Living Blues Living Blues #240 : Page 43

new releases country blues showcase. She closes the set accompanied by acoustic guitar and strings on the tender, lullaby-like Sweet Baby J (John’s Song) , a tribute to her late son. Zakiya Hooker is a late bloomer; she did not launch her blues career until her mid-thirties when she joined her father on stage in 1991. With In the Mood she makes it clear that she has come into her own on the contemporary blues scene. — Robert H. Cataliotti delights on offer make this disc well worth having—the regional/stylistic mix is imagina-tive; Keith’s own fretwork is deft and emotion-ally rich; the arrangements are unusually well-crafted and sophisticated for a guitar-oriented blues set of this nature; and the musicianship throughout is first-rate. —David Whiteis croons as Fazio’s meandering guitar evokes a feeling of resignation. Later he shifts the song’s action to New York City, indicating the enemy could be anyone, anywhere: “He might look like me, he might look like you.” Greenpeace is an environmentally conscious rocker, while the love song Arella praises a lady who makes food “taste just like I think it should.” On I Don’t Want to Die , Sayles and Fazio trade piercing licks back and forth; on Laughin and Grinnin , credited to both, Sayles blows quicksilver harp against Fazio and Phillips’ steady-rolling rhythm. “Everybody’s got something to say,” Sayles states on the song of the same name; “we got to say it in our own special way.” He does just that on Charlie Sayles and the Blues Disciples , and it’s well worth lending an ear to. —Melanie Young CHARLIE SAYLES Charlie Sayles and the Blues Disciples Featuring Tony the Legend Fazio Fetal Records – No # A compelling harmonica player and vocalist, Charlie Sayles has performed everywhere from city streets to Carnegie Hall, yet he remains largely under the radar. His latest project, Charlie Sayles and the Blues Disciples , is a raw, intimate set of originals that should hopefully garner the Washington, D.C.–based artist wider notice. The Blues Disciples consist of Sayles, guitarist/bassist Tony Fazio and drummer Greg Phillips; Andrew Garbutt contributes bass to three tracks. Sayles’ subterranean vocals oscillate between rough and smooth, and his harmonica work is keen and melodic. Most of the songs were written by Sayles, several of which—as their band name suggests—are concerned with spiritual matters. Set to a Hill Country–esque beat, These Things of Old is inspired by Psalm 78; Jesus Christ and These Chains are almost jazzy; and the slow blues New Day Coming is calm and assured. A Vietnam War veteran, Sayles draws from his experiences overseas on the haunting Vietnam . It’s a deceptively peaceful track: “Birds in the sky, screeching on high / Who knows, tomorrow you could die,” Sayles LUTHER “BADMAN” KEITH Bluesmen Are Heroes BMB – No # Luther Keith was already an esteemed journal-ist at The Detroit News when, inspired by Luther Allison, he picked up the guitar in the early ’80s and reinvented himself as a bluesman. (He has remained active in both professions— in 1995, he became the youngest person ever to be inducted into the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame). There are definite echoes of Allison’s sound in Keith’s playing, but this set’s high-strutting rhythms, rich horn arrangements and overall feel of celebratory abandon (to say nothing of pianist Jim David’s Longhair-like curlicues) also invoke the spirit of New Orleans, or maybe Memphis at its backstreet funkiest. For all its reputation as a postwar blues bastion, Detroit in its Hastings Street heyday was at least as much a jazz town as a blues town—a legacy represented here in the brassy horn charts and the leavening tinge of sophistication that inform even the most exuberant moments. (There are also, however, plenty of rootsier references, most notably on the deep-Delta Mojo Son and the after-hours juke joint lament Baby Walks Out . Perhaps revealingly, though, these outings seem rather forced and self-conscious, lacking the breezy assurance that’s evident elsewhere.) As a lyricist, Keith seems enamored of extolling the music he plays (six out of the disc’s 13 tracks—seven, if you include the closing instrumental Blue-B-Que —include the word “Blues” or “Bluesman” in their titles), and his paeans to love’s joys and vicissi-tudes tend toward the cliché. In addition, his vocals sometimes sound mannered, as if he’s still mastering the art of conveying emotion without emoting . Nonetheless, the musical GEORGIE BONDS Hit It Hard Roadhouse Redemption Records – No # Georgie “The Blacksmith” Bonds has a right to sing the blues. Ever since Sonny Rhodes heard him sing Stormy Monday at Philadelphia’s Barbary club in the early ’90s, the self-proclaimed “Disciple of the Blues” served as his mentor. Bonds, a then-un-known Philadelphia black urban cowboy and blacksmith, dedicated his life to becoming a performing artist. After countless jam sessions during “open mic night” at Warmdaddy’s (Philadelphia’s most popular blues and soul food hotspot) the lessons Bonds learned from Rhodes have clearly paid off on his third album, Hit It Hard . The 11 original compositions serve as a showcase for Bonds’ myriad musical palette—he comfortably embraces an array of influences that permeate his own version of December 2015 • LIVING BLUES • 43

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