DarielB – Flying Under the Radar

CD Picks- Sept. 17, 2007

Posted in CD Picks by darielb on September 17, 2008

Delta Highway
The Devil Had a Woman (2007)
Oh Lonesome Me Records
Genre: Blues
The first time I saw Delta Highway live was this summer at the 2008 Cape Fear Blues Festival in Wilmington, North Carolina. I became an instant fan that very afternoon and since that day, The Devil Had a Woman – Delta Highway’s exciting sophomore effort – has owned the No. 1 slot in my CD player.
This ten-track (plus hidden bonus track!!) CD is loaded with rockin’ blues, sure to excite fans of the traditional genre as well as those who bleed over to the broad-based rocker label.
Founded by frontman Brandon Santini (vocals and harp) and guitarist Justin Sulek in 2003, Delta Highway is fast earning a reputation for strong songwriting and a sound that’s at once rooted in tradition while it explores new avenues. This disc delivers one winner after another. Every tune is essential. No cannon fodder here – from “23 Hours,” the opening shuffle tot he number 11 surprise, “Burnside,” a nod to MIssissippi guitarist R.L. Burnside.

The synergy between Santini and Sulek was tantamount at the live show and translates just as strongly to the disc. Tom “Slim” Louis on bass and “Steady” Kevin Eddy on drums and percussion consistently provide the band’s driving rhythms. On “Feelin Bad,” Santini’s skilled harp work pulls us into the lengthy seven-plus-minute smoke-filled number, while the raw emotion in his vocal holds us there. Sulek’s masterful guitar lines blow me away on just about every track.
Memphis musician Victor Wainwright sits in on piano for “The Devil Had a Woman,” “Got To Be On My Way” and “I Want You To Know.” Chris Stephenson, also from Memphis, plays organ on “Feelin’ Bad,” “We Got a Thang Goin’ On,” “Shake It Just a Little Bit” and ” Somebody’s Gotta Go.”

Delta Highway is a great name for this high-energy group because although th

eir sound is clearly rooted in traditional blues, they are definitely on the move and open to new influences. I highly recommend that you jump along for the ride. It’s going to be a blast! DB, Sept. 9, 2008

Randall Bramblett
Now It’s Tomorrow (2008)
New West Records
Genre: Rock
This 11-song disc from the beloved southern rocker is a gem. Crisply written lyrics, all penned by Bramblett, combine with soulful vocals and sophisticated instrumentals to deliver a CD of great emotional and musical depth. DB, Aug. 21, 2008
Lefty Williams Band
Featuring Jason “Lefty” Williams
Snake Oil (2008)

Genre: Blues

This is the second CD from the up-and-coming Atlanta guitarist. Despite being born without a right arm, Williams’ talent is considerable. The 13 autobiographical tunes are tightly written. Tinsley Ellis, Todd Smallie (Derek Trucks Band) guest. John Keane (Widespread Panic) produced. DB, Aug. 21, 2008

Blue Voodoo

The Storm (2005)
Genre: Blues

BJ Allen heads up this rockin’electric blues quartet. The group’s 11-grack CD runs the gamut from sultry soul to hard drivin’ bues. Love her voice. DB/Aug. 21, 2008


Jim Allen – Shutterbug

Posted in Music Stories by darielb on September 9, 2008

I first met Jim Allen a little over a year ago at Captain Poo’s on the Waterway in Little River, South Carolina. He was with his wife, Betty, who, it turns out, works with my sister. So we sat around, havin’ some good rowdy fun watching Donny Trexler up on the bar and listening to Calabash Flash berate poor Jimmy Buffet who thinks Paradise is somewhere way south of here.

The next time I ran into Jim was at HOTO’s in Cherry Grove, and he had a mighty fine camera in his hand. It belonged to his friend Laura Jean, who owns a karaoke bar in Rock Hill. Well, Jim is experimenting with this pricey gadget, and he’s composing some very cool photographs.
Fast forward a few weeks, it’s the beginning of August, Sunday at HOTO’s, Jim Quick & Coastline are playing. I’ve been working on a feature story to run in Coast and Alternatives – about the Charleston Beach Music & Shag Festival. Time’s getting close, and I don’t have an image for the cover yet. So, I think, Coastline is playing the festival … and Jim Quick is always good for some crazy antics; maybe I can get a decent shot of these bad boys.
But wait, there’s Jim Allen sporting his very own, brand new Nikon D70 digital camera. To make a long story short, Jim’s shot came out a whole lot better than mine, and that’s what wound up on the cover of Coast Magazine.
Right after that, Jim hooked up with Jeff Landrum of Ocean Drive Happens, and now uploads many of his crowd and band shots to http://www.oceandrivehappens, where they are available for purchase. He also works with a growing list of Ocean Drive Happens clients that include Fat Harold’s, HOTO’s, Captain Poo’s, Deckerz, Wango Tango, Printing By Designs, Classic Air Ventures and many more.
“People go to the website once they get home,” Jim says, “They find themselves, and we’ve sent photos to the Bahamas, California, all over the place.”
Jim’s most recent shots have been taken hundreds of feet in the air at speeds of 180 miles per hour. “I’ve been going up with Phil from Classic Air in his 1941 Model Waco, and man, I love it! I can’t wait to do it again. We’re moving so fast, I have to anticipate. I focus ahead of the plane. Right now, we’re working on a deal with a helicopter.”
Some of his most popular aerial shots are views that include the horseshoe in North Myrtle Beach; the O.D. Resort, Deckerz, Two Blondes on the Beach and Fat Harold’s on Main Street; HOTO’s, the pier and the new Prince Resort in Cherry Grove; and Captain Poo’s at Anchor Marina. His favorite, though, is the new Tilghman Resort next to HOTO’s.
Although not a professional photographer, Jim has been working with cameras for years. He got his first one, a 35mm Nikon EM, back in 1981 shortly after he and Betty had moved to Texas. He started off snapping pics of the late model sportsman’s cars and drivers at the Big H Motor Speedway dirt track in Houston.
After the couple moved back to Charlotte, North Carolina to be closer to family, they started hanging out at Country City USA. There they got to know folks like Randy Travis, Mark Chestnut, Trace Atkins and other stars. And Jim photographed them all.
“I got a shot of a teenage Tanya Tucker in KMart when she released her first record.” Jim told me, “Then when she came to Cowboy Joe’s about 1990, I showed the photo to her son. He took it and showed it to her, and then came and brought us backstage to meet her. We know her now.”
Jim and Betty moved to Little River in 2005 after vacationing at the beach for most of their lives. “So we’ve been listening to beach music for a long time,” Jim explained.
When I asked Jim if he had a favorite performer or group, he got a pained look on his face, like a father being asked to choose one child over another.
I can tell you, though, that Jim and Betty had their first taste of recent beach music at HOTO’s. “We were on the beach at Cherry Grove with a bunch of friends and went into HOTO’s to get a beer. Well, Sea-Cruz was playing … Molly was singing “Open Arms,” and we’ve been fans and friends ever since.
“You know, that picture of Coastline that went on the cover of Coast? That was the first time I pushed the button on my D70. It’s opened up a lot of doors for me and now? Now I’m just having the time of my life.”
It’s hard to imagine, but Jim Allen went through some dark years. In fact, if you ask him when his birthday is, he’ll tell you he was born in May of 1981.
That was when Jim made some life-altering decisions.
“I served in the Army from 1967 to 1974. Being in the military made me a person, but it also made me crazy for 15 years.”
Betty and Jim had grown up together in the same town. They starting dating somewhere around 1965 and married in 1969.
“I’ll tell you, Betty stuck with me through a lot. I was not good to be around, but she stayed. She wasn’t going anywhere.
“I didn’t go out. I didn’t like the world. Weekends I’d go out in the woods with my guns. One year, my family gave me a surprise birthday party. I found out about it and refused to go.
“I functioned at my job [law enforcement], but that’s all. From 1969 to 1981, I wasn’t in a good place.
May of 1981 is when Jim fortunately met a group of veterans who helped him come to terms with his experiences in Southeast Asia, put them behind him and move forward.
“Girl, I lost some good years,” Jim smiles, “but I’m making up for them now.”
You can reach Jim Allen at jima@oceandrivehappens.com. Look for his photos at www. oceandrivehappens.com.

Sunday at the Charleston Beach Music Festival

Posted in Music Stories by darielb on September 9, 2008

For beach music fans, last weekend’s Charleston Beach Music Festival (Aug. 21 – 24, 2008) was the place to be. I couldn’t be there for all four days, but I made it down to Chuck Town for Sunday, Aug. 24 and it was a blast! Hats off to Harriett Grady-Thomas, festival organizer and owner of J.B. Pivots for pulling together a terrific festival.

This is the third year of the beach music bash, which moved to the Citadel Alumni House, and what a great venue. We were out of the rain and into the air conditioning!

Holiday Band kicked off at noon. This is such a great, high-energy live group. Wearing wireless mics, at least one of them is usually out line dancing or shagging with the crowd. As for vocals, Duane Neese had more than enough motor under the hood for this audience of shaggers and music lovers. By the way, Bob Martin from California is the new guy playing saxophone.

Next up was Sea-Cruz. This triple threat can stand head to head with any of the big boys. And I’ve still got goosebumps from Butch Barnes’ amazing falsetto.

Singer/songwriter Rick Strickland was a wonderful treat for me. I hardly ever get to see him play live. He performed quite a bit from his new Island Soul CD, and, of course, couldn’t get off the stage without doing “Something Smooth.”

Johnny Rawls Blues Band had the 4:30 slot. If you’re into bluesy, soul-filled vocals and a sultry delivery, Johnny Rawls is your man. (Last winter, during the Lowcountry Blues Bash, Johnny told me he loved my red shoes, and I’ve been smitten ever since).

Many in the crowd had never seen him before, and they went wild! This time, Johnny’s daughter, Destini Rawls, performed with him. When she eased into “I’d Rather Be Blind,” the heart-wrenching, show-stopping Etta James standard, people stopped everything to listen. Playing keyboard with the band was none other than Easley, South Carolina’s Bobby Simmons, who did a fine, fine job.

I think it would be awfully tough to follow Johnny Rawls, but I doubt that even occurred to Jim Quick & Coastline. They hit the stage running and didn’t stop for the next hour. I love these boys!

Closing out the show was the inimitable Bo Shronce and his Fantastic Shakers.

Tommy Womack, Will Kimbrough at Historic Train Depot, Myrtle Beach, Sept. 13

Posted in Live Performance Previews/Reviews by darielb on September 9, 2008

Jeff Roberts and Seth Funderburk have once again put together a show that’s sure to appeal to alternative music aficionados, adults who still don’t play well with others, and other seekers of truth, insight and wit. On Sept. 13, South By Southeast is bringing Nashville “undersiders” Tommy Womack and Will Kimbrough to the historic Train Depot in Myrtle Beach. Get your tickets now, because – though these guys may be flying under the radar of the mainstream public – alternative buffs know them well.

Singer/songwriter Tommy Womack has become something of a alternative country hero. The Village Voice said of him, “Think Spalding Gray if he’d grown up in Kentucky with a guitar and a vinyl copy of Black and Blue.” He has earned kudos from media outlets and bloggers around the country. Touring now in support of his fifth solo CD, There I Said It, Womack reveals a wicked, sometimes dark, sense of humor in tracks like “Too Much Month At the End of the Xanax” and “Alpha Male and the Canine Mystery Band.”

In addition, the talented writer is releasing his second book, “The Lavender Boys & Elsie,” which is a fictional collection of letters documenting the Civil War’s only all-gay Confederate regiment and other craziness. His 1995 autobiographical memoir of life on the road, “Cheese Chronicles: The True Story of a Rock & Roll Band You Never Heard Of” has become nothing short of a cult classic.

The other half of the duo, Will Kimbrough, is also no stranger to cynicism and humor. His newest offering is Americanitis, which demonstrates not only a healthy social conscience, but also the Mobile native’s impressive songwriting talent. Named American Music Association Instrumentalist of the Year, Kimbrough is also a sought-after guitarist.

Together, Kimbrough and Womack are the backbone of Daddy, a two- to five-piece band that delivers guitar mastery and rockin’ licks along with tongue in cheek tunes like “I Miss Ronald Reagan.” This will be the first time I’ve seen these guys, and I can’t wait.

If you’ve never been to a South By Southeast music feast, you’re missing out on a unique experience. Where else does your $25 ticket ($20 if you’re a member) get you a night of fantastically never off-the-shelf music, free dinner, free wine and free beer? And chocolate chip cookies?

South By Southeast is a nonprofit organization devoted to showcasing top quality musicians whose talents have either not yet been noticed or are generally ignored by the national media.

For reservations, call Jeff Roberts at Sounds Better Records at 843-497-3643. Better yet, stop by the store at 9904 N. Kings Hwy in Hidden Village in Myrtle Beach, SC. (There will be an opening act – don’t know who yet – starting at 7 p.m. Tommy Womack and Will Kimbrough will go on about 8 o’clock.) Photo: L-R, Will Kimbrough, Tommy Womack. Photo by Russ Riddle.

The Cat Mary, Chad Harvey at South By Southeast Show at Historic Train Depot in Myrtle Beach, SC

Posted in Live Performance Previews/Reviews by darielb on September 9, 2008

South By Southeast and New South Brewery presented an exciting evening with San Diego’s The Cat Mary on Saturday, August 2, 2008 at the historic Train Depot (851 Broadway) in downtown Myrtle Beach. This is another difficult-to-pigeonhole group of the ilk that the nonprofit South By Southeast so wonderfully and faithfully brings us – time and again.

These guys play what they call “kitchen-sink americana.” Their music can be kinda bluegrass, kinda jazzy, kinda folksy. They like to shake up the status quo with innovative, original tunes constructed with lyrics that are almost literary – thanks to founder Andrew Markham.

The Cat Mary’s first CD was Her High Lonesome Days and was a hit with print media, radio and a core of loyal fans. According to the group’s official bio, “. . . events (some typical, some uniquely sad) conspired to put TCM on a fair hiatus . . . TCM founder and leader Andrew Markham went around poaching enough wonderful players from other groups until he felt he could enter any house justified – Melissa Harley [violin] has studied with Richard Greene and Darrol Anger, and taught several years at Mark O’Connor’s Fiddle Camp; Kevin Dow was recently featured in Modern Drummer, and can be found in the orchestra pit, along with fellow TCM Members Ken Dow (upright bass) and Stephen ‘Hoops’ Snyder (keys) on Broadway polishing all their Tony awards for ‘The Jersey Boys.'”

Subsequent recordings included No Unwanted or Unfamiliar Passages (2002) and Postbellum Neighborhood (2006). The latter, which was a finalist in the IMA awards, earned big kudos from KUT radio in Austin, Texas: “Eclectic funkiness … Andrew Markham and company distinguish themselves by virtue of their songwriting, and the brilliant nimbleness by which they mix elements like violins, dobro, and second line drumming.” The groups upcoming CD is Pissants, Pilgrims, Vagrants and Victims.

Hoosier Chad Harvey opened the show. This singer/songwriter picked up and moved to Austin, Texas after watching John Prine on Austin City Limits one night. He then “proceeded to play every honky-tonk, voodoo haunt, and barbecue joint with a makeshift stage on the same trail blazed by Steve Earle and Townes Van Zandt years earlier,” according to his bio. This gifted Indiana boy delivered a terrific set of foot-stompin’, rockin’ country music.
As usual the $5/$20 tickets included admission, food, and beverages provided by New South Brewery and Pepsi. For more info about SXSE, visit the website or call 843-497-3643, or 843-455-6499.
South By Southeast Website
The Cat Mary on MySpace

CD Review: Fallin’ For Rhonda’s New CD

Posted in CD Picks by darielb on September 9, 2008

At the risk of repeating myself, Rhonda McDaniel is one rockin’ blues mama who just keeps getting better and better. She’s got a brand new self-titled CD being released July 18 on KHP Records and her many fans are going to love it. The CD, her first, is a mix of shag tunes, blues and a ballad or three.

“Putting out a CD has been a longtime dream of mine . . . it’s just something I wanted for myself,” Rhonda explained to me. “I was trying to reach a lot of different people. I hope the songs I chose were versatile enough, but I picked songs that I love to sing.”

Track one is a “I’m On Your Side,” a mellow bluesy piece by L.A. singer/songwriter Kevin Moore (aka Keb’ Mo’) that Rhonda has amped up a bit. “Walking After Midnight,” the famous Patsy Cline tune is next. Rhonda’s been singing this for years in her live shows, and makes it her own.

Track three, “Left With a Broken Heart,” is an obscure R&B tune penned by Marv Johnson and released by the Four Tops on their 1964 self-titled LP. Next is “Good Thing,” written by Levi Crawford, keyboard player and vocalist with the R&B group, Fat Jack Band. He also played keyboard, guitar, bass and sang backup on the recording. “I was honored,” Rhonda says, “when Levi called me to tell me about this song.”

Track five, Rhonda’s hit song “Why Am I Crying” was one of the top four during Spring SOS 2007 and spent five weeks at 1 on John Hook’s Beach Music Top 40 chart. In fact, it’s still charting.

“I just wanted to sing ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow,'” said Rhonda of track six. “I’ve always loved that song and I just wanted it on my CD.” As with her other covers, Rhonda makes it her own.

We jump now from Harold Arlen to Jim Quick. Track seven, penned by Jim, “Is My Mind Playing Tricks On Me,” is classic Quick. “I had gone to see Coastline,” Rhonda told me, “and outside in the parking lot, Casey [Meyer] was strummin’ his guitar and Jim was slappin’ his leg, giving me lyrics … and it took a little over a year, but I had a Jim Quick song.” Listen closely, you’ll hear Quick, Casey, Albert Rogers and Sam Bryant doin’ their stuff.

Number eight is Rhonda’s 2006 CBMA Blues Song of the Year, “You Got What It Takes.” This funky, R&B tune from Southern soulman Joe Tex takes on a definite blues bent in Rhonda’s hands.

Next comes what possibly may be my favorite track, “Talk To Me,” written by Kelley Hunt, a contemporary singer/songwriter/ keyboard player from Kansas City. After two different DJs sent her the song, she went with it. Rhonda does a great job with this sweet and bluesy tune.

Track ten is “Stop Look and Listen,” the duet with Rickey Godfrey that was released on the Keep On Shaggin’ compilation. Something different for both vocalists, this one is definitely shaggable.

“Fallin’,” Rhonda’s current release from the KHP compilation, Coast to Coast – Let’s Dance, is track 11. It’s currently charting at 27 on Hook’s Beach Music Top 40.
“Tom Polzin, president of the National Association of R&B DJs sent me this one, and it’s been getting a lot of attention, ” Rhonda said.

Finishing the CD are two covers, “Me and Bobby McGee,” a dance version which was included in shorter form on Locals 2, the 2007 CBMA Compilation of the Year and “At Last,” the Mack Gordon/Harry Warren song synonymous with Etta James.

I think Rhonda did a great job, especially for her freshman effort. I wish there had been a few more surprises on the disc. (She had already released several of the tracks on compilations, and four are well-known covers.) But her straight-from-the-gut voice and unique styling makes this well worth adding to your beach or blues collection. We’ll be hearing a lot more from her, I’m sure.

Rhonda is sure one busy girl. Besides pursuing a solo career, she’s been with BrassTyme, the high-energy McCormick, SC group, for over 16 years and continues to play with them. Her oldest brother, Mike Hill, bass guitarist for the group, is one of her major influences. While still a teenager, she toured all around the country with him in Amarilla, a country/Southern rock/variety band.

Plus, she recently joined forces with Bobby Simmons and Tony Kennedy – previously with the Rickey Godfrey Band– to form Freshwater, a variety trio that runs the gamut from beach & boogie to pop and blues.

Rhonda McDaniel will be at the beach this weekend (July 18 – 19, 2008) promoting her CD. Friday night, she’s booked with the Southern Soul Series at the O.D. Beach Club with Part Time Party Time Band. You can also catch her Friday afternoon at HOTO’s with Ray Scott of 94.9 The Surf as he broadcasts live.

If you’re wondering what’s next for Rhonda McDaniel, she’s too busy to think that far ahead. But Julian Fowler of Ripete Records, who has been coordinating the Southern Soul Summer Series with KHP, tells me her next CD will be Rhonda Sings the Blues. That’s great news for Rhonda’s blues fans.
Rhonda’s website
Rhonda’s MySpace Page

Donny Trexler Comes of Age

Posted in Interviews by darielb on September 9, 2008

On June 12, guitarist/songwriter/ vocalist/harmonica player/arranger/ producer and beach music legend Donny Trexler turned 65 years old, which, as it turns out, isn’t nearly as old as it used to be.

If you’ve ever heard Donny’s Stratacaster wailing on Bob Seger’s “Turn the Page” or witnessed Donny up on the bar at Captain Poo’s gettin’ down with Jackie Wilson’s “Higher and Higher,” well, you know what I’m talking about. He’s 65, going on 19.

Listening to him work one of his 20 or so Gibsons, Fenders and other guitars – which I do most Tuesday nights – it’s easy to imagine Donny trading licks with national rockers like the Allman Brothers and the Doobie Brothers. In 1970, before Duane Allman died, Donny was with the Okaysions when they opened for the Allman Brothers. Donny was with Swing a few years later when the band opened for the Doobies.

His peers in Beach Music have taken notice of his talents, evidenced by his 2007 CBMA nomination for Instrumentalist of the Year. He also received a Cammy lifetime achievement in 2000 and was inducted into the South Carolina Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame in 2001. Also in 2001, he received the Palmetto Award from then South Carolina Governor Hodges. However, many in the industry feel his talents go largely unappreciated.

Nashville blues guitarist Rickey Godfrey, who has earned CBMA awards for Blues album, Blues song and Group of the Year, among others, said, “I think Donny is an old pro and entertaining audiences comes naturally to him. Donny’s got real talent as a guitarist and a singer, and I admire his versatility. He’s a singer who sings with real soul, so he can do R & B well, but his voice is versatile enough so that he’s also a good smoothies singer. Sadly, Donny hasn’t gotten the recognition in the beach community that he deserves.”

DJ and author John Hook agrees, saying ” I think that the most unsung thing about Donny is his songwriting ability. And the first time I heard him play harmonica, it took me awhile to realize he wasn’t running a tape. Another talent is building midi tracks. The man is multi-, multi-, multi-talented. I don’t think his praises have been sung even 50% of what they should be.”

Donny began performing as a youngster. “I sang in church, and at eight years old, I sang with Joe Stone and the Dixie Mountain Boys, a blue grass group. Joe Stone said to my daddy, ‘Hey, how about if I bring little Donny with me to sing at the radio station?’

“And that’s how it began. After a few years, I began with rock ‘n’ roll. One day, some time in 1958, I picked up Joe Stone’s Martin D28 and taught myself guitar … even the lead.
“In high school, I had a band called Donny & the Blue Jets (the name of the football team). It was a five-piece group – two guitars, one sax, one bass, frummer. We played ‘Peggy Sue,’ that sort of stuff.”

Still in high school, Donny would play and sing lead with a couple other groups including the Six-Teens (there were six of them, and they were all 16). During the summer of 1960, Bob Collins was playing on the road, and to make a long story short, the groups traded drummers, so now Bob Collins was part of the group. When one of the players left the following year, the name changed to Chuck Tilley and the Fab Five. The band fired Tilley and the group became Bob Collins and the Fab Five.

During this time, the group recorded the well-crafted “Jukebox,” (“If I Only Had a Dime”) which was a Russell-Medley tune and not written by Donny Trexler, as many believe. The group had discovered The Furys’ version of “Jukebox” in 1964, on the flip side of “Only Love Can Break Your Heart.” They would record it twice, first at the Arthur Smith Studio and again at Copeland, which would be the version released.

A stint with Ted Caroll & the Music Era followed during 1968. Bill Griffin broke up that group, sending Donny to the Okaysions, where he would remain until 1972, first as the group’s guitar player and later stepping in as lead singer when Donnie Weaver left the group. He appeared with the group on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand.

By 1972, Donny had met Susan and the two formed Swing, a four-piece Top 40 act that toured all over the East Coast until 1988. At that time, Donny and Susan, now married formed Swing Too. The pair still performs together, although not as Swing, Too. Susan says, “Donny is a remarkably talented entertainer and musician and taught me everything I know about the industry. What a blessing to have him in my world!”

Charles Willis, who played drums for Swing when he wasn’t touring with B.J. Thomas had this to say: “Donny is the bomb in his method of keeping time with his music. Most performers and vocal artists will maybe tap their foot or pat their leg to keep time. Donny puts his whole body into his time keeping. Swaying from left to right with every beat of the music, this has become his trademark move for the 40 or so years I have had the honor of knowing and working with him.”
According to Jim Quick, irascible leader of the very popular Coastline Band, “A true living legend, Donny is one of the greatest songwriters of our time and a building block in the foundation of beach music. It’s amazing how humble a man can be with such conviction and dedication and make such an impact on an entire generation.”

From Craig Woolard, former lead singer of The Embers, now heading his own Craig Woolard Band, comes, “Donny Trexler was already a beach music institution when I started playing music. From ‘If I Didn’t Have a Dime’ to the Okaysions to the best damn four-piece show band I have ever seen – Swing – Donny has entertained thousands of people, and I am proud to call him my friend.”

Every Tuesday night at Captain Poo’s in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Donny plays to a packed demographic of retirees, working stiffs, teenagers, gen-Xers, tourists, locals, shaggers, cloggers, line dancers, classic rockers, bikers and the occasional third grader. His skill, experience and repertoire is such that he plays to all of them.

Singer-songwriter Calabash Flash, who often sits in with Donny at Poo’s, says, When I think about Donny Trexler I see the ultimate performer that will work just as hard to entertain ten people as he would for a thousand. If there is a style of music that he can’t do, I don’t know what it is. I have heard him do it all without blinking.”

Internet DJ and Beach Music promoter Willie C, who is also a regular at Poo’s, said, “Donny Trexler is like the ‘Naked City’ – a man with eight million stories.” And he tells a new one every week!
Congratulations to Donny Trexler on his recent birthday and on his many musical talents. Donny, I hope you live as long as you want to … and want to as long as you live. Now, where have I heard that before?

A similar version of this blog is running in the July 3, 2008 edition of Coast Magazine and Alternatives NewsMagazine, the two independent papers in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, both of which go to press every other Thursday.
Donny’s Website
Alternatives website

CD Review: Angel Rissoff Serves Up a Mean ‘Nu Soul Stew’

Posted in CD Picks by darielb on September 9, 2008

Genre: Soul

For the past 18 months, soul singer Angel Rissoff has been slow cookin’ a delicious concoction of classic soul, R&B, blues and jump. And now, from the mean streets of NYC comes Nu Soul Stew.

“This is the music I’ve always played, ” says Angel, who by the way came by his name during his early gang affiliations. “The first time I saw Elvis on TV, it got me crazy. Something clicked in my head … Little Richard … I found a record and played it over and over and over until my uncle who lived below us came upstairs and broke it.

“Growing up, I loved Chuck Berry, the Moon Glows, James Brown, the Everly Brothers. When I was 12 or 13, the music changed, got homogenized. Bobby Rydell took over. I was in a singing group when the Beatles came out, but I never played the British stuff. I’ve always been into this music — soul, old R&B, blues, jump, doo wop.

” I think of lot of the names are harmful. I hate the term ‘doo wop.’ I think ‘beach music’ is misleading; people think it’s surf music. If you go down the charts, you’ll find a bit of everything. That’s why the CD is ‘Nu Soul Stew.’ It all comes from the same pot.”

The just-released 13-track CD includes three originals. “I had more,” Angel laughed, “But I’m not sure if people are ready for them. I chose by what I like. The 5 Royales are one of my favorite groups.”

Two tracks on the disc were written by Lowman Pauling, songwriter/guitarist for the ground-breaking 5 Royales: “Think” and “Tears of Joy.” “Think,” which was also covered by James Brown in 1960, is a soulful, hip swivelin’ dance groove, and features uber-talent, Don Wise, on saxophone.

Opening track “Ain’t No Big Thing” is classic Northern soul, written by Gerald Sims of Chess recording group, The Radiants.

The Stax single made popular by William Bell, “Never Like This Before” features Angel and Rickey Godfrey on dual rockin’ lead vocals, and, man, do their voices work well together. When Angel and Rickey played together at the Lowcountry Blues Bash in Charleston earlier this year, event organizer Gary Erwin said, “Rickey Godfrey is the best blues guitarist you’ve never heard of…and Angel sings his ass off!” Rickey is joining Angel for the CD release tour, so you’ll want to catch one of the shows.

On “What Kind of Fool,” originally recorded in 1963 by the Tams, Angel’s versatile voice is front and center.

“With this CD, ” Angel says, “I got a chance to work with the people I want … Rickey Godfrey … Don Wise … David Spinoza, who played the guitar solo on Dr. John’s ‘Right Place;’ guys like Danny Draher from Chicago; George Naha; that’s Barbara Harris from The Toys on ‘One more Heartache.'”

The list of top talents goes on. “For Your Love” features Little Isidore and the Inquisitors. Renowned bass guitarist Johnny Gale also plays on “For Your Love.” New Jersey a cappella group Choice is featured on “Tears of Joy” and that’s Richie Migliacci on “I’m Gonna Forget About You.”
Angel co-wrote “Boogie Down Bronx” with Seth Glassman, his former bandmate from Little Isidore and the Inquisitors. It’s a jumpin’ homage to the artist’s home town, the Big Apple’s northernmost and most infamous borough.

Original tune “Geneve” was inspired by five magically sweet weeks in Switzerland. The third original, “Snows in July” is about a guy searching for the right girl (Angel calls it a caricature of himself).

The closer is Sam Cooke’s “I’m Gonna Forget About You.” There’ll be no forgetting this one.

Nu Soul Stew was produced and arranged by Seth Glassman and Angel Rissoff.

Angel doesn’t get down to the Carolinas all that often, so be sure to catch one of his smokin’ performances along the Grand Strand. There will be an open-to-the-public CD release party at J.B. Pivots (1662 Savannah Hwy South) in Charleston starting at 9 p.m on Thursday, June 26. The party moves to the Spanish Galleon (98 N. Ocean Blvd, North Myrtle Beach) on Friday, June 27 and at Chasers (601 Ocean Drive) on Oak Island, NC on Saturday, June 28, 9:30 p.m.

This review is also being published in the entertainment section of Coast Magazine and Alternatives NewsMagazine, issue June 19, 2008.

Angel Rissoff website

CD Review: Got It Bad For The Holiday Band

Posted in CD Picks by darielb on September 9, 2008

Genre: Beach & Boogie

For the past week or so, I’ve had Got It Bad For You, the Holiday Band’s latest, playing in the car. According to lead vocalist, Mike Taylor, “We set out to produce a real Carolina beach music CD … with that shag feel …” And that’s exactly what this is.

Six of the ten tracks are receiving regular radio play on the beach stations, so you’ll be singing along as soon as you pop the CD in the player. Three of the tracks are in the top 20 of Craig Fleming’s Smokin’ 45.

Released on Ripete Records in April, it’s not what I’d consider a true concept CD, more like a compilation. In fact, Mike Taylor told me they like to take sort of a shotgun approach and see what works. For Holiday Band fans, this’ll be right on target.

Got It Bad features three original tunes by Mike Taylor and/or Duane Neese and seven other offerings. In a telephone interview, Mike said, “I’d like to get back to more songwriting. I write a lot by mysel, but I find working with another lyricist takes me in new directions, which is good.

“What I like about working with Duane is that he’s both a good musician and lyricist. We’ve written some for the Castaways and may do work for some others, too.”

Duane Neese’s “Motor Under the Hood,” is the CD’s first track and features Duane on lead vocals. It’s a funny, bluesy tune about … well, it’s a guy thang. And, while it’s already a terrific live tune, the radio version is getting a very strong response, too. By the way, Mark Black is playing saxophone on this one.

The title tune, “Got It Bad,” is a Neese-Taylor collaboration with Mike on lead vocals. It’s just climbed to number 20 on Craig Fleming’s Smokin’ 45, (Read on for the other two).

The duo wrote the third original, “Do You Really Love Me” for bass player Doug Neese to sing. “It’s got a Caribbean feel, but more subtle, without all the steel drums and vibes,” says Mike.

Mike Neese takes the lead on Chris Rea’s “Fool (If You Think It’s Over),” which is proving to be a favorite with shaggers. Arrangement is by Mike Neese and Mike Taylor.

The very popular “Rabbit Got the Gun” is also on the CD. This recording was Mike Taylor’s first vocal after having vocal surgery. It was a great choice, and if you’ve heard him perform “Rabbit” live, you know the voice keeps getting better and better. Guest performers for this track include Ronnie Waters on guitar and Randy Gilkie on piano.

These next two are my two favorite tracks on the album: “I Know It’s Hard But It’s Fair” features Mike Taylor on lead vocals and really showcases the solid vocal harmonies of this group. The R&B tune was written by guitarist/songwriter Lowman Pauling of the 5 Royales. I love this studio version.

“There’s No Getting Over Me,” with Duane on lead vocals, was written by Tom Brasfield, with music by Walt Aldridge, and originally performed by Ronnie Milsap. Again, a solid recording.

“Love Is Here and Now You’re Gone,” from the Motown machine of Holland-Dozier-Holland features Mike Neese on lead vocal, and at number 18, is the third track to chart in the top 20 of the Smokin’ 45.

The two final tracks include the Paul McCartney tune “Only One More Kiss,” with Mike Neese on vocals and the gospel number, “Rough Side of the Mountain,” with Mike Taylor and Shonda English on vocals.

The CD was recorded at Studio East in Charlotte with Tim Eaton and Mark Stallings and at Bradley House with Fred Shaw and Curtis Carpenter.

The Holiday Band is a tight, talented group of musicians who have been playing together for years. The group actually formed in 1991 when sound man Alan Brantley (now with Hip Pocket) was backing Gary Brown on a CD. The experience was positive for both and evolved into the original Holiday Band, which worked part time, playing mostly private gigs. Mike Neese was in this original group. Mike Taylor joined in 1992. At that time, David Franks (Band of Oz) was playing keyboards and Tommy Rogers (The Inmen) was the drummer.

In 1999 the group’s Shotgun Boogie CD took off and the Holiday Band began playing more shows. In 2003, the Holiday Band took home Group Album (Southern Soul Revue), Song of the Year (I’m Man Enough”), Songwriter of the Year (Mike Taylor for “I’m Man Enough”) and Group of the Year.

Current drummer Bill Ward has been with the band for 13 years. Bass player Doug Neese (Mike’s cousin and Duane’s brother) joined 12 years ago. Saxman Mark Payne signed up 10 years ago. Duane Neese, lead vocalist who also plays horn, joined the group in 2006. He’s the new kid.
Holiday Band Website

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CD Review: Rick Strickland "Island Soul"

Posted in Music Stories by darielb on September 9, 2008

Genre: Beach Music/Soul

Man, I like Rick Strickland. He is one talented guy. He recently sent me a copy of his newest CD and then called to talk to me about it. Island Soul was released on KHP Records on April 5, along with all the other “just in time for SOS” singles and discs. He had a CD release party at JB Pivots in Charleston. “We tried something a little different,” he said, “and played the whole album during the first set. I was a little nervous about it, but there were several standing ovations during the set and the dance floor was packed.”

Rick, who worked with Todd Rundgren earlier in his career and considers him a mentor, went on to tell me that he felt this was a “60s soul kind of record. It’s as if Marvin Gaye, the Stylistics and the Beach Boys got together and made a record.” There are 12 tracks on this CD, all written, produced, arranged, engineered and mixed by Rick Strickland. In fact, except for Art Benton ..boards, it’s Rick playing all instruments and handling all background vocals.That’s a lot of hats.

Track One is “Bubba White’s.” According to Rick, it’s in the vein of “The Devil Made Me Do It” or “She Can’t Fix Grits.” And except for an intro that I suspect DJs will cut, it’s a great dance tune and I can see it filling the floor.

“Love the Night Away,” Track Two, which is the one Rick likes the best, is something smooth, something kind of mellow (oh sorry, just entertaining myself here). Next up is “I’m Happy,” and although this is another intro I’m not nuts about, it’s got a good solid shag groove.

Track Four is “Best Love,” a pure cha cha as far as I’m concerned. “I Need Some Money” is loads of fun and I think it’ll be a great live number for Rick. Track Six, “So Do I,” may be my favorite. It’s a sweet ballad that really showcases Rick’s voice along with his songwriting skills. “Your Love Is My Rock” is another really emotional piece, with a shag beat that should keep people out on the floor.

Track Eight is “Winner,” a smoothie that again demonstrates Rick Strickland’s immense vocal talents. A bit of trivia here, Rick wrote that one back in 1974.

“Nice While It Lasted” is up next, and it’s classic Rick Strickland – smooth and mellow with some really sweet harmonies. For me, however, it invites comparison to “Something Smooth,” but doesn’t quite measure up. I’ve often wondered … once you’ve done “Something Smooth,” what do you do next? (Yes, I know … “One Step Closer,”) but “Something Smooth” was something wonderful. Tough to top.

“Together We’ll Find a Way,” with its nice lilting melody is Track Ten. “I Don’t Wanna Know” is one I’d expect to get a lot of radio play. The final track is “Bad Situation,” which, in a word, is … funky. A second word would be fun.