Biography Thorbjørn Risager

Talk about a tough act to follow. Back in 2014, Thorbjørn Risager & The Black Tornado released Too Many Roads: the award-winning ninth album that saw the golden-voiced frontman and his seven-piece lineup showered with global acclaim. For the fans who had followed the Copenhagen band since their formation in 2003, it felt like a career-best release. vBut we were wrong. With Change My Game, Thorbjørn has raised the stakes once again. In a world where most bands are content to tread water, here’s an album that breaks new creative ground, explores fresh musical directions and delivers a bold batch of songs that are at once catchy and immediate, but rich with deeper meaning. Released in January 2017 on Ruf Records, Change My Game is not just an album title, but also the guiding ethos that has driven this band from the start. Since making their first impact with 2006’s From The Heart, Thorbjørn and his all-star lineup have dodged media pigeonholes and broken down the boundaries of genre, their confidence to experiment growing with every year spent together on the road. Now, on this 11th album, their musical leap is greater than ever before, with dynamic arrangements sent through the roof by the band’s musicianship and Thorbjørn’s electrifying vocal. Change My Game finally achieves the studio sound that Thorbjørn has always heard in his head. For the first time, the eight musicians decided to self-produce and mix the entire album, and the result is a visceral production that showcases their best material to date. Rock-influenced songs like Dreamland are hard, fiery and ferocious. Ballads like lead-off single I Used To Love You have an aching emotional power. Meanwhile, for the fans who love the Tornado’s fresh take on classic blues, there’s Train, which opens with a locomotive sound, a lone vocal and an acoustic guitar – before the band turn up the heat and bring the song to its horn-driven climax. At a time when technology rules the music industry, Change My Game is an album that runs on human chemistry, and that’s testament to the 800-plus shows that this lineup has played together in 21 countries from the Canada to India. Firm believers in the power of live music, Thorbjørn and the band will take Change My Game out on the road in 2017, with a touring schedule that will see them raise roofs across the planet and convert countless new fans to the cause. Fourteen years into their career, these are high times for Thorbjørn Risager & The Black Tornado. Perhaps you thought they’d peaked with Too Many Roads. But with Change My Game, the only way is up…

 

FACTS:

#           Despite hailing from Denmark and releasing albums on a small Danish label until 2014, the band have won acclaim in Canada and all over Europe.

#           They have played over 800 shows – more than 200 of these at festivals – in 21 countries including Canada and India.

#           They received a Danish Grammy two years in a row.

#           In Germany, where they recently participated in the legendary TV show Tyskland ROCKPALAST, they received one of the most prestigious awards in the business.

#           In the UK, they were included on the Classic Rock Blues Magazine’s Best Of 2014 CD.

#           The band was formed in 2003, and all but two of the original members are still in the lineup.

Biography Laurence Jones

Britain’s hottest gunslinger. Blues-rock’s most legendary producer. If the hook-up between Laurence Jones and Mike Vernon sounds mouthwatering on paper, just wait until you hear Take Me High. Released in July 2016 on Ruf Records, this fourth album represents a spiritual passing of the baton, with the producer who recorded everyone from Eric Clapton to Peter Green in the ’60s now working with the cream of the new blues generation. “It was a great feeling,” says Laurence, “to know Mike wanted to make this record.” The pair had discussed a collaboration as far back as 2013, but their conflicting schedules had always scuppered the plan. Mike remains much in demand as a producer, and likewise, since last year’s acclaimed What’s It Gonna Be – #18 in The Blues Mag’s 50 Essential Albums Of 2015 – Laurence has barely stopped, playing everywhere from the Royal Albert Hall to Carnegie Hall. But after Mike witnessed an incendiary set at the Great British Rhythm & Blues Festival, he had to clear a space in his diary. “He watched us in the crowd,” recalls the bandleader, “and he said to me, ‘I think the time is right’.” During preproduction, Laurence and Mike decided on the concept of an album that would flow – “kinda like a book, so you’d listen to it from start to finish and it would make sense” – but also capture the ferocious attitude of a packed club show. “I told him that I really wanted to go for that live feel,” remembers Laurence. “I just wanted to create that same energy.” By January 2016, they were ready to hit Headline Music Studios in Cambridge, with Laurence leading the core band of Roger Inniss (bass), Bob Fridzema (keys/organ) and new drummer Phil Wilson as they tracked live. “We did it the old-school way,” nods the bandleader. “I really feed off an audience, so I remember that Mike said, ‘Just make it as live as you can. Imagine you’re stood in front of a thousand people and give it some…’” At the end of each night, Laurence and Mike returned to a remote cottage outside Cambridge, where the producer regaled the guitarist with tales of his illustrious clients. “There was no Internet,” smiles Laurence, “so we actually had to talk to each other. Y’know, he’d tell me stories about when he worked with David Bowie, Eric Clapton, John Mayall and Peter Green.” Needless to say, it’s not easy to impress a producer who has helmed classic albums from 1966’s Bluesbreakers With Eric Clapton to Bowie’s self-titled 1967 debut – but Laurence rose to the challenge with the strongest songs of his career. You can hear his momentum in the title track’s brittle blues strut, or “Addicted To Your Love”, with its neck-tingling opening squeal of feedback. The more reflective “I Will”, meanwhile, announces Laurence’s growing maturity as a vocalist. “Mike was really thorough about the vocals,” agrees the bandleader, “because that’s his territory. He’s an amazing singer. He even did backing vocals on this album – we sang them live together.” Elsewhere, the snakecharmer riffs of “Got No Place To Go” reaffirm Laurence’s reputation as a master guitarist, while “Live It Up” features guest backing vocals from Rueben Richards, and “The Price I Pay” sees his stinging fretwork lock in with a stunning harmonica cameo from Paul Jones. “I did a charity night for Paul that he holds every year at the Cranleigh Arts Centre,” explains the bandleader. “I asked Paul to get up onstage with me, and at the end, I said, ‘Well, I’m going in the studio with Mike next week’. And he goes, ‘Oh cool, I’d love to come’. And I was like, ‘That sounds like a good deal!’” Within a head-spinning ten days, the basic tracking was complete – but Laurence wasn’t prepared for just how good the songs would sound after Mike had finished mixing them at his home in Spain. “He sent me the stuff over, and it was like, ‘Wow’. He’d just fattened everything up. It was just a completely different sound because of him. I’m so happy with this album.” Released in July on Ruf Records, Take Me High is another step up for an artist who embodies the best of the modern blues boom. Featuring ten new songs that demand to be heard live, the release will also be supported in 2016 by a heavy international touring schedule that underlines Laurence’s growing popularity across the planet. “We’ve got a UK tour in November,” he reveals. “And we’re gonna be working in Poland, Spain, Italy, Belgium, Holland, Germany, the Caribbean, Norway, Denmark – and even America. So anyone who says the blues is dead… it’s really not!”

Biography Christina Skjolberg

Born on the tiny Norwegian island of Smøla, at the tender age of twelve, Christina was inspired by fellow left-hander Jimi Hendrix to pick up her first electric guitar. From that day on, she was a lifer, committed to a career in music at any cost, hitting blues clubs across her homeland and grinding out her reputation.  
While her potential was obvious from early cuts like Feel So Free, it was Christina’s discovery by Thomas Ruf that really lit the fuse. Famous for his nose for new talent, the founder of the iconic German record label quickly secured the Norwegian’s signature, booked her a slot on Ruf’s 2014 Blues Caravan showcase tour (alongside fellow up-and-comers Laurence Jones and Albert Castiglia) and set the wheels in motion for her debut studio album "Come And Get It".

Biography Albert Castiglia

Born August 12, 1969, in New York, he was a product of that city’s great melting-pot community, the son of a Cuban mother and Italian father. At five, the family moved to Miami, Florida, and when the twelve-year-old Albert took his first guitar lesson, a spark was lit that couldn’t be snuffed out.
Even so, bills needed paying, and although he made his professional debut in 1990 with Miami Blues Authority (and was later named ‘Best Blues Guitarist’ by that city’s alt-music magazine, New Times), Albert juggled early gigging with his day job as a social services investigator. Regardless, word spread, and Albert truly arrived on the international radar after Buddy Guy’s iconic harp-blower, Junior Wells, heard the young bluesman sing and invited him into the solo band for several world tours. The gig was a shop-window, and though Wells sadly died in 1998, Albert stayed busy, joining the great Atlanta vocalist Sandra Hall for national tours in the late-’90s, and holding his own in onstage jams with everyone from Pinetop Perkins to John Primer.
For a lesser talent with lesser momentum, that role as sideman and gun-for-hire might have been enough. Right from the start, though, Albert had a creative itch that only a solo career and a songwriting carte blanche could scratch. So it began, with 2002’s Burn opening his account, followed by 2006’s A Stone’s Throw, 2010’s Keepin On and 2012’s Living The Dream.
Each new release was a step up, hammering home Albert’s reputation and ensuring there was plenty of classy material to fuel his increasingly well-attended live shows. In 2014, came Solid Ground. Surfing on the buzz from press and public, supported by a major touring campaign and bolstered by Ruf’s marketing muscle, this album is a giant leap. Now, in 2016, Big Dog ups the ante. "I think this album is a major game-changer for me," Albert says. "No matter what happens after Big Dog's release, I'll always be proud of it. When we tour this album, you can expect a balls to the wall, rockin' blues show. Except what I've always given you - my 100%..." You can keep your bright young things and your overnight success stories. Albert Castiglia is a talent built to last.    

Biography Cyril Neville

Singer. Poet. Percussionist. Neville Brother, Meters legend, solo star and talisman of the South’s all-conquering new supergroup, Royal Southern Brotherhood.

Music legends don’t keep CVs, but if they did, Cyril’s would land with a thump. Born in late-’40s New Orleans, Louisiana, as the youngest of the four siblings who would soon define that city’s R&B sound as The Neville Brothers, Cyril absorbed his parents’ vinyl collection and found his own voice when he turned professional at 19. His first gig was with Art Neville and the Neville Sounds (alongside elder brothers Art and Aaron), and though his subsequent splinter-group Soul Machine never quite achieved the heights it was due, Cyril was on fire, pricking up ears with 1970’s debut solo single, Gossip, then arriving in the lineup of Art’s funk outfit, The Meters.
By that point, The Meters were already flying off the back of 1969’s smash-hit Cissy Strut. Now, Cyril brought congas and vocals to timeless albums including 1972’s Cabbage Alley and 1975’s Fire On The Bayou, and when unabashed über-fan Mick Jagger invited The Meters to open up the Rolling Stones’ US stadium tour of 1974, Art’s suggestion that Cyril take lead vocals was vindicated by a series of roof-raising performances.
The Meters were too special to last, but the lineup’s dissolution in 1976 cleared the path for the bloodline to regroup as The Neville Brothers and start a four-decade hot-streak – from 1976’s Wild Tchoupitoulas, via 1989’s Grammy-winning Yellow Moon, to 2004’s Walkin’ In The Shadows Of Life – that continues to this day. Suffice to say, when punters refer to this band as New Orleans’ first family of funk, it’s not hot air or hyperbole, but a statement of fact.
Lesser artists might be content to sit back and watch the royalties roll in. Cyril, by contrast, remains creatively insatiable. He not only maintains a thrilling solo career that’s given us classics like 1994’s The Fire This Time and 2000’s New Orleans Cookin’, but has also collaborated with icons including Bob Dylan, Bono and Willie Nelson, toured the world with funk act Galactic, led his offshoot band Tribe 13, founded his own record label Endangered Species and made TV appearances on Jimmy Kimmel Live! and HBO’s Treme.
An artist with a conscience, Cyril has also spread good karma, both through the New Orleans Musicians Organized (NOMO) project that helps fledgling bands navigate the shark-infested waters of the rock industry, and alongside Tab Benoit on the 2005 Voice of the Wetlands Allstars tour that raised the profile of the Louisiana Gulf Coast’s environmental plight.
“Oh, Cyril is quite the character,” says Mike Zito of his bandmate’s sprawling backstory. “I mean, he’s the guy. He’s got all the stories. He’s been around the world a million times, played with everybody and their brother. He’s toured with the Rolling Stones, he’s friends with Keith Richards, he’s written songs with Bono. He’s done everything anybody could ever do…”
Not quite. In August 2013, with no sign of his stride slowing down in his sixties, Cyril Neville puts yet another cherry on top of his astonishing career with Magic Honey.

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