Oli Brown- Meena- Cee Cee James- Royal Southern Brotherhood
Here I Am
Brown is the latest hotshot blues guitarist to emerge from the U.K. and even though he declares in opening number "Here I Am" that he "ain't trying to be no Jimi (Hendrix) or Stevie (Ray Vaughn) the following cut "Thinking About Her" shamelessly lifts one of Vaughan's riffs. No worries about that though; Brown is a hot player, a good songwriter (he wrote much of Here I Am) and he's blessed with a strong voice that recalls Burton Cummings more than it does any bluesman currently on the scene. Brown's voice is especially suited to funky, southern blues numbers like "You Can Only Blame Yourself" where keys man Joel White adds ominous sounding Hammond organ fills. Don't expect extended bursts of guitar pyrotechnics here; Brown deals out sharp but concise solos throughout. Dani Wilde appears as guest vocalist on Nikka Costa's "Like a Feather" and Brown also tackles Al Kooper with a cover of the slow and steamy "I Love You More Than You'll Ever Know."
You'll hear a little Janis Joplin in Meena's vocals; in fact an effort was made early in her career to turn her into a Joplin clone. Suffice it to say her soulful readings here owe a little or a lot to those who came before but you won't be thinking about that when you're grooving along to the powerful "Nothing Left" or wishing you could offer a cure when she cries out during the rough-and-tumble "Send Me a Doctor," performed with guest ax man Eric Sardinas. Meena's voice is the star of Try Me but Sardinas is not the only better-known name helping out; Coco Montoya, Joanne Shaw Taylor and Chris Fillmore are among the bevy of contributing guitarists.
Cee Cee James
Blood Red Blues
James starts off many of her songs singing in a subdued style that maybe you could say is her normal voice, close to the one used in conversation. But then something happens a verse or so in; she turns into a rabid blues woman wielding a guttural growl and you-stepped-on-my-tail wildcat shrieks. The latter style sounds like a ballsier version of Janis Joplin and makes for a riveting listen while slide guitar from Rob Andrews adds interesting counterpoint throughout.
Royal Southern Brotherhood
Considering that the principals of this band are Cyril Neville (the Meters, Neville Brothers,) Gregg Allman offspring Devon Allman and blues star Mike Zito, Royal Southern Brotherhood is quite aptly named. With bassist Charlie Wooton and drummer Yonrico Scott in tow the RSB offers up a solid set of Nevilles-like music ("Fired Up!"), magnolia-scented blues ("Left My Heart in Memphis") and Allman-esque jams ("Sweet Jelly Donut".) With the exception of a cover of the Grateful Dead's "Fire on the Mountain" this set is new material penned by the band.
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