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KIRK MacDONALD JAZZ ORCHESTRA/Common Ground: Some times, all you need to make a good record is pretty playing and some hot blowing. Sometimes you want to go beyond and that's where MacDonald and his crew step in. Fashioned out of an aggregation of Canada's world class jazzbos, this crew takes it to the max on a double disc set that finds the sax man boldly leading the way. Solid stuff who's two discs play through all too quickly, this might well we this year's high water mark for straight ahead jazz. Killer stuff throughout.

JAH OVA EVIL/Forever Judah: What? You think you have to live in a ghetto here to find a music community to help you get out. There's ghettos all over the world. Ever been to Kingston where reggae started? Why do you think all these ambitious kids the world over get screwed up in lousy contracts the world over? This reggae collective is the latest bunch of young ‘uns to aim for utopia---and whether they make it or not, they are making some groovy, hard hitting political music that's right for the times. We are the world until we aren't but there's sure to be some breakout reggae stars of tomorrow lurking in this mix. Killer stuff for a nu generation that even old fans can dig. Check it out.

BILLY T BAND/Reckoning: So you spend 10 years with Tom Russell and move to Norway to run a blues club. What happens next? You make a record with the lead off track sounding like Jeff Lynne inhaling Americana fumes. It's unique and oddly compelling---and look at some of the people Lynne worked with after putting ELO on hold. Some people just now how to follow the groove. Not your standard white boy with the blues stuff, T has his fingers in a lot of pies and being a bulwark against his neighborhood's death metal fixation, he shows that he has to fly higher than others to make it all work---and he does. A wonderful treat that want their blue eyed soul really from the gut.

BIG BILL MO0RGANFIELD/Bloodstainson the Wall: Proving once and for all that this apple barely fell from the tree, Muddy's kid is revved up by getting his music in a Fox show and revisits the work of his pop and his pals as well as showing his pen is just as sharp. With guests that don't need to show up for an indie record on board, this whole package is a well turned out mutha. Sounding like it was recorded in the back room of the Aristocrat Lounge on modern equipment, this is how it's done. Killer, right in the pocket traditional blues that has no dust on it, this blooze will give you the real blooze. Killer stuff.

JESSIE SMITH/Like the Sun: Another reminder that you shouldn't let looks deceive you. The cover art gives you the impression that Smith is your typical, goofy millennial, wearing glasses to look smarter. Whoa. This gal is a hot mess. And she found a way out toward salvation through music. Climbing out of the darkness as a distant relative to Marie Laveau or some other swamp priestess, she reaches down to someplace to unleash an impassioned swamp howl that convincingly goes to some places that are so dark you might just want to stay in the cheap seats. The problem with that is you get so hypnotized and mesmerized, you'll find yourself sneaking down to the front row. Betcha she knows what they threw off the Tallahatchie bridge as well. This is the kind of left field date that soars to the peak of underground hitdom. Killer stuff throughout.

LAZY EYE/Pocket the Black: These white boys and girls with the blues are the highest flyers on the Australian blues scene and they've wrapped up almost as much as you can in the three years they've been at it. Straight ahead stuff that cuts right to the chase, there isn't a dollop of jive holding things down. Three pieces and a B3 in the mix make it all happen in most righteous fashion. Make some time to find out what they already know down under, this three piece crew has it all on the ball. Well done.

JANKA NABAY/Build Music: The bubu music king of Sierra Leone brings electricity to the ancient sound and turns the music stolen from witches into a streety, party sound of today. Even if chips have replaced kalimba and all the traditional percussion, the groove is the groove and this world beat set shows that nothing can stop it. Upbeat, solid stuff even the arm chair traveler can get up and boogie to.

LEE PALMER/Bridge: The problem with being a boomer making music for boomers is that a quadruple bypass can throw a monkey wrench into your recording plans. Americana from Canada, that probably explains why there's such a Band vibe running through these proceedings. Like the Band, this is a back porch/folk rock set that covers a lot of bases, and all of them quite well. Solid stuff for those who want to remember how sweet it all was without wallowing in nostalgia and just as well suited for those who wish they were there but were too young. Solid stuff.

THORBJORN RISAGER & the Black Tornado/Change My Game: Fans of white boys with the blues are going to sit up and take notice of this bunch. These award winners are from Denmark and haven't even made any effort to make it seem like they were rug rats on the west side of Chicago. With a modern sound that has a sinister undercurrent and a lead vocalist that knows the moves and knows how to make them his own, people that are looking for an all in sitting down modern blues experience are simply going to flip for this. Unpretentious and full bodied, this crew is certainly out to be game changers without any nods or winks. This is the real deal. Check it out.

VANESSA COLLIER/Meeting my Shadow: This bluesy singing sax player knows how to bring the slinking funk to her captivating, award wining sound that has echoes in young Bonnie Raitt/Maria Muldaur vocal sounds. Impressing everyone right out of the gate, she takes it to the next level of the game this time around with a set that'll make you feel like the guy in those old Memorex ads. Killer stuff on every level, this sounds like one of the reason you first became a music fan. Killer stuff.

Volume 40/Number 105
February 14, 2017
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2017 Midwest Record

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