Friday, October 12, 2018

Big Harp George releases "Uptown Cool" ... harmonica blues that's witty, brassy and smolders

Big Harp George, the only blues artist featuring the chromatic harmonica, burst onto the international blues scene in 2014 with the stunning "Chromaticism" that was nominated both for Blues Music and Blues Blast Magazine awards for “Best New Artist Album.” As one critic commented: “I haven’t been this impressed by a harmonica player’s national debut since William Clarke’s 1990 tour de force "Blowin’ Like Hell.”

Now comes this masterpiece of twelve new original songs ranging in topic from online dating to the human costs of disruptive technologies. No one is spared George’s irreverent wit — neither the powerful, nor aging blues fans, nor himself — but it’s all in a spirit of unity and rollicking good fun.

As always, George surrounds himself with top talent, who thrive in the space he ensures them as band leader. No indulgent solos here, just smart, tasteful playing. The influences are diverse: a strong Memphis/New Orleans brew infuses some songs, but Brazilian jazz and smoldering Chicago blues surface as well.

Big Harp George is redefining the role of chromatic harmonica in blues. But he is also commenting perceptively on life in the twenty-first century, helping to restore blues to rightful prominence in American popular music.

official website:

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

New roots music releases..Suzie Vinnick, Steve Dawson, Samantha Martin and Delta Sugar, Jay Kipps Band

You don’t have to travel far into Suzie Vinnick’s catalogue of music to know you have found something singular and unforgettable.

Hailing from Saskatoon and now settled in Ontario’s Niagara Region, Suzie is one of those rare performers who knows when to deliver the vocal knock-out and when to pull back to a whisper, bending notes and phrases that tiptoe across your heart. Even her humming is like a warm caress.

Singing is like sleeping and breathing for me. If you can’t sing with feeling, you can’t move people.” She performs with a warmth and generosity that makes her at home on your best friend’s front porch or under the lights of the National Arts Centre.

official website:


Award-winning musician and producer Steve Dawson releases his 8th album, “Lucky Hand”.  “Lucky Hand” represents a high point of more than two decades of musical searching. Comprised of ten stunning new finger-style and slide guitar-based instrumentals, performed alongside an incredible string quartet, or in solo and duo formats, Dawson has never released music as sweepingly dynamic or visually suggestive as this.

Enlisting his old partner, Jesse Zubot, to create complementary and adventurous arrangements for his guitar excursions, these completely realized compositions – with Zubot’s orchestration adding colour to the sepia-tinged melodies – represent Dawson’s finest recording yet. 2018 marks the 20 years since the debut of Zubot and Dawson, and their collaborations never cease to inspire.

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Samantha Martin & Delta Sugar’s latest recording is entitled “Run to Me”. Produced by Darcy Yates (Bassist in Bahamas), the new album explores the full range of the vicissitudes of love: desire, betrayal and, at times, emotional and sexual satisfaction. The lyrics are incisive, the melodies are constantly arresting and the harmonies and arrangements call up the best of the soul sounds of Stax Records and such contemporary artists as Leon Bridges, Sharon Jones, and Lee Fields.

Samantha Martin and Delta Sugar’s debut release, 2015’s Send the Nightingale, was a stripped down affair consisting of Martin, her two co-singers Sherie and Stacie, and guitarist Mikey McCallum. For Run to Me, Martin elected to record her emotionally wrought material with an expanded band, augmenting the core of Delta Sugar’s gospel-infused harmonies with a full rhythm section, piano, organ and an ever-so-soulful horn section.

official website:


Somewhere between bluegrass and the blues there's some nice blue surf, with spaghetti western between the waves. That's where you'll find the Jay Kipps Band's brand of new-roots, Americana music with killer harmonica, a funky rhythm section and tasty guitar tones.

A blues/Americana band that fans describe as more blues than country and more roots than grass. The Jay Kipps Band presents a powerful, groovy rhythm section, unique, tasteful guitar tones, passionate lead harmonica and killer vocals, all skillfully combined to create a sound that is unmistakably unique and enjoyable for all.

How To Polish Your Longhorns is the band’s impressive, full-length debut offering, showcasing the band’s ability to blend multiple genres into a cohesive recording - "effortlessly pushing the boundaries of traditional blues into a modern, Americana landscape."

official website:

Monday, October 8, 2018

Saratoga blues artist Mark Tolstrup releases deeply personal album "Northstar"

Yes, this is a really personal record,” says Saratoga Springs blues man Mark Tolstrup of his new album Northstar, his first solo effort since the 2007 release of The Backroads of America. In the time since that resonator guitar driven collection of classics by the likes of Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters and The Beatles, Tolstrup has focused more and more on his own songwriting, finding an avenue informed by favorites like Son House and Bob Dylan, but filled with rich insights all his own. While on that path, the loss of both his father and brother, in quick succession, put Tolstrup in an introspective place, which is heavily reflected in his latest work.

The title track was, in fact, written to be sung at his father’s funeral.   “I wasn’t even sure it was a song at first,” Tolstrup says, but it is. And how.  “Which way do you turn when your Northstar is gone, and the needle stops pointing the way back to home,” he intones as the disc opens. “And there’s nothing to talk about, and there’s no one to blame, but nothing will ever be the same.”

 Longtime fans will find all they need to love here, but they should also prepare for a dive into Tolstrup’s psyche. “Free Brother” is the sibling flipside to “Northstar.” “City in the Rain,” the collection’s initial germ, is a broken love song worthy of Randy Newman. And the bittersweet, sax-tinged “I Don’t Know” is a sharp-eyed, late-night look at romance and its consequences.

While Bessie’s Smith’s “Backwater Blues,” and Tolstrup’s own stompers “Hey Hey Baby” (with a full horn section) and “Milk and Honey” tip to the raw and raunchy, covers of Tom Waits’ “On the Nickel” and Albany songwriter Michael Eck’s “Dead Man’s Shirt” (reinterpreted in distinctly Mississippi hill country fashion) hew to Northstar’s familial themes.

Tolstrup recorded the project—which began its life as a simple “ten song demo”—at Chris Carey’s Millstone Studio in Ballston Spa. Much of it is virtually live, with a serious supporting cast including Carey, Rick and Sharon Bolton, James Gascoyne, Oona Grady, Dave Lambert, Jeannine Ouderkirk, Woody Strobeck and Jessica Wern.

“Working with Chris was a joy,” the singer, also known for his combos Streetcorner Holler and Brass & Blues, says. “It’s the best recording experience I’ve had.”

Wern, Tolstrup’s stepdaughter, drums throughout and adds heart-piercing vocals, while Grady’s fiddle lends a true Irish keen to “Nickel” and the instrumental “Requiem for Coyote.”

“Jessie,” he says of Wern’s work, “knows what to do with these songs. I’m not really rock and roll, I lean more towards a New Orleans sound. She’s a jazz drummer and she’s listened to me play for her whole life.”

Tolstrup’s guitar, electric on this outing, is still there, at the heart of everything, even if it bows to the mouth harps, horns and fiddles, as well as the tunes themselves.

“I didn’t have to get more of myself into the songs,” Tolstrup says. “I didn’t need to step forward, because I’m already here. Nobody else could have made this record.”

For more information, visit 

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Chicago Blues Hall of Fame artist Paul Filipowicz album "Unfiltered" pays homage to the masters

Here it is! Paul Filipowicz’s tenth recording, “Unfiltered,” is the smokin’ summer soundtrack of 2018. From the first gutbucket note of Magic Sam’s “All My Whole Life Baby” to the low-down pool hall and jukebox sounds he heard in the early ‘60s, Chicago Blues Hall of Fame guitarist Paul Filipowicz breaks the filter off his smoking blues and gives it to you straight. “I got my blues education the old-fashioned way,” Paul says. “The only way my dad could get out of the house on a Saturday night was to take us boys along, and man did we see some joints!

On this recording, Paul pays homage to the masters. Three Magic Sam tracks draw on Paul’s history of playing an all-Magic Sam set in the ‘70s, and Lowell Fulson and Howlin’ Wolf tracks are also represented with a deftness of hand that is true to their creators. The album includes five Paul Filipowicz originals, including the rollicking “Riding High” and the four-on-the-floor ass shakers “Brand New Hat” and “My Woman.” On the moody harp instrumental “Canal Street,” inspired by long-ago late-night memories, harp master Benny Rickun takes it all the way downtown before the boys take you back uptown with the rowdy guitar shuffle and title track “Unfiltered.”

The Paul Filipowicz Blues Band, with an all-star lineup featuring alumni of the Chain Smokin’ Altar Boys, the Tommy Castro Band, The Groove Hogs, Brian Lee, and Dave Mason, has been bringing it strong every night for over 40 years.

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