LIVE: The Chenango Blues Festival, 8/22/09

August 25th, 2009, 4:42 pm by Greg

Sharon Jones

Sharon Jones

Under rain-free skies, the 17th annual Chenango Blues Fest in Norwich, NY, kicked off Friday, August 21 with headliner Mitch Woods and his Rocket 88’s. Saturday’s all-day events bounced between the Main Stage and the Acoustic Stage tent located at the other end of the Chenango County Fairgrounds.

The New Orleans blues-rock sounds of the Honey Island Swamp Band kicked things off on Saturday, followed by Australian wild-man, singer, harp-man and didgeridoo rumbler Harper and his group.

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LIVE: Ronnie Earl & the Broadcasters @ The Linda, 8/8/09

August 10th, 2009, 4:18 pm by Greg

RE04Some musicians just play the blues.

Not guitarslinger Ronnie Earl. He’s lived the blues, and he’s somehow managed to survive the tough times and come back out on top.

At The Linda on Saturday, August 8, Earl spoke from the stage about his alcoholism and about being sober 20 years now. He spoke about not touring for almost 10 years because of illness and depression.

The concert was a real event, and everyone seemed to know it. “A couple I spoke with before the concert came up from NYC specifically for this concert. They said Earl hasn’t played there since 1999,” says photographer Andrzej Pilarczyk. “Another couple with kids drove in from Buffalo because evidently this concert was a one-off and not part of a tour.”

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LIVE: Sue Foley @ Shepard Park, 8/5/09

August 6th, 2009, 5:49 pm by Greg


Ottawa-born blues guitarslinger Sue Foley hasn’t wasted much time. Since unleashing her debut album, “Young Girl Blues” on the Austin-based Antone’s label back in 1992, she’s churned and burned her way through a dozen albums in just 17 years, including her latest, the aptly titled “Time Bomb.”

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LIVE: Red Haired Strangers @ the Tang Museum, 7/31/09

August 3rd, 2009, 8:44 pm by Greg

Ryan Dunham

Ryan Dunham

The Red Haired Strangers started out more than a decade and a half ago as the acoustic duo of harmonicat-vocalist Ryan Dunham and guitarist-vocalist John Rice, playing a variety of country, blues and bluegrass.

In recent years, they’ve expanded into a full-fledged band that also includes ace fiddler Joe Gumpper, drummer Chris Scharl, bassist Mike McLean and veteran pedal steel guitarist Rick Morse.

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OTIS TAYLOR’s “Pentatonic Wars and Love Songs”

June 25th, 2009, 11:15 am by Greg

OtisTaylor(Telarc Blues, 2009)

Otis Taylor is simply one of the very best and most adventurous blues practitioners of the day. There’s no doubt that the man is a blues minimalist, and yet he somehow manages to wring as much emotion and complexity from a simple two-chord vamp as you’re likely to find in any contemporary symphony.

Last year, Taylor hit his highwater mark with the stunning “Recapturing the Banjo,” in which he and stellar batch of guests – Corey Harris, Guy Davis (both in town just last week), Alvin Younblood Hart, Don Vappie and Keb’ Mo’ – took the banjo out of its white southern hillbilly stereotype and reclaimed it for its African-American roots.

This time around, Taylor delves into love as his central theme, but of course, these aren’t the usual croonin’ ’bout the June moon kind of love songs. These are love songs on Taylor’s own terms – dark, intense and unflinching.

And while the music still fits under the broad umbrella of the blues, Taylor leans heavily in a jazz direction thanks to the haunting cornet playing of Ron Miles and the sparkling piano playing of the great Jason Moran.

Irish blues-rock guitar hero Gary Moore slashes through three tunes here (he’s mesmerizing on the closing “If You Hope”), and Taylor’s daughter, bassist Cassie Taylor, takes over the lead vocal chores from her dad to great effect on several selections.

This isn’t the album that straight-up blues fans might have been hoping for from Taylor, and it is undeniably one of his finest efforts, as he continues to make more from less.

Otis Taylor: Pentatonic Wars and Love Songs

Be Here Now: Culture/Corey Harris @ Dale Miller

June 15th, 2009, 10:31 am by Greg

This one really took me by surprise. When award-winning chef Dale Miller opened his eponymous restaurant in downtown Albany last month, I wasn’t figuring that he’d be presenting world-class concerts as well as first-rate food.

But I’m pleased to say that I’m wrong.
Waaay wrong.

Legendary reggae band Culture shares the bill with acoustic bluesman Corey Harris at the inaugural event of the restaurant’s summer concert series, taking place at 6:30pm Wednesday, June 17. Culture – now led by Kenyatta Hill, the son of founding bandleader Joseph Hill – recorded one of reggae music’s true masterpiece albums, “Two Sevens Clash,” back in 1978.

The concert will take place in the restaurant’s Garden Terrace at the back of restaurant’s bar area at 30 South Pearl St.

And best of all, music fans will appreciate the low admission charge of just $10. When the same double-bill performed at the Bearsville Theater in Woodstock just last week, tickets were $25.

Can’t wait to see what Miller’s got up his sleeve for the rest of his upcoming live music performances…

ASHLEY POND BAND’s “The Warning”

June 12th, 2009, 1:20 pm by Greg


(No label listed, 2009): There was an exquisite, slowly swirling sense of mystery that permeated Ashley Pond‘s 2007 debut, “Dala” on the Rev Records.

On her new sophomore effort (with now finds her banded together with bassist Sarah Clark and drummer Scott Smith), the air remains thick and dark. And that’s a good thing.

As strong as “Dala” was as a first effort, “The Warning” is better – more confident, deeper, richer – without sacrificing the debut’s captivating charm.

At her heart, Pond is a blues singer, but she only hits you over the head with it on the album’s title track, a John Lee Hooker-styled boogie that seems a bit out of place – or perhaps just too obvious and cliched – in the midst of the rest of this hypnotic album.

Pond’s attitude sports more sway than swagger, and as a vocalist she has much more in common with Cowboy Junkies’ Margot Timmins than a classic blues shouter like the late great Koko Taylor. That’s not to say that you won’t hear ’70s-styled blues-rock mannerisms sprinkled throughout – especially on “The Dirt” and the churning “The River” – but the trio makes them distinctly their own.

The Ashley Pond Band celebrates the release of “The Warning” with a party and performance at Valentine’s on Saturday, June 13. Joining in the festivities will be Space Lounge and Ben Karis-Nix.

With Rob Jonas celebrating the release of “Take Me Anywhere” downstairs at Valentine’s, Saturday night turns into a double-barrelled party.

And violinist Meg Prokorym will likely be getting a lot of exercise running up and down the stairs – she played on both Jonas’ and Pond’s CDs.

Happy birthday, Howlin’ Wolf

June 10th, 2009, 2:31 pm by Greg

I was watching “Cadillac Records” just the other day (surprisingly it was a whole lot better than it had any right to be), and I got jonesin’ to hear the primordial blues growl of Howlin’ Wolf tearin’ up “Killing Floor.”

The man was a genius.

So here’s a toast to the late and truly great Chester Burnett, who would be celebrating his 99th birthday today.

Howlin' Wolf by George Frayne (aka, Commander Cody), currently on exhibit at Alchemy in Woodstock

Howlin' Wolf by George Frayne (aka, Commander Cody), currently on exhibit at Alchemy in Woodstock

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