Building The Temple - A Conversation With Michael Schenker

Michael Schenker

(Photo by Laurence Harvey)


When it comes to the definition of Guitar Heroes, few names crop up in my head and Michael Schenker is definitely one of those. Throughout his long and glorious career, Schenker has been at the forefront, through his unique style and guitar technique, of the success of bands such as Scorpions, UFO, Michael Schenker Group and, currently, with his latest project, Temple Of Rock.

Just before the starting of the Temple Of Rock Tour of the United Kingdom, we had the pleasure, at Bluebird Reviews, to meet Schenker and talk about live touring, his latest record Spirit On A Mission and his fabulous career.

BBR - The 2015 record Spirit On A Mission is the natural step on to that splendid album that is Bridge The Gap. Does your latest studio album, in your opinion, capture in full the vision you have of the sound of Temple Of Rock as a music project or will there be further musical developments on your next album?

MS - Spirit On A Mission is certainly a step on in that respect but I like to think that the album is just a natural progression of where we were with Bridge The gap. The next album, which we hope to release in 2017, will move again the sound of the band to a new level and from that point on, I believe that we will be able to get what we want to achieve, a truly unique sound. Once we will get to the third or even fourth album, the shape of our music will reach what we want to achieve, in creating  a distinctive sound for Temple Of Rock. Once we have finished our Tour in February this year, we will also be looking for a new record deal. So, there will be few things happening this year but our fans will get adequately entertained due to the release of our live DVD. Hopefully they will not miss us too much (chuckles).  

BBR - What impresses me the most on Spirit On A Mission, besides the fabulous quality of the musicians within the band, is the growing chemistry between you, Wayne Findlay's artistry on the 7-strings' guitar, Doogie White's vocals and the roaring sound of your guitar. With such platform, to record the new album should not take too long, what do you think?

MS - I wouldn't be able to give you a precise timeline, right now. The way I tend to put an album together, is by doing what I like to call "treasure hunting" or "play and discover". Those words mean that I play my guitar and I come up with new melodies or riffs, I then collect them all together and use them as sketches or basis on which to build our new songs. At the moment, there is so much going on with us, between having our new album to promote and been out On The Road touring since February 2015 that I struggle even to remember when Spirit On A Mission was precisely released! Last album took about eight months in preparation, the next album may take longer or maybe not. Time will tell.

BBR - You will be starting the english portion of your European Tour in support of the Spirit On A Mission album on January 20th. How thrilled are you and the band to come back and perform in a country like England that loves and supports you enormously?

MS - Very thrilled. Touring the United Kingdom means a lot to me, on many levels. England was the country where I "escaped", at the time I was with the Scorpions. I remember, at the time, I think I was 17-18, I told the guys in the band "If ever any English band would ask me to join them, I would leave the band straight away anytime, I wouldn't care how famous our band would be". I always had an attraction for the Uk, because, to me, that was the place in the world where people would understand my music style. To go to England was like a dream come true for me. I remember coming there for the first time with the UFO in places like Sunderland, Newcastle, Glasgow etc. Wonderful times. We saw our fan base, back in those days, growing and growing, year after year and I feel like my contribution to music history started right there at that time. With this in mind, you can imagine how excited I am to come back and tour in England again. For me is like home. I have been living for so many years in the States and in England that Germany has become the least of my living places through all these years.

BBR - Bluebird Reviews is aware that a Temple Of Rock Live DVD, which you mentioned before and  recorded in Spain last year, is due to be released sometimes in 2016. Which are your immediate memories of that live recording and is there already a pre-planned release date for the DVD?

MS - The DVD will be released in April 2016. When we made the decision to record the DVD in Madrid, we had to focus on the stage size. The whole camera crew was almost squashed on the wall, when they were filming. Despite being a big three-storeys venue, size wise it was a challenging experience for the cameramen but they did really well. We were so close to the crowd that I barely remember, in my career, to have done so many high-fives in one night in a show as I did in Madrid! But we really wanted to capture the immediacy of the moment and the warmth coming from our devoted Spanish fans and I am happy about the way the DVD succeeded in showing so. Spain is always a special place for us, I love the way the Spanish people celebrate their joy through our music. They have got this inner happiness inside and they are truly fantastic. We would have loved to film a live DVD also in England but, due to budgetarian issues, we decided to postpone it. But a live recording in England is definitely on the agenda, in future!

BBR - Michael, you have been playing live since you were 11 years old. Which were your biggest musical influences at the time?

MS - Truth to be told, I started to have the real hang of it when I reached 14 years of age. I started to play at the age of 9 and my first gig was age 11, but on stage, I was just playing very plain kind of guitar music, purely charts stuff. When I started to dig deep into the late 60's music style of guitar players such as Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Rory Gallagher and so on, that was the moment in which I understood what direction my music style was going to take. Then, when I joined forces with Klaus Meine from the Scorpions, I wrote my first song, In Search Of The Peace Of Mind, which ended up on the first Scorpion's album, Lonesome Crow. The song was attributed to all the member of the band, on the album but, in reality, I wrote it. That was very naive of me, at the time. They were a little but older than me at the time, so perhaps a bit more clever than I was at that age in convincing me to share the rights. I was so focused on playing my guitar that all I wanted was to play my music. I guess I was just misguided by my inexperience, back then. 

Michael Schenker2

(Photo by Steve Brinkman) 


BBR - What is the biggest lesson that you have learned, throughout your long and glorious career as a musician?

MS - I don't really think I had any lessons at all! (chuckles). I like to teach myself, not to take lessons. The best part of life, to me, consists in learning and discovering yourself entirely on your own. For instance, I wanted to go skiing but I did not want to use a Ski Instructor because I wanted to learn how to ski by myself, on my own pace, step by step. This aspect, about discovering yourself, also applies to my approach in playing guitar. It's like when you sit down, improvising and put two notes together and then you say to yourself "Wait a minute!". Then you put a third note to them and you go "Wow!" and so on. It's this thrilling, daily learning curve about things you find out by yourself that really excites me. Life for me is, essentially, to be able to do any sort of things on my own steam, knowing you have to do them because it is the only way to learn and understand them. And by doing so, as a result, you will be able to figure out what works best for you and adopt this philosophy of life in all that you do on a daily basis. Perhaps, without this attitude about pushing myself so much, I would have never be able to reach the position I hold in the music business today.

BBR - You are going to be part of a very special rock cruise, in February! Taking off from Miami, the Axes & Anchors line-up will include an outstanding cast of rock artists, which obviously includes you and people like Yngwie Malmsteen and Zakk Wylde, amongst many others. Have you prepared a special setlist for this very unique event?

MS - We were planning to go on this Rock Cruise but, at the moment, it's all in a limbo stage, due to the fact that David VanLanding, which was supposed to be our singer on this special occasion, passed tragically away in a car crash, last year. Due to this very sad circumstances, we are trying to work out now how we are going to deal with this special event. As it stands, we have not reached yet a decision whether to confirm our presence or not. We hope to give more precise news on the subject in the next weeks.

BBR - Are there any of your songs, coming from the songbook of your experiences with Scorpions, UFO, The Michael Schenker Group and Temple Of Rock that ultimately defines you as Michael Schenker, The Rock Meister?

MS - There are many songs I can think of. Live And Let Live is certainly one of those. It is one of those special tracks that, while on stage, gives me the chance to go off the wall with my guitar and let it loose. Sometimes, if I manage to come up with something magic when I let loose, it may work in my favour or sometimes it may not. But, hey, what a great feeling to hear the roar of the crowd, when that magic happens. Overall, I would say that any songs that allow me to get a lot of space to play guitar solos in the middle sections and show to the fans why I chose to play the guitar in my career get the thumb up from me. I remember fondly a song called Lonesome Crown, at the time I was with the Scorpions, which gave me plenty of opportunities to do guitar solos. And I love to do so not just on fast-tempo rock songs but also on more melodic ones or ballads, even, like Lipstick Traces, Try Me or Lights Out, for example. I can't help it, I just love to play guitar! As an artist, I see my whole music career as a constant development of my skills, always. I can still remember the incredible feeling of recording the first album with the Scorpions and hearing our songs played on the radio. The same radio that was playing songs from the Zeppelin or Jimi Hendrix. Or the happiness in recording albums with an English band in England, which I thought of, at the time, as my Promised Land of music. I like to think that, every new album I record, it demonstrates how I move on, how I develop, artistically. From the Scorpions era, to UFO, then another new music ground for me with the Michael Schenker Group and now Temple Of Rock. To experiment new musical territories, to challenge myself, that is the real buzz for me. Every new album I release will be always different from the last one, because I have taken all the new skills learned to a new level, becoming, as a consequence, a different musician. One thing I can tell you for sure is that I like this new stage of my music life and I promise I shall play my songs until I have an ounce of strength into my body. Starting from next week in England.


Giovanni "Gio" Pilato





                                                                                2016 Temple Of Rock UK Tour Dates:


BILSTON, ROBIN WEDNESDAY  20th JANUARY 2016 Box  Office: 01902 401211 Book  Online: 20-28  Mt Pleasant, Bilston, West Midlands, WV14 7LJ

HOLMFIRTH,  PICTUREDROME   THURSDAY  21st JANUARY 2016 Box Office: 0844  478 0898   Book  Online:   Market Walk,  Holmfirth. HD9 7DA

EDINBURGH,  QUEEN’S HALL   FRIDAY 22nd JANUARY  2016 Box Office: 0131  668 2019   Book  Online:   85-89 Clerk Street, Edinburgh EH8 9JG

INVERNESS, IRON  WORKS   SATURDAY  23rd JANUARY 2016 Box Office: 0871 7894173   Book  Online:   122B Academy Street, Inverness,  Inverness-Shire IV1 1LX

GATESHEAD, SAGE   MONDAY 25th JANUARY  2016 Box Office: 0191 443 4661   Book  Online:   Saint Mary's Square, Gateshead  Quays, Gateshead NE8 2JR

LIVEPOOL,  ACADEMY   TUESDAY 26th JANUARY  2016 Box Office: 0844 477 2000   Book  Online:   O2 Academy Liverpool, 11-13 Hotham Street, L3 5UF

MANCHESTER,  ACADEMY 2   THURSDAY  28th JANUARY 2016 Box Office: 0161 275 2930   Book  Online:   Oxford Rd, Manchester, M13 9PR

NOTTINGHAM, ROCK  CITY   FRIDAY 29th JANUARY  2016 Box Office: 0845 413 4444   Book  Online:   8 Talbot Street, Nottingham NG1  5GG

ISLINGTON,  ASSEMBLY HALL   SATURDAY  30th JANUARY 2016 Box Office: 0844 478 0898   Book  Online:   Upper Street, London N1 2UD

Blues, Walk With Me - An Interview To Erja Lyytinen

ErjaLyytinen by Jani Mahkonan (Photo by Jani Mahkonan)


You don't need the sun shining, outside, in order to feel happy when you are in the company of Erja Lyytinen. Her sole presence, her smile, beauty and charisma is enough to light up an entire country. Add to those qualities an insane ability in playing guitar and then you get the whole picture about Erja Lyytinen. From her hometown Kuopio, in Finland, this extraordinary artist has gone very far in the last 10 years. With both parents coming from a musical background, it was kind of natural that Lyytinen would follow the family trade since a very young age. "When I was a child, being my parents musicians, I used to fantasize that a couple, before getting married, should play at least a concert together. Typical fantasies of a 5-years old girl!".

The Finnish Guitarist/Singer/Songwriter is in a great moment of her career. Lyytinen has released, early this year, an excellent live album recorded at the prestigious 100 Club in London, UK, rated by the music press as one of the best live blues albums of the year. "I do remember that when I went there, I expected the place to be exactly like it was back in the days. Looking at all those photo frames on the wall, showing that the cream of the music industry had been performing there was really impressive.  I also remember the whole recording evening going really fast. I had to do some photo shoots with my favourite photographer Tina Korhonen that night, prior to the gig and I was rushing to get ready, put some make up on and go to Soho for some photos, then back at the venue for some extra photos. It was crazy! Then there was the soundcheck, the camera crew trying to get the best position for the DVD recording, so much going on. But it was all worth it. It was a lot of fun to record that night of music, good time and great crowd. And I do remember also that our opening act, that night, was an all-male band all dressed up like women. That has been an experience to witness too! (chuckles)"

Lyytinen is an authenthic joy to talk to. Energetic, with a witty sense of humour and with a contagious positivity. BBR asks to the Finnish artist whether growing up in a musical household and her parents being both musician, has pressured Lyytinen in any stage of her life. "You are the first person ever to ask me this question. I have been privileged never to be pressured by my parents, when I announced I wanted to become a musician. Quite the opposite, they encouraged me and provided all the support possible that I needed every time. They never pushed me to do anything. As a teenager I liked a lot music and I liked a lot sports too. In the end, music took over because I always dreamt, since a very young age, that I wanted to travel Europe and play my music. I am really truly thankful to my parents for never putting any pressure on me at all. I have got such fabulous memories of me, at 14-15 years of age, in my living room, playing my guitar with my mother, which was hugely supportive but perhaps a little more critical in judging the quality of my music in comparison to my father, looking at me and saying: "Erja, you know what? That stuff you just played sounds really good!". That was real validation for me. I thought "Wow, if my mother gives me the seal of approval, I must be really doing good music".

One of Lyytinen's trademarks, as a performer and a blues guitarist, has always been improvisation, which comes even more evident during live performances. "If you are familiar with my works, you will certainly know that I like to change the shape of songs from their original format, therefore, yes, improvisation is really important for me. Just to give you an example, on one of my songs, Soul Of A Man, I put a lot of different chords while singing on one key. If I had my guitar with me, I'd love to play it to you right now! By adding extra chords to basic ones, the melody of the tune somehow elevates and I like to do that kind of thing in my songs. I grew up playing my guitar in the way we were tought at school, that means using a lot of improvisation. I remember I'd always be practicing a lot over changing rhytms as well. Different type of music scales like jazz, blues, you name it. I just wanted to challenge myself in different styles and become as good as I could possibly be in playing guitar on any genre. Blues is a real passion for me and to be able to improvise, in my opinion, is a must for every blues musician".

ErjaLyytinen by Adam Kennedy2 (Photo by Adam Kennedy)

The Finnish artist spends, as many fellow blues artists, the best part of each year performing live with her extra added "On-The-Road" music family. Playing with trusted musicians must be absolutely vital for every artist and to have the right chemistry with them, night after night is a key factor. Lyytinen seems to fully agree to BBR's thoughts on the subject. "Chemistry between musicians is fundamental, especially performing live. When there are tensions between musicians, it is very palpable on stage, both for us musicians and for the crowd too. That is the reason why I think that it is vital to support one another on stage, to have the right atmosphere and respect each other. In that way, the core of what we play on stage will be fully respected and the performance will gain a lot from the positive vibes within the band too. As musicians, as long as you respect what you are doing when you are on stage and you respect the audience, all will be just fine. Another key word for me is enthusiasm. You need to be excited in what you are doing, when you are up there. In my career, I have come across many different musicians and, to me, it doesn't matter what gender you are, how old you are or how professional you can be. As long as you express joy and vitality when you perform, that will do for me and we will get along just fine".

Strangely, given Lyytinen's great ability and skills as a guitarist, the first instrument she learned to play was the violin. "Initially, I was asked by my parents if I wanted to try and play the piano, then came the idea to introduce me to violin, because my cousin was playing violin and they thought it might have been a nice instrument for me to learn to play. To play violin inspired me in many ways. I started, initially and strangely, to play classical music on violin despite the fact I was listening, back then, many different types of music but classical. The moment I picked up the violin the very first time, I clearly remember how excited I was. I found it inspiring and I played it until I was 14-years old. I have got fond memories of my last year playing violin because I got to play Russian Violin with two teachers, one of which was really young and handsome and I think I might have had a little crush on him! (chuckles). Studying classical music via the violin was great fun indeed. I remember also that once, when I was 10, I played on stage with an entire orchestra and I shall never forget the beautiful harmonies and the fabulous shivers down the spine that experience gave me. But then, as you can imagine, being young and willing to play rock music, rather than playing classic instruments, I decided to move on because I wanted to rock the world! (chuckles). So from a magical world of classical music, I have moved to the world of mystical blues vibes, which I totally love". 

Lyytinen started to make records from 2002, in a music era in which there were not many female blues guitarists worldwide, certainly not of the same calibre of the Finnish artist. That certainly makes Erja Lyytinen a pioneer for female blues guitarists in her own right. "I am very proud you are saying that about me! (chuckles). I guess I am a little bit a pioneer within my generation of female blues guitarists. When I started playing guitar at the age of 15, as far as I remember and bearing in mind that, back then, there was no internet yet and I couldn't do any research on the subject, there were not many women in Europe playing blues guitars. Somehow, as the years went by and perhaps with the help of the internet, there has been an increasing interest from women in studying , appreciating and learning the blues, which I think it's fantastic. I never thought, when I was a child, that I would so passionately embrace the blues but hey, here I am! As a teenager, I started listening to artists such as Bonnie Raitt, Rory Block and Deborah Coleman which made a real impact on my blues formation. And then, when I signed for Ruf Records (Erja's label), about 10 years ago, I remember I got to play with brilliant guitar artists such as Ana Popovic or Sue Foley. What great fun that has been. From that point on, in the following 5 years, the world of female blues guitarists has grown so incredibly much and there are now so many talented ladies out there playing guitar really well. Very soon, in few years time, I feel there will be no need to define a specific gender when talking about the subject of "blues guitarists", because we ladies are simply as good as the boys!".

Bluebird Reviews has been following Lyytinen's live activity costantly over  the last few years. Every crowd always look mesmerised not just by the class and quality of this incredible guitarist and by her performances but also by her intense singing style and her appearance. Given how stunningly beautiful Lyytinen is, there is no wonder why she gets the attention of the spectators also from a non-musical point of view. One cannot stop to wonder what Lyytinen checks first, before going on stage every night, whether it is the hairdo, the guitar pedals or the outfit. "Are we counting the soundcheck too? Because that would change the whole sequence you just mentioned! (chuckles). I have got to admit, I check the pedal board first. If I have an opening band performing before me on the night, then perhaps I would check my hairdo first, then the guitar pedals. Not that long ago, I had the privilege of playing with a 25-elements orchestra in Finland, called Rikiu Niemi. Full band, a string section, the horn section, you name it. I remember the second night I played with them, there was this young girl, part of the orchestra, who didn't make it the first night of the performance and, as a consequence, never met me before. After the show, that second night, she approached me and said "I saw you, an ordinary girl, coming on stage before the show and checking your pedals. That was not the same girl that came on stage when the show started later! You came on stage wearing a black leather mini-skirt, eye-lashes, your hair done beautifully, just like a sex bomb! What the hell happened to you before the show and when you came on stage?". And I couldn't stop myself laughing. I explained to her that it was just a part of me. I am a woman, therefore I like dressin' up and I would love to spend a fortune on clothes but it wouldn't be wise, especially now that I have kids. I would spend a lot of money on guitars too but that wouldn't make me a very good and wise mother! (chuckles).

ErjaLyytinen TinaKoronen (Photo by Tina Koronen)

Since Forbidden Fruit, her 2013 last studio album, Lyytinen has not released a new album with new original material. Bluebird Review heard that 2016 may see a new studio album being released by the Finnish Guitar Virtuosa. "What you heard is true. We are currently working on the album, which is already at a very good stage and will be released next year. My last studio record, as you said, was almost 3 years ago and I cannot wait to unleash this bunch of new songs I have written. Some of the new material has been tested on my recent UK Tour and I felt the feedback coming from the crowd was excellent. There are a lot of personal subjects involved in the songwriting of my new material. On the new album, I shall dig deeper into the blues but also trying, in the meantime, to explore a little bit new musical territories. I want also for the album to be recorded with that live and studio elements combined at the same time. In essence, I want to be able to capture the rawness and immediacy of a live recording and refining it with studio technology. I am very excited about this next album, I cannot wait to release it".

For somebody so highly respected and talented, to be a mother, a successful musician and have a Master's Degree in Music must be feeling already very gratifying. Bluebird Review is wondering whether there is any other dream that Erja Lyytinen would like to fulfil along her life journey. "Good question. I have always had an adventurous mind and I lived in many places, such as Denmark, Sweden and United States. I would love to try and live somewhere else away from Finland, just for a little while, as a life experience. But there is a lot to take into consideration, including the fact that I should move with my children, which are very young right now but, hey, one day it may happen, never say never".

Before we part company, given the fascinating musical journey Lyytinen has been on so far and her great passion for music, it is necessary to ask where this incredible and talented musician sees herself, musically speaking, in 10 years from now. "Difficult to say. At this stage of my life and career, I wouldn't be able to predict it. In my next album, together with playing blues, as I said before, there will be some new music elements in my songs. Little touches of rock at times, with tempos that may remind you occasionally of different artists, from Pink Floyd to Jeff Beck. And in-between all this, there will be me,  storytelling about myself and my life in my lyrics. I guess that the different variety of music I put on my records defines who I am in that precise moment, both as an artist and a person. Certainly, when I did the Elmore James tribute album a little while ago, that helped me to dig even further into blues and I am pretty positive that blues will be always there, walking by my side. Ask me the question again in 10 years time, that is a Press Date between you and I!".



Giovanni "Gio" Pilato



Who I Am - An Interview With Chantel McGregor

 LHM0594 Laurence Harvey

(Photo by Laurence Harvey)


She rocks arenas worldwide through her phenomenal ability on guitar and with her beautiful voice. 2015 has been a very special year for Chantel McGregor. The new album, Lose Control, is a record that McGregor likes to define "Southern Gothic Rock" and marks a new high in the career of the young and very talented singer/songwriter.

Bluebird Reviews has managed to catch up with Chantel McGregor, now that she has just returned from her European Tour and discuss the new album, her career and life in general.


BBR - Lose Control is a very beautiful album that reflects many aspects of your personality, both as a woman and as a musician. Does the whole theme of the album reflect a particular moment of your life or is it just your personal take on the concept of Southern Gothic?

CMG - I think it's a bit of both, because it's something I have been always interested in. So, I would say it reflects rather a long period of time in my life. As a child, I was always interested in scary stories or ghost stories and as I grew up, I just found myself liking television programs like True Blood, or scary movies, voodoo stuff and things like that. So, it is rather a life long period, I'd say! It is something that has always been into me, therefore I thought I wanted to write an album about things I was really interested in. It would be very easy to write, say, ten random songs that have no relations to each other but I just wanted to push and challenge myself and writing about who I am and what I like. A concept album about Chantel McGregor with a little hint of progressive rock, which I really like very much too. 


BBR - The first three tracks opening the album dig deep into the rock of the 90's, with that typical heavy and distinctive grungey sound. How much of an impact has that genre made in your musical development?

CMG - Massive, I think. I have always been defined, in the music circle, as "the girl that plays the blues/rock" but as a teenager, I grew up listening to people like Nirvana at school, with my headphones on during class time. They made a big impact on me, as a kid. There were other great bands I loved too, like Soundgarden, Silverchair. I guess that the biggest influence I got, from a musical point of view, was that those bands were playing stuff that were emotionally raw, wild, straight to your face. As much as I admire perfection and technical ability in a rock act, I also believe that you have got to be loud, wild, be yourself and let it go, otherwise your act will sound a bit too cold and soulless.


BBR - Home is one of my favourite moments of the album, in which you showcase even further your great singing skills. Using that song as a mirror, how do you see yourself, musically speaking and as a person, in comparison to your first album back in 2011?

CMG - That is a really personal song. And because it is so personal, it's the perfect mirror of how much I moved on since that time on many levels. My first album was a collection of songs that were written over a long period of time, while with Lose Control, the writing process has been much faster. And talking about Home again, I feel that song shows also how my writing style has developed too, for which I am very proud of. 


BBR - The word "Loss" often recurs, when you describe all the different aspects of your new album to the media. How has loss effected your life, Chantel?

CMG - I suppose not that much, really, in comparison to many people out there. I met many people that shared with me, their experiences. They told me about losing family, friends, relationships and I have got to say, I feel really lucky and privileged to have still my mum and dad, half of my grandparents and special people that really matter to me. I guess that it will come the time for me too, hopefully not for many years to come, to lose somebody special in my life and I am sure it will break my heart, as it happened to all the people that told me about their personal losses. I guess that, by writing about loss, I just wanted to write about something everybody can relate to and identify with. An inevitable passage of everyone's life.


BBR - In Lose Control, you have been personally involved in the arrangements, production side and even the album artwork. Do you feel sometimes that this album represents you and what you want to express as an artist, more than Like No Other?

CMG - Absolutely. We were discussing before about my debut album back in 2011 but to me, this feels almost like my "proper" debut album, due to my complete involvement into it. It feels like my little baby. It is so amazing for me to think that I wrote and recorded the whole album in 10 weeks and the whole record was ready and wrapped up few months later. Even things like, designing the artwork in the shed in my garden, makes me feel so proud of what I achieved on Lose Control and how much I managed to express who I really am in many ways.



BBR - Was Anaesthetize a difficult song for you to write, given the hard subject (substance abuse)?

CMG - Yeah, I think it was hard, because it is not something I have experienced, you know. I have never tried drugs, not even cigarettes! I have tried booze, that is for sure. But drugs, never. To write about something you never experienced can be a bit difficult, because you don't want to look like somebody really miserable, pretending to write something about you really never went through in your life. The song was more about my personal observation on the subject. I read a lot of books and seen movies about how drugs can effect or has effected people's lives. I just wanted to express my point of view on this matter. I hope I have not offended anybody, by going through these type of issues in my song, from the prospective of an observer.


BBR - We heard you are a fine connoisseur of beer. Give us please your top tip for the best three beers you have ever tried.

CMG - Well, what can I say? Bearing in mind this is just my personal opinion, I would say that good beer it's not about high percentages or where the beer comes from. I like a lot weird beer, stuff like fruit beers. Where we live, there is a place that does some raspberry blonde beer, which is to die for. The Plum Porter from the Titanic Brewery is an amazing one too. Also, there is a beer from Manchester called Boggart Rum Porter, that is one you should try too!


BBR - You have been often saying that music allows you to give voice to your inner feelings and the fact you find writing music liberating. Is there any other art forms able to give you the same emotional response that music does?

CMG - Not really. I think people are different and they all find a different outlet to express their emotions. For me, it is just music. You should see me drawing things, I am terrible at that!


BBR - There are a lot of different layers, on your new album. Sometimes it gets darker, sometimes spiritual, sometimes melancholic. You do come across instead as a very outgoing person, full of life and very bubbly. Which of the two is the real Chantel, the one we see in live shows or the one you sing about in your songs?

CMG - I think both! (giggles). It may sound like I am crazy but it's just the way I am. I think we all have two different aspects hidden inside of us. I guess you are just different, say when you are with different people, for instance. You may be a completely different person, going out with your mates in the evening than the person that the next day is watching Eastenders (long running British TV drama) on television! It's just depends on the situation. For me, when I am writing, I tend to be a bit melancholic, even a bit miserable sometimes, solitary confinement type, that sort of stuff, sitting in the dark, surrounded only by candles. I don't think that the crowds though, at my shows, would love to see me like that. As a consequence, the other Chantel needs to come out and be entertaining, lively and sparkle a little. As I said, it's all depending by the moment or the situation. It's like two sides of the same dice. It just depends on which side the dice is going to roll in that moment.


BBR - Are you planning to tour America as well you did recently in Europe anytime soon for Lose Control?

CMG - Myself and the band have been touring the UK in October and then in November we embarked on our European Tour. The fans were brilliant everywhere, no matter where we were playing or which part of the world we were playing. We will be doing few shows in UK too in December. For what concerns America, I would love to Tour that beautiful part of the world. One day is going to happen for sure.



Giovanni "Gio" Pilato


Thinking Freely - An Interview With Robert Cray

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(Photo courtesy by Robert Cray's Archive)


There is nothing more refreshing than talking to somebody that has seen and lived the last 4 decades of music in his own skin. It is almost like an art lesson, in many ways. Robert Cray has recorded many great songs in his career, played with the elite of the music establishment and still going.

His new live album, 4 Nights of 40 Years offers an accurate retrospective on the past and present of the Robert Cray Band and finds this incredible artist from Columbus, Georgia in a real great shape. Bluebird Reviews is thrilled to meet Cray and talk about the new album and music in its globality.

BBR - Robert, welcome to Bluebird Reviews. The Live Album 4 Nights of 40 Years is the best way to celebrate an important landmark of your career. How easy was it for you to choose the many key songs to put on the album, given your extensive catalogue?

RC - Well, I had help, you know. We had Richard Cousins, our bass player to help out as well, together with our producer Steve Jordan and all our Management Team. We gathered together and we played a lot of tunes, we watched some video footage of some of our concerts and work out which of those were more suitable for the CD/DVD project. It was a great find as well, checking out this old video footage. It gave us a lot of pleasure and fun.

BBR - On the record there is a mini live show recorded in the Netherlands in 1987, featuring Smoking Gun and Still Around, among other tracks. Did you choose that particular show to be featured due to the quality of the live performance?

RC - There were three reasons why that show was chosen. First, the performance, then the line-up and the songs we played. We do not play some of those songs anymore, these days. I thought, choosing that show, was a great way to get these songs included on the record with that particular band which we recorded those tunes with.

BBR - On the DVD there is a touching tribute from you to Richard Cousins, your lifetime friend and band member of the Robert Cray Band. Can you choose three words to describe your friendship?

robertcrayrichardcousinscreditphilweedon (Photo courtesy by Phil Weedon)

RC - Ha (giggles)! Three words, that is hard! I don't know. He is my best buddy, you know. It's just how it is. We have been friends since we were 15-16 years old. We went to rival High Schools, in the same High School District and we played in bands together long before we started the Robert Cray Band in '74. We grew up picking our cores and decided what it was we wanted to play before starting the band. I guess there is a lot more too. I mean, here I am, the frontman of the band, so to speak, but in the background, I know that there is Richard, which has always been the mouthpiece. Back in the early days, it was Richard that would go out and book the gigs for us, due to the fact that back then, we didn't have any Management or Booking Agency. That is the kind of personality Richard is. He is the outgoing one and I am the introverted one. Richard, back then, would also introduce the tunes when we were playing live, because I could sing the tunes to the audience but I couldn't say a word while on stage! So, it has been a Team thing, a joint effort all along.

BBR - You always have been depicted as one of the best music storytellers in the whole music world. How much has the angry Robert Cray of Nice As A Fool Can Be from the Who's Been Talkin' era, changed and developed his writing style?

RC - Well, I had a lot of help. Great lessons were learned by being able to work with Bruce Bromberg  and Dennis Walker in particular. Dennis Walker wrote some of the great songs we did early on and his lyrics were very visual. I am talking about tunes like Who's Been Talkin', Right Next Door, Because Of Me, all those are Dennis Walker's tunes. Myself and Richard were able to help for what concerns the musical aspect of such tunes. It was really very special the way Dennis wrote those songs, it was a great lesson for us, to be able to visualize the stories within the songs.  

BBR - Many fellow artists have celebrated your special music birthday on the 4 Nights album, people like Buddy Guy, Eric Clapton and Bonnie Raitt, amongst others. Have you ever had any artist in particular, as a music role model, back when you started in the late 70's?

RC - There was a lot but Albert Collins holds a special place. We had the opportunity to work with Albert Collins, I believe the first time was back in 1976, which was just a couple of years after we started the band. We had the great privilege to be his back-up band while he was touring the West Coast, for about a period of over a year and a half. Standing behind Albert Collins, gave me the opportunity to be a backing musician. As a band, we were already playing some of Albert's tunes, therefore that experience gave me the chance to learn even more about him and his style. Albert was a real father figure to us. Through his experience, we learned how to cut our teeth with the first of our heroes. He was really important for us, on many levels.

albertcollinsphoto (Photo courtesy by Paul Natkin)

BBR - The Robert Cray Band has changed different band members, since the beginning. I feel the current line-up of the band is one of the best you have ever had. What is the secret about  being able to maintain the incredible quality of your sound?

RC - Thank you. You just have to be yourself. I think that is what is all about. The band members have changed, over the years for many different reasons but, fundamentally, I still do what I do. I am upfront and everybody within the band knows what their role is. It is pretty simple. I don't have any strict guideline, you know. I just want everybody to be themselves and let them all play out of their souls. 

BBR - You have met and worked with authentic giants of the music business, people like the fellow artists previously mentioned or late great music legends like John Lee Hooker, BB King or Stevie Ray Vaughan. Have you ever thought about writing a book on your life, as a musician? You must have a lot of stories to tell..

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(Photo courtesy by Robert Knight)


RC - There is a lot of stories but probably I need Richard to sit down with me and we can reminisce and put them out into a form that make those stories sound right. Yeah, there has been talk, to be honest and we'll see what happens. You don't know how interested people would be after all, we will see.

BBR - We all know, through your talent and artistry, who Robert Cray was 40 years ago and who you are now, as a musician. When you publish your next live anniversary album, what version of yourself do you wish to be?

RC - Hmm..I honestly don't know, because I am not gonna stop, that's the thing. It is so much fun, you know. When you hit the stage, it's such a challenge. You go out there and it feels like you are walking out there without your clothes on. You have to make people to listen to your music and forget that you are naked out there. Because people are not afraid to say what they feel about a show. And that is the reason why, night after night, we go on stage feeling like it is the first time we play in front of an audience, because that is the way it should be always done.

BBR - Your voice, together with your incredible skills in playing guitar, has always been one of the most recognisable trademarks in your career. Did you always want to become a singer or was that just something that you discovered all of a sudden?

RC - It was something that, you know, I guess goes hand-in-hand actually. I think anybody that plays wants to sing and then you discovered if you can or not. I knew I could hold a melody but, in the first band I was in, we had lead singers. And in a couple of those situations, it just happened that the lead singer quit, so I took over. To be honest with you, the second time that happened, we went to an audition and the lead singer didn't show up for the audition so I took over again. We didn't get the gig but from that moment, I took over the role of lead singer. Being an introverted person, it was a big step for me. When we started the Cray Band, anyway, I was the lead singer but Richard was still making the announcements! (chuckles). It has been a real work in progress, starting talking to the audience on stage between tunes. At first, I started talking to the crowd real fast, because I wanted to be as short as possible and then I gradually slowed down the pace of my announcements in-between songs. As you may know, I am perfectly comfortable, right now.

BBR - Robert, music legacies among artists is what keeps the music chain going, through time. As I am sure many fellow artists have transferred part of their legacies to you, by the same account, what part of yourself, as an artist, would you like to pass to future generations?

RC - I think that people should have an open mind towards music, you know. I think that people should have the opportunity to listen to different music genres. That's how I grew up and the guys in the band grew up and that was long before, especially in the States, people tend to categorise the music a lot. Now you have satellite radios and there are so many different stations playing every single music genre on the planet. So anyone could pick their favourite station and stick to it, they would never change the dial on the radio. In this way, they would be never able to find out about people like Duke Ellington or Hank Williams or Albert Collins. My advice would be to keep an open mind about music. You can try and listen to a tune belonging to a different genre and, if you don't like it, that doesn't necessarily mean you should dislike immediately that genre. Because in the whole world, there is a lot of good country, rock, jazz, blues or classical music. Speaking of my music, whoever comes to our shows, is able to hear many different elements belonging to different music styles and that is the reflection of how we, in the band, grew up. People needs to listen healthily, a little like trying a wide variety of food. When I think about the way I write a tune, it's all natural and spontaneous. It's not like, I sit down thinking of writing a song on a specifing genre. When the tune is finished I would look at it as a unique creation, a genuine result coming from the soul. It's all about thinking freely and be open. 

Giovanni "Gio"Pilato


The Sound Alchemist - An Interview With Tal Bergman (Rock Candy Funk Party)

talbergmanbyrickphipps (Photo by Rick Phipps)

There are not many better jobs in the world then being a musician. The great thing about being a committed musician is the freedom of expression. That freedom that allows a true artist to express their talent, their instincts and no employer in the world can take that away because it is very personal and pure, therefore uncompromisable.

Tal Bergman belongs, without any shadow of a doubt, to this very special and selected group of artists. Both as a drummer and as a producer, Bergman likes every time to put 110 per cent of himself into his music projects. He is totally devoted and committed to the music cause and its values. His understanding and knowledge of music reaches many different genres, which Bergman manages to combine beautifully with the help of fellow musicians like Joe Bonamassa, Ron DeJesus, Mike Merritt, Renato Neto and Daniel Sadownick. This stellar cast, together with Bergman, forms the Rock Candy Funk Party, an instrumental supergroup now on their second album, called Groove Is King, recently reviewed on our website.

Bergman has kindly accepted to talk to Bluebird Reviews about Groove Is King and his philosophy about music and life in general.


BBR - Tal, welcome to Bluebird Reviews and many congratulations to you and the whole Rock Candy Funk Party for such a stunning record. Considering that you have been intensively live touring in the last 36 months or so, how long did it take to   pre-plan the tracks that ended up on Groove Is King?

TB - It took a lot of manoeuvring and we had really short time to make it. The way we approached this record was that we were not going to the studio to record until I had a concept for the whole album in my mind. Once I had the concept clear in my head, then I discussed it with the band, to be sure they were all on board with that and fortunately they all were. Even when I was on the road, I had a little portable studio built in my PC, so every time I was coming up with new ideas, bass lines and interesting grooves, I could keep them with me and work on them. Ron (DeJesus) and Mike (Merritt) did the same, Joe (Bonamassa) had some ideas too and so did Renato (Neto). We had to plan when we had time available, so each of us could get together and cut all the live rhytm sections. I wanted to maintain the same freshness of sound and music essence that we had on our first album (We Want O' Groove). On top of that, whilst each of us brought their own ideas in for the album, we still managed to write new stuff for the record collectively, as we did on our first record, but this time with the understanding I was going to overdub some of the material. All the parts recorded were very well executed and sounding solid and it was a joy to work with my imagination on those perfectly executed parts. Once I finished all the main tracking of the stuff we recorded, I went through the overdubs part, then I sent to Randy Brecker and his wife Ada (Rovatti) the rhythm section tracks and Randy and Ada did the horns arrangements. The process in recording the album took its time, but we made it. I treated the record almost like it was a pop record, with a lot of details on the production side, ensuring that every note was the right one, though still maintaining the feeling and vibes of a live band within the whole production. A lot of work to be done but a lot of fun at the same time.

BBR - The album works so well on many different levels, due to the fact that every single musician, play a vital part in the structure of every track. At which point did you decide to amp up the album's sound by having a horn session recording with you?

TB - That was pre-planned long before we went to the studio. It was something I wanted to do all along, before starting the recording process.


BBR - The modernised cover version of Rock Candy by Brother Jack McDuff is one of the many stand-out tracks on the record and almost an inevitable choice for you, given the band's name. Considering how well the album has been received worldwide in many different charts, including the jazz ones, are you pondering whether, on future albums, we may find more jazz contaminated tunes?

TB - I am sure about it. The reason is that, in my mind, everything that we play, as a band, is always a bit jazzy, because all in all, that is where we came from. Jazz, for me, is such a big word that, every time we get to improvise on a track, we all know we are creating jazz in that moment. I don't take too much notice of how some people may call what we play, when we improvise on a live tune, because myself and the boys know that is fundamentally jazz. Raw sound, no trickeries, it is just us playing and feeling the vibes. We know that, what we are doing in that moment, is the essence of our music belief, as a band and it will always be. That is why we let our musical flow go. And if such flow is good enough for everyone in the band to be recorded on an album, so be it. We all hope that the album is going to sell well. If it does, we are all utterly pleased and not just for economic reasons but also because it demonstrates that people respect what we are, as musicians. Fundamentally, for us, to make an album like this, is a labour of love. The most fascinating part of our band is that we all come from different parts of the world. We all bring in our experiences, background and music knowledge. You cannot have a better definition of being a world music band than what we are and what we try to achieve, in musical terms.


BBR - Now, please, tell us a secret; who had the idea of including Billy Gibbons as a royal MC on Groove Is King?

TB - One day I was sitting with Joe (Bonamassa) and he came up with the idea of having somebody doing some sort of MC intros and segues on the album. I was very keen on the idea and I said: "Let's do it". I then asked Joe who would be his favourite artist playing that role and Joe said: "Well, why we don't call Billy Gibbons?". So I gave him a ring and ask if he could make it and to be in the studio on the following day and he immediately said: "Sure!". I knew some people connected to him and it was a fortunate coincidence he was able to make it to the studio, that day. He was totally supportive of our music and he enjoyed doing the MC part. At first, we thought not to mention Billy on the album notes, because we wanted to surprise our fans. Then we thought: "What the heck, let's reveal it, it might be a further boost to the album". Which I am sure, it proved to be as such. Just between you and I, I didn't ask Billy to do any guitar part because we had already enough guitarists in the band (Bonamassa and DeJesus) and I didn't want to offend anyone! (chuckles)


BBR - Tal, in your splendid career you have been and still are sometimes a producer for other artists and mostly an incredibly talented drummer. When the time comes to combine together those two aspects, as for the case of the Rock Candy Funk Party project, how tricky it becomes to mix the flair and power of improvisation of a musician with the methodical approach of a producer?

TB - It is not easy but I have gotta tell you, for a drummer, it becomes very natural to be a producer too. I am able to have the whole concept of an album in my head, due to the nature of my work as a drummer and, even if I am in the same room with other musicians playing, I am immediately able to tell whether, what we are playing in that moment, is going to the wrong or the right direction. I certainly don't find the two roles conflictual in any way with one another and, as I was saying before, doing what I do as a drummer allows me to be able to spot whether the construction of a tune is going where it should or it is not. I guess that, developing such skills, is part of what I am as a musician and my total commitment to music.


BBR - Has If Six Was Eight been created as an impromptu in the studio, simply by trading licks with Daniel Sadownick or was that something you deliberately wanted to add to the album, as an extra spice to this wonderful music dish that is Groove Is King?

TB - This track is totally live and it was entirely improvised by myself and Daniel, sitting in a room, from beginning to end. There are no overdubs whatsoever on the tune. We had no idea what we were going to do. We just started playing and it just happened. Danny was even playing with his feet, at some point, while we were dueting on the track, which was amazing. I wanted very strongly to have that track on the album because of its rawness and the fact there was no pre-planning at all. I then took my part and Danny's part, separate them and then mix them together into two stereo tracks in my hotel room one night that I was on tour. If you listen very carefully to the tune with an earphone, you will note the stereo effect of myself playing on one side of your earphone and Danny on the other. All the effects you can hear on If Six Was Eight are solely coming from the drumming and the percussions, nothing else. There are all different effects coming in and out that I combined, a bit like a DJ. I wanted to do something that sounds very primitive, from a sonic side but applying such sounds, at the same time, in the modern era by using sound design. Which comes, by the way, by the rhytm itself of what we play. I like the idea of using tecnology to amplify the natural beauty of sounds created by musicians, rather than letting tecnology using me, from a musical prospect. 


BBR - Of all the possible covers one would expect on a Rock Candy Funk Party album, Peter Gabriel's Digging In The Dirt took me and surely many listeners pleasantly by surprise. Was there any particular reason behind choosing to cover this song?

TB - Joe (Bonamassa) mentioned this song to me some time ago and I remembered that song having a fabulous groove. And it has some nice funky elements too. The problem we had was, how we were going to take a Peter Gabriel's song, with such amazing production and do justice to it in our way? You can imagine that, for an instrumental band, it was quite a task, especially by trying not to be too cheesy. We started from a strong foundation of drums and bass to make it nicely funky. When it came to the point of creating the structure of the melody, with Joe we decided to use an electric guitar and then doubling it with an acoustic one. Ron was great as always in working with Joe on the guitar parts, Renato (Neto) made an excellent job on the keys and Fred (Kron) took great care of the orchestration. To do the vocals, I called my friend Zia in Norway and, in order to create that incredible effect while she is singing, we did with Zia 30 tracks of vocals to create that magic sound on the tune. I gave Zia total freedom on how to arrange it in the way she thought was best. So, those incredible vocals you can hear on the tune, are all due to her phenomenal ability and musical skills. Randy Brecker once again did a magnificent job on horns too. To top this great team effort, Yossi, our producer, made the whole ensemble sound as funky as ever, which was the best result we could hope for.


BBR - The album is a true kaleidoscope that changes faces and colors so many times and constitutes, in my opinion the fun part of the whole album. How much does this album and the band musical concept in general, reflect your personality and your experiences, as a musician?

TB - It reflects a lot of who I am, although I feel that my music range is even wider of what there is already on this album. I can play some hard rock stuff on drums, then next thing I would do is to listen to some Nat King Cole tracks! This record is a collection of music genres that we all like, as a band. None of the stuff we played on Groove Is King would ever be something we didn't want to play in the first place, because this is what we are and what we like playing. In my opinion, the core thing that ties up the whole album, despite having so many different music layers on it, is the groove. We wanted to create strong vibes, strong grooves on this album, something that would make people move. It doesn't matter if we play rock parts or more quiet one, as long as we are able to create that groove that will make people move. Even on The Fabulous Tales track, the groove is the key part. I also arrived to the conclusion that, nowadays, the average amount of attention span that a music listener is putting on a new record is fairly short, if the record does not engage enough the listener. So why not proposing alternatives on just one record, musically speaking, to music fans? In America, I noticed that many radio stations seem to play just one music genre per time. Maybe there is a bit more purism, in the US, when it comes to music in its globality. In Europe and other part of the world, instead, people seem to be more opened to different types of music. Radio stations would play an hour of jazz, next one they would play funk, rock and so on. So, hopefully, we may sound like a very good music station on a sole record!


BBR - The Fabulous Tales Of Two Bands brought a smile on my face; loud, powerful, a totally unexpected fusion of EDM with 70's rock to close the album. Is this a kind of message for the fans, something like "Expect The Unexpected when you buy our records"?

TB - For sure. We love many kinds of music and we are not snubbing any type of music, as long as  such genres provide great grooves. We just loved doing this track, moving the tempo from a Prodigy-like kind of style and bringing it to a Zeppelinesque, orchestral sound. We just loved the idea and we said to each other: "Why not?". It was fun doing it and there is that "nasty" element, in the sound, that we loved a lot. Perfect combination for us. It sums up what our record is and our musical philosophy, it is like "You either love it or hate it", no mid-ways. The record is what we are, is a statement of our love for what we do and what we like the most.


BBR - Your fans love you immensely because you give them love back by being always very amicable, loquacious, spontaneous and smiling in every circumstance. Is this the real secret that makes you one of the most loved music artists?

TB - Thank you, I never thought about it. I am what I am. I like to treat everyone with the maximum respect and I love what I do for a living. And I never forget that, if I manage to do what I do, is because of the love people give back to me. I guess it is a two way street kind of concept. I just love to play my music and try to give good vibes to people. If such people love what I do, it is a great feeling for me. In my personal view, by liking what I do, they become already friends of mine, because we empathise on music and surely, based on that root, there is certainly ground to connect on a human level too with each of them. It is too much work for me to wear a mask and pretending to be who I am not. So, as I feel about my music, I guess my personality is a bit like that, I am what I am,  take it or leave it. 


Giovanni "Gio" Pilato


Groove Is King is available on Mascot Label Group

Rock Candy Funk Party Official Website

Keep On Fighting - An Interview To Dana Fuchs

Dana Fuchs copy

As human beings, somewhere, our destiny is already written. We grow with our grand dreams when we are young, then our lives take unexpected twists and turns and take us to directions we never expected. Some of those directions test us intensely, sometimes not in a very nice way, to the point that we need to find refuge or salvation somewhere in our souls by gripping onto something that keeps us alive.

Dana Fuchs knows this, for certain, very well. And through music, this fabulous New Jersey born singer/songwriter has found solace in her life, gifting at the same time millions of music lovers through her wonderful voice and through her songs.

When Bluebird Reviews meets Dana Fuchs, she looks, as always, stunningly beautiful and very chilled, despite being constantly on tour with her band. Songs From The Road is her latest live album, which has reinstated once again the stature, charisma and talent of the American Artist. "You know, the thing about the live album, it's kind of funny because it came about at the very last minute. We had already done two studio CDs with our label and, when it was time to do the third, as part of our deal, we were asked to do a live album. So I said to them: "Great, I have got a show coming up in New York City, let's film it there!".

Putting together the tracklist of a live album is always a difficult task and one would imagine that, sometimes, tough choices need to be made in cutting off some of the fans' old favourites. "That was really the hard part. What made it easier was the fact I already had some songs out there, part of my early albums,  already on the first live CD I did some time ago. I have been touring Bliss Avenue (her latest studio album) for the last year and a half and I thought these songs were still sounding very fresh to me. So I said to myself: "Ok, this live album it's going to be mostly concentrated on Bliss Avenue's songs plus some other stuff I never managed to film on camera in a live concert before". So that's what I did".

dana fuchs SFTR2

Music is one of those life's paths in which an artist may make really great friends for life, in terms of fellow musicians. For Fuchs and Jon Diamond, co-writer of most of Dana's songs and band guitarist, though, things have been a little more personal, having been not just partners in crime, musically speaking but also partners in life. Despite not being an item any longer, both Dana and Jon keep working together and it must have been pretty tough, given their past together, to reach that stage in which writing songs together becomes just "part of the business". "You know, it happened pretty early on for us, when we were doing other people's music on the blues circuit, as they call it here in New York. After one year of doing that, I realised that it was time for me to write my own stories. I didn't grow up in Tobacco Road and all those great blues songs weren't exactly my story. I just wanted to write my story in my own way, with that kind of rock and roll influence, because I was raised on classic rock from my older siblings. Jon and I first  wondered, "How do we do this?". So we sat down and our first song was called Hiding From Your Love, which is on my first studio and live CD. So after that, we thought: "Ok, this is fun!". You know, sometimes you struggle, sometimes you don't, sometimes you throw it away and revisit it. There is always that process but it did feel natural for us, working together. We just really come from such similar places, musically and stylistically, so there was never any big fights between us about music directions to be taken or that sort of discussion. It has always been cool, with Jon".

Dana Fuchs is one of the most recognisable voices of the music business. Her voice fully frames the personality of this highly talented artist. "I joke because I was the youngest of 6 kids but the loudest! I remember in school I was constantly hearing people saying: "Oh, you've got such a deep, powerful voice, with such resonance". I was always hearing that, but, until I started singing, I didn't realise how strong it was. I remember one of my first shows in New York, the sound man said: "Oh, my God you are blowing up my desk, with your voice!". It just sort of happened and then, of course, I started working with a vocal coach because, naturally, I would sing that hard and I was so inexperienced that, after 4-5 songs, my voice would be tired and swollen. In that way, I learned how to use that "instrument" to my advantage over the years".

Bluebird Review has been listening lately to a lot of the Bliss Avenue studio album, to which Dana Fuchs was referring previously. The themes of the album recall darkness and a touch of spirituality as well. An album in which it is hard, sometimes, to imagine what was Fuchs' state of mind. "Certainly darkness. I love your view of that record. You know, "Bliss" has been for me a long affair. After having been in the studio for several times and recorded an album that probably will never see the light of the day, because I didn't feel that album was really me but someone else's, I finally just felt I could really open up and being who I am. I felt I had the chance to share some great experiences I had and people I deeply loved and just throw it all out there, when "Bliss" was made. You can't do that, on an album, until you are in a good enough place of your soul to do it. You can't sing about the pain, when you are still in it. I think it's always easier to do so in retrospective, to look at it and say: "Wow, what a powerful time that was, what a lesson or experience I learned" and then you can be a little more reflective about it. It is more redemptive too, because a lot of the songs' lyrics are very dark but at the same time, the music is still upbeat and I love that kind of contrast in a record".

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Many know that this New York-based artist has had the leading role in the Broadway musical inspired by Janis Joplin called Love, Janis. Also, a very successful stint as an actress in Hollywood, by playing the role of Sadie in the 2007 movie called Across The Universe, nominated in that year for a Golden Globe and an Academy Award.

It must be a bit tricky to juggle so many careers. "I've gotta to say, it's not that tricky. I had to make a choice after I did the film Across The Universe. The agents in Hollywood wanted me to take a year and come out and audition every day and live that kind of life. At the time, I was so ready to get on the road because, all in all, music is my real passion. Acting is fun, you know, I always say, if something cool comes along I would think about it, if it doesn't clash with my music career. You know, acting is such a big commitment too. I didn't really have a lot of juggling to do. It would have been different if I had within myself a burning desire to act, but music is all that matters to me. If I was not going to make music, I would have probably been teaching children (chuckles)".

Life has been hitting Dana Fuchs very hard, in recent years, through some personal family losses. Having been so close to her family all her life, one may wonder how Fuchs managed to overcome such hard times and how much music might have helped this phenomenal performer to mend such deep, emotional scars. "I feel so lucky that music can be so cathartic for me. Recently, it was the first year anniversary of my father's death and the eighth month anniversary of my brother's death at the same time, literally the same day. It was a very loaded time for me because a week after my father's and brother's anniversary it's my sister's anniversary too and few months ago was the anniversary of my older brother's death. Your question, in that respect, is really timely. Since the first loss, which was my only sister's and was so shocking because she took her life, that was the moment when I realised I HAD to do music. Making music together was our dream when we were little girls, although there was a considerable age gap but we shared the same bedroom and she was singing to sleep at night, I shall never forget that. We were both gonna make it as singers.... When she took that dark path and didn't survive, that was my big wake up call, like saying to myself "Let's do or die". Since then, after that, there was my oldest brother, who coincidentally was my sister's bandmate and he'd given up music for all kind of strange religious ideologies and it depressed him and he had a very tortured life since then. Being with him as he died, due to a terrible and unexpected brain cancer, was another terrible moment for me and I had just to thank music that took me through the whole of it. The music and the audience. To be able to go on stage and say "F**k, I just had this experience, how many of you had that too?". And the people would yell out the names of lost loved ones and I would say "Let's celebrate their lives tonight"... It's such a blessing".

Our website has had the opportunity to see the American Singer/Songwriter performing at the Lead Belly Tribute night in London, at the Royal Albert Hall, where she beautifully belted out a potent rendition of Gallows Pole, first recorded by Lead Belly back in 1939, then re-vamped by Led Zeppelin in later years. Given the importance of the event and the amount of extraordinary musicians present that night, Dana Fuchs must have great memories of that magical night of music. "You know, it was amazing to discover that all the stuff I used to listen to when I was a kid, The Beatles, The Stones, Led Zeppelin, were so immensly influenced by Lead Belly. Even when I was unaware of all this, Lead Belly has been indirectly a big influence on me. It was a spectacular night. I have gotta to say, that place, the Royal Albert hall, is indeed "Royal". I don't think I have ever been on a special stage like that ever. Just being with all those musicians, on so many different levels, different styles and sharing that night on stage together, was one of the highlights of my career. I had such a great time and to sing a Led Zeppelin song! My word, that was the icing on the cake! I was so terrified and excited at the same time to sing that song. It wasn't an easy one to sing but I threw myself into it deeply and I just felt the story of that song so much".

With such formidable career, surely Fuchs must have no regrets at all in her life.... Or maybe not? "Oh, plenty. You know, wishing I had stuck with piano, done more lessons and practicing some more, little things like that, for example. Certainly, over the years, you look back and you go: "Aarghh, what if I had done what this person said to do, back then?". You know, I was a little stubborn when I started out, I was a little anti-pop. I remember I was approached at the time by somebody that wrote some really terrible pop lyrics and I was horrified at the idea of working with this person.... I certainly made my path in music harder for me already since those early days (chuckles)".

Dana Fuchs Broken Down Acoustic Sessions

To be constantly on tour does not give many windows of opportunity to record a new album. Dana Fuchs is currently promoting an acoustic album of her most famous hits called Broken Down, available exclusively at the venues where she is performing before its release date in November 2015. When it comes to the recording plan of a new studio album, though, Fuchs is not entirely sure when that is going to take place. "It just depends when we can get into the studio. We have a pretty full tour schedule up until November this year. We usually record over the holiday period, that's when everybody is off the road and we can get musicians here in New York. It depends also about what the label wants and what we would like to do and, as you can imagine, there are always a lots of discussions happening on this subject. But we are writing and it will be interesting, as it always happens with my records. I never know the directions they are gonna take until you get into the studio and you feel it. It's like being on a stage, I never like to make a setlist, I like to feel what the audience is up to and what they feel like and then I can kind of call it from there".

Before parting company, there is one of Fuchs' songs buzzing in BBR's head, called Long Long Game, in which she is singing: "Whiskey bound on a whistling train, another town but it's all the same. Take a bow when they call your name, oh baby, that's the price you gonna pay for fame". I cannot stop myself by asking Dana whether that "Whistling Train" has taken her where she wanted to be, in her life and career. "Great question. That is one of my favourite songs on that record and I never knew why and I thank you for that. That Whistling Train may have not taken me where I thought I wanted to be, but for sure, much further from where I was. I feel it's just taking me to where I'm supposed to be and that's when you learn, that is the one thing you really realise. You realise that the notions and the dreams you have, will set you on a path on which you have to be open about whatever the outcome is. If you merely focus otherwise on things like "It's gotta be in this way" then you end up missing out on so many beautiful opportunities around you. So, I guess my Whistling Train is still going".


Giovanni "Gio" Pilato



Songs From The Road is available on Ruf Records or Amazon

Permission To Live - An Interview With Walter Trout

waltertroutbyjaynetansey patron (Photo by Jayne Tansey-Patron)

Rewind the clock. It's June 15th and the Royal Albert Hall in London hosts a Tribute Evening to the late great Lead Belly. Among the many guest artists performing throughout the evening, Walter Trout's name is certainly among the most expected to be seen on stage, in this stunning English venue. I have been waiting to talk to Trout for a long time now and no better chance to interview him than tonight's special music event.

Trout is due to come on stage in about 30 minutes and Marie, Walter Trout's wife, kindly reaches me to tell me to do the interview right now. When I enter the Dressing Room, Trout looks visibly tense and almost absent, mind solely concentrated about what is gonna happen in few minutes on stage. When we start the interview, I sense Walter is not really with me and the American Guitarist realises that too, asking me kindly to postpone the interview because he couldn't focus at all on my questions. I struggle to recognise that very same artist I just saw half an hour later. When Marie Trout announces him on stage and after the crowd homages Trout with an almost 5 minutes Standing Ovation, the moment Walter plays the first note, it just feels like he has returned to live again. The 20 minutes set he offered that night had been the first time in 2 years that Trout had been playing on a stage, given his long running battle with liver disease that almost took his life away.

Back few weeks later and talking to Walter Trout is a completely different affair. The American Blues/Rock artist is in great shape and one can easily understand that the night in London had been an emotional roller coaster for him. "It's really good to be back. I never thought I would have been able to and I am overjoyed to be able to be here and talking to you right now. That night in London, was for me a huge milestone of my life. It was one of those moments I shall always remember as one of the biggest emotional experiences of my entire life. And the moment I vividly remember of that night, was, standing in the wings with my guitar on, looking out at that beautiful, incredible venue , hearing my wife introducing me. Hearing her beautiful voice and then walking on stage, having people stand up and just direct all that love at me, Man, that was really intense. I embraced my wife and we both started crying, literally weeping like babies. I remember that part of that night more than the playing part, strangely enough. I hadn't been on stage for almost two years and that moment, has been for me one of the most profound experiences I had ever".

The last album Trout managed to put together, before undergoing the liver transplant that saved his life was a very emotional one, called The Blues Came Calling. A record that sounded almost like a music testament, which must be carrying for Walter Trout certainly painful memories. "That album was very difficult for me. I was very sick when I made that album. I was on a walker and every couple of weeks, I would swell up with liquid in my abdomen. Then I would have gone in and they would put a drain into my abdomen and they would drain out something like twelve litres of liquid out of me. So here I was, being incredibly sick and I would drive to Los Angeles (I live south of L.A.), to the studio, very ill and I would be able, maybe, to play and sing for about an hour and a half and then I would have to tell Eric (Corne), my producer, "Sorry Man, I can't do anymore, I don't have the strength". My hand was cramping too, due to my liver disease and as a result, some days I couldn't play at all. When I felt a tight more stronger, I would have gone in, play a solo guitar part or two but it was, overall, extremely difficult. I was, though, very determined to finish that record because I thought it was going to be my last record ever. You can tell the frame of mind I was by listening in the Blues Came Calling, when I sang "You'll never be the man you used to be". I figured, my life as I know it, it's over and even if I survive, I would be an invalid and won't be able to perform, play or being a good father ever again. I shall be just a vegetable. With that dark frame of mind and being so ill, there were even moments in which I couldn't even sing two lines in a row. I had the strength just to sing one, then stop, get my breath back and then do the next one. And when you have to record each and every song like that, with that pace, because I had no choice, trust me, it was incredibly time consuming. Right now, the Blues Came Calling album is for me a very difficult album to listen to, because just brings back to me the darkness of that time I was living."

That difficult moment of Trout's life and career seems now long gone and Trout has now started touring again in America, although on a slow pace. Among the many messages that Bluebird Reviews received about the return on stage of this fabulous artist, many came from Italy, which unfortunately has not been included on Trout's forthcoming tranche of the European Tour. "I would love to get back to Italy. I love playing there, people are always so gracious with us and so kind and they are a great audience. It just hasn't worked out this year. There are a lot of places I would love to get back to but we are going a little bit slow here. At the moment, given what I have been through I don't feel, at least for a little while, to be able to go at the same pace that I used to. But Italy will be on my tour map, if all plan out well, maybe next year."

Walter Trout is clearly on full steam, remarkably, especially considering what he has been through in the last 24 months. His writing mojo certainly seems to benefit by this new found energy from the American artist and sounds like an album is now ready to be released. "That's a good question and I have a great answer for that. I went through a creative Renaissance and you, being Italian, you know damn well what I am talking about (smiles). When I started writing again, I found out I had so much I wanted to say that the songs just kept pouring out of me at a rate I have never known before. I could just grab my acoustic guitar, sit down and just, boom!, I could write a song in about 5 minutes. One day, I managed to write six songs and I had so much material that we had a hard time figuring out what songs to put on the new album. The album is done now and Eric Corne, my producer, has just finished to mix it. To me, it's a sort of Musical about my life in the past two years and what I have been through. It's a concept album about what happen to me every step of the way and it is called Battle Scars. It starts off with a song called I Am Almost Gone and it's about me, looking into my wife's eyes, with her, trying to be strong and positive but deep inside, we both know underneath that I may probably gonna die. There are also songs, in the album, about me being in the hospital and feeling, at night, that there were people surrounding me that were dying and I was able to hear the pain their families were going to with their departed beloved. Other songs in the album are about my inability to walk at the time and so on. In brief, a sort of journal of those painful days. The final song of the album is called I'm Going To Live Again and it is about me having a conversation with God, asking him about the reason why he decided to keep me here on earth and allowing me to survive. I keep saying to God that I don't deserve to survive because I feel I have been a bad person in my life. When I finally manage to find the reason about me, surviving to all this, I just keep saying to myself that I need to be a better man, now I have been given the chance to do that."


I am wondering if Trout is going to play the songs from the forthcoming album on the current leg of the American Tour but it doesn't sound possible, according to Walter. "Well, we can't play them live right now because of something, which everyone knows about, that is called YouTube. The thing is, if I go out and play them now, by the time the new album comes out, via a vehicle like YouTube, for example,  everyone would have already heard the songs and very few would buy the record. The album comes out in October and I guess that, due to the fact I am touring Europe in November, you guys in Europe will be able to hear the new songs."

Trout has been and still is a true blues pioneer, as a solo artist or by being part of great music projects, one for all, the Bluesbreakers. Still, I wonder what really "Blues" means for Trout, should he be able to put into words. "Well, what a question! What it means to me is truth, it means a pure, simple, uncomplicated expression of human feeling. It means a beautiful community, because the blues community got behind me when I got sick and it is an extraordinary community, made of great fans and great musicians. It's that thing that, all my life, by the time I discovered it, as a young boy, gave me the opportunity to realise I had the ability to play the guitar and sing. Once I discovered that, I just realised that blues was all that I wanted to play, it gave me self-respect, it gave me purpose. I feel that, to play music from the depths of my heart and to play as honestly as I can, it's a noble endeavour for me. I feel it is my attempt, in a tiny small way, to make the world a little bit of a better place and do something that is honest and true and cut through all the bulls**t of this world.


Going back to that magic night at the Royal Albert hall in June of this year, Bluebird Reviews had been asked to pass to Trout many messages from fans and fellow artists, welcoming him back on stage, which our website duly did. After so many years in the music business, it must be a fantastic feeling for Walter Trout to get still such amazing love and respect by music veterans or young fellow blues musicians. "It is simply amazing. I mean, like I said, one of the thing that kept me alive while I was sick, was my wife Marie reading me messages, both from artists and from fans. People saying that my music meant something to them, what I do meant something to them. They just don't consider it light-hearted pop fluff, that you hear on the radio but rather something that has got some sort of depth and meaning to it. To get those messages from people, especially when I came back and to hear them saying "Hey man, we are happy for you", it meant the world to me. And what I think as well is, in this modern age which is so full of bad news, I think in a certain way, my survival makes a good news story. After all, I was not suppose to survive, the doctors didn't think I was going to survive, realistically, nobody on the planet thought I was going to survive! But I made it through and that means that there is still hope out there, in the world. We can take bad, horrible situations and we can turn them around and make them into something good."

During the years, old and young generations of music lovers have had the chance to admire and love the many layers of Trout's immens talent as a musician. He infused his music, his songwriting, his guitar style with what life was throwing at him on each of Trout's records. One can just guess what version of the Chameleon Walter Trout we shall see on the next album. "If people is under the impression that I am coming back with low energy, in a very understated, mellow way, they are going to be greatly surprised, because this album is rocking all the way! And I mean, it is fu**ing rocking! I played the opening track for my son Michael and he said to me: "Man, all you need is Robert Plant and you are Led Zeppelin!". There are some little acoustic moments and ballads as well but it is, fundamentally, a high-energy fuelled rocking record through and through. I remember the time I was playing some of the songs at home and my kids were saying: "Jeez, who do you think you are, AC/DC?". It is important, for me, to feel the vibes coming from my family about the album. For instance, Marie, my wife, tells me that the new album reminds her of my early records back in the 90's, when I started, but with more power than back to that time."

To talk to Walter Trout is such a gift. To see him with such an amazing spirit and energy is one of life little great miracles. I wonder what life would have been, for Walter Trout, without music. "I don't know if you have read the book about my life, in particular about some of the things that happened to me back in the days, during my childhood. I really feel that the music saved me, rescued me, as the book title suggests. I think if I hadn't discovered music, there is a good chance I would have ended in a mental hospital or something of that ink. The music gave me an outlet, it's therapy for me. I always had a lot of inner demons in my life, that's why I went through all that drug addiction period. I tried to run away from pain and ghosts and I think that, without the music, I would have become a wreck of a human being."


Giovanni "Gio" Pilato



Battle Scars will be released on October 25th by Mascot Label Group






The Blues Queen - An Audience With Joanne Shaw Taylor

                                                                                            By Giovanni "Gio" Pilato


jst (Photo courtesy by Adam Kennedy)

The minute she walks into the room, a big smile runs through her beautiful face. It is a fabulous time in the career of Joanne Shaw Taylor, following the huge success of her new album The Dirty Truth, recognised worldwide as one of the top blues/rock albums of the past year. Bluebird Review is truly honoured to spend few minutes in the company of this incredibly talented blues artist from the United Kingdom.

BBR - Joanne, welcome to Bluebird Reviews. Your last album to date, The Dirty Truth, has been one of the best of 2014. How long did it take to write and record this wonderful album?

JST - Thank you for your nice words. It was actually a fairly quick one to record. I recorded it in about two weeks, in Tennessee. I don't tent to write unless I need to, partly because I can work well under pressure and also, as you can understand, there is never time enough for me, given the fact I am constantly on tour. I remember I took about one week off and I wrote most of the album in about 5 days. I managed to finish as well the rest of the lyrics when we started recording as we were going. A fairly quick, smooth recording process for this album for sure.

BBR - The media have been defining this album as a return to your original sound, which incorporates elements of blues into your stratospheric rock riffs. Surprisingly, though the track Fool In Love is, for me, a classic example of how beautifully you can write a "pop-soul" kind of song. Was this the sound you were aiming for when you wrote this song?

JST - Yeah, definitely. I have such a wide range of influences and listen to so many types of music and I guess that such influences, at times, sneak here and there in my songwriting. I like also, both when I play live or record a new song in a studio, not to write the same tune with the same tempo over and over again, because it would be boring for myself personally and for the listeners. I try to be as diverse as possible within rock, blues and soul genres, genres I see and feel myself in as an artist. I like to think that this is one aspect that people truly appreciate about this record. One other aspect the fans might have liked is the fact that, rather than doing a back-to-the-roots kind of album, I feel I managed to find a good balance among all those genres, which soothes me perfectly, both as an artist and a songwriter.

BBR - You have in your voice that passion and power that resembles great vocalists such Janis Joplin, for example. How much has your powerful and intense voice impacted your journey through life, both as a musician and woman?

JST - I never actually intended to be the singer I am, although I wanted to be because, you know, becoming a blues guitarist, it's kind of traditional in the genre to have a solid, blues voice. It was important for me to learn singing properly but I have got to tell you, it has been a hard road to get to achieve it in the right way. It has been definitely a bit of challenge for me to reach that goal and I hope that I fulfilled that challenge well. From a songwriting point of view, learning to sing in that way has opened up for me new musical doors. I don't consider myself as somebody having a traditional blues voice, more a soul-ish one, I suppose. That aspect has allowed me to expand my songwriting range and write also some soul stuff, songs like Fool In Love, that you mentioned before or Tried, Tested And True. It is a good feeling to know that I have, thankfully, different music colors in the palette and I can adapt such colors to my voice.

BBR - You come from the Midlands, in England. Where is home now, given the fact you tend to travel a lot between Birmingham in the Uk and Detroit for working reasons?

JST - It's a kind of a mixed bag at the moment. It is more in-between Detroit and London, to be honest. So, if we are touring the States, for example, I use Detroit as my home base, while if we are touring the Uk, I have a place in London that I use regularly in the same way I do with Detroit. As you said, between all this travelling, sometimes I wonder why I bother having a place on my own and rather staying in hotels, because I'm hardly ever there. I feel like a pinball sometimes, bouncing wherever in the world my Manager tells me to go and play (chuckles).

BBR - You mentioned to the press that you are a big country music fan. Why have you not recorded a country song yet?

JST - To be honest, it was my original plan to start The Dirty Truth in that way, with a country song. Then I gave up, I didn't feel "country" enough, it must be the English in me! I just cannot sing it with my brummie accent. But yes, I am a huge country music fan, which living in Detroit might have brought in me, having that city a strong country scene. Or maybe the time I spent in Houston might have helped as well to build up my passion for that genre too. Maybe I'll let a bit of country guitar sound to sneak in in some of my songs in future but I don't think I shall ever be able to sing in a country way, I just don't have the accent. I am not sure I could get away with it (chuckles).


BBR - You have been, earlier this year, on the Keep The Blues Alive Cruise with many fellow blues/rock artists. Which are your fondest memories about that experience?

JST - It was fantastic from beginning to end and what a way for me to celebrate my 30th birthday! I have been good friend with Joe (Bonamassa, the founder of Keep The Blues Alive) for several years now, so to hang around with him and get to see and meet all the artists on board of the cruise ship has been really special. It was the right chance to get to meet properly with other artists because when we are all on the road, we are so busy that just on special occasions like this or at festivals one has the opportunity to interact with one another a bit more. Been locked for 4 days on thew ship, gave me the opportunity to get to know really well some great fellow artists like Ryan McGarvey, Robert Randolph and many others. A great experience indeed and a good detox for me, given the fact that was also my birthday.

BBR - Joanne, you have crossed paths in your career, although in different circumstances with both Dave Stewart and Annie Lennox from Eurythmics. Have you ever listened  to any of their music, given the fact that you have been raised, musically speaking, with rock and blues?

JST - Yeah, I have. I have a very diverse taste in music and my ears are always very open and eager to listen to different music styles. I certainly have to thank my parents for that. When I initially met Dave, I didn't know a lot about Eurythmics because I was 16 at the time and I wasn't really around in that part of the Eighties. Since that time, I have researched his career quite a lot, right to the early stuff from the Eurythmics. I would love to try and cover some of the Eurythmics songs, one day. They have done so many great songs in their career. Both Dave and Annie are very talented songwriters and, on top of that, I am a big fan of Annie's solo career too. Diva is one of my favorite albums ever.

BBR - You are a very prolific songwriter. Considering how much you tour, throughout the year, where do you find the time to record new material?

JST - I find it always difficult on the road, for me, to write. Normally, I would write an album close to the recording period, as a rule. On The Dirty Truth album though, in early 2014, I decided, as an exception, to take three months off for personal reasons. I had lost my mum the previous year and I wanted to take some time off. My plan was, at the time, to use that time off to write and I didn't come up even with one song. Then, when it came recording time, I was three or four days away from going to the studio and recording and then the songs started pouring out. I think I definitely learned, from that experience, to never underestimate the power of panic! I guess that, when I feel I have a deadline, I focus much better on the task ahead and kind of forget about the world outside.

BBR - You will be doing few festival appearances in Europe and in the US this summer, then back again in September in your beloved United Kingdom. Can we expect any new tracks live or will the tour solidly concentrate on the material from The Dirty Truth?

JST - Yes, pretty much. I might put in the setlist a couple of new covers, actually. We are thinking of bringing to the show a stripped-down acoustic segment but we will be solely concentrate on The Dirty Truth and my past albums. Which is quite nice, you know, because having now four albums of original material, factoring that there are a lot of guitar solos, we don't actually play many songs during the shows. Having enough original music material, now, allows me to show to the fans the diversity of the genres I play on my records. I could potentially do four different sets of four different music styles, which is a real nice feeling for me and I guess for the fans as well.

BBR- Joanne, in your career so far, you have already achieved a lot, performed with the cream of the blues/rock worlwide and being universally acclaimed as one of the best blues/rock performers. Are there any hidden dreams that you have not yet fulfilled?

JST - I think there are still many things I could do better, in my life and career. I like to think that there are still so many songs unwritten, locked somewhere inside of me. More guitar solos,to learn to become even a better vocalist or even learn new guitar riffs. I believe it's important to keep thinking there are things to improve, in someone's life and career. I have not managed, with my music, to reach yet some countries in the world and I would love to do that too, in future. I have not even done yet any music collaboration, up to this point and that is something else I would like to look into too, you know. Working with some other artists and see if they can take me down to different music routes, maybe even country artists! How cool would that be, given what we discussed before?





The Dirty Truth can be purchased by following this link: Amazon


Joanne Shaw Taylor's Tour Dates Worldwide: JST's World Tour 2015




Doing Pretty Good - An Interview With Keb' Mo'



It's a beautiful afternoon in England, when I meet Kevin Moore, aka Keb' Mo',  in that wonderful city that is London. Impeccably dressed as always, the American singer/songwriter has just landed in the English capital less than 24 hours ago, still he doesn't show any signs of tiredness or fatigue.

His latest album, Bluesamericana, not just marks twenty years of music business for this highly respected, three-times Grammy winner but also portraits an artist at the very peak of his artistic growth, both as a musician and as a songwriter. Before we start our interview, we amiably discuss about fashion and good food of Southern Europe and one gets the impression that Keb' Mo' is in a very happy place, right now, in his heart and soul.


BBR - Bluesamericana is a sort of landmark for you. Do you feel, sometimes, that this first 20 odd years of music have gone really fast? Is there any particular memories you would like to share with us about living and breathing music "On The Road"?

KM - You are right, they went really fast but I like to live for the moment. I have got some great memories of all these past years but I don't dwell on them, right now. As I was telling you, I rather prefer to sit and enjoy the moment and the life I am living right now and think about the future. And to know that, maybe, I am creating at this moment in time some new memories I can take with me from now to the next 20 years of my life.

BBR - The album, which is co-produced by you and your long-time friend and musician Casey Wasner, is a true testament of your ability, both as a composer and a musician. Is it true that the record was planned originally to be an acoustic, stripped-down kind of album? If so, how come you changed your mind about the kind of sound that ended up on Bluesamericana?

KM - I think what happened was that I started feeling the songs in a different way. What caused the change of tempo on the album is something that just happened naturally, without a specific reason. I just felt the songs in that way. It all came out in the way it came out. Sometimes, you can not really stop your immediate feelings or intuitions, you just need to let them flow. I started the album, as you said, just with guitar solo and my voice and I wanted initially to bring that kind of atmosphere in my concerts. Then I thought that those songs needed more layers, which make them last in people's mind a bit longer than a purely acoustic number. And in the end, I was very happy I followed my instinct about those added layers on the album.

BBR - The Old Me Better has got that New Orleans Street Parade type of sound. Where did you get the idea to add that particular sound on that track?

KM - Actually, my co-writer came up with the idea of the sound about The Old Me Better. I wrote down the lyrics in about 20 minutes because the subject really matters to me so it came out really quickly (the song is about married life in general). When something is really important to me, I make things move really fast and that includes writing songs too.



BBR - 12 albums in and your music style still sounds so fresh and inspired. How much has, collaborating throughout all these years with many famous fellow artists, contributed to your artistic growth?

KM - D'you know, I don't think that is about the number of artists I have worked with that is the real secret. It is rather more about the blues artists that have deeply inspired me, people like Earth, Wind & Fire, Steely Dan, Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson, James Taylor.. All those people have really casted a big influence on me, rather than people I have been working with, I think. I would say that, all in all, despite the fact I listen to other artists playing their stuff, I try to do my own things, musically speaking, without referencing or being particularly inspired by anything or anyone. It is me being with me, wanted to say what I have got to say and sounding in the way I want to sound like. It's like seeing somebody with a fabulous pair of shoes and, rather than asking "Hey, you have got a great pair of shoes, can I borrow them?", I rather prefer making my own shoes in my own way.

BBR - The album is packed with references to love and commitments. Has the record been inspired, lyrically, by a particular stage of your life?

KM - Well, it is more my "actual" stage of life, truth to be told. It is all about actual stuff happening in my life. Being married is like a whole journey, which inevitably, brings up stuff. Like some of my other records, what I have written on Bluesamericana is about this moment of my life I am living, this journey I am into, that I just mentioned. Most importantly, the lyrics come from some place deep inside of me, as always happens with anything I write on my records. So, in answer to your question, Bluesamericana frames a stage of my life exactly as you might have noticed on my previous albums. There is no hiding anywhere or trying to tell anybody else's story. It is just Keb' Mo' talking about what happens in his life and what really matters to him.

BBR - In this record, who is the character that inspired the series of calamities and bad luck on The Worst Is Yet To Come song? Is that a fictional story or a real one?

KM - It is fictional and real at the same time. The reason why I wrote that song was because I wanted to transform a negative subject in a positive one. The whole song is about facing some real tough time but, in the end, one keep saying to himself: "Well, the sun keeps on shining, just like it should. When I take a look around me, yes, I'm doing pretty good". Those lyrics on that song, they sum up pretty much what I wanted to say on that track.



BBR - Kevin, are you still doing some acting or is that something you tried, fulfilled, but you are not interested to explore any further?

KM - I think I have always liked to act but I must confess, I am a terrible actor! Acting is some serious stuff and I don't think I can push myself any more than what I have already done. I think I have done all right for the kind of acting I have been asked to do but it's not something I am particularly interested to pursue any further.

BBR - What Keb' Mo' would have been, without music?

KM - It would have just been music, no more no less. I cannot even start thinking what my life would have been without it. I am just a music type of guy and I guess I always will.

BBR - You have contributed massively and you still do, in the contamination and evolution of music in its entirety, in the past two decades. In the centuries to come, how would you love to be remembered by the future generations?

KM - I would say, I feel more like I have been combining and fusing different music genres, rather than contaminating one. I would love to be remembered, maybe, like a guy that was able to tell good stories, giving positive vibes through his music and make everyone feeling good about life in general.


Giovanni "Gio" Pilato


Photos by Giovanni "Gio" Pilato.

Bluesamericana is out now and can be purchased via Amazon








Let The Music Play - An Interview To Thorbjorn Risager

                                                              By Giovanni "Gio" Pilato




2014 has been one of those years that will remain forever in the minds and hearts of Thorbjorn Risager and The Black Tornado. Universally acclaimed as one of the top album of 2014 by half of the media world, Too Many Roads is just one of those album that get inside your skin from the first listen for its beauty. The singer/songwriter Thorbjorn Risager, has kindly accepted to discuss with Bluebirdreviews what this album means for him personally and what the future has installed for them as a collective.


GGP - Too Many Roads is an album that has trajected the name of the band in the Olympus of the music scene worldwide. How much has it surprised you, or not maybe, the huge, positive outcome of the record from a selling prospect and from music magazines or music media in general around the globe?

TR - The truth is that we were very surprised on how well the album did, when it was released. We were very happy about the album but we never imagined that the album would attract the attention of so many people and media in general. The media must have done over a hundred of reviews of the album, since its release and interviews with us about the album, which was a very pleasant surprise for us. Our previous albums never received that much attention by fans and media in such scale, therefore this album is a giant leap for us.

GGP - Producing the album yourselves as a collective for the first time has been a brave move. How difficult has been for you and the band to run the project completely on your own?

TR - Actually, it turned out to be not that difficult at all. Once we finished the recording process, we were so happy about the outcome that we immediately had the feeling we had recorded something special, as it then turned to be. I like to think that such positive outcome is also due to the fact that on this album, we have decided to go solo, without a producer. We followed everything through, instead of leaving the responsibility to a producer to select and choose what then ends up on a record. As main men on the production side of this album, there was me and our bass player Soren and that was great fun. I was mainly focusing on musical arrangements while Soren concentrated more on the aspects of the sound. We had an excellent Team Work and by doing things on our own, we also saved a lot of money.

GGP - The recording process of each of your record must be surely intriguing. Beside you being the main songwriter, how much musical input each band member brings, in deciding the music direction on each individual track?

TR - That is a very interesting question. From a musical point of view, as I was saying before, our bass player Soren has always a lot of good ideas on each track we record. We all listen to his ideas and decide then which is the one that could be applied on each song. Sometimes, when I write a new tune, I record it and send it to each member of the band. The band would then play each their instruments, following their instinct and the way that particular song sounds to each of them. This would happen, normally, a couple of days before we enter the studio and rehearse the songs. Once we are all together in the studio, though, things may go through different musical tangents and we spend more hours rehearsing. This is a way of working we often apply before recording a new album but, as I said before, Soren is definitely the one that comes up with bags of ideas, even at the last minute. It is funny, sometimes, to think that the bass player in a band is always the one that has got thousand of ideas and our band makes no exception!

GGP - Scandinavia is a part of the world that has grown a lot in loving blues in the last 15-20 years. Does the love for this genre, in your opinion, come from values that blues carries with, which may reflect the core values of Scandinavian people too or is there any other reason behind this deep connection?

TR - Difficult to say if there is a real connection, in my opinion, as a Scandinavian person. The funny thing is that, very often, there is this saying that Scandinavian people are a bit depressed but I do not think, not even for a second, that this has got anything to do with the blues or whether there is a special bond between this part of the world and the genre. We are just what we are. I can just guess that many here might feel some sort of connection but it is something more individual, rather than a national thing. I really have not got an answer to that.

GGP - Thorbjorn, Too Many Roads is an album in which relationships between men and women seem to be the centrepiece of the whole project. How easy was to put yourself in the shoes of a woman's mind, when you wrote Red, Hot & Blue?

TR - Actually, I wrote that song from the prospective of my girlfriend. In that sense, it wasn't that difficult because I have known her for many years, now. Due to the special bond we have and always had, it wasn't really tricky for me to write that particular song.

GGP - The success of your band has taken you to many countries, I believe 17 or even more. When will the Southern Europe and the American audience have the opportunity of seeing you and the band performing in those countries?

TR - Hopefully very soon. We would absolutely love to go in countries such as Italy or Spain. But from a logistic point of view, it is not easy for us to plan gigs over there. We toured a lot in Germany for the last 3-4 years, where we have a very solid fan base and big audiences coming to our concerts. Given the short distance from Denmark, to have such great audiences in Germany is a great plus factor for us. It is very easy for us to go there and tour the whole country and schedule a proper tour. We really hope to tour Southern Europe soon. We are aware that there is a very good blues scene over there. If not this year, we would hope at least this might happen next year but we do want to go there and play, definitely. USA is one of those dreams we hope to achieve very soon too. That is the place where all our music heroes come from, therefore that would be a massive dream to fulfil for us, hopefully, one day.

GGP - W.C. Hardy, a famous blues composer and musician, once defined his music as the sound of a sinner on Revival Day. How does Thorbjorn Risager define HIS music instead?

TR - That is a difficult question. We tend to play quite a broad variety of genres, our music recipe gets its ingredients from different styles of music. To define our style is difficult, purely because it's all depending what type of song will come out the minute I sit down and start writing a new song. It may be a soul kind of song (Ray Charles is one of my all-time favourite artists), or a jazz, or a rock one, who knows. I think that, a lesson we learned through experience, as artists, is to follow our instinct about how a song should sound like, without any limit. In the past, our style was very much jazz orientated while now, I would call it more a blues/rock kind of style, with added elements from other music roots. And through the music style we play, we also like the fact, especially when we play live, to be able to create some positive vibes, a true bond between us, as a band, and the crowd. We want our fans to come back home thinking of our gigs as a moment of joy and we hope we are able to achieve most times.

GGP - Was there any particular reason behind the decision of changing the name of the band from Thorbjorn Risager Band to Thorbjorn Risager And The Black Tornado?

TR - Myself and the band have been thinking so much, through the years, about trying to find an easy name for our fans to pronounce and I think we finally nailed it! (chuckles). For this last album we finally did so. We managed to find the right name and we are all happy about it. There is also another reason about trying to give the band a proper name. At the time we made Too Many Roads, I had planned to take quite some time off in Greenland with my family but the band wanted to keep touring, even in my absence. Given the fact they couldn't call themselves Thorbjorn Risager Band without me being around, at least by having their own identity, as a band, they could have had the chance of touring with somebody else, while I was away, or simply touring on their own, by calling themselves The Black Tornado. Due to the fact that my partner is a doctor and she loves to do some work in Greenland, it might be possible in future I may need to take chunks of time off music and be with her over there. At least, though, The Black Tornado can continue to play music on their own having their own identity, as a collective.


GGP - 2015 marks 10 years since you released your first album. Is there any surprise installed for your fans to commemorate such an important event?

TR - Well, we are certainly celebrating this important event in our career in the best way possible, which is releasing a new live CD/DVD called Songs From The Road. The mixing sounds fabulous and we are very pleased on the outcome. Certainly, the live album will be unveiled in Copenhagen, where our roots are. The band has been actually existing for 12 years but, as you rightly said, our first record was released back in 2005. And that was the same time in which we met our manager as well, so, in some ways, it will be a double celebration!

GGP -  Thorbjorn, music changes the lives of millions of people every day. Your music must have changed the lives of many people around the world too. But how much has music changed you as a person?

TR - Music is my whole life. The blues music, in particular, it has been always part of my life and will always be. I make a living out of music by writing it, playing it, singing it.. I live and breath music every day and I guess that I wouldn't be able to describe my life without music being part of it. 

GGP - One part soul, one part blues, one part funk, one part rock. How should we name the music cocktail generated by Thornbjorn Risager & The Black Tornado?

TR - Well, to me, the core of our music remains the blues. I remember somebody from the Media World calling us Indie Blues, when Too Many Roads was released, although I don't subscribe entirely to that point of view. If I should, though, make up a cocktail name for our music, I think I would call it Danish Cosmopolitan. But fundamentally, let's just let the music doing the talk.


Giovanni "Gio" Pilato


Too Many Roads is available on Amazon and the all the biggest retailers worldwide







Life In The Fast Lane - An Interview With Ben Poole



There is a big smile on Ben Poole's face; he has been just told by his Management he is going to play at one of the most important music festival worldwide, which is Glastonbury in United Kingdom. "That is fantastic news. The cherry on the cake after a very long year on the road". Ben Poole from the south of England has been universally recognised by artists like Jeff Beck, Matt Schofield and Kenny Wayne Shepherd, amongst other like someone that has got a very bright future ahead of him. His latest album, recorded live at the prestigious Royal Albert Hall in London, Uk by the BBC, is a fantastic example of his talent and ability in playing guitar and singing skills.

BBR - Ben, to be able to play at the Royal Albert Hall, it must have been a mesmerising experience for you. Which are the fondest memories you have about that special night?

BP - It was a real honour and privilege to be standing in that building and to have the opportunity to play guitar in there, where so many incredible fellow guitarists have been before me. I remember to have seen artists of the calibre of Chris Rea, Eric Clapton, Joe Bonamassa in the past, wonderful times. To be honest with you, I didn't feel that much pressure whilst on stage, as I thought I was going to have. I guess the reason was that we never planned to release it as a live cd, that was never on the cards, at the time. That was something that came later on, when we realised that the BBC had recorded the entire show and it sounded as good as it does. If I was going to know that performance was going to be released as an album, surely I might have felt a lot more pressure. No doubts myself and the band might have been much more nervous about it. In the end, thinking back at that day, I felt quite chilled and I think that comes across in the way that the album sounds, a very relaxed performance.

BBR - Some of our readers might be aware about your music roots, others maybe not. When and where did you inherit your love for blues?

BP - I started playing guitar when I was about 9 years old. I started on acoustic guitar and I only got into blues when I was 12 or 13. That was the time when I started listening to Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Healey and Gary Moore. These were the artists that inspired me the most, at that age. That was my first impact to the blues and when I started to get my head around the genre. Then, a couple of years later, Stevie Ray Vaughan made a significant mark in my understanding and appreciation of the blues. I guess those were the most meaningful moment for me about building my blues roots and where my real inspiration came from to be doing what I am doing, as a musician.

BBR - In the last 12 months, you have been touring together with big names of the blues-rock scenes, such as Matt Schofield and Kenny Wayne Shepherd, among others. Have they provided you with any valuable piece of advice, about being a Blues Man?

BP - Good question. I think, what I took from Kenny Wayne was just his enormous passion and drive by playing guitar. We have been chatting a lot about guitar gear almost every night on the tour and trust me, he would talk to anybody about gear! He is just one of those guys insanely passionate about his instrument. Another good thing I took away by touring with him, it was what he told me about the importance to constantly remember why we do what we do, as musicians. It is important to remember that we started playing music not really for the money but because we had and still have a real love for the instrument. I found so captivating and incredible that somebody like Kenny, despite the fact he has been making music for so many years despite his young age, still has got this burning fire inside of him. And a great musician to get to play guitar with too, while we were on Tour. Working with him and with Matt Schofield before him, have been remarkable experiences. We both like to make music and make some noise, Man!


BBR - We know that you have been touring for quite a long time and we were wondering whether you had any chance to start working on your next album or not yet.

BP - I just have been on the phone with my Management before we started talking for this interview. I have been delighted to hear I shall play Glastonbury Festival in few days, which is an enormous buzz for me. We discussed also about my next album. The planning for the new record has been a bit tricky, given the fact I have been for so long on tour. I shall be working, in the driving seat as the producer, with Wayne Proctor, the drummer of the Scottish Blues band King King. The King King have been very busy themselves touring and promoting their new record. As a consequence, as you can imagine, it has been really difficult scheduling dates to start recording the new album. Hopefully we will start soon; I have been writing a lot of new material and we should be able to get together this summer, once my tour is over. And if all will plan out well, I should be able to release the new record either for the end of this year or beginning of 2016.

BBR - The blues that you beautifully play is a genre that has been around, as we both know, for almost a century. Do you ever get the feeling that United Kingdom might be start losing touch a little, with the blues?

BP - I don't think so. The blues is something that has clearly evolved in recent times and people's conception of what blues is, has certainly changed. The fact that this genre evolves in different shapes and forms every time, in my opinion, it helps to keep the genre alive and interesting. And as long as everyone remembers where it all really started, including the UK fans, I am convinced that the love and passion for blues will never burn out. The only way we are going to keep the blues music in the forefront of people's mind in this generation, is by bringing this modern age to it and add some rock or pop sensibility to the genre. The way people perceive blues nowadays is far from the 1920-1930 style that artists like Robert Johnson or Son House were carrying at that time. Without forgetting their lessons though, I would say that blues now is fundamentally a re-interpretation of what those artists taught to us back in the days. I am very positive that the best part of the world, UK included, are not going to lose any touch at all with the genre.

BBr - Recently we had the honour of talking to Beth Hart and she told us that one of her biggest fears is the songwriting block. What's the way you approach a new album? Do you tend to write the lyrics or the music first?

BP - I can completely understand where she comes from. I can tell you there are times in which I am able to write in waves, depending by the mood I am in. Some other times I get into a real roll and write really a lot and sometimes I cannot write at all for long periods, because I can't get inspired. My recording process, normally, happens by writing the music first because, first and foremost, I am a guitar player. Then the lyrics flow in, by starting building choruses, melodies etc. So, in answer to your original question, this is the way I approach a recording process of a new record normally and I totally agree about what Beth told you recently about that kind of block. Songwriting can be very challenging, at times.


BBR - We know you have been touring for a long, long time several countries in the world. Is there any chance that our American readers at Bluebirdreviews will see you performing live in the States any time soon?

BP - I am pretty confident it won't happen this year, rather unfortunately. Hopefully I'll get back  over next year. I remember I was in Nebraska in 2013 touring and I had a fabulous time there. There will be some serious planning process to be done, in order to arrange a proper tour in the States. When you travel that far in the world, there are many aspects that need to be taken into consideration, from a planning point of view. But I am sure that the time will come soon for me to get back in the USA, I love that part of the world.

BBR - If you had a time travel machine, what would have been your ideal group of musicians, of past and present, you would have loved to jam with on a stage?

BP - Given the fact I have met Chris Layton whilst touring with KW Shepherd and being a massive Double Trouble fan, I would say that Chris and Tommy Shannon on drums and bass would have been the ideal rhytm session for me. Then Steve Marriott from Small faces on vocals.. Wow, how awesome would that be! Or perhaps, the whole of the Zeppelin, Free and Double Trouble altogether on the same stage... Tricky question, Gio!

BBR - Where, do you reckon, is Ben Poole now, musically speaking and where exactly Ben Poole wants to be in 20 years from now?

BP - I like to think that my style of playing blues is not exactly easy to define and categorize. I see my music influenced by many genres, some rock, soul, a bit of gospel, some funk.. In the next two decades, I would love to see myself as exploring even further not just the blues, but also other genres and to be able to diversify my style even further. I admire a lot the way that John Mayall has explored music so many times and in so many different ways throughout his career and through the many albums he has recorded. He would be probably telling you, if you were asking the same question to him, that he would love to be somewhere else, trying something new, musically speaking, in the next two decades. That is the kind of philosophy and attitude I embrace too. I just hope I shall be able to bring my fans with me as well in different musical territories  I would like to explore in the years to come in the same, phenomenal way that Mayall does. I would be a very happy man!


Giovanni "Gio" Pilato


Photos courtesy by Ben Poole's website. Live At The Royal Albert Hall can be purchased via I-Tunes or Amazon

Out On The Tiles

Hole-O-Matic at The Duplex, NYC, Jan 2010

January 16, 2010.

"We know you love cheap, tacky, awful stuff. We do too."

Often it's the who, what, where and when that makes the point of a situation. If you're hanging out with your groovy friend in the city, wearing rainbow mittens and psyched about something to do between the vintage record stores and the fortune teller, call ahead and make reservations at The Duplex for Hole-O-Matic, endearingly known as Gashole.

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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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