Filled with Sound, from Australian Blues to Canadian Americana

By Mike Greenblatt

Coco Montoya rocks. His road show is one of the most exciting bar room experiences one could want. His “Hard Truth” (Alligator Records) is among the best blues of the year. It’s in his dynamics. Whether in a studio for the tenth time or on a stage for the umpteenth time since he went solo 20 years ago, he’s one of those artists who go from a whisper to a scream. He did similar things for over a decade as lead guitarist in John Mayall’s Blues Breakers. The legendary Albert Collins [1932-1993] mentored him.
The band flexes its muscles by opening with the Gregg Allman barn-burner “When The Bullets Fly.” Driven hard by the staunch rhythm section of drummer/producer Tony Braunagel (who has laid down beats for Eric Burden and Taj Mahal) and bassist Bob Glaub (who has provided the bottom for Bob Dylan and Bonnie Raitt), it’s a harbinger of the rock’n’roll glory yet to come. John Hiatt’s “Old Habits Are Hard To Break” pulsates with passion, not the least of which comes from keyboard maestro Mike Finnegan (Stephen Stills and Tracy Chapman). Montoya’s own “Hard As Hell” is self-explanatory as guitarist Johnny Lee Schell (Etta James/John Fogerty) lets fly with a few licks of his own. By the time original closer “Truth Be Told” ends the party with a rousing cloud of dust and a hearty Hi-Yo Silver, Montoya rides off into the sunset like The Lone Ranger. Damn, that was fun! Best thing about it is you want to play it again as soon as it stops.

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“Another Mile Another Minute” (Jupiter Records) is the first CD in nine years from Australian guitar hero/composer Geoff Achison, 51, his 14th album in 28 years. Solidly in the blues-roots rock-soul zone, complete with the rampaging horns of his Soul Diggers band (two of which are from the early days of the Little River Band), Achison doesn’t waste one second, thus this 14-track party rocks hard with his originals and lusty vocals.

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     Standing On Faith (CPL Records) by Corey Ledet & His Zydeco Band, from the swamps of Parks Louisiana, takes lessons learned from the legendary Creole sounds of Clifton Chenier [1925-1987] with whom Ledet’s grandfather played drums. But Ledet does not adhere to traditionalism (“although I can play that stuff all night”). See him live and he’s more likely to do raucous bar-band covers of Prince, Michael Jackson and Bruno Mars. His originals veer pop. His instrumentals veer Cajun. His vocals are pure soul and he plays accordion, washboard and drums here backed by guitar, bass, moog synthesizer and keyboards. This one is pure fun.

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Canadian shredder Strongman has his good buddy Randy Bachman along for the ride on a fun cover of BTO’s 1974 “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet.” It’s my least favorite track on one of my favorite blues albums of the year: “No Time Like Now” (Sonic Unyon Records). Strongman—after such solid efforts as 2012’s “A Natural Fact” and 2015’s “Let Me Prove It To You”—has truly put it all together this time. His vocals are the best of his career. His guitar blazes like Billy Gibbons. His producer/co-writer Rob Szabo adds bass and keyboards. Between the swamp-rock, gospel, soul, blues and surprisingly profound closer (“The Day They Carry Me Away”), it all amounts to a rockin’ little record you’ll want your DJ to play.

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Jersey-Girl Lisa Bouchelle has sung back-up for Springsteen and Bon Jovi. Her “Lipstick Tomboy” (Ingrooves Music Group) is a strong EP of four gems, one of which, “Only The Tequila Talkin’,” is a classic country duet with John Popper of Blues Traveler. File this under Americana. The support is strong: drummer Brendan Hill (Blues Traveler), bassist Hal B. Selzer (Joan Jett), guitarist Roger Filgate (Wishbone Ash) and keyboardist Lloyd Landesman (Foreigner), produced by Mike Rogers (Sinead O’Connor) and Jeff Trott (Sheryl Crow). Highly recommended.

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They’re called the Heads of State for good reason. Sax man Gary Bartz, 76, played with Miles and Mingus. Larry Willis, 77, after slumming with the original Blood Sweat & Tears, has been the go-to piano player for just about everybody ever since. Al Foster drummed for Herbie Hancock, Sonny Rollins and Miles (Foster is the only person to ever play with Davis both before and after his reclusive ’75-’81 sabbatical). Bassist David “Happy” Williams—a Trinidadian who made his bones with Cedar Walton—replaces Buster Williams. “Four in One” (Smoke Sessions Records) has the quartet doing their own compositions and interpreting Monk’s title tune, Wayne’s Shorter’s 1966 “Dance Cadaverous,” Charlie “Bird” Parker’s 1946 “Moose the Mooche” (a real bebop deluxe) and Miles Davis’ 1948 “Sippin’ at Bells.” The highlight, though, has to be Bartz crooning through his horn with such soul, phrasing and impeccable timing on the Gershwin 1926 classic “Someone to Watch Over Me.”

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Lee Palmer’s “Bridge” (On The Fly Music) is a delightful 10-track disc of originals that burn with rockin’ blues intensity. “Tulsa Sound” was inspired by JJ Cale. “That’s No Way To Go” is in “tribute” to Glen Campbell’s dementia. This singer/songwriter/guitarist may be Canadian but this is pure Americana. Utilizing some of the best Toronto session guys on drums, bass, Hammond B-3, piano, accordion, guitar, mandolin and dobro, Palmer has “bridged” his blues, country and rock’n’roll proclivities into solid songs with kick-ass performances from all. A survivor of quadruple-bypass heart surgery, Palmer can moan the blues and customize his vocals for some subtle twang and some not-so-subtle rock.

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“Last Of The Acid Cowboys” by Evolfo is a debut to savor. Long loitering in the hallways of dank Brooklyn clubs, this is one wild left-of-center totally alternative brand of garage glory, psychedelic adventurism, funky anthems and balls-to-the-wall spirit. Its 10 economical tracks hurt so good with the thrill of discovery. Wholeheartedly recommended.

 

 

 

 

About Mike Greenblatt

A longtime music journalist, Mike Greenblatt is a contributing editor with Goldmine magazine.

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