Şenel Karatepe – Hard Times – Bone Union Records (BUR 1110) Bone Union Records, a subsidiary of Black & Tan Records, continues the intriguing, innovative and highly interesting documentation of the Turkish blues scene that it began in 2020 with another highly entertaining release.
Şenel Karatepe is a singer and acoustic guitarist working in a solo setting on a set of tracks recorded around 2005 and 2006 in Izmir. The nine tracks are all accomplished performances and draw from a range of influences. There are four Robert Johnson numbers—the opening ‘Stones In My Passway’, which like all the performances here is not that different from the original but has its own charm, ‘Travelin’ Riverside Blues’, ‘Walkin’ Blues’, and a laid-back ‘Rambling On My Mind’. There there is a brooding cover of Muddy Waters’ ‘Louisiana Blues’, a fine version of ‘Driftin’ Blues’, and rather unexpectedly (though the album title might lead some to expect it), a reworking of Ray Charles’ ‘Hard Times’. A vibrant rendering of Big Bill Broonzy’s ‘Hey Hey’ is my favourite track of the set, and precedes the closer, Eric Clapton’s ‘Crying’, which fits in perfectly.
A very listenable and enjoyable release from a new and evolving blues location. It is worth checking out
Mama & Friends — Mama’s Bag / Bone Union Records Well here’s a turn-up for the books. A group of Turkish musicians whose music reflects the early roots of the blues and gospel music, as with a high degree of authenticity, they bring to life the music of Robert Johnson, Jesse Fuller, Leadbelly and Bessie Smith and others. The musicians in question are Çağlayan Örge (banjo- guitar), Suna Suner (vocal, tambourine) and Sarp Keskiner (vocal, electric lead and slide guitar, kazoo, harmonica, tambourine, snare & a cymbal). The band was formed in 1996 and these recordings were made in 1997 at various live gigs in Turkey, recorded on a cassette recorder by in-house sound. But don’t let that put you off—this is a revivalist band par excellence! Take a listen to ‘This Little Light of Mine’, the old spiritual. It comes with vocals that sound like they emanate from a church in rural Mississippi and with a slide guitar that constantly reminds me of the very best ‘sacred steel’ work by the likes of Sonny Tredway, Willy Eason or Aubrey Ghent. These folks have done their homework! This is an album that is replete with authenticity taking some old favourites like ‘CC Rider’, ‘Trouble In Mind’ and ‘Careless Love’ and presenting them with a verve and panache that takes them to a new place. I really like this one, it has a nice feel about it and a certain je ne sais quoi which puts it in a different place than many of the revivalist groups I hear.
ElectroBluesSociety feat Boo Boo Davis– You Better Watch Yourself Boo Boo Davis, born and raised in Drew, Mississippi, and the ElectroBluesSociety (Jan Mittendorp on guitar and “buttons”, Jasper Mortier on bass and drums). create some fine if rather different modern blues and here’s another – it’s not the Little Walter song, by the way. Recorded in Holland and Saint Louis, Missouri, as part of the “Transatlantic Quarantine Sessions”, it features Boo Boo’s strong down-home vocals and wailing blues harp over an electronic-styled backing and some sampled effects. It works too. Many blues lovers might shy away from the electronic backing, but this is really just another example of the music modernising itself. Give it a try… Norman Darwen
ElectroBluesSociety Featuring Michel Peters—Hoochie Coochie Man—
Here is another single track from this Dutch outfit, with a local singer turning in a version of the Muddy Waters classic. Some of these issues on Black & Tan subsidiary label KuvVer Records have kept reasonably close to the originals – this one doesn’t. The throbbing, up tempo backing is largely electronic, though with pounding drums and some excellent blues guitar, whilst Michel’s singing is fine. The whole thing does actually work well, so, if you have a youngster who feels that the blues is old hat, try to get them to give this a listen – you never know…
Boo Boo Davis “Tree Man” (Black & Tan B&T 045) Mississippi born and long-time Saint Louis based bluesman James “Boo Boo” Davis is one of the last to have sung the blues in the cotton fields, and his music is the real deal. For many years now he has been working with Dutch label Black & Tan – with label boss Jan Mittendorp on guitar and drummer John Gerritse. Sometimes they will go for a specific idea – say, showcasing Boo Boo’s soul side – but for this set the focus is firmly o producing a straight-forward, down home blues set. Some of these songs are slow-ish, brooding compositions in the vein of Howling Wolf (Davis’ voice certainly suits this kind of thing – led an ear to the title track, or ‘What’s The Matter With You Baby’), whilst ‘She Won’t Call Me On The Telephone’ is nicely up tempo and raucous, and ‘Bring My Baby Back Home’, with some slight soul tinges, is perhaps the smoothest number here – though it’s not that smooth! Boo Boo plays harp too on this set – he is not a virtuoso by any means, but he does the job perfectly well, and that comment goes for the whole album, no showboating or ego-tripping, just real blues the whole way.
Here a short review by Norman Darwen that was published in BLUES IN THE SOUTH (UK):
B&T 969 – ElectroBluesSociety feat Jan Hidding – All The Way Down
Another download single from this Dutch outfit with singer Jan Hidding. ‘All The Way Down’ runs to four and a half minutes, with Jan’s big, deep voice backed by a riffing guitar, bass, drums, blues harp and occasional electronic noises. The song itself is a soulful, blues ballad, a little reminiscent of the mid-60s but certainly contemporary, though the electronics add to the track rather than detract from it. Do try to give it a listen!
ElectroBluesSociety feat Jan Hidding – Rosie (Black & Tan B&T 967)
Jan Hidding is singer with the long-standing Europe an garage blues group The Cuban Heels, here teamed up with the Dutch Black & Tan’s label’s house band (Jasper Mortier on drums and bass and label boss Jan Mittendorp on guitars and effects) for a modern recording of “Rosie”, the prison song recorded by Alan Lomax. The results are nicely gritty, rootsy dance music; but don’t let that last phrase put you off, there’s definitely more than a trace of UK 60s R’n’B. Very interesting indeed…
David Philips – Winter (Black & Tan B&T 962) UK born but long based in Spain, David Philips has been working over the last few years as a folk inflected artist for Holland’s Black & Tan Records, one man and a guitar, and so this release for the blues label – David’s sixth, not including a couple of remix tracks – might come as a surprise. It is still a solo effort, but the guitar is electric, blues harmonica crops up occasionally and there is a rhythm section behind David’s excellent vocals. All the songs are David’s of course, he plays all the instruments, and he even provided the cover art. The sound ranges from indie-rock to blues, with comparisons being drawn with Ryan Adams and Doyle Bramhall II; I also hear a little Tom Petty in there too, ‘Running’ opens with a riff a little like Jimi Hendrix’s cover of ‘All Along The Watchtower’ before turning in the direction of Neil Young maybe, and ‘That’s Alright’ recalls early 70s Pink Floyd with a long, space-y passage. Mind you, ‘The One’ is a strong slab of blues-rock. This release contains eight rootsy, hook-laden songs, and if this review has intrigued you, then do check out this release..
This is a compilation of six tracks released as singles in 2015 and 2016 by this Dutch duo of vastly experienced guitarist Mischa Den Haring and Black & Tan Records owner/ producer Jan Mittendorp, who decided to carry on working together as BLu ACiD after success with St Louis bluesman Boo Boo Davis. This release is undeniably cutting edge contemporary blues, with a huge sound (listen to grooving ‘Stuck Anyway’ with a monster slide guitar riff), classic soul influences, as the Otis Redding inflected vocal on ‘Silence’ confirms, and the rave styled ‘Things Will Change’. That last title is rather apt for this set – this is the blues for a generation raised on electronic dance music, hip hop, and remix culture. As such, it might not attract much of the traditional blues audience, but my kids actually stopped and listened – and they don’t do that if I play Muddy, BB or Elmore!
French blues artist Renaud Villet a.k.a. Rivherside released his well-received first album in 2012, and a couple of years later this one man band from Clermont-Ferrand decided to mix hip hop and electro sounds with his blues. Stop! Don’t go away just yet… take a listen to ‘Albert Dre Jr.’ which offers Albert King licks over a harsh urban beat, or ‘Come Over Here’, with its trance like backing combining with an R. L. Burnside styled approach; so too does ‘Muddy Water’, which also has a rap from TDP. ‘I’m Going Away’ is a John Lee Hooker-ish performance, with the low in the mix vocals adding to the boogie approach, whilst ‘Need To Speed’ is a slab of manic rock and roll and ‘Paranoid’ is a tough blues-rocker. The pace slows again for the folky ‘See How They Shine’, then ‘Skinny Woman’ is a gritty-toned Fred McDowell flavoured piece (plus effects) and ‘Treat Me Right’ hits another powerful blues groove. The set closes out with Dave Crowe and LigOne guesting on ‘Who You’re Talking To’, with the electronic effects pretty noticeable here. OK, I realise that this release is not going to be to everyone’s taste but if you like your blues modern, unafraid to take risks and with a bit of an edge, do investigate this.