Biography Devon Allman

Desperate times call for dazzling records. Released on Ruf in September 2016, Devon Allman’s Ride Or Die acknowledges that life on Planet Earth is no picnic. On the flipside, this third solo album from one of America’s best modern writers reminds us there’s always hope. “The world is getting crazier by the minute,” says Allman. “These songs are about pain, addiction, storms, lust, death, and feeling sometimes that you’re utterly lost. But conversely, it’s about finding your place in the universe, rebirth, strength, redemption, vindication…”
    Allman has walked many roads to earn his place at the head of the Southern rock scene. Followers of the US bandleader’s thrilling two-decade career have come to expect the unexpected, from his post-millennial breakout with Honeytribe, through chart-topping hook-ups with Jack Bruce and Javier Vargas, to acclaimed solo albums like 2013’s Turquoise and 2014’s Ragged & Dirty (praised by the UK’s Blues Magazine as “reminding you why the blues can be, quite simply, the best thing in the world”).        
When the vocalist/guitarist parted ways with Royal Southern Brotherhood in 2014 – having played a pivotal role in the supergroup’s all-conquering early material – there was an audible gasp around the world. Thankfully, one spin of Ride Or Die vindicates Allman’s bold step into the unknown. “I needed to have my own canvas,” he explains, “to stretch out and paint on with no rules, only my visions. Freedom in artistry is essential. Who stands behind a painter and says, ‘Hmmm, no, maybe you should use blue there, not purple’? That’s not anyone I wanna have coffee with!”
Recorded at Nashville’s Sound Stage Studios and Switchyard Studios in May, Ride Or Die found Allman in good company, with the bandleader guiding the core lineup of Tom Hambridge (drums/co-production), Tyler Stokes (guitars) and Steve Duerst (bass) – and enlisting fairydust from Ron Holloway (saxophone), Bobby Yang (strings) and Kevin McKendree (keys). With the chemistry fizzing, it’s a mix that lives, breathes and grooves, the antithesis of the cut-and-paste jobs that hold sway in the Pro Tools era.
Writing all but two of the songs – either alone or in partnership with his compadres – Allman showcases his ability to catch what it means to be human, while following his muse wherever it leads him. On songs like the thumping opening gambit “Say Your Prayers” or the brittle jab of “Galaxies”, he invests blues-rock traditions with modern attitude and smarts. “Blues was born down South,” he says, “and it’s a massive part of the culture. But blues is a very open entity in my mind.”
Beyond the blues, this is a showcase for an artist with every colour in his palette. As you’d expect from a man with a famously sprawling vinyl collection – and a tattoo of Curtis Mayfield inked on his left bicep – there are nods here to every genre and era. “This album is really about mixing all of my influences,” says Allman of the varied mood. “Soul, rock, blues, alternative and more. It’s about making an artistic statement, not about fitting into any category. I produced this album to be an eargasm of emotion.”
On a tracklisting that runs the gamut, you’ll find the upbeat, horn-bolstered soul of Find Ourselves, alongside the rueful lyric and poignant lilt of Vancouver (“If I had a time machine, if I could get back somehow, I’d change so many things, and she’d be with me now”). “Live From The Heart” is a twelve-string acoustic stunner with one eye on the apocalyptic newspaper headlines, while “Butterfly Girl” is a smitten ballad warning of a woman who’ll “seduce and hypnotise you when she enters your world”.
Sonically, too, Ride Or Die is a record that pushes the envelope, whether that’s the pumping synth line that opens the cover of The Cure’s “A Night Like This”, or the Talkbox guitar solo on Lost that supports a lyric about fading dreams. “I haven’t produced my own record since 2010’s Space Age Blues,” says Allman. “We had a blast making this record, using the Talkbox for Lost and laying down the Hendrix-inspired section on Find Ourselves.”
Some musicians are content to simply spin their wheels, rehash the hits and pick up the pay-cheque. With Ride Or Die, Devon Allman announces once again that he’s an artist on the move – and invites you to ride shotgun as he takes this career-best new album out on the road through 2016. “You can expect pleasure, pain, and energy to soothe your troubled soul,” he says. “Come take the ride…”

Biography Skinny Molly

The American South isn’t just a point on the compass. It’s a state of mind and way of life. It’s the way you think, drink and tip your hat. It’s the land where music is king, and the bands who make it are gods. When you strum a guitar south of the Mason-Dixon Line, you’re running with a rock ‘n’ roll baton that’s been carried by everyone from the Allman Brothers to Lynyrd Skynyrd. It takes a special kind of modern band to walk in those footsteps, but in 2012, Skinny Molly are back to storm the podium and ram-raid a rock scene crying out for heroes. Batten down the hatches: there’s a Haywire Riot goin’ on…
The four members of Skinny Molly might have heavyweight history, but Haywire Riot is all about the here-and-now. Released in early-Fall through Ruf Records, this is a follow-up record that hijacks the modern rock scene, via the old-school values of stellar songwriting, white-hot chops, lyrics wrenched from the depths and performances that leave it all the studio floor.
Step into Skinny Molly’s world and you’ll come face-to-face with the deceptive lover from Lie To Me, the girl hiding a gun in her glovebox on Too Bad To Be True, and the poisonous call of liquor on Devil In The Bottle. With music that swings from the wrecking-ball riffs of If You Don’t Care to the reflective acoustic vibe of None Of Me, this is maximum rock ‘n’ roll, zero pretension, and when Mike Estes roars: “Hey rock star, just shut up and rock!” on the track of the same name, there’s no doubt the Skinny Molly singer is leading by example.
But killer songs were only half the equation. Great rock ‘n’ roll is also about chemistry, and if the walls of Alabama’s Swamper Sound Studios could talk, they’d tell of a recording session where four world-class musicians collided and caught the sparks. On soaring vocals, slide guitar, mandolin and baritone, Mike is a force of nature. Jay Johnson delivers sizzling fretwork and supporting vocals, while the rhythm section of Kurt Pietro (drums) and Luke Bradshaw (bass) crank out the swing and sting with grit and grace. Haywire Riot is the album that Skinny Molly have promised us since 2004, when Mike hooked up with Kurt and original guitarist Dave Hlubek for a ‘one-off’ tour of Europe that never stopped. Soon enough, a debut album – No Good Deed – was pricking ears with its early signs of greatness on cuts like Straight Shooter and Better Than I Should. Now, with the lineup cemented and dedicated to the cause, it’s time for the knockout blow of this new release.
Haywire Riot is sure to recruit new fans on the strength of the music, but it doesn’t hurt that all four Skinny Molly members are legends in their own right. After striking up an unlikely friendship with Allen Collins while still a teenager, Mike’s first band, Helen Highwater, was both christened and given guidance by the late Lynyrd Skynyrd icon (who once gave him an eight-hour guitar lesson), and the bond deepened when the young band opened up Skynyrd’s ’87 Tribute Tour.
Post-Skynyrd, Mike has smashed the Billboard chart with his co-written White Knuckle Ride single, and released two solo albums under his own steam – Driving Sideways and Brave New South – while remaining a fixture of the planet’s magazine covers and music channels on the strength of his prolific talent. Back in 1995, he was inducted into the Hollywood Rock Walk Of Fame, but with Skinny Molly, you sense he’s only just getting started.
Kurt has been Skinny Molly’s big-hitter on the drumstool since the start. Fusing the influence of players like Jakson Spires of Blackfoot and Mötley Crüe’s Tommy Lee into his own stellar technique, Kurt soon graduated from a bedroom wizard to a revered Michigan studio ace and a live powerhouse with early outfit Crystal.
Kurt’s skills demanded a ground-shaking bass talent, and in 2012, Skinny Molly’s rhythm section is thrillingly completed by Luke Bradshaw. Equally adept on electric or standup bass, and able to bend his talent to any project, Luke is arguably never better than when giving a fat low-end to Skinny Molly.
With Mike Estes in the lineup, some guitarists might feel the pressure. Not Jay Johnson: the band’s six-string stinger missile and perhaps the only player capable of standing toe-to-toe with his frontman.
Apart, they’re awesome. When these musicians come together as Skinny Molly, it’s a molotov cocktail of talent that’s sure to blow the roof off when they take this second album out on the road. Sure, things may go a little haywire when these boys roll into town. But trust us – you’ll definitely have a riot…

Biography Wentus Blues Band

Finnish group Wentus Blues Band's seventh studio CD "Woodstock" was recorded at Levon Helm Studios in Woodstock, NY in the autumn of 2010.
"Woodstock" includes 12 new, original songs. Band members Juho Kinaret, Niko Riippa, Robban Hagnäs and Pekka Gröhn wrote the majority of the material. Producer Clas Yngström penned one song. Lyrics to three songs are written by former Cream lyricist Pete Brown.

Clas Yngström has collaborated with Wentus Blues Band earlier, as he produced their album "No Beginner" (2001). Yngström is a musician himself; he has fronted his own band Sky High for more than 30 years.
Wentus Blues Band was formed in Finland's midwestern city of Kokkola in 1986. Its name derives from the Kokkola village of Ventus, where their rehearsal room is still located. In addition to their own career, Wentus has backed up several world-class blues and rock acts. Tours have taken the band to numerous countries in Europe.

Wentus Blues Band celebrated their 20th Anniversary with a three-night concert in Helsinki in September 2006. Along with Wentus, long-time collaborators like Louisiana Red, Lazy Lester, Kim Wilson (The Fabulous Thunderbirds), Mick Taylor (The Rolling Stones), and Sven Zetterberg took the stage.
Director Heikki Kossi and his film crew were there to shoot a documentary of the event. The resulting film, "Family Meeting", was nominated for two national film awards in Finland. "Family Meeting" has screened in several European countries as well as at festivals in the USA and Canada.

Wentus Blues Band are Mikael Axelqvist (drums), Pekka Gröhn (keyboards, backing vocals), Robban Hagnäs (bass, backing vocals), Juho Kinaret (vocals, percussion), Niko Riippa (guitar), and Kim Vikman (guitar). Axelqvist, Hagnäs, Riippa, and Vikman are founding members.

Biography Canned Heat

Canned Heat rose to fame because their knowledge and love of blues music was both wide and deep. Emerging in 1966, Canned Heat was founded by blues historians and record collectors Alan “Blind Owl” Wilson and Bob “The Bear” Hite. Hite took the name “Canned Heat” from a 1928 recording by Tommy Johnson. They were joined by Henry “The Sunflower” Vestine, another ardent record collector who was a former member of Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention. Rounding out the band in 1967 were Larry “The Mole” Taylor on bass, an experienced session musician who had played with Jerry Lee Lewis and The Monkees and Adolfo “Fito” de la Parra on drums who had played in two of the biggest Latin American bands, Los Sinners and Los Hooligans.

The band attained three worldwide hits, “On The Road Again” in 1968, “Let’s Work Together” in 1970 and “Going Up The Country” in 1969 became rock anthems throughout the world with the later being adopted as the unofficial theme song for the film Woodstock and the “Woodstock Generation.”

They secured their niche in the pages of rock ‘n roll history with their performances at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival (along with Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and The Who) and the headlining slot at the original Woodstock Festival in 1969. The band can boast of collaborations with John Mayall and Little Richard and later with blues icon, John Lee Hooker, the musician that they initially got much of their musical inspiration from in the first place. This union produced the spirited and revered album, “Hooker ‘n Heat.” The band is also credited with bringing a number of other forgotten bluesmen to the forefront of modern blues including Sunnyland Slim, who they found driving a taxi in Chicago, Skip James, who they found in a hospital in Tunica, Mississippi and took to the Newport Festival, Memphis Slim and Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown with whom theyrecorded in France and Albert Collins.

On September 3rd, 1970, the band was shattered by the suicide of Alan Wilson. His death sparked reconstruction within the group and member changes have continued throughout the past three decades. On April 5th, 1981, at the Palamino in Los Angeles, gargantuan vocalist,Bob Hite, collapsed and died of a heart attack and on October 20th, 1997, Henry Vestine died in Paris, France following the final gig of a European tour. In 2008, singer/harmonica frontman Robert Lucas passed away from a drug overdose.

Despite these untimely deaths and assorted musical trends, Canned Heat has survived. They have performed at world-renowned venues such as Paris’ Olympia, both Fillmore Auditoriums, The Kaleidoscope, Carnegie Hall (with John Lee Hooker), Madison Square Garden and even Royal Albert Hall and have played more biker festivals and charity events than any other band in the world. They and/or their music have been featured on television (In Concert, David Frost, MervGriffin, Midnight Special, Playboy After Dark, etc.), and in films (“Woodstock,” “Flashback,” and “Forrest Gump”) etc. Their legend has recently been heard and felt in various television commercials (“On The Road Again” for Miller Beer, “Goin’ Up The Country” for Pepsi, Chevrolet and McDonalds, “Let’s Work Together” for Lloyd’s Bank, England’s Electric Company and for Target Stores along with other songs for 7-Up, Levi’s and Heineken Beer).

Now, more than forty-five years later and with thirty-eight albums to their credit, Canned Heat is still going strong. They have been anchored throughout the past forty years by the steady hand of drummer/band leader Adolfo “Fito” de la Parra. Joining “Fito” is original bassist Larry “The Mole” Taylor and New Orleans legend, Dale Spalding on harmonica, guitar and lead vocals. Chicago great Harvey Mandel is the regular guitarist but has been temporarily replaced by John “JP” Paulus while “The Snake” deals with serious health issues.

Fito’s book, “LIVING THE BLUES” tells the complete and outrageous Canned Heat story of “Music, Drugs, Death, Sex and Survival” along with over 100 captivating pictures from their past and is available through the band’s website at www.cannedheatmusic.com and at most popular book outlets.

Biography Big Daddy Wilson

No matter where Big Daddy Wilson travels on this big, beautiful, mixed-up planet of ours, he takes the South with him.

Listening to the soulful storytelling of the man born Wilson Blount in a small town in the Inner Banks region of North Carolina, it's impossible not to conjure images of dusty back roads, cypress groves, a Saturday night juke joint or Sunday morning revival meeting. It's a nostalgic and – some might say – glorified image of rural America. Yet in an age of ruthless demagogues and divisive politics, Big Daddy Wilson chooses to celebrate the simple things that bond us as human beings – a smile, a shared meal, a helping hand – along with cherished values like faith, perseverance and devotion to family. For more than two decades, he has been carrying his message of hope and unity to each and every show, whether in New York, Paris, Auckland or – in the case of his new live album Songs From The Road – the village of Rubigen in central Switzerland.

The concert recorded at the Mühle Hunziken exemplifies Wilson's uncanny ability to connect with an audience. The key ingredients are honesty, his natural charisma and the sheer power of his voice. This performance from the fall of 2017 is a testament to just how far the American ex-pat and former soldier has come since answering a newspaper ad and summoning the courage to sing "Stormy Monday" for a group of young German blues musicians way back in the 1980s. He's ably supported by a tight and versatile four-piece unit comprising Cesare "Smokestack" Nolli (g), Paolo Legramandi (b), Nik Taccori (dr) and Enzo Messina (k). A band that backs Big Daddy Wilson always has to be at the top of its game, because his music isn't any one thing. From song to song, it may transform into something hard-driving or laid-back, funky or bluesy, joyful or brooding, stripped down or supercharged.

"I tried to give my listener a small view of the journey, the good, the bad, the highs and the lows," explains Wilson in the liner notes to the album. He and the band open the set sounding figuratively uptown: "Wake Up" is a steady grooving call to action, "Drop Down Here" a reggae-tinged plea for help from the man upstairs, "Miss Dorothy Lee" a guitar-fueled tribute transported on a Bo Diddley-like rhythm. The bawdy blues of "Texas Boogie" gives way to the dead serious testifying of "Ain't No Slave." Then it's time for a little side trip to the countryside: "Anna Mae" and, later, "Cross Creek Road," are sun-drenched and pastoral. The band picks up steam again on "Neckbone Stew," ultimately climaxing with the earthy "Baby Don't Like." The twelve-song live CD closes with the eloquent simplicity of "I Just Need A Smile."

As usual with the long-running Songs From The Road series, there are visuals as well. The accompanying DVD in the two-disc set includes 15 songs in all and offers a good long look at Big Daddy Wilson in action. It opens with the familiar gospel blues of "John The Revelator" and closes with something he revealingly calls his "Country Boy Medley." But don't expect to see him standing onstage in overalls and work boots. As always, Wilson is nattily attired in fine threads, a short-brimmed hat and the ubiquitous pair of dark shades.

Some years ago, Big Daddy Wilson told an interviewer that the main reason he wears sunglasses onstage is his inherently shy nature. "I'm no entertainer," he claimed at the time. Songs From The Road delivers some pretty strong evidence to the contrary. And yet, in a certain way, he's right. Wilson's music – like Wilson himself – is real. It's honest. At no point is this man ever putting on a show. "I’m just interested in singing, getting my message out and feeling the people – and hoping I can make them feel me."

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