Monday, April 23, 2018

Pet Peeve: Tremolo and Vibrato are NOT the Same Thing


A slight rant for today, as I hear the terms tremolo and vibrato used interchangeably. Here is the gist of it: tremolo modifies volume and vibrato modifies pitch.

To obtain a tremolo effect, the amplitude of an incoming signal raises and lowers (oscillates), so the listener hears a pulsing wave of sound. Depending on the size of the amplitude (how high the waves and troughs are), a tremolo can be heard as a gentle throb or it can be like the volume is turned on and off rapidly.

To get a vibrato effects, the frequency of the it’s the frequency of the signal needs to be raised or lowered, or goes sharp and flat. This can result in otherworldly cool sounds. If you have ever seen a violinist wiggling his or her left hand on the fingerboard – that is what vibrato is all about.

That is it, the rant is over. If only amp and guitar manufacturers could figure this out…


Sunday, April 22, 2018

Blues Blast Magazine Album Review: Time Gap – Flashback


This CD review was originally published in the June 23, 2016 edition of Blues Blast Magazine. Be sure to check out the rest of the magazine at

Time Gap – Flashback

Self Release

7 tracks / 28:28

The members of Pennsylvania’s Time Gap have something special going on. Their debut EP, Flashback, is seven tracks of original blues music that are infused with bits of jazz to provide a cool twist. The other cool twist is that after hearing their work, it is hard to believe that all four of the band’s members are still in high school. Their efforts have not gone unnoticed, as they recently represented the City of Brotherly Love in the Youth Showcase at the International Blues Challenge, so they are definitely on the blues scene radar now!

Time Gap is led by guitarist Radka Kasparcova, along with vocalist Sophie Griffiths, Miles Burger on bass, and Noah Bryant behind the drum kit. These folks are influenced by The Allman Brothers, BB King, and Buddy Guy, and often perform songs from these artists at their shows, but this disc is all about their original music. As there are only seven songs on this half hour album, following is a rundown for each of them.

The first song in their set is “So Many People,” an up-tempo blues song with jazz inspired vocals and guitar. Griffiths has a sweet alto voice with good inflection as she obsesses over a man and sees his face everywhere she goes. Burger has a great tone and thump to his double bass, and holds down a solid beat with Bryant. The mood changes with the next tune, “Rain on My Parade,” which is a frenzied boogie with Kasparcova taking a strong lead on her guitar. This song would be a great calling card for any of the members as they each get a chance to show off their talents.

Then, with “New and True,” the band gets to take a bit of a breather with a jazzy ballad that tells the story of a woman who has to know where she stands. For this mellow tune, Griffiths maintains an edge to her voice, which provides contrast that keeps the mood from getting overly sweet – this is the blues, you know. Radka does extended work with her heavily processed guitar tone, and (as with the rest of the disc) she plays with wonderful touch. She also provides layers of acoustic and Hawaiian guitar for “Two Way Street,” which is a really cool combination. This song has a neat change of pace midway through, which is something this band is not afraid to try on a few of the tracks.

“Did you break my heart or did you spare me?” is the question that is asked in “Thursday,” a slick funk track that is very catchy and listenable. This song features a tastefully restrained guitar solo plus a few righteous bass and drum breaks from Burger and Bryant that bring it together well. There is also 12-bar blues to be found, and “As Time Rolls On” changes up this proven formula with a Latin beat and an extended instrumental interlude halfway through. Then, before you know it, the set wraps up with another ballad, “Simple.” Griffiths cements her role as a chanteuse as she pines for that which she has not and the group uses drastic dynamic and mood changes with this song to effectively create drama and to bring the story home.

Time Gap’s Flashback EP is a solid debut of all original material, and it is impressive that this quartet did not stuff any superfluous covers into the mix. Groups like this are the future of blues music and will act as a bridge to entice younger listeners into the genre. Hopefully they are working on more material for a follow-up, and in the meantime check out their Facebook page to check out their schedule of gigs around the Philadelphia area.

Review: Randall RX15M Practice Guitar Amplifier


There is no shortage of modern practice amplifiers on the market for around $100, and pretty much all of them sound good and have a ton of features for the price. Randall has entered this market with what they call the RX15MBC, or the RX15M, as it says on the front of the amp. I had the chance to examine and try one out at this year’s Winter NAMM show, and it will pretty much get the job done. You know, this is the first time I have ever reviewed any Randall product on my blog…

The RX15M is a nice-looking piece of equipment, with black Tolex covering and macho black-chrome steel grille. It is super-portable, measuring around 13x13x8 inches, and weighing in at around 14 pounds; there is a beefy handle on top for toting it around. I have no idea what the cabinet is made of, but at this price I would assume MDF (and if it was solid wood Randall surely would include that in their literature).

Looking at the controls on the front, there is nothing for this segment except for it being equipped with dual channels. The clean channel gets a level control and the overdrive channel gets a gain control, a level control, and a boost switch. The two channels are switched by a button on the front (but no footswitch). The rest of the control include a 3-band EQ and a master volume control. There is not much to report other than a ¼-inch headphone jack and the illuminated power switch.

The back side of the RX15M is fairly barren, with the exception of Tape/CD RCA input jacks. Really – Tape and CD? “1985 called and they want to know why this amp has such an anachronistic label.” Jesus.

Performance-wise, this Randall puts out 15 watts into a 6.5-inch 8-Ohm“Jaguar-voiced” speaker. This combo does not get super loud, nor should it, and it is pretty much limited to bedroom use. That being said, it does sound really good, with a warm clean channel and an especially crunchy distortion channel. This is a metalhead teenaged kid’s dream, and it would be awesome for jamming out to Metallica while watching your brother play Call of Duty.

Randall describes the RX15M as “delightful,” which might be a tad ambitious. It is nice and seems well-built, and it sounds great which are all pluses in my book. Downsides are that there is no footswitch (or even a jack for one), RCA jacks are ridiculous choice for an auxiliary input, and there is no onboard signal processing. There is a lot of competition in the market at this price range, so if you are in the market you will need to compare features and decide if it is worth the $99.99 street price to pick one up. Maybe they will be on sale for Christmas like everything else at Guitar Center.


Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Blues Blast Magazine Album Review: Toronzo Cannon – The Chicago Way


This CD review was originally published in the June 9, 2016 edition of Blues Blast Magazine. Be sure to check out the rest of the magazine at

Toronzo Cannon – The Chicago Way

Alligator Records

11 tracks / 51:40

If you were to write a novel about a modern day Chicago bluesman, it would be hard to find a better model than Toronzo Cannon. He grew up on the South Side, and as a child he would idle near Theresa’s Lounge where he could hear legends such as Buddy Guy and Junior Wells through the open door. Cannon got started on the guitar at 22, and after a brief foray into the world of Reggae he gravitated towards the blues music he heard on the street and in his grandfather’s home. His influences of Buddy Guy, Alert King, Freddie King, and Albert King (among others) can still be heard in the music he writes and plays today.

Though Toronzo maintains a day job as a bus driver for the Chicago Transit Authority, his nights and vacation days are free to pursue the blues, which he has been working hard at since 1992 as both a sideman and a bandleader. His career has included nine appearance at the Chicago Blues Festival, and tours of Europe, the Americas, and South Africa. Cannon’s fourth album (and first with Alligator Records) is The Chicago Way, and he once again demonstrates that he is a modern day blues master.

This disc includes eleven tracks, all self-written, and Toronzo handles the vocals and guitars. He was joined by a fine group of musicians, including Pete Galanis on rhythm guitar, Larry Williams on bass, Melvin Carlisle on drums, and Brother John Kattke on the keys. Alligator’s Bruce Iglauer co-produced this album with Cannon, and the results are solid. Subjects covered within include the blues staples of love and loss (as well as infidelity), and a few tracks about the society we live in and finding hope for the future. Toronzo’s day job must give him a lot of material to work with.

Things get started with a bang with “The Pain Around Me,” a socially relevant tune that provides a glimpse into the Chicago that Toronzo sees on a daily basis, and he takes on religious leaders, politicians, and the general depravity of man. This is a fat chunk of heavy blues-rock that gives Cannon a chance to shine on both the vocals and his guitar. It is also a cool showcase of the incredible bad, with heavy drums, popping bass, and loads of Hammond B3.

There is a lot of blues-rock and rhythm and blues on this disc, but there are a few tracks that have more of the Chicago blues sound that one would expect from Toronzo. One of these is “Walk it Off,” a slow roller with searing guitar, wonderful piano, and aggressive bass from Williams. This is a song of love that has gone truly wrong, and there are more than enough disagreements to be resolved. Another wonderful Chicago track is “Mrs. From Mississippi,” which is a rollicking tune will trick rhythms and phrasing. From his description, this lady sounds like a keeper, and it nice to have one song on this album where there is not any drama (other than Cannon’s smoking guitar, of course).

Cannon calls on the horn section of Doug Corcoran, Steve Eisen, and Robert Collazo for two of the tracks. “Fine Seasoned Woman” is told from the player’s point of view, and extols the virtues of more mature women, with a big band sound behind him. But it is important to keep in minds that this is a two-way street, and the “seasoned woman wants a man, not a fool.” And “Midlife Crisis” features more of well-arranged horns, but this time with a nice dollop of Kattke’s electric piano. A nice twist on this tale is that the narrator allows that his wife is going through the same angst, and for some reason he is surprised when he discovers she is stepping out on him too!

The set finishes up with “I Am,” which brings acoustic guitar in for the introduction then quickly morphs into a serious blues rock song with a modern sound and a serious dose of Cannon’s killer guitar tone. This coda to the album is sung with passion and has a mature message of resisting the temptations of the world. Melon “Honeydew” Lewis, who has a breathtakingly lovely voice, provides amazing punctuation and soul to this final production.

The Chicago Way is a smart album of original contemporary blues songs with just enough of the Windy City charm. Toronzo Cannon has a great band, a unique voice, and a guitar style that ensure that he will be a contributor to the progress of blues in the states for years to come. Check it out for yourself, and be sure to find his website and see if he is playing any shows near you (including the Chicago Blues Festival in June). It will definitely be worth your time!

Review: RapcoHorizon V-Cable Guitar Cable


The new RapcoHorizon volume control cable (V-Cable) is a great concept, as it takes the ordinary guitar cable and adds a knob to control volume and a mute position that allows the player to unplug without sending that earth-shattering pop through the PA system. This is a godsend to acoustic performers who do not have volume controls on their instruments, as well as instrumentalists that want to change instruments during a set without turning their amp off.

The V-Cable is available in 10’, 18’ and 25’ lengths, and they cost quite a bit more than a conventional cable, ranging in price from $46.99 to $51.99. So how do they perform?

I got two of these to try out, and they worked very well. It was really handy to have a volume control for my Martin, and I found that I used the mute setting quite a bit on my electric basses so I did not have to monkey around with my volume setting on the instrument between songs. But…

Unfortunately they both kind of crapped out within a few moths of starting to use them. One started making a popping noise if the cable was moved near the instrument end, and the other one makes a terrible scratching noise whenever the volume knob is turned – this is really obvious on an acoustic guitar. Fortunately there is a limited lifetime warranty, so I guess I will see how they support their product, but otherwise I am going to have to say steer clear of the V-Cable until they get this figured out.


Monday, April 16, 2018

Blues Blast Magazine Album Review: Shaun Murphy – It Won’t Stop Raining

Good day!

This CD review was originally published in the May 5, 2016 edition of Blues Blast Magazine. Be sure to check out the rest of the magazine at

Shaun Murphy – It Won’t Stop Raining

Vision Wall Records

11 tracks / 45:39

Shaun Murphy has an impressive career and body of work that few other modern blues artists can match. Growing up in Detroit, she was recruited by Bob Seger for his band in the 1970s, and has been touring with him for nearly 40 years. Along the way she was with Little Feat for 15 years, as well having the opportunity to work with Eric Clapton in the studio and on tour back in the 1990s. Shaun has a huge list of A-list artists that she has worked with and she is an awesome rock singer, but her solo blues work is equally impressive. This is no surprise, as her influences include Big Mama Thornton, Koko Taylor, and Etta James.

Murphy has recorded seven discs so far, including the very well received Ask for the Moon, which earned her two Blues Blast Music Awards and three Grammy nominations. Shaun’s latest album, It Won’t Stop Raining, is a real corker with 11 blues tracks that are pretty well evenly divided between originals and covers. She recorded this project with her touring band, including Kenne Cramer and Shawn Starski on guitar, Larry Van Loon and John Wallum on keys, John Marcus on bass, and Tom DelRossi behind the drum kit. These pros hold a tight groove, and aced every track at Colemine Studios in Nashville, Tennessee.

The voyage gets underway with “Spreadin’ the News,” and this shuffle is a perfect preview of what to expect from this disc. This is almost like a vocal audition for Murphy: she gets to show off her impressive range and her ability to sing powerfully, both smoothly and with an edge. The band also passes their audition, as the backline of Marcus and DelRossi nail down the beat and the keys and guitars wail with furious abandon. This leads straight into a cool twist (or maybe a cruel twist) on the jilted lover theme, a cover of Denise LaSalle’s 1995 tune, “Your Husband is Cheatin’ on Us.” As you will hear, most of the songs on this album are about relationships, both good and bad. That is what the blues are all about…

The title track is all about the mood, and “It Won’t Stop Raining,” is a haunting R&B ballad with pretty guitar arpeggios and a few layers of keyboards. The band uses key and dynamic changes to create a sense of tension that keeps things interesting until the end. Likewise, “Need You Love So Bad” allows Shaun to dig deep with its gospel-infuse vocals, but this time with the guitars getting a few of the leads. This is the oldest track on It Won’t Stop Raining, originally released by Little Willie John in 1956.

Murphy included a pair of covers from E.G. Kight’s excellent 2011 album, Lip Service. “Happy with the One I Got Now” is a slow-grinding tune with the guitars and bass far forward in the mix, and Shaun does a wonderful job of phrasing the verses so that the drama builds naturally. And “That’s How a Woman Loves” is a lovely piece of rhythm and blues that lets Murphy take the center stage. She really shines on these heartfelt ballads, and her vocals are stunning, to say the least.

There are also a couple of covers that were written by Caligator’s Corky Newman. One is a hard-hitting rocker, and “Running Out Of Time” features howling vocals from Shaun, a pair of awesome guitar solos, and plenty of punchy drums from DelRossi. The other is the closer, and “Fool for You” is built on a funk base with tasteful guitars and organ accompanying Murphy as she gets the last word, “cause everybody knows I’m a fool for you.”

There are no surprises with Shaun Murphy’s It Won’t Stop Raining, as her fans expect her to provide a first-rate performance, and she does not disappoint (as always). If you are looking for blues that is sung with powerful passion, you need look no further – this is the real deal, and you should pick up a copy of your own!

The Beatles’ 50th Anniversary Release of Yellow Submarine

Buenos dias, amigos!

I received the press release, and am actually excited to see Yellow Submarine in the theatre, though I must admit that when I saw it as a child I was reeeeeeally unimpressed…

NEW YORK / LONDON / LOS ANGELES – APRIL 04, 2018 – Abramorama announced today a deal with Apple Corps Ltd. and Universal Music Group (UMG) to theatrically release The Beatles’ classic 1968 animated feature film, Yellow Submarine, across North America this July in celebration of its 50th anniversary. Abramorama, Apple Corps Ltd. and UMG have teamed to give Beatles fans of all ages the opportunity to come together and share in this visually stunning movie and soundtrack. Abramorama originally partnered with Apple Corps, Imagine Entertainment, White Horse Pictures, StudioCanal and UMG’s Polygram Entertainment on the Ron Howard documentary The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years. Abramorama has a proven track record in the music-driven film space, partnering numerous times with Neil Young, Pearl Jam and Green Day and now once again with Apple Corps Ltd.

Yellow Submarine was restored in 4K digital resolution by Paul Rutan Jr. and his team of specialists at Triage Motion Picture Services and Eque Inc. The film’s songs and score were remixed in 5.1 stereo surround sound at UMG’s Abbey Road Studios by music mix engineer Peter Cobbin. Due to the delicate nature of the hand-drawn original artwork, no automated software was used in the digital clean-up of the film’s restored photochemical elements. This was all done by hand, frame by frame.

Richard Abramowitz, CEO of Abramorama said, “We’re thrilled to have the privilege of bringing Yellow Submarine back to the big screen so that 3 generations of happy Beatles fans can enjoy the ground-breaking animation and classic tunes and that have long been part of our collective cultural DNA.”

Directed by George Dunning, and written by Lee Minoff, Al Brodax, Jack Mendelsohn and Erich Segal, Yellow Submarine began its voyage to the screen when Brodax, who had previously produced nearly 40 episodes of ABC’s animated Beatles TV series, approached The Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein with a unique vision for a full-length animated feature.

Yellow Submarine, based upon a song by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, is a fantastic tale brimming with peace, love, and hope, propelled by Beatles songs, including “Eleanor Rigby,” “When I’m Sixty-Four,” “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds,” “All You Need Is Love,” and “It’s All Too Much.” When the film debuted in 1968, it was instantly recognized as a landmark achievement, revolutionizing a genre by integrating the freestyle approach of the era with innovative animation techniques.

Inspired by the generation’s new trends in art, the film resides with the dazzling Pop Art styles of Andy Warhol, Martin Sharp, Alan Aldridge and Peter Blake. With art direction and production design by Heinz Edelmann, Yellow Submarine is a classic of animated cinema, featuring the creative work of animation directors Robert Balser and Jack Stokes with a team of animators and technical artists.”