David Bromberg Band

The Blues, The Whole Blues and Nothing But the Blues

Red House

bromberg2“The Blues, The Whole Blues and Nothing But the Blues” is the best of David Bromberg’s four studio albums released since ending his 17-year recording hiatus 10 years ago — and also among his best ever.

His excellent previous three releases (2007’s solo acoustic “Try Me One More Time,” and the 2011 and 2013 band efforts “Use Me” and “Only Slightly Mad”) were just setting the stage for this superb compendium of standards and obscurities.

Robert Johnson’s “Walkin’ Blues” is fully electrified by Bromberg’s slide guitar and also features an ultrafine solo by second guitarist Mark Cosgrove.

Bromberg handles all solos — slide and otherwise — on the rest of the songs except for “Delia,” a guitar duet between Bromberg’s acoustic and producer Larry Campbell’s acoustic slide. The traditional song is reprised from Bromberg’s 1972 eponymous debut.

Other exceptionally noteworthy standards include Sonny Boy Williamson II’s “Eyesight to the Blind,” graced by Little Feat keyboardist Bill Payne’s nimble fingers on the organ as well as a quick fiddle solo by Nate Grower; and “Yield Not to Temptation,” a Deadric Malone (aka Don Robey) composition that was a hit for Bobby “Blue” Bland but which, as pointed out by Bromberg in his liner notes, received an inspiring treatment by Tracy Nelson, Marcia Ball and Irma Thomas on their 1998 summit, “Sing It!”

In the Obscurities Department, a bone called “How Come My Dog Don’t Bark When You Come ‘Round?” has been dug up — rare because it’s not the Prince Patridge number that Dr. John covered to great effect. Many have recorded and taken credit for songs going by that or similar names, including Memphis Slim, Lorraine Ellison and even Buck Owens. Bromberg says he doesn’t know who wrote this one, but learned it from a lead sheet while considering songs for a ’70s album: “I think the album I was doing was “Reckless Abandon,” he told Good New Music by email.

Another obscure gem is the sexual-innuendo-laden “You’ve Been a Good Ole Wagon,” a Bessie Smith tune written by John Willie (aka “Shifty”) Henry, with Payne on piano, Grower on fiddle and Cosgrove on mandolin.

And then there’s the title song. “We thought that we’d finished recording the album,” Bromberg says in the liners, “which was already titled ‘The Blues, The Whole Blues and Nothing But the Blues,’ when (manager) Mark McKenna found this song by Gary Nicholson and Russell Smith. Of course we had to go back to the studio and record it.” The song originally appeared on an album by Memphis R&B group Fish Heads & Rice in 1994.

Bromberg concludes “Blues” with two new original compositions: the humorous “This Month” (“The first time that woman left me — this month — I couldn’t even tell you why”) and “You Don’t Have to Go,” whose lyrics are a mashup of several Chicago blues numbers including “Sweet Home Chicago” and “The Sky Is Crying.”gnm_end_bug

Tracks
1. Walkin’ Blues
2. How Come My Dog Don’t Bark When You Come ’Round?
3. Kentucky Blues
4. Why Are People Like That?
5. A Fool For You
6. Eyesight To The Blind
7. 900 Miles
8. Yield Not To Temptation
9. You’ve Been A Good Ole Wagon
10. Delia
11. The Blues, The Whole Blues And Nothing But The Blues
12. This Month
13. You Don’t Have to Go

Total time: 57:42

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Gonzalo Bergara

Zalo’s Blues

self-released

bergaraAfter six Gypsy jazz albums, Gonzalo Bergara returns to his blues-rock roots with all the zeal one would expect from someone who caught the late, great Dan Hicks’ attention.

When Bergara served as guitarist on Hicks’ 2004 release, “Selected Shorts,” the Argentinian was relatively unknown to the American public. The following year he began extensive touring as rhythm guitarist in John Jorgenson’s Gypsy jazz quintet, a gig that would last through 2008. After that he began recording a string of releases under his own name or as the Gonzalo Bergara Quartet.

Bergara told Good New Music via email how he met Hicks:

“A friend of my roommate was at the time using his studio for a project with Dan Hicks. The producer was Tim Hauser from Manhattan Transfer. This friend had heard through my roommate that I also could play not only blues but Gypsy jazz as well, and everybody at that time was not happy with the guitar player they had in the studio.

“So one day the studio owner dialed my number and had me play (Gus Kahn’s 1924 classic) ‘I’ll See You in My Dreams’ through the phone. Sounds crazy, but that’s how it went. I guess (Hicks) liked it OK, because the next day I was in the studio redoing all of the guitar parts. … He was a very special man; I loved working with him.”

Although his roots are in blues, unbelievably this is Bergara’s first blues recording.

“My first gigs as a musician were at the age of 16,” he told GNM in explaining his blues beginnings. “I first joined a group when I was 12, and after four years and lots of practice, we started sounding pretty good. We were invited to national television, and played  shows weekly in Buenos Aires and Argentina.

“I have always loved the format of a trio,” he said, “the freedom and space it gives me. Mariano (D’Andrea) and my brother Maximiliano (who both play on ‘Zalo’s Blues’) joined me when I was 16, and we did lots of things together, but I also played with other trios in town when I needed to.”

“Zalo’s Blues” is roughly half vocal numbers, half instrumental. The vocal tunes — Bergara’s first on record — are as good as any upper-echelon blues-rocker’s, and his singing voice carries not even a trace of an accent.

The instrumental cuts range in influence from Charlie Christian to T-Bone Walker to Stevie Ray Vaughan to the Hellecasters, and draw attention to the fact that this platter is nothing if not a tone fest.

Perhaps he was waiting until he felt his singing/songwriting skills were fully developed before “going electric,” but if Bergara’s first crack at it is this good, the listener’s imagination runs wild thinking about what lies ahead.gnm_end_bug

Tracks
1. Drawback
2. Drinking
3. Singing My Song
4. You Don’t Have To Go (Jimmy Reed)
5. Dirty Socks
6. Gonna Go
7. No More
8. Woosh
9. Been Runnin’
10. Levi
11. Ines
12. Won`t Stay With You

Total time: 37:30

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The Carnivaleros

carnivaleros5Dreams Are Strange

RootaVega

The Tucson, Ariz.-based Carnivaleros have always possessed a knack for unusually interesting arrangements, often combining instruments not normally heard together.

On “Dreams Are Strange,” the band makes a swampy Appalachian acoustical foray into Americana, with an expansion of its sound due to the presence of Heather “Lil’ Mama” Hardy’s violin on most tracks.

Tying it together is the decidedly non-Tex Mex/non-polka accordion of singer-songwriter Mackender, who favors basic North American folk and, occasionally, Middle Eastern and klezmer idioms.

Six of the album’s tracks are instrumental, including “Chestnut Oak” (featuring banjo); “Tumacacori” (vibes and lap steel); and “High Speed Yard Sale” (tuba).

Highlights among the album’s eight vocal numbers are the country-and-Cajun “Hesitation Bridge”; the incredibly witty title track; the jump zydeco “Gonna Jump in a Hole”; the upbeat “Who’s to Say” (which would have been a perfect vehicle for the late Dan Hicks, with its Hot Licks-type chorus); and the hard-luck tale “Wore Out My Welcome.”gnm_end_bug

Tracks
1. Hesitation Bridge
2. Dreams Are Strange
3. The Chestnut Oak
4. Gonna Jump in a Hole
5. Mamie Eisenhower
6. Tumacacori
7. Who’s to Say
8. Moving On
9. The Red Maple
10. Wore Out My Welcome
11. Donna’s Song
12. Psychic Mary
13. Time Traveling
14. High Speed Yard Sale

Total time: 48:49

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Jeff Plankenhorn

SoulSlide

Lounge Side

plankenhornSinger, songwriter and guitarist Jeff Plankenhorn, aka Plank, plays “The Plank” — a self-designed, resonator-shaped,  full-bodied electric guitar played lap-steel style while standing up.

“The Plank” allows Plank to realize his dream of mixing sacred-steel influences such as the Campbell Brothers and Robert Randolph with the Dobro stylings of Jerry Douglas and Josh Graves.

“SoulSlide” is his fourth album and third studio effort. Plank has played for Ray Wylie Hubbard, Willis Alan Ramsey, Slaid Cleaves and Joe Ely, among others. Before moving to Austin at Hubbard’s urging, he spent a year in Nashville learning to play Dobro, a skill put to great use here playing The Plank — which, not being a resonator, makes this latest release a bonanza of wonderfully wicked slide workouts.

Helping out are Brannen Temple on drums and Yoggie Musgrove on bass (the former rhythm section of late Texas guitar legend Stephen Bruton’s old trio), and guitar/keyboard player Dave Scher (not to be confused with Farmer Dave Scher of Beachwood Sparks). Making special appearances are singers Malford Milligan and Ruthie Foster, and former Fastball singer and guitarist Miles Zuniga (who co-wrote several of the songs with Plank, and contributes guitar and background vocals).

Showstoppers include Sam and Dave’s “You Got Me Hummin’ “; “Like Flowers,” a Plankenhorn original inspired by a line from the Charles Bukowski poem “People as Flowers”; the piano-guitar instrumental “Kansas City Nocturne”; “Vagabond Moonlight,” co-written by Plankenhorn, Zuniga and Brett Dennen; a never-released Ramsay cut, “Mockingbird Blues”; and Percy Sledge’s “Walking in the Sun.”gnm_end_bug

Tracks
1. Lose My Mind
2. You Got Me Hummin’ (feat. Malford Milligan)
3. Trouble Find Me
4. Like Flowers (feat. Ruthie Foster)
5. Dirty Floor
6. Kansas City Nocturne
7. Born to Win
8. Vagabond Moonlight (feat. The Resentments)
9. Mockingbird Blues
10. Headstrong
11. Live Today (feat. The Resentments)
12. Walking in the Sun

Total time: 43:48

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Jeff Healey

Heal My Soul

Provogue

healeyThis month marks the eighth anniversary of Jeff Healey’s death from cancer but also sees his first new blues-rock studio album in more than 15 years — released on what would have been his 50th birthday (March 25).

Healey’s widow, Christie, and longtime friend Roger Costa have spent more than a year lovingly creating a “lost album” from the four-year span of sessions that yielded the guitarist’s final blues-rock studio record to be released in his lifetime, 2000’s “Get Me Some.”

Surprisingly, “Heal My Soul” is at least as good as “Get Me Some” — which came out just before the Jeff Healey Band called it quits and the artist began his foray into 1920s/30s jazz.

Between “Get Me Some” and his death, Healy released three albums of jazz standards (two studio, one live). Posthumously there was a half-live, half-studio blues-rock album comprising cover tunes; a live blues-rock album of more cover tunes; his final jazz/swing studio disc; and two multidisc live blues-rock albums collectively comprising six concerts.

So after a decade and a half, “Heal My Soul” — a set of originals and covers — is most welcome.

Good New Music reached co-estate administrator Costa by email to ask how much of the record was newly recorded and overdubbed:

“Mostly just drums (were added),” Costa said. “Many of the songs had unfinished drum tracks, placeholder recordings, and even electronic drums in a couple of cases. It was quite common for whoever was around at the time to lay down a quick drum track for the song to be built on – sometimes even Jeff!

“We recorded new drums for nine out of the 12 tracks with an exceptional musician and dear friend, Dean Glover.  Joe Rockman, Jeff’s old bass player and bassist on most of these songs, came down several times to hang out during this (process), and the mixing stage. Beyond that, the bulk of what little was added was for color — the odd bit of percussion, some electric piano and B3 on one track, etc.  All of Jeff’s performances are intact.”

Two of the remaining three songs feature original trio drummer Tom Stephen, and a third was stripped down to just Healey’s guitar, with the above-mentioned keyboards overdubbed.

The Albert Collins tune “Put the Shoe on the Other Foot” is the only number that can be found, albeit in a different version, on any other Healey album — it was part of the 2013 German-concert compilation, “As the Years Go Passing By.” This new studio version has Healey on vocals rather than 2000 tour guitarist Philip Sayce.

Of the 12 songs on “Heal My Soul,” four are originals, two are are under “copyright control” (composer unknown) and six are covers. But other than the Collins song and Richard Thompson’s “I Misunderstood,” the covers are euphorically obscure.

Case in point: “Baby Blue” by Tim Beattie, a New York songwriter turned Nashville songwriter whose résumé includes stints as lead singer and harmonica/lap steel player for the Four Horsemen and as a member of Chris Whitley & The Bastard Club. It’s a beautiful acoustic/electric ballad that eventually appeared on Beattie’s out-of-print “Tim Beattie and Big Dog.” Here Healy overdubs a half-dozen vocal tracks to astounding effect.

“Moodswing” and “Love in Her Eyes” are by The Phantoms, a popular blues-rock outfit from the mid-’80s to mid-’90s on the club scene in Toronto, Healey’s home town. The two songs are a little harder-edged than typical Healey fare but, overall, in keeping with the album’s progressive tone. They come from The Phantoms’ unreleased fourth and final album.

“Perhaps I’ll release that lost Phantoms album one day,” lead singer and harmonicat Jerome Godboo told GNM by email. “I have several unreleased CDs. I seem to delight in making them (but am) a little weak in the distribution department.”

Every song — original or cover — on “Heal My Soul” is a beaut. But the album’s centerpiece is the midtempo hard-rock ballad “Kiss the Ground You Walk On,” written in the early ’90s by power-pop meister Parthenon Huxley (P.Hux) and heavy metal guitarist Marc Ferrari (Keel, Cold Sweat, Medicine Wheel).

Good New Music tracked down the two via email for the never-released song’s backstory: “Marc and I were paired up when I was a staff writer at MCA Music Publishing,” Huxley revealed. “We were always very proud of that song. We felt it was a hit and deserved a good home.”

“(We were) just two guys getting together to see where things may go,” Ferrari offered. He added that “other artists demoed that song, including Curtis Stigers — who almost cut it for ‘The Bodyguard’ soundtrack — and the singer of Simply Red (Mick Hucknall).”gnm_end_bug

Tracks
1. Daze Of The Night
2. Moodswing
3. Baby Blue
4. I Misunderstood
5. Please
6. Love In Her Eyes
7. Temptation
8. Kiss The Ground You Walk On
9. All The Saints
10. Put The Shoe On The Other Foot
11. Under A Stone
12. It’s The Last Time

Total time: 51:58

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