My album debuted on the Roots Music Report Blues Chart this week. I’ve always thought this chart was a very strong representation of the current blues market and I can’t be happier that my new CD ‘The Next Place I Leave’ opened at number 33.
On top of that, one of the tracks on the CD ‘Addicted’ opened at number 28 on the blues song chart.
I’ve looked at these charts a lot in the past couple years, so I wanted take a couple screen shots and preserve this information here.
Here’s the blues album chart:
Here’s the blues song chart:
Also, even though I’ve been based on Dayton, OH for most of my musical career, the chart organizers have decided to place my work in the Pennsylvania subcategory (because I was born in Pittsburgh I suppose). I think this worked out since this chart puts me at number 3, haha, right above Taylor Swift.
…so I needed to save this one too.
For completeness, 5 tunes from the CD made the PA song chart:
Lastly, for whatever reason, one of my tracks was specifically marked as acoustic blues so it made the acoustic blues charts. I’m going to see if I can mark the rest as acoustic blues as well so maybe we will see a few more on this list in the future.
I want to thank Betsie Brown at Blind Raccoon publicizing this new CD.
Thanks for all of your support.
Here’s one more CD review I did for the Blues Society of Western PA’s blues newsletter. This one’s for Melinda’s Witness.
You can get to the original publication by clicking here.
Melinda – Witness
Today I’ll be reviewing work by Melinda, a fantastic act I have had the pleasure of sharing a bill with. Melinda and her band currently reside in Pittsburgh, so I’m sure you can catch them playing some tunes somewhere near you (like the BSWPA Blues Go Pink Benefit on October 11). Last year, they released their first full-length album Witness.
Upon pressing play, the album opens with a thick and dark guitar part that reminded me of a Buddy Miller sound (ya know, the guy that wrote “Shelter Me” that Tab Benoit does). This guitar part is the intro to a tune called “Trouble,” one of my favorites (along with their cover of “Seeing Things.”)
Continuing onto the second track “Time Runnin’ Dry,” for some reason I got more of a Steppenwolf vibe from this thing. I think it’s mostly because of the guitar tone and the general style of the song. That’s really cool because I love listening to records from the 60s that sound like real instruments playing thought out parts, where time is put into perfectly capturing the great sounds generated in the studio. A few of the guitar tones, a couple of the drum fills, and the unique voice in this work led me to believe for a few very brief moments, that I was listening to something that was produced in the 60s. So that’s pretty cool.
Now I guess all that’s left to discuss is Melinda’s vocal. Her voice is interesting, precise, and powerful. The combination allows for a set of vocal tracks that demand a listener’s focus.
I found myself wanting more vocal in the mix at times (but I suppose I have to say overall the vocal was correctly balanced with all of the other cool tones surrounding it). Because of this, my very favorite thing about the album was the decision to put “No Expectations” last. This tune seems to be centered on clear forward vocal more than the others. Furthermore, the song is performed with a lot of dynamic and contains a little bit of each of the tones she uses throughout the album. It was as if a decision was made to keep me waiting until the last track to give me that extra vocal that I occasionally desired. This is a very nice reward for the few of us that still prefer to listen to an album from top to bottom. So, I guess my recommendation would be to not only find a copy of this album, but to also play the songs in order.
But for those radio ready singles you DJs might be looking for, I would lean toward “Trouble” and “Witness.” I think that the band would agree, as those are the opening track and title track respectively.
Written by Chris Yakopcic
Here’s another CD review for the Blues Society of Western PA’s blues newsletter. This one’s for Stacy Mitchhart’s Gotta Get The Feeling Back Again.
You can get to the original publication by clicking here.
Stacy Mitchhart – Gotta Get The Feeling Back Again
In February of 2013, I had the opportunity to be on the bill with Stacy Mitchhart at the Cincinnati Winter Blues Fest, and today I will be reviewing his album “Gotta Get The Feeling Back Again.”
In Nashville, Stacy can be heard several times a week at the Bourbon Street Blues and Boogie Bar. This album reflects his house band mentality with a collection of well written swing and dance tunes like “I Can’t Get Enough Of Your Lovin,” “The Blues Has Got You Bad,” and “Better Off Without You.” Each of these songs has a familiar groove and a singable payoff line that would satisfy any modern blues fan. I also like that this album really sounds like a group of well-rehearsed musicians playing together in a room (an added benefit of a dense performance schedule).
Even though this album came out about 8 years ago, many of these tracks could easily be used in blues playlists today. I wouldn’t be surprised if I heard a cut from this album on the WYEP Rollin’ and Tumblin’ blues program while I was driving home from a show on a Saturday night.
To add a bit contrast to this strong blues club set, tracks like “Given Me Reasons” and “Doghouse Blues” provide more traditional melodies. For example, “Given Me Reasons” appears to be loosely based on the lasting tune “Sittin on Top of the World.” Furthermore, the double-timed instrumental “Blow On Them Baby” and the final track “Blue Monday” provide space for impressive guitar work to be at the forefront for a bit.
Lastly, the track that stands out to me most in this set is the Led Zeppelin medley (…or Led Zeppelin / Willie Dixon medley). Stacy’s guitar part on “Black Dog” morphs the well-known rock riff into a nice bluesy response line, so I thought it should be this review’s accompanying transcription. The original Jimmy Page run is already accurately documented on line, so I would suggest you learn both and figure out your own cool way to play it.
Written by Chris Yakopcic
Taffy’s is one of the few places in town where you can still go watch someone playing some songs 4 nights a week. Some great acts have played there like John Hammond and Lawrence Juber, and I’ve gotten to see some great stuff from the broken down sofa chair in front of the bar. I’ve worked a lot with this venue since I started playing that stuff people listen to, and I think this post lays it out pretty well. A lot of the steps I’ve taken to get to this musical place seem to be woven together with a show at Taffy’s.
My First Time There (July, 1, 2011)
My path in from Dayton is about 25 minutes on 35-West, and it’s a blinding drive during a sunset. If I’m lucky, the sun will get clouded for a moment and I can unsquint as if I’m catching my breath. Though Saturday shows are worth it, I can turn up Mr. Rhythm Man on WNKU. Driving through those country roads to classic rhythm and blues is a great warmup.
I walked in well before show time and it was silent, except for me fumbling my guitar cases through the cramp entrance way. This silence was quickly erased by the echoed greeting from the owner Manfred. He is quite loud.
The décor is an overpowering presentation of moments captured since the doors opened. Posters of nearly every act that’s played there are pasted up and down the walls. Photographs from performances surround the bar, and beer and wine take the rest of the real estate.
That night I was billed from 8:00 to 11:00, and I figured I had about two hours of material. A couple handfuls of blues songs was all I had back then, but I think I figured out how to make them last (you gotta play ‘em twice…sometimes with different words).
My Debut CD Release (November 12, 2011)
Later that year I had the release show for my first CD “Done Found My Freedom ‘fore My Technique.” This time I added my own poster to the wall for this solo acoustic blues CD. It was another great show with listening room silence during songs, with applause complemented by Manfred’s signature cheer in between tunes.
Earlier that week on Wednesday was the first time I was interviewed on the radio. It was on WYSO with Juliet Fromholt.
The Bob Dellaposta Blues Showcase (Twice a Year since 2012)
Bob (another local blues guy) grabs a bunch of players (mostly solo acts or small groups) and we each do a set and turn the place into a last minute blues fest. These events always pack the place if you can catch them, but I’ve never seen it crammed quite like the very first one. Perhaps that’s because I’ve grown into it a bit since then. Even as I write this, Bob’s gravelly shout “Everyone Take a Big Ol’ BLUES Drink with Me” still makes me laugh.
When I Opened for Danny Kalb (Wednesday, September 4, 2015)
Danny Kalb is an acoustic blues player that was a founding member of the 60s band The Blues Project, and he has some cool albums with Stefan Grossman. Danny was running a little too late to make it by the show time. So Manfred came over to my seat and asked me to play an opening set until the band got there.
For a show like this, I would have put the set together in advance and thought about it a couple times a day, but this worked fine (it’s not like I was gonna say no). So I looked in the window behind the stage and grabbed the first sundried guitar I could find that had all 6 strings. No fingerpicks, no capo, no slide, wearing a t-shirt, old tennis shoes, and glasses.
A little later the band showed up and I got to play my last 3 songs with Danny watching me from the front row. I was doing my best to hold this weathered guitar close enough to the mic. I ended with Blind Willie McTell’s Savanna Mama and was using my phone as a slide (that worked surprisingly well if anyone is ever in a similar situation). He was definitely one of the cooler acts I’ve ever had the chance to open for. Thanks Danny.
First Guitar Workshop (Saturday, November 9, 2013)
I was waking up in Grand Rapids, MI, when I got a call from Manfred about this week’s show. He told me I should hold a guitar workshop in the afternoon. I never really thought about teaching until this moment, but I added it to my things to do. So I put together a little book made up of PowerPoint slides that detailed chord voicings, open tunings, fingerpicking, and turnarounds. I tried to cram in everything I’ve learned from my own guitar teachers (Jim McCutcheon and Ernie Hawkins).
So I talked through everything you can do with a guitar for a few hours, and got enough questions to seem like I was holding everyone’s interest. I know it gave Manfred a headache. Afterward he said, I thought you were just going to show everyone how to play Sweet Home Chicago or something. Haha, first, people can look that up anywhere, and second, I thought I kinda did (with my way you learn all the blues songs). I prefer the headache accompanied by rigorous transcriptions. You get used to it.
Doug McLeod (Tuesday June 3, 2014)
One of my favorite things to do is see a great musician in a small venue, and this was one of those. I got to sit down and see a blues songwriter play and sing by himself with a resonator guitar. There’s not a lot of this kind of stuff around, so I really appreciate the few chances I have to be re-inspired by the type of players that got me interested in first picking up a guitar.
Eatonic Music Festival (September 4, 5, and 6, 2015)
Recently Manfred has expanded from his listening room to a festival setting. The first Eatonic Music Festival will be held over Labor Day weekend. Late Friday night (technically Saturday) I’ll have the chance to share the bill with Buddy Guy. So that’s pretty cool.
Now that I can see this article written, I suppose it’s about the place where I figured out how use a stage. I know there’s been a few of these places, but it looks like Taffy’s was the one that I ended up being the most connected to. I would guess that every successful musician has a place like this in their head. This place they could go to figure out how all of this stuff works, and how to use it to push themselves forward.
So if you’ve got a surplus of what people call luck, you will find yourself someplace watching a performer in this process. It’s exciting. It’s what makes you and your friends shout that you saw a performer first. It’s more than an opportunity to say you were simply first in line for a ticket for a now touring act. You get to say you saw an artist before they even knew what was going to happen next.
Since I first time I’ve pushed my guitars through the door, I’ve watched the posters continue to consume the walls. There’s hardly room for any more now. I can only assume Manfred will try and fight for more space, so he can have another chance to watch a musician figure out how to fill a room with a song.
See y’all later.
Occasionally I write CD reviews for the Blues Society of Western PA’s blues newsletter. I thought I would repost this one for Austin Walkin’ Cane’s One Heart Walkin’ here.
You can get to the original publication by clicking here.
Austin Walkin’ Cane – One Heart Walkin’
I’ve been able to see Austin Walkin’ Cane play anywhere from Kent, OH to Memphis, TN. Given the number of dates that appear on his calendar each month, chances are you can too.
One Heart Walkin’ is Austin’s latest release made entirely of original tunes composed by him and his writing partner Chris Allen. First off I like the artwork, this variable font size, constant width design seems to be catching on these days. Overall, I think this set of songs are his most creative arrangements to date.
There’s a lot of fun stuff to listen to on this CD. “Living, Working, Dying” and “Whose Gonna Love You?” would make great standout additions to any blues playlist. They immediately grab the listener’s attention and offer a lot of exciting musical content that is sometimes left out of the modern blues genre. I love the rhythm parts, the governing voice, and the general sense of not knowing what going to happen next.
I liked the bass (sousaphone) line on ‘Whose Gonna Love You?’ so much that I had to make it the accompanying transcription this time. The tune is played somewhere between D and D♭, so I tabbed it in D using a standard guitar tuning. It’s pretty much based on the melody in the first measure. There are a few improvised variations throughout the song, but I think you can get the idea by following this part.
Written by Chris Yakopcic
Last weekend I was fortunate enough to win the Solo / Duo competition held by the Cleveland Blues Society. As a result, I’ll be heading to Memphis in January for my 3rd International Blues Challenge.
If you’ve never been to the IBC, this event is like a 5 day blues festival. There are always so many great acts playing that it’s a bit of work to see everyone you want to, but it’s worth it.
Hope to see you there.
When I’m playing an afternoon show, I always end up losing track of time. In this case my set was at 12:50, so I already knew I wasn’t going to have time to do everything that I wanted. Between voice workouts, practicing, trying to get comfortable with that last minute song, promotional posts, and forgetting to put on a belt like 6 times, I end up falling a bit behind.
I really pushed this one to the last minute, and left around 12:00, about 10 minutes after it was recommended I get there. But, I still had to print out my set list for the judges. I don’t have a printer, so I decided I had time to make it to the UD campus (which is pretty close by). When I cruised into a loading zone space I figured I had 7 minutes go print the set list and get back to my car.
So I plugged my laptop in and after a few attempts at printing I remembered that I reformatted everything on my computer last week and hadn’t reinstalled the printer. The driver download was taking too long and I couldn’t find the CD for the printer (which I of course found in about 30 seconds on Monday). Had to go without it. Well, that didn’t matter because I didn’t see anyone else with a set list and no ever asked me for it anyway.
I got to Gilly’s with a solid 10 minutes to spare, I guess I’m lucky no one before me dropped out. By the time I tuned my guitars, the act before me was playing his last song.
At this point I just wiped the last hour out of my head. My goal was to have as much fun as possible playing my 15 minute set on one of my favorite stages in Dayton.
I started off with three original tunes, 99 Juke Joints, Sounds of the Highway, and The Next Place I Leave. Even though there’s no penalty for ending a set early, I still like to get at close to the 15 minute limit as possible because I think it makes the performance more exciting. I slammed the strings one last time to close Fred McDowell’s ‘Write Me a Few Lines’ with about 5 seconds to spare.
At this point there were 4 more acts left so it was time to once again forget about everything that just happened see what the other solo and duo blues artists in the Dayton area have been up to. Joe Augustin (Achilles Tenderloin) was one of the performers that followed me, I worked with him earlier this year when I produced his latest CD ‘Stronger Than Wine’.
When it was all over, I ended up in second place, later I was told I was 1 point behind the winner.
Oh well, see you guys at the next one.
I did an interview with the Dayton Daily News about the Big Brews and Blues Fest last week, here’s the link. Also incase you wanted to see the entire uncut interview, I pasted that below.
Chris, please tell us a little about your musical influences; what inspired you to play traditional, Delta-style blues music?
I’ve always liked the sound of an acoustic slide guitar, even before I knew exactly how it was done, and definitely before I knew what traditional blues was. The first time I heard a real trad blues performance that really stitched everything together for me was in Buddy Guy’s Legends in Chicago. I think I was about 17 or 18, luckily it was a lunchtime set so I could get in (more like wander in because I had no idea what I was going to see or how much I would like it).
It was the first time I really saw someone fingerpick a guitar and use a slide. It was also the first time I heard the terms like Delta and Piedmont blues. After I saw that show I was determined to get my thumb (on the right hand) to work the way his did, playing the bass note or part of a chord where the rest of the fingers are left to play the melody.
Fruteland Jackson participates regularly in the Blues in the Schools (BITS) Program, where musicians travel to schools to teach and inspire young potential blues fans. I think I would call myself one of his wins in that respect, and I’ve always thought it was funny that it came out of his happy hour set, not a BITS presentation.
Without giving away too many surprises, do you have anything special planned for this unique performance?
Honestly, I think I’m going to do what I always do. I’ll take everything I have been able to learn about blues music and turn it into the best show I can, and maybe we can all get to know each other a little better along the way. Once I’m on the stage I’ll decide what particular instrumental decorations and guitar breaks are right for the moment (heh, if you can even call it deciding).
With all of the great craft beers offered during the event, which one are you most excited to try?
I’m more into the calmer tasting beers, so I think it would have to be either the Belgian Wit (Rivertown Brewing Co.) or the Bavarian Hefeweizen (Star City Brewing Co.).
If you could pair your music with one of the beers being offered, which would it be and why?
I would have to go with The Lesser Path India White (Blank Slate). My blues style isn’t the most common or the most popular one, but I’m hoping that I can inspire a few people that wander in that always liked the sound of a fingerpicked slide guitar.
I spent this Easter weekend in the recording studio. Fortunately this blog format allows me to communicate with my fingers, as I don’t think my voice has the energy.
I’ve started working in the Street Sounds recording studio in Dayton, OH. It’s allowed to gain a lot of experience recording myself in addition to several local artists. I’ve been able to act as a recording engineer for artists like Susan Gardstrom and AJ Baker. Additionally, I’ve been producing an album for Kevin Milner.
I have found recording myself to be a very efficient way to practice. Once I’m happy with how I’m sounding on these new tunes, I’ll be recording the official album tracks later (hopefully not much later) where I can have a few recording engineers work with me to further shape the sound.
I have been releasing these demo tracks on a monthly basis to those who have signed up for my email list, so consider getting yourself on board with that if you’d like to hear some of these demos (email list signup is on the home page).
As previously mentioned, one of the larger projects I’m working on at Street Sounds is Kevin Milner’s second full length album. We’ve been doing this for a few months now and tracking is nearly complete. He’s been working with many other musicians to put together a pretty cool project. I’ve heard him perform these songs many times, and I’m having a lot fun helping him put these in a physical format.
Last weekend I went to Pittsburgh for their annual blues competition, it’s been about 8 months since I played in Pittsburgh and I think 3 years since my last competition there. It was great to see some of my early supporters, as well as my some of my buddies in the other acts competing.
I ended up getting second place in both the solo/duo division and the overall guitar player ranking (among solos, duos and bands).
I’m glad I got the chance to play another set in Pittsburgh, hope I’ll be back soon.
Although, I’m still looking for a win in these regional competitions to make it back to the International Competition in Memphis. Next stop is the one in North Eastern Ohio on April 26.
See you later