WIB Live Twin-Pack:
Modern Earl live @ Torburg, Cologne, Germany
Vdelli live @ Okiedokie, Neuss, Germany
Words & photos: Vincent Abbate
Hi folks! I’m going to bang this one out while the good vibes of the past weekend are still resonating. Two live shows by two bands who, on the surface, have little in common. One’s a blues power trio, the other a rootsy southern rock’n’roll combo. But there is a distinct similarity: Both outfits are based in Germany without being – in the strict sense – German bands. Vdelli’s frontman is a native Australian and Modern Earl has its roots in Nashville.
Let’s start with them, since they were the ones who gave this fun-packed weekend a rip-roaring kickstart on Saturday night.
Outside The Box
An interview with Scottie Blinn
of Black Market III
Words: Vincent Abbate / Photos: Josh Rose, Nick Abadilla
Honest, gritty and effective. Those are some of the words that leap to mind listening to Dashboard Jesus, the latest musical offering from Black Market III. The album reflects the sensibilities of these San Diego stalwarts, who trust in the value of hard work and choose blue-collar edginess over Hollywood flash.
The trio revolves around singer/guitarist Scottie Blinn and singer/bassist Roxy Coverdale – partners in life and in music. Blinn was bit by the blues bug at age 16, after catching a performance by Stevie Ray Vaughan at a local open air festival. But rather than become one of a hundred thousand SRV copycats, Blinn latched on as a sideman with another native of Texas, Tomcat Courtney, who grew up on the music of Lightnin’ Hopkins and T-Bone Walker. This elder statesman of the San Diego blues scene, now 89 years old, led him deep into the heart of the traditional, down-home blues.
Time to catch up on some reviews. Our first CD Roundup covers recent releases by Delta Moon, Ian Parker, Seasick Steve and Jackie Venson.
–UNDER THE RADAR RECOMMENDATION –
Has singer/songwriter/guitarist Jackie Venson been flying under the radar, or am I simply late to the party? The Austin native has been releasing material on both EP and LP since 2013 and is coming off a triumphant appearance at the Austin City Limits Festival this fall. Transcends is an EP of five one-word titles (“Flying,” “Fast,” “Mysterious,” “Fight” and “Transcends”) released in 2017. It’s an attention-grabber for sure. It opens with the blues-funk-pop hybrid “Flying,” where snappy rhythms underscore Venson’s luminous voice. “Fast” leans more toward indie-rock, like something Spin Doctors might have done in their heyday. Venson chooses softer tones on “Mysterious” and spreads some serious good vibes on “Fight” (“To change the world you first must change yourself”) and the title track (“Love transcends death, destruction, exploitation…”). Ultimately, the EP is a celebration of peace, love and good intentions; after it’s over, you’re certain Jackie Venson is someone you’d like to spend a few hours with. She has continued releasing singles in 2018 and is definitely worth checking out. – VA
SONG PICK: “Fast”
Can U Cook?
Rough around the edges. That’s how Steven Gene Wold aka Seasick Steve refers to himself on the tune “Last Rodeo.” And that’s how his innumerable his fans like him. The Oakland-born musician, now in his late sixties or late seventies depending on the source, has achieved gold and platinum status in the United Kingdom despite being largely overlooked in the United States. He boasts of a past that includes long stints of manual labor, hoboing and flat-out living on the streets. Those experiences continue to inform his music, often played on a battered guitar he calls the Three-String Trance Wonder. He’s been doing pretty much the same shtick since his breakthrough as a solo artist with 2006’s Doghouse Music, offering a gritty, lowdown, sometimes tongue-in-cheek outlaw blues with occasional forays into Americana and classic rock. So with every new Seasick Steve album, you kind of know what to expect. The crazy thing is – it works! On Can U Cook?, his tenth album overall, even more so than usual. Wold has come up with an exceptionally strong batch of songs this time, from the swampy, CCR-esque “Down de Road” to the Howlin’ Wolf-inspired “Shady Tree” to the wistful “Last Rodeo,” on which he decries the slickness of modern culture. As always, his playing is effective without being flashy and is propelled by the infectious and intricate grooves of drummer Dan Magnusson. A must for fans. – VA
SONG PICK: The darker-than-dark “Chewin’ on da Blues.”
Spoonful Of Gold – Blues For Willie
Ian Parker stumbled upon the inspiration for Spoonful Of Gold – Blues For Willie three summers ago at a Parisian bookshop. The Willie Dixon biography I Am The Blues led him to look beyond “Hoochie Coochie Man” and “Little Red Rooster” and dive deeper into the canon of the blues’ most prolific and celebrated songwriter. Parker, a native of Birmingham, England, has often been rather singer-songwriterly himself, known as much for his incisive lyrics and sensitive vocal delivery as for blasting out riffs on his Stratocaster. Spoonful Of Gold allows him to reassert himself as a bluesman. The potent opening salvo on “Evil” announces an album with plenty of punch, drenched in blues, that nevertheless refuses to imitate. Rather than adhere slavishly to the original “Back Door Man” or “I Just Want To Make Love To You” – songs every blues fan has heard dozens of times – Parker and band apply their unique gifts to create contemporary versions that stand on their own. He also includes lesser-known Dixon gems like “Mighty Earthquake and Hurricane” and “Weak Brain, Narrow Mind” that will inevitably lead listeners to seek out the originals. A worthy tribute. – VA
SONG PICK: “My Love Will Never Die”
Babylon is Falling
Babylon Is Falling finds Atlanta-based stalwarts Delta Moon serving up a solid-as-always selection of straightforward, no-frills electric blues. It’s already the ninth studio album by the four-piece, who debuted in 2002, with Georgia transplants Tom Gray and Mark Johnson driving the sound on lap steel and bottleneck slide guitar, respectively. The interplay between Gray and Johnson continues to be the band’s trademark and shines out strong on “Skinny Woman,” with bassist Franher Joseph and drummer Vic Stafford pumping out a Burnside-esque, North Mississippi groove. “Little Pink Pistol” is equally groovy, whereas “Somebody In My Home” offers classic Chicago Blues dipped in Southern Gothic. Delta Moon knows how to keep a song compact and to the point; those looking for guitar histrionics are advised to look elsewhere. In fact, there is no whipped cream and sprinkles on Babylon Is Falling. You won’t find this album anywhere near the dessert tray. Rather it’s a satisfying helping of meat-and-potatoes blues. – VA
SONG PICK: “Skinny Woman”
. . . is now called CD ROUNDUP.
Because my desk looks like this:
First installment coming soon.
The Jellyman’s Daughter – “Cry, Cry Darling”
Words: Vincent Abbate
Looking back in pop music history, you’ll find certain voices that were made for one another. Think about it: What would “Cathy’s Clown” have sounded like if it had only been Phil and not Phil and Don Everly on vocals? Would “The Sound of Silence” have been as powerful if Paul Simon or Art Garfunkel had sung it alone?
Like the aforementioned musical giants, songbird Emily Kelly has a voice that is lovely in its own right. Fellow Scot Graham Coe can more than carry a tune. Put them together and magic happens. In fact, Coe and Kelly possess an extremely rare ability to make their two voices move as one. That dynamic, more than anything else, is what makes Edinburgh-based acoustic duo The Jellyman’s Daughter such a captivating listen.
The No Bullshit Factor
An interview with Sue Foley
Words: Vincent Abbate
Sue Foley is in a good place.
Even though I’ve had a few and she hasn’t – “I’d really love a beer, but don’t want to start drinking yet” – she’s the one who’s in high spirits during our pre-show interview, laughing about life and being back on the road in Europe after a long hiatus. Hot on the heels of The Ice Queen, her first solo album since 2006’s New Used Car, the Ottawa native is a renewed presence on the international blues scene. She refuses to think of it as a comeback.
“That sounds so depressing. It’s not like I went anywhere!”
Let’s consider that for a moment.