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Summertime Blues

Ain't No Cure…
For the Summertime Blues!

By T.E. Mattox

t was a great summer for blues and blues fans. The calendar was crammed with festival events, concerts, bar gigs and club dates. Adding fuel to the 'live' fire there has also been an abundance of freshly recorded blues released by a multitude of national and regional artists. With all of these options fanning the flames it becomes tremendously difficult, at least for me, to decide on what to do and who to see.

With so many releases to choose from and variety of artists and new blues to listen to over the past few months, I wanted to share just a couple of recent discoveries and a few favorites. Keep in mind, there are literally thousands of incredibly talented artists touring today, and they play every imaginable style and genre of music. So no matter what you enjoy listening to, try to get out and see some 'live' music and always support your favorites. Remember, they are contributing to the soundtrack of your life, do what you can to contribute to theirs.

Janiva Magness

Everyone knows that intense feeling at the movies when the guy with the jumbo 'nards booms, 'this time…it's PERSONAL' and the MegaPlex sound system ripples your insides. Well that's exactly the rush you get when Janiva Magness steps into the stage lights! You know it's going to be special, but the thrill of anticipation is tempered by an underlying angst. Obviously, it's going to be a ride but will you be able to hang on? That's Janiva's style of blues; real, raw and very personal.

Janiva Magness performing
Janiva lights the torch. Photo: Yachiyo Mattox

Magness opened her nationwide tour in Southern California to support her brand new album, 'Original.' In early August a bar called Winston's in Ocean Beach hosted Magness and her band as part of their Sunday Sessions Blues Series in tandem with Michael Kinsman and the Jacobs and Cushman San Diego Food Bank. Fresh out of the recording studio, the first half of the three-hour plus show featured Janiva's new album almost in its entirety. Along with writing partner and guitarist Dave Darling, Magness laid bare the rawness and emotion only pain creates. Every song on the new record from 'Let Me Breathe' to 'The Hard Way' gives renewed credence to the ideal that Love Hurts and proves without question… Janiva Magness is one soulful 'Badass.'

After the break, which Janiva always spends autographing CD's and greeting fans; she dedicated the remainder of the show to her friend and seriously ill fellow blues musician, Lynwood Slim. (Slim passed the very next morning, just two weeks shy of his 61st birthday.) Evidently the signal was given to turn up the heat and dance like no one was watching, because the Magness voice and that cigar-box guitar she occasionally whips out ripped through her varied and lengthy music catalogue. Song after award-winning song was met with an appropriate, immediate and often sweaty audience response. I love the beach.

Janiva Magness onstage
Janiva Magness is an original…… Photo: Yachiyo Mattox

Devon Allman

Devon Allman is one hard working guy. In just the last few years he's toured the world as a member of the Royal Southern Brotherhood garnering a global fan base while leaving not one, but two critically acclaimed recordings in his wake. And now Allman follows last year's solo debut, 'Turquoise' with a brand new project recorded in Chicago entitled 'Ragged & Dirty.'

With a nod to Luther Allison, the title track "Ragged & Dirty" pretty much sums up Allman's intent because this record has more grit than Maxwell Street. "Traveling" has legendary producer Tom Hambridge at the wheel and dropping a funky backbeat as Allman's voice and the band push you back into the alley. Marty Sammon's rollicking piano on "Times Have Changed" reflects the Windy City's golden era of Spann, Sykes and Big Maceo. The same can be said of the Allman-penned instrumental "Midnight Lake Michigan." It's a pure, slow burning blues that can light up the entire Southside of Chicago.

CD cover of Devon Allman's 'Ragged and Dirty'

There are multiple surprises in this project. Memphis native, Wendy Moten echoes Devon on a sentimental version of the Spinner's 1972 R&B hit, "I'll Be Around." Commercial radio will have a field day. The Hambridge rocker, "Half the Truth" turns up the tempo and properly sharpens an edge for the socially conscious "Ten Million Slaves" written by Chicago's own Otis Taylor. Yes, Devon is Gregg's son, but 'Ragged & Dirty' shows once and for all that nepotism ain't his cross to bear.

The Michael Louis Band

It's hard to believe it's been almost five years since the release of 'South New York,' but as any Michael Louis fan will attest it's been worth the wait. The road has been twisted mightily since his rockabilly days with Slick Pelt, but the inspired Louis pours out an ample red party cup of his latest 'Morning Gasoline.'

CD cover for The Michael Louis Band's 'Morning Gasoline'

Recorded last year the CD is composed of mostly original so-called Brooklyn swamp music and the title track "Morning Gasoline" reflects a trippy glimpse into this bands diversity. Like God's angel and the Devil's son, the Michael Louis Band states clearly they earned every bar scar and accolade up and down the East Coast club circuit. The CD only makes you want to see them live. The song "City Boy" takes in the rhythm and boroughs tour, a musical slide uptown that's "Vanilla Plain" then a fast track downtown that rocks the grunge off every "Flower That Blooms." The Michael Louis band is intent on punching your ticket.

Even the choice covers present themselves uniquely as the Michael Louis band. Stevie Wonder's "Superstition" takes an eerily haunting drive that builds behind the syncopation of Andrei Sebastian's thudding bass and Keith Crupi's downbeat. It culminates in a whispered death rattle; as it should be. And the MLB tradition of paying homage to the blues originators continues with 'Morning Gasoline.' The band adds a Hendrix-like twist to the Willie Dixon composition "Yes, It's Good for You." Without a doubt, so is this CD!

Mark Hummel and the Golden State – Lone Star Review

Mark Hummel has a lot of friends and he usually takes most of them out on tour. Internationally known for his legendary harmonica blowouts and more recently as producer of the 2014 Grammy nominated and BMA award winning album, 'Remembering Little Walter,' Hummel downsized last year. Bringing together some old friends including guitarists Little Charlie Baty and Anson Funderburgh, Hummel stacked the deck adding his favorite rhythm section, bassist R.W.Grigsby and drummer Wes Starr. The collaboration we know now as the Golden State – Lone Star Review.

The Golden State-Lone Star Review: Little Charlie Baty, Anson Funderburgh, Mark Hummel and R.W.Grigsby performing
Little Charlie Baty, Anson Funderburgh, Mark Hummel and R.W.Grigsby.
Photo: Yachiyo Mattox

In the summer of 2013, with even more friends, Hummel produced a CD with the band entitled 'The Hustle is Really On.' Inevitably as is his custom, the Golden State – Lone Star Review hit the road. The tour rolled through Southern California in late September this year and made a stop at the Coach House, a premier coastal roadside music venue. With Hummel handling vocal duties and blowing a masterful harp, he and his bandmates proceeded to gut the place. Playing largely from the new Hustle CD and occasionally paying homage by tearing off a cover or two from their legendary friends and colleagues, there was an immediate understanding Hummel and the Golden State – Lone Star Review wasn't in town for the sunshine. Individual and dueling guitar solos were in abundance and Funderburgh's devastating slide cut like a… well, broken bottle. Hummel's harmonica supplemented both, but all bet's were off when he pulled out the big chromatic. He bent and twisted that harp so hard; it would have made both Walter's proud.

Every blues enthusiast in the world has seen those grainy black and white photographs of Muddy or the Wolf on stage in the '50s and '60s where there are only about 15 or 20 people in the club. Yet those blues icons were always bringing it like they were playing for thousands. It was the same for this program. There were about 50 people in the crowd, and as it turns out, most of them happened to be musicians. About an hour into the set, Hummel starts calling people to the stage to jam.

First, there was San Diego guitarist, Nathan James who also performed with Hummel on the Little Walter tribute. Moment's later Kim Wilson steps up for a twenty minute romp through the high clover. By this time the entire club, all 50 of us, are well within arm's length of the stage. Could one night of blues get any better? Well, as it turns out yes it could. Kim shields his eyes from the spotlight and looks out into the darkness and invites his friend Tab Benoit up to play. The club just erupts; it's like people are speaking in tongues, pandemonium ensues and the guy standing right next to me, I'm pretty sure is the bartender? It was an incredibly intimate night of some of the finest blues and blues talent on this or any other planet. The only thing I'm certain of, there are about 50 of us that still can't get the smiles off our faces.

Mark Hummel and the Golden State - Lone Star Review performing in Southern California
Nathan James, Tab Benoit and Kim Wilson tear it up in Southern California.
Photo: Yachiyo Mattox

Related Articles:
Mark Hummel and the Blues Survivors; Nathan James: Southern California Roots; Billy Watson: San Diego's Mr. Natural; Ode to Little Walter; Lightnin' Malcolm; Rod Piazza and the Mighty Flyers; Life on the Road With Charlie Musselwhite



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Let Tim know what you think about his traveling adventure.

I was there at the Shrine to see Bob come in riding on a baby elephant. He says in the interview it was either '68 or 69: it was both – it was New Year's Eve (See "The Bear," an article on Bob Hite),

Debbie Hollier, Nevada City, CA

* * * *

Who else played with Canned Heat and Deep Purple at the Shrine in '68?

Bill, LA

I think the Shrine show on New Years in '68, where Bob Hite rode out on the elephant, also featured Poco, Lee Michaels, Black Pearl, Love Army and Sweetwater. Don't know that Deep Purple was booked on that evening.

Bill, maybe you're thinking about the International Pop Fest in San Francisco a few months earlier that featured these fine folks... Procol Harum, Iron Butterfly, Jose Feliciano, Johnny Rivers, Eric Burdon And The Animals, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Grass Roots, The Chambers Brothers, Deep Purple, Fraternity of Man & Canned Heat or possibly the following year in Jan of 1970 when Deep Purple appeared with Canned Heat and Renaissance on a triple-bill in London at the Royal Albert Hall.

One final note: The current Johnny Otis piece didn't mention it, but it was Mr. Otis that took Canned Heat into the studio the very first time to record in 1966. Small world, ain't it?

Tim

* * * *

Thank u for posting it! Bob is still boogin' around!! (See "The Bear," an article on Bob Hite),

Stefano Di Leonardo, Fisciano (Salerno, Italy)

* * * *

Great Read! (See "The Bear," an article on Bob Hite) I will post it on Bob "THE BEAR" Hite Official Facebook Page,

Dave Tohill, Brandon, UK

* * * *

Hello Tim, thank you so much for letting a huge Canned Heat fan check out this
interview with the Bear. I really enjoyed it.

Best regards,

Rick Caldwell, Fairfield, Ohio

* * * *

I knew Bob Hite in the 60's. Canned Heat played at our high school prom 1966 Rexford High. The Family Dog, Chet Helms, Skip Taylor.

Max Kalik, Los Angeles, CA

Dear Tim,

I just discovered you from an email I received from Preston Smith disclosing his next event. I wanted to tap into his website Prestonsmithmusic but it would not link from your site for some reason. I have to say Preston really is a genius and I met him in Glendale at a jazz club about three years ago, after a fatal accident. By chance, I was invited to spend time hanging out with Preston and some friends after his gig. He is everything you say and I will never forget his amazing creativity and his positive influence in my life.

Janelle, Palm Springs, CA

Love the article! (on Lowell George) Lowell was my father.

Forrest George, Warren, Vermont

This Bob Hite interview is the most interesting thing I have read concerning Canned Heat. I have Fito's book, but I always was interested in learning more about Bob Hite. You did it here my friend...great interview!!!!!

Tony Musto - Pittston, PA

Hey Tim, Great article on Preston! I really enjoyed it and you did your homework. I'll probably catch PS this weekend.

Best,

Dave - Northridge, CA

* * * *

Hello, what a great article on Preston Smith! I actually met Preston one evening after an Acoustic set of my own at the Prestigeous Carlton Hotel here in Atascadero, Ca. We were loading up and he happened to be walking down the sidewalk and stop to say hello. I must say that he is a truly interesting and talented man that NEVER forgets to let me know when he is playing around the Central Coast where I live. It was so fun to read about who he truly is...(as if you don't know him the first time you meet him)! My adventures have only just begun as I recently returned from Nashville recording my self titled debut EP. I can only hope that my adventures down the road are as enlightening as Preston's and that I have the honor of a great writer such as yourself to share them with the world. Thank you for doing just that, sharing "Preston Smith" with the world.

Sincerely,

Amy Estrada - Atascadero, CA

Hi Tim,

My name is Bert, I'm from Italy and I'm a blues harmonica player...I read your article and it reminded me of the two trips I made in the Delta, in 2008 and 2009. I love Frank's music and I think it's a shame people don't really know his work. It's important that people like you write about him. Thank you! In the Delta I was only a "stupid" tourist, but it was a great, unique experience I consider one of the most important in my life: driving on the highways, Listening to the blues everywhere, jamming in places like Red's and ground Zero in Clarksdale or the Blues Bar in Greenville... are priceless things, something I will keep in my heart for the rest of my life. I met a beautiful, lovely woman there too (named Hope), but I behaved like a stupid kid and I lost her... Alas! I will never forget that days and the chance I had to find happiness...Well, I also wrote something about Frank on a website, but it's in Italian... I give you the link of the first part (the second will be published in the next weeks) anyway if you know some Italian or somebody who can understand it... Even if I'm thinking of making a translation ...www.bluessummit.com

Cheers,

Bert - Pavia, Italy

I wanna be Tim!

Brent, Seattle, WA

* * *

Those pictures give you an idea of what the Rockin' Pneumonia actually looks like and it looks BAD! But the man can still play! Enjoyed the article - give us more TRAVELING BLUES BOY!

Steve Thomas - NA, INDIANA

* * *

Good Stuff, Tim. Having been a Johnny Winter fan since the first time I heard Rock n Roll Hoochie Koo, it was great hearing his take on some his highlight moments that defined his blues career. His affiliation with Muddy Waters was particularly interesting. Kudos for bringing that out. Thanks to your dedication to covering the blues scene, this "one of a kind" music still lives for servicemen & women around the world. Keep it Up!

Brandon Williams, Moreno Valley, CA

* * *

Impressive! What a legend and how cool that you got so much time with him, Tim.

Don, Louisville, KY

Tim - Great article, enjoyed Little Feat/Lowell George story, really brought me back in time. Did not know he was a fishin' man! Wonder what surfaces out of the abyss of your memory next?

Steve Thomas, New Albany, IN

* * * *

Tim,

I really liked your travel back in time with Lowell and Little Feat. As a long time Feat fan (mostly the stuff with Lowell) it was cool to read. I learned several of their songs back in the day and they still stand up today when played live. Another singer I really liked from back then is TimBuckley. Thanks for the article.

Chet Hogoboom, Arroyo Grande, CA

Loved your last issue of TB, especially the Mayall piece. I want that guy's job!

Brent, Seattle, WA

Tim,

This is a great write up. Has it been printed in any magazines? It's better than a lot of things I read in my guitar magazines, so props for that.

Caejar, Moreno Valley, CA

Tim,

I can tell that you have this passion for jazz. I wonder if you yourself play any instrument. Or are you just a groupie like most of us?

I talked with a mid-aged flute jazz artist a few weeks ago and he lamented that despite his talents (and he is extremely talented) he says that the industry hasn't been kind to him. He said jobs are few and far between. He said the music industry is combating piracy and competition due to technology being readily available to private homes and that they are not as profitable as before. So they are replacing live talent for synthesized or digital instruments.

Do you see the same trend in your relationships with your music network?

Bob, Pasadena, CA



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