Rant ‘N’ Roll: Blues Festival

In 1965, a generation of British rock bands took to American blues to revitalize the genre into something exciting and new…at least to this 14-year-old Jersey kid’s ears. I honestly cannot say that I was hip enough to be listening to Muddy Waters or Howling Wolf back then, but I certainly latched on (maybe it took until I was 15 or 16, I can’t remember) to the Animals, Stones, Kinks, John Mayall & His Bluesbreakers, Yardbirds and Savoy Brown, all of whom played the blues with a rockin’ twist. (By ’68, even Jethro Tull and San Francisco’s Santana considered themselves blues bands but that’s another story.) Interestingly enough, a high percentage of the musicians who populated those bands are still with us today.

Kim Simmonds is the sole original member of Savoy Brown. The eminently likeable hotshot guitarist and singer now fronts the 982nd version of Savoy Brown. That may be an exaggeration but—with bassist Pat DeSalvo and drummer Garnet Grimm—he’s released Goin’ To The Delta (Ruf). Officially it’s now Kim Simmonds & Savoy Brown and this is his 34,598th album. Just joking, it’s his 34th, by my count, and even that number could probably be disputed.

Point is, he’s learned his Chicago lessons well. Primal, blunt, rockin’ and wholly satisfying, Goin’ To The Delta could just as easily have been called Shuffles, Boogies & Blues. This is a guy who has shared stages with Hendrix and Clapton. The last studio album, Voodoo Moon, was in 2011. (There was a live album, Songs From The Road, in 2012, from which he kept bassist DeSalvo and drummer Grimm.)

By 1979, Simmonds had left his native London to move to the U.S. (“The punks were everywhere!”) Currently on tour in the States, if you get a chance to see this wizened, emboldened road warrior, 67, do so. There’s something to be said for longevity.


Patti Parks is a hot blues mama from Buffalo, NY whose stage show, I’ve been told, is sexy, soulful and struttin’ to the point of Memphis uplift, Chicago swagger and New Orleans joyousness. Some of that is bottled up to go on the self-released Cheat’n Man (pattiparks.com), nine scintillating slices of blue-eyed R&B, balladry, funk and, of course, the down-home dirty cheatin’ blues. Guy Nirelli is the talented producer/composer who takes a wide palette of sound—including Hammond B-3 organ, piano, guitar, bass, drums and cello—to create an entertaining nine-track showcase for this firebrand of a singer.


Lisa Biales is the Belle Of The Blues (Big Song Music) and she’s got a wealth of back-up: guitarist Tommy Talton (Dickey Betts), keyboardist Randall Bramblett (Steve Winwood) and drummer Bill Stewart (Gregg Allman) are all seasoned pros. Recorded in Macon, Georgia, this 11-track doozy ups the ante on her 2012 Just Like Honey CD by tackling Memphis Minnie (“In My Girlish Days”) and Bessie Smith (“Baby Won’t You Please Come Home”).


Bluesoul (self-released) by Terry Gillespie has the guitarist finally recording an all-blues affair after basically being Canada’s equivalent of Mark Knopfler or maybe JJ Cale, a roots hero for over 40 years. He has a talking-style of singing that fits his loose easy-going personality, sorta like early Dylan, but when he gets going, like on the musical question “What Would Bo Diddley Do,” dude can rock. Recorded live at a Toronto church, Bluesoul is just that, 13 rootsy evocations with stunning guitar work on songs that exhibit a world-weary cynicism tempered by an innate optimism (depending upon the tune). In song after song, especially “The Devil Likes To Win” and “My Tipitina,” a deep groove is established that just feels so good, you want to play it over and over.