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.
Available in the following Formats – CD, Vinyl and Digital Formats
EIGHTdoodle paws out of TEN …
1. Kick Me Down
2. Hail Mary
3. I Don’t Owe Nobody Nothing
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
Vocals Guitar / Kris Barras
Keyboards / Josiah J Manning
Bass / Elliott Blackler
Drums / Will Beavis
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 first release from anticipated album Red Hands Black Deeds
Out July 28th on Mascot Records.
Announcing their brand new studio album ‘Red Hands Black Deeds’, Shaman’s Harvest have released the first single ‘The Come Up’.
Liz Aiken at Bluesdoodles loved the upbeat driving rhythm that worked on many different levels, Pulled you through the music and open the door deep into the lyrics. A melodic rock song that is the perfect antidote to the overdose of negativity that surrounds us. This s Rock n’ Roll that is happy to get a hand from the sunny Mowtown vibe. With its upbeat tones the swagger connects you to lyrics that delves into depression that affects so many people in the troubled and often confusing world of today.
“There’s so much negativity on social media today ‑ a lot of people struggling with real issues and with where we’re at as a nation,” says singer Nathan Hunt. But, “The Come Up” is also an acknowledgment of the singer’s own battle with depression. “It’s therapeutic for myself,” he says. “It’s just about sometimes when you just can’t change shit, you got to realize you can’t mold everything in your life and you kind of just have to roll with the punches,” says Hunt, who overcame throat cancer in 2014 that could’ve derailed the band, but didn’t.
Having listened to the first single now waiting to hear the whole album. I have been led t o believe by the record label that Red Hands Black Deedsis a darker, visceral, and more layered sound than past repertoire. The album ranges from the ominous, haunting vibes of the title track prelude, “A Longer View,” “The Devil In Our Wake,” and “Scavengers” – which could fit just as easily on a horror film soundtrack as it does on this rock band’s album – to quieter, more vulnerable moments as heard on “Tusk and Bone”and “Long Way Home.” Lyrically, the band also ventured into new territory, taking on the current political, social, and economic struggles the USA is facing as a nation under the new administration. “Red Hands Black Deeds touches upon the darker nature inside all of us,” says Hunt. “The whole record has a contrast and push and pull tension – a juxtaposition of good and bad or questioning what is right and wrong. The record ended up having a concept, though we weren’t intending it to,” says Hunt.
The writing of the record began in November 2016 at the time of the US presidential election, so it’s no wonder there are social and political undertones to many of the songs. “The tension in the record kind of speaks for itself. There’s a dark anxiety, tension-filled feeling that reflects what’s going on in the world,” says Hamler.
Their Mascot Records debut, Smokin’ Hearts & Broken Guns in 2014, garnered more than 33 million streams. The album’s “In Chains” peaked at #11 on the Media Base chart after a run of 22 weeks at Active Rock radio. It also spent over four months in the Top 10 of iTunes Metal Songs Chart. The song’s video has more than 3 million views on YouTube, while the band has a cumulative 8 million YouTube views.
So the count down begins as we re-listen to Smokin’ Hearts & Broken Guns and the sneak preview with the first single to be released ‘The Come Up’ from Red Hand Black Deeds.
Ronnie Baker Brooks Talking Why
Times Have Changed
BD: I was delighted when Mascot Label sent me your latest album Times Have Changed to review. It is an album full of blues strong guitar that makes compelling listening.
BD: What were your first musical influences growing up in Chicago? RBB: It has to be my Dad Lonnie Brooks. He taught me how to teach myself. I grew up listening to music from Country to Gospel, Rock n’ Roll, R’n’B and of course the Blues. I started playing at six and the first time on stage with my Dad I was 9. At 19 I joined him on the road, I rubbed shoulders and played with and was given advice by some of the greatest. Albert Collins embraced my playing and I saw him as an Uncle. Whilst Ko Ko Taylor gave me a shout out I played with her on stage and she was my Blues Mom.
The list is huge from Albert King. BB King, Little Milton, Buddy Guy whose first wife was my Mom’s best friend, Otis Rush, Magic Slim and so many more. What an experience so special. BD: You have to write a book a lifetime of music experience drenched in the Blues. RBB: You are not the first to mention that perhaps I should!
To me it was natural they dropped by and played in my home friends with my Dad, we went to their homes, was taken to shows. At the time I didn’t realise that it was so different from normal.
The best tour of my life, was with BB King, Buddy Guy, Ko Ko Taylor, Junior Wells and Eric Johnson wow what a time. It was for me like going to school or college the experience was a unique situation in which to learn and study the blues.
BD: Times Have Changed is your first album for ten years. How did you decide on the mix of self-penned and covers? RBB: Steve Jordan produced the album I trusted him. I always wanted to work with him as I loved the way he played. It was the first time I had included covers on an album, normally I wrote all of the tracks. Steve said the advantage of covers is people recognise the songs quicker hopefully they will engage quicker with the album and get into my own songs. Hopefully, we have chosen the right tracks we discussed what I would like to do Old Love was the first, it was Mum’s favourite song. That inspired me to play the number live always big fan of Eric Clapton and Robert Cray. I knew that if ever I was going to record a cover that would be the one. Curtis Mayfield’s Give Me Your Love always a beautiful song and was the first track recorded. The Second was the instrumental Twine Time.
BD: That leads nicely on to my next question, You included an instrumental that is more than about guitars. How did you select Twine Time featuring your father Lonnie? RBB: Steve Jordan chose Twine Time and as I said it was the second track we recorded. It was a spontaneous thought we need an instrumental. First, we thought about a Freddie King thing or something I had written before. No, let’s do something different not necessarily something for guitar players but one with wider appeal. So Alvin Cash’s Twine Time became the instrumental. It set the album on fire. Once the track was recorded I thought I have to get my Dad on the track. Alvin Cash lived in Chicago and Dad was probably in the Studio when he recorded it. I was in Memphis at the Royal Studio and Dad was in Chicago. So he went round to a friend’s laid down the music and emailed it to me.
BD: Does the Title of the album Times Have Changed have a special meaning for your first album in ten years? RBB: I wrote the tracks reflecting that I do feel that times have changed. At one time there would have been fifteen bands from Chicago on the road at any one time. We would run into each other at stops, now lots of the guys are no longer touring or not with us anymore. The reasons are varied, aged, economy, changes in technology times have changed and that seemed appropriate for now reflection that Times Have Changed for definite on so many levels. It is also about how special it was being on the road with BB, Junior Wells, Otis Rush some no longer with us but it was special. It is a celebration of that sound it comes from the heart and reaches the heart of the listener. There are elements from previous records with emphasis on that style a little bit more. Wherever I play it will be the Blues. But to get some attention you do have to do things differently, change keeps you going. Personally, I am very proud of what has been achieved on the album and I hope everyone will enjoy it as much as we have recording the album. For me, it is a platform to grow from you never stop learning as I was told by BB you never master the music, but you can master your approach to music.
BD: I have always been interested in the lyrics of a song. Where do you get your inspiration for your songwriting? RBB: Inspiration for my songs all my lyrics relate to true life situations. Can be something I have gone through if not something I can closely relate to. You have got to feel it if you can’t feel it the song will not work. Might be a great feeling or sad, you have to tell it to make people feel the essence of the song. For instance When I was We the last track of the album was a line from a conversation when I was talking to a friend in Florida. She had just broken up with her boyfriend hanging there and ended the sentence you know When I was We. Instantly I knew what she meant. I sat down and wrote the song immediately. I just had to write it. It was in the cut for Gold Digger CD my first , but never released it. Was right for this album. Willie Dixon taught me that to sing the Blues it comes from the heart to deliver the song and that is my philosophy.
Ronnie Baker Brooks premieres official lyric video for
‘Times Have Changed’ (feat. Al Kapone)
BD I am sure you have many plans for 2017 and beyond for Ronnie Brooks Baker and his band RBB: Well this album is definitely a platform to jump from and grow. I have plans to tour the world. BD: so you have plans to tour Europe? RBB: Yes, definitely but nothing concrete yet. The album hopefully will open doors and push be to be a better musician, songwriter and singer. Build a platform with Mascot and inspire future musicians.
BD: If you were putting together the perfect band with members from across the years (dead or alive) who would you have playing RBB:
Guys got on this record dream working at Royal Studios, Memphis with producer Steve Jordan It was a dream come true work a joy to work
Guitar: Steve Cropper, Teenie Hodges, Lonnie Brooks, Eddie Willis, Lee Roy Parnell,
“Big Head” Todd Mohr
Rapper: Al Kapone
Keys: Archie Turner
Organ: Charles Hodges
Jazz Saxophonist: Lannie McMillan
Bass: Leroy Hodges
Vocals: Angie Stone, Felix Cavaliere
Plus the delight of having Bobbie Blue Bland on the album a friend of Dad for many years to have his sound captured on the record was another dream come true.
I could have had Jim Hendrix love his playing Stevie Ray Vaughan who I did play with once, BB King etc. But I can’t complain about what I have got right here now. This is a band that works no one is intimidated by each other we love playing together as Times Have Changed shows.
I remember a huge jam back in 2012 Howlin For Hunert I was part of with a great cast. Including Keb Mo; Eric Clapton. Buddy Guy, Susan Tedeschi, Derek Trucks. Steve Jordan, Jimmie Vaughan, Lonnie Brooks, Kenny Wayne Sheppard and many more. Yes the sound was fantastic but everyone held back not wanting to upstage. We didn’t wat to push we had too much respect for each other. There was something lost by the respect. Learnt a lot from that jam, not all about the music, not your take but the collective feel of the band.
Rik Emmet & RESolution 9 Album Delivers as Resolved
We all make resolutions, listening to quality music is an easy one to keep, put Res 9 on and sit back and enjoy the bluesy rock fuelled ride taking you on across the eleven tracks. This is blues that sparks with the electricity of musicians that are playing at the top of the game. The line-up joining Rik Emmet’s guitar and vocals are Dave Dunlap, guitar and Steve Skingley on Bass and Keys and completing the rhythm section is Paul DeLong on drums. Then adding to the excitement are a number of guest James LaBrie vocals via Dream Theatre, Alex Lifeson, Rush guitarist, the rhythm section are a Triumph Mike Levine bass is joined by drummer Gil Moore. This is Canadian Rockers that have resolved to come together and create an album with a sting in its tail.
Res 9 a debut album for this line up and a welcome return of Rik Emmett and the album promised a lot. If you were expecting solid classic hard-core rock with clashes of guitar then you will not be disappointed. The album is much more considered, the instruments are in control the vocals are strong, but unfortunately the lyrics are at times rather weak for a blues driven rock album.
Opening with Stand Still the rolling blues guitar is definitely not standing still. This is a track that is driving blues with a ZZ Top feel and even the Red House is mentioned as blues are given an out with stinging guitar and Riks vocals imploring us to relax with an intimidating growl that is to be obeyed!
Four tracks have special guests and you do not have to wait long before Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson makes his first appearance on the second number Human Race. Adding to the Dunlap Emmett guitar partnership is the twelve-string of Alex adding that tonal power that gives the number an attention grabbing vibe as the last note fades and the last lyrics ‘I’m still this guy. I still live this”. Then a change of tempo as I Sing with Dream Theatre’s vocalist James LaBrie, he sings for his supper with vocals that rise above he will never go hungry. Now three tracks in the album had me hooked, not as a reviewer but a lover of music that weaves with the blues and creates music for now and not yesterday. Both Alex & James join in the fun on the last track End Of The Line. With a rocking riff the track opens and the drums are secure as the vocals take up the guitar challenge. This is a guitar number with not one, but three exhilarating guitar solos the third being a Lifeson special what a last track full of rock energy verve and style with all the excitement of a blues jam. Wait, all is not over, there is a bonus track as joining the band on Grand Parade is Gil Moore & Mike Levine a triumph of rhythm. The bonus is a slower ballad infused number, acoustic and floats on a sea of blue that laps around the shoreline.
The numbers that the band are left to their own devices are full of blues, ballads and emotions. Rik’s vocals on My Cathedral are laid back reflecting the soothing guitar. The trend continues with the slow mournful The Ghost Of Shadow Town that has drumming the makes the foundation solid. This is a track that needs strong power infused lyrics and they miss the mark for me. Blues colour the next two tracks exploring the link that connects rock and the blues with Sweet Tooth. Just as you are smothered by laid back vibes rock hits the spot and Heads Up we have hooks and chorus that re-energises the album before the smooth road home.
There is no doubt that Res 9 is an album that intrigues, whets the appetite with the mix of slow and intense blues and rock and the interface where the morphing of blues jam into a harder rock number. The album is an exploration of guitars relationships with vocals, the losers here at times are the vocals as the songs are just not strong enough to be a real triumph of narrative driven blues rock.
Eric Johnson in Conversation Albums, acoustic and guitars
Eric Johnson, Grammy award-winning guitarist took time out to talk to Bluesdoodles about his first solo acoustic album EJ released on Mascot Group Label.
BD: What were your first musical influences growing up in Austin, Texas and beyond? EJ: Lots there are some great bands and music in Texas. Johnny Richardson was a huge influence but there is just so much great music. I listened to all sorts of styles and players out there including Chet Atkins, Jerry Reed, Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, John McLaughlin, Eric Clapton Bill Conners, styles vary but always quality.
BD: How did you get into music were you from a musical family? EJ: My brother and three sisters we all had piano lessons, learning classical music my parents were not musical but supported my playing. Then I had guitar lessons. I took up the guitar because everyone I was listening to was playing the guitar. I listened to all types of music not defined by genre The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, The Ventures. There were so many great dudes to listen to. The crossover with Ravi Shankar playing with Janis Joplin and others mixing it up, it was not about genres it was all about good music that excited.
BD: Having reviewed the Album, can you tell us Why a Solo album now having won countless awards and peer recognition is the acoustic another branch of the Johnson Guitar Tree EJ: Well, I have always included one acoustic number on all my records. I have always enjoyed playing acoustic it is different from my solo electric guitar in a band. The essential in acoustic is a very good song that can stand on its own the words have to be very good. There is an immediacy in acoustic playing it is always a challenge to capture the song so it has a potency. The album is another voice of my guitar the album has an intimacy that only acoustic achieves.
BD: How did you choose the covers, especially deciding on opening with an instrumental version of Mrs Robinson EJ: Well, Mrs Robinson came about fiddling with the tune on my own it sounded great and I was searching for a song to start the record. The realisation came that it might be the right way to start the album with the guitar getting the listeners attention. The other covers fitted in with my own tracks.
BD: I have always been interested in the lyrics of a song. Where do you get your inspiration for your songwriting? EJ: Inspiration is everywhere. I have to allow the thoughts to unfold intuitively they evolve naturally. I have to stop the brain from interfering as too soon it clinches the lyrics so that they do not have time to develop naturally. The brain part is good to give the words a final polish but not too soon, you need to leave your creative window open for words to be descriptive painting a full picture. You need to be able to let your thoughts wander so there is a freedom in the construction of the lyrics. It was great fun to record a solo acoustic record, the simplicity there is an innocence in the process with a feel of naturalness with lyrics that can be obtuse like Wrapped In A Cloud.
BD: You have a big supporter in Joe Bonamassa. He and many other younger guitarists have named you as an influence…. Have you found this has been a boost to your own career? EJ: Big admirer of what Joe Bonamassa does and it is very flattering that Joe and other guitar players respect and admire what I play. The reality is all guitarists learn from everyone else. I am genuinely honoured the other guitarists feel that way about my guitar playing.
BD: Did you always plan to be a musician and what advice would you give to budding professionals EJ: Music was what I wanted to do my career developed I just kept playing with bands making original music. Kept rehearsing and working with different people. It was a step by step progression lots of practice and determination hard work eventually led to record deals and where I am today. The answer is if you want to achieve success it is about talent and hard work there is no easy simple route.
BD I am sure you have many plans for 2017 and beyond are you planning a UK/European Tour? EJ: Now that is funny you should ask that question, we were discussing just that today a tour of Europe and the UK. Would love to visit the UK and tour all over especially like to see Eastern Europe.
BD: If you were putting together the perfect band with members from across the years (dead or alive) who would you have playing EJ: Bass: Billy Rich or James Jamerson… No I will have two bass players Guitars: Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck and Wes Montgomery Drums: Joe Morello Vocals: Paul Rogers
Guitar Tech – Me When asked to jam I will say no I am listening to you guys that is enough for me!
Read why Bluesdoodles said “EJ is an acoustic album that has an intimacy between performer and listener not often achieved on a studio album. The light and dark shadows and moody intensity all keep your attention on the lyrics and above all the melody.”HERE
JD Simo Talking about Touring Albums Vinyl and more
Bluesdoodles was delighted to have a chat with JD Simo once again, In February shortly after we reviewed the stunning album Let Love Show The Way read what we talked about then HERE. Today we talk about vinyl the up and coming Roadstars tour throughout the UK,
BD: Hi JD. Good to have the opportunity to chat with you as you are about to hit Europe, we chatted about the album, influences and dream band.
JD Simo: Thank you, remember talking to you earlier in the year not sure where I was now having couple days back home before heading on over to Europe.
BD: Now your surname and band name are creating lots of discussions about how it should be pronounced so let’s start off the pronunciation of the name SIMO
JD Simo: Well, it has to be good being talked about. The correct on is sI MoH where the I is dominant we answer to anything, eventually as we become better known and more people see us live everyone will know but until that day all is good (laughing).
BD: Your current album Let Love Show The Way, Please the latest single is getting plenty of airplay. Tell our readers about deciding the tracks, writing the songs and opening with an Elmore James classic Stranger’s Blues.
JD Simo: While we were sequencing the record that track we all liked how it slowly builds up, it is not an abrupt beginning. Lots of bands start with an initial brash aggressive number but this for us was a nice way to start the record. More to do with the sound rather than the fact it was a cover or that particular song we didn’t want something abrupt as it were. As a group we put some thought into the order and which tracks to include we do this process as a collective talking about what assembly of tracks works, at the end we believed this sequence worked. Reality, nothing too exciting just a process we went through we do all the creative side and Mascot as the record label have very little involvement in what we produce. They leave us to do on creative end yes there is some correspondence but what you hear is the product of the band, it is SIMO.
BD: Like many you have released your latest album on vinyl, is this a niche or rising in appeal and will be expected by people as they continue to buy vinyl or is it a trend that will fade away?
JD Simo: I know that here in America vinyl is not a niche thing it is a pretty big thing with people especially my age group. Not sure what is happening in Europe & U.K. , sure we will find out when we are back touring over there very soon. Vinyl has become a big part of my generation who are true music fans not those who follow mainstream. It is how they buy their music whether new or old recordings. I grew up with vinyl it then went away in the nineties and then came back again. Let Love Show The Way, vinyl sales have been huge I have lost count the number of re-pressing of the album since its release. I do know we have sold more vinyl than other acts on Mascot record label and there have been occasions when we have sold out and the label has had to have them rushed to us on the road, Vinyl is the number one merch in terms of volume at our shows. The reality is it depends on your preference. I collect vinyl and have a portable record player set up where ever I go definitely in the dressing room. Every town I visit I find local record stores it is integral part of my life releases in that format very important to me. Luckily the tide has turned I think vinyl is here to stay a while.
BD: Are there plans to record a follow-up album and how do you find time with your busy touring schedule to even think about let alone write new songs?
JD Simo: We have started work on next record actually started several months ago. We are doing the album in little phases. This is a different approach from previously and will be a different type of album putting it together over long period of time. We are about a quarter way through the process. When get back home before Christmas we will finish all the pre-production stuff. We have a space in the calendar January through February to finish the album. It is not difficult to find time to write as it happens, I write when the thought, idea hits me. That can be on a plane, in the van, dressing room or walking down the street. This year SIMO have played well over 200 shows so finding the time for three of us to actually work out the material is problematic. As a group we need time to work out how each song is to be played, arranged, this takes time it can even take up a whole day. We have tried using the time in sound checks to try our new material and ideas, when we do this we are all open with each other. Contributing what we like don’t like, free to have heated discussions the trouble is at sound checks there are people around strangers, it just didn’t work as the presence of people not involved in the process made us self-conscious, inhibiting the process. So finding the time for the three of us to set time aside has been difficult but we have found spaces sometimes a couple of days or longer break say ten days. Sometimes though you have a real break not have the pressure to work so we take couple days off then it is back the three of us working on the new material. We discuss together how to flesh out songs so that they are ready to be sent as a demo for our producers to review. At the end of the day I just love making music.
BD: SIMO have been around for five years? Let’s hear about the band how Adam Abrashoff and Elad Shapiro work around your attention grabbing guitar playing and vocals?
JD Simo: Laughing, It may be one to ask Adam & Elad. For me it works because it is very much that I have one vote of three, it makes perfect sense to use. The outcome of how it works if your readers come and see us play live it makes more sense then… (Bluesdoodles – you are in luck they are touring UK & Europe October – December – check out dates here) Plus we all have role on and off stage, my responsibility may be a little bit more prominent interviews like this one, singing but the three of us are all very equal in all the decision making like what playing that night… Very democratic, that can be difficult I can get frustrated as much as they can perhaps it is easier if the leader dictates and rest band follows but that is not my way. We all have strong personalities, we fight and argue, we are like brothers we make up quickly and do not take it personally. We are like a dysfunctional family – all three guns a blazing all the time and most of the time there is a healthy balance. In end better way to be invested in common goal inevitably better that both the guys have a democratic input.
BD: As you mentioned when we talked earlier in the year, Simo is back touring Europe including extensive UK Tour with extended Planet Rock Tour – Roadstars tour with Federal Charm and Aaron Keylock. By the end of the tour and festival set at the sold-out Planet Rockstock SIMO will no longer be a stranger to blues lovers across the UK. With the promises of three exciting acts what plans have you got to get attention with your style of the blues.
JD Simo: Not met guys in Federal Charm yet, though we did meet Aaron very briefly at Ramblin’ Man Fair. Looking forward to our tour of U.K. So far we have only done random one-off gigs in UK; a couple shows in the North and press show and support in London then in the Summer some festivals. Now we have the opportunity to play at 16 venues and a spot at Planet Rockstock. We will actually get time to see your country and visit all corners of the U.K. The plan is to share the ninety-minute slot so some nights that will be Federal Charm and other night Aaron Keylock, on these occasions we will play a shorter set. Every night we always play different songs so for people who come to multiple nights will see different shows from us. This is going to be a real opportunity to get to know the U.K. and meet a lot of fans, many will be seeing us for the first time.
BD: Normally I ask for your band but did that last time so this time I am interested in albums that have influenced/ delighted you as a musician. And the favourite at the moment?
Time was running short JD Simo is in demand we all want to talk about a band that brings excitement to the blues so his answer was an unequivocal – Alabama Shakes Sound and Colour their latest album is my favourite hands down I just can’t get enough of the album.
So lets give them a huge British welcome and go see the band on tour with Federal Charm & Aaron Keylock.
Tickets will then go on sale to the general public on Friday 17th June via www.thegigcartel.com or from the 24 hour box office: 0844 478 0898.
The Convent, Stroud tonight makes a beautiful and gospel fused arena for Joe Louis Walker to play his stuff, his tour of England drawing to close tonight. The multiple music award winner is bringing his message of the blues to the audience in the venue and further afield, thanks to the wonderous service they provide Netgig. Joe Louis Walker is no bluesman that confirms he mixes it up as his current album Everybody Wants a Piece demonstrates. It is unsurprising that within the magnificent licks and riffs we hear homage to the British Blues revolution of the 1960’s and the myriad of greats he has played with, from Jimi Hendrix to Miles Davis, Mike Bloomfield and John Lee Hooker and the blues giants BB King and Muddy Waters. He has been there and played his guitar with passion and pride.
The band steps on the stage in front of the altar to pay homage to live music’s power and devil magic. The Drum picks up the rhythm as Joe introduces the band on bass played with the greats including Bo Diddley and Solomon Burke is Lenny Bradford. Drummer Byron Cage and laying down the rhythm organ and keys Travis Reed now a trio of sound laid down for Joe Louis who joined in with his guitar, with vocals introduced last as the groove deepens and the vibe is heating up. The Gibson sound is crystal clear and as the instruments play they are definitely not Messin’ Around this is a quartet playing tighter than tight. The business tonight is music, blues infused with roots and all that jazz. Travis moves off electric and plays The Convent’s Grand Piano as the Jazz infusion cools the licks down as the blues shuffle in with Albert Collins T-Bone Shuffle instrumental which has Joe Louis playing the Gibson into white-hot blues – he is the Satriani of the Blues with virtuoso playing. The dexterity and lightness of touch with deep tones and sharp textures are mind-blowing. A Masterclass. A change of mood with an old time foot tapping Rock n Roll song Don’t Let Go. Timing, harmonization makes every song special with its own character and beauty. Joe Louis Walker reminds me of Lucky Peterson with his relaxed fluidity and consummate professionalism mixing to entertain and delight with every note played. Now a track off his current album, Everybody Wants A Piece, One Sunny Day; he continues to dip into the album throughout the evening no hard sell just quality tracks.
Dedicated to guitarist Earl Zebedee Hooker cousin of John Lee Hooker, who played on many hits and a special slide guitar. Matching Earl is Joe Louis, slide work stingily sharp hitting the music vibrator in your spine and making hairs stand up at the back of your neck with delight. Joe Louis, making the guitar talk with crying pain then a gentle reprise to soften the hurt and anguish, leading into the spiritually up lifting, Wade In The Water from his current album. We are all wading in the delights of Joe Louis and his band tonight at The Convent. He recalls “Been a while since I played in Church but coming back now as we get back to the blues” with his own number Ain’t That Cold; the grand piano was soulful in its blues. In the inspirational In The Morning When I Rise, the guitar makes a glorious sound the beat curls around and the guitar soars up high into the Chapel as they sing ‘ I kneel Down and Pray’, the altar a perfect backdrop. The electric organ solo takes over as Joe & Lenny swing in harmony this is live music that catches deep in your solar plexus. The music has pure soul with a lightest touch of a reggae ambiance.
Into the jam add The Kinks’ You really Got Me then the riff died away and the music flowed, Joe and Lenny dancing and the piano leading the melody, music that is sassy, live and fun as they sung Too Drunk To Drive. We are definitely drunk on the glories of blues / Rock n’ Roll in the hands of the maestro that is Joe Louis Walker.
The encore is a smoking walking blues medley, Down, Down with a cheeky electric organ kick and the mesmeric, stunning virtuoso guitar from Joe Louis Walker on his Gibson. Contemporary blues at home in the vaulted Convent auditorium.
Read the Conversation with Joe Louis Walker before this show – HERE
The back story of Walter Trout’s recent clash with death where he rose victorious has been well documented and the joy of hearing his studio album Battle Scars was for his legion of fans affirmation the blues Phoenix had truly risen from the ashes of despair. Now, back playing live we have the sound of Walter back on stage Alive in Amsterdam playing hot blues with verve, passion and poise.
Marie’s moving introduction and rapturous ovation from the audience leaves Walter speechless, but his guitar and vocals do all the talking we want to hear. Opening with Play The Guitar, and Walter certainly does that, the whole instrument bends to his deft and assured touch. This is Walter back at the top of his game after the traumas he has been through there is an added energy delight in playing with a raw untamed energy of finding music again. Luther Allison cover, I’m Back says it all as the blues flow with high-octane emotion he is stated “I am back ready for anything and playing better than ever”. His tribute to BB King Say Goodbye To The Blues, was full of every shade of blue that can be pulled from the guitar with the organ in the background adding another later of textural interest shaping the chords.
In the centre of the live show are six poignant tracks from his critically acclaimed album Battle Scars opening with Almost Gone and closing with Fly Away. Walter is definitely not gone from stage and studio his blues are not going to Fly Away anytime soon. Walter though is playing the music the fans have always loved with son Jon joining him on Rock Me Baby as Father and Son jam this is live music capturing the moment. The audience is loud, and happy when a guy shouts out Marie’s Mood, the set list changes as Walter laughs and plays it for the audience. This is what makes live music special, yes captured here for posterity but the special memories belong to the audience; in Amsterdam on the 28th November 2015 at the opulent Royal Theatre Carré
His band are outstanding. The centre of attention is on Walter, the emotions are all pulled from his amazing journey overcoming liver failure and a transplant. It is the band that gives him the space to play Michael Leasure’s drumming has the beat measured at times intense, then restrained joined by bassist Johnny Griparic. The Rhythm section keeps the tempo tight as Walter flies with licks and riffs bouncing off his stinging guitar. Into the mix and the tonal complexities of the keys from Sammy Avila you have a quartet of Blue that delivers the Blues with deep emotions.
Walter Trout Alive In Amsterdam playing Hot Blues, is a bold statement of resurrection. Walter is back the pain and fear diminished, not forgotten and re-shaping his blues with another layer of wisdom and pebbles from the road of life and the journey of healing. The power of love, support and the blues runs deep through every emotionally wrought track. Played in Amsterdam to fans who lived every moment of the painful and difficult road to health, documented by Marie who took time out to keep the fans informed of every high and low. He is back full of potency, playing his blues, nothing laid back and taking it easy for Walter he is on fire Alive in Amsterdam.
Bluesdoodles gives this CD NINE doodle paws out of TEN ….
His new album cements his legacy as a prolific torchbearer for the blues. Looking back on his rich history, Walker shares, “I’d like to be known for the credibility of a lifetime of being true to my music and the blues. Sometimes I feel I’ve learned more from my failures, than from my success. But that’s made me stronger and more adventurous. And helped me create my own style. I’d like to think that when someone puts on one of my records they would know from the first notes, ‘That’s Joe Louis Walker.'”
Always an artist deeply expressive lyrically, Walker continues to write and sing about themes that are universal. On “Black & Blue” he talks about a love affair that’s falling apart, but there’s an effort to keep it going. He offers, “The lyric ‘Let’s find a quiet place, A place out of town…We Need to talk this thru, Be honest & True’ says it all in trying to save the relationship.” He cites the title track as a composition that might not have a deep meaning, but in presenting the thought, “Everybody wants a piece of your love,” offers a double entendre that speaks for itself. With a deep history and background in gospel, Walker looks towards Wade in the Water” as an instant all-time favorite. He reveals, “The inspirational lyric ‘The water is deep, the water is cold, it chills my body, BUT NOT MY SOUL” is expressing my belief that the spiritual will carry you through when the physical can’t.”
A true powerhouse guitar virtuoso, unique singer and prolific songwriter, he has toured extensively throughout his career, performed at the world’s most renowned music festivals, and earned a legion of dedicated fans. Walker’s 1986 debut album Cold Is the Night on HighTone announced his arrival in stunning fashion, and his subsequent output has only served to further establish Walker as one of the leading bluesmen on the scene.
BD: Big thank you for taking time out of your busy life to chat with Bluesdoodles. CR: Thank you for taking an interest it will be fun talking about music and stuff. BD: What were your first musical influences growing up in Vancouver? CR: Laughing, My Girl, from The Temptations, it was how the song is sung at the end had a big effect on me as did all the Motown sound. I was obsessed so was in a 1960’s cover girl group. Other major influences were the songs of Grease and American Graffetti. Then there was the early rock n roll which I have always loved like Chuck Berry.
BD: Tell us a little bit about the band No Sinner and how you work with the other members and the making of Old Habits Die Hard which has a different sound from Boo Hoo Hoo. CR: This album [Old Habits Die Hard] was written with the full band it was a band enterprise, very different from making Boo Hoo Hoo (Laughing). With Boo Hoo Hoo the material was basically written and fixed in place before the group had been created. So the exciting part of Old Habits Die Hard, is that it has an organic feel. It was created with lots of input from many rather than from my own personal life. The music came about in different ways, on our latest album sometimes evolving from a jam, sometimes the lyrics created the melody. Or we had a great melody and the lyrics came out of the tune.
The band is a new line-up the problems after Boo Hoo Hoo have faded and we are excited about the music we have produced together. This album connects with us all. Keys from Nathan Shubert add an extra dimension that wasn’t present on Boo Hoo Hoo. This album is more grown up and rounded.
BD: Old Habits Die Hard is a fantastic follow-up album to Boo Hoo Hoo Bluesdoodles loves it. Tell us about working with Executive Producer Ben Kaplan. CR: Everyone says the second album is difficult. This is so different it is like starting over again. Boo Hoo Hoo all that material was there two years ago it was what we did. Ben Kaplan looked at the pile of stuff that had accumulated over the time we have been thinking about the album. Ben, then organized it and made sense out of the material. This gives that album shape and a finished album that has a purpose. All the rest of the process was the bands, it is in reality self-produced it is truly a band project. We engineered it and I did all the executive decision making. Ben Kaplan’s role was and outsider casting organizational ear over the project.
BD: AS a singer with a powerful voice how do you ensure that it is rested and stays in top form? CR: Nothing special, older I get the harder to recover and easier to lose your voice, I do try to use warm up exercises, the real strain is smoking, and talking about the music afterwards with fans. I love that part but does put further strain on the vocal chords (laughing loudly)
BD: Do the tracks have personal meaning and have you a favourite Track? CR: Hollow, or Let Slip they are both great songs. Love songs mean different things to different people and depending on their experiences they are relatable.
BD: I have always been interested in the lyrics of a song. Where do you get your inspiration for your songwriting? CR: Lyrics are the centre of songwriting for me. Life, the crazy nature. Experiences on the road. Things that happen, relationships and people. Lyrics form, it is always (laughing) a bit crazy.
BD: Tell us a bit about being a woman in the 21st century music scene, misogyny and the constant comparisons to women of the past including Etta James and Janis Joplin? CR: Well, Janis people go to the most obvious there are not as many women in the pool to choose from as it is smaller. Feminism I see that as a sexist term, it is what is set in equal rights. It is all fucked up and not equal, I am anti separate catergories. The important factor is how men and women are treated and react to each other. As a woman you get privileges that men do not and other occasions it is vice-versa. I get treated as someone in the bands girlfriend and the reaction when they realise I am the leader of the band is priceless. (chuckling away at the memories).
BD I am sure you have many plans for 2016 and beyond for No Sinner – hope you are going to do a more extensive tour of UK. CR: With a new album we are planning to get on the road and rev up the music live on stages across USA and of course Canada. We are planning Europe in the fall and planning some UK dates and hope to come out of London It is all so expensive touring with a band.
BD: When not playing your own music who do you listen to? CR: I listen to lots of music, rock n’ roll, Led Zeppelin Van Morrison, The Who and Aretha Franklin, Nina Simone. I love discovering new music.
BD: How do you relax, do you have a particular hobby to take time out from music to rejuvenate your creativity CR: The open road on my motorcycle. And Yoga. I have just come back from a road trip from Vancouver to LA and back, the only thing that didn’t go to plan was breaking down just outside Seattle. So had to leave the bike. In fact just got back from getting the bike back home. The Pan American Highway is awesome, fuels creativity gives me thinking time. Freedom to get outside of my head, when on stage or on my bike I have to be there in the moment in a meditative state.
BD: If you were putting together the perfect band with members from across the years (dead or alive) who would you have playing CR: Mmmm… now that is interesting and difficult. Not a musical nerd, just listen and sing. I just know singers. Now Daniel Sveinson, our guitarist would give a good answer.