Thursday, May 28, 2015

Audio Fidelity To Release B.B. King & Eric Clapton “Riding With The King” On Limited Edition Numbered Hybrid SACD

Although we sadly loss B.B. King earlier this month, his music and legacy live on. Look no further than the forthcoming release of this special release via Audio Fidelity...

Audio Fidelity To Release B.B. King & Eric Clapton “Riding With The King” On Limited Edition Numbered Hybrid SACD

Two Masters Produce a Contemporary Blues Gem!

Camarillo, CA - In honor of the recent passing of blues guitar legend B.B. King, Marshall Blonstein's Audio Fidelity will be releasing B.B. King & Eric Clapton Riding With The King on Limited Hybrid SACD. This SACD should satisfy fans of King, Clapton and blues purists alike. Riding With The King was Eric Clapton's and B.B. King's first collaborative recording and it went on to win the 2000 Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues Album. The album reached #1 on Billboard's Top Blues Albums. 

They first performed together in 1967 when Clapton was 22 and a member of Cream. Clapton looked up to King and had always wanted to make an album with him. At the time of recording Clapton was 55 and King 74. Clapton arranged the session using many of his regular musicians, picked the songs, and co-produced with his partner Simon Climie. While this would appear to be a Clapton album recorded with King, Clapton gave King center-stage.

The set list includes lots of vintage King specialties, “Ten Long Years,” “Three O'Clock Blues,” “Days of Old,” “When My Heart Beats Like a Hammer,” as well as standards like “Hold On I'm Coming” and “Come Rain or Come Shine,” with some specially written and appropriate new material. King takes Clapton deeper into blues territory than he has ever gone alone and these two artists play the blues with conviction. There may never be another album that links the Delta Blues to modern rock with such style, grace, enthusiasm, and honesty.

Blues guitarlst B.B. King at House of Blues in
Anaheim, CA in January 2008.
Photo: Kelly A. Swift
1 Riding With the King
2 Ten Long Years
3 Key to the Highway
4 Marry You
5 Three O'Clock Blues
6 Help the Poor
7 I Wanna Be
8 Worried Life Blues
9 Days of Old
10 When My Heart Beats Like a Hammer
11 Hold On, I'm Coming
12 Come Rain or Come Shine

Produced by Eric Clapton, Simon Climie
Mastered by Steve Hoffman at Stephen Marsh Mastering

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Music Worth Buying album reviews: Alabama Shakes & Blur

B.B. King remembered: my first review of the artist

The recent death of B.B. King has continued to resonate, including news today that his death is being investigated as a homicide:

I first saw B.B. King in early 1993. when I reviewed that concert in Santa Ana, CA for The Orange County Register, and am re posting my Wednesday, January 13, 1993 review here:

King proves he's not done being blue

By Robert Kinsler

Published: WED, 1/13/1993

While the rain poured down outside Tuesday night, B.B. King dished out plenty of musical crying inside before a standing-room-only crowd packed in at the Rhythm Cafe in Santa Ana.

The famed singer, guitarist and composer 
 a native of Mississippi who made his recording debut back in 1949  proved he isn't ready yet to hang up his beloved Gibson named Lucille.

Dishing out blues throughout a gracious 11-song set in his first concert (he also played a second show at the club later in the evening), King showcased his distinctive singing and guitar style that have been a major force on the American blues scene for three decades.

Backed by a tight eight-member band, King alternated between rollicking, uptempo numbers and slower, more melodic jams.

He won over the crowd with his personable wit and charming smile. Throughout the night, he would frequently cup his hands to his ears to get applause for the other members of his group.

But mostly it was his black six-string guitar that did the talking.

In one solo after another, whether performing the rocking "Let the Good Times Roll" or more traditional slow-paced numbers, King demonstrated that his skills on the guitar are undiminished.

A crowd of young and old cheered King from the beginning. In fact, when he came out he was greeted by a standing ovation.

After finishing his final and most powerful song of the set, "The Thrill is Gone," King stood at the end of the stage and signed autographs for the dozens of fans who rushed the stage.

Leon Warren's rhythm guitar playing added fire to King's playing throughout the set.

The concert was an experience and sight not likely to be quickly forgotten.

Opening act A.J. Croce, a pianist, singer and son of the late Jim Croce, who also favors the blues, started out slowly but gained momentum as his set went along.

While he and his backing band sounded like nothing special in the opening song, "Smoking Good Time," Croce and company turned things around by the third tune.

"Which Way, Steinway," an original Croce number describing having to perform a show without a piano, was an especially musical number that fused jazz and swing styles.

In "Keep on Looking," he used the blues medium to sing of the pratfalls of rushing into marriage.
Who: B.B. King Where: Rhythm Cafe in Santa Ana Background: The legendary blues guitarist performed two shows Tuesday night. 

Neil Young + Promise of the Real coming in June

It's always a good day when Neil Young announces another is a media release that landed in my inbox today.


May 26, 2015 - (Burbank, CA.) - Neil Young + Promise of the Real have joined forces and will release a new studio album, entitled The Monsanto Yearson June 29, 2015 via Reprise Records.

The ecologically/environmentally-focused album will be released via all retailers and in the Neil Young Official Online StoreThe Monsanto Years will be available in a special CD + DVD package, vinyl, iTunes, and PonoMusic high-resolution audio. The vinyl package will be released in August. Actual date to be announced shortly. Pre-orders begin today, May 26, 2015. Click here to pre-order.
Beginning today, those who pre-order The Monsanto Years, will instantly receive downloads of two brand new tracks from the album: "Big Box" and "A Rock Star Bucks A Coffee Shop."   You can view the video for "A Rock Star Bucks A Coffee Shop" right now at
For this guitar-centric, full steam-ahead and highly-charged rock album, Young is joined by Promise of the Real, an LA-based rock band fronted by Lukas Nelson (vocals/guitar), along with Micah Nelson (guitar, vocals), Anthony Logerfo (drums), Corey McCormick (bass) and Tato Melgar (percussion). They have performed with their father, Willie Nelson, and Young on previous occasions. For the first time, they recorded together and will now tour under the banner of the Rebel Content Tour. For further information on Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, visit:
The Rebel Content Tour featuring Young + Promise of the Real will hit the road kicking off July 5 at Milwaukee Summer Fest.
As previously mentioned, along with every ticket purchased online for Neil Young, you will receive your choice of the CD + DVD package or digital editions of The Monsanto Years.  You will receive instructions via email on how to redeem your album on June 29.  Offer is not valid for festival dates.  Tickets are on sale now.
The Monsanto Years TRACK LISTING:
1. A New Day For Love
2. Wolf Moon
3. People Want To Hear About Love
4. Big Box
5. A Rock Star Bucks A Coffee Shop
6. Workin' Man
7. Rules Of Change
8. Monsanto Years
9. If I Don't Know

The Monsanto Years DVD TRACK LISTING:
1. Big Box
2. A Rock Star Bucks A Coffee Shop
3. Rules Of Change
4. Workin' Man
5. Monsanto Years
6. A New Day For Love
7. Wolf Moon
8. People Want To Hear About Love
9. If I Don't Know

Rebel Content Tour dates:
Sun       July 5                Milwaukee Summer Fest                       Milwaukee, WI
Wed      July 8                Red Rocks                                             Denver, CO
Thurs    July 9                Red Rocks                                             Denver, CO
Sat        July 11              Pinnacle Bank Arena                             Lincoln, NE
Mon      July 13              Riverbend Music Center                        Cincinnati, OH        
Tues     July 14              DTE Energy Music Theatre                   Clarkston, MI
Thurs    July16               Susquehanna Bank Center                   Camden, NJ
Fri         July 17              Bethel Woods Center for the Arts         Bethel, NY
Sun       July 19              Champlain Valley Expo                        Essex Junction, VT
Tues     July 21              Jones Beach                                         Wantagh, NY
Wed      July 22              Xfinity Center                                        Great Woods, MA
Fri         July 24              Wayhome Festival                                Oro-Medonte, Canada

The Rebel Content Tour will be an event Not-To-Be-Missed.
# # #

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Music Worth Buying: U2's 'Songs of Innocence' - time to rediscover the album again?

Now that U2 is underway with its acclaimed Innocence & Experience Tour it is the perfect time to check in with our in-depth review of Songs of Innocence that we posted when the album was released last year:

And if you want to here our review of the deluxe edition's (disc 2) tracks, watch the episode below:

U2 thrills capacity crowd in Phoenix

U2 performing "Even Better Than the Real Thing" on "in Phoenix on May 22. 
Photo: Robert Kinsler
U2  no other band has ever worked so hard for so long to remain relevant. And as the Irish quartet proved in the first of two sold-out concerts at US Airways Center in Phoenix on Friday night (May 22), the 39-years-young foursome remains rock's reigning heavyweight (sorry Mick).

U2's fusion of mind-blowing technological stage and dazzling state-of-the-art suspended sound system, and catalog matched by only a few Rock and Roll Hall of Famers tell only part of the story. The band's ability to touch, inspire and dream is also a part of any great U2 concert experience, and that is exactly what greeted the faithful for 140 glorious minutes in the Valley of the Sun. Casual concertgoers got a great show too (even if many of them only saw it via their smart phones).

The design of U2's current Innocence & Experience Tour is impressive, from a ceiling-mounted sound design that brings equal clarity throughout the arena to a catwalk that runs the length of the venue with the band featured at various times on both ends and on a long catwalk. There is also a suspended gigantic projection screen that doubles as a footbridge where the band members perform while fusing their performance with images further empowering the songs. It all worked flawlessly in Phoenix.

 U2 in action in Phoenix. Photo: Kim Kinsler
But all the futuristic theatrics and glitz wouldn't mean a thing without good music and, of course, U2 also had that covered. Opening with the spirited "The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)" off the band's latest album Songs of Innocence (count yours truly as one who appreciated iTunes' gift last year), it was clear a strong-voiced and energetic Bono has mostly recovered from a serious November 2014 bicycle accident. That song  a reflection on the band's connection with its own past and falling in love with rock  was the perfect salvo to launch an opening half that celebrated U2's beginnings. "The Electric Co." (which was among the highlights at U2's set at the US Festival 32 years ago, the first time I caught the band live) was next, a high-octane post-punk anthem with Larry Mullen Jr. and Adam Clayton powering the rhythm section, while The Edge's soaring guitar work sounded crisp; Bono then recalled those early days of U2, blending a part of Judy Collins' "Send in the Clowns"  and The Who's "I Can See For Miles" into the song. The band's first big success, "I Will Follow," was also featured early in the set.

Because the band's latest album is focused on their past (specifically the north side of Dublin in the 1970s), new material filled the beginnings-minded first half. Walking out on the catwalk, Bono delivered his single best vocal of the night with the beautiful "Iris," a bittersweet song written for his mother (who died when he was 14 after suffering a cerebral aneurysm at her father's funeral). While he sang the song, images of stars soon gave way to photos and home movies of his late mother. Things then grew more intense as the band roared into "Cedarwood Road," a rocker that had Bono walking inside the suspended screen against artistic images of his Dublin youth while the Edge powered his electric guitar and moved below.

A heartfelt version of "Song for Someone" (written by Bono for his wife Ali) and stripped down "Sunday Bloody Sunday" were other early highlights. Even better was "Until the End of the World," where U2 ended the first half with a blistering performance enhanced by visuals of the four performing in a raging sea.

U2 performs "Invisible" in Phoenix. Photo: Robert Kinsler
While songs throughout the generous concert often segued into each other, every song was its own statement. "Invisible," which opened the second half, had all four members performing inside the suspended screen with their images coming in and out of view; "Even Better Than the Real Thing" not only had many in the crowd moving to the beat but found the band members performing amidst larger-than-life projected images of themselves (irony galore!). But there were moments of simplicity too; a raw semi-acoustic "Desire" was just as memorable and featured Bono blowing on his blues harmonica.

The only exception to the concert's perfect arc was when the band invited a fan up to play acoustic guitar on "In God's Country." The fan was overzealous and kept wanting to first hug the band members and then run around without regard for the performance. It was funny when the fan tried to approach Mullen; the drummer held up his drum sticks like a cross (as if Peter Cushing was warning off Christopher Lee's Dracula) and successfully warded off the crazed fan ("I want to thank our friend from Colorado," Bono said after the fan left the stage. "Ritalin is also good").

The incredible thing about the performance was the blend of huge special effects and intimate moments that connected 21st century U2 with the quartet's early '80s selves. Edge playing sparse piano while Bono sang the gorgeous "Every Breaking Wave"; a poignant "The Hands That Built America" flowing into a rousing "Pride (In the Name Of Love)"; a stunning "Beautiful Day" where the band performed while Earth was seen at night from orbit rotating above them. The house lights grew bright as the audience joined Bono in singing robustly along for "With or Without You," images of angelic Joshua Trees illuminated on the big screen.

U2's encore continued to provide waves of magic, from the sparkling "City of Blinding Lights" and faithful "Where the Streets Have No Name" to the gospel-tinged night ending "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For."

"Why are we still here?" Bono rhetorically asked the crowd toward the end of the fast-moving night. "I think you answered the question tonight. There's still so much new for us to do."

Setlist at US Airways on Friday night, May 22, 2015:

Main Set: 
The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone) 
The Electric Co. / Send In The Clowns (snippet) / I Can See For Miles (snippet)
I Will Follow
Iris (Hold Me Close)
Cedarwood Road
Song For Someone
Sunday Bloody Sunday
Raised By Wolves
Until The End Of The World

Second Set:
Even Better Than The Real Thing
Mysterious Ways / Young Americans (snippet)
In God's Country
Sweetest Thing
Every Breaking Wave
Bullet The Blue Sky 
The Hands That Built America (snippet) / Pride (In The Name Of Love)
Beautiful Day
Bad / Moment Of Surrender (snippet)
With Or Without You

City Of Blinding Lights
Mother And Child Reunion / Where The Streets Have No Name
I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For

Robert Kinsler

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Sights and Sounds: The Stray Cats, Claire Holley, von Grey

Fans of The Stray Cats, Claire Holley and von Grey will be excited with today's roundup of news releases posted here…

Stray Cats "Live At Rockpalast" 
DVD and DVD / 2CD set available on July 7th

The icons of neo-rockabilly, captured at their best in two amazing 
'81 and '83 Rockpalast concerts... Young, raw, and wild!

Every era has its heroes and every scene has its legends. The 80's had the Stray Cats and today they are the indisputable icons of neo-rockabilly. 

When the US trio stormed the top of the charts in their adopted country of England, punk still reigned supreme in the United Kingdom. But Brian Setzer, Slim Jim Phantom and Lee Rocker brought that certain something that the mo-hawked men also had: a feeling for danger and rebellion. Impressive footage of this time includes two performances in Germany: one in 1981 in Cologne and one in 1983 at the Loreley that were recorded by WDR. These are genuine recordings that make the trio's sound still accessible today. Both concerts are released here for the first time in the best possible quality and with a superb sound on DVD and CD. The Stray Cats will come to life at home just as they were at their best: young, raw and wild!
Brian Setzer, today a "statesman" of rockabilly and a many times platinum seller, works passionately as he struck the strings on the stage of the Cologne Satory Halls. He was a "rebel without a cause," similar to the young James Dean. But this guitarist has a desire: he wants to bring Rock n' Roll back to life. He wants to play his guitar as Eddie Cochran did. No question that he has succeeded; he is still loved for this today and this is why he is the first guitarist after the legendary Chet Atkins to have his own signature Gretsch model.

The Stray Cats aren't only made up of Setzer with his phenomenal guitar playing and his powerful vocals. Lee Rocker and Slim Jim Phantom are responsible for their special sound, too: Phantom's simple drumming became an example for rockabilly drummers worldwide and his wild screams in the songs belong to Stray Cats exactly as Brian Setzer's licks and Lee Rocker's clattering bass do. He treated his instrument like a lover or like monkeybars on which he did gymnastics. The bad boy attitude was internalized by the "street cats."

Both concerts also underline how rapidly Stray Cats' career progressed. Between both recordings were full worlds. In 1981 they were young rockers and by 1983 they had become full-fledged rock stars and known as tender teddy boys in part of the scene. The band rocked the mixed audience and were even honored by their discoverer Dave Edmunds. Next to Stray Cats were acts such as U2, Joe Cocker and Steve Miller.

The influence Stray Cats had on music and fashion is in hindsight undeniable. Where would psychobilly legends such as Meteors or Demented are Go!, who were founded as a counter movement to rockabilly, be today? Would the sound of the 50s still be so popular today if the Stray Cats had not brought it back to life in the 80s?

Classics like as "Stray Cat Strut," "Runaway Boys," "Rumble in Brighton," and "Rock This Town" will live forever through these two concert recordings.

Pre-order at Amazon


Loreley, August 20th 1983:
1. Baby Blue Eyes 03:41
2. Double Talkin' Baby 03:37
3. Rumble In Brighton 04:11
4. Drink That Bottle Down 05:26
5. Something Is Wrong With My Radio 02:39
6. Built For Speed 06:30
7. Look At That Cadillac 04:25
8. Runaway Boy 03:46
9. Lonely Summer Nights 04:22
10. Too Hip, Gotta Go 02:39
11. Stray Cats Strut 05:42
12. She's Sexy And 17 04:40
13. Banjo Time 
(Foggy Mountain Breakdown) 02:16
14. The Race Is On 02:14
15. Tear It Up 04:03
16. Oh Boy 03:03
17. Rock This Town 06:50

Cologne, July.16th 1981
1. Sweet Love On My Mind 03:58
2. Double Talkin' Baby 03:37
3. Rumble In Brighton 03:34
4. My One Desire 04:38
5. Ubangi Stomp 04:16
6. Drink That Bottle Down 05:34
7. Storm The Embassy 05:05
8. Stray Cats Strut 04:09
9. Fishnet Stockings 02:48
10. Important Words 04:32
11. Rock This Town 08:28
12. Runaway Boy 04:40
13. Sometin' Else 04:45
14. Gonna Ball 04:14

CD 1, Loreley, August 20th 1983:
1. Baby Blue Eyes 03:41
2. Double Talkin' Baby 03:37
3. Rumble In Brighton 04:11
4. Drink That Bottle Down 05:26
5. Something Is Wrong With My Radio 02:39
6. Built For Speed 06:30
7. Look At That Cadillac 04:25
8. Runaway Boy 03:46
9. Lonely Summer Nights 04:22
10. Too Hip, Gotta Go 02:39
11. Stray Cats Strut 05:42
12. She's Sexy And 17 04:40
13. Banjo Time 
(Foggy Mountain Breakdown) 02:16
14. The Race Is On 02:14
15. Tear It Up 04:03
16. Oh Boy 03:03
17. Rock This Town 06:50
CD 1 total run time: 70:33

CD 2, Cologne, July.16th 1981
1. Sweet Love On My Mind 03:58
2. Double Talkin' Baby 03:37
3. Rumble In Brighton 03:34
4. My One Desire 04:38
5. Ubangi Stomp 04:16
6. Drink That Bottle Down 05:34
7. Storm The Embassy 05:05
8. Stray Cats Strut 04:09
9. Fishnet Stockings 02:48
10. Important Words 04:32
11. Rock This Town 08:28
12. Runaway Boy 04:40
13. Sometin' Else 04:45
14. Gonna Ball 04:14
CD 2 total run time: 64:27

Claire Holley to release 'Time in the Middle' on June 2

A native Mississippian now living in Los Angeles, Claire Holley began performing and writing songs in college, but released her first recordings while living in North Carolina. She began getting regular airplay on WUNC's "Back Porch Music," and her self-titled debut from Yep Roc Records was featured on NPR's Weekend Edition. A move to the west coast followed and, soon after, she began collaborating with directors on their film and play projects. Holley has released seven records, and her Powdercoat ep, a collaboration with Kristin Mooney, won the 2014 "Best in Popular Music" from the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters-Huffington Post called it "one of the year's loveliest recordings." A tasteful vocalist and guitar player, Claire is an engaging performer and has sung at Merlefest, Mountain Stage, The Oxford American music series and a host of listening rooms around the country. Holley's forthcoming solo album, Time in the Middle, will be released June 2, 2015.  

For more information:

Von Grey's 'Panophobia' EP set for release on August 14, 2015

Lead Single “Katie” Is Out May 12

Panophobia, the new EP from von Grey, will be released on Friday, August 14. Produced by Dan Hannon (Manchester Orchestra, A Rocket to the Moon), Panophobia is von Grey’s most raw and urgent offering to date. See below for track listing. The six-track EP follows 2014’s Awakening, praised by PopMatters as “strange, ethereal pop music, unencumbered by genre,” and 2012’s von Grey, which landed the alt-indie band bookings on “Late Show with David Letterman” and “Conan” and prompted Daytrotter to say, “They take our breath away.”

Bringing a fierce yet tender edge to their luminous harmonies, von Grey spins a story of unreciprocated longing on the EP’s first single, “Katie,” which will be released on May 12. The lyric video for “Katie” can be viewed HERE

von Grey – made up of sisters Annika (vocals, violin, guitar, keys), Fiona (vocals, guitar, violin, percussion), Petra (keys, electronic percussion, background vocals) and Kathryn (cello, bass pedals, keys, background vocals) – will be touring widely in support of Panophobia. Summer tour dates will be announced soon. The Atlanta-based band has toured nationally with the Indigo Girls, Lindsey Stirling, Ron Pope and Rusted Root, among others, and performed at such festivals as Bonnaroo, Austin City Limits, SXSW, Gathering of the Vibes and Shaky Knees.

While the EP’s title means “fear of everything” and reflects “the theme of insecurity or uncertainty threaded throughout the songs,” as Annika explains, Panophobia in fact represents von Grey’s bold and undaunted progression into new sonic terrain. “In making the EP, we really broke our patterns and worked with different sounds and textures that viscerally connected with us,” Annika says. 

To create Panophobiavon Grey’s main songwriters, Annika and Fiona, employed a stream-of-consciousness approach to songwriting that compelled them toward everything from exploration of the insidious nature of mental illness (on “Cyclical Dreams”) to esoteric meditations on the forces of light and dark (on “Phengophobia,” whose title means “fear of daylight”). Both lyrically ambitious and sonically eclectic, Panophobishifts from the stark “Forever Bound” (a haunting track laced with delicate piano work that captures the pain of losing a loved one to suicide) to the gloriously swirling and beat-driven “Reborn” to the sensually charged “Say My Name.”

Panophobia - Track Listing

1. Phengophobia
2. Cyclical Dreams
3. Katie
4. Forever Bound
5. Say My Name
6. Reborn

2015 Doheny Blues Festival delivers on all fronts

The death of blues music great B.B. King just days before the arrival of the 18th edition of the Doheny Blues Festival meant that the annual celebration in Dana Point, CA would likely find a number of performers offering fitting tributes to the King of the Blues.
That proved to be the case throughout the two-day festival (May 16-17, 2015) with just about every performer either acknowledging Riley B. King or even covering (or dedicating) a song in his honor. Not only was King rightfully considered "The King of the Blues," he had performed at the Doheny Blues Festival three times in the past - most recently in May 2009 (You can read my Orange County Register review of King's set at the 12th edition of Doheny Blues Fest here).
Bonnie Raitt at Doheny Blues
Festival in Dana Point.
Photo: Bob Steshetz
Headliner Bonnie Raitt and her long-time band offered one of the event’s most heartfelt tributes during their outstanding headlining set on the main Doheny Stage on Sunday night. Playing a two-song tribute, keyboardist Mike Finnigan recalled his participation in a King recording session two decades ago and how special that was before leading the ensemble through a high-powered “I've Got News For You.”
Then Raitt took over lead vocals on a song that both she and King have each featured in their live shows, the spirited Chicago blues rocker “Never Make Your Move Too Soon.” Raitt’s spicy lead vocals and slide work anchored the performance, but there was a swelling point where Finnigan and guitarist George Marinelli did a tandem solo section capturing the unspoken sentiment of the sadness of King’s departure mixed with the joy that he gave so much in his amazing career.
Raitt’s full 90-minute performance was a triumph, in part because of her enduring talents as a singer and slide guitarist, but also for her unique gifts as an artist able to interpret great songs. I caught all or part of 19 sets over the two-day fest and few moments were as powerful as her tender renditions of John Prine’s “Angel From Montgomery,” “I Can't Make You Love Me” (penned by Mike Reid and Allen Shamblin) and “Dimming of the Day” (a Richard Thompson song she dedicated to her late brother Steve).

Although Raitt's set was the final one to play out over the 18th edition of the Doheny Blues Festival, it proved to be just one of many memorable appearances to play out on the three stages along the shores of the Pacific Ocean at beautiful Doheny State Beach.

Saturday, May 16, 2015
Paul Rodgers headlines day 1.
Photo: Bob Steshetz
The legendary rocker Paul Rodgers headlined on the Doheny Stage on the first day of the event, performing a 90-minute set that covered his 45-year career in spades. Armed with loads of hits, a life-long appreciation of the blues that gave birth to Free, Bad Company and The Firm, Rodgers brought all those elements together during his set. With Rock and Roll Hall of Fame guitarist Howard Leese (of Heart fame) by his side and a solid rhythm section in tow, the set couldn't have been stronger. Rodgers has long since recognized that the enduring power of his songs is rooted in their connection with the audience, so his live performances thrive on sing-along crowds like the great one on hand in Dana Point. While it's no surprise fans were screaming along with Bad Company rockers like "Can't Get Enough," "Shooting Star" and "Feel Like Makin' Love," what was more impressive were the moments when the audience dove head first in singing along with little or not prompting during "Run With the Pack" and "Burnin' Sky."

Rodgers also celebrated the release of his most recent album (2014's "The Royal Sessions") with a potent performance of "Born Under a Bad Sign," a Memphis blues song that allowed the 65-years-young singer to showcase his amazing pipes. Rodgers' fast-moving set closed with a rousing version of the Free classic "All Right Now" and a British blues-drenched take on the T-Bone Walker classic "Stormy Monday."

Rodgers' impressive first-time appearance at Doheny was icing on the cake for Saturday concertgoers; the day had featured a number of fine performances on all three stages. Shari Puorto had kicked things off before noon on the Backporch, blending blues and funk while backed by a solid four-man band. An early highlight was "Out Of My Mind," a Texas-styled uptempo number where she got out onto the tables to get the party started on a high note.

The early afternoon was bolstered by strong outings from Swedish outfit Trickbag (experts on extolling Chicago blues) on the Sailor Jerry Stage, and then Eric Lindell teaming with Texas guitar great Anson Funderburgh offering up more than an hour of great blues on the Backporch. I only caught a bit of the North Mississippi Allstars, but was fully impressed with the group's high-octane slide-guitar blues. 

Those artists set the stage for some of the heavy hitters, including Los Lobos, whose understated approach doesn't always provide a great display at a big outdoor concert setting. The group's decision not to play their biggest hits  namely "Will the Wolf Survive?" and their cover of "La Bamba" - was also puzzling. Still, music lovers had to be pleased with the East Los Angeles-spawned troupe's '50s styled rocker "Evangeline" and the Southern-fried blues gem "Kiko and the Lavender Moon."
Guitarist Eddie Perez of The Mavericks.
Photo: Robert Kinsler

In addition to Rodgers' night-ending set, my favorite appearance on day one was The Mavericks. Although the band's sound touches on the blues, the Mavericks' sound is rich in an eclectic brew that includes Americana, Latin, folk, Tex-Mex and rockabilly. No matter how one might describe the band, the Mavericks delivered an incredible 75-minute performance on the Jerry Sailor stage. 

Featuring material off their two most recent LPs (2013's "In Time" and 2015's "Mono"), singer-rhythm guitarist Raul Malo, lead guitarist Eddie Perez and keyboardist Jerry Dale McFadden led the band through standouts such as the instantly-infectious "What You Do To Me" and "Back in Your Arms Again" early on, with latter-half classics such as an amazing cover of Roy Orbison's "Blue Bayou" and rousing "Dance in the Moonlight" thrilling new and long-time fans - many of whom (like yours truly) who were on their feet for the entire set. 

Sunday, May 17, 2015
Brandon "Taz" Niederauer proved he is already among the blues
brightest young stars. Photo: Bob Steshetz
In addition to the aforementioned Raitt, there were two other Sunday sets that were as powerful, both playing out on the Sailor Jerry Stage. An early afternoon set by Otis Taylor was powerful from start to finish, highlighted by the explosive power of Taylor's four-member band (featuring outstanding fiddler Anne Harris) and 12-year-old guest Brandon “Taz” Niederauer (who simply amazed everyone in the crowd). The young New York guitarist delivered artful, speedy and powerful rhythm and lead guitar work throughout the 65-minute set. Hypnotic versions of “Hey Joe,” “Red Meat” and the explosive “Rain So Hard” were among the songs where Taylor, “Taz” and the musicians thrilled a crowd packed in front of the stage.
Equally powerful was the return of brothers Dave and Phil Alvin (who last performed here with the Blasters’ original lineup in 2011), this time able to feature a batch of new songs thanks to the release of their 2014 collection “Common Ground: Dave Alvin & Phil Alvin Play and Sing the Songs of Big Bill Broonzy.” Sure enough, the brothers performed a number of gems from that collection as well as the playful “What's Up With Your Brother” (off Dave’s 2011 solo album “Eleven Eleven”) and the Blasters’ staple “Marie, Marie.”
Boz Scaggs at Doheny.
Photo: Bob Steshetz
Delivering solid sets that nevertheless didn’t rise to the level of the day's best were blue-eyed soul soft-rocker Boz Scaggs (making his best showing with an energetic “Lido Shuffle”) and blues-rocker Beth Hart (displaying her strong soprano on “Might As Well Smile”).
Doheny Blues Festival is always a place where fans can catch a wide-ranging field of artists who cover the genre’s far corners. On Sunday, Chicago blues lovers got excellent turns from Big Jon Atkinson and the Nationals, and Lurrie Bell. Austin singer-guitarist Carolyn Wonderland performed her affecting Texas blues-rock brew on the Backporch Stage, while a little later the Rebirth Brass Band brought a New Orleans-styled party to the main Doheny Stage.

You can more details about the 2015 Doheny Blues Festival via writer George A. Paul's review posted on his Music Minded blog here.