Author Archives: Jeff Hannusch

Magic Sam, Live at the Avant Garde (Delmark)

Any discerning, seasoned blues aficionado can tell you the jaw-dropping instant they heard Magic Sam for the first time. A possessor of an often imitated—but never duplicated—guitar and vocal technique, you could pick Magic Sam out from 10,000 other blues players at the drop of a hat. Unfortunately, his tragic death in 1969, at the [...]

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How “Mardi Gras Mambo” Became an Unlikely Carnival Anthem

Down in New Orleans where the blues was born, It takes a cool cat to blow a horn On LaSalle and Rampart Street, the combos play with a mambo beat Mardi Gras mambo, mambo, mambo Mardi Gras mambo, mambo, mambo Mardi Gras mambo… Down in New Orleans — “Mardi Gras Mambo” by Adams, Welch, Elliot [...]

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Obituary: Tabby Thomas (1929 – 2014)

Ernest Joseph “Tabby” Thomas—the “Godfather of Baton Rouge Blues”—died peacefully at home January 1 after a long illness. A prolific recording artist, club owner, record label owner, and all-around goodwill ambassador for Louisiana’s blues tradition, Thomas was a fixture on the Baton Rouge music scene for the better part of six-decades. Born January 5, 1929, [...]

Various Artists, The South Side of Soul Street: The Minaret Soul Singles, 1967-1976 (Omnivore Records)

Getting a CD (double, no less) like this unexpectedly in the mail to review really makes my week. Minaret was briefly a busy Southern soul label that was an offshoot of Playground Studio on Florida’s gulf coast in Valparaiso. (Johnny Adams recorded there in the early 1970s.) Distributed nationally by SSS (a Shelby Singleton Corporation), [...]

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Various Artists, Louisiana Saturday Night Revisited (Ace Records)

British reissue label Ace has long championed the unique music of South Louisiana, be it zydeco, Cajun or, especially, swamp pop. Step back over two decades ago, when Ace issued the landmark Louisiana Saturday Night collection, which gathered many early swamp pop and Cajun classics. The Revisited release—”24 contemporary zydecajun and swamp pop studio recordings”—is [...]

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Dan Penn, A Road Leading Home (Ace Records)

Along with George Jackson, Dan Penn is one of the most prolific and acclaimed Southern rhythm-and-blues songwriters of the last five decades. This CD features 24 of Penn’s solo compositions and collaborations with other tunesmiths. The roster of artists preforming these songs is quite diverse—from Tommy Roe to Albert King, from Brenda Lee to Irma [...]

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Walter “Wolfman” Washington Celebrates 70th Birthday

For better or worse, the pool of active New Orleans musicians in 2013 who were also active during the so-called “classic” period of New Orleans rhythm and blues/rock and roll/soul (roughly 1950-1972) is rapidly evaporating. With that being said, we’d like to collectively tip our hat to one of those rare individuals and salute Walter [...]

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Bryan Lee, Play One for Me (Severn)

Former Bourbon Street blues journeyman Bryan Lee delivers a very well-thought-out, and very un-Bourbon Street-like CD—i.e. no standards, rather plenty of originals and a sprinkling of mostly informed R&B covers. Granted, there are some straight blues numbers here, but Lee has, in most cases, pleasingly expanded the parameters. A good example is the inspiration for [...]

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Lightnin’ Slim, High & Low Down (Alive)

Of the handful of albums that were released during Lightnin’ Slim’s lifetime, and the dozen or so collections that have been released since his passing, this is the last album I would have chosen to reissue. During the ’50s and ’60s, Lightnin’ Slim was Louisiana’s godfather of gutbucket blues; his Crowley recordings epitomized “the sound [...]

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Obituary: Bobby “Blue” Bland (January 27, 1930 – June 23, 2013)

Bobby “Blue” Bland, the greatest blues singer of the last three generations, died peacefully at his home in Memphis surrounded by family. He was 83. Although his recordings never “crossed over,” as did those of his contemporaries B.B. King and Ray Charles, in the African-American community Bland was The Man. Born Robert Calvin Bland on [...]