Hello everyone, Happy 2023! I hope everyone is ready for another fantastic year of music! I started the year off on Sunday January 8th at The Tonic Tavern with an excellent show hosted by The Third Coast Blues Collective with guests Big Al Dorn, Gervis Myles, Paul Stilin and Chris Lehnert. In the house were Jim Liban, Madison Slim, Rev. Raven and John Carr.
Big Al kicked off the first set with Big Walter’s “Have a Good Time” which featured some ferocious drumming from Matt Liban. He slowed things down with a very cool version of “Coo Coo” which he dedicated to Madison Slim. Slim recorded this song on the infamous Jimmy & The Heart Murmurs LP.
Next up was Gervis Myles. Gervis opened his segment with a silky-smooth take on L.V. Johnson’s “Are You Serious” which was made popular by Tyrone Davis. Gervis kept in a slower tempo for a fantastic take on Guitar Slim’s “Things That I Used to Do”. Gervis’ soulful, half shouted vocals were backed perfectly by Stilin and Lehnert. Pauly was absolutely stunning on this number and throughout the entire show! Gervis followed this up with "Woman Don’t Lie” on which Lehnert delivered an awesome smoking organ solo.
Big Al opened the second set with a nod to Guitar Watson with his take on “She Moves Me” with Pauly doing his best T-Bone impersonation. Big Al strapped on his guitar and he and the band tore into R. L. Burnside’s “Jumper on The Line”, transporting us to a juke joint in the delta. My God, these guys were on fire! Raw and gritty. Slashing, razor sharp guitars, whirling, swirling, head-spinning organ, and propulsive drums topped with a frenzied, on edge vocal, WOW! Big Al ended his segment with a slow burning version of “Sail On” with Al playing some tough slide guitar
My immediate thought was “How is Gervis going top that?" Gervis did that by turning in killer versions of “I Pity the Fool” and “Love & Happiness”. Gervis closed the show with a heartfelt cover of “People Get Ready/Amen” that had the audience singing along.
On Friday January 13th I went to Miss Katies Diner for Jimi Schutte’s American Blues show with guest guitarist/vocalist Tom Holland. Tom was backed by Jimi and bassist Mike Scharf. Tom is a rock solid singer and player and a hell of a nice guy. Highlights included ”Waiting for the Other Shoe to Drop”, “You Belong to Me”, “That Will Never Do”, “Bad Intentions” and "Bad Avenue”. Barefoot Jimmy came by and sat in on harp for a few numbers - “Tore Down”, “Big Boss Man” and “Black Nights” on which Jimmy did some very nice harp work.
On Sunday January 15th I caught The Hungry Williams at the Tonic. These guys and gal are a fun band - a guaranteed good time, They had the crowd up and dancing from start to finish. The band showcased quite a few new songs from their recently released CD.
The following Sunday, the 22nd, I headed over to Kochanski’s for a great show featuring The Blues Disciples with special guests Craig Panosh on percussion, Gervis Myles and Matthew Skoller & Chicago Wind.
The Disciples opened the show and they were on fire from the first note until the last! They opened with “The Forecast Calls for Pain” which featured some razor-edged, smokin’ guitar from Paul Stilin. They followed with a hard rocking version of “Automatic” then “Everyday I Cry a Little” and “You Put The Hurt on Me” and “Big Beat” on which Panosh was fantastic! For a minute there I was transported back to Thursday nights at the good, old Up & Under. The Disciples called up Gervis Myles to close out their set. Gervis was featured on “Woman Don’t lie”, “Are You Serious” and “People Get Ready/Amen”.
Matthew Skoller & Chicago Wind, which featured Giles Corey on guitar and Marc Wilson on drums, closed out the show with a very nice set that included “Cheaper to Keep Her”, “How Long Can a Fool Go Wrong” and “Love Her Don’t Shove Her”. Great double bill!
Then it was off to Linneman’s for The Mighty Ms. Erica’s “Road to Memphis” fundraiser. The show was a fundraiser to help defray the costs for Ms. Erica’s trip to Memphis for The IBC’s. Gerome Durham, Robert Allen Jr., Big Al Dorn, Steve Cohen and Gervis Myles all came out to help out and support Ms. Erica and her cause. In addition to the aforementioned guests, Ms. Erica and her band presented their “Memphis” set. Great music for a great cause.
On Friday January 27th I caught Jimi Schutte’s American Blues with guests Billy Flynn, John Lauler and Gervis Myles. Highlights included “I Need Your Love” from Billy’s LLB days, “The Things I Wouldn’t Do For You”, "The Lucky Kind” and Billy’s awesome cover of Jody Williams “Lonely Without You”. Gervis Myles opened up the second set with “Mean Old World”. Other highlights were “Don’t You Know I Love You” and a killer take on “Things That I Used To Do”.
On Sunday January 29th Billy was a guest with The Wilson Family Band at The Uptowner. Alex Wilson opened the first set with a very nice version of “Take Out Some Insurance” and “Cross Cut Saw” with some raw, razor sharp guitar work. Alex’s version of “Tip On In” was spot on.
Billy then stepped up to the microphone, highlights were “Love Ain’t Nothing But Destruction” and a smoldering “Suffering With The Blues”. Being that it was Blues legends Eddie “Big Town Playboy” Taylors 100th birthday, I asked Billy to play my favorite ET tune “Bad Boy” and of course he obliged. Sly Carr, Glen Goebel and Big Al Dorn got up for one song each.
On February 4th I curated a Black History Month program at the South Milwaukee Public Library. In addition to the Black History Month exhibit the program featured a special musical program entitled “A Walk Down Maxwell Street”. Performers on the program were Gervis Myles with Robert John, Sly Carr with Big Al Dorn, The Mighty Ms. Erica with Guy and the incredible Danva Johnson. Everyone did a 20 minute set that climaxed with the grand finale of “This Little Light of Mine" with everyone joining in and singing and playing.
On Sunday February 5th Matthew Skoller was back in town - this time at The Tonic with The Third Coast Blues Collective. As usual Matthew delivered the goods. Tough Chicago styled Blues. Guitarist Giles Corey, who is a member of Skoller’s band, opened the second set with what he called a love song, the rousing “Get Your Ass Right Out The Door”. Very cool song! It was fun to watch Giles cue/direct the band through the song without saying a word.
February 10th found me back at Miss Katies for Schutte’s American Blues with guests Paul Stilin and Barefoot Jimmy Schwarz. Pauly was on fire all night long, putting his whole body and soul into each and every note he coaxed out of his axe. On “Before You Accuse Me” he did his own take on the Magic Slim vibrato thing, wringing out notes as it looked like he was strangling his guitar. We were treated to T-Bone licks, Otis Rush licks and Johnny “Guitar” Watson licks. I asked Pauly what he had for breakfast that morning and suggested he keep eating those Wheaties!
On Sunday February 12th I was back at Tonic for Hungry Williams. Unfortunately vocalist Kelli Gonzales was under the weather and bandleader John Carr let the crowd know that the show had to be cancelled. However, the guys decided to dig in and solider on, playing a set of instrumentals with a few songs with vocals featuring guitarist Joe Vent and bassist Mike Sieger.
On Sunday February 26th I headed over to Anodyne to catch The Hot Club of Milwaukee Big Band with special guest Robin Pluer. It was a real treat to hear get to enjoy the sweet intricate sounds of Gypsy Jazz and classic French Café songs played by some of the city’s top musicians. As Ms. Pluer sang I found myself transported back in time, just like a classic movie, to Paris in the days before WWII. Very, very cool night of fantastic music!
It seems that Sunday has become Blues Day in Milwaukee with The Third Coast Blues Collective doing shows the first Sunday of each month 4-7pm at The Tonic and The Wilson Family Band is at The Uptowner the first and third Sunday of the month 3-6pm. Tom Wilson told me they will be going weekly very soon.
On Sunday March 5th I headed over to catch Delmark recording artist Corey Dennison with his right hand man Gerry Hundt at The Tonic with The Third Coast Blues Collective with Steve Dougherty subbing on drums for Matt Liban who was in Europe with Altered 5. In the audience were Jim Liban, Madison Slim, Jimi Schutte and Big Al Dorn.
Corey and the crew gave us two excellent sets of modern, high energy Chicago Blues. A mix of his own fantastic originals and some very classy covers. Corey is a monster guitar player who is a master of dynamics. Gerry Hundt was on fire all night long, providing great rhythm fills and stepping up for some very tasty solos. Highlights included “Don’t Say You’re Sorry”, “Down in Virginia”, “All Your Love”, I’m Gone”, “Deep Elam Blues” and a very cool version of “Mother Earth”. Hundt also was front and center for about a half a dozen vocals, debuting a new Dig 3 song as well as name checking Jim Liban and Short Stuff titled “Alice’s” . Unfortunately, I had to miss the big show over at Linneman’s that featured The Hungry Williams, The Incorruptibles and Old Sam & The Teardrops.
The Cash Box Kings were at Anodyne on Saturday March 11th to celebrate the release “Oscar’s Motel” on Alligator Records. On this night the great Mel Ford was with the CBK’S on 2nd guitar. They opened the show with two songs off of the new release, “She Dropped the Axe on Me” and “Hot Little Mess”. Other highlights were “Oscar’s Motel”, “Down on the Southside”, “Pontiac Blues” and “You Were Wrong” featuring Mel Ford on guitar and vocals. Mel pulled out all the stops, playing guitar behind his head! Billy Flynn was on fire all night long. In the house were Head Gator Bruce Iglauer, Mary Flynn, Paul Stilin, Jimmy Schwarcz, Glen Geobel and Matt Hendricks.
It was back to Anodyne the next day to catch The Harmonica Workshop presented by Dennis Gruenling and a show by Nick Moss.
Let’s start with the workshop. First of all, as you know I am not a harmonica player, but Dennis was gracious enough to let me observe the workshop. I learned quite a bit about what harmonica players do and how they do it. It was fascinating. Dennis has been doing this for years both live and on videos. His presentation is awesome! I was impressed by the fact that he asked what the attendees wanted to talk about and discuss instead of just following a general agenda.
Dennis also had help presenting from Omar Coleman, Gerry Hundt and Big Al Dorn. About a dozen players participated in the workshop including Jim Liban. The vibe was friendly and laid back, very cool. It seemed to me that all the participants walked away happy with the workshop. The event ended with all the presenters playing together and exchanging solos. What fun!
Nick Moss was fantastic! I heard more than one person say that it was the best show that they’d seen so far this year. Nick and the fellas did a 2 ½ hour set with too many highlights to mention. Special mention needs to be made of the fantastically awesome Rodrigo Montivani on stand up and electric bass. This cat is an absolute monster. His deep bass lines are the heart of the rhythm, especially on “Going Down Slow”, the song Nick usually closes his shows with.
The show ended with Nick and his band and the harmonica workshop presenters all on stage trading harmonica solos. Nick even pulled out a harmonica from his pocket and got in on the action. Great show and a great weekend of Blues.
- Jim Feeney