John Mayall Breaks the Blues Wide Open with a New Live Album

John Mayall Breaks the Blues Wide Open with a New Live Album

What can be said about a legend like John Mayall? His history has been exhaustively covered and yet, for me, most articles have been a constant source of annoyance in that nearly all of them have concentrated on his recruiting and then losing stars of the future. Yes, of course, this has been important, and he most certainly helped launch the careers of the likes of Clapton, Peter Green, John McVie, Mick Fleetwood, Andy Fraser and Mick Taylor. What the articles all seem to overlook are Mayall’s own inherent skills. As a composer, keyboard, guitar and harmonica player he is formidable. As John Mayall Breaks the Blues Wide Open With a New Live Album.

Now, after over 60 albums (excluding reissues) across a career spanning more than 50 years, he has released a groundbreaking live album. Three For The Road was recorded in Dresden and Stuttgart, Germany, in March 2017. The unusual aspect is that thanks to the serendipity of serious Texas thunderstorms preventing then guitarist, Rocky Athas from making a festival date and Mayall, Greg Rzab (bass) and Jay Davenport (drums) were compelled to perform as a trio. They decided to keep to this format and have toured a set of John’s blues favourites with a couple of his own compositions blended in. It is this trio which lights up the stage with a collection of nine songs, all of which just ooze class and professionalism.

In this trio format, inevitably the tracks are all keyboard led, but as Mayall is a consummate player backed by a superb bassist and sensitive drummer, it all comes together so well that the lack of guitar doesn’t even register and certainly doesn’t detract from the finished article.

After the cheering dies down we hit track one, a rousing version of Eddie Taylor’s Big Town Playboy. Harmonica playing of the highest order by Mayall is the highlight. He doesn’t overplay; he doesn’t overblow or suck, like many so-called proponents of the gob-iron. He can even accompany himself on the keys as he plays. We are also treated to a flowing piano solo that is just stunning in its simplicity. The Lightnin’ Hopkins song, I Feel So Bad, follows rapidly with a piano introduction and another great solo. Salgado’s The Sum of Something is a perfect choice for this trio format. They make it their own with ascending and descending bass lines warming the entire song, while the drums fill when necessary and don’t overpower until, that is, Davenport is given his own solo, which is a delight. The first Mayall composition, Streamline, is next. Here we get the warm, rolling tones of the organ as it builds through the verses to the best solo on the album. Mayall makes the keys speak without histrionics, just a subtlety of touch that shows the instrument at its best. We actually hear Mayall speak for the first time as he introduces Tears Came Rollin’ Down. Back to the piano for an archetypal blues structure. Yet again, the perfect bass and drums infuse this with so much atmosphere as Mayall puts the emotion of the words into his voice. He does a stand-alone harmonica solo on the classic Ridin’ On the L and N and shows a depth of skill many modern blues harpists should aspire to. Don’t Deny Me is organ led and rolls along in a perfect foot-tapping tempo. Lonely Feelings is the second Mayall composition. This is the first non-standard keyboard approach. The keys have the xylophone/marimba sound which bathes it in a surreal light, while Mayall asks, “Why do we always fight?“ He then puts in another harmonica solo to further illustrate the lonely feelings of the title. It all wraps up beautifully with Congo Square, an 11-minute romp which opens with an Old Grey Whistle Test style harmonica before hitting a rhythm that embodies what Mayall is about. The drumming on this is clever, complex yet straightforward, just as it should be.

Throughout this excellent album, Mayall is blessed with a rhythm section that is in perfect, empathetic step with the songs, with Mayall and with the blues. As he says “The songs come from my extensive library of material composed by some of my favourite blues players. Naturally, my playing is featured quite a lot more than usual in this format, and I hope listeners will enjoy the performances that capture a new chapter in my live shows.” Well, this listener certainly did Mr. Mayall.

NINEpawprint half inchdoodle paws out of TEN …


  1. Big Town Playboy (Eddie Taylor)
  2. I Feel So Bad (Sam “Lightnin’” Hopkins)
  3. The Sum of Something (Curtis Salgado)
  4. Streamline (John Mayall)
  5. Tears Came Rollin’ Down (Henry J. Townsend)
  6. Ridin’ On the L and N (Lionel Hampton/Dan Burley)
  7. Don’t Deny Me (Jerry Lynn Williams)
  8. Lonely Feelings (John Mayall)
  9. Congo Square (Sonny Landreth/Dave Raonson/Mel Melton)

NOTE: The CD lists 10 tracks, but the first is just the spoken introduction.

Produced by John Mayall and Eric Corne

John Mayall Breaks the Blues Wide Open with a New Live Album

The End of the Line is just the start with Ritchie Dave Porter

The End of the Line is just the start with Ritchie Dave Porter

The End of the Line is just the start with Ritchie Dave Porter

I have liked Ritchie Dave Porter ever since I read an interview with him by Michael Limnios, where he said “I would encourage the younger generation of today to stop listening to crap like Kanye West and Justin Bieber and open their hearts and souls to real musicianship and encourage them to download Jimi Hendrix ‘Are you experienced”’. Now here is a man I can relate to.

If he is new to you, then a potted history… Birmingham (UK) born, he has been playing the guitar since he was 11. Having toured a three-piece band called Voodoo Witch Blues Band for a number of years, he called time on this format in the early 2000s and moved on to solo acoustic blues. He has also fought against cancer and is in remission. We here at Bluesdoodles wish you well in your continuing battle Ritchie. So, a lot has happened to this musician and experiences and tribulations like these have informed and coloured his writing. Although predominantly acoustic-based, RDP, as he refers to himself, is not averse to plugging in and rocking it up with his SG or Strat.

His latest release, End Of The Line, is 11 tracks of pure blues; there are no pretentions here. He cites the usual blues masters as inspiration but rarely can they be identified. He certainly has a style of playing and recording that sets him apart. This is mainly because, although he plays all instruments bar the drums, he has eschewed the usual voice and guitar only recording approach. He has used multi-tracking to great effect, giving depth to the instrumentation and the sometimes off-kilter, Jack Bruce type vocals are improved too. The tracks are all compact, lasting around 3 minutes, but a lot of music is packed into every one.

The album is bookended with two delightful instrumentals; Blues at Sunrise is an attention grabber with echoing acoustic giving an almost tropical feel, and Blues at Twilight providing expansiveness rarely found on an acoustic instrumental.

Dog Without a Bone builds from a picked intro with the guitar falling silent for the vocals. Until the chorus that is, when strummed patterns reflect the words “I can make it alone ‘cos I play the blues”. 12 Long Hours brings a standard 12 bar approach but the picking behind it, lifts it into a traditional blues classic in waiting. Hell Yeah Man, I got the Blues has the guitar replicating the melody and the signature picking/strumming overdubs which set RDP apart from the many. Track five gets us rocking with RDP plugging in and showing equal prowess on the electric guitar. Happy Home opens with a guitar sequence which reminds me of Paul Kossoff in his pre-Free days when he played with Black Cat Bones. A strong blues/rock number that has a clichéd riff but is not a cliché when it all comes together, especially with the solo which shows skill and feeling with more Kossoff undertones. Let Me Tell You About the Blues, does what it says. A lovely progression to this guitar piece, with his trademark picking expanding the overall sound to great effect. My Father comes out of the blocks like tunes Gallagher was producing around his Blueprint era. Sad lyrics have not infected the guitar, with a great solo included. Baby Why You Treat Me So Bad is a shuffle of the highest order, with descending chord patterns the highlight. I Needed Some Lovin’ takes a BB King like riff and by carefully inserting just a couple of notes on top of the classic phrasing, he brings a freshness to it. The title track, End of the Line has really strong echoes of Gillan’s (the band) Puget Sound; the verse follows such a similar melody. The song is lifted again by the guitar structure behind it and the short and sweet solo.

This is a hugely enjoyable album if you like your blues blue. RDPs playing always fascinates and, although there is no new ground broken, you get a style and skill that will never become tiresome and an album you will keep returning to.

SEVENpawprint half inchdoodle paws out of TEN


  1. Blues at Sunrise
  2. Dog Without A Bone
  3. 12 Long Hours
  4. Hell Yeah Man I Got The Blues
  5. Happy Home
  6. Let Me Tell You About The Blues
  7. My Father
  8. Baby Why You Treat Me So Bad
  9. I Needed Some Lovin’
  10. End of the Line
  11. Blues at Twilight

Ritchie Dave Porter all acoustic and electric guitars, bass, vocals
Michael Tingle drums on ‘Happy Home’

Recorded at CapsaArx Studios and the Moon and Sky mobile recording studio.


The End of the Line is just the start with Ritchie Dave Porter

Join the Blues Party with Zoe Schwarz Blue Commotion

Join the Blues Party with Zoe Schwarz Blue Commotion

Zoë Schwarz has been a big name on the blues scene for a few years now, with her live performances particularly lauded by fans and the press. Now with her band, Blue Commotion comes an album that should lift all of them to the heights they deserve. The band got together in 2012, and this is their 5th studio album in six years; that is quite an output in a short space of time. Fortunately, there has been no sacrifice in quality, and The Blues And I Should Have A Party, has class and high production values by the bucket load. It is also a generous album with 13 tracks clocking in at over an hour.

The band is packed with talent and, even though there is no bassist listed, there are some fantastic bass lines behind some of the tracks and the sound they all achieve throughout fills any room with warmth and paints pictures with the sound they conjure.

Please Don’t Cheat On Me has a great bouncy riff and typical classy guitar from Rob. To my ears, this track is the only (very) minor disappointment on such a strong album; the lyrics and the vocals feel a bit disconnected. All is forgiven when the 6 minute plus masterpiece and title track, The Blues and I Should Have a Party kicks off. Majestic is the word…vocals, guitar and Hammond combine to give an object lesson in what blues is and should be. The guitar solo is simply superb, with notes all across the fretboard; no histrionics just sheer class. You’ve Changed is ‘Bassey does the blues’… in a good way. Zoë should do the next Bond theme, in fact, the singing is so powerful, they should write a movie to fit this song! It has an enigmatic, harmonic quality that is fleshed out by great Hammond backing and a solo of such depth and simple skill. The drumming is ingenious too; fills and flourishes you wouldn’t think would fit.

Way Down in the Caves is a true story of an unlikely venue, with lyrics written by blues promoter and broadcaster Pete Feenstra. Chislehurst Caves are actually old mine workings and, in the 1960s, provided a major music venue. The song tells of acts that appeared there “Hendrix, The Doors, David Bowie too”. That must have been one hell of a venue and here, the tale is conveyed in the lustrous tones of Zoe with Rob playing up a storm on a Marshall fuelled Les Paul. It starts off like the Stranglers had put blues into their repertoire. It also manages to evoke a flavour of some of the bands they name check in the lyrics, particularly the Yardbirds. Don’t Worry Blues has a conventional structure with an oft-forgotten appreciation of space. Rob again showing he knows how and when to play the right note and not go for unnecessary filling. With the expressive keys and subtlety throughout, I can’t help but think of Purple’s When A Blind Man Cries in the song’s atmosphere. Next comes a lovely guitar/bass/keys piece of interplay introducing Shout. This is pure 60s blues boom refined. A sort of slow progressive blues feel echoes through You Don’t Live Here Anymore. This is a beautifully sung recounting of a “hollow space where once a warm embrace”. A guitar solo of such thoughtfulness backs this emotion-laden song. We are quickly back in the groove, literally, with My Handsome Man. This has an infectious, catchy 60s poppy feel to it and will make any toe tap.  A great up-tempo swing introduces Tell Me, the only sub 3-minute track here. The three musicians are obviously having a ball and you can’t help but be caught up in the fun. Zoe’s “pulse is way too high” as she mirrors the energy with a great melody.

Don’t Hold Back is next, and, although a slow paced blues, they don’t hold back! Unexpected key changes keep the song on the edge, reflecting the steamy blues behind the melody and lyrics. Although rooted in sadness, the next song was written after the loss of Zoë’s Mother, In Memory of You has an impetus behind the fascinating chord sequences. The genius behind this is the up-tempo beat that illuminates the words, where the subject matter would suggest something much slower. The solos again are pure fascination. The mood is lifted with Pete Feenstras lyrics providing the inspiration for Time Waits for No One. If like me, some social media applications leave you cold, then the theme will surely resonate… “Changing values with different peers, digital living with new ideas”. The music takes these words and makes them real. Beautifully sung and with the instrumentation utilising an oblique time signature, it just flows out of the speakers and transfixes. It has an early psyche feel at times with echoes of a very velvety Velvet Underground. Final Track, Thank You, is just that. The band thanking all of us lovers of music be it recorded or live. This song is so clever in its composition; expansive guitar, heavy Hammond, a drum kit tour and a wonderful vocal. This listener reciprocates those thanks. Zoë, Rob, Pete and Paul have supplied an album which delivers everything a blues lover could wish for. Zoe’s vocals are always striking, but the real revelation is the breathtaking playing by the band. Every song has clear demonstrations of skills so subtle and yet so damned effective. The first track remains a weak point for me, but the album is so strong overall, frankly who cares?

NINEpawprint half inchdoodle paws out of TEN …


  1. Please Don’t Cheat On Me
  2. The Blues and I Should Have A Party
  3. You’ve Changed
  4. Way Down In The Caves
  5. Don’t Worry Blues
  6. Shout
  7. You Don’t Live Here Anymore
  8. My Handsome Man
  9. Tell Me
  10. Don’t Hold Back
  11. The Memory Of You
  12. Time Waits For No One
  13. Thank You

All songs written by Rob Koral & Zoë Schwarz except on tracks 4 & 12 lyrics by Pete Feenstra


Zoë Schwarz – vocals
Rob Koral – guitars
Pete Whittaker – Hammond organ
Paul Robinson – drums & percussion

Recorded at Superfly Studios by Andy Banfield, Nottingham on 9th to 14th October 2017

Mixed by Wayne Proctor & Steve Wright at Y Dream Studios, Wales
Mastered by Jon Astley at Close To The Edge Mastering Design


Join the Blues Party with Zoe Schwarz Blue Commotion

Auld Mans Baccie are smokin on their live double album

Auld Mans Baccie are smokin’ on their live double album

First of all, I must declare a bit of a bias due to serendipity or simple coincidence. This band is from the North East of England, Seaham to be precise. I am from a small mining village in the North East; my wife is from Seaham and we used to do our courting (as it was known then) in the Dun Cow at Seaton Village near Seaham. This is the venue Auld Man’s Baccie call home and in my time, was the only place where mine host had a large book of cocktail recipes you could choose from and he’d make it there and then! Coincidence number two is that Auld (pronounced Owld) Mans Baccie was a favourite plant for us as kids. Not for smoking, as the leaves in times of hardship were, but as a source of pea shooters (don’t try this at home; we were lucky that it was the innocuous Achillea millefolium plant as it looks very similar to the deadly Hemlock Water Dropwort, Oenanthe crocata, which would have probably killed us!)  So, I already feel a close affiliation with this Blues/Americana/Roots/Gospel duo. Davey (the Reverend Curtis Humbucker) Curtis on vocals, guitar and stomp box, along with Nick (the Baptist) Phillips on slide guitar and vocals have previously released two albums of a mix of self-penned blues with a few carefully chosen covers. They now unleash a double live album; one, Nee Jiggery Pokery, consists of their own songs; the other, 100% Homage, is all covers and is free when purchasing the first. Recorded at the Times Inn, which if memory serves, is in Dalton-Le-Dale just outside Seaham and inevitably, the recording has all of the atmosphere of a close-up and personal pub gig. The added benefit is that the two boys share some social commentary and discuss their much-beloved wives (“Our Lass” means darling wife or love of my life if referring to a girlfriend). In fact, nearly all of their songs are laced with humour and oblique references to various things if you get my drift.

To the music… There are too many tracks to comment on each one, so only my personal highlights appear. Their own compositions sound like they are if this is possible, fresh out of the 1930s; with just the two guitars and voices, they could be performing on a porch with Son House, Lead Belly and the like looking on. The first, Old Black Dog, is about the love of a dog and his own potential love affair with Fi-fi the poodle. Humour coupled with a true deep blues feel make for a perfect opening. A slow march suiting the title of Dead Mans Shoes has glorious slide underlining the melody. Church of Lost Souls is a great lament with more slippery slide. It works very well as it is but this is a song that is ripe for an electric blues/rock treatment. Mr Bonamassa take note; it really would work.

The highlight of the covers album has to be the genius of Alex Harvey’s Framed. It takes on a true blues feel and works well acoustically in the capable hands of Curtis and Phillips while retaining the humour and observations of the original. Likewise, the Peter Green version of Doctor Brown and Canned Heat’s Let’s Work Together get the Baccie treatment and are a joy. They all work in their own way even though Bullfrog Blues is forever Gallagher in my mind and Whole Lotta Rosie takes AC/DC back to their roots although it is the least successful to me.

So as a live package, this works a treat. It is spoilt only by the between track editing. This nearly ruins the flow and deprives us of some of the banter. Still, if you want to lose yourself in the atmosphere an intimate pub gig with a couple of consummate musicians, then this is for you.

SEVENpawprint half inchdoodle paws out of TEN …

Nee Jiggery Pokery tracklisting:

  1. Old Black Dog*
  2. Fanny Mae*
  3. Dead Mans Shoes*
  4. Mamma Moonshine**
  5. Church of Lost Souls*
  6. Long Hard Road**
  7. Grant Me Salvation**
  8. Baccie Blues**
  9. Shaky Juice*
  10. Closing Time

** From their 2015 debut album, Resonating With The Blues

* From their second album The Church of Lost Souls


100% Homage tracklisting:

  1. Bullfrog Blues (written in 1928 by William Harris, covered by Rory Gallagher)
  2. Doctor Brown (written in 1959 by Buster Brown, covered by Fleetwood Mac
  3. Cigarettes and Whisky and Wild, Wild Women (written in 1947 by Tim Spencer, covered by Jim Croce)
  4. Roll Me Up And Smoke When I Die (credited to Willie Nelson, but disputed by Ashley Wilson)
  5. Ain’t Nobody’s Business (written in 1922 by Porter Grainger and Everett Robbins, covered by Taj Mahal)
  6. Whole Lotta Rosie (yes, that one!)
  7. Let’s Work Together (written in 1962 by Wilbert Harrison, covered by Canned Heat)
  8. In The Jailhouse Now (written in 1928 by Jimmie Rodgers, covered by Sonny James (and the Soggy Bottom Boys))
  9. Framed (written in 1972 by the Sensational Alex Harvey Band)
  10. Folsom Prison Blues (written in 1953 by Johnny Cash)

Auld Mans Baccie are smokin’ on their live double album

The Divine and Dirty Kris Barras Band supply riffs aplenty

Devon born Kris Barras isn’t new to the blues-rock stage, having released his first album, Lucky 13, in 2015. This new release is a step up for Barras, however, as it is his first for the Provogue/Mascot Label Group and should see him deservedly gain a wider audience.
He is a man with an intriguing history; after all, not many blues guitarists list their former occupation as a Mixed Martial Artist who has fought in arenas across the globe. “People used to think I was crazy to be fighting in cages, risking damage to my hands,” he says. “Truth is though, I always enjoyed it and found that the fighting world offered me more opportunities than the music industry. I got to fight in front of 8000 people in Asia, I would’ve much rather have played to them instead of getting punched in the face.” No argument from me!
He reveals a broad range of influences that include Led Zeppelin, the Stones, Howlin’ Wolf and Free, but has developed these with a modern take which defies direct comparison. His new album, The Divine and Dirty, is more rock than blues, has country undertones and an 80’s metal, anthemic approach apparent in many of the tracks.

There’s an emphasis throughout on big riffs, ‘earworm’ hooks and a strong vocal with enough versatility to cover the different styles. The production could have been a little cleaner, as the very capable band do not always have the clarity or separation I would prefer. For example, the drums are sometimes very flat in the mix. I am a fan of all instruments and like to hear them as clearly as the main protagonist. There is also a fine group of backing singers whose identity I have been unable to find, so well done to you, and sorry for no credit.

The album opens with Kick Me Down. It has a Bonamassa feeling to the layered guitars; the subtle slide and keys bring a great atmosphere to the song. The a cappella opening of Hail Mary leads to a lovely picked/slide riff. The superb solo and female backing vocals add to the texture. I Don’t Owe Nobody Nothing is next. Apart from terrible grammar, this has a slow burn start and builds, via a tantalising riff, to another great sing-along section. It does get a little repetitive, however. Propane sounds like it was written to be a single and is weaker as a consequence, although the solo is inspired. Wrong Place, Wrong Time gets us back rocking with a Pat Travers sounding intro and develops into a great fast shuffle blues. The piano gives a nice colour to the verses before the solo, which blisters and then soothes in equal measure. Yet another great slide driven riff opens Lovers Or Losers. Barras shows his vocal capabilities best here, and then gives a lesson in fast, not widdly, soloing. She’s More Than Enough has a Southern Rock flavour with a pleasing piano solo punctuating the repetitive multi-tracked whoa-whoas. Stitch Me Up has brilliant echoes of a Faces type honky-tonk piano sound filled out with a great chorus and a fiery solo. Gospel-tinged ballad Hold On For Tomorrow is the first ‘quiet’ track. If Poison had released this as a follow up to Every Rose, it would have sold bucket loads. Blood On Your Hands has an opening riff, which sounds like Walter Trout playing lead for the Eagles and benefits from another strong vocal and a vibrant guitar solo. The closing track is the heavy blues of Watching Over Me. The lyrics suggest that this is a heartfelt song for his late father. Emotionally delivered both vocally and instrumentally; the ‘just enough notes’ solo is a delight.

Overall then, The Divine And Dirty is a very good album. He is an excellent guitarist and with so many hooks and bristling solos, the album has drive, intensity and passion. There is a minor downside. I can’t help but feel that this is what Bon Jovi could have become if they didn’t remake Slippery When Wet with every release. Having said that, it is still very much Barras’ album and has a definite identity behind it. I’d like to think his next album will see his personality shine through even more.


Kris Barras Band – The Divine and Dirty – Mascot Label Group

Out 23rd March 2018 – Available to Pre-Order Now

Available in the following Formats – CD, Vinyl and Digital Formats

EIGHTpawprint half inchdoodle paws out of TEN …


1. Kick Me Down
2. Hail Mary
3. I Don’t Owe Nobody Nothing
4. Propane
5. Wrong Place, Wrong Time
6. Lovers or Losers
7. She’s More Than Enough
8. Stitch Me Up
9. Hold On For Tomorrow
10. Blood On Your Hands
11. Watching Over Me

The Band:
Vocals Guitar / Kris Barras
Keyboards / Josiah J Manning
Bass / Elliott Blackler
Drums / Will Beavis

The Divine and Dirty Kris Barras Band supply riffs aplenty

Tour Dates

23 March – The Wharf, Tavistock
24 March – The Palladium, Bideford
27 March – The Comrades Club, Caterham
28 March – Ypres Tavern, Sittingbourne
29 March – The Iron Road, Evesham
30 March – Yardbirds Club, Grimsby
31 March – Aatma, Manchester
04 April – The Bullingdon, Oxford
05 April – The Face Bar, Reading
06 April – The Warehouse, Harrogate
07 April – The Supporter’s Club, West Hartlepool
13 April – The Musician, Leicester
14 April – HRH Blues O2 Academy, Sheffield


The Divine and Dirty Kris Barras Band supply riffs aplenty

Andy Gunn has Too Many Guitars To Give Up Now

Andy Gunn has Too Many Guitars To Give Up Now

If you need to pay your dues to play the blues, then Scottish guitar player, Andy Gunn has paid them in spades. Born with Haemophilia, Andy was one of the patients affected by blood products contaminated with HIV and Hepatitis C and has campaigned tirelessly to bring justice to his fellow victims. As a teenager, the infections caused by the contaminated blood, played a large part in him falling into alcoholism and addiction, though he has now been in recovery for many years. Indeed, it is not so long ago that he recovered from a second bout of HIV related cancer and yet, somehow he has remained unbowed and has used these trials and tribulations to inform his writing and playing.

Inspired by the likes of Muddy waters and Lightin’ Hopkins, Gunn has developed over the years into an articulate and emotional player. He has now completed his 5th album called Too Many Guitars to Give Up Now, a title that came about after being asked how many guitars he owns!

Instrumentally, Gunn is well versed in using his many guitars to form a textured, musical narrative behind the lyrics. Vocally, the only comparison I can come up with is a sort of octave lower Neil Young blended with Robert Johnson. A style which is an acquired taste, I guess, but very well worthwhile persevering with as the song structures are strong and the playing is of a high standard.

The opener, Misery Blues begins with sublime acoustic before slinky keys join in. Lyrically, I think he is allowed to “have the blues like I never had before”. With the resonating (pun intended) guitar colouring the entire song, it is already my favourite.  Let You Go has a ‘cowboy’ feel that you cannot help but tap your foot to. A classic, understated harmonica solo fills it out. A piano heralds in Sorry Mess Blues and begins a slow shuffle punctuated by harmonica and a gentle string bending electric guitar. The solos this time are a rolling bar room blues piano and a totally apposite guitar evoking a laid back, smoke and whisky atmosphere. Back On Song is a plea for normality; “hold on to the melody of our dreams” says it all and with a plaintive guitar and lovely backing vocals from Liz Jones it becomes a warm and gentle piece. Next is yet another slow paced song in Mississippi Ground. Featuring drums properly for the first time it has keys, harmonica and backing vocals in support of a gorgeous semi-acoustic solo. Resonator slide kicks of Battlefield Blues, which develops into a traditional blues composition. Eidyn Shuffle is just that, an instrumental shuffle with all of the players getting a turn at showing their prowess. Andy May wins this hands down with a great organ solo. Eidyn, in case you are wondering, is the ancient (up to the year 638 anyway) name for the city of Edinburgh. Another barroom piano and harmonica take us into Help You Along. A pleasant enough song, but perhaps the weakest here. Back to electric guitar and the slow, but paced Suffering Man’s Blues. More excellent May keys before the Peter Greeney solo. Warm Heart Blue is, at last, a bit faster with a ‘standard’ blues construct. Too Many Guitars is a bit faster again and explains how Gunn was absorbed into the blues. He name-checks Little Richard, Fats Domino and then goes all Chuck Berry on the solo. The final track, Going Home Again, takes the pace back down to end the album on a positive note, with a piano-led journey back home.

A damn good album overall, but many may find it too slowly paced throughout; a decent rockier feel to one or two tracks would have lifted the whole up a notch or two. The pace does, however, reflect the lyrical content, and in the right setting is a genuine delight. His band provides sterling backing and contributes hugely to the overall feel of the album.

So, here’s to a laid-back night by the fire with the drink of choice in one hand and, if you’re me anyway, a cigarette in the other and the hi-fi high. That is bliss!

SEVENpawprint half inchdoodle paws out of TEN …


  1. Misery Blues
  2. Let You Go
  3. Sorry Mess Blues
  4. Back On Song
  5. Mississippi Ground
  6. Battlefield Blues
  7. Eidyn Shuffle
  8. Help You Along
  9. Suffering Man’s Blues
  10. Warm Heart Blue
  11. Too Many Guitars
  12. Going Home Again

The Band:
Andy Gunn: guitar, vocals
Andy May: keys
Spider MacKenzie: harmonica
Liz Jones: backing vocals
Al James: bass
Jim Walker: drums

Recorded at Caribou Studio, Edinburgh



Andy Gunn has Too Many Guitars To Give Up Now

Lance Lopez Tells the Truth in Differing Shades of Blue

Lance Lopez Tells the Truth in Differing Shades of Blue

Lance Lopez Tells the Truth in Differing Shades of Blue

Lance Lopez is probably best known on these shores as the gravelly voiced guitarist in the band Supersonic Blues Machine. His latest solo album, however, reveals an even wider range of playing styles and abilities than previously demonstrated.

Lopez has been playing the guitar since he was 8 years old (he’s now 40). His early influences were wide; Hendrix and Robert Johnson were key figures. He paid his dues working with the likes of Lucky Peterson and Buddy Miles. Then, after Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top fame, saw him perform and took him under his wing, his career blossomed. He toured with Johnny Winter and had already released six albums when he crossed paths with Fabrizio Grossi and together they put Supersonic Blues Machine together. After two albums with that band, he is now releasing what he admits is an autobiographical collection of songs…hence the title.

All eleven tracks are powerful electric blues and each has its own identity using finely crafted standard guitar, soulful slide, emotional harmonica and, critically, a strong backup band providing solid second guitar, keys, bass and drums. There is a great mix of styles, from Southern Rock through to a distinct British Blues flavour on Tell The Truth.

On the first track here is a scratchy acoustic ‘field recording’ sound to the intro of Never Came Easy, before the bass line and electric piano defy the guitar hero expectations, but then a great slide guitar solo pulls the whole thing together brilliantly. A cover version of John Lee Hooker’s Mr Lucky surprises in that, he hasn’t changed it much, yet it is transformed into a modern blues-rock classic. I think JLH would heartily approve. Down to One Bar is a little disjointed vocally at first, but the backing vocals and piano runs bring it together before another well thought out solo. High Life is gloriously Southern and even has a sing-a-long chorus. Cash My Check is Stones like in its opening bars with a punctuating ‘dirty’ harmonica and a slide that you wish just kept going. The Real Deal has a Blind Faith feel with Claptonesque touches on guitar until the solo that is. Then it’s pure Lopez. Raise Some Hell does just the opposite; acoustic backed intro builds and then the short solo breaks in with a wah, wah feast. Angel Eyes of Blue is a traditional chugging blues and uses a voice box, which mercifully, is used only to vary notes and tones (and no Frampton talky effects). Back on the Highway is a rocker of the highest order with slide once more to the fore. The penultimate track, Blue Moon Rising is my personal favourite. A slow, strummed intro swelled by the keys and subtle rim tap drums. The pace stays slow but the guitar playing is so laid back and thoughtful it makes the song stay with you long after the fade. The lyrics too are the thought-provoking… “I got to love away my blues” no real grammatical sense, but I know what he means. The album’s title track closes the album with a combination of rock and funk and an instrumental section that evokes Deep Purple Mark III.

As with many albums, this is one that deserves to be judged after a few listens. Only then will the nuances in Lopez’s playing be fully heard and appreciated. The same applies to the superb band behind him.  A rewarding album of differing shades of blue and well worth adding to your collection.

EIGHTpawprint half inchdoodle paws out of TEN …

Lance Lopez -Tell The Truth –  Mascot Label Group

Release Date – 2nd March 2018

Tell The Truth Available Formats:
CD & Vinyl – including a code for a complimentary MP3 download of the album.

1. Never Came Easy To Me
2. Mr Lucky
3. Down To One Bar
4. High Life
5. Cash My Check
6. The Real Deal
7. Raise Some Hell
8. Angel Eyes Of Blue
9. Back On The Highway
10. Blue Moon Rising
11. Tell The Truth

The Band:
LANCE LOPEZ – Guitar/Vocals
WES JEANS – Guitar/Vocals
ERIC SCORTIA – Keyboards

Produced by Fabrizio Grossi

Lance Lopez Tells the Truth in Differing Shades of Blue

Get The Witchy Feelin With Savoy Brown Electric Blues

Get The Witchy Feelin With Savoy Brown Electric Blues

Get The Witchy Feelin With Savoy Brown Electric Blues

Savoy Brown has been a constant in the blues scene since 1965. They have gone through more line up changes than any other band I can think of. They have, by my reckoning, had 59 different players at one time or another excluding the only constant member, Kim Simmonds. (Previous ‘visitors’ include such well-known musicians as Hughie Flint, Bill Bruford, Trevor Jeavons, Bob Brunning and Jackie Lynton to name but few). His current band is the most stable with Pat De Salvo on bass and Garrett Grimm on drums. Simmonds himself plays guitar, vocals, keyboard and harmonica.

When they formed, the ‘British Blues Boom’ was in full sway and so they initially called themselves the Savoy Brown Blues Band to emphasise their predominantly Chicago style of blues. As Kim explains “We took Savoy from the US blues label, Savoy Records, which we thought sounded elegant and “Brown” because we perceived it as being about as plain as you can get. Strung together, the words created a balance of opposites”. They soon dropped the “Blues Band’ bit and set about letting the world know they had arrived. Numerous tours in Britain garnered many plaudits as well as a loyal fan base. Success, however, never seemed to truly arrive. It was a different story in the USA; both live and on vinyl, the American audiences took to them in a way the British fans did not.

Fast-forward to today and we are blessed with their 39th Album, Witchy Feelin’. I do mean blessed: because here we have 11 tracks of pure, unadulterated electric blues. This is not a blues/rock album by most definitions but is a blues album that rocks. (It also has a cover quite capable of scaring the kids). Simmonds defies comparisons in his guitar playing; there is no definitive ‘sounds like’ in his style as he was an innovator in 1965 with very few peers. Influences must have been the Three Kings, but the only discernable style is pure Simmonds. Not so his vocals: listening to this album, Knopfler and Cale spring to mind but in a favourable way.

The first track, Why Did You Hoodoo Me, is a brilliant sign of things to come. Not a fast pace, just a great riff and with superb guitar phrases punctuating every line and a solo that wrenches genuine emotion from every string. A dark and moody essence oozes out of the speakers and wraps you in its coils.

Livin’ on the Bayou has the swampy feel you’d expect. The bass is excellent with quite rim taps on the snare during the verses delivering just the right sound to reinforce the texture of the song. The guitar is again used to punctuate and emphasise rather than overplay. I Can’t Stop the Blues is a self-explanatory, blues-drenched tour de force. A hint of the Free approach to the blues is shared on this. The title track, Witchy Feelin’, starts off with a slow brushed drum and a stand-up bass sound. Simmonds’ guitar travels the fretboard and paints the pictures to accompany the words. Guitar Slinger is a tribute to Roy Buchanan, who Simmonds first crossed paths with in1969. “Every note on every song, seemed like it fit just right,” Simmonds sings, while his guitar lives up to Buchanan’s complex style in every way. Vintage Man brings out the bottleneck as he sings about his old record player and Levis: “I’m a vintage man”…you and me both Kim. The slide has a lovely tone to back up this nostalgia trip. On Standing in a Doorway, the bottleneck slides into your ears and so clearly recalls Vigilante Man (the 1973 Nazareth version rather than the Woody Guthrie original). Still a great song brilliantly played. Memphis Blues is just that. An oft-used backing riff is overlaid by Simmonds’ slide once again expanding on the verses and distinguishing it from other users of a similar chord progression. It has a slide solo which has a complexity rarely found in many users of the bottleneck. Can’t Find Paradise has a more ‘standard’ structure and approach, but is still a good example of how to expand blues tropes and Simmonds throws in a catchy chorus for good measure. Once again the bass and drum backing is spot on. Thunder, Lightning And Rain bring in the much-maligned wah, wah pedal. Often used to hide a lack of dexterity or just to blur the sound, here we get an object lesson of how it should be used. The guitar speaks through the pedal and the extra expression it brings to the overall feel of the song, and the solo, in particular, is exceptional. The final track, Close to Midnight, is the only instrumental. A track of slow-burning intensity, it provides a soundscape of quiet reflection and the playing echoes long after it ends.

The production throughout is excellent, allowing the rock solid bass and drums to be heard the way they should be. De Salvo and Grimm play all the right notes in all the right places, adding to the whole and providing the essential backing needed for Simmonds to shine.

All in all, this is a great album, deserving of a space in any blues lovers collection. Guitar players of any hue will also appreciate the nuances that Simmonds introduces into the genre. It has been on repeat for a few days here, that’s how good it is.

NINEpawprint half inchdoodle paws out of TEN …

Savoy Brown – Witchy Feelin’ – RUF Records

Track Listing

  1. Why Did You Hoodoo Me
  2. Livin’ on the Bayou
  3. I Can’t Stop the Blues
  4. Witchy Feelin’
  5. Guitar Slinger
  6. Vintage Man
  7. Standing in a Doorway
  8. Memphis Blues
  9. Can’t Find Paradise
  10. Thunder, Lightning And Rain
  11. Close to Midnight

Get The Witchy Feelin With Savoy Brown Electric Blues

Creating Black Magic Jared James Nichols Guitar

Jared James Nichols Announces New Album Black Magic

U.S. guitarist, Jared James Nichols, has a new album Black Magic. It is the follow up to 2015’s impressive debut album Old Glory & The Wild Revival. Since that release, Jared has built up a solid reputation on the back of touring in support of his debut. With such luminaries as ZZ Top, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Zaak Wylde, Glenn Hughes, Walter Trout, Blue Oyster Cult, UFO and Saxon giving him a support slot, this gives a guide to the uninitiated as to where his music has its roots. Rock, Blues and a bit of Soul make up Jared’s sources of inspiration and he uses them to great effect on this new release.

Listening to this, and his debut reveals an instinctive approach to his playing. I cannot detect a plectrum in use anywhere. Picking styles (apart from the master, Jeff Beck) tend to be the reserve of acoustic players. Jared proves the exception and, even when playing slide, this style works very well indeed. The ‘power trio’ cliché will have to be deployed too. This three piece are tight, complimentary and accomplished. Vocally he is very strong too and has that rare quality of being able to sing while enunciating clearly.

Before we go any further, however, I do have one major complaint with this album… out of ten tracks, only two last longer than 3 minutes and none more than 4. It is too short Jared!

Opener Last Chance, starts with phased guitar and kicks into a storming riff. A solo of barred strings and hammering is a delight. The next song, The Gun, is a delta shuffle electrified. Subtle slide phrases expand the riff and it builds into a potential crowd-pleasing call/response section. A slide solo spoiled only by being too short (a repeating theme?!). Don’t Be Scared follows with a riff, which has echoes of Deep Purple’s Never Before. A talk box is deployed, but not overplayed. Honey Forgive Me brings funk into the equation. This could have been on the Stax label in 1970. Backed by the delightful vocals of Jessica Childress (apparently, she was a huge success on The Voice in America in 2013) she helps ensure that a soulful feel is to the fore. A bit of Southern-tinged rock comes into play on Home. Slide guitar warms the opening and reminds me so much of the Allman Brothers in its structure and execution. A Chicago style electric blues shuffle opens Got To Have You. This is such a good track in every way…apart from being too short. Makes a lie out of the assumption that blues should be sad; this is a rocking, blues love song with bite. Yet another glorious solo of picked perfection. End Of Time is out and rock with a blues tinge. Reminiscent of Pat Travers in many ways, it is another short and sweet song. Simple can be good, and Run is notable for gaps in the chord progressions. Inevitably, this style brings Free and Kossoff to mind, and the solo is similarly expressive without forcing too many notes into it. Back to 70s rock with Keep Your Light On Mama. Structured like a  Mountain song in the Mississippi Queen era, this has acres of power.  A power trio will always make Cream spring to mind; particularly on the final song, What Love. A Badge like bass intro opens into an echoey slide and vocal. Again, Jared shows he understands that less can be more and doesn’t try to overload every song with a guitar ‘attack’. The picked slide solo here is just sublime and makes this my favourite of a great bunch. Although have I said this before? It is far too short!

This is a great album for blues, rock and blues/rock enthusiasts and should cement Jared’s reputation as a guitarist of rare skills. So, if you want long widdly solos do not buy this. If, on the other hand, you want high-quality guitar playing with crafted, unflashy yet excellent solos, then buy this…you will not be disappointed. Praise too for Holm and Sandin for such solid and empathetic backing. The production by Perry ensures that we can appreciate their playing throughout. I only wish other producers would consider this before they bury sounds in electronic wizardry. (Are you listening Mr Ezrin?)

EIGHTpawprint half inchdoodle paws out of TEN …

Track Listing:

      1. Last Chance
      2. The Gun
      3. Don’t Be Scared
      4. Honey Forgive Me
      5. Home
      6. Got To Have You
      7. End Of Time
      8. Keep Your Light on Mama
      9. What Love

The Band:
Jared James Nichols (guitar, vocals), Dennis Holm (drums), and Erik Sandin (bass, vocals), Jessica Childress (backing vocals)

Recorded at the Boneyard, Boston and Johnny Depp’s home studio.
Produced by Tony Perry and Jared James Nichols.

Creating Black Magic Jared James Nichols Guitar

Will Wilde Harmonica Stylishly covers Classics in a unique way

Will Wilde Harmonica Stylishly covers Classics in a unique way

Will Wilde hails from Brighton and his first foray into performing was when he formed The Neptune Blues Band in 2005 when he was 17 years old, and released his debut album “Nothin’ But Trouble” in 2008. Since then he has released two studio and one live album under his own name.

He comes from a musical family. “Music was always around me.” He says. “British hard rock and blues was the soundtrack to my childhood.” His grandfather was a wartime jazz ‘n’ blues pianist and his sister, Dani Wilde, is an acclaimed blues performer with whom I’m sure you are familiar.

Wilde studied drums at the Brighton Institute of Modern Music and yet it was the harmonica, guitar and vocals that ended up captivating him. None more so than the harmonica, obviously.

His latest release is one that brings shivers of expectation or horror from music lovers. Bring It On Home is covers with a twist expect the choice of numbers to be unexpected. This album pays homage to blues and rock giants, including Purple, Free, Sabbath, Tull and the master mouth organist, Sonny Boy Williamson II amongst others. Anyone brave enough to cover such recognisable classics needs to be not only good but also able to interpret in a way that pays tribute while being distinct. Not an easy job; does he achieve it? The answer is a conservative yes; musically they are all very faithful yet imaginative interpretations. The finest one of all is the last track. Parisienne Walkways has to be heard to be believed. The harmonica/mouth-organ/blues harp/moothie or gob-iron (as Ian Gillan calls it) playing actually replicates Moore’s guitar sound in a way beyond comprehension…stunning!

Many of the original tracks featured the harmonica, making it more acceptable to hear, albeit featuring more prominently. The first track is the brilliant Gallagher song, Bad Penny. There is quality guitar backing, recalling the ‘jangling’ intro of the original. There is a very flat sounding foot/bass drum on this, and some of the tracks, which irritates, However, the vocals are up to scratch too, but it’s when the harmonica takes the solo that the fascination grows. It actually works! Lazy, too had harmonica sections, but here Blackmore’s guitar and Lord’s Hammond are replaced by it. Again, it actually works. Vocally Wilde is no Gillan, but it doesn’t spoil the enjoyment, and Danny Giles puts in a very decent guitar solo too. I’m You Witchdoctor is so faithful; you would think Mayall was a guest (he isn’t). Harmonica instead of the ubiquitous flute on a Jethro Tull cover? Locomotive Breath is still instantly recognisable and enjoyable. Great guitar backing again from Giles. Peter Green era Mac is next. Love That Burns does just that; it is a superb reading of a great blues track. Sabbath’s The Wizard is the first misstep; this is the only time when Wilde’s vocals just don’t fit. Musically it is good, and the bass playing is actually the highlight. His version of Yer Blues reminds me of Jeff Healey’s brilliant take on this Beatles song; except with harmonica, of course. My Brother Jake sounds a little empty as the track is played straight, with the harmonica just echoing one verse. Next, a song written by the great Willy Dixon and first performed by the king of the mouth-organ, Sonny Boy Williamson II (oh, and Zeppelin), Bring It On Home is faithful to the Robert Plant version.

In summary then, a very enjoyable album with some exquisite interpretations and a few disappointments. It is worth getting for Parisienne Walkways alone and I doubt you will be disillusioned with many of the songs. A very worthwhile effort.

SEVENpawprint half inchdoodle paws out of TEN …

Track Listing: (original artists in brackets)

  1. Bad Penny (Rory Gallagher)
  2. Lazy (Deep Purple)
  3. I’m Your Witchdoctor (John Mayall)
  4. Locomotive Breath  (Jethro Tull)
  5. Love That Burns  (Fleetwood Mac)
  6. The Wizard  (Black Sabbath)
  7. Yer Blues  (The Beatles)
  8. My Brother Jake  (Free)
  9. Bring it on Home (Sonny Boy Williamson II)
  10. Parisienne Walkways  (Gary Moore)

Note: The commercial release should also include Politician by Cream

The Band:
Will Wilde: harmonica/vocals
Danny Giles: guitar
Victoria Smith: bass
Alan Taylor: drums

Recorded at Brighton Road Studios
Engineered by Ali Gavan
Produced by Danny Giles