No More Worlds to Conquer Robin Trower

No More Worlds to Conquer Robin Trower

No More Worlds to Conquer Robin Trower

No More Worlds to Conquer

Robin Trower 

As he draws nearer to the age of eighty, guitarist Robin Trower just gains more momentum with consistent studio releases. Remaining sidelined from live performances in the last couple of years due to the pandemic, Robin just uses the downtime to go into the Provogue studio to record the endless number of compositions he keeps writing.

The man responsible for the classic rock 1974 opus Bridge Of Sighs has a special place in the hearts of those of us as teen-agers who had blacklight posters wearing headphones letting songs like “Day Of The Eagle” and “Bridge Of Sighs” transport us to that special place that was an adolescent comfort zone.

Other reviewers have coined the phrase “psychedelic blues” in describing Trower’s music. It’s an old cliche but it best describes Trower’s approach to his Hendrix infused pedal/reverb guitar lines that deeply resonate with soul he imbibes

Letting vocalist Richard Watts sing the tunes that fulfill his vision, the Strat tones shimmer and ride the groove immediately from the onset. The medium paced “Ball Of Fire” opens the party and can become a live staple in Trower’s live sets. The title track can do the same thing with Robin coaxing his reverb drenched notes awash in an elixir he can create.

It’s a long way from the seventies in which he reigned strongly in the concert arenas. Since then, Trower has become comfortable in his role as elder statesman of the blues. Never one for speedy deliveries or a thousand note attacks doesn’t hinder him from transmitting emotion that is strong in his single note attacks. It’s the stuff guitar geeks can soak up when they purchase their Fender guitars and Marshall amps. Add a pedal board to the mix and you have the tools of trade.

While his tunes don’t headbang with the fire and fury of his classic rock yesteryear, Robin lays down his psychedelic blues smoke in the hazy “Birdsong.” The tempo picks up with Robin’s lyrical lines in “Losing You” that segues into the same paced “Waiting For The Rain To Fall.”

These tunes follow the same blueprint. Slow approaches undercut by Robin’s ethereal spacy notes that serve the purpose of creating atmosphere. Not disrupting it.

“Cloud Across The Sun” can be a great addition to Trower’s live sets as it gallops with rocking urgency that recalls a younger Robin in his heyday. Then it’s back to the slow crawl of “Fire To Ashes” with Robin’s ghostly guitar riding the bedrock of rhythm fleshed out by soulful keyboards.

“Razors Edge” with its lyrics pointing fingers at the politicians taking the world in a downward trajectory is the package of blues rock histrionics that could have found a home on Trower’s earlier work. Blues awash in psychedelia that only Robin can play.

The Hendrix influence is strong within the love song “I Will Always Be Your Shelter” that can lull couples into a warm embrace with Trower’s airy guitar painting broad strokes across the canvass.

If one wants to think of Robin as blues of the twenty first century, then it’s an honorable designation to live with.

  • Gary Weeks

 

Brother Johnny – An All-Star Tribute to Johnny Winter

Brother Johnny – An All-Star Tribute to Johnny Winter

Brother Johnny – An All-Star Tribute to Johnny Winter

Brother Johnny
An All-Star Tribute to Johnny Winter

Oh, have I been waiting for this one! And it was well-worth the wait.

When writing this review, I found it hard to separate the music of John Dawson Winter III from my life. Understandably so because Johnny Winter shaped much of my musical interests. It’s no stretch to say I would not be writing this review or even a member of Suncoast Blues Society without the influences of Johnny. So, when I saw the press release for the musicians coming together with Edgar Winter to record a tribute to his brother, I could not wait!

Right from the downbeat of this 17-song recording, Joe Bonamassa explodes with a wonderful rendition of Mean Town Blues. Playing in front of Edgar’s vocals Joe is faithful to Johnny’s original. A song these ears first heard on what I consider to be the best live recording in blues rock history, “Johnny Winter And Live.” On “Still Alive and Well” Kenny Wayne Shepherd plays virtually note for note the song Johnny issued on the 1973 album of the same name, shortly after recovering from his well-documented heroin addiction.

Keb’ Mo’ and Edgar paired well on Lone Star Blues and provide a moment to reflect on what a great slide guitar player Johnny was. A point reinforced when Billy Gibbons and today’s premier slide player Derek Trucks turn the heat up on, I’m Yours, I’m Hers. The original was Johnny at his raucous psychedelic best. Hearing this version my mind recalled blowing out speakers in my bedroom on this song.

I am so happy that Stranger made the recording. This has forever been my favorite slow and poignant song from Johnny. In high school I submitted these lyrics as an example of poetry. The teacher was not amused, as my grade attested to. Proving forever to me that poetry is however one defines it. As one who stays away from recordings featuring Michael McDonald, I must complement his vocals on this version. The pairing of Michael with Joe Walsh and Ringo Star is genius.

Both Johnny B. Goode and Highway 61 Revisited are my least favorite songs on this recording. Phil X performed the former in the style of The Rolling Stones, and the latter with “KWS” truer to Dylan’s original. Understandable as recreating the blistering incendiary version of “Highway” that Johnny recorded on “Captured Live” is beyond the capabilities of mere mortals.

Steve Lukather pitches in for a version of Rock ‘n’ Roll Hoochie Koo that brings the mind back to the days when Johnny and Rick Derringer were, in my opinion, the best blues rock guitar duo in existence. Great backing vocals accompany Edgar’s vocals on this one. Doyle Bramall II  performs When You Got A Good Friend in honor of Johnny’s 1969 self-titled recording. Traditional blues, and it’s something that Johnny returned to later in his career. More on this topic shortly.

The familiar licks to Guess I’ll Go Away explode off the guitar of Doug Rappaport and include marvelous vocals by the Foo Fighter’s late Taylor Hawkins. This version sounded as fresh as when first released on Johnny Winter And (studio version).

Edgar takes center stage singing a version of Drown In My Own Tears done in the style of the Charles’s – Ray and Ezra. Another example of the deep blues that Johnny is normally not associated with, but a song that he faithfully recorded on his self-titled album.

Joe Bonamassa returns with a true rendition of Self-Destructive Blues, a song Johnny artfully recorded on ”Scorchin’ Blues.” This song may have my all-time favorite Johnny guitar lick, and I suspect that Johnny is smiling over this version. Well done, Joe, especially recreating the lick that Johnny included in many of his song. “When I get through boogyin,’ they’ll be no more blues around.” Indeed.

Earlier I mentioned that Johnny paid homage to the blues masters. Winning three Grammy Awards for production work with Muddy Waters cemented his legacy with traditional blues. It was through Johnny that I received introductions to both Muddy and James Cotton. Back to the recording, Got My Mojo Working features Bobby Rush, and is evocative of “Muddy ‘Mississippi’ Waters – Live.” I closed my eyes and felt Muddy and James on this one.

Thank you, Quarto Valley Records, and Edgar Winter, for bringing this recording to life. I won’t be drowning in my own tears, but this recording brought a tear to my eyes, a happy one. Most excellent. Heartily recommended for fans of Johnny. And if you are unfamiliar with Johnny’s work this is a great jump-of point to embark on a marvelous journey of some of the best blues-rock licks every recorded.

  • Scott Morris

 

 

 

Larry McCray Blues Without You (KTBA.com)

Larry McCray Blues Without You (KTBA.com)

Larry McCray Blues Without You (KTBA.com)

(Suncoast Blues Society member Gary Weeks contributed the following review for your enjoyment. If you would like to review a new recording, please contact bluesnews@suncoastblues.org.)

Blues Without You 

The word “comeback” is an old cliche used many times to describe an artist re-entering a profession that sometimes isn’t kind if the individual doesn’t deliver the goods as promised.

 

That is not the case for blues troubadour Larry McCray. With production duties handled by guitar wizards Joe Bonamassa and Josh Smith, McCray’s latest offering Blues Without You is full of strong gospel inflected vocals and greasy hot guitar licks that McCray dishes out like a spicy gumbo.

 

With a Bo Diddley like rhythm, opening track “Arkansas” sets the boogie wheels in motion with McCray reeling off rocking Albert King leads. Keeping the party atmosphere going, “Without Love It Doesn’t Matter” augmented by barroom keyboards and a slithery drum groove is a soul meltdown that doesn’t let up in the hallelujah gospel redemption of “The Good Die Young.”

 

In “Down to The Bottom” only McCray can take us to church and feel the presence of the almighty. Choir harmonies set this number aglow and guest player Warren Haynes adds searing slide guitar fleshing this song out into deeper southern soul territory.

 

McCray continues to mine that soul territory in “Breaking News” that pushes Memphis Stax sounds like an old reliable train making its destination to the next stop. There is no overplaying or hot dog tendencies on display as Larry lets the guitar work be in service to the song.

 

Larry continues his Albert King chops in “Roadhouse Blues” which is not the same tune from The Doors’ infamous Morrison Hotel. The chances are the listener will care less as they hear McCray dip into his mojo bag of leads which he has dozens of. McCray just pours it on letting the guitar hero title cast its shadow.

 

McCray isn’t ready to leave the roadhouse. The fire and fury unleash itself in the keyboard boogie “Drinkin Liquor and Chasin Women.” The fretboard keeps burning only now Larry bolsters it even more with Chicago slide guitar queen Joanna Connor adding guitar histrionics that are over much too soon.

 

The title track “Blues Without You” brings the guitar barnyard burning down a bit with strings and horns being the bedrock for Larry’s guitar breaks.

 

Of course, if Joe Bonamassa is producing you, there you no way you can’t have him guest on a track. In the sleight laidback ambiance of “Mr. Easy,” McCray graciously lets Joe take the spotlight with that trademark Paul Kossoff sound that characterizes his DNA.

 

Closing acoustic number “I Play The Blues” exits this smorgasbord of soul, blues, and rock on a quiet note. It’s not to be confused with an epitaph. Just another tunnel McCray is opening to the light that sets him free.

  • Gary Weeks

Suncoast Blues Society member

John Mayall Interview

John Mayall Interview

John Mayall Interview

John Mayall Interview

Blues Blast Magazine has an excellent interview with John Mayall. Written by the former President of Suncoast Blues Society, Mark Thompson, the piece contains many points of interest about John, former band members, and his songwriting process. Mark’s interview left me wanting to perform a deeper dive into John’s catalog!

You can read the interview at Blues Blast John Mayall.

Recently, SBS published a review of John’s latest (according to John’s discography the 67th!) recording of his career.

The Sun is Shining Down review can be found here SBS CD Review.

When writing about John I would be remiss without remembering our friend, Mike Shivvers. Mike was a huge fan of John Mayall and was all set to film a performance of John’s at The Capital Theatre in Clearwater. A show cancelled due to the pandemic. Forever I will link Mike’s memory with John Mayall and his music.

Mike’s skill as a videographer is evident with a video captured in 2016 of John’s show in Stuart, FL. This show featured Jay Davenport and Greg Rzab – both mentioned by John in his interview with Mark. Mike’s YouTube site has this video, and others of John.

 

  • Scott Morris
Youth Day at Tampa Bay Blues Festival

Youth Day at Tampa Bay Blues Festival

Youth Day at Tampa Bay Blues Festival

 

Youth Day at Tampa Bay Blues Festival
Sunday April 10th 2022

 The Tampa Bay Blues Festival (TBBF) is a 3-Day event held in beautiful Vinoy Waterfront Park, St Petersburg, Florida  April 8-10, 2022.

Some of the world’s preeminent Blues Music artists will perform.

Blues is the foundation of American Music, from Gospel to Jazz, from Rock-n-Roll to Hip Hop. Blues music is the springboard that launched it all.

Suncoast Blues Society and TBBF are committed to introducing youth to this historic form.

We are making a special offer to our next generation of Blues music lovers…

Youth up to age 18 and a chaperone can receive a

Free Complimentary Pass!!

  1. The TBBF promoter has also arranged for one of the performing artists to meet with our “young guests”.  He will announce it from the stage Sunday April 10th.
  2. To receive your Free Complimentary Pass for Sunday’s festival, everyone attending must supply their names to jamesrandolph@verizon.net by March 27, 2022.
  3. Your Pass will be available at the ‘Will Call’ ticket booth under your names on Sunday, April 10th. School age youth and chaperone must present ID (school ID, drivers license, etc.) to claim “comp pass”. (No youth or adult info will be used for marketing or shared with any other organizations.)
  4. Neither TBBF nor SBS accepts any liability for youth and adults accepting this free offer to attend Sunday’s festival event. Chaperones are responsible for youth behavior.
  5. If you have questions, you may contact Terri O’Brien at president@suncoastblues.org

Sunday’s lineup features:

BACKTRACK BLUES BAND

BRUCE KATZ

The Nick Moss Band

RONNIE BAKER BROOKS

LARKIN POE

Concert Review: Tom Craig Band Art’s Garage – Delray Beach, February 6, 2022

Concert Review: Tom Craig Band Art’s Garage – Delray Beach, February 6, 2022

Concert Review: Tom Craig Band Art’s Garage – Delray Beach, February 6, 2022

Tom Craig Band

Art’s Garage – Delray Beach, February 6, 2022

Pennsylvania bluesman Tom Craig returned to Florida for a series of shows, one of which was his debut with his band at the iconic Art’s Garage in Delray Beach.

For this show Tom brought from Pennsylvania Drummer Jay and included Suncoast Blues Society members “Detroit” Mike Hepner on keyboards and Bill Hubbard on bass. The day got off to an interesting start as during sound check Mike noticed the grand piano on stage and asked for the piano to be wired for sound. This surprise was a sign of fun things to come during this performance.

With one exception, Tom’s show on this evening contained all original material. After beginning the show with “Working Too Hard” the band continued with the next song from Good Man Gone Bad,  “What a Man’s Gotta Do.” This song was notable for Mike’s outstanding solo on the grand piano.

Switching to Tom’s first recording (with Soul Patch) Get Ready for Me, “She Did it To Me” Tom provided back story for this song and the storytelling continued throughout the evening as the crowd embraced this part of the show. Fresh off The Legendary Blues Cruise, Kat Riggins entered the venue and that put an additional spark into Tom’s already on point performance.

On this night Tom’s vocals during the ballad “Ballroom Dancer” were among the best that I’ve heard. Already a soulful singer and songwriter, Tom seemed to have provided an extra bit of emotion into the performance of this song. It carried his vocals to a higher level and gave this reviewer a deeper appreciation for the song.

“Soul In My Blues” got the crowd up dancing, and additional crowd favorites included “Can’t Help Myself,” a deeply bluesy and quite pleasing version of “Nothing That a Man Can’t Do,” and wonderfully told back stories for “Louita” and “Headhunter.”

On this evening, the title track “Good Man Gone Bad” was exceptional. The inclusion of Mike Hepner’s playing on the grand piano gave this song a unique quality – one that I hope to hear again. This song and that instrument are meant for each other.

Deep into what became a single set performance, Tom introduced to the stage Keesha Pratt, and the band launched into a trio of songs, including a mash-up of Tracy Chapman’s “Give Me One Reason” and “The Thrill Is Gone.” Keesha departed the stage after the audience participated in a smart version of “Stand by Me.”

Tom concluded this fantastic night of crowd-pleasing music with “Treat Your Daddy Nice,” “It’s All My Fault” – notable for the marvelous samba beat laid down by Jay  –  and the band left the stage to a standing ovation after “When You Love a Bluesman.”

This was a different performance than when Tom last toured Florida. Many of the songs were the same but Tom changed beats, tones, and emphasis and that put a different spin on favorites. Tom continues to evolve as a musician and that produced to a nice evening and fun times at Art’s Garage.

(Tom Craig Band will be appearing at Cottonmouth Southern Soul Kitchen on Friday, February 11, 2022. Reservations can be made at https://cottonmouthsoul.com/reservations/)

  • Scott Morris, Suncoast Blues Society