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How refreshing to find a blues band that brings original BLUES material to the genre, instead of an album full of retreads heard a million times over in all pretty much the same way. The Della Grants serves up blues-rock just right in their independent release of Time for Change. With their blues roots solidly evident on every track of this debut album, The Della Grants bring a contemporary (crossover blues) sound to the blues world that it is uniquely their own.
Three of the members of the Della Grants (Max Manning [lead guitar, lead vocals], Andy Boulton [bass] and Tom Walker [drums]) spent fourteen years together in the cover band The Mokats. Breaking off in early 2013, they reformed with old friend and blues aficionado Tom Best [vocals, guitar, harmonica] to form a new foursome as The Della Grants.
While listening to Time for Change, you may come across some tunes that are familiar if you’ve heard The Mokats EP Crossover Blues. All of the tracks from that album have found their way to the new one, but they have been retooled and re-recorded. According to Manning, the DGs “wanted a much more honest sound for the album, quite a ‘live’ sound.” He continues, “We thought the old tracks were over produced and wanted to change so many parts — the songs had evolved a lot since they were originally recorded. Stuff like the chorus in ‘Truth Don’t Cost A Penny,’ the middle part in ‘Greed To Feed,’ end of ‘Weaker Man,’ all of ‘Awkward Feeling,’ and we obviously got to work with Mark Stanway on ‘Keeping Me Away From You.’ ”
When comparing the tracks, one immediately notices the new Della Grants take on them. The band succeded in reaching the goal of capturing their “live” sound. The Della Grants sound is sharper, edgier… and you can hear the areas that Manning points out for improvement. (Note to MM: Thanks for keeping that incredible riff in “Greed to Feed”.)
“Sometimes you should ask yourself what are you going to do today that are gonna turn things around, now.
So you know… no, its not just a one of those days, now.
It’s gonna be a beautiful day.”
(from “Too Fast”, The Della Grants)
BluesMusicFan Radio has had all the tracks from the CD in rotation, and many of the DJs have put them in their playlists. As far as the new DG tracks are concerned, the entire album has been enthusiastically received with particularly positive feedback given to ‘Too Fast’, ‘Lay My Head’ and also on the Keb’ Mo’ cover of ‘Am I Wrong’.
If you like to get in on the ground floor with bands, this band is one to follow. This is a solid album of blues rock originals and given the proper breaks in this industry, The Della Grants is a band that can mold a future path for the blues. In the interest of putting things out there in the world in hopes that they happen, I think Ruf Records should take notice and Mike Zito should produce their next CD. Hey we are just putting the ideas out there!
This band needs to travel, but in the meantime, you lucky Brits can catch The Della Grants (www.thedellagrants.com) at blues festivals and blues clubs in and around Leicester, UK.
We here at BluesMusicFan Radio are proud to be twice weekly broadcasting the National Blues Museum Radio with Christian Cudnik, starting this Friday, September 12, 2014 at 10 pm eastern. This radio show gives our station the opportunity to appeal to a broader blues audience, while being responsible blues citizens of the world and spreading the word on the roots of the blues.
Christian is the Executive Producer and Host of National Blues Museum Radio. The show debuted in St. Louis on the Radio Arts Foundation on February 7, 2014. Today, the show is syndicated to 26 stations including affiliates in the United States, Canada, Romania, New Zealand, Russia and the UK.
His early radio influences were Orson Welles, Chuck Thompson, Paul Harvey, Casey Kasem and Jon Miller. Christian began his broadcasting career in Baltimore, Maryland. During the early 1990’s, he worked for heritage rock station WIYY before moving to Philadelphia. In 1998, he joined the broadcast team at WMMR. Pierre Robert, Earle Bailey, Kevin Gunn and Steve Lushbaugh are considered major influences.
Christian attained the number-one-ranked radio program in Philadelphia, and was nominated for two AIR Awards including, “Best Field Reporting” and “Best Evening Program-Host”. In 2003, he moved to St. Louis where he became an on air host for St. Louis Public Radio.
He has received both Emmy and Telly Awards for his television work. His documentaries have aired on PBS, and include “Enduring Tradition: Ballet in the Heartland”, “Collective Improvisation: The Story of Jazz in Saint Louis”, “Seeking Freedom”, “Uncovering Ancient Saint Louis”, “Wallace Herndon Smith: Artist Without Boundaries”, and “Footsteps into the World Beneath”.
by Liam Ward, LearnTheHarmonica.com
Aside from the indomitable Jason Ricci getting to up to his old antics (http://tinyurl.com/m2l4ru8), it’s hard to catch anything other than an aging man playing the blues harp. Perhaps even more than guitar, the world of harmonica has remained a staunchly male environment for a very long time. Why do so few women take it up?
It’s a real shame that it’s such a restricted group and that the women who do play – when discussed at all – are usually compared only with other female players (e.g. “she is one of the best female players I have heard” etc.) Now, you might say that the history and calibre of men on the instrument means it’s unfair to compare apples with pears, but I have a sneaking suspicion that women out there doing their thing on harmonica wouldn’t like to be sidelined in this way. (The only woman I know in my area who brings a harp to jams certainly wouldn’t. If others disagree, please let me know because I’m not trying to speak for you!)
So why so few? At risk of dragging everyone down into a feminist pit of despair, I suspect part of the problem is culture-wide. Just as with any other instrument (or any other arena for that matter) women are much less likely to get noticed if they don’t look the way that some media exec wants them to look, and that isn’t nearly as big a problem for men.
When it comes to harmonica, men get all the attention. Not today! This is a tribute to the ladies. Let’s look at some of the big players in the other corner…
Historically, Big Mama Thornton is the most well-known woman of blues harmonica. (You have probably seen the famous photo of her with that brilliant grin of hers.) Thornton worked first as a dancer in Georgia before taking to blues and playing extremely confident harmonica to accompany her strong vocals. She became a star in the ‘50s, recording with the likes of James Cotton, Muddy Waters and Otis Spann.
Big Mama Thornton was rare in her time, and sadly female harp players are still hard to find. There are some gems out there, though, if you know where to look. Let me give you a few names.
Unsurprisingly, the US has a sizable offering in the blues arena. Annie Raines (http://www.paulandannie.com) is an extremely accomplished country blues player, who along with Paul Rishell has won a Blues Music Award. Over the course of a distinguished career she has become an important authority on the instrument.
Another American who keeps getting mentioned is ‘the New York Blues Queen’ Roxy Perry (http://www.roxyperry.com). She’s big and strong and her playing really packs a punch.
Outside the US, Christelle Berthon has become known through her famed YouTube performances. She has an extremely emotive style of playing and has shown her prowess over a number of years (check out an interview and some clips here: http://tinyurl.com/p65pfhl).
Sandra Vazquez (http://tinyurl.com/nja8uss) is a new and refreshing name to me. She is a member of Argentinian band Mulheres Gaitistas, has studied with Lee Oscar and is billed as Argentina’s best harmonica player.
Kat Baloun (http://tinyurl.com/op4f3zp) is a Berlin-based harmonica player who grew up in a musical family in Ohio. Look her up to see her big attitude on stage and hear some inspired harp.
If you want to find out more about female harmonica players, there’s a great – and brilliantly titled – resource on the web (http://www.hermonicas.com) featuring information and videos from players of all genres and all over the world.
Liam Ward is a UK-based harmonica player and teacher, and founder of Learntheharmonica.com. He is a former National Harmonica League Player of the Year and a regular contributor to Harmonica World magazine and Blues in Britain. Liam currently plays with hokum blues outfit The Rumblestrutters as well as appearing as a guest with many other artists.