GET GOIN’ Katie Henry (Ruf Records) ****+

Here comes the 3rd album for this New Jersey-born singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. Get Goin’ builds on the success of her first two records- her self-released 2018 debut High Road  and its follow-up On My Way- as she expands her musical vocabulary within her blues/ rock/ R&B/ funk/ pop/ soul/ country vibe. Smartly produced, well played, this one’s a charmer.

Get Goin’ was produced by Bernard Allison (who also contributed a pair of songs), and Katie is also backed by Allison’s band of well-seasoned players. “Working with Bernard and his band was a blessing” she says. “Not only are they amazing top-notch players, they are also good people with big hearts. They really support and believe in me, which means so much in my growth as an artist. I was inspired by them throughout the whole process.” You’d have to be deaf not to hear that as this album plays on your stereo.

Katie learned her first piano chords around age 6, later adding guitar to her arsenal.  She set her sights on nearby New York City, and while attending Manhattan College became a favorite on the local live music scene. Katie is like many new artists such as Ghalia Volt and Will Jacobs, unafraid to cross boundaries and shake up the blues scene. There is no filler on Get Goin’, and on songs like Wake Up Time (which recalls I’d Rather Go Blind) she reaches deep. “I’ve experienced a lot of loss and growth in the past two years, I think you can hear that on the record.”  Of this particular track she comments “It’s very personal. I think people will relate to it because it tells a story of surrendering to the truth, even when it’s painful.”

The album is extremely well produced, and Katie plays with Bernard Allison’s band as if they’ve been doing it together forever.  Producer Allison comments that “Her vocals, keyboard and guitar all sit in the right place (here). Her songwriting comes straight from the heart.  Her voice has clarity and power, in the vein of Bonnie Raitt or Norah Jones.” High praise from someone who knows his stuff extremely well.

Regardless of which genre she conjures up for any given song, one thing that applies to all 11 cuts on Get Goin’ is that they have heart and soul.  Superlative playing and lyrics straight from Katie’s soul make this an album to be reckoned with. She even manages to make Nobody’s Fault But Mine her own.  Great stuff.

HOT TRACKS: Love Like Kerosene, Wake Up Time, Get Goin’ Get Gone, Nobody’s Fault But Mine

TOO MUCH TO PAY John Clifton (independent) ****

This is the 4th album from a guy that’s been on the front lines of the west coast blues scene for nearly 4 decades.  John Clifton’s Too Much To Pay is a rousing, exuberant display of blues love that has the energy of late 50’s/ early 60’s rock & roll that will make you feel real good.  If you’re going to attach a label to this, I’d go with ‘jump blues’.

A talented blues singer and expressive harp player John Clifton definitely has game, no doubt honed by 100 to 200 days a year spent on the road in Europe and the USA, until the pandemic slowed his roll.  He had planned to regroup and record some new stuff during Covid times but fate said “not so fast, Bucko.”  In June of 2020 he was diagnosed with severe heart failure- I can relate. “I got hit with a double whammy” he says.  After a couple years to recover he hit the road again in 2022 and began to gather ideas for a new album, which leads us to Too Much To Pay.

The album was recorded in Poland while on tour thru Europe last summer with the Polish band The Boogie Boys, who frequently back up John when touring that part of the world, so the musicians have a ‘togetherness’ in their playing that you wouldn’t get from a bunch of studio guys.  Their playing is electrifying and Clifton is in fine voice over these 10 original tracks.  Tasty harp playing, but the magic I’m feeling here seems to come from the Hammond B3 work of Bartek Szopinski.  Finishing touches were put on the record in California, so it’s fair to call this an ‘international blues album’.  The name of the band used here should be a big clue as to what you can expect; Too Much to Pay boogies along very nicely, thank you very much.

The core band here is five guys including Clifton, plus they had help from several friends.  Too Much to Pay was produced by Clifton and Bartek Szopinski and was mastered in Warsaw by Lucasz Macha.  Congrats to those just named for a tight, potent mix that allows every instrument to stand out in its own way.  The style varies from song to song here too as the vibe shifts from Chicago blues to 60’s soul to swamp rock, making for an interesting and absorbing listening trip. Clifton isn’t exactly reinventing the genre but whatever you choose to call what he IS doing, it’s sounds like he’s having a big ol’ time getting it done.

Too Much To Pay is what you’d call ‘good timey blues’ and that suits me just fine.

HOT TRACKS:  Get Lost, Every Waking Hour, One Fine Chick

OLD FRIENDS Tyler Wilson (independent) **** ½

It’s a brand new EP from this Brantford, Ontario-based singer/ songwriter/ guitarist.  A seductive blend of Tom Petty and Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Old Friends is a little ragged around the edges in just the right way, with hypnotic grooves and Fogerty-esque guitar solos abounding that are a unique fusion of blues-rock and chicken pickin’, and I’m fascinated.

Tyler Wilson has been performing and recording since the age of 16, and the members of The Tyler Wilson Band were trained in the art of rock & roll by the late great Ronnie Hawkins.  Apparently they’re quite something on stage, and the 4 songs on Old Friends have kind of a beery swagger, a bluesy stagger with some country soul, particularly in the lyrics.  The disc is casual but not sloppy with the quality of a jam session that happened to go really, really well.

No production notes included with my download but this thing has an organic feel to it- not overly fussy or pristine and yet every note and drum beat is exactly where it needs to be.  Old Friends is casual, blustery and cinematic; the kind of music you can see as well as hear.  Old Friends is one of those things you’ll like just a bit more every time you hear it.

HOT TRACKS:  Red, This Old Song

STONE COLD HANDS Sean Riley & The Water (Pugnacious Records) ****

If you like early to mid-period Stones, you’ll really dig this.  Stone Cold Hands, the first full-length album from Sean Riley & The Water, the band so named for the fluidity of different musicians joining him on stage.  It’s a healthy mix of country soul and bayou blues that trucks along at a leisurely pace.  You can sure tell these guys are from New Orleans.

Riley is proud of where he comes from. “This record is my musical tribute to New Orleans and Southern folk traditions” he says. “it’s a celebration of the highs of dance- filled evenings, communal feasts, and all night parties- to the lows of facing grief, fear, and the loss of what we hold dear. The song represents the ebb and flow of emotions, from high energy house party rockers to tear-in-my-beer barroom reflections and down-on-your-luck country blues, back to the uplifting spirit of self-worth and love.” Well when you use an accordion, that’s gonna happen.

Stone Cold Hands is ten songs in all, 9 Riley originals and a friggin’ SWEET cover of Jimmy Reed’s High & Lonesome that breathes new life into the blues classic while remaining respectful of the original.  The rousing, spirited musicianship raises the bar considerably of what’s possible on a record like this; they were having a blast and that’s palpable in the performances. “Recording this album was the most fun I’ve ever had in a studio” Riley notes. “Every day was filled with enthusiasm and positivity- no off days whatsoever! We worked together as a team, trying to hit the right note each time, and I believe that energy resonates in the final product.”  It sure as hell does, Sean.

Any music that has New Orleans as a starting point or frame of reference has a certain joie de vivre and that is certainly true here.  “Some of these songs were written or took shape during the pandemic” Riley observes. “In the midst of all that craziness, writing and composing became a way to ease my worried mind. What ultimately came of it is a collection of songs that reflect my belief in the inherent goodness in people.” No wonder this record feels so damn good.

HOT TRACKS: Dance Me One More Time, High And Lonesome, Rosie’s Rag


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