DarielB – Flying Under the Radar

Jumpin’ On the Mary4Music Bandwagon

Posted in Music Stories by darielb on June 17, 2012

Mary4Music.com gets over 32,000 unique visitors a month, and I don’t mean hits. (That number is in the hundreds of thousands.) I’m talking about individuals who come back to the site over and over again. I’m not particularly surprised, because I’m one of them. It’s a great site.

Mary4Music is one of the best resources around for all things blues – blues clubs, blues festivals, blues bands, magazines, websites, CD reviews and more. So I’m beside myself that they’ve asked me to add my interviews with blues artists to the site. Zowee!

The Mary in Mary4Music is Mary Roby. She’s a music fan from way back. About 13 years ago, she met blues guitarist Forrest McDonald online and wound up working with his Atlanta, Ga.-based World Talent Records label. “It began as a hobby. I used to update the web page for the label site. I put up a page of music-related links and that link page evolved into Mary4Music,” she told me on the phone last week. “Then I met Pete online, too. I had been to see Lonnie Brooks and commented on AOL about it. Pete responded, so I started checking out his reviews.”

Pete is Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro, Mary’s business partner, fanatic blues aficionado and CD reviewer. Pete adds, “I was working as a doorman at what was then a major blues clubs (now defunct) called Alligator Alley. I’d come home all wired up, not ready to sleep. There was section in the Jazz & Blues category in AOL called Who’d You See Tonight. So I’d review the shows I’d seen … Mary sent me an email about writing reviews for her website and that’s how we became partners.”

Today Mary4Music has evolved into a comprehensive resource used – and inspired by– both musicians and fans. Mary says, “I had one email that said, ‘I’m coming up north. Can you map me a route?’ That’s where the directory came from. Another guy told me that he had planned his whole trip from Canada through the U.S. based on my website.”

Debbie Davies with Mary Roby and Pete “Blewzzman” Lauro

“For us,” Pete (who gets to at least 40 blues events and festivals a year) explains, “blues isn’t just something to do on a Saturday night. It’s a lifestyle. “My wife, Rose and I, we take our vacations to blues festivals.” Asked about his favorite event, the Blewzzman answers emphatically, the Blues Awards, which are held each May in Memphis, Tenn. “Rose and I went to our first Blues Awards show in 2000, and we got hooked. I said to her, ‘We have to do this again,’ and we have, every year since. This year was my thirteenth consecutive year. “I know everybody. I know it sounds like I’m bragging, but I’m not. Blues musicians are so approachable.”

Pete and Mary have not gone unnoticed in the industry. This past October, Pete was invited to be a presenter at the Blues Blast Awards. “So here I am at Buddy Guy’s Legends in Chicago and Buddy Guy won my category. It was one of the most memorable moments of my life.” Mary4Music was also honored last year with a 2011 Keeping the Blues Alive award in the Internet category from the Blues Foundation. These international awards are presented to individuals and organizations (non-performers) who have made “significant contributions” in both promoting blues and preserving the music.

Pete “Blewzzman” Lauro, who used to write for BluesWax online and Big City Blues magazine in Detroit, publishes CD review/s each month. By the first read, you can tell this is a man who loves his blues. I’ve been following his reviews for some years now, and my take is, if the Blewzzman tells you to check something out, check it out. You won’t be sorry.

On the subject of CDs, Mary4Music is currently hard at work on putting together a ten-track compilation CD. Sadly, it won’t be for sale. The recording, which is titled Mary4Music Presents Keeping the Blues Alive Vol.1 (with the blessing of the Blues Foundation), is a promo disc for radio deejays, to help get airplay for the groups involved. According to Mary, they hope this is the beginning of a series of recordings. To me it seems this is just one more way that Mary4Music is working to get the music out there.

You may notice when you visit the site, there are two portals, one titled Blues and the other, Indie. “Back when I first started working with Forrest, it was more about indie music,” Mary says. “But as I got into it, I started leaning more toward the blues, so I separated them.” There is clearly more blues-related information, but there’s plenty of indie resources, too.

What I’ll be doing with Mary4Music though is strictly blues. My plan is to continue my blog, DarielB-Flying Under the Radar, which covers mainly roots, R&B, soul and blues. But my interviews with blues artists will be posted at Mary4Music as well. I am so excited to be a part of this. Stay tuned. I’ll be posting my first Mary4Music interview soon!

If you haven’t been to Mary4Music.com already, I hope you’ll visit soon and “like” them on Facebook, too. (And in case you’re wondering why there isn’t a photo of Mary, you’ll have to take that up with Mary herself!)

CD Picks: Carolina Grown

Posted in CD Picks by darielb on February 11, 2010

CD Picks: Carolina Grown

Cagle & Nash

Soul Complete

2009

Churchill-Nash Records

Genre: R&B

cagleandnash.com

If you’re not located in  the Carolinas, you may not yet know about this Charlotte, N.C. duo, but Cagle & Nash are one of the best R&B acts around. Greg Cagle plays saxophone, guitar and sings lead vocals. Rick Nash plays a mean trumpet. Both are talented composers.

This soulful recording consists of 11 tracks and for my money, any one of them could be released as a single. Presentation throughout is solidly polished. This is pop meets old school and the result is spectacular. All songs on Soul Complete were written by Greg Cagle and Rick Nash.

The first song into it, I knew I was in for a treat. “Pick Up the Phone” is a jazzy piece that shows off the vocal talents of Greg  Cagle, and  Rick Nash – what a horn player!

The second track, “December,” boasts some equally rich horns. Also of note are the disc’s harmonies by Cagle and backup singers Robyn Springer and Jarrett Gillis.

Musicians on Soul Complete include: Greg Cagle (drum programming, saxophone, lead vocals, background vocals, guitar, bass, vibraphone), Rick Nash (trumpet), David Rhyne (percussion), Joe Miers (bass), Bobby Aycock (piano), Larry Gianneschi, Zach Wheeler, Greg Mitchell (alto sax), David Floyd (string arrangement, strings), Robyn Springer (lead and background vocals), Jarrett Gillis (background vocals), Tovaris Matthews (drums), Kenneth Leonard Jr. (piano), Steve McGuirt (drums), Bill Baucom (piano), Di Yonna Mitchell (lead vocal).

If you’re a fan of R&B, soul or pop, you’ll want to give this album a listen.

C&N is releasing another CD titled Loungevity later this month. I haven’t hear any of it yet, but I’m expecting big things.

Jeff Norwood

Awendaw

2008

Awendaw Green Records

Genre: Blues

jeffnorwoodblues.com

I love the simplicity and authenticity of this CD. There’s virtually no digital manipulation. It’s just one lone acoustic bluesman singing, picking and stomping his own version of backwoods Delta blues.

Jeff Norwood is a superb storyteller. He doesn’t judge. He just tells it like it is – whether he’s singing about sex, race, religion, love, money or catfish, he just has a story to tell.

“Bad Ass Boogie” is “the way music was made, back in the woods, back in the day, everybody got high, everybody got laid, that was the tune that always got played, the bad ass boogie.”

“Walking Catfish Blues” really is about a big ole catfish walking around looking for love and something to eat.

“Horny Road” is the back country counterpart to suburbia’s Lover’s Lane, only the couples don’t stop.

In the same vein, “Shake” will transplant you to a street corner or a front porch on a sticky summer evening when temperatures and hormones are on the move.

Our faithful bard wrote all but one of Awendaw’s  ten tracks. “Kokomo Blues” was written by North Mississippi blues guitarist/singer Fred McDowell (1904 – 1972).

Norwood, who grew up working on a S.C. farm, has paid his dues working some rough roadhouses and juke joints. Maybe that’s why he’s so matter of fact about his subject matter.

Awendaw, which is named for the small S.C. town where Norwood records, should be part of any serious blues collection.

J Edwards

Everything Changes

2008

Self-produced

Blues/Rock

jedwardsband.com

I first heard this phenomenal performer at a club in Columbia, S.C. He was playing to a packed room – folks who knew the lyrics to every tune and the story behind it. It didn’t take me long to appreciate Edwards’ considerable vocal talent and songwriting skill. His voice is whiskey-edged velvet, tender and tough at the same time.

His latest CD, Everything Changes delivers the same kind of live energy and raw vocals that keep his fans coming back for more. As a songwriter, J Edwards ( and yes, his first name is J) wears his heart on his sleeve, and while his tunes aren’t necessarily autobiographical, he makes us believe they are.

The 11-track disc opens with a rockin’ Delbertesque number called “Junkyard of Love,” a song about a guy talking about a girl who’s maybe worked her way through most of the guys at the bar, and by the end of the tune, he’s going to get himself a “mechanic to start working out the kinks in his heart.” He’s ready to move on.

“Carole Ann” is a hauntingly sweet tune of life on the road. Edwards then picks up the pace for “Can’t Get Over You.”

“Lover’s Moon Over South Carolina,”  is a road trip anthem with a special yen for heading home to South Carolina. It was voted in the top three at the Songwriter’s and Musician’s Guild of South Carolina songwriting competition.

Let yourself give in to “Skye.” Crank it up and go. It’s just plain fun.

Track seven, “Baby,” is going to take your breath away and fill you full of longing and sweetness until you just ache all over. This is that whiskey velvet I was talking about. Add to that, guitar work by Charles Funk … well, just wait for the goose bumps. They  comin’.

Without even giving you time to recover, “If I Had To” is up next and it’s another tune that strips away the layers as you listen to it. Good stuff. Also called “Conner’s Song,”  J was inspired by Columbia’s Chris Conner, lead singer for Sourwood Honey and  later The South, who passed away in late 2007 of lung cancer.

“Use Me” takes the emotion from the previous two ballads and channels it into a rockin’ romp for the whole band.

Edwards’ songwriting ability is evident on “Catch Me,” a song of love and leaving and lamenting the contradiction of it all.  The road warrior longs to stay but feels the constant pull toward the highway. As with most all J Edwards’ songs, powerful vocals combine with solid band performances.

All songs were written and performed by J Edwards (acoustic guitar). Other players include Charles Funk (acoustic, rhythm, lead guitars); Hesham Mostafa (bass guitar); Greg Bickley (keys on “Catch Me” and “Lover’s Moon;” Buddy Parker (keys on “Junkyard of Love;” Evan Simons (drums); Mike Marchbanks (drums on “If I Had To” and “Can’t Get Over You;” Erin Bates (background vocals on “Junkyard of Love”).

At this writing, the J Edwards Band has begun work on a new blues CD. They expect to be back in the studio by early March and hope for a summer release.