Aaron Griffin & Mojo Rising – Mojo Rising

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Aaron Griffin made his first effort at recording, and it’s surprising and reassuring to see just how fine and unerring this 16-year-old guitarist/singers’ instincts are for the blues & R&B traditions St. Louis has always known. As old time people used to say, fruit never falls far from the tree: Aaron’s father, Larry Griffin, has long been a respected, deep dish blues guitarist, having played countless nights in the demanding St Louis club scene, toured and recorded in the US and Europe, while also encouraging his talented son to follow that same path and tradition. The evidence here clearly shows his mentoring was not in vain.
We hear Aaron’s mastery of Albert King, and that gruff man’s template for economic phrasing and tone. Go to each song here and understand how Griffin is saying ‘I know/feel & understand what this song/style/artist is saying’, and playing it with feeling and swing. Rarer still, we not only have a 16-year-old player operating on a very high level as an instrumentalist, but also as a singer—I was surprised at how (again that word) unerring Aaron’s voice tackles songs usually sung so knowingly by men much, much older. Listen to how he takes to the instrumental blues steeplechase of Freddie King’s The Stumble, making it yield to his easy handling. Wisely, Aaron has also chosen a crackin’ horn and harmonica spiced ensemble for his maiden blues voyage.
With “Mojo Rising,” Aaron Griffin now has a fine basis for a career in the demanding world of top-notch blues artists, if he so chooses. I’m looking forward to just where he’s going next time.

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Beatlejam – Live At The Webster Theater

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UK pressing of this live album from the jam band supergroup consisting of Matt Abs (Govt Mule), Berry Oakley (Allman Brothers), Vince Welnick (Grateful Dead), Slick Aguilar (Jefferson Starship) and Johnny Need (Govt Mule, Allman Brothers, Lonny Mack). Beatlejam are a sort of spin off from the successful US jam band Blue Floyd only this time its Beatles songs rather than the Pink Floyd, given the unique jam spin.

Live at the Webster Theater, Hartford, Ct, 2002

John Mayall – The Turning Point

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This prophetically titled project represents yet another crossroad in John Mayall’s ever evolving cast of prime British bluesmen. This album also signifies a distinct departure from the decibel drowning electrified offerings of his previous efforts, providing instead an exceedingly more folk and roots based confab. The 2001 “remastered & revisited” edition of The Turning Point boasts vastly improved audio — when compared to its previous CD counterparts — and a trio of three “bonus tracks” from the same July 12, 1969 performance at Bill Graham’s fabulous Fillmore East in New York City. The specific lineup featured here is conspicuous in its absence of a lead guitarist, primarily due to Mayall recommending himself out of his most recent string man. After the passing of Brian Jones, the Rolling Stones decided to tour and at the behest of Mick Jagger, Mayall suggested Mick Taylor — who had been with him since Crusade (1967). Mayall gave this potentially negative situation a positive outcome by retooling the combo into an acoustic quartet featuring old friends as well as some vital new sonic textures. Mayall (vocals/harmonica/slide guitar/telecaster six-string/hand & mouth percussion) joined forces with former associates Steve Thompson (bass) and Johnny Almond (tenor & alto sax/flute/mouth percussion), then added the talents of Jon Mark (acoustic finger-style guitar). It becomes readily apparent that Mark’s precision and tasteful improvisational skills place this incarnation into heady spaces. The taut interaction and wafting solos punctuating “So Hard to Share” exemplify the controlled intensity of Mayall’s prior electrified outings. Likewise, Mark’s intricate acoustics pierce through the growl of Mayall’s haunting slide guitar solos on “Saw Mill Gulch Road.” The Turning Point also examines a shift in Mayall’s writing. The politically charged “Laws Must Change,” the personal “I’m Gonna Fight for You J.B.” and the incomparable “Room to Move” are tinged with Mayall’s trademark sense of irony and aural imagery. As mentioned above, the supplementary sides “Sleeping by Her Side,” “Don’t Waste My Time,” and “Can’t Sleep This Night” — which were left off of the original disc owing to the restrictions imposed upon the vinyl medium — are sourced from the same mid-July 1960 Fillmore East set as the main program.

Popa Chubby – The Hungry Years

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Popa Chubby has been described by some as a comic book character, a charlatan, a shameless self-promoter and by others as an accomplished blues musician, showman and entrepreneur. Having followed Mr. Horowitz’s (aka Popa Chubby) career over the past many years, it is easy to understand the controversy. On the one hand he has proven to be a tireless musician with a rather large body (no pun intended) of work for a man with no major label support until his recent signing with Blind Pig. On the other hand, a lot of that early work, produced on his own label and/or oversees recordings, is often of inconsistent quality. This CD takes the pain out of trying to locate early Chubby material that is actually worth listening to. What you will find here is some pretty good original blues rock material put out by Chubby in his early years. The two lone exceptions seem to be “It’s Chubby Time” which has its origins in an early disco number which will readily come to mind from the opening note and “What’s Your Problem/Pipeline” which is a previously unreleased live version which seems disjointed and out of sync with the other selections. Guitarists will be especially happy with the selections as most feature Popa’s bag full of chops and tasty licks. Overall, it’s a pretty good compilation of Popa’s early material.

Getatchew Mekurya & The Ex and Guests – Moa Anbessa

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Moa Anbessa is an album by Ethiopian saxophonist Getatchew Mekuria with Dutch post-punk band The Ex and guests, released in 2006 on The Ex’s subsidiary label Terp. The project came together on the heels of The Ex’s previous studio album Turn, which incorporated elements of Eritrean and Congolese music alongside a tribute to the Ethiojazz anthems of Getatchew Mekuria. The Ex had toured Ethiopia twice and then invited Mekuria to perform at their 25th anniversary show in Amsterdam where he proposed that The Ex be the backup band for his next album. In addition to Moa Anbessa, the collaboration yielded tours of Europe and North America as well as an official live DVD released by Buda Music, producers of the influential Ethiopiques series of ethiojazz compilations.

‘‘A killer combination of sounds – the searing tenor sax of Getatchew Mekuria and the raspy guitars of The Ex brought together here in really unique cross-cultural formation! Mekuria’s influence really transforms the sound of The Ex, bringing their anarchic spirit into a strongly Ethiopian mode, one that’s further underscored by some great guest horn work on clarinet, alto, and trombone used like the kind of horn sections you’d find on Ethiopian recordings from the 70s, which lets Mekuria really do his thing by soloing over the tunes with a great deal of feeling.’’
Dusty Groove America.