Album Review: Various Artists – Blind Raccoon and Nola Blue Collection Vol. 6 – 2024


One of the busiest and most successful partnerships in blues in recent years, Betsie Brown’s Blind Raccoon marketing organization and Sallie Bengston’s Blue Heart label have consistently filled the charts with stellar releases with a roster that includes veterans, rising stars and regional acts, too. And this 15-track compilation of recent efforts is a must-listen for any blues fan.

The sounds here crisscross the blues spectrum. And the roster includes 15-time BMA nominee keyboard player Anthony Geraci, Grammy nominee Teresa James, the Texas Horns, Big Harp George and the ageless Benny Turner, Freddie King’s bass playing brother, and other lesser-known artists deserving your ear.

Mississippi MacDonald is a British singer/guitarist with more soul than many artists who make Memphis their home. He joins forces with the Reverend Shawn Amos to kick off the action with “Ballad of Pat Hare,” a gospel-flavored number about the legendary guitarist who died in prison after murdering his girlfriend. The mood turns upbeat with “Tidal Wave,” a sweeping modern blues instrumental from Geraci, before Pennsylvania-based guitarist delivers the rousing, acoustic “My Baby Loves Me Like a Hurricane.”

Los Angeles based harp player Douglas Avery strikes a positive chord to follow as he teams with six-string master Franck L. Goldwasser for the haunting minor-key ballad, “Survival,” before fellow Southern Californian Teresa and her horn band, the Rhythm Tramps, swing from the hip with “I Do My Drinkin’ on the Weekend.” The action shifts to the Gulf Coast as the Texas Horns – a unit led by Mark “Kaz” Kazanoff – deliver the driving “Never Buy My Soul” with Ange Kogutz on the mic and Anson Funderburgh on guitar.

Turner’s “Smoke My Peace Pipe (Smoke It Right)” takes listeners to the Big Easy and kicks up the funk as he honors New Orleans legend Big Chief Bo Dollis, the leader of the Wild Magnolias from the ‘60s, delivering music that served as the soundtrack to Mardi Gras, until his passing in 2015. New York pianist Dave Keyes keeps the feel going with his pleaser, “Pookie Po Po,” before New Jersey’s Trevor B. Power sets the stage for a blues-rock segment a little New Jersey-based blues-rock with “Man Goes Blind,” a number that’s followed by Britain’s Terry Wilson-Slesser, who delivers a contemplative ballad, “Forever Blue.”

One of the best chromatic harp players on the scene today, San Francisco’s Big Harp George changes the mood from the jump with the deep-blue romantic complaint, “Struck Out Again,” before Texas-born picker Steve Howell and his Mighty Men put their own spin on Betty James’ 1961 chart-topper, “I’m a Little Mixed Up.” Detroit-based rocker Kenny Parker’s aided by Fred Foley as they follow with “She Might Meet Me (Live in the 313)” before two more pleasers — “House of the Rising Sun” from the Bay Area’s Blind Lemon Pledge and “Don’t Miss Nothing ‘til It’s Gone” from Hawaiian-born Reverend Freakchild – bring the disc to a close.

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