont picking that pretty much smokes ‘em all too. “Remedy” is the oldest one here, a song written for the re-formed Band for their Jericho CD that became the group’s highest-ever chart entry. It gets a full quartet treatment, but without the horns he used on his own earlier recording. From (raised by wolves) comes “Too Late To Holler” and it’s a glorious blues romp this time out too. Another new one, again performed solo, is a song written with Jim Lauderdale, “Dark Night of the Soul” – it may be a song title that’s been used before but these new lyrics elicit some of his finest singing. As a producer, Colin Linden belongs in a select group with T-Bone Burnette & Joe Henry; as a performer, his solo albums are treasures. With all his production and session work, this live disc may be the only way to get him in performance, unless, of course, you read this in time to get to the Sleepwalk Guitar Festival Nov, 2-4 at the Great Hall (www.sleepwalkguitar.com).

 

Jack de Keyzer - Electric Love (Blue Star/Indie Pool)

Jack de Keyzer - Electric Love (Blue Star/Indie Pool)

 

Jack de Keyzer calls the new disc ‘a rock blues album with nods to guitar influences Clapton, Hendrix and Page’ and I guess it is that but it is mostly a disc of excellent new songs by a bluesman who should be considered their equal. It is also beautifully recorded, Jack’s vocals and guitar have never sounded better. Aside from two background vocalists, this is the band as you would catch them live, no guests and very few, if any, overdubs, just a hard touring band introducing some new material: David McMorrow on keyboards, Alan Duffy on bass and Rick Donaldson on drums. “Electric Love” opens the program as a blues-rock anthem and closes it as “Acoustic Love”, with Jack accompanying himself on slide in a remarkable downhome blues version. In between we get ten more led by a very fine slow blues “My Love Has Gone”. “Good Thing” will get you up & moving, with McMorrow setting the groove on organ and Jack soloing, soaring over that groove as only he can. “To The Beauty Of You” is one of his finest ballads. “Earthquake Girl” is channels Muddy, complete with a searing slide solo (with some Hendrix wah-wah pedal for good measure) and Hooker-esque chanting vocals, I can see this lasting a lot longer than five minutes in performance. Add in rockers like “Mojo Woman”, “Rock Me Like This” & “Groove Doctor” and there’ll be a most enjoyable new set list for the next Jack show you see. He has a European Tour coming up but the CD Release Parties are right afterwards: Saturday, November 17th at Stonewalls in Hamilton, and Friday, November 23rd at the Silver Dollar..

 

Danny Brooks - Texassippi Soul Man (HIS House)

Danny Brooks - Texassippi Soul Man (HIS House)

 

Danny Brooks is also now a US resident, of Llano, Texas, hence the album title. He continues to evoke the music of the American South, coming up with gorgeous melodies song after song. His high energy, occasionally raspy vocals can scarcely contain his enthusiasm and enjoyment. “Soul Man” and “Can’t Stop Riding This Train” are sometimes simply lists, the former of great singers in the past and the latter of places he’s travelled through, but he carries you along with his crack band keeping the groove, setting the context for what follows: “Trouble Me No More” is a well-done, straight-ahead blues with plenty of Danny’s harp. “Hard Workin’ Man” is a rocking manifesto: life the way Danny Brooks lives it.  As you probably know, he attributes his new career to finding religion and he has no trouble combining this message with his chosen music and making it into something for all to enjoy: “Jubilee” and “Mama Prayed” being just a couple of examples. Another highlight is “Running With The Best Of Them”, set to a tune Springsteen would be proud of, about a boy growing up in Regent Park. “I Wanna Be With You” has a bit of a Hill Country sound to it, a slide-driven blues that takes its time. More soul closes out the program with “Caught A Fire”, which chronicles anew his life in music. This is homegrown soul and blues at its best, he may live in the States now but you can still catch him live: Danny’s current tour includes Angola & Parchman Farm and takes in the Gladstone on Nov. 1 to celebrate this release. Www.dannybrooksmusic.com shows a series of Southern Ontario dates before he heads back to Texas.

 

Bob Walsh There’s A Story There BROS

 

Veteran Quebec blues singer Bob Walsh does not write many songs and none for this one but his knack for finding good songs by others does not fail him here. He looks for a good story and he even found one with that title. Alec McElcheran, who writes for and often plays bass with Steve Rowe, had just such a song, one of three he placed here. The story involves a man who talks rather too much about a certain woman. “When You Comin’ Over” finds the narrator so obsessed with a new friend that everything else falls by the wayside.

The veteran songwriting duo of BA Markus & Michael Jerome Browne supply a jazzy tune called “Can’t Sit Still”. Here the narrator is restless to a fault but unrepentant. The songs aren’t all new, though, Walsh found a lesser known Lonnie Johnson tune, “Chicago Blues”, from 1941 whose performance may be a highlight among highlights. Nor does he restrict himself to blues songs: Andy Razaff’s “Black and Blue” and Sam Wyche’s “Alright, Okay You Win” delve into the big band tradition and John Prine’s “Angel From Montgomery” is here as well, all sung with aplomb.

His regular band of Guy Bélanger on harp, Christian Martin, guitars, Jean Cyr, bass and Bernard Deslauriers on drums handle all the various styles with ease, aided immeasurably by keyboardist/arranger extraordinaire Jean Fernand Girard. Only a singer of Walsh’s caliber can pull this kind of program off. Sit back and enjoy.

 

Dalannah Gail Bowen - Them Menz (Self)

Dalannah Gail Bowen - Them Menz (Self)

 

Since Mamma’s Got The Blues, in 2007, Dalannah Gail Bowen has retired from a career in the non-profit sector in Vancouver and survived a health scare. She’s now devoted her considerable energies to music. She’s kept that excellent band, added some special guests and written a whole slew of new songs. Over the years, she’s matched her ‘spectacular set of pipes’ with a unique blend of blues, soul & jazz. The uptown sound that has evolved seems to bring out the best in everyone. “Them Menz” opens the disc and was released as a single. It’s all about why she likes men so much – a very good song and a good choice for the album title as well. “Loved By That Woman” tells how the lives of the various men in a woman’s life have been improved by their relationship with her. “Timin’” features an acoustic guitar so why not bring in the best: Steve Dawson and his Weissenborn. “Who’s Foolin’ Who?” is a delightful uptempo number that incorporates some wonderful exchanges with the Sojourners. “Just Don’t Like The Deal” is another forthright song only a lifelong social activist would come up with. Bowen is part Cherokee and she brought in the Ocean Side Dakota Drummers to open and close a song promoting a First Nations worldview as an alternative called “The Spirit Within”, a fine set closer. Check out her web site, wwwdalannahgailbowen.com, to get this and her other CDs and to get show dates if you’re travelling to Vancouver. She’d be ideal for the Women’s Blues Revue, if we could only work out how to get her here.

 

-John Valenteyn

jvalenteyn8724@rogers.com