Blues & More, by George Fish

November 15, 2008

Paul Rishell and Annie Raines
A Night in Woodstock
Mojo Rodeo MOJR1950

Moreland & Arbuckle
Northern Blues Music NBM0044

Paul Rishell and Annie Raines, along with Moreland & Arbuckle, are two Dynamic Duos of the guitar-harp-and-vocal acoustic blues. Moreland & Arbuckle is actually a trio, for, in addition to Aaron Moreland, guitars, and Dustin Arbuckle, harp and vocal, there is Brad Horner on drums, adding a nicely rocked-up feeling to the music that serves importantly in making Moreland & Arbuckle’s blues a hybrid between city and country styles.

October 18, 2008

From the Bluff
Swirldisc SD 78453 630

Memphis six-man band FreeWorld’s fifth CD, From the Bluff, is a delightful admixture of influences: horn-driven soul/funk rhythms, modern jazz, Frank Zappa cacophonic sound mixtures and 1960s to early 1970s rock, with powerful sound lyrics that are both streetwise and philosophical, in the best of the San Francisco hippie tradition.

FreeWorld was founded in 1987, when its bassist/lead and backing singer, Richard Cushing, approached legendary Memphis jazz saxman Dr. Herman Green about forming a band. Now 78, Green had played and recorded with the likes of B.B. King, Miles Davis, Lionel Hampton, John Coltrane, Clark Terry, Bob Weir and many others in a 63-year career.

October 4, 2008

Kelly Richey
Carry the Light
Sweet Lucy KRB1138

Liz Mandeville
Red Top
Earwig Music Earwig CD 4954

The blues is many things, and one of those things is its Janus-faced looking to both the past and the future at the same time. That is what’s so well manifested by these two strong CDs from two most notable blueswomen.

While Liz Mandeville’s Red Top builds up a contemporary blues sound based on the stylistic bricks from its past, Kelly Richey’s Carry the Light trailblazes by forging ahead into straightforward blues-rock that owes more to the rock of the mid-1960s and early 1970s than to what’s culled from the traditional blues repertoire.

Yet it’s just as much part of contemporary blues as Liz Mandeville’s Red Top, and both CDs are eminently rewarding, affirmative statements of the real future of the blues (now very much a hybrid, polyglot genre), a future that looks lovingly toward its substantive past certainly, but simultaneously in eager anticipation of its uncharted, undetermined, and unpredictable future.

September 6, 2008

Brent Bennett
It Must Be the Blues
Brent Bennett Music

Fast Johnny
Mojo Rock
Fast Johnny

Jethro Easyfields
Bookends from the Soul
Jethro Easyfields

The summer crop of new CDs brought solid new offerings from three strong singer/songwriter/guitarists in the Central Indiana region. All are steeped in the blues, although, as they show on these new CDs, they are each comfortable and convincing in other genres as well. Below are three thumbnail sketches of the new summer CDs from Brent Bennett, Fast Johnny and Jethro Easyfields.

August 23, 2008

Isaac Hayes
08.20.42 - 08.10.08
Jerry Wexler
01.10.17 - 08.15. 08

Two of the greats of soul, R&B, recently died within five days of each other. Isaac Hayes, as close to a one-man definition of soul music for the late 1960s and early 1970s as one gets, died Aug. 10. He was 65.

Five days later, one of the greatest soul, R&B and blues record producers of all time, Jerry Wexler, passed on also, at age 91. The passing of both leaves a hole in the soul of the music they both cherished and did so much to nurture and develop. "The Sky Is Cryin'" indeed, as Elmore James, Albert King and Stevie Ray Vaughan all told us in song earlier.

But this end is just the beginning, for the magnificent legacies both men left. So it's appropriate to exult with the late Little Milton also, "The Blues Is Alright." The blues masters come and go, but the blues -- and its babies, rock, soul, R&B, live on, and on, and on!

August 9, 2008

Emanuel Young with Howard Glazer and the EL 34s
Live in Detroit
recorded live at The Halligan Bar, Detroit, Michigan
Random Chance RCD-35

Howard Glazer and the EL 34s
Liquor Store Legend
Random Chance RCD33

Detroit blues vocalist/guitarist Emanuel Young is described in the short biography included on the sleeve notes to Live in Detroit as a "living Detroit legend." He's been playing the blues in the Motor City since the end of the 1950s and held one of the longest runs in Detroit musical history as host of blues night at Cooley's Lounge from 1978 until the place closed in 2005.

He's played with many of the greats of Detroit blues, including a year-and-a-half stint with John Lee Hooker, and has also played with Albert King, Jimmy Reed and Martha Reeves, lead singer with the Motown soul group Martha and the Vandellas.

July 26, 2008

The Blues Experience with Cash McCall
The Vintage Room
Dixon Landing Music

The Michael Packer Blues Band
Random Chance RCD-34

Davis Coen
Blues Lights for Yours and Mine
Soundview SP1003

Three solid electric bands here give us the blues as expressed in the characteristic sound of their respective cities. The Blues Experience with Cash McCall lays down the classic Chicago blues, while New York City's Michael Packer Blues Band delivers the blues as influenced by the polyglot musical influences of the Big Apple, and Davis Coen serves up the spicy blues gumbo of New Orleans.

July 14, 2008

Webb Wilder and the Beatnecks
Born to be Wilder
recorded live at WorkPlay,
Birmingham, Alabama
Blind Pig Records BPCD 5120

Popa Chubby
Deliveries After Dark
Blind Pig Records BPCD 5121

June 28, 2008

The concert

The Yank Rachell Tribute Concert and CD Release Party happened June 8 in the courtyard of the Indiana Historical Society in downtown Indianapolis, along the banks of the newly renovated White River Canal. It drew only a moderate crowd, perhaps because of the $10 admission charge ($12 at the door), but nonetheless, was a delightful way to spend a sultry Sunday afternoon that featured a full five hours of music.

The mandolin was very much the dominating instrument among the music played, fittingly enough given that that was not only the instrument of choice of Rachell himself, but also given that he was one of the undoubted masters of the blues mandolin.

National artists Rich DelGrosso and Andra Faye sang and played mandolin, with mandolin also featured by several notable local and regional artists as well -- Jim Richter, Mike Butler (who played not only his electric mandolin, but also Yank's own acoustic-electric Harmony mandolin, which Butler plans on donating to the Smithsonian upon his death), and Steve Robbins.

June 14, 2008

Jimmy McGriff -- 04.03.36-05.24.08

Seminal jazz organist Jimmy McGriff died Saturday, May 24, 2008, of apparent heart failure. He was 72. He had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis a few years earlier.

One of the giants of the Hammond B-3 organ, McGriff was mostly known as a jazz musician, even though he always considered himself first and foremost a bluesman. Indeed, his numerous jazz records always had a funky, bluesy edge to them. Comparing himself to another great jazz organist, Jimmy Smith, McGriff once said, "Jimmy Smith is the jazz king on the organ, but when it comes to blues, I can do things where he can't touch me."

Another strong influence on his playing was the Black church. As he stated in a biography posted on All About Jazz,, "They talk about who taught me this and who taught me that, but the basic idea of what I'm doing on the organ came from the church. That's how I got it, and I just never dropped it."

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