It might be mid-March but Winter is coming…the new musical concoction from David Philips, that is. The British ex-pat singer-songwriter performed his familiar ritual of holing himself up in his home studio and emerged with a fresh batch of recorded originals. Winter, recorded over much of this still-lingering cold season, is expected to drop in late March/early April through Black And Tan Records, but the folks over at Black and Tan have already provided a preview of what to expect. “Home” is the advance single from Philips’ newest creation, now available in digital form, and streamable above. What is immediately noticeable from followers of Philips is that he went ‘full band’ this time, not unlike 2015’s If I Had Wings but all instrumentation here and the rest of the album is handled by Philips alone and he remains firmly on the folk reservation this time. Actually, Winter could be thought of as a proper follow-up to his debut record. Still, it’s a bit of a jolt to hear his twelve-string acoustic guitar soon joined by harmonica, bass, drums, backing vocals and more guitars. What isn’t different is a voice with the warm soulfulness of Aaron Neville and a bright melody that sticks with you long after the last chord rings out. David Philips might change his tactics from time to time but the overall strategy of delivering quality, hand-made folk music never wavers.
OLD SKOOL – By Boo Boo Davis
James ‘Boo Boo” Davis truly is one of a kind. Born and bred in Drew, Mississippi, he’s spent the past 60- plus years dripping nothing but the blues. His father, Sylvester Davis, was a cotton farmer who played multiple instruments. Musically gifted, he performed with legends such as John Lee Hooker, Elmore James and Robert Pete Williams. The younger Boo just soaked it all in. By five he was playing harp and singing in church with his mother. At 13 he was strumming guitar. And by the age of 18, he was working gigs across the Delta with his dad and older brothers. But the early 60’s brought a new twist. Trekking north with his brothers, they settled right into the vibrant St. Louis blues scene. Albert King, Ike & Tina Turner, Little Milton, Oliver Sain, Fontella Bass, Chuck Berry and Johnnie Johnson — the names were all here. But it was The Davis Brothers Blues Band who held court at Tubby’s Red Room every weekend in East St. Louis. Their residency would not only last 18 years, but kindle many fond memories. The year 1998 though was Boo’s true breakthrough. Perhaps DAVE was intervening. Or maybe it was Boo Boo’s ability to sing and play several instruments. Either way, he was playing drums for local and national harp legend, Arthur Williams, when opportunity finally knocked. Touring Europe as part of Arthur’s crack St. Louis band, Boo Boo was approached about recording his own CD. His 1999 Black & Tan label debut, EAST ST. LOUIS was the first step towards a blues legacy that just keeps growing. OLD SKOOL itself is about as stripped-down and powerful as you can get. Featuring Jon Mittendorp on electric guitar, and John Gerritse on drums, the European duo truly pull Boo’s deep Delta essence out. Yet, in so doing, they add a 21st century funk that simply resonates. Much akin to R.L. Burnside’s later years at Fat Possum Records, ‘Old Skool Delta’ rolls anew with Boo Boo’s Black & Tan recordings. This pulsing, trance-inducing sound has been catchy enough to score Boo Boo international acclaim. In fact, ‘ 5-Hour Energy Drink’ used snippets of his 2008 song ‘I’m Tired’ for their radio ads to boost their sales. Imagine that. Seventy-plus year old Boo Boo Davis selling an energy revival! But in the end, it all makes sense. The trio on this CD has not only toured Europe extensively, but they’ve played over 300 shows in 20 countries the past two years. Tight and cohesive, all 11 tracks were recorded in single takes. From the clash of harp and drums on the opener, ‘Hold Your Head Up’, through such notables as the catchy-quick ‘Boo Boo Fool’, the slow, open-ended ‘Boy Blues’, to the driving train-like ‘Call Me A Clown’, the band rocks a 43 minute jam session that embodies Boo Boo’s spirited live shows. It’s amazing how Boo Boo Davis continues to age like fine wine. Hopefully, if you’re a reader out there, you’ll take the opportunity to catch the ever stylish Boo live downtown. Though he’s currently on a brief sabbatical from his European duo, he’s back home performing some weekend gigs with Bob Kamoske, Mike Graham and Kevin O’Conner at BB’s Jazz, Blues & Soups. What you’ll find is one of the last great “old-skoolers” pumping out downhome blues as only a true great can. As the liner notes claim, ‘this music really is COOL.’ About the only other thing this reviewer can add is “Thank you DAVE!!” And oh, even if you do catch Boo Boo live, get the CD. It’s killer…… ENJOY!!
Live in Europe sounds really impressive, unless you are in Europe, where “Live in the USA” sounds more impressive. By now an elder statesman of the acoustic blues, singer-songwriter Doug MacLeod, known as “Dubb,” took his National resonator guitar named “Spook” and headed over to Holland back in 2006. This is a reissue of a DVD originally recorded back then, when MacLeod was signed to Black & Tan Records. He recollects that he had a fever that day and he had only 50 percent of his voice. This is the raw recording of MacLeod, Spook and his stomping foot. “No overdubs, no pitch control, no do-overs. It was one night when one of our best and finest acoustic performers today wasn’t feeling too good but went on stage anyway.” If that weren’t written here you would never know it. MacLeod is such a consummate professional, a superlative singer-songwriter and guitarist, a storyteller and performer, that the only thing you will notice is that this is a seasoned pro, a man who cut his teeth playing guitar for George “Harmonica” Smith. He’s played with Big Joe Turner, Pee Wee Crayton, Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson, Lowell Fulson and Big Mama Thornton. For three decades or so he has been an internationally successful touring musician, and if you don’t know him as a player, maybe you know him as host of Nothin’ But the Blues on Long Beach / Los Angeles’ KLON-KKJZ. Top that with winning the 2016 Blues Music Award for best acoustic blues artist. On this album he is a bit more gentle than normal, delivering nine tunes. He starts off with one of his signature songs I Want You, with his classic pick-up line by now so often copied by lesser men, “I want you / don’t you know I want you / every word is true / this man wants you.” He does a 14-minute-long version of Bukka White’s train song The New Panama Limited. He also delivers smooth versions of his standards Home Cooking, Cold Rain, Long Time Road, Turkey Leg Woman and Master Plan. Bad Magic is an homage to one of his early mentors, Ernest Banks of Toano, Virginia, a one-eyed bluesman who taught MacLeod, “Never play a note you don’t believe.” MacLeod surely took this advice to heart. As a performer and singer, MacLeod is simply unmatched. He interacts with the audience with plain talk, humor and natural “we’re all neighbors and friends” dialogue. He plays a pounding, percussive heartbeat on the guitar, singing with his rich and vibrant voice. Another thing he learned from Ernest Banks is to play his National resonator guitars with such rhythmic force that his audience can’t keep their feet still for wanting to dance. MacLeod remembers. “Ernest said, ‘You have got to make them dance.’ Because he said if they weren’t dancing they weren’t drinking, and if they weren’t dancing and drinking, he wasn’t going to get paid. So, you got to make them dance. The old bluesmen like Ernest Banks and Son House used to do that. Ernest said, ‘You ain’t shit unless you can make them dance.’” If there is one guy on the scene today who keeps the blues vibrant, fresh and new while keeping to the tradition and adding fiery and intensive original news songs, it’s Doug MacLeod.
RIVHERSIDE – BLUES IN CLERMONT
Non, le blues n’est pas mort, car il bande encore ! Qu’on pardonne cette grivoiserie qui n’a d’autre but que de traduire un enthousiasme sincère pour une musique aux pieds solidement ancrés dans le delta du Mississippi, la tête dans le Cloud. Renaud Villet est informaticien à l’Université Clermont-Auvergne, mais c’est bien le virus du blues qu’il a contracté. À l’instar d’un Muddy Waters du XXIe siècle, armé d’une guitare et du logiciel Ableton Live, il écrit en anglais, compose, interprète et produit seul des chansons d’une authenticité folle. On est frappé d’entrée par les couleurs chaudes des guitares électriques, allant du Chicago blues au rock sans qu’on n’ait jamais l’impression d’un ersatz ni d’une redite. Puis vient la voix, traitée à l’ancienne avec l’écho en slapback, qui ajoute à la pertinence du son. Enfin, la boîte à rythmes, quelques scratchs et synthés çà et là qui donnent à l’ensemble une touche hip-hop électro subtile mais efficace. En 1974, Coluche faisait rire en accolant dans une chanson «blues» et «Clermont-Ferrand», Rivherside change la donne. Du grand art.
That moment when handmade music makes you groove on the spot, then all of a sudden makes you feel like dancing. The not-so-new track of Mischa den Haring and Jan Mittendorp, better known as BLu ACiD, gets right into your bloodstream. The two dutch musicians released an album called “HCN” recently which features many of their released singles from 2015 and 2016. Although one of the keyphrases I used for this review is “New tracks”, the track “Money” from BLu ACiD is in fact over a year old, but since I discovered it just today, I thought for all of you reading this the sound IS new.Being a drummer in a krautrock band, I just have a thing for handmade music. Using electronic elements in tracks creates that signature sound which stucks to your head instantly, and that’s one of the things the guys of BLu ACiD do all day long. While “Money” as an example hasn’t that much electro elements in it, it still has that distinctive groovy style coming along with the sound. The electro elements in the other tracks on their album is just the icing on the cake, so to speak. “Money” showcases that the two musicians are able to transmit a certain feel with their music. You just can hear that they are living what they are doing there. Groovy slightly distorted guitar tracks combined with deep bass lines and that unique vocals keep you caught in the music for those four and a half minutes. The track itself is mixed a bit too flat for my taste, but this could be a wanted effect, serving the retro feel of the track. There’s that “fattening” missing where other producers tend to double or triple tracks. Still, I’m not sure if keeping the track slim was intentional or not. Besides this, everything is placed where it should be. The voice isn’t too centered to give room for the guitar and backing vocal tracks. And most importantly: the feeling is real – you can’t mix that in. Most of what BLu ACiD is giving me, I’m feeling it. Whether it makes you move, sing along or thinking “how the hell did they DO that?”, it works to keep you entertained, interested and listening. I strongly recommend listening to the whole album, musicians might learn a thing or two from den Haring and Mittendorp, and the avid listener will just groove along.
Back on his rooftop in Barcelona for the second album of Roof Top recording, repeating the style of his 2011 Rooftops his first record on Black & Tan Records. On this album, David Phillips delivers eighteen tracks exploring his guitar, lyrics and warm vocals. On a rooftop, the recording process is simple, stripped back, only the essentials joining David in making this album. His guitar and voice are captured with just two microphones and all the doors and windows wide open. Adding some variation in guitar tone his Resonator and Cigar Box guitars make their appearances but nothing else to complicate the process of sharing his music. What we get is an artist who is at one with the whole process concentrating on delivering the twelve songs. The last six numbers are instrumentals providing a bonus EP to complete the rooftop stripped back vibe. This is music that relaxes from the opening track Making It Up through to the last fading notes of the instrumental Long Flight Home. Here It Is we hear in fleeting a Spanish neighbour then into an upbeat number, with this percussive number David captures your attention. Listen out through the album for when the outside makes a guest appearance including Swifts and House Martins, perfectly reflected in instrumentals Migration and Dance of The Swallows. Beat Box opening and we Are Flying High with the soulful vocals of David Phillips. An acoustic, stripped back album. The making may have been simple, the result is an album full of shadows and moody mystery. The album captures that live, spontaneous feel as the bird song and a few unwitting neighbours captured when David Philips records the songs we want to hear. The Rooftop Recordings 2 is a must for lovers of acoustic simplicity, the power of lyrics, blues and soul to add to the collection of chill out tunes. The Cigar box adds a ripping it up-country blues tone to Tied Up Gagged and Bound the track is a foot tapping extravaganza. Counting himself in gives the feel of an intimate bar setting of a live acoustic session as he opens on Old Red Haze. A lyric about anger and is gentle as his guitar curls around the lyrics as he gets angry and blind. Country fueled with blues as we swing on the veranda and listen to the music flow. The finale is a bluesy number Long Flight Home with birdsong getting the tune underway. Only one solution is to listen again!
Seit längerer Zeit mal wieder was aus Frankreich. RIVHERSIDE aka Renaud Villet macht ElectroBlues der nicht groß herumeiert, sondern direkt auf die Zwölf geht. Nicht alle Songs gehen ganz so offensiv voran wie “Need to Speed”, aber Blues zum Abhängen findet man auf “Electraw Blues Album” nur wenig. Villet spielte in zahlreichen Bluesbands, ehe er sich entschloß das Zepter selbst in die Hand zu nehmen. Sein 2012 erschienenes Debütalbum “Something on my Mind” war noch echter RootsBlues, aber dann setzte er seinen Blues unter Strom und lies Elemente aus dem HipHop einfließen.
Boo Boo Davis, geboren in 1943 in Drew, Mississippi, is een regelmatig bezoeker van ons land en een graag geziene gast. Dit laatste vanwege zijn connectie met Black and Tan Records en zijn Nederlandse begeleiders John Gerritse (drums) en Jan Mittendorp (gitaar), die niet geheel toevallig ook iets met genoemde platenmaatschappij van doen heeft. Davis, die zingt en gitaar, harmonica en drums speelt, heeft over de hele wereld getoerd en een behoorlijke catalogus aan cd’s uitgebracht. Op 30 oktober jl. traden David met Gerritse en Mittendorp op in het welbekende Café de Amer in het Drentse Amen. Van dit optreden zijn tien nummers uitgebracht als “Live And Almost Unplugged”. Tien nummers, zoals we ze van Boo Boo Davis kennen. Gebracht met veel plezier voor zowel de muzikanten als het publiek. Heel simpel en basic met slechts een stereomicrofoon in het midden van de ruimte. Niet gepolijst of geschaafd, gewoon muziek zoals het die avond klonk. Dit komt alleen maar de puurheid en eerlijkheid ten goede. Een mooi document van een van de weinige nog originele Mississippi bluesartiesten. Aanrader.
The Rooftop Recordings 2 van de Brit David Philips biedt een hernieuwde proeve van zijn bekwaamheid te schitteren met minimale middelen. In achttien liedjes laat hij ons genieten van zijn mooie stem, zijn gevarieerde en technisch onderlegde gitaarspel en vooraal veel mooie songs. Soms folky, soms verwijzend naar de Amerikaanse Westkust, klinken zijn liedjes vooral vrolijk en positief.
Evidentemente il tetto della casa di Barcellona di David Philips deve avere una vista molto ispirante, dato che questo è il secondo album che registra da lassù, e con tanto di acquerelli di uccelli a decorazione del disco, opera dello stesso David, che farebbero invidia all’edizione deluxe del Bedside Book of Birds. Il musicista e pittore inglese, di cui avevamo già parlato nel precedente If I Had Wings, è un ottimo chitarrista e compositore che spazia fra diversi generi, da atmosfere caraibiche al folk, dal blues ad un pop di classe. Il precedente disco ci aveva colpito notevolmente e questo nuovo lavoro rimane nel solco di quanto già fatto, ma in versione “stripped”, nel senso che mancano un po’ di sovraincisioni, batterie campionate etc che invece riempivano il suono in passato. Sono presenti sia pezzi nuovi sia riarrangiamenti di vecchi brani, sia cantati che solo acustici. Making It Up è il primo in scaletta, il quale parte con un tempo sincopato e un arpeggio serrato di chitarra mentre il cantato rimane melodico (proprio del suo stile, non aspettatevi una voce alla Tom Waits o un crooner come il compianto Leonard Cohen). Il secondo brano riprende That Dirty Road (Beach Version), già apparso nella scaletta del precedente disco, qui però con un ritmo rilassato, quasi alla Jack Johnson, e con ritmo un po’ indolente e caraibico. I generi toccati sono molteplici, dal pop allegro di Washes over Me, al countreggiante Guitar on His Knee, allo shuffle di Here It Is, al blues slide e ritmato di Tied up Gagged and Bound, con un grande groove. Sempre più sulle tonalità blues, ma piedmont style, My Baby Needs Love, passando al blues quasi pre-war di Guilty Sunday o al ragtime di Old Red Haze, dimostrando la versatilità di David Phillips in quasi tutti gli stili delle dodici battute. Per chiudere infine con sei pezzi acustici (Migration, Dance of the Swallow, Reencuentro, The Acrobat, Waterproof), dal sapore a volte west coast, a volte da ballad inglese, per finire con Long Flight Home, tipicamente blues (rumori di sottofondo inclusi), quasi a comporre un ep distinto dal resto. Diciotto pezzi in tutto, registrati a cinque anni di distanza dal primo disco “rooftop”, in presa diretta con due microfoni, armonica, resonator, cigarbox e chitarra acustica, all’aperto sul suo tetto barcellonese. Buon disco, come il precedente, forse pecca un po’ dell’eccessiva semplicità e uniformità rispetto a quanto già fatto ascoltare in If I Had Wings. Tuttavia David Phillips è un ottimo artista che ci fa sempre piacere ascoltare mentre suona la sua chitarra acustica sui tetti di Spagna. Ad esclusivo vantaggio degli uccelli e del cielo della Catalogna.