Sunday, September 27, 2015

Dalannah and Owen – Been Around a While | Album Review

Dalannah and Owen – Been Around a While | Album Review

Quest Records

11 tracks / 41:58

I have the privilege of listening to a lot of new albums every week, and most of them fit pretty well into various categories – blues rock, Delta blues, Chicago blues, jump blues, and the list could go on and on. Every once in a while, I get something completely different, and sometimes that something is really special. Dalannah and Owen’s new disc, Been Around a While, breaks the mold and is very different and very special. This duo from Vancouver, Canada has re-imagined the blues and if you are a fan of the genre you are going to like what they have done.

There is plenty of experience that brought this pair to this point in their lives. Dalannah Gail Brown has been on the Canadian music scene for almost 50 years, and her blues, gospel, and jazz chops are astounding. Owen Veber, or “Owen Owen Owen” as he is credited in the liner notes, has been playing bass professionally for over 40 years. These two have only been working together for a year, but they already earned a trip to the 2015 International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tennessee.

The self-produced Been Around a While is Dalannah and Owen’s debut album, and it is amazingly unique. All you are going to hear for the 42-minute playtime is Dalanna’s voice and Owen’s bass as they cruise through eleven blues originals and covers. No guitars, drums, keyboards, harmonica, or horns. You may be thinking that forty minutes of some guy playing the bass while somebody else sings could be tedious. But with the way that Dalannah and Owen do it, the music is very listenable and not the least bit boring.

There are five originals, including the title track which kicks off the album. “Been Around a While” is a cool story of being at a place in life where you are comfortable with yourself. Dalannah’s voice is as clear as a bell, and Owen’s bass work is fairly astounding. He does not just hammer 1/8 notes on a P-bass. It sounds like he is using a six or seven-string bass, and there are plenty of high notes and guitar-like chords to be found throughout the album.

The half-dozen covers span from the early days of recorded blues up through around the time that Nixon was in office, and they cover a lot of ground. The closer on this album, Son House’s 1930 song, “Walkin’ Blues” was made famous by Robert Johnson in 1936, and Dalannah makes it her own here. By interspersing conversational lyrics that are sweet or howled with emotion she creates a sense of drama that I do not hear in the originals. Owen cranks out a righteous solo for good measure.

The other cover tunes include Robert Johnson’s “Come on in My Kitchen,” “Early in the Morning” from Louis Jordan and his Tympani 5, Billy Eckstine’s “Blues Mother of Sin,” B.B. King’s “Why I Sing the Blues,” and Marvin Gaye’s “Inner City Blues.” These were all great songs when they were originally done, and nothing was lost when this duo re-did them.

By tearing these songs down to the bare bones, the stories of the lyrics come to the forefront, and Dalannah and Owen are master storytellers. Their original songs are poignant, and their re-working of tunes from the masters of the blues was done with great care. When you combine this with excellent musical ability and good production values, this make Been Around a While is a must-buy if you are a blues fan of any type. Trust me!

Friday, September 25, 2015

2000 Ernie Ball MusicMan Stingray 5H Bass Review


Today we are looking a peach of bass I picked up from a local guy who had advertised it on Craigslist – a 2000 Ernie Ball Musicman Stingray 5.

Ernie Ball started building fivers in 1988, and they have gone on to become the best selling 5-string basses ever made. It seems like every country bassist I have ever seen on stage has a Stingray 5. They have a relatively narrow (17.5mm) string spacing, so the neck is not too wide. Originally only available with a single humbucking pickup, Stingray 5s can now also be had with 2 humbuckers or a humbucker and a single coil. You can even throw in a piezo bridge and go fretless if you want to.

This one is a plain-Jane single humbucker bass, and it rocks. It looks to have been hardly played at all over the past 13 years, and the glossy silver metallic poly finish is in great shape with just a few nicks and dings.

It is all original, including the kick-ass hardware, which includes the high mass bridge (bolted to the body) and the Schaller tuners. This was made before the age of compensated nuts, so it did not get one. Do you really need a compensated nut on a bass? I don’t know.

The electronics are the stock ceramic pickup (alnico did arrive until 2008), with a 3-way selector switch. The positions are: series, single coil (closest to the bridge) and parallel. I am a big fan of the parallel mode.

I do not know what kind of strings previous owner put on it, but these normal gauge roundwounds really sing on this bass. I’m going to leave them on there for a while and hope they hold up.

Of course, my track record with 5-string basses has been horrible. Most do not stick around for more than a month or two, but I am going to give this one the old college try, and it is a great playing bass. We’ll see if this one makes it until my 1st quarter inventory update in January…


Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Rose Bowl Flea Market

Good day!

On Rex and the Bass, sometimes I refer to the Rose Bowl Flea Market, and it occurs to me that if you are not from Los Angeles, you might have no idea what I am talking about.

The Rose Bowl Flea Market is put on by R.G. Canning Attractions, and is held the second Sunday of each month surrounding the Rose Bowl (home of UCLA Football!) in Pasadena, California. It has over 2500 vendors and over 20,000 people visit it each month.

Most swap meets these days are endless rows of brand new crap that you can buy from Harbor Freight, or are filled with new tacky furniture, clothing and “art”. The Rose Bowl Flea Market has some sellers that bring this dreck, but mostly it is fully of really awesome antiques, collectibles, vintage clothing, and most everything you can imagine. The best part is that it is divided into sections, so you can skip the new stuff and go straight to specific areas for vintage and collectibles, antiques, or arts and crafts. Vintage and collectibles is where we always go first.

This means that there is plenty of ripe old stuff to dig through. There is everything from mid-century modern furniture to vintage porn and everything in between. And yes, there are musical instruments scattered amongst the millions of other things you will find out there. The last time I was out there I saw oodles of Spanish guitars, saxophones, clarinets, flutes, violins, trumpets, trombones, drums, amps, effect pedals, and even some Fender, Gibson and Martin guitars. It is definitely worth making the trek up there.

If you want to go, it is open from 9:00AM to 4:30PM and it costs $8 to get in. Admission is $10 if you want to get in between 8:00AM and 9:00AM, $15 from 7:00AM to 8:00AM, or $20 from 5:00Am to 7:00AM. Oh yeah, admission for kids under 12 and parking are both FREE! You can get all of the details for buying or selling at


Monday, September 21, 2015

Pyle Pyle-Pro PCT40 Cable Tester Review


I got a box full of stuff to try out a while back inside was a Pyle Pyle-Pro PCT40 cable tester. This was a stroke of luck, as I gave my Nady cable tester to a friend in need, and I had a box of cables that were suspect, as they had previously given me trouble on various gigs.

You may remember Pyle as the company that made those mediocre yet big, thumpy, and cheap car speakers back in the 1980s. Well, it turns out that nowadays they crank out mediocre yet amazingly low priced pro audio equipment that is generally good enough to get the job done. This tester is definitely of this ilk.

There is nothing like having a channel go dead while you are running a show. At least a few times a year I have mic channel go out in the middle of the action. I always have spare on hand, so I swap out the XLR cable and microphone (praying it is not the snake), so I swap out both components post haste to keep the show going.

Later on I test the mic and usually find out it is fine (especially the Shures, they never go bad), so I throw the cable into the bad box and figure I will get to it later. I used to scoff at cable testers because I have a pretty strong electronics background and have a really nice digital multimeter so I can test things out myself without needing to have another piece of equipment. In theory this is nice, but I hadn’t gotten around to checking these cables, had I?

Besides testing failed equipment, it is also nice to have something like this so I can go through all of my cables before I pack up for a gig, so I know I am not taking any bum equipment. Of course I carry spares, but why deal with the hassles of tracking down dead leads during the stress of a set-up.

The Pyle PCT40 gets the job done for me. It is a sturdy metal component, painted gaudy yellow with cheap-looking graphics on the front. It is a bit bigger than an effects pedal, measuring 8 x 3 by 5 inches, and it weighs 1 pound, 10 oiunces. There are outputs and inputs on the top and sides that allow you to test cables with the following ends: USB, RJ45, banana plugs, ¼-inch TRS, DIN (3, 5, & 8-pin), phono (RCA), Speakon and XLR (3 & 5-pin). This covers just about everything, and the addition of USB jacks is awesome!

This unit is fairly easy to use. A 9-volt battery (not included) powers it up, and there is no ON/OFF switch -- the unit powers ON as soon as a cable is plugged in. When you plug a cable into both sides of the PCT40, it passes a small amount of current through the cable, and if it comes out the other side ok, it will illuminate one of the LEDs. By turning the 8-position knob, a pair of LEDs will light up for however each conductor that is inside the cable. If an LED does not come ON, there is an open circuit. The ninth position is for testing the battery.

If you have a cable or circuit that you want to check that is not included on this unit, you can plug electrical test leads into the banana plug jacks and use this as a continuity checker.

I have been using this tester on the box of bad cables and they all tested bad, so there were no surprises and it seems to work. Learning how to use it was a breeze, and it seems to be holding up well. If any of the connectors on the box go bad, they look like they should be easy enough to service. The only hang-up I have is that the battery leads seem REALLY thin, so I think that will be the first thing to break.

The Pyle Pyle-Pro PCT40 cable tester gets the job done for me, and if you are interested in picking one up it will not break the bank. These have a list price of $91.99 and a street price of $32.99 through Amazon. That is pretty cheap, if you ask me!


Saturday, September 19, 2015

Memory Lane: Heathkit TC-2 Tube Checker


The Rose Bowl Antique Flea Market strikes again. While wandering around there this past weekend I ran into a guy that had a booth full of cool old electronics and musical equipment. One thing that caught my eye was a nice little tube checker, a Heathkit TC-2.

In case you are not quite as old as me, Hath was a company that sold electronics kits from 1947 to 1992. This company’s products allowed everyday people to get access to electronic equipment that they would not otherwise be able to afford. The kits provided everything needed to put the equipment together, except for the tools. Most of the products from this time were put together by hand anyway, so by supplying their own labor there were significant advantages to this approach. The kits were well planned out and the instructions were the best around, so if the hobbyist was careful, everything would go as planned. They had kits for most everything, from ham radios to oscilloscopes, and even computers in Heath’s final years.

So, this TC-2 was originally kit that put together by somebody, somewhere. It makes me wonder about its back-story, and I wish I knew a bit more about where it came from.

As far as application, this would be a fine piece of equipment if you just want to check tubes at home, but for serious audiophiles or high-end amplifier repair you are going to want more. You see, this is a simple emission tester, not an mutual conductance checker. That means it can test for shorts and cathode (or filament) emission only. The meter reading gives a good-bad reading for the tube by testing for cathode emission by subjecting it to test as a diode (or rectifier). So, this type of checker will indicate if a tube is usable and how strong is the cathode emission is. Both types will do a good job testing for shorts and leakage. A mutual conductance checker applies voltage to each element of the tube, supplies bias and a signal to the control grid, and subjects the tube to a more authentic test (like it would be in an actual circuit). It can measure plate current and allows the tech to create matched pairs. The TC-2 will not do this…

This tool is pretty easy to use. There is a roller on the control panel that shows common tubes, and includes information about which connections to make, what load to set, and the filament voltage (there is also a supplemental chart tacked to the lid of the box with information for less common tubes). The user sets filament voltage by selecting a secondary tap of the correct voltage, and the vacuum tube is set up as a diode with all grids connected to the plate. Then at a specified voltage and load, the tube should draw a specific current based on cathode emission. This measurement is shown on the meter. Shorts and opens can be tested by disconnecting the grids or by shorting them to ground, respectively.

The TC-2 is better than most of its contemporary counterparts, in that it utilizes all tube elements in the test (most only used two). It can test nearly most consumer tubes from the 1920s to 1960s including big pin, octal, loctal, 7-pin, and 9-pin miniature. Newer model tubes that cam out after the 1960s can only be tested with an adaptor.

This Heathkit TC-2 is complete, and in very good condition. The original Tolex-covered case still has most of its latches, and the selector drum is still in great shape. It does not even smell funky. I imagine the capacitor might be a bit funky after this much time, and I would check and/or replace it if I was going to put it into use.

I ended up buying the tube checker for a few bucks and gave it to a co-worker who loves old stereo equipment, as we had talked before about how cool it would be to have one, but the old ones were just too big to keep around the sop. I wonder if it works…


Friday, September 18, 2015

Blues Blast Magazine Album Review: The Georgia Flood – Georgia Flood

Good day!

This CD review was originally published in the May 29, 2014 edition of Blues Blast Magazine. Be sure to check out the rest of the magazine at

The Georgia Flood – The Georgia Flood | Album Review

Self Release

12 tracks / 41:08

One of the great things about the blues is that it attracts a never-ending stream of young musicians, so there is a constant inflow of new ideas and sounds that keeps the genre evolving. A great example of this is The Georgia Flood, a rocking blues trio from just south of Atlanta. The band’s line-up includes brothers Brooks Mason on guitar and vocals and Lane Keely on bass and backing vocals, and Kyle Egart on drums (J.C. Freeman was behind the drum kit for this CD). They are indeed quite young, ranging in age from 17 to 22, and they all attended the same high school!

These men have an impressive gigging schedule around Atlanta, and were chosen to represent the Atlanta Blues Society at the 2013 International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tennessee. They have taken the energy of their live shows into the studio and produced their debut CD, The Georgia Flood. It includes five original tracks that were penned by the brothers, and seven cover tunes that exhibit the band’s influences and their impeccable blues taste. This is a self-produced disc that benefitted from the participation of Rich L'Hommedieu at Midnight Circus Productions, who took care of the recording, producing and mixing chores.

The album kicks off with Albert King’s “Crosscut Saw,” which lets the listener know that this trio has respect for the fine blues music that was on the air in the 1960s. They eschew King’s Latin grooves and take this song in more of a funk direction that includes plenty of round bass and syncopated rhythm guitar. Brooks Mason shows that he is a fine frontman, and though he is the youngest member of the group, his voice shows surprising maturity as he belts out one nasty innuendo after another.

Their original songs are well-written, and the first one up is “Bad Times are Here,” a slow-driving blues rocker that features heavily distorted vocals and guitar. The lyrics are crafted to resonate with the youth of today as they describe a different economic climate than the one that many of us grew up with. Standouts of their originals include “I Thought I Was a Man,” a straight-forward blues tune that has some amazingly hard to accomplish lyrics, and “I Ain’t Sick,” a slow-burner that harbors a panoply of tasty guitar work. Both do not stray far from the blues mainstay of a man who is out of luck in the love department.

The covers include “Messin’ with the Kid” from Junior Wells and a pair of difficult to sing Magic Sam songs: “All Your Love” and “I Don’t Want no Woman.” The Georgia Flood did an admirable job with these, but the best re-do on this album has to be their interpretation of Robert Johnson’s 1936 song, “Dust My Broom.” This is a fun romp that is closer to the version that Elmore James cut in 1951, and it gives Brooks the chance to show off his slide guitar skills.

They also included a neat instrumental: “Sidetracked” from the 1961 album Let's Hide Away and Dance Away with Freddy King. This all-instrumental disc should be required listening for any up-and-coming blues guitarist, and it is satisfying to see that these guys are paying attention to their forefathers. Brooks does an admirable job of filling King’s shoes, and Lane keeps the bass line driving throughout this 12-bar blues burner.

The closing track is a nod to a local hero and guitar prodigy, the late Sean Costello from Atlanta. “Hard Luck Woman” was released in 2008 on Costello’s final album, and it is a classic song of a troubled relationship and a disillusioned young man. The Georgia’s Flood’s version keeps Costello’s quirky guitar line, but with this take’s doubled bass line it ends up being more of a rocker than the original, and it is a cool way to close out the disc.

The Georgia Flood is a great first effort, and the band members’ musicianship and songwriting are mature beyond their years. It is definitely worth taking a listen, and with a few more years of experience under their belts they will be a force to be reckoned with; they are certainly the future of blues music in the states!


Monday, September 14, 2015

2007 MusicMan Stingray 4H Bass Review


I have long been a big fan of the MusicMan Stingray bass and it seems like I always have one around the house because I think they are the best bolt-neck production basses on the market. So, this seems like a good opportunity to look over the 2007 Stingray that I recently picked up.

The Stingray bass was designed by Leo Fender and Tom Walker, and it was introduced in 1976. It was originally available only as a 4-string with a single humbucker pickup, a two band equalizer, and active electronics. This was one of the earliest productions basses with an active pre-amplifier, if not the first. This gave it more output and a more aggressive sound than the competition.

Ever since Ernie Ball Strings bought the MusicMan brand in the 1980s, there has been a constant improvement in features and options available for the Stingray, including: contoured bodies, improved neck joints, better truss rod ergonomics, and more than enough electronics and pickup configurations. But I am a simple man, and I still prefer a plain-old Stingray with a single humbucker pickup and the 2-band or 3-band (like this one) equalizer. And that is why this bass appeals to me so much - because it is pretty close to the way it was originally intended to be.

As I said before, this Stingray was built in 2007, and it is finished in a subtle Egyptian Smoke poly. I am not really sure what Egypt has to do with any of this, but it is a nice color. This one has a contoured hardwood body with a six-bolt neck joint (for extra special sturdiness and sustain). It has seen a lot of playing, so it has some dings and scratches, and there is some finish checking at the neck joint, which happens on these because the neck pocket is so tight.

The neck is a peach. It is true, and the truss rod works freely (you have to love the easy to adjust trussrod wheel). It has a nice-looking rosewood fretboard, and the 21 high-profile frets are still in good shape. The back of the neck is finished in gunstock oil and wax, which always feels as smooth as silk, though it does show dirt more. This one has a compensated nut, which I am unable to hear any intonation difference from, but someone with a good ear might…

The original hardware is all there, which includes the Schaller BM tapered post tuners and the high-mass bridge. I love the way the bridge bolts so solidly to the body on these basses. It is not a Classic model, so it does not have the string mutes, but I am not sure how many people actually use those things anyway.

The electronics are also unmolested, with the original single humbucker pickup and 3-band preamp. Stingrays have punch to spare, making them fabulous funk or rock basses. This is a well-made bass. The finish is perfect and the frets are simply gorgeous. I strung it up with some new regular gauge Slinkies, dropped the action a little, and It plays well and sounds magnificent, just like every other Stingray I have ever owned. As a bonus, it is relatively light (for a Stingray, that is), coming it at a little under 9 1/2 pounds. All bass players should own one of these at least once in their career.

I would love to keep this around, but another Stingray just rolled in, and it is in nicer shape so I will be moving this one along shortly. Drop me a line if you are interested…


Saturday, September 12, 2015

EMG-P Bass Pickup Review


Well, I recently got a smoking deal on an old ESP P bass because the electronics were more dead than my dead mother. So I did what any self-respecting bass hack would do – I grabbed an EMG pickup and stuffed that bad boy in. It was as easy as pie, and I got exactly the results I expected. These are two things that do not happen very often for me!

EMG has been around since Rob Turner founded it in 1976 in Santa Rosa, California. This company has done a lot better than the metric system, which was launched in the US right around the same time. Though they started out making guitar pickups, bass pickups followed shortly thereafter, and have been a staple in the low-end world ever since. Besides making awesome replacement parts, many manufacturers install them as standard equipment – most notably Gibson, Steinberger and Spector.

The pickup itself has a ceramic magnet, and it is not wired in series (like passive pickups) so there is a lot more bottom end. The kit comes with pots, wiring, a battery connector and pretty good instructions. Everything is prewired and quick-connect connectors are used, so no soldering is required. It was a super-easy installation, particularly as I already had a control cavity to stuff the battery into.

This active pickup sounds like most every other EMG pickup I have had in a bass before. It is high fidelity with more bass than a passive pickup and it is clear as a bell with no hum. But the disadvantage is that is sounds like an EMG pickup so it is rather sterile without a lot of character or warmth, so you had better like the sound to start with. Fortunately, I do! These pickups cut through a loud mix like nobody’s business, and the bass will definitely be heard, with the advantage of a consistent tone an volume across all frequency ranges.

The EMG-P is not super cheap, with a list price of $129.99 and a street price of $95, but you will certainly save some money by being able to install it yourself. If you like the tone, or just need more power and clarity, give one a try. What could go wrong?


Wednesday, September 9, 2015

2014 ESP Amaze AS Bass Review

Hi there!

If you have read my blog for any period of time, you surely know by now that I love Japanese guitars and basses. Until now, the ne plus ultra of Japanese instruments for me has been Sadowsky Metro series basses. That was until I picked up a 2014 ESP Amaze AS jazz bass. All I have to say is “wow!”

ESP has been cranking out high-end guitars and basses for over 30 years, and they set a very high standard for craftsmanship and playability. Their line-up has been muddied by the introduction of the LTD series of instruments that are built in third world countries (but are still surprisingly good), but they still maintain production facilities that produce amazing instruments in Japan.

This Amaze AS is one of these, and the “Original Series” bass is not intended for export to the United States market, mostly due to its astoundingly high price. This is pretty much the top-of-the-line for ESP.

This four-string bass has a beautifully-figured Swamp Ash body that is sprayed with some sort of amazing thick and tough poly finish. The bolt-on neck is hard maple and it has 21 frets and simple black plastic dot inlays. The neck has a flat U shape, a 1 ½-nch bone nut, and a compound radius fretboard: 9 ½ inches to 15 ¾ inches. Weird, I know. It is a conventional 34-inch scale, though.

The heavy chrome hardware is very good, and not surprisingly it is supplied by the venerable Japanese manufacturer, Gotoh. The tuners are open-gear adjustable-tension 1:20 ratio GB11W, and the high-mass 404BO4 bridge has a Zinc base with brass saddles underneath all of that chrome. There is nothing to complain about here! Well, maybe I can complain about that weirdly shaped neck pickup cover, but it will come off easily enough…

The last piece of the puzzle is the electronics package, which is all bespoke ESP stuff. There are pair of ESP Custom Lab pickups (CL-PJ-1N and CL-PJ-1B) wired though master volume (with push-pull active bypass), a pickup selector knob, and a three-band ESP Cinnamon EQ (also a Custom Lab piece).

This bass came to me with no modification and in perfect condition, and its build quality is the best I have ever seen. It is comparable to a NYC Sadowsky or Fodera, and you could not do better. The finish, frets, and wiring are second to none. It plays beautifully (if you like a Jazz Bass profile neck) and it can achieve any sound you are looking for, from vintage 1960s jazz to high-fi hardcore active bass, and everything in between. If you are looking for the best Jazz Bass out there, you need to look no further.

Of course, this comes at a price, and the list price on these is 345,000yen (before tax), which means you are going to plunk down well north of $3000 to get into one of these, and Japanese guitar shops are pretty firm on sticking to list price on instruments. Fortunately, they do not hold their value well on the used market very well, so you can get one of these for less than a Sadowsky Metro if you can find a seller that is willing to ship overseas. I know you will not get a chance to try before you buy, but trust me on this one – these basses are worth every penny.


Monday, September 7, 2015

Pyle PDMIC58 Budget Microphone Review


I got a box full of stuff to try out a while back and was kind of surprised to find a dead-on knock-off of the Shure 58 microphone. This dynamic microphone is made by Pyle: the PDMIC58. Get it? They used the same last two numbers to try to confuse you…

You may remember Pyle as the company that made those mediocre yet big, thumpy, and cheap car speakers back in the 1980s. Well, it turns out that nowadays they crank out mediocre yet amazingly low priced pro audio equipment that is generally good enough to get the job done.

Well, it sure looks like an SM58, as it has the same barrel shape and copies its distinctive head and grill. But when you pluck it out of the box, the first impression is that it is quite a bit lighter than its doppelganger. It is not plastic, but is some sort of lighter alloy than Shure uses.

Pyle gives some specs on their website, but god only knows if they are accurate: “Frequency Response: 50HZ to 15kHz” and “-54db (+/-) 3db(0db=1v/pa @ 1khz).” If any of you get around to doing in-depth testing on one of these, let me know.

Does it sound like an SM58? Actually, it is really close, and for an outdoor gig with a crummy band you will never notice a difference. They are definitely usable. These are amazingly cheap microphones, yet they get the job done and they do have a place in my kind of snobby world. See, Shure mics cost about $100 each, and many times it is not worth the risk of putting them out there for the unwashed masses to grab.

You’ve seen it before. The drunk lady tries the Roger Daltrey microphone swing during karaoke, or the best man fumbles the mic while making announcements, or the mic stand gets kicked over as young bands are hustling while loading or unloading during a festival or party. And do you need high fidelity for any of these gigs? Most likely not.

The list price on the Pyle PDMIC58 is a ho-hum $39.99, but these things sell all day long for 12 bucks on Amazon, which is pretty much an unbeatable deal. For this you get the microphone and a terrible quality 15-foot XLR to ¼-inch cable that you will end up throwing away after trying to use it once. No stand clip or carry bag is included. I recommend picking a couple of these microphones up for situations where you are not going to want to put your good stuff on the line. Let me know what you think!


Sunday, September 6, 2015

Blues Blast Magazine Album Review: Debbie Bond and the TruDats – That Thing Called Love


This CD review was originally published in the May 8, 2014 edition of Blues Blast Magazine. Be sure to check out the rest of the magazine at

Debbie Bond and the TruDats – That Thing Called Love |Album Review

Blues Root Productions

9 tracks / 39:33

Sometimes you get something great when it is least expected, which is the case with Debbie Bond and the TruDats’ new CD, That Thing Called Love. This material was originally recorded in a big army surplus tent out in the hills near West Nashville as a live performance for the WRFN Radio Free Nashville’s Mando Blues Show. When the smoke cleared, it turned out that the music and chemistry were so good that OmegaLab Studio’s Rob McClain was able to mix and master the recordings into something very special.

Debbie Bond has over 30 years of Alabama blues experience and has toured the US and Europe with legendary bluesmen, including Johnny Shines, Little Jimmy Reed, Willie King, Eddie Kirkland, and Jerry "Boogie" McCain. Since 1995 she has mostly run her own crew, and released her debut album in 1998. Debbie gives back to the blues community and is the founder of the non-profit Alabama Blues Project, which is dedicated to the promotion and preservation of blues from the Heart of Dixie.

That Thing Called Love is Debbie Bond’s third release, and it was accomplished with the bare minimum of personnel. Debbie provided the vocals, rhythm guitar, and lead guitar, and she is joined by her husband Ric Asherson on keyboards, keyboard bass, harmonica and backing vocals. He also acted as producer for this project. Dave Crenshaw was the drummer for the majority of this record and guest saxophonist Tom Pallardy came on board to lend a helping hand. There are nine tracks, seven of which were written by Bond and Asherson, and three of them were previously unreleased.

The first track is a cover of Solomon Burke’s “You’re the Kind of Trouble;” you may have seen this Holmes Brothers song being performed on the Nashville musical drama tv series last year. There is almost too much to process while listening to this soulful pop-oriented blues tune: Debbie has a beautiful voice and can play a fine guitar, Asherson and Crenshaw are tight as brothers, and this is one of the best-mixed live albums you will ever find. It is hard to compare Bond’s voice to any contemporary artist, but in a nutshell her sound is equal parts throaty and melodic and she is spot-on with her intonation and phrasing -- there is nothing like decades of real-world experience to hone one’s craft.

The other cover is also from the Holmes Brothers and “Feed My Soul” is a soulful ballad that highlights Asherson’s bass keys and electric piano. Pallardy’s sax makes the mood on this track, and it is impressive how reserved and disciplined he is, playing only what is needed. Too often sax players get a little out of control in live situations and kill the vibe, but that does not happen here.

The logical assumption would be that “Steady Rolling Man” is an ode to Debbie’s husband, who she met when they were both touring with the late Willie King. It certainly is a good description of his playing style and Rick Asherson delivers the goods with his speakeasy piano in this New Orleans flavored song. Crenshaw lays back, grabs his brushes and mutes his drums to complete the picture. This is an ambitious tune as it is is a departure from the rest of the show and it is a vocally difficult song, but Debbie and the TruDats pull it off and it shines as the standout track of That Thing Called Love.

“Tarragona Blues” appears twice on the album, and the second version is sequenced as the final track in an extended re-mix that features Ray Robinson on drums (Crenshaw moved over to Latin percussion), and Jonathan Blakney on background vocals and additional percussion. The extra personnel is needed as this is a bossa nova tour de force. It ends up being a shout-out to Debbie’s Spanish fans who appreciate her jazzy blues stylings, and she treats them (and us) with hearty vocals that are specific to their land and she throws in a smooth Telecaster break for good measure.

Debbie Bond and the TruDat’s That Thing Called Love is a slickly-produced CD, but since it was recorded live it has a raw energy that is missing from most studio projects. It is a great example of Alabama blues and soul from the premier ambassador of the genre, and you should definitely make the time to give it a listen!


Saturday, September 5, 2015

Pro Art 1/2-Inch by 60-Yards White Artist Tape Review


I know, this is a music blog, so why am I reviewing artist’s tape? Hold on and you will see!

When using my mixing boards, the inputs are always changing around as I do sound for a lot of different events. And if there are more than 5 or 6 things plugged in I get confused so I mark the channels on the board so I know what they are. The fine folks at Yamaha provide little white squares for each channel to do this, but after writing on them a time or two they get to be a real mess. So I have been experimenting with different tapes that I can lay down across the board to write on.

The ½-inch wide Pro Art artist tape is the best stuff I have found so far. Masking tape works, but it is not a very bright white and there is not good contrast. White gaffer tape is good, but it is ungodly expensive, not good for much of anything else I do (I usually use black for cables), and if left on the shelf for too long the adhesive disintegrates. And lastly, the little white labels from the office supply store are kind of hard to peel off if they are left on for too long.

This artist tape has a great shelf life, is a nice bright white, peels off cleanly, and is easy to write on. I love having a fresh new surface to write on for each gig, and the 60-yard roll will last me for years. If I did art stuff, I guess I could use it for that too. Anyway, it has become a staple in my gig box, and at $10.97 a roll from Amazon, you might want to think about picking up a roll too!