The 16 musicians who make up Joseph and the Velozians on this Michigan band’s self-titled follow-up (Big O Records) to their Offerings debut make a joyous noise. Guitar, keyboards, percussion, sax, vocals and trumpet lay down a solid bed for these eight jams including the Muddy Waters classic “I Got My Mojo Working” as vocalist Thornetta Davis hearkens back to the song’s original singer—before Muddy!—Ann Cole. Joseph Veloz plunks that bass with a resounding pop, wrote some great songs, sings one of ‘em (the closing “Up In My Ear”) and even produces.
It’s one thing to make a great traditional blues album. Or rock the blues. It’s quite another thing to take that which the blues stands for and turn it on its ass to make a whole new configuration. Damion Pearson and Cameron Kimbrough have turned the blues inside-out and upside down on the brilliant Welcome To The Land (Little Village) by Memphissippi Sounds recorded within the hallowed halls of Sun Records Studios. They can go back to Africa like Marcus Garvey with a one-chord drone chant of “get cha foot off my neck.” They take from Tupac Shakur when they ask “Who’s Gonna Ride.” They can draw upon the great expanse of what Cameron’s grandfather Junior Kimbrough [1930-1998] achieved in his stellar blues-singing career.
Their chemistry shines. They both sing and play guitar. While Damion blows blues harp, Cam can rock the drums hard. Damion’s spiritual. Cam’s technical. They wrote these nine songs together and refined them by performing on street corners. Cam lost his job, his truck and his house at one point. He had nowhere to look but up. Now they’ve made the blues album of the year.
The Mojo Man Presents Boss Black Rockers Volume #9: Crackerjack on Koko Mojo Records and all 28 tracks hit the mark with soul, attitude, chops and a bluesy kind of vibe that will go inside your ear, permeate your brain and wind up down at your feet ‘cause you won’t be able to stop dancing. How could you not rock when Teddy Reynolds and The Twisters, Jimmy Witherspoon, Ivory Joe Hunter, King Curtis & His Orchestra, The Isley Brothers and The Five Jades pump the funk out in a pre-’63 kind of dream tableau where songs like “Loud Mouth Annie,” “Alabama Rock’n’Roll” (the exquisite Mabel King), “Make Me Dance Little Ant,” “Rock’n’Roll Molly,” “The Juicy Crocodile,” “Shooty Booty,” “Your Mama Knows What’s Right” and “Do The Crank” obliterate everything in their path to change you into a heathen. This is the music that preachers and politicians warned parents against back in the day.
Ben Levin is only 21 yet he has recorded three solid blues albums, the latest of which is Still Here (VizzTone Label Group). Be it the Chicago or New Orleans styles, his originals—written with his dad, guitarist Aron Levin—ring true. His covers prove he’s something of a musicologist. Digging up “I Can’t Stop It,” the 1947 gem from Jimmy Liggins & His Drops Of Joy, is a master-stroke of archeology. The same thing can be said for Billy Boy Arnold’s 1956 “Kissing At Midnight.” What a find! Levin’s a soulful singer, an accomplished pianist and, when combined with the dexterous guitar-playing of his dad, and a laid-back rhythm section that knows just when to perk up for extra oomph, the result is right out of the King Records playbook when that legendary Cincinnati label put out record after record that have yet to be duplicated.