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TIME TO LET GO The Bob Lanza Blues Band (Connor Ray) *****Holy cow- talk about loud, rude, lascivious blues!  These guys really lean into it, playing as if they really do have hellhounds on their trail.  It’s Time To Let Go is the best, most extreme hard rockin’ blues I’ve heard since SRV.This disc was made under hard circumstances. “(It) comes at a time when I’ve had a lot of loss in my life” says Bob Lanza. “My mother and brother both passed away while I was recording this CD… it’s a tribute to them.”  Time To Let Go, far from being a downer, is celebratory, the kind of music that makes you glad to be alive. “My guitar is raw, powerful and very emotional in these tracks” Bob says, and he ain’t lying.Produced by Bob, Time To Let Go is thick and vicious, the sound of barely contained fury in a blues context. A mix of soulful originals and cool covers that showcase his sinewy vocals and muscular guitar playing.  This is the hard blues, and it’s great blues too.ESSENTIAL:  Time To Let Go, Rush’n The Blues, Walkin’ Thru The ParkLIVE IN SAN DIEGO (WITH SPECIAL GUEST JJ CALE) Eric Clapton (Reprise/ Surf Dog) *****Recorded March 15th, 2007 this two disc set is the best live album Clapton has ever done.Produced by longtime collaborator Simon Climie Live In San Diego sounds excellent, and Clapton has a great band behind him.  Here, that includes the Steve Jordan on drums and Willie Weeks on bass, along with Derek Trucks on slide, Doyle Bramhall II, and a guest appearance by Robert Cray- but wait, there’s more!The whole album is mellow-ish but musically thrilling, achieving liftoff on the six cuts JJ Cale guests on.  Clapton has had hits with many of JJ’s tunes and it’s a treat to hear their easy camaraderie on these songs.  They were friends too and recorded a studio disc together, 2006’s Road To Escondido which no doubt partially fueled this show.Eric Clapton’s latter day musical mellowness is a reflection that friendship and of Cale’s influence- a west coast laid backness that is supremely enjoyable.  Live In San Diego also includes Clapton tunes and stuff by Robert Johnson and Big Bill Broonzy.  It gets top marks for the breadth of material, the production, and the musicianship.  Incredible.ESSENTIALS:  Tell The Truth, After Midnight, Cocaine, CrossroadsTHE BOOK The Graham Bonnet Band (Frontiers) ***A 2 disc set from the semi-legendary singer- one is the new album proper, two is re-recorded versions of songs we already know him for. Are you up for it?Bonnet is known for his work with Rainbow, UFO and Yngwie Malmsteen.  He has a new band this time out, featuring Beth-Ami Heavestone on bass, Conrado Pesinado on guitar, Jimmy Waldo (Alcatrazz, one of Bonnet’s old bands) on keys, and Mark Zonder (Warlord, Fates Warning) on drums, fair decent players all.Graham Bonnet has a distinctive, rough-edged vocal style that sounds just as it did when I first heard him on Rainbow’s 1979 album Down To Earth. What is lacking, though, are distinctive songs on that first disc- enjoyable-ish but generic sounding 80’s style hard rock, nothing to make you hit the repeat button.   Maybe a few more spins are needed.I’m guessing the purpose of The Book’s disc of re-recorded classics is to give fans a taste of what they’ll hear in concert.  I think a more effective strategy would’ve been to pick the 3 or 4 most powerful classics to re-do as a teaser, and tack those on the end of the new album but hey, I’m sitting in a basement in Alberta right now, so what do I know?The Book is a decent enough record, but certainly not great- sorry, Graham.ESSENTIALS:  Into The Night, Dead Man Walking, Since You’ve Been Gone, Assault AttackLONG BLACK TRAIN Ray Fuller & The Bluesrockers (Azuretone) *** ½ If you’re up for some house rockin’ boogie, these are your guys. Long Black Train is some dang tasty party-your-ass-off blues.Inspired by blues rockers of the British Invasion like the Stones, The Animals and the Yardbirds, Fuller has been rockin’ stages since 1974.  These days, he’s a Saturday night headliner at Buddy Guy’s nightclub in Chicago and, over the years, has opened for the likes of Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, SRV, Buddy Guy and Albert Collins.  They say you can judge someone by the company they keep, so there you go.Fuller’s guitar playing is dirty and muscular, with slide runs that speak directly to the devil himself.  Bassist Myke Rock and drummer Darrell Jumper lay down some greasy grooves, and Doc Malone’s harp reminds me at times of Little Walter.  Sherri Fuller’s rough and ready production is well suited to the material but I find, at times, the drums feel a little buried in the mix.At the end of the day, Long Black Train is a rock solid set of blues, centered around Ray Fuller’s sweet slide work- I’ll definitely be listening again!ESSENTIALS:  Whiskey Drinkin’ Woman, Let’s Get Dirty, Cold Day In HellSUNSET AVENUE Gina Sicilia (Blue Elan Records) *** ¾ This EP is Gina’s sixth release.  Considered a true rising star in the blues world, this Philly based singer/ songwriter is the real deal.Sicilia is an emotional vocalist with the passionate delivery to get her often personal songs across, and that’s what got my attention when her 2013 album It Wasn’t Real crossed my desk.  I was instantly captivated, and used several of her tunes for the blues radio show I had at the time.   “I see myself as always evolving” she says, “always reaching for a new place where I want my music to be and a way I want it to sound.”The 6 songs on this EP (5 original plus a cover of Bert Berns’ Tell Him) are bluesy, but they feel kind of pop too and, occasionally, you’ll catch a glimpse of some country soul with gospel horsepower. Produced by Glenn Barratt as was her last record, Sunset Avenue has a full bodied and robust sound to match the material.  Gina is a raven haired beauty with a big, passionate voice that has to be heard and felt to be believed.  Strap in, kids- you’re in for a hell of a ride.ESSENTIALS:  I Cried, Abandoned

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