Out & About: Mar-May 2023

The Incorruptibles held a release party for their new CD “Highway Hypnosis” and new t-shirt on Sunday March 26th at Just J’s - the place was packed. “Hypnosis Highway” features The Incorruptibles, Amy Ashby, Jim McCarthy and Bill Siebert. They opened their first set with a few old favorites such as “Twenty Flight Rock” before tearing into material from the new CD. A steady, simple backbeat, propulsive bass lines and tasty guitar is what the band delivered throughout the afternoon. Highlights included “Miserable Together”, which featured some great harmony vocals by Amy and Jim, “Highway Hypnosis”, “So Long Baby Goodbye”, “Come On Let’s Go”, “Let’s Twist Again” featuring Amy’s sweet vocals, “Another Lonely Night” and “Amnesia”. In the house were Matt Tyner (Don Juan stayed home), Joe Vent and Perry Weber, who sat in for a few songs. Great afternoon of music and a great new CD!

Closed out the day by catching a bit of Lil Rev at The Tonic Tavern. Lil Rev played 4 different guitars (including a 12 string), 3 different mandolins and 3 different ukes, as well as rack harmonica. This cat is a super cool and super talented. He mixes stories with songs in the best of the Folk tradition. Highlights were “Red Cross Store”, “Going Down the Road Feeling Bad” and a tear jerking, “If I Had to Live My Life Over I’d Still Be Here With You”. 

On Sunday April 2nd at The Tonic Tavern, The Third Coast Blues Collective hosted guitarists and vocalists Tom Holland and Stephen Hull for a fantastic afternoon of some really top notch Blues. Tom and Stephen complimented each other perfectly, trading off playing lead and rhythm and solos effortlessly. They reminded me of the way that Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood worked together. “The ancient art of weaving” as Keith calls it. What great chemistry these guys had. Matt Liban and Kurt Koenig provided perfect, in the pocket backing. Kurt seemed particularly enthused, standing toe to toe with Tom and Stephen. I even think I saw him smile!

Some of my favorite moments were ‘Walking by Myself”, “She Wants to Sell My Monkey”, “Good Time Charlie”, “Big Leg Woman”, “Sugar Sweet” and an excellent intense version of “As The Years Go Passing by” which featured soulful vocals and some very cool weeping guitar from Stephen. It was a very enjoyable show. In the house were Jim Liban, Madison Slim, Bruce Iglauer and Paul Stilin.

On Friday night April 7th I caught The Mississippi Leg Hounds at Mamies. While these guys are not really a Blues band, they are an extremely talented group of musicians who play an entertaining mix of styles blending Blues elements with some sweet Soul and R&B. They had the crowd up and dancing through the entire first set that ended with a very nice Motown medley.

Orson’s Saloon in Cudahy has started up a Blues series. The first show was held on Saturday April 8th and featured Big Al Dorn & The Blues Howlers. On this night Paul Stilin, on loan from The Blues Disciples, was on guitar. The joint was packed with eager Blues fans and Big Al and the boys delivered the goods - they were on fire! Big Al was blowing up a storm while Pauly’s guitar cut, slashed and burned on the rockers and was cool and jazzy on the slow numbers. At one point Big Al strapped on a guitar and he and Pauly had a great old time head cutting contest with no clear winner. These two guys were in sync, sparks and licks were flying back and forth - they had the crowd in an uproar!  I asked them what they had for lunch earlier in the day. They both had chicken, Al had wings, Pauly had a thigh. My theory as to why they were so in sync is that the chicken that they each ate separately for lunch came from the same bird! I ain’t lyin’. To top it all off the Rev. Raven stopped in and sat in for a few numbers much to the audiences delight. What a great start.

On Easter Sunday it was off to The Uptowner to see The Wilson Family. Perry Weber stopped in and sat in for a few numbers including a nod to his old boss Jim Liban, performing a nice version of “Without Her”. Glen Goebel also blew some harp on a few tunes.

Jimi Schutte’s American Blues featured Billy Flynn and John Lauler on Friday April 14th. Some of my favorite numbers this night were a gritty reading of Johnny Littlejohn’s “Bloody Tears”, a very cool version of Fenton Robinson’s “You Don’t Know What Love Is” with some truly beautiful guitar from Billy and a raucous BoBo Jenkins tune.

On the same night Big Al Dorn and The Blues Howlers tore the house down over at Mamie’s. These guys are one of the hottest bands on the Wisconsin Blues scene, working all over the state to packed houses. Currently Big Al is preparing  new material for his third CD. Recording will begin in the fall. In da house were Barefoot Jimmy, Pierre Lee, Glen Goebel and Matt “The Ratt” Davis.

On Sunday April 16th Rev. Raven was at Kochanski’s where he and The CSAB’s burned through 2 sets of tough, Chicago-styled Blues. Highlights were the opening number “It Must Have Been the Devil”, “Slow Burn”, “My Life”, “Walking To Chicago” and “Honey Boy”. The later featured an awesome harmonica solo by Westside Andy and some searing guitar work from the Rev. - intense and swinging like mad. In da house were Big Al Dorn working the door, Jim Liban, Paul Stilin, Barefoot Jimmy, Joe Loeffelholz and Perry Weber.

On Sunday April 23rd I saw The Mighty Ms. Erica at Orson’s Saloon in Cudahy. Ms. Erica delivered a knockout version of Denise Lasalle’s “I Forgot to Remember to Forget About You” that was stuck in my head all week long. In fact, a week later at Ms. Erica’s 50th Birthday party I told her that and she sang it again much to my pleasure. Ms. Erica’s Birthday party was put together by her daughters who did a fantastic job and was held at Shank Hall. The Blues Disciples opened with a smoking set followed by Ms. Erica and her band with special guest Big Al Dorn.  Steve Cohen, Kurt Koenig and Bob O were in the house. Happy Birthday Ms. Erica!

I also recently caught Bill Stone with Jimi Schutte’s American Blues at Miss Katies, Big Al Dorn at Mary’s Caddy Shack, The Incorruptibles at Mamie’s and Robert Allen Jr. at The Motor Bar.

On Sunday May 7th I headed over to The Uptowner for the Wilson family Band. The special guest this week was none other than Matt Wilson. Matt had a smile on his face, it was quite obvious that he was happy to be back home with family and friends. There were too many highlights to pick out, the whole show was fantastic from start to finish. Although, I did particularly like the raucous take of ”Don’t You Just Know It”. Throughout the show Matt played guitar and sang, as well as playing bass and drums. Proud papa Tom played bass and drums!  Tom told me he hadn’t played drums in a long time but you would never know it as he was spot on, playing a swinging shuffle that reminded me of Willie “Big Eyes” Smith. He was even slapping out the beat off the wall ala Sam Carr.  At one point, Matt cranked off a stunningly incredible, imaginative solo, not to be out done, Alex dug in and fired back to remind his kid brother who’s the boss! It was also cool to see Matt and Alex sing together on one mic. Matt’s son, Tom’s grandson made an appearance, as he sat behind the drums he banged on them - I guess the future is in good little hands. What an awesome show! Barefoot Jimmy sat in for a few tunes. In the house were Jim Liban, Rick Holmes, Little Jimmy and Paul Stilin.

On Friday May 12th I caught Barefoot Jimmy and Paul Stilin as part of Jimi Schutte’s American Blues at Miss Katies Diner. Pauly was on fire from the opening solo on “Before You Accuse Me” right on through “Automatic”, “Dangerous” to the last chord he played. Hell, everyone was on fire, there was something in the air! Jimmy pulled out the chromatic for a couple of tunes. Mike Scharf on bass provided some deep, funky bass lines that helped propel things along. The frosting on the cake was seeing the smile on Jimi’s face at the fine music the band was cranking out. Then it was off to Mamie’s to catch a set by Pierre Lee.

Rev. Raven and The CSAB’s were at Orson’s Saloon in Cudahy on Saturday May 13th. Orson’s is the Milwaukee area’s new “Home of The Blues”. Check out their schedule on Facebook. Rev. and the boys played to an appreciative full house. One thing about Rev. Raven, he always, I repeat always delivers the goods, and he did so again on this night. Playing 2 sets of tough Chicago-styled Blues with some Swamp Blues thrown in for good measure much to the delight of the audience. Great show! Great club!

On Monday May 22nd Rev. was back at Orson’s, this time with Big Al Dorn in a cool duo setting. They played two great sets that featured Rev.’s tasty guitar licks and weathered vocals and Al’s swinging, squeaking and soaring harmonica and his from the heart vocals. I particularly enjoyed “It Must Have Been the Devil” Rev. vocal and “Need to Make a Dollar” Al vocal, which was dedicated to Madison Slim who was in the house. Other highlights were a very cool cover of Ella Fitzgerald’s “Black Coffee” Rev. vocal and a pair of songs that featured Big Al on guitar: “Take a Little Walk with Me” and “Turkey Scratch Jump”.

I also recently caught The Hungry Williams at Tonic, Bill Stone and Dave Kasik with Jimi Schutte at Miss Katie’s and Danva D.J. Johnson at Orsons’ Saloon.

The weather is breaking and summer is here and the calendar is filling up with opportunities to see and hear a lot of fantastic music. So grab your lawn chair and an ice cold beer and to quote Big Walter Horton: ”And Have a Good Time”!!!

- Jim Feeney