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Sound Check: These three blues releases capture spirit of tax time

By Ricky Flake

This column features three "four stars or better" blues releases. Let's get rolling down the blues highway!

'Southland,' James Day & The Fish Fry (Neon Blue Records, HHHH 1/2)

'Firecracker,' James Day (Neon Blue Records, HHHH)

James Day left these two recordings at the office when he passed through our area. The first is a 2014 release, the second is older. The handwritten note persuaded me to review them. James adds harmonicas, baritone and slide guitars to his lead vocals on "Southland."

His main supporters are Mark Showchuk on drums, electric/acoustic and baritone guitars; Ron Baldwin on piano, Hammond and accordion; John Merigliano on drums, cardboard box and joint compound bucket and electric/acoustic bassist Michael Massimino along with others too numerous to list. The disc features wide sonic variety, witty lyrics and more fun than you can shake a stick at.

Favorites include "Chain Of Pain," which sounds happy, the harmonica-playing is top-notch throughout, and "Muscadine Wine," which sparkles with Baldwin's Hammond. Other favorites include the horn-and fiddle-driven "Nat'chel Man," the swinging "Fish Fry Jump," a couple of zydeco numbers and Day's colorful descriptions of song recordings.

"Firecracker" was recorded in California with different musicians (producers James Harman and Nathan James among them), but Day's witty wordplay, hot harmonica/kazoo and other elements found above are here as well on most songs. My favorites are the swinging "Big Money," the loose-limbed "Fish Where They Bite" and "Boiled Peanuts," introduced by his two daughters' road request.

The fireworks pictured on the insert came from a Biloxi Popp's Ferry Road stand. Order these recordings from James W. Day's website if you can't find them locally.

'Golden State Lonestar Blues Revue,' Golden State Lone Star Blues Revue (Electro-Fi Records, HHHH)

This April 15 CD, maybe available in other formats, is the debut by a blues "super group": harmonicat/vocalist/band leader Mark Hummel, guitarists Anson Funderburgh & Little Charlie Baty along with drummer Wes Starr and bassist R.W. Grigsby. Funderburgh and Hummel co-produced the album. Jim Pugh adds tasty Hammond and piano.

My favorite tunes are the hot cover of Gatemouth Brown's "Midnight Hour" (not that one), the shuffling "Check Yourself" and "Take A Chance," Hummel's T-Birds-like "Lucky Kewpie Doll," the harmonica-heavy "Walking With Mr. Lee" and the playful "Georgia Slop."

Blues boosters will dig this one as well as the other two, but they're funnier.

That's all for this week. Over the next few columns, reviews are planned of a recording by quadriplegic cancer survivor Gooch Nelson, a 1987 Swedish concert DVD/CD featuring Johnny Winter and Dr. John and new recordings from John Congleton and High Waisted.

Ricky Flake, a former punk rocker and current music fan, lives in Biloxi. Reach him at flakericky@gmail.com.

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