Harvey Mandel & The Snake Crew

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Here are Marcy Levy, Norton Buffalo, Nick Gravenites, Elvin Bishop, Barry Goldberg and a handful of highly regarded front and side men sharing space with the guitar icon on a disc that probably won’t get the props it so richly deserves. Highlights abound. Gravenites lending his impressive vocals to “So Far So Good,” with his old pal Barry Goldberg on organ is a case in point. Mandel’s guitar work is subtly shredding here, propelled by an array of well executed electronic effects. The opening “It Is What It Is,” with Marcy Levy lending her vocal chops and Norton Buffalo his deep harmonica, Mandel’s voodoo-laden guitar works creates a back street New Orleans atmospheric piece. “Baby Batter II” reminds of a psychedelicized Santana and reprises the title tune of a 1971 LP. This is not a predictable recording. It’s an exciting recording!
“Train Wreck ,” with Buffalo lending eerie harp work to match Mandel’s equally compelling guitar is a standout, as is Buffalo’s tasty vocals on “Have You Seen My Baby.” Levy’s back for a killer “Land of the Free,” and Gravenites returns for “I Had a Life,” and a spectacular “Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven” is delivered by vocalist Rick Kellogg. “Twizzle Zing” reminds of Jean Luc Ponty with superb violin via Carlos Reyes and keys from Howard Wales.
Buffalo sings and plays on “Laying Around Here With the Blues,” on which Elvin Bishop adds some slick slide. “You’ll Never Know,” with vocals courtesy the Rowan Brothers, has a cool country twinge, and the closer, “Free Flow” is a Mandel tour de force of licks and tricks.
On all of the tunes, it is Harvey Mandel’s guitar work that props, cajoles and motivates. This is clearly the work of a master. He does things on the fret board that very few players on20the scene can get close to. It isn’t just about power blues, it’s about nuance, subtleties and chops that cause the jaw to drop. This is a master work. This is vital.

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Carlos Johnson – Live At B.L.U.E.S. Halsted

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Carlos Johnson (born January 17, 1953, Chicago, Illinois) is an American blues guitarist and singer. He is left-handed, but plays a right-handed instrument upside-down like players such as Otis Rush and Albert King. Johnson is known for his aggressive playing which has attracted audiences in Chicago blue scene since the 1970s. He has played on recordings of notable musicians including Billy Branch & The Sons of Blues and Son Seals.In 1989, he made is first tour to Japan with Valerie Wellington, and caught attention of the Japanese blues fans. He revisited the country in 2004 as a supporting guitarist for Otis Rush who became unable to play the guitar due to the stroke he suffered earlier that year.These concerts helped him build a fan base in Japan.
Though he has been active since the 1970s, he had to wait until 2000 to release an album under his own name. That year saw the release of his debut CD My Name Is Carlos Johnson recorded in Buenos Aires, Argentina from local Blues Special label.He was featured on Billy Branch ‘s CD Billy Branch & The Sons of Blues featuring Carlos Johnson released in 2002. Johnson also made an album as a duo with Branch titled Don’t Mess with the Bluesmen in 2004. Another CD In and Out from Mr. Kelly’s Records followed the same year. In 2007, he released this album Live At B.L.U.E.S. on Halsted recorded in Chicago.
He toured Japan as a solo artist in 2007 and 2009.

Boz Scaggs – Boz Scaggs

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In 1969, Boz Scaggs debut release on Atlantic Records was a stunning classic recording that has earned its place in the history of rock, blues and popular music. Celebrating its four decade birthday, Friday Music has located the original session tapes, which havent been available since the early seventies, and have spared no expense with the mastering process to deliver what we feel is the definitive audiophile reissue of the year! The nine songs that make this incredible album such a winner has a lot to do with the musicianship, writing skills, and the great voice of Boz Scaggs . Fans remember exciting blues oriented tracks like Im Easy and I’ll Be Long Gone as some of the most important songs of this much loved platter. With the famous Muscle Shoals studio sound, along with some of the finest musicians in the business, Boz and company delivered nine tracks of whack, that have stood the test of time, including one of his most famous works Loan Me A Dime, which hands down opened the doors for a lot of the cross over blues music that is being recorded today. This much emulated and loved work as well as the other great songs from the album feature the sorely missed guitar styling of the late Duane Allman. For the first edition run of this masterwork, Friday Music is including a textured gatefold cover, along with the original graphics, poly lined protective album sleeve, and poly vinyl cover for the album cover.

Jason Ricci – Feel Good Funk

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Jason Ricci has released an absolutely stunning solo CD, titled Feel Good Funk, which could end up being one of the best blues albums of the year. Ricci is not only an amazing harmonica player; he’s a very affecting singer as well, and doesn’t try for the histrionics like some younger artists might. The CD is a mix of well done covers (“Shake Your Hips,” done here as “Hip Shake,” “Driftin’ Blues,” “Everything I Do,” and “Scratch My Back”) and moody instrumentals which have elements of jazz, funk, and blues mixed in. My favorite tracks are the instrumental tribute to Junior Kimbrough (“Mississippi Mood”), Ricci’s take on Charles Brown’s “Driftin’,” and the romping, stomping “Hip Shake.” The title cut, in which Ricci raps and blows over a nasty bass line, is also a keeper. The band also provides outstanding support throughout the disc. For fans of harmonica blues, or just fans of great music, this CD is a ‘must own.”