Innes Sibun – The box set

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Perhaps Innes Sibun isn’t a really familiar name to very many people. As an accomplished sideman playing alongside musicians whose credits listings include backing Bob Dylan, George Thorogood, and Ten Years After amongst others, also one whose extensive touring background has seen his band opening shows for headliners such as Taj Mahal, Johnny Winter, Chris Farlowe and Jools Holland, and who also undertook a full tour with Robert (Led Zeppelin) Plant’s own band, putting together this 10 track mostly live collection probably seemed just like another evening’s work. It certainly doesn’t sound like that though. Innes Sibun is an equally talented, experienced and committed guitarist and his enthusiasms and those of his band are put across with a refreshing clarity and depth on this CD, which was recorded at the Queens Head pub in the Wiltshire, England village of Box, and from which the album takes it’s title.

First track is a cover of a Rory Gallagher song. “A Million Miles Away” begins with a feverishly dextrous wall-of-shredding intro which swiftly mellows into the song itself, an edgy tale of barroom subterfuge taken at midtempo and which wastes no time introducing Innes Subin’s fretboard pyrotechnics to the listener. You might expect an evening dedicated solely to fast paced 12 bar rockouts on the strength of this opener but Innes Subin and his band – keyboardist Tim Blackmore, bassist Steve Hall and drummer Robbie Brian – are playing for more than kicks this evening and while second track “Station Blues” is taken at a near breakneck pace it’s with third track “I Want You Back” that the group really get into their stride, a slower number that echoes some of Eric Clapton’s more laid back moments and wouldn’t sound out of place on an enhanced reissue of 461 Ocean Boulevard. Other numbers such as “Someone Like You” contain some consistently inventive and occasionally remarkable guitar from Sibun himself, whose frenetic riffing might put blues rock enthusiasts in mind of Albert Lee or even Jimmy Page, but there is far more to the Innes Subin band’s music than just reverent recreations of what was the sound of the rock mainstream for nearly two decades. “Desert Rain” is a slow paced instrumental that provides the full band with an opportunity to show what they’re really capable of, and showcases an impressively atmospheric keyboard part from Tim Blackmore. A version of Tampa Red’s “Don’t You Lie To Me Honey” meanwhile, only lacks a harmonica break to remind us all of exactly how downright entertaining Dr Feelgood were, and album closer “Fisherman’s Wharf” is an acoustic ballad that contains more than a touch of proper progrock, such as Yes and King Crimson, about it.

So, a group of highly adept and experienced musicians doing exactly what they want to, and very thoughtfully recording it so that people who weren’t in that English country barroom might also appreciate their verging on masterful performance. If you ever get the chance to see the Innes Subin Band perform live, I would suggest that you take it.

Frank Goldwasser with The Alastair Greene Band – North

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Singer, guitarist and songwriter Franck Goldwasser is no stranger to those who have been paying attention to the West Coast blues scene over the last two decades. Born in Paris, France in 1960, his initial blues inspiration came from Hound Dog Taylor, Brownie McGhee and T-Bone Walker. After working his first professional gig at age 21 supporting Sonny Rhodes, Rhodes invited him to move to the San Francisco Bay Area. With the commitment of a true believer, Franck packed his bags and moved to the Bay Area within a year, whereupon he was immediately hired by Troyce Key (who gave him the stage name of Paris Slim) to play in the house band at Key’s legendary Eli’s Mile High Club in Oakland. He eventually assumed leadership of the group while Key took a professional hiatus, and became deeply immersed in the area’s still-vibrant blues scene.

Bubba Mac Blues Band – Just Life

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The Bubba Mac Blues Band is a nine-piece ensemble that hails from New Jersey and appears weekly at the Bubba Mac Shack in Somers Point, New Jersey. Their disc Just Life released in 2001 features 14 originals contributed by various members of the group. With Bubba on guitar/vocal and second guitarist Richie Baker also handling vocals along with Terry Showers and Karen Logan the female vocalists the band’s four-part harmony, in addition to the instruments creates a “fat” sound, not often heard in today’s leaner approach to blues. The overall feel of the album is an easy to listen to harmony filled tour of life’s moments. An understated approach to the use of the instruments lends a powerful presence to the songs. Touches of slide guitar (Mr Runaround Town) and violin (Walking with My Baby) are subtly unexpected and interesting.As mentioned, Bubba handles vocals and adds to the proceedings as one of three guitarists along with Richie Baker and Lew London on lead. Mike Conti and Nick Marion anchor the rhythm section on bass and drums. With Charlie Winters on harmonica and Chris Sooy on keyboards; add the two ladies on vocals and the sound with all nine players contributing is a full on auditory treat. Some of the material covered on this disc includes a tribute to the sixties in 60’s Generation, non-smoking: Designated Smoking Area Blues and a woman’s good man with: My Man. This is a thoroughly enjoyable disc featuring a wide variety of blues styles and music that has in some cases little to do with blues music styles. It offers a refreshingly big sound in a time when some productions are inclined to try to do more with less.

Etta James – The Definitive Collection

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How do you cover an artist with nearly 50 years worth of recorded material
on one disc? Use this as an example. With so many different collections of artists like Ms. Etta James out there, it can be a complicated task of what to choose. Others may focus on one particular area of her recording career, but this one goes all the way back to her 1955 smash of “The Wallflower (Dance With Me Henry)” all the way up to a 2004 recording of a blues recording “The Sky Is Crying” in which her sons take part in the production. Many of the well known Argo/Cadet sides from the ’60s are represented like “At Last”, “Something’s Got A Hold On Me”, and “Tell Mama” and then moving on to her gutsy and gritty rendition of “Take It To The Limit” from 1978, which was so chilling and moving, and ending up in the ’80s and ’90s with some Nashville recordings containing a country tinge to them as well as a Gershwin tune “The Man I Love”, and Otis Redding’s “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long.” Etta had such a versatile style from cool, refined, and seductive to passionate, gutsy and rollicking. If only some young female singers today could take a lesson from her; she could do it all, and is still doing it today. That’s why this package can do wonders for somebody who wants to know which great artists from the past are still performing today and wants to see a dynamic balance and mix of different material in a career-spanning perspective. This one certainly has it. With so much material from her earlier years, some things may be missing, but as stated before, with one disc in a complete career overview theme in mind, the debate rests on what really is essential in representing the artist’s entire career. All 23 tunes are very enjoyable. If you’re new to Etta, this a great place to start.

Nuno Mindelis – Freeblues

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Nuno goes from good to better to best on an album that mixes blues and rock classics… while kicking in a few of his own songs. Both as a guitarist and singer, Nuno is sort of reminiscent of Clapton while his low key, understated and bluesy singing style is sort of a reminder of a modern J.J. Cale… Free Blues will have you coming back for more”.

Charlie Musselwhite & The Dynatones – Curtain Call Cocktails

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Rockin’ R&B laced with Chicago blues. An early lineup of the rock-and-soul Dynatones backs up veteran bluesman Charlie Musselwhite in a live set at the Belly Up Tavern in Solano Beach, California from 1982. Curtain Call Cocktails album by Charlie Musselwhite was released Feb 09, 1999 on the Westside label. Original 1982 live album, inc. 4 never before released cuts.