New releases take fresh look at blues | AspenTimes.com
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New releases take fresh look at blues

Local blues band Big Daddy Lee & the Kingbees have a CD Release Party Friday at Jimmy's for their debut CD, "Early in the Morning." (Contributed photo)
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A few CDs worth notingBig Daddy Lee & the Kingbees, “Early in the Morning”produced by Michael JudeNo, you don’t have to live in the Mississippi Delta to play the blues. Nor do you have to come from Chicago to play the electrified blues.Lee Hollowell lives in an idyllic spot along the Crystal River a few miles outside of Carbondale. His band, the Kingbees, are from points all through the Roaring Fork Valley. But on their debut recording “Early in the Morning,” singer-guitarist Hollowell and band – harmonica player Mike Stahl, bassist Larry Gruber and drummer Rob Leventhal – show that the blues can get inside of anyone. Hollowell blasts his way through familiar material (“Turn on Your Lovelight,” “96 Tears,” “Baby Please Don’t Go”) and his own tune, “The Premonition,” and give it all an original twist on straightahead Chicago. Hollowell’s voice sounds unforced, and has a way of transporting listeners to an older time, especially on “Don’t Turn Around,” a shot of bluesy, ’50s-style rock. And if you doubt the local guys can slug it out with the very best, check out the guitar and harmonica work on “Lovelight.” No apologies necessary.

Big Daddy Lee & the King Bees play a CD Release Party Friday at Jimmy’s, at 10:30 p.m.The Holmes Brothers, “State of Grace”produced by Craig Street (Alligator Records)The New York City trio the Holmes Brothers aren’t exactly a blues band; they lean closer to gospel. And “State of Grace” isn’t exactly a blues album, not with versions of such tunes as “Bad Moon Rising,” “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love & Understanding” and “If I Had a Boat.” But this is an illustrative example of how the blues – the emotion, the sound and the structure – underlies so much American music. Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Bad Moon Rising” is given a Cajun fiddle treatment; Lyle Lovett’s “If I Had a Boat” gets a country-folk twist; Cheap Trick’s “I Want You to Want Me” is a delicate plea to the Lord. None of it is more than a short hop away from the blues. And all of it comes with the group’s stellar vocal style, a mix of heaven and earthly grit.If a purer blues is your thing, the Bro’s can do that too. “Close the Door” is a modern take on acoustic Delta blues, while “Standing in the Need of Love” features thick electric guitar from Wendell Holmes. And whatever tone of blues the Holmes can’t play is provided by guests Levon Helm, Joan Osborne, Rosanne Cash and guitarist Larry Campbell.

John Hammond, “Push Comes to Shove”produced by G. Love (Back Porch)The story on 30-something hip-hop/rocker G. Love happening to produce an album by 60-something bluesman John Hammond is this: Fifteen years ago, an underage Garrett Dutton – still too young to take the handle G. Love – went to see Hammond perform. Dutton needed parental guidance into the club, and approached the first adult he saw – who turned out to be the night’s entertainment. A decade later, the two musicians literally collided on a train platform in Japan. Fate dictated that they collaborate.Good story, but the bigger one is just how good a bluesman Hammond is these days. G. Love’s hand as producer here is light. Only the two songs – “Butter,” written by Love, and “I’m Tore Down” – on which he performs is Love an obvious presence, driving Hammond’s beat to a post-hip-hop realm. For the most part, Love lays back and lets Hammond dig hard into older roots blues – sometimes with a touch of the Delta, sometimes with a boogie-woogie piano feel, sometimes direct from 1950s Chicago. And always with conviction.



David Bromberg, “Try Me One More Time”produced by Nancy Josephson (Appleseed Recordings)Guitar ace David Bromberg, after a lengthy hiatus from touring, has expanded his stage show of late. He now tours with the nine-piece David Bromberg Band, an ensemble which includes a horn section. In his appearance last winter at the Wheeler Opera House, it was in a string quartet that played as much bluegrass as blues.But for his first release of new recordings in 17 years, Bromberg is easing back in as a solo act. And while it would be nice to hear what kind of arrangements he might imagine for a larger group, it’s hard to find fault with “Try Me One More Time.” The CD spotlights Bromberg, the acoustic bluesman, and he is masterful in the role. The title track, the only song here written by Bromberg, is melodic and warm. Through traditional material and tunes by Dylan, Elizabeth Cotten and Blind Willie McTell, he shows a rare way with a song, his voice fine and his guitar-playing even better.Stewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail address is stewart@aspentimes.com


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