On the Radar for March 19, 2016 snakes out over tree branches hosting varied aspects and styles of Roots Music. Chicago Blues is represented by Guy King while Dana Fuchs brings her brand of the Blues with acoustic backing and RB Stone mixes the natural Blues of his cigar-box guitar with Country and Soul. Greg Abate and the late Phil Woods show their passion for BeBop as their saxphones boast New England Jazz played as Kindred Spirits, Live at Chan’s while Amy White and Al Petteway gracefully present Folk music in a quiet light. Bluegrass goes back to the 1960’s in the songs of a female duo of the times as Laurie Lewis and the Right Hands revisit tunes on The Hazel and Alice Sessions. Austin’s Lew Card beefs up his Roots on his recent Follow Me Down release and Wren sings sweetly as her music flies from a perch in the Pacific Northwest in On The Radar for Friday, March 19, 2016.
Guy King (from the album Truth) - Delmark Records radar got its first blip on Guy King when the young Bluesman became the lead guitarist for label artist Willie Kent in 2000. Guy King has fine-tuned his playing into prowess on the guitar over the years as his own star began to rise on the competitive Chicago Blues, Soul, and Jazz scene. Delmark Records again took note of the ascending star and presents their label debut of Guy King with the recently released, Truth. The album stays on track with the music that crafted Guy, spending time with tunes that tag historic players and songs such as Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson (“It’s All About the Dollar Bill”), Doc Pomus and Dr. John (“There’s Must Be a Better World Somewhere”), and Ray Charles (“The Same Thing That Can Make You Laugh”, “Hey Now”).
Born and raised in a small rural town in Israel, Guy King arrived in the United States as a touring musician at age sixteen, returning five years later to take up residence in Memphis and New Orleans before heading north to Chicago to stake out a claim on the world of Blues. Biographer and songwriter David Ritz (co-writer with Marvin Gaye on “Sexual Healing”), scribes the liner notes for Truth as well as penning three tracks with Guy King. The pair share credits on the slinky crawl of the title track as they jot down early morning downturns in “A Day in a Life with the Blues”, and share “My Happiness” as a duet featuring Sarah Marie Young. Guy Davis takes a solo swing as author on the instrumental “King Thing” as he samples style from former King’s B.B and Albert while he slows the standard “I Gotta Right to Sing the Blues” with a jazz take on the tune.
Lew Card (from the album Follow Me Down) - Lew Card adds meat to tunes on his latest album release, Follow Me Down. Departing from the rustic tone of his previous release, Low Country Hi-Fi, the album rattles (“Always Funny”) and rambles (“Come on Up”). Though his style and delivery switch up for Follow Me Down, the constant is the songwriting for the Austin-based musician. Lew Card lets the songs shuffle like a Leon Redbone tune as he heads into “Paradise” on a soft rhythm caught by beach breezes. Follow Me Down stomps out a beat asking “Baby Won’t Ya” over warm organ chords and frenetic guitar picking as “Walking’ Shoe Blues” adds horn to the natural strut of the track as the horns punch up “Saturday Nite Gal”, and blast and pop as life falls down around them in “Condo Town Rag”.
Laurie Lewis and the Right Hand (from the album The Hazel and Alice Sessions) - Hazel Dickens and Alice Gerrard became muses for a young Laurie Lewis as she sought women’s voices in the Bluegrass music scene. Laurie honors the women that helped her carve her own niche in Bluegrass with The Hazel and Alice Sessions from Laurie Lewis and the Rights Hand. Hazel and Alice opened doors for women in Bluegrass during their 1960’s career, competing musically with harder-edged songs of Bill Monroe and the Stanley Brothers. Laurie Lewis recalled that she ‘had heard ballsy women singers on the local bluegrass scene, but I hadn’t heard other women doing that on a recording’.
Joining Laurie Lewis and the Right Hands are Aoife O’Donovan (“James Alley Blues”), and Linda Ronstadt (“Pretty Bird”). The Hazel and Alice Sessions kicks off with Bluegrass fire as the album heads out on the trail with “Cowboy Jim”, steps high to answer the call in “Who’s That Knocking”, picks up the pace for “Walking in My Sleep”, and slows down to a fast walk for a fast talker in “Let That Liar Alone”. Laurie Lewis puts on ragged shoes and a Monday frown for “Working Girl Blues” as The Right Hands beckon with mandolin strums asking “Won't You Come and Sing for Me” and race a passing freight with the runaway rhythms in “Train on the Island”.
Amy White with Al Petteway (from the album Didn’t We Waltz) - Amy White sits solo at the piano as her mind wanders over wishes for a lover. She puts her thoughts in “More like My Dog” switching sides with her own decisions, admitting ‘I may not have thought this through’ as she realizes that a pooch’s humps have little to do with the specific leg. That is the wisdom and wit that Amy White brings to her most recent release, Didn’t We Waltz, presenting the album with the same grace and smooth form of the dance that it claims as a title. Amy is complemented by Al Petteway on guitar to back her own acoustic strums. The touches on the strings is light and the notes barely hit resonate and chime as Amy White dances with a questionable partner (“Waltz with Grief”), makes room with Folk Country as she carves a new groove into “King Size Bed”, watches the flight of a mockingbird asking “Sing to Me”, shows the rattle of age with ancient instrumentation tones in “Love Among the Ruins”, and gently supports memories in the title track as “Didn’t We Waltz” boasts triumphs of the heart.
RB Stone (from the album Some Call It Freedom (some call it the Blues) - All things for all ears is the mantra for his songs as R.B. Stone shifts and shapes around slices of Blues, Country, Soul, and Roots music. Some Call Freedom (some call it the Blues) opens with a tribute to Mississippi musicians as RB Stone and his band fire off “Hill Country Stomp” as the track name drops the stars of Mississippi’s primal beat from Mississippi Fred McDowell through R.L. Burnside and Junior Kimbrough to the Dickinson brothers as the tune samples Hill Country and Delta Blues. Musically, the bed of sound on Some Call It Freedom carries the same intensity throughout the album as the beat flies forward on a mission while RB Stone maintains a smooth delivery as he travels over a Blues boogie in “You Don't Want Me”. He describes the lady slithering his way in “Weapons of Mass Persuasion” over boiling Blues, and hits the highway to track the tire slaps as he heads out of Memphis in “35 Miles to Freedom”.
The title track from Some Call It Freedom (some call it the Blues) talks about perception as a folk remedy solution for seeing the glass half full as it looks at life from the bottom to the top. The advice that falls from the pen of RB Stone points to taking a moment to check-in on yourself and to find happiness in the little things that life tosses your way. Some Call It Freedom thumps and tumbles over the rhythms as “Nickajack” connects the sounds of Appalachia and Hill Country while “Yo Yo Lover” bears down on the beats as hearts bounce up and down. RB Stone and the band keep the faith for Rock’n’Roll as they tell the story of what brought them to the party on “Won't Stop Rockin'”.
Wren (from the album Stitch an Ocean) - The music of Wren reflects the same waves and water that her recent album title references as Stich an Ocean. The sound can trace threads back to British Folk when it learned to live with rock’n’roll in the music of Fairport Convention and Sandy Denny. Woven into the history of the sounds is the ferocity of an angry body of water as it crashes against land in Wren’s native Pacific Northwest. The turning point for the creation of Stitch an Ocean came when Wren took a teaching job in Gallego in the Northwest corner of Spain. When she returned to her Pacific Northwest home, Wren chronicled her time amid the ancient culture of Galicia, adding her experiences to the historic community with its own language.
Wren offers a key to unlocking time in the track “Hand-Sewn Ocean” as it tells the tale of a woman sitting in an oak grove in Galicia, Spain, stitching a quilt. As she completes her work, a hoard of insects zooms down, picking up the fabric to carry and lay over the world to provide a new earth. Through her words and music, Wren performs a similar task on Stich an Ocean as she offers audio promises for a better future “When the Happiness Comes”, lightly touches notes to answer a “Sea Call”, helps to find footing on “The Road You Thought You Knew”, and surrounds herself with notes and rhythms that carry away trouble with “It’s Raining”.
Dana Fuchs (from the album Broken Down acoustic sessions) - For her recently released album, Dana Fuchs backed her Blues unplugged on Broken Down acoustic sessions. The album gathers past and present tracks from Dana, and asks the playing to offer a quieter backing for the vocals to be out front. Dana Fuchs has a late night Blues voice…smoky, sultry, seductive. She opens Broken Down with the excitement of being ‘closer than I used to be” for “Almost Home” as her voice comes near to breaking as she sings of “Sad Salvation”, touches the tune with soft twang to tell “The Lie”, pours her pain over piano riffs crying “Wait Up”, and burns a torch on Bobby Bland’s “Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City”. Broken Down presents Dana Fuchs vocals as stark and raw in the acoustic session settings as she themes the album with love and loss.
Greg Abate and Phil Woods with the Tim Ray Trio (from the album Kindred Spirits Live at Chan’s) - Greg Abate and Phil Woods are the Kindred Spirits in their recent joint release. The two players share instruments with an alto Saxophone and each can claim their spot in the ranks of world renowned sax men with a penchant for bebop. Phil Woods take on the saxophone followed in the footsteps of bebop king Charlie Parker with Greg Abate nodding to both men in his own playing. Greg and Phil are backed on Kindred Spirits, Live at Chan’s by the Tim Ray Trio with keyboards (Tim Ray), drums (Mark Walker), and upright bass (John Lockwood). The two disc set captures the last performance of Phil Woods who passed in September 2015, a little over a year from the August 2014 live recording.
The setting for the sound of Greg Abate and Phil Woods takes the duo and their band backing from the New England states they call home and back to a Charlie Parker-era Kansas City. Disc one, captured as the evenings first set, borders the collection with Parker’s tune “Steeplechase”. Disc two puts Charlie’s “Yardbird Suite” into the second set, joining the piece with “I’ll Remember April”, “Moonlight in Vermont”, and a Tim Ray Trio performance of Kurt Weil’s “Speak Low”.