Thursday, September 29, 2011

Music Review: “Taking Another Look” Ramsey Lewis

Ramsey Taking Another Look


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The Great Performer, Ramsey Lewis releases his 80th album.

Since his first album in 1956, Ramsey Lewis And The Gentlemen Of Swing, Ramsey Lewis has captivated audience with his style, compositions and selections that reflect his Gospel influences from his youth and his classical training.

By the mid sixties, Lewis was one of the most successful Jazz musicians on the planet and still topping the pop charts while other jazz greats fell from favor in the pop music world. In 1966, Lewis and his band performed “The ‘IN’ Crowd” a song written by Billy Page and a number 13 pop hit for Doby Gray. Ramsey Lewis and his Trio cut an instrumental version, with Lewis on his trade mark Steinway Grand. Their jazzy take, recorded live in a Washington, D.C. night club, reached #5 on the Billboard charts. On the success of this single, Ramsey turned away from the traditional jazz and concentrated on more jazzy pop songs. In ‘66 he formed the new trio with Cleveland Eaton and Maurice White (who would soon leave to form Earth, Wind and Fire). He went on to record "Hang On Sloopy", and "Wade in the Water". All three singles each sold over one million copies, and were awarded gold discs.

As the ‘70s dawned, Lewis updated his sound and by 1974 he was reunited with Maurice White and released Sun Goddess. Earth, Wind and Fire brought a funk/soul touch to the album and Lewis covered Stevie Wonders Tune, “Living For The City”. The album became a huge cross-over hit, charting #1 on the Billboard Black Albums chart as well as the Jazz album chart. The album also charted #12 in the Pop chart. While the album charted in the top 15, the songs "Hot Dawgit" and "Sun Goddess" charted in the Black Singles, the Pop Singles, and the Disco singles charts. Sun Goddess has been certified gold.

I was lucky enough to catch him in the mid ‘80s with his acoustic trio and was astounded by the control, the delivery on the Steinway and the flat out cool. Because of this cross over success, his records drew sales and concert crowds from non-jazz fans. In the 1970s, Lewis often played electric piano, although by later in the decade he was sticking to acoustic and using an additional keyboardist in his groups to cover any electric keys that a song might require.

Ramsey Taking Another Look has Lewis playing the Fender Rhodes Piano for the first time in fifteen years and to be honest, as much as I loved the electric stuff, the funk, fusion, pop and disco from the ‘70's, I was ready to be disappointed. Firstly, it wasn’t with a large group but with a typical jazz quintet. The result? Maybe his best album since the ‘70s. maybe one of the top two or three albums of his jazz era. The album is great. That control and expression Lewis is famous for on a Steinway Grand does not fade away in the least on this electric set.

Ramsey Lewis and his Electric Band “Living For The City”

The album breathes new life in to a body of work that has covered nearly 60 years. Included on the album is a new rendition of Stevie Wonder’s “Living For The City” which is just outstanding. He also includes a new edit of the original “Sun Goddess” featuring Earth, Wind and Fire.  This was a breath of fresh air and made me fall in love with the mans music all over again.

Ramsey Lewis will be touring now and throughout 2012. You can check dates on Ramsey’s website. If you get a chance to catch him in concert, don’t pass it up. And pick up the CD as this is outstanding jazz from a master of the form.


The Dirty Lowdown

Copyright © 2011 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved

Music Review: “Live from The Long Island Blues Warehouse” by The Sean Chambers Band

Sean Chambers Live

Smoking! Blues rock played with an intense inner fire that just gets hotter and hotter and deeper and deeper.

I don’t know if I have been so immediately amazed by a guitar player since the very first time I heard Stevie Ray Vaughn. Truth.

I heard the first bar of the first track, and pulled the CD out of the player because I knew I had somehow mixed it up with a Mike Bloomfield. Nope. This is Sean Chambers. He may cause you to recall Luther Allison, Buddy Guy and a few other fellars that you suspect went down to the cross roads and traded in his soul for a chance to mesmerize the world with a guitar, but this is Sean Chambers. Live From The Long Island Blues Warehouse

Sean Chambers had to have graduated summa cum laude from “blues college”. Turns out that isn’t far from the truth. He served as the guitar player and musical director for the legendary Hubert Sumlin for five years. He toured world wide and in the end, Guitarist Magazine named him one of the Top 50 Blues Guitarist of the Last Century.

‘In The “Winter Time” Sean Chambers Band

He’s even got a voice that reminds you of Stevie Ray Vaughn, and looks a little bit like Mike Bloomfield, and he writes original blues tunes. very good original blues tunes. Seven of the tracks were written by Chambers , and one with bass player, Tim Blair.

The opening track, “Dixie 45” is an original and sets the tone. It opens with a menacing bass “thrum” and then Sean comes sliding and screaming in on this instrumental that displays every tool in the box. On “Love Can Find A Way” we get a blues shuffle, with some stop time thrown in for good measure. Track three is the first cover tune, Fred James’ “Full Moon On Main Street” one of the bands standards on live sets. This is a slow blues that allows Chambers to stretch out and show off his emotionally blazing solo work.

“Strong Temptation” is another original and Sean treats us to his alternate rhythm/solo work in the finest power trio tradition. Then comes a slide guitar and hot licks cover of Elmore James “Dust My Broom” followed by the last cover tune on the album, Bill McLess’ “Crazy For Loving You”. There is something on “Crazy” that reminds me of a Tom Waits vocal; a whiskey tortured voice sung to the moon, in an alley, way after midnight.

“Danger Zone” is one of my favorite tunes from the album,the guitar work is rapid fire articulate blues and a great “forgive your sins” kind of tune.


“Too Much Blues” is another memorable scorching display of guitar mastery that will have you tapping your foot and ordering another round of drinks. there just isn’t much Sean Chambers can’t do with a guitar. Maybe split and atom? Perform brain surgery? Save your soul? No, I don’t think that even those are out of the realm of possibility. “Hip Shake Boogie” isn’t the old standard, but another instrumental original that lead into that ‘atom splitting, brain surgery realm. then comes “in The Winter Time”.It’s a ten minute long opus that begs and wails and celebrates the blues with a feeling that goes beyond virtuosity and leaves you speechless. And it saves your soul.

Sean Chambers is the real deal, and the devil just may have gotten the worst of that trade.

The Dirty Lowdown

Copyright © 2011 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Book Review: “Adrenaline’ by Jeff Abbott


“If you knew this was our final day together, what would you say to me?”
“Anything but good-bye. I can’t ever say good-bye to you.”


I had previously read Jeff Abbott’s novels, Black Jack Point, Cut And Run, Kiss Gone Bad and Panic, and remember them as well crafted, engaging, with shrewd plots and great characters . I had also read about his awards for Do Unto Others, which won both the Agatha Award and the Macavity Award for Best First Novel. So when I had the opportunity to read Adrenaline I jumped at it. The blurb made it sound fun, the plot was intriguing, and the protagonist sounded like my kind of guy.

Sam Capra is an interesting guy, he is a C.I.A. Analyst, newly married, expecting his first child and stationed in London. He is also a ‘Parkour practitioner’. Parkour (PK) is a method of movement, first developed in France, that teaches participants how to move around obstacles with speed and efficiency employing vaults, rolls, running, climbing and jumping. Free running is a term that is sometimes used in English speaking countries to describe the discipline; urban acrobatics where people seem to run up walls are somewhat representative. The book opens up with Capra going on a run through London that is hypnotic in description and draws the reader instantly into the story.

After this opening sequence, Sam goes to work that day and the novel quickly moves into the gist of the story. As Sam is about to deliver an intelligence report that he has been putting together on criminal gangs moving dangerous merchandise across Europe and maybe into America. There is also evidence that these gangs are infiltrating  governments. Then Sam’s  cell phone rings. Not strict protocol in meetings, but his wife is expecting at any moment and he is forgiven. It is his wife, Lucy and she tells him she must see him. Now. he must leave the building now. So he does. And as he searches for Lucy on the street, he catches sight of her seemingly being held against her will. She’s in a Audi driven by a man with a question mark scar near his eye. Then Sam’s  building blows up, along with all his colleagues.

Jeff Abbott “Adrenaline’

Sam uses his skills at parkour to try and catch the man holding his wife, climbing walls, leaping to fire escapes, vaulting over obstacles only to watch him get away.

The scene shifts and Sam is now held by his bosses and is suspected of being a traitor, since he was the only one to survive. His captors explain that either he is a traitor in league with his wife, or he is a fool because his wife was the traitor and he, an intelligence officer, didn’t suspect.

This is a very intense part of the book as his bosses/captors employ psychological torture, sensory depravation, and finally waterboarding to try and get the truth. all the while you can feel Sam’s as he questions his wife’s fidelity, his child’s fate and tries to convince his bosses that he is telling the truth.

Finally, after months, they tell Sam that they believe him to be innocent, and that he was but a dupe by being fooled by Lucy. They set him up as a bartender in a “company owned” bar, obviously as bait for Lucy and her terrorist accomplices.

From this point, the story starts to, if not come apart then strain the seams. After some false starts, Sam escapes, determined to find his wife and by now born, child. He is aided by a woman that used to hang out in his bar, and is apparently well connected with a nameless intelligence agency that has info that only the CIA should have. This agency also has hired out to an employer who himself has suffered the kidnapping of a loved one, his daughter. He will provide the resources for Sam to find his daughter and at the same time Sam can search for Lucy. The scene quickly changes to Amsterdam, where we encounter human traffickers, terrorists, smugglers and yet more bars. The plot moves from scene to scene with such aimlessness throwing in unconnected, and unnecessary plot elements that it clouds the story and doesn’t at all provide those dead ends and side plots that are the thrillers favorite element.

Adrenaline Book Trailer

The story is perhaps a bit ambitious in it’s detail, and since this is meant to be the first in a series, perhaps the author over reached in trying to fit too much detail, too many conspirators involved in too many nefarious practices into one book. At times the dialog is forced, the narration is cavalier, as if the hero is showing off for the reader – there are even a couple of ‘asides’ that come off as arrogance and not story telling. The plot also starts to develop holes that are never filled and even though it is linear in nature, you find yourself wondering if you slept through part of the trip.

The story at times stretches credibility in it’s technology and weapons and even bad guys but it can be forgiven that fault since it is in a way, a technological ‘new age’ thriller.

One glaring fault is Abbott seems to have forgotten Chekhov's gun. Chekhov's gun, simply stated is “if you introduce a gun in act one, it must go off by act three”. Yet, Capra’s parkour skills are not used in any obvious way after the opening act. Yet, this detail was what drew the reader into the character and into the story in the first place.

As it stands, Adrenaline is an “okay read”, a read and forget weekend escape. But Sam Capra, with a little more development, and a little more focus is enough of an intriguing character that as a series it should work.This is not my favorite read in a thriller this year, but because of certain aspects which were beautifully conceived and crafted, and because of the main character, I’d definitely look for book two and see if the writing comes together and fulfills it’s promise.


The Dirty Lowdown

Copyright © 2011 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved

Article first published as Book Review: Adrenaline by Jeff Abbott on Blogcritics.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Concert News: “Blues Legends Four Times,” Arlington, Massachusetts.

Blues Legends X 4

Solo Delta and Chicago-style blues guitarist Mark T. Small, whose new CD, Blacks, Whites & the Blues, which we reviewed here the other day, will join Shorty Billups, Elmore James, Jr., and Shirley Lewis for a special concert, “Blues Legends Four Times,” on Friday, September 30, at the Regent Theatre in Arlington, Massachusetts. For more information on the show, visit

Part of the “Keeping The Blues Alive” series, these four legends will take you down South to the delta, through Chicago and back with their "gut bucket" Blues performances.

Shor'ty Billups(pronounced Shor-tay), started at an early age singing and playing the piano . Mr. Billups, has had an illustrious and captivating career( still going strong),writing, singing, and performing all over the world. He plays and sings his heart out , whether it was on the "chit'ling circuit" or at Carneige Hall with Johnny "rockhouse" Green and even the Apollo Theatre.

Earnest Johnson, aka Elmore James, Jr., is indeed the son of one of the most legendary of all bluesmen: slide guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter Elmore James. He plays the slide guitar and sings like his father, proving the adage that the apple doesn't fall too far from the tree.

Shirley Lewis, the Regal Queen of the Blues, is a Singer, with a capital "S." That's understood when she puts down the microphone during a chorus of "You Can Have My Husband (But Please Don't Mess with My Man)" and her voice still cuts through the bar-room chatter and clank, over her musicians. Such projection does not come easily. Neither does the gritty Žlan with which she fronts a band, her charming repartee, or the generosity she projects.

Mark T Small

And last, but not least, Mark T. Small who is on tour in support of Blacks, Whites & the Blues, and splits his time between homes in Somerset, Massachusetts and Scottsdale, Arizona is the solo guitar wizard who will take you from the hills to the cities, from the rural backwaters to the urban alleys,and immerse you in the blues. He has studied it, got lost in it, and at times seems to fall down on his knees and prayed to it.

This is a show you won’t want to miss if you are anywhere near Arlington, Massachusetts on the 30th. 


The Dirty Lowdown

Monday, September 26, 2011

Music Review: “A Hundred White Lies” by Shane Dwight

Shane Dwight slider15

I’ve been on a “roots music” kick lately, hell I’ve been on a roots music kick since I picked up my first bass guitar in 1968 or so. But, lately I have been listening to a lot of artists that I hadn’t listened to before, and apparently I’m not the only one on this roots kick. Shane Dwight is one you don’t want to miss, you may have been lucky enough to have already caught his act, if you are one of the lucky ones. Dwight is one of the road warriors, a veteran of 200 or so shows per year.

That road warrior status comes with a price. The stress of touring can be bad enough, but when you’ve got a wife at home it can be particularly hard. It can lead to separation. It can lead to sad conversations. It can lead to dark, lonely nights.It can lead to divorce. It can lead to a Hundred White Lieswhich is the title of the latest and most creative album yet from the blues/roots guitarist and singer/songwriter.

Eleven of the twelve songs featured here are Shane Dwight originals inspired by that three year process of touring, separation and divorce. Sometimes, good things come out of the darkest times and Hundred White Lies is one of those good things.

Shane Dwight “Black Ice”

From the opening song, the blue eyed soul tune that reminds you of the best Boz Scaggs, Call Me, to the country kissed rocker, Black Ice. And from one of my favorites, She Strutts, a delta blues flavored, John Lee Hooker style sexy smile of a song. To the slow rocker, Wagon Wheel and on to the roots rock of I’m Talkin’ To You it’s plain to see the route Dwight took through those three years and how they lead him to the door of  gold record and Grammy Award-winner Kevin McKendree (As Delbert McClinton’s band leader on "Nothing Personal" and "Cost Of Living," ). McKendree produced the set and brought in "Dick 50," better-known as Delbert McClinton's recording and touring band, featuring - in addition to McKendree on keyboards - Rob McNelley (guitar), Lynn Williams (drums) and Stephen Mackey (bass). Guesting on background vocals are Bekka Bramlett (daughter of Delaney & Bonnie and
former member of Fleetwood Mac).

It’s all here, from the pain of life to the search for your muse to flirting after midnight, to lying awake in strange hotel rooms. Most of all what is here is some great music. Give it a listen, and if you get a chance to catch Shane Dwight during the extensive tour which will also include dates at 3rd & Lindsley in Nashville, TN – on Thursday October 6, Fri Oct 07 11 09:00 PM at The Shamrock Pub in St. Louis, MO - Sat Oct 08 11 09:00 PM Club Mississippi in Louisiana, MO - Wed Oct 12 11 09:00 PM Rum Boogie Cafe in Memphis, TN . For more dates, check out Shane’s website.


Shane Dwight is a veteran of the Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise (West Coast and East Coast), headlined and performed at some of the biggest music festivals around the world, including Beale Street Music Festival, Bayfront Blues Festival, Bethlehem Musikfest, Ottawa Bluesfest and Portland Waterfront Blues Festival. He has performed with and/or shared the stage with a wide variety of some of the biggest names in music: B.B. King, Los Lobos, Los Lonely Boys, Night Ranger, The Marshall Tucker Band, Johnny Winter, Etta James, The Doobie Brothers and Jimmie Vaughan, to name a few. His music has been heard on hundreds of radio stations in over 30 different countries.

Blues Revue magazine stated: "Shane Dwight is a talented musician and an impressive songwriter... Dwight's guitar playing is as substantial as his songwriting." The San Francisco Chronicle called him "a
charismatic and talented guitarist, vocalist and songwriter." Andrew Gilbert of the San Jose Mercury News said of Dwight: "Tough, lean guitar work and commanding vocals, he is a tour de force... Shane is a killer songwriter, singer, guitarist and performer... he is an artist who's creating a soulful Americana sound."

Born on the East Side of San Jose and raised on a horse ranch in
Morgan Hill, California, it was a tough decision for Shane to pack up
and move to Nashville to further pursue his musical career. You can picked up the CD or download the MP3 at all the usual places. and that ain’t no Lie.


The Dirty Lowdown

Copyright © 2011 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved

Amazon To Announce New Tablet?

It’s long been rumored that Amazon.Com was working on a Tablet, most likely based on the open source Android OS. Now that Amazon has announced a press conference for September 28, the tech world is a buzz about the possible new iPad killer.


For a device which, though it is an open secret about it’s development, little is known about from a technical point of view it has kept the media on it’s toes.

Rumored to be based on a tweaked version of Android (no one is saying what ‘flavor’) and having a 7 inch color touch screen that is  backlit, it is highly anticipated to have the best chance yet to cut into Apple’s iPad market.

Others have tried and failed. Most ingloriously, the HP TouchPad hit the market and then was shut down after only forty-nine days. The reason most often stated for others to have failed to make a dent is the price point. Samsung's Galaxy Tab and Motorola's  Xoom both hit the market above the iPad in price and are barely hanging on to a share. If Amazon can undercut the iPad, they could become the brand identified with Android Tablets. The other determining factor on the Tablet Wars will be whether Amazon can keep up with demand. Did they bet the pot by investing in enough units for an initial release?

Amazon has for nearly a year now deployed the Kindle Wi-Fi with experimental, and pretty pedestrian, Tablet powers; a simple browser, the ability to interface with popular social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, as well as post Bookmarks and Highlighted sections of Kindle eBooks to your status on those sites. Apparently, their experiments went well. We’ll find out on Wednesday. Just in time for the weekend rush, not to mention Holiday Shopping Season.


The Dirty Lowdown

Copyright © 2011 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved

Friday, September 23, 2011

Music Review: “Black, White and the Blues” by Mark T. Small


Early in the mornin’, the blues come down like screamin’ rain….

Mark T SmallGrab a jug of lightnin’ , your old guitar, and meander out to the front porch as the sun goes down and the day cools off. It’s time for a little music  to wash the day off your back.

Pluck a little John Lee Hooker, or some Lightnin’ Hopkins. Stomp your foot to some Willie Dixon, some Mississippi Fred McDowell, get adventurous and try  out some Robert Johnson licks. That’s the way Mark T. Small’s new album, Blacks, Whites & The Blues makes you feel.

Whether he’s flat picking a country blues on “Old Gray Mare” or a bottle neck slide like “61 Highway” or channeling the Mississippi Delta Blues of Fred McDowell’s “A Few More Lines” or the Chicago Blues of Roy Hawkins tune, “The Thrill Is Gone” made famous by  BB King and done here in a slow, soulful interpretation that make’s it his own. Mark T. Small will move you to a whole new love of American music. From the hills to the cities, from the rural backwaters to the urban alleys, this is roots music played by a man who has studied it, got lost in it, and at times seems to fall down on his knees and prayed to it.

This collection of fourteen songs covers it all. Every style, every era from the late 1800s through the early ‘50s. Whether he is playing a 1947 Martin, or a newer D-18, his National Steel or a Fender Telecaster, there somehow seems to be more here than just a catalog; a sampler, and as if by magic it has a cohesive feel of a concept album.

This is one man with his various guitars and a love of music and an intensity in delivering that to an audience, nears a religious furor. Mark’s virtuosity on each instrument will astound you and the soul he puts into delivering these tunes will hold you enthrall.

Mark T. Small

“Originally from new England, Mark T. Small first got into music as a teenager playing old fiddle tunes on the guitar with surprising effect. This lead to playing Bluegrass music with a gig in the The Brown County Band. Around this same time, Mark picked up the harmonica and started listening to blues player like Junior Wells and Charlie Musselwhite. Then one day he picked up the electric guitar and started playing some Johnny Winters, some Roy Buchanan, and as the story goes, the rest is history. He played in and formed Blues Bands, and even played with some of his heroes. Around the year 2000, he started gravitating back to his acoustic roots, much to the joy of fans everywhere.

Mark is supporting the release of Blacks, Whites & The Blues with a series of showcase performances at clubs in Scottsdale, AZ and other southwest venues as well as his former stomping ground in the New England area. Blacks, Whites & the Blues is available as of September 20 on CD, and for MP3 download at all the usual places and Mark’s website,


The Dirty Lowdown

Copyright © 2011 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved

Article first published as Music Review: Black, White and the Blues by Mark T. Small on Blogcritics.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Music Review: “Low Down And Tore Up” by The Duke Robillard Band

Duke Robillard

I’ve been following The Duke Robillard Band for about twenty-five years now, and Low Down & Tore Up just reminded me why. With a voice that congers Howlin’ Wolf, and gutbucket rockin’ blues delivered with a Live feeling, this is good times get-on-the-floor or order another round of beers while I dance with your baby, music.

This is not an academic study of blues history, nor an exploration of the different genre of the blues. This is gritty, honking sax, honkytonk piano and screaming guitars. Makes you want to comb your hair in a DA, and put some grease in it. Dust off your best kicks and knot up a skinny tie and grab your baby, we’re going to get Low Down & Tore Up tonight.

All the usual suspects are here, of course, Duke Robillard is on vocals and the guitar that BB King called, “One of the greatest players, one of God’s guitarists”. Bruce Bears is on honkytonk piano, Brad Hallen plays the ‘dog-house bass’, Mark Teixeira bangs the skins and vocals on one track and Matt McCabe contributes piano on a few tracks and laying down the honk on tenor sax is Sax Gordon.

There was a time in America, back in the late ‘40s and early ‘50s when bands like this were making the best “singles” around and it was made just like this on small labels. That was the birth of Rhythm and Blues. Then a young guitar virtuoso named Ike Turner released a single called “Rocket 88”, and they called it rock n’ roll. A truck driver from Memphis channeled that sound and brought it to white audiences and it became the most popular music in the world. In the late fifties and early sixties English kids name John, Paul, George, Ringo, (listen to the intro to “Do Unto Others”  and you’ll know where George got the intro for “Revolution”)  Mick, Keith, Brian, Alan Price, Eric Burdon,  Chas Chandler and a host of others gave a new voice to that down home feeling and the spirit still lives some seventy years later.

“What’s Wrong” by the Duke Robillard Band from the album “LowDown And Torn Up”

This latest installment in the legacy of Duke Robillard affirms that it was no fluke he was Grammy Nominated for the album Stomp The Blues Tonight.It’ll also give you a hint of why Duke has been a session player for more main stream artists like Bob Dylan, Dr. John, John Hammond and has shared a stage with BB King and toured with Tom Waits band. This is rousing and rocking roots music, at it’s lowdown best.

The Dirty Lowdown

Copyright © 2011 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved

Article first published as Music Review: The Duke Robillard Band - Low Down And Tore Up on Blogcritics.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Music Review: “If Life Was Easy” by Roger Glover and the Guilty Party


Imagination is the highest kite one can fly.

The first time through, this CD feels like a hodgepodge of styles lyrically, instrumentally and in presentation. It showcases the many styles of music that the Dee Purple bassist, Roger Glover has embraced in over forty years in pop music. If Life Was Easy by Roger Glover and his band, the Guilty Party is the first release since 2002’s  Snapshot and in a way, it feels like postcards from the road, or a travelogue from many grand tours. But, when you listen to it in it’s entirety, you’ll find some common themes that will speak to the heart and soul. We’ll get to those in a moment.

Musically, the album covers pub rock (“Don’t Look Now” ), R&B/blue-eyed soul (“Stand Together”), folk(“If Life Was Easy”) , hard rock (“The Dream I Had”), prog rock (“Feel Like A King” which is a tribute to how well it felt to be part of Deep Purple) a kind of ska/skiffle band feel in (“The Car Won’t Start”) and even what feels like a jazz tune from a speak-easy (“Get Away”) delivered beautifully by Roger’s daughter, Gillian Glover. 

Roger Glover and The Guilty Party “Get Away (Can’t Let You)” vocal by Gillian Glover

Instrumentally, there is the standard rock n roll line up, Bass – naturally, Roger is a bassist and plays a lot of fretless on this album, Drums nicely covered by Joe Bonadio (except on “Box Of Tricks” which has the skins covered by Eliot Deninburg who also co-produced the album) and guitars, Oz Noy, Nicky Moroch, and Roger. Then there are the other common instruments from rock; piano, synth/electronic keys, and Hammond Organ done nicely by Randall Bramblett – the son of Delaney and Bonnie Bramblett.

But then things start to get, not weird, but experimental. Roger plays the baglama, a kind of cross between the lute and the sitar, on one track, the opening  “Don’t Look Now (Everything Has Changed)” which for a few bars sounds like George Harrison on a Beatle’s track before morphing into a pub rock absolute killer tune. Then on the song, “Stand Together” he is joined by Deep Purple band mate, Don Airey on the pianet – a rare German made electric piano that was only made in the 60’s and 70’s that had a sound like a Wurlitzer electric but with a distinctive ‘reedy” tone. There are also guest appearance from Nazareth's Dan McCafferty and Pete Agnew.

Beyond that is the diversity of musical genre and styles, and the lyrical subject matter that goes from separation, divorce, injustice, new love, uncertainty, emigration, fatherhood and the death of a loved one, what you have is the narration of a decade of turbulence and of maturing, personally and musically. It all comes off as satisfying as a banquet to a hungry man. The grand total I was left with when the last note faded at the end of these 16 tracks was much like Mark Knopfler’s best solo work; introspection, love, loss and the highs and lows of life. A very satisfying piece of work from an iconic musician.


The Dirty Lowdown

Copyright © 2011 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved


Book Review: “Charlie Five” by Zoe Sharp


If you aren’t familiar with English author Zoë Sharp, the author of FOX FIVE: a Charlie Fox short story collection   well get out of the house more often because she is becoming a household name in thriller realm. Since the publication in 2001 of the first Charlie Fox book, Killer Instinct,  in England she has made steadily bigger and bigger waves. With the ninth book in the Charlie Fox series about to hit the shelves in January 2012 she is poised to join the British invasion along with country men, Lee Child.

The heroine of Ms. Sharp’s books, Charlotte 'Charlie' Fox is a different type of protagonist. In the first book, Charlie is a self-defense instructor who, under shady circumstance, has washed out of the British Special Forces.As the series progresses, Charlie goes under cover to a bodyguard training school in Germany where she finds her calling in “close protection”. The first time Charlie “crosses the pond” is in First Drop,  confusingly, the fourth book. Charlie eventually grows into a competent, veteran expert bodyguard. Also, she becomes a more complex character as the series continues, maintaining an on going relationship with the man she feels was at least partially responsible for her leaving the Special Forces under “other than honorable” conditions. She also develops an empathy with her charges and is more than capable of killing, but only as a last resort.

FOX FIVE is a great introduction to this smart, sassy, at times ill-tempered and borderline psychotic, tough and self-sufficient character. The first story,A Bridge Too Far is in a setting before Charlie becomes a pro bodyguard. She is hanging out with some friends that are into extreme sports when one of them dies under what becomes mysterious circumstances. Charlie exhibits some of the traits in solving the mystery which will make her one of the best close protection experts later in the series.

Next up is Postcards From Another Country which finds Charlie bodyguarding a wealth family when there is an attempt on her principles life that is orchestrated from an unexpected direction. The story demonstrates Charlie’s professionalism and loyalty to her employer. The third story was a finalist for the Crime Writers Association Story Dagger. Served Cold is the only story not told from Charlie’s point of view. It finds a waitress and stripper named Layla who has lived life on the seamy side and come out of it the worse for wear . A marvelous story that will make you think twice at the greasy spoon or shady bar before you give that waitress with the Maxwell House eyes a hard time.

The forth story in your introduction to Charlie Fox is called, Off Duty which finds Charlie recuperating from a shooting at a resort in the Catskill Mountains where she encounters a rude, lounge lizard kind of guy and a staff member, neither of whom are quite what they seem. By now, Charlie is a through professional, but can’t let a one sided fight alone, even though she is off duty.

The last story in this anthology is seen in print for the first time here. It is the longest, and most detailed story in the bunch. Charlie has been sent into an unnamed country as part of a team to extricate a news Crew that has stayed a little too  long in-country to report on revolution just a little too long. Charlie is the only member of the rescue crew to make it past the authorities and decides to go through with the mission. Along the way she must decide who to trust and who to shoot and she must use her wits and her expertise at violence to accomplish the mission. All the while, questioning the morality of her victims as well as her employers.

This is an excellent introduction to a great female thriller protagonist. Charlie has been turning heads in Europe for a while and now she is ready to invade America. And you’ll like it, or get out of her way. This is well written crime, thriller fiction and will soon be ruling the best seller lists.

Zoe gun

Zoë Sharp was born in Nottinghamshire but grew up on a boat on the northwest coast of England. She has worked on a yacht delivery crew, an equestrian instructor, a pension and mortgage adviser, in news paper advertising sales. In 1988 she submitted an article to a car magazine and, having a love of cars, turned her hand to auto sport photography and article writer.

Eventually she drifted into thriller writing with the Charlie Fox novels, and crime and thriller fans have been happy ever since.

Look for  Fifth Victim (US Edition) in January, and in the mean time, you can find the other Charlie Fox novels in eBook format at all the usual places.


The Dirty Lowdown

Copyright © 2011 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved

Monday, September 19, 2011

Book Review: “Little Elvises” by Timothy Hallinan

Little Elvis2

The only problem with this book is that you’ll laugh so hard the tears are apt to short out your eReader. A screw-ball comedy worthy of Johnathan Latimer’s William Crane and cynically funny as Donald Westlake’s John Dortmunder stories. You just can’t help but love Junior Bender.

But this isn’t just a funny book. This is serious hardboiled noir and Los Angles, and the area around L.A. make even the most screw ball character believable. I think I went to high school with Fronts and Marge has been my land lady more than once…

Little Elvises is a romp through LaLa land inside a convoluted plot that somehow is familiar and decipherable and, most of all, enjoyable. Junior Bender is a high-end thief and burglar who not only has never been caught, but is well known by the authorities, but often finds himself in the unenviable position of solving problems for other criminal elements and those who can’t seek “justice” through the law. He’s the crooks cop; the lost and found detective for those on the other side of the fence.

The Little Elvises opens with Junior being detained by the police for the Hammer job, which he wasn’t involved in. A judge and his wife were robbed at gun point and the wife was pistol whipped. Naturally the cops are under some pressure to bring the perps in. It’s well known that Junior never uses a gun, and he has many alibi witnesses. Case closed,… but not so fast. It doesn’t matter that Junior is innocent to Detective DiGaudio, because he has intimidated the witnesses. As he tells Junior, “It doesn’t matter whether you did it. What matters is that we can make you for it.”

Junior quickly sees that they are working towards “an act of generosity” on the part of the cops. Seems detective DiGaudio has an uncle, Vincent (don’t call me Vinnie) DiGaudio who back in the fifties made a mint turning out “Little Elvises” in the music business. Little Elvises; Handsome Italian kids with tight pants and big hair and little or no talent. American pop culture imitates itself, the way it stamps out little tin copies of anything original that makes money. For instance all the Little Elvises from Philly who were churned to the surface in the wake of Elvis Presley. Vincent DiGaudio, who lined his pockets with the star dust of the imitation Elvises is rumored to be mob connected. But only rumored, you understand. Just because he’s Italian. In Philly. In the music business, why would anyone think he was mobbed up?

It seems Uncle Vincent has a problem, and Detective DiGaudio, who can “make Junior” for the Hammer job, will forget all that if Junior helps out Vincent. That’s cool with Junior, and expedient. He’s got a life to live, an ex wife and a teenage daughter who just might be falling in love with a black kid. Now Junior, in theory, wouldn’t have a problem with the racial difference, but old prejudices die hard when it’s his teenage daughter involved. So, Junior takes the path of least resistance, and agrees to help Uncle Vincent with his problem, unless of course the problem involves murder. He draws the line there, even working for criminals.

It’s murder.

Seems a scandal rag writer was killed and his body dumped on one of the Little Elvises Hollywood Walk of Fame Star. Further, the dead writers foxy wife knew where he was the night he was killed. After a little investigation, Junior locates the dead writers car near Uncle Vincent’s abode.

Junior’s job is to establish an alibi, or an alternate suspect for the cops in order to get him, and uncle Vincent off the suspect list for the Hammer job and the murder. Along the way he gets involved in a missing person case looking for his land lady, Marge’s daughter, who has gone missing after being married to a shady character who just may be a serial wife killer.

There is also the curious mystery of one of the Little Elvises sudden departure from a movie set years ago.

He also has to get close to Uncle Vincent while staying clear of the possible mob guys, including the worlds oldest mobster. There’s also a wild card character, Fronts, who just wants Junior to stop looking. Fronts is a 350 pound dope fiend who carves poetry and other things on his own chest with a very large knife and is practically unstoppable short of using a Howitzer. Junior also falls for the dead writers ex wife, who may just be the real murder. He is also dealing with his  responsibilities and feelings over his coming of age daughter. It all makes for a caper/scam/murder romp through the mean streets of L.A.

The pace is great, the dialog hardboiled and comical, the narration is well balanced and cynical, and the characters, though obviously over the top, are way too believable for Hollywood. The plot is equally funny, over the top, but real inside the sense of place. The story will keep you puzzling as Junior navigates the twisted minds and morals of the characters. My only real problem with the book was that in a couple of places the story, told through dialog exchanges could get so circuitous that you’d have to read them twice to follow along. Well worth it and there was always a laugh or wry smile after the recap.

I’d whole heartedly recommend this fun read to anyone that loves crime fiction and great noir written with the ghosts of Donald Westlake and Johnathan Latimer sitting in the room listening to 45 rpm records from the Payola days of Rock N Roll.

Tim Hallinan is the Edgar Nominated author tim Halliananof The Queen of Patpong: A Poke Rafferty Thriller (Poke Rafferty Thrillers) ,the  Simeon Grist Mysteries as well as The Junior Bender Series. Tim is also a major contributor to Bangkok Noir which brings together twelve authors that write about Thailand. Half the proceeds of the sale of this excellent collection go too charities to help Bangkok’s poorest kids. He also is a contributor to SHAKEN: Stories for Japan which is an eBook conceived totally to benefit the earth quake survivors.


The Dirty Lowdown

Copyright © 2011 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved

Article first published as Book Review: Little Elvises by Timothy Hallinan Blogcritics




Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Music Review: “GREATEST HITS: SONGS FROM THE SOUTH: VOLUMES 1 & 2” by Paul Kelly

                  Songs From The South


America has Bob Dylan, The U.K. has the Beatles, Canada gave us The Guess Who, Joni Mitchell and Neal Young. Oddly, Australia, the other English speaking country in the world has translated very few artists to the shores of North America. Technically The Bee Gees were Australian. So was Olivia Newton John. Then, there was Men At Work.

But Paul Kelly is the iconic Australian answer to Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Neil Young and at times throughout his career he has been the Australian answer to The Byrds, Tom Petty, John Prine, Leonard Cohen and a host of other folk/rock/pop stars. His music runs the gambit from A-Z . If you are not acquainted with Paul Kelly’s body of work, here is another chance as this 2008 compilation is now available in America again, Songs From The South is being released along with the eight-CD, 105-song live box set  The A-Z Recordings and the book, How to Make Gravy which chronicles an event from 2004 where Paul performed over 100 of his songs, in alphabetical order and in between songs told stories about how they came to be written.

Paul Kelly is a natural born story teller and the tales between songs cover confessions, personal and family history as well as what it’s like to be on the road as a travelling musician. The writing is revealing, funny, cynically honest, and thought provoking. The lyrics and stories in the book cover the vast culture of Australia and may be eye opening for an American audience.

The album, “Songs From The South Vol. 1 & 2” are a cross section of Paul’s career, from his days as Paul Kelly and the Colored Girls (changed to Paul Kelly and the Messengers, initially for international releases, to avoid any possible racist interpretations.) He disbanded the Messengers in 1991 and since then has formed other groups as projects demanded.

Disk one covers the years with The Messengers and opens with the pub rock/folky flavored “From St. Kilda to Kings Cross”. other memorial tunes from this early period are the top forty hits “Before To Long” , “Darling It Hurts” and the highest charting Australian hit “To Her Door” as well as “Dumb Things” released back in 1988 it featured on the soundtrack to the Australian box office hit comedy "Young Einstein" and following on from the success of that film reached as high as #17 on the American rock charts.

Paul Kelly And The Colored Girls–Dumb Things

Disk two covers the years 1998 through 2008 and covers songs from the top 20 albums, “Words and Music”, “Professor Ratbaggy”, ”Nothing But A Dream” and “Stolen Apples” as well as projects such as “Stardust Five” and his solo hits. One of my favorites is a road song “Every Fucking City”, a tongue only partially in cheek take of touring night after night. Also included are the previously unreleased “Thoughts In The Middle Of The Night” and “Shane Warne” whose melody is based on a calypso song by Lord Kitchner, “London Is The Place For Me”.Paul_Kellysm

If you’re already a fan of Paul Kelly then you probably already know that he is doing a whirl wind American tour covering the A-Z repertoire. that’s 100 songs, done in alphabetical order with stories in between. It should be some kind of experience. Last night and tonight he is in CHICAGO at  Schuba’s , September 14-15  LOS ANGELES  Hotel Café, September 18-19  VANCOUVER Electric Owl, September 23-24  TORONTO The Dakota Tavern and September 26-27 NEW YORK The Rockwood Music Hall – Stage 2. Check your local ticket outlets for times. Fans of great music will not want to miss this.

The Dirty Lowdown

Article first published as Music Review: Paul Kelly - Greatest Hits - Songs From The South Vol. 1 & 2 on Blogcritics

Copyright © 2011 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

This Is Not Your Mother Yom Kippur Song - Yoshi Fruchter and Pitom "Ki Anu Amekha."

PitomJust in time for Yom Kippur (October 8), guitarist Yoshi Fruchter and Pitom, "equal parts jazz school, seminary school, and 'Nirvana's school," (Village Voice) release their blistering new single, "Ki Anu Amekha."  With text from Yom Kippur liturgy, this variation on a traditional Hasidic melody explores  the holiday's themes of forgiveness and redemption.


You can listen to, or download the tune from SoundCloud. And here’s the video.

Yoshie Fruchter & Pitom “Ki Anu Amekha”

Forgiveness and redemption are also themes on Pitom's recent Tzadik release, Blasphemy & Other Serious Crimes , a sonic homage to Yom Kippur.

Love and other serious crimes

With their unique blend of punk, noise, rock, metal and jazz, all filtered through the Jewish tradition, Pitom is already at the forefront of contemporary Jewish music and beyond.

"A rocking band performing catchy, hooky compositions that both pay tribute to and challenge the Jewish tradition... Pitom is a hard-edged new addition to the legacy of Radical Jewish Culture." - John Zorn

"...guitarist Yoshi Fruchter mixes grunge, jazz, Zappa, noise-rock and a dollop of surf music with Jewish modes and scales to create a loud, raucous album full of noise and virtuosity. A dazzling debut." - Jim Fusilli, Wall Street Journal.

This is some interesting sound. Jazz-Punk with Cultural homage being paid to their Jewish heritage. I’ll be reviewing the album soon, but wanted to share this before Yom Kippur. Check out Pitom’s web site.

The Dirty Lowdown

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Music Review: “Everyday Magic” by Rahsaan Barber

Too often now a days jazz is associated with elevator music. Well, this ain’t elevator music. It’s Everyday Magic, the second album from Nashville native, Rahsaan Barber


What’s more, this album was recorded in Nashville – Music City USA. Nashville may be forever associated with country music, but, let me tell you, they have some cats down there that can blow. The band, also called Everyday Magic, is composed of Barber on tenor, alto and soprano sax as well as flute. Adam Agati on guitar, pianist Jody Nardone, Jerry Navarro on bass (and what a tasty bottom end he plays) and Nioshi Jackson on the skins. Rahsaan’s twin brother, Roland Barber is on trombone on two hot tracks, as is percussionist Giovanni Rodriguez.  The album is released on Rahsaan’s newly formed Jazz Music City label.

The album is laid out to display Rahsaan’s virtuosity on all the saxes and flute, as well as his various influences. It opens with a bopping tenor show case tune, “Jubilee”.The first thing that becomes apparent is Rahsaan’s articulation on whatever instrument he features. It matters not how fast the tune, the clarity of the notes are amazing. This tune just grooves and brings back memories of John Coltrane or Kenny Garret.

The next two tunes are in remembrance of the 2010 Nashville Flood victims, “Lost and Found” is kind of a tone poem that brings to mind a jumble of debris crashing down the maelstrom, and “Floodsong” is an Avant garde, bluesy number. Rahsaan gives the tenor a workout that few players can manage.

“Manhattan Grace” is a gospel inspired love song that feels like a prayer and sounds like heaven. Rahsaan’s alto sax is just as smooth as his tenor work. Perhaps my favorite tune on the whole album is “Why So Blue”, an in-your-face blues romp that’ll make you think of Stanley Turrentine. Twin brother, Roland Barber is featured on some fine trombone work where he seems to be echoing Rahsaan’s gritty tenor. Great work, family style.

Another highlight is, “Innocence”, featuring soprano sax work that continues to show of Rahsaan’s mastery of the different saxophones. The drummer, Nioshi Jackson,  lays down an infectious stutter-step solo and the interplay between the sax and the guitar is just killer. Close your eyes, and you can see a couple of kids playing in a spring garden. In “Adagio”, Rahsaan finally shows off his flute work. As the title suggests, this is a sweet, quiet, slow tune. Rahsaan says it was composed on a dare to create a meditative spa kind of music. The album closes out with “Memphis Soul”, a tight, electronic groove featuring percussionist Giovanni Rodriguez of the Latin-jazz septet, El Movimeinto which is co-lead by Rahsaan.

This is a great debut for the label and a more than fine sophomore effort from Rahsaan and Everyday Magic.  It may not be elevator music, but it is going nowhere but up.Rahsaan Barber

Rahsaan Barber studied music at University of Indiana under the esteemed David Baker. Along with his twin brother, Roland, they were named after the jazz great Rahsaan Roland Kirk. He lists as his influence Stanley Turrentine and John Coltrane. He earned his masters in music at The Manhattan School of Music and has taught at Belmont University and is one of four Americans to perform at the 2003 World saxophone Competition at the Montreaux Jazz Festival.


The Dirty Lowdown

Article first published as Music Review: Rahsaan Barber - Everyday Magic on Blogcritics.

Copyright © 2011 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved