Album Reviews

Johnny Max: Band Forty Nine Minutes of the Best We Have

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Submitted by Cashbox Canada

"49 Minutes...Of The Best We Have!" marks the 6th release for the Johnny Max Band, a 2X JUNO Award & multiple Maple Blues Award nominee.

Well known as Johnny Max, the host of Sunday Morning Soul, playing the best in brand new Blues and Roots,  he holds the seat of a syndicated radio show that prides itself in playing ‘Where Good Music Lives’. (

"49 Minutes...Of The Best We Have!" has an offering of 12 great tracks, all taken from the Johnny Max Band's most recent 3 releases, with the lions share, six in total, being chosen from their 2010 "It's A Long Road" album, which was a strong release on its own.

All well-crafted and well-produced it is no wonder Johnny Max has garnered attention in the international markets.

Reminiscent of Mac Rebennack piano, Max has a style all his own on “Daddy’s Little Girl”; with plenty of bottom and vocal growls, great guitar licks and solid backbeat percussions, a solid glimpse of what is left to come on this CD.

“(You’re A) Lesson I’ve Learned” is a great blues swing track, catch the live version at the Beaches Jazz Festival to see The Johnny Max Band give it a go.


Bey Paule Band: Not Going Away

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Submitted by Cashbox Canada

We often hear the cliché “the third time’s the charm”. Well, there is some truth in that remark, and it proves to be so with release number three by The Bey Paule Band, NOT GOIN’ AWAY. This musically, rich creation of twelve Soul and Blues songs, includes ten original expressions and two thoughtfully chosen covers. Most of the members of The Bey Paule Band mingled their talents in the art of co-writing. More so than with the very successful, previous releases YOU DON’T KNOW NOTHING, and SOUL FOR YOUR BLUES, the creation of NOT GOIN’ AWAY was a group effort. Frank Bey’s hypnotic vocals, and Anthony Paule’s lofty guitar playing, are energetically supported by, Paul Revelli, drums & percussion; Paul Olguin, bass; Tony Lufrano, keyboards; Nancy Wright, tenor sax; Mike Rinta, trombone; and the one and only new comer Tom Poole, trumpet. The Bay Paule Band’s out-of-this-world horn arrangements are the fierce inspirations of Mike Rinta and Anthony Paule. This is probably a good time to note a small change. The band’s name, it’s shorter, easier to say, and easier to remember. How cool is that? The Frank Bey & Anthony Paule Band, will from this point forward be known as The Bey Paule Band. Black Bottom: Part of what I love about working with Frank is hearing him talk about his very interesting life. It was only a matter of time before the song needed to be written.

Here it is, in all its glory, from childhood to present time as told by the boys.

Toby Walker: Mileage

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Submitted by Iain Patience

New Jersey-based Toby Walker started out on the road many moons ago under the moniker Little Toby Walker, a title he’s long outgrown. With this latest release, ‘Mileage’, he again shows just how astonishingly talented he is. Easily one of the finest acoustic guitarists in the blues and roots world, he simply grows stronger with every album.

I’ll confess to being a huge fan of this guy’s wonderful music and have the pleasure of knowing him well. That aside, however, since first discovering him, following a tip-off from a US buddy of mine many, many years ago, I’ve constantly been surprised by the sheer quality of each release and the clear, evident improving fret mastery he displays.

While many pickers seem to reach a plateau and then sit on their butts seldom moving further or exploring musical possibilities, Walker is always exploring, changing, charging ahead; at times he sounds like ole Doc Watson as he cross-picks, fingerpicks and switches effortlessly from Americana, folk with an Irish edge to straight blues. Tracks included here in this seventeen-track disc include his own compositions, ‘See My Grave Is Kept Clean’, Irish reels, Daley’s Reel/Stoney Lonesome and even an exceptional and surprising solo take on Fats Waller’s old classic, ‘Lulu’s Back In Town’ and Muddy’s marvelous ‘She Moves Me.’

Mark Harrison: On The Chicken Sandwich Train Live

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Submitted by Iain Patience

Mark Harrison is an English acoustic guitarist with his heart and soul in the Deep South of Mississippi, The Delta and the blues in general. The title of this, his latest release, comes from the vitals many old black musicians and share-cropping migrants carried on the long rail journey North to the anticipated riches of Chicago and other northern cities where developing industry offered a possible income and escape from the grinding poverty of the southern states of the USA in the pre-war years.

Harrison is an all round entertainer, a troubadour who has wit and an evidently astute understanding of his favourite music and its extraordinary history. With twenty-two tracks here, mostly self-penned, he displays a rare talent and enjoyably quirky squint at themes and topics often ignored by his acoustic picking peers.

For me, at least, three tracks positively stand out as gems of the genre, all his own compositions and clear illustrations of his style and ability – ‘Big Mary’s House’; Crematorium Blues’ and the wonderful, funereal ‘Your Second Line.’

Harrison is genuinely remarkable in many ways. He doesn’t just play blues with a traditional touch but instead moves it on, always thoughtful and complex with, at times, hints of musical trickery. He shakes the music by the scruff of the neck and with Chicken Sandwich Train succeeds in delivering an excellent, sparkling album of striking originality. Highly recommended.

Jamie Williams & The Roots Collective: 'Live 'N' Kickin'

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Submitted by Iain Patience

Jamie Williams & The Roots Collective is a six-piece English outfit with a firm grasp on modern Americana with underlying blues and rock influences clearly part of its make-up. 'Live 'N' Kickin' is just that: a live recording, recorded at the 2015 Cropredy Fringe Festival (Cropredy is the annual home of the official Fairport Convention folk-roots bash) at the Brasenose Arms, a bar known to love this kind of kickin' music.

All fourteen tracks featured here are written by band-leader, Jamie Williams himself and range across the blues/rock/country/Americana gamut while positively pulsing with good-humour, stylish ouches and sheer joi de vivre. This is a noisy band, not a faint-heart in sight or sound. Almost everything in this melodic mix rocks and rolls, music to get people on their feet, to dance with and to.

Having been together for around five years, the current line-up is settled, sure-footed and satisfying. Williams leads on rhythm-guitar and vocals with strong, explosive at times, support from Lizzie B on acoustic guitar; Dave 'The Hat' Milligan on lead-guitar; Kev 'The Rock' Warner on bass; Nick 'Nix' Garner on harp, and Spencer Blackledge keeping the beat together on drums.

All in all this is a promising live album full to bursting with thumping, fiery tracks and up-tempo modern Americana music. A great discovery.

Brothers Brown: Dusty Road

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Submitted by Iain Patience

The Brothers Brown is a hard-rocking, blues four piece led by two Grammy-winning frontmen, both named Paul Brown. Despite the potential for confusion here, the music is loud and clear, begging attention from the first searing note to the last. Make no mistake, this is band that knows how to move and then some.

'Dusty Road' is a debut release from a four-piece band with immediate and evident quality, talent, class and style. There's a shining confidence to the music here and an understanding of just what it takes to make the grade in the hard music business. All tracks are self-penned and the Brothers Brown already have enough material squirreled away for another, follow-up, sophomore release in the future.

With members' roots falling between Nashville and LA for the most part, the range of genres covered here includes straight rock, R&B, through blues, jazz and even hints of Americana. While both Paul Browns have picked up Grammys for their work as producers, guitarists and keyboardists in the past, the rest of the band have also been equally and impressively busy with bassist David Santos working with Billy Joel, Elton John, John Fogerty and others, while drummer Peter Young has toured with Loretta Lynn, The Burrito Brothers and others.

CW Ayon: Enough To Be Proud

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Submitted By Iain Patience

This is an 11-track album drawing strongly and positively on the renowned blues music of the Mississippi hills. CW, or Cooper, Ayon is a part-Cherokee native American from New Mexico who wields a guitar with purpose while beating out a rhythm with his free feet on drum and cymbal – a one-man band of some note and compleity with a wayward and deceptively simple guitar style that more than hints at his musical pedigree and love of the Deep South blues tradition.

The overall feel of this recording is decidedly acoustic while the actual fretwork leans to the light, soulful electric playing style of late – period pickers like Texas wizard   Lightnin’ Hopkins, albeit hitting it here as a one-man-band!

The one-man-band format seems to be going through something of a rebirth at the moment, gaining new fans and popularity with a new wave of music lovers.

Ayon is quickly establishing himself as an international master of the style and Enough To Be Proud is a mighty fine addition to that particular musical cannon.

A style that relies heavily of necessity on open guitar tunings, this album is a splendid example of just how good  well-worn tradition can be when played with passion and spirit.

Red Dirt Skinners Behind The Wheel

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Submitted by Iain Patience

The fourth studio album from the Red Dirt Skinners, an English husband and wife duo featuring Rob Skinner on guitar and his partner Sarah on Soprano Sax, is a welcome addition to the bands catalogue. Strong on harmony and driving, rhythmic fretwork from Rob, the whole project is driven forward by Sarah’s searing sax playing and innate sense of musical freedom.

The collection of nine self-written songs serves well to highlight the couple’s ability and a growing confidence evidenced in the maturity of the writing and the music itself. Genres and musical boundaries are pushed aside with a refreshing ease. Switching effortlessly from blues and jazz undertones to Americana and modern-country, the Skinners wheel and deal as they change tempo, pace and styles at almost every turn. This is not a band for die-hard, stuck in the groove, traditionalists.

With a lengthy forthcoming tour of Canada about to kick-off (March 25th) the Skinners are making their second trip to Canada and revel in the adrenalin-fuelled challenge of live performance. The only outfit in the UK to have picked up national awards in both blues and country music categories, the Red Dirt Skinners are a genuinely, sparkling and refreshing antidote to the world of musical blandness. The opening, title track is an excellent, rolling, lyrical number that is virtually guaranteed to keep you tuned in for the remainder of the ride. Highly recommended.

Matt Andersen: Honest Man

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Submitted by Iain Patience

Matt Andersen comes from Canada. He plays blues and soul music with class and confidence. His guitar-work is solid, soulful and tasty. Honest Man is an excellent album with bags of style and pizzaz, featuring ten self-written tracks that showcase the guy's artistry and emotion to full extent. What more is needed?

Andersen's voice is deeply steeped in southern soul and gospel tradition while his lyrics reflect his thoughts on personal relationships, be they good, bad or badder; love, life on the road and political/cultural processes across North America in general. The result is an unusually honest release that sparkles with common-sense, complexity and erudition at almost every turn.

Honest Man is an album that is not only simply very good. It's very good, indeed. A release that should, deservedly on this basis, elevate this guy's profile and provide delight to the rest of us.

Debbie Bond Shoals Sessions Enjoy The Ride

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Submitted by Iain Patience

Often likened to Bonnie Raitt, Alabama blues-lady Debbie Bond’s latest release, ‘Enjoy The Ride’, kicks off strongly with an upbeat, optimistic surge of soul and passion on the title track before shifting a few gears with introspective inner searching reaching out in tracks ‘Start With Love’, the dizzying despair and combative edge of ‘Left Me In The Dark’, and the reflective beauty of ‘Remedy’. Throughout, Bond’s fine fretwork is confident and compelling, carrying the whole mix along with power and purpose. Recorded in Muscle Shoals, with full-on horns and Shoals-sounding quality, ‘Enjoy The Ride’ is easily Bond’s finest effort to date, bursting with sensitivity and a soulful delivery that show heartache and hurt, love and loss will always be winning combinations.

Bond’s previous album, ‘That Thing Called Love’, featured her partner Radiator Rick Asherson on Harp and Keys, and he again figures strongly here. Her love and affection for the late Alabama bluesman Willie King, whom she played with for many years, is also evident with an excellent cover of one of his anthems, ‘I Am The Blues’ included in the mix. Add some quality support guitar flourished from Will McFarlane, (ex-Bonnie Raitt), Spooner Odham on organ, one of the US’s finest sidemen, and you have an album of considerable class, style and quality.

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