Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Bonnie Bishop Free Album Review


This CD review was originally published in the November 8, 2012 edition of Blues Blast Magazine. Be sure to check out the rest of the magazine at

Bonnie Bishop – Free

Self released through Be Squared Records

7 tracks / 28:26

If you Google Bonnie Bishop you will find out that she is a country rock singer and songwriter out of Nashville, so you will be in for quite a surprise when you listen to her new CD, Free. This is not country music, but it certainly does rock in a soulful and bluesy way.

Bonnie earned her stripes in the Texas club scene and cut four albums before heading to Nashville to make a run at being a songwriter. She has developed into quite a good songwriter, and recently had one of her songs recorded by Bonnie Raitt (one of her inspirations, by the way). Her latest CD Free is really more of an EP, with seven tracks and a total play time of less than thirty minutes, but they are all original tunes and she had a hand in writing all of them. She is joined on this recording by Jimmy Wallace on keys, Steve Mackey on bass, Fred Eltringham on drums. The electric and acoustic guitars were played by Rob McNelley and Sam Hawksley. This tight group of musicians illustrates why so many artists choose to record in Nashville, where the talent pool is so very deep.

“Keep Using Me” is the first track, and we get a strong dose of Jimmy Wallace on honky-tonk piano and B3 and some tasteful bass work from Mackey on the bass, but the real star is Bishop’s voice. I have seen other writers compare her to Janis Joplin and Bonnie Raitt, and though I do not think she sounds like them I do think that she has the same energy and presence as these iconic singers. I do not know exactly how to categorize this song, but the backing vocals and the story of a woman done wrong tip it over into the realm of soul for me.

Next up is another song that is hard to fit into any one genre, “Shrinking Violet.” This one is equal parts funk and country rock. The distorted slide guitars on this one are brilliant, and Eltringham really keeps this one moving with his driving drums. There is continuity of the lyrics that carries over from the first song to this one, and you will find that Bonnie Bishop is not afraid to approach personal subjects and that she has quite a lyrical way of stringing words together.

The title track is a beautifully arranged ballad that slowly builds with piano, strings and a background choir. As “Free” starts out, we get to hear Bonnie’s voice with a lot of the background stripped way, and it is breathtakingly emotional. If a household-name artist had recorded this song, you would hear it every 10 minutes on pop radio, and tomorrow’s stars would be covering it on some reality television talent show. That is how good it is.

Halfway through Free the mood lightens up for “Bad Seed,” the only real country tune on the CD. This one uses the country music time-honored tradition of telling a story as a song, interspersed with a nifty chorus here and there. This is a super catchy tune, and with Bishop’s rip-roaring vocals it should also be very radio-friendly.

“World Like This” is a hopeful ballad that gets a dose of Hammond and choir to make this a fresh gospel tune. By slowing things down the listener a chance to hear the message of the lyrics, and to consider the context of love in today’s society. “The Best Songs Come from Broken Hearts” builds on this, starting slowly and gaining momentum with her voice sounds time-worn that adds an extra shot of honesty to this song. Free finishes up on an inspirational note with “Right Where You Are,” which is a lively tone with hammering drums and a rocking bass line. This song is soul, gospel and rock, and with the way it was recorded it almost comes off as a live track.

If she was looking for work as a songwriter, Free is the best resume that Bonnie Bishop could submit. The lyrics are personal and poignant, and the music is rich and catchy; it does not hurt that she has a great voice, a terrific band and good studio production. I am glad that she produced a shorter release with consistently good content rather than adding obligatory cover tunes or songs that were not ready for prime time. Free is a winner and you should give it a listen.


Thursday, March 21, 2013

World of Strings, 1962 to 2013


This week I heard of the not unexpected demise of my favorite local music shop, Long Beach’s World of Strings. I have been patronizing this establishment since the 1970s, when my mom would take me there to get my cello worked on.

This has been one of my favorite local haunts ever since, and in recent years I had nothing but great experiences with the multitude of guitars that I took in there for repairs or set-up. Greg, Brian, Chris and Pharaoh always did me right, and I appreciate their luthier skills as well as their humor and friendship.

World of Strings opened up in 1962 on 7th Street in Long Beach, moved across the street in 1970 and was there until the day it closed. Of course they sold strings, but there was a lot more to their inventory. They carried guitars and amplifiers, but they also had a nice inventory of violins, violas, cellos and basses, as well as mandolins, ukuleles, dulcimers and more. They were a Marquis Martin guitar dealer and service center, and carried a lot of the major brands, which says something about a small store in a bad neighborhood.

The neighborhood and the dismal parking situation certainly did not help business, and combining the fiscal downturn a few years back with another insurmountable problem, I guess they could just no longer make a go of it. Now that World of Strings and Whittaker Music are gone, there really are not any good music stores left in Long Beach. The next best choice for classical instruments and service is going to be Morey’s Music in Lakewood, and if you are looking for guitars and accessories I guess you will have to head to the nearest Sam Ash or Guitar Center.

RIP, World of Strings, I will miss you guys.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Philip Kubicki -- July 12, 1943 to March 18, 2013


I was saddened to hear today that Philip Kubicki lost his battle with cancer.

Phil was a luminary in the world of guitarists and luthiers, having worked for Fender before starting his own shop in Santa Barbara in 1973. He is the man who built George Harrison’s legendary rosewood Telecaster. Factor bases are his brainchild, and his lasting contribution to the evolution of the electric bass.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Phil a few times over the years, he always answered all of my dumb questions, and on one occasion he even sent me some nice comments about my blog. He was truly a gentleman, and I am sorry that he will no longer be among us.

Rest in peace, Phil

Save The Date: First-ever Guitar Center Musician’s Expo at Long Beach Convention Center


On Saturday, April 6, 2013 there will be an event at the Long Beach Convention Center that should be of interest for Southern California musicians. The Guitar Center Musician’s Expo is an opportunity for us common folks to see a lot of the new gear that was introduced at the Winter NAMM show in Anaheim.

Guitar Center is the big daddy of music retailers, and I admire that they are trying new thing despite the crushing debt they are staggering under. Through their relationships with their suppliers and vendors, they will be featuring equipment from over 60 manufacturers, including Martin, Fender, Casio, Roland, DW, Bose, Pioneer and more. There will be company representatives on hand to answer questions, and the equipment will be out for the unwashed masses to touch and use. Most musicians are not able to go to NAMM, and I know they would like to see and play stuff gear that is not even at dealers yet.

Besides the gear there will also be artist and DJ workshops with a pretty fine line-up that includes Chad Wackerman, Allan Holdsworth, Jimmy Haslip, Mix Master Mike, Derek Sherinian, Stephen Perkins, Tony Franklin (my hero!), Rob Wasserman, DJ Qbert, and more. There will also be free group clinics, including group Recording Made Easy classes, guitar lessons and ukulele lessons. This might be kind of cool for the kids.

Rumor has it that there will also be a few notable instruments from Guitar Center’s collection on hand, including Eric Clapton’s "Blackie" Fender Stratocaster guitar and Gibson ES-335 as well as Stevie Ray Vaughan's "Lenny" Fender Stratocaster guitar. You probably will not get to touch these, though…

As I said earlier, the Guitar Center Musician’s Expo will be at the Long Beach Convention Center on Saturday, April 6, 2013. The show will be open from 10AM to 5PM, and admission is $5 if you buy your tickets from a local Guitar Center, or $10 at the door. Complete details should be available at

I hope to see you there!


Sunday, March 17, 2013

Peterson Istrobosoft iPhone Electronic Tuner App Review


I travel a bit for work, and sometimes carry along a ukulele or my U Bass so I have something to kill time with in hotel rooms, and have until recently carried along some sort of clip-on electronic tuner. Well, I can leave those at home now because I have been using a kick-butt tuner app on my iPhone – the Peterson Istrobosoft app.

There are tons of guitar tuner apps out there and I have experimented with many of them, in general they do a pretty good job. But, I am a big fan of Peterson strobotuners; in fact the Peterson VSS-C Stomp Classic has replaced the trusty Boss TU-3 in my studio. So, when I heard there was an app version of the tuners I had to give it a shot. It is well-reviewed, and for only $9.99 it was a no-brainer.

Old-school mechanical strobotuners (which Peterson has been making since 1948) use a spinning wheel that shows different octaves and the strobe effect of the tuner will make one row of the wheel appear to stop for the octave that is being played, while the overtones for other octaves will move about depending on how far they are out of whack. The advantages of this are incredible accuracy (within 0.1 cent), along with an intangible coolness factor. This app simulates the effect with a nice bright display that is a little simpler to look at.

After downloading the app, if you are using an iPhone you should pretty much be ready to go. If you are using an iPod Touch you will need to plug in a microphone (also available from Peterson) so it can hear what you are doing. It can be hard for the microphone to pick up unplugged electric guitars, but there is also a $12.99 guitar cable adapter that you can purchase.

When the app is opened, it goes directly to the main screen. As soon as it hears sound the strobe will start moving, and the display will tell you what note(and octave) it hears and whether it is sharp or flat, and by how much (in cents). As the note gets closer to in tune the strobe display will slow down and then stop when the note is in tune. This tuner is supposed to be insanely accurate, to within 1/10 cent. I do not have any way to verify this, but when using it at the same time as my Peterson pedal, they react the same when hearing notes, so it does pretty well.

There are a few icons on the main screen that might make life easier for you. There is a noise filter that can be used when you are not plugging an instrument directly into your iPhone that will help isolate your sound and not pick up so much background noise. There is also an input boost that will boost all frequencies by 24 dB (in case your sound source is too quiet).

If you press the “I” icon you will find a menu that allows you to select tuner settings, calibration, and customization. In tuner settings, you can adjust your concert A from 440 to whatever you please. There is also a drop/capo feature that will transpose your notes by up to an octave (up or down). The calibration mode allows the tuner to be calibrated to an external source, and the customize screen allows you to change the colors of the various parts of the main display.

Like other iPhone apps, this will zoom to a full screen mode, so with a swipe of the finger you can make the main part of the display bigger so you can set the phone on the floor or music stand and still be able to see what is going on.

I have used the iStrobosoft app and have come away very impressed. With a touch screen, this is really easy to use and customize, and in this respect it is even better than my regular Peterson tuner pedal. I think they have a real winner here!

As I said earlier, the Peterson iStrobosoft app is only $9.99, and will work on most iPhones. It can also work on some iPod Touch models if you plug in the $11.99 accessory microphone. See the App Store for application details, and the Peterson website at to order the optional microphone or guitar cable adaptor.


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Fender Japan Keith Richards Sonny TL67-70SPL Telecaster Review


Here is another guitar from Fender’s Japanese affiliate that you will not see every day, a rare 1967 Reissue Keith Richards signature Sonny Telecaster, model TL67-70SPL. The serial number on this had an E-prefix, and it is marked “Made in Japan,” which according to Fender means that this was produced between 1984 and 1987. This is the earliest one of these that I have ever seen.

TL67-70SPL can be decoded as follows: TL = Telecaster, 67 = 1967 re-issue, 70 = original price (70,000 Yen), SPL = special build. This guitar is expertly crafted with a white ash body that has been sprayed with a 3-tone sunburst finish, so that the grain shines through. A single-ply black pickguard is mounted, and it provides a nice contrast. I am tempted to see how a tort guard would look, but it probably best to leave well enough alone.

The neck has a medium C profile with vintage frets and there is a late 60’s type logo on the headstock. Gotoh tuners are used on these Fender Japan Custom Shop models for their stability, although they look out of place on this guitar. A four-bolt F-stamped plate holds the neck to the body. The signature feature of this guitar is that the bridge is machined from a block of brass, with six solid brass saddles. It makes a huge difference in the tone of the guitar. I am sticking with normal tuning, not the 5-string open G that Keith uses, so there are still six saddles on this instrument.

Ah, the pickups. This one uses a Fender humbucker at the neck and a traditional vintage single coil at the bridge. The pickup used in the neck position has that Gibson PAF '57 reissue humbucker sound. Sweet!

The craftsmanship on this guitar is impeccable. The fretwork and nut-detailing are superb. The neck pocket fit is as tight as they come. There is a good reason that these guitars were not exported to the US, as they are a tough act to beat. Of course, this guitar is 20+ years old, so it shows some wear, but it is still quite handsome.

It plays as nicely as it looks, and I have it set up with 0.010 Slinkies. It is SO crunchy with the pickup selector in the neck position. And it plays as well as any Telecaster I have ever owned, even the US Custom Shop models.


Monday, March 11, 2013

Pantages Theatre 2013-2014 Season


I have really enjoyed out Broadway L.A. 2012-2013 season ticket package, so I was excited when I got the announcement letter for the 2013-2014 season at the Pantages. It looks like there is going to be a lot of good stuff going on there in the next year!

The Pantages is located at Hollywood and Vine in Hollywood California, and it has been a Southern California treasure since it opened in 1930. It started as a vaudeville theatre, but it has hosted all manner of shows, operated as a movie theatre, and was even the home of the Academy Award Ceremonies for 10 years. Rumor has it that when Howard Hughes owned the theatre he had his offices on the second floor. Creepy. Anyway, the theatre had a $10 million renovation in 2000, and it is still in marvelous condition.

The Pantages is the place to go for musicals in Los Angeles, and I had a blast at each of the shows I attended this season. The music, sets and acting were fabulous in each of them. This seasons’ line-up includes:

Book of Mormon -- starts January 21, 2014

The Lion King -- November 20, 2013 to January 12, 2014

Once -- July 15 to August 10, 2014

The Wizard of OZ -- September 17 to October 6, 2013

Evita – October 23 to November 10, 2013

Ghost – June 27 to July 13, 2014

The Music of Andre Lloyd Webber – June 3 to June 22, 2014

Optional add-on shows include War Horse and Green Day’s American Idiot.

If you do not want to buy the whole season, they will let you drop Book of Mormon and/or The Lion King. These are the most popular shows, so there is not really going to be much flexibility with the packages. For more ticket information, including show times and prices, check out their web site at

As usual, I will be writing reviews for each of the shows that I will be attending, so stay tuned to Rex and the Bass.


Sunday, March 10, 2013

Epiphone Masterbilt AJ-500ME Acoustic Guitar Review


I hear and read a lot of hate that is directed towards Epiphone, as this Gibson-owned brand sells low-priced imported guitars, but I am willing to bet that a lot of the haters have not even tried one. I have played and owned a few over the years and have found them to be a good value for the money. Today we are looking at a Masterbilt AJ-500ME which is a really neat acoustic-electric guitar.

List year I reviewed the sister of this guitar, the AJ-500RE which is also a peach. They are similar, with the RE having rosewood back and side and the ME having mahogany back and sides. Both of these guitars share the heritage of the original Masterbilts that were introduced in 1931. Yes, that is how they spell Masterbilt.”

The AJ-500ME is a jumbo-sized acoustic (AJ = Advanced Jumbo) that is made of surprisingly good materials and parts. It is a solid wood guitar (no pressboard or laminates here), with a Sitka spruce top, mahogany sides, back and neck, and a rosewood fretboard and bridge. The guitar is finished in a natural satin finish, which you will see as “NS” on the label. As glossy natural finish is available too (NA designation).

The neck has a pleasingly thin D shape to it, and an easy-playing 14-inch radius to the rosewood fretboard. Epiphone laid 20 medium frets along its 25.5-inch scale length neck, along with tasteful pearloid dot fret markers and stickpin inlay on the headstock. Of course it has an adjustable trussrod.

The hardware is very good, with a bone 1.68-inch nut and bridge saddle, and nickel-plated Grover Sta-tite machine heads. It looks very classy with a tortoise pickguard, bound neck and headstock, and a multi-ply bound top.

This vintage-inspired guitar comes with a first-rate and innovative electronics package. The heart of the system is the eSonic2 preamp, which is a collaboration of Epiphone and Shadow of Germany. The control panel is on the upper edge of the guitar; it includes a chromatic tuner, (which also mutes the guitar), volume, a slider to blend the two pickups, tone knobs for both of the pickups, and a phase switch. The pre-amp/tuner takes two 2032 lithium batteries that may prove tough to find at the last minute if they crap out. Be sure to unplug the guitar when you are not using it, and keep some spare batteries on hand.

One of the pickups is an under-bridge Nanoflex that incorporates active amplification at the pickup to improve signal quality. The other pickup is a Nanomag at the end of the fretboard (over the sound hole) with three samarium/cobalt magnets to provide a wide frequency range.

These pickups are output through two ¼-inch jacks, and if only the main one is used it will be a blend of both pickups. If both jacks are used one will be for the Nanomag and the other will be for the Nanoflex – stereo, baby! I cannot imagine that anybody would ever use this feature, though…

But the sum of the parts are nothing if they are not put together well, and Epiphone’s Chinese craftsmen did a very nice job on this instrument. The AJ-500ME has hand-scalloped Sitka spruce braces, as well as a hand-carved dovetail neck joint and hide glue construction. Plus, the frets are better than any of the new “real” Gibson guitars I see at Guitar Center.

The good parts and workmanship come together to make a very nice-playing and great sounding guitar. This one played well right out of the box and has a warm tone with a very deep and full sound, as well as clear mids and highs. It is not perfectly balanced from high to low, but as the top ages I suspect the strings will have a more even tone.

My complaints about this Epiphone guitar are the same ones I had for the rosewood Masterbilt I played. The matte finish looks a little cheap and certainly collects smudges quite easily. My other beef is that it seems to go through batteries at a ferocious rate, and they are not cheap nor readily available. A 9-volt would have been nice.

Anyway, these things are not deal breakers, and the AJ-500RE is a keeper, at least as much as this is possible for me. All Epiphone guitars are backed by their Limited Lifetime warranty as well as Gibson Customer Service for the original purchaser.

It might be a bit tricky to find these, though, as they have been discontinued. They originally had a list price of $1100, but I have recently seen them as low as $400. It will be hard for you to find a guitar that has the same specs, tone and playability for the price.


Friday, March 8, 2013

Book Review of Duff McKagan’s It’s So Easy


Duff McKagan is one of my bass heroes, and one of the reasons why I stuck with the instrument back in the 1980s. His playing is melodic, his music writing skills are incredible and he is the epitome of cool. I follow the blog he writes for Seattle Weekly and like his writing style, so when I had the chance to pick up a copy of his autobiography, It was a no-brainer.

Depending on how old you are, you will know Duff as the bassist for Guns & Roses or Velvet Revolver, or possibly not at all. He is currently working with his own band, Loaded, and runs his own wealth management company. He is not a dumb guy. This is not his first writing gig, and besides working with Seattle Weekly, he has also been writing for and Playboy for a number of years. He had some help on this project from Tim Mohr, his editor at Playboy, but this book is in his voice so I believe McKagan did most of the work.

It’s So Easy covers the rise and fall of GNR (of course), but it also covers his life before and after the tumultuous years with the band. There is the expected dirty laundry, but we also get some insight into his private life, and even get a few of his favorite recipes. He is critical of others throughout the book (and rightly so), but is hardest of all on himself. The tale of his descent into and back out of the pit of drug and alcohol addiction is compelling, and should be required reading for teenagers.

At a bit over 300 pages, I figured the book would provide a few hours of entertainment, but I ended up taking my time with it because it turned out to be a really good read. Duff has a tremendous grasp of the details of these stories, and his writing style is very honest and natural. There is some raw language here and there, but probably not as much as you would expect. He provides a nice display of photos in the middle of the book too.

So, Duff McKagan’s It’s So Easy is a well-written book and an interesting read, and I recommend that you give it a shot. And here is the hot ticket: this book originally sold for $26 (which is way too much for any book, let alone a rock star tell-all) but they are closing these out for six bucks at Barnes and Noble, bringing it more into line for what I am willing to pay. Check it out!


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Musical Theatre West 2013-2014 Season


If you regularly read my blog you may have seen how much I loved the Musical Theatre West shows I have been to this year. I just renewed my season tickets for the 2013-2014 season, and from what they have on tap it looks like it will be another great season!

Musical Theatre West has been around since 1952, when it started out as the Whittier Civic Light Opera. Their productions evolved over time, and they went from being an all-volunteer operation to producing full seasons. They now perform at the Richard and Karen Carpenter Performing Arts Center at Cal State Long Beach, which is a lovely venue with plenty of conveniently located parking.

So far, this season’s shows have been fantastic and their casts, choreography, costumes, sets and music were all top shelf. It is great to have the opportunity to see quality entertainment this close to home (and avoid the hassles of heading to Hollywood).

The Musical Theatre West 2013-2014 season consists of four neat shows, three of which have been announced already. These include:

∙ Young Frankenstein

∙ The Music Man (my favorite!)

∙ ‘S Wonderful (The New Gershwin Musical)

And one show to be named later. Based on rumors and hints, I think I have figured it out and it is a real winner – shoot me a message if you want to hear my guess…

Single tickets are available from as low as $20, and season tickets can be had for under $100. Parking is only $5 in the university parking lot, but be careful when you leave because the university police take events like this as an opportunity to issue traffic citations like there is no tomorrow.

You can check out ticket and venue details at


Saturday, March 2, 2013

Review of Jekyll and Hyde at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood, California


Although I love the classics I still enjoy getting out to see newer musicals, so it was refreshing to see Jekyll & Hyde at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood this weekend. It is not exactly a new show,though, as it has been around since 1997.

This stage musical is an adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1886 novella, Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Using music by Frank Wildhorn and Leslie Bricusse’s book, this Tony-nominated musical had its original run on Broadway from 1997 to 2001. You may be familiar with one of its songs, "This is the Moment" which was played a few times at the Olympics. Also, the original run got a lot of press due to some notable cast replacements for Dr. Jekyll (and Mr. Hyde), including Sebastian Bach from Skid Row and David Hasselhoff. Seriously. Since 2001, there have been a few touring productions, but I never had the opportunity to attend any of them.

To prepare for its Broadway revival in April 2013, Jekyll & Hyde kicked off a 25-week tour in San Diego with 15 stops along the way. The score has been streamlined and the production modernized to appeal to a more widespread audience. The leads include Constantine Maroulis in the title role, with Deborah Cox as Lucy and Teal Wicks performing Emma’s role.

The Pantages is my favorite place in Los Angeles to see a musical show. Parking is easy (easy for Hollywood, anyway), and it is a beautifully restored Art Deco theatre. The venue is laid out well, and there are really not any bad seats. Unlike other recent shows I have been to recently, the crowd was bereft of old folks and little kids. Perhaps the mature subject matter and the dark story drove them away. The show was sold out anyway…

Jekyll & Hyde is a visual treat, thanks to Tobin Ost. The stage was set with lighted margins that could be moved to crop the individual scenes perfectly. They used a limited number of set panels that were moved, turned and angled so that projected images on them could portray different locales, ideas and images. Jeff Croiter’s lighting was neatly accomplished, and overall the sparse scenery was so innovative and efficient that I was blown away.

Besides handling the scenic design, Ost was also in charge of costumes. He captured the spirit of late 19th century London and clothed the diverse cast of characters perfectly. This show included every kind of person from prostitutes to clergy, with plenty of other classes filling the spaces in between.

This production is staffed with a 12-piece orchestra under the direction of Steven Landau, with a few core members that are augmented with local musicians as the tour moves from city to city. They are professionals and with the way they performed the well-written score there was nothing for me to criticize. The overall sound was fine with just a few instances where the singers were too soft, but then again it is really tricky to get a musical like this perfectly mic’d.

The cast for Jekyll & Hyde was well-chosen, with Constantine Maroulis taking the title roles, Deborah Cox playing Lucy the gorgeous prostitute, and Teal Wicks as Jekyll’s fiancĂ©, Emma. All of them are fine singers and good actors, and they were only limited by the material they were asked to perform. The secondary cast of characters were also very good, and the singing ability of the chorus was perhaps the best I have ever seen.

So, everything was in place for this to be a fine show and it was very entertaining, but it could have been so much better if the lyrical content had not been so flat. The songs that Maroulis had to sing had too many words in them so they came off awkwardly. The show tries to convey too many details via song and it became rather muddled, especially during the first act. Had Bricusse used half as many words to tell the story, it would have been so much more effective – it is not like the plot is that complicated. In contrast, the songs that Cox and Wicks sang were so much more simple and beautiful that it was really quite jarring.

I am glad I finally got to see this show, but this very good production could have been perfect with a few re-writes. It is worth seeing just for the opportunity to see Deborah Cox, who stole the show.

Anyway, your chance to see Jekyll & Hyde in Los Angeles has passed, but there will be a few more stops on the tour, including Des Moines and West Palm Beach. And, of course it will be playing Broadway from April 18 to June 30, 2013, at the Marquis Theatre with the same leads. Check it out if you get the chance!

By the way, it was recently announced that Mike Medavoy and Rick Nicita are planning to release a film adaptation of this musical in collaboration with the original authors Frank Wildhorn and Leslie Bricusse. I am looking forward to seeing what they come up with.


Friday, March 1, 2013

Peter Novelli Louisiana Roots and Blues CD Review


This CD review was originally published in the November 1, 2012 edition of Blues Blast Magazine. Be sure to check out the rest of the magazine at

Peter Novelli – Louisiana Roots & Blues

Self Release

13 tracks / 62:26

I must have listened to Peter Novelli’s Louisiana Roots & Blues CD a dozen times, and I hear something new each time I run through it. This is his self-released sophomore album, and it is a corker! There are thirteen solid tracks, and over an hour of quality music that is inspired by the Sportsman’s Paradise state. Though I think I hear a little Lone Star state in there too…

Peter Novelli is a class act, and a first rate guitarist and singer. He has been playing guitar since he was a kid, and was inspired by a diverse cadre of guitarists, such as B.B. King, Mike Bloomfield, Eric Clapton and Gatemouth Brown. That is a murderer’s row of 6-string talent! He is joined on this release by Chris Chew on bass, Darryl White on drums, Joe Krown on Hammond B3 and piano, and Elaine and Lisa Foster on backing vocals.

Louisiana Roots & Blues lives up to its name but you will also find some zydeco, a little swamp-style boogie and plenty of blues rock. Peter has also taken lyrical inspiration from his adopted hometown of New Orleans, and there are plenty of Crescent City references. The laid back Louisiana vibe also carries over to the tempo and you will have a hard time finding a fast track on this CD. This is cool with me because I like music that can help me wind down after a long day at work, and this one goes great with a La-Z-Boy chair, a tumbler of scotch and some strategically dimmed lights.

The album starts with “Shadow Man,” which from the first notes has some of the thickest electric guitar tone you will ever hear. After a minute or so, Peter’s vocals come in over the driving bass line, the B3 and a heavy snare. He has the ability to affect different voices to meet the needs of whatever song he is singing, and for this one he chooses a menacing growl. His first solo in the album is tasteful and restrained, fitting in perfectly with this slow blues rocker.

The next song up is “Dyin’ by the Numbers” which is sung from a coroner’s point of view as he laments the waste of life from violence, and we get to hear the Foster ladies echo his sentiments. A few guests appear on Louisiana Roots & Blues, and they are unerringly placed exactly where they need to be. On this track we are treated to the lap slide guitar of Chris Thomas King, who also appears on the next song, “Elysian Breakdown.” King provides some killer tones and melodies for the mix, and his interplay with Novelli makes for an entertaining listening experience.

If I had to choose a favorite track on this CD it would probably be “Eyes Talk” which has a lot of great elements to it, including Joe Krown’s honky-tonk piano, Novelli’s Randy Newman-esque voice, and the lovely harmonies of Elaine and Lisa Foster. This is a classic southern-fried whiskey joint blues tune. A close second would be his cover of John Hiatt’s “Lovin’ a Hurricane” which starts out with that unmistakable stacked guitar riff and delivers the goods that are expected when one re-records a beloved classic. Well done!

The most fun track is “Zydeco Lady” which has bouncy syncopated guitars and traditional Louisiana percussion and beats. The listener is treated to the accordion of Chubby Carrier who can transmit a natural tone from what had to be one of the more difficult instruments I have ever tried to play. Peter plays around a bit with Carrier as the song fades away, and they certainly work well together.

Peter gives us two instrumentals to end the CD, and they are do-overs of “Treme 3 A.M.” and “Dyin’ by the Numbers.” Without vocals these two tracks allow the listener hear how clean and smooth Mr. Novelli’s guitar style really is, not to mention Shamarr Allen’s horn. I have already added these tracks to the mix for my next party, as I think they really set a positive mood.

Louisiana Roots & Blues is packed from front to back with cleverly-written, well-performed and slickly-produced songs. You should really think about picking up a copy of the CD, and for sure get out and check out his live show. He seems to be always gigging in and around Louisiana!