Coming Out Swingin’

Coming Out Swingin'

Candye Kane featuring Laura Chavez

Coming Out Swingin’

Vizztone, 2013

http://candyekane.com/

http://www.vizztone.com/new-music-store/

There can be no better proof of Friedrich Nietzche’s oft-quoted thesis “That which does not kill us, makes us stronger” than Candye Kane. The Los Angeles native, who has been performing American music, and blues in particular, since the 1980s, hit a career high water mark with her last two releases. Written and recorded with ace guitarist Laura Chavez, Superhero and Sister Vagabond were some kind of bravura indeed, made as they were after Kane was diagnosed, in 2007, with pancreatic cancer. Those achievements, and the heavy touring schedule she maintains, comprise a remarkable display of defiance, courage, and creativity–an artistic winning streak that continues on Kane’s brand new CD, Coming Out Swingin’, a varied set of roots music.

That aptly titled cut opens the program with Fred Rautman’s thumping drums, then unfurls into a hard-swinging number. Like a jump blues band-scaled version of the Brian Setzer Orchestra, the soloists–on guitar, clarinet, piano, trumpet, and trombone–trade eights during a frenetic middle section. Assertive and assured as ever, Candye sounds a warning to stay out of her way and testifies to the strength she draws from her supporters. In “I’m The Reason Why You Drink,” a tough box shuffle with stormy accents, Kane answers (somewhat mysteriously) in the first person the question why some can’t drink like gentlemen. Take note of Billy Watson’s gritty harmonica break and Chavez’s guitar solo, in Buddy Guy’s early style. With brash tone and a wily, descending-chord approach, Chavez drives the swinging “You Ain’t All That”; her solo expertly echoes the snarl in Kane’s lyric, an unabashed putdown nearly as unrelenting as “Positively 4th Street.” The slow, minor blues “Invisible Woman” addresses the unfair challenge faced by the vast majority of women who do not meet the standard of physical perfection pushed by the media and advertisers. Kane’s all-too-accurate lyrics are matched by Chavez’s inspired guitar work, a marvelous display of dynamics and phrasing.

Swingin’ includes  a number of soul-inflected cuts. In Kane’s hands, the Elgins’ gorgeous mid-tempo R&B ballad “Darling Baby” sounds about 10 years older than its 1965 origins, due chiefly to an arrangement that leans heavily Jonny Viau’s saxophones and the romantic grind of the rhythm section (Rautman and Kennan Shaw, bass). Rick Estrin’s “What Love Can Do,” another suave, impassioned number from the same, doo-wop-inflected tradition, is handled to perfection. Moving forward stylistically, “When Tomorrow Comes” is jaunty soul in the mode of Solomon Burke’s classic Atlantic sides. The horns, by Viau, Bill Caballero, and April West, combine with Lee Dombecki’s organ to make a luscious bed. Chavez’s solo is both melodically and rhythmically hip. Finally, the rip-roaring R&B stunner “Rise Up!” nods to the dramatic buildup in the Spencer Davis Group’s “Gimme Some Lovin’” and features a beautiful, hushed breakdown in the middle section. The horn charts, including call-and-response during the verse and a chorus part that buoys the whole enterprise, are outstanding.

Kane and Chavez tackle other genres with equal success. “I Wanted You To Walk (Right Through That Door),” a unique minor key number, is marked by a brisk two-step beat; deep, spy-film-soundtrack tremolo on the guitar amp (and more brilliantly creative playing by Chavez); and a terse, effective harp break. The lyric extends the great tradition of clock-watching songs; I love the shiver in Candye’s voice at the 1:55 mark–eight p.m., by the song’s timeline. Kane sings the roots-rocking “Barbed Wire Mouth” with attitude to spare. Chavez singes it with breaks straight out of “The Crawl” and adds a few space guitar touches. Her introduction to “Au Revoir Y’all” has a bit of the flavor of Chuck Berry’s “You Never Can Tell”’; her solo conjures images of a daredevil aerialist in free flight, over a New Orleans, second-line groove. In closing the album, the band swings Lalo Guerrero’s “Marijuana Boogie” at a smoking (ahem) pace, with fat guitar chords, cymbal hits, and Kane’s rap en Español giving way to Sue Palmer’s powerhouse, boogie-woogie piano break.

Laura Chavez commands every bag she plays in, and her red Stratocaster sounds oh, so good. Anything I say about her tone, touch, taste, and style would fall short: She is a key player, and a star. And Candye Kane’s richly textured voice is better than ever. Her confidence, emotion, and intelligence are always unquestioned, and her technique, with effects like swoops, squeals, and glides; vibrato; dynamic volume and intensity; and perfect phrasing, cuts across the range of styles on Swingin’.  Together, they are at the top of their game, and Coming Out Swingin’ is a splendid album. Long may Candye Kane continue to carry her message of hope, and to make music as irresistible as this.

TOM HYSLOP

CD for review was provided by Vizztone Records.

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Electrified – UPDATED availability

Electrified

Laura Rain and the Caesars

Electrified

LRC, 2013

http://www.laurarain.net/

Real R&B–and I don’t mean what’s on the charts today–often seems embalmed by tradition. There’s absolutely a place for reverence and strict authenticity, but qualities like imagination and bravado seem to be in too short supply when it comes to musicians who know their history; hence the excitement when artists like Ryan Shaw, Little Jackie, Eli “Paperboy” Reed, and Ricky Fanté appear. We can add Laura Rain and the Caesars to that short list. The only thing retro about this band is the record collections I imagine Laura Rain and George Friend, who co-wrote all the material, to possess.

They have a rare ability to evoke vintage soul, funk, and R&B styles while sounding utterly fresh. The set opens with “Sunset,” a head-turning amalgam of rapid-fire lyrics, funky horns, guitar chank, and popping drums. “Bus Stop” is a slamming, Stax-inflected burner with enough energy for five hit singles. “My Love” nails a late-‘70s feel with phase-shifted guitar, a disco-fied bass line, and a smoking organ solo, but it’s smarter than anything that charted back in the day. Two favorites couldn’t be more different:  with its cool pulse and strong melody, “I Don’t Wanna Play” suggests the vibe of a lost Family Stone classic, especially when the horns, dominated by trumpet, sneak in at the halfway mark. And they don’t make them like “This Old House” any more–a shame, given its sophisticated, laid-back soulfulness (somewhat in the vein of the Grover Washington Jr.-Bill Withers hit, “Just The Two Of Us”), the jazzy octaves on guitar, and a story with a message.

Electrified includes enough bluesy fare to satisfy all but the hardest-hearted purist. The title track, a blues strut with a strip-joint vibe, features hard-riffing horns and a taut guitar solo. “No More” references Howlin’ Wolf’s hypnotic stomps, Hubert Sumlin’s slinky guitar, and John Lee Hooker’s patented stutters. Swampy guitar from the Memphis-Muscle Shoals axis, churchy organ, and a Stones-y swagger inform the deep soul ballad “Four Long Years.” The slow-burning “No Good Love” puts a dramatic, minor key funk spin on soul blues. “Lonely” is a terrific, upbeat rocker fueled by horns, powerhouse drums, and layered guitars.

The players come from the ranks of Detroit’s elite musicians. Guitarist Friend, whose long resume includes the hip blues gem Looka Here!, has toured the world with the likes of Janiva Magness and Robert Gordon. On keyboards, “Philharmonic” Phil Hale brings long experience working with artists from the worlds of funk (George Clinton), jazz (James Carter, Marcus Belgrave), and blues (Thornetta Davis). Ron Pangborn (Was/Not Was) is the perfect drummer for this group. Rick Beamon (additional drums/percussion) and three horn players–James O’Donnell (trumpet), John Paxton (trombone), and Johnny Evans (saxophones)–round out the ensemble.

The band is hot, the arrangements first-rate, but you won’t believe Laura Rain. Although classically trained as a soprano, any trace of fustiness is long gone; her singing is raw and straight-from-the-heart passionate. Lines are caressed, worried, torn apart. She has incredible range and makes effortless glides between registers. A host of shadings, from husky to raspy to nasal to full-bodied to infinite varieties of scream, and incredible melisma, are under her precise control. For all that, unlike so many latter-day divas who seem to sing everything but the note they intend to–in essence, offering effects at the expense of affect–with Laura Rain, it’s all about expressiveness, fire, and feeling.

I’m not generally given to predictions, but it is hard to think that, given half the requisite lucky break, Laura Rain won’t be a star. Her bio likens her to Chaka Khan and Aretha Franklin; I compare her to a force of nature. No one is doing what she is. Her style satisfies in spades the craving for the Big Gesture entrenched in the rock-oriented audience, without sacrificing the purposefulness and class needed to engage listeners from the soul and blues side. While the spirits of such legends as Johnny “Guitar” Watson, Sly & The Family Stone, Otis Redding, Johnnie Taylor, Prince, and the Parliament-Funkadelic coalition shine through the grooves of the Caesars’ first long-player, don’t bother dusting for prints or swabbing for DNA: Nothing here is an overt lift, nor even an unmistakable homage. Instead, while clearly informed and inspired by soul and R&B styles dating, roughly speaking, from the years between 1965 and 1985, Electrified is vital music for these times.

TOM HYSLOP

I purchased the digital files of this album at http://laurarainthecaesars.bandcamp.com/album/electrified. CDs are now available at amazon.com and cdbaby.com, while digital downloads are offered at those sites and via iTunes.

Nick Curran Benefit Merchandise

nick
http://antonesrecordshop.com/content/search.php?musictype&format=T-SHIRT&name=nick+curran

You can remember the one, the only, the great NICK CURRAN with T-shirts and patches produced for a recent benefit held in Austin. The merchandise is now available from Antone’s Record Shop. All proceeds go to Nick’s mother to help defray the costs of his lengthy battle against the cancer that took him last October. Long live Nick Curran! and thanks to Rafa Ibarra for doing the right thing to help.

with nick

Yours truly with Nick, October 2010.

2014 Blues Music Award Submission Process Opens

Calling all blues and soul artists! This information is reprinted from The Blues Foundation’s June newsletter.

 

major2_hvr_02
2014 Blues Music Award Submission Process Opens
If you are a record label or blues musician who will have released a CD or DVD during the period November 1, 2012 to October 31, 2013, now is the time to take the steps that will help you get consideration for a 2014 Blues Music Award. There are three components to the submission process. Step 1-as soon as you have a physical copy of the CD or DVD, send a copy to The Blues Foundation. Step 2-register it online at your earliest opportunity. Step 3-if you wish to send your release to the nominators, send it in as early as you can.
For complete information, go to:
https://www.blues.org/bluesmusicawards/balloting.php.

We cannot stress enough the importance of taking care of this business and doing so at your earliest opportunity. Nominators have hundreds of releases to listen to in order to narrow their list to their top three in each BMA category. The best way to ensure that they will have the time to give your music a good listen is to get on their radar as early as possible. If you have not yet done step 1 or 2, do it today. If you are going to do step 3, do it today. If you have a release that is still to come, do each of the steps you decide to do the earliest you can. Procrastinate at your own peril!!

Snap! Your Fingers

Finis Tasby - Kid Andersen

Finis Tasby & Kid Andersen

Snap! Your Fingers

Bluebeat Music, 2013

http://www.bluebeatmusic.com/product_info.php?products_id=20625

http://www.themannishboys.com/members/finistasby.html

http://deltagrooveproductions.com/music/artists/finis_tasby/main.html

Finis Tasby is a bluesman of unimpeachable qualifications. He got his start in Dallas in the ’50s, where he backed blues legends such as Lowell Fulson and Freddie King and soul stars like Clarence Carter and Z.Z. Hill, and continued in Los Angeles in the 1970s, where he worked with Big Mama Thornton and Percy Mayfield and began making records under his own name. His career stretches into the current decade; as a pivotal figure in The Mannish Boys supergroup, Tasby has recorded and performed with an ever-changing cast of all-stars.

This new release finds the great soul blues singer in the company of an entirely different set of top-flight musicians, a Bay Area contingent that includes Kedar Roy (bass) and June Core (drums); Lorenzo Farrell, Bob Welsh, and Sid Morris (keys); and Ed Early, Jack Sanford, and Terry Hanck (horns) making up the core band. Sharing space on the marquee with Tasby is Kid Andersen. Andersen is an acclaimed multi-instrumentalist, nominated in the Guitar category in the 2013 Blues Music Awards, and known for his work as resident mad scientist/genius guitar player with Rick Estrin & The Nightcats, as well as for his solo career and many side projects. He is also a respected producer with an ever-growing list of credits, and owner of Greaseland Studios, where Snap! Your Fingers was cut in 2011.

The program offers sublime soul interpretations that show originality while maintaining an authentic sound. The title track gives Joe Henderson’s original a funkier, more explicit country soul edge, replete with twangy baritone guitar, crisp fills and a snappy, chicken-picked guitar solo, strong organ, and a fine horn chart. Tasby is as wonderfully mellow and smooth as Brook Benton (no mean feat!) on a lushly arranged “Rainy Night In Georgia.” Don Covay’s hard R&B burner “People Sure Act Funny” is recast as a Ray Charles-style call-and-response number, featuring Lisa Leu Andersen as Raelette-in-chief on a duet with Tasby. Kid’s skittering guitar solo and clavinet playing are essential elements in the sound. The bouncy “Up And Down World” here, quite close to the original, is a perfect vehicle for Tasby, whose singing is often much in the style of Bobby “Blue” Bland.

Other songs are grounded in straightforward blues. Another Bland classic, “Rockin’ In The Same Old Boat,” hews close to the ominous, one-chord original, but something in the guitar parts (a wah-tinged rhythm part, a fuzz-toned lead) gives the track a fly, even pimpadelic, sheen. “Ghetto Woman,” a B.B. King title in a minor key along the lines of “Thrill Is Gone,” flows with cool elegance. In Z.Z. Hill’s “Don’t Make Me Pay,” Roy’s solid bass line and Core’s brilliant drumming produce a tough bottom end, accented by Morris’s Wurlitzer electric piano, Farrell’s organ, and Andersen’s trebly, stinging guitar. An incredibly loose “Blue Shadows” (the horns sound like they’re just blowing) is held together by Bob Welch’s piano, Farrell’s organ, and a solid rhythm. Tasby’s vocal here is even more than usually charismatic (and reminiscent of Lowell Fulson’s), and guest guitarist Elvin Bishop turns in a beautiful, very conversationally phrased solo. A quiet, nuanced “Worried Life Blues,” marked by Andersen’s tightrope-walking guitar break, leads into the hard-swinging closer, “Thank You Baby,” another great number in which horns, guitar, and keys take turns at center stage.

The song selection is excellent, the ensemble playing outstanding, and Tasby–masterful, gritty, and expressive–is singing at the height of his powers. Snap! Your Fingers qualifies as essential listening for blues and soul fans. Beyond hearing and enjoying the music, buying this CD is important for another reason. Half of the proceeds (yes, an incredible 50%) from the sale of this album go directly to Finis Tasby, who is recovering from a recent stroke.

TOM HYSLOP

I purchased this CD from Bluebeat Music, where it is exclusively available. Thanks and respect to Charlie Lange for proving yet again that he is as great a friend to musicians as he is to discerning listeners.

Iverson “Louisiana Red” Minter Needs a Monument

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Just received word about a situation that ought to be corrected from a friend, Brian DaSilva. Here is what he wrote:

A good friend from Hanover Germany messaged me to let me know that…. (well I’ll forward the message) We have seen that there is no gravestone on Louisiana Reds grave. Finally we reached today his son Francis Minter who told us that his pocketzs are empty because of the funeral costs. So we start to figure out how to finance a worthy tombstone (we estimate costs of 2.000 € plus). Maybe we will have to organize benefit gigs or what ever. WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO? Damn Man…. He was too poor to die.

https://soundcloud.com/bdasilva/louiaiana-red-too-poor-to-die Here is a rare live recording from just months before his passing. LET THIS BE A CALL TO HONOR THIS GREAT BLUESMAN.

It’s me again. Perhaps someone reading this has some experience in fundraising or projects of this nature, and wants to help organize the rest of us to do the right thing. Any takers?

Nuestro Camino

dupree lp 05 outside

Dupree

Nuestro Camino

Public Hi-Fi Records, 2013

http://mikeflanigin.com/mikeflanigin/Dupree.html

http://www.public-hifi.com/

Nuestro Camino was made the old fashioned way. A few players, well acquainted with and sympathetic to each other, got together in a good-sounding room to run through a set of songs, and a talented producer/engineer got the results down, in real time, on tape. Certain details were, of course, changed. The session did not take place in Rudy Van Gelder’s New Jersey living room; instead, Jim Eno captured the sounds at his Public Hi-Fi Studio in Austin, Texas. The modern day Ben Dixon is drummer Kyle Thompson. In lieu of Baby Face Willette or John Patton, we hear Mike Flanigin, a Hammond organ maestro who regularly plays blues with Jimmie Vaughan at the Continental Club, and lays down serious funk behind Mike Barfield.  Rather than Grant Green, Jake Langley–whose versatility has been shown through his work  with artists as diverse as Pinetop Perkins and Cindy Cashdollar, and in his five years touring with Joey DeFrancesco–is on guitar.

Their band is called Dupree, and the music they make, refreshingly free of environmental contaminants and artificial additives formulated by modern science, is organ trio jazz in the best tradition: heavy on soul and standards; lowdown, yet often elegant; and clearly intended to move the body and spirit at least as much as the mind. Nuestro Camino is, quite simply, superb. Six songs make up the core of the album (more about that later). Greasy and propulsive, Flanigin’s “The Turtle” recreates the blue beat sound of vintage soul jazz. Thompson’s impossibly syncopated groove underpins the proceedings; Langley blends funky chording and Green-inspired single notes; and Flanigin builds tension mercilessly in his solo. The smoky blues “Malibu Classic” runs cooler, the B3 adding stabs and swells in the background as the guitar outlines the head and takes the first few lead choruses, mixing octaves, burbling note combinations, and fluid lines. Flanigin’s organ solo is full of hip rhythmic displacements and winding phrases.

Cooler yet is the moody, minor lope “All Or Nothing At All.” Thompson drops bombs throughout, giving the standard a rolling feel that sets the table for Langley’s fleet lines and some beautiful work from Flanigin, who dials in a series of fantastic tones as he plays around the melody. In the invigorating “KC,” Flanigin holds a pedal note beneath increasingly insistent lead lines to great effect; his overdriven tone is sure to induce ecstacy in B3 fanciers. Thompson’s part is hard R&B, just a funky, displaced beat away from Motown’s signature four-to-the-bar snare hits. The swinging “Leon’s Thing” motors along nicely, Flanigin’s trebly, hollow tone balancing Langley’s rounder sound. A vaguely flamenco-flavored guitar introduction eases the trio into the exotic “Moto Guzzi,” a sultry piece that evokes palm trees and tropical breezes, splitting the difference between Latin and tiki sounds.

Four bonus tracks round out the set. Langley submits “Nightcap,” a mellow, swaying meditation. Tina Brooks’s “David The King” and Horace Silver’s “Cookin’ At The Continental” shift the focus slightly, letting Dupree work out in hard bop settings. They excel here, too, playing with imagination and intensity while maintaining a solidly bluesy feel. The album’s surprise pick hit, taking a page from later developments in soul jazz, when pop tunes provided new launch pads, is the Bacharach-David composition “Close To You,” originally made famous by The Carpenters, here taken to church with beautiful tones and a subtle approach.

I began this piece by pointing out the project’s throwback vibe. Probably nothing illustrates that more clearly than the fact that the CD edition was actually an afterthought. The bonus tracks, included on the CD, are available as downloads to those who purchase the LP or 8-track versions of Dupree’s album. Yes, you read that correctly: the recording is available on 8-track tape. In any format the listener chooses, Nuestro Camino is wildly successful at extending the organ trio tradition. The album feels great and sounds incredible; its music is perfect for driving, for dim-light chilling, or for intensive listening. Dupree has it going on in every department: creativity, chops, groove, dynamics, tone, and songs. Highest recommendation.

TOM HYSLOP

I purchased this CD from Public Hi-Fi’s Web site.