Saturday, June 14, 2014

Walter Trout, Mindi Abair, Janiva Magness, Kenny Wayne Shepherd celebrate the blues

The blues continue to be relevant thanks to modern-day champions including Walter Trout, Mindi Abair, Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Janiva Magness, all of whom have recently issued some of the strongest discs of their careers.

Artist: Walter Trout
Album: The Blues Came Callin' (Provogue)
You might like if you enjoy: Joe Bonamassa, Albert King, John Mayall
Tell me more: No need to relegate blues to a museum. Not as long as proponents such as Walter Trout have something to say about it. On the master singer-songwriter-guitar virtuoso's new album The Blues Came Callin', Trout kicks off the disc with a heart-wrenching look at his fight for life on the searing "Wastin Away" (he received a life-saving liver transplant in May 2014, but faces a long recovery), while later the long-time Huntington Beach, California-based icon has plenty to say about the crazy state of affairs today via "The World Is Goin' Crazy (And So Am I)," and ultimately the power of love ("Nobody Moves Me Like You Do"). Across the dozen-track album, Trout unleashes some of the most fervent guitar work of his distinguished career (just listen to his blazing solos on "Willie" and "The Blues Came Callin'"), while his top-tier vocals add emotional depth to his original songcraft. Indeed when The Blues Came Callin', Trout answered. Big time. A deluxe 2-disc version of the album includes a documentary on DVD about Trout's recent challenges. Information:
Get 'The Blues Came Callin' (with bonus DVD documentary)" now

Artist: Mindi Abair
Album: Wild Heart (Heads Up/Concord)
You might like if you enjoy: Trombone Shorty, Gregg Allman, Joe Perry, Keb' Mo'
Tell me more: Although saxophone player Mindi Abair has explored a number of styles (jazz, funk, soul, R&B, pop and rock) on previous releases, her aptly-titled new album Wild Heart finds the Florida native adding a strong dose of blues to the mix. The loose instrumental "Amazing Game" (where Abair's work on alto, tenor and baritone saxophones is enhanced by Trombone Shorty's work on his horn) is the first of a number of tracks that features high-profile guests. Elsewhere, she teams with Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry on the rousing instrumental "Kick Ass" and with Keb' Mo' and Booker T. Jones on the tender blues tune "I'll Be Your Home." Wild Heart also lets Abair show off her strong singing soprano on several tracks, including the blues-tinged rocker "I Can't Lose" and infectious "Train," as well as the decidedly beautiful "Just Say When" where she is joined by singer-Hammond B3 great Gregg Allman. Information:  
Get 'Wild Heart' here

Artist: Janiva Magness
Album: Original (Fathead Records)
You might like if you enjoy: Ruthie Foster, Bettye LaVette
Tell me more: On her latest LP Original, noted blues singer Janiva Magness lays it all on the table. Whether singing of loss ("Let Me Breathe," "When You Were My King") or survival ("I Need A Man," "Everything Is Alright"), Magness sings with a potency and force that fully binds the rich textures of electric and folk blues, Americana, R&B and even Stax-styled soul together into a luxuriant tapestry. Having overcome a number of recent trials (including surgery in December 2012 that left Magness unable to speak for several weeks), the power of Magness' vocal performances on ballads such as "Mountain" and blues rockers like "Who Am I" is even more impressive. Information:

Artist: The Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band
Album: Goin' Home (Concord Records)
You might like if you enjoy: Stevie Ray Vaughan, Warren Haynes, Eric Clapton
Tell me more: Few genres fuse past and present as powerfully as the blues. So it's little surprise that guitar hero Kenny Wayne Shepherd's Goin' Home collection is so flawless in its path that finds his four-man band and some notable friends (including Joe Walsh, Kim Wilson, Warren Haynes, Robert Randolph, Keb' Mo' and even legendary Beatles drummer Ringo Starr) joining in the celebration of many of blues' greatest 20th century icons. Highlights include a spirited take on Willie Dixon's "You Can't Judge a Book by the Cover" (featuring Pastor Brady Blade, Sr. on vocals), a flat out rocking take on Stevie Ray Vaughan's "House Is Rockin'" boasting Shepherd's smoking guitar play and a probing version of Albert King's "Breaking Up Somebody's Home" featuring Haynes. Information:
Purchase 'Goin' Home' here

Robert Kinsler

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