Willie Jackson is All In The Blues on his current self-released, self-produced 12-song barn-burner. Hailing from Savannah, Georgia, he came out of the church choir playing drums, learning bass and writing songs. Steady gigs with his quartet in South Carolina increased his profile as he wound up opening for Mac Arnold (former Muddy Waters bassist). Highlights include “Beautiful Disease,” “Stranger In My Hole,” “Sticky Hand Blues,” “Coon Hound Nose” and “Give Me My Rib Back.”
After four albums of hot electric blues, upstate New Yorker Tas Cru has made his “quasi-acoustic” album, as he says. Broke Down Busted Up (Subcat Records) is a magnificent example of blues in an Americana format complete with flying fiddle, stand-up bass, mountain dulcimer and Grand Piano. Singer/Songwriter/Guitarist Cru has outdone himself with the kind of compositions that stick like a tattoo on the brain (some even make you think!). Be it shuffle, ballad, Appalachian blues or rock’n’roll, Cru delivers bigtime. He burns brightest on his Resonator Guitar and his vocals have never been better. Highlights? “River of Insanity,” “So Damn Hard To Like” and the closing “Write Me My Own” stand out but an argument could be made for any of the 11.
They call him Chickenbone Slim. Larry Teves has been called a lot of names but it’s that chickenbone that always gets stuck in his throat. He’s a blues-roots cat from the old school who can rock it, sock it, and lay down the law when it comes to real blues action. This San Diego singer/songwriter/guitarist formed his band a decade ago, infusing his blues with West Coast Swing, Americana and Rockabilly Boogie. Now he’s demanding Serve It To Me Hot (Vizztone Label Group) as produced by Kid Andersen in his San Jose Greaseland Studios.
And what a band! Laura Chavez was nominated for a 2020 Blues Music Award as Best Guitarist (losing to Kingfish Ingram). Drummer Marty Dodson comes out of the Fab T-Birds. Bassist Andrew Crane has been with Slim the longest. Producer Kid plays piano, organ and guitar. Two harmonica players—Lisa Andersen and Aki Kumar—add spice.
Slim—influenced by T-Bone Walker and John Lee Hooker—has an affinity for rock’n’roll that makes his sound fall somewhere between “Hound Dog Taylor and Dave Edmunds,” as he says. All 13 songs are original and they sizzle like butter on a skillet.
Tinsley Ellis is a master of his craft. It’s on my Bucket List to see this Atlanta legend live someday. If I ever do, I’d probably go into paroxysms of utter delight. Between his gruff soulful vocals, his unerring six-stringed wizardry and his compositional prowess, he’s the ultimate Triple Threat. Devil May Care (Alligator Records) is his 20th album in 40 years and up amongst his best. “Step Up” and “28 Days” rock like a bitch. “Just Like Rain” is soothing, sweet soul. “Don’t Bury Our Love” could be a 1940s film noir theme song filled with longing, regret and instant pathos. Masterful producer Kevin McKendree pushes all the right buttons as usual so the result sounds absolutely perfecto.