Living Blues #278 Top Ten Reviews

TRUDY LYNN

Golden Girl

Nola Blue Records – NB/018

Trudy Lynn’s Golden Girl erases any doubt that the singer is riding the crest of a career hot streak that is introducing her uncanny blend of emotional honesty and unapologetic boldness and fire to a brand-new audience.

Her previous two albums, 2016’s I’ll Sing the Blues for You and 2018’s Blues Keep Knockin’ were splendid examples of how she successfully integrated the powerful, tell-it-like-it-is approach that first brought her to the attention of Houston blues guitar stalwart Clarence Green in the ’70s. The Houston singer, who began her career in the 1960s, continues to incorporate fresh topics and been there, done that wisdom to create a modern take on the blues.

Lynn’s recent recording output clearly shows she knows her way around a recording studio even as she continues to wow audiences with a voice that seems to age like a fine Bordeaux and a confident and assured stage aura that resonates with intimate crowds at local blues haunts and international festival circuit venues alike.

Lynn has full or co-writing credits on six of the 11 tracks on Golden Girl and mines her deep reservoir of life experiences to dispense advice and observations on traversing life’s twisty, pothole-strewn path. She’s backed by stellar players, including Austin music scene heavyweights Brannen Temple (drums) and Anson Funderburgh (guitar), Yates McKendree (guitar), Darrell Leonard (horns) and longtime collaborator, Houston harp king Steve Krase. Terry Wilson produces and serves up sturdy bottom end on bass.

Lynn states her intentions immediately with Tell Me, a swaggering blues rocker spiced with McKendree’s B.B.-like riffs as she declares, “You can’t have me and some other woman, too.” The simmering title track offers a wink and a smile to the joys of the aging process, while Krase’s greasy harp and Temple and Wilson’s miles-deep pocket give If Your Phone Don’t Ring plenty of bite.
Lynn assumes the role of streetwise mentor on I’m Just Saying, offering nuggets of wisdom like, “A man is what he does, not what he says,” on top of a second-line groove.

Trudy digs deep on the ballad Is It Cold in Here and on the gutbucket, slow-burner Life Goes On, that finds Funderburgh at his note-perfect best. A dynamite arrangement topped by a subtle chord change in the solo break makes Trouble with Love a standout, and Lynn explores morality and getting right before judgement day over a no-nonsense soul groove on Live with Yourself. A Bo Diddley beat gives Heartache Is a One-Way Street a barely controlled urgency.

We should all hope to be so vibrant, vital, and on point just shy of our 75th birthday as Lynn is on Golden Girl; an album that finds this blues lifer on top of her game.

—Rod Evans


BOB STROGER & THE HEADCUTTERS

That’s My Name

Delmark – 871

At 91, Bob Stroger is Chicago’s oldest working bluesman. His career as a bassist includes stints with Eddie King, Otis Rush, Jimmy Rogers, Eddie Taylor, Eddy Clearwater, Sunnyland Slim, Louisiana Red, Buster Benton, Homesick James, and Snooky Pryor, to name just a few.

He is not, however, usually known as a bandleader or a vocalist, so this is a rare opportunity to savor a side of a venerated blues elder that we don’t often get to experience. His speaking voice is rich and mellow; as a singer, he summons a little more urgency, yet there remains a winning sense of laid-back ease to his delivery. Song-by-song credits aren’t given, so it’s not possible to tell which tracks feature his bass or that of Arthur “Catuto” Garcia, but it’s clear that Garcia has listened hard to the master—the basslines throughout are solid, propulsive, and unobtrusive, setting both a rhythmic and melodic foundation for the others to explore. (Drummer Leandro “Cavera” Barbeta, meanwhile, proves himself one of the few younger drummers to have mastered the nuances of the deceptively elemental postwar Chicago shuffle). 

The set consists of blues standards—including Eddie Taylor’s Bad Boy (credited here as Just a Bad Boy), Jay McShann’s Keep Your Hands Off Her, the classic CC Rider, and Big Bill Broonzy’s Just a Dream, among others—interspersed with several new creations. Stroger purrs CC Rider almost like a love ballad, as harpist Joe Marhofer warbles and note-bends as if he’s channeling the dual spirits of Rice Miller and Big Walter Horton; he summons a stark sense of emotional desolation on his own I’m a Busy Man, while on the McShann chestnut he rides effortlessly above the band’s romping, forward-charging impetus; Talk to Me Mama, another Stroger original, grafts a somewhat ominous-sounding minor key vamp to a tale of erotic suspicion—but again, Stroger’s vocal delivery is smooth and unthreatening, stripping the storyline of any macho unpleasantness it might otherwise have had. 

It’s not always possible to glean a glimpse of an artist’s true personality from his work, but in this case, the “real” Bob Stroger shines through: warmhearted and playful, yet earnest in his dedication to his music; open and welcoming; and—above all—imbued with a deep-running, unforced dignity. When he sings “I am the blues” in the concluding title track, it sounds less like an arrogant boast (or a Willie Dixon rip-off) than a simple statement of fact from a kind, generous, and humble man who has earned the right to make that proclamation.

—David Whiteis


KENNY “BLUES BOSS” WAYNE

Blues from Chicago to Paris: A Tribute to Memphis Slim and Willie Dixon

Stony Plain – SPCD 1443

During the late 1950s and early 1960s, pianist Memphis Slim (Peter Chatman) and bassist Willie Dixon played a pivotal role in laying the foundation for the blues revival as the duo took the music from the South Side of Chicago to the burgeoning American folk music scene, particularly through their recordings for Folkways Records, and across the ocean to European audiences. Pianist and singer Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne pays homage to both the distinctive styles and prodigious songwriting skills of these two masters with Blues from Chicago to Paris. Joined by bassist and backup vocalist Russell Jackson and drummer Joey DiMarco, Wayne serves up a program of compositions from Slim and Dixon that avoids widely known classics like Wang Dang Doodle or Every Day I Have the Blues and shines a light on lesser-known gems.

Blues from Chicago to Paris is beautifully recorded with a clear and resonant sound that makes it feel like you’re sitting just a few feet from the bandstand. Wayne is a remarkably inventive player who lays down a solid groove with his left hand, while his right hand dances across the keys. His husky vocals are warm and soulful, and, like the originals, are invested with a wry playfulness. Jackson also joins in with some effective vocal harmonizing. His acoustic bass work, especially his “slapping” technique, conjures up Dixon’s approach.

The 17-track program, which is totally engaging from start to finish, highlights the wide range of blues songs that Dixon and Slim composed. Wayne and company put listeners on notice to buckle up their seat belts with the exuberant, no-holds-barred opener, Rock and Rolling This House. The trio slows things down and stretches out on Messin’ Round (With the Blues), bringing to mind the sound of the Charles Brown and Nat King Cole trios of the 1950s. Wayne announces the bouncy Dixon number Got You on My Mind with an intro that channels the melody of Thelonious Monk’s Blue Monk and then crafts a charming take on the tune. African Hunch provides Wayne a chance to show off his boogie woogie chops. They inject some Latin dance grooves in One More Time. Wayne adds variety to the program with novelty numbers like Slim’s racehorse ballad Stewball that was such a favorite with the folk music crowd and Dixon’s bad man boast monologue I Got a Razor. Jackson’s evocation of Dixon’s slap bass technique is quite effective on After While and Don’t Let the Music Die. Wayne steps into the spotlight with a solo performance on the program-concluding Wish Me Well. There’s not a lot of authentic acoustic piano music to be found on the contemporary blues scene, and Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne has really delivered the goods with Blues from Chicago to Paris.

—Robert H. Cataliotti


DIUNNA GREENLEAF

I Ain’t Playin’

Little Village – LVF 1045

Since her early years on the Houston scene through a 2005 triumph at the International Blues Challenge and subsequent professional success, Diunna Greenleaf has generated appreciative attention as a dynamic vocalist. A two-time winner of the Blues Foundation’s Koko Taylor Award for Best Traditional Blues Female Singer (among other accolades), she has independently helmed the Blue Mercy band and, through 2011, mostly self-released her own recordings. But following a too-long hiatus and a fortuitous affiliation with a California-based producer, Greenleaf is back with an impressive new album, arguably her best to date.

Produced by Kid Andersen, who doubles as the primary guitarist, this 55-minute set comprises a total of 13 tracks: four Greenleaf originals and an astute selection of covers. With a core ensemble that includes first-rate players on keyboards, bass, and drums, plus some discerning employment of supplemental horns and backing vocalists, the instrumentation effectively complements Greenleaf’s wondrous voice. For her part, the veteran singer articulates the blues with exceptional clarity and conviction but additionally invokes, as always, her transcendent gospel muse. Along the way she deftly draws ideas from the realms of jazz, funk, and country, too—delivering it all with dramatic energy and finesse.

Among the many satisfying numbers, perhaps the standout is Let Me Cry, written and first recorded by one of Greenleaf’s hometown blues heroes, Johnny Copeland. Here it commences with a brief but exceptionally greasy blast of guitar that gives way to cascading wavelets of percussive piano, foreshadowing the superb extended solos later to come. But Greenleaf is unmistakably the main conduit of expression as she channels an almost palpable despair—her voice rising and falling, pleading and mourning, growling and shouting the lyrics and ad-libbed outbursts. Likewise, the ominous tone of I Don’t Care inspires another gritty performance, particularly on voice and guitar, to convey a deep sense of interpersonal estrangement befitting such a low-down blues. 

On the other hand, despite its title, If It Wasn’t for the Blues gets a slick and funkified contemporary R&B treatment, replete with horns and stinging guitar lines, all propelled by some bassline badassery. More bottom-heavy funk flows on Back Door Man—not the boastful Willie Dixon classic made famous by Howlin’ Wolf (and later the Doors), but an accusatory Greenleaf original, accentuated by her vamping on key phrases. Of course, she also sings gospel with profound authority—a legacy of her upbringing. Here she brilliantly resurrects I Know I’ve Been Changed, rhythmically proclaiming its simple testimony over sparse accompaniment highlighted by vibrato guitar. 

But Greenleaf offers other stylistic diversions, including her own composition Running Like the Red Cross, a smooth shuffle that rides the titular simile for all that it’s worth, featuring a churning B3 organ and backing group vocals by the Sons of the Soul Revivers. Meanwhile, one of her previously released originals, Sunny Day Friends, resurfaces here, reimagined now in a cool jazz mode that even incorporates a delightful passage of Ella Fitzgerald–style scatting. Perhaps most surprising is the tender validity she summons on a country song straight out of Nashville, Vince Gill’s When I Call Your Name, part vintage tearjerker and part rousing hymn-like chorus. The closer, My Turn, My Time, is an uplifting R&B–style number written and previously recorded by Deitra Farr. But Greenleaf finds her own story in the lyrics and conveys it with confident fervor, buoyed by percolating bass and brassy riffs. 

On her most stylistically diverse yet cohesive album to date, Diunna Greenleaf fulfills the extraordinary potential she has long embodied. This collaboration with a new production team distinctively showcases the artist’s exceptional strengths as well as her versatility. Yet she remains in essence a blues vocalist of rare power and poise.

—Roger Wood


MISSISSIPPI HEAT 

Madeleine

Van der Linden Recordings – VDL 710

On the surface, little about Pierre Lacocque’s background would have foreshadowed the musical path he would pursue. Born in Israel to Belgian parents, he grew up in France, Germany, and Belgium. Encouraged by his parents, he developed an interest in music at a very early age. That interest truly blossomed when his family moved to the United States during his teenage years. Coming of age in Chicago, Lacocque was inspired by the city’s rich blues tradition. He developed his skills on harmonica, but didn’t pursue music full time until completing college. 

In 1991 Lacocque put together Mississippi Heat, and the band self-released its debut, Straight from the Heart, in 1992. Three decades and 12 albums later—and after a run that included a string of albums on Delmark—Mississippi Heat returns with Madeleine, again released on the band’s own label. 

And while some things have changed in the 30 years since the group’s recorded debut, many of the important qualities and characteristics remain firmly in place. Lacocque writes nearly all of the material, wails soulfully on harmonica, and leads the band. On Madeleine, the foundation of the music is supplied by the rhythm section of bassist Brian Quinn and (on most of the record’s 12 tunes) drummer Terrence Williams. 

Save for its leader, the group’s lineup is completely different from that first disc, but Madeleine does feature a number of guests and Mississippi Heat alumni, including Lurrie Bell (vocals and guitar), drummer Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith, and Carl Weathersby (guitar and vocals). Vocalist Inetta Visor and guitarist Michael Dotson—both longtime members of the group—each contribute an original song, and ace pianist Johnny Iguana guests on three tracks.

The energy level is high throughout Madeleine. The rollicking Silent Too Long (featuring Weathersby on lead vocal) sets the tone for the album. Lacocque chugs along on blues harp right alongside the singer, but does so in comparatively understated fashion. Then, after Dotson peels off a sharp solo, the bandleader blows with abandon. As the song races toward its conclusion, it’s all-in instrumentally, with a break for Christopher “Hambone” Cameron to tear things up a bit on the B3.

And that’s a fine formula, one that serves the band well throughout the set. Elsewhere, Lacocque trades phrases in musical conversation with the lead vocalist, as he does when joined by Daneshia Hamilton on Batty Crazy. Lacocque’s wonderfully overdriven harmonica solo on that tune is a highlight of this new collection. 

There’s a rocking, reggae feel to Havana En Mi Alma, a tune dedicated to the bandleader’s Cuban-born spouse. Stylistically, though, that song is an outlier on Madeleine; most of the tracks are straightforward blues, generally informed by the urban Chicago style. Nothin’ I Can Do is a sprightly jump blues, with Lacocque’s harmonica out front. A horn section adds texture to several tunes, including the New Orleans–flavored Empty Nest and Ridin’ on a Hit. Reminiscent of NRBQ, the latter showcases fleet-fingered keyboard work from Iguana. 

The album’s most subtle and heartfelt moments come during the title track, an instrumental showpiece dedicated to the memory of Lacocque’s grandmother. There are no weak moments on this consistently entertaining, thoughtfully produced release; creating it is a fitting way to mark the 30th anniversary of the group, and listening to it adds to that celebration. 

—Bill Kopp


THE DUKE ROBILLARD BAND

They Called It Rhythm & Blues

Stony Plain – SPCD 1444

They Called It Rhythm & Blues, the latest recording from guitarist, singer, and bandleader Duke Robillard, is undoubtedly an embarrassment of riches. It features the leader’s regular band—singer Chris Cote, keyboardist Bruce Bears, bassist Marty Ballou, drummer Mark Teixeira, and saxophonist Doug James—plus an extensive cast of guest stars, including John Hammond on vocals and guitar, Kim Wilson on vocals and harmonica, Sugar Ray Norcia on vocals and harmonica, Sue Foley on vocals and guitar, Michelle Wilson on vocals, Mike Flanigan on Hammond organ, Doug Woolverton on saxophones, Matt McCabe on trumpet, and Anita Suhanin on background vocals. The lion’s share of the 18 tracks are classic tunes that hark back to the 1950s golden age of R&B.

Cote, who has fronted Robillard’s band since the Blues Bash album (2020), is a fiery singer who stays locked in with the band on six tracks. He stands out on covers of Roy Milton’s Fools Are Getting Scarcer and Joe Liggins’ In the Wee Wee Hours. Hammond has become one of the most commanding singers on the contemporary blues scene, and he takes the whole affair to a low down, funky place with Melvin “Lil’ Son” Jackson’s Homeless Blues and Howlin’ Wolf’s No Place to Go. Robillard is reunited with his old Fabulous Thunderbirds bandmate Wilson for remakes of his originals, the slow burner The Things I Forgot to Do, and the off-the-hook rocker Tell Me Why. Robillard wasn’t content with one harp master; so, Norcia is also onboard for a swaggering version of Tampa Red’s Rambler Blues and a perky take on Jimmy Nelson’s She’s My Baby. Michelle Wilson shows off her versatile vocal chops with a slow, jazzy reading of Trouble in Mind and a wry, swinging Champagne Mind. Robillard and Foley join forces for a cover of Mickey and Sylvia’s No Good Lover. Robillard’s gravel road vocals are also featured on Eat Where You Slept Last Night and Outta Here. The album’s emphasis is clearly on vocals, but Robillard consistently flashes his guitar mastery with stinging fills and concise solos. The program concludes with an Robillard-composed instrumental Swingin’ for Four Bills that showcases the leader and Foley’s guitars and Flanigan’s Hammond organ. Listening to They Called It Rhythm & Blues is like being transported back to a 1950s nightclub to sit front and center for an R&B review.

—Robert H. Cataliotti


LOVE LIGHT ORCHESTRA

Leave the Light On

Nola Blues Records – NB1017

Leave the Light On is the second album to emerge from the exciting “little big band” from Memphis, the Love Light Orchestra. Formed in 2016, the group’s first outing, Live from Bar DKDC, was an album captured inside the restaurant on Cooper Street in 2017 for the Blue Barrel label, which means this 2022 disc is actually their first studio release—a slightly different approach to unveiling albums, but there’s no shortage of goodies here, and the timing seems to be just right.

The swinging ten-piece ensemble is primarily led by the trio of John Németh on vocals, Joe Restivo on guitar, and Marc Franklin as horn arranger. The rhythm section includes Gerald Stephens and Al Gamble on piano; Tim Goodwin and Matthew Wilson on upright bass and electric bass, respectively; and Earl Lowe on drums. Horns include Scott Thompson and Paul McKinney on trumpet, Art Edmaiston and Kirk Smothers on various saxes, and Jason Yasinsky as the lone trombone player.

Recorded at Memphis Magnetic and engineered at Sam Phillips Studio in Memphis, the tunes all pack a big band punch in a combo-size setting. Surprisingly, the setlist starts off not with a bang but with the mellow Time Is Fading Fast—a medium-slow tempo delivered as 6/8 blues waltz written by Joe Restivo. The intensity slowly increases with John Németh’s Come On Moon, a traditional, easy-swinging blues shuffle with nice harmonies and smooth vocals, that features Joe Restivo’s stinging guitar solo bathed in reverb. John Németh’s excellent vocal delivery reminds me of the arrangement on B.B.’s Kent days—especially when John does King’s patented “Heeyy!” or “aaallllriight!

Trumpet arranger Marc Franklin’s Give Me a Break could have sat easily among Bobby Bland’s early sides on the Duke label. Meanwhile, I Must Confess has the boogaloo drum groove of Splish Splash with a call-and-response section—the groove reminds one of the retro-style tunes Mark Ronson arranged for the Dap-Kings to play behind both Sharon Jones and Amy Winehouse. Then there’s the unique spin on Lowell Fulson’s classic tune 3 O’Clock Blues; unlike the version that B.B. King made famous, this delivery conjures images more akin to a background soundtrack for a dark, noirish episode of Mike Hammer. 

Other highlights include Tricklin’ Down—a medium-tempo, hard-swinging shuffle written by John Németh, with perky background horn riffs that support a tasty guitar solo, and the boogie-woogie piano intro of Németh’s Leave the Light On which sets the jump blues mood for the finale, Follow the Queen.

The entire album is an enticing nod to nostalgia, with a vintage, ’50s retro feel. Németh’s vocal style is somehow reminiscent of the passion and energy that Boz Scaggs sang with during his early Columbia Records days. This band really wants to turn on its love light and let it shine on you (any band hip enough to name their group after Bland’s 1961 hit can’t be wrong, can it?). Listeners will be more than pleased to bask in the glow.

—Wayne Goins


DOUG MACLEOD 

A Soul to Claim

Reference Recordings – FR-746

Storytelling singer and guitarist Doug MacLeod has been delivering his brand of acoustic-flavored blues on record for decades; his debut album, No Road Back Home, was released in 1984. MacLeod—a multiple Blues Music Award nominee and two-time winner—recently relocated to Memphis, and the spirit of the Bluff City informs his latest album, A Soul to Claim. 

The record was produced by Jim Gaines, a pro with a long list of high-profile credits who got his start behind the recording console at Stax. And A Soul to Claim builds on MacLeod’s skillful, expressive acoustic guitar work, supported here by Dave Smith on bass guitar, Rick Steff on keyboards, and Steve Potts on drums. The arrangements are subtle, with lots of spaces between the notes and a warm, intimate character. The bass, drums, and keys are often felt more than heard; sometimes the band sits out altogether, as on Dodge City. 

And while MacLeod’s guitar work on A Soul to Claim isn’t strictly acoustic—he plugs in now and then—there are no instrumental fireworks. That’s because A Soul to Claim isn’t that sort of album. As is typical for MacLeod, the focus here is on his lyrics. MacLeod’s story-songs all have a point, and his liner notes helpfully provide the interested listener with some context and background. While he’s a lyricist possessed of a fertile imagination, MacLeod tends to draw upon real-life perspectives and experiences for his songs. 

The title track is about overcoming addiction and the cycle of abuse. Be What You Is takes a lesson about authenticity from animals. Where Are You? addresses American society’s obligation to combat veterans. With its double-entendre title, Dodge City is a pointed number about politicians in our nation’s capital. 

Only Porter at the Station is a metaphorical love song with some inspired turns of phrase. Mud Island Morning is an ode to MacLeod’s home on the Mississippi River. A wryly humorous number, Dubb’s Talking Disappointment Blues is a tale of what MacLeod calls his “lady trolling days,” but he includes a disclaimer suggesting that he might have embellished the story a bit for effect. Or not. 

Grease the Wheel uses a well-worn phrase to make a simple point about taking charge of one’s own life. Somewhere on a Mississippi Highway draws from the same rascally well of inspiration as Dubb’s Talking Disappointment Blues. And for the record’s final track, There Is Always Love, MacLeod sets aside humor and delivers a heartfelt, hopeful song inspired by his son Jesse’s successful battle with melanoma. “No matter how dark things are for you,” he writes, referring to the song’s title, “remember, there is always love.” In the song itself, he speaks more than sings, doing so in a hushed whisper that draws the listener close.

But then most everything about A Soul to Claim—from its understated instrumentation to MacLeod’s insightful and incisive words—has that effect, warmly inviting the listener into the world of this masterful blues songwriter. 

—Bill Kopp


BERNARD ALLISON

Highs & Lows

Ruf Records – RUF 1294

The blues live in Bernard Allison, and he lives in them. His energy flows through his never-waste-a-note guitar licks, and he inhabits his songs and brings out their essence as he delivers his soulful vocals. The songs on his new album are no exception, and Allison brings the same passionate intensity to the music that has so characterized his earlier albums.

Fueled by Allison’s bright and bristling guitar licks, the opening track, So Excited, captures the energy of an onstage performance and recalls some of Johnny Winters’ shimmering slide guitar work. The song’s a declaration: Allison is “so excited” to be back in the studio and on the road making music once again. The title track rides along a funky jazz vibe driven by Allison’s striding lead guitar riff, mimicking the ups and downs of daily life, while Strain on My Heart flows over a bed of wailing horns and soars off on José Ned James sax solo. The Texas roadhouse blues My Way or the Highway glides smoothly on Allison’s and Colin James’ stinging leads as they dance over and around George Moye’s snaking, thumping bass and the strains of Toby Lee Marshall’s B3. The swaggering Hustler features Allison’s godfather, Bobby Rush, on harp; the two trade vocals and Allison’s guitar and Rush’s harmonica wails wind over and around each other with a strutting jump blues that mimics the stride of the street hustler. Allison delivers his version of his father’s I Gave It All, a slow-burning soul blues whose beauty grows out of its precisely picked lead riffs and the emotion Allison draws out of every note. His version of his father’s Now You Got It funks along a bed of horns and punchy guitar.

Highs & Lows showcases Allison playing at the top of his game. He has a way of making every song he plays distinct and his own, and his guitar playing soars into the stratosphere. He hits his licks with passion and a deep feel for every note he bends from his strings.

—Henry L. Carrigan Jr.


CHRIS HENDERSON

That’s the Way of the World

No label – No #

There’s little information available about vocalist Chris Henderson. A self-written bio available on ReverbNation reveals him as a Chicago native who began singing at age four and was influenced, at least early on, primarily by gospel singers. Nonetheless, this is a secular set, and from what one can glean from his Facebook page, most of Henderson’s performances in recent years have focused on blues; he also garnered an Entertainment Legacy Award from former Chicago alderman Dorothy Tillman’s Tobacco Road Foundation, apparently in 2021.

The opening track, It Don’t Make No Sense, invokes the modal, trance-like Mississippi Hill Country sound, although the instrumentation is somewhat less sparse than the older-generation practitioners of that style tended to prefer; the lyrics are hard-hitting and topical. The title track, apparently recorded live, lopes along in a modified funk blues cadence as a churchy organ adds some Saturday night / Sunday morning soulfulness to the proceedings. Again, Henderson’s lyrics (to the extent they can be understood—the mix is pretty rough) address the vicissitudes of everyday life, buttressed with the admonition, “Don’t let it get you down.”

Elsewhere, Henderson glides through such sub-genres as soul blues (Reason), “quiet storm”–styled urban funk (You Make Me Feel Like a Man), grinding, 12-bar juke joint blues (You Ain’t No Good), and country gospel blues balladry (the generically titled I Got the Blues). There’s also a pop-tinged take on the standard Ain’t Nobody’s Business. Along with the opener, it’s among this set’s most fully realized outings with its lithe, jazzy guitar line and gently swinging cadence. Henderson’s voice, somewhat uncertain in places elsewhere, also sounds focused and confident here.

It’s good to hear a youthful-sounding vocalist like Chris Henderson explore the myriad possibilities that the rich and still-evolving blues tradition has to offer. If he can find a good production team to help focus him and hone his talents, he sounds as if he has it in him to make some significant contributions to the music.

—David Whiteis


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