Living Blues Living Blues #235 : Page 52

new releases WILLIE J. LAWS BAND Cornbread Moan No label -(No #) Guitarist Willie J. Laws was born and raised in Taft, Texas, a small town near the Gulf Coast just north of Corpus Christi. Although his musical travels have taken him to his current Massachusetts home by way of Louisiana, Nevada and California, he continues to keep one foot in the Texas music scene through his work with the super-conjunto, Los Texmaniacs. This CD is further proof that he hasn’t strayed far from his musical roots. Fronting his tight working band with Bruce Mattson on piano, Malcolm Stuckey on bass and Osi Brathwaite on drums, Laws properly honors two of his main influences with adept covers of Freddy King on Boogie Man and Phillip Walker on Brother Go Ahead and Take Her . Echoes of Texas also resonate on the title track (Doug Sahm) and Too Much Blues (Z.Z. Hill), as well as on Terry Canales’ Smuggler , a remarkable ode to the cats from south Texas (“some of the best in the business”) as they sweat the checkpoints in Sarita, Falfurrias and Hebbronville on their runs from Brownsville to San Antonio. Beyond Texas, the closing Wake Up Moses finds Laws in New Orleans, both lyrically and musi-cally, with only composer Mattson’s piano in support; Love Letters owes something to the Stones’ Miss You and Something’s Wrong is a tribute to the late K.D. Bell, longtime a fixture on the Massachusetts blues scene. Oddly, the disc’s penultimate track is absent from the track listings—it’s a downbeat number that logically would be titled Let Me Lose My Blues . Despite his change of residence, Laws’ promotional materials bill him as the “Prophet of the Funky Texas Blues.” Certainly, the music here is proof of his ability to blend the traditional Lone Star sounds with a variety of other influences into a seamless, and very appealing, whole. —Jim DeKoster down a smooth groove on Walter “Wolfman” Washington’s I Want to Know. Washington himself is here as well, and his languid vocals and fretwork make this one of the album’s finest moments. Jon Cleary’s Sometimes I Wonder is rendered beautifully, with the keyboardist manning the piano, Wurlitzer and guitar; Nigel Hall backs Cleary on vocals. Wressnig’s agile playing shines on the peppery Mustard Greens and sprightly Soul Jazz Shuffle ; the latter features a fleet tenor sax solo from Craig Handy. Another instrumental, Slivovitz for Joe , is a stiff shot of a tune dedicated to Austrian keyboardist Joe Zawinul. Nobody Special , by Larry Garner, is the album’s other high point; Wressnig is a veteran of Garner’s band, and the Baton Rouge bluesman’s ardent vocals, combined with buoyant solos from both the organist and Schultz, leaves the listener crav-ing more. Special mention goes to Stanton Moore, whose masterful, in-the-pocket drumming is a delight from start to finish. All in all, Raphael Wressnig’s Soul Gumbo is exactly what it says—a warm, inviting brew of New Orleans– inflected funk and R&B. —Melanie Young GEORGIE BONDS Stepping Into Time 8 th Train -(No #) Georgie Bonds has survived a hardscrabble childhood in Philadelphia (Pennsylvania, not Mississippi), a stint in federal prison and a harrowing series of health crises. Although he’s still relatively young, his voice is deeply textured and rough-edged, and his material— much of it written or co-written by him—re-flects a similar life-hardened toughness. In The Blacksmith , a north Mississippi– flavored modal blues, Bonds (who actually worked as a blacksmith for quite a few years) carries on the venerable tradition of boasting of physical prowess on the job as a metaphor for sexual prowess in bed. He also comes through with a riveting a cappella version of St. James Infirmary , making the time-tested New Orleans street-player’s lament immedi-ate and heart-rending. Elsewhere, he purveys more modernist-sounding fare, such as the funk-peppered Dyin’ Is the Easy Way (one of several songs here that Bonds did not write, but which sound as if they emanated directly from his heart and life) and the up-tempo, ironically jubilant Going Shopping , again fu-eled with funk, which finds Bonds inhabiting the role of a player with a fat bankroll who’s nonetheless nursing a broken heart. In I Need Somebody , in contrast, the singer stares down loneliness with steadfast fearlessness; it’s elevated above run-of-the-mill, “lonesome lover” blues fare by acknowl-edging emotional, as well as erotic, hunger . Daily News finds Bonds summoning his most tender and vulnerable-sounding vocals to con-vey songwriter/guitarist Neil Taylor’s tale of a world torn asunder by violence and despair. Hurricane Blues , penned by bassist Kenny Githens, continues another tradition—sum-moning images of climatological turmoil to evoke both existential and emotional dread. Through it all, the band provides skin-tight, understated, but powerful accompani-ment, drawing elements from rock and pop as well as standard blues to create vivid musical landscapes that complement, rather than over-whelm or smother, his leather-tough delivery and the eloquence of the songs’ lyrics. From seemingly out of nowhere, Georgie Bonds has emerged as a formidable, versatile blues-man with the potential to make a significant impact. —David Whiteis ROBBIE MACK Demolicious Roots Blues Reborn -RBR 06008 During the 1970s and early 1980s, Boulder, Colorado, played host to a fertile blues and 52 • LIVING BLUES • February 2015

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