Musician: RB Stone
Album name: Loosen Up!
Why you should listen: RB Stone is a seasoned bluesman whose big American experience contributes to making this new album a pleasurable listen. Blues may be about bad juju going down but its power is in the music taking that pain away. Stone knows that formula and it’s obvious he learned it from real life lessons, not at the movies. His decades have included working on a Midwest railroad crew, hawking Romex cable in Ohio and wrangling horse flesh in La Plata County, Colo. “Loosen Up!” is Stone’s 16th album and it has the genuine appeal of a banged-up but reliable Chevy pick-up that just keeps on truckin’. Stone’s journeyman vocals are far from crooner-pretty but there’s an attractive confidence and strength that doesn’t stop. It’s unapologetic biker bar music about snotty but hot women, getting fired from a job for being a jerk and what not to do if you get drunk in Texas. Stone plays blues harp on most tracks and makes that little reed instrument shriek like a cold lonesome north wind or scalded tom cat.
One of the few slow numbers is “God Heals You When You Cry.” It features Robert Britt’s heavenly guitar solo and Jefferson Jarvis’ church-friendly organ. At the other end of the spectrum is “Texas Drunk Tank Blues” with driving percussion and careening harmonica. You’ll learn Stone didn’t end up there just from swilling brother Jack Daniels but had a little too much of cousin Jim Beam too. Sealing the biker cred deal is last cut “Harley Heart” that runs flat-out like a big speedy Milwaukee Road King. “If you roll with me you got no time for the blues,” Stone growls. It’s the tenth song on a disc from a guy with blues heart and soul big as Dallas.
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Musician: CD Woodbury Band
Album name: Monday Night!
Why you should listen: CD Woodbury Band is a jump blues outfit from the Pacific Northwest. They play an uber-upbeat version of the genre that’s slick as glare ice. This album has no shortage of fancy production and multiple layers of sound. Woodbury pulled out the stops to make a recording with sophistication and impressive musicianship that's undeniable. If gutbucket blues is a roadhouse with shots and suds, “Monday Night!” is an upscale nightclub serving champagne cocktails.
Saxophonist Mike Marinig joined the band in 2010 and his wailing brings a lot to the party. Lengthy brass solos recall the Brecker Brothers circa 1977. As on the title track sometimes they meander wildly but that’s part of the charm. Not talking Archie Shepp-level untamed here, more like feral gin joint sax howling at the New Orleans moon. Occasionally the production is a tad too slick. “The Pleasure’s All Mine” features harmonized male vocals that sound like a glee club. The song’s about putting on a smiley face when playing a seemingly endless succession of club dates that can become a grind. “Mean Jenny” is about a real person who gets an apology in the liner notes because she’s not really mean. Her song has some mean keyboards by Chris Kliemann. “Ring-A-Ding” is also about a woman. One who “…Moves like Jello on a string.” That’s certainly a matchless lyrical image. The song has a 1940s vibe with zoot suit tom-tom introduction and shouted male chorus. “Pawn Shop” is the closest track to true down-on-your luck blues. Clocking in at six minutes and change it’s the album’s most languid number with a blistering guitar solo that soars into the stratosphere. The band leader’s near spoken word vocals are interspersed between a busted Woodward Avenue horn lament. “Monday Night!” is a good listen any evening of the week.