by Mike Breen
Chris Sherman of funky Cincy bands Freekbass and Freekbot joins Jyn Yates as Kelly Richey Band's new rhythm section
While not necessarily “weird,” when fans discovered that bad-ass, longtime local Blues artist Kelly Richey had started a side-business as a “life coach,” undoubtedly a few thought they misheard or misread. It’s not really a logical step from stunning Blues guitarist and vocalist to personal life coach for hire. Likewise, when I first got an email about the new lineup of Richey’s band, I did a double take. Again, not that it was particularly unusual news — I just didn’t see it coming. (The music world could use a lot more moments like that.)Joining Richey in the new version of KRB is experienced drummer Jyn Yates from Kentucky and Chris Sherman, the guiding force behind popular local Funk group Freekbass (and his new duo project, Freekbot). While Sherman (who goes by his stage name, Freekbass) is best known for his huge Funk grooves, dabbling in modern EDM and rather flamboyant stage outfits at times, Richey’s sound skates the line between hard Blues and Rock; the most flash from her live shows come from out of her fingers as she plays and mouth as she sings.On the surface, the pairing seems on par with Buckethead joining Bonnie Raitt’s band or Flea sitting in with Stevie Ray Vaughan. In other words, it should be quite interesting to hear what the trio comes up with. The first single, “Fast Drivin’ Mama,” offers a hint — the song is a rocking slice of riffing Blues Funk. It’s not drastically different from Richey’s usual sound, but the groove is appropriately huge. Here's the debut single/video for "Mama":The new KRB trio was assembled to record the next Kelly Richey Band album, which the musicians have been working on at Shangri-La Studios in Lexington, Ky. The album — Sweet Spirit — is scheduled for release March 1, followed by tour dates that will take them from Florida to Canada. The trio’s debut show is Saturday in Northern Illinois (Mishawaka, to be exact), but local fans won’t have to wait long to check out the new KRB. The group performs on Jan. 11 at Legends Nightclub in Cheviot. Showtime is 8 p.m. and there is a $10 cover at the door.
by Brian Baker
Shake It Records once again shines a light on Cincinnati's musical history with pre-war Blues compilation
Cincinnati enjoys a reputation as a city with a rich and colorful musical history, exemplified by the influential reach of Syd Nathan’s roster at King Records, a label that attracted and embraced every conceivable style of music and musician. And there’s a case to be made that King’s diversity was simply a reflection of the city’s broad creative scope — then, now and perpetually, it’s been difficult to hang a signature genre tag on Cincinnati’s sound.There aren’t many Cincinnatians who understand the area’s musical timeline much better than Darren Blase, co-owner of the city’s premiere record store, Shake It Records. Blase has long championed the King story; he did his thesis at UC on King Records and ultimately turned that mountain of information into a book and a screenplay, both of which remain undeservedly shelved. But like any curious student of history, Blase has never been content to concentrate on just the King legacy, wanting to connect the dots to see how it all related to his own firsthand Punk Rock experience in the ’80s. Equally important, he has always been eager to look to the city’s musical heritage before King Records, to discover the roots of Cincinnati’s unique musical culture.Blase and his brother/business partner Jim have long used their Shake It label as a vehicle to spotlight the incredible wealth of talent in the current local and regional scene, but their latest release time travels back to the early part of the 20th century to reveal Cincinnati’s amazing contributions to pre-World War II Blues with the double vinyl gem Play It Like You Did Back to George Street.As Blues historian Steve Tracy notes in his thorough liner notes for George Street, Cincinnati in the ’20s and ’30s didn’t necessarily exhibit a distinctive Blues identity like Chicago, New York or Memphis, but the artists that comprised the Cincinnati scene were a spirited and talented group that could have successfully infiltrated any Blues community in the country. Representing a specific period in Cincinnati musical history, from 1924 to 1936, George Street serves as evidence of the assertion that the city’s Blues profile was anything but nondescript. George Street’s ancient recordings (of varying but ultimately listenable quality) are filled with fascinating local references (“Court Street Blues,” “I’m Going to Cincinnati,” “Sixth Street Moan,” “Newport Blues,” “Cincinnati Underworld Woman”) and a host of area artists with a firm grip on the qualities that make for great Folk and Ragtime-tinted Blues. The collection takes its title from “Mama Let Me Lay On You,” where Walter Coleman exhorts his uncredited guitarist to reach for the passion and fire that typified performances on the long-forgotten street that was once the home to the city’s red light district and its attendant nightclubs; a good many of the lyrics to the songs on the George Street collection live up to that bawdy history.Coleman is a pervasive presence on George Street, primarily because he assumes so many recorded identities (Kid Cole, Kid Coley, Bob Coleman, Sweet Papa Tadpole, Walter Cole), but the album also shows off the obvious skills of Sam Jones (who also went by the name Stovepipe No. 1) and Jesse James (whose four songs on George Street represent his entire recorded legacy).George Street also offers a pair of talented jug bands. Coleman leads the Cincinnati Jug Band — “George Street Stomp” is a particular favorite – while Jones takes the helm with the King David Jug Band, typified by the rollicking “What That Tastes Like Gravy.”Play It Like Did Back at George Street, enticingly subtitled Music From Ohio Volume 1 and beautifully illustrated by renowned local underground cartoonist Justin Green, is clearly aimed at a specific Blues aficionado. If Robert Cray and Stevie Ray Vaughan are your Blues ideals, then this album will hold little interest for you. But if you’re fascinated by the sound of scratchy old 78s and the magic that erupts from the horn when the needle is dropped on a groove that dates to a time when flappers were the rage, George Street is your early Christmas present.Remaining copies of the initial pressing of Play It Like You Did at George Street (which went on sale for Record Store Day's Black Friday event) are available from Shake It Records (online here and at the store in Northside) only as a double vinyl album (for now), but the release comes with a download card for digital playback. The label is rolling out the record nationally in the next few weeks. To sample a trio of tracks from the release, click here.
by Mike Breen
Popular Blues showcase returns to Sawyer Point for weekend of Blues you can use
By all accounts (from people who actually attended or performed), last month’s huge Bunbury Music Festival was one of the best-run fests of its kind this area has ever seen. Organizer Bill Donabedian no doubt scored some tips from the operators of the big annual Blues celebration, the volunteer-driven Cincy Blues Fest, which has been doing the “well-run music festival” thing at Sawyer Point Park along the riverfront for many years now. This weekend, the Cincy Blues Fest — one of the finest Blues events in the Midwest — returns to Sawyer Point to celebrate its 20th anniversary. That's a remarkable two decades of providing Greater Cincinnati live music lovers with some of the
finest Blues being made locally, regionally and nationally, a rare and impressive achievement for any music festival. This year’s main stage national headliners are especially strong — Webb Wilder on Friday and Duke Robillard on Saturday — but the Cincy Blues Fest always has a ton of interesting and engaging artists performing throughout the fest’s multiple stages.
Aside from the lineup featuring a few
higher quality headliners than the past couple of years (like Robillard, Wilder, Trampled Under Foot, Super Chikan, Sista Monica, etc.),
this year’s 20th anniversary celebration isn’t really being overblown,
likely because the Cincy Blues Society and the army of volunteers that
work the fest always do such an amazing job running the event; it’s
already quite special, no matter what birthday the fest is celebrating.
One of my favorite elements of the Blues
Fest is its undying support for our local players and singers. This
year, Cincy Blues Challenge winners Chris Yakopcic and the Noah
Wotherspoon Band have main-stage slots (they’ll also go to Memphis this
winter to compete for Cincinnati in the International Blues Challenge).
Yakopcic performs at 5:45 p.m. Friday, while Wotherspoon and Co. play at
the same time Saturday (following a band of students associated with
the Blues in the Schools program, for which the fest raises money).
The three side stages — always creatively
programmed — have a heavy local presence. Friday, visit the “Blues: The
Next Generation” stage for sets by younger area acts like the Wade
Baker Trio, Brian Keith Wallen Band, Scotty Bratcher and (again!) Noah
Wotherspoon and his band. The “Next Gen” stage starts at 5:15 p.m.
Saturday. Friday "The Next Generation of Blues" stage lineup5:15 p.m. Wade Baker Trio6:20 p.m. Jellico Motel7:05 p.m. Brian Keith Wallen Band8:10 p.m. Carson Diersing Band9:25 p.m. Scotty Bratcher10:40 p.m. Noah Wotherspoon Band
As the name suggests, the St. Vincent
DePaul Local Stage is chock full of local talent. Friday, the stage
features Bad Men on a Mission, Them Bones, the Doug Hart Band, Leroy
Ellington’s Blues Band and Blue Sacrifice.
Saturday, catch the Blue
Birds Big Band, the Gradual Taylor Band, the Leo Clarke Band, The Juice,
Chuck Brisbin & the Tuna Project and Balderdash. Friday St. Vincent De Paul Local Stage lineup5:45-6:45 p.m. Bad Men on a Mission7:00-8:00 p.m. Them Bones8:15-9:15 p.m. Doug Hart Band9:30-10:30 p.m. Leroy Ellington’s Blues Band10:45pm-12:00 a.m. Blue SacrificeSaturday St. Vincent De Paul Local Stage lineup 4:30-5:30 p.m. Blue Birds Big Band5:45-6:45 p.m. The Gradual Taylor Band7:00-8:00 p.m. The Leo Clarke Band8:15-9:15 p.m. The Juice9:30-10:30 p.m. Chuck Brisbin & the Tuna Project10:45-11:45 p.m. Balderdash
And perhaps the fest’s most notable and
renowned side stage, the unique Boogie Woogie Piano Hall of Fame Stage,
on Saturday will feature appearances by Jimmy Rogers, Todd Hepburn, Liz
Pennock & Dr. Blues and Ricky Nye, plus players from across the
planet. The Boogie Woogie stage closes out with a “grand finale jam”
just before midnight. Saturday Boogie Woogie Piano Hall of Fame Stage lineup4:30 p.m. Jimmy Rogers5:10 p.m. Todd Hepburn5:50 p.m. Liz Pennock & Dr. Blues6:50 p.m. Ricky Nye7:40 p.m. Mark Braun8:30 p.m. Rob Rio9:20 p.m. Cynthia Girtley10:10 p.m. Bob Seeley11:00 p.m. Fabrice Eulry11:50 p.m. Grand Finale JamHere are the lineups for the Budweiser Main Stage this weekend:Friday Budweiser Main Stage lineup 5:45-6:45 p.m. Chris Yakopcic7:00-8:15 p.m. Super Chikan8:30-10:00 p.m. Sista Monica10:15-11:45 p.m. Webb WilderSaturday Budweiser Main Stage lineup5:00-5:30 p.m. Blues in the School (BITS) Band5:45-6:45 p.m. Noah Wotherspoon Band7:00-8:15 p.m. Southern Hospitality8:30-10:00 p.m. Trampled Under Foot10:15-11:45 p.m. Duke RobillardTickets are $20 each day (two-day passes are
available Friday at the gates for $30), or grab yours early through
brownpapertickets.com for a $5 discount. Or you can join the Cincy Blues
Society (cincyblues.org), the creators and managers of Cincy Blues
Fest, to receive an even deeper discount.
Be sure to pick up a copy of this week's CityBeat, which includes a pull-out guide for the Cincy Blues Fest, with artist bios, schedules and more. For further ticket info, updates, details on the new Cincy Blues Fest mobile app and much more, visit cincybluesfest.org.
by Mike Breen
Local acoustic Blues duo celebrates new LP release tonight at Arnold's
Eclectic acoustic Blues duo 46 Long is set to release its latest full-length, the dynamic Tennessee, tonight at downtown’s Arnold’s Bar & Grill. Showtime is 9 p.m. and the shindig is a freebie. The show will be a brand-new experience for fans of the duo. The group will be debuting a lot of new material and the first set will feature drumming assistance from percussionist Joe Pro. For 46 Long's second set tonight, the twosome will go "full band" with the addition of bassist Bobby Loggs and some other special guests. Though “dynamic” and “eclectic” might not be the first words to come to mind when you think “acoustic Blues duo” — all three words suggest inherent limitations — 46 Long is both of those and more. Eschewing Blues clichés while still staying fairly faithful to the music’s rich tradition is a difficult balancing act to pull off, but Tennessee finds the twosome subtly integrating sounds from a broad spectrum of influence without losing their core, distinct sound. In the end, it’s one of the more creative Blues releases you’ll likely hear all year, yet the detours and tangents shouldn’t deter (most) purists. On Tennessee, Blake Taylor (who primarily sings and blows a mean harmonica, though also contributes keys, percussion guitar and, uh, “crowbar” on the album) and Jonathan Reynolds (who sings and plays guitar while also providing bass and percussion) start things off with the stanky groove of “More,” then take the listeners through deft interpretations of gritty, Delta-esque Blues (like the title track), gruff Tom Waitsian eccentricity (“Lock It Up or Lose It”), full-bodied, swaggering AltCountry (a cover of the Starkweathers’ “One for Her, One For Him”), boogying Lyle Lovett-like Swing (“Don’t Drink”) and stompin’ Garage Rock (“Something Strange”). Other standouts on Tennessee include a sparsely percussioned take on Morphine’s “Thursday,” and “The Best Revenge,” a dark, ominously atmospheric track that’ll send creepy shivers up your spine. The recording is refreshingly natural (with only some distortion here and there to add shadowing), the perfect setting to wrap your ears around the duo’s ace musical skills. Taylor once again proves he’s one of the best Blues harmonica players in the region, playing the mouth harp like a saxophone, a vocal part, a rhythm guitar or pretty much any other instrument you can think of. If you’ve given up on the Blues because you think you’ve heard it all before, pick up Tennessee and let 46 Long show you otherwise.Here's a live clip of the duo performing the new LP's title track.
by Blake Taylor
Posted In: Local Music
at 01:35 PM | Permalink
Cincinnati is loaded with Blues talent. Always has been. Yet it is still a rare and noteworthy occasion when a Cincinnati Blues artist releases an album with primarily original music. Brad Hatfield has long been considered one of the area’s premier harmonica slingers. With his new release, Uphill From Anywhere, he also establishes himself as one of Cincy's most distinctive Blues voices — both as a singer and as a songwriter.Richly produced by Jon Justice, who also shares many of the writing/arranging credits, and featuring Hatfield’s father, keyboardist Bernie Hatfield, Uphill From Anywhere is an album that will please lovers of standard Blues fare, as well as those who like their Blues flavored with a little gospel and groove. The album begins with “Witness to My Misery,” a straightforward gut-thumping march, and then moves into “Fit to be the Fool,” a shuffle that will certainly please the Blues purists. All signs point to pretty standard Blues fare at this point, albeit it with heartfelt lyrics and sultry amplified harp tone. But with the Justice-penned “One More Night,” we’re immediately snapped back to attention with percussive stabs, Hammond organ overtones and honeyed slide guitar reminiscent of the best Warren Haynes-era work from the Allman Brothers. Soulful and inventive chord progressions and equally soulful singing elevate this song a notch or two above the first two tracks.Indeed, the brightest spots on Uphill From Anywhere are the departures from the 1-4-5 12-bar formula that are the bread and butter for so many Blues bands. “Livin’ Out the Lie” has a great Robert-Cray minor-key R&B vibe and “End of Time” has an uplifting Gospel feel, reminding us to not fret too much since “they’ve been talkin’ bout the end since the beginning of time.” The song makes you want to take the nearest woman by the hand, pull her close and dance like there’s gonna be a whole bunch of tomorrows.Brad Hatfield has paid more dues than many of us have and for a decade he’s been widely respected as one of Cincinnati’s greatest Blues harmonica players. But the revelation of this album is how Uphill From Anywhere firmly establishes Hatfield as one of our city’s most poignant Blues vocalists. In fact, the second to last track, “Too Good to Give Away,” features guest harp work from New Jersey’s Dennis Gruenling. Harmonica players are a notoriously competitive and territorial lot, but Hatfield yields the instrumental spotlight and lets his voice tell the story with his husky, agile and often moving growl. Appropriately, the album’s final cut is an a capella version of “John the Revelator.” Brad Hatfield’s voice takes you to church, or the field, or to the mountaintop, and you believe every word he’s saying. Sample the release below:You can catch the Brad Hatfield Band in June at Saturday, June 9 at the Colerain Park Amphitheatre from 5-8 p.m., and Friday, June 22 at Geez'l Petes in Covington starting at 8:30 p.m. Visit www.bhatfieldbluesband.com for more on the album and future shows.