Saturday, March 28, 2015

Memory Lane: BOSS OC-2 Octave Pedal Review


The month would not be complete without a review of some sort of BOSS effect pedal, so today we are looking at the good old OC-2 Octave pedal. This is a darned good effect that was replaced in the BOSS line-up with the OC-3 in 2003.

Roland’s BOSS division makes effect pedals for the everyday working musician. These are folks that cannot afford the boutique pedals, or more realistically, they realize that good is good enough (sort of a Voltaire attitude). You have seen that you pay whatever you want can pay anything you want for guitar effect pedals, with the choices include crummy junk for twenty bucks all the way up to hundreds of dollars for stuff that was put together by people in first-world countries. BOSS pedals fall in the middle, as they are reasonably priced and good quality, making them a good value.

What exactly does an octave pedal do? It lets users fatten up their sound by adding up to two additional tones: one and/or two octaves below the original note.

The OC-2 is a standard single-space sized pedal, measuring 2.9 inches wide by 2.4 inches tall by 5.1 inches long, and it weigh in at a touch under one pound. See? The metric system will never catch on as long as I am on watch! This pedal runs on a single 9-volt battery or it takes the optional BOSS PSA adapter.

It has the same general style as other BOSS pedals, but this one comes in a subtle dark brown. The outside of the sturdy metal case has a ¼’ input and output jacks, and a jack for the aforementioned AC adapter. The expected BOSS high quality is to be found here, with a smooth finish, clean wiring, and knobs that have a nice feel. These knobs include OCT 1, OCT 2, and DIRECT LEVEL. Here is a quick and dirty rundown of what they do:

- OCT 1: adjusts the level of the one octave down tone.

- OCT 2: adjusts the level of the two octaves down tone.

- DIRECT LEVEL: adjusts the blend of the original tone and the effect.

That is it, you don’t even need a manual to figure this thing out. About two minutes of knob twisting will get you the tone you are looking for and then you can move on with your life. It might be one of the easiest to use pedals I have come across.

The OC-2 works really well for both guitar and bass. If you want it to track chords, it will not, and it is not always perfect when tracking single notes either, which is part of its charm. It allows for a more organic and less processed tone, and it really thickens things up nicely. Everybody should have something like this on his or her pedalboard. It is not something that will get used on every song, but when you need a fatter sound the OC-2 will deliver the goods. As a bonus, if you throw a phaser pedal into the mix, you can get some of the most awesome 1970s tones imaginable!

If you are searching for a good quality and effective octave pedal, the BOSS OC-2 fits the bill, and it is certainly simpler and easier to use than the four-knob OC-3. It will get the job done and is certainly reasonably priced with nice ones selling for around $60 to $100 on eBay. They seem to be holding their value well, so if you buy right it should always be worth what you paid for it.


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Howard Glazer – Looking in the Mirror |Album Review

Howard Glazer – Looking in the Mirror |Album Review

Self-release through Lazy Brothers Records

12 tracks / 58:47

There is a lot of soul in Detroit, a city that has a hard time over the past few years, but Howard Glazer is a great representative of the Motor City as is passionate for the city as he plays his own brand blues. His efforts have been noticed and he is certainly appreciated in his homeland, having been inducted into the Michigan Blues Hall of Fame and earning the 2014 Outstanding Blues/R&B Instrumentalist at the Detroit Music Awards.

Howard’s sixth solo album, Looking in the Mirror, is a wonderful blend of blues, funk, psychedelic rock, and swamp rock. He handles the guitars and vocals, and is joined by a capable crew that includes Chris Brown on bass and Charles David Stuart behind the drum kit, with additional vocals from Maggie McCabe and Stephanie Johnson. After cranking it up, you will find an hour of quality music with twelve original tracks written by Glazer, and not a cover song in sight.

The CD kicks off with the bawdy “Midnight Postman,” a rhythm and blues song with a healthy injection of funk and some fabulous B-3 work from featured artist Larry Marek. Glazer has the guitar chores nailed with his intuitive feel for the fretboard, and the ladies do a marvelous job of backing up his tenor vocals as he throws double-entendres out like a madman.

As you get deeper into it you will find that this album keeps things lively, and a great example of this is “All I Ever Wanted,” a refreshing blend of Creedence Clearwater-inspired swamp rock, interjected with a neat chorus featuring the ladies, not to mention a classy bass and guitar bridge. This song highlights what a terrific backline Glazer has found with Brown and Stuart!

Howard’s thoughts never go too far from his hometown, as shown by the jaunty 12-bar shuffle, ”Walking in Detroit.” He trades off on the vocals with McCabe as they call out the finer parts of the city, with a little help from the tasty trumpet work of David Kocbus. But when this fun song is over, Glazer does not let you forget that Looking in the Mirror is a guitar-driven blues album. He viciously tears through the next tune the playlist, the slow-burning “Eviction Blues,” which could very well be the standout track of the CD.

A very close second place for best song on the album is “Feeling so Bad,” Howard’s tribute to the late Johnny Winter. Glazer brings out his resonator guitar, and his slide work is a real treat. This bare bones song provides another piece of the blues puzzle for this project, and with the rest of the instruments stripped away it is a great showcase for what this man can do with his guitar, and the effect is amazing.

The set closes out with “Emergency” and no matter what you were expecting, there was no way it could be as awesome as this song! This is an epic psychedelic swamp song with crazy wah-soaked guitar tone and some tasteful electric flute from guest artist Tom Schmaltz. You heard that right: electric flute! This is not shtick – it is a heavy song that digs into the woes of the once-proud industrial capital of the United States. This song exemplifies what Glazer has accomplished with this disc, as he pushes musical boundaries to their limits while still managing to keep things tasteful.

Looking in the Mirror is a fine album, and Howard Glazer should be proud of what he has done here -- there are not many better ways to spend an hour of your time! So, why don’t you head on over to to check out his catalog and to find out if he has any shows coming up in your area?

Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Concert Review: Blue Oyster Cult and Uriah Heep at the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills, California


It is always cool to see bands that you have been listening to for years for the first time, and last Saturday (March 14, 2015) I was able to kill two birds with one stone when I caught Blue Oyster Cult and Uriah Heep at the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills, California.

The Saban Theatre is a really cool place to see a show. This Art-Deco 1900-seat venue opened in 1930 as the Fox Wilshire Theatre as one of 20th Century Fox’s premiere theatres. In 1981 the theatre was converted to a stage venue, and it was renamed about 5 years ago after a generous donation from the Saban family.

First up for the 9:00PM start was Uriah Heep, who have been rocking since they formed in London in 1969. Though their line-up has changed a bit since then, the original guitarist Mick Box is still hanging in there. He was joined by frontman Bernie Shaw, Phil Lanzon on keys, Russell Gilbroom on drums and Davey Rimmer on bass. They are touring in support of the 24th album, Outsider, and they played 13 songs in a 50-minute set for the fairly enthusiastic crowd.

Heep brought their A-game on Saturday and all of the pieces came together. Shaw has an incredible animal magnetism, and he can still wail with the best of them as he approaches the dreaded age of 60. Gilbroom’s drums were thunderous, and Rimmer joined him for a rock solid backline. Box is a good guitarist, but his solos became a bit tedious as the evening went on, as he seemed to play the same solo in every song. They finished on a strong note with “Lady in Black”, and took it a step further with their encore of “Gypsy” and “Easy Livin’.” They really got the mail delivered and I would see them again in a heartbeat. By the way, I got to meet up with the band after the show, and they are down to earth guys who do not mind mixing it up with their fans.

After this there was a way too chaotic stage change that took about ½ hour, and Blue Oyster Cult took the stage.

Blue Oyster Cult has also been around forever, having cranked out their first album in 1972. The New York-based band still has one original member, Donald “Buck Dharma” Rosier, and the rest of the band includes long-time singer Eric Bloom, Kasim Sulton on bass, Richie Castellano on keys and guitar and Jules Radino behind the drum kit.

And it was a rough night for BOC. The sound was off, and it was apparent from the git-go that Radino was having trouble with his monitors. When the drummer cannot hear what is going on, that is big trouble, but fortunately he is a good drummer and settled into his own groove and the band caught up with him after a few songs. Also, Rosier was having trouble with his pedalboard that led to a tech coming onstage to fix it in the middle of a song. They need to get a better plan for doing a quick stage change after the opening band clears out.

Anyway, their 12-song set was entertaining enough, and they included the expected hits, including “Burning for You,” “Godzilla, and “Don’t Fear the Reaper.” Suprisingly, they did not save the latter for the encore, going with “Hot Rails to Hell” and “Cities on Flame with Rock and Roll” instead. This is not how I would have done it, but it worked out pretty well.

The Cult’s show was a bit on the lazy side (actually, they phoned it in), with the standout performers being Kasim Sulton and Richie Castellano. These two have talent galore and good stage presence, and they should start shopping themselves around as they can do a lot better than this. I will not be seeing Blue Oyster Cult again – once was enough for me.

Any, if Uriah Heep comes to town make sure you try to see their show, it will be worth every penny!


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Peaches and Crime – Do Bad Things | Album Review

Peaches and Crime – Do Bad Things

Self Release

14 tracks / 49:25

I get over a hundred new albums a year to listen to and review, and have to say that in my whole life I have never received anything in the mail like Peaches and Crime’s third CD, Do Bad Things. This project was put together around a really fun concept, and I really appreciated what they created for the listening public.

Do Bad Things is a modern day bawdy vaudeville cabaret show that has a little bit of everything: singing, maybe some dancing (it is a CD, you know), acting, comedy, drama, and even a little ventriloquism. The honky-tonk feel of this disc includes elements of old-time jazz and blues music with a few surprises thrown in for good measure. This music, along with the very clever lyrics, ties the fourteen different vignettes together to make an attractively cohesive whole.

Peaches and Crime is based out of Binghampton, New York (somewhere between Scranton and Syracuse), and they have been evolving and honing their show since their debut CD in 2010. The main crew includes the master of ceremony and lyricist, Daniel Schwartz (his stage name is Daniel Black), vocalist Angela Schwartz (Angie Diamond), vocalist Julia Adams (Ms. Abigail Pins), vocalist/clarinetist Cat Macdonald (Young Catherine), bassist ”Honest” Stephen Longfield, pianist Mike Sclafani (Mikey the Fist), and Ross Bennett behind the skins.

I do not want ruin any of the surprises from the show, but let’s just say that all of the major human conditions are to be found here: love, hate, death, infidelity, culture and class. They are presented via song and dramatic skits, and yes -- one case of the aforementioned ventriloquism. The performers are obviously having a good time, and the ladies pull out some wonderful 3-part vocal harmonies. As a whole it is pure entertainment, which is what going to the show should be all about!

Peaches and Crime are working on a new burlesque show, and are scheduled to start recording a new album any day now. In the meantime, check out their website at for show dates, and make sure you give Do Bad Things a listen. I think you will like it!

Andrew McLan "Andy" Fraser: July 3, 1952 to March 16, 2015

Rest in peace, Andy.

DUBS Acoustic Filters Review


After 30+ years of attending rock shows, I have given up on the macho idea of toughing out ultra-high volume concerts and having my ears ring for days afterwards, so I always use ear plugs. Unfortunately, while reducing the volume they also make the sound quality terrible, which kind of kills a lot of the joy of seeing a band live. So, I was excited when I got a piece of new technology from the folks at Doppler Labs at the 2015 NAMM show – the DUBS Acoustic Filters.

Doppler Labs is a fairly new company (established in 2013) from Southern California, and they introduced DUBS Acoustic Filters late last year. They have caught on, and are available from major retailers like Amazon, Guitar Center and Best Buy, as well as directly through the company at

For starters, DUBS do not look like the dorky foam plugs that stick out the sides of your heads like Frankenstein’s jump-starting bolts. They are small and black, with four different accent colors available. They look like modern technology, so you will not be embarrassed to wear them at a show. Also, since they do not stick out very far they will not catch on your motorcycle helmet. Bikes can be pretty loud, you know.

They fit well and seal the ear canal completely and are one-size-fits-all; they are advertised at fitting most adults over the age of 16. I have worn them for a few shows and plane flights and they are comfortable to wear for hours on end, with no undo pressure inside the ear. They do come with a kind of cheap hard plastic case, which does a god job of keeping them in one place and prevents them from getting filled with fuzz from your pocket.

They are made up of 17 different parts, with some amazing technology thrown into the mix – they are not the usual foam cylinders that probably cost less than a penny to make. DUBS are made of high strength plastics, stainless steel, polymer foams and silicones, and they certainly seem to be durable enough for the long run.

DUBS work differently than conventional ear plugs as they do not try to muffle all of the sounds that are arriving at your ears. Instead, their aim is to reduce specific frequencies through dynamic attenuation via a combination of high and low pass filters. The sound passes through chambers that are filled with open-cell foam, as well as different sized orifices to cut volume levels of selected frequencies while still trying to maintain the same balance as the source sound, at least as it is heard by the human ear.

The Doppler Labs audio engineers got things pretty close to right, particularly when you consider that a passive device is being used to cut 12dB out of ridiculously loud source sounds. They are fabulous for airplane travel, reducing the background roar to a manageable level while still allowing conversations to be heard. On a recent cross-country flight I found that I was able to better concentrate on a project I was working on, and I did not feel as fatigued as I normally would at the end of the trip.

At last weekends rock concert I attended, the volume levels were painful in the 1000-seat theatre, and the DUBS prevented hearing loss that would have surely occurred. They were mostly well balanced, with some loss of the upper mids and highs that made the vocals hard to pick out of the mix at times. I pulled them out for a bit and the vocals popped back to the front of the mix again. I do not know if I could get away with mixing a really loud live show with these things in, but they definitely made this concert a more enjoyable experience. I would use them again in a heartbeat.

DUBS Acoustic Filters are a really good product, and are a godsend if you are exposed to high-volume environments. They are not terribly cheap, coming in at $25 a pair, but how much is your hearing worth? You really should give them a try, and please let me know what you think!


Sunday, March 15, 2015

Blues Blast Magazine Album Review: Jeff Strahan | Monkey Around

Good day!

This CD review was originally published in the November 29, 2013 edition of Blues Blast Magazine. Be sure to check out the rest of the magazine at

Jeff Strahan – Monkey Around

Self-release through Squaw Peaks Records

10 tracks / 42:58

I know a lot of folks that dream of becoming full-time musicians, but making the step from an established career to the stage is an almost insurmountable hurdle. Jeff Strahan did just that, giving up his day job as a trial lawyer and immersing himself in the wonderful world of Texas blues rock. And after listening to his ninth record, Monkey Around, you will find that he is dead serious about his craft and that his love of music led him in the right direction. Strahan is a journeyman singer and keyboard player and fabulous guitarist from the high plains of Texas, and he brings all of these talents to the studio, which in this case is somewhere outside of Austin. Jimmy Hartman joins him on this project on bass and backing vocals, and Chris Compton on drums and backing vocals. Jeff produced this disc and wrote nine of the ten tracks, with the other track being penned by his friend and fellow guitarist, the late Lil’ Dave Thompson.

“Don’t Get Too Low” kicks off Monkey Around with crunchy rock guitar chords layered with Hammond B-3 and piano. This is not hard music to enjoy as Jeff has a pleasant voice that does not need to be driven into screaming to get his point across. For a guitarist he does not mind digging into the keyboards, and he tears off a neat piano break before jumping into the first guitar solo of the album, which is quite a corker. This is Texas-style rock, so there are no taboos about cutting 6-minute tracks with plenty of guitar! If you like the sound of this one, “Can’t Change Me” and “Monkey Around” are also killer rock tracks that you should not miss.

Beside his musicianship, Strahan should also get kudos for his role as producer for Monkey Around as it is a nice piece of work. It is well recorded and mixed, and though the tracks are quite varied they are in a logical sequence and work well together. Many self-produced albums that I come across are not quite up to snuff in the sound department and do not flow well; those other guys could go to school on this disc.

Anyway, slow blues is another one of Strahan’s specialties, and “Curtains” is about as good as it gets. Jeff gets a wonderful tone out of his Strat on the intro over the tight backline of Compton and Hartman. The lyrics are full of regret and are cleverly crafted into the classic blues structure. He has more blues on tap -- “Dangerous Curves” is some fine Texas blues with a walking bass line (and a little organ on top), and “Two Shades” uses electric piano, heavy high hat and fat bass to create that funky 1970s vibe.

Jeff uses his good sense of humor as he addresses the traditional Rhythm and Blues theme of substances that people enjoy using and abusing. In “4:20” he uses a zydeco beat that segues into Texas rock as he sings about folks that need to chill out a bit, and it turns out that he has just the solution for them. It’s a shame that this song does not have a run time of 4:20, though! “Baptist Bootleggers” is the sad story of growing up in a dry town where a little liquid refreshment is needed. It turns out that there is always a solution if you look hard enough, and Strahan uses the lyrics to paint a vivid picture of the best place in town.

Rounding out the different styles of music on this album is “The One,” a piano-accompanied ballad that Jeff dedicated to his mother, Lillian, who passed on last year. The heartfelt lyrics and Jeff’s honest voice stand on their own, and this track is a well-placed break midway through the disc.

Monkey Around is certainly a good showcase of Jeff Strahan’s many talents, but it is also a really good album with not a bad track to be found. If you like blues/rock/folk music, do yourself a favor and give it a listen!


Michael Joseph Porcaro: May 29, 1955 to March 15, 2015

Rest in peace, Mike.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

2014 ESP LTD M-10 Electric Guitar Review

Hi there!

I have always been kind of a guitar snob, so I have not really given LTD guitars much of a thought until recently , as their parent company, ESP, builds some of the best production instruments on the planet. Well, I was wrong, and the LTD M-10 we are looking at today is a smoking deal for the money.

In case you are not familiar with ESP, this Japanese company has been building amazing instruments wince the 1980s, and are the favorites of guitar gods such as Kirk Hammett and George Lynch. Unfortunately these guitars are ungodly expensive, so they introduced the LTD line to make their popular models more affordable for us common folk. The hardware, electronics, and wood are a little cheaper, and the labor costs are a lot lower as they are put together without using Japanese labor – this LTD instrument was built in Vietnam.

At first glance, the M-10 looks like a metal machine with its pointy headstock and bright red finish, but looks can be deceiving. It can do metal fine, but without the prerequisite locking tremolo (or any tremolo at all, actually) it ends up being a better blues or rock guitar.

This LTD is a bolt-neck instrument with a basswood body that has fairly aggressive angles and cutaways. The maple neck has a surprisingly well-figured rosewood fretboard with 22 jumbo frets sunk into it. The neck has a flat U profile, and it measures about 42mm at the nut.

The nickel hardware includes LTD-marked sealed-back tuners and a tune-o-matic style bridge that actually strings through the body. The electronics are simple, with two ESP LH-100 humbuckers that are wired through a 3-way switch and master volume and tone pots.

This is a simple guitar design, but it has a very nice look to it, and it is put together exceptionally well, particularly when you consider the price point. The fretwork is good, the neck is straight and the finish is nice and even. The neck pocket edges are a bit ugly, but I have seen worse on new Fender instruments. It came with a good set-up right out of the box, too.

It plays well, and its 25.5-inch scale length makes it play a lot like a Stratocaster. The neck is very fast and there is good access to the upper frets; I did not find any buzzing or dead frets. It sounds good enough, though the humbuckers seem a bit dry and brittle. This guitar sounds better with a touch of processing, and would really come alive with a set of EMG 81/85 pickups, which would cost more than the guitar did in the first place.

As an added bonus it weighs in at a mere 6 pounds 10 ounces, so it will not kill your back. There is not much to complain about here, the LTD M-10 is a solid guitar that will get the job done!

The ESP LTD M-10 is one of the best entry-level guitars out there with a list price of $284 and a street price of $199, which I believe includes a nice gig bag (the one that showed up here did, anyway). We are truly in the golden age of affordable guitars that play well and sound good, so if you are looking for a first instrument or a solid backup, this should be near the top of your list.


Tuesday, March 10, 2015

2014 Martin S1 Soprano Ukulele Review


As a Martin guitar fanboy, it is surprising that I have not reviewed any of their ukuleles yet. Over the next few months I am going to take care of this oversight, and today we are looking at one of the company’s more affordable models, the S1 soprano uke.

If you know anything about guitars, you are probably aware that Pennsylvania’s Martin Guitars is the premier mass-production luthiers in the world. Every major artist has played their instruments at one time or another, from Eric Clapton to Johnny Cash to Elvis. Well, they make other instruments too, and they have been in the ukulele business for a long time, and they currently make instruments that cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to $5000 and more.

The S1 is a soprano uke, and it replaced the miserable S0 model a few years ago. The S0 had a slew of features, including a tinny sound, no fret markers, poor bracing, bridges that did not want to stay put, and a super-thin body that would crack if you looked at it funny. The S1 fixed all of that stuff!

It is a handsome little ukulele, with a clear satin finish over the all-mahogany body, that has more complete Spruce bracing than the model it replaces. There is a Spartan aesthetic with no binding to be found anywhere, and a simple white and black rosette. No electronics are available, and you can get one of these as a lefty, if you wish.

The neck is also mahogany and it has a rosewood (or is that Morado?) fretboard. The fretwork on this one excellent, and I cannot ever imagine wearing them out with nylon uke strings. The bridge is made of rosewood, and there is a Tusq nut and compensated saddle. The Grover tuners are basic straight pegs through the headstock, and they are adjustable for tension, fortunately.

The S1 ukuleles are made in Mexico, but the quality appears to be as Martin’s domestically produced instruments, which is not something I would say about the S0. The finish is clear and even, the joints are tight, and they come out of the box with a good set-up so they are ready to play. Don’t sniff at where they are made – there is no way Martin could hit this price point if these things were built in the America.

It plays very well, with good intonation, a sweet neck feel, and it is comfortable to hold. It also sounds very good, with nice projection and a sweet tone that makes it sound older than it is. Of course it is awfully small for a big guy like me, but this one is tiny so it is perfect for traveling, especially with the uber-nice TKL gig bag that it comes with. Let me also say that this is the lightest Martin instrument I have ever owned, coming in at round 13 ounces.

The Martin S1 is a good instrument that comes in at a reasonable price (list = $499, street = $379), and I am glad that Martin stepped up and made a better instrument this time around. But, it is not as good of a value as the horde of medium-grade ukuleles that are coming out of China by the container load. Those instruments are at least $100 cheaper, are often prettier, and sound almost as good. You will not go wrong with the Martin, but you might want to compare before you buy.


Friday, March 6, 2015

Hughes & Kettner TubeMeister 5 Tube Guitar Amplifier Review


For the past few years I have been working my way through the huge crop of micro tube guitar amplifiers that are on the market. There are so many I will never get through them all, but they all have a few things in common: they have less than five watts, are easily portable, and they sound pretty good. Also, most of them are combos and they are pretty cheap, which makes today’s selection a stand out from the crowd. The Hughes & Kettner TubeMeister 5 is a head-only amp that costs about twice what most of the combos do.

This amp exudes coolness just by the look of it. It is indeed small, measuring around 12 by 15 by 9 inches and weighing in at a mere 17 pounds. It is a single-channel all-tube amp with a 12BH7 power tune and a 12AX7 preamp tube. It has classic styling with a cool blue backlighting to the clear front panel when it is switched on.

Using the Tubemeister 5 is very straightforward as the controls are simple. On the front there is a power switch, a single ¼-inch input, a 3-band EQ, master volume and gain knobs, and a drive switch. The back has an IEC power socket, a single ¼-inch 8/16 ohm speaker out, a Red Tube balanced XLR direct out, and a power soak switch.

A few of these things bear further discussion:

- Drive switch: provides a lead amp sound with high gain potential; when it is activated, the switch glows red.

- Power soak switch: replaces the loudspeaker and converts the power-amp output to heat. This allows silent practice and recording via the XLR into a mixer. Power soak is activated automatically to protect the amp if nothing is plugged into the speaker out.

- Red Tube balanced XLR direct out: a Hughes & Kettner, guitar DI box with mic’d 4 x 12" speaker cabinet emulation. It converts the speaker line out signal, which is generated between the tube power-amp and the power soak, to a balanced, frequency corrected signal.

The Tubemeister 5 has plenty of volume (relatively speaking), and it has incredible tone. With the drive switch off, it has a very clean and glassy sound, and it goes full overdrive crunch when it is engaged. It does everything from Pink Floyd to GNR, and everything in between. The DI has amazing fidelity, and it really nails the overdriven speaker tone for recording.

I wish it had a headphone out, but I have a few small mixers that will work with the DI to provide a headphone channel. Also, it would be nice to have a footswitch for the drive switch. Other than these few minor quibbles, this amplifier really delivers the mail.

The Tubemeister 5 is the best of the mass-production small all-tube guitar amplifiers that I have found so far. Its versatility and tone make it a leader in its class!

If you do not need a ton of power, or if you are looking for pure tube tone for recording without half-hearted bells and whistles the Hughes & Kettner TubeMeister 5 would be the perfect amplifier for you. As I said earlier, it is not as cheap as its competition with a list price of $499 and a street price of $299 (included the padded gig bag), but in the end you get what you pay for.


Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Blues Blast Magazine Album Review: Niecie | Wanted Woman


This CD review was originally published in the December 5, 2013 edition of Blues Blast Magazine. Be sure to check out the rest of the magazine at

Niecie – Wanted Woman

Self-release through Ride the Tiger Records

10 tracks / 42:55

If you are an entertainer that is going to go by one name (like Sting, Cher or Bono), you had better have the talent to back it up, and Niecie passes this test easily. Niecie has moved all over the United States in search of the blues, and has done a marvelous job of honing her chops along the way. Originally from Detroit, she left the Motor City for Chicago, where the blues found a home in her heart. From there she tried Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and Boston (home of the Berklee College of Music!), but finally settled in Nashville, arguably the songwriting capital of the US. Nashville also has the distinction of being home to some of the finest musicians and producers around, and since moving there Niecie has taken advantage of this and cut three well-received albums, the latest of which is Wanted Woman.

Wanted Woman is a slick piece of work thanks in part to producer Johnny Neel, who you may know from his work with the Allman Brothers, Gov’t Mule, and Dickey Betts. Johnny also contributed on the keyboards and Hammond B-3, as well as with his songwriting skills. Other musicians on this project include Dennis Gully on bass, Chris Anderson on guitar, and Daryl Burgess on the skins. Also chipping were Danny Hamelin and Jon Conley on the extra guitar parts and Kim Morrison on backing vocals. Oh, and Niecie on lead vocals, of course!

Not being familiar with Niecie’s previous work, I did not know what to expect so I was pleasantly surprised by how hard she can rock. There are eight original tracks on Wanted Woman, with Neel getting writing credit on all of them, and Niecie on three. The content is huge sounding blues/rock, and things get up to speed quickly as ”Traffic Light” kicks the album off on an upbeat note. This song is more rock than blues, with a classic driving bass line and heavy drums that are perfectly executed by her stellar backline. The lyrics are quite funny, and she delivers each punch line right on cue with her distinctively throaty voice.

Niecie pitched in on the writing for the title track, and it is always cool to hear people sing their own stuff because it just clicks a little better. Johnny Neel helps make the mood on the intro with subtle organ and piano, and later on the catchy chorus with its vocal harmonics makes this an easy tune to get stuck in your head. She also wrote “Typical Chick,” a fun roadhouse song with thundering drums, honkytonk piano and very tasty guitar solos.

The two cover tunes are really neat. “Crying for My Baby” is a number that was penned by Harold Burrage in 1960 for Vee-Jay Records. The simple lyrics are timeless, and Niecie belts them out with a soulful wail that does them justice. “Mother Nature” is her take on Little Milton’s often-copied song, though this one clocks in at over nine minutes thanks to some amazing work on the keys from Johnny Neel and plenty of Zeppelin-esque guitars throughout. Both of these songs work in well with the other tracks on the album, and it was wise to include them in the mix. By the way, I have added “Mother Nature” works so well that I added it into the mix of music that I listen to while I write.

Wanted Woman ends up with a testimonial, “God’s Got This,” which I have to assume is autobiographical because Niecie got writing credit for it. It has a 1970s funk feel with heavy synths, organ, popping bass and syncopated guitars galore. It is not preachy by any stretch of the imagination, but it lets you know where this lady stands, and it is always good to finish an album on a positive note.

Niecie has put in a lot of hard work since she first arrived on the Chicago scene three decades ago, and it has all paid off with her latest album, Wanted Woman. This is a great collection of well-written songs that were recorded by the best in the business, and she should be proud of what she has accomplished. I hope you get a chance to give it a listen!