By Mike Greenblatt
Any new Mick Kolassa album is cause for celebration. This longtime champion of the blues helped The Blues Foundation become a guiding force in this music and, indeed, 100% of the proceeds from the sale of If You Can’t Be Good, Be Good At It (on his own Endless Blues Records) helps support that effort. And what an album! Give Jeff Jensen some credit here. The leader of his own band has settled into a groove with Kolassa over the latter’s last few album and here his guitar shrieks split the black night like lightning. Whether it’s Howling Wolf (“Who’s Been Talking”) or even James Taylor (“Lo And Behold”), the Kolassa/Jensen production gives the attention-to-detail highs priority while not sacrificing the big bass bottom. Kolassa’s voice has never sounded better and their originals hit the mark every time.
Too Far from the Bar (Severn Records), by Sugar Ray & the Bluetones featuring Little Charlie, as produced by the legendary Duke Robillard, is a 15-track jamboree of hot originals and scintillating covers of Sonny Boy Williamson, Little Walter, Otis Spann, The Five Royales and—the best of all—an amazing update of the 1932 roasted chestnut “I’ve Got A Right To Sing The Blues.” The cast includes Sugar Ray Norcia (vocals and harmonica), Charlie Baty (guitar), Anthony Geraci (piano), Mudcat Ward (stand-up bass) and Neil Gouvin (drums). Baty wrote the liner notes and the Sugar man adds, ”we swing, we jump and we get low down.” Sadly, Baty passed away just prior to the album’s release. There’s even a hot instrumental that’s reprised at the end of the disc that’s SO hot, it set one of the multi-track tape machines on fire in the recording studio. Naturally, they call it “Reel Burner.”
With 18 albums in 22 years, and almost as many awards, Bob Corritore, 64, dug into his own archives for a three-spot on VizzTone Label Group of phenomenal blues. Travelin’ The Dirt Road, with Dave Riley, was recorded in three sessions between ’05 and ’06 consisting of originals by singer/songwriter/guitarist Riley starting with “I’m Not Your Junkman.” Corritore blows some mighty fine blues harp on all 12 tracks. Cold Chills, with piano player/singer Henry Gray, who passed away at 95 last year, has songs by Fats Domino, JB Lenoir, Hank Ballard and others by a cast of 22 which includes Robert Lockwood, Jr., Bob Margolin, Primetime Smith, Big Chief Gilliame and Illinois Slim. Corritore blows some mighty fine blues harp on all 15 tracks. Phoenix Blues Sessions, with guitarist Kid Ramos, spans the late ‘90s to the early ‘00s and features Nappy Brown, Big Pete Pearson, Doctor Fish and Chico Chism. And, yes, Corritore, blows some mighty fine blues harp on all 12 tracks. Each set features a full band and some of the most smokin’ blues action you’re ever likely to find.
Ghalia Volt is a One Woman Band (Ruf Records). She’s a whirlwind of conflicting emotion, and has come a long way since busking on street corners in her native Belgium. Her 2017 Let The Demons Out debut was drenched in New Orleans gumbo. Her 2019 Mississippi Blend had her holding her own in the famous Coldwater studio of Cody Dickinson with no less than Cedric Burnside, Lightnin’ Malcolm and Watermelon Slim. Her solo trip this time is truly solo. She plays drums with her two feet, slide guitar and sings her own songs. Recorded in Memphis at the same studio where Al Green and Willie Mitchell made soul history, it was all done in real-time, “like John Lee Hooker on mushrooms,” she quips. Sure, there’s a few guest spots but this is one Volt of electricity that will shock you into submission.