Category: Blues

New Video: Chicago’s Joanna Connor Releases a Roaring, Boogie Blues

Joanna Connor is a Brooklyn-born, Worcester, MA-raised, Chicago, IL-based singer/songwriter and guitarist, who has publicly cited her mom (who I’ve actually met) and her mom’s record collection as being a major influence on her life and music. “She listed to blues, folk and rock as much as she could,” Connor recalls on her website. “So I heard Buddy Guy and Taj Mahal when I was kid, and got into the more obscure artists as I went on. And I saw all the Chicago bands, who came through town.” By the time, she was in her mid-teens, Connor was playing the Worcester and Boston club scene with her own band before relocating to Chicago in 1984.

Upon her arrival to Chicago, Connor was mentored by a number of blues legends, sitting in with James Cotton, Buddy Guy and Junior Wells. After a stint in Dion Payton’s band, Connor went solo with her own band, releasing her full-length debut, 1989’s Believe It, which began a string of critically applauded albums released through Blind Pig Records. Connor’s 2002 effort The Joanna Connor Band found Connor displaying the full extent of her influences as it featured “Different Kind of War” and a funky cover of “Slippin’ Into Darkness.” But just as the buzz and accolades were growing, Connor began a touring hiatus. “There were several factors: 9/11 had just gone down, the economy was changing and clubs were closing. But most of all, my daughter was pretty young at the time. She wound up deciding that she wanted to become a big-time basketball player, so that required dedication on both of our parts,” the Chicago-based singer/songwriter and guitarist explains on her website. That dream has come true: Connor’s daughter was awarded a basketball scholarship at Indiana State University, and Connor has pursued her career with a renewed fervor.

Although Connor wasn’t touring, she discovered that audiences were coming out to see her play renowned Chicago blues club Kingston Mines, where she began playing a weekly three night residency most weekends, between gigs at larger clubs and festivals. “It’s become kind of an institution: You go to Chicago, you go to Wrigley Field and then you go see Joanna Connor,” the Chicago-based singer/songwriter and guitarist says. “The schedule is kind of brutal, but it’s great—Usually a packed house, with lots of adrenaling pumping. When it gets to be around midnight, the audience starts getting younger. And I love that—My son is 29, and he gets people looking at him and saying, ‘That’s your mom’?” (And the schedule is brutal indeed: we’re talking about 3 two hour sets between 7:00pm and 5:00pm Fridays and Saturdays — and until 4:00am on Sundays.)

The crowds increased after a video featuring a live version of “Walkin’ Blues” was posted by a Massachusetts-based fan on YouTube. “It was just a phenomenal thing that happened. I was getting calls from America’s Got Talent and movie people reaching out; I even had a Russian billionaire fly me to Spain to play a birthday party. I think people loved the combination: Here’s a woman who looks like somebody’s mom, and she’s playing like this. What I remember most was that it was 90 degrees that day, so I was wearing the coolest dress I had.”

Connor’s 14th album, the Joe Bonamassa and Josh Smith co-produced 4801 South Indiana Avenue is slated for a February 26, 2021 release through Joe Bonamassa’s new blues label Keeping The Blues Alive. Recorded at Nashville’s Ocean Way Recording Studios, 4801 South Indiana Avenue derives its name from the actual address of hallowed, Chicago blues club Theresa’s Lounge — and the album reportedly finds Connor, Bonamassa, Smith and an impressive array of musicians digging deeply to conjure an authentic, ass kicking non-derivative set of good ol’ Chicago blues. “We want the listener to open that door, walk in, and feel to their core some of the magic that a place like that brought night after night. It was an honor to bring this to you, the listener,” Connor says in press notes. “This album is a homage to the blues school that I attended in Chicago,” Connor adds. “We attempted to capture the spirit of tradition and inject it with raw energy and passion.

“I Feel So Good,” 4801 South Indiana Avenue’s latest single is a boozy, breakneck boogie woogie centered around Connor’s blistering solos and dexterous guitar work and her powerhouse vocal while Lemar Carter (drums) holds his own with a rapid-fire hi-hat driven pattern reminiscent of Van Halen’s “Hot for Teacher.” For me the track not only captures a self-assured lady, who kicks ass and takes names and wants to have herself a good time, it captures a moment I miss dearly when you open the door to the club and see that it’s rocking. The booze is flowing copiously. People are sweating and dancing. The band is roaring. And everyone desperately wants it to never end.

“This is one heavy boogie tune,” Connor says. “The opening note I held was a fun challenge! This tune absolutely burns. Joe used some interesting microphone technique on the vocal and overdrove it purposely. The drummer (Lemar Carter) and I were flying by the seat of our pants so to speak and miraculously ended the fade out together. I particularly love the way the musicians come roaring back- all Joe’s idea!”

Shot in Kingston Mines, the recently released video features Connor in a white faux fur coat, green dress and silver “these-were-made-for-walking-all-over-you” boots rocking out all night. And it accurately captures her live stage presence. Simply put, Connor is can flat out play those blues.

New Video: Rising British Duo Muca & La Marquise Release a Shimmering and Sultry Blues

Earlier this month, I wrote about the rapidly rising London-based duo Muca & La Marquise. With the release of their debut single “London,” the duo which features Brazilian-born, London-based guitarist, songwriter and producer Muca and 22 year-old vocalist La Marquise captured the attention of Roberto Menescal and Will Gompertz.

Building upon the growing buzz, the London-based duo released their second single “Blue Moon Bossa” found the act crafting a João Gilberto and Tom Jobim-inspired bossa nova — for modern times. Centered around La Marquise’s achingly melancholic vocals, the song evokes a longing for home and a longing for a simpler time. As Muca explained, the track came from a desire to visit his homeland to musically reconnect with his roots. “I have a rock and blues background, but really, I’ve always had the Brazilian music hidden somewhere in me,” Muca says in press notes. “I thought it was time to bring it back to my composition. Having La Marquise singing the song is fantastic, she really grooves, and she added such a magical touch to it.

The songwriting process for “Blue Moon Bossa” was rather straight forward. “Myself and La Marquise have an excellent music connection,” Muca says. “Most of the songs we wrote were quite fast, time flew by, it was so easy. It all starts with guitars and vocals. I bring the first ideas with chord progressions on the guitar and some melodies. She then adds her notebook and begins to add lyrics and add more melodies to it. I was amazed how the track naturally developed into the Bossa Nova/Jazz style, and I’m delighted with the song and album result.”

The duo’s third and latest single is the slow-burning blues ballad “October Blues.” Featuring a shimmering David GIlmour-like solo and La Marquise’s expressive and sultrily delivered vocals. If you close your eyes when La Marquise hits the higher register of her impressive vocal range, for a brief second it seems like you’re listening to old Led Zeppelin tracks. At its core, the song suggests that heartbreak and regret — particularly in October — can seem like supernatural occurrences that you need to protect yourself from.

The recently released video for “October Blues” was filmed by Tom Casey and edited by Luan Pail — and the visual brings painter and illustrator Tiago Judas’ comic The Liquid Mystery and The Solid Fatality to vivid life behind a silhouetted Muca playing his guitar part. The end result is something kind of surreal yet very tactile.

The duo are planning to release their self-titled, full-length debut in early 2021.

New Video: Heartless Bastards Release a Surreal and Urgent Visual for Politically-Charged and Uplifting “Revolution”

Deriving their name from a hilariously incorrect answer on a multiple-choice trivia game (the question was: “What is the name of Tom Petty’s backing band), the acclaimed indie rock act Heartless Bastards was founded in Cincinnati by Dayton, OH-born singer/songwriter and guitarist Erika Wennerstrom back in 2003 in Cincinnati. Starting out as a solo recording project,. Heartless Bastards evolved into a live band with a revolving cast of musicians that regularly played throughout the Midwest.

The Black Keys’ Patrick Carney caught the band and was so impressed by what he had heard, that he passed along a copy of their demo to their label at the time — Fat Possum Records, who signed the band and released their first three albums: 2005’s Stairs and Elevators, 2006’s All This Time and 2009’s The Mountain. In between the writing and recording of All This Time and The Mountain, Wennerstrom relocated to Austin, TX. Around the time that Wennenrstrom relocated to Austin, the band’s touring lineup featured David Colvin (drums) and Jesse Ebaugh (bass), who both played on the Heartless Bastard demos recorded six years prior. The band expanded into a quartet with the 2009 addition of Mark Nathan (guitar).

The band signed to Partisan Records, who released the band’s last two critically applauded albums — 2012’s Arrow and 2015’s Restless Ones. And after 15 years of fronting the band, Wennnerstrom released her solo debut, 2018’s Sweet Unknown. “It was a deeply personal album and it just felt fitting to use my name,” Wennerstrom says of her solo debut. “It kind of forced me to allow myself to be a little more exposed, and stand on my own two feet. I feel like I’ve grown so much creatively and personally through this process.”

Recently, the band returned to the studio to work on their long-awaited Kevin Ratterman-produced fifth album. The album reportedly will find the band continuing the late night, bluesy rock vibes that have won them praise and attention. The band’s latest single “Revolution” is their first bit of original material as a band in five years. The track was initially released on Bandcamp with proceeds donated to the ALCU — with the track no being available on all DSPs.

“Revolution” begins with a slow-burning and atmospheric ballad introduction that slowly builds up in intensity before turning into an anthemic, bluesy rocker around the three minute mark. Centered around Wennerstorm’s bluesy wail and some dexterous guitar work, including a blazing solo, the track is an incisive and urgent message that says we need to get our shit straight and make the world a better place before it’s too late. “’Revolution’ is about self love,” Wennerstrom explains in press notes. “I think if people loved themselves more there wouldn’t be racism, bigotry, and classism. Some people are so worried that there is not enough pie to go around, and that lifting up others limits their own opportunity. There is mass misinformation and manipulation to peddle this narrative. Money, materialism, privileged access to better education are things people constantly measure themselves with. The need to feel better than someone in order to feel good about oneself is an age old insecurity. The planet really can’t sustain everyone having more. Everything is made to fall apart, like cars and $1100 cell phones. I think humanity needs to learn how to have less, and not play into the commercialism that constantly sends the message we lack things that we don’t really need.

“Revolution is a mantra, and reminder to myself to avoid playing the game as much as I can. I don’t need this, and I don’t need that. I don’t need to compare myself to others. This marathon everybody is running is exhausting. There is so much true suffering in this world with a lack of food, shelter, and basic running water. The more man attempts to look at the world from another man’s perspective it becomes apparent how connected we all really are. I think giving and receiving love is really what we need the most. All the rest is just a bunch of noise.”

Directed by Sam Wainwright Douglas and David Hartstein, the recently released, incredibly surreal video features an elegantly dressed Wennerstrom sitting crossed legged in the salt flats of Utah watching advertisements and imagery that people to be blindly greedy, selfish consumers and brutally racist.But during the song’s anthemic second half, we see nature overcoming all, and eventually Wennerstrom coolly floating through space.

“I wanted to release ‘Revolution’ before the election, to serve as a reminder of what’s important in life: love and compassion for yourself and your fellow man,” Wennerstrom says of the video’s release. “We have to fight fear with love. I think there’s a lot of bullshit out there that is peddled to sway people one way or the other. I feel people know what’s right in their hearts. It’s a call to not look the other way.

“For the video, I had an idea of having a surreal living room image in the salt flats,” Wennerstrom adds. “It’s a statement on how our excess commercial culture and system create a competitive climb to the top. We all struggle to get ahead so we don’t get left far behind. Very little life can live in the salt flats and I thought it helped symbolize the direction of environment if we don’t come together and wake up. I couldn’t get to the salt flats and the idea of a green screen came to mind. Sam Douglas and David Hartstein took this idea to a whole other level. The green screen went from what was initially just being unable to get to the salt flats to far beyond what I’d imagined. It really captured the song so much more.

There is so much beauty in this world, and in each other. Sometimes it is underneath the surface, but it’s always there. Let’s lift each other up.”

 

Known as Juneteenth, Freedom Day,  Jubilee Day, Liberation Day and Emancipation Day, June 19, 2020 commemorates the 155th anniversary of Union Army General Gordon Granger arriving in Galveston, TX with his troops and announcing federal orders that all people held as slaves in Texas were free. In reality, those held as slaves in Texas were technically freed two and a half years earlier with the Emancipation Proclamation, which officially outlawed slavery across Confederate territories.

Although Juneteenth is commonly thought as celebrating the end of slavery in the US. it  was still legal and practiced in Union border states until December 6, 1865 with the ratification of the 13th Amendment abolished non-penal, chattel slavery across the country.

Officially celebrations of Juneteenth date back to 1866, initially involving church-centered community gathering across Texas. It spread rapidly across the South becoming much more commercialized, centering around food. Regardless of how you celebrate it, today should be America’s real independence day —  the day in which all Americans were made free. There’s still a lot of work to be done by all of us for all of us to truly be free from fascism, white supremacy, the patriarchy and other oppressive human systems. Let’s keep pushing on.

In the meantime, I wanted to spend today celebrating Black people and Black art. Being Black has truly been the best thing to ever have happened to me. Black is multifaceted. Black is beautiful. Black is powerful and righteous. Black is brotherhood and sisterhood. Black is swagger and flavor. Black is joy in the face of terror, horror and injustice. Black is survival and pride. Black is a wonderful, wonderful thing.

If you’re Black and gay. I love you, you matter to me. If you’re Black and trans, I love you, you matter to me. If you’re a Black woman, I love you, you matter to me. If you’re a Black man, I love you, you matter to me. If you’re Black and non-binary, I love you, you matter to me.

Because of the occasion, I had been thinking of Syl Johnson‘s 1969 full-length album Is It Because I’m Black? Born Sylvester Thompson in Holly Springs, MS, Johnson and his family relocated to Chicago in 1950. Acclaimed bluesman Magic Sam was his next-door neighbor — and Johnson quickly developed a reputation as a go-to guitarist and vocalist, playing with Billy Boy Arnold, Junior Wells, and Howlin’ Wolf throughout the 50s. He recorded with Jimmy Reed in 1959 and made his solo debut with Federal Records, a subsidiary of legendary Cincinnati blues label King Records that year.

Personally, I find Johnson to be interesting because he’s part of that last wave of the Great Migration — and because his work comfortably sits in between blues, R&B and soul.  As for Is It Because I’m Black? It’s a great album that deserves more love and greater attention for its observations and thoughts on being Black in America, Black unity and more — plus it features a Southern fried cover of The Beatles‘ “Come Together” that’s worth the price of admission.

 

 

 

 

Spencer Kilpatrick is a Big Water, UT-based blues guitarist and singer/songwriter, who has built a profile regionally for playing Stax Records-infused soul and blues with a smoky, aching croon.  Kilpatrick has sporadically released material online for some time now, including his latest four song EP, four big water bluses, which he wrote and recorded after losing weekly gigs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Spending the bulk of his 20s in garage rock bands, Kilpatrick’s latest effort finds him returning to some of his earliest musical influences — the blues — as a conscious step outside of the comfort zone he had developed for himself. The EP’s third track “the one where you wait for vocals to come in”  really caught my ear. Centered around shimmering and expressive guitar work, the track is a slow-burning classic blues-inspired song that the emerging Utah-bass artist says was inspired by Mdou Moctar, Jimi Hendrix‘s instrumental version of “Born Under A Bad Sign” and Funkadelic‘s “Maggot Brain” — with a subtly lysergic air.

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New Video: Follow Rising British Singer-Songwriter Jack Broadbent Across Route 66 in Visuals for “If”

Jack Broadbent is a rapidly rising Lincolnshire, UK-born singer/songwriter, guitarist and producer. Influenced by a diverse array of influences, including Radiohead, Robert Johnson, Joni Mitchell and Davey Graham among others, Broadbent has cited that listening and learning from such a wide array of artists has helped him create a unique style and sound that frequently features and meshes elements from a different genres and styles. Interestingly, over the past few years, the Lincolnshire-born, has been hailed as “the new master of the slide guitar” by the Montreux Jazz Festival and “the real thang” by Bootsy Collins. 

Broadbent has opened for Lynyrd Skynyrd, Johnny Hallyday, Robben Ford and Tony Joe White — and he’s headlined sold-out shows across the world. And building upon a growing profile, the Lincolnshire-born singer/songwriter, guitarist and producer has amassed over 110,000 monthly listeners and over 10 million Spotify streams. Last year’s Bruce Cameron and Broadbent co-produced full-length album Moonshine Blue was released to widespread critical praise. And since the release of the album, the rapidly rising British has been busy on an extensive headlining tour, including opening for Peter Frampton during his upcoming farewell tour in the UK. 

But in the meantime, “If,” Moonshine Blue’s latest single further establishes his critically applauded sound — a warm, radio friendly country-tinged New Orleans-like blues with a soulful and shimmering solo that seems like a synthesis of old-timey blues, Eric Clapton and Dr. John. And while being a perfect road trip jam, the song describes a restless character, who’s out on the road searching for something — primarily himself. 

The recently released video for “If” follow Broadbent was he travels across the States on the historic Route 66. And as he goes from coast to coast, we see the rising British singer/songwriter stopping in a number of locations both big and small, new and worn; but interestingly enough, the video captures the British singer/songwriter observing the country with the awe, joy and bemusement.