of the Blues, Volume 3
"Few record labels are as musically adventurous
or as diverse as NorthernBlues. Fred Litwin has developed and nurtured a cadre of musicians that break down barriers
and stretch musical boundaries; he's helped me to discover new ways to experience the blues."
Washington Blues Society
Artists on the sampler include
Doug Cox & Salil Bhatt, Homemade Jamz Blues Band, Moreland & Arbuckle, Samuel James, Paul Reddick, Eddie
Turner, Carlos del Junco, JW-Jones, The Twisters, Mason Casey, Zac Harmon and Mem Shannon.
riff - made famous by Muddy Waters on "Hoochie Coochie Man" - has been a blessing and a curse to the
blues. It is one of the most recognized riffs ever recorded, but by today's heady standards, it sounds dull. For
those who think modern blues is boring, this sampler (and record label) is for you. Samplers like The Future Of The Blues, Volume 3 (NorthernBlues) are a great (and inexpensive)
way to get exposure to various styles of blues and to a specific label. Even in this day of commercial free non-stop
satellite radio, samplers are an excellent way to discover the blues.
There are 15 tracks - including five previously unreleased - on this 70-minute disc. Three of them are from Watermelon
Slim, who has taken the blues world by storm over the past few years. NorthernBlues head honcho Fred Litwin is
obviously looking to cash in on this popularity as well as try to feed the insatiable craving for the trucker turned
bluesman. I don't care for his unpleasant vocals and common music. But even critics like me will enjoy the butt-kickin'
boogie "Blues For Howard" that features searing slide guitar. A galloping beat makes one of his other
songs, "Blue Freightliner," rock.
Doug Cox and Salil Bhatt unite classic east-Indian music and blues for the common goals of peace and humanity.
Together they perform outstanding acoustic guitar and mohan veena, and the vocal harmonies are surreal. On "Penny
Waiting On Change," Homemade Jamz displays great potential to blossom into huge blues stars. Here, the guitar
crescendos from a leisurely pace and then explodes into fiery passion. The slurred and intoxicated-sounding vocals
on the track from Moreland & Arbuckle only hints of the faux Mississippi hill country blues they perform so
Samuel James is a multi-instrumentalist who plays mean, acoustic country blues. His voice sounds like the folky
Bob Dylan has met rapper Jay-Z. Eddie Turner combines grey modernism with genre-blending experiments. On a swinging
instrumental, Carlos del Junco shows why he is one of Canada's best harpists and why he is ready to compete internationally
for the harmonica crown. His playing is based in the tradition but strays from it in a positive and exciting sense.
He may play his scintillating swing blues into his retirement years, but 28-year-old JW-Jones isn't planning to
wait until then to make his mark on the industry.
Mason Casey's Sofa King Badass was one of the most over-looked releases. With the following contributors, Don Covay,
Steve Cropper, Jimmy Johnson, and Jon Tiven, how could it have been anything but great? Depending on how you feel
about repetition, Mem Shannon's 13-minute hypnotizing rhythm will either put you in a trance or a slumber. Zac
Harmon's track is lively enough, but it's the most stereotypical blues sounding song on the sampler. It's not what
you expect from this label, which was incepted in 2001, because it's too predictable.
Thanks to the forward-thinking of NorthernBlues and their innovative artists, the future of the blues sounds very
Washington Blues Society
third sampler features 15 cuts and 70+ minutes of blues, and is a good introduction to the 2008 Keeping the Blues
Alive award-winning label. Label founder Fred Litwin selected a diverse group of artists that call Canada home
(The Twisters, Paul Reddick and Carlos del Junco), as well as U.S. artists whose blues stars are ascendant (Homemade
Jamz Blues Band, Moreland and Arbuckle, Samuel James). Retailing at $7.98 USD, the third volume of The Future of the Blues is a bargain; perhaps more importantly,
it will introduces the considerable back catalogue of the NorthernBlues label. Eddie Turner's Mr. Blues and Mason Casey's Chesterfield County Jail repay repeat listening, but I think the real gems on this release
are two unreleased cuts from Watermelon Slim: Blues for Howard and Blue
Vol. 3 does what great samplers do: it piques
my interest to learn more about other releases from other Northern Blues artists like Zac Harmon, JW-Jones, Mem
Shannon - all well-represented on this compilation.
Full disclosure: Fred Litwin used one of my quotes on the cover sticker to promote this release. Even if my quote
didn't make the cut, I'd still support NorthernBlues as an important and diverse blues resource.
Music City Blues Society
Fred Litwin's Northern Blues label has always been a purveyor of cutting-edge sounds, believing it to be better
to be a risk-taker rather than to fall into too much of a routine. This label has just marked its seventh anniversary,
and with the release of Future
Of The Bues, Vol. 3,
it is easy to understand why over half of the releases from its catalog have been nominated for an award of some
Just like the label's slate of talent, there's something for every taste on this sampler. Newcomers Samuel James,
Moreland and Arbuckle, and Homemade Jamz Blues Band lend a modern feel to the sounds of traditional blues. Guys
like JW-Jones and the Twisters lean toward a swingin', jump-blues sound. (An excerpt from our review on the Twisters
appears in the liner notes!) And, multiple-Blues Award winner Watermelon Slim has three cuts, two of 'em unreleased
is a slide-drenched romp from the "No
sessions, and a live audio track from the soon-to-be-released DVD of "Watermelon Slim Live At The Ground Zero Blues Club" is the "trash man's anthem,"
from his self-titled 2006 release.
Our favorite comes courtesy of Doug Cox and Salil Bhatt, with "Make A Better World," a cut from their upcoming 2009 release. Written by Earl King
and introduced to us by Levon Helm on vinyl back in the early 80's, this Crescent City classic really shines with
the string works of Cox and Bhatt, as well as having a decided "home court advantage" with New Orleans
native John Boutte's vocals. This will definitely be one to watch for in the coming year.
It is the mission of Northern Blues to entertain by not only keeping the blues alive, but forever moving forward
and in new directions as well. Give a listen to Future Of The Blues, Vol. 3 and then check out a full-length CD from any or all of these artists!
Blues in Britain
The Future Of
The Blues Vol 3
is an excellent sampler of NorthernBlues impressive back catalogue with tracks by artists such as Watermelon Slim,
Paul Reddick, the wonderful Samuel James, JW-Jones, Mem Shannon, the precociously talented Homemade Jamz Blues
Band, Moreland & Arbuckle, Mason Casey, The twisters and Eddie Turner - all of which have been reviewed in
But - like all good samplers - this set does not only entice you to visit the label's back catalogue, but also
provides a few tasty samplers for delights yet to come. So we get previews of the forthcoming Watermelon Slim DVD
- Live At The
Ground Zero Blues Club where
the band lay down a righteous groove on Dumpster
Slim's fine downhome harp and half spoken, half growled vocals. Make A Better World is a soulful East-West fusion from Slide To Freedom 2 by Doug Cox and Salil Bhatt - whilst Hattie Mae from the aptly titled Juke Joint Blues finds Zac Harmon in tremendous form as pulsing bass lines, churning harp and deep
blues vocals meld the influences of Willie Cobb and Billy Boy Arnold - a killer track.
That leaves Blue
an unreleased track from Watermelon Slim's No Paid Holidays - a churning slide piece with deep, but melancholy, blues vocals that had me thinking
of Slim as a modern electric reincarnation of Blind Willie Mctell.
If the Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival inspired you to pick up some new music, here's a great disc that introduces
several new acts. It's called The
Future Of The Blues, Vol. 3
(Northern Blues), a phrase that a few years ago might not have been taken seriously. But the highly respected Canadian
blues label has proven in its short existence that there is life and movement forward. The label is home to one
of the highlight bands of this year's festival, Homemade Jamz Blues Band, the young sibling trio from Mississippi,
reviewed last week. In fact, much of the company's roster has appeared on Harvest stages, including Watermelon
Slim, Paul Reddick, JW Jones, Carlos del Junco and, this year, Brian Blain. All but Blain appear on this set, with
Slim contributing three cuts, two of them previously unreleased. Slim's a great example of how the blues is moving
forward, with his authentic C&W soul mixing with fiery and inspired playing. New Orleans' Mem Shannon brings
a whole lot of funk to his sound and Doug Cox and Salil Bhatt fuse classical Indian music to the blues. The blues
world has been pouring accolades and awards on the label the last couple of years, and Watermelon Slim and Paul
Reddick's albums were the top two blues releases this past year in England's Mojo Magazine. To paraphrase Buddy
Guy, damn right Canada's got the blues.
Future of the Blues, Volume 2
is still available from our online store »
Play Blues Guitar
in Canada has
brewed up an unsurpassed catalog of blues in just four short years because it's about the music, first and foremost.
Our good neighbors above the border have "big ears" and the strength of conviction to record what they
dig and then trust their audience to have the same taste and sense of adventure. Rich and intoxicating aural treats
await those willing to imbibe and this sampler should be enough to wet any fan's whistle for more. From the sweet
sass of singer Janiva
Magness to the
genre-bending songs of country blues and rock young blood David Jacobs-Strain, the barely-contained, off-kilter energy of John and the Sisters and the African and American musical
stew of Dan Treanor
and Frankie Lee
comes an unsubtle hint of the major talent lurking within. Boston's "Queen of the Blues," Toni Lynn Washington, will tear your heart out with her
classic country blues and soul while Paul
absorbed prewar blues and filtered them through his own fresh sensibility.
As would be expected there is no shortage of high wattage electric guitar heroes on the label, but these fret-benders
are never content to play it safe. J.W.
Jones may be
the most traditional with his houserocking jump blues, but the cat knows how to make his Strat honk with unquestioned
voodoo axeman who was Otis
foil for years, is represented with the hypnotic, interstellar country blues title track from his solo debut CD.
Perhaps the two pickers who best exemplify the rambunctious spirit of the label are Kevin Breit and Harry
Manx. To call
their approach to the blues surrealistic is to only begin to describe just how wacky, but totally cool, these two
idiosyncratic string-ticklers are as they mesh chops with an otherworldly bent. Breit also makes an appearance
on harp-virtuoso Carlos
track where they turn Little Walter's "Blues With A Feeling" into a grinding, loopy shuffle for the next
millennium, appropriate to the CD's title.
- Dave Rubin
Without fear, NorthernBlues' President, Fred Litwin, releases music that he truly believes in. Proudly and openly
he states his label's mission is to stretch the boundaries of the blues. He has been doing that for four years,
and his novel label isn't going without notice. So far his 27 releases (not including samplers) have received Juno,
W.C. Handy, Independent Music, and Maple Blues Award nominations. Some of those nominations have turned into winners.
There are 15 songs by 16 artists on this 70-minute Future Of The Blues, Vol.2 sampler. Interspersed with the familiarity of American Blues, Dan Treanor and Frankie Lee contain the right blend of foreign
rhythms and sounds. Treanor plays his hand-built African instruments on their innovative cut. New Brunswick's Glamour Puss combines their unrestrained talents
to create happy, upbeat, groovin' music that celebrates life. Janiva Magness' NorthernBlues CD was really Colin Linden's project. His distinctive
production and robust guitar provides strong evidence for this proposition. It is great to see an artist mature
with every record. Listeners, who have graduated along with JW-Jones' previous two releases, experience that when they hear "Let's Have A Ball." Incorporating a slew of uncommon
instruments (highland bagpipes), Taxi
Chain is not
your stereotypical roots music band. "Back Water Blues" combines one classy lady, Toni Lynn Washington, with one classy band. The stringed instruments, performed by David Jacobs-Strain, are dreamy. His impressive slide and
deep vocals carry his pop country offering found here. Harry Manx's
Eastern music influences are obvious. He and Kevin Breit
mix East Indian music with acoustic Delta guitar for an extremely unique sound on the disc's oldest track from
February 2003. Carlos
del Junco mixes
his hurling harp and uninspired vocals with Breit's grunge-like guitar. Well into the song, Breit gains control
and cranks out an assaulting tone. Charismatic piano and sly organ carry you away on John And The Sisters' hand-clapping, foot-stomping hoedown. Their unreleased, poignant
instrumental is the CD's highlight. James
flamenco guitar has a feel of vaudeville and the roaring '20s. Brian Blain uses an interesting twist on words via his cheeky number. Although the word blues
appears in this label's name, the sounds and rhythms of Litwin's progressive artists are all over the map. Litwin
chose the artists since he felt "they are making music that is fresh, original and simply sublime." He
also challenges the sampler's purchasers to "open your ears, your minds and your hearts." Litwin continues
to release modern music that no other label will. For blues fans, it looks like the best is yet to come. 2005 will
deliver debut NorthernBlues releases by Chris
Beard and Mem Shannon. Too bad they aren't included on this sampler.