Blues Reviews from John The Rock Doctor

Sorry it’s been awhile gang, but I’ve been horribly busy.  Mrs. Rock Doctor & I have been preparing for the big move to our new duplex in Kitscoty, Alberta (20 minutes west of Lloydminster, where I live at the moment), and my boss was on summer holidays too, leaving me so exhausted at the end of the day that I barely had the enegry to eat supper, let alone think and write.The following reviews are albums that have been on my desk anywhere from a couple of weeks to 2-3 months.  My apologies to those waiting patiently to see their work examined in print… hopefully i won’t have to play “catch up” like this for a good long while.  Enjoy RISE Skillet (Atlantic/ Word)  *** +We all have our prejudices, and one of mine is against bands with silly names- like a group named after something found in the kitchen.  But upon learning that Skillet’s Awake was one of only a handful of albums to achieve platinum status in 2012 I thought “Better check it out”.A couple of things attracted my ears here- a gleeful melodic hard rock vibe that reminded me of Smash Mouth in their heyday, and the track sequencing- not too many of the harder rocking tracks strung together without some kind of sonic relief- a nice flow.Rise is also a concept album, as it turns out. “The narrative idea happened after we had 10 or 11 of the songs chosen” says vocalist/ keyboardist John Cooper. “As we were recording them, we started to realize that there’s something going on here-this album is really telling a story.”  He says that “Rise is the story of a typical American teen coming into adulthood and facing the massive world problems.”  It’s a story that even someone like me, decades removed from ‘the teen experience’ can relate to.  With the many disturbing ways the world has been changing, I daresay it’s something people of my age are still coming to grips with- making Rise a relatable and relevant experience still.Lofty ambition aside, it’s also a cool sounding album.  Howard Benson’s production is tight and percussive, not unlike a Fallout Boy or Nickelback album, but without the fromage.  Sonically and philosophically, Rise really gets the blood up- and, as Paul Stanley said back in the day, isn’t that what rock & roll is all about?COOL CUTS:  Sick Of It, My Religion, Good To Be Alive COME ON DOWN David Gogo (Cordova Bay) *****Here is the latest release from the Nanaimo-based bluesman.  I picked the album up about a month ago, and it’s been a near constant companion in my CD changer.  If I were still inclined to write year end ‘best of’ lists, Come On Down would be near the top.I’m relatively new to Gogo’s music, becoming a fan with Soul Bender and picking up a couple more albums when I saw him open for Johnny Winter in Lloydminster last year. David makes himself a tough act to follow, with records like the aforementioned Soul-Bender and a surprisingly delicious Christmas blues album released between here and there, but he has a great instincts.  The title track comes across like a delta lament, and his taste in songs to cover keeps things interesting too.  A great version of The Faces’ Bad ‘n Ruin gets this disc off to a fine start, and I love the way Atlanta Rhythm Section’s So Into You comes off as well- that one being suggested by his wife who, he told me on facebook, usually has crappy taste in cover songs.More than just a blues album, Come On Down is an R&B romp, half originals and half covers including those already mentioned plus a couple of Fleetwood Mac deep cuts and Robert Palmer’s Looking For Clues.  There is some great blues on this disc for sure, but don’t come to the party expecting just that- be prepared for the pop exuberance of Call Your Name and grinding blues/rock of Kings.  Gogo has a great feel for good songs, and Come On Down is one of the best all around albums I’ve heard this year.COOL CUTS:  Let’s Go Get Stoned, Natchez Dog, Bad ‘n’ Ruin, Kings EVERYTHING, AND THE BOX IT CAME IN The Jimmy Leguilloux Band (Independent) ****A blast of fresh Okanagan air, a generous slice of acoustic pop/rock that just plain feels good.  A fixture on Kelowna’s music scene, Leguilloux’s laid back and breezy vibe on Box is a welcome counterpoint in a noisy world.As a performer Jimmy has shared stages with Kim Mitchell, Darby Mills, Keith Emerson and many more over the years.  I know he likes to rock- I had the pleasure of seeing his old band Who’s On Bass play many times when I was the house deejay at a club in Kelowna in ‘94. Everything, however, is a gathering of easy melodic songs based around the acoustic guitar, perhaps not unlike Barenaked Ladies but without the silliness, or perhaps closer to acoustic Pink Floyd. These songs feel very personal- successful and failed relationships, all steps along the path to get from where he was to where he is now.Sitting down with Everything And The Box It Came In is like having a conversation with someone you haven’t seen in awhile.  While these songs are Leguilloux’s stories, it’s inevitable that you will see parts of your own life reflected in them.  I feel the emotional destruction and collateral damage of my 2 divorces in Uneasy Sense Of Calm, and who hasn’t found themselves in a rapturous if fleeting love affair like No Regrets?Everything works for me here on an emotional and a sonic level.  There are some very dark corners on this record if you’re willing to listen for them, belied perhaps by the gentle acoustic melodies and sweet playing- good music to have with you when you feel the need to think about life.  In my book that’s always a good thing.COOL CUTS:  No Regrets, Uneasy Sense Of Calm, Coming Home DIDN’T IT RAIN Hugh Laurie (Warner Bros.)  **** ½What a delightful surprise!  I knew Laurie could play piano and sing- I witnessed it on an episode of Inside The Actor’s Studio. This disc is a follow up to his million selling Let Them Talk, taking us even further into the world of the blues and New Orleans jazz.“I have resolved to forge deeper into the forest of American music that has enchanted me since I was a small boy” he explains.  “And the further I go, the more bewitched I become- both by the songs and by the people I have been lucky enough to play them with.”  He’s approaching this with the right attitude, and he ahs the chops to handle it.Laurie is a good singer- nowhere near perfect but with the right vibe for these tunes.  Aside from Hugh’s pipes this disc features vocals from Guatemalan singer/ songwriter Gaby Moreno and soul singer Jean McClain, who has worked with Sheryl Crow and Jimmy Cliff, plus Taj Mahal throws in on Little Brother Montgomery’s Vicksburg Blues.  I realize that comparison is a good way to place an unfamiliar piece of work in context, and to that end I’d set Didn’t It Rain along with the excellent jug band and vintage blues work that Maria Muldaur has done for Stony Plain over the last decade or so. Soak in the New Orleans atmosphere as these tracks wander down dark and irresistibly fascinating paths, and enjoy the visceral thrill of aural time travel too.What does this mean to his acting career?  Who gives a poop?  I was tired of House long before the TV show ended and am thoroughly enjoying the application of his interpretive skills as a musician to this style of music that he clearly holds dear.  As he takes The Copper Bottom Band on a tour of Europe this summer then (hopefully) over to our shores in the fall, this is a gig I would be very interested in seeing.  On the streets and at iTunes August 6th, Didn’t It Rain is a taste of New Orleans that will have you coming back for more.  You can bet that several of these tunes will make it to my blues radio show.COOL TUNES:  Vicksburg Blues, The St. Louis Blues, Send Me To The ‘Lectric Chair DOUBLE DARE Frank Bang & The Secret Stash (Blue Hoss)  *****Fans of skanky slide guitar, have I got some thrills for you!  This has been sitting on my desk for a couple of months, and for that I apologize.  A former co-worker of Buddy Guy’s, Frank Bang really knows how to tear it up.Bang describes this, his fifth album, as “Driving music- something to get you from point A to point B.”  The title tracks kicks off the disc like a long lost slice of early Zeppelin, and the ride just gets better from there.  Double Dare rides a raw and original line straight through rock, blues and country and is nigh on impossible to put away.  “There isn’t anything on this album that isn’t true” Frank says.  “There are stories about my family, about my life and experiences, about things that have struck me as funny or interesting.  Even the guitar goes right back to the buzz I got plugging an electric guitar in for the first time- getting that real pure tone and just letting it rip.”  That explains why this feels so much like early Zeppelin to me.Once just a way of blowing off steam, it was while going to college for mechanical engineering that Bang decided to switch to musical pursuits.  He met SRV at an autograph session and, upon hearing that Frank was from Chicago, told him he had to check out guys like Buddy Guy, Junior Wells and Albert Collins.  When he took a 1 night a week job as doorman at Buddy Guy’s Legends club his musical education took off.I could carry on well into the night about how much I love this album, but my advice is to pick up a copy and listen for yourself.  Double Dare has been out since late May and it belongs in every blues fan’s personal library- especially if tasty slide work makes the hair on your arms stand up. This is one hellaciously fine piece of work.COOL CUTS:  Wonder Woman, Double Dare, 18 Wheels of Hell EASY LIVIN’ Southern Hospitality (Blind Pig)  ***If ever there was an album title that perfectly describes a gathering of songs, this is it.  With its steady rolling charm this is one of the friendliest albums you’ll hear this year.Southern hospitality is lap steel guitar master Damon Fowler, guitarist JP Soars and keyboardist Victor Wainwright, with Chuck Riley on bass and Chris Peet on drums. This mix of blues, southern soul, country and rock creates a fresh translation of Americana and southern roots music, with a distinct Louisiana flavor. Fowler’s vocals have a casual charm that’s easy to like and overall the playing is laid-back but expert.Only a couple of cover tunes on here, with the rest being contributions from each band member.  Victor Wainwright’s Certified Lover almost feels gospel and sounds like it could’ve come from JJ Grey & Mofro or maybe even Ray Charles, while songs like the title track and Kind Lies & Whiskey, both from Damon Fowler, really play up to the vibe that the album title suggests.  I guess you could say that while all 12 of these tracks are not in the same groove exactly, they certainly come from the same neighborhood.A lot of different grooves to take in on this album, from those mentioned above to the latin/ jazzbo flavor of the instrumental Fried Neck Bones And Home Fries featuring some very deft and tasty guitar work.  This album is just what it claims to be- easy Livin’.COOL CUTS:  Certified Lover, title track, Fried Neck Bones GONE TO TEXAS Mike Zito & The Wheel (Ruf) **** ½Historically, Texas has been the saving grace of many desperate men- and Mike Zito is no exception to that rule.  Gone To Texas is the sound of redemption, set to blues, country and rollicking rock beats.“I took off on a Greyhound bus and got off in Texas, leaving my family behind” Zito says. “My drug addiction is no secret, and Texas is where I confronted my problems and made a change that has saved my life.”  It is this spirit that you feel in every track on this disc. Mike’s passion for his adopted home shines through in the lyrics and melodies, the cover art- a photo of him, guitar in hand, in front of a huge lone star flag.What really makes Gone To Texas work, though, is the truth that can be felt in every song- when he sings “I never knew a hurricane/ could be so cruel/ it hits you like a freight train/ leaves you feelin’ like a fool” you get the feeling that he’s really been there- and who can’t relate to having their still beating heart ripped from their chest?  Death Row is the best capital punishment song I’ve heard since Steve Earle’s Billy Austin.Mike Zito is no rock & roll show pony- he’s had some hard miles and it shows in these songs.  Some of them might reflect paths you yourself have taken or considered at some point.  Ultimately, there is nary a false note on Gone To Texas, lyrically or melodically- and therein lies its charm.  This is a record that’s not afraid to get down and dirty and I like that- a lot.COOL CUTS:  Death Row, I Never Kenw A Hurricane, Don’t Break A Leg WHAT’S THE CHANCE… Paul Gabriel (Shining Stone)  *** +If you like swingin’ blues guitar, this Connecticut-base guitarist is playing your song. Produced by and including some playing from Duke Robillard, What’s The Chance is a guitar lover’s dream.Gabriel is a guitarist with a pretty impressive 4 decade career; he played on three Harry Chapin albums, played slide on Rory Block’s Grammy nominated Mama’s Blues record, toured with Michael Bolton and has recorded and toured with several of his own bands, like ‘Blue in The Face’.This set is a mixture of blues, pop and jazz, and his long standing friendship with Duke Robillard can be felt too. “I first saw Duke perform around 1968 with a new band called Roomful of Blues” he recalls.  “Our paths crossed many times over the next few years, and at some point I realized that I needed to absorb what (he) was doing.  Eventually we got together (in 1983), sat down at just played at Duke’s house.  He encouraged me about the things I did well and helped me correct the things I was doing wrong, all the time treating me as a peer.”As a result What’s The Chance has a similar vibe to Duke’s stuff, so if you have any of his records (I own a dozen or so) this will feel instantly familiar and comfortable.  Chance was recorded with vintage instruments and gear and all but two of the songs are Paul Gabriel originals- C.M.C. and Something You Got.  If you enjoy blue flavored swingin’ guitar music, What’s The Chance is absolutely the right album for you.COOL CUTS:  328 Chauncy Street, All That Time Gone, Roomful of Blues ALL IN Sena Ehrhardt (Blind Pig) *** +Hot blonde chicks aren’t supposed to have the blues- or so you’d think. This follow up to Leave The Lights On is a lively set, as much soul or R&B as it is blues.Ehrhardt is a brassy dame with quite a set of lungs, and she attacks songs like I Want You Back with gusto.  When she throttles back on bluesy ballads like Cold, Cold Feeling I hear echoes of Irma Thomas and Etta James. Her music is praised by Downbeat Magazine as “Blues-rock with streaks of passionate rebelliousness”, her voice carries a weight and world weariness well beyond her 31 years.As a guitar freak (especially when it comes to the blues) I love Edward Erhardt’s (Her dad?) on this disc.  His playing is versatile and passionate, giving each song what it needs and, more to the point, his soloing is very tasty.  On rhythm guitar is Harold Smith; bass is Dave Smith, and on drums it’s Steve Potts.  Together they weave a sturdy yet supple platform on which Sena can work her magic alongside Edward’s tasty licks.Produced by multi-Grammy award winner Jim Gaines, All In is simply a great sounding album, wisely highlighting the interplay between Sena’s passionate phrasing and Ed’s emphatic guitar work. From the gut bucket blues of Storm’s Comin’  to the raucous album opener Buried Alive, there’s a little bit of everything in these grooves and I like that a whole bunch.COOL CUTS:  Cold, Cold Feeling, Storm’s Coming, Buried Alive IF THE RIVER WAS WHISKEY Spin Doctors (Ruf) *****Well I’ll be damned.  This is quite likely not the album you’re expecting from the legendary New York quartet known for hits like Two Princes, Little Miss and Pocketful Of Kryptonite either.  The band has re-connected with the flat-broke twenty-somethings that scraped for a few bucks at the sharp end of the Big Apple blues circuit.If The River Was Whiskey is the deep blues album Spin Doctors very nearly made before mega-stardom came knocking.  It’s a tip of the hat to the band’s lost past, bottling those songs from the sweatbox circuit of so long ago. “Every note feels dangerous” says singer Chris Barron. “It’s like this ramshackle, broken down carriage running down a cobblestone hill, with pots and pans and a screaming baby.”  Interesting way to sum up the record, and close to the truth of it too. It’s got that T-Bone Burnett vibe though not quite as primitive, if you know what I mean.The world is hollow and Spin Doctors touched the sky with their insane pop success. With Whiskey they’re not trying to replicate that success, but making the music that’s in their hearts and there’s something gratifying about that.  Amazingly, it took just 3 days to record- the original plan was to convene at drummer Aaron Comess’s His House Studios to work up the demos, then head downtown to a boutique analog studio to lay the tracks down for real.  “We didn’t expect to make a record” notes guitarist Eric Schenkman “we were just going to make a demo and play at The Rockwood, then lo and behold…”“There was absolutely no pressure on us of any kind” says Aaron, “we just hit a moment- everything came together and we got this great record.”  ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons once observed that “you get the best stuff when you’re not paying attention, when you don’t give a shit”, and If The River Was Whiskey certainly bears that out- it’s one of my favorite blues albums of the last 5 years.COOL CUTS:  About A Train, Scotch And Water Blues, Some Other Man Instead SONGS FROM THE ROAD Oli Brown (Ruf)  ****I never would have guessed that a German-based label would be a hotbed for great blues, but Ruf Records has turned out to be exactly that.  This double disc effort (CD and companion DVD) is my first taste of an ongoing series.  Capturing UK bluesman Oli Brown at the top of his game, Songs From The Road features songs from all 3 of Brown’s albums; Open Raod, Stone Cold and Heads I Win Tails You Lose, with the DVD containing an additional 4 tracks.  If you like SRV, you’re gonna love this.Brown has returned to Norwich (his hometown) for triumphant year-end shows in the past but this time, with recording and film crew in tow, the stakes were high.  “I really wanted to record my live show in Norwich” he says, “because everyone there has been so good to me.”  The result is blistering set that will put serious wood in any guitar freak’s trousers.  As the press releases states, “The set is both a testament to the heights he’s already hit and a signpost to the thrill ride ahead.”Songs from The Road is a blues album on steroids with Brown’s muscular playing style approaching hard rock intensity.  He’s a fine singer too, not unlike Jack Bruce of Cream or again, Stevie Ray Vaughan.  He’s already spent part of his summer opening for guys like Johnny Winter and Joe Satriani which underscores the breadth of his style and his acceptance as a top level guitarist, and he’s doing his own headlining shows as well as festival appearances too.  All of which goes to say that The Oli Brown Band has earned the right to be taken seriously.The DVD starts with the crowd lined up to get into The Waterfront where this was filmed, then we catch a brief glimpse of the band warming up backstage (Oli, drummer Wayne Proctor and bassist Scott Barnes) before they take the stage in front of a receptive hometown crowd.  Brown proceeds to lay a beating on his Telecaster, leaning into every note during his solos- not so much coaxing as ripping the notes from his instrument.Songs From The Road is a forceful statement and Oli Brown is a talented player to be taken seriously by blues lovers everywhere.  If you don’t see this on the shelves at your nearest music store, go to the label website www.rufrecords.de, it is SO worth it.COOL CUTS:  Manic Blooz, Speechless, Mr. Wilson SCOTT McCORD & THE BONAFIDE TRUTH  (Bonafide Songs)  ***A self titled disc from this Toronto blues ‘n’ soul band, heavy on the soul.  It’s a sonic road trip down Route 66, paying homage to legends and influences in a completely modern and occasionally powerful way.  The truth is out there!Memphis soul, jazz, funk and blues all play a part in what this band has to say.  McCord has a wonderfully elastic and expressive voice that effortlessly adapts to whichever groove they happen to be mining at any given moment, recalling Ian Thomas’s work, particularly with The Boomers.  The band grooves supportively, horns included, making for a nearly irresistible combination.Leceister Bangs of the UK says “… together they make an irrepressible funk stew- and what’s more, it’s almost impossible to find a contemporary comparison”, and that’s sounds about right.  Funk and soul seem to me the main elements at work, with dashes of the blues for extra flavoring.  Keyboardist David Atkinson’s work, particularly on the Fender Rhodes, is particularly mesmerizing- recalling, at times, vintage Supertramp.One of the highlights of the disc is their slinky, groovalicious remake of the Beatles’ classic Baby You’re A Rich Man.  While it’s never been a favorite Beatles’ track for me, there’s something about the way it comes across here that draws me back repeatedly.Will Scott McCord And The Bonafide Truth set the world aflame?  Given the kind of garbage that’s popular these days, probably not- but if you’re looking for some stone soul grooves this, their 2nd album, is an absolute winner.COOL CUTS:  Baby you’re A Rich Man, Gotta Be Something, Bad For You COME OUT SWINGIN’ Candye Kane featuring Laura Chavez (Vizztone) *** ½ This is the third collaboration between Kane- an ex-junkie/ punk rocker/ teen mother- and Chavez, a guitarist in her twenties of uncommon taste and tone.  As the title implies this set swings- it also rocks, howls, cries and takes you all the way back home.Come Out Swingin’ works as a title on two levels- it embodies much of the music in these grooves, and is a defiant statement against the pancreatic cancer that has invaded Kane’s life.  Across the top of the cover a banner reads “recorded live at the Thunderbird analog studio 33 RPM” so this one comes live off the floor, as it should.  Guitarist Chavez, along with the other musicians, enjoy a give and take relationship throughout as the songs breathe and sweat organically- unlike something stitched together in post on Pro Tools.  That’s important, particularly for music as groove-centric as this.These songs are a collection of tales of pain, survival, lust and heartbreak- more than just yarns, they are the stories of Candye Kane’s life.  From a past that includes hard drug use, nude modeling for Hustler and LA’s underground music scene, she’s been nominated for 5 National Blues awards, and has won the Best Blues Band award in her adopted hometown of San Diego 9 consecutive times- all while raising two sons to adulthood.It is perhaps because of her circumstances and the fights she’s had to engage that these songs (9 of the 13 are Kane/ Chavez originals) are bristling with life and defiance.  If you think late 50’s/ early 60’s rock with a punk attitude, that’s close to what Come Out Swingin’ is.  Candye is a barrelhouse belter that has never half-assed anything in her life- particularly this record.  It’s a good one to lift you through the hard times too.COOL CUTS:  Rock Me To Sleep, What Love Can Do, Rise Up! ONE TAKE: LIVE AT CANTERBURY Lee Palmer (Independent) ****A sweet mix of blues, jazz and roots, this disc was recorded in a single day at Toronto’s Canterbury Studios.  It’s a laid back charmer that marks Palmer’s return to performance, with a focus on his material and original arrangements.  It’s also pretty swanky.According to the inner sleeve, “The idea was to get a bunch of great players together in a great studio and let it rip.  We weren’t going for perfect, just musical.”  On that score, he certainly kicked this one through the uprights.  One Take features some of Toronto’s best roots players, all of whom have extensive backgrounds in folk, country and blues.The dominant vibe here is swingin’ jazz but they dip freely into the blues too.  “Eight of the ten tracks were written by me and six of those eight were written for this project” Palmer notes no the inner sleeve. “Twelve Bar Addiction” and Fleas Blues have been works in progress since I was a kid and deserved a place on the album (too).” Palmer’s lead breaks are supple, fluid and expressive and the band plays together like they’ve been doing just that for decades. Of particular note is Jenn Kee who does great backup vocals (try Play Like BB in particular), and takes the lead on a cool remake of House Of The Rising Sun, raising this album a notch or three above what it would’ve been otherwise.As a singer Lee Palmer’s phrasing reminds me somewhat of Ron Sexsmith.  The songs range from upbeat and playful to laid back and reflective and everything in between.  As a result, One Take will charm the pants off of anyone that cares to bend an ear with seemingly little or no effort.  Yeah- I could definitely handle more of this!COOL CUTS:  Play Like BB, Blues In Eh, Everday Blues Jam 13 LIVE Jimmy Vivino & The Black Italians (Blind Pig) *****This is one smokin’ hot live show, kids.  Vivino, musical director and leader of the house band for Conan O’Brien, played a memorable two night recording session at Levon Helm Studios in Woodstock, and 13 Live is the result- put on oven mitts before picking this up!The Black Italians were originally formed 20 years ago around a residency at Downtime Music Bar in NYC.  The band name, Jimmy says, was really “about being soulful cats”.  They lasted a couple of years before Vivino became too busy with his TV gig then, in November 2012 they got back together and hosted a public rehearsal, followed by a live recorded concert the next night at Levon Helm’s beautiful barn studio in Woodstock.This lively set intersperses Vivino’s original tunes with judiciously chosen covers of songs by Bob Dylan, Johnny Winter and James Brown.  It was a night of inspired music making, soulful and joyous.  The gig ends with Song For Levon, written by Jimmy for the occasion, and a rousing version of The Band’s Shape I’m In.  Some live albums you listen to and think “Jeez, that was pretty good”- the first couple Kiss live albums do that for me- but others make you say “That was effin’ great, I wish I could have been there”, and that’s what 13 Live is for me- it will have that affect on you too.I haven’t seen much of Vivino on O’Brien’s TV show- it’s on past my bedtime and I don’t yet own a PVR- but this is one of the very live albums I’ve ever had the pleasure of listening to, in any genre, and it makes me want to be a performing musician again.  13 Live belongs in everyone’s CD collection.COOL CUTS:  From A Buick 6, Shape I’m In, Heaven In A Pontiac LIVE AT THE DELTA Mark “Bird” Stafford (Independent) ***Blues lovers at any stage of the game are going to enjoy the latest album from Stafford.  This homage some blues greats features songs from the likes of Willie Dixon, Sonny Boy Williamson, Walter Jacobs, recorded live at Monarch’s Tavern in Toronto’s Delta Chelsea Hotel.  Blues reviews calls him”… a harpist with capitol “T” tone” and they’re right- playing this soulful is guaranteed to bring a tear to your heart.“I realize that it is heavy on the greats of the blues” Stafford notes about his latest album, “… but I am totally okay with that.  After all this is what I do and this album is a slice of that… I hope this recording captures the energy of the evening.” Well yeah- it does.As a harp player Mark Stafford notes Sonny Boy Williamson, Little Walter Jacobs, Big Walter Horton, Junior Wells and James Cotton as influences, and it certainly shows in his phrasing and the big, fat tone he has mastered.  He’s got some swingin’ cats backing him up on this one too, in guitarists Aaron Griggs and Fabio Parovel, drummer Tyler Burgess, and Dennis Pinhorn on upright bass.  The true test of any band is how they are on stage- do they beat with the same pulse and move as one?  For Stafford’s guys, that’s a yes.Stafford certainly knows how to get down and dirty, and lighter moments like Walter Jacobs’ Mellow Down Easy and Slim Harpo’s Got Love If You Want It serve as a nice counterpoint musically and otherwise.  I’ve always loved good harp-based blues and I really love the way this guy plays.  Mark Stafford’s Live At The Delta is a most welcome addition to my collection, and to the play lists for How Blue Can You Get, the show I host every Sunday at noon on K-Rock in Cold lake, Alberta (www.953krock.com)COOL CUTS: Can’t Hold On Much Longer, Born Blind, Mellow Down Easy SONGS FROM THE ROAD Savoy Brown (Ruff) **** +Here is another chapter in the label’s ongoing series of live CD/DVD sets from their shining stars.  A major player on the British blues scene in the 60’s and still led by founder/ guitarist Kim Simmonds, these guys just flat-out rock.If you like Foghat, you’ll love Savoy Brown- this is where Dave Peverett, Rod Price and Roger Earle came from.  Songs From The Road’s dozen tracks mix original material with three cover tunes; Louisiana Blues (Muddy Waters), Wang Dang Doodle and Little Red Rooster (Willie Dixon).  Simmonds has an incredibly tight band in Joe Whiting (sax/ vocals), Pat DeSalvo (bass/ vocals), and drummer Garnet Grimm, but Kim’s guitar is clearly the reason we’re all here.  Not unlike players such Gary Moore or Jeff Healey, he grabs every note and wrings it dry- if ever a blues player had fire shooting from his fingertips it’s this guy.  Great, meaty tone and fluid, expressive runs.Recorded at Musiktheater Piano in Dortmund, Germany, this is one smokin’ set- not much for crowd noise during the songs as the club audience hangs on every note.  The songs here remind us of how deep and enduring Savoy Brown’s history is.  In the bonus interview on the DVD he recalls the record deals, the adulation and rewards, not anticipated by the youngster growing up in Wales who started as a fan, pouring over his brother’s record collection.  “When I came to 13 years old” he explains, “I started to realize I particularly liked the blues.  So I started playing guitar at 13, and by the time I was 16 I was a pretty good guitar player.”  No kidding!All these years later, Savoy Brown is still a force to be reckoned with.  They put the boogie in the woogie like nobody’s business and Songs From The Road makes for fine company on any road trip.COOL TUNES:  Voodoo Moon, Looking In, Hellbound Train

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The Rock Doctor is in the Cyber House to tell you how it is! (or at least my own opinion). Want a music review? email: rockdoc@gonzookanagan.com. \m/

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