REANIMATE 3.0 Halestorm (Atlantic) *** ½ As a rule I’m not overly fond of covers records, but in between full studio albums Halestorm puts out an e.p. of cover songs- and I like ‘em. In the past they’ve covered songs by Heart, Pat Benatar, Judas Priest, AC/DC and The Beatles, offering up muscular versions of songs that weren’t necessarily hits, but tunes we know.  Same thing with these 6 songs- why fix it if it ain’t broke?Halestorm’s last studio disc, 2015’s Into The Wild Life, wasn’t as successful as previous efforts- somewhat experimental and less hard-hitting, fans didn’t warm to it as readily. What Reanimate 3.0 says is that they can still rock and haven’t lost their mojo as some might have feared. A scathing version of Joan Jett’s I Hate Myself For Loving You was released just ahead of the e.p. itself, and seems to have garnered the attention desired.  I was at the local HMV on release day looking for a hard copy, and after the clerk told me he thought it might be a digital-only release he said “Have you heard their version of that Joan Jett song? I can’t stop listening to it!”Songs covered here include Whitesnake’s Still Of The Night, the aforementioned Joan Jett song, Soundgarden’s Fell On Black Days and Metallica’s Ride The Lightning along with Sophie B. Hawkins’  Damn, Wish I Was Your Lover and Heathens by Twenty One Pilots and, as a fan of most of these tracks, I can say Halestorm has done them justice.  I call this $5.99 very well spent.

ESSENTIALS: Still Of The Night, I Hate Myself For Loving You

GET READY FOR ME Tom Craig & Soulpatch ( ****+Holy Muscle Shoals, Batman, this is one of the swingin’-est, most heartfelt blues collections to come along in quite some time.  It’s hip and uptown, it’s down and dirty, and thoroughly entertaining.As a singer, Tom Craig was first inspired by jazz vocalists like Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald and Mel Torme, and that shows in the sophistication of these tunes. As a guitarist it was the classic 60’s and 70’s soul stuff, along with all the blues greats- from the three Kings, to SRV.  As a result Get Ready For Me, Tom’s debut album, is full of subtlety, swagger and charm.On my first pass through this disc I noted the blues influences readily, but also felt touches of bands like Chicago and Lighthouse with those great horn parts. 9 guys in the band here including TC… and the magic fairy dust, even over and above the horns is the organ and keyboard work of Eric Johnson tying everything together with a Southern aesthetic.  If it weren’t there you’d note the absence sonically, but you’d feel it more.Thomas J. Cullen III of the Bucks County Blues Society and Blues Music Magazine says that “Tom Craig & Soul Patch are making the familiar fresh with grease, grit and grace”, and that’s pretty much right on the money.  Get Ready For Me is deeply satisfying.

ESSENTIALS:  Captain Funk, She Did It To Me, Louita

BACK 2 BLUES Stevie J. Blues (Mississippi Delta records/ PK Music) *****I mention ‘truth in advertising’ from time to time, but in this case I’d say looks can be deceiving.  Despite the artist’s name and the album title this isn’t a blues album- or, I should say this isn’t just a blues album.  Back 2 Blues is a rockin’, soulful, socially conscious record with a healthy dash of the blues- and it’s delicious.The way Stevie J. approaches his music, though different from, reminds me of Chris Thomas King’s records, of taking the blues and imposing new structures and frameworks.  The son of a pastor, Stevie has been a professional musician practically his whole life.  With roots firmly planted in gospel and southern soul, it was only a matter of time before the blues figured into the equation.  He was a member of Bobby Rush’s band, and has represented the Central Mississippi Blues Society at The Blues Foundation’s “International Blues Challenge”, so yeah- the guy has skills.As a singer Stevie J is forceful, yet he doesn’t need to yell and scream to get his point across or reveal his passion.  His guitar playing will raise the hair on your arms from time to time, and the people joining him in the studio- 17 other musicians besides him, according to the bio- know their mission well as they swing from blues to soul to funk and back again, like it’s the most natural thing to do in the world… and for them, it is.At the end of the movie Crossroads, Blind Dog Fulton tells Eugene “Lightning Boy” Martone that he has to “take the music past where you found it, take it someplace else”, and that’s what Stevie J. Blues is doing with Back 2 Blues. Blues purists might have to work a little bit to get close to this record, but I promise you it is worth it.

ESSENTIALS:  That Party Song, I Ain’t Getting That, Blue By The Bay (instrumental)

INTERNATIONAL BLUES CHALLENGE #32 Various Artists (Blues Foundation) *****Though I have over a dozen CD’s that arrived before this one, I’m enjoying it so damn much I couldn’t wait to bring it to your attention. This disc features 9 artists drawn from the 2016 IBC solo/duo division and band division finalists, out of a field of 257 competitors. “The best of the best” is usually a detestable cliché, but it actually applies here- Challenge #32 is a blues fan’s wet dream.The International Blues Challenge, held every year in Memphis, is the blues’ premiere event and you gotta be pretty damn good to make the final cut, so it’s a given that these 9 bands and artists have their shit down.  Where a disc like this fails or succeeds (and this one succeeds) is in how it flows.  Does IBC #32 make sense as a record? Do the songs relate to one another thematically or stylistically? Does the tempo and energy ebb and flow like a wave? The answer to all those questions is of course yes, making it a uniquely satisfying listen.The Paul Deslauriers Band rocks it off the top with I’m Your Man, and by the time we get to Sonny Moorman on track three we’re in for something a lot more lonesome in You Make All My Blues Come True which, musically, sounds like Elmore James’ It Hurts Me Too. This is a set of tunes that really takes you for a ride!  It can be argued that the blues is somewhat like classic country music (which is the white man’s blues anyway) in that it deals mainly with relationships, money and drinkin’, and it’s amazing how many ways you can find to address these subjects.  From the “let’s party” vibe of the opening track to the lowdown cryin’ in your whiskey stuff, virtually no stone is left unturned.International Blues Challenge #32 is a showcase of dazzling talent, passion and diversity of style, like when The Hector Anchondo Band quotes The Pink Panther Theme in the middle of Tall Glass Of Whiskey. A program director once turned down my idea for a blues radio show by saying “the music just isn’t popular enough”, but you and I know different.  Anybody who likes rock & roll loves the blues because that’s where it all comes from, and this disc is irrefutable evidence of that- consider this essential listening. While I’m at it, put a visit to The International Blues Challenge on my bucket list too.

ESSENTIALS: You Make All My Blues Come True (Sonny Moorman), Norman’s Blues (The Norman Jackson Band), Black Sheep Moan (Ben Hunter & Joe Seamons)

PLAY MUSIC & DANCE Godboogie (Vizztone) *****+Toronto bandleader Jerome Godboo has turned in his solo status and decided to record under the band name ‘Godboogie’ and if this disc is what we can expect, I’m all in.  This is a dirty, hairy, greasy, rockin’ record that I’d want my jockey to play- again and again.I have a couple of Godboo’s previous 14 albums and I like them, but this one comes blasting out of the gate and doesn’t let up.  The band is a quartet; Jerome (singer and harp player sought out by Ronnie Hawkins and the late, great Jeff Healey) is joined by Spin Doctors’ guitarist Eric Schenkman, drummer Gary Craig and Lucky Peterson’s guitarist Shawn Kellerman. “This is my first album under the ‘Godboogie’ name” says Jerome, “(and) I wanted to reflect the contributions of each band member.  I’ll write the skeleton for a song and let the band flesh it out from there.”Play Music & Dance reflects all facets of the blues, from upbeat party stuff to songs that make wallowing in your own misery sound oh so exquisite. “It’s a real journey every time we launch into a song; it’s a jam” Godboo notes. “I have not one, but two of the greatest guitar players on the planet, (and) Gary jumps in and does his thing like no one else can.  We are four friends who dig each other and respect each other musically- this band is honest, hardworking and extremely talented.”  Yeah.Play Music is one of those albums that just grabs your attention right away without being a dick about it.  You’ll be naturally drawn in by all the elements, from the extremely tasty playing to the overall vibe. “I’ve been trying my whole musical life to capture that live energy on a CD and I think we got it!” enthuses Jerome, and he has- with room to spare.

ESSENTIALS:  Play Music & Dance, Sign Of The Times, Real Dude



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