Sunday, September 3, 2017

Friday, September 1, 2017

Blues Blast Magazine Album Review: D.L. Duncan – D.L. Duncan


This CD review was originally published in the November 19, 2015 edition of Blues Blast Magazine. Be sure to check out the rest of the magazine at

D. L. Duncan – D. L. Duncan | Album Review

15 South Records

10 tracks / 40:28

You may know D.L. Duncan as Dave Duncan, but no matter what you call him he is truly a fine bluesman, with a beautifully soulful voice and an amazing touch on the guitar. Dave has been on the music scene for more than 35 years, and he has made his mark as a gold-record songwriter for other artists (Curtis Salgado, Lorrie Morgan, and Buddy Jewell), but he also writes songs for his own projects. On his albums he has also been pulling in some first class talent to help him in the studio and the results have been solid, to say the least.

His new album, D.L. Duncan, is no exception. On bass there is David Hood, a famed producer (Willie Nelson and Cher) who has played with Traffic, Boz Scaggs, and The Waterboys. The other half of the rhythm section is Vince Santoro on the drums (Rosanne Cash, Charlie Louvin, and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band). It would be a dream to have Grammy-winner Delbert McClinton on the harp and Sonny Landreth on the slide guitar for your album, and D.L. made this dream come true. And the icing on the cake is the inclusion of Kevin McKendree on the keys and the amazing McCrary sisters on backing vocals. Duncan was the producer and wrote eight of the ten songs on this disc, plus he took care of the vocals and guitars. There is no question that all the right pieces were in place to make this a wonderful record, and blues fans will not be disappointed.

The band kicks off the set with “I Ain’t the Sharpest Marble,” an easy-going blues song with a touch of boogie and heaps of humorous lyrics. D.L. mostly hangs back on the guitar with just a few pointed leads, but he lays down a nice solo midway through. McKendree delivers a fine performance on the piano, bringing the whole thing together into a neat package. The production values are first-rate here, with good mixing and nothing out of place (courtesy of multiple Grammy-winner Tony Daigle), and this work ethic blessedly carries over to the other nine tracks on the disc.

There is not a bad song to be found on the album, but there are a few standouts. One of these is Jerry Lynn Williams’ “Sending Me Angels,” which has been covered by luminaries such as Coco Montoya and Peter Frampton. This countrified soul song is done Duncan’s way, with some tasteful acoustic and resonator guitar playing, a killer beat, and a chorus that is just a bit sweeter because the McCrary sisters pitch in.

Another favorite from D.L. Duncan is an uptempo rhythm and blues tune, “Orange Beach Blues.” This song is orchestrated perfectly, with a wonderful synergy between the McCrary’s harmonies and McKendree’s Hammond. The backline of Hood and Santoro once again lay down a righteous rhythm and Duncan’s guitar work is smooth and soulful (including an Allman-esque close), which plays perfectly with his growly vocals.

All good things have to come to an end, and this time it is with “All I Have to Offer You is Love,” a sweet country blues ballad written by Craig Wiseman that was previously done very well by both Tanya Tucker and Dusty Springfield. The listener will find this song is built with a nice helping of Hammond B3, plenty of Landreth’s slide guitar and some cool pedal steel from David Pinkston. Duncan’s heartfelt lyrics are poignant, and this was a savvy choice to close the album out with.

D.L. Duncan’s new self-titled CD is a well-written, well-played, and well-produced, making it his best record to date and a must-buy for fans of blues and Americana music. He gets around the country quite a bit, so check out his website for the latest tour dates so you can see and hear his act in person. It will definitely be worth your time!

2017 Blues Blast Music Awards Winners!


Press Release:

In early May, a group of Blues music industry professionals including music critics, journalists, festival promoters, music venue managers, producers, musicians and other Blues music industry professionals nominated the best in Blues music in twelve categories. Blues Blast Magazine subscribers began voting to determine the winners on July 1 with only one vote per person allowed. Congratulations to all of the winners and all the nominees!

The Blues Blast Music Awards are presented by Blues Blast Magazine, the largest FREE weekly internet Blues magazine with over 37,000 Blues fan subscribers located in all 50 states and in more than 90 countries.

2017 Blues Blast Music Award Winners

Contemporary Blues Album: Samantha Fish - Chills & Fever

Traditional Blues Album: Mississippi Heat - Cab Driving Man

Soul Blues Album: Thornetta Davis - Honest Woman

Rock Blues Album: Mike Zito - Make Blues Not War

Acoustic Blues Album: Fiona Boyes - Professin’ The Blues

Live Blues Recording: Walter Trout - Alive in Amsterdam

Historical Or Vintage Recording: Roy Buchanan - The Genius Of The Guitar - His Early Recordings

New Artist Debut Album: Southern Avenue - Southern Avenue

Blues Band: Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials

Male Blues Artist: John Mayall

Female Blues Artist: Beth Hart

Sean Costello Rising Star Award: Southern Avenue


Monday, August 21, 2017

Blues Blast Magazine Album Review: Alex Lopez – Is it a Lie


This CD review was originally published in the October 24, 2015 edition of Blues Blast Magazine. Be sure to check out the rest of the magazine at

Alex Lopez – Is it a Lie | Album Review

Self Release

10 tracks / 30:37

Alex Lopez figured out early on what his priorities were, and he stuck to his plan. Born in Cleveland, he took to music early on and was inspired by bands from the original British invasion. After moving to Florida, he continued to record and play out, but eventually Alex made the decision to put family first and took time off from the gigging world. During his time away he got back in touch with the blues, courtesy of guitar greats that included Buddy Guy and Albert Collins, and he wrote and recorded a lot of original material. Well, now his family is raised, and he has jumped back into the deep end of the pool with his new album, Is It a Lie.

This disc is almost an EP, coming in at around 30 minutes, but Alex managed to fit ten of his original songs on it. If you do the math, you can figure out pretty quick that there is no room for fluff; there are no endless guitar solos or choruses repeated over and over again. It must have been hard for him to resist, as Lopez is a capable behind the microphone or on the guitar. He provided all of the guitar and vocal work on this release (and was the producer, too), with John Baccoli on bass and Craig Robison behind the drum kit. Everything was put on wax over at Atomic Audio Recording in Tampa, Florida.

Alex’s voice is not what we usually hear in blues music, with his tenor range and a curious blend of smooth 50s, warbly 70s, and howling 80s blues and rock sounds. This is a good match for his guitar-driven songs, and the overall package provides a unique vibe.

Most of the album is made up of blues-rock songs, though each sounds a bit different than the others. The opener, “Can’t Hide Your Love,” has a driving beat that is reminiscent of Golden Earring’s “Radar Love.” This is followed up by “Morning Blues” which has a smooth feel and a few neat transitions when the rhythm guitar alternates between choppy and smooth phrases. The best of these is probably “Company Man” which is has equal parts of British blues-rock and funk.

There are a couple of accessible tunes that have enough pop in them that they could be radio friendly, though each of them clock in at just a touch over two minutes. “Smile at Me” is one of these, with a 50s love song feel and a touch of backing vocals. And “I Need to Know” is an upbeat song that is easy to get stuck in your head.

One of the standout songs on the album is the title track, which is labeled as a reprise even though it only appears once. “Is it a Lie” has a funky bass and drum foundation with solid rhythm guitar and killer leads, including an impressive solo. It would have been nice to get a few more minutes of this song!

Lopez interspersed a couple of acoustic songs that they serve to highlight his guitar skills. The first is “Cheatin’ Blues,” a fast-tempo tune with a fairly conventional blues construction that includes plenty of resonator guitar work. The other is the closer, “The Night is Closing In,” which is a slow and sober ballad that includes a short but tasty guitar break. This was a good choice to end the album on, sort of like a train pulling into the station at the end of a journey. It was a short journey, but Alex went to a lot of places on it!

Alex Lopez’s Is it a Lie provides fresh songwriting and musicianship in the blues-rock format. Take a listen and see if it is what you are looking for, and if you are around northern Florida head over to Alex Lopez’s website to see where he is playing next with his band, the Alex Lopez Xpress!

Review: Crate GX-30M Guitar Amplifier Review


It seems that I have been on quite a roll lately with finds at the local flea markets, and today we are looking at another one of my finds – a 1990s Crate GX-30M guitar amplifier. I was not super interested, but the seller was highly motivated, and it is always great to have a loaner amp around for friends who think they might want to take up the guitar.

The Crate GX-30M is an entry level combo amplifier that puts out 30 watts through a 4 Ohm 12-inch Crate speaker. It is the usual practice amp size, measuring approximately 19 by 20 by 12 inches, and weighing in at 29 pounds according to my scale. It was made in the USA and it feels sturdy, with the usual black Tolex and hefty plastic corner protectors.

For a 2-+ year old budget amp, there are a surprising number of features available. There is a clean channel with a 3-band EQ, an overdrive channel with gain, shape, and level, a reverb effect, and a chorus feature with depth and rate. A single input is provided, and there are also jacks for a footswitch, headphones and a speaker out. If anything is plugged into the headphone jack or speaker out the internal speaker is bypassed.

I gave the GX-30M a bit of a workout with a Tele, Strat, and Les Paul, and it did ok. There is a light hum all of the time, but it does not get much worse at higher volume levels. The clean channel sound is probably the best feature of this amp, but there is an unpleasantly muddy distortion if reverb is elected at higher volume. The distortion channel has an ok tone but no bottom end and it also does not like higher volumes, so it is nothing special when all is said and done, The chorus is pretty good, though it does take some fiddling to get a good combination of rate and depth.

This is middling praise, at best, but this Crate does have enough volume for practicing out in the garage, and would probably be ok for busking or doing lower volume gigs. Like I said, I will keep the GX-30M around as a loaner, as even if it does not sound super-awesome, it is durable and should get the job done as long as there is not too much expected of it.


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Blues Blast Magazine Album Review: The Reverend Shawn Amos Loves You

Good day!

This CD review was originally published in the December 17, 2015 edition of Blues Blast Magazine. Be sure to check out the rest of the magazine at

The Reverend Shawn Amos – The Reverend Shawn Amos Loves You | Album Review

Put Together Records

12 tracks / 38:59

The Reverend Shawn Amos is a talented vocalist, songwriter and harpist, so maybe it is not necessary to mention that he is the son of Wally ”Famous” Amos – the cookie guy. But it is a part of what makes him the man that he is, just as much as the fact that his mom was the nightclub singer Shirl-ee May Ellis. Or that he was born in New York City and grew up on Los Angeles’ Sunset Strip, which certainly helps to fill a in a lot of the blanks.

Besides these biographical facts, Shawn Amos also understands the music industry, as he has worked as an A&R executive at Rhino Entertainment and was vice president of A&R at the Shout! Factory. This experience has helped him put together five of his own albums, the latest of which is The Reverend Shawn Amos Loves You. This release was produced by two-time Grammy winner (and amazing sax player) Mindi Abair, and it features Amos on vocals and harp. They were joined in the studio by Chris “Doctor” Roberts on guitar, Brady Blade on drums, Chris Thomas on the bass, and Anthony Marinelli and Hassell Teekell on the keys.

There are also a few guests artists on this record, including the Blind Boys of Alabama, who sit in on the first track, “Days of Depression.” This bare bones blues track with its catchy electric guitar hook and minimal instrumentation is the perfect setting to add the amazing harmonies that these bona fide giants of the gospel world can contribute. This song is backed up by the hard-hitting rhythm and blues of “Brand New Man,” showing that Shawn is not afraid to mix things up a little bit. These first few songs are only a touch over two minutes each, and they certainly leave the listener wanting more!

Missy Anderson also makes a guest appearance, and “Boogie” is one of the standout tracks on the album. This song already drips with sex thanks to Amos’ soulful voice and harmonica over the heavy bass and tinkling electric piano. But when you throw Missy into the mix along with a tight horn section, the temperature skyrockets!

“Hollywood Blues” is a slick ode to Shawn Amos’ west coast home, and it works well because of the fabulous job that Nick Lane did of arranging the very prominent horns, which include Mindi Abair on sax and Lewis Smith on the trumpet. Like the other originals on this release, it is well written, and in this case the lyrics will strike a chord with anybody that has tried to work in the Southland’s music scene.

There is also a pair of cool cover tunes that made their way onto The Reverend Shawn Amos Loves You. Minnie Lawler’s “Joliet Bound” gives Roberts the chance to step out on the guitar for a minute until the drums and bass set up their driving beat. This is a beautiful piece of roots and blues, and the feeling in Shawn’s voice is spot on for the expected law and order theme of this tune. The other re-do is a laid-back take on Jimmy Reed’s “Bright Lights, Big City” that has plenty of appropriately played barroom piano, lovely backing vocals from Forever Jones, and some well-placed sax work from Ms. Abair.

The Reverend Shawn Amos Loves You is a very good modern blues album that does not lose touch with where the genre came from, and there is not a bad song on it. Pick up a copy if you get a chance and if you are ever near the City of Angels, Mr. Amos has plenty of shows on his schedule, including a regular gig at the luxurious Mr. C. hotel in Beverly Hills.

Memory Lane: 1965-1969 Teisco Del Rey E-110 Guitar Review


Today we are looking at a little bit of Japanese guitar history: a Teisco Del Rey E-110 6-string electric guitar that I picked up at the Rose Bowl Flea Market last month.

Teisco was a Japanese company that built guitars from 1948 to 1969, and Teisco is an acronym for Tokyo Electric Instrument and Sound Company. They built amplifiers and keyboards and distributed drum sets (made by others), but I am most interested in guitars and basses, so this is what you get. They sold instruments domestically and also distributed gobs of them to the United States and Great Britain. The company was sold to Kawai in 1967, and they discontinued selling guitars under the Teisco brand name in 1969 (for export) and 1977 (for Japan).

The company was the brainchild of a guitarist, Atswo Kaneko, and it went through various company names before Teisco was chosen in 1964. So most of the Teisco badged guitars you see were built between 1964 and 1969, or 1964 and 1977 for Japanese market instruments. These guitars were often sold at department stores (such as Sears), and were also imported under other names including: Arbiter, Audition, Beltone, Duke, Heit Deluxe, Jedson, Kay, Kent, Kimberly, Kingston, Lyle, Norma, Silvertone, Sonatone, Top Twenty, Tulio and World Teisco. But everybody and their brother want s a Teisco Del Rey. By the way Teisco Del Rey was the name found on guitars imported to the US by Chicago’s Jack Westheimer from 1965 to 1969.

This one is an E-110, though it took a little searching on the internet to find it as the sicker on the back of the body with the serial number and model number is missing (as is the ubiquitous “Steel Reinforced Neck” sticker). It has a tulip-shaped body that is sprayed in a cool shade of red. I have no idea what it is made of, but it is very thin, maybe 2/3 the thickness of a Telecaster, so it weighs in at a feather-light 5 pounds, 9 ounces. Maybe it is some sort of plywood…

The body is loaded up with one single coil pickup that is wired through volume and tone knobs that are original and still have the little pointers. Strings are loaded through a unique stamped steel tailpiece, and there should be some sort of pot metal bridge, but it has been replaced by a chunk of wood. The original pickguard is to die for, with a cool vines and flowers engraving on it.

The 25.5-inch scale neck is multi-ply maple with a rosewood fretboard and some sort of darker wood overlay on the Strat-style feedstock. 22 frets are sunk into the board, plus a bonus zero fret, which I do not see terribly often. The trussrod extends beyond the heel of the neck (like a MusicMan or Sadowsky), so adjustments are a breeze. The tuners are some sort of cheap open-back units, and the extra cool Tesco del Rey badge is present and accounted for.

Condition of this guitar is good, but not great. The jury-rigged bridge is dying for a Tune-O-Matic replacement, and one of the string acorn nuts has been replaced with an incorrect part. There is a chip at the fretboard near the zero fret, and there is an ugly finish crack in the neck pocket that seems stable enough. And, of course, there are a few scratches and dings, but nothing unusual for a 40-year-old import guitar that was pretty cheap to start with. Fortunately it has been spared the indignities of ill-advised modifications.

None of these things are deal breakers for me, as this thing weighs nothing and it plays and sounds pretty darned good. The neck is very comfy, and the pickup has a very clean tone and a surprising amount of output. I think I will track down a better bridge, do a set-up and enjoy this thing for a while before I flip it. This Tesco will probably not make it for the long term, though, as I already have too many guitars, and all of them are a bit nicer than this one.