CD Review – “Harlem King” –  Solomon Hicks

CD Review – “Harlem King” – Solomon Hicks

CD Review – “Harlem King” – Solomon Hicks

Background

Harlem is a coming-out party for Solomon, a nod to the legends that came before him in the vibrant musical community that is Harlem, NY, and is full of threads connecting to Harlem.  Solomon’s talent shows well on this recording.

At the age of 13, King Solomon Hicks became the lead guitarist at Harlem’s legendary Cotton Club. His resume includes with playing with world-class talent in Jazz, Rock and Blues, such Tony Bennett and Lee Riteneour; George Thorogood; Sam Moore, fellow young blues artist Marcus King, and Jimmy Vivino.  Solomon is a member of The Blues Foundation and served as an International Blues Challenge (IBC), judge where he scored Suncoast Blues Society’s entry Someday Honey.

Solomon first came to this reviewer’s attention by performing on Joe Bonamassa’s cruise, when he performed acoustically during a “Blues in the Morning” event. Acoustic is about the only thing that is missing from this musically diverse and most enjoyable recording.

Cover to Cover

Harlem begins by paying homage to Freddie King in a neat remake of I’d Rather Be Blind. This up-tempo rendition quickly became one of my favorite versions of this classic tale of love gone astray.

Continuing with “The Blues Kings” and covers, the next song on the recording honors B. B. King with Solomon’s version of Everyday I Sing the Blues.  Much like the first track, “Everyday” fades away during a solo that left me wanting more of Solomon’s licks.

Blood, Sweat, & Tears is honored with I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know. This recording interjects elements of Solomon’s jazz background, both with the guitar work and vocals. Intentional or not, Solomon continues to weave Harlem, NY touchpoints through his choice of songs. Whether it’s having the listener recall BB King’s classic Live at The Apollo recording, or the fact that Harlem native Normal Rockwell  designed a 1968 album cover for BST’s Al Kooper and Mike Bloomfield. The connections to Solomon’s Harlem roots are delightful if sometimes subtle.

Love is Alive

Most welcome, and inventive, is a version the 1970’s hit by Gary Wright Love is Alive.  Solomon brings to this song a fresh bluesy feel.  Treating it as a funk blues instrumental Love is Alive is much different than Gary Wright’s #2 hit on Billboard’s chart. Clearly one of the “keepers’ on this recording, if not my outright favorite.

Riverside Drive

Marginally connected (physically) to Harlem NY, Solomon’s instrumental Riverside Drive continues the theme of weaving Harlem touchpoints into the recording, and where his guitar playing takes center stage and shines. One can imagine the juxtaposition of the opulence sometimes found on Riverside Drive and a much different world in Harlem, NY.

Wrapping Up

Have Mercy on Me is a jump-blues gospel feeling song that is much at home on this recording.  It’s Alright is a neat toe tapper with a rock feel. Some of my most memorable guitar licks come from this song.  Solomon shares What the Devil Loves as a link on his website; click on the link and enjoy!

Bookending the recording is the finishing cover of Sonny Boy Williamson II’s (Rice Miller) Help Me. Solomon’s vocals and soulful guitar playing bring honor to this blues classic.

Conclusion

One complaint with the recording is the tendency to fade out of songs, especially with a guitar solo. This is a standard recording technique, and left me wanting more. I can only imagine when performed live extended versions of the songs await the audience.

Well done, young Mr. Hicks. Harlem is leaps beyond previous recordings by Solomon. For this reviewer, Solomon has earned a seat at the table within the “club” of young blues artists that is bringing this musical genre into the future.  

Links

Be sure to check out Johnny B Goode, and the extended behind-the-back guitar playing.  While walking through the crowd.

King Solomon Hicks Quartet

Interview on American Music

Johnny B Goode (2015 Crown Guitar Festival)

Have You Ever Loved a Woman (courtesy of Joan Mallotides aka BluesBroad)

 

  • For Suncoast Blues Society, Scott Morris
CD Review – “Stone Crazy” – Kevin Burt

CD Review – “Stone Crazy” – Kevin Burt

CD Review – “Stone Crazy” – Kevin Burt

“Stone Crazy” – Kevin Burt

 

It is my privilege to review Kevin Burt’s newly released CD. This is his first release since he joined the team at Gulf Coast Records.  Kevin recorded Stone Crazy in Nederland Texas where Mike Zito resides in June of 2020 at MARZ studios. Mike produced this release and plays lead guitar on most of the cuts.

I Ain’t Got No Problem With It” is a nice upbeat tune to get started with featuring Kevin’s great lyrics and a catchy melody leaving one with good expectations of the production quality.

Purdy Little Thang” speaks to something we have all witnessed about how a certain kind of “pretty” can control a whole room. Undeniable! Fun stuff.

 

 

Kevin often writes that his wife and partner Nicole provides inspiration for much of his work. “Stone Crazy” the title track is one of the finest examples of this. Love it is!!

On “You Get What You See” Kevin is joined by fellow Gulf Coast Records artist Jimmy Carpenter with some great saxophone work and a jamming horn section. Once again great production quality.

Something Special About You” provides a great blend of Mike Zito’s electric guitar and Kevin on acoustic.

Then there are messages inspired by the times we are living in like in “Same Old Thing” that will have you singing along with Kevin. On this cut with the help of the studio Kevin plays all the guitars. The most heartfelt message comes in “Got to Make a Change” speaking about social change from within.

Then there is “Bustin Out” Kevin’s personal status song about where he is headed. With talents like Kevin Burt possesses we all hope he is headed “to the top”. This was the other song on the CD that Kevin plays all the guitars, studio magic.

Well recorded, very well mixed, good job everyone at Gulf Coast Records.

-Lafayette Reid

CD Review – “The New World Blues” – Alastair Greene

CD Review – “The New World Blues” – Alastair Greene

CD Review – “The New World Blues” – Alastair Greene

The New World Blues
Alastair Greene

The New World Blues is Alastair Greene’s newest recording, the first for Tab Benoit’s Whiskey Bayou Records.  Written mostly by Alastair, with an assist or two from Tab, this blues-rock effort features Alastair’s guitar talents in front of Tab on drums (yes, drums!) and Tab’s bassist Corey Duplechin. On the recording this “New World Blues” blues-rock power trio is a force to be reckoned with.

Many here on the Suncoast might not be familiar with Alastair. As a long-time attendee of The Big Blues Bender, I became a fan of Alastair’s talents from his late-night jamming as a member of The Bender Brass. And many “Benderheads” have enjoyed it when Alastair brings his California-based band to perform at “The Bender”. Alastair built his chops as a touring sideman for The Alan Parsons Project, Mickey Thomas’ Starship, and more recently with Sugar Ray Rayford.

The trio wastes no time cranking it up with Living Today. Capturing the craziness of 2020 Alastair’s lyrics quickly encapsulates the feeling many have and challenges the listener to “let your love shine through” – all behind a driving beat laid down by Tab and Corey.

Bayou Mile became a favorite. Personally, the words are a reminder of countless hours spent waiting for a flight, barely able to suppress the desire to quickly be anywhere but the airport. The words hooked me; Alastair’s playing had me replaying the song again and again.

The instrumental Back at the Poor House showcases Alastair’s guitar playing, and had me tapping my foot, while reaching to raise the volume. Twice.

Heroes, co-written with Tab, is arguably the least “blues” song on the recording. More of a rock ballad than blues, Heroes is none-the-less enjoyable.

Returning to the blues-rock feel Alone and Confused start with a slow blues beat and builds into an extended guitar solo for Alastair. If you like your solos with some edge to it this one is for you.

Wrapping up the recording with the title track The New World Blues Alastair returns to the slide, with the driving beat supplied by Tab and Corey. For me the song is reminiscent of and perhaps the equal to my favorite Johnny Winter slide efforts.

All and all, a wonderful effort by Alastair.  Most enjoyable.

Links 

Alastair Green Facebook

A taste of Back at the Poor House

Living Today Official Video

 

 

“Rise Up”- Ronnie Earl & The Broadcasters CD Review

“Rise Up”- Ronnie Earl & The Broadcasters CD Review

“Rise Up”- Ronnie Earl & The Broadcasters CD Review

Rise Up 
Ronnie Earl & The Broadcasters 

Rise Up, the 27th album in Ronnie Earl’s career, takes the listener through a journey that while bluesy, would at times be comfortable in a jazz club. Part studio, part live performances, this 15-song recording is a must for any Ronnie Earl fan.

Expertly mixed and featuring The Broadcasters along with Ronnie’s signature Stratocaster tone, Rise Up enjoyably begins with a melodic acoustic adaptation of I Shall not be Moved.  A version which left me with a good feeling from what I just heard and anticipating good things to come.

Featured prominently on this recording are the vocals of Diane Blue. On the second track, Higher Love, Ronnie, and keyboardist Dave Limina set up a nice introduction for Diane’s vocals within this Ronnie Earl written song.

Rise Up contains a few tribute songs; some that pay respect to social consciousness, and many others honor fellow musicians. Diane Blue highlights a live version of Fenton Robinson’s You Don’t Know What Love Is. The longest song on the recording is a Ronnie Earl original titled Blues for Lucky Peterson. This instrumental is Ronnie through and through.

Perhaps the most compelling tribute is a version of Magic Sam’s All Your Love. Again, Diane Blue’s vocals shine. Magic Sam licks never sounded so good as coming out of Ronnie’s Stratocaster. Dave Limina mixes in a nice keyboard between Ronnie solos.

The gospel inspired version of Bob Dylan’s Lord Protect My Child is another opportunity for Diane to showcase her talentsRonnie’s playing is superb on his original entitled Talking to Mr. Bromberg – a song that is unmistakably Ronnie from start-to-finish.

Mess Around is an up-tempo instrumental that features Dave Limina and bassist Paul KochanskiThe Broadcaster’s swing it on a live jazzy version of Jimmy Smith’s instrumental Blues for J.  The recording wraps up featuring Ronnie on an original co-written with Pete Ward called Navajo Blues

When speaking about Ronnie, B.B. King said it best:

“…he is one of the most serious blues guitarists you can find today. He makes me proud!” 

Rise Up is yet another class recording from one of the classiest and nicest performers in the business.  Ronnie Earl & The Broadcasters fans will not be surprised by the quality of the recording.  For future Ronnie Earl fans, this would be an excellent way to begin your journey into magic sounds crafted from Ronnie’s creativity and smooth guitar playing.  B.B. would be applauding this effort.

Links
Ronnie Earl Website
Higher Love – Live at Daryl’s House
Ronnie Earl Albums
Blues Therapy

A note about Blues TherapyThis book, written by Anita Schlank, Ph. D., and blues fan, contains a series of interviews with blues artists. The goal of the book is to show how blues music helps to heal, including some artist who suffer from mental health issues and addictions. Within, Ronnie Earl is quite open about his past struggles. The book is fine reading and provides insights into the personal life of many we as blues fans revere for their musical talents. Proceeds from the book benefit the HART Fund.

For more information on the Handy Artist Relief Trust please visit HART Fund