Hot Wax Album Reviews by the ROCK DOCTOR – Best of 2022

#24: COSMIC DREAMER Barney Bentall (True North)

Cosmic Dreamer is a quiet album that follows roughly the same path as the solo records Barney’s been putting out since Gift Horse in 2006; thoughtful explorations of deep, heartfelt sentiments.  I love Barney’s rock stuff  but songs like these speak to me in profound ways.

HOT TRACKS:  Potter’s Wheel, Cosmic Dreamer, Why Are You So Sad, Cody Road

#23: ON MY WAY Katie Henry (Ruf)

The sophomore release from this New Jersey songwriter/ multi-instrumentalist is stunning.  The follow-up to 2018’s High Road, On My Way is captivating grooviness and well told tales.  As Henry Yates of Classic Rock, NME and The Guardian has noted, she is “a runaway talent you need to keep up with” and he’s right.

HOT TRACKS:  On My Way, Bury You, Too Long, Catch Me If You Can

#22: HAIL TO THE HEROES Girish & The Chronicles (Frontiers)

This is the 3rd album for these hard rockers from India.  Equal parts classic and death metal, this gets your motor runnin’.  The band says they like to make the kind of music they grew up listening to… it sounds like they grew up just down the street from you and me.

HOT TRACKS:  Primeval Desire, Hail To The Heroes, The Heaven’s Crying

#21: DRIED UP DREAMS Jay & The Cooks (Socadisc/ The Orchard)

If time and reality were no obstacle imagine, if you will, a record made by Neil Young, Webb Wilder and Tom Waits.  Dried Up Dreams, the 5th album in the past decade from Jay & The Cooks, gives the idea a pretty good go.  Ramshackle in a Crazy Horse sort of way and a facility with words that sounds like Neil, Webb & Tom put their heads together over a bottle of whiskey.

HOT TRACKS: Alton McCarver, Chew The Cud, Dried Up Hearts

#20: OUT OF THE GUTTER Jones Street (Eonian Records)

Some knuckle-dragging leather jacket rock & roll, it’s a beautiful thing.  This is blunt force trauma rock, a boot to the head that will have you pleading “please sir- can I have some more?”

HOT TRACKS: Dancin’ With The Devil, What Comes Around, When It All Comes Down


#19: LET’S ALL GO INSANE Tony Baltimore (Conch Town Records)

This abstract pop gem is Tony Baltimore’s 3rd record.  Throwing Let’s All Go Insane into the CD player was like putting on an old Harry Nilsson album; bright, sharp pop music loaded with hooks, and lyrical observations that look at some universal truths from a different angle.  Lighthearted and deep at the same time, this is an engaging experience.

HOT TRACKS:  Let’s All Go Insane, All Day, Seaside Blues

#18: PATIENT NUMBER 9 Ozzy Osbourne (Epic)

It’s getting late in the day for this Prince Of Darkness, his age combined with recent health problems do not bode well.  Color me pleasantly surprised to find this to be good, and shockingly so.  It’s Osbourne’s 13th studio album, easily his best since No More Tears.

HOT TRACKS:  Dead and Gone, Degradation Rules (with Tony Iommi), Immortal (with Mike McCready)

#17: OVER THE PAIN Orphan Jon & The Abandoned (Vintage LaNell Records)

Looking at the cd cover, I expected a standard blues record from a bunch of earnest white guys- shows what I know. Over The Pain is hard, greasy guitar driven boogie ‘n’ blues that, I dare say, belongs in every rock & roller’s collection.

HOT TRACKS:  Over The Pain, Broken Angel, Redheaded Woman Blues


#16: ONE FOOT IN THE GROOVE The Boneshakers (Take It to The Bridge Records)

If ever there was a perfect album title, this is it. This disc grooves ‘til the cows come home. I wanted to like this disc when I saw the title but The Boneshakers go above and beyond.  Soulful vocals over a constantly flexing funk backdrop with blues attitude makes for a thrilling record.

HOT TRACKS: Let’s Spend The Night Together, Ain’t Got The Fever No More, Ice Cream and Cigarettes

#15: VILLAINS VICTIMS VISIONARIES The County Well (Floating Records)

This is County Well’s 4th album, and good luck labeling it.  According to the accompanying press info VVV is all about “spatial disassociation, genre cross fertilization (and) melodic heresy”. This is a trippy, engrossing experience.

HOT TRACKS:  Tequila & The River, Eyes In The Trees, Stranger On The Rolling Sea

#14: TURQUOISE BLUE Micki Free (Dark Idol Music)

Turquoise Blue is the latest solo album from Micki, a feast of hard and soulful playing full of songs and immense groove along the lines of Stevie Ray and even Hendrix.  This is EPIC- I haven’t an album smack me upside the head like this since Santana’s Supernatural in 1999.

HOT TRACKS:  Bye 2020 (with Steve Stevens), Judicator Blues (with Christone “Kingfish” Ingram), Heaven Or Heroin, All Along The Watchtower

#13: I GOT LOVE Albert Castiglia (Gulf Coast Records)

There has to be something in that Florida drinking water.  If you’ve got your ears peeled for maximum voltage blues/rock guitar a la Stevie Ray on steroids, here it is.  This is  muscle bound playing that offers genuine thrills.  It’s one of the best records you’ll hear in any genre in 2022..

HOT TRACKS:  I Got Love, Burning Bridges, Double Down, Long Haul Daddy

#12: NO SAINTS IN THE CITY Ghosts Of Sunset (Golden Robot)

Holy poo is this cool!  It’s the project of singer/ songwriter John Merchant from Western Michigan and singer/ songwriter/ multi-instrumentalist Todd Long.  Equal parts Tom Petty, Rhino Bucket and Smashing Pumpkins, No Saints is something of a concept album; a classic rock tinged tour through New York City and I’m enjoying it a whole bunch.

HOT TRACKS:  Tonight, Look Me Up (If You Come Down), Bastards Of The Bowery

#11: JUST FOLKIN AROUND Juke Joint Jonny & The Kindred Spirits (independent)

There’s a lot more to New Jersey, musically speaking, than Bruce Springsteen and Bon Jovi. This is a captivating set of acoustic blues introduced to me by Jersey bluesman Andy Bernstein, and I can’t stop listening to it. Check this set list of songs by Robert Johnson, Taj Mahal and Willie Dixon, plus an original with Jonny’s husky voice and deft guitar playing.

HOT TRACKS:  I Can’t Be Satisfied, Terre Haute Blues, Fishin’ Blues

#10: GENERATION MIND Black Swan (Frontiers)

Top shelf hard rock here from Black Swan for their second album, following up 2020’s magnificent Shake The World.  In some ways this is like a time travel trip back to the 80’s but the best, hard rockin’-est part.  Big riff powered songs with a 4 on the floor rhythm section, it’s a thing of dark, swaggering heart-pounding beauty.

HOT TRACKS:  Before The Light, Killer On The Loose, How Do You Feel

#09: PHANTOM THRESHOLD Steve Dawson (Black Hen Music)

This is the second of 3 ambitious releases slated for this year by this frighteningly talented Canadian guitarist and producer.  The description of this haunting album is stated superbly in the press release; “A scarecrow cowboy at dawn. Lonely footsteps on a creaky wooden floor. Cars speeding down an empty highway as smoke rises from a burning roadhouse. Phantom Threshold is the soundtrack to the movie you’ve always had inside your head.” That’s exactly what this is.

HOT TRACKS:  Lily’s Resistor, Burnt End, Phantom Threshold

#08:  MORNINGSTAR Chris Antonik (Second Half Records)

Here is the 4th album from this Canadian blues rock guitarist, and it’s a beauty.  With each record Antonik stretches and grows, and Morningstar is no different.  Poignant songwriting with lush and widely varied soundscapes make this more than just blues, and a pleasure to listen to.

HOT TRACKS:  Waves Of Stone (with Jarekus Singleton), In Our Home (with Alison Young), Grace

#07: FALL BACK HOME Suzie Vinnick (Independent)

This is the most charming and inspiring record I’ve heard all year. As Vinnick’s 7th disc this is a delicious mix of rock, folk, blues, even jazz under a ‘roots’ umbrella.  The eloquence and consistency of the songs are unforgettable.

HOT TRACKS:  The Pie That My Baby Makes, Talk To Me, Raino

#06: THE BLUES DON’T LIE Buddy Guy (RCA)

It’s funny how rock acts struggle to put out relevant and exciting music in the sunset of their careers while blues people get better as the years go by.  With this one Buddy Guy has just released one of the best albums of his entire career, after decades of making great music.

HOT TRACKS:  What’s Wrong With that (with Bobby Rush), Gunsmoke Blues (with Jason Isbell), I Let My Guitar do The Talking

#05: THE NOIR ALBUM Big B And The Actual Proof (independent)

When you cross the blues with the intent of film’s seediest genre, you get something filthy and utterly irresistible. Here we have 10 tales of bad luck, bad choices, revenge and recrimination, like something you might hear in a dark alley behind a bar in a neighborhood that nice people don’t visit after the sun goes down.  This disc has an overdriven sound and is very dangerous, like the soundtrack to a movie I’d love to see.

HOT TRACKS:  Sitting On The Devil’s Lap, God’s Lonely Man, Just Another Harlem Sunset

cover artwork by Steve Johannsen

#04: DEVIL MAY CARE Tinsley Ellis (Alligator Records)

If you’re looking for a pure and righteous display of genuine he-man blues guitar playing, this is it.  Devil May Care, Tinsley’s 20th album, is bristling with attitude and feral energy- an amalgam of muscular rock ‘n’ roll and hard blues that will light your fire as steam rises from the grooves.

HOT TRACKS:  Don’t Burry Our Love, 28 Days, Right Down The Drain


#03: BLUES FOR THE SOUTHSIDE Mike Zito (Gulf Coast Records)

This is a face melting display of awesome blues guitar prowess.  Rrecorded in his old home town of St. Louis, it bristles with energy as Mike and his band deliver one jaw dropping performance after another.  This double disc set includes tunes from Zito’s earlier records as well as songs from Jimi Hendrix, Tampa Red and Stevie Ray Vaughan, and a rip snortin’ good time is very clearly had by all- a total guitargasm.

HOT TRACKS:  Voodoo Chile, Make Blues Not War, The Road Never Ends

#02: BLACK & GOLD Thundermother (AFM)

Fucking rock & roll assassins, that’s what Thundermother are.  Black & Gold is the Swedish all girl band’s 5th and hottest studio album yet, thick and juicy, a planet killer, a bullseye.  Listening to this will remind you of the first time you heard AC/DC’S Highway to Hell and maybe even The Crue’s Dr. Feelgood.  Yeah- it’s THAT good.

HOT TRACKS:  Black & Gold, Hot Mess, Loud And Free

#01: HANGIN’ AT THE DeVILLE LOUNGE The Rusty Wright Band (Sadson Music)

Ever hear of a blues concept album?  Well you have now. Hangin’ At The DeVille Lounge is a blues powered fever dream about the devil’s juke joint.  The disc is loaded front to back with greasy, grimy, dirty blues, lots of it slow… and I can’t get nearly enough of it.

HOT TRACKS: Welcome To The DeVille, No Man Is An Island, No Turnin’ Back


LIVE AT POWER STATION Vanessa Collier (Phenix Fire Records)

A stunning, energetic, groovacious live album here from this ridiculously talented singer/ saxophonist.  As the title implies, Live At Power Station was recorded in front of an audience at the legendary New York recording studio. “My intention was to capture some of the songs off my earlier records that have now grown and become somewhat different” Vanessa says in the liner notes.  This disc is about as energetic and passionate as a live record can get.

HOT TRACKS:  Love Me Like A Man, The Run Around, Tongue Tied



BROTHER JOHNNY Edgar Winter (Quarto Valley Records)

Tribute records are often watered down, unfocused, well-intentioned but meandering affairs.  In this case, the opposite is true.  Edgar Winter pays appropriate, high voltage homage to his late sibling with Brother Johnny.  Edgar has gathered an all-star roster of collaborators to have a go at songs his brother was known for having written or performed, and the results are exciting.

KEY TRACKS: Stranger(with Michael McDonald & Joe Walsh), Mean Town Blues (with Joe Bonamassa), Rock ‘N’ Roll Hoochie Koo (with Steve Lukather)



Kiss celebrates the 40th anniversary of this crucial album in over-the-top style. Creatures Of The Night, originally released October 28th, 1982, has been given the deluxe box set treatment; 5 CD’s that include a newly re-mastered version of the original album, 75 previously unreleased tracks, and a Blu Ray audio disc featuring a first-ever Atmos 5.1 surround sound mix plus a high resolution newly remastered stereo mix of the original album.  That’s a lot of fuss for 40 minutes of music; is it worth it?  Oh HELL yeah.


DISC ONE: I Love It Loud, War Machine

DISC TWO: Deadly Weapon (Penny Lane demo), Nowhere To Run

DISC THREE: Not For The Innocent (demo), Partners In Crime (alternate mix 16B)

DISC FOUR:  Firehouse (Sioux City Iowa, 12/30/82), Keep Me Comin’ (same show)

DISC FIVE:  Love Gun Rockford, Illinois, 12/31/82), I Still Love You (Texas, 3/10/83)


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