|She Gets Me||She Gets Me|| |
|Getting There||Getting There|| |
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|Buddy's Blues||Cyclone|| |
|My Sweet Guitar||Cyclone|| |
|Bonus_ Got to Get Better in a Little While||Getting There|| |
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|11 Things I Won't Forget||Getting There|| |
|Checkin' Out||Getting There|| |
Popovic recorded her debut album with Hush in 1999, when she also moved to the Netherlands to study jazz guitar and world and pop music at the Conservatory of Music. She had the chance to see blues guitarist Bernard Allison at a club in Germany. He asked her to come on-stage and jam at the end of the show. While Allison invited Popovic to join him on a tour, she had to get back to the Jazz Academy in Holland. Allison asked for a copy of Popovic's record with Hush, and he sent it on to executives at Ruf Records in Germany, who were impressed with Popovic's powerful guitar playing and singing. Ruf contacted her to be part of their Jimi Hendrix tribute compilation, and then signed her to a recording deal of her own.
Several months after this, she was on her way to Memphis to record Hush! The album was well received by blues radio programmers and the non-blues purist segments of the American, European, and Canadian blues festival circuits. In the spring of 2001, she performed at the Memphis in May Festival alongside Bob Dylan, the Black Crowes, and Ike Turner. Within five years of leaving Yugoslavia, Popovic, now in her late twenties, had the chance to perform at many of the major European blues festivals, including Peer, Bishopstock, and Notodden. Along the way she's sat in with the likes of Allison, Michael Hill, and Kenny Neal.
Popovic has two albums out on the New Jersey-based Ruf Records America label, Hush!, released in 2000, and Comfort to the Soul, her 2003 release. Jim Gaines and David Z., who have worked with other blues-rockers, including Stevie Ray Vaughan, Santana, and Jonny Lang, had roles in recording and mixing both albums. Five of Popovic's sparkling originals shine on Comfort to the Soul, including her homage to the tragic life of jazz bassist Jaco Pastorius, inspired by a book she read, as well as the album's opening track, "Don't Bear Down on Me (I'm Here to Steal the Show)." She also provides inspired, inventive covers of Howlin' Wolf's "Sitting on Top of the World" and Steely Dan's "Night by Night."
Popovic guests on Hill's 2003 two-disc Electric Storyland live album. In 2003, Popovic was nominated for a W.C. Handy Blues Award for Best New Artist of the Year and was the first European artist to perform at the Handy Awards. Two years later, Popovic released her first live effort, Ana! Live in Amsterdam.
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Tinsley Ellis was born in Atlanta in 1957, and spent most of his childhood in southern Florida. He began playing guitar in elementary school, first discovering the blues through the flagship bands of the British blues boom: John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, the Peter Green-led Fleetwood Mac, the Yardbirds, the Rolling Stones, and so on. He soon moved on to a wide variety of original sources, becoming especially fond of B.B. King and Freddie King. After high school, Ellis moved back to Atlanta in 1975 to attend Emory University, and soon found work on the local music scene, joining a bar band called the Alley Cats (which also featured future Fabulous Thunderbird Preston Hubbard). In 1981, Ellis co-founded the Heartfixers with singer/harmonica player Chicago Bob Nelson, and they recorded an eponymous debut album for the tiny Southland imprint. They soon signed with the slightly larger Landslide and issued Live at the Moon Shadow in 1983, by which point they were one of the most popular live blues acts in the South. However, Nelson left the group shortly after the album's release, and Ellis took over lead vocal chores.
The Heartfixers' first project in their new incarnation was backing up blues shouter Nappy Brown on his well-received 1984 comeback album Tore Up. Ellis debuted his vocals on record on the Heartfixers' 1986 LP Cool on It, which brought him to the attention of Alligator Records. Ellis left the Heartfixers to sign with Alligator as a solo artist in 1988, and they picked up his solo debut Georgia Blue for distribution. The album helped make Ellis a fixture on the blues circuit, and he toured heavily behind it, establishing a hard-working pattern he would follow for most of his career. The follow-up, Fanning the Flames, appeared in 1989 and explored similar territory. Released in 1992, Trouble Time helped land Ellis on album rock radio thanks to the track "Highwayman," but it was 1994's Storm Warning that really broke Ellis to a wider blues-rock audience, earning more media attention than any of his previous recordings; additionally, guitar prodigy Jonny Lang later covered Ellis' "A Quitter Never Wins" on Lie to Me.
For 1997's Fire It Up, Ellis worked with legendary blues-rock producer Tom Dowd (the Allman Brothers, Derek & the Dominos), as well as Booker T. & the MG's bassist Donald "Duck" Dunn. Ellis subsequently left Alligator and signed with Capricorn; unfortunately, shortly after the release of 2000's Kingpin, Capricorn went bankrupt, leaving the album high and dry. Still, Ellis soon caught on with Telarc, releasing his initial disc Hell or High Water on the label in 2002, followed by The Hard Way in 2004. One year later, Ellis was back with Alligator, putting out the live set Live! Highwayman and 2007's Moment of Truth, the first studio album to contain original material since Hell or High Water. Ellis toured relentlessly behind the album, and re-entered the studio in early 2009. Speak No Evil was issued in October of that year.
Steve Huey, Rovi
By the time the club closed in the mid-'80s, Burks briefly put his love of blues on the back burner, as he supported himself by taking a job as a mechanical technician for Lockheed Martin, although he still managed to play clubs and regional festivals. In 1997, Burks issued his very first album, From the Inside Out, producing the entire record himself, which immediately racked up impressive reviews from several esteemed blues publications (Blues Access raved the debut was "the most impressive indie in recent memory," while Living Blues named it one of "the best debut discs of the year"). In 2001 Burks issued his debut recording for the Alligator label, Make It Rain, produced in Memphis by Jim Gaines (Santana, Stevie Ray Vaughan) and Bruce Iglauer (Albert Collins, Johnny Winter). Two years later, I Smell Smoke was released, followed by Iron Man in 2008, both on Alligator. In the midst of this successful phase of his recording and performing career, Burks collapsed on May 6, 2012 at the Atlanta airport upon returning to the States after a European tour; he could not be revived after being rushed to the hospital. Michael Burks was 54 years old.
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Jason Ankeny, Rovi
Born and raised in San Jose, California, Castro started playing guitar at the tender age of ten. Initially inspired by Mike Bloomfield, Eric Clapton, and Elvin Bishop, he started the inevitable journey into the roots of his heroes and discovered and quickly became enamored of B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Elmore James, Muddy Waters, and Freddie King. His vocal styling came from constant listening to Ray Charles, Wilson Pickett, James Brown, and Otis Redding. After playing with numerous Bay Area groups honing his chops, he landed a gig playing guitar for the San Francisco band the Dynatones, who were then signed to Warner Bros. The two-year stint augured well for Castro, playing to the biggest crowds he had seen up to that point and backing artists as diverse as Carla Thomas and Albert King.
Returning to San Francisco, Castro formed his own group and in 1993 released his first self-produced album, No Foolin', on the dime-sized Saloon label. That same year also saw him winning the Bay Area Music Award for Best Club Band, an honor he duplicated the following year. In 1997, he won Bammies for Outstanding Blues Musician and for Outstanding Blues Album for his debut release on Blind Pig Records, Exception to the Rule. Also in 1997, Castro and his band began a three-year stint working as the house band on NBC's "Comedy Showcase", which aired after "Saturday Night Live".
Live at the Fillmore was released in early 2000, and with everyone from industry insiders to B.B. King singing his praises, Castro appeared to be headed for bigger and better things. It was not to be, however, as in 2001 he left Blind Pig Records and recorded Guilty of Love for the small 33rd Street label. Blind Pig closed the books on their association with Castro in 2002 by releasing the career retrospective The Essential Tommy Castro. Gratitude appeared from Heart and Soul in 2003, followed by Triple Trouble (with Jimmy Hall and Lloyd Jones) later that same year from Telarc. In 2005 Castro returned to the Blind Pig label for the release of Soul Shaker, followed by Painkiller in 2007. The relatively smooth and polished Hard Believer appeared from Alligator Records in 2009, followed in 2011 by The Legendary Rhythm & Blues Revue: Live!, a collection of highlights from Castro's recent live performances, also on Alligator Records.
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Steve Leggett, Rovi
Upon returning from the road, he hooked up with Dowd to record the muscular and sweeping studio disc So, It's Like That and released a document of the tour, A New Day Yesterday Live. The following year, Bonamassa put out Blues Deluxe, featuring nine cover versions of blues classics alongside three originals. The muscular You & Me appeared in 2006, followed by the more acoustic-tinged Sloe Gin in 2007. A year later, Bonamassa released the two-disc live album Live from Nowhere in Particular, followed in 2009 by The Ballad of John Henry. Late in 2009 he released the DVD Live from the Royal Albert Hall with guest spots from Eric Clapton and Paul Jones. In 2010, the guitarist released his first disc for the Premier Artists label, Black Rock, featuring a guest appearance by B.B. King. It was followed by the debut album from Black Country Communion, a blues-rock supergroup which put him in the company of bassist/vocalist Glenn Hughes, drummer Jason Bonham, and keyboardist Derek Sherinian. Bonamassa, ever the overachiever, released his earthy Dust Bowl in March of 2011, followed by Black Country Communion's 2 in June and by his unique collaboration with vocalist Beth Hart on a searing collection of soul covers entitled Don't Explain in September. In May of 2012, Bonamassa released Driving Towards the Daylight. The album reunited the guitarist with producer Kevin Shirley, who brought in Aerosmith's Brad Whitford to play rhythm guitar on the 11 tracks. Driving Towards the Daylight was a significant blues hit -- it topped the "Billboard" blues charts and debuted at number two on the overall British charts -- and Bonamassa didn't slow down. Early in 2013, he released a live CD/DVD set called An Acoustic Evening at the Vienna Opera House and prepared a new studio album scheduled for release later in 2013.
MacKenzie Wilson & Al Campbell, Rovi
Born in Santa Monica, Montoya played drums for a local rock band that toured the region during the mid-'70s, playing in area clubs. Although he had recently been turned on to blues at an Albert King show, he was somewhat unprepared to sit in with another blues legend -- "the Iceman" Albert Collins -- when a bar-owner friend of Montoya invited the bluesman to play at his nightclub. Though his inexperience showed, the young drummer impressed Collins enough to hire him for a Pacific Northwest tour three months later. The tour soon ended, but the pair's affiliation remained for more than five years, while Montoya learned much about the handling of blues guitar from "the Master of the Telecaster."
By the early '80s, Coco Montoya was back in the small-time nightclub business, playing guitar with several regional bands. At one night's show, he realized that John Mayall was in the audience, so he dedicated a cover of "All Your Love" to the British blues maestro. The song prompted Mayall to hire Montoya as lead guitarist for a new version of the Bluesbreakers he had formed. Despite the enormous pressure of filling a spot once held by Eric Clapton and Peter Green, Montoya jumped at the opportunity.
His first album with the Bluesbreakers came in 1985. Mayall had not released an album in five years at that point and the Bluesbreakers had been dead for more than 15, but the live album Behind the Iron Curtain proved Mayall's viability thanks mostly to the fiery work of Montoya. The guitarist appeared on three studio albums with Mayall and the Bluesbreakers, but then struck out on his own by the mid-'90s. Signed to Blind Pig, Montoya released Gotta Mind to Travel in 1995 with help from Mayall and another former Bluesbreaker compatriot, rhythm guitarist Debbie Davies.
After years of toil under Collins and Mayall, Montoya was finally in the spotlight and his award as Best New Blues Artist of 1996 proved quite ironic, given his years of experience. His second album, Ya Think I'd Know Better, was followed by 1997's Just Let Go. At that point, Montoya and Blind Pig parted company and he signed with Alligator Records. Suspicion was released in 2000, followed two years later by Can't Look Back and by Dirty Deal in 2007. All three discs incorporated a definitive soul/R&B approach. I Want It All Back, produced by Keb' Mo' and Jeff Paris, appeared in 2010.
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Born in Pittsburgh, Thackery was raised in Washington, D.C. In high school, he played in a band with Bonnie Raitt's brother, David, who exposed him to the music of Buddy Guy; Thackery saw both Guy and Jimi Hendrix perform in Washington, D.C. Thackery joined the Nighthawks in 1974, after being introduced to harmonica man Mark Wenner by fellow guitarist Bobby Radcliff, who was then based in D.C. Thackery recorded more than 20 albums with the Nighthawks and toured the U.S., Canada, Europe, and Japan. He left the band in 1987 and struck out on his own, needing a break from the Nighthawks' 300-nights-a-year tour schedule.
He formed a new band, Jimmy Thackery & the Assassins, and toured the East Coast heavily with that band until they split up in 1991. Thackery then formed a trio, Jimmy Thackery & the Drivers, quickly forging a name for himself on the blues festival and club circuit through a prolific recording pace and a lot of roadwork. His albums for the San Francisco-based Blind Pig label included Empty Arms Motel (1992), Sideways in Paradise (Jimmy Thackery and John Mooney, 1993), Trouble Man (1994), Wild Night Out! (1995), Drive to Survive (1996), Switching Gears (1998), and Sinner Street (2000). The latter added saxophone player Jimmy Carpenter. In 2002, Thackery signed on with the blues division of Telarc Records, releasing We Got It in 2002 followed by True Stories in 2003, Live in 2004, and Healin' Ground in 2005. Switching to Rykodisc, he released In the Natural State in 2006, followed by Solid Ice on Telarc Records in 2007. Inside Tracks appeared a year later in 2008, also from Telarc Records.
His 1998 album includes guest performances by Joe Louis Walker, Lonnie Brooks, Chubby Carrier, and Francine Reed, but any of Thackery's albums will delight fans of tough, heavy, driving guitar playing. For a taste of his thorough mastery of several styles, Drive to Survive touches on rockabilly, jazz, bebop, and surf music. Most of Thackery's albums include at least a few covers mixed in with his batch of self-penned songs.
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Bill Dahl, Rovi
Producer Dave Stewart (of Eurythmics fame) said of Taylor, several years previously when he first heard her: "I have played with all sorts of blues musicians all over the world. I even made a film, "Deep Blues", where I went to Mississippi and recorded with some legendary players such as R.L. Burnside and Jesse Mae Hemphill. Last year I heard something I thought I would never hear: a British white girl playing blues guitar so deep and passionately it made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end!" (Taylor was just 16 years old at that time.) Stewart was so impressed with her playing and musicianship that he asked her to accompany his supergroup, D.U.P., in touring Europe in 2002. She was also offered a record deal but the company went bankrupt.
Seven years later, in May 2009 and with Taylor 23 years old, she released her stunning debut album, White Sugar, for Ruf Records, a German label with U.S. offices and a strong U.S. presence. She followed it up with extended U.S. touring, including shows with pianist and singer/songwriter Candye Kane. For her debut, Taylor went to the producer she most admired, Jim Gaines, who also produced good albums by her favorite blues players, including Jonny Lang, Luther Allison, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Carlos Santana. Accompanying her on White Sugar were veteran Memphis recording session players Steve Potts on drums and Dave Smith on bass.
Good things are in the offing for this up-and-coming blues and blues-rock talent, and a glance at her website reveals a frantic touring schedule. She's clearly willing to work at her craft and put in the kind of air and ground miles needed to build a grassroots following in today's music business.
Richard Skelly, Rovi
Born David Kearney on September 8, 1939, in Houston, TX, he started playing guitar at an early age. His early influences included fellow blues guitar slingers B.B. King, Guitar Slim, T-Bone Walker, and Earl Hooker. By the time he was 17, Kearney was already gigging steadily in Tampa, FL. One night, he was perched on the bandstand when he learned that the mysterious "Guitar Shorty" advertised on the club's marquee was none other than him! His penchant for stage gymnastics was inspired by the flamboyant Guitar Slim, whose wild antics are legendary. In 1957, Shorty cut his debut single, "You Don't Treat Me Right," for Chicago's Cobra Records under Willie Dixon's astute direction. Three superb 45s in 1959 for tiny Pull Records in Los Angeles (notably "Hard Life") rounded out Shorty's discography for quite a while. During the '60s, he married Jimi Hendrix's stepsister and lived in Seattle, where the rock guitar god caught Shorty's act (and presumably learned a thing or two about inciting a throng) whenever he came off the road. Shorty's career had its share of ups and downs -- once he was reduced to competing on Chuck Barris' zany Gong Show, where he copped first prize for delivering "They Call Me Guitar Shorty" while balanced on his noggin.
Los Angeles had long since reclaimed Shorty by the time things started to blossom anew with the 1991 album My Way or the Highway for the British JSP logo (with guitarist Otis Grand in support). From there, Black Top signed Shorty; 1993's dazzling Topsy Turvy, 1995's Get Wise to Yourself, and 1998's Roll Over, Baby were the head-over-heels results. In 2001, the appropriately titled I Go Wild was released on the Evidence label, proving that Guitar Shorty had no intentions of slowing down, as he clearly remained a master showman and lively blues guitarist. Watch Your Back appeared in spring 2004. A single-disc overview of his career, The Best of Guitar Shorty, appeared from Shout! Factory in 2006, as well as a new studio album, We the People, from Alligator Records. A second Alligator release, Bare Knuckle, appeared early in 2010.
Bill Dahl & Al Campbell, Rovi