Rant’n’Roll: Blues Challenge, Geographical Jazz, Canadian Americana, Organ Grinder Swing, Confessional Pop, Electronica & A Tragic Legend Mike Greenblatt February 1, 2017 Columns The Blues Foundation started its annual International Blues Challenge (IBC) in 1984. In 2016 alone, 257 acts took that challenge. Ultimately, nine acts fill this IBC #32, with performances held on Beale Street last year in Memphis Jan. 28-30. The Paul Deslauriers Band—representing the Montreal Blues Society—kicks it off with their hungry original rocker “I’m A Man.” Ben Hunter and Joe Seamons—representing the Washington Blues Society—close things out with “Black Sheep Moan,” a delicious mash-up of the traditional “Black Sheep Blues” and Pigmeat Terry’s 1935 “Moaning The Blues.” In between are all sorts of delights, the highlight being Sonny Moorman’s “You Make All My Blues Come True” (Cincinnati). Kudos to my man Associate Producer Frank Roszak, one of few hero folks out there who single-handedly help to keep the blues alive in this country via his work with dozens of independent artists. * Ten CDs into the type of career that legends are made of, trombone man Michael Dease ups the ante on his terrific 2016 Father Figure. All These Hands (Posi-Tone Records) traces the history and geographical journey of jazz and blues throughout the United States starting, of course, in New Orleans with “Creole Country.” All 12 tracks take on the personality of their respective locales. “Delta City Crossroads” is Mississippi with Randy Napoleon’s guitar crying in the night. “Benny’s Bounce” recalls “Along Came Betty” by Philadelphia’s own Benny Golson. “Black Bottom Banter” takes its cue from Detroit where Motor City bassist Rodney Whitaker bumps up his action with a slide! “Downtown Chi-Town” is where oh so many families migrated for work, and Steve Wilson’s flute, Renee Rosnes’ piano and a double-sax front-line work hard for this occasion. “Brooklyn,” Washington DC (“Chocolate City”), Georgia/South Carolina (“Gullah Ring Shout”) and “Memphis BBQ & Fish Fry” all get their due. Great Premise. Even greater execution. * Here’s One For The Money by Ginger St. James on Busted Flat Records. Her voice is like an echo of the past that filters traditional Patsy, Loretta and Tammy with Brenda Lee, Bonnie Raitt and Wanda Jackson. She wrote eight and does her lead guitarist Snow Heel Slim’s “Slim’s Jig.” It’s a rousing Americana affair despite her Canadian status. You can call it North Americana. Her sextet is smooth sailin’ yet can rock. Her writing is autobiographical and gritty what with “Somebody Shot Me,” “Honeymoon Stage” and “Hair of the Blackdog” standing out. It’s a bluesy roots-rock country-fest. * How ‘bout a little Skronky Tonk (Ellersoul Records) by Little Charlie and Organ Grinder Swing? Little Charlie Baty usually fronts his Nightcats blues combo but, hey, the swing is in him, and it’s gotta come out, so consider this his trio dream project where the composer gets to really swing hard on some Django Reinhardt (“Nuages”), Charlie Christian (“Swing To Bop”), Erroll Garner (“Misty”) and Benny Goodman (“Flyin’ Home”) while also writing three originals in the styles of his forebears. Tough to pick a highlight here but on “Pennies From Heaven” (first heard in 1936 by Bing Crosby from the movie of the same name), Lorenzo Farrell’s Hamond B-3 spills every which way, moved by J. Hansen’s drums and Little Charlie’s fluid guitar. Highly Recommended. * Gina Sicilia is on Sunset Avenue (Blue Elan Records) singing four originals and one classic 1962 Bert Berns song (“Tell Him” by The Exciters). Short, sweet and soulful, like the Philadelphia singer herself, this EP, her sixth release, channels her restless wanderlust as her songs veer towards sadness. Opening with “Abandoned,” she sings “love can come like the wind in Kansas then it runs swift as a bandit.” In “I Cried,” she sings “fear is on my shoulders/worry is on my mind/nothing else that I can do but cry cry cry.” To close, in “They Never Pay Me,” she asks, “why do they have to be so cruel to me?” In “Never Gonna End,” she bemoans “blood’s being shed/heart is on the mend/this hole that we’re in is growing deeper/I’m scared to know where we will go ‘cause this battle we’re in is never gonna end.” If Gina Sicilia ever stops feeling sorry for herself, her artistry just might be diminished. * Michael Lake’s The Electrik Project Volume #1 is a self-released, self-produced, self-written and self-performed work. Lake plays alto trombone and keyboards, programs synthesizers and is responsible for “sound design.” The two covers are “Show Me” (the 2015 electronica hit by Alina Baraz & Galimatias) and Eddie Jefferson’s 1952 “Moody’s Mood For Love” (with saxophonist Bill Lieski playing the role of James Moody) but this isn’t your daddy’s jazz record. Purists might scoff at this being found in the jazz section of your local record store. Still, if you heard Lake’s version of Tangerine Dream’s “Love On A Real Train” (from his 2014 Roads Less Traveled), it was only a matter of time before he did a whole album of like-minded futuristic instrumental music so cool. * Don Rich was the Guitar Pickin’ Man (Omnivore Recordings) who joined Buck Owens & The Buckeroos in 1960. He could play it straight-ahead country (“Aw Heck”), Brazilian (“Bossa Nova Buckaroo Style”), Spanish (“Ensaenada”) or country-rock (“Chicken Pickin’’). He could sing a traditional country weeper like “Number One Heel” fit to break your heart. His star was rising fast when, on the night of July 17, 1974, he perished while riding his motorcycle. He was 33. This compact 18-track 40:39 proves he coulda-woulda-shoulda been another Chet Atkins. It’s a keeper. Leave a Reply Cancel Reply Your email address will not be published.CommentName* Email* Website Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.