Biography Bernard Allison

Bernard Allison is unstoppable. He’s the face on the magazines and the voice on the radio. He’s the showman roaming the open road on the 2018 Blues Caravan tour, bringing it to the people each night with compadrés Mike Zito and Vanja Sky. He’s the visionary songwriter whose latest studio release – Let It Go – is already tipped as a top album of 2018. It’s a work ethic that would leave most musicians gasping but for this creative dynamo – now entering his fifth decade at the head of the blues pack – it’s all in a day’s work.

Starting the blues calendar with a bang in January 2018, Let It Go feels like a homecoming. After all, this latest studio album sees Bernard return to Ruf Records: the iconic German label that was created in 1994 to serve as a home for his father, the much-missed Chicago heavyweight, Luther Allison. Just as significant, Let It Go also found Bernard recording in the birthplace of the blues – Tennessee – and returns his sound to its raw fundamentals, on 12 songs that hold up without embellishment. “Let It Go was recorded at Bessie Blue Studio, Stantonville, Tennessee, with legendary music producer Jim Gaines,” recalls Bernard. “We made the decision to not flood the CD with keyboards or horns, to go back to the true basic rhythm section sound – and to show more mature songwriting.”

It’s an auspicious catalogue by an acclaimed genre heavyweight – but Let It Go is a potent reminder that for Bernard Allison, there’s always another gear. “We all just came together as a group to create this album,” he considers, “to show our chemistry as friends and bandmates. My favourite memory was watching the faces of everyone involved in the session. Everyone came to lay it on down and gave 110%...”

Biography Walter Trout

"People ask me if they should call my music blues or rock, I tell them they can call it 'Fred' if they must have a label."

That remark, along with the exclamation that "the blues shouldn't be a museum... the music ought to constantly expand and be alive," have been expressed again and again by Walter Trout during his 35+ year career. With the release of FULL CIRCLE, the statements hold true as Trout and his musical friends demonstrate their appreciation of all shades of the blues genre. The album reflects Walter Trout's remarkable story, from his humble beginnings as a sideman in many a blues legends' band through his rising solo star, arriving as one of blues music's beloved interpreters.

Born in 1951 and raised in a music-loving home in Ocean City, New Jersey, Walter Trout felt the calling to music at a young age. His first instrument was trumpet, playing in the school band. A chance meeting with the mighty Duke Ellington catapulted Trout's pursuit of a professional music career - what Walter terms "a turning point" in his life - when the Walter's mother orchestrated a meeting with jazz legends Ellington, Cat Anderson, Johnny Hodges and Paul Gonsalves for the youngster's tenth birthday. The seed was planted about a career playing music.

In the mid-1960's Trout's instrument of choice switched to electric guitar after hearing an album which was to change his whole appreciation of music. The Paul Butterfield Blues Band featuring Mike Bloomfield cemented Walter's musical ambitions towards the blues genre and the electric guitar. In those vinyl grooves, Walter heard the guitar speaking to his soul, expressing what words could not. Walter Trout promised himself to learn this musical language and dedicate his life to the guitar. For hours, days, weeks, months he was locked in his bedroom practicing until his fingers bled - the obsession unfortunately turning the A-student into a high school dropout. As a shy teenager growing up in a turbulent household, his singular solace became his rapidly developing ability to express his feelings playing the guitar and his vision of becoming a professional musician.

In his late teens and early twenties, Trout played in numerous New Jersey bands, competing at the time for rank with "Steel Mill" featuring a young Bruce Springsteen. In 1973, he packed up his belongings in a VW Beetle and drove cross-country to the west coast, arriving in Los Angeles with only a few changes of clothes, a trumpet, a mandolin and his guitars.

He developed into an ace sideman, befriending and backing California blues artists, often being the only "white boy" in the black neighborhood clubs. His technique accelerated rapidly as he played with Finis Tasby, Pee Wee Crayton, Lowell Fulsom, and Percy Mayfield, among others. The extremely meager pay was compensated by the satisfaction musical expression brought the young musician. Unfortunatley he was also developing the detrimental habits of drug and alcohol abuse shared by many fellow artists. Walter often teamed with Hammond B3 wizard Deacon Jones and the apprenticeship continued in the bands of John Lee Hooker, Big Mama Thorton and Joe Tex.

By 1981, Trout's reputation led to the invitation to join venerable blues rock band Canned Heat, where he remained through 1984. In Canned Heat he quickly learned the ways of a touring musician, traveling the US and abroad, further refining his already stunning abilities playing night after night, and confirming his reputation as a top flight lead guitarist. Trout's substance abuse was further enabled in a band with a history of hard-partying.

When the call came to join the legendary John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, Trout jumped and found himself sharing the spotlight with fellow guitarist Coco Montoya. Trout and Montoya lifted the band to a new level, as Mayall's Bluesbreakers enjoyed unprecedented album sales and high profile tours in the US and abroad. Walter felt that playing with Mayall was as close to his childhood dream as he could get. At the same time Walter's unhealthy habits reached a fever pitch; the band's rider required a nightly bottle of Jack Daniel's for Trout's consumption. An epiphany came when the band was in East Berlin, doing shows along side of Carlos Santana. After seeing Walter playing in an intoxicated state, Carlos took him aside, and in a heartfelt conversation related that Trout was squandering the gift that God had given him. It was a turning point in Walter's life, as a master musician and idol confided an appreciation of the young man's talent and concerns of his self-destruction.... In fairly short order Walter Trout quit drugs and alcohol.

As Trout became clean, he felt he had more to give than a few blazing solos as a side man with the Bluesbreakers. A Danish record label and touring agency was already interested in his solo potential, after witnessing an inspired performance, when Walter led the Bluesbreakers band while Mayall was out with illness. Walter did much soul searching and decided it was time to go solo. He gathered musicians he knew from Los Angeles and called it The Walter Trout Band. The 1989 break with Mayall quickly segued into immediate extensive touring of Europe, playing large venues and music festivals, and his music was heard on mainstream radio. In the early 1990s Walter had several radio hits in Europe and charted with his unique style of blues rock. Throughout the decade, he continued a non-stop touring pace, releasing 8 recordings, steadily each lifting his profile higher.

His commercial and critical success in Europe kept him so busy outside of the US that his arrival back home found him only resting to go back to the frantic pace his popularity demanded overseas. Like many American blues and roots-music artists, Walter Trout had developed an incredible following in Europe, but came home to little fanfare. This was fine with Trout, as he now had started a family and his down time was a valuable escape from the world of touring and playing.

Amazingly, the self-titled WALTER TROUT, released by Ruf Records in 1998 was his first "official" domestic CD. Shortly after, the band renamed as Walter Trout and The Free Radicals and began an extensive touring pace state side, steadily building a fan base and bringing their high energy, impassioned live performances back home. It did not matter if he was on stage in front of 50,000 people, or performing in a small club for a couple hundred - what mattered to Walter was reaching people's hearts through his artistry and relaying the passion he had for all the musical styles which helped shape his sound.

Since then Ruf Records has released half a dozen CDs in the US and Walter effectively continued his frequent touring, splitting time more evenly between continents. His European fans have stuck with him as he has taken more time to build his fan base in America.

With the release of FULL CIRCLE, Walter Trout demonstrates his passion for music is just as great today as it was when he started his career as a teenager more than 35 years ago. He considers the new album a tribute to the people and the times that have helped shape his musical career, demonstrating how the many styles within the blues genre can co-exist and mutually enhance each other without fight for rank or authenticity. It's always been Trout's dream to break down the barriers between the labels which get attached to musical genres and show WHAT you call music is not important. Ultimately what the music makes one feel is the only thing that matters to Walter Trout.


May 2006

Biography Joanne Shaw Taylor

When Annie Lennox paused her Diamond Jubilee Concert performance to let a white-suited, angel-winged blonde fire a soaring Les Paul solo into the sky above Buckingham Palace, uninitiated viewers all asked the same question. Who’s that girl? Needless to say, the music fans and blues-heads in the crowd already knew the answer. It was Joanne Shaw Taylor. The whisky-voiced singer. The midas-touch guitar heroine. The heart-on-sleeve songwriter. And now, the author of a classic third album that will plant her flag as the first lady of British blues.

Released on September 17 through Ruf Records, Almost Always Never is the sound of a bar being raised. Rather than riff on the same themes as her feted past albums, White Sugar and Diamonds In The Dirt, this third collection finds Joanne dodging expectations, writing the songs her muse dictates, diving in at the deep end with just her talent to keep her afloat. Recording in Austin, Texas, these 12 cherished cuts were nailed alongside Mike McCarthy – the producer whose gold-plated CV takes in everyone from Patty Griffin to Spoon – and the crack session team of David Garza (keyboards), Billy White (bass/slide guitar) and J.J. Johnson (drums). As you’ll gather from a cursory spin: they aced it.

“Mike comes from a different musical background from me,” explains Joanne. “He pushed me out of my comfort zone and allowed me to explore new territories. I never thought when I started on this journey that I would ever get to work with such an amazing array of talent. I've been a fan of J.J., David and Billy for years, and their performances on this album are exceptional.”

Ultimately, Almost Always Never is Joanne’s statement. From the savage Les Paul solos of Soul Station to the strutting rock hooks of Standing To Fall, this record will delight the fans who clutch the security rail at Joanne’s gigs, waiting to be scorched by her guitar pyrotechnics. Yet there’s tenderness too, and from her aching suicide-note to a failed relationship on You Should Stay, I Should Go to the title track’s touching refrain of “You crash, you burn/you live, you learn”, this eloquent songwriter has never sounded more open and honest. By the time you reach the slow-burn Lose Myself To Loving You, she has you by the heart-strings.

Faced with this game-changing third album, it’s astonishing to note that this prolific musician is still only in her mid-twenties. It’s been quite a ride. Three albums. Countless shows across the planet. A mantelpiece groaning with awards. Support slots with everyone from B.B. King to Eric Sardinas. And of course, that performance with Lennox in June – watched on television by 17 million viewers.

Joanne never imagined any of that at the start. Back then, she was just an ordinary Black Country schoolgirl, bored with the music she heard on late-’90s pop radio, rifling her father’s record collection and falling for albums by Stevie Ray Vaughan, Albert Collins and Jimi Hendrix. Guitars were “lying around the house”, she recalls, and at 13, she’d picked up her first electric and was practising “every minute”. At 14, she defied her teachers to play The Marquee and Ronnie Scott’s, and was starting to overcome insecurity about her voice. “I was never meant to be a singer,” she modestly told Classic Rock. “I’ve always had a deep voice. I think it came from my influences as a kid. When I was singing to records, it was guys like Albert Collins, Freddie King. As I got into my teens, I was a big rock fan: Glenn Hughes, Skin, Doug Pinnick. I wouldn’t get far on X Factor…”

Joanne left school at 16 and ran straight into her big break, as a twist of fate directed her demo tape into the hands of Eurythmics icon Dave Stewart after a charity gig. Reflecting on his first impressions, Stewart recalls that “she made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end”, and his phone-call the following day proved the start of a lasting friendship, with Joanne seeking his advice on the industry and even accompanying his DUP supergroup across Europe in 2002.

Stewart offered Joanne her first deal, but when the label ran into financial trouble, it gave her the chance to regroup and work on her songwriting. Thus far, original material had perhaps been a neglected side of her talent – “I never really wrote songs until I was 21” – but once the dam broke, things moved fast. In 2008, Ruf won the rush for Joanne’s signature, and soon she was working with veteran producer Jim Gaines (Carlos Santana, Johnny Lang, Stevie Ray Vaughan), bassist Dave Smith and drummer Steve Potts on the songs that became debut album White Sugar. “We recorded it in this little backwater town in Tennessee,” she recalls, “and if we needed a break, we’d walk to the shop and buy root beer.”

When White Sugar dropped the following year, taking in gems like Bones and Kiss The Ground Goodbye, it turned out the rock press had a sweet tooth, with Classic Rock crowning it Blues Album of the Month and Guitarist noting that “she plays with more attitude and flair than most: massive potential here”.

Soon enough, the buzz was building, with Joanne both raising her profile supporting behemoths like Black Country Communion, and honing her craft on 2010’s Diamonds In The Dirt. This second album was another step up, from the explosive lead breaks on Can’t Keep Living Like This to the heavier influence of her adopted Detroit hometown on the crunching country-blues of Dead And Gone. Not bad, considering that Joanne had written the material in just two days and recorded it in under a fortnight. “It’s the dreaded second album curse,” she laughs. “You have ten years to do the first one, and ten days to the second!”

By then, she seemed unstoppable, with Diamonds In The Dirt proving not just a classic record, but also a skeleton key to every door in the industry. Having received a nomination for ‘Best New Artist Debut’ at the auspicious British Blues Awards for White Sugar, Joanne scooped consecutive wins in the ‘Best British Female Vocalist’ category at both the 2010 and 2011 events: a haul that cements her position, as Blues Matters magazine once put it, as ‘the new face of the blues’. Since then, she’s broken into the notoriously hard-to-crack US market, beaten the stereotypes of her age and gender, and won the respect of the giants.

“There are a lot of great guitarists and singers in the blues today,” says Joe Bonamassa. “What I see in Joanne Shaw Taylor that sets her apart from the rest is the ability to write a great song. Not only is she a killer guitarist and singer, but you find yourself walking away from her shows singing her songs as well.”

Here are 12 more songs to get stuck in your head. With Almost Always Never, the precocious blues star has blossomed into a full-grown talent, raised the stakes and given herself the dream setlist for her UK tour in October. “I’ve loved every album and recording experience I’ve had to date for many different reasons,” reflects Joanne. “I think what sets Almost Always Never apart from my two previous albums is the songwriting process leading up to it. I’m so proud of these songs. All 12 of them combine into one body of work. It’s the perfect and truest example of who I am as an artist to date.”

        

 

 

 

 

Biography Shakura S'Aida

Born in Brooklyn, New York. Raised in Switzerland. A long-time Canadian who lives in Toronto. Speaks three languages. Performed in a half a dozen different countries in 2009, and will far exceed that in 2010.

Meet Shakura S'Aida, an international artist whose involvement in the Canadian music scene has been ongoing for the past 30 years, enriching the jazz, blues and classic R&B communities with her soulful voice, enthusiastic personality and commitment to music as an art form.

Whether speaking Swiss-German, French or English, Shakura instantly connects with her audience. With her sensational guitarist, Donna Grantis, she delivers a powerful show that always earns standing ovations.

And now, signed to a German record company, she's on the brink of releasing her first CD for Ruf Records.


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The CD "Brown Sugar" was recorded in Tennessee and produced by Jim Gaines, who has worked with artists such as Stevie Ray Vaughan, Huey Lewis, Santana, Coco Montoya and hundreds more. There are a dozen songs, all but one co-written by Shakura and Donna Grantis.

"Brown Sugar" will be released internationally in Spring 2010, and Shakura will tour more than a dozen European countries (sharing stages with Meena and Coco Montoya), and play major festivals across Canada and in the United States.

Already an experienced international artist, 2009 saw her perform at a major jazz festival in Tangiers, pay return visits to France, Italy, Germany and Switzerland, and make a quick trip to Finland to help mix and master the new CD.

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Shakura S'Aida — pronounce her name "Shack-oora Sigh-ee-da"— began performing at a young age. Her first steps into music began with a Toronto community band called Mystique, which found her belting out tunes alongside Deborah Cox, and then became the lead singer in the 13-piece world music band, Kaleefah, that would later be nominated for a Juno Award.

She quickly learned how to own the stage and "perform," a skill she has since carried to the musical stage with roles in such productions as "Ain't Misbehavin'" and "Momma, I Want to Sing," and to the theatre as an actress. She's carried off supporting roles in film with Sudz Sutherland's "Doomstown" (2006) and in Frances Anne Solomon's "A Winter Tale" been featured in an installment of "Flashpoint" a major CTV television series that's also aired in the U.S.

As a solo artist, Shakura's career has spanned genres and countries and taken her to some of the most noted stages in the jazz world. She has performed at the Apollo Theatre in New York and has been nominated for numerous Maple Blues Awards over the last four years. She's at home with the repertoires of Ray Charsles, Nina Simone and the basic blues catalogue — but always wins audiences over with her own emotionally powerful songs.

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"I am truly blessed by all the incredible opportunities I have had," says Shakura. "My life has been filled with amazing adventures; I can't wait to see what happens next!"

What will happen next is an even greater degree of international acceptance, and a growing fan base around the world. That's for sure — Shakura S'Aida is a force of nature, and one that will have to be reckoned with.

Biography Savoy Brown

Blues is not for the faint-hearted. Since the genre first drew breath, its greatest practitioners have embraced the darkness, spinning tales of hardship and death, hellhounds and devilry. If the sleeve of Witchy Feelin’ suggests that Kim Simmonds, too, has a tendency towards the macabre, then Savoy Brown’s iconic leader is happy to confirm it. “Blues has always dealt with themes of the Devil, witchcraft and so forth, and I’ve always written along those lines. At least three of the songs on Witchy Feelin’ have that hoodoo vibe… Released in 2017 on Ruf Records, Witchy Feelin’ proves the Devil still has all the best tunes. From the thrillingly brittle guitar riff that opens Why Did You Hoodoo Me, we are in the hands of a master, with Simmonds reigniting the seismic vocals and searing fretwork that established Savoy Brown as linchpins of the ’60s British blues boom. “On this album, I tried my best to get my voice in its power zone,” he explains. “I’m a baritone singer. I like listening to singers I can relate to, such as J.J. Cale, Mark Knopfler, Tony Joe White and Tom Rush. For my guitar playing, I still get inspiration from Otis Rush, Buddy Guy and all the Chicago players I grew up listening to back in ’63… but I always listen to new music too.” Recording alongside Pat Desalvo (bass), Garnet Grimm (drums) and engineer Ben Elliott, Simmonds leads us into a world of dark nights, wild weather, women and whiskey: all perennial themes given a modern twist by this ageless bluesman. “The songs on this album have been two years in the making,” he reflects. “I tried to write songs that had a personal point of view yet can be relatable to everyone. On Vintage Man, I wrote about being the type of guy who doesn’t change as he gets older. I wrote about the power of love on Why Did You Hoodoo Me. And with Guitar Slinger, I wrote a song about seeing a great guitar player in an old country bar – as I did when I first saw Roy Buchanan in ’69.” Anyone who witnessed Savoy Brown leave the blocks in 1965 would speak of a similar epiphany.Back then, the band were the spark that ignited the blues-boom, signing to Decca, opening for Cream’s first London show and boasting a lead guitarist who was being namedropped in the same reverential breath as peers like Clapton and Hendrix (with whom Simmonds jammed). Already, the guitarist was emerging as the band’s driving force. “I had a vision,” he reflects. “When I started the band back in 1965, the concept was to be a British version of a Chicago blues band. And the exciting thing now is, that vision is still alive.” Soon, Savoy Brown had achieved what most British bands never did – success in America – and became a major US draw thanks to their high-energy material and tireless work ethic. “There’s far too much said about sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll,” Simmonds told Classic Rock. “It’s a cliché. We were all extremely hard-working guys. When we came over to America, we were like a little army. I look at that time as being filled with incredible talent.” Times changed, of course, and by 1979, Simmonds had moved from a London he no longer recognised – “The punks were everywhere!” – to settle permanently in New York. The Savoy Brown bandmembers came and went, and the music scene shifted around him, but the guitarist stuck thrillingly to his guns and reaped the rewards, performing in iconic venues like Carnegie Hall and the Fillmore East and West, releasing thirty-odd albums, and later enjoying a well-deserved induction into Hollywood’s Rock Walk Of Fame. Even in the post-millennium, while his peers grow soft and drift into semi-retirement, Simmonds retains a vision and an edge, spitting out acclaimed albums that include 2011’s Voodoo Moon, 2014’s Goin’ To The Delta, 2015’s The Devil To Pay – and the emphatic new addition to Savoy Brown’s catalogue, Witchy Feelin’.“I'm amazed that I still have the energy inside me to play guitar, create music and write songs,” he considers. “I’ve been blessed in my life and I thank God for that. I’ve never been a believer in holding on to the past – I don’t look over my shoulder and congratulate myself. I always want to climb the next mountain – and I’m very pleased with this new album…”

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