DarielB – Flying Under the Radar

Verlon Thompson at SxSE Music Feast – Saturday, Nov. 17, 2012

Posted in Interviews by darielb on November 17, 2012

Verlon Thompson’s 18-track CD, Works.

This has to be quick. I just wanted to remind you that Verlon Thompson will be on the Grand Strand tonight, Saturday, Nov. 17, 2012, at the historic Myrtle Beach Train Depot, courtesy of the folks at South By Southeast.  Verlon is the walking definition of the term singer/songwriter, a first rate troubadour.

I talked to him for a while earlier in the week. He was in between road trips and happy to talk a little about the upcoming show and Works, his 18-track 2011 album that ranges from solo recordings to a full band.

“Starting out, I wanted to keep it simple,” he says.  “So some tunes are just me and Mike Dub on upright bass. But others have the complete band. It’s mostly pretty recent tunes.

“The song, “Oklahomagain” is about my home. It means a lot to me, and every time I sing it, I picture myself at home.”

For “Mike and Betty’s Daughter,” it’s a waltz, I added a big string section … I was just feeling so passionate about that song!” [Verlon met his wife, Demetria Kalodimos in 2000. Neither had expected to find “this love thing” again, but they did and Verlon calls her his “dream come true.” Demetria is a journalist and TV news anchor in Nashville and well as a filmmaker and documentarian.]

“The Guitar: I had made a little video for Guild Guitar company when they gave me an endorsement. The song was part of a songwriter class Guy Clark and I were teaching – [Jorma Kaukonen’s]Fur Peace Ranch, it’s like camp for pickers. We’d sit there and basically write taking input from the members. They all inspire me. To see the passion, the beliefs that some young person has … They don’t know – or care – how hard it is and how hard it is to get it produced. They just  have to do it … They inspire me.”

“’Ballad of Stringbean and Estelle’ was a true story. Guy and I had talked about writing it. The story had all the ingredients for an old time murder ballad, but we were concerned about the families, so we kept putting it off. One day, Sam Bush came by and said his dad had saved newspaper articles about the murder. The three of us started jotting down facts and by the end of the day, we had a song.”

Verlon’s had some pretty heavy co-songwriters during his 30-something-year career, so I wanted to know how collaborating stacks up against writing solo.

“I get the most satisfaction when I write a song myself because every word is mine. Collaboration is great, but it’s always a compromise (even if it’s better). The ones that are all yours are the ones you hold closest.

“The ones I write myself, I can’t tell you how these happen. I try to catch them. If I let myself be open, sometimes I can get them. I write down what comes to me.
“As a songwriter, it’s your job to be open to what comes to you. I’ve just grown to see it that way … Now when I see a leaf fall from a tree, it’s a metaphor. Or sometimes, what’s literal to me might be a metaphor to you. That’s the beauty of songs; they mean different things to everyone.”

Click here to read my full interview with Verlon the last time he came to town. If you can make it out tonight, reserve your spot by sending an email to southxsoutheast@aol.com. You won’t be sorry. Storytelling doesn’t get any better than Verlon Thompson.

Works track list with notes: “The Show We Call the Business” – the story of Verlon’s arrival in Music City. Accompanied by Mike Bub, Shawn Camp, John Gardner; “Oklamomagain” – Scenes from Verlon’s home town Binger, Okla. And a special shout out to fellow Binger boy, Hall of Famer Johnny Bench; “Caddo County”  – More vivid images of home; “Dinnerbell” – …”you can’t lose what you never had”…; “Where the Bottom Is”; “Backup and Turnaround” – Perseverance. Verlong and Bub with harmonies by Larry Marrs and Diana DeWitt; “Adalee” – Not enough perseverance in this case. Featuring the “Works” band, Bub on Bass, Gardner on hand drums, Shawn Camp on fiddle and Larry and Diana harmonizing; “Gone But Not Forgotten”; “Big Bad John” – Just Verlon and a mando doing Jimmy Dean’s classic; “I Need More Time” – Don’t we all? With special guest Paul Franklin on steel guitar; “Joe Walker’s Mare” – Joe Walker was an early American explorer … he always had a nice ride; “The Ballad of Stringbean and Estelle” – Sad, but true. “The Get To You Waltz” – I’ve never been a dancer … or so I thought. A beautiful string arrangement by Kristin Wilkinson; “Mike and Betty’s Daughter” – In honor of three of the most beautiful people I’ve ever known; “El Toro” – Inspired by a trip to Spain. V., Shawn and Bub handle the manly harmonies; “Don’t Take Me Back” – Classic country music … I hope; “The Guitar” – The last line is the payoff; “Barnegie Hall” – Practice. Practice. Practice.

Stocking Stuffers: Music Picks to Keep You Groovin’ Through 2012

Posted in CD Picks by darielb on December 12, 2011

This is the time of year when I sit back with a nog while all y’all tell me what’s cool, hip and happenin’ in the world of music. This year I’ve asked a mix of special friends to share their music picks with us. Enjoy!
Mike Farris
mikefarrismusic.com
Mike Farris. Intense, talented and on fire, this Nashville boy is one of the most exciting performers I’ve ever seen. Check out his picks.
Various Artists
Cosimo Matassa Story (import)
Proper Box (2007)
If you really want to take a peek inside the birthing room of rock & roll, look behind this curtain! Between the 40s and 60s everything that came out of New Orleans was recorded at Cosimo’s J&M Studio. Way too often overlooked, New Orleans and her amazing musicians laid the foundation for rock & roll. If you don’t like this box set, we can never be friends.

Various Artists
Goodbye Babylon (Box Set)
Dust-to-Digital (2003)
Sacred music grown in the hot southern dust. One of the greatest box sets ever put together. Makes me proud to be a southern boy.
From Amazon: Goodbye Babylon is a 6 CD gospel reissue collection. 5 CDs contain 135 songs from 1902-1960 and the 6th disc is comprised of 25 sermons recorded between 1926-1941. Also included is a 200 page book complete with Bible verses, lyric transcriptions, and notes for each recording, plus over 200 illustrations … Sound restoration and mastering by Airshow Mastering, the team that restored the “Anthology of American Folk Music” (Smithsonian Folkways, 1997), and won a Grammy® for their work on “Screamin’ and Hollerin’ the Blues: The Worlds of Charley Patton” (Revenant, 2002). – Reverently packed in raw cotton and housed in a deluxe 8″ x 11″ x 2.5″ cedar box. Notes and essays by musicologists and scholars, including several Grammy® winners. – Contributors include Lynn Abbott, David Evans, Ray Funk, Anthony Heilbut, Kip Lornell, Luigi Monge, Paul Oliver, Opal Louis Nations, Bruce Nemerov, Guido van Rijn, Ken Romanowski, Tony Russell, Doug Seroff, Dick Spottswood, Warren Steel, David Tibet, Gayle Dean Wardlow, and Charles Wolfe.

Bill Withers
Still Bill (DVD)
New Video Group (2011)
Still Bill (documentary)- I know this is not technically a record. It’s a film….and I haven’t even seen this yet, but I can still safely say that it’s a must watch. Bill Withers is one of the great songwriters of our time and a true artist intent on steering his own wheel. Ride on, Bill……ride on.

Brian Rutenberg
brianrutenbergart.com
Brian Rutenberg. Before he grew into his true self as a sought after N.Y.C. artist, this Myrtle Beach boy was a drummer. I knew his picks would be cool, but I had no idea how cool.

Youssou N’Dour
The Lion
Virgin Records (1989)
My first recommendation is the fabulous Senegalese singer/ percussionist Youssou N’Dour whom I saw in concert at S.O.B’s in N.Y.C. in the late 80s. His soulful rhythm, smooth ambient keyboards (somewhat akin to Brian Eno), and musical voice are fabulous. I enjoy many of his albums but my favorite is 1989’s The Lion (Virgin), songs like “Bes” and “My Daughter (Sama Doom)” make me smile. His music also takes me back to the blissful days when I met my wife Katie. Now we have children and they like the same songs.
Robert Shaw & the Robert Shaw Festival Singers
Rachmaninoff Vespers
Teldec (1990)
If you want to be transported through music then Rachmaninoff’s Vespers are a must. They are sublime. Go somewhere you can be totally alone for an hour, shut the lights off, and listen. I also enjoy just looking out a window (preferably on a gloomy day) or a long drive with this recording. My ongoing studies of the late Canadian pianist/philosopher Glenn Gould involve long stretches of driving in Ontario and the Vespers are a perfect soundtrack. Another listening place might be the parking area that juts out onto the beach by the Cherry Grove Inn around 54th/55th Ave N. in North Myrtle Beach. I am not sure if it is still there but watching the surf to these Vespers would be nice; “Bless The Lord,” “O My Soul” and “O Serene Light” reaffirm what it means to be a human being.
Robert Plant
Principle of Moments
Rhino (1983)
Finally I am listening a lot to Robert Plant’s second solo album Principle of Moments released the year I graduated from high school in Myrtle Beach,. Although the drums are not Bonham they are played by Phil Collins with some heavy down beat and the unadorned clarity that Bonham mastered. There was a remaster released in 2007 which I play in my studio a lot. “In the Mood” and “Big Log” are still fabulous songs.
Clair DeLune
bluesmoonradio.blogspot.com
Clair DeLune. Music historian, writer and professor, producer and host of Blues Moon Radio … I love all that Clair does, and I’m grateful for her participation.
Various Artists
Bummed Out Christmas
Rhino (1989)
The Bummed Out Christmas CD seems an odd choice because it is topically dreary, not cheery. As the host of Blues Moon Radio, I talk with a number of people each year who are not upbeat about the holidays. Contrary to popular belief, blues music does not depress one, it is one’s “ticket” for climbing out of a pit of despair and can improve your mood, so I recommend Bummed Out Christmas to all.
This CD fits the bill two ways: For most, it is an over-the-top array of songs so wildly absurd they are laugh out loud funny, thus a welcome break from standard treacly holiday pap . For those in a deep funk, it has been known to provide a balanced perspective – even if only from a “misery loves company” or “someone has it worse” perspective. The most requested holiday song on my radio show each year is “Christmas In Jail,” by the Youngsters, which begins with the ominous “I was in the wrong lane, feeling no pain.” It acts as an ersatz public service announcement – reminding us of our duty to not drive if drinking, but entertains as it informs.
Demetria Taylor
Bad Girl
Delmark (2011)
Bluesman Eddie Taylor’s much-covered classic, “Bad Boy,” is given a twist by his daughter, Demetria. Eddie Taylor, who was not as well-known – yet was integral to the Chicago scene as Jimmy Reed’s guitarist – introduced Reed to that now-famous shuffling style. Eddie Taylor has influenced more people than know his name, including his own children, three of whom work actively in Blues music. This year Taylor’s daughter, Demetria, rises above the “Blues Legacy” tag with her vocals on “Bad Girl,” earning her place in the blues world as a powerhouse of song. It is nominated for Best CD of 2011 Lunie Award on Blues Moon Radio.
Laurence “Luckyman” Beall
The Huntsville Sessions
Turbine Incredible (2010)
Last but not least… indeed this is most likely my absolute favorite find of the year…
Laurence Luckyman Beall is the freshest, most invigorating artist to appear on Blues Moon Radio this year. His work is highly energized and he puts more sound out solo than most artists with backing bands. Sporting the Western-style dress and duck-tail hairstyle that emerged when Rock’n’Roll was young, Beall (pronounced ‘Bell’) is serious about his folio of Blues, Rockabilly and Americana that would get any mule kicking in its stall. Those who see Beall perform are impressed and charmed by his vibrant personality as well as his intense musicianship, comprised of powerful lyrics and melody, and a unique approach to electric chicken-pickin’ guitar work. His CD is the most commented on by Blues Moon Radio’s listeners this year… and many have become enthusiastic converts to “the Luckified.”
Sam Hannaford
SouthBySoutheast.org
Co-founder and past president of the nonprofit South By Southeast music organization, this guy is responsible for making top drawer music (and musicians) accessible to the Carolina coast. Love you, Sam.
Otis Redding
The Definitive Collection (4CD set)
Rhino Records (1993)
After having half finished reading “Bill Graham Presents,” the autobiography/biography of Bill Graham, I realized that he and I have two things in common. One, we have helped put on music concerts (not that I put myself 1000th in the same company of this great Rock Icon), and number two, that Otis Redding was our favorite all time performer. Unlike Bill, I never had the pleasure of seeing Otis live, but this four-CD set is a very definitive representation of his short but significant contribution to popular music – helping to bridge the racial and music genre gaps that existed until the 1960s.

There are outtakes of many of his more popular tunes that I find very interesting, as well as enjoying the songs heard on the radio back in the day and now. He is timeless. Unfortunately, he died the week after he recorded “(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay” and never got to hear his biggest hit on the radio.

Laura Nyro
Laura Nyro Live At The Bottom Line
Cypress Records (1989)
Always a huge fan of Laura, I was gifted this out of production CD a few years ago (it’s available on eBay). Known mostly for her pop hits recorded by The Fifth Dimension, Barbra Streisand, Blood Sweat and Tears and others such as “Stoney End,” “Wedding Bell Blues,” “And When I Die,” and “Stoned Soul Picnic,” Laura’s emotive piano playing and vocal phrasing have always touched me. This is a great example live of those qualities as exemplified on songs such as “The Confession,” “My Innocence/Sophia” and “Broken Rainbow.” She also mixes in R&B covers of “High Heeled Sneakers,” “La La Means I Love You” and “Up On The Roof.” She has influenced many singers.
The Duhks
The Duhks
Sugar Hill Records (2005)
Having seen these multi-talented young musicians at Merlefest in 2005, I bought their CD immediately. I have rarely been as impressed by a group that offered so much a diversity and cultural music mixture. Running the gamut from Celtic, Portuguese, Cajun, Rock N’ Roll, as well as Black Sea Island Gospel music, these folks tear it up. Jesse Havey’s vocals are unreal, along with fellow band member Tania Elizabeth. “Death Came A Knockin”, “Dance Hall Girls”, “True Religion”, and “ The Waggoner’s Lad” stand out to me especially. I am unsure if they are still playing, but even with a change in membership, they put on a great show.
Mike Taylor
HolidayBand.com
Singer/songwriter and band leader for Southern soul/variety group, the Holiday Band, Mike has lived and breathed music since he was a kid. One of my faves.
Chicago
What’s It Gonna Be Santa?
Rhino (2003)
Twenty of the best arrangements of Christmas songs ever. Every song has a unique flavor, the changes are NOT traditional and the playing and singing is off the chart. I don’t usually like Christmas CDs much, but I love this one. You must listen two or three times to get used to the vibe.

Pete Lauro
Mary4Music.com
Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro reviews blues and indie music at Mary 4 Music, and I’m always happy to listen to his picks. Yeah!
Hubert Sumlin
Healing Feeling
Blacktop Records (1990)
This is one of my favorite CDS simply for the fact that it introduced me to the person who has become my all time favorite blues vocalist – Darrell Nulisch. While at a friend’s house, he happened to be playing the CD and when the song “Play It Cool” came on I was blown away. I asked him to let me see the CD jacket and bought it the very next day. It’s almost 12 years old and I still listen to it very regularly.

Roomful Of Blues
That’s Right
Alligator Records (2003)
You could easily put on a three-day blues festival just using the great musicians that have been a part of Roomful of Blues over the last 40 or some years. Through it all, the band has remained in tact and is still headlining blues festivals themselves. This is one of my favorite discs of theirs because it featured the debut of Mark DuFresne who I feel gave them back the punch they needed in a front man. This is real good stuff.
Downchild Blues Band
I Need A Hat
Linus Entertainment (2009)
This is another one of those bands that’s been around forever. As the story goes, they were supposedly the influence for the Blues Brothers. This Canadian band, led by Donny Walsh, has more discs out than I care to count, and this – their latest release – is one of their very best.

Pat Patterson
LargeTime.net
The S.C. Internet radio station owner (along with wife Robin) of Large Time Network is one of my favorite deejays, and has a wonderful collection of obscure music.
Rickey Godfrey
Nasty Man
Serenity Hill (2010)
There is a lot of good music available right now, but I have three favorites. I am a Rickey Godfrey fan through and through. His latest release Nasty Man is “Nasty” but in a good way!! Rickey is so talented and his talent shines with each song from his vocal ability to his amazing guitar licks. This CD should be in your collection right now. I feel that only Rickey could get away with the title “Nasty Man” and then on top of that pull off “I Want Me a Nasty Woman,” one of my favorites, as well as “When You’re Cool (The Sun Shines All The Time).” Only Rickey can make the blues shine.
Craig Woolard Band
Main Street People
Sisbro (2010)
Also on my list is Main Street People on Sisbro Records from The Craig Woolard Band. Beside the obvious songs on the charts “Your Love Is Amazing,” “Impossible,” and “Beachaholic,” there are some other great songs as well. “Soulful Kind Of Love,” I’m In Love With The Girl Next Door” and “Main Street People.” You can’t go wrong with this CD.

Dip Ferrell & the Truetones
Along For the Vibe
Arcade Records (2011)

The new CD from Dip Ferrell And The Truetones, Along For The Vibe, on Arcade Records is awesome. The shag tunes “Hey Girl” and “Love Monkey” will make you lay some leather down on the dance floor. Two beautiful ballads “Baby Come Back To Me” and “I’m Way Too Proud” have great story lines, yes songs do have story lines and these certainly do. Not only that, but the music is fabulous and makes for a true slow dance.

Stuff the stockings with these CDs and you can’t go wrong!!! I simply put them in and hit “Play” without skipping to the next song, and that to me makes a great “Stocking Stuffer” and CD. Merry Christmas and happy listening!!!!
Sheila Cain
http://www.live365.com/stations/
beaumontblues
Head honcho and radio host for Blues City Radio, Sheila Cain found time to give us her faves, despite the fact that she was in the middle of moving her life to Denver. Check out her radio show.
Karen Lovely
Still The Rain
Pretty Pear Records (2011)
Being a blues enthusiast, my number one pick this Christmas has to be Karen Lovely’s latest CD, Still The Rain. I’ve listened to every track over and over again and still can’t get enough.

The title track “Still The Rain” is contemporary blues at it’s very best. But don’t overlook one single song on this CD. Every one is a winner in my book. Tracks from this CD have kept Karen Lovely at the number one spot on Blues City Radio for the past eight weeks straight with no signs of slowing down.
Karen Lovely has the potential to become a blues phenom!
Etta James
Icon
Geffen Records (2010)
I don’t generally buy “collection” type CDs, but Etta James is the exception to the rule on this one.
Her CD Icon, a 12-song sampler spans the best of Etta over her illustrious career.

From “At Last” to “I’d Rather Go Blind,” this CD highlights her many hits. There’s just something about her sultry, soulful voice and lyrics that takes one on a musical journey that is hard (if not impossible) to duplicate. This is a “Must Have” CD for anyone who loves, blues, soul and R&B. I guarantee it will not be re-gifted.

Thanks to all my pals who contributed here. Happy Holidays to all!

GRAMMY Winner Yonrico Scott Heads to Myrtle Beach for SxSE Show

Posted in Music Stories by darielb on December 1, 2011

Yonrico Scott. Check out the drum head.

On Jan. 31, 2010 drummer Yonrico Scott was onstage at the L.A. Convention Center for the pre-telecast award ceremony of the GRAMMYs accepting the award for Best Contemporary Blues Album for the Derek Trucks Band. On Dec. 3, he and his own Yonrico Scott Band will hit the stage right here at the historic Myrtle Beach Train Depot for the final South By Southeast Music Feast of the year.


This is why I “Trust the Frog.” The folks at SxSE spend their time scouring the road not taken by the mainstream bandwagon to bring us some of the country’s most respected singer/songwriters and musicians, most of whom aren’t household names to the public, but are well-known to other musicians.

Yonrico Scott is one of this talented community of musicians. He played with the Derek Trucks Band from about 1993, he guesses, until the band went on hiatus late last year so Derek could form a new band with wife Susan Tedeschi. He has toured with Peabo Bryson and Earl Klugh and played with greats like Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Freddie Hubbard and the Allman Brothers Band.

In a telephone interview earlier this week, we talked about his GRAMMY experience, his career and his passion for art.
As a child, Scott was greatly influenced and encouraged by his mother Ruth Naomi Scott, a gospel singer who grew up in Detroit. She was a member of the Detroit Harmonettes and it sounds like she cherished her son’s budding talent.

“She was truly an angel,” says Scott, “always encouraging me. I started playing drums at about five years old.”

By age 14, he was studying with Motown drummer George Hamilton. At 15, he recorded “Message From the Ghetto” with The Sons of Truth for the Stax gospel subsidiary.

He went to college in Kentucky, studying drums and percussion with Chicago Symphony classical percussionist Patrick Arnold and classical timpanist Dave Davenport. Scott says his classical study is the reason that he is the drummer he is today.

Upon moving to Atlanta, Ga. in the late seventies, he immediately met guitarist George Greer, who turned him on to the neighborhood arts center. Connections made there helped get his foot in the door of the jingle business, and he started doing work for Atlanta mogul Ted Turner.

Sometime in 1992 or 1993, he had a call from Col. Bruce Hampton (Gov’t Mule) with the news that then 14-year-old Derek Truck was looking for a drummer.

“The first time I heard him play, I knew this was big,” Scott tells me. “The first year we played 320 dates. We did all the small cities.
“A lot of people don’t know, but when I started with DTB, we were doing bebop … all sorts of stuff.”

Because DTB took a regular hiatus, Scott was able to play with his own Yonrico Scott Band, which includes Kofi Burbridge, keys/flute; Todd Smallie, bass; Mace Hibbard, sax; Nick Johnson, guitar; Laura Reed, special guest vocalist; and many other players on different occasion. YSB’s debut release, Turning the Corner, a 12-track disc of mainly jazz instrumentals, was released in January, 2004.

His first touring job was with Peabo Bryson and Patti LaBelle. Through Bryson, he connected with Broadway and spent several years working in productions such as The Wiz, Dream Girls, Les Misérables and Five Guys Named Mo, which featured the music of Louis Jordan.

What was it like getting a GRAMMY, I wanted to know.

“I loved it. I walked the red carpet with Ringo Starr on my right and Mick Fleetwood on my left.”

He continues, “Derek had been really cool with it, said he wasn’t going to go, so I said that I was thinking of going and Derek asked me to represent the band, so then it was official. I was going!”

Scott kept a GRAMMY journal about the experience that’s posted on the Derek Trucks Band site. It’s a great read. I love how much fun he’s having with it. Here’s just a snippet:

“I get the award and I’m trying to stay composed on stage but in my mind, I’m freaking out! A lot of the other winners seemed so relaxed when we won, but for me it was just such a huge deal. I had this Grammy in my hand and I was just blown over! Right now I still think it’s a dream and I just wonder when the dream will be over.”

Throughout all Scott’s stories (and he has many), I was impressed by just how jaded he is not. He is embracing every experience that comes along.

“After I got the Grammy, I decided I wanted to do another album. I started in March of 2010, and I finished about three months ago.”

Scott is very excited about the new recording, Be In My World, which he expects will be released in early 2012. Players include his sister Ronda Scott (they sing a duet); vocalist Laura Reed from South Africa; Derek Trucks; DTB bass player Todd Smallie; DTB vocalist Mike Matteson, jazz guitarist Grant Green Jr.; virtuoso bassist Joseph Patrick Moore; singer/songwriter Diane Durrett and more. Three of the tracks are written by funk keyboardist Reverend Oliver Wells. Scott himself wrote several tracks.

“There are 15 original songs and a cover of Buddy Miles’ “‘dem Changes,’” Scott says, “and this is the first recording with me as a lead vocal. So that’s me on vibes, percussion, singing and drums. The album, titled Be In My World is a tribute to Buddy Miles.”
Art is another passion for Yonrico Scott. “I was always drawing and making stuff, as a kid.”
Once again, his mother was at his side, encouraging him.

“‘You can have the upstairs. Do whatever you want,’ my mother told me,’ Scott laughs.

“Then, when I started with Derek, we were making up set lists and I started drawing on them. We would make color copies for the band, and then for some of the fans. And now they’re collected all over the place.”

Scott is a prolific artist, painting drum heads for his many gigs along with paintings.

“I’m not a trained artist,” he continues. “I’m making a statement . . . One of my biggest idols was Howard Finster [legendary Atlanta folk artist known for his 1980s album designs for groups like R.E.M. and Talking Heads].  He told me to keep doing my own stuff. Don’t take lessons. So that’s what I do.”

This past October, when  visionary artists Alex and Allison Gray, known for their psychodelic album covers, came to Atlanta’s inaugural Visionary Arts Fair, Yonrico was part of it.

“I was playing drums, wearing a crazy suit. I loved it.”

So much is  happening for Yonrico Scott these days, it’s  hard to keep up.

“The biggest thing for me right now is a new band. I’ve been invited to join the Royal Southern Brotherhood with Cyril Neville, Devon Allman and MIke Zito with Charlie Wooton on bass. The band will debut at the New Orleans Jazz Fest, and we have bookings through Dec. 2012.”

Joining Scott at the SxSE gig will be jazz keyboardist Buzz Amatto, guitarist Randy Honea, and Ted Peccio on bass. Something tells me this is going to be a genre-jumping adventure, and I can’t wait.

Music Feasts are $25 per person ($20 for SxSE annual concert series members). Reservations are suggested. Send an email to southxsoutheast@aol.com, with the number of tickets and your zip code. They’ll put you on their A list.

The Myrtle Beach Train Depot is located at 851 Broadway in Myrtle Beach. For more information about the SxSE event,log onto http://www.southbysoutheast.org.

Note: I loved talking with Yonrico Scott, and there’s a lot more to the interview, so I plan to organize my notes and add some of them to this blog post soon.

Memphis-Bound – Cape Fear Blues Challenge Winners

Posted in Live Performance Previews/Reviews by darielb on November 16, 2011

Lawyers Guns & Money, winners in the band category

Randy McQuay Wins Solo/Duo Category, Lawyers Guns & Money Take Band Competition

I was fortunate enough to be one of the judges for the Cape Fear Blues Challenge this year. It was a lot of fun and I got to hear some great music. If you ever get a chance to attend or be a part of one of these, jump at the chance. This particular event (and there were hundreds going on all over the country) was held on Saturday, Nov. 5 at one of my favorite little blues joints, the Rusty Nail in Wilmington, N.C.

We judged two categories: solo artist or duo act and band (three or more players). Each act played a 20-minute set.

There were several different judging criteria. First, and most heavily weighted was blues content, which I found strange because it’s so subjective. Everyone has his or her own interpretation of what is and isn’t blues ( never mind what is and isn’t good), so this can really vary. Vocals were the next criteria. How did the act’s vocals tell the story; did they evoke emotion? And did the background vocals reinforce the message?

Third criteria was talent. In the case of a group or duo, did the instrumental skills of each musician combine well and contribute to the act’s “sound”? Was the band tight? Was the tempo steady. Did the instruments complement the vocals or drown them out? It’s not enough to lay down searing riffs during your solo.

Also important for the competition was originality. Although the Cape Fear Blues Society allows cover tunes in the contest, players are not rewarded for exact renditions. Instead we looked for the act that could take a well-known blues tune and make it their own. To give you an example, during the course of the evening, three of the nine acts we were judging performed Robert Johnson’s “Crossroads Blues,” so you can understand the significance of originality as it extends beyond songwriting to arrangement and performance, as well.

The fifth and final criteria was stage presence. Did the performers connect with the audience? Were they playing music or putting on a show? Musicianship has to come first, but musicians can’t perform in a vacuum. They have to sell themselves – and their music – to the audience.

Six acts competed in the solo/duo category and three sought the title in the full band category, which was defined as having three or more players. Solo acts were Jim Ashley, Lakota John, Jim Nelson, Reverend Sam, Spider Mike Bochey and Randy McQuay. The competing bands were The Treblemakers, Lawyers Guns & Money and Chicken Head Blues Band.

Randy McQuay and Lawyers Guns & Money took the wins so they’re headed to Memphis for the 2012 IBC. Yeah!

Wilmington's Randy McQuay won in the solo/duo category

Born and raised in Charlotte, N.C., Randy McQuay told me he started playing drums in middle school. He joined the school jazz band and later the marching band. He has been a full time musician since the age of 17. After attending UNCW and studying drums and percussion, he now plays keyboard, guitar, harmonica and handles vocals, too. “I paid my way through college singing, so that’s what I’ve done,” he told me in a telephone interview this week.

McQuay is the talented front man for the Wilmington, N.C. group, RootSoul Project. He’s working on his sixth album now, and has recorded in Nashville, Tenn. as well as locally at Audio Genesis in Wilmington.

His group has a standing gig at the Duck & Dive in downtown Wilmington every Tuesday night and then travels around the region Thursday through Sunday. They’ve been building quite a fan base in Myrtle Beach and Murrells Inlet.

At the Blues Challenge, Randy was hugely engaging on harp and acoustic guitar. Until he played, it seemed the young Lakota John might score the most with his electric guitar, but in the end, he came in second.

Winning the band category, Lawyers Guns & Money is a Greensboro-based four-piece band with Terry VunCannon on guitar and lap steel, Stan Atwell on bass and vocals, Mike Thomas on drums and vocals and Rob Slater on guitar. The band was founded by VunCannon about three years ago. As for the band name, yes they’re fans of Warren Zevon, but there’s more.

“Stan the bass player is a lawyer, I have the guns, and Mike is an engingeer, so he’s the money,” laughs VunCannon
“These are guys I’d played with in pickup bands around Greensboro. We worked up a cover show first,” Terry tells me a few days after the Blues Challenge.

The band likes playing blues, but also performs R&B, classic rock and some Motown tunes. They have a new CD titled Make Up Another Lie (Sept. 2011) and a single, “Hook Line & Sinker” on the Cashbox Roadhouse Blues Top 40 chart. The CD includes a bonus track with blues legend Bob Margolin.

Terry says, “Bob Margolin has been so good to us; we do a cover of his “She and the Devil” on the CD. We switched it up, did it fast … different tempo.  Bob says he’d rather see a band do an original version and not just a cover.

“On the CD cut, I played acoustic dobro and Bob played acoustic guitar and sang. It meant a lot to me and the band.”

Lawyers Guns & Money has opened or shared the stage with Margolin three times. They’ve also opened for Candye Kane.

“I had a chance to sit down with Candye’s amazing guitarist Laura Chavez,” Terry tells me. “Our road guitars, Strats, are the same year, and we both use the Fender Tex Mex pickups.”

I can hear him grinning. This is a guy who definitely likes what he does.

Vuncannon pens the band’s original tunes, often with girlfriend Janice Gatton Hamby. He’s been writing songs and doing session work since about 1980.

Lawyers Guns & Money is a big hit with dance crowds, playing venues like Sixth & Vine in Winston-Salem, Churchills in Greensboro, Papa Mojo’s Roadhouse in Durham and the Zion Caribbean Bar & Grille in Greensboro and the Opra House Saloon in Asheboro. Thursday nights, Terry tells me, they run the open blues jam at Zion.

From the first moment this band started performing “Make Up Another Lie,” they captured my undivided attention. Vocals by bassist Stan Atwell are anything but off-the-shelf, and throughout the set, the band was tight and polished.

I have to say, all three of the bands delivered topnotch performances. The Treblemakers put on a super rockin’ blues show, and Rick Tobey’s Chickenhead Blues Band brings puts out a great vibe.

So, a big thank you to Lan Nichols and Cape Fear Blues Society for inviting me and Sandy Williams, owner of the Rusty Nail for giving us such a great place to play!

R+R with Rick Strickland

Posted in CD Picks by darielb on September 21, 2011

CD photography by Jim Allen; graphics & design by Joanie Dakai.

Is there a recording artist who makes you smile every time you hear him on the radio … or whose song you have to stay in the car and listen to even though it’s on your iPod and in the CD player?

For me, Rick Strickland is that artist. So today is another great day because I get to listen to Rick’s latest CD and then talk to him about what I’ve just heard. I have been a fan since his Something Smooth (2005) days and he never lets me down. The new 12-track solo recording is titled Rhythm + Romance (we’ll talk about the title in a minute). It’s full of Rick’s signature four-octave range vocals, perfect harmonies, simple sophisticated songwriting and luscious instrumentation.

In other words, it’s classic Rick Strickland – a mix of brand new tunes and some that have been on the back burner for 30-plus years.

The opening track, “Over and Over,” is one of the new ones, completed just a few months ago. According to Rick, it’s getting great response during club dates.

Track two is “Something’s Gotta Give,” and it features a smokin’ alto sax solo by Butch Barnes of Murrell’s Inlet-based Sea-Cruz. “I think Rick is an incredible writer, artist and performer,” says Butch. “I love everything he’s done on this CD. To me, he’s just one of the best.”

It’s always interesting to hear  how a tune is born, and this one is no exception. “It was 1985, I was in a band called the Citizens and we were playing St. Croix for a week. One morning as sat at the window listening to the street sounds and steel drum bands, I saw these two Rastafarian kids in the yard, and they were going back and forth about something, not getting along. Finally, one just stops and says to the other, ‘Hey, somethin’ got to give, mon,’ and I wrote this song. It turned out funky, not reggae, but that’s where it came from.”

“Shing Yo Ling” is up next, an “out-of-the-box” hit, that uses suggestive nonsense phrases as skillfully as anyone ever has.

Jumping ahead, track five is “Just So You Know,” a ballad that really showcases Rick’s vocals, which have a sweet raw quality for this one. I think it’ll fill the dance floor.

“Two Faces,” which is track six, is my fave, at least for now. I love the lyrics and the fast-paced vocals. The song really takes someone to task (actually, two people, I’ve come to find out), first for being the ungrateful, short-memoried nouveau riche and second for back-stabbing and trouble-making. Talking to Rick on the phone about it, I could hear Lesa Hudson in the background laughing, “Moral of story: never cross a songwriter.”

Lesa’s a hoot.

Lesa and Rick fans will be happy to know there’s another duet on this album, too. “Got to Be With You” is a lively tune that puts their chemistry and showmanship right up front. It’s a lot of fun, and sounds like a tush push to me.

Throughout the recording, Rick’s lyrics tell a story, but they’re pretty simple and straightforward. “I read a quote by John Lennon a long time ago,” he explains. “It goes, ‘Just say what you’ve got to say and put it to a backbeat,’ and that’s pretty much  how I feel. I don’t want to belabor a point.”

Rick gave me some backstory on “Whatever You Do” that I didn’t know.

“I owe a big debt of gratitude to Curtis Carpenter for this. It was back in 1991. Curtis wrote an article for Headliners In Review magazine. He compared my work to Brian Wilson and Hall & Oates, and went on to say that he felt it should be Song of the Year. I got lots of session work right after that.

“Another reason this song is so special to me is that it’s the first song of mine that my daughters learned all the words to. We’d sing it together at bedtime.”

Closing track is “You’re Not Alone,” a grandly orchestrated clutch-at-your-heart ballad that slows down the pace of the album, but rachets up the emotion. It’s a beautiful tune, and when I spoke to Rick about the album, he told me that he had written it back in 1986 for Pets, Inc., an animal rescue organization.

Getting back to the CD’s title, Rick tells me, “John Hook has been a long time supporter. In fact, John and Ray Scott, before anyone else, were there for my music. Anyway, John said to me one day [Rick does a super John Hook imitation, by the way],’ Rick, I’ve thought of the absolute perfect way to describe your music – rhythm and romance.’ When we got down to brass tack and started doing the album, we decided it fit.”

Not surprisingly,  Rhythm + Romance was written, produced, arranged, engineered and mixed by Rick himself. In addition, he played all guitars, bass and drums; and he sang all leads and most background vocals on the recording.
If this is the first you’ve heard about Rick Strickland, visit my blog, DarielB – Flying Under the Radar. I’ve got three different posts about him, four if you count the last Lesa Hudson story: CD Review: Rick Strickland Island Soul (Sept. 9, 2008); Rick Strickland Melds Musicianship in New 7-piece Band (April 21, 2009); Rick Strickland’s Lucky Number ‘Seven’ (March 29, 2010); Lesa Hudson: Laid Back In a Driven Kind of Way (July 11, 2011).

Track list: 1. Over and Over; 2. Something’s Gotta Give (featuring Butch Barnes); 3. Shing Yo Ling; 4. Moth to a Flame; 5. Just So You Know; 6. Two Faces; 7. Got to Be With You (duet with Lesa Hudson); 8. Whatever You Do; 9. If You Don’t Want Me; 10. Mr. Heartache; 11. Experience; 12. You’re Not Alone.

Players: Rick Strickland (guitar, bass, drums, lead and background vocals); Art Benton (keyboards for all but Something’s Gotta Give and You’re Not Alone); Lesa Hudson (vocals on Got to Be With You; background vocals on Just So You Know and Mr. Heartache; keyboards on Something’s Gotta Give, Just So You Know,Two Faces, Whatever You Do, and Mr. Heartache);Jeff Poteat (keyboards on You’re Not Alone); Butch Barnes (alto sax solo on Something’s Gotta Give); Debbie Anderson (background vocals on Just So You Know).

Note to Fans of the Rick Strickland Band: On Friday, Sept. 23, the band is presenting a free Fan Appreciation Concert, 6 – 10 p.m. at the Avista Resort Ballroom, 300 N. Ocean Blvd., North Myrtle Beach, S.C. I understand there will be some great surprises. Seating is limited, so get there early! Free parking on either side or across the street!

Road Trip: Summer’s Last Blast & Blues Fest

Posted in Live Performance Previews/Reviews by darielb on September 7, 2011

She D’Ambrosio is a talent scout, booking agent and all around lover of blues music. It’s been on her bucket list for quite some time now to put together a blues festival for the Upstate of South Carolina, and this month it’s finally come to pass.

On Saturday, Sept. 17, the inaugural Summer’s Last Blast & Blues Festival will take place at the Pavilion at Acadia in Piedmont, S.C. (a suburb of Greenville). The lineup is extraordinary, especially for the ultra-reasonable ticket price of $15 per person (free for kids under 12).

Headlining is the incredible Beverly “Guitar” Watkins and her band; then there’s Cee Cee James featuring the inimitable Rickey Godfrey on guitar; the Matt Walsh Blues Band; Freddie Vanderford with Brandon Turner and the Shades; singer songwriter J Edwards and his kick-ass band; and the King Bees. YEAH!

Beverly "Guitar" Watkins (Photo David Baerst)

Beverly “Guitar” Watkins was born in Atlanta, Ga. in 1939, and she can play the pants off musicians half her age. She says, “My style is real Lightnin’’ Hopkins lowdown blues. I call it hard classic blues, stompin’ blues, railroad smokin’ blues.”

D’Ambrosio can’t wait to bring her to the Upstate. ‘Beverly is a national treasure,” she tells me. “She’s got a style all her own and she’s so charismatic. Wait till people see her with that guitar over her head.”

Watkins was a junior in high school when she joined Piano red and the Meter-tones. Later she played with Eddie Tigner and the Ink Spots and other groups, becoming a fixture at the Underground Atlanta.

She would go on to work with James Brown, B.B. King and Ray Charles, becoming well-known throughout the blues community. But like so many other roots musicians, she had little airplay, and wouldn’t achieve success until the advent of the Internet. Re-discovered by Tim Duffy, founder of the nonprofit Music Maker Relief Foundation, she joined Koko Taylor on the women of Blues “Hot Mamas” tour in 1998. Her debut CD, Back In Business (1999), earned her a W.C. Handy Award nomination in 2000, and she was on her way. A bout with cancer a few years later couldn’t keep her down, and she’s back touring and getting the kudos she deserves.

Cee Cee James

Originally from Portland, Ore., Cee Cee James was 12 when she put together her first band. She discovered blues early, but went on to explore R&B and her native cherokee roots. “Hiking in the mountains outside San Diego,” she says, “I heard Stevie Ray Vaughan whispering to me from the Heavens… “Go back to your roots girl. go back to what you do best,” which I intuitively knew was blues, low-down roots and soul.”

Her current blues band includes songwriting partner and husband Rob “Slideboy” Andrews and Nashville’s hot rockin’ bluesman Rickey Godfrey wailing on his Telecaster. This act is going to blow the sky open.

“Cee Cee James is a vocal volcano,” says D’Ambrosio. “There’s this gut-wrenching quality … Her originals come from walking through fire … and there’s just not enough to say about Rickey Godfrey. It’s an honor for us to have him here.”

J Edwards Band is going to shock a lot of people at this show. A popular Columbia, S.C. musician, he just isn’t well-known outside the area. But this boy can sing. His raw, rough, heart-wrenching vocals will stop you in your tracks.

In a matter-of-fact style that I’ve come to expect from She D’Ambrosio, she says bluntly, “J’s voice is my crack cocaine. He’s got a voice like no other. Once you’ve heard ‘I’ve Got a Woman,’ you know what I mean.”

Matt Walsh’s sound is rooted in the old-school blues of south-side Chicago in the fifties. He first gained national notoriety in 2006 when former guitarist for Muddy Waters Bob Margolin interviewed him for Blues Revue magazine. Since then Matt shared the stage or opened for Buddy Guy, Taj Mahal, Pinetop Perkins and others. This guy’s on his way up! Catch him while you can!

The King Bees out of N.C were formed by guitarist/organist Hound Dog Baskerville and singer/song-writer/bassist, Queen Bee Penny Zamagni. They have a musical pedigree I can’t even imagine. They have sat in with or backed up so many blues giants:Bo Diddley, Tinsley Ellis, Billy Branch, Mojo Buford, Big Jack Johnson, Sam Carr, Frank Frost, Lazy Lester, Ronnie Earl … the list goes on.

“When you hear that voice come out of Penny, who stands  all of five feet … you wonder where it comes from,” says D’Ambrosio as she talks about the King Bees.

Harpman Freddie Vanderford is doing his part to keep the blues alive. In 2010 he received the Jean Laney Harris Folk  Heritage Award for  sharing the tradition of Piedmont blues harp. For the Summer’s Last Blast festival, he’s playing with iconic guitarist Brandon Turner and the Shades.

“Brandon Turner is one of the most underrated guitarists in the U.S. I can’t wait for this show,” She tells me.

“We have people coming fro Atlanta, Charlotte, Virginia, the Carolina beaches,” she goes on. “We’re hoping to have a lot of locals, too. We have a lot of talent in this area, but we wanted to bring in acts from out of the area, too … give people a chance to see someone that maybe they haven’t been able to see before.”

This is a family-friendly festival. Food vendors will be selling homemade ice cream, funnel cakes, hot dogs, barbecue, beer, wine, soda, tea, lemonade and more.

Vendor spots are still available for $25. As a further incentive, this year’s vendors will be able to return next year for the same price.

The Summer’s Last Blast & Blues Festival is produced by Treeline Music, Sparkle City Blues and De Lisle and Associates.

The Pavilion at Acadia is located at 102 Fathers Way in Piedmont, S.C. For more information, log onto the website at http://www.summerslastbluesfest.com, email summerblues@treelinemusic.com or visit them on Facebook.

Port City Gets a Groove On

Posted in Interviews, Live Performance Previews/Reviews by darielb on July 11, 2011


Being a fine old southern city, Wilmington, N.C. is steeped in tradition, and one of its favorites is the upcoming Cape Fear Blues Festival set for July 29 – 31.

Three days of blues in the Port City will include live concerts, a blues workshop, an all-day blues jam, a guitar raffle and the always popular Blues Cruise aboard Wilmington’s Henrietta III.

Nashville's Rickey Godfrey (Photo Mary Anne McLaurin)

Headlining the main deck on the Friday night Cruise will be Nashville guitarist Rickey Godfrey and his band.

“Rickey is a consummate entertainer,” said Cape Fear Blues Society president Lan Nichols in a telephone interview. “He’s a master on guitar … and has a really emotional voice. Rickey reads his audience and knows exactly what to give.”

Godfrey, who has been blind since birth, has been nominated for both guitarist and keyboard player of the year by the Music City Blues Society. He’s touring now as a featured guitarist with the Cee Cee James Band, so this is a rare opportunity to see the Rickey Godfrey Blues Band.
Above the main deck, fans will be treated to the retro blues of Wilmington’s own wildly popular Ten Dollar Thrill. Up in the atrium will be acoustic storyteller Tampa Blue.

Cruisers will be noshing on heavy appetizers provided by Angie’s of Chris’s Restaurant and no doubt enjoying the three different cash bars.

Get to the Blues Cruise a little early so you can enjoy Rick Tobey on the dock before you board.

The boat departs promptly at 7:30 p.m., but be sure to get there early enough to enjoy blues veteran Rick Tobey singing his unique brand of Chickenhead blues on the dock before boarding.

The Henrietta III will return to dock by around 9:30, and you’ll want to head right over to  the Port City’s favorite blues saloon, the Rusty Nail, where The Treblemakers will be rockin’ the room with their electric blues/classic surf sounds!
Presented by the Cape Fear Blues Society, the Festival has a reputation for bringing top talent to town while it also showcases the best in local and regional blues artists.

According to Nichols, this year is no exception. Saturday begins with a free

Guitarist Eric Manning is presenting this year's blues workshop.

blues workshop conducted by Raleigh-based guitarist Eric Manning and sponsored by longtime Festival supporter Finkelstein Music. Following the workshop will be a performance, also free, by Manning’s band, E-Train & the Rusted Rails, at The Cellar in downtown Wilmington.

The Festival’s Saturday headliner is Studebaker John & the Hawks (The name refers to a Studebaker Hawk, a car he still owns).

“John is a triple threat,” said Nichols. “He plays great guitar, harmonica and has an excellent voice, too. He’s got a lot of old-school Chicago in his sound, but can rock out, too.”

Born in Chicago as John Grimaldi, he started playing harmonica at about seven years old, and was greatly influenced by Chicago’s famed Maxwell Street. He learned guitar after watching a single electrified slide guitar performance of Hound Dog Taylor and the Houserockers.

Studebaker John & the Hawks headline the Saturday night concert at the Rusty Nail. YAY!

Currently on tour through the U.S. and Canada, Studebaker John talked by phone about his newest CD, Studebaker John’s Maxwell Street Kings’ That’s the Way You Do (Delmark 2010). The 15-track recording is essentially a tribute to all the musicians who performed on Maxwell Street.

“It was a labor of love for me. I started thinking about it years ago, when I was on a bigger blues label, but they didn’t think it was commercial.

“Then last year, I was working at St. George Records, playing a session for Delta Slim, and these two musicians – Rick Kreher on guitar and Steve Cushing on drums – were there and I thought that maybe we could do it.

“The three of us were able to conjure up a sound.

“I wanted it to be a tribute, but still original.  It’s the same line-up as Hound Dog Taylor: two guitars, drum, and harmonica … I’ve always been a fan of Less Is More.”

His Rusty Nail show on Saturday night will include tunes from the new CD as well as the full band sound of Studebaker John & the Hawks.  Don’t miss this one!

Opening for Studebaker John, by the way, is local acoustic fave, Spider Mike Bochey, so get there early.

The Sunday blues jam starts at noon, and this is always a great event. There are a lot of great players in Wilmington, and they come out of the woodwork for this event, so get ready to be entertained. Bring a lawn chair, but leave your coolers home. There will be plenty of food and drink for sale.

The Jam ends at 6 p.m. with the Finkelstein Music Guitar Giveaway—a Gretsch Electromatic Pro Jet guitar ($850 value). Raffle tickets cost $1 each with proceeds supporting the projects and programs of the Cape Fear Blues Society.

Raffle tickets are available at Finkelstein Music and The Rusty Nail.

For more information about the Cape Fear Blues Festival visit http://www.capefearblues.org or call 910-350-8822.
©Dariel Bendin.

Festival Schedule
Friday, July 29
5:30 p.m. Live blues on the dock. (Water St. at Dock St.) Blues soloist Rick Tobey will  treat you to the blues,  Chickenhead style, as you wait to board.
7 p.m. Boarding begins.
7:30 p.m.  Blues Cruise on the Henrietta III! Headliner Rickey Godfrey brings his gritty, soulful blues to the main deck. Wilmington’s own Ten Dollar Bill will be rockin’ the party deck. Storyteller Tampa Blue will be in the atrium. Tickets are $49 (www.wilmingtontickets.com). Or call 910-350-8822.
9 p.m. Post-Cruise Party featuring The Treblemakers at the Rusty Nail, 1310 S. 5th Ave. (910-251-1888).
Saturday, July 30
11 a.m. Blues workshop sponsored by Finkelstein Music: blues guitarist/vocalist/ songwriter Eric Manning followed by an outdoor set of  jump blues and rockabilly from Manning’s band E-Train & the Rusted Rail at The Cellar, 35 N. Front St. Free.
8 p.m. Festival concert. Headliner Studebaker John & the Hawks. A night of electric blues from a Chicago legend. Opening act Spider Mike Bochey, at the Rusty Nail, 1310 S. 5th Ave. (910-251-1888). Tickets $8 advance/$10 at the door.(www.capefearblues.org or http://www.wilmingtontickets.com)
Sunday, July 31
Noon – 6 p.m. All-day blues jam under the tent at the Rusty Nail. Free.
6 p.m. Guitar raffle announced. Note: you don’t have to be on hand to win! Raffle tickets are $1 each or six for $5. A steal!

Tix Now On Sale For Cape Fear Blues Festival July 29 – 31

Posted in Live Performance Previews/Reviews by darielb on June 15, 2011

This summer marks year 16 for the Cape Fear Blues Festival, and once again, I can’t wait!

According to Lan Nichols from Cape Fear Blues Society, they’ve moved away from the big outdoor concert on Saturday to a few different venues. And who doesn’t want to support the blues clubs, after all?

They don’t have all the details worked out yet, so I’m jumping the gun a little bit here, but I wanted to give you plenty of time to get yo tix! This weekend is going bring together Chicago blues, swamp funk, soul blues, electric blues and acoustic blues with some surf rock(?) mixed in to keep us on our toes. Go figure.

Here’s the schedule as it stands now. Friday night, July 29, is the ever popular Cape Fear Blues Cruise, of course. Henrietta III, Wilmington’s largest riverboat, was originally built for dinner cruises and later enlarged to be a casino boat. There are three decks; the lower two have dining and dancing. The upper deck has an enclosed atrium as well as the open deck portion. There will be three different bands playing.

Rickey Godfrey’s blues quartet headlines the Friday night Blues Cruise (Photo © Demian Riley)

My buddy Rickey Godfrey  and his blues quartet will be tearing it up on the main deck of Henrietta III. If you’ve never experienced this Telecaster-wielding, growling, gravelly-throated soulman, you’re in for a treat.

He released a new CD last year, Nasty Man, and let me tell you what just a few folks in the know are saying about it:

“… Nasty Man, a 12-track whoop-up that comes out of the chute kickin’ like a wild bull on Red Bull. From the grungy “I Want Me a Nasty Woman” to the first single from the album, “Don’t Get Your Honey Where You Get Your Money,” this is a fiery, guitar driven and gritty masterpiece. It’s electric blues the way God intended them to be played. Lord have mercy, Miss Percy. Rickey Godfrey has done got nasty on us, and it sounds so good.”

– Michael Buffalo Smith, Universal Music Tribe

“Hard sung vocals, wonderfully amusing lyrics and scorching guitar all make this one a winner.”

– Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro/ Blues Editor at Mary 4 Music

Rickey’s unique brand of hot rockin’ blues and hip-shakin’ soul will keep you boogeying all night long. Yah!

Playing the party deck will be Wilmington faves, Ten Dollar Thrill. These guys are a blast! They’re into everything from  Chicago blues to West Coast swing to rockabilly and good ole rock & roll.

This band gets rave reviews wherever and whenever they play. Check ‘em out on the Henrietta III. I promise you, it’ll be a party!

If you’re into acoustic blues and finger pickin’, don’t miss Tampa Blue on the upper deck.

It’s hard to describe this music in just a few words. In fact, someone asked this Alabama picker what kind of blues he played, and his answer was “Traditional, acoustic, Delta, slide, Piedmont, finger-style, Southern rural, pre-war, country, pre-electric with a touch of spirituals, hollers, rags and American finger-style guitar seasoning.”

Blues fans love the historical fabric of his music along with the storytelling and anecdotes that this southern gem brings to the stage.

Before you even set foot on the Henrietta III, Rick Tobey from the Chickenhead Blues Band will be entertaining on the dock. This well-respected musician won the 2009 Cape Fear Blues Society Solo Blues  Challenge and then the 2010 Triangle Blues Society Solo Blues Challenge. About himself Rick says, “I was born in a south Louisiana chicken coop with a bottle neck on my little finger and a guitar in my hand. Been playin’ dem Chickenhead Blues ever since I could crawl, from the Mississippi Delta to the North Carolina Piedmont, from the Cape Fear River Basin to the Smokey Mountains.”

The Treblemakers bring their classic blues/surf rock mix to the Post Cruise Blues Party on Friday night.

Afterward, head to the Post Cruise Blues Party, where the Treblemakers

are the headline act at the Port City’s hottest little juke joint – the Rusty Nail. If you’re not from these parts, you may not know these guys yet, but this five-piece blues band slash surf rock group rocks the room. Party hearty!

Saturday, July 30, begins with the downtown blues workshop sponsored by Finkelstein Music. Blues guitarist Eric Manning will share his knowledge and stories of life on the road and then deliver a kick-butt set at The Cellar with his band, E-Train & the Rusted Nails. This will be a performance for anyone calling himself – or herself– a blues fan.

The main act on Saturday – we’re back at the Rusty Nail again – is a top talent and considered to be one of the most creative ensembles in Blues music today – Studebaker John & the Hawks. Wow!

Saturday’s headliner Studebaker John & the Hawks. (Photo © Linas Abukauskas, Lithuania)

Chicago bluesman Studebaker John (aka John Grimaldi) plays both guitar and harp. He has been recording albums, touring the U.S. and Europe since the seventies. On his latest CD, Studebaker John’s Maxwell Street Kings (Delmark 2010) he pays homage to the early days of Chicago street blues.

I can’t say enough good things about Studebaker John, and it seems I’m not alone:

“It’s rare to hear a blues artist perform three sets of irresistible originals, and it’s even rarer for that artist to stay ‘in the zone’ from first song to last.”

– Thomas J. Cullen, III (Blues Revue magazine)

“John captures the raw energy and grit of the classic blues musicians but pumped up to a rocking energy level. He has a deep understanding of the blues tradition that comes from hanging with the classic Chicago bluesmen, but he’s created his own sound and style from these roots.”

– Bruce Iglauer (Alligator Records)

The opening act for this show is Two of a Kind.

Come Sunday July 31,, and we’re here once again at the Rusty Nail for the All-Day Blues Jam. ‘Bring a lawn chair because this will be outdoors under the tent. You’ll find some of the area’s finest blues musicians come out for this free event.

At day’s end, some lucky duck will win a Gretsch Electromatic Pro Jet guitar ($850 value). Tickets are just $1 each and the proceeds help support the projects and programs of the Cape Fear Blues Society.  The giveaway takes place after 6 p.m. and it’s sponsored by Finkelstein Music.

You can find all the information you need about tickets, times and locations at the Cape Fear Blues Festival website.

The site will continue to be updated as more Festival information becomes available.

Three For the Road

Posted in CD Picks by darielb on June 1, 2011

Even with gas prices reaching $3.95 a gallon in some parts of the southeast (according to gasbuddy.com), summer is for road trips. And road trips mean music. So with that in mind, here are three recordings, as different as different can be, but each wholly satisfying and exciting in its own way.

Master Sessions
Eric Brace & Peter Cooper
Genre: Americana
Red Beet Records (2010)
http://www.redbeetrecords.com
I mentioned this album in my last post because I was about to go see these guys at their South By Southeast show at the Myrtle Beach Train Depot. I was so taken with their performance that night, I picked up a copy of the CD and have been transported to another place ever since. Mind you, this is more acoustic guitar than I’ve listened to for the whole last year, but it reminds me how much I value melody and harmony and intelligent song-writing.

Master Sessions features two of East Nashville’s up and comers: Peter Cooper and Eric Brace. If you’re at all into Americana music, you need to  know about these two. For this 11-track disc, they’ve enlisted the talents of two of their own musical heroes: Mike Auldridge, legendary dobro player for the Seldom Scene, the progressive bluegrass group out of Alexandria, Va. and master of the pedal steel guitar, Lloyd Green. Throughout the recording, the synergy is awe-inspiring.

Opening track is “Wait a Minute,” the bittersweet Herb Pedersen tune about love shattered by life on the road. This song, by the way, was a staple for the Seldom Scene. And both Cooper and Brace say they used to be mesmerized by the group’s performance of it – long before they ever met. “Circus” is a sweet little tune penned by Brace and Cooper, one that I find completely enticing. Maybe it’s the simplicity. In the album notes, they credit contributions by Lloyd and Auldridge for taking the song “far beyond what Eric and Peter could have imagined.”

Track 8 is “I Flew Over Our House Last Night,” written by country legend Tom T. Hall. It’s another quietly longing tune that’s performed simply and beautifully. Of course, I could say the same thing about the whole album. And I do.

Track List: Wait a Minute, Suffer a Fool, It Won’t Be Me, Missoula Tonight, Big Steve, Circus, Behind Your Back, I Flew Over Our House Last Night, Nice Old Man, Silent Night, I Wish We Had Our Time Again.

Youth Is In Our Blood
The Dirty Guv’Nahs
Genre: Rock
Independent (2009)
http://www.dirtyguvnahs.com
In a nutshell, this CD is a rockin’ good time, and I can’t wait to take it on the highway with me. The sound is sophisticated and fresh. The band is tight. The vocals blow me away. There’s a great mix of rockers and power ballads. But why had I not heard of these guys before? Have I been living under a rock?

The Guv’Nahs have played Bonnaroo. They’ve opened for names like Zac Brown, Drive By Truckers, Blues Traveler, and Levon Helm, naming just a few here. The Dirty Guv’Nuhs has been voted – three years in a row – Best Band in Knoxvillie, Tenn.  by the Metro Pulse Readers Poll.

Recorded at Levon Helm Studios in Woodstock, N.Y. Youth Is In Our Blood brings some strong country, blues and soul influences to bear. Opening rocker “Baby We Were Young” sets the CD’s theme.

Love was the shape we made
Love was the breath we drew
Love was in our blood
And baby we were young

“Wide Awake” is a vocally rich ballad, somehow simultaneously fresh and reminiscent.
I’ve never seen this band live, but I’m betting that “Ain’t It Strange” is a great sing-along.

This band is one to watch.

The Dirty Guv’Nahs are Michael Jenkins (guitar), Justin  Hoskins (bass), Aaron Hoskins (drums), Cozmo Holloway (guitar), Chris Doody (keyboards/ organ/vocals) and James Trimble (vocals). All 13 tracks are original with music and lyrics  by Jenkins and Trimble on all except track 12 by Chris Doody and track 13 by Aaron Hoskins.

Track list: Baby We Were Young, Wide Awake, Walk Wtih Me, We’ll Be the Light, Song For My Beloved, New Salvation, It’s Dangerous, Courage, The Country, Blue Rose Stroll, Ain’t It Strange, Seeds On the Rise, Recovery.


Trouble With Lovin’
Shaun Murphy
Genre: Blues/Soul-Blues
Serenity Hill (2010)
http://www.shaunmurphyband.com
You remember the female vocalist in Little Feat belting out the Bob Dylan tune, “It Takes a Lot To Laugh, It Takes a Train To Cry,” on Chinese Work Songs (2000)? Well, that was Shaun Murphy. And this mama rocks the room. After leaving her gig with Little Feat in 2009, Murphy – also a veteran of Bob Seger’s Silver Bullet Band and Eric Clapton’s tour band – formed the Shaun Murphy Band and released her first solo CD, Livin’ the Blues (Serenity Hill 2009), followed by last year’s Trouble With Lovin’ .

The ten-track CD is chock full of Murphy’s signature soulful blues, velvety smooth one minute, gritty the next. It’s hard to choose a favorite tune. The title track, “Trouble With Livin’,” is classic Shaun Murphy, really showing off her vocal range. “Blue Tears” is a sexy piece that can get your hips to swivelin’ in a heartbeat. On Burton Gaar’s “Mississipi Water,” Shaun gets that gravelly thing going that we love so much.

Also featured on the CD are  some of Shaun’s high-powered buddies including Grammy Award nominee Johnny Neel (keyboard, harp), keyboard player Mike Finnigan, saxophonist Danny Pelfry.

In my unasked-for opinion, Shaun Murphy should be a lot more famous than she is. Buy her CD. Help make her famous.

Track list: Bed of Roses,  Deservin’ of Love,  Mississippi Water, The Trouble With Lovin’, Hopelessly In Love With You, Blue Tears, Did you Call, Rio Esperanza, The Blues Don’t Tell It all, That’s What Love Will Make You Do.

This is also published in Alternatives NewsMagazine and Coast Magazine (issue June 2 – 16, 2011) and in the online version .

R.I.P. Curtis Richardson

Posted in Live Performance Previews/Reviews by darielb on May 18, 2011


Curtis Richardson was old school Myrtle Beach. He played drums with the Chainsaws, who love to tell you that they’re tuned and lubed for your listening pleasure, so right there you can get a sense of the guy.

According to his pal, Charlie Newell – bass player for the Chainsaws – he and Curtis were friends for decades.

“Curtis was a mouthy little kid who used to follow us around a lot,” Charlie laughs, although a bit sadly.

“He’d follow us into bars and clubs when he was maybe 14 … He wound up being just a phenomenal drummer … I used to call him The Human Metronome … He was just unreal … loved the odd timing, which made it especially challenging for a bass player!

“A lot of local musicians came through his little jam room. It was a great gathering place.”

Last December, Curtis sat in for a set with Nashville’s Mike Farris at the Myrtle Beach Train Depot during a South By Southeast Music Feast. It was a lot of fun.

Unknown to everyone, even himself, Curtis was having heart problems. And shortly after that, in January, he died unexpectedly, leaving his family in a precarious financial situation. Some of Curtis’ buddies have come together to honor him and help the family at the same time.

Old friend and extreme bassist Steve Bailey will be there.  Soulful songwriter Chuck Cannon will be there, too, all the way from Nashville. Also on the roster are  Keith & Ann Thompson, the Mullets, Phyllis Tanner & Steve Russell, Tom Yoder, Kid Drew & Lynwood Salvo and Regime (Anthony Zincone).

The May 22 benefit takes place at Inlet Affairs, 4012 Business 17 in Murrells Inlets, S.C. It starts at 5 p.m. Donations are $25. There’s a cash bar and food. (Remember, it’s a benefit for Curtis’ family). This is going to be a great night of music. We gonna lay down a groove for Curtis.