If you're from the NW or have seen the news recently, you know that one of our small communities was devastated by a massive landslide that took out a square mile of the town of Oso, leaving houses & lives in ruin, with a death-tole rising daily. Many artists in the region are having benefit shows, rock, blues, gospel, etc... This one was created by friends of mine and we'd like to invite you out.

Sunday, April 6th, from noon 'til whenever it ends...
The Cedar Stump Bar & Grill
19711 Smokey Point Blvd, Arlington, WA 98223

For more information, there has been a Facebook page set up:

For those that cannot attend, there have been a couple sites that have been designated for online donations:

Blues for the Slide on fundraise.com

and United Way of Snohomish County

Rae Gordon Band "Blue Lemonade"

I was recently talking with Cherie Robbins (from
Cherie's Blues Highway Blog) about my reviewing Rae Gordon Band's CD, "Blue Lemonade," and she was happy that I was covering it, and Rae, and wanted to make sure I mentioned what a sweet soul Rae is -- and I must admit, in my communications with Rae I have found her to be humble and appreciative of compliments on her craft. (In a message before writing this, I told Rae that her CD rocks, and her response? "oh my gawd, thank you! It's my first ever.....")

When I first plugged the CD in, I had no clue what to expect, other than this was a lady from Oregon, my first non-WA review (!), and she was blues. The first song, "Find Me When the Sun Goes Down," has this cool, jazzy feel, with its skip beat and horns, and accents from a Hammond B3 organ -- I hear a bass plugging along with the drums, but no hint of guitar. So, I'm thinking, cool, more of a jazz-blues CD, great! Rae's voice flowing over the rhythm, telling some would-be lover to find her later, 'cause she be "the best one around," just added to the smooooothness of this track. So, the rest of the CD is like this, right?

Ha. Because of the mastering, there was very little breathing space between songs before I heard the distorted buzz of a guitar. "That's Why" turns up the notch and lets me know that Rae & Co. are here to play, not just keep things jazzy. This one, on a blues scale, is a rocker, a head shaker, one that lets Rae's voice bring lots of grit while the guitar opens up and says, "I'm here!" With references to Heaven's gate, St. Peter, the devil saying "yes" and the preacher saying "no" -- you'd think this was a gospel tune, but I think there's more to it than that. ;)

I feel some songs belong in some forgotten era of music -- and by this, I don't mean it in a bad way. Songs like "Oh Honey Please" and "Make A Friend" feel like cherished, loved songs from back in the day, they're comfortable, warm, and somehow sound familiar, without being rips or take-offs from other songs. Knowhatimean?

Rae doesn't play the jilted lover much on this disc, but rather she turns the situation around and finds ways to express
the joy of moving on. "Thank You" actually tells the guy, "thank you for treating me so bad" -- because now she knows what she wants and found someone that treats her right, whereas "Blue Lemonade" talks of how she wants to take all the lemons some guy has tossed her way and make sweet lemonade with a twist of his game -- while she chops down hit stick...yikes! "Swing Me" puts a guy in his place -- he thinks he can just use her, rotate her among other lovers, and expect her to be okay with that...nope! "Happy Home" does soften things, knowing that deep down, no matter where we look or who we hook up with, in the end we just want to find someone and some place to call home.

"Misery Blues" is a fun one, not in a rocker kind of way, but... -- sometimes I can hear a smile in Rae's voice, even when she's talking about life, and for the life of me, I cannot feel miserable while listening to this.

I know we're talking about a blues album, but (to me) "Tear It Up, Burn It Down" is a real...barn-burner!
It's like a little Bonny Raitt mixed with some Miranda Lambert and a whole lotta attitude. A crowd pleaser, for sure.

The disc closes with the haunting "Pools of Pain," with its somber tone, guitar chiming from a distance and a steady thump on the 4-count like a tribal drum... "I don't know where I'm going, I know where I've been. I've seen my share of sorrows...and a whole lot of sin." That line just resonates throughout, lingering long after the song is over. I was going to start the review off with that line, but chose to close with it.
(Rae just told me the drum was...get this...a Top Ramen box! I never would have guessed!)

Rae & Co. are on a journey, and sure there have been times where things haven't been rosy, but things do look up -- especially since she informed me she's getting ready to record her next one! Definitely looking forward to that one.


I do apologize for the delay in reviews.. sometimes life happens.

I am currently reviewing Rae Gordon Band, and will have a couple write-ups of a couple new bands I saw recently (Burning Wood & Audentia).

In the wings is Bakin' Phat, Seth Freeman, Red Jacket Mine, Wild Snohomians and many more!

Keep on groovin' on!
Reprinted from the March 2014 issue of
The Bluesletter from Washington Blues Society.

I am posting this because of a few reasons: The Randy Oxford Band helped me get both my graphics and my writing kick-started after a (too long) hiatus, Liz Caraway interviewed me in the article (as well as other key players in the production of the CD cover), and also because Dan Hill's photo was somehow not included in the article and it should have its rightful place.

Creating a CD Cover That “Feels Good”

By Liz Caraway
Edited by Tim Sutherland

Last October I saw a picture of The Randy Oxford Band by Dan Hill which took my breath away! The first thing  I thought was that it would make an amazing CD cover!  I then saw a graphic, done by Tim Sutherland, which was said to be the cover for the band’s new release. Tim’s design wasn’t anything like Dan’s photography,  so I figured that Dan’s pic would be used for another  project... Little did I know, magic was about to happen! I  saw the final product, and… They did it! They seamlessly brought together the two styles and “…it feels good…”!  I decided to ask Randy how he was able to make these seemingly opposite images come together so beautifully.

Liz Caraway: How did you come up with the title, “…it feels good…”?

Randy Oxford: “…it feels good…” was a slogan that I came up with when I first started my band in 2003. Being a band leader and getting to hire top notch musicians who are willing and able to travel while remaining pleasant to work with no matter what the gig is, feels good to me so I came up with the slogan and I finally decided to use it as a CD title.

LC: How did the CD cover come about?

RO: I posted on Facebook, asking for artist submissions for a CD cover with the title “...it feels good…” and Tim seemed to get what I was asking for, and we went with his submission. My project managers, Faith Loomis and Michele Sabol, were also involved in choosing the final art.

LC: What about the creation process did you enjoy?

RO: Asking Faith and Michele to take charge of the look and feel of the CD layout was a good call; all I had to do was focus on being a music producer in the studio. The team of people you see listed in the credits made this project what it is; we are all very proud of the final  product… it feels good! 

Randy’s known for finding the right people and then letting them do what they do best. 

I asked Michelle Sabol about her influence on the cover’s creation, and she humbly gave credit to everyone else…

LC: Michele, please tell me your involvement in the cover project.

Michele Sabol: I guess the first part for me was at -tending the studio sessions and then onto the engineering and mixing. What a process! I loved every minute of the experience. Tim gave us the cover and we worked the graphics from there. I had an idea of the layout, while Faith put it all together. It took some editing, but then we agreed “…it feels good…”.

Faith Loomis is Michele’s daughter and I asked her to share her experience with us.

LC: Faith, how was your experience working on the CD cover?

Faith Loomis: This project was a blast! I’m so grateful to be a part of it and such a wonderful group of people.

LC: Was it hard to combine the two very different styles together?

FL: Actually, it’s funny you ask, because at first it was. I asked for Tim’s design to bleed over onto the back, as well as for the ember effect throughout. I think it all came together beautifully.

LC: How was working with everyone?

FL: Well, my mom is like me: we both have an artistic vision for things but neither of us can hand draw! I ad-mire the way some people can take their artistic vision and put it on paper the way Tim did. Then there’s Dan’s very artistic eye and talent for taking a photo and creating something really cool. Finally, Disc Makers put our vision all together. Overall, it was a GREAT experience! 

I told Dan Hill that I was surprised and really pleased with how the cover came out. I was worried that his  photos would lose attention, but they combined the work very well.

LC: When Randy approached you about taking pictures, were they originally for the CD or just for promotion?

Dan Hill: I believe we were talking about using the  photos for both CD and promotion.

LC: What kind of editing did you use with the photos on the CD?

DH: I use Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop CC for the ‘heavy lifting’ along with plug-ins from Alien Skin (Snap Art and Eye Candy) and the Nikon filters. The ‘digital manipulation’ is all me.

LC: Whose idea was it to gather around the pool table with the instruments?

DH: I suggested that we gather around the pool table, and I think that it was someone in the band who suggested putting the instruments on the table.

LC: How many pictures did you take?

DH: Probably between 1 and 200.

I wondered how Tim Sutherland approached this project and its vague theme, “…it feels good…”, and ran with it.

LC:   You’ve done a sweet bit of graphics for this CD cover Tim, how did you get involved in this project?

Tim Sutherland:   Thank you! I contacted Randy about the cover because of his contest, and we talked about how everything should convey the “...it feels good...” attitude. My design represents each band member, and the  band’s loose, free flowing music style.

LC: How did you come up with the fire?

TS: The flame logo was almost by accident, a result of tweaking the logo until it took on an attitude all its own -- which fits the band well because they are on fire! I then flamed up the title font so it would work with the  band logo.

LC: Does it …feel good… to be a part of this project?

TS: The whole aura about The Randy Oxford Band is that “...it feels good...” and being a part of this project sure does!

Well, it’s obvious to me that Randy Oxford knows how to  find great talent to create a great CD cover that FEELS GOOD!! ~ Liz Caraway

Sweet Danny Ray & Rafael Tranquilino "The Flat Hat Sessions"
Flat Hat Productions

A few weeks ago I was attending a live broadcast of Mighty Mouth Blues in Everett, WA, when co-host Dan "Sweet Danny Ray" O'Bryant came up to me and said he had a CD for me to review. I'm thinking, "Cool! People are approaching me!" And so, he hands me a six-song disc that he recorded with local blues guitar hero Rafael Tranquilino -- which sold me right from the start. (I had seen Rafael sit in with The Randy Oxford Band a few months ago, and my jaw dropped at how good this guy is.) These two were fresh back from the 2014 International Blues Challenge and I was about to listen to what sent them there -- and I knew it was going to be good!

"The Flat Hat Sessions"
from Sweet Danny Ray & Rafael Tranquilino starts off with a strut that sets the whole disc in motion: Sweet Danny Ray's gruff vocal in "I Believe I Have The Blues," alone at first but then joined by Rafael's sweetly distorted guitar and Dan's own blues harmonica... The song is instantly one that I began to sing along with, on the chorus after a couple rounds and then the verses after a couple listens... It's just a fun tune, even though the lyrics should be those of a sad song. I guess part of the blues is being able to look at a situation and still be able to keep your head up.

"You're So Fine" is one of those numbers that doesn't really need much of an intro -- the title says it all! Quite simply, a song about ...admiring... some fine lady as she passes by and lingers in your mind long after. Again, the strut continues, and the feel of this song is just one of pure enjoyment.

After a couple struts up and down the groovin' blues avenue, we find ourselves at "The Promised Land" -- one that is probably my favorite, but also quite pointed & sobering in its reality: "Sorry, baby... This ain't the paradise we planned... Sorry, baby... Looks like they moved the Promised Land."
I think we can all relate to this... the not being able to provide all the luxuries in life, or even a better life, for your loved ones and all we can say is, "Sorry..." Deeply moving in its somber tone, it just resonates within.

Now...I don't know if my car's stereo system translates Spanish on the disc display, or if perhaps the English translation of the title for the next song was already programmed in it, but "Oye Cantinero" comes up as "Hey Bartender" on mine! (My Spanish is limited to "Yo quiero Taco Bell"...so at least the car was able to do that much!) I'm not really sure what Rafael is singing in his solo-vocal performance on this disc, aside from what I think may be, "Hey bartender, please pour me a shot" -- but with the way he sings it over his crazy guitar work, it's a pleasure -- and I find myself singing parts of the song as I pick them up. Not sure what I'm saying, but... Cheers!

I was talking with Rick Bowen
from the Washington Blues Society the other day, and he commented about how Sweet Danny Ray & Rafael use comedy, or a comedic tone in their performance, and that's what helps win people over. In the next track, "Before You Go," I can hear those tones in the lyric and vocal style. It's one of those types of relationships where you know she's going to leave, you've seen the signs and "been down [that] road before" -- but you'd like "one more kiss" before she leaves.

The six-song EP closes with "That's The Blues," a song which brings back the strut that started off the disc, while Dan's vocal churns out tales of whoa, with the tag line: "You'll know if you've got 'em 'cause all you'll do is lose, that's the blues.
" It seems a fitting song to end with, coming full-circle to where it started.

"Blues" seems to be a general term in the genre -- perhaps it's more about the feel & lyrics? But yes, this disc is definitely blues in an old-school sort of way, but dang it, they let the listener have fun while singing along! How can one go through hardships and struggles and still enjoy life? Baby, that's the blues.


Blues County Sheriff "New Sheriff In Town"
Blues County Records

There's a new Sheriff in town! Hailing from Olympia, WA, there's probably a good reason they needed a new Sheriff, someone to take charge down there... (Not to turn this into a political rant...) The Sheriff, whose real name is on a need-to-know basis, is laying down the law in such a way that you almost want to be arrested...

Shortly after making contact with The Sheriff, I received a five-song (extended play) CD called "New Sheriff In Town". Now, let me tell you... I've been listening to various variations of the blues lately, and these five songs have brought yet another shade of blue to the mix. From his Facebook page, the band performs
blues "in the styles of post-war bluesmen such as Muddy Waters, BB King, Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson, and Albert King" and refer to their new material as being performed "old-school".

"I Should Have Known" kicks off this disc with its sold, very polished workmanship laying down the groove, before The Sheriff weaves a tale from first-hand perspective about a man who got involved with a woman that still had a former lover still in her heart (to where she even calls the wrong name while, well...you know)... The Sheriff has a vocal approach that after a couple listens through I began to dub as that of a crooner, in the old-school sense. Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Jim Morrison... He has a cadence that has me picturing him taking us on these musical journeys with a glass of whiskey in one hand and a cigar in the other. Not just in this song, but in the others as well.

"Start It Up" is a fun one, complete with a rumbling '51 Mercury Flathead V-8 accenting the song at various intervals. This Robben Ford cover brings in a boogie-woogie piano that lays the score and frees The Sheriff to obviously enjoy gettin' down with this fine machine (be it the car, or the woman...?). The boogie-woogie woogies on for the next couple songs, also -- and it sure is fun!

"Blues No More"
ain't necessarily about not having the blues anymore, but rather not being "po no mo" -- or, as it says on BluesCounty.com: "
This is a tongue-in-cheek party song celebrating the no-worries attitude of a disgusting scumbag." An enjoyable tune, even if the lyrics have you shaking your head once in a while!

"My Baby" slinks on in next. Well...not "slinks," per se, as this song is about a woman with character, one who sticks around when the chips are down and the tough are gone... One whom, when it comes to love, comes to play. An upstanding woman, through thick and thin. We can all hope for someone like that (well, I already have mine!).

The Ray Charles tune, "Hey Now,"
closes out this EP on a sobering note, the heart-wrenching reality of waking up alone after your lady's left you. The bass line's deep heartbeat slowly paces this piece along as you feel the pain behind the words. I'm not familiar with Ray's version, but I will tell you that The Sheriff brings it on home.

Nicely done, Sheriff -- and there'll be no need for the cuffs!


Hey Groovers!

Sorry for the delay in getting the reviews going for February... I had been doing some behind-the-scenes work for the site, as well as work for an article in the Bluesletter (!), and will be adding new reviews shortly!

Upcoming reviews!!!

Sweet Danny Ray & Rafael Tranquilino
Speech Machine
Blues County Sheriff
Crazy Texas Gypsies
Red Jacket Mine

and more!


Blacktop Deceiver "Monster on the Street"
Dead Pedal Records

As NW Groove closes in on its first month of publication, I am pleased to announce a review of the first mailed-in CD I received! No prior knowledge of the band, no pre-conceived notion of what they may sound like... Aside from the term "rockabilly" thrown out, I really wasn't sure what to expect. Ok, so...when I hear "rockabilly," I think of the Stray Cats from back in the Eighties, but I had a feeling this wasn't going to be the polished, retro-esque Cats style, but probably something more...primitive.  I was right, and I'm not the slightest bit disappointed! Blacktop Deceiver does not deceive the listener into thinking they are anything but who they are.

As some may know, I do 99.9999999999% of my listening in the car (it's got a nice shaker system in it, so why not?), so when I popped in "Monster on the Street" and the first song, "My '34 Ford" started thumping through the speakers of my '06 Ford, I knew I was in for one heck of a ride.

"Monster..." is a whopping 14-song disc that doesn't really let up once the '34 revs its engine. It's raw, it's in your face, it's real and unrepentant; they make no apologies for who they are. Blacktop Deceiver are renegades on the road, filled to the brink with diesel and pedal to the metal. Jay Loney's ("slappin' n howlin') prominent stand-up bass thunders through each piece, while Jason Luttrull (vocals n string breakin') takes us along the journey, one filled with interesting characters and circumstances, set to the rhythm provided by Rev. Vetala Hawkins (percussion n preachin') and accented by Ron Averill's pickin' n cursin'.

The songs are catchy, quirky, fun...at times sarcastic, but not in a cruel kind of way. There are a few road-oriented songs ("My '34 Ford," "Behind the Wheel," "Fortune on the Floor"), party tunes ("Roll Tonight," "Drinkin' and Fallin' Down," "Blacktop Bop"), love, for better or worse ("The Lock," "Wake Me Twice," "Turbo Diesel Lover"), bad boys and girls ("She's Back In Business," "Angel Loves Disaster," "The Last Bad Man In Town," "No Jail Hold Us All"), and umm...tragedy ("Tragedy on Pickle Farm Road"). Every once in a while, I find myself singing some of them under my breath at work, such as "'My '34 Ford," "Drinkin' and Fallin' Down" and "Angel Loves Disaster," or have a rhythm section or two (or more) go through my head as a soundtrack during the day. I love bass, and it thunders through loud and clear on this disc. Jason's vocal approach...is hard to describe, label, contain within a term...he wouldn't win American Idol, but I wouldn't want him to.  His accents and cadence are very distinctive and fits well with the band's against the grain style. It's rock from another era, but not quite...it has punk elements, some country leanings, underground alternative (not the grunge stuff from twenty years ago...I mean older, like in the early rebel rock of the sixties/seventies). The lyrics are well thought out, and the stories are deeper than the surface; I enjoy some of the twists in lyrics like in "The Lock" and "Angel Loves Disaster."

Blacktop Deceiver is unlike anything I'd ever really heard before, and that's a good thing. I really enjoyed this CD. I'd love to catch them with The Wild Snohomians some time!
(Don't know who they are? They will be reviewed very soon!)


Just a quick note here...

I've been listening to Blacktop Deceiver's CD, "Monster on the Street," this week and will have a review up soon! Also, just received CDs from Speech Machine and Blues County Sheriff and am looking forward to listening to them shortly!

Thank you everyone! I know this page is still young, but it's continuing to grow!

Groove on ~

nwgroove.weebly.com is now nwgroove.com!!!
Easier to remember, easier to share! So please, if you would...share!

NW Groove, northwest artists CD reviews & more!



    TSSutherland is a lover of music that thumps, bumps, rocks & wails! An avid believer in supporting local arts, this page will feature reviews of NW Blues, Rock & Funk.


    January 2014