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True Blue
from Ellis Kell
Argus/Dispatch blues columnist



There is so much new good music out there this month that we’re devoting this entire installment of True Blue to reviews. From local, regional and national releases, there are some choice new cuts ready to satisfy your appetite for good music. Here are highlights from some of the new releases we have received…

Bill Payne (12K)“Cielo Norte,” Bill Payne (Hot Tomato Records) The most unique CD we feature this month is the solo project from Little Feat founder and keyboardist Bill Payne. “I’ve waited forever to do this,” Bill Payne says of his long-overdue first solo album. Payne co-founded Little Feat with the late Lowell George 35 years ago, and has continued to pilot the legendary jam band since George’s passing in 1979. Payne himself has recorded and performed with a stellar list of artists over the years, including Randy Newman, James Taylor, Jackson Browne, Beck, and Jimmy Buffett - just to mention a few. “Cielo Norte” (which means ‘North Sky’) showcases a completely different and more introspective side of this incredibly talented keyboardist and composer. These tracks achieve unity in improvisation and composition, drawing inspiration from the solo work of Bill Evans, John Fahey and Yo Yo Ma. Extended soundscapes and soulful, hypnotic grooves blend with the most sensuous of solo piano pieces. Payne says the discerning listener will find the unifying thread (or threads). Inspiration and composition of Cielo Norte began 1992, with Payne laying down tracks on a Macintosh SE 30 and Vision sequencing software. Though this software and computer are now pretty much dated technology, Payne utilized it through the completion of the tracks for of this new solo work into 2004. While most of the music was composed at Payne’s former residence in L.A., it was completed on ‘vacation’ at his hideaway in Montana. “Collaborating with myself” is how Payne describes the process. Engineer Gil Morales eventually joined Payne in Montana, to help arrange the tracks into a cohesive collection. This is eclectic and spiritual music that has the very real power to sooth the soul and massage the psyche. For more information about this unique release, artist and composer Bill Payne, visit www.billpaynemusic.com .

Jamie Hartford (32K)“Part of Your History - The Songs of John Hartford,” Jamie Hartford (Independent) Jamie Hartford and some very special friends came together to pay tribute to Jamie’s father, the legendary John Hartford. This all-acoustic collection showcases both the classic and less known compositions from the John Hartford catalog. The title cut, a Jamie Hartford original, captures the spirit of this more than fitting tribute from friends and family of the late, consummate American riverboat minstrel. Nanci Griffith, Vassar Clements, Sam Bush, Kathy Mattea, Pat McLaughlin, Bela Fleck, Tim O’Brien, Ronnie McCoury, Kim Richey, Norman Blake, and Emmylou Harris join Jamie Hartford for this unique collection. “Part of Your History” was produced by John Van Meter of New Sheriff Creative Enterprises, Inc. For more information about The Jamie Hartford Band, or to order this music online, visit www.partofyourhistory.com on the web.

Ernie Peniston (49K)“Live At The Grand,” Ernie Peniston (Independent Release) This new collection, from one of the midwest’s favorite blues and soul singers, was recorded live at Blues On Grand in Des Moines on April 12, 2005. It features several new Ernie Peniston originals, as well as some of the Big Ern’s favorite covers. To find our how you can get your copy of this hot new live release visit www.erniepeniston.com .

Renee Austin (13K)“Right About Love,” Renee’ Austin (Blind Pig Records) Reneé Austin is back with a fresh batch of her signature blues, roadhouse rock and gospel gumbo. Passionate vocals and soulful grooves make for a tasty blue stew. For more information on this release and other Blind Pig Releases, visit www.blindpigrecords.com on the web.

Elvin Bishop (9K)“Gettin’ My Groove Back,” Elvin Bishop (Blind Pig Records) The enduring Mr. Bishop is back with his first solo outing in several years. Longtime fans and newcomers alike will not be disappointed. Elvin Bishop shows he is every bit as vital today as when he originally took the stage with the legendary The Paul Butterfield Blues Band.

“Blue Highway,” Angela Strehli (MC Records) The Queen of Austin Blues returns with high-octane, houserockin’ blues. Featured guests on these tracks include Marcia Ball, Maria Muldaur, Paul Thorn, and the late, great Stevie Ray Vaughan. For more information on this artist, visit www.angelastrehli.com .

Ellis Hooks (3K)“Godson of Soul,” Ellis Hooks (Evidence Music) Soul and blues singer Ellis Hooks scores big with his second release on the Evidence label. Special guests include Steve Cropper on guitar, the Memphis Horns' Wayne Jackson on trumpet and trombone and Bobby Womack. This is soul blues in the tradition of Otis Redding, James Brown and Sam Cooke, with a fresh new spin that evolves into Ellis Hooks’ own definitive sound. For more on this artist, and other Evidence releases, visit: www.evidencemusic.com .

Siegel Schwall Band (65K)“Flash Forward,” The Siegel-Schwall Band” (Alligator Records) The legendary Chicago blues ‘cult band’ of the 60’s and 70’s returns with their first new studio recording in some thirty years. This classic blues ensemble shows that they are like fine wine – better with the passage of time. Corky Siegel, Jim Schwall, Rollo Radford and the legendary Sam Lay deliver the real-deal blues that has always made them a favorite. For more on this release, and other Alligator artists, visit www.alligator.com .

Shemekia Copeland (59K)“The Soul Truth,” Shemekia Copeland (Alligator Records) This is Shemekia at her absolute funkiest, with her trademark powerhouse vocals and soul-drippin’ delivery. This new collection is produced by legendary guitarist Steve Cropper (Stax Records, The Blues Brothers, etc.)

Magic Slim (14K)“Anything Can Happen,” Magic Slim (Blind Pig Records) Magic Slim is one of the last links to the original Mississippi-to Chicago blues style, and continues to be one of of the hardest working touring acts out there today. This live recording features Magic Slim's signature hot licks and soulful vocals. This is some of the most authentic and vital Chicago blues to be found anywhere, so don’t you miss out on these hot new tracks!

Great hoogly-moogly, but that sure has to be enough for ya’ to chew on for a while! Peace, love & blessings to all and, until we meet again at this crossroads…

Blues to ‘ya!

Local musician Ellis Kell writes about blues music both local and national in ‘True Blue’, running the first Sunday of each month in Entertainment. He is also on the staff of River Music Experience, a not-for-profit center dedicated to preservation, education and celebration of American Roots music.


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