Friday, December 30, 2016

An Interview With Australian Blues Influenced Guitarist and Songwriter Matty T.Wall

A young man with an old soul: Matty is connected to music with a wealth of history as he distills a diversity of genres into his own blues-influenced soul, jazz, and rock signature. For Matty T.Wall - a guitarist, vocalist, songwriter and bandleader – it is the supernatural sound that crossed the ocean to Perth, Australia to ignite his imagination and give power to his art.

His points of references are wide; he has studied and played a spectrum of styles including flamenco, swing jazz and funk, and he attests to a love for “heavier things” in his youth, bands like Metallica and Sepultura among them. But he remembers how the musicians he admired would honor the blues masters who came before them. And following the trail of Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughan backward, he was hooked.

Matty T.wall has been featured previously on this blog (see original post here). I recently caught up with him (via email) and fired a few challenging questions....

What was your first exposure to the blues?
I was actually exposed to blues without realising it when I was younger. My dad would always be playing Eric Clapton in the house, so that blues influence was always there. When I was in my teens, I heard Gary Moore's "Still Got The Blues" album and was absolutely BLOWN AWAY. I was into Metallica and Joe Satriani at the time, so hearing Gary Moore play blues in this way was very appealing to me. My first "real" USA blues influence was a video that my older brother had called "Blues Alive" - It had some incredible performances by Buddy Guy and Albert Collins. That's where I really got to know how blues music worked.
Are there any guitarists that have influenced your style?
Way too many to list, so I will just name a few - maybe. Eric Clapton's phrasing always impressed me. Stevie Ray Vaughan's intensity blows me away. John Scofield's 'out there' note choices are great, whilst maintaining that blues base, Django Reinhardt's swing feel combined with his attack is very appealing to me also. Albert Collins awkward but fiery style is a favourite too. I was mostly attracted to very intense styles of playing though. These are just a few influences, however there are many. As a teenager, I obsessively studied James Hetfield's (Metallica) approach to rhythm playing and that has become a part of my style also. I can't finish this paragraph without mentioning Jimi Hendrix though - talk about innovation.
Do you like to emulate other guitarist styles or do want to be totally original?
Ideally, I want my own voice on the instrument. These days, I am not trying to play like anyone. I would rather try new things that are interesting to me and try to keep them sounding cool within the feel of blues, to create a personal style. There is a reason I play SG customs - I don't want to play Stratocasters or Les Pauls like everyone else. Picking a different instrument that most other blues players use goes a long way to playing the guitar in a different way. Albert Collins was very outspoken about this, and I agree with him wholeheartedly. Find your own voice.
I can't 100% say that parts of my playing don't sound like other artists. That is just part of the journey when trying to find your own sound.
Did leaving Perth expand your musical knowledge and help to hone your talents?
Touring in other cities and playing with other artists DEFINITELY makes you realize how good you have to be in this industry to get heard. It was quite a reality check playing alongside some incredible musicians and discovering that I have a long way to go. You are forced to get better or accept a certain standard. Motivation is one of the most important things when it comes to working on your instrument, you have to use everything as a source of motivation, stay positive and not let it bring you down.
What other music do you listen to when you are not playing?
All sorts. Could be Tchaikovsky, could be Pantera, anything that gives me goosebumps! I always try to keep my blues roots though, so I might come back to John Lee Hooker or RL Burnside etc. to make that happen if I stray too far! Right now I am listening to a lot of Jeff Buckley. Damn, he is a great vocalist!
How would you compare the blues scene in Australia to other parts of the world?
The blues scene in Australia is really quite strong and there are always blues festivals in Australian happening all throughout the year. Many different types of blues are popular here, however due to the vast distances needed to tour this country, the "solo artist" - acoustic, or electric with loop pedals seems to be pretty well represented. As per normal, there are 'blues purists' who prefer a very authentic style, however, the Australian mentality is very laid back and open-minded which is good when playing blues that pushes the boundaries. As I like to do.
Do you have 5 favorite albums you would take to a desert island?
Stevie Ray Vaughan - Texas Flood
Van Halen - Van Halen
Jimi Hendrix - Band Of Gypsys
Jeff Buckley - Grace
Pearl Jam - Ten
I can think of quite a few more, but this would be a start.
What would you say any aspiring young guitarists who are also passionate about playing music?
Listen to music that you are passionate about - don't care what other people think. Play music that you are passionate about - don't care what others think. Work on your instrument daily - even if just for 10 minutes -make it a routine - these days the standards are pretty high, so you need solid skills. Once your playing technique is good, then "phrasing" becomes THE most important thing - it is how your music communicates with the listener.
There is always something new to work on in the music industry, whether it be stage presence, marketing, song writing - embrace it all and don't let it get you down. There is no such success like "X-Factor". Opportunities will come up - just work to be the best you can be and you will be rewarded with the satisfaction that comes along with it. Things started happening for me when I decided to really pursue music because it makes others happy when I play, rather than for personal reasons. Play music to make this world a more interesting and enjoyable place for others - detach yourself from the ego and things become so much easier and fun.
Is there any one special place you would like to do a gig at?
Coming full circle to talking about that "Blues Alive" video I used to watch as a young boy, it would have to be Buddy Guy's "Legends" bar in Chicago. That is where Albert Collins and Buddy Guy were filmed in that video, and really is the ultimate blues venue that I would like to play at. I hope I can get there someday.

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Thursday, December 22, 2016

Mississippi Heat new release "Cab Driving Man"...Chicago, Delta Blues and more

The blues are universal and there’s no better example perhaps than a multiracial Chicago band inspired by the Mississippi Delta, led by a talented Belgian blues harpist with a French sounding name, who travel well, spreading their blues power from Montreux to Istanbul and other faraway pockets of American roots music lovers.

Mississippi Heat are an American blues band based in Chicago, led by harmonica player Pierre Lacocque. Formed in 1991, the band has toured in the United States, Canada and Europe, with occasional performances in South America and North Africa.

Mississippi Heat has recorded 12 albums: four on Van der Linden Records, the band's own label (1992–1998), three on the European label CrossCut Records (1998–2005) and six with Chicago label Delmark Records since 2005.

Cab Driving Man is their latest release. Passionate and melodic harmonica player Pierre Lacoque leads his band by providing 11 original songs, while maestro guitar player Michael Dotson sings on 3 of his own compositions. Lead singer Inetta Visor delivers stellar vocals on 12 songs, including 2 covers: "Don't Mess Up A Good Thing", here a duet with Giles Corey, originally made famous by Fontanella Bass and Bobby McClure, and "Smooth Operator", previously recorded by Sarah Vaughan. Cab Driving Man takes you from vintage, low-down Chicago and Delta blues to exciting boogie, Latin beats and R'n'B ballads. Delmark Records has high expectations for this award-worthy release.

Find out more on their website:

Available on Amazon and iTunes..........

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Thursday, December 15, 2016

Canadian blues-roots band Hidden Stash new album release "Mixed Cassette Tape"

Hidden Stash is a new 6-piece roots band offering up rock, pop, blues, soul, C&W and folk with a retro twist. Their debut album Mixed Cassette Tape is a 70’s inspired rock album that takes listeners back in time when people used to listen to albums from start to finish.

The band's songwriter and lead vocalist, Michael Gray, has some family connections that are of major interest. Being the son of Jerry Gray, the legendary folk musician who was a founding member of The Travellers and the brother of James Gray who served more than 13 years in Blue Rodeo, Gray grew up surrounded by music.  The band name Hidden Stash comes from the idea that he has kept this hidden stash of songs that he wrote for years and is now ready to reveal them to the world.

Mixed Cassette Tape is expertly co-produced and arranged by Derek Downham (The Beauties), and features Divine Brown, Damhnait Doyle, Shelley Coopersmith, Denis Keldie, Jim Bish, Russ Boswell and a sizzling duet with rising roots n’ roll singer Samantha Martin.

A stand out track “Chasing Sunsets” features Juno award winning vocalist Divine Brown with a personal story about finding yourself and chasing your dreams. “Wasted” is about an executive who’s on the road chasing his next fix.  “I had written it with a Little Feat kind of vibe,” says Gray, “then Derek created this really great acoustic slide riff at the top, and turned it into a funky New Orleans tune.” “Are You With Me?” has special meaning to Gray as it was his wedding song that he had written for his wife.  The talented Samantha Martin joins him for a powerful duet.

The song of most importance to Gray is “Sweet Brother James” the ballad he had written a day or two after his brother had passed away in 2013.  “Usually, the lyrics process takes me a long time, but the song flowed out of me in less than an hour,” he says, “it was the best way I could show my appreciation for my brother.”

Marty's review: "Mixed Cassette Tape" is aptly titled, with 11 original tracks that are roots based with influences of blues, pop, country and even a touch of funky jazz. Michael Gray's exceptional and personal songwriting skills are at the forefront and will make you listen just that little closer. The talented group of musicians that he is surrounded by give us their expertise on dobro, violin, accordion, cello, saxophones, banjo and flute, all supported by harmonised background vocals. Favourite track for me is the bluesy "Wasted".

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Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Randy McAllister new album release "Fistful of Gumption"... a true blues-roots original

Randy McAllister is one of America’s true Blues-Roots originals and one of Texas’ most revered and critically acclaimed artists. He has been flying in the face of convention his whole career… no smoke, no mirrors, choreography or industry machines. One of the most talented blues men from Texas, Randy plays driving drums and world-class harmonica, writes incredible songs, and sings like no one else. 

Randy’s new release, Fistful of Gumption, once again features his current touring band, The Scrappiest Band in the Motherland, and is out now on Reaction Records.

Raised in the small Texas town of Novice, McAllister is a fifth generation Texan, whose father was both a fireman and a drummer in a band called The Flames. Randy followed in his footsteps from a very young age, but the drums were just the beginning. McAllister found the harmonica in his early 20’s while stationed in Massachusetts as a member of the USAF taking cues from Blue’s Legend “Earring George” Mayweather. By the time he returned to Texas in 1992, he was a strong, skillful harp player who was establishing his vocal and songwriting skills. In 1997, McAllister signed with JSP Records releasing three highly acclaimed CD’s before going on to issue recordings through Severn Records and Reaction Records. A true ambassador of East Texas music with a career spanning almost 30 years and 13 albums to his credit.

“McAllister is a skilled craftsman in the art of songwriting. He combines first-rate melo-dies with valued lyrics… a superbly soulful singer with an ample range who sings each song with a legitimate conviction.” Vivascene

“...genius at work… awesome vocals and the tastiest harp work heard in a long time” Blues Review Magazine

“One of the most uniquely talented songwriters and performers the blues currently has to offer.” Blues Bytes

“With and expressive vocal register falling somewhere between the soulful effervescence of Al Green and the blunt hammer of Johnny Taylor, a shrewd wit and admirable turn of a phrase, McAllister cements himself as a blues bard archetype.” Living Blues Magazine

“Rough hewn and wild at times, this is Texas blues the way it should be. This is real mu-sic, not conveyor belt blues.” Blueprint Magazine

“This is high energy East Texas roots music at its best. His music stirs the soul.”

North Padre Island Press

Randy McAllister

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Sunday, December 4, 2016

Singer, songwriter and producer Stevie J new album release "Back 2 Blues"

Singer, songwriter and producer Stevie J., based in Jackson, Mississippi, announces the release of "Back 2 Blues," his first album in several years. 

The son of a pastor, Stevie J. has been a professional musician practically his entire life. With roots in gospel music and Southern soul, it was only a matter of time before the blues became his main passion. Stevie was a member of Bobby Rush's band on his acclaimed album "Folk Funk" (2004) and also toured with the legendary soul-blues artist. He has represented the Central Mississippi Blues Society at the Blues Foundation's International Blues Challenge, in Memphis. In 2010 he was named Contemporary Blues Artist of the Year (Male) at the Jus' Blues Awards.

"More than just straight-up 12-bar blues, Stevie J. weaves in female backup vocals and lively horns ...he knows how to compose a song and tell a story ... the talent and passion are there!" -

"A killer ... lively and swingin’!" - The Rock Doctor 

"Reminded us that you can muster a great Southern soul vocal without shouting and screaming and writhing and wailing -- in fact, without vocalizing much higher than a sugary whisper." - Daddy B. Nice

The best description of Stevie J is a limitless Blues man. With the versatility and knowledge of the history of the Blues to take an audience on an historical musical journey of the Blues from the 1930's thru 2020. So many guys jump in the Blues world without studying the history. It takes more than guitar licks and a hat to be a true Blues man.

Marty's review: this man has the blues in his blood, and, with this new release, he presents us with what I would call a musical in blues history. The tight production, exceptional musicianship and the high quality of songwriting all come together in a collection of 11 killer tracks that will leave the listener with more than a gasp or two. Favourite track for me is "Son of A Sanctified Preacher".

Sample and stream tracks on official website

..and also at Mississippi Delta Blues Inc

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Friday, December 2, 2016

Folkways Reissue: Cat-Iron, "Cat-Iron Sings Blues and Hymns" OOP since 1958

Exit Stencil recordings is proud to announce the re-issue and licensing of the long out of print American Blues / Folk album by Cat-Iron, Cat-Iron Sings Blues and Hymns. Originally released on the Smithsonian Folkways label in 1958, this forgotten classic is getting it’s first US vinyl pressing since its original release.

Cat-Iron was born William Carradine in 1898 (according to gravestone, but records say 1896) in Garden City, Louisiana.  The nickname, “Cat-Iron,” was not a nickname he used but, rather, a mishearing of his surname on the part of folklorist Frederic Ramsey, Jr. Little has been written about the artist but we know he was married and served as a private in the US Army during World War I.

Cat-Iron - Poor Boy A Long, Long Way From Home

As the story goes, the alto saxophone player Thurman Monroe introduced Frederic Ramsey, Jr. to Cat-Iron, when during a chance meeting, it was discovered that Ramsey was looking to record some authentic Blues / Folk down in Louisiana.  When the duo arrived at Cat-Iron’s house in Buckner’s Alley in Natchez, they had to coax him to play a few songs, with Cat-Iron even remarking, “I got no guitar...”  Having converted to Christianity, Cat-Iron originally balked at the idea of playing any blues songs.  However, with persistence and fellowship, Ramsey was able to cull a collection that is equal parts blues numbers and equal parts sacred---all recorded right in Cat-Iron’s living room.

As Ramsey stated in the original linear notes, “Cat Iron might be singing religion, but he was playing it with the heart of a blues-man.” 

When Exit Stencil re-issued 15-60-75 (The Number’s Band)’s, Jimmy Bell’s Still In Town, back in 2013, we became so enthralled with the title track, that we worked backwards to the song’s originator, which is often credited as Cat-Iron. Robert Kidney loaned us his original 1958 copy of the record and we started the process with Folkways to make this a living, breathing, record once again.

The record is being reissued in a limited edition of 500 copies on translucent yellow vinyl---just like the original press.  Includes a faithful reproduction of the 8 page booklet and linear notes authored by Frederic Ramsey, Jr.

Purchase HERE from ExitStencil site

Cat Iron - Jimmy Bell

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