Blues Variations Voo Davis, Bryan Lee, Jon Zeeman, Shawn Holt +

By Mike Greenblatt

Chicago-via-Alabama guitarist Voo Davis rocks out on “Vicious Things” (Butter & Bacon Records). Nothing on his 2012 A Place For Secrets debut even hints at the ferocity of these grooves.

Voo DavisRecorded in Louisiana, with an enticing blend of bass, ukulele, harmonica, fiddle, keyboards and percussion backing up his rampaging guitar, Voo is a Hendrix/Buddy Guy/RL Burnside combo of blues-rock chops. Also a helluva lyricist, his self-produced 10 originals feature his dirt-road gravel voice singing tales of regret, loss and love, tempered by his obvious passion for life and the joys of freedom and release. Man, can he burn! “One For The Habit One For The Road” starts it off in dramatic style and there’s no looking back. Americana seems to be the hippest musical genre these days and Voo is a perfect example.

Bryan Lee - Play One For Me - hi-res coverBryan Lee’s “Play One For Me” (Severn/City Hall) has this blind white bluesman singing and stinging like BB King. With a couple of Fabulous Thunderbirds on hand to spice it up, guitarist Lee covers Bobby Womack, Howlin’ Wolf and Freddie King besides wailin’ on his own blues-drenched originals. His love letter (“Aretha Sing One For Me”) to Ms. Franklin is heartfelt. One time he opened for Muddy Waters in Milwaukee and the legend took him aside and told him to stick with it and he’d be one of the great ones. He’s remembered that his whole life. Living in New Orleans since 1982, honing his chops at the Old Absinthe House in the French Quarter, he played it forward by taking a young Kenny Wayne Shepherd into his band and basically telling him the same thing.

Jon Zeeman_Down On My LuckJon Zeeman also has the blues. His “Down On My Luck” (Membrane Records) is a hard-bitten and crusty gem with such originals as “Better Off Dead,” “Waitin’ For The Storm,” “So Bad,” a cover of Johnny Winter’s “I Love Everybody” and seven others, including one bad-ass burner called “Got The Gun” that just might be the be-all answer song for everything. Yeah, he’s got the blues alright. Dude wails like Clapton. He sat in with the Allman Brothers Band at the Beacon in New York City and held his own. Here, he sings up a storm and his licks are augmented by bass/drum/keyboards.

ShawnHoltShawn Holt, son of Magic Slim [1937-2013], has gone into the family business, stinging his Les Paul with the kind of riffs that jump out the ax into your groin. He was opening for Johnny Winter in Pennsylvania just hours after his dad went into the hospital. They went over so well, Johnny asked them to stay on the tour. It’s a hard-charging sound led by Holt who’s certainly learned his lessons both vocally and guitar-wise. “Daddy Told Me” (Blind Pig) by Shawn Holt & The Teardrops is a keeper debut from the label that put out 10 albums by his father over the course of 24 years. From Jimmy Reed to Bo Diddley, from originals to his daddy’s tunes, Shawn totally rolls.

BB King Blues Club All StarsOn a whim I ducked my head into BB King’s Blues Club & Grill on 42nd Street in New York City, sat right down and was immediately riveted to the spot by The BB King Blues Club All-Stars who played the blues with such unerring alacrity and soul that I found myself singing with them on the call-and-response joy of “Got My Mojo Workin’” as if Muddy Waters himself was on the bandstand. Bassist Jerry Dugger, guitarist Junior Mack, drummer Barry Harrison and guitarist Bill Sims Jr. all sing and they’re advertised as New York City’s Best Live Blues Band. I have a sneaking suspicion these gentlemen deserve the hype. I was startled into submission and didn’t leave until they would play no more.

About Mike Greenblatt

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

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