I’LL SING THE BLUES FOR YOU Trudy Lynn (Connor Ray) *** ½ This is the Houston-based blues belter’s 12th solo album, and as she tears through songs from Big Mama Thornton, Lowell Fulson, Memphis Minnie and Johnny Copeland, there’ll be no doubt in your mind that Trudy knows the blues.“Choosing material for this album was quite an adventure” she says. “There are so many blues artists I’ve been inspired by.” Her powerhouse vocals are wonderfully supported by Steve Krase on harmonica, Davis Carter on guitar, Terry Dry on bass, Randy Wall on keys and Matt Johnson on drums, with a collective understanding of how the blues moves and breathes. The sound and production style is modern, but the feel is old school.While the album title I’ll Sing The Blues For You seems self evident, there’s a story behind it. “One day my daughter gave me a gift of business cards, and on the top of each card was Trudy Lynn: I’ll Sing The Blues For You!” she explains in the liner notes. “During so many of my performances, a fan will come up to me and say ‘you were singing that song for me- that’s why I came!’ I take these compliments as stars in my crown, like flowers in my garden.”I’ll Sing The Blues For You is a collection of songs about good times and bad men, and Trudy Lynn isn’t just singing these songs, she’s lived them. This baby has mojo to spare.
ESSENTIALS: World Of Trouble, Alright Baby, Down On Bended Knee
THIS SILENCE IS KILLING ME Jeff Chaz (JCP Records) **** ½ This is Jeff’s second album this year. The New Orleans-based bluesman certainly keeps himself busy and, based on this album, I have no doubt that his live shows are killer.Jeff Chaz plays the blues, but there’s plenty of funk and soul in his singing and playing too. English music critic Paul Bradbeer calls him “the missing link between BB King, Roy Buchanan, Albert King and Frank Zappa”, to which I would add a touch of Albert Collins too. His playing can be very tasty, but when he becomes unhinged on the fret board, it’s glorious.As a singer, he reminds me of a cross between Duke Robillard and Big Dave McLean- rough around the edges, expressive, and totally immersed and invested in whatever lyric he’s singing at any given time. Authentic or real, whatever you want to call it, Chaz is le vrai Magoo.The Silence Is Killing Me is like a dirty, nasty Powder Blues record as Jeff and his band, along with a great horn section, give these tunes some real punch. If you’ve read any of my reviews previous to this, then you know when it comes to the blues I like the down and dirty stuff, and there’s plenty of that in these 11 original tracks. Hell, there’s even a holiday cut called Merry Christmas To You that your local radio station should be playing. This Silence Is Killing Me is most definitely some blues you can use.
ESSENTIALS: The Blues Is My Drug, Fried Chicken Store, I Ain’t Nothin’ Nice
SIMMERED & STEWED Tas Cru (Vizztone) **** Never heard of Tas before, but this is some pretty cool stuff. The spirited musicianship ranges from sweet to rowdy and his lyrics are blues poetry with verbal flair, making Simmered & Stewed one of the most irresistible releases of the year.Such a cool mix of sounds on this album, thanks to the use of resonator, cigar box and acoustic guitars, harmonica, honky-tonk piano, Hammond B3 organ and rich, deep backing vocals. There’s a jazzy funk vibe to parts of this disc that you’ll really enjoy, and when you hear somebody having this much fun it’s hard not to get swept right along. There’s quite a list of musicians involved with this record and, without getting into who played what exactly, the 4 bass players involved lay down some fat, juicy grooves that really drive Stewed to the finish line- VERY cool.I’ve dug the blues for decades, and few things give me more pleasure than hearing this music I love being played with joy, skill and originality- that’s just what Simmered & Stewed is. Yeah that’s Tas on lead vocals and his name on the album cover, but this is a group effort and the contributions from the supporting cast are impressive. Tas Cru is based out of upstate New York and plays major festivals and blues venues throughout the U.S. and Canada… one listen to this disc and you’ll be wanting to see him live too.
ESSENTIALS: Road To My Obsession, Just Let It Happen. Tired of Bluesmen Crying
LOST IN DUBLIN John Richard (independent) ***Here is the second album for this northern New Brunswick soul/ blues artist, a follow up to 2014’s well received Blue Valley. This guy really knows how to tell stories.“Unlike the direct flights that can take you far from the familiarities of home, creating music is often a journey that never follows a straight path. It can be, in fact, a meandering trek that leaves you wondrously lost.” That quote adorns the back cover of Lost In Dublin, and gives you an idea of the headspace from which this album sprung. These songs were inspired by a recent visit to that old city (dating from 988, some say)- the sites, buildings and people providing kernels of ideas that later became these 7 tracks- tales of love, loneliness, wealth, and even a local legend featuring Satan.That an artist from New Brunswick would find inspiration in Ireland is no surprise, given the Celtic nature of east coast folk music. Still, Lost In Dublin isn’t just a folk record- you’ll find blues and soul, and some tasty rock vibes on I Fall Apart, the opening song and Some Things Never Get Paid, which follows it, sounds like late 60’s metal. Produced and mixed by Mike Trask this disc has kind of a throwback vibe, and he seems awfully fond of reverb too. The style gives Dublin a certain attitude that I dig, but I would prefer the sound to be a little cleaner and maybe even deeper.Great songwriting with enthralling storytelling wins the day, making Lost In Dublin worthy of your attention.
ESSENTIALS: I Fall Apart, Black Church, Volumes Of Beautiful Words
BE THE MEDIA Annabelle Chvostek (MQGV) **** ½ This is the fifth solo disc for this Toronto-based, Juno-nominated artist, navigating the boundaries between folk rock, post punk and the Canadian singer/ songwriter tradition. Is it a comfortable, pretty record? No. Is it worth your attention? ABSOLUTELY.Sonically and spiritually this is the kind of record Jack White would really dig, as Annabelle goes back to her rock roots, picking up a 1957 Kay electric guitar and unleashing a rock beast that may surprise fans of her folk stuff. Issues of social justice are grist for her mill as she freely calls out dishonesty wherever she sees it. The title track (which leads off the album) is self explanatory and on Jerusalem, an eastern European dirge with a haunting fiddle, she calls attention to humanitarian missions to occupied territories in the so-called ‘cradle of civilization’ being thwarted.Be The Media, if you haven’t gathered by now, isn’t a party record even though it does rock out in places. Though there are some emotionally sinister songs here she reaches out for love on This Night, and delivers the classic Neil Young rocker Like A Hurricane in a softer acoustic framework from the original powered by mandolin. Chvostek questions everything on her new album, and you don’t get more rock & roll than that.Be The Media is a rough and tumble sounding folk/rock record, recorded live off the floor with the band (a trio) playing in a tight knit circle, in the acoustic ambience of an old century home, with some overdubs done later in Montreal and Montevideo. Slick and polished this ain’t, but Be The Media is one of those records that will stay with you long after the final song has come to an end, and you can’t say that about many records these days.
ESSENTIALS: Black Hole, Carnal Delights, Jerusalem