Monday, May 18, 2015

Harp Train 10


I have one of these now. It's called a Harp Train 10 produced by the Lone Wolf company and is designed specifically for us harp player (duh, thus the name). I've written a word or two about the harmonica specific pedals they produce, particularly the ones I have...the Harp Break and Delay. I also have their Terminator pedal that opens up a harp mic by matching the mic output and amp inputs better electronically and also has an output jack to allow connecting two amps in tandem or feeding direct into a p.a. But, anyway, this is about the amp.

I bought this for three reasons: 1. It was made by Lone Wolf 2. It had the cheapest price tag of any amp designed for harp players (ordered mine the first day of sales and it arrived for less than $350) 3. I decided I wanted a new amp, as in NEW amp.

That's right. I've never owned a new amp. All my amplifiers were built prior to 1965 (a late '30s Bell Sounds, a '60s era Silverstone 1483, a '60s era Kalamazoo I, ditto for the Sears XL, and Voice of Music amp from an old record console). All were amps that I dug into and modified to be more harp friendly, so I wanted new for a change. It's not like I needed another small amp, because the Voice of Music and Kalamazoo covers that well, but did I say I wanted new for a change. I've come close to pulling the trigger on new before, but always backed off.

First thing I did was A/B the HT10 with the Kalamazoo I (my go to amp for great tone). First impression had me leaning towards the 'Zoo in terms of tone and volume. The longer I played the amp, and it could have been a matter of speaker and tubes breaking in, the Harp Train began to edge it out. Considerably. Had to reverse my opinion pretty quick. I did stick my harp mic at my boom box and drown the amp in Little and Big Walter, James Cotton, Muddy Waters, etc, etc for a few hours to loosen things up. The amp proved to have way more meat and bottom end than the 'Zoo, leaving the latter sounding a bit more tinny in comparison. Great tone! They both have ceramic 10" speakers in them, but the HT10 speaker came alive. The Harp Train 10 has two knobs. One called Loudness and one called Balls, which is a boost knob according to their website. It's that boost knob that takes the amp out of the one trick pony realm, which is basically what you get with the 'Zoo or a variety of small amps like the Champ. I'm thinking they incorporated a lot of what they stick in their pedals like the Harp Break where you twist a knob and get something different going on.

I played around with the Balls knob vs Loudness for quite awhile. One up, one down, the other up, the other down. Different strokes for different folks on that account. Different tonal palette with each move. Not sure about the website claim that it's probably being the loudest small amp on the market, but it do get loud. That being said, I did read a user mentioning that setting the Loudness knob just shy of 4 and the Balls on 3 that he was on the verge of feedback and complained that a harmonica specific amp should be able to exceed that. I played through an old Green Bullet with a hot CR element and an Astatic crystal and could ease up to 5 with the Balls on 4 before fighting feedback issues, but I understand the point he makes. It was substantially loud, but then again that was playing at my house. I have a Greg Heumann volume knob on the Green Bullet and reduced it and did get the amp blasting up around 6 without a noticeable drop in tone. Couldn't really tell if it got louder.

This past Friday I took the amp out to gig with a trio that I play with at an outdoor gig. They play a few blues tunes, but mostly '60s stuff. We're just two guitars and a harp, so there's no competing with a bass thumping and drums. The lead singer decided to go electric, he usually plays acoustic, so he was playing through a Peavey Delta Blues amp. The lead guitarist goes through a p.a. rig, owns the equipment, mics everyone up, and keeps the stage volume relatively low. I set the HT10 volume at around 4 and the balls on 3 to somewhat match the Peavey's volume. The HT10 rocked it. My bandmates loved it's tone.

I'll play with these guys at a small venue next month. Small is the optimal word. I've taken the 'Zoo and set it for the tone I want to project and they've rejected it as being too loud. After playing around with the  HT10, I do believe that it'll do low volume with good tone. We'll see and I'll report back.

So, hell yeah, I'm glad I got something new for a change. One thing I don't care for is having to pull the chassis to change tubes in the amp. I don't have a problem with the Sovtek tubes supplied in the amp, but I'm one of those curious guys who likes to see what a tube swap may do (over the years, I've grown fond of particular brands) and I'll have to unscrew and screw back into wooden cleats to do that. Not that big of a deal. I've got a NEW amp and it rocks it. 'Nuff for now. Check 'em out at:
http://lonewolfblues.com


Friday, April 10, 2015

Resurrection of Ironing Board Sam

The Music Maker Relief Foundation has released a wonderful short documentary telling the incredible story of Ironing Board Sam. He's one in a long line of musicians that the organization has lent their support in order get them back on their feet and back in the limelight after modern times have passed them by and left them without a pot to piss in. According to their website, the foundation has assisted over 300 artists and issued more than 150 albums, many by musicians that were living in the dire straits of poverty. I remember well when the founder, Tim Duffy, brought one of his first discoveries, Guitar Gabriel, to the publics attention and was amazed at the talent that the elderly bluesman still had up his sleeve.

Anyway, I had heard about Ironing Board Sam (born Sam Moore) somewhere back there in the day and his use of an ironing board for his keyboard stand. I'd never heard his music before now, though. Not going to go into any bio stuff on him, because it is written better on Music Makers' website
And spelled out in the documentary by filmmaker Tom Ciaburri in collaboration with the Southern Documentary Fund. So, without further ado, just click on the Vimeo vid here.

Must say that I've never seen a man shave with a knife, which Sam does in the opening scene of the documentary. Of course, there are way more marvelous revelations about the man they called Ironing Board Sam. Check him out. 'Nuff for now.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Howling Mountain Blues Is Live

Howling Mountain Blues is live on Amazon in paperback. It will be released on Barnes and Noble soon and also in e-book versions at a variety of e-book retailers such as, iTunes and Kobo.

A complete synopsis, discount coupons, 4 FREE Chapters, and a clickable playlist of all the blues songs mentioned in the third book of my Crime Fighting Bluesmen series can be found at my publishers website, Barking Rain Press

So...follow my blues harp blowing protagonists, Mitty Andersen and Pete Bolden, down to Belize where they headline a blues festival with hotshot guitarist, Wyatt 'Earp' Ringold. Of course, as usual, blues and trouble follow the duo into this tropical paradise.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Howling Mountain Blues


Here's the cover reveal for the latest adventures of my crime fighting bluesmen, Mitty Andersen and Pete Bolden. This time blues and trouble find them in Belize. Barking Rain Press cover design artist, Stephanie Flint, did a great job interpreting the book.

Head over to my publisher's website for a synopsis of what's in store for them:
http://www.barkingrainpress.org/dd-product/howling-mountain-blues/

Barking Rain Press also offers a FREE four chapter preview here: http://www.barkingrainpress.org/howling-mountain-blues-free-preview/






Saturday, November 22, 2014

Buckle Up With Steve Krase

I called Steve Krase's Some Day a rip snorter when I reviewed it back in early August. His new one, Buckle Up, pretty much follows the same kick butt formula. Throw down a couple of songs in a J.Geils groove such as his original I Like Them All and a re-invention of the Willie Dixon warhorse, I Just Want To Make Love To You, sprinkle in another couple from the pen of his brother, David, a cover of a Jerry Lightfoot slow burner, and a dos dose by the legendary Houston blues pianist, Big Walter 'The Thunderbird' Price.



By the way, Krase has been a very busy boy as of late. He just returned from the Lucerne Blues Festival in Switzerland backing Trudy Lynn (a Houston blues treasure) in support of her well received Royal Oaks Blues Cafe, which he released on his label, Connor Ray Music (www.connorraymusic.com). He also accompanied her to the Blues Blast Awards in Chicago in October. Playing harp among the blues elite at these events certainly had to have raised his profile beyond the banks of Buffalo Bayou, not to mention giving the rest of the world a taste of what Lynn brings to the blues table. Her CD is up next in my review queue.

Anyway, Buckle Up kicks off with some Jerry Lee Lewis brand of piano ripping from Randy Wall on brother David's rockabilly style rave up, Jolene. He bangs the hell out of the 88s, while bassist Terry Dry and drummer Michael Morris kick the song down the road at breakneck speed. Krase rips on harp and roars on vocals and either guitarist, James Henry, or D. Krase wails on in on slide guitar.

Daddy's Got A Cadillac (Mama Rides A Mule), written by Dry and his wife Jamie, lopes along much like the old chestnut, She Caught The Katy. The song starts out with daddy driving the Cadillac with mama on the mule, but reverses course before the song is over. Leaves daddy on the mule and mama in the Caddy, and leaves me wondering how much of the song is biographical. Lot's of slide guitar heavy grooves laid down by Henry, with Krase working his harp licks in tandem more than a few times.

Trudy Lynn's husky, full throated vocals own I Just Want To Make Love To You. She makes you feel it and believe it. She owns the tune much in the same way that Koko Taylor did when she covered the blues and belts it out much in the same way. The band wallops it in the aforementioned J.Geils' style groove, with Krase getting his Magic Dick mojo rolling--really rolling. The band hits the song full stride and rocks full out.

Krase covers Misery and Big Bad Woman from Big Walter Price. Big Walter could do the jumping, rockin', piano shaking blues better than anyone. I mention in my previous review that his Pack Fair and Square caught the attention of the J.Geils' band, which they turned into one of their hits. The former is a stop time jumper, rocking with Bobby Markoff banging the keys in rhythmic support, while Krase's harp leads the proceedings from the get go to the end, flying from the middle registrar with swoops up to the high end, punctuated with single note wails stabbing the air. The latter is simply a fine example of jump blues at its best, with Krase emulating horn lines with his harp. Guitarist Henry plays with a bit more restrain, for him, on his solo, but it is mighty tasty. Both songs lament the trouble that women presented in Big Walter's life. Krase adds a little spoken historical, humorous comment in those regards.

Trudy Lynn wrote the title tune, Buckle Up. Krase's harp kicks it off and puts it in a groove like an uptempo Shake A Hand. The harp notes set the rhythm and he glisses up, down and around the tune with backing vocals from Lynn and bassist/producer, Rock Romano. Krase gets quite wild ass with his harp licks before the song closes.

Krase covers one of my favorite Lightfoot songs, Night Train (From Oakland) opening with Henry shredding on guitar and then it settles down into a slow down, low down groove as Krase eases in on the chromatic harp giving the song its somber mood. Henry is turned loose to do as Lightfoot did, soar those blues notes into the stratosphere.

David Krase adds raucous, resonator slide guitar to his Blueshound (which I'm quite sure has nothing to do with James Nagle). It's a jaunty little number, but is embed with dark overtones in terms of the refrain: Dead man laying by the side of the road/I kick him in his head just to watch him roll. The harp licks employed are deeper and darker and helps set the tone, they're nice and fat, too.

As I mentioned earlier, Krase's I Like Them All has J.Geil's written all over it, vocally, rhythmically, and Magic Dickishly. Henry whips the slide on the strings with abandon. The band rips it up on this one.

The set closes out with, Now, a jazzy instrumental written by the brother from the same mother. Kinda a Musselwhite Christo Redemptor sort of thing and predominantly features Krase's ability to knock it out. Drummer Michael Morris is instrumental keeping the instrumental in the groove. Jazzy stuff can wonder off course without a good drummer keeping the flow down the right stream.

So. Yeah. Steve Krase has another rip snorter on the market. As he says in the liner notes, made loud to play loud. So, get yo hands on it and do so. Check out the Connor Ray Music website linked above and for darned sure, check out the one of a kind, Trudy Lynn.


Sunday, October 26, 2014

Paul Oscher's Deep Blues



The Deep Blues. Now that's my kind of blues. I listen to all the different shades of blues, but the deep blues turns my crank more so that anything else. Robert Palmer in his book titled, natch, Deep Blues, wrote what I'd consider the best analysis of exactly what it is. I'll boil down his 300 pages to say that he puts deep bluesmen in the category of those who plied their trade around the Mississippi Delta and those who took it to Chicago and other urban centers. They basically took the raw, gritty, lowdown, gutbucket blues and amplified it. Muddy Waters, Howling Wolf, Elmore James, Robert Nighthawk, and John Lee Hooker are a handful of many who took the music of Charlie Patton, Robert Johnson, Tommy Johnson, Fred McDowell, Son House, etc to the city. In the book, B.B. King throws in his two cents in the book, explaining that he definitely doesn't consider himself as a deep bluesman (although, he can dang sure get down with it), because he plays a more uptown style with a horn section augmenting his stage. He nods his head to those I mentioned and the man he learn from, his cousin Bukka White, as staying truer to the roots of the music. The harmonica was the only horn section in a band laying down the deep blues. And, that brings me to Paul Oscher.

I took my wife on a date night to the exquisite listening room in La Grange called The Bugle Boy (www.thebugleboy.org) in La Grange, Texas. On arriving, I spotted Oscher sitting on the deck with his manager, Nancy Coplin and his road tech, Forrest Arnold. They had just returned from a successful European tour. I mentioned to Nancy that, in my opinion, Paul played the deepest blues of anyone around today. He shrugged it off, saying, "Well, that's all I know how to play".

I thoroughly enjoyed visiting with them prior to show. I knew that he'd moved to Austin recently, or actually Manchaca, and he told me he didn't know that he was moving into a place just a few blocks from James Cotton, which provided a reunion of sorts. He told me a tale about how Cotton ended up living with Sonny Boy Williamson II back in the day. I did know that Paul frequently played at a joint called Railroad Barbecue, just a hop, skip, and a jump from his house, having seen someone mention it on a harp forum I read. It closed down before I could make it over to try and catch him.

"Yeah, the way that gig happened was I walk in and asked them if they had live music," Paul told me. He said that they were agreeable and he soon had a standing gig conveniently located just down the street. Once word got out, fans and other Austin musicians flocked to Manchaca and he had the place rocking. Sadly, he told me, other owners took over and the place ended up demolished. He does hold court on Thursday's at C-Boy's Heart and Soul, 2008 S. Congress Ave in Austin. He's rounding up Mike Keller (The Fabulous T-Birds guitarist) and his brother, Cory on drums to back him up when they are available. Gonna have to head that direction real soon.


Now, on to the show. He's been doing the one man thing for quite some time now. I've got a few of his recordings reflecting as much. He walked out and strapped on his harp rack outfitted with a microphone, set up with a wireless rig. He lit into "Ida Mae" on an old, fat bodied Harmony guitar with some of those down in the alley licks he absorbed from Muddy, Nighthawk, and others. I'm pretty sure that it's one of his original tunes, but don't quote me on that...well, hell, you can go ahead and quote me. Original or not, it comes from deep in the well. From there, he put a spin on Little Walter's "Juke" and shortly after, "Mean Old World", but with licks from a different LW slow blues. He gets one helluva a fat, deep tone out of his rig. Speaking of which, I mentioned that to him after the show and he pointed to his chest and said, "Most of that comes deep down in here." He proved that when he played through the vocal mic a bit later in the show.

He's got that old school, lowdown, gutbucket grit on guitar, especially when he works the slide into the tune. He nailed Muddy's tone down more than once as he ripped through his set list, mixing his originals like "Blues and Trouble" and "Thunder" with blues standards such as Guitar Slim's "Things I Used To Do", Jimmy Rogers' "That's Alright", and Freddy King's "Hideaway". After "Hideaway", he told a story about Freddy King opening for them at a club and singeing the side of Muddy's pompadour with flash powder, with Muddy saying "We gonna cut that out". He regaled the audience with humorous tales from the road he travelled with Muddy, which kept the crowd in stitches. I mean, really, here's a dude who was the first white musician to join the best damn blues band...ever, and as the harmonica player following the best damn harmonica players...ever. He had big shoes to fill. Little Walter, James Cotton, Junior Wells, etc were studs, and here was 17 year old Paul Oscher living in Muddy's basement with Otis Spann. So, yeah, he had tales to to tell.


Before the intermission, Paul pulled out some of his tricks of the trade by spinning the harmonica around in his mouth, which swap the physical position of the high end and the low end and he chugged along without missing a beat...until he dropped it, which upset him, since the performance was being streamed live to a world wide audience. The streaming factor forced him into cleaning up the language that he might normally use in some of his blues stories. He did introduce the band before the break. He took his Harmony and place it on the floor like an upright bass and proceeded to play it as a bass player would. "Let's here it for the bass." He never did introduce the harmonica player, though.

After the break, he proved how well he could multi-task. He sat down at his Yamaha keyboard with his neck rack in place and his guitar on his lap. He proceeded to play all three as he sang out a blues number. He damned well absorbed what hanging with Otis Spann, and later, Pinetop Perkins, provided him, which he demonstrated after putting the Harmony down. Pretty sure he played a rendition of Leroy Carr's "Blues Before Sunrise" as the followup. Trusting my memory here, because I took no notes.

He more or less closed things out with "The Things I Used To Do" and a couple of numbers I'm after trouble recalling. The audience insisted on an encore, so he came back with a great "That's Alright" and then lit into spitting out some nice harp licks. Those who weren't familiar with what the deep blues is all about, got an up close and personal tutorial on this night. The crowd was a lot sparser than I expected, but I can guarantee that if he ever plays The Bugle Boy again, that won't be the case.

Here's the deal. There just ain't too many blues musicians out there that do the real deal, raw, lowdown, gritty, gutbucket stuff any longer. He's got a harp tone that rivals any of the heavy weights that blew before him or after. If you find yourself in Austin, check him out at C-Boys on Thursdays. You might find me there some night. Check out his website-www.pauloscher.com Contact his manager, Nancy Coplin at ncoplin@austin.rr.com and see if she can get him into a venue near you. Bottom line is, don't miss a chance to hear Paul Oscher's Deep Blues.


P.S--I planned to include a picture, but didn't bring a camera with me. My bad. I took one on my flip phone which is way obsolete and Forrest took one, but neither did Paul or I any justice, so I've just included some of his album covers.. Forrest was nice enough to show me around his stage set-up during intermission and pointed out his pedal board for his Harmony and explained that he played it though a vintage Fender Deluxe. His harp rack had a long, dedicated microphone attached to it with the wireless unit that I mentioned. Paul told me that the only pedal for the harp was the Ibanez delay that I spied and he fed that into a vintage Premier amp, with a black Fender deluxe that he kicked in with an A/B pedal to provide more boost and boom when needed. He had an old as hell extension cab to provide more oomph, also. But, as he said, his tone came from deep inside. Agreed, and as a harp player, I know exactly what he's talking about. You can either produce it, regardless of the rig, or you can't. He can and did. By the way, The Bugle Boy is a fantastic venue. People come to hear and revere the music. Click the website earlier in the post and check out their line-up. Anyway--'Nuff for Now.







Blues For Food Press Release

Blues Community Joins Hands for Huge Food Drive for the Holidays.
By Ida Mae McLemore

   It’s that time of year again for the 25th annual Blues For Food
Celebration,  Sunday, November 9th at The Shakespeare Pub, 
Located at 14129 Memorial Drive at Kirkwood just off I-10 West.
Join us for over 12 hours of intense live blues with 17 top Texas blues
Acts.
  It’s almost hard to believe this BLUES FOR FOOD has been going for a quarter of a century now. Started by KPFT 90.1 dee-jay and benevolent Houston blues shouter Big Roger Collin in 1990, it was even a precursor and in some ways setting the stage for our partner the Houston Blues Society. Big Roger died in October of 2000 and Houston blues harp man (Houston Blues Society founder and keeper of the flame) Sonny Boy Terry took over the production right away.  “I felt we needed to keep the tradition going,  “ said Sonny Boy. “It has always been important to me to honor Big Roger’s name and protect the integrity of Blues For Food. I know the new owners at The Shakespeare Pub feels the exact same way.”
  This is a wonderfully diverse array of musical talent featuring the amazing blues legend Jimmy Louisiana Dotson, the powerful Miss Trudy Lynn, talented upstart blues vocalist supreme Annika Chambers, critically acclaimed slide guitar giant John Egan,  along with John McVey and the Stumble, The Sonny Boy Terry Band and from Austin (we’re not too biased here in Houston)  killer blues harp player  Greg izor  backed by the Erin James Band  and any more. .
  Admission is any non - perishable food items or cash. With your donation you get a free plate of down home Texas BBQ. Music starts at 1pm with John Eagan and is topped off with Spare Time Murray and the Honetmakers World Famous Blues Jam going until the wee hours till 2am.
  No one should go hungry during this holiday season so get ready to shake your blues thang once again by giving back.  Join KPFT 90.1, The Houston Blues Society, Keith Alan Guitars and The Shakespeare Pub for the centerpiece of Houston Blues events. It’s the largest collection of Houston blues artists on stage of the year  - all donating their time and talent to feed the hungry during the holidays.
  There will raffles, 50/50 givaways and a silent auction. This year we will even be auctioning off a hand crafted commemorative Blues For Food 25th Anniversary Cigar Box Guitar – a true collectors item and a one of a kind creation.  It’s not a guitar or memorabillia.  It’s folk art as well as being a real professional player.
  Once again, that’s Sunday November 9th for the 25th Annual Blues For Food celebration.  All proceeds benefit the Houston Food Bank.  Please visit www.kpft.org,, www.facebook.com/bluesforfoodhouston or theshakespearepub.net for more information.  For publicity information, please call Sonny Boy Terry at 713.822.0437