Blues Hall Of Fame Grand Opening Scheduled For Today

There’s big news for blues fans today.

The Blues Hall of Fame will officially open for the first time ever this morning at 10amET. Today’s grand opening of the band new building was preceded last night by the annual Blues Music Awards, which is now in its 36th year. The awards ceremony was held in front of a sold out crowd of 1500 people in downtown Memphis, TN at the Cook Convention Center.

Photo Credit: Charles Ragsdale II

Blues Hall of Fame Inductees. Some of those featured include: Tommy Brown, Bobby Rush, Charlie Musselwhite, Eddie Shaw, Dick Waterman, Billy Boy Arnold, John Hammond, Big Jay McNeely, Otis Clay, Bruce Iglauer and Mike Kappus. Photo Credit: Charles Ragsdale II

Twenty-four awards were handed out at last night’s ceremony. Elvin Bishop was the night’s big winner with three awards. His latest full-length release Can’t Even Do Right won for Best New Album. His Band took top honors in the Band category. And the album’s title track won for Best Song. Other winners on the night included: Joe Bonamassa (Best Instrumentalist—Guitar), Selwyn Birchwood (Best New Artist Album—Don’t Call No Ambulance) and Johnny Winter (Best Rock Blues Album—Step Back). The complete list of this year’s Blues Music Awards is noted below.

Blues Music Award winners (final)

  1. Acoustic Album:  Timeless– John Hammond
  2. Acoustic Artist: John Hammond
  3. Album: Can’t Even Do Wrong Right– Elvin Bishop
  4. B.B. King Entertainer: Bobby Rush
  5. Band: Elvin Bishop Band 
  6. Best New Artist Album: Don’t Call No Ambulance– Selwyn Birchwood                 
  7. Contemporary Blues Album: BluesAmericana – Keb’ Mo’
  8. Contemporary Blues Female Artist: Janiva Magness   
  9. Contemporary Blues Male Artist: Gary Clark Jr.
  10. Historical: Soul & Swagger: The Complete “5” Royales 1951-1967 – The “5” Royales (Rock Beat)
  11. Instrumentalist-Bass: Lisa Mann
  12. Instrumentalist-Drums: Jimi Bott
  13. Instrumentalist-Guitar: Joe Bonamassa
  14. Instrumentalist-Harmonica: Charlie Musselwhite
  15. Instrumentalist-Horn: Deanna Bogart
  16. Koko Taylor Award: Ruthie Foster
  17. Pinetop Perkins Piano Player: Marcia Ball    
  18. Rock Blues Album: Step Back – Johnny Winter
  19. Song: “Can’t Even Do Wrong Right” written and performed by Elvin Bishop
  20. Soul Blues Album: Memphis Grease– John Németh
  21. Soul Blues Female Artist: Sista Monica
  22. Soul Blues Male Artist: Bobby Rush
  23. Traditional Blues Album:  For Pops (A Tribute to Muddy Waters)– Mud Morganfield & Kim Wilson
  24. Traditional Blues Male Artist: Lurrie Bell
Blues Hall of Fame inductees at BHOF ribbon cutting ceremony: Otis Clay, Eddie Shaw, Big Jay McNeely, Bobby Rush, John Hammond, Tommy Brown, Billy Boy Arnold. Photo by Mariah Selitsch

Blues Hall of Fame inductees at BHOF ribbon cutting ceremony: Otis Clay, Eddie Shaw, Big Jay McNeely, Bobby Rush, John Hammond, Tommy Brown, Billy Boy Arnold. Photo by Mariah Selitsch

On the eve of the Blues Hall of Fame’s official opening, Little Richard, Tommy Brown, and Eric Clapton became the institution’s latest inductees. They join the likes of B.B. King, Etta James, T-Bone Walker and one hundred forty-three others that have been inducted over the past three decades plus. Fifty-one non-performers have also been added to the hall along with eighty-three of the greatest blues singles ever crafted, and forty books and magazines centered on the blues.

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The Good Times Do Indeed Roll On JD McPherson’s New LP

Courtesy:  Rounder Records

Courtesy: Rounder Records

Singer/Songwriter JD Mcpherson recently released his latest full-length studio release Let The Good Times Roll. The album, his second, was released via Rounder Records. McPherson’s new album is an aptly titled record. That is because throughout the course of the album’s eleven tracks and thirty-six minutes, McPherson offers audiences an album that will have them dancing and singing from the album’s upbeat title track to its Buddy Holly-esque ‘Bridgebuilder’ all the way to the album’s full-on 1950s style rocker ‘Everybody’s Talking ‘Bout The All-American.’ And those are just a few of the reasons that audiences will love this album, too. There is not one bad song throughout this record from beginning to end. It takes the classic vibe established in his 2012 debut album Signs and Signifiers and takes it another step forward incorporating more influence from the rock and r & b acts that continue to make the 1960s one of music’s greatest eras ever. The end result is an album that is deservedly one of this year’s early contender’s for a spot on any critic’s year-end list of the year’s best new albums overall.

JD McPherson has crafted in his second full-length album Let The Good Times Roll a record that is quite aptly titled. That is because from start to finish, McPherson does indeed let the good times roll. Every performance will leave a smile on listeners’ faces and will leave listeners wanting to listen to it again once it’s done. That is evident right from the album’s opener and title track. ‘Let The Good Times Roll’ is a great rocker that harkens back to the days of John Fogerty and others of his ilk. McPherson’s guitar work and drummer Jason Smay’s driving tempo set the song’s backbone. The additional piano line makes that backbone even stronger. McPherson’s soulful vocals complete the song as he sings, “I miss you so/Every time I fall away/I miss you so/Every time I fall away/Let the sky open up little darling/Follow me when I go/Let the sky open up and/Let the good times roll.” He goes on to sing to his figure of interest, “Why can’t you see/I’m standin’ at your door/Why can’t you see/I’m standin’ at your door/Open your home little darling/Follow me when I go/Let the sky open up and let the good times roll. It should be noted that this is not a cover of the 1956 song written by Shirley Goodman and Leonard Lee. That aside it is still an enjoyable song in its own right. Presented here is a man telling a woman how much he needs her and loves her. But it’s not done in the classic almost begging style. Rather, there’s a full on swagger to the song here. It’s a swagger that is—again—certain to have any listener on their feet, singing and dancing happily right to the last moment and just as anxiously waiting to see what he has in store next.

What McPherson offers to his audiences after the album’s opener/title track is nothing short of impressive. Every one of the songs that make up this album is well worth its own mention. That includes even the softer, slower sounds of ‘Bridgebuilder.’ The seemingly Buddy Holly/Roy Orbison influenced song will instantly take listeners familiar with music of the era back to the 1950s both with its musical and lyrical side. Audiences can almost see McPherson and his band mates—Jimmy Sutton (upright bass), Jason Smay (drums), Ray Jacildo (keyboards), Doug Corcoran (Saxophone, guitar, keyboards)—on some high school stage a la Back to the Future performing for a group of teenagers while their teachers and parents chaperone the school dance. That is not necessarily meant in a negative way. Rather, the rendition is so pure that it creates that vivid image in one’s mind. That image becomes even more vivid as McPherson sings, “I’ll build something that is real and true/Building bridges to you/I’ll build something that is real and true/Building bridges to you/Bridgebuilder, bridge builder build me a bridge/Draw a straight line on the water/Bridge builder, bridge builder/The waters are deep/Fear I may sink to the bottom/Waiting in shadow/In old merry times/Dreaming of some father’s daughter.” The combination of those lyrics and the song’s classic 1950s style music creates a truly incredible song. It actually sounds like it came direct from the 1950s rather than just being some modern song recorded to sound like something similar to the music of that era. That speaks volumes of this song. It speaks, for that matter, just as loudly as the album’s opener and every other track on this disc. Because it does so, it proves ‘Bridgebuilder’ to be yet another wonderful addition to Let The Good Times Roll.

As is evidenced by both the Buddy Holly/Roy Orbison influenced ‘Bridgebuilder’ and the Jon Fogerty influenced opener/title track to Let The Good Times Roll, JD McPherson gives audiences plenty to like about his new album. They are definitely not all that there is to like about this album, either. McPherson and his band mates keep audiences entertained from start to finish on this album. And hearing the album’s rock and roll/r & b hybrid sound of the album’s closer ‘Everybody’s Talking ‘Bout The All-American’ listeners will agree with that sentiment. McPherson sounds almost like Little Richard here as he sings, “Everybody talking ‘bout the All-American/Knockin’ down walls like a bombardier again/Hair fallin’ down like a razor blade/Breakin’ every heart in every place you’re playing/Everybody talking ‘bout the All-American.” The sax and the drums coupled with McPherson’s work on the guitar and his vocal style make this song feel like something pulled right out of a time capsule that was buried decades ago. It is a solid and rocking final statement from McPherson and company that leaves the absolute best impact on listeners’ ears. Coupled with the rest of the album’s compositions—both those noted and not noted—it will leave an impact so strong that it will have listeners hitting play almost instantly to listen to the album again. That is how impressive this album proves itself. To have such a lasting impact on listeners means that it is definitely deserving of being called one of this year’s best new albums overall.

JD McPherson is currently touring in support of his new album. He will be at the Bowery Ballroom in New York, New York this Wednesday, February 25th for a sold out performance. From there, he and his band mates will wind their way through the Northeast before heading to the Midwest by way of Charleston, WV on March 8th. After those dates, the band will make its way down South beginning April 9th in Paducah, Kentucky. The band’s late spring schedule across the South includes a stop at the PNC Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina on April 23rd at 7pm. That performance date will see McPherson supporting country music superstar Eric Church. Even more tour dates follow that show. McPherson’s latest tour schedule can be found online along with all of the latest news from McPherson online at:

Website: https://www.jdmcpherson.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jdmcphersonhistyle

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jdmcphersonjr

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to https://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

The Midnight Special’s Re-Issues Will Have Audiences Singing, Dancing Well Past Midnight

Courtesy:  StarVista Entertainment/Time Life Entertainment/NBC

Courtesy: StarVista Entertainment/Time Life Entertainment/NBC

StarVista Entertainment and Time Life Entertainment have made quite the name for themselves over the course of recent years.  Releases of classic series such as The Carol Burnett Show, Mama’s Family, The Dean Martin Show, China Beach, and most recently The Wonder Years have taken a company that for years was the butt of many people’s jokes to a place in the upper echelons of home entertainment companies.  For years, Time Life was known mainly for the not-so-well-known products that it pushed through extended advertisements on television.  Now it has carved out even more of a comfortable place in that upper echelon with the release of The Midnight Special on DVD.  The classic late night live concert series was released in a number of formats last month, resurrecting one more important piece of television and music history.  The show’s six-disc collector’s edition is one of the best of the sets that any fan of classic television and music can add to their own home library.  That is because it is one of the best examples of what made this series so great during its nine-year run on NBC.  It presents ninety-six total performances from bands, artists and groups across the music industry’s spectrum.  The acts that make appearances throughout the set’s six discs are the center of this box set’s enjoyment and success.  Just as important to note is the quality of the footage.  More than four decades have passed since the Midnight Special first debuted in 1972.  In that time, the footage presented in these performances has stood the test of time quite well.  And last but not least worth noting in the set’s success is its companion booklet.  The booklet serves as an episode guide for viewers.  That is the central point of its importance.  It also features personal insight from the series’ creator Burt Sugarman. Sugarman’s retrospection on the series and its importance adds one more layer of appreciation for this series.  Together with the acts that appear on each set and the quality of the footage, all three factors together make The Midnight Train another wonderful release from Time  Life Entertainment and StarVista Entertainment.

The Midnight Special was one of the most famed and beloved series on television during its day.  Unlike so many other series of the time, acts that came on the series in its heydey actually sang instead of lip synching.  What’s more, unlike American Bandstand, The Midnight Special focused on more than just the big pop acts of its day.  The acts that came to perform on NBC’s live overnight concert series spanned the music world’s ranks.  That is the most important aspect of this recently released classic series.  The acts that performed on The Midnight Special included the likes of John Denver performing alongside Linda Rondstadt and Aerosmith performing alongside Barry White, The Stylistics, and ELO.  It also featured acts the likes of: B.B. King, Frankie Vallie, Sammy Hagar, The O’Jays, BeeGees, and so many other greats that are still remembered today.  Even the show’s host himself, radio host Wolfman Jack was a celebrity in his own right.  Even today, he and those acts noted here are just as beloved as they were decades ago.  In an era when so many musical acts are little more than flash-in-the-pan pop acts and rarely radio worthy rock bands, musicaians and audiences alike need to be reminded of what once made music great and could again–originality and real talent.  That in mind, it makes sense that the list of performers that came on The Midnight Special is the central point of this series’ success whether in its six-disc box set or its other formats.

The list of artists, bands, and groups that graced The Midnight Special’s stage during its nine-year run on NBC is the most important aspect of this series’ recent re-issue.  More than four decades have passed since it first debuted on NBC in 1972.  That makes for plenty of reason to be concerned about the quality of the show’s footage in its transfer from tape to disc.  Luckily for audiences of all ages, painstaking efforts were taken to present the performances as they appeared in their original broadcasts. Those efforts paid off in spades as both the audio and video of each performance have been well-balanced.  Any impurities in the quality of the footage whether in the audio or video are so minute that they are unnoticable.  The end result is a product that for the show’s original audiences will generate a much-welcomed sense of nostalgia.  Both for those same audiences and the show’s much younger audiences, it also serves to show just how far music has come (both in a good and bad way) and how far recording technology has come, too.  So in the end, the quality of the footage in these performances makes Time Life and StarVista’s new re-issue of The Midnight Special even more enjoyable for audiences of all ages.

The efforts taken to transfter The Midnight Special’s master tapes to disc have definitely not been for nothing.  The show looks and sounds just as good as it did in its original run all those years ago in its rencet re-issue.  The acts that appeared on the show (and that are featured on the new six-disc compilation) are just as important to the overall presentation.  Both aspects together more than make the series worth a watch or two in any of its three re-issue formats.  The last aspect of the series’ re-issue (at least in its six-disc compilation format) that makes it a success and so enjoyable is the set’s companion booklet.  The booklet serves primarily as an episode guide, pointing out disc-by-disc and episode-by-episode each artist, band, and group that appears.  That listing even includes the songs performed by said acts.  By itself, the episode listing more than helps the enjoyment of the series’ re-issue.  The added insight from series creator Burt Sugarman adds one more layer of enjoyment to the series’ various presentations.  In terms of the six-disc box set, Sugarman recalls how so few people had faith in the show and how great it felt to prove those naysayers wrong.  That insight along with other comments from Sugarman make for even more interest and enjoyment in watching the performances culled for the show’s different re-issues.  While being the last of the noteworthy factors that make The MIdnight Special so…well…special, it is hardly the least important of the factors that make the series’ sets such a joy.  This aspect, along with the quality production values and the performances culled for the releases, makes The Midnight Special a truly special experience for viewers of all ages.

The Midnight Special is available online now.  Its eleven-disc and sixteen disc sets can be ordered online direct from Time Life’s online store at http://timelife.com/products/the-midnight-special-collector-s-edition.  The six-disc collector’s edition can be ordered via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Midnight-Special-6DVD-Amaray/dp/B00L9OPJ5C/ref=sr_1_1?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1414009549&sr=1-1&keywords=The+Midnight+Special.  More information on this and other releases from Time Life Entertainment and StarVista Entertainment is available online at:

Website: http://www.timelife.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/TimeLifeUS

Twitter: http://twitter.com/TimeLifeUS

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New Blu-Ray Shows Hendrix In A Whole New Light

Courtesy: Sony Legacy

It goes without saying that Jimi Hendrix us one of the most influential musicians of the 20th Century.  Countless guitarists have tried to emulate his style ever since he came to fame in the late 1960’s.  And they still try to do just that to this day.  The irony of his influence is that Jimi Hendrix apparently was not fond of having such a label placed on him.

The brand new documentary, “West Coast Seattle Boy:  Jimi Hendrix:  Voodoo Child” presents a man who was actually a rather reluctant star.  Audiences see through Jimi’s personal documents and an interview with Dick Cavett, a man who was more about being a great musician than being a rock star.  That modesty and love of music first is ironically what makes him so worthy of respect.

Learning of Jimi’s modesty is just one part of what makes this documentary so impressive.  While it’s called a documentary on the box, the reality is that this presentation is actually a ninety-minute video bio.  Audiences are taken on a journey through Hendrix’s life from his childhood to his untimely death in 1970.  Instead of being just another documentary loaded with sound bites from various celebrities, his story is told through his own documents and words.  The visual timeline used to illustrate each phase of his life is an excellent visual aid that any viewer will love.

Through the course of the timeline, viewers learn interesting facts of Jimi’s journey to fame.  They’ll be left in awe to learn that this legend came up through the ranks, playing with legends such as Little Richard and The Isley Brothers just to name a couple.  And that Paul McCartney was one of the first individuals to give Jimi a major break is just as incredible to learn.  It’s amazing to learn that these legends would be the catalysts to Jimi himself one day becoming a legend in his own right.

“West Coast Seattle Boy:  Jimi Hendrix:  Voodoo Child” offers so much more history that viewers will enjoy discovering.  To try and cover it all would be to prattle on endlessly.  And that would defeat the purpose of this review.  Suffice to say that this new video bio of Jimi Hendrix is now available on blu-ray both in stores and online.  It can be ordered online, along with all four formats of the companion concert piece, “Jimi Plays Berkeley” at http://www.jimihendrix.com/us/shop.

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