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

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

Made My Peace With You New Album from Paul Dunbar

Made My Peace With You New Album from Paul Dunbar

Made My Peace With You New Album from Paul Dunbar & The Black Winter Band arriving was a reason to be excited at Bluesdoodles HQ, having first heard the gloriously distinctive vocals of Paul Dunbar performing with his previous band The Midnight Ramble at Blues on The Farm 2014. Now back as Paul Dunbar & The Black Winter Band, yes, new band, new album but same instantly recognisable vocals. Opening Made My Peace with Losing Game dripping in soulful and melodic music that pours out of the speaker. The timing and shaping of the chords are sublime when your ears are not being entertained by Dunbar’s vocals. What makes the vocals stand out as you listen to the album? There is a myriad of reasons the power, emotion and the integrity in the way the lyrics are delivered always with clarity and sensitivity to the bands playing. Then there is the grittiness and rawer edge that ensure the album is not just saccharin but full of sharp spiciness as well.

The title track opens with a crescendo of sound from the band. You know what is to come as the lyrics are shaped and given vocal heat by Dunbar. Who does he sound like? What are the bands influences? Dunbar sounds like himself a skilful mix of crooners meets bluesman via soul of Motown. The band The Black Winter is the perfect vehicle of delightful tones and textures that joins the dots with skilful interplay before Paul Dunbar’s voice rejoins the musical jamboree throughout the album.
Joining Paul on vocals and guitars are the Black Winter sound of Liam Atkinson on guitars, bassist Chris Pearce and, completing the album rhythm, drummer Phil Stevens. The band members also add voices as backing vocals they are the complete package.
Ten Tracks, nine originals and one from his previous incarnation, The Midnight Ramble, Ballad of Four Eyes. His voice screeches in tune capturing Joe Cocker vibes and bluesmen and ballads of the past.
Three tracks in and you are emotionally engaged. Inner Springsteen an acknowledged influence is captured in the rockier Friends. The tone is huskier, the guitar tone has an edge and the rhythm deep as it grows hewn from the original riff. This is an example of Dunbar’s raw talent, playing music with friends. Then roots of air, earth, sky and Raging Sea with rootsy tones rooted in the music of folks. This number is darker, deeper, moodier capturing the heart of musicians that keep giving music that clicks onto your musical DNA radar.
Closing out the album of ten tracks with Who’s Gonna Love You; the title asks a question and the listeners of music full of rocky soul and lovers of music are gonna love your sound. As you mix and meld rocking, the soulful rootsy mayhem of delights. Melodies hit the harmonies creating an energy that leaves you wanting more.

NINEpawprint half inchdoodle paws out of TEN …

  1. The Losing Game
  2. Made My Peace With You
  3. Ballad of Four Eyes
  4. Barely Holding On
  5. Set Free To Emotion
  6. Friends
  7. Earth Sky Or The Raging Sea
  8. Contort Yourself
  9. Hands Down
  10. Who’s Gunna Love You

Before booking your ticket listen to the fabulous single from the album Barely Holding On

Made My Peace With You New Album from Paul Dunbar

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

Blues Celebrating Friends Along The Way With Mitch Woods

Blues Celebrating Friends Along The Way With Mitch Woods

We all need friends. The harmony and deep joy sharing what we love with friends sustain you through hard times and dark times. Friends Along The Way, Mitch Woods eleventh album, is the perfect soundtrack to celebrate friendship. Mitch has gathered around him a galaxy of music stars on Friends Along The Way. The musicians are friends from across his career that has spanned four decades. Joining Mitch on the album are Van Morrison, Taj Mahal, Elvin Bishop, Charlie Musselwhite, Ruthie Foster, Joe Louis Walker, Maria Muldaur, Cyril Neville, Marcia Ball, John Hammond and Kenny Neal.

The album celebrates, friendship. The musical harmony of blues played together as guitar, drums and harmonica join forces with the boogie of the piano allowing the vocals to tell the narrative of life on the road.  Friends Along The Way is a timely reminder of the central roll the piano has played in the blues. Blues is not just guitar-driven it has also been nurtured and fulfilled by the tinkle of the ivories. Mitch Wood’s piano playing is astounding with a personal acoustic connection. Classically trained his boogie-based piano has an energy and finesses that shines through as he plays with his friends.

Every track brings a blues spark ad element to the album. Opening the party with his friends Mitch Woods goes back in time joined by Van Morrison and Taj Mahal on a Leadbelly classic Take This Hammer. Van Morrison’s vocals are joined by his percussive tambourine playing as a drumstick tinkles the tambourine so the sound cascades with force across Taj’s guitar and the signature of the album, Mitch’s stylish piano playing.  Ruthie Foster’s vocals on Singing The Blues adding textures with her guitar and the piano playing underneath. The urgency of the beat is intensified by an energy as the words take centre stage.  John Hammond’s vocals take us back in time with Mother in Laws Blues. Leaving us Cryin For My Baby with a healthy dose of blues harp from Charlie Musslewhite. This is blues that is sharp, defined and shaping your mood with the piano of Mitch Woods never silent. No album with Mitch at the keys will be without a helping or two of Boogie Woogie. First up is Nasty Boogie, the party now is swinging who can resist smiling and swinging the hips with this vibe, as Joe Louis Walker adds to the mood with his stinging guitar and vocals.

Empty Bed Blues with Maria Muldaur on vocals, is deep, moody and sultry, a jazzy take on the blues. Wow, what a classy number that flows and her smoky voice caresses you as you succumb to her embrace. Cyril Neville and Mitch have a conversation as The Blues are celebrated. The legacy as we move forward and the musical heritage teat lives on in The Blues. This track is spoken narrative. I recommend that you sit back and listen to Cyril as his narrative is accompanied by Mitch’s piano. You will be captivated for five- minutes.

The tempo changes with more boogie as we turn for home with Saturday Night Boogie. Wow ow Wow the slide guitar from Elvin Bishop just fizzes against the piano. The six-strings and ivories are in musical harmony.

By track fourteen blues have been shaken and stirred, then we hear the guitar and vocals of John Lee Hooker joining Mitch’s piano on Never Get Out of These Blues Alive. This is blues played with a clarity of form and simplicity of shape. The result is perfection. Closing the album with In The Night. Friends have come together had fun and now Marcia Ball & Mitch Woods duet on the piano and vocals. This is pure fun the perfect closing number as Professor Longhair is celebrated full of vim and energy.

The combination of the songwriting skills across the ages, instrumentation of the melodies are the underlying essence of the blues. Mitch Woods, has proved on Friends Along the Way that without friendship, companionship blues would just be notes and words. It is the interaction with humanity good and bad that makes the blues an emotive force as relevant today as yesterday. Blues is relevant that is why Friends Along The Way.


Mitch Woods – Friends Along The Way – Entertainment One

EIGHTpawprint half inchdoodle paws out of TEN …

Track Listing

  1. Take This Hammer
  2. CC Rider
  3. Keep A Dollar In Your Pocket
  4. Singing The Blues
  5. Mother In Law Blues
  6. Cryin For My Baby
  7. Nasty Boogie Woogie
  8. Empty Bed Blues
  9. Blues Mobile
  10. The Blues
  11. Saturday Night Boogie
  12. Blues Give Me A Ride
  13. Chicago Express
  14. Never Get Out Of These Blues Alive
  15. Midnight Hour Blues
  16. In The Night

Blues Celebrating Friends Along The Way With Mitch Woods

Dream Train Flying Blues From Alastair Greene

Dream Train Flying Blues From Alastair GreeneAlastair Greene’s musical qualifications are impressive. He has guested with such luminaries as Eric Burdon, Walter Trout, Coco Montoya, Savoy Brown, John Nemeth, and Debbie Davies.

Now, after touring the world as the guitarist for the Alan Parson Project, Alastair has released a solo album called Dream Train. As he says, “I’ll always be grateful for the opportunity Alan gave me to handle guitar and vocal duties in his band. After 7 years, the time has come for me to truly pursue my own musical dream.”  Hence the album title one would assume. (A great interview with Alastair is available here on Bluesdoodles  Alastair Greene Interview by Wes O’Neill

It is clear from the people he guested with previously and who appear on this album where his musical roots lie. Here we are treated to blues variations aplenty, with shuffles, boogies and rocking tracks with soul sensibilities mixed in.

His touring band provides a solid, rhythmic background across the whole album with special guests filling out the sound on selected tracks. Greene is a skilled guitarist and has a subtle feel for electric blues and can transfer this subtlety to acoustic playing too. That’s not to say he doesn’t unleash a stinging solo or three along the way. Throughout the album, I hear hints of S.R.V., Trower and Snowy White in his playing, although the style is very much his own.

The opener and title track is an out and rocker with alternated picking and slide driving a fast, almost 12 bar riff. Then comes a superb slide solo; just what a good blues/rock track needs, although it is far too short. Big Bad Wolf has the vocals following the guitar melody making an effective build before a full-fat solo. The bass guitar on this is stunning too.

Nome Zayne is the only non-Greene composition. This one is written by none other than Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top fame. The title is deliberately obtuse; when it is sung it becomes “Know what I’m sayin’”! Typical Gibbons lyrically and musically and well executed here.

Another Lie has typically beautiful complimentary guitar from Walter Trout. A slower paced traditional electric blues. It also benefits from the warmth of the keyboard fills courtesy of Mike Finnegan (a Hammond B3 specialist who has played with Hendrix and the Phantom Blues Band amongst many others). Both guitarists stuff more feeling into this track than most blues albums can boast.

Acoustic skills are to the fore on the simply complicated instrumental, Song For Rufus. A purposeful oxymoron, for the tantalizing slide in the bridge, creates a complex weave to produce a brilliantly crafted and, for an instrumental, a lyrical composition. Grateful Swagger features Debbie Davies, known also for her work with Duke Robillard, Coco Montoya and J Geils amongst others. She adds a funky touch to this sweeping blues instrumental. This also has a rare, albeit short, great bass solo.

Lucky 13 has Mike Zito, a blues legend in his own right as well as being a co-founder of Royal Southern Brotherhood, sharing guitar duties. A faster paced blues with a ‘standard’ approach and the two guitarists trading sections brilliantly.

Greene may not be the strongest vocalist you’ll hear but has sufficient depth to carry all of the demands of this varied and wide-ranging blues album. The songs, the musicians and the production ensure that Dream Train is never less than engaging. Most of it is a thrill and if you keep your feet still throughout, then you probably need to seek medical attention!


Alastair Greene – Dream Train – Rip Cat Records

SEVENpawprint half inchdoodle paws out of TEN …

Track Listing

  1. Dream Train
  2. Big Bad Wolf
  3. Nome Zayne
  4. Another Lie
  5. Song For Rufus
  6. I’m The Taker
  7. Dare Devil
  8. Grateful Swagger
  9. Rain Stomp
  10. Demons Down
  11. Iowa
  12. Down To Memphis
  13. Lucky 13

Alastair Greene: guitar and vocals
Jim Rankin: bass
Austin Beede: drums

Walter Trout: guitar track 4
Mike Finnigan: organ tracks 4, 7, & 11
Dennis Gruenling: harmonica track 7
Debbie Davies: guitar track 8
Mike Zito: guitar track 12


Alastair Greene, except Nome Zayne written by Billy Gibbons

Dream Train Flying Blues From Alastair Greene

Laurence Jones speaks the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth

Laurence Jones speaks the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truthLaurence Jones speaks the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

4 albums in, what do you do next? You look for something new and fresh, dig deep into your heart and see what comes out, to see what other sides there are to you. This is what Laurence Jones has done with his new album “The Truth”. Laurence continues to make a name for himself on the blues-rock circuit in the UK and Europe and his new album with its commercial feel but rocky edge will no doubt win him new fans further afield. Laurence took a few moments out from rehearsals and over a drink at an after-show party to chat as we were seeking honest answers…


“The Truth” is a few steps down a different path than your previous albums in its sound and arrangements…

Well, and between us, I want to be the next Justin Bieber, he’s my hero! Hahaha! But seriously, it is a crossover album for me in terms of the writing and production for sure. You know, all of my real heroes like John Mayer and Eric Clapton have stepped into different territory before and not just relied upon the guitar playing so I guess it’s my turn to do that. I don’t want to churn out the same album time after time as nobody wants to hear that and I’d get bored. I like challenges and I like to challenge myself which is what I’ve done with “The Truth”. Before we go any further, assure your readers that this album was all made with real instruments and real players!

You had me worried for a moment there thinking this isn’t the Laurence Jones I know…

There’s different sides to all of us and I wanted to show a different side of me with this album. I really focused on the songwriting, lyrics and melodic content. I’ve really been building up to making a record like this is taking the guitar side of things and mixing it with something that’s modern but true to itself. We talked about guitar playing when we were at the Black Country Communion after show party at Hammersmith (man what a gig eh!) and I’ve really pushed myself in the guitar solos to make them memorable, like a song in a song. Take the solo in “Hotel California”, that’s crazy long but you can sing it and it tells a story in itself. I hope that mine on this album do that for anyone who listens to it.

We’re talking about putting yourself out there and opening up here…

Absolutely. I can only write about things I know, not what’s up in the sky that I don’t know about. The songs really do the talking on this album and they’ve been finely picked from a whole bunch of demos. It was a dream to have a few weeks of pre-production in Curacao which is a Dutch island in the Caribbean, before heading to Miami to record at the old Sony Studios. Such a cool place man. The legendary Gregory Elias has produced this album and he brought so much to the table but still allowed me the freedom to go my own way. You know, Gregory is the man who brought The Rolling Stones to Cuba and put on a free gig for everyone, how cool is that! That just shows what a nice guy he is and inspirational. If you take songs such as “Hold Me Close”, “The Truth” and “Take Me” my heart’s on my sleeve right there, for better or for worse and I want the listener to feel that. Sure, there’s some rockier moments in “Give Me Your Time” and “Gone Away” but the emotional content is there in all of the songs. It was all about writing catchy songs with guitar solos and I keep up to date with all music out there, it’d be great to hear more guitar in the charts and these songs are more of a commercial feel than my rockier stuff so you never know!


What can we expect from your live shows this time around with this fresh take on your writing?

20-minute guitar solos! Hahaha!, not really. There will be some moments where we’ll be jamming out on a few songs, extending the solo’s a bit, in fact, I’m at rehearsals now and we’ve been working the set-out. I’ve got a really cool new band in Bennet Holland on keys, Phil Wilson on drums and Greg Smith on bass. We were playing in Holland before and everything just went super well. The crowds were great, singing along and getting right into it. It’s sounding really slick, the new songs are transferring well to a live setup and we’re psyched to be taking them out on the road. I love playing live and it’s great to connect with the audience and bring something to their day – you never know what’s going on with people and them coming out to your gig may be something they really need in that moment so we’ll be giving everything, every night of the tour. We’ve got a show January 23 at The Borderline in London, love that venue, and the UK tour really begins on May 3 in Manchester at Band On The Wall.


What do you think of the current scene in the UK and any advice for those younger than yourself as you had some great success at an early age?

When I first started all this, there was really only myself, Joanne Shaw Taylor and Simon McBride out doing what we do. That was cool, but it’s a lot cooler that there’s more and more bands and artists on the blues-rock scene in the UK now. I never view it as competition and it’s great to see people out playing, the new festivals that have come about as that shows there’s a demand for the music we play and love. As for those starting out, just don’t be afraid to try things. Don’t copy, take influences and mix them up and try and put your own stamp on things.


If you could pick any album to have written and made yourself, what would it be?

Oh, that’s tricky. C’mon man, can I have two? Yes? Ah great…it’d have to be “Riding With The Kings” of Eric Clapton and BB King, such a great record and has that crossover feel to it like my new album and Jimi Hendrix’s “Are You Experienced”, just because I’d love to know what was going on in his mind when he was writing it!


New Album New style The Truth still Laurence Jones


Laurence Jones new album “The Truth” is due for release Friday, March 9th 2018. Tour dates and ticket links can be found below and pre-order “The Truth” 

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Line-up touring The Truth Tour 2018:-

Laurence Jones (Vocals, Guitar)
Bennett Holland (Keyboards, Backing Vocals)
Phil Wilson (Drums, Percussion)
Greg Smith (Bass Guitar)

Planet Rock presents
All Tickets: £15.00

London, Borderline – Tuesday 23 January

Book Online: Gig Cartel; See Tickets
24 HR Box Office: 0844 478 0898
Ticket Hotline: 0844 847 1678

Manchester, Band on the Wall – Thursday 3 May

Book Online:  GigCartel; Ticketline
24 HR Box Office: 0844 478 0898
Venue Tel: 0161 834 1786

Leamington Spa, Zephyr Lounge – Friday 4 May

24 HR Box Office: 0844 478 0898 – Venue Tel: 01926 311 311
Book Online: Gig Cartel or Eventbrite

Southampton Talking Heads – Saturday 5 May

Book Online: Gig Cartel  – Venue Tel: 02380 361 970

Birmingham, Hare & Hounds – Thursday 10 May

Book Online: Gig Cartel 24 HR Box Office: 0844 478 0898
Venue Tel: 0121 444 2081

Nottingham, The Bodega – Friday 11 May

Book Online: Gig Cartel or Alttickets

24 HR Box Office: 0844 478 0898 – Venue Box Office: 0115 896 4456

York, Fulford Arms – Saturday 12 May

Book Online: Gig Cartel 24 HR Box Office: 0844 478 0898
Venue Tel: 01904 620 410

Newcastle, The Cluny – Sunday 13 May

Book Online: Gig Cartel or See Tickets

24 HR Box Office: 0844 478 0898 – Venue Tel: 0191 230 4474


Laurence Jones has built his reputation in the studio and playing live check out his discography 

Albums in BOLD checkout Bluesdoodles review.


The Truth (2018)
Take Me High(2016)
What’s It Gonna Be (2015)
Temptation (2014)
Blues Caravan (2014)
Thunder In The Sky (2012)

Laurence Jones speaks the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth


Spiritus Powerhouse Blues from Jane Lee Hooker

Spiritus Powerhouse Blues from Jane Lee HookerSo, we reach 2018 and what better way to kick-start the New Year than with a dose of high energy, punky blues/rock. Enter New York 5 piece, all-girl powerhouse Jane Lee Hooker, who kicked the scene door down with 2016 debut album ‘No B’, a collection of blues covers done with atypical New York grit and punk attitude. With former members of Nashville Pussy in the ranks, it’s no surprise then that follow up ‘Spiritus’ continues with that same East Coast swagger.

Opener ‘How Ya Doin’ is a front row, in your face, high energy insight into what Jane Lee Hooker do best – a kick-ass live show. Immediately striking are the astonishing vocals of lead singer Dana ‘Danger’ Athens, made even more impressive by the obvious live-feel recording of Spiritus. Production is raw, real and honest throughout this and all other tracks on the album. Forget finesse, forget technique, forget polish. Think punk attitude, think Brooklyn sleaze, think garage band-gang on a mission. A nod to Mick and Keef here, a wink to rock and roll rebellion there.

Spiritus manages to steal the infectious boogie from band name inspiration John on stand out tracks ‘Black Rat’ and ‘Be My Baby’. The latter would be a radio favourite if it were trimmed down to the catchy chorus and hooks sans the unnecessaries. In a Blues/rock world full of pedal board heroes and perfection we tend to forget some of the best songs are just attitude and adrenaline. Perhaps with a ‘one-eye-on-radio’ producer, JLH could have aimed more of this ten song set at commerciality. You get the feeling however that Spiritus is a ‘ this is how we would be live’ record, a token of the no doubt blistering live show. You’re not here to admire lyrical prowess or originality, you’re here to sweat, scream, pump fist and pogo.

Things do get more chilled with gospel-tinged ‘How Bright The Moon’. Dana takes us to church with a heartfelt vocal, perhaps the highlight album vocal, which sets up this piano-led breather ballad as a welcome interlude. No rest for the wicked though as the same church has its roof blown off by ‘Turn On Your Love Light’, evoking memories of cartwheeling Jake and Elwood captivated by the Reverend Cleophus James in the Blues Brothers movie.

The final song, ‘The Breeze’ is an as-the-sun-comes-up, sore head, loose slow blues jam; doesn’t really go anywhere other than ’round and ’round the post-party, bottle-strewn club. Self-indulgent, but the perfect remedy for the partied out, spinning and ready to drop.

Spiritus –

Lacks originality? Maybe – Lacks technical prowess? Maybe – Lacks direction? Slightly

Who cares, Spiritus is a window to an epic live show, a night of nights, a sweat addled assault on the primal senses. Not to be judged in any other way. Go to a show, buy the album and relive that night over and over with a wry smile.

Pendragon for Bluesdoodles gives Jane Lee Hooker Spiritus a splendid

SEVENpawprint half inchdoodle paws out of TEN …

Track Listing:

  1. How Ya Doin?
  2. Gimme That
  3. Mama Said
  4. Be My Baby
  5. Later On
  6. Black Rat
  7. Ends Meet
  8. How Bright
  9. Turn on Your Love Light
  10. The Breeze

Spiritus Powerhouse Blues from Jane Lee Hooker

Ilya Portnov Debut Album Strong Brew

Ilya Portnov Debut Album Strong Brew

Ilya Portnov Debut Album Strong Brew


Russia born, now based in the USA harmonica player Ilya Portnov loves the blues. His debut instrumental solo album, Strong Brew, is a mix of old-school blues and ragtime with gypsy and tango-influenced tunes. Ilya says he wanted to feature different kinds of music that played a big role in his life. Originally, he had planned to include Brazilian choro and forro tracks but now he plans to release these on a separate album. Strong Brew, with seven self-penned tracks and two covers. The lively arrangement of the Rev Gary Davis classic, Cincinnati Flow Rag and in complete contrast, In a Town Garden. A composition from Malvey Blanter and Alexey Fatyanov a popular Russian tune of the 1940s and a favourite of Portnov’s grandmother. Ilya plays a mean diatonic harp and is ably backed by keys, guitar, drums and violin as he moves from 12 bar blues to ragtime to tango. The appropriately named track 1928 would work as music for a black and white film set in a smoky 1920s dance club while Surfing the Baltic Sea brings us a lilting gypsy influenced tune with virtuoso harp playing. Occasionally verging on the pedestrian but the album is ultimately intriguing. Ilya’s harmonica blends blues with folk music of Eastern Europe the combination of roots-infused music works. The mix of music is a refreshing take on the range of the harmonica and Ilya’s musical influences. Stand out tracks for this reviewer were the 12 bar blues Behind the Wall and the final blues track Till The Early Morning. The title track, Strong Brew is a smooth mix of bluesy harp over a prowling, slinky dance background – this could be the way to go for this versatile musician.

Ilya Portnov  – Strong Brew – Independent

SIXpawprint half inchdoodle paws out of TEN …

Track Listing

  1. Sunny Afternoon Blues
  2. Surfing The Baltic Sea
  3. Dance of A Lonely Doll
  4. Cincinnati Flow Rag
  5. In A Town Garden
  6. Behind The Wall
  7. Strong Brew
  8. 1928

Ilya Portnov Debut Album Strong Brew