Album Reviews

Coolhand - Coolhand



There is always an element of fun in being unable to label a record within a genre. And with the debut album of Coolhand, there is fun from beginning to end on this very palatable record.

Luke Bradshaw (Guitars) and Daz Edwards (vocals), a.k.a. Coolhand are excellent musicians and they do not misplace a note on this highly eclectic and well executed album. The Welsh band from Cardiff manage to assemble 12 tracks that travel across the sound of America's West Coast, through tracks like Give Love A Chance, with that irresistible Calypso atmosphere running in the background, Can't Carry On and Pretender Love.

Thanks to the supported of some really talented guest musicians playing on the record, Bradshaw's sometimes robust and dreamy guitar sound and Edwards splendid vocals have the opportunity to stretch their phenomenal music background even further and every track is a sonic surprise every time.

Lyrically, the band show also some very clever ideas, like on the opener Virtual Life, a foot-stomping blues about the concept of how the virtual world of the Internet almost takes over our lives, making truth become fake.

Dead Man's Hand is a wonderful folk/rock tune about the last night of the Wild West legend "Wild" Bill Hickok's life, penned by an excellent solo of Bradshaw's guitar and a splendid contribute on Piano and Hammond by Gareth Kedward.

J&J is the perfect closure to Coolhand's debut album. The instrumental, played solely by Bradshaw on guitar, carries echoes of Ry Cooder and for few minutes, the green land of Wales becomes a slice of Texan desert, through the beautiful harmonies created by Luke Bradshaw's guitar.

A solid debut for a band that has certainly got a lot of creativity, skills and a deep understanding of music of many different genres. A promise of even more beautiful records to come. Cool on so many levels.


Giovanni "Gio" Pilato


Coolhand can be purchased on the band's website Coolhand


Danny Bryant - Blood Money

danny bryant


Danny Bryant is an artist that loves to challenge himself and his audience. Blood Money, Bryant's new album, is yet another eclectic and impressive work from the Norfolk's bluesman.

The album is a clear statement of love and respect from the British guitarist to blues and to some of Bryant's biggest music influences. One of the main goals successfully achieved by Danny Bryant on Blood Money is the ability to recreate the sound of his all-time music heroes, from the likes of Albert Collins (on the instrumental On The Rocks) or Albert King (on Unchained), whilst still maintaining his characteristic trademark sound.

The title-track is one of the highlights of the album and the first song to be cut for Blood Money. The duet with Walter Trout is contagiously gripping and incendiary and the two bluesmen combine a formidable interplay, both on guitars and vocals.

Slow Suicide is another excellent moment of the album, lyrically and musically. Inspired by the loss of one of the guitarist's school friends at a very premature age, the sound of Bryant's guitar is highly intense and evocative. Without a doubt, one of the most beautiful and emotional peaks of Blood Money.

Sugar Sweet is powerful and exudes rock and roll from all angles and it is Bryant's personal homage to ZZ Top's guitarist Billy Gibbons and his inimitable guitar style. Just Won't Burn, which features Bernie Marsden on guitar, is sweet and sexy at the same time, with Bryant's and Marsden's guitars gliding together in perfect harmony.

Whereas, to some, the album may not sometimes sound cohesive in its entirety, Blood Money is an album packed with some real musical delights and great ideas. Danny Bryant is an artist in constant evolution and his will to explore and broaden the sound of blues in many different ways is refreshing and highly entertaining.

Blood Money is certainly a step forward to worldwide stardom for this brilliant artist and a record to love and treasure.



Giovanni "Gio" Pilato

Blood Money is out now on Jazzhaus Records

Simo - Let Love Show The Way

simo let love show the way cover

There are few bands that are able to perfectly incorporate several musical decades in the manner in which Simo, a band from Nashville, are able to do.

Let Love Show The Way is the rite of passage of a band that in the past five years has developed a wonderful pastiche of psychedelic sound, supported superbly by the timeless guitar sound that JD Simo, the frontman and guitarist of the band manages to infuse. In 2011, after several years of hard work spent as a session man for other musicians and recording as a solo artist, JD Simo joined forces with Adam Abrashoff on drums and later with Elad Shapiro on bass, releasing their first record simply called Simo.

Simo's new album brilliantly describes the robust and pure sound of a band that does not use at all or at least minimizes effects like overdubs. Becky's Last Occupation has the sound and the powerful cadence of the best Led Zep musical moments. I'll Always Be Around has the stylistic caress of the Allman Brothers Band best period while Stranger Blues, an Elmore James cover, has the sound vehemence of Cream's early days.

Let Love Show The Way is an album that relies heavily on the immediacy and the intuition of three musicians who know each other, musically, by heart and they all know how to deftly move through the eclectic sound of their musical DNA.

Please is a true moment of R&B high stature. Long May You Sail has that infectious rock tempo that gets into the skin on first listen, while the long instrumental phrasings created between the three musicians on I'd Rather Die In Vain explores a dark and morbidly fascinating musical territory.

When you think you have found out everything about this amazing musical project called Simo, the acoustic instrumental Today I'm Here, the band tribute to one of their friends, takes you totally and pleasantly by surprise, through the soft sound of JD Simo's slide guitar.

To buy the extended version of this record with the bonus tracks is an absolute must. The three bonus tracks included in the special edition of the album are tunes of great impact and artistic depth. Let Love Show The Way is a rock song about love inspired by the impact that love can give to the lives of us all, if left free to express itself without fear. Sonically, the song is embroidered by a sound that resembles partly the psychedelia that defined the sound of bands like The Black Crowes and partly the grunge-y sound of early Pearl Jam. Ain't Doin 'Nothin' is a beautiful suite recorded, along with the whole of the album, at the Big House in Macon, the historical recording home of the Allman Brothers Band. The band leaves their improvisational skills as musicians to gallop freely, creating sonic alchemies of the highest quality.

Please Be With Me is a sweet, acoustic cover of a band called Cowboy, which recorded this tune together with Duane Allman not long before he died. The song was the last to be recorded at the Big House, before JD Simo & Co. went there to record Let Love Show The Way.

If on one hand it's true that Simo learned and applied on this record the lessons of some of the greatest rock and roll pioneers of different decades of music, on the other hand it is also true that they did so by modelling a sound of their own, by creating visceral and immediate musical montages, played with great talent. A beautiful record of timeless rock and roll.



Giovanni "Gio" Pilato


Let Love Show The Way is due to be released on 29th January 2016 by Mascot Label Group/Provogue

Keith Stone - The Prodigal Returns

Keith Stone 300x269

There are cities around the globe that have got very strong legacies with music history and New Orleans in USA is, without any doubts, one of those cities.

Born and bred in the Louisiana state's largest city, the guitarist and songwriter Keith Stone has been breathing and living the strong music message of his hometown all his life at 360 degrees. The Prodigal Returns, Stone's solo debut album, it's more than an album. It is a love letter to his roots.

Stone travels, throughout the album, with the grace of an experienced raconteur on playing Louisiana's most recognisable music trademarks. Better Things To Do is a robust R&B track, enriched by a superb Horn Session, whose contribution will play a vital part through the whole album. First Love is a slow and sexy killer blues, in which Stone's artistry emerges in full not just through the beautiful sound of his guitar but also through his deep and meaningful singing voice.

The opening Prelude is the most delicate intro to a record one can think of and, at the same time, to the closing track of the album Just A Closer Walk With Thee. Stone couldn't prepare the listeners any better to the musical journey that he has planned for them. Dr. John's is the special guest on this spine-tingling piano solo opener, which evokes beautifully the atmospheres of the old New Orleans of the '60s and '70s.

Atmospheres that get amplified even further through the album closing gem, the above mentioned Just A Closer Walk With Thee. The tune encapsules splendidly the whole meaning of The Prodigal Returns album, through a sonic feast of jazz, blues and dixieland.

The album has still got so much to offer. Take Me Home is a ballad that has got the soul style typical of the Stax Records period and Stone's voice is such a perfect fit that would have easily made Jim Stewart (Stax's Founder) a very happy man. Time To Move On is a smooth funky tune, in which, together with Stone's great guitar sound, David Hyde on bass (which has also written all the horn parts as well on the album) gifts the song with a nice, slick tempo, creating the perfect sonic ground for Stone's improvisations.

The Prodigal Returns is a very accomplished record and a revered homage to the sounds and history of one of the most important musical cities in the whole world. And full credit to Keith Stone for delivering such a classy record.



Giovanni "Gio" Pilato


The Prodigal Returns can be purchased on Louisiana Music Factory

Tim Williams - So Low


Music in general always sounds better when it is pure, without any studio trickery. And when it comes to blues, to have just a voice and a guitar it is all that you need. Tim Williams is a Canadian artist that has been taking his love and passion for the genre, playing stages, all over the world. To the point that, in 2014, he won the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, a well deserved award that confirms the stature of Williams as one of the best contemporary interpreters of traditional country blues.

So Low is a musical journal that digs deeply into the history of the blues through Williams' intense vocal deliveries and great guitar ability. From the 1920s-1930s, homages to artists like Big Bill Broonzy (My Big Money) or Blind Boy Fuller (Pistol Snapper) continuing to more recent times, through an early hit from Johnny Cash (Big River) until reaching one of Williams' all-time blues heroes, Mose Allison and his classic If You Live.

Tim Williams is also an excellent and clever songwriter, with the added bonus of possessing a witty sense of humour. More Peppers In Your Chili professes the artist's deep love for spicy food in general, with highly entertaining results. Anywhere C/O The Blues is Williams' personal way to express in music his high appreciation and love for a genre that has always been part of his life and will always be. His Gretsch Alligator Resonator guitar means every note Williams plays and it constitutes one of the most intense moments of the album.

Despite the title of the album, So Low is a record that travels very high in terms of music quality and guitar skills. It is a delicate and accurate message of love not just for traditional blues lovers, but to anyone who appreciates the values of making honest music with the magical sounds of the guitar and a soulful voice. An absolutely terrific record.



Giovanni "Gio" Pilato


So Low can be purchased either via ITunes or through CD Baby

Flying Colors - Second Flight: Live At The Z7



Recorded at the Z7 in Switzerland just a week after the release of their second album, Second Nature, this 2-CD and DVD live release captures perfectly the spirit and the musical philosophy of the supergroup Flying Colors.

To label this band as Prog-Rock, would be very limitative. Yes, it is true that the structure of their songs is fundamentally a progressive one. But it is also true that, through each band member's immense talent, every song takes a different tangent to other musical planets, where funk, hard-rock and even folk magically fuse together and create a sonic pastiche of a mesmerising beauty.

Neal Morse and Mike Portnoy know musically one another very well, due to their militance together in that wonderful music project that was Transatlantic. Portnoy's drumming style cadences each song with such perfection and military precision and seems to become one sonic body and soul with the harmonies created by Neal Morse's keyboards.

Steve Morse's imperious guitar sound offers the right backbone to the heart of a band absolutely unique in its style, while Dave LaRue, one of the best bass wizards worldwide, provides not just the perfect completion to the Colors' grand rhytm section but also some tremendously beautiful fast slap bass solos, as in Open Up Your Eyes, Mask Machine or even better, in Forever In A Daze. Casey McPherson's intense singing style on vocals is the perfect vehicle to complete the musical box created by the American Supergroup.

As the album title suggests, the whole of Second Nature, with the sole exception of Lost Without You is performed on the night and quite rightly so. The songs are vibrant, full of pathos, energetic and carry the vibes of an array of highly skilled and incredibly talented musicians. The Storm is one of the many special moments of the show, and the quality of the performance coming from the stage is even better than the original in studio. On this track, Steve Morse's guitar solo is absolutely fabulous. Cosmic Symphony has such a fascinating structure that goes far beyond their progressive trademark style. Every single change of musical tempos throughout the song follows an unusual sonic asymmetry that makes perfect sense. More than a song, it resembles the soundtrack of a dream.

Flying Colors are not just an incredible band with a truly distinctive sound and vision but also one of the most perfect music machines in the music business. And Second Flight: Live At The Z7 confirms that hundred per cent.



Giovanni "Gio" Pilato


Flying Colors - Second Flight: Live At The Z7 can be purchased via Mascot Label Group or via Amazon





Mississippi Bigfoot - Population Unknown

Mississippi Bigfoot


2015 might be over and done but there was so much music released last year, of such incredible quality that cannot be ignored or left behind at all.

Population Unknown is the outstanding debut of Mississippi Bigfoot, an American band formed in May 2015 following a concert performed in Clarksdale, MS. The outcome brought together this quintet of highly skilled musicians, allowing them to explore and exchange each other's musical roots even further, resulting in this excellent album.

It is important to underline the individual skills of each single member of the band on this exquisite record. Johnny Holiday on lead guitar builds some robust and powerful solos on tracks such as No Flesh In Outerspace or Who's Gonna Run This Town, flexing his guitar muscles with fabulous results. Ashley Bishop on guitars, Gary Dale on bass and Doug McMinn on drums and harp provide, throughout the album, a relentless consistant and precise rhytm session that doesn't miss a note in any track of the album.

Christina Vierra on vocals and ukulele deserves a special mention. Her powerful voice is able to create an incredible array of intense vibes and feelings through the whole record. It may carry, at times, a lot of fun and swagger, like on tracks such as The Hunter or Burn That Woman Down or be able to touch your soul so delicately, like very few singers are able to do, as in the ballad You Did.

There is never a moment of boredom on Population Unknown. It's a sonic journey going Southbound on the United States' map and in the history of American Music . Recorded in the legendary Ardent Studios in Memphis, the sound of the album captures elements of Memphis Soul, adding the roots and traditions of the Mississippi Delta Blues until reaching the unmistakable swamp of blues/rock style that has got the word "Texas" written through and through.

Intense, straight-in-your-face, sonically impeccable. Population Unknown offers a blend of genres and a quality of music of the highest standards. Mississippi Bigfoot is one of the best music surprises of 2015. One of those surprises that, we hope, is going to last for many years to come.



Giovanni "Gio" Pilato


Population Unknown is released by Silver Tongue Records and can purchased as a download via Amazon

Doug Henthorn - Cold Medicine

doug henthorn

After 4 excellent records with his blues/rock project called Healing Sixes and several collaborations with artists belonging to the same music scene, Doug Henthorn welcomed solo debut comes after a recording hiatus of almost 3 years.

Half a way between an extended EP and a proper album, the 7-tracks on Cold Medicine showcases an artist at the peak of his artistic maturity. Supported by an excellent array of musicians during the recording process, Henthorn's vocals gift the listener with some really sublime moments throughout the album.

The Indiana-born artist moves with extraordinary flexibility from the country tempo of the song Simple Plan to the almost Zeppelin-esque folk of Wolf Cried All The Way To Memphis with such grace and class that just very few experienced performers are able to reach.

The opener Lament For The Band is a delicate rootsy-rock tune, one of the several highlights of the album, thanks also to the superb music arrangement that helps the track to breathe even more, just like a fine bottle of red wine.

Henthorn's ability is on full display on the closing track, the semi-acoustic That's Alright. The lyrics of the tune are passionate as it is Henthorn's vocal delivery and his acoustic guitar. The perfect ending for an album that shows phenomenal potential, although maybe a little short in terms of number of tracks. Doug Henthorn is back and we certainly want more of his music.


Giovanni "Gio" Pilato



Cold Medicine is available to be purchased as a download on Amazon or in physical format through Doug Henthorn's Website

Heather Crosse - Groovin' At The Crosse Roads

heather crosse

Also well known in the music business as one third of the blues/rock project Girls With Guitars, Heather Crosse delivers a very intense and soulful debut album with Groovin' At The Crosse Roads.

The Louisiana-born blues artist mixes elegantly her blues roots with 60's and 70's sounds, creating a very eclectic combustion of R&B, as in tracks like Bad Boy Kiss or pure Motown soul through songs like Hurryin' Up To Relax or Gwen McRae's splendid cover of Rockin' Chair.

Crosse's vocals are excellent as it is the work of the band that supported the American artist on this album and that Heather Crosse has been fronting live for the last eight years or so. The perfect musical axiom between Crosse and her band is particularly evident in tunes such as the Etta James' classic Damn Your Eyes or Clarksdale Shuffle, an homage to what Crosse loves to call her Hometown Ground.

The American guitarist/singer/songwriter couldn't ask for a better start in her creative musical journey. A great record to cherish and enjoy more and more on each passing listen.

Giovanni "Gio" Pilato

Groovin' At The Crosse Roads can be purchased via Ruf Records or Amazon

Ole Frimer Band - Live At Blues Baltica

Ole Frimer


2015 has been a year of great live album releases, especially from blues artists. Live At Blues Baltica from the Danish quartet Ole Frimer Band belongs deservely to this category.

Recorded live in Germany in 2014, the 8-tracks album traces most of the band's original repertoire, with the sole exception of Hob Wilson's Black Cat Bone and Johnny Winter's Hustled Down In Texas.

The album represents the pinnacle of the band's philosophy: highly skilled musicians, expressing their talent and joy to play by stretching in different ways tunes like, the very entertaining and foot-stomping The Way You Move or the almost fusion-esque version of the ballad Sheltered Roads.

One of the many qualities of the Ole Frimer Band is to create their unique blues formula still respecting their roots and blending them with echoes of glorious bands of the past, such as the Traffic or Stevie Ray Vaughans' Double Trouble. The album is a celebration of a band playing with their hearts and souls, fusing with each other like a very tasty music recipe.

While Frimer's Guitar can be sweet, thunderous or sassy, depending by the tempo played, Palle Hjorth's Organ provides a brilliant base in which the dynamic rhythm section, with Jesper Bylling on Bass & Vocals and Claus Daugaard on drums can stretch their abilities even further, creating a really powerful sonic carpet.

Johnny Winter's cover Hustled Down In Texas is the perfect closure to the album. Frimer showcases his great ability not just on guitar but also on vocals, delivering excellent and flawless singing on one of the best songs of Winter's Songbook.

Whereas Blålys, their last studio release of 2014 was researching different musical territories with sometimes unsettling results, Live At Blues Baltica brings them back to their musical roots, displaying the ability of a talented group of musicians at the top of their game. The Ole Frimer Band at their very best.



Giovanni "Gio" Pilato


Live At Blues Baltica can be purchased at Pladekisten or Amazon

Carlos Elliot Jr. & The Cornlickers - Del Otun & El Mississippi



When the latin rhytms meet the Mississippi Blues sound, the results cannot be less than incandescent. Carlos Elliot JR from Colombia has recently released his new album together with The Cornlickers, the Big Jack Johnson's band, called Del Otun & El Mississippi. The album cover is exquisitely 70's style and it is a record in which the Colombian artist showcases once again his great skills and ability on guitar and his unique mash-up of boogie, soul, Mississippi Hill Country Blues and Roots.

Del Otun & El Mississippi is a real fun record to listen to, which enhances not just the qualities of the Colombian artist as a guitarist/singer/songwriter but also as a deep connoisseur of the blues traditions.

The enthralling boogie sound coming from I Love You With All My Heart, the opener Down In Como or The Story Of Otun & North MS resemble the best moments of Muddy Waters or Bo Diddley's songbook.

The track Katrina The Mule carries echoes of Booker T. & The MGs, with Elliot's trademark guitar sound beautifully backed by The Cornlickers rhytm section. Even when Elliot steps into soulful ballads like Got This Feeling, with that unmistakable Motown feeling, the quality of the album remains very high. Elliott's voice, on ballads, becomes even more warm and tender, a pure joy to listen to.

One of the many highlights of the album is also coming from When The Beat Hits You, where Elliot and The Cornlickers turn vibrantly into pure Mississippi Hill Country Blues style, through the twists and turns that make this take on the traditional blues genre pretty much unique.

The surprises though, are not over at all. The instrumental My Mule Bray's In Othar's Hood is almost a military march, played solely by drum and Elliott's mouth pipe, a moment of little sweet self-indulgence on an excellently crafted album.

Another brilliant album from one of Colombia's finest musicians and a band that sounds at the top of their game. One cannot ask for more on a blues album.



Giovanni "Gio" Pilato




Del Otun & El Mississippi can be purchased as a download on Amazon

Out On The Tiles

Buddy Guy Brings Blues To The Music Hall

August 23, 2011
by Dale Varley Sr.
Blues Enthusiast

For those of you fortunate enough to be at the Portsmouth Music Hall Tuesday night, Professor Buddy Guy presented his electrified version of Blues 101.

One of the last remaining links of the great Chicago blues men, not only did he bring the enthusiastic crowd through a history of blues classics from the likes of Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker and Albert King, he played his own material as well.

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Dont let the name fool you! Maine Music News provides live concert reviews and photography for shows throughout all of New England. Our photographers cover shows in Maine, New Hampshire, Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts and anywhere else we can! Our writers provide detailed album reviews and expertly written interviews as well. We may be called Maine Music News, but we dont let the Maine border stop us!
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