Devon Allman - Ragged and Dirty

When I spoke to Devon Allman at the end of 2013 he was full of excitement about his plans to head out to Chicago and record an album of dirty blues with the cream of the city’s musical talent. Now the results of that project are here in the shape of his new album, Ragged and Dirty.

Devon’s main collaborator on the project is Tom Hambridge, drummer/producer extraordinaire, who has credits that include Chicago’s greatest living bluesman Buddy Guy. Hambridge’s fingerprints are clear across the disk, with the funky rhythms and supremely crisp performances, but it’s anything but a rehash of what he has done before. Devon is firmly in the driving seat here, with Tom providing navigation, and the musical DNA of southern rock and jambands that make up his heritage are strong here though it’s wrapped in the deep blues that provided the foundation of the genre. There are touches, too, of Santana-esque guitar and hints of latin rhythms. However if there weren’t these little bits of what Devon does outside of this record, if it was just straight ahead 12 bars ’til sundown, this would cease to be a Devon Allman album and become a parody, a Devon does blues pastiche with no life of it’s own.

The songs and performances are full of funk, with a real feel of current Chicago blues. It’s hard hitting stuff, and, in a really good way, about as subtle as a fist to the face. The blues has never really been about burying your meaning under a flowery prose, or delicacy in delivery, and that’s something that’s been grasped here. Devon goes direct to the heart of the matter and delivers emotional and heartfelt songs without fuss and bluster. Even the disc’s cover of I’ll Be There, which has what at fort seems like an appropriately smooth soulful vibe is graced with a hard hitting solo that cuts to the point without the slightest hint of uncertainty. However the standout track has to be the closer, Leave the City, it’s as close as Devon is going to get to the delta tradition, with the main thrust being Allman’s voice and dobro with backing from Hambridge’s kick drum. The song is simple but powerful and leaves you wanting to hear more, a perfect way to close the record.

When I wrote about about Devon’s last record, Turquoise, I praised the fact that he had produced something very much of his own, without reliance on the musical heritage of his illustrious father. Here he’s done the same thing, the roots are there and you can hear the family tradition, but there’s no way that a record like this would be possible if it wasn’t the product of a man committed, heart and soul, to the task of making it. Devon may consider this his blues record, for a blues record it is, but far more than that it’s a record that defines the artist that Devon has become. Truly an unmissable listen.


Show 244

Tomorrow night on Blues is the Truth we have requests in the show for Chad Strentz and Hazelhazel Hazel, along with songs from Andy GunnIra Walker, Dave Specter, Dave Thomas, Eric Clapron, Manuto, Rick Estrin and more. All from 9pm on www.jazzandbossaradio.com


Show 243

Tomorrow’s Blues is the Truth is on at 9pm and features a load of great music from the likes of The Steady Rolling Revue, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Joanne Shaw Taylor, Robbie Hill, Sam and Dave, The Mustangs, Ori Naftali, Double Fuzz, Willy Bo Walker and Karena K, Fran Macgillivray and more. All on www.jazzandbossaradio.com


Half Deaf Clatch - The Blues Continuum

Half Deaf Clatch has a new record, listeners to UK blues radio may have heard it teased with tracks turning up here and there, but to many he’s still going to be a brand new name, despite his prolific output. If you’re one of the uninitiated, Clatch is Andrew McClatchie, a UK resident with a solid line in delta influenced solo acoustic blues, and if you want an introduction to him you could do no better than this new disc.

The Blues Continuum, as that’s what the disc is titled, is mainly one man and a guitar, a single voice and a single instrument augmented only by the sound of a stomping foot for percussion. It’s something that has been done many times before, from folks like Robert Johnson, through John Lee Hooker, John Hammond and now to Clatch. While it may not be bringing anything radically new to the world in terms of sound, it’s a completely honest way of delivering music and one very telling in terms of the artist’s talent and the quality of the material. If you don’t have good songs, and the ability to deliver them in an engaging and moving manner, any attempt at an album of this ilk will fall flat on it’s face.

There’s no need to worry about that here, because Clatch has all the talent and songwriting chops to deliver a record that entertains with no need for extraneous augmentation. Occasionally a second guitar crops up in the mix, along with some judicious doubling of vocal lines, but it’s nothing that distracts from the simplicity of the presentation and there are less production tricks used here than on early John Lee Hooker records. 

There are strong songs here too, with lyrics that scan and aren’t shoehorned into place in unnatural ways. They cover a gamut of typical subjects; love, loss, death, along with the heroes of the genre. There’s nothing here that hasn’t been discussed by other artists, but Clatch does it with an individual approach. Deathly Blue is a highlight, with it’s touch of female backing vocals providing a great contrast to Clatch’s own Tom Wait’s-y rasp, and marking it out as the least ‘solo effort’ on the whole album.

What we have in Blues Continuum is a record that proves that solo acoustic blues can still connect to an audience and that it doesn’t require a massive band or a raft of production tricks to produce music that entertains and moves the listener. This is easily Clatch’s best effort to date, the songs and the performances are powerful and tight, and the lack of fuss makes for a refreshing experience.


Blues is the Truth 242

Blues is the Truth this week has a smattering of both the old and the new with tracks from Half Deaf Clatch lining up with Otis Rush, BB King with Robbie Hill, Chad Strentz with Lightnin’ Hopkins, Buddy Whittington and Will Johns, Otis Grand and Dale Storr. It’s packed so don’t miss it, from 9pm on www.jazzandbossaradio.com tomorrow!


Show 241

Tomorrow night’s show is packed to the rafters with awesome! With me being lucky enough to go out on the day after the 2014 British Blues Awards are announced, I’m going to be one of the first places where you can hear who won. I’m going to be playing tracks from all of the award winners, along with new tunes from Ronnie Earl, Devon Allman, The Ruf Records 20th Anniversary CD, Long John Baldry and Phil Bee. It’s packed and it’s on from 9pm on www.jazzandbossaradio.com


Show 240

This weeks Blues is the truth has it all, well, as much of it all as you can for into two hours anyway. Turns out you can fit the brand new single from Joanne Shaw Taylor along with tracks from David FerraChad StrentzTim AvesRichard TownendTrevor Sewell, Philip Sayce, Monkey Paw Finger, Danny Bryant, Clarence Gatemouth Brown, Mike Zito, Ginger St James and much more. You can hear exactly what by tuning in to www.jazzandbossaradio.com from 9pm UK time tomorrow.


Joanne Shaw Taylor - The Dirty Truth

Joanne Shaw Taylor has been around for a long time, signed to Dave Stewart’s record label at an early age, before throwing herself wholeheartedly into making kick-ass blues rock on records like Diamonds in the Dirt and Almost Always Never. Her career has even seen her join Annie Lennox on stage during the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Concert.

It’s therefore no surprise that expectations are high for her latest release, entitled The Dirty Truth

The album opens with the single Mud Honey and everything is business as usual, raspy vocals mated to high voltage guitar playing, a hefty riff and punchy solos. It’s the style she’s been polishing since her debut, and the work shows, it’s crisp, tight and exciting, and more importantly everything an existing fan could want. 

However, no artist is at their best unless they’re pushing and trying something new. Resting on your laurels is no recipe for creative forward motion, and it’s not long before Joanne shows us that she has no intention of standing still. The record’s second song, title track The Dirty Truth, adds an almost traditional blues boogie, an insistent rhythm and produces something that is identifiably JST, but is brilliantly fresh and new. Moments like this are all over the record, Fool In Love has a slight country lilt while making me think a little of John Mayer, Wrecking Ball has some funky guitar and almost sounds as if a mad scientist has taken some old school soul and dropped in some hard rock DNA in a genetically modified hybrid of doom.

It’s things like this that make this a special record. It’s not going to alienate anyone who already likes Jo, but it hasn’t stood still, it isn’t to formula, and it offers new sounds and feels. It’s almost like putting on a pair of glasses and seeing the world for the first time in colour, the shapes and textures are instantly familiar, but theres a greater excitement, a richer experience.

In common with other Joanne Shaw Taylor albums this has a thickness, a density, in its sound. Things are heavily layered and while on prior records this left things sounding confused, here a better job has been done on the mix. There are layers to explore and threads to follow, and spaces that you can explore. It’s fresher and a lighter load to bear than in the past and this, combined with the new styles Joanne is exploring will make for an easier ride for new listeners.

Here we have a great record, the best Joanne has produced thus far. Equal parts magic and skill, she’s beginning to show us exactly what she’s capable of. The thing is I can only see her getting better!


Blues is the Truth 239

This weeks show will be on as usual from 9pm UK time tomorrow. It’s packed with new tunes from the likes of Andy Gunn, Dave Raphael, BB King, Kilborn Alley, Mighty Sam McLean, Tim Aves, The Delta Generators, Muddy Waters, James Brown and Robert Nighthawk. Tune in on www.jazzandbossaradio.com


Some rather fine pictures of my band in action at the Richmond Riverside Festival. Organised by the Crawdaddy Club of legendary repute it was two days of great music in the sun by the river. I had myself a great time and even look slightly professional!

Photos (c) Ian Dubbelman


Show 238

Tomorrow night’s show has some great tunes. Soul from Wilson Picket and Donny Hathaway. Blues from Buddy Guy, Junior Wells, Ian Siegal, Kat and Co (with Kathleen Pearson and Francesco Accurso), Magic Sam, The Snyders and the Delta Generators. All from 9pm on www.jazzandbossaradio.com tomorrow.


Show 237

This week’s Blues is the Truth is packed with a father and son Muddy Waters and Mud Morganfield, Laura Cheadle, Freddie King, Robert Cray, Buddy Guy, Hans Theessink and Terry Evans, Poplar Jake, Jo Harman, Danny Bryant, Katie Bradley and much more. All from 9pm UK time tomorrow on www.jazzandbossaradio.com


Ruby Tiger - Vistas

Ruby Tiger may not, as yet, be a familiar name, at least outside of their local scene on the south coast. However their release of a debut EP, entitled Vistas, could see all that change, as more people will get to discover their individual blend of roots, blues and jazz.

It’s always difficult to describe something that so effectively straddles so many musical niches. Here it’s clear that the core is old school swing blues of the kind you’s associate with Dinah Washington or Bessie Smith, but that there’s a blend between that and some old school jazz and traditional songwriting. It’s a blend that feels instantly familiar, you’re at home listening to this record, it feels natural and organic, as if it has always been around around. 

Most of the songs are originals, and they show off an adept and intelligent lyricist. There’s a poetry here, with words that flow with the rhythm of the piece rather than being shoe-horned into place. Each track is a  carefully considered piece of storytelling, there are little plot twists and surprises and it all makes for something rather different to the massed ranks of modern music.

Performance wise the musicians fit the material like a glove. Intelligently performed and underrated, it’s  a perfect foil for Ruby’s vocals. I get the sense she’s holding back a lot from what she could do technically and the subsequent benefit to the emotional content is high. Somehow she seems to reach out to the listener and find a shared perspective on the subjects on which her songs dwell. Her regular musical foil, King Rollo, also turns in a hugely involving performance on guitar, resisting the urge to splurge notes to fill every gap and providing tasteful solos only where they will have the most impact.

This is a stunning debut, understated and moving, but without relying on flash to deliver it’s impact. It’s layered and rich, and a great showcase for an emerging talent. On this evidence Ruby is going to be gaining some serious attention, even if it’s only for the beautiful way she introduces vibrato to the final note of Best Friend which ranks as one of 2014’s most magical musical moments.


Blues is the Truth show 236

Tomorrow night’s show has, as you’d expect a fair amount of music from the late, great Johnny Winter. Along with him there are tunes from Olivia Stevens Ruby Tiger, Muddy Waters, Nick Curran, Candy Kayne, BB and the Blues Shacks, Wily Bo Walker, Greg Alman, Back Pack Jones and much more. Tune in from 9pm tomorrow on www.jazzandbossaradio.com


Johnny Winter RIP.

Johnny Winter is dead. The world is a darker place.

Any time someone like him passes it gets a little darker, a little smaller, a little less special. He created something new, a hi-octane take on blues guitar, and most notably slide, that begat many great players. Derek Trucks acknowledged his importance when they played together at crossroads, and rightly so. There was an excitement and fire to his playing that nobody duplicated.

I’m going to miss that sound.