I found myself Rollin’ With The Blues Boss (Stony Plain) over and over again. Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne, 70, is an American master of boogie woogie, R&B, blues and rock ‘n’ roll who’s been living in Vancouver, Canada, for 30 years. He’s Fats Domino crossed with Chuck Berry’s longtime piano player Johnnie Johnson [1924-2005]. The follow-up to his rollicking 2011 CD, An Old Rock On A Roll, this one tickles me pink: “Leavin’ The Morning” is like B.B. King on steroids. “You Bring Out The Jungle In Me” has that funky slide-pump horn section punching up the mix like a monkey in heat (there’s even ape noises in the background). The sweet Diunna Greenleaf trades vocals with him on “Baby It Ain’t You.” Eric Bibb (a brilliant artist who is his generation’s Taj Mahal) sings and picks some acoustic on “Two Sides.” “Ogopogo Boogie” is straight outta New Orleans. “I Can’t Believe It” recalls the sophisticated soul of Bill Withers in his prime. And “Out Like A Bullet” is a fitting ending, a raucous piano/drums boogie fit to mosh or headbang to.
Along with Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Band, The Radiators, NRBQ and the Fabulous Thunderbirds, Little Feat has always been one of my favorite American rock ‘n’ roll bands. That’s why the Eagle Rock Entertainment release of Live In Holland 1976 is cause for singing and dancing in my living room. Never before released, this barnburner has the classic Feats lineup. Singer/songwriter/guitarist Lowell George, who started this band with keyboardist Bill Payne in 1969, after leaving Frank Zappa’s Mothers Of Invention, and who died 10 years later at the age of 34 because his heart just couldn’t take all those damn drugs, is a pure delight. Drummer Richie Hayward [1946-2010], guitarist Paul Barrere, percussionist Sam Clayton and bassist Kenny Gradney kick out the jams on such beloved fare as “Fat Man In A Bathtub,” “Oh Atlanta,” “Dixie Chicken,” “Feats Don’t Fail Me Now,” “Teenage Nervous Breakdown” and more. The second disc is a DVD of the show and, of course, everyone just looks so, so young. Damn, I miss Lowell George. There’s a great scene in the Linda Ronstadt book, Simple Dreams, where Linda wants Lowell to teach her “Willin’” and all he wants to do is pop Quaaludes with her.
Saxophonist Ben Flocks, 24, comes to the New York City jazz scene from his perch on Battle Mountain (self-released) in San Francisco. On his impressive 11-track debut, he reinvents Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright” as a slinky jazz vehicle and the Buena Vista Social Club’s “Murmullo” as pure make-out music. But don’t think this is some boring lite-jazz pap, it’s adventurous, experimental and takes some wide turns into the stratosphere. His own “Boardwalk Boogaloo” is a homage to his West Coast roots as is “Return To Battle Mountain,” an area of giant Redwoods north of Santa Cruz and south of San Francisco. He’s got an earthy instrumental-Americana way about him so his creative reworkings of Leadbelly’s 1947 “Silver City Bound” and the 19th century sea shanty “Shenandoah” make these two cultural touchstones shed their skin to be reborn anew, ripe for repeated listenings. Even the cornball 1940 “Polka Dots And Moonbeams” rises from the John Denver/Tommy Dorsey dead to walk again like a zombie…only this time its coveted melody is beautifully rendered by the Flocks sax which sounds like a human voice. Ditto for the 1929 “Gee Baby Ain’t I Good To You” which everyone from Nat King Cole and Fats Waller to Billie Holiday and The Coasters have recorded, only this time there’s no words. Best of all, though, is his polishing of the 1946 “Tennessee Waltz” chestnut that makes it flower into something more beautiful than it ever was.