Review: Little Joe McLerran, Will Tucker, David Gerald, Levee Town

Posted on: Sunday, Mar 7, 2010

Here’s a round-up of some new material from our good friend Betsie Brown at Blind Raccoon in Memphis:


“Believe I’ll Make A Change”

(Roots Blues Reborn: RBR06006)

From Tulsa, Oklahoma, comes singer and guitarist Little Joe McLerran – this, his fourth cd, is a very enjoyable collection of traditional and old-time blues, some in the Piedmont style – with him accompanied by a fine band throughout the 13 tracks on offer.

It’s all beautifully played and will appeal to all true blues lovers, with his pleasant, warm voice and nice guitar work the main appeal – the rest of the players being Dexter Payne (reeds and harmonica), Robbie Mack (bass and vocals), Ron McRorey (drums), Jack Wolfe (keyboards), and harmonica contributions from David Bernston and Jimmy Junior Markham.

Standouts are his own “Cocktails For Two”, with nice acoustic harmonica from Dexter Payne; a nice rolling “Blues Before Sunrise” from pre-war blues legend Leroy Carr, and nice slide work on the traditional “Jesus Make Up My Dyin’ Bed – with the featured harmonica this time from David Bernston.

Elsewhere Blind Willie McTell’s “B&O Blues” is really nice, with a rollicking slide workout on Elmore James classic, “Baby Please Set A Date”, and his own “Sargent Sunday” is a jazzy tune with a nice lazy feel.

Highly recommended for those who like their blues pure and from way back!


“Stealin’ The Soul”

(Will Tucker Music)

“Stealin’ The Soul” is the debut release from 16 years old guitar prodigy Will Tucker, from Memphis, and a regular at BB King’s Blues Club since last May – indeed four of the tracks here are live recordings from the afore-mentioned club, the rest recorded at the famous Ardent Studios, with the crack band of Lester Snell (Hammond organ), David Smith (bass) and Steve Potts (drums).

For someone of a tender age I think it’s fair to report his vocals are still a ‘work in progress’, but his guitar chops are in fine order, as evident on the opening, and only original, “Your Sacrifice”, a funky tune underpinned by Snell’s fine organ work, and followed by a spirited romp through the Muddy Waters classic, “Walkin In The Park”, with some very fine uncredited harmonica work.

The covers are well chosen – from Willie Cobbs “You Don’t Love Me, given a nice arrangement here, to chestnuts such as “Stormy Monday” and “Born Under A Bad Sign”, which both give Tucker ample opportunity to stretch out. The live band – Joe Boogie (keyboards), Randy Middleton (bass) and Pete Mendillo (drums), rock out on the Elvis hit, “Burning Love” and Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B Goode” – however the pick of the live tracks is Memphis Minnie’s “When The Levee Breaks, where all hit a really nice groove.

It’s good to see one so young carrying on the blues tradition, and considering it’s only four years since he picked up a guitar Will Tucker has made outstanding progress . . . a name to keep an eye on without doubt.


“Hell And Back”

(David Gerald Enterprises)

Forty-something Detroit-based guitarist and singer David Gerald deals firmly in the soul-blues camp, playing guitar since aged 16 and influence by Prince, and later the music of the likes of Albert King, ZZ Hill, BB King and more. On “Hell And Back” he mixes studio recorded originals with some live blues standards – with the studio tracks recorded, mixed and produced by himself.

The live cuts were recorded at J. Dubs in Riverview, Michigan, and feature the band of Mike Ruppriecht (keyboards), Bob Bennett (bass) and Lou Eurns (drums) – firstly taking on Jerry Beach’s “I’ll Play The Blues For You” and then the timeless “The Thrill Is Gone”, both dominated by his soulful voice and fluid guitar licks.

Of the studio tracks, the opener, “My Guitar” is a soulful ode to his instrument of choice, with “How I Feel” a mid-tempo shuffle, with the title song, “Hell And Back”, telling of a family that has fallen on hard times, and again with a soulful feel and the best of his own songs.

He gives a nod to his guitar heroes on a closing brace of “Cold Shot” and “Red House”, laying his influences on the line, and included due to crowd response at his live shows, but for me a couple more original songs might have been the order of the day!


“Levee Town”

(self release: LT09004)


Kansas City four-piece Levee Town tear it up on this fine release, 14 tracks of foot-on-the-pedal blues, often with a rockabilly and boogie feel, with the pace taken down at times. The band comprise of Brandon Hudspeth (guitar and vocals), Jimmie Meade (harmonica and vocals), Jan Faircloth (drums) and Jacque Garoutte (bas).

It’s nice to see a wholly original album, with most tunes penned by Hudspeth and Garoutte, and they blast into life on the rockabilly-flavoured “I’m Not Broke”, with Jimmy Meade’s big-toned harmonica excellent, as it is throughout. The swinging “Three Sides” follows, with Hudspeth’s nice guitar work and a nice, driving rhythm section. The slide and harmonica driven “You Mean” takes the pace down, but is straight up again for the rousing “Why Why Why”, a rocking shuffle, with a slight classic Fabulous Thunderbirds feel to it.

“Broken Jar” lopes along with a Jimmy Reed feel, with Jacque Garoutte’s funky “Rhythm Man” being an ode to all the bands constantly out on the road. The boogie of “Etta” positively bursts out the speakers, leading into the slow blues, and album highlight, “Heartless Is The Winter” . . . some fine slow blues guitar from Hudspeth and again most impressive harmonica from Jimmie Meade, as the band stretch out over 6:49.

“Hullabaloo” is a 50s-flavoured rocker and great fun, as is the roadhouse rocker, the band’s own “Rock Me Baby” . . . with the closing instrumental “Chicken Truck, being a funky tune with guest keyboards from Mike Sedovic . . . definitely a band to look out for!


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