In his own cagey yet warm-hearted way, Gurf Morlix has amassed the accomplishments befitting an icon of American music. The superlative guitarist, producer and songwriter isn't living in the past. His latest album is very much in the present tense.
Outside the windows that illuminate stage left of the Old Rock House, a train rolled forward with slow determination over the dark Mississippi to a destination unknown. The Arch rose up in the background as the Royal Southern Brotherhood took the stage and the crowd gave them a warm, enthusiastic welcome.
If soul music is anything it's the expression of unfiltered feeling -- in melody and rhythm, theme and voice. Sometimes it's utterly primal, and sometimes, as in the music of Jesse Dee, it's finely, joyfully arranged.
"Don't cry baby!" Insistent. The guitar echoes with an urgently blasted chord followed by plangent trail of single notes. "Please don't cry." Pleading. The guitar cascades down the blues scale, with an eloquently delicate tone to each note.
The year has barely begun but exceptional new releases are coming fast and feverish -- with many more to follow. Apparently, the DJs of 88.1 KDHX are champing at the bit to hear them all.
Fusions of blues and rock don't come much grittier than Nick and the Ovorols (a Chicago band featuring Nick Peraino, Carlos Showers, Vic Jackson and Lance Lewis). Heed the words and music they deliver.
Not exactly a master, yet much more than a dabbler, Jimbo Mathus occupies that great middle ground of American roots rock. Like so many before him, Mathus gets by with mixture of moxie and sweat; a basic understanding of blues, country and rock 'n' roll tropes; and a willingness to wear one's heart on one's sleeve while never stepping too far outside a certain worldly toughness.
The past several years of medical set backs kept her from the public eye, then came the word: Fontella Bass, St. Louis' leading woman of song for the past half-century, died the day after Christmas. She was 72 years of age.