Señor Blues Summer 2011 Schedule

Howdy, blues lovers! Hope you're having a great summer so far! Here is the schedule for Señor Blues on CJSR for the summer of 2011:

July 9 and 23
August 6 and 20
September 3

Stay tuned for more updates as the summer progresses! Cheers for now!


Eric "Guitar" Davis & The Troublemakers - "Trouble Makin' Man"

Although I do LOVE the blues, it’s not in my nature to rave wildly about music in general. That being said, Trouble Makin’ Man, the latest release by up-and-coming Chicago blues artist Eric “Guitar” Davis & The Troublemakers, is my favorite new blues CD of the year!!!

First, a bit of background: Eric “Guitar” Davis hails from the south side of Chicago (a historically fertile ground for some of the best Chicago blues). He started his music career as a drummer, backing the likes of Junior Wells, Lefty Dizz, and other Chicago blues legends. A chance encounter with Buddy Guy at a local club resulted in Guy showing Davis his first chord on the guitar. The rest, they say, is history. Davis currently plays locally in Chicago and around the world with his band, The Troublemakers, a tight blues combo with piano/keyboards, bass, drums, and two guitars.

I first saw Eric “Guitar” Davis play at Buddy Guy’s Legends. In a live setting, Davis is a compelling bluesman, playing with dynamics in his singing and guitar playing (incorporating tricks like distortion and occasionally singing away from the microphone), and walking through and interacting directly with his audiences. I bought his first CD (2007's Here Comes Trouble) off the bandstand, which only hinted at his live charisma. Well, I’m happy to report that his second CD, Trouble Makin’ Man, is more representative of his stage performance!

The title track kicks off the record, and as Davis himself sings, you’re “gonna have some real big fun” throughout this album. “Trouble Makin’ Man” is a uptempo funky tune, that will get your hips movin’ and your head shakin’ with his outstanding guitar soloing. Even the slower, introspective songs on this CD sound exciting and make you want to bob your head and/or shake your hips to the music! There are elements of contemporary R&B in several of the songs here (including “Love Song” and “You’re Goin’ Down”), but they never sound like attempts to crossover to more mainstream audiences; it’s simply Eric “Guitar” Davis playing the blues as he himself feels them in the 21st century. I particularly enjoy the subtly Latin feel of “You’re Goin’ Down”, easily one of my favorite cuts on this CD. For fans of classic blues sounds, Davis still delivers the goods, with a New Orleans feel on “Ew-Wee” and a gospel-tinged cover of Jimmy Burns’ “No Consideration”. Ronnie Baker Brooks, another great contemporary Chicago Blues artist, appears in a few spots on this album, specifically co-writing and co-producing “Days Of My Life” (a fine R&B-tinged blues track) and appearing on “Dolla Queen”. There are also some lively spoken-word moments on “Dolla Queen” and “I Met a Little Girl”, which add to the overall fun, feel-good atmosphere of Trouble Makin’ Man.

I can’t find enough adjectives to describe how much I love this album. Start to finish, this has to be my favorite blues CD of 2011! For more information, check out ericguitardavis.com.


Señor Blues Celebrates The 2011 Chicago Blues Festival!

Greetings, blues lovers!

I have returned from a trip to the Chicago Blues Festival, and I'm raring to share my experiences and musical discoveries with you! Tune into to CJSR tomorrow morning for an overview of the wonderful artists who graced the stages at this year's festival, including Eric "Guitar" Davis & The Troublemakers, Johanna Connor, Magic Slim & The Teardrops, and many more.



Artist Spotlight: Lefty Dizz

Although he is generally a lesser-known musician in Chicago Blues history, singer-guitarist Lefty Dizz was a larger-than-life figure during his career. Combining spectacular stage antics with an aggressive sound, he could be considered a trailblazing pioneer of a performing style that has become highly revered by both blues and rock audiences.

Lefty Dizz was born in Arkensas in 1937. During his teens, he began playing the guitar and honing his performance style. Like fellow southpaw guitarists Albert King and Otis Rush, Dizz taught himself how to play a right-handed guitar upside down (i.e. left-handed), resulting in a unique sound and playing style. His sound was further distinguished by incorporating rural blues influences, a very different approach to the more sophisticated, urban sounds coming out of big cities like Memphis and New Orleans. Dizz eventually moved to Chicago in the early 1960s and quickly became a fixture on the south side blues scene, where he was famous for his rowdy and raucous shows; these included tricks such as throwing his axe back and forth between his hands, playing with one hand, and experimenting with distortion and wild string-bending.

While his own wild performances may have been a way to secure his gigs and prevent other young upstarts from overshadowing him on the bandstand, Dizz was highly respected by Chicago blues elders and peers alike. He was often welcomed to sit in on their club gigs and was hired as a sideman by local musicians, including Junior Wells and Hound Dog Taylor & The Houserockers. Listening to Junior Wells’ 1968 album, Coming At You, for example, it is interesting to hear how Dizz toned down his aggressive guitar playing to be a tastefully effective rhythm guitarist behind Wells’ singing and harp playing and Buddy Guy’s leads. According to the monologue that opens his cover of Taylor’s “Sadie” on his 1989 album, Ain’t It Nice To Be Loved?, Dizz was also the last rhythm guitarist to play in The HouseRockers, before Taylor died in 1975.

Though a hardworking bluesman, Dizz never made the leap from local fame to international stardom. This may be partly because he was under-recorded throughout his career. Though he managed to make a few recordings for European labels like Isabel and JSP, they were simply not reflective of his fantastic live performances on his home turf, possibly due to budgetary and/or technological constraints. His last album, Ain’t It Nice To Be Loved, features Dizz with the Bell family backing him up (including Carey Bell on harmonica and Lurrie Bell on the guitar), but it proves to be a challenging listening experience, due to the raw, uninhibited nature of the performances and the band’s out-of-tune instruments. There are some gems on these few albums, though, that do hint at Dizz’s live charisma. Plus, in this day and age, it’s (relatively) easy to find the odd video evidence of Dizz’s club performances, including this video from the Checkerboard Lounge (www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Y6yMkbNZyw …dig that cowboy hat, too!). Sadly, he was diagnosed with cancer in the early 1990s and passed away in 1993.

While his music is not for the faint at heart, Lefty Dizz is still worth checking out if you enjoy hearing great blues guitar and want to walk on the wild side of the blues!

- AllMusic.com: Lefty Dizz
- Russell, Tony, et al. The Penguin Guide to Blues Recordings. 2006
- Liner notes to Ain't It Nice To Be Loved (1989)


Harry Manx & Kevin Breit: Strictly Whatever

With a title like Strictly Whatever, you’d think that the musicians would be phoning in their performances, or otherwise indicating that they don’t care about the music. Not so with Harry Manx and Kevin Breit! Though their third duo album (and their second for Stony Plain Records) is titled Strictly Whatever, it is as passionate and entertaining as their other recorded works.

In some ways, Strictly Whatever is a continuation of their unique musical style, with great harmony vocals, Breit’s fine playing on the guitar and other assorted instruments, and Manx’s Indian-blues fusion and philosophical lyrics (not to mention Art Avalos’ effective percussion). Yet, there are enough differences between this and their previous albums to justify hearing this effort. A lot of the songs are less overtly blues-esque and incorporate influences from other roots genres, including country and even Hawaiian music on “Little Ukelele”. In the long run, this might mean that the record will appeal to a wider audience and help these fine musicians gain more recognition for their considerable talents. Also notable is Manx’s use of the baritone guitar on many of the tracks, which gives the songs a distinctive dark flavor. Interestingly, the Indian flavor characteristic of Manx’s music is also toned down, with his signature instrument, the mohan veena, appearing on only one song.

The album commences with a slower tune entitled “Sunny”, whose minor key and introspective sound contrast nicely with the positive lyrics. Other highlights include “Looking For a Brand New World” and “Dance with Delilah”, two up-tempo feel-good songs with some interesting wah-wah guitar on the former and baritone guitar on the latter; both would make excellent theme music for the summer season! Speaking of summer, “Hippy Trippy” is a fun surf-style song, with Breit’s buzzing electric sitar handling the melody and solos (surf sitar!). “Note To Self” is an even trippier, atmospheric instrumental piece, functioning as an effective prelude to the haunting “Do Not Stand At My Grave And Weep”. There is some intriguing John Schofield-esque guitar soloing on “Looking For a Plan” (presumably by Breit), which liven up an otherwise average song. For fans of classic blues, the cover of John Lee Hooker’s “Mr. Lucky” is probably the most straight-ahead blues performance here, with some fine weaving guitars and Manx’s unique vocals.

Being a fan of the blues and the duo’s previous albums, I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy the broader influences displayed on this new album. I was expecting my reaction to be strictly whatever. But I was wrong. This is a great album that flows nicely from start to finish, and is a worthy addition to Manx and Breit’s discography!


The Howlin' Wolf Album: Still Dogs****?

It is likely that no record in Howlin’ Wolf’s discography is as controversial and polarizing as his 1969 psychedelic effort, The Howlin’ Wolf Album (or, as it is titled on the stark cover: This is Howlin’ Wolf’s new album. He doesn’t like it. He didn’t like his electric guitar at first either). Long ravaged by blues critics, listeners, and the Wolf himself (who called it ‘dogs****’), The Howlin’ Wolf Album has been out of print for many years. Its recent reissue by Get On Down records begs the question: is it really ‘dogs****’ as the titular artist claimed, or is it a hidden gem in the Howlin’ Wolf discography?

In my opinion, The Howlin’ Wolf Album is closer to the former rather than the latter, and listening to the record, it is quite obvious why the Wolf and his fans dismissed the album (besides producer Marshall Chess’s assertion that the negativity in the album title undermined its sales). Although the album consists of remakes of the Wolf’s well-known hits, the psychedelic interpretations bear little resemblance to the originals. Even with the adventurous arrangements, most of the songs sound similar to each other, and the effect is quite monotonous in the end. Furthermore, the tempos lack the rhythmic quirkiness of Howlin’ Wolf’s classic works, and tend to drag after a while. And don’t get me started on the uninspired instrumentation with fuzzed-out electronics, guitars, and plodding drums prominent in the mix!

That being said, The Howlin’ Wolf Album is not without its merits. Musicians as diverse as John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin), Jack White (The White Stripes), and Chuck D have found value in the psychedelic works of Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf, and deservedly so. Howlin’ Wolf’s voice and personality cut through the busy mix on almost every track, and his spoken introductions on “Tail Dragger” and “Back Door Man” are a valuable insight into the background of the album and the man's personality. Although he is unfortunately buried in the mix, you can still occasionally hear Hubert Sumlin’s intricate guitar work, which is always a pleasure. Additionally, some of the Wolf’s songs actually sound good in a psychedelic blues-rock context. The flute-and-bass led psychedelic rendition of “Smokestack Lightning” is as hypnotic as the original, and possibly even more haunting. “The Red Rooster” has an almost funk-rock feel to it, which works well; I hear similarities between this track and “I Got Your Number” from Guitar Shorty’s 2006 album We The People. Unlike the rest of the album, the concluding track “Back Door Man” refreshingly has a traditional blues rhythm and the acid-influenced sounds are kept to a minimum while the Wolf proclaims how he ‘eats more chicken [than] any man seen’ and Sumlin responds with spiky lead guitar.

While it’s not a misunderstood masterpiece, it’s not ‘dogs****’ either. The Howlin’ Wolf Album is worth checking out if you enjoy Howlin’ Wolf and/or psychedelic blues-influenced music. However, despite the title, this is not THE Howlin’ Wolf album to check out if you want to hear what the Wolf did best and see why he was/is so revered by music fans.


April Fools! Señor Blues Goes Bananas...

Sting singing the blues? A blues cover of "Purple Rain"? Crazy. But that's what will be happening on Señor Blues this Saturday (April 2). Tune in to CJSR to hear these and other wild variations on the blues, on the Señor Blues April Fools' show. Cheers!


No Electricity, but Power Aplenty: The All-Acoustic Edition of Señor Blues

To commemorate Earth Hour 2011, the next edition of Señor Blues (on March 19) will be all acoustic. Join me as we uncover the roots of blues and rock 'n' roll (before electricity became widespread) and explore today's acoustic blues music. Even without electric instruments, you'll see how the blues retains all of its power and energy. Really!

Tune in to CJSR on March 19 for the all-acoustic edition of Señor Blues.

(Disclaimer: some electricity was used in the recording of this music, particularly to power the recording equipment. :) )


"Señor Blues" Late Winter/Early Spring schedule

Greetings, blues lovers!

Here is the schedule for "Señor Blues" for the next couple of months or so.

February 19 (Family Day special!)
March 5
March 19
April 2
April 9
April 23

Stay tuned to CJSR FM88.5 or follow the "Señor Blues" blog for updates on the program schedule.

Remember: "Señor Blues" alternates with "The Toast Marketing Board" every Saturday morning, from 7-9am.


"Señor Blues" early 2011 schedule

Happy New Year, everyone! Here's to another year of nothin' but the blues. "Señor Blues" will be broadcast on CJSR airwaves from 7-9am on the following dates:

January 15
January 29
February 12

Stay tuned for more schedule updates, as well as album reviews and show features/highlights!