Blues in Elsewhere

Interviews, overviews and reviews of classic and contemporary blues musicians and music.

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Billy Branch and the Sons of Blues: Roots and Branches, The Songs of Little Walter (Alligator/Southbound)

22 Jul 2019  |  <1 min read

Harmonica player and singer Little Walter – Marion Walter Jacobs – died in 1968 just as the British blues boom was taking off although he'd achieved some career acclaim (he still wasn't 40 when he died after a fight) he didn't live long enough to see how big the blues – and its acolytes – would get in Britain and Europe. A gifted and innovative harmonica player, he... > Read more

My Babe

Daddy Long Legs: Lowdown Ways (Yep Roc/Southbound)

17 Jun 2019  |  <1 min read

Along the line of rubbed raw blues and minimalist swamp rockabilly which runs from Muddy Waters, early John Lee Hooker and Howling Wolf through the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, the Cramps and RL Burnside, this New York-based trio of guitar, drums and a honking harmonica/singer have invited acclaim from the likes of Lenny Kaye for their basement punk approach to the idiom. And the now-late Kim... > Read more

Mornin' Noon and Nite

Kingfish: Kingfish (Alligator/Southbound)

27 May 2019  |  1 min read

From the scouring and driving opening track on this debut album by 20-year old Christone Ingram – aka Kingfish – you might feel you are in for a pretty familiar electric blues ride out of the Chicago-based Alligator label. But this guy from Clarksdale, Mississippi – Jeez, they are still producing blues artists from there all these decades after Robert Johnson? –... > Read more

Before I'm Old (w Keb Mo)

The Cash Box Kings: Hail to the Kings! (Alligator/Southbound)

23 May 2019  |  <1 min read

Just a consumer service here: this is a stacked thick, 13-song collection of Chicago blues on the Alligator label fronted by singer Oscar Wilson and harmonica honker/singer Joe Nosek who wrote almost everything here – and although within the genre of hard-edged blues they bring a smidgen of rockabilly in places – and deliver with energy, singalong pleasures and some hints of... > Read more

Poison in My Whiskey

Tommy Castro and the Painkillers: Killin' It Live (Alligator/Southbound)

11 Mar 2019  |  1 min read

Long-serving blues singer/guitarist Tommy Castro has been a winner of the BB King Entertainer of the Year (among many accolades) and this one recorded crisply in various venues in California, New York, Michigan and Texas finds the four-piece in typically incendiary form on mostly originals but also a funky take on Sleepy John Estes' Leaving Trunk and an eight minute workout on Buddy Miles' Them... > Read more

Anytime Soon

John Mayall: Nobody Told Me (Forty Below/Southbound)

11 Feb 2019  |  1 min read  |  1

Now 85, John Mayall is like the great-grandfather of British blues. More than half a century ago however he was akin to a wise uncle for a generation of players at least a decade younger than himself who passed through his influential Blues Breakers, among them Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce (off to form Cream and beyond), Peter Green, Mick Fleetwood and John McVie (who went off to form Fleetwood... > Read more

Distant Lonesome Train (w Carolyn Wonderland)

BLIND BOY FULLER PROFILED: Still truckin' on

29 Jan 2019  |  4 min read

Unlike so many other bluesmen and women of his era, Blind Boy Fuller (1907-1941) lived a life that was well documented, enormously prolific and fairly profitable by the standards of the day. When he died at just 33 – complications following an heroic consumption of booze in his short life – his friend Brownie McGee recorded The Death of Blind Boy Fuller to commemorate the... > Read more

Lost Lover Blues

Lindsay Beaver: Tough as Love (Alligator/Southbound)

29 Jan 2019  |  <1 min read  |  1

For her Alligator debut singer/drummer Lindsay Beaver lives up to the label's remit of tough blues, and the album title. She's a real blues belter in the manner of Etta James (but in front of an augmented power trio) but can also flip back to late Fifties rock'n'roll and New Orleans rock'n'soul (Don't Be Afraid of Love with Marcia Ball on piano-hammering duties on the former, as Fats Domino... > Read more

Lost Cause

The Groundhogs: Blues Obituary 50th Anniversary (Fire/Southbound)

21 Dec 2018  |  <1 min read  |  1

The Groundhogs are not a band you hear much, if ever, mentioned these days. They emerged at the start of the British blues boom in the early Sixties and – with singer/guitarist Tony McPhee as the sole constant in their ever-changing line-up – they have been around off and mostly on ever since. Their low profile (they rarely get a mention in most rock histories, even British ones... > Read more

Light was the Day

The Flaming Mudcats: Cut Loose (Mudcat Music)

5 Dec 2018  |  <1 min read

Now 10 years in the blues-rock game, the Flaming Mudcats here celebrate with a third album of mostly originals by singer/harmonica player Craig Bracken. This tight r'n'b quartet – Bracken, American bassist Johnny Yu, guitarist Doug Bygrave and drummer Ian Thompson – are here joined by Chris Hartley (keyboards), Ben McNicoll (saxes) and keyboard player Louis Bernstone. The... > Read more

Sneakin' Around

Walker/Katz/Robson: Journeys to the Heart of the Blues (Alligator/Southbound)

4 Nov 2018  |  <1 min read

Although singer-guitarist Joe Louis Walker would be the immediate name-hook here for blues enthusiasts, the prime mover behind this was respected British harmonica player Giles Robson who met Walker at a Dutch festival, sat in with him and hatched the plan to record in upstate New York with him and pianist Bruce Katz (who had played with Ronnie Earl, Gregg Allman, John Hammond and others).... > Read more

I'm a Lonely Man

Tony Joe White: Bad Mouthin' (Yep Roc/Southbound)

8 Oct 2018  |  <1 min read

Those who go to Tony Joe White concerts are really into his music. They have to be because there is no “act”: He just sits down and plays guitar, often deep in shadow and wearing a head hiding hat. So for those longtime fans of his particular style of swamp rock and country-blues this album catches him much like that, just him and guitar for the most part (sometimes with drums... > Read more

Awful Dreams

Various Artists: Chicago Plays the Stones (Raisin' Music/Southbound)

1 Oct 2018  |  1 min read

At first glance we mistook this for Chicago the band playing the Rolling Stones (and that would have been a quick goodbye) but of course it makes sense that Chicago (the city) blues musicians would pay tribute to the band which, as soon as it had a chance, went to Chess Studio in the city to meet their heroes and to record. And their last album Blue and Lonesome tipped the hat again.... > Read more

Play With Fire, by Billy Boy Arnold

Shemekia Copeland: America's Child (Alligator/Southbound)

5 Sep 2018  |  1 min read

This daughter of famed tough Texas blues singer/guitarist Johnny Copeland pulls in a remarkable supporting cast for this, her eighth album: Steve Cropper, Rhiannon Giddens, John Prine (on his own Great Rain), Mary Gauthier pedal steel player Al Perkins, Emmylou Harris . . . But of more note – especially in an America so divisive and divided – is her two opening salvos Ain't Got... > Read more

Ain't Got Time For Hate

Darren Watson: Too Many Millionaires (Beluga)

25 Apr 2018  |  3 min read

Although most people might not know it, the tenacity of Darren Watson (and animator Jeremy Jones) created a landmark ruling in this country pertaining to freedom of speech and the right to express a political opinion without it being labelled as partisan and therefore a political advertisement. Watson’s song Planet Key – far from his finest musical moment it must be said –... > Read more

Hallelujah (Rich Man's War)

Curtis Salgado and Alan Hager: Rough Cut (Alligator/Southbound)

8 Feb 2018  |  1 min read

Elsewhere has doubtless made this observation previously but it remains true: the blues gets little airplay, there are few enough albums released (and consequently sold) yet whenever a decent blues band or solo artist turns up in New Zealand they can always pull an audience. There is a musical demographic out there which appreciates the blues – although it does seem to be aging.... > Read more

I Will Not Surrender

Tinsley Ellis: Winning Hand (Alligator/Southbound)

22 Jan 2018  |  1 min read  |  3

The remarkable thing about Chicago's Alligator label – and singer-guitarist Ellis who started his career on it three decades ago – is just how consistent the quality of their innercity blues has been. Often you hear a new Alligator album and feel that time stopped back in the hard-scrabble days for raw blues back in '66 or maybe '76. Another of that American... > Read more

Saving Grace

Various Artists: The Rough Guide to Delta Blues, Reborn and Remastered (Rough Guide/Southbound)

9 Jan 2017  |  1 min read

Tommy Johnson is one of the more interesting figures in the shadowland of the Delta blues of the Twenties: he recorded fewer songs than the acclaimed Robert Johnson who was no relation (just 16 in '28 and '29) and recent research has suggested that Robert inherited the legend of his pact with the Devil at the Crossroads from Tommy who had made that claim. Tommy Johnson was also quite... > Read more

Hard Times Killin' Floor, by Skip James (1931)

Various Artists: Alligator Records 45th Anniversary Collection (Alligator/Southbound)

4 Jul 2016  |  <1 min read

The Alligator collections are always worth hearing because they serve two purposes; a catch-up with the Chicago label's recent signings and some terrific tracks from the label's enormous and credible back-catalogue. Billed as "genuine houserockin' music" (one of their greatest acts was their first signing, Hound Dog Taylor and the Houserockers), Alligator music cuts straight to... > Read more

Don't Call No Ambulance by Selwyn Birchwood

Joe Bonamassa: Blues of Desperation (Southbound)

4 Apr 2016  |  1 min read

Despite commercial success and enthusiastic audiences at his shows, bluesman Bonamassa is also a divisive figure: many blues guitarists for example see him only as a sum of his considerable influences and not adding much originality. However he was also recently voted best blues guitarist by Guitar World so . . . That former opinion however was confirmed by the second, electric, half of his... > Read more

Drive