Big Boys Do Cry
Rockin The Blues 2019 live @ Carlswerk Victoria
Words & photos: Vincent Abbate
Since its inception in 1989, and especially over the past decade, the Netherlands-based Mascot Label Group has become home to many of today’s most popular rock-oriented blues acts. Its Provogue imprint currently boasts an artist roster that includes Beth Hart, Robert Cray, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Eric Gales and Joe Bonamassa. Last year, the label decided to send three of its top guitar slingers on the road under the banner Rockin The Blues. That tour – with Gales, Gary Hoey and Quinn Sullivan – proved successful enough to merit a second go-round in 2019.
Eight dates in four European countries are on the agenda. Show #2 on the tour transpired inside the massive Carlswerk Victoria venue in Cologne and gave the local German audience a chance to witness a guitar-heavy blues extravaganza in Cinemascope. Combine any ten blues shows you’ve seen in the past year and you’ll get an idea of how big, broad and loud this spectacle was.
DR. HELANDER & THIRD WARD
Meat Grindin’ Business
Is a Finnish blues “supergroup” even possible? If so, Dr. Helander & Third Ward fits the bill. Members Ilkka Helander, Esa Kuloniemi und Leevi Leppänen comprise a trio of blues vets who have appeared on dozens of albums and played thousands of concerts over the past several decades. Helander’s the front man here, handling guitar and the bulk of the vocals, with Kuloniemi (bass/guitar/vocals) and Leppänen (drums) making strong contributions to an album that boasts added star power in the form of harmonica legend Charlie Musselwhite. They all come together on a raucous electric affair built on deep grooves, twin guitar fireworks and a big, booming, floor-rattling bass. Opening cut “Hawaiian Boogie” is an Elmore James number that sees them playing in a raw, chunky style reminiscent of Hound Dog Taylor & The Houserockers. Musselwhite spices up the similarly hard-driving “Third Ward Boogie,” then gives way to the skills of his Finnish harp counterpart Little Willie Mehto on “Money Makin’ Machine.” Helander does a solid job vocally on Lightnin’ Hopkins “Death Bells,” which also features some fine playing by Musselwhite, though it might have been nice to also hear Charlie singing on this one. The back half of the album is highlighted by the swampy CCR-style “It’s Not For Me But For My Friend” and the John Lee Hooker-esque “Woman’s Trust.” The greasy shuffle “Don’t Be Messin’ With My Bread” closes out Meat Grindin’ Business – a lean, tasty, thoroughly satisfying album with very little fat. – VA
SONG PICK: “Third Ward Boogie”
Hound Dog Taylor and the HouseRockers – “Sadie”
“They were inseparable, and they played together like brothers, sensing each other’s musical twists and turns before they happened, feeding energy and good spirits from one to the other.”
Thus wrote Bruce Iglauer of Alligator Records of singer/guitarist Theodore Roosevelt “Hound Dog” Taylor, guitarist Brewer Phillips and drummer Ted Harvey – the band of brothers who inspired him to start a record label.
“They fought like brothers too,” recalled Iglauer in 1982, “as they crisscrossed the country from gig to gig in Hound Dog’s old Ford station wagon, arguing constantly about who was the best lover, who had the best woman, who was the best mayor Chicago ever had, who was or wasn’t out of tune the night before. The arguments weren’t always in fun, either. From time to time a knife appeared, and finally even a gun.”