Cds 4 - Macallè Blues

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"This time for real"

Vizztone Rec. (USA) - 2015

Somebody's changing my sweet baby's mind/I'm afraid of losing you/Going to the shack/All because of your love/Love don't love nobody/I'll never do you wrong/Don't leave me starving for your love/Broadway walk/Book of memories/Too many hands/Tears of god/You got me hummin'

The issue of this beautiful cd allows us a double opportunity: remember, once again, the soul legend Otis Clay, few months after his passing, and talk about Billy Price, soul singer of value, never adequately rewarded in terms of both fame and recognition.
Billy Price and Otis Clay already met long ago and collaborated artistically several times in the past, both on stage and on recording sessions (Clay appeared, first, in The Soul Collection and, second, in Night Work, both Billy Price’s records). This Time For Real represents instead the last official Otis Clay’s recording, but also his first complete studio collaboration with Billy Price. Therefore - and finally - a whole two-voice cd.
Clay’s Mississippi origins and vocal debuts are both well known. As a singer, he started from the sacred crib of gospel and became, along the way, step by step, more close to secular music, nevertheless he was never unaware of his church background. About soul singer Billy Price we know his starting experience as member of guitar wizard Roy Buchanan’s band and his following soloist debuts, by the beginning of '80s, with a record that prophetically took its title from one of Otis Clay first hits, Is It Over, song written by Sam Mosley, that was a constant presence in Clay’s repertoire. In a certain way, while making this record Billy Price has, perhaps, achieved the dream of a lifetime whereas Clay has concluded his own with a symbolic recognition to the worth and the value of Price.
Billy Price got a sour, wide tenor voice with a tense vibrato. It well mixes up with Otis Clay’s rough, large grain with unexpected, amazing melodic glares vocal character. Starting with these premises, the two singers exquisitely realize a well amalgamated job that opens with the initial, jubilant spur of Somebody's Changing My Sweet Baby's Mind, tune recorded once by the underestimated Johnny Sayles, and it closes with a strong version of You Got Me Hummin' , written by Isaac Hayes and engraved to eternal memory into the most classical Memphis repertoire by Sam & Dave. Between these two extremes, our two singers stir agile on a sequence of songs that extends from the funky Goin' To The Shack by Syl Johnson up to that amusing, ironic sequence of bad lucks listed by Joe Tex’s pen that would happen to the author in case he didn't hold faith to the promise declared in the title, I'll Never Do You Wrong. Memphis goes back to be protagonist thanks to that obsessive portrait of a philosophical lover that is Too Many Hands, written by Teenie Hodges, well known Hi Records’s house band guitarist, while country music peeps out on that delicious watercolour that is Book Of Memories. But it is when the rhythm slows down that Clay’s melodic, sibilant syllabicate joined to Price’s interpretative sensibility produce the more juicy fruits. In that sense, I'm Afraid Of Losing You becomes a fragile, vibrating secular confession as well as the modern Los Lobos’s spiritual Tears Of God that is recalled here with deep, fervent abandonment. Another Clay's classic, Love Don't Love Nobody, a Spinners’s hit from the ‘80s, relives here in an interpretation where the story is seldom proposed with a tone of resigned abandonment and with Billy Price, on to end, putting effort into an intimate, spoken confession. Not secondary to the overall result of this record is the Duke Robillard’s band, at once essential and discreet in the total economy of the work. G.R.


"Box & dice"

Reference Rec. (Usa) - 2015

Juke joint on Moses Lane/I'm a stranger here/Walking round money/Smokestack lightning/Louisiana/Black mountain blues/Mama's sanctified's amp/I done quit/Walk with me/Tiny pinch of sin/Easy baby

In recent years Australia has expressed some real blues talent, expecially thorough the pioneering work of guitarist Dave Hole, who has been recording for a long time for an important label just as Alligator Records. One of these talents is surely Fiona Boyes. Devoted, just like Hole, to the slide style, Fiona has been defined as Bonnie Raitt’s "evil twin". This definition, although, for some reasons, laughable contains a nucleus of truth. If Boyes is, just like Raitt, a slide guitarist, singer and author, nevertheless the parallelism, in my opinion, ends here. Unlike Bonnie Raitt, Fiona Boyes has a much more dark, mysterious and sinister style. This last Box & Dice represents an instrumental experiment that, besides her usual guitars, let some handicraft cigar-box guitars (built by Shayne Soall from Oz Blues and Roots Music Store) step out front. Boyes plays those guitars using bottlenecks drawn by different small liqueur bottles. And, above all, she uses a rare handicraft baritone National Reso-lectric guitar too that has only one twin sample in the world, who knows if it's "good" or "evil". The result is this agile cd recorded with a classic and slender trio with guitar, double-bass and drums. Fiona Boyes, here, mixes up different styles and skilfully passes from the Delta to the swamp and Piedmont blues, from Texas shuffle to Chicago post war blues. No surprise if Boyes, who’s provided with a strong songwriting, has been nominated for the Blues Music Awards and has been the first woman, as well as the first  Australian to win the International Blues Challenge in 2003.
On this cd, named after one of her cigar-box guitars, Fiona Boyes explores, besides the quoted styles, the various sonorities of her guitars almost as if she would choose the right personality and tone much proper for the different songs. In the first one, Juke Joint On Moses Lane, the contrast between the vinegary sketch with the cigar-box guitar and the continuation of the song with the rich and deep sound of the baritone guitar is evident. The subject of feeling foreigner, so much common for a bluesman perceive as a rambling man, leans out in I'm A Stranger Here, in terms of ghostly drama, with such a dilated interpretation and the symbolically meaningful presence of the only cigar-box to serve as counter melody, a reflecting surface to the fluttering sense of becoming estranged. The captivating, laid-back Walking Round Money just like Mama's Sanctified Amp’s witty story are among the freshest and vivacious episodes here. In the middle of a generous dose of original tunes, there is also room for a handful of covers among which you can find a muscular version of Smokestack Lightning and a persuasive, sensual Easy Baby, respectively drawn by the sacred books of Howlin' Wolf and Magic Sam. G.R.


"Fifty shades of blue"

Delta Groove Rec. (Usa) - 2015

Everything I do is wrong/Fifty shades of blue/Sad but true/Heard that Tutwiler whistle blow/If you want to get to heaven/Don't keep me waiting/The blues never sleeps/Too late for coffee/Diamonds and pearls/Cry a million tears/In the quicksand, again/Your turn to cry/Blues for David Maxwell

Anthony Geraci is an excellent pianist with such a great experience. His artistic biography starts with a formal musical education, consequent to a precocious attitude for the piano, acquired at the very famous Berklee College of Music in Boston. From there, his career has brought him to record first with some blues giants such as Muddy Waters, Big Joe Turner, Jimmy Rogers, Hubert Sumlin and then to be the former member of both the Broadcasters (Ronnie Earl’s band) and the Bluetones (harp master Sugar Ray Norcia’s band); and he’s still part of this last band after forty straight years of uninterrupted militancy.
With his Fifty Shades Of Blue Geraci signs his first solo effort supported, as the subtitles correctly declare, by an authentic all-stars band that includes Sugar Ray Norcia, Darrell Nulish, Michelle "Evil Gal" Wilson and Toni Lynn Washington to share the vocal parts; plus, the Bluetones almost in its entirety with Mike Welch on guitar and Michael "Mudcat" Ward on double-bass and Neil Gouvin to replace, only in a couple of tunes, Marty Richards on drums. The result is blue in its fifty shades really. Geraci, as said, doesn't sing and, after all, it would not be the need of it, considering his fluid, orchestral piano playing and the presence of all those good singers, each one with a strong, peculiar voice so that every single tune seems to be intelligently given to the singer who's better fit for. So, the starting minor key Everything I Do Is Wrong just as almost all of the other blues “shades” present in this cd (The Blues Never Sleeps and Cry A Million Tears) are assigned to the peremptory and authoritative Darrell Nulish’s voice; the most colloquial, crepuscular atmospheres (Don't Keep Me Waiting, Your Turn To Cry or the delicious country song Too Late For Coffee), as those more ’50s Chicago blues oriented (Sad But True, Heard That Tutwiler Whistle Blow) are faced by the sure and creamy Sugar Ray Norcia’s crooning blend. The brown, shaded,  Toni Lynn Washington’s deep contralto voice just perform the stylish Diamonds And Pearls. In a program made of all songs written by Anthony Geraci, there is also room for a couple of instrumental that set his playing right under the spot: the shuffle In The Quicksand, Again and the conclusive Blues For David Maxwell, touching, devotee tribute to another great pianist recently passed. A special mention goes to Mike Welch and his deep, vibrating, intense playing that leads to extreme developments Otis Rush’s lessons mainly.
Lovers of blues piano and all of its stylistic facets will find, here, so much material to satisfy their own refined palate. G.R.  


"Tiger in a cage"

Catfood Rec. (Usa) - 2016

Tiger in a cage/Born to the blues/Red Cadillac/Every woman needs a working man/Recless heart/Keep it loose/Having a party/Your love is lifting me (higher and higher)/Southern honey/Lucy/Beast of burden/I would be nothing

Maybe it should be the case to sum up the Johnny Rawls’s story ‘cause, although in the last fifteen years at least, his record activity has been particularly prolific, Mr. Rawls is provided of an interesting past that is able itself, at least partly, to let us better understand his present. Born in Mississippi, after having played with Joe Tex and Z.Z. Hill, by the mid '70s he became guitarist and musical director in O.V. Wright’s band. After Wright passing, he became member of Little Johnny Taylor’s band with unchanged duty and until the mid '80s when he recorded for Rooster Records, in duo with the guitarist and singer L.C. Luckett, "Can't Sleep At Night", excellent but only one example of modern blues & soul by this couple that would break up soon later on. Starting, then, from that first Here We Go, recorded for English label JSP, Johnny Rawls began his solo career that, musically speaking, has not known breaks in the last straight twenty years.
His most recent landing place, dated back to 2009, has been the one with Catfood Records, label for which, also the current Tiger In A Cage has been issued. Despite Rawls has been covering the guitarist, singer, author and arranger roles for a long time, in this last effort he plays just the singer’s one, leaving the whole guitar duty to Johnny McGhee, who’s been Togetherness & Devotion’s guitarist. Representative of the most sincere soul blues tradition, revisited in such a modern key, although a bit far from the interpretative depths of the much more well known leading figures of the genre, Rawls is however a singer with a genuine and effective singing. Linear tenor voice with husky chestnut brown glares, Rawls performs a whole repertoire that skilfully proposes primarily original tunes integrated with some well chosen covers. Among the covers we can find a cheerful Sam Cooke’s Having A Party and Your Love Is Lifting Me Higher. Among the originals, instead, I’d like to mention the titletrack Tiger In A Cage, tune with social implications written by bass player Bob Trenchard and, also coming from the same pen, the delicious Southern Honey, Cajun taste in Louisiana sauce ballad performed by both Rawls and brilliant Mississippi pianist Eden Brent, present just as marvelous singer this time. The track list goes on with some tunes taken from previous Johnny Rawls’s cds just as Red Cadillac or the conclusive I Would Be Nothing. Just like a good part of the records issued by Catfood Records, this one also ought to be read in a choral key. Essential, for the final results, is in fact the job done by The Rays, the house band, and last but by no means least, the one of Jim Gaines, producer with great taste and experience. G.R.

Copyright 2016. All rights reserved.
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