Full Article Here: http://bostonconcertreviews.com/electric-blues-sizzle-and-shine-in-concert-and-on-new-audiophile-recordings/
Electric blues are alive and sizzling aplenty this summer. On July 20th, veteran bluesmen Walter Trout and his band swept into the intimate confines of the Natick Center For the Arts (“TCAN”) in Natick, MA. (www.natickarts.org) to perform their intense set of electric blues before a capacity audience – swaying to every piping hot note. Trout has been a favorite for a long time, delivering his fierce and flowing blues wherever he performs.
Trout and his band have produced a number of superb blues albums over the years. My personal favorite is his 2013 tribute to Chicago blues legend Luther Allison.
On Luther’s Blues [Provogue Records; www.waltertrout.com], Trout and his band stretch out in raw vitality on many of Allison’s soulful tunes, exploring the poignant slow blues of “Cherry Red Wine”, “Freedom,” “Pain In The Streets” and Trout’s radiant tribute “When Luther Played The Blues.” The band also careens on the audacious grooves of Allison’s “I’m Back,” “Chicago” and the scorching “Low Down And Dirty.” The recording delivers great tactile heat and deep resonant punches of bass, drums and Hammond B-3 glory, (if your audio system is up to the task!).
At his TCAN performance, Trout was joined by his longtime compatriots: drummer Michael Leasure (whose concussive creativity is joyful); keyboardist Sammy Avila (always ready for the creative sashay) and electric bassist Danny Avila, Sammy’s son, (a protean force on his pungent strings). The sound at TCAN was impressively coherent, with the sound team taking great care to make sure the decibels were not set too high so that each member of the band could be heard crisply and coherently in this intimate venue.
Sitting close to Trout’s pristine setup, (his Fender guitar cabled directly into a single Mesa Boogie amplifier), it was a treat to hear every one of his crisp string bends, blazing flourishes and highest careening holds- all in the service of his passionate delivery of his songs. Trout is a guitarist of confidence, power and creativity, always questing for that next audacious soulful chord or gravelly fling. One highlight (of many this evening!) was the band’s performance of “Say Goodbye To the Blues”, Trout’s radiant tribute to B.B. King. “Say Goodbye” began with the band prowling through a buoyant slow boogie, with Sammy and Danny Avila accompanying Trout’s steadfast guitar twists with their colorful bass lines and sprite keyboard flourishes. Their camaraderie rose to a roaring crescendo as Trout hit a series of tumultuous high notes with Leasure following him to the summit with punctual, pile driving snare and cymbal combinations.
Following this intense climb, the band turned on a dime into a sweet and soft detour in which Trout sang a repeating refrain (to the spirit of B.B.): “Play on through the night!” Trout accompanied his soft refrain with gentle pricks of crisp notes and whispering string bends. He then slowly built up again to a furious torrent of colors (twisting upwards in leaping octaves) as the rest of the band followed in their own sweet fury. The crowd stood on their feet, cheering the band on until their last thunderous collective hold, in gleeful salute to The King of the Blues.
Trout’s voice, (like his unflinching guitar), was a vehicle of strong passion at this performance. He sang with full-bodied voice on two selections from his 2015 Battle Scars [Provogue Records], a recording inspired by Trout’s surviving a devastating illness by receiving a life-saving organ transplant after his long hospitalization. (At every concert, Trout urges his audiences to become organ donors to save lives. Check out: www.donatelife.net). In his urgent performance of “Cold Ground” (from Battle Scars), Trout sang passionately about his will to live, burning and churning his crisp, expressive guitar notes and leaps into a sweeping swell of keyboard holds, bass runs and resonant kick drum blasts.
Trout invited his son, guitarist Jon Trout, to join him on “Gonna Hurt Like Hell” (taken from Trout’s new recording, We’re All In This Together [Provogue]), and the younger Trout delivered his own brand of guitar heat and pugnacious holds to punctuate this bright, full-tilt boogie.
Trout also invited the young Boston-based blues guitarist, Tyler Morris, to join the band and he and Morris engaged in a molten duel where Morris showcased his lightning-quick guitar touches and stinging note bends. They caroused together, broad smiles on both their faces, as they threw down scabby riffs and spiky, high holds. The evening ended on a rollicking version of Freddie King’s classic, “Going Down,” with the full band pounding down King’s freight train grooves with collective power and playful abandon.
Danny Avila: youtube.com
Inspired by Trout and his band’s incendiary electric blues performance, I returned home to enjoy a number of blues recordings that offer a nice slice of the power and intensity heard in this great electric blues performance. Trout and his band had opened their TCAN concert with a powerful version of the Muddy Water’s classic, “Baby Please Don’t Go” and this led me to pull out a favorite recording recently re-discovered: Muddy Waters and The Rolling Stones Recorded Live At The Checkerboard Lounge 1981 [2012 edition; audio production by Bob Clearmountain; CD and DVD by Eagle Rock Entertainment].
On this audiophile quality recording, (offering great presence and image dimensionality), Waters and his galloping band take on “Baby Please Don’t Go” with bold attack (with Mick Jagger and Keith Richards joining in the bracing action). This 2012 recording has a great live feel: it delivers the crackling heat of the venue and the jammed-in crowd; great image dimensionality of the players on stage and how they interact with each other in playful, spontaneous ways.
There are swanking vocals from Waters (comic, sprawling and expressive) and kinetic solos from members of his band and from some legendary guests (including a frisky performance by Buddy Guy on the propulsive “Next Time You See Me!”). There is electricity in the air on this night of spontaneous revel, captured in all its glory and bite on this vital recording.
Drawing further inspiration from the well of the legendary Muddy Waters, I grabbed a copy of a fabulous new recording from Waters’ eldest son, Mud Morganfield. On his For Pops [Severn Records; www.severnrecords.com], Morganfield is joined by his ever-adventurous partners: the incomparable Kim Wilson on slurry and glowing harp; “Barrelhouse” Chuck on spanking piano (twinkling in the far layers of the soundstage); Billy Flynn and Rusty Zinn on flourishing guitars and Robb Stupka on light, dancing drums. The tone and timbre of Morganfield’s expressive vocals contain striking similarities to his fathers’ voice but he also possesses his own style combining soulful phrasing with a playful feel for dynamic nuances. On “I Don’t Know Why”; “Gone To Main Street” and “My Dog Can’t Bark” the band pulses and shines withMorganfield’s vocals leading the way in their glowing baritone richness. The resonant punch of big drum hits and bass plunges drive the grooves of “Still a Fool”; “She’s Got It” and “I Just Want To Make Love To You” with Morganfield’s howls and vocals partnering creatively with Wilson’s shimmering harp. The roll and tumble of “Blow Wind Blow” and “Trouble No More” also offer soulful boogie numbers that combine Morganfield’s surging vocals with the band’s high gear grooving spirit.
The Blues Community
In the 1950’s and early 60’s, Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf frequently performed at Sylvio’s Bar, located on Chicago’s West Lake Street. It was here that the legendary slide guitarist and singer, Elmore James, got his start by playing gigs sandwiched between these two headliners. James’ celebrated songs, and his scorching slide guitar style, has now inspired a tremendous new recording, Strange Angels, In Flight With Elmore James [Sylvan Songs; AMPED; www.elmorejamesstrangeangels.com).
This recording is the radiant creation of Boston area drummer Marco Giovino (whose drum work on this recording pummels with steadfast glory) and was recorded at several studios in Nashville, LA and Boston. The recording is superbly mastered by Tom Waltz of Watertown, MA. Fascinatingly, Giovino and his team recorded these sessions in true monaural sound. The sonic quality of this monaural recording is brilliant: it offers a chance to inhabit each of these rough and tumble recording sessions with all of their ambient cues intact. The recording delivers a big-boned projection of sound and vital energy that erupts from the richly textured vocals, the crush of electric guitars and the pulsating low bass and drums that inhabit this delectable powder keg.
Each arrangement and performance on Strange Angels is a stunner. There is the intense, fiery boogie of Chuck E. Weiss’ guitar on the blazing “Hawaiian Boogie” and two feisty barn burners featuring crackling bands fronted by guitarist Warren Haynes: “Mean Mistreatin’ Mama” (featuring Billy Gibbons and Mickey Raphael) and a stretched-out and tumultuous “It Hurts Me Too” (featuring Jamey Johnson).
[These Haynes cuts remind me of the fabulous LP from 2016 mining the early music of Haynes’ original power trio, Government Mule, on their The Tel-Star Sessions (Evil Teen Records; www.mule.net). Nothing beats the resonant heat of this creative and scorching electric blues Tel-Star Session, heard in all its breathing, tactile glory as only vinyl can deliver).
Other delectable tunes on Strange Angels include a rousing performance by singer Tom Jones on a hot “Done Somebody Wrong” and two swirling slide guitar beauties: “Can’t Stop Lovin’ You” (with vocalist Elayna Boynton) and “Dust My Broom” (with vocalist Deborah Bonham) each tune simmering and swinging on these singers’ tart and sweet vocal styles. There is also a stunning version of “Person To Person” with the incomparable Bettye LaVette unleashing her incendiary flinty vocals shoulder to shoulder with G.E. Smith’s snarling slide guitar. Singer Rodney Crowell takes a glorious turn twisting to “Shake Your Money Maker”; singer Mollie Marriott sashays beautifully with Duke Levine’s slide guitar on “My Bleeding Heart” and Keb Mo takes the acoustic lissome path on a swanking version of “Look Over Yonder Wall” (swirling on Sonny Barbato’s accordion). The garland of treats and sonic rewards keep coming on this brilliant release, all wrapped up in Giovino’s creative genius in fulfilling this expansive, heated vision of James’ blues glory with big boned love (and monaural bliss).