Eric Bibb and North Country Fair with Danny Thompson
The Happiest Man in the World
This generous 15-song set of acoustic country blues finds Bibb performing mostly self-penned songs and adding banjo playing to his normal six- and 12-string guitar work. His banjo playing adds a backwoods eeriness to the understated "Tossin' An' Turnin'" but it's back to highlighting his fine guitar picking on the airy instrumental "Blueberry Boy," a cut that also features Irish whistle playing from Mary Murphy and pedal steel from Olli Haavisto. Bibb's top-notch sidemen here also include bass man Danny Thompson, who has played with the likes of Donovan, Richard Thompson, Pentangle and the late John Martyn. Mellow all the way through, Bibb even turns the frenetic Kinks hit "You Really Got Me" into a sublime blues.
Ronnie Earl and the Broadcasters
Earl is one of the stalwarts of the Stony Plain label and while this effort is a nod to the famed Maxwell Street in Chicago where blues men used to hang-out to play for folks shopping at Sunday markets, the title has a more personal meaning as it references a former keys man for the Broadcasters, the late David Maxwell. The band's current pianist wrote the included instrumental cut "Elegy for a Bluesman" in Maxwell's honor and while it showcases the piano, Earl's own tribute "Blues for David Maxwell" puts his guitar work up front. Earl also pays homage to mentor Otis Rush with a long and steamy interpretation of Rush's "Double Trouble" where vocals from Diane Blue add to the heat. As is stated in the CD liner notes, the record is "an album of traditional, healing and soulful blues rooted in gratitude," and that notion comes across fully in the listening. Releasing Sept. 9.
Duke Robillard and his All-Star Combo
Blues Full Circle
Another one of Stony Plain's mainstay acts, guitarist Robillard romps through mostly new, self-penned cuts here, but also a few cuts he wrote way back when he was the front man for the legendary Roomful of Blues. "Rain Keeps Falling" has a '50s-ish feel to it, "Fool About My Money" has a hefty dose of Little Feat-style funkiness to it while "The Mood Room," one of the few cuts here that Robillard didn't write, swings like mad thanks to the piano work and vocals from guest player Kelley Hunt. Another guest is Jimmie Vaughan, former member of the Fabulous Thunderbirds and the older brother of the late Stevie Ray Vaughan; here the guitarist takes the spotlight on "Shufflin' and Scufflin'," a co-write with Robillard that also features a greasy sax solo from Doug James. Blues Full Circle also reflects Robillard's return to playing full-time after a medical issue put him out of commission for more than a year. Releasing Sept. 9.
Kenny "Blues Boss" Wayne
Jumpin' & Boppin'
Don't plan on sitting and crying in your beer when this one starts spinning; as the title indicates, this is jump blues that's doled out mostly in three-minute-or-so doses that are meant to keep the dance floor packed. Wayne is a pianist, organ player and vocalist and he's at his best here when he rocks it pretty good, like on the Jerry Lee Lewis-recalling piano boogie of "Jumpin' & Boppin' with Joy," the choogling "Blackmail Blues" and the swinging "Look Out! There's a Train Coming." If the guitar tones on Jumpin' & Boppin' sound familiar, that's because the featured axe man is the aforementioned Duke Robillard, and he has a ball ripping it up on cuts like the Chuck Berry-informed "Rock, Rock Little Girl."
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