Rock Doc Music Reviews for August 16th

THE WINERY DOGS The Winery Dogs (Loud & Proud) *****I’d heard about this one in the press but it wasn’t until my brother in law Ed, a teacher in Seattle, raved about it that I really took an interest.  The Winery Dogs is one of the most vibrant and exciting rock releases in many a year, what I wish Chickenfoot had become.As you know, TWD is a super group of sorts and, more often than not, this sort of thing just doesn’t work out.  The band, for those that don’t know, is Richie Kotzen (ex-Poison, solo artist) on vocals, guitar and keys, Billy Sheehan (ex- David Lee Roth and Mr. Big) on bass, and drummer Mike Portnoy, noted mainly for his years with Dream Theatre.All of the ingredients for success are here; each member is a virtuoso on his instrument.  Sheehan in particular can play his bass like a lead guitar, I’ve seen him (on DVD) go toe to toe with Steve Vai and not break a sweat. While Mike, Billy and Richie share song writing credits equally, it has to be Kotzen and Sheehan’s  pop/rock pasts that make these songs so damned likeable.Kotzen is a fine singer, not unlike Myles Kennedy (Slash’s band, plus Alter Bridge) and I’ve always enjoyed his guitar playing.  Sheehan, as alluded to in the previous paragraph, is a total maniac on bass, but he also knows when to drop back into the pocket and support the song,  Portnoy was the wild card here, I thought his tenure as a prog metal drummer would inspire him to overplay but on this record, he is a total groove master.I’ve liked a lot of rock albums of late but with the new Sabbath being an exception, I can’t remember the last time I was this excited by a new record. The Winery Dogs are no fluke or uneasy alliance- this trio is the real deal, and they will set the world on fire.COOL CUTS:  I’m No Angel, Desire, Six Feet Under MOVING Little G. Weevil (Vizztone) *******George Carlin once said that when it comes to the blues, it isn’t enough to know which notes need to played- you need to know why they need to be played.  He was talking about white guys (Hollywood types in particular) stealing the music, but some of them do know- and Little G. Weevil is one of them.Weevil grew up on the outskirts of Budapest at a time when the changing political landscape brought the blues flooding into Eastern bloc countries.  He fell in love with the music of guys like John Lee Hooker and Albert Collins and so became a successful bluesman in Hungary.  Feeling the pull of the American South he emigrated to the land of this music he loved so much, landing first in Alabama before moving on to Memphis.Listening to Moving feels like time traveling… with this, his 3rd album, Little G somehow delivers intact the spirit and sound of the blues legends of 80 or so years ago. This album has me recalling the first time I heard Son House’s Death Letter in vinyl back in the late 80’s- these songs are haunted, it feels like they were dug from the same rich soil.This is largely a solo acoustic disc, with a backing band on some of the tracks. No amps were used, and 11 of the 12 songs are Weevil originals, with the exception of Let’s Talk It Over.  Of approaching Moving in this way he says “I’m very excited about this project- it gives me the chance to play deep, raw blues in very intimate settings.”When you put this on you’ll hear echoes of some of the greats like Hooker, RL Burnside, Son House and more.  Deep and raw as noted above, Moving is a hard punch right to the guts, and one of the very best blues records I’ve heard in the 23 years and change that I’ve been writing reviews, and the first one to earn 7 out of 5 stars- it’s THAT good.COOL CUTS:  On My Way To Memphis, Swing In The Middle, No Man In My Bed RHYTHM & BLUES Buddy Guy (RCA/ Silvertone) *****The latest release from the man many consider to be the best blues guitarist alive is a real monster in more ways than one.  This is a two disc set; disc one is subtitled Rhythm and disc two is Blues. Also, from a technical standpoint, it’s the best sounding album he’s ever done as it repeatedly punches you right between the eyes- in a really good way.Over the course of these 21 tracks Guy lays down one jaw-dropping solo after another. Thanks to longtime producer Tom Hambridge, Rhythm & Blues is Buddy’s thickest, most substantial sounding record yet- lots of meat on these bones!  They’ve let plenty of guests into the studio this time, from the Muscle Shoals horn section to duet partners like Beth Hart, Kid Rock, Keith Urban, Gary Clark Junior and Steven, Joe & Brad from Aerosmith.  Far from being mere stunt casting these people bring their A game to the table, elevating each song to something more than it might have been otherwise.Songs like Best In Town and I Came Up Hard are autobiographical- I should know, I’ve just read Buddy’s book- but overall, the songs address the usual blues concerns from cheating to drinking, macho posturing and everything in between.  Melodically the disc flows effortlessly from up-tempo rave-ups to heartbreaking ballads quite naturally and again, I just can’t get over how great Rhythm & Blues sounds sonically.  I can’t say I’ve heard everything Buddy Guy has ever done but to my ears, and in comparison to the 10 or 15 records that I DO have of his, this is the best thing he’s ever done.It seems that the more life experience a bluesman has the deeper, richer and better his music gets- with Rhythm & Blues this 77 year old guitar deity has just made THE album of his career.  I’ll be squeezing as many of these tracks as I can into the August 25th edition of How Blue Can You Get, heard Sundays at noon Alberta time at – catch it if you can.COOL CUTS:  Messin’ With The Kid (with Kid Rock), What You Gonna Do About Me(with Beth Hart), Meet Me In Chicago, Evil Twin (with the Aerosmith guys)WAITING ON DAYLIGHT Bart Walker (Ruf)  ****+If you like your blues marinated in rock & roll and straight up out of the south, Bart Walker’s new album is going to make the hair on your toes stand up- guaranteed!This set of southern fried blues is immensely satisfying on first listen.  Recorded in Nashville (country is the white man’s blues anyway, right?) Daylight was assembled by Grammy award wining producer Jim Gaines. Having played guitar since the age of 4, Walker plays with both muscle and finesse. “If it doesn’t have the big fat beefy tone, then I won’t play it to my fullest potential” says the self-professed tone freak.Gaines is noted for working with guys like Carlos Santana, George Thorogood and Walker’s idol Stevie Ray Vaughan. “I really felt like I had accomplished something when Jim Gaines turned around in his chair while we were listening down to some tracks and said; man, we got us a really rockin’ record!” Bart notes.  There’s an inescapable southern taste to Daylight, be it Walker’s slide work, the swampy groove of tunes like Girl You Bad, or his singing voice, which is not unlike Gregg Allman.Waiting On Daylight isn’t just balls to wall blues/rock either.  While quite muscular most of the time, Walker and Gaines knew enough to avoid tiresome excessive displays of guitar prowess and instead allow the songs to breathe. Gotta Be You sounds like a long lost ZZ Top track, and his cover of the Allman’s classic Whippin’ Post takes it down a notch, making the song even more emotional- trust me, it’s possible!Daylight is my first encounter with Bart Walker’s music, but I hope it’s not my last- this is good stuff.COOL CUTS:  Whippin’ Post, Waitin’ On Daylight, Gotta Be You HEAVY METAL MUSIC Newsted (Chophouse) ****We were teased earlier this year by an EP and now it’s time for the full meal deal.  This is the latest recording project for ex-Metallica bassist Jason Newsted, after overcoming a series of career threatening medical issues, and they are making a joyously unholy noise.2 of the songs from that EP appear on this album- King of The Underdogs, Soldierhead- but otherwise, HMM is all new material.  This isn’t speed metal but I do enjoy the way it moves, grinds and pulverizes- but at the same time it’s melodic.  As I told somebody in the office this afternoon as this played the band has Sabbath DNA in their makeup.  They let huge riffs do most of the heavy lifting, slowing down in a doomy, sludgy groove when the occasion calls for it, but on tracks like Soldierhead, they can gallop too.Newsted is Jason on bass and vocals (an admittedly acquired taste), Mike Mushok and Jessie Farnsworth on guitars, and drummer Jesus Mendez Jr. Their sound is thick and relentless, anchored by Jason Newsted’s thick-as-cold-molasses bass, along with unison riffing by Mike and Jessie, while Mendez gives them a rhythmic platform to work from.If you like mid-period Metallica, Heavy Metal Music should feel immediately comfy to you, same if you’re into Megadeth.  There are few sonic pleasures equal to being knocked over by a chugging wall of guitars, and this bad boy has that in spades.  As for the lyrics, there’s time to get into those later, once the album has settled in.  Right now I just love the way it feels– so much so that I’m already looking forward to the next one.COOL CUTS:  As The Crow Flies, King Of The Underdogs, Kindevillusion PIANOGRAPHY Earl Poole Ball (Tin Tube)   **Known mostly as a sideman, Ball steps out into the spotlight with mixed results.  If you enjoy 70’s-style country music, this vibe will speak to you.EPB has quite a resume- Johnny Cash’s piano player for 20 years he recorded with The Byrds on Sweetheart Of The Rodeo, and has shared studios with Wanda Jackson, Gram Parsons, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Buck Owens and Merle Haggard.  When I say it sounds like 70’s country, I’m thinking of the music on Clint Eastwood’s offbeat Every Which Way movies.  There’s a smooth honky-tonk sound for these14 tracks and, while not altogether unpleasant, I think you can tell this isn’t really my cup of tea.Pianography holds 7 new tunes, 4 live cuts, plus a cut recorded in ’67 and one from ’77.  And while the back of the CD has the phrase “playing the rockabilly bluze since 1955”, there’s more gentle swing than actual rockin’ going on here.This disc is one of those oddities that will appeal to people already aware of Earl Poole Hall and his associations with some of the artists mentioned previously, and to those people I say “enjoy!”  After the thousands of albums I have listened to and reviewed over the years, it takes a lot for a record to really stand out- and this just doesn’t- sorry, Earl.COOL CUTS:  Sing It Boy, Mean Woman Blues DON’T TAKE YOUR GUNS TO TOWN M. Soul (Irrational Man)  ***+Well- not exactly what I was expecting from a guy with French Canadian blood in his veins.  Sounding like a young Johnny Cash- it’s surely no coincidence that the title track is a Cash classic- and indeed, 3 of the 4 songs on this sampler are all associated with The Man In Black.In 2002 M. Soul (Marcel Souldrodre) came up with the idea of creating an homage to the life and songs of Johnny Cash.  He has created a 2 hour performance rich with the details of the life of Johnny Cash, the 50’s thru 70’s, and of his own personal experiences as a child growing up in Winnipeg.   This EP is his 9th release, and I think Cash fans would agree that Marcel does his music justice.  Produced by the artist himself Guns is a fine sounding set, and by the time the self penned Riverboat Roustabout finishes up, you’ll find yourself wishing there was more.I have no idea what Soulodre’s other stuff sounds like but he’s sure comfortable in Johnny Cash’s groove, and I think Johnny would approve- you know, if he wasn’t still dead.COOL CUTS:  Don’t take Your Guns To Town, Personal Jesus 45 LIVE Roomful Of Blues (Alligator) *** 1/2Duke Robillaird’s old band celebrates their 45th anniversary in the best way they know how- with a kickin’ live album.  If you still don’t think blues can be good time music, throw this on and come talk to me when it’s done!“Doing a live record is a natural for us” says senior member Rich Lataille. “The best qualities of this band come out in a live setting- the audience reacts, people dance, and it gives us energy to play at our best.”  Living Blues praises this set as “Brawny shuffles, swinging horns, searing guitar, passionate vocals and balls-to-the-wall enthusiasm” and USA Today calls it “Swingin’ jump blues and R&B… high voltage yet classy” so who are we to argue?  45 Live really does feature the band in their natural habitat with a well paced set that starts with Just Keep On Rockin’ that gets down and dirty on numbers like Easy Baby.When it comes to the blues I have a natural affinity for the down and dirty stuff, otherwise I might have scored 45 Live higher.  In these grooves Roomful Of Blues is at the top of their game, grooving like one giant organism unto itself.  Love Chris Vachon’s guitar work, particularly his soloing on Easy Baby, the horns give the disc an overall uptown vibe, and vocalist Phil Pemberton sounds a lot like Nanaimo bluesman David Gogo.  Jump blues is the game here so if you’ve got some jive and jitterbug in your soul, and if you’re a Powder Blues fan, this is really your kind of thang.45 Live is a technically brilliant album, well produced with razor sharp performances- enjoy!COOL CUTS:  Easy Baby, Blue Blue World, Jambalaya

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