Summer can offer us the opportunity to listen to music with none of the usual day-to-day interruptions, especially if you find yourself motoring in a region of the land that is out of cell-phone range. Maybe we’ve even just made the decision to turn the damn and often-irritating device off.
Anyway, I bundled up a batch of recently released discs last week as I made my way up to north-central B.C. and yes, the releases continue to come at us in a fast and furious manner despite there being a drastically reduced number of stores handling recorded music.
Electric, amplified blues music seems to find its way into a higher rotation with my personal listening habits during the summer months and thus far I’ve been able to spend considerable time with a handful of gritty and passionate recordings from the deep North American blues pool.
In the nineties a band based out of Southern California called The Rhythm Lords used to make its way up to Alberta on a fairly frequent basis, playing week-long stints at the King Eddy in Calgary, and two- or three-night stands at the Sidetrack Café or Blues On Whyte in Edmonton.
The point man in the Rhythm Lords was Dale Peterson who played guitars, sang most of the lead vocals and also penned a majority of the material that audiences would listen and dance to over the course of the three solid sets the group would serve up.
The Rhythm Lords came out of the same scene as bands like The Paladins, James Harman and those Dangerous Gentlemens, The Beat Farmers, and The Hacienda Brothers, and were inspired by the likes of The Blasters and Los Lobos, both of whom experienced a different level of success.
It was easy to be impressed with Peterson’s focused, tasty instrumental arrangements that drew on those rich, roots rock veins, his understanding of his comfort zone as a singer and the sincerity exuded by both the main man and his bandmates.
The demise of the band came about with the demise of much of the touring circuit that supported such bands and it led to Peterson devoting a considerable amount of time to wood-shedding in the songwriting department before he recorded some sides as a solo artist. A similar plan was taking shape late last year when he headed into the studio to record a new batch of material with some longtime associates including bassist Stephen Traino and manager John Valenzuela.
Everyone involved locked into the songs, each other’s playing and by the time this crew exited the studio Peterson was piloting a new band called Trouble No More.
It’s a tough and tight sound at the core of the Time Machine album from Trouble No More. The blues dominates tunes like "I Was A Fool" and and "Shot Down (Yeah, That’s Alright)", while the fluttering tenor sax notes and reverb-drenched guitar that introduce "Papa Picante" deliver a shot of what Doug Sahm referred to as ‘border wave” music. Peterson convincingly hits the stride of a beat poet with the autobiographical and condensed testimonal about his muse, as Triano’s thick bass lines, Mike Malone’s deep groove organ fills and Gerard Boisse’s late night, jazz-joint sax passages add all the necessary spices required to "Beatnik Bongo".
There’s a cool film noir soundtrack meets surf guitar tonal splash to "Johnny Was A Gravedigger" while "Little Girl, Shake It Down" comes across as rough and tumble blues pouring out of the doors of a ramshackle club in the tradition of Howlin’ Wolf.
The end result is a fine effort from Dale Peterson and his mates in Trouble No More, and while they may not reinvent the wheel they continue to put a very cool spin on it. More info on Time Machine is available at http://www.root66recordingco.com/.
Blues fans will have the opportunity to catch Lil’ Ed and The Blues Imperials in August at the Edmonton Blues Festival and while it was a few years ago now, it’s easy to remember what an inspiring show that Chicago crew delivered at their last visit to the Hawrelak Park Amphitheatre.
Alligator has just released the eighth album on Lil’ Ed, in what has been a long and fruitful relationship going back to the early eighties.
Lil’ Ed Williams had much of the equation in hand back when he was first signed to Alligator as he was a ferocious slide guitarist and intense, super-charged performer. But this is now a quartet that has been working together for 25 years and that kind of commitment coupled with this high level of talent makes for a sound that is brilliantly defined and executed.
Dynamically speaking Lil’ Ed, the guitar-playing Michael Garrett, bass man Pookie Young and drummer Kelly Littleton come at the listener from a lot of places. Slow and understated can be the key to a tune like the lyrically heartfelt and poignant "Life Is A Journey" while the band swings with authority and an added infusion of joy on "World of Love", just two of eight tunes Williams co-wrote with his wife Pam.
There is only one cover on the disc and that is a rock solid, deep groove take of J.B. Hutto’s plea to a lost lover, "If You Change Your Mind", that early on builds to a slicing and stinging slide solo from the main man.
A Chicago Sun-Times music columnist that doesn’t take his homegrown talent for granted called this one “a bazooka assault of foot-stompin’blues and slow-burnin’ knee bucklers” and that really nails the contents of Jump Start.
Along the way Lil’ Ed Williams has become a beacon in the world of blues singing as his delivery is robust and soulful, and nothing is lost in the translation.
As far as this project is concerned kudos also go out to photographer Paul Natkin who captured the spirit of the band in the Alligator promo shots and the album jacket that is in some ways a modern day mirror of the Paul Butterfield East-West cover sleeve shot.
For those of you who plan on attending the Edmonton Blues Festival, Li’l Ed and the Blues Imperials will be digging deep into Jump Start on the Hawrelak Park stage on Saturday August 25th at 7pm.
On the Canadian blues front it is good to see Paul Reddick back in action with his latest recording Wishbone.
Reddick is a songwriter of considerable depth and his ability to draw on so many feels, styles, and sources make him an artist that always stands on his own turf.
Haunting, brooding, direct, dark and foreboding, Wishbone is a beautifully spun set of songs dipped at one turn in a deep groove and the next tumbling forth with a hip and hypnotic melody line.
Reddick takes us inside the world of torment with a poet’s imagery on a song like "Devil’s Load", spits a cocky but loose cannon confidence into the lyrics of "Photograph", and vocally dances to a seductively swampy beat and a throw caution to the wind delight persona on "The Other Man".
Production by Colin Cripps is alone worth the price of admission, as the grittiness is set on what sounds like an accomplished mission of intent from all the instrumentalists involved. By the time Reddick and Cripps put a musical bow on this captivating set of songs Reddick is singing as though he’s channeling Mickey Newbury and Randy Newman and found some sort of redemption through all the trouble and torment that is woven into Wishbone.
This recording could be the key to pushing Reddick’s profile to another level and here’s hoping some of these amazing songs make their way to other respected artists. For starters I can hear Chris Smither taking hold of "The Ballad of Wishbone" and I’d really like to hear Jim Byrnes wade into one or two of these gems.
Wishbone should be Juno bound: a truly exceptional piece of work.
So it’s back in the car in a couple of days and no doubt, the music of Paul Reddick, Lil’ Ed and Trouble No More will be part of the soundtrack for the drive back home.