Ian Siegal & The Mississippi Mudbloods

Candy Store Kid

Nugene

When Luther Dickinson (touring with the Black Crowes at the time) joined brother Cody and British blues guitar man Ian Siegal onstage during their set at the 2011 Belgium Rhythm & Blues Festival, the seed was planted for the followup to Siegal’s “The Skinny” — last year’s wildly successful collaboration realized at Luther and Cody’s Zebra Ranch in Mississippi hill country.

Luther, unable to sit in for that album, generously lends his trademark slide guitar to Siegal’s even more brilliant new one. Cody produces again, actually getting to play drums (Rodd Bland helmed the kit last time), and guitarists Garry Burnside and Alvin Youngblood Hart return as well.

Luther and Cody’s regular band, the North Mississippi Allstars, haven’t had a studio release since “Keys to the Kingdom” in early 2011 — a tribute to their recently departed father, legendary producer Jim Dickinson. But they’ve toured some and Luther has been especially prolific, putting put out his first solo album, discs with side projects the Wandering and South Memphis String Band, and  a collaboration with David Hidalgo of Los Lobos and Mato Nanji of Indigenous.

The extracurricular activity no doubt renewed the Dickinsons: “Candy Store Kid” is the best aggregation of hill country blues artists in recent memory. The genre fits Siegal and his Howlin’ Wolf-style vocals like a glove, his seven original compositions sounding almost as authentic as those of real-deal musicians like Mississippi Fred McDowell, R.L. Burnside and Junior Kimbrough. Also included are Lightnin’ Malcolm’s “So Much Trouble,” Garry Burnside’s “Strong Woman” and the obscure “Green Power” (plucked from Little Richard’s 1971 LP “King of Rock and Roll”).

Tracks
1. Bayou Country
2. Loose Cannon
3. I Am The Train
4. So Much Trouble
5. Kingfish
6. The Fear
7. Earlie Grace Jnr
8. Green Power
9. Strong Woman
10. Rodeo
11. Hard Pressed (What Da Fuzz?)

Total time: 46:14

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Ana Popovic

Unconditional

Eclecto Groove

For her sixth studio album (counting her 1998 debut as a member of Hush), Yugoslavian singer-songwriter-guitarist Popovic left her Amsterdam base for three months to descend on the Crescent City and craft her finest release.

With help from Grammy-winning producer John Porter, some of New Orleans’ best musicians and a vocal coach, Popovic takes her formidable blues-rock skills in more of a traditional blues direction while maintaining her jazz and soul propensities.

The core backup band consists of Jon Cleary on keyboards, Calvin Turner on bass and Doug Belote on drums. Louisiana great Sonny Landreth challenges her to a slide duel on “Slideshow,” the sole instrumental. Jason Ricci, a recent New Orleans transplant who’s among the vanguard of blues harp players, wails on “Count Me In.” Keys maestro David Torkanowsky, of jazz improv group Astral Project, replaces Cleary on two cover songs: the Nat Adderley standard “Work Song” and Koko Taylor’s “Voodoo Woman,” which holds what might be the record’s best slide solo.

“Unconditional” opens with an acoustic-slide gospel number, “Fearless Blues.” The title cut is a blues shuffle, containing yet another killer electric-slide solo. “Reset Rewind” again approaches gospel territory, throwing in a one-two keyboard punch of electric piano and organ. “Business as Usual” is blues all the way.

Other highlights are “Your Love Ain’t Real,” entering the realm of funk/R&B; and “Summer Rain,” which is pure R&B.

The set closes with two more covers: Mercy Dee Walton’s “One Room Country Shack” and Sugar Pie DeSanto’s big Chess hit, “Soulful Dress,” written by Maurice McAlister and Terry Vail.

Tracks
1. Fearless Blues
2. Count Me In
3. Unconditional
4. Reset Rewind
5. Slideshow
6. Business As Usual
7. Your Love Ain’t Real
8. Work Song
9. Summer Rain
10. Voodoo Woman
11. One Room Country Shack
12. Soulful Dress

Total time: 50:53

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The New Mastersounds

Breaks From the Border

Tallest Man

British retro-soul group The New Mastersounds have been around since they rose like a Phoenix in 1999 from the ashes of the original Mastersounds (not to be confused with America’s late ’50s/early ’60s easy-listening bop combo of the same name).

For the past five years, the Leeds-based instrumental funksters have been making a name for themselves in the United States, making the trek regularly to play the jam-band circuit. After their most recent trip, they sidetracked to Texas to record “Breaks,” their seventh studio album and first to feature group vocals (on eight of the 11 songs).

The change to the quartet’s sound — traditionally an amalgam of Meters, Jimmy McGriff, the J.B.s, Grant Green and Booker T. & the MGs — recalls classic funk songs such as Average White Band’s “Cut the Cake” or Tower of Power’s “What Is Hip?” But the group retains its trademark emphasis on guitar and organ, with plenty of long sections between vocal passages where all can stretch out.

No doubt Sonic Ranch, the five-studio residential recording complex in the middle of pecan orchards near El Paso, and its vintage equipment and instruments (Fender Rhodes included), contributed to the enthusiastic takes heard here.

For purists who prefer instrumentals, there’s “Run the Gauntlet,” a boogaloo number whose title gives a good indication of its tempo; the more moderate but full of snap, crackle and pop “Freckles” (after the British R&B singer also known as Rhianna Kenny, who did all the disc’s vocal arrangements); and “Josus” (another nickname, for the band’s keyboardist), containing some Donald Fagen-like piano and a “Josie”-like beat.

Tracks
1. Take What You Need
2. Run The Gauntlet
3. On The Border
4. Free Man
5. Freckles
6. Passport
7. Walk In These Shoes
8. Josus
9. Can You Get It?
10. Turn It Up
11. Up In The Air

Total time: 48:33

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7 Walkers

7 Walkers

Response

7 WalkersLyricist Robert Hunter has been pretty busy lately. Last year saw the release of albums written with Bob Dylan (“Together Through Life”) and New Riders of the Purple Sage (“Where I Come From”) plus a song with Bruce Hornsby for Hornsby’s “Levitate” (“Cyclone”). This year saw the onetime Grateful Dead scribe’s second Jim Lauderdale collaboration (“Patchwork River”); a song with Cesar Rosas on Los Lobos’ “Tin Can Trust” (“All My Bridges Burning”); and this album, a project with Dead drummer Bill Kreutzmann and guitarist/singer Papa Mali (aka Malcolm Welbourne).

Papa Mali is one of Louisiana’s lesser-known but top-drawer blues products, having released a minor masterpiece of slide/swamp-guitar funk called “Thunder Chicken” with drummer Barry “Frosty” Smith under the name Papa Mali and the Instagators in 2000. He has resided in Austin, Texas, since the 1980s.

Nearly two-thirds of the songs on this self-proclaimed love letter to Louisiana and New Orleans are Hunter/Welbourne/Kreutzmann compositions, with the exception of two band-penned instrumentals — “Mr. Okra” and “Airline Highway” — and Papa Mali’s “Someday You’ll See” and “WYAT Radio / Cane River Waltz,” which serves as an introduction to the nearly zydeco “Sue From Bogalusa.”

Album centerpiece “King Cotton Blues” is the sole guest-singer number and longest track on the disc, clocking in at eight and a half minutes and featuring a chorus by Willie Nelson on top of phase-shifted background vocals by 7 Walkers keyboardist Matt Hubbard.

“Chingo!” and “Louisiana Rain” are laid-back, almost ambient pieces, the former featuring a percussive intro guaranteed to please fans of War’s “Low Rider”; it’s also the only song with George Porter Jr. (the Meters), who replaced original 7 Walkers bassist Reed Mathis when he had to return to touring with Tea Leaf Green.

Dixieland horns drive home “New Orleans Crawl.” Acoustic guitar and piano dominate the love ballad “Evangeline.” Similarities between second-line drumming and the Bo Diddley beat are pointed out in “Hey Bo Diddle.”

The mysterious and spiritual title song, after which the group is named, conjures images of characters who might come from some kind of Wild Tchoupitoulas black Indian folklore.

While other members of the Dead seem content to play their old stuff in assorted configurations (Ratdog, Phil Lesh and Friends, Furthur), it’s refreshing to see the low-profile Kreutzmann find a vehicle not just for playing live but for creating new music. And now that 7 Walkers has gone from side project to permanent band with Porter’s addition, the future is wide open as the quartet begins to tour in earnest. Check them out as they progress at the Internet Archive’s Live Music Archive.gnm_end_bug

Tracks
1. WYAT Radio / Cane River Waltz
2. Sue From Bogalusa
3. King Cotton Blues
4. (For The Love Of) Mr. Okra
5. Chingo!
6. Louisiana Rain
7. Someday You’ll See (Prelude)
8. New Orleans Crawl
9. Evangeline
10. Hey Bo Diddle
11. Airline Highway
12. Someday You’ll See
13. 7 Walkers

Total time: 1:04:30

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Devon Allman’s Honeytribe

Space Age Blues

Provogue

devonThe press release advertises “guitar licks that explode into whistling comet trails,” but such effects are hard if not impossible to find. This sophomore release is simply a solid blues-rock album showing impressive songwriting growth from 2006’s “Torch.”

The only space-age theme lies in the lyrics of the title track, a slow blues number heavy on the wah-wah, alternating between shades of Led Zeppelin’s “Since I’ve Been Loving You” and Stevie Ray Vaughan’s cover of Bob Geddins’ “Tin Pan Alley.”

The “tribe” has been trimmed down to Allman (guitar, vocals), George Potsos (bass) and newcomer Gabriel Strange (drums). “Could Get Dangerous” benefits from the stylized harmonica of Huey “Workin’ for a Livin’ ” Lewis (who luckily was down the hall at Ardent Studios with the News — tracking “Soulsville,” their first studio album since 2001’s “Plan B”). Also helping to fill in the gaps are Ron Holloway (Dizzy Gillespie) on sax and/or Rick Stef, Memphis keyboard whiz. Adding even more class is violinist Bobby Yang (Kevin Costner’s Modern West), who overdubs himself ad infinitum until he becomes a string section on “Warm in Wintertime.”

Other highlights include the soulful “Salvation”; a funky cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Sir Duke”; and two instrumentals: “Blue Est Le Vide,” on which Allman plays solo-acoustic, and “Insh’allah,” a showcase of fuzzed-out Middle Eastern electric riffage that would do Quicksilver Messenger Service’s John Cipollina proud.gnm_end_bug

Tracks
1. Could Get Dangerous
2. Space Age Blues
3. Salvation
4. Sir Duke
5. Endless Diamond
6. Bleu Est Le Vide
7. Warm In Wintertime
8. New Pet Monkey
9. I’m Ready
10. Take Me To The Bridge
11. Insh’Allah

Total time: 45:32

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