Thursday, October 11, 2018

Blues Blast Magazine Album Review: Southern Avenue – Southern Avenue

Good day!

This CD review was originally published in the May 11, 2017 edition of Blues Blast Magazine. Be sure to check out the rest of the magazine at

Southern Avenue – Southern Avenue

Stax Records

10 tracks / 38:47

Southern Avenue is a street that cuts across Memphis, and it also happens to be then name of a band that does a marvelous job of representing all of the musical sounds of this diverse city. Their eponymous debut album takes a solid guitar-blues base and then captures pieces of many genres, including gospel, rhythm and blues, soul, rock, jazz, and even a touch of country. This is American music at its finest, and to top it off the band is signed to the newly revived Stax record label!

The band’s guitarist, Ori Naftaly, came to the United States from Israel to compete in the 2013 International Blues Competition. He decided to stay, and after touring on his own for a while he joined up with a powerful vocalist from Memphis, Tierinii Jackson, and things just clicked. Southern Avenue was born, and Tikyra Jackon (Tiernii’s sister) pitched in on drums and backing vocals, with Daniel McKee on bass and Jeremy Powell on keyboards. Within a year, the band was touring and playing festivals, was chosen to represent Memphis at the IBC, and got signed to the aforementioned Stax record deal.

Southern Avenue is a fresh and original release, with nine new songs that were written by Ori and Tiernii, and one cool cover. The disc was cut at Inside Sounds in Memphis and Zebra Ranch in Coldwater Mississippi, and Kevin Houston took care of production, recording and mixing. You may be familiar with Houston from his work with the North Mississippi Allstars, Lucero, and Patty Griffin.

The set kicks off with a hard-hitter, “Don't Give Up,” with a cool acoustic intro that quickly evolves into a blazing country rocker with a little help from the slide guitar of Luther Dickinson (also a member of the Allstars). But the real shining star here is Tierinii, who has parlayed her previous experience of singing in church and cover bands into a true leading lady role. Her voice is nothing but soulful; it is powerful and clear, and her range is certainly enviable.

Next up on the songlist is “What Did I Do,” an upbeat soul tune that features organ from Powell, sweet vocal harmonies from the Jackson sisters, and tight horns from Houston and Suavo Jones (the Bo-Keys). This is followed by the jazzy R&B of ““It’s Gonne Be Alright” and the lone cover tune on Southern Avenue: “Slipped Tripped and Fell In Love.” The latter is a neat tune that was written by George Jackson and recorded by Clarence Carter in 1971. It has since been re-done a few times, including an interesting 1982 take by Foghat. In this case it is a fun and funky piece that is built around Ori’s guitar and Tikyra’s snare drum. The horns of Art Edmaiston and Marc Franklin join in to make this an epic track that is one of the standouts on the disc.

Tierinii lays down a single ballad for this project, and it gives the listener a chance to really hear what this woman can do, showing that there is a lot going on here. On “Love Me Right” there is a lot of texture to her voice, and she demonstrates the ability to go from smooth to jagged in a heartbeat. The overall effect is very emotional and heartfelt. This is a cool contrast to the in-your-face outrage of “Rumble,” which includes the soon to be classic lines: “You can see the crazy on my face / You can smell it running through my veins.” This is obviously not a woman to mess with!

This is a relatively short album, and before 40 minutes are up it is over, ending with “Peace Will Come.” This song has gospel lyrics over a country rock beat, and it features a few more Jacksons on guest vocals: Ava, Laurie, and Bradley. This the last opportunity for Naftaly to lay down a guitar solo, and as always it is tasteful and smooth without creeping into the realm of self-indulgence. This song builds consistently to the end, and as it finishes up it is apparent that this was the perfect choice for closing out the set.

Southern Avenue is a hit, and after just one listen it is obvious why this band was the hometown choice for the International Blues Challenge. The band is worthy of the Stax Records label, and this is one of the best debut albums of the year. It deserves a listen, and be sure to take a peek at their website as they have a heavy touring schedule through the end of summer, including shows all over the states and a few festivals in the Netherlands. If this album is any indication of what their live show is like, it would be a great idea to make the time to seek them out!

Radial Engineering Presenter Compact Mixer Review


I saw the Radial Engineering Presenter at the Winter NAMM show earlier this year and thought it was a pretty neat solution for people who conduct training classes or hold a lot of meetings. This product is a small mixer that provides mic, 3.5mm and USB inputs, as well as a couple of speaker outs.

According to Radial: “The USB input on the Presenter allows for direct connection to a laptop for high quality audio playback, perfect for presentations that include digital audio files, or for DJ applications. This connection also provides power for the Presenter, eliminating the need to carry around a separate power adaptor. For connection to mobile devices such as smartphones or tablets, a 3.5mm stereo input jack is included on the front of the unit, and can be adjusted using the program level control. The XLR microphone input is paired with low and high EQ controls to tailor the frequency response, along with a low cut filter that rolls off excessive low end.

Both the microphone and the playback signals are mixed to stereo XLR balanced outputs, which can be connected directly to a PA system or a pair of powered speakers. A mono switch is provided if only one speaker is needed, and a ground lift ensures that the output signal is clean and free of buzz or hum from ground loops.”

Well, they are not lying. The Presenter is small and packed with features in its 14-gauge steel box. Pretty much everything you need to do can be accomplished with the single XLR , USB type-B and 3.5 mm TRS inputs, and there are a pair of XLR outs. There is even a port where you can install a laptop lock so it is harder for this mixer to disappear.

To use it, both the microphone and the playback signals are mixed to stereo XLR balanced outputs, which can be connected directly to a PA system or a pair of powered speakers. A mono switch is provided if only one speaker is needed, and a ground lift ensures that the output signal is clean and free of buzz or hum from ground loops. The presenter can be powered with a power supply (not included), or by a laptop over USB. One downside is that only laptop or a 3.5mm input at any one time, which seems like a pretty major disadvantage when giving a presentation. On the plus side, the Presenter can be used as a USB recording interface, so lectures can be recorded for later use.

Radial Engineering is a quality company that makes good stuff, and their products are priced accordingly, meaning that the Presenter comes in at $299 (street price). This is a lot of cash for a small mixing board, and if you look around there are a lot of mixers under $100 that have all of these features (including the USB) and more. This one would be a hard sale for me…


Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Blues Blast Magazine Album Review: Harpdog Brown – Travelin' with the Blues

Good day!

This CD review was originally published in the May 4, 2017 edition of Blues Blast Magazine. Be sure to check out the rest of the magazine at

Harpdog Brown – Travelin' with the Blues

Dog House Records

14 tracks / 46:31

It is always cool to get a new blues CD out of Canada, as they are often very entertaining. It seems like there is a lot of support for all genres of the music scene north of the border, and this community helps artists get a good foothold in the business. The new album from Harpdog Brown, Travelin' with the Blues, is no exception and this harmonica-driven disc is chock full of solid tunes and sweet guest artists.

With seven albums under his belt, Harpdog Brown has been plying his trade since 1982, and after taking a decade off to help raise his son he is right back in the thick of things. He is a well-regarded singer and harp man, and over the past few years he has released two albums and won consecutive Maple Blues Awards for harmonica player of the year. This man is certainly still in his prime, as you will hear on this disc!

Travelin' with the Blues has pretty much everything going for it. Little Victor produced this album, and it was cut by the go-to guys in the blues business: Jon Atkinson at Bigtone Records and Kid Anderson at Greaseland Studios. If you ever wish to make your own blues album, head up to the San Francisco Bay area and hit up one of these fellows and you will not regret your decision. Brown provides the vocals and most of the harmonica for this project, and joining him in the studio are Jordie Edmonds on guitar and Pat Darcus on bass. There are special guests galore, and blues fans will probably be able to recognize most (if not all) of the names.

Many of the 14 tracks on Travelin' with the Blues are solid originals that were written by Brown, his bandmates, Little Victor, the guest artists, and Harpdog’s longtime collaborator, Wayne Berezan. Regardless of who wrote the songs, they all fit together well and there is a glorious 1950s feel to the proceedings thanks to Atkinson’s magical analog studio equipment. This is apparent on the opener, “Better Days,” a cool bit of Chicago electric blues that Wayne wrote. It features Harpdog’s hearty vocals and plenty of dirty guitar from Kid Anderson, not to mention a hauntingly distorted harmonica break. Berezan also penned the ballad “Sacrifice,” which allows Big Jon Atkinson to show off a bit of his guitar and drums as Carl Sonny Leyland sets the mood on the piano. Both of these tunes highlight how solid Brown is with the vocals, as he has a tremendous sense of timing and drama, as well as flawless enunciation.

The originals also include a few standup tunes that Brown wrote. These include “For Better or Worse,” a 1950s rocker with Kid Andersen and Little Victor on guitar, “What’s Your Real Name” (the story of how Harpdog got his name), and “Home Is Where the Harp Is,” a re-do of a song from earlier in his career. These last two include some fancy guitar work from reggae master Rusty Zinn, another nugget of California gold.

There are also a couple of noteworthy instrumentals worked into the set. Brown and Little Victor wrote “Moose on the Loose,” with a melody that hearkens back to the Champs’ “Tequila,” and an unexpected harmonica duet of Harpdog and the legendary Charlie Musselwhite. Then there is the closing boogie, “Hayward Blues,” a pick-up track that was recorded at the end of a session. This one has a healthy vamp from Jordie Edmonds (who wrote it) and Jimmy Morello, and a fun honking harmonica part from Harpdog. Though this one is only 95 seconds long, it is a wickedly fun way to close out the set.

The covers include a handful of neat tunes. The band’s redux of Otis Span’s 1954 Chess Records single "It Must Have Been the Devil" is amazing, and California jazz master Carl Sonny Leyland does a fine job of occupying Spann’s place behind the piano. There is also Willie Dixon’s “Bring it on Home” which was originally cut by Sonny Boy Williamson II in 1963 and then covered on Led Zeppelin II. This version includes Jimmy Morello on the skins, and it is great to see that he is recording again! And finally, going a little further back in time, there is Jesse Thomas’ “Another Fool Like Me” and Muddy Waters’ “Hard Days Blues.” The latter is the standout of the cover tunes, and Brown’s quirky vocals are well accented by his harp as Little Victor lays down smooth guitar fills on this classic tune.

As if 46 minutes of quality music is not enough, if you buy the hard copy of the CD you will also get 16 pages of liner notes with brief bios for the guest artists as well as producer’s notes for each of the tracks. This wealth of information is a welcome addition, and a neat throwback to the days where listening to music was a primary activity, not something that was done as an accompaniment to other everyday chores.

Harpdog Brown has a winner with Travelin' with the Blues, and any fan of the harmonica or classic blues would be happy to have a copy of this disc in their library. Looking over Brown’s website, there is a passel of Canadian shows scheduled for this spring and summer, so if you are going to be north of the border, you might want to check out his schedule. He is a master of the harp, and certainly worth seeing in person!

2018 Blues Blast Magazine Music Award Winners!


The 2018 Blues Blast Magazine Music Award winners were announced at the show on September 29, 2018. Here is the press release:

At one of the biggest Blues events of the season on Saturday night fans and artists celebrated the 11th Annual Blues Blast Music Awards at Tebala Event Center in Rockford, Illinois.

The winners in the fan voting were announced at the show and are listed below. Congratulations to all the nominees and winners!

The 2018 Blues Blast Music Award Winners

Contemporary Blues Album

- Danielle Nicole - Cry No More

Traditional Blues Album

- Kim Wilson - Blues And Boogie Vol 1

Soul Blues Album

- Bettye LaVette - Things Have Changed

Rock Blues Album

- Walter Trout - We're All In This Together

Acoustic Blues Album

- Sonny Landreth - Recorded Live In Lafayette

Live Blues Recording

- Muddy Waters - Live At Rockpalast

Historical Or Vintage Recording

- Muddy Waters - Live At Rockpalast

New Artist Debut Album

- Heather Newman - Burn Me Alive

Blues Band

- Rick Estrin & The Nightcats

Male Blues Artist

- Walter Trout

Female Blues Artist

- Beth Hart

Sean Costello Rising Star Award

- Heather Newman


Blues Blast Magazine Album Review: Reverend KM Williams – The Real Deal Blues | Album Review

Good day!

This CD review was originally published in the April 20, 2017 edition of Blues Blast Magazine. Be sure to check out the rest of the magazine at

Reverend KM Williams – The Real Deal Blues

Cleopatra Blues Records

15 tracks / 52:10

Reverend KM Williams was brought up in East Texas, where (legend has it) as a toddler he first played the guitar while sitting on the lap of Elmore James. From there, Williams built his skills over the years by playing in churches where he got a righteous background in gospel and rhythm and blues. The Reverend is a serious guitarist and vocalist, but he also has a mean touch with the Diddley bow, a single string instrument that produces an amazing slide guitar tone in the correct hands. After listening to his new album, The Real Deal Blues, there is no doubt that Reverend KM Williams has the correct hands!

These days, listeners can find Williams playing his unique brand of raw blues on the stages of the Deep Ellum clubs in Dallas, Texas, alongside his friends such as drummer Washboard Jackson and the BMA-winning harp man, Deacon Jeff Stone. You can get a feel for this scene and the Texas blues tradition in the album’s companion short film, which is also titled The Real Deal Blues. The Reverend took his stage energy and vibe into Atom H Studios in Austin Texas, where producer Jurgen Engler brought this project to life. The resulting 15 tracks are all distinctive and innovative, while still remaining 100% blues – the album’s title is no joke.

Whatever you are expecting, once the set starts the sound of this disc will set you back on your heels a bit. It is all raw edges with a distant sound, jangly guitars, a wailing Diddley bow, and vocals that beg to you listen just a little harder. This is modern electrified music, but with the way it is recorded the gap between traditional and modern is bridged, and the way the listener interprets it might just depend on what mood he or she is in that day.

The Real Deal Blues is all about feel and mood, not showing off with flashy solos or crazed vocals, and this is apparent from the first track, “Baby Please Come Home.” Williams’ easygoing baritone vocals are set back in the mix, and the subject matter is undeniably the blues. Musically, there is a strong backbeat and the instruments are processed and electrified, but the overall vibe is vintage due to the classic repetitive blues structure of the lyrics and the overall murkiness of the tone. From there the Reverend explores swamp rock with “The Runaway Blues” which has a melting pot of guitar layers and a nice touch of Diddley Bow.

These first two songs are pretty intense, and Williams understands that this level of drama cannot be maintained for the whole album and still have people listening at the end. So there are a few conventional tunes sprinkled around the CD. “Ring in My Pocket” has a more laid back beat, and it is a sweet story of a man who has no cash in his wallet and plenty of holes in his shoes, but he is on the road home to his lady with a ring for her finger. Another more mainstream song is “Shoulda Left this Town,” which is a little slower and is built on a 12 bar blues foundation.

There are a few shorter-length themed songs, which also help to lighten the load at times when things start to get a bit heavy. “Highway 666” has a 1950s Johnny Cash rockabilly feel with a driving tempo and groovy sound effects that accompany the story of a man who has bad ambitions. Another cool tune is “Haunted House” with its roadhouse beat and a truckload of killer guitar tone.

If this album makes you wonder what a Diddley bow sounds like without electronics and processing, you will be happy that the closer is a bonus acoustic version of “Bad Boy Blues,” which appeared earlier on the album. In this case, the drama is still there, but it is a different mojo as the driving feel of the electric mix has been stripped away. Williams can make that single string sound like a dozen, and the man’s talent shines brightly when all of the studio magic is turned off.

Reverend KM Williams remains true to his roots and to the genre with The Real Deal Blues, and this album is an edgy 52-minute set of hardcore Texas blues. It is not easy listening, and it would be best to not distract yourself while it is playing as you could miss a lot. If you like what you hear and want to see him in person, head over to his website to check out his schedule; if you are in Dallas, Mississippi, or Spain, you are in luck as he has plenty of shows coming up!

Inventory Update: 4nd Quarter of 2018

Hi there!

I managed to make some room in the studio over the past few months, but would like to move more of this equipment on to good homes. If you see anything here that you cannot live without, drop me a line. It is all good stuff…

First off, the basses:

∙ 1974 Aria Telecaster Bass (STILL apart for repair)

∙ 1986 MIJ Fender Jazz Bass Special Short Scale

∙ 1986 MIJ Fender 1962 re-issue Precision Bass

∙ 1995 ESP Christian Olde Wolbers Horizon 5

∙ 1995 Fender JB75-90 Jazz Bass

∙ 2005 Fender PB57-70US Precision Bass

∙ 2007 Fender PB70-70US Precision Bass

Electric Guitars:

∙ 1970s Yamaha Studio Lord Les Paul copy

∙ 1981 Greco MSV850 Flying V

∙ 1982 Greco SS-600 SG Copy

∙ 1983 Fender JV ‘62 re-issue Stratocaster

∙ 1983 Squier JV ‘62 re-issue Stratocaster

∙ 1984 Squier SQ Stratocaster CST-50

∙ 1985 Squier Stratocaster ST-331

∙ 1986 MIJ Fender ‘62 re-issue Stratocaster

∙ 1989 Fender Telecaster TL72-55

∙ 1996 Gibson SG Special

∙ 1997 Fender Jag-Stang

∙ 2005 Fender TL52-80TX Telecaster

∙ Memphis Cigar Box Guitar by Matt Isbell

Acoustic Guitars:

∙ Martin Backpacker steel string

∙ Kala solid mahogany soprano ukulele

∙ Takamine EF341


∙ 1967 Acoustic 260 Guitar Head

∙ Genz Benz Shuttle 9.2 with Aguilar GS112 and GS112NT cabinets

∙ Fender Acoustasonic 30 DSP

∙ Fender Champion 300

∙ 1999 SWR Workingmans 12 Combo Bass Amplifier

∙ BOSS Katana 100W 1x12 Combo

Check in again in January to see what is still around. As always, you know it will be different!

Mahalo! Tags: Inventory, Hubris

Blues Blast Magazine Album Review: Cliff Stevens – Grass Won’t Grow

Good day!

This CD review was originally published in the April 13, 2017 edition of Blues Blast Magazine. Be sure to check out the rest of the magazine at

Cliff Stevens – Grass Won’t Grow

Self Release

11 tracks / 45:12

Looking at the cover of Cliff Stevens’ second solo disc, Grass Won't Grow, you might think he looks a bit like Eric Clapton, but with a Cherryburst Les Paul instead of the signature black Stratocaster. Of course there is only one Slow Hand, but this Montreal native is actually one of the world’s foremost Clapton impersonators (! But besides being able to play “Layla” in his sleep, he can also crank out his own brand of righteous blues-rock, as evidenced by this new album. Other folks have faith in his abilities too, as he was able to successfully use a crowdfunding campaign to help finance this project.

Stevens is a product of the late sixties music scene where he got to see icons like Clapton and Johnny Winter, and he took further inspiration from icons such as Albert Collins, Albert King, and Otis Rush. What better role models could a young guitarist ask for? He took his job seriously, and has toured for decades around North America and Europe, flirting with jazz and earning a master’s degree in music and education along the way. His eponymous first album was released in 2009, and this mix of original and cover tunes was well received, earning him critical praise and plenty of award nominations.

Grass Won't Grow is a worthy follow-up, and it features Cliff on guitar and vocals, Eric Suavé on the keys, Alec Mc Elcheran on bass, and Sam Harrisson behind the drum kit. Stevens was the producer for this project, and it was laid down on tape (analog!) at Studio Mega-Rex in Montreal, and the result is a decidedly live sound. This 45-minute set is made up of eleven songs, all of them originals, and it turns out that his man has a lot of cool stuff to say.

The set kicks off with “Don’t You Say,” which has a funky jazz feel thanks to a sweet walking bass line, plenty of ride cymbal and hi-hat, and Stevens’ ultra smooth guitar touch. Rest assured that Cliff has his own voice, and his laidback vocals and guitar chops are not a re-hash of Clapton’s style. Next up is “Price You Pay,” a fun piece of blues that describes the relationship difficulties that a touring musician has to deal with. The guitar leads on this track have an excellent clean tone, and Suavé’s keyboards subtly set the mood without distracting the listener. Then the upbeat title track follows with country-style leads and a pop feel courtesy of backing vocals from Kim Feeney. ”Grass Won't Grow” is fun, and a neat reminder of the joy that musicians can express; the blues does not have to always be a stone-cold bummer.

As you can see, these songs are not exactly straight-up blues, but they are all still closely related to the genre and they all work well with each other. The songs are all well written and performed, but there are a few that stand out from the rest. “Running” is a radio-friendly rocker with an easy-going feel, a catchy chorus, and a heavily processed guitar break. There is also a sentimental bluesy ballad, “Crying My Heart Out,” which clicks on all levels with its Hammond B-3 and a dramatic mood that builds throughout. And if you like drama, the spooky feel of “All Through the Night” will be right up your alley. Stevens’ guitar work shows variety on this last one, as throws down some cool arpeggios and then lets it rips with and extended dirty solo that is one of the highlights of the entire disc.

Cliff Stevens has put together a solid album with Grass Won't Grow, and this cool set of modern blues-rock is catchy and well crafted. He just finished up supporting its release with his fourth European tour in the past three years, and hopefully he will add some North American dates soon. Keep an eye on his website for updates, and you can also follow him on for automatic notifications if he adds shows in your area. He is quite the showman, and you will like what he has to offer!

Otis Rush: April 29, 1935 to September 29, 2018

Rest in Peace, Mr. Rush

Blues Blast Magazine Album Review: Marty D. Spikener’s On Call Band – help! I need some GOOD BLUES!


This CD review was originally published in the April 6, 2017 edition of Blues Blast Magazine. Be sure to check out the rest of the magazine at

Marty D. Spikener’s On Call Band – help! I need some GOOD BLUES!

Self Release

9 tracks / 38:55

Marty D. Spikener has been playing the blues for almost 40 years, and the St. Louis club scene is much richer with him perched behind his drum kit and growling out perfectly timed vocals. Marty D. Spikener’s On Call Band performs both originals and cover tunes, and their new album, help! I need some GOOD BLUES!, is a fine sampling of blues, rhythm and blues, and just a little touch of jazz.

The On Call Band includes Spikener, as well as Chuck Loeb on harmonica and vocals and Doc Evans on bass, while Ryan Waked and Solomon Haynes share the guitar work. Paul Niehaus IV cut this disc at the Blue Lotus Studio (also in St. Louis), and it sounds like it may have been recorded live. I say this because there is a cool dynamic and a noticeable energy between the artists as they run through this 40-minute set, which works out well for the music they chose for the set list.

Two-thirds of the songs on this disc are covers, and the On Call Band starts things off with a neat re-do of Don Robey’s “Ain’t That Loving You,” which was originally released by Bobby Bland in 1962. This is a straight-up electric blues tune that allows the throaty and soulful vocals to shine. Waked and Haynes each deliver clean guitar solos, and Loeb goes for a dirtier sound with his harp. Next up is the Paul Butterfield Blues Band’s “Born in Chicago,” which is faithful to the original, but here it is played at a slower tempo, giving it a Latin feel.

The other covers are a diverse collection of American tunes, including a soulful take on John Hiatt’s “Feels Like Rain,” and the Louis Armstrong-inspired vocals on James Harman’s hilarious “Tall Skinny Woman.” But the standout is “Lord Help Me to Hold Out,” which was originally recorded in 1969 by Harrison Johnson and the Los Angeles Community Choir. This acoustic gospel song has a wonderful interplay between the harmonica and the inspirational vocals, while the backline of Evans and Spikener hold everything together.

The three tunes that Marty wrote are solid, the first of which is the funky “Good Blues,” and this song offers up the opinion that the blues does not have to be a stone-cold bummer. Guest artist Bobby Schneck (Santana and Slash) provides the stunning guitar solo while the tone of Waked and Haynes’ rhythm guitars set the mood perfectly. Then there is the sobering “Guns of St. Louis,” a soulful plea for peace and sanity in the Gateway City. And the last of the originals is the light-hearted “Pill for That,” which is chock-full of slick drum fills courtesy of Mr. Spikener.

Wrapping up this disc is “Walkin’ with Grover,” a tribute to Grover Washington’s 1975 soul/jazz chart-topper, “Mister Magic.” There are no horns to be found on this instrumental, but the guitars and Loeb’s harmonica fill in nicely. The band pushes the tempo more than the original, and Evans’ walking bass line transforms this song into more of a blues tune, though there is still an obvious jazz influence. Each player gets a chance to shine on this track, making this the perfect outro for the set.

It is really cool that Marty D. Spikener’s On Call Band documented their sound so that listeners outside of the Show Me State can hear their music. help! I need some GOOD BLUES! Is a solid package, and it would be neat to here more from these fellows, so hopefully they will be heading back to the studio soon. But In the meantime, head on over to the band’s Facebook page to hear them for yourself and to find out where they are playing next!

Sunday, August 26, 2018

2008 Epiphone Les Paul Custom Guitar Review


Today we are looking at an Epiphone limited edition Silverburst Les Paul Custom guitar that was only sold for a brief time in 2008, though they must have made o ton of them because I see them pretty often. It is a fine looking instrument and is well built, but the electronics have not held up too well over the years.

The Custom has always been the top of the Les Paul line-up, and this one is a tribute to the original Silverburst instruments that were made from 1979 to 1985. The vintage Silverburst Les Pauls have been the go-to axe for Adam Jones from Tool, so they have developed a cult following and they are stupidly expensive now.

Les Paul Customs are set apart from the Standard models by more intricate inlays, as well as multi-ply body binding. This Epiphone got these adornments, but not the usual gold-plated hardware (thankfully).

Other than the color, the specs are fairly standard for an imported Les Paul. It has a mahogany body with a carved alder top, which is surprising considering that these usually have maple tops. The 24.75-inch scale set neck is mahogany, which is normal, but differs from the maple necks on the original Silverburst Les Pauls. The whole thing has a coat of thick poly and the Silverburst fade is only on the front. The back is glossy black, while the originals were Silverburst back there instead.

The neck has a 1 11/16-inch wide nut, and a fairly fat profile. The rosewood fretboard has trapezoid pearl inlays, and it has an evenly applied cream binding. The headstock carries the 5-ply binding over from the body, and it is equipped with chrome Grover sealed-back tuners. In case you care, there is a diamond mother of pearl inlay on the front of the headstock, and an Epiphone Custom Shop Logo on the back. I would be curious to see their Custom Shop…

The rest of the hardware is standard fare, with a chrome Tune-o-matic bridge with a stopbar tail piece and a multi-ply black pickguard. And the electronics are just about what you would expect on an Epiphone. These Customs come with plain-Jane Alnico humbucker with the usual Les Paul 2 volume / 2 tone knobs set-up.

In the end, this turns out to be a good collection of parts, and Epiphone’s Chinese (factory did a fab job of sticking them together. I am continually astonished that the public continues real-deal Gibson Les Pauls with terrible necks and frets when there are much better alternatives out there for less money.

This Silverburst Les Paul Custom has a nice neck with perfect frets and a pretty low action with no fiddling around or modifications. It has a C profile and its thickness is right in the middle between the 50’s and 60’s neck profiles that are so popular. This translates into a lot smoother playing experience for me, which is worth a bunch because I do not have much talent.

Unfortunately, the years have not been kind to the electronics on this one, as one of the pickups has dies and the other has a whacky tone that is super muddy. It certainly could benefit from new pickups and wiring, and I think a set of Burstbuckers (maybe out of phase) would be magical in this guitar. If you are going for the full Tool mod, Jones says he uses a Seymour Duncan JB at the bridge, though I have my doubts that he is being truthful, and without a maple neck and ebony fretboard it just will not sound the same anyway…

When this run of Epiphone Silverburst Les Paul Customs was originally on sale their street price was around $600 (with no case), which is pricy for an Epiphone Les Paul. But nowadays they go for around $300 to $400, which is a good price for a nice guitar. But, make sure you plug it in before you buy…


Blues Blast Magazine Album Review: Peach and the Almost Blues Band – A Night in Copenhagen

Good day!

This CD review was originally published in the March 9, 2017 edition of Blues Blast Magazine. Be sure to check out the rest of the magazine at

Peach and the Almost Blues Band – A Night in Copenhagen

Magic Music

8 tracks / 36:28

A cool thing about the blues is that the form easily translates to different cultures and allows musicians from all parts of the world to get together and create killer music. Language is not much of a barrier, as the chord patterns and song structures are familiar to anyone who has played the blues for a while. Peach totally gets this, and this fixture of the Los Angeles music scene has released a cool set of blues that she laid down with some friends in Denmark, titled A Night in Copenhagen.

Peach (her last name is Reasoner) grew up in the Midwest, but found work and built her musical career on the West Coast as a jazz and blues singer and guitarist. Along the way she has toured the world and collaborated with folks that include Taj Mahal, Jim Messina, Keb' Mo' and Condoleezza Rice. Yep, it is the Condoleezza you are thinking of – she was Peach’s accompanist at the University of Denver.

A Night in Copenhagen was recorded in February 2016 straight out of the mixing board at Café Bartof. Peach handled the lead vocals and played her sparkly Tele; she was joined by locals Michael Engman Ronnow on guitar, Helge Solberg on bass, and Niclas Campagnol on the skins. Her longtime band mate, Ken Stange from Los Angeles, made the trip across the Atlantic and sat in on keys and harmonica for this gig. This disc includes eight songs from the show, and most of them are covers that perfectly fit Peach’s vocal style.

First up in the set is “Tonight I’ll Be Stayin Here With You,” a Bob Dylan tune from 1969. Things get off to a soulful start with Stange’s sweet harp work, and it is not long before Peach joins in. Her voice has all the right things going on - it is strong and has a weathered character that sets it apart, but that is not all. Her phrasing and timing are both spot on, and she comes off like the true pro that she is. This gives Peach the ability to take this song from a Nobel laureate and make it her own. The same can be said about the second song on the album, B.B. King’s oft-covered 1978 hit, “Never Make Your Move Too Soon.” This song comes off as a roadhouse tune with Peach howling the vocals over Solberg’s thumping bass, Campagnol’s hard-hitting snare, and Stange’s barroom piano.

This is pretty much how the album proceeds, as the band is not afraid to take on songs that were made famous by others, but they consistently prove that they have the talent to pull them off. Junior Wells’ 1960 song, “Little by Little” is a tough shuffle with lovely organ from Stange and a walking bassline from Solberg. The lyrics translate well to having a woman sing them and Peach delivers them with sass! There is also Harvey Scales and the Seven Sounds’ “Love-It is,” which most folks will associate with the J. Geils Band. The guitars shine on this rocker, and the band kicks in with backing vocals on the super-catchy chorus, which really helps to bring this tune together.

The covers are all great, but one of the standout tunes on the disc is an original that was written by Peach, “Tell Me You Love Me.” Maybe it is because this song is a ballad, but the change of mood is striking as Peach’s emotional lyrics rise to the top over multiple layers of keys and the heavy high-hat and snare of Niclas Campagnol. This song could make the listener wish that the band had snuck a few more originals into the mix.

This is a short set, and a little over a half hour in the band takes on the finale, Frankie Miller’s “Ain’t Got no Money,” a song that was also done by Cher and Bob Seger. This uptempo romp is barroom blues at its best, and after a slick break on the piano from Stange, the band brings things to a close on a high note

A Night in Copenhagen is a neat recording of a fun show by Peach and the Almost Blues Band. Her jazzy blues interpretations of classic songs work very well, and the band was definitely hitting on all cylinders that chilly winter night in Denmark. Give it a listen for yourself – there is plenty here for blues fans to like!

Lazy Lester: June 20, 1933 to August 22, 2018

Rest in peace, Leslie Carswell Johnson.

Blues Blast Magazine Album Review: Dave Orban and the Mojo Gypsies – I Heard You Twice the First Time


This CD review was originally published in the March 23, 2017 edition of Blues Blast Magazine. Be sure to check out the rest of the magazine at

Dave Orban and the Mojo Gypsies – I Heard You Twice the First Time

Self Release

14 tracks / 66:45

Many folks dream of becoming a musician some day, but Dave Orban actually went out and did it – twice! Inspired by the British invasion of the 1960s he joined the throngs of kids who purchased instruments and figured out how to sound like their heroes, though Dave took it a step further and learned about the blues that inspired many of these groups. As time went on, he made the “sensible” decision to do the whole school and day job thing, and for 17 years Orban dropped out of the music scene completely.

Then one day an old friend got ahold of Dave and asked him to come to a jam. With his borrowed guitar Orban realized that he had forgotten everything he had ever learned, but this experience ignited a fire in him that made him realize how much he missed the music. Skipping forward a few more decades, we find that he got his groove back and that his current lineup of the Mojo Gypsies has released an album of 14 of Dave’s very respectable original tunes. I Heard You Twice the First Time is a solid set of guitar-driven modern blues that draws on music from all over the United States, and it is definitely worth a listen.

On this disc, Dave Orban lays down the vocal and guitar tracks, and he is joined by the Mojo Gypsies, all of who are from the same New Jersey / Pennsylvania area. These fellows include Jeff Michael (aka Flourtown Fats) on bass, Mark A. Shewchuk on the skins, and Mike Scott on the tenor sax. Besides writing all of the songs Dave acted as the producer for the project, and the album was cut by Bobby Dreher and mixed by Brett Kull; these guys did a marvelous job of getting a clear and well-balanced sound.

The band kicks their set off with “Got That Woman on My Mind” which begins with a raunchy guitar intro and then rolls down into a luscious Chicago-style mix. Right from the start the Mojo Gypsies click, with a slow walking bass line from Michael, three or four layers of Dave’s guitars (in stereo), and bright and crisp drums from Shewchuk.

This is a big album (66 minutes!), so there is not enough room here for a blow-by-blow on every track, but there is a little bit of everything on I Heard You Twice the First Time. This includes straight-up guitar blues (“Baby, Take Your Time” and “Big-Boned Baby”), sweet Louisiana beats (“Ain’t No Lie” and “Dallas”), a touch of jazz (“The Told You So Blues” and “Trouble-Makin’ Woman”), and even a little rockabilly (“What’s Wrong”). The band carries all of these with no trouble at all, held down Shewchuk’s drums and augmented by Scott’s horn arrangements.

There are guest harmonica players on a few of the tracks too, and their presence provides a little extra spice for the sauce. Dave Holtzman (Little Red Rooster Blues Band and AC Steel) joins in for “I’m Sayin’ ‘Yes’ to Everything” and his haunting tone works magic alongside Orban’s jangly slide guitar for this Delta-tinged burner. And “Marky B” Berkowitz brings his harp to “Someone Else’s Woman,” a conventional acoustic blues song with a decidedly vintage vibe.

The Mojo Gypsies end their set with “Lookin’ for a Woman,” a righteous chunk of 70’s vintage funky blues. The bass and guitar tones are to die for on this track, and Shewchuk works the snare with a heavy backbeat. Topping all of this off, Mike Scott lays down a breathy solo break that nestles perfectly into the groove. This is nothing but the right stuff, and it is a perfect way to bring things to a close.

Dave Orban and the Mojo Gypsies did a fine job with I Heard You Twice the First Time, and as I said earlier, it is worth a listen. But you will want to listen to it more than once, as the songs are well written and provide a personal feel that is hard to find in the cover songs that fill many of the new blues albums.

And be sure to head over to the Mojo Gypsies website to peruse their gig schedule – if you are anywhere near Philly you just have to see their live show!

Aretha Franklin - March 25, 1942 – August 16, 2018

Rest in peace, and hopefully you are leading the choir in heaven

Monday, July 30, 2018

Blues Blast Magazine Album Review: Adam Karch – Moving Forward

Good day!

This CD review was originally published in the March 2, 2017 edition of Blues Blast Magazine. Be sure to check out the rest of the magazine at

Adam Karch – Moving Forward

Disques Bros Records

12 tracks / 44:37

Adam Karch produces knockout roots music and acoustic blues from his hometown of Montreal, and his latest album, Moving Forward, is his best work yet. Karch got an early start on his music career, first taking a leading role in bands as a teen and then releasing his first album when he was still in his early 20s. Through endless touring he moved further from his rock beginnings and developed his own acoustic fingerstyle sound; the handful of albums he has released over his career reflects this growth. Evidence of this is his 2014 release, Blueprints, which is an amazingly effective reworking of classic songs into an acoustic blues context.

Moving Forward represents a further movement along the same arc, and most of its twelve tracks are originals that were written last winter, when Adam was in a time of transition. The resulting music has a personal sound and thoughtful lyrics, and there are also a handful of cover tunes are just too cool. Karch provided the vocals and guitars for this album (as well as acting as co-producer), and he was joined in the studio by a few of his friends from Quebec: Marc André Drouin on bass and Bernard Deslauriers behind the drum kit.

Adam has a strong synergy with Marc and Bernard, and the listener will discover this as the trio comes together for the opener, “Seaside Venues.” This is slick acoustic rocker that allows to Karch to shine both with his fancy picking and his voice, which is strong and equal parts smooth and gritty. There are only a few of songs on the disc that include this trio, but in each case the backline of Drouin and Deslauriers really delivers the goods. This includes the blues rock of “Lil’ Black Dress,” the pop / soft rock of “The Contract,” and the laid back feel of two California country songs, “On a Cold Grey Sky and “Those Steady Lights.” By the way, Kim Richardson provides sweet vocal harmonies on that last one, which is a welcome addition to an already strong song.

The majority of the tracks on Moving Forward are solo acoustic numbers, and on some of these Karch’s friends sit in to help make the mood. Dimitri Lebel-Alexandre lends his pedal steel to the country blues of “Louis Collins,” and his tastefully restrained playing is quite a complement to Adam’s tricky picking. Also, Guy Bélanger brings his harp to a cover of Keb’ Mo’s “City Boy,” which wisely retains a similar pace and feel as the original, but with considerably less instrumentation. The listener will agree that this arrangement is a beautiful and simple accompaniment to the heartfelt lyrics. Towards the end of the song, Bélanger first makes himself heard with a lovely solo, and his wailing harp helps Adam bring this one home. This is definitely one of the standout tracks on the album.

There are a few other covers on Moving forward, including a re-do of one of Adam’s own songs, “Did You Get the Latest News,” which was originally released on his 2002 debut album, Crossroad Diaries. Then there are a few others that will definitely grab your attention when you look at the track list. Karch takes a successful run at Bob Seger’s 1981 hit, “Night Moves,” with a healthy serving of fancy fingerpicking and a steady beat. Then there is an acoustic country version of Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London” that features a fun break before the chorus is reprised one last time. In both of these popular tunes, Adam does a very respectable job with the vocals, which is no small feat as these songs were both originally recorded by vocalists with very distinctive styles.

Is there anything missing here? Well, if you were thinking you would like to hear a solo acoustic instrumental then you are in luck as “Somewhere in El Paso” is a clean showcase of Karch’s guitar work, and this song is a fine tutorial for young players who need to learn a thing or two about the use of dynamics and repeated forms.

After listening to the whole disc, there is no doubt that Adam Karch can cut a mean record, but he is also a solid live performer. On his website you will find gig dates for the first half of 2017, and if you are going to be in Quebec you will be happy as there are plenty of shows coming up. On his site you can also listen to samples of each of the dozen tracks on Moving Forward, and you will dig them if you are into roots music and acoustic country and blues. Listen for yourself and see what you think!

2004 Fender Stratocaster XII 12-String Guitar Review


Today we are looking at something a little different – an early 2000s Fender Stratocaster XII that is a pretty neat piece of work. These guitars are somewhat based on the Electirc XII that was built back in 1965 to 1969 era and are very collectible, even in today’s slower market. Fortunately for us Fender Japan reproduced this version from 1985 to 1995 and 2004-2009 so we can achieve a similar sound and feel for a lot less cash.

This one has a Crafted in Japan Q-prefix serial number, so it was built in 2004. It has a pretty sunburst finish over its alder body, and a rosewood fretboard on its maple neck. It got a white pickguard, pickup covers and knobs, and they have a nicely aged vintage cream look to them.

The neck has a 25 ½-inch scale length with a 7.25-inch fretboard radius. There are 21 vintage style frets set into it. The profile is not much different than a 6-strint Strat, and there is a comfy C profile to the back of the neck. The headstock is quite a deviation from the usual Fender shape, so that it can accommodate those 12 tuners.

The tuners are Ping style finished in chrome, as is the hardtail bridge. The bridge is set up so the primary strings feed through the back of the body and the secondary strings are loaded from the top of the body. The electronics are standard Stratocaster fare, including 3 single coil pickups, a 5 5-way selector switch, a volume control , and two tone controls.

The guitar we are looking at here is in excellent original condition, with no repairs or modifications. It is very well built, with gorgeous paintwork and fabulous fretwork. It is a tad heavy, coming in at just under 8 pounds, but it is still 3 or 4 pounds less than my Les Paul. It is one of the easiest playing 12-strings I have ever run into, as it does not feel very lot different than the 6-string version.

Sound-wise, it is (of course) more full than a regular Strat, and probably a bit janglier than a Rickenbacker 12-string. Don't take that the wrong way – it does have a very lovely and useable tone. Pretty much, it is a winner for not a lot of dough. If you ever have the chance to try one of these out you should give it a go. See what you think!


Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Blues Blast Magazine Album Review: The Andy Drudy Disorder – Spark


This CD review was originally published in the March 2, 2017 edition of Blues Blast Magazine. Be sure to check out the rest of the magazine at

The Andy Drudy Disorder – Spark

Splash Point Records

7 tracks / 34:59

The Andy Drudy Disorder has to be one of the best band names in recent memory, and besides having a cool moniker this blues-rock project can really deliver the goods. They just put out their second EP, Spark, on Splash Point Records, but Mr. Drudy is no newcomer to the music business. Andy has been playing out and in the studio since the 1980s, plus he has produced some instructional publications and contributed his writings to guitar publications. Along the way he has traveled the world, including a stint at Musician’s Institute in Los Angeles, where he got to learn from artists that included Robben Ford, Larry Carlton, and Eddie Van Halen.

Andy is an outstanding front man with mad guitar skills, and this United Kingdom denizen put together a notable crew from both sides of the Atlantic to make his dream become a reality, as you will soon see. The seven tracks on Spark are all originals, and each brings something unique to the table.

The set kicks off with the title track, and “Spark” is an energetic boogie that features none other than Pat Travers on slide guitar and Stu Hamm on bass. Pat was a big influence on Andy, and it sounds like they have a ball on this cut. Rounding out the instrumentation on this song are Adam Bushell on drums and the horn section of Sue Richardson and Andy Panayi. Boogie might be too simple of a way to describe this song, as there are some tricky rhythms, a few bass solo breaks from Hamm, and outro that has a bit of a swing feel.

Drudy follows this up with “Jefferson County Blues,” which is completely different from the opener as it is stripped back to just Andy and his drum machine. On this relaxed piece of swamp blues the listener will find that Andy’s vocals are comfortably worn with a touch of gravelly character, and his acoustic guitar playing is clean. Again there is a coda to this song, this time with a seemingly drunken chorus accompanied by a mandolin. Interesting!

The vocals for “Don't Ever Let Me See Your Face Again” are provided by Jessica Greenfield, and her alto voice is simply gorgeous. The music that accompanies her is equally compelling, with a rich combination of acoustic and electric guitars, as well as multiple layers of vocal harmonies. For this track, the bass parts were played by Guy Pratt, a true bass hero who you may know from another British band - Pink Floyd. Guy lays down a killer groove with drummer Hugo Degenhardt, and this is essential for bringing this hard rocking tune together. This is one of the standout tracks on the album, and not coincidentally it is also radio-friendly and accessible.

“Cold Classical” finishes the set, and this instrumental is the brainchild of Andy and David Hentschel. David co-wrote this song and provided the keyboard parts, and his experience as an engineer and producer with bands such as Genesis and Queen results in a uniquely theatrical experience. As this is slower-paced tune with more sparse instrumentation, Drudy has the chance to soar melodically. His playing here brings to mind other British guitar heroes such David Gilmour, Mark Knopfler, and Gary Moore - what a cool way to bring things to a close.

Andy Drudy has shown flexibility by stepping outside the “normal” confines of modern blues-rock with Spark, and his willingness to try new things has paid off in a big way. His guitar playing certainly is amazing, but the music he has written to accompany it is equally good and this project represents a lot of hard work. Head over to his website and listen to a few of the sample tracks, I think you will be impressed!

1985 Fender Squier Stratocaster ST-331 Guitar Review


Most of the 1980s JV and A-series made in Japan Fender guitars stayed fairly close to vintage specifications, though there were a few locking tremolos and nuts to be found. Squier instruments from the same time period had a few models that were more way out there, including the ST-331 Stratocaster that we are looking at today.

This Squier by Fender Stratocaster was built at the revered Fujigen factory on January 24, 1985, and it caries an A-prefix serial number. Deviations from the vintage norm include a sinister black appearance, complete with a matching headstock, a single humbucking pickup and a lone control knob. Metal!

The neck has a nice chunk of rosewood for the fretboard, and there are 21 frets and a plastic nut set into it. The frets show a little wear, but are in amazingly good shape for a 33-year-old guitar. As mentioned earlier, the headstock is painted black and there are 1970s style closed-back tuners installed. The back of the neck has a comfy oval profile to it and it feels just a little different than other Strats because this instrument has a shorter scale than normal: 24.75” instead of 25.5”.

The body has the traditional Stratocaster shape with a nice thick coat of poly finish. Hardware includes a classic tremolo with bent steel saddles, and a single-ply pickguard that looks dreadfully cheap. There is supposed to be a matching cover for the cavity on the back, but it has gone missing over the years. By the way, it is pretty light too, weighing in at under 7 pounds.

Last in the description is the electronics package, which is about as simple as it gets. There is a single Dragster humbucker pickup (7.61 Ohm) at the bridge, and a single volume control. And nothing else: no capacitors, circuit boards, or switches. So, it does just about exactly what you think it would, and that is provide a crunchy rock experience when driven hard. It is refreshing to play, as the tone is all about gain and whatever talent you have in your fingers.

This Strat is a good player and it sounds good, and I think it looks nice too. It has been played out so there are some dings and scratches, as well as some rust on the hardware, but it appears ready to go for another 33 years with a minimum of maintenance. I’m not sure where this fits in with collection, but I could definitely see unloading my LTD George Lynch Kamikaze and keeping this Squier instead. Hmmm.


Saturday, July 14, 2018

Blues Blast Magazine DVD Review: Women of the Country Blues Guitar


This CD review was originally published in the February 2, 2017 edition of Blues Blast Magazine. Be sure to check out the rest of the magazine at

Women of the Country Blues Guitar

Stan Grossman’s Guitar Workshop

One DVD / 124 Minutes

If you are looking for a good value in guitar instruction it would be a fine idea to head on over to Stefan Grossman’s Guitar Workshop website and see what they have to offer for you. For less than the price of one in-person lesson you can pick up a DVD or two that will get you a good head start towards your guitar playing goals.

Stefan Grossman is a music publisher AND a serious guitar slinger. He hails from Brooklyn, and was taught by the esteemed Reverend Gary Davis as well as other legends that include Son House, Skip James, and Mississippi John Hurt. After endless touring, in the late 1960s he started to produce instructional albums with play-along tablature, including his famous 1967 LP, How to Play Blues Guitar. As time went on the catalog grew and these titles became available on CDs, VHS tapes, and DVDs; now there are downloadable lessons too!

There are dozens of titles available from Stefan Grossman’s Guitar Workshop, and there is a diverse collection of artists that provide the instruction. One of these fine instructors is Erin Harpe, talented guitarist and vocalist with serious on-stage experience. Her contribution to the catalog is a two-hour lesson, Women of the Country Blues Guitar. This is a not only a cool opportunity to learn some classic tunes, but it is also an important history lesson for the learner. The subjects of this lesson include artists that you probably have heard of, such as Memphis Minnie, but there may be a few surprises for you too.

Memphis Minnie is one of the best known women of blues guitar, having recorded over 200 songs between 1929 and 1959. Erin Harpe guides the student through seven of Minnie’s tunes, and after playing through a song (and singing it too!), Erin provides a little history and a description of how to play the song along with split screen examples. Where necessary, Harpe goes through solos in more detail too. Each of these is broken up neatly into chapters so the learner can jump back and forth to the parts they need more help with. Memphis Minnie songs in this lesson include, “I’m a Bad Luck Woman,” “Nothing in Rambling,” “Can I do it for You,” “ Where is My Good Man At,” “What’s the Matter with the Mill,” and “When the Levee Breaks.”

A similar learning strategy is used with the other four songs, each of which was originally performed by artists with fascinating backstories. Geeshie Wiley and L.V. ”Elvie” Thomas made their way from Houston, Texas to Grafton, Wisconsin, to record country blues for Paramount Records, and you will find “Pick Poor Robin Clean” and “Motherless Chile” included in the lessons. There is also “I’m So Glad” from Mississippi’s Jessie Mae Hemphill. Jessie started playing guitar in 1930, but never was in the limelight, and did not start releasing albums until the 1980s. Lastly, there is the mystery of Mattie Delaney from Mississippi, who recorded only two songs in 1930 for Vocalion Records. There is nothing written about her after this, and it is beyond cool that her version of “Down The Big Road Blues” has not been forgotten.

As some of these songs were originally recorded in open G tuning (also know as Spanish tuning), Erin demonstrates tuning the guitar in this manner as well as some common chords that are used with this tuning. This is a handy reference and it is nice that Harpe guides the learner through this before teaching the songs that use this tuning.

There are a few bonus features on the Women of the Country Blues Guitar DVD. For starters, there is a .pdf booklet on the disc that includes tablature and lyrics for each song. This document does not come up on the DVD menu, but you can find it with Internet Explorer (PC) or Finder (Mac). Also, there are audio tracks by the original artists for each of the ten songs in the lesson; this provides a nice comparison to see how close the student is to achieving competency with the source material.

This DVD is a professional project with good lighting, clean editing, plenty of camera angles, and crystal clear sound. The guitar cuts through nicely, both through headphones and laptop speakers, but it would be nice to play it through a quality pair of speakers if you have the opportunity. It is helpful that the learner can move along at their own pace, though these lessons would probably be most appropriate for intermediate and higher level students. There are plenty of other blues DVDs available from that would be more appropriate for beginners.

Women of the Country Blues Guitar from Stefan Grossman’s Guitar Workshop has a lot going for it, as Erin Harpe is an outstanding teacher, and this is a well-made DVD with compelling subject matter. Better yet, it is also a great value, as the learner only has to pay $29.95 for a two-hour lesson. Even if you are not a guitar player, it is fascinating to see how the songs are constructed, as well as the effort that goes into learning and playing these tunes!

1982 Greco SS-600 Electric Guitar Review


I hope you are all doing well today! Today we are looking at a super-nice SG knockoff, an early 80s Greco SS-600. These guitars were not imported to the U.S., so this is the only one I have ever actually seen in person on this side of the pond. This thing just screams lawsuit, doesn’t it?

This Greco was built in Japan by Fujigen in August of 1982, and it is closer to a real Gibson SG than a lot of the Japanese copies I have run into over the years. It is a set-neck guitar with a mahogany body and neck that are finished in the classic Wine Red. Also in the looks department, this instrument got MOP block fretboard inlays, neck binding, and a nice 3-ply pickguard.

The neck is beefier than I thought it would be, but would still be an easy player for those with smaller hands. I like that they did inlays in the rosewood fretboard, but they are a little on the small side and are not trapezoidal, so this kills a bit of the Gibson vibe. The headstock has an inlay that kind looks like a flowerpot if you are not paying attention, and the Greco logo is kind of Gibson-like too. The tulip tuners are sealed-back unit that have Greco logos on them. The neck is in good shape, with little fret wear and so a few bumps and bruises on the back.

The electronics are solid, with a pair of humbuckers with typical Gibson wiring and controls. The hardware is a bit odd, but appears to be original to the instrument. There are two things (besides the inlays) that just do not look right on this guitar: it came with speed knobs and the bridge is a weird big rectangular thing. Looking through the old Greco catalogs, these are what they came from, but they just do not work aesthetically. If I was going to keep it, both of these things would be changed out in a heartbeat…

The overall condition is very good with just a few dings and scratches, and no unseemly modifications (even though it could use a few). This SS-600 sounds authentic and it plays well too, which is surprising because this was a fairly cheap instrument at the time. The “600” in the model name means that this guitar originally coset 60,000 Yen, which worked out to around $250 at the time. That was a heck of a deal for a sharp-looking guitar that played well and sounded good too. Not to mention that the quality is also top notch, even though it is not a upmarket instrument.

Anyway, I think this 1982 Greco SS-600 is really cool, and if I did not have so many other guitars I would keep it. But I do have those other guitars, including a very good Gibson SG, so this is the one that will have to go. Drop me a line if you are interested in purchasing it.


Friday, July 13, 2018

Blues Blast Magazine Album Review: Paul Reddick – Ride the One

Good day!

This CD review was originally published in the January 26, 2017 edition of Blues Blast Magazine. Be sure to check out the rest of the magazine at

Paul Reddick – Ride the One

Stony Plain Records

11 tracks / 45:05

Paul Reddick is one of the pillars of the Canadian blues community, and he is working to ensure that the genre continues to grow in his country, going so far as to create the Cobalt Prize to honor songwriters who further this art form. He is also an accomplished poet, songwriter, vocalist and harpman, and he has been leading the charge for Canadian blues since 1990 when he formed the Sidemen. He recently released his first album for Stony Plain Records, and Ride the One is a wonderful effort that is a departure from what he has done before.

Reddick wrote all eleven of the tracks for Ride the One, which was recorded at Union Sound Company in Toronto, Ontario. Paul provided the vocals and harmonica parts, and he was joined by Anna Ruddick on bass, Greg Cockerill and Colin Cripps on guitar, and jack-of-all-trades Derek Downham on drums, piano, and the talkbox. Special guest Steve Marriner from Monkeyjunk helped out with guitar and Fender Rhodes; this is a form a payback as Monkeyjunk is one of the bands that benefited from the groundwork that Reddick helped to lay down.

If you are familiar with Reddick’s previous albums, Ride the One will not be what you expect as it has many more layers of sound and a decidedly intense feel. This is modern blues with an edge to it, and it takes a few listens to get the whole picture of what Paul is trying to accomplish, but he definitely succeeds. The opening track, “Shadows,” is a perfect example of this as it hits the listener solidly with Downham and Ruddick laying down a fervent beat. Over this there is a thunderous chorus of guitars and Paul carrying the melody with his howling vocals and growly harp, both of which are served up with a bit of distortion. There is a lot going on here.

The intensity does not let up for the next song, “Celebrate,” but it does have a more melodic feel with cool stereo guitar effects and a melodic bass line from Anna Ruddick. Then the listener gets a breather with “Mourning Dove,” which has a heavy swamp rock beat, sparser instrumentation, and a plethora of killer guitar tones. This is one the standout tracks on the album, as it does such a fabulous job of setting the mood.

There are also some more accessible tunes on Ride the One, and “Gotta Find A…” delivers more conventional vocals that are accompanied by organic-sounding instrumentation. The backing vocals and harmonies are a welcome addition to this track, moving it into an almost radio-friendly format. Another catchy tune is “Watersmooth” which has lyrics that are delivered in short phrases over a slick blues-rock beat. Downham adds a little piano into the choruses as a counterpoint to the guitar solo, which is a nice contrast to the inherent weight of this track.

From there, the listener will encounter modern electric blues (“Diamonds”), Midwestern rock and roll (“Living in Another World”), and moody rhythm and blues (“Love and Never Know”). Before you know it, things come to a close with “Moon and Star” which is a poem that is presented with muffled vocals (and a touch of echo) alongside Reddick’s harmonica. This bare-bones formula works, and it is a cool acoustic coda to an otherwise heavy and complicated album.

Ride the One is a strong effort from Paul Reddick, and it is a satisfying 45-minute set of hard-hitting blues-rock that is played by a very tight crew. It has been four years since Paul last released an album, but he took his time to get everything right, and he certainly has not lost a step. Check it out for yourself to hear some awesome modern blues out of Canada, and head over to Reddick’s website to see if he is gigging anywhere near you – it will definitely be worth your time!

Inventory Update: 3nd Quarter of 2018

Hi there!

What with career changes and school, the pile has gotten a little out of hand and I need to make some room. If you see anything here that you cannot live without, drop me a line. It is all good stuff…

First off, the basses:

∙ 1974 Aria Telecaster Bass (STILL apart for repair)

∙ 1983 Ibanez RB630 Roadstar II

∙ 1984 Aria Pro II Wedge

∙ 1986 MIJ Fender Jazz Bass Special Short Scale

∙ 1986 MIJ Fender 1962 re-issue Precision Bass

∙ 1986 Aria Pro II SB Elite

∙ 1987 Aria Pro XRB-2A

∙ 1995 ESP Christian Olde Wolbers Horizon 5

∙ 1995 Fender JB75-90 Jazz Bass

∙ 1995 Fender Geddy Lee Signature Jazz Bass

∙ 2001 EBMM Stingray 4

∙ 2003 Fender PB70-70US Precision Bass

∙ 2005 Fender PB57-70US Precision Bass

∙ 2007 Fender PB70-70US Precision Bass

Electric Guitars:

∙ 1970s Yamaha Studio Lord Les Paul copy

∙ 1981 Greco MSV850 Flying V

∙ 1982 Greco SS-600 SG Copy

∙ 1983 Fender JV ‘62 re-issue Stratocaster

∙ 1983 Squier JV ‘62 re-issue Stratocaster

∙ 1984 Squier SQ Stratocaster CST-50

∙ 1985 Squier Stratocaster ST-331

∙ 1986 MIJ Fender ‘62 re-issue Stratocaster

∙ 1986 Yamaha Lord Player Les Paul copy

∙ 1989 Fender Telecaster TL72-55

∙ 1990 Gibson Les Paul Standard

∙ 1996 Gibson SG Special

∙ 1997 Fender Jag-Stang

∙ 2003 Fender TL52-SPL Telecaster

∙ 2005 Fender TL52-80TX Telecaster

∙ 2006 MIJ Fender Stratocaster XII

∙ 2008 Epiphone Les Paul Custom (Silverburst!)

∙ 2010 Gibson Explorer with custom pimp paint job (out on permanent loan)

∙ LTD George Lynch Kamikaze 1

∙ Memphis Cigar Box Guitar by Matt Isbell

Acoustic Guitars:

∙ Martin Backpacker steel string

∙ Kala solid mahogany soprano ukulele

∙ Takamine EF341


∙ 1967 Acoustic 260 Guitar Head

∙ Genz Benz Shuttle 9.2 with Aguilar GS112 and GS112NT cabinets

∙ Fender Acoustasonic 30 DSP

∙ Fender Champion 300

∙ BOSS Katana 100W 1x12 Combo (review coming)

Check in again in October to see what is still around. As always, you know it will be different!


Thursday, June 28, 2018

Steve Soto - August 23, 1963 to June 27, 2018

Rest in peace, brother. 54 doesn't seem old to me anymore...

Blues Blast Magazine Album Review: John Long – Stand Your Ground


This CD review was originally published in the November 10, 2016 edition of Blues Blast Magazine. Be sure to check out the rest of the magazine at

John Long – Stand Your Ground

Delta Groove Music

13 tracks / 52:54

John Long is a fine bluesman, and the path he took to where he is today was not the easy one, but he ended up in the right place. Growing up in St. Louis, he sought out the blues at a young age, and it certainly did not hurt that his mom was a guitar teacher or that his brother, Claude, was also a bluesman. By his teens, John was playing out and started exploring the intricacies of pre-war blues. In the early 1970s, Long moved to Chicago where he mentored under a new father figure, Homesick James Williamson, who was a protégé of none other than Elmore James.

In the forty years since then, John has continued his journey, honing his craft and writing solid material, earning a BMA nomination for his debut album, and eventually moving back to Springfield, Missouri. His new Delta Groove Music album, Stand Your Ground, is a really cool collection of original and classic acoustic blues. Long did most of the heavy lifting here, writing eight of the thirteen tracks, singing all of the vocals, and taking on all of the harp and guitar parts. He was joined on a few of the tracks by a handful of tight and very experienced musicians from Southern California, including Fred Kaplan on piano, Bill Stuve on upright bass, and Washington Rucker behind the drum kit.

This disc was cut in only two days at Audiogrand in North Hollywood, California, and the resulting music has a very natural and live feel. First up is a tribute to Long’s mentor, and the message of James Williamson’s “Baby Please Set a Date” is the timeless story of a man who does not want to wait another day to be with his lady. Long’s voice is perfectly worn, and his inflection and tone hearken back to the early days of blues music. Fred Kaplan’s piano work fits in wonderfully on this track, as he carries over his years of experience from Hollywood Fats’ band.

The remaining cover tunes are sequenced near the end of Stand Your Ground, and Long does not screw around at all with Blind Willie Johnson’s 1920s gospel blues song, “I Know His Blood Can Make Me Whole.” John takes this one on as a solo effort with his jangly slide acoustic, and he displays a lot of vocal versatility, adding in a wicked warble that is to die for. There is also a slow-tempo version of Thomas Dorsey’s “Precious Lord, Take My Hand,” with a neat drum accompaniment from Rucker, and harp-heavy take on Blind Willie McTell’s “Climbing High Mountains” (big time falsetto here!).

But this is not a cover album, and Long’s originals are well written and stand up well to the blues masters’ songs that he chose for the mix. His guitar playing on these songs is fascinating, as he is innovative and goes far beyond what pre-war players did with their instruments, but he never loses the vintage vibe. “Red Hawk” is a prime example of this, as he uses a lot of double stops, harmonics, and descending patterns that sound amazing on his resonator guitar. Long also covers subjects that were not song-worthy back in the 1920s or 1930s, and he can write a tune about living with Parkinson’s disease (“No Flowers For Me”), and have it fit in perfectly with the classic material. The same can be said for “One Earth, Many Colors,” which carries a beautiful message of inclusion.

The originals are righteous enough that the title track turns out to be one of the standout songs on the album. “Stand Your Ground” brings Stuve and Rucker back on stage and these two fellows really click, contributing a fat and woody bass tone, as well as lovely rhythms on the drums. The melody is very catchy, and the lyrics are about a father’s advice to his son, not the controversial Florida law.

John ends his set with his original “Suitcase Stomp,” and as it is only two minutes long it is a neat coda to this project. This is a fun and rowdy song, and Long get the chance to shine on his harp and guitar one last time before he leaves the stage.

John Long has the pre-war blues sound and feel nailed down tight, and he is able to carry this mood over to more modern lyrics with no awkwardness or feeling that things are contrived. Stand Your Ground works on a lot of levels, including its content, musicianship, and production. If you dig classic blues and want to hear something fresh, Stand Your Ground would definitely be a wise purchase.