Zac Harmon - Mississippi Bar BQ
With a title like Mississippi Bar BQ, fans are likely to delve into this one expecting a savory experience, and that's exactly what they'll get. His "grill" is his electric guitar and what's cookin' is the Robert Cray-like "Gypsy Road," the organ and horns-enhanced R&B of "So Cold" and the funk-infused "Smoke and Mirrors." Harmon doesn't have one of those grizzled bluesman voices; he sings with a brightness that will charm fans well outside of the traditional blues audience. The title cut, a seductive groove sweetened with female background vocals, is a perfect example. The song has a "let's cuddle" feel to it but Harmon isn't talking about carnal delights on "Mississippi Bar BQ;" try not to drool as he runs down a menu that includes chicken and ribs, two kinds of pie, collard greens, corn bread and a big pot of beans. Harmon wrote or co-wrote most of the songs here, including the street savvy "Make a Dollar out of Fifteen Cents" and the shuffling soul of "Sunday Morning after Saturday Night," but he closes out the album with a take on Bob Dylan's oft-covered "Knockin' on Heaven's Door." Jim Gaines (Santana, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Journey) produced Mississippi Bar BQ, and fans are definitely going to be asking for seconds.
The Texas Horns - Get Here Quick
The Texas Horns are tenor sax player Mark "Kaz" Kazanoff, trumpet player Al Gomez and baritone sax player John Mills and they are a triple treat here on this set of big, brassy blues cuts. But the Horns are just that, a horn section, so while they're out front throughout, the trio needed to enlist other players to make it all happen. Each horn player takes a solo during "Guitar Town" and so does guest guitarist Anson Funderburgh; Guy Forsyth handles lead vocals on the cut. Johnny Moeller plays lead guitar on most of the album including the Kazanoff-penned "I'm Doin' Alright, At Least for Tonight" which features gutsy vocals from Carolyn Wonderland, the appropriately jaunty instrumental "Feelin' No Pain" and the funky, Average White Band-recalling instrumental "Better Get Here Quick." Other guests of note include guitarists Ronnie Earl and Jon Del Toro Richardson and singers Curtis Salgado, John Nemeth and Gary Nicholson. Kazanoff does tackle one vocal and does a fine job with it too on his own "You Can't Be Serious."
Blue Moon Marquee - Bare Knuckles & Brawn
Singer and guitarist A.W. Cardinal and bass player and singer Jasmine Colette are Blue Moon Marquee and they work here on this set of "gypsy blues" with a handful of guest players to round out their sound. You would not mistake Cardinal's voice for that of Tom Waits, but the pair have a similar sound, and fans of Waits will especially dig cuts like the restrained "Big Black Mamba," the gypsy jive and sax solo enhanced "Smoke Rings for My Rider" and the swingin' "The Red Devil Himself." Colette has her turn too, stirring up a big pot of sadness on the simmering "Hard Times Hit Parade;" her vocals are seductive even though her subject matter is dark. She's in a better mood for the buoyant "52nd Street Strut," and Cardinal tones down the hoarseness as he croons the effort's final cut, "Lost & Wild." Blue Moon Marquee really have a great feel for the old time sounds, and lots of those hearing this record will become fast fans.
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