"Oregon's back porch singer-guitarist Pete Herzog and esteemed
songwriter-bassist Dennis Walker, along with a drummer and a few others,
manage in 13 songs to make their blues-slathered music and lyrics models
of strong, warm feeling. Most compelling of all is "It's Gotta Rain," with
it's plain-spoken directness.
four stars, Frank-John Hadley, Downbeat, May 2015"

LinerNotes_PhilippFankhauser_e1.pdf

 

 

"I think that my band was part of a blues-roots movement that included people like the Fabulous Thunderbirds and Stevie Ray Vaughan, who were coming along at that particular time," says bandleader Robert Cray. While Cray's sense of what was happening on the American rock scene in late 1986 is accurate, it modestly downplays the accomplishments of the singer-guitarist and his backing trio.

In February of that year, Strong Persuader— Cray's fourth album — hit Number Thirteen on the Billboard pop-albums chart, making it the highest-charting blues album since Bobby "Blue" Bland's Call on Me/That's the Way Love Is, which reached Number Eleven some twenty-three years earlier. Strong Persuader, in effect, introduced a new generation of mainstream rock fans to the language and form of the blues.

An army brat who grew up on bases in West Germany and the Pacific Northwest, Cray was introduced to popular black music at home, but he discovered blues artists on his own as a teenager. "I still have a lot of the same influences today," Cray says. "People like Albert Collins, Buddy Guy, O.V. Wright and Sam Cooke."

In his lyric themes, Cray often veers away from the hard-luck road trod by most bluesmen. But his trebly, razor-sharp guitar playing is straight out of the electric blues tradition, and it provides Strong Persuader with a distinctive edge.

Signed to the small High Tone label when work on Strong Persuader began, Cray was hoping to hook up with a larger company. "The production on the first records was too low-budget," he says, "and we were looking for a major label because we want to make a better record every time."

Cray and his band eventually cut a deal with PolyGram, but they continued to work with producers Bruce Bromberg and Dennis Walker, who had produced their High Tone albums. As a result, Strong Persuader was released with a combined High Tone/Mercury imprint. In addition to coproducing the album, Walker contributed "Right Next Door (Because of Me)," a tale of infidelity played out in a motel room. The song, which became the album's centerpiece, also includes the lyrics from which Strong Persuader derived its title.

Review by Cub Koda
There's more than one B.B. King best-of out on the racks, but this 1998 issue, Greatest Hits [MCA], updates his chart achievements and puts them together in a modern, 16-track package for both the novice and casual modern blues listener. Kicking off with a pair of tunes from the influential Live at the Regal album ("Sweet Little Angel," "Everyday I Have the Blues"), the set moves through mid- to late-'60s breakthrough hits like "How Blue Can You Get?," "Paying the Cost to Be the Boss," "Why I Sing the Blues," "Don't Answer the Door," and his signature tune, "The Thrill Is Gone." The pop-blues fusions King experimented with in the '70s and '80s show up on "To Know You Is to Love You," "I Like to Live the Love," and "Hummingbird." The modern-day end of things is represented by duets with Robert Cray on "Playin' with My Friends," and rock group U2 on "When Love Comes to Town." Although missing all of his early-'50s hits, this is a good buy for the casual fan coming to his music for the first time, and for longtime aficionados looking for a quick-fix update.

Producer-Dennis Walker

 

Howlin' Mercy - John Campbell 1993

Review by Thom Jurek
Slide guitarist and songwriter John Campbell was a man driven. Before his untimely death, he had pulled out all the stops to play a music that was full of mystery, pathos, dark energy, and plenty of rock & roll strut 'n' growl; it could be frightening in its intensity. Howlin' Mercy was the last of two recordings for Elektra, and is by far the heavier of the two. As displayed by its opening track, "Ain't Afraid of Midnight," Campbell was a considerable slide guitarist who owed his skill to the bluesmen like Lightnin' Hopkins (from his home state of Texas), Fred McDowell, and a few others. His solos are wrangling, loose, and shambolic; they are undeniably dark and heavy. They cut with elegance across the rhythms and melodies in his songs. This is followed by a version of "When the Levee Breaks" that is a direct counter to and traditional reclamation of the Led Zep version and places it back firmly in the blues canon. As evidenced by "Saddle Up My Pony," Campbell was equally skilled at transmuting the Delta blues and framing them in a very modern context without taking anything away from their chilling, spare power and poetry. And in the modern rock and blues idiom, he was a master, as evidenced by the stomp and roll of "Firin' Line"; "Written in Stone"; and the epic, swamp blues cum overdriven scorcher "Wolf Among the Lambs." This final moment is perhaps Campbell's greatest on record in that it embodies all of his strengths and reveals none of them to be contradictions. Campbell was living and playing in New York at the end of his life, and that city's conflicting energies are reflected in his playing and writing. They needed each other, it seems, and if ever there were a Delta blues record that visited the Texas roadhouse and settled on the streetcorners of NYC, this is it. Awesome.

Composer/Producer - Dennis Walker


Maria Mudaur's Music For Lovers – 2000
review by Ed Kopp

Music For Lovers includes tunes written by Greg Brown ("Think About You," "Someday When We're Both Alone"), David Steen ("Latersville), John Hiatt ("It Feels Like Rain"), Bruce Cockburn ("Southland of the Heart"), and other underrated songwriters. The songs vary between bluesy, intimate numbers colored by atmospheric electric guitars and keys, to jazzier, horn-and-piano-based tunes from Muldaur's last release Meet Me Where They Play the Blues, including the singer's classy duet with Charles Brown on "Gee Baby, Ain't I Good To You." While a few more up-tempo numbers might have added an energy boost to this collection, it still rates as a fine musical paean to that oldest of human activities: makin' whoopee.

Lyrically, the album is best summed up by lines from the song "I Wanna Be Loved:" "I feel like acting my age. I'm past the stage of merely turtledoving. I'm in no mood to resist. And I insist the world owes me some lovin'."

Muldaur's attitude is pure Mae West, and her limber, distinctive voice compares favorably to her idol Bessie Smith's. We eagerly await Muldaur's planned tribute to Smith.

Producer – Dennis Walker

Cold Is The Night - 1986

Review by Bill Dahl
The Bay Area blues guitarist's debut album sounds under-produced compared to what would soon follow -- and that's no knock. Walker's gritty, expressive vocals and ringing, concise guitar work shine through loud and clear in front of his band, the Boss Talkers. Walker and his producers Dennis Walker and Bruce Bromberg wrote virtually the entire set, including the slashing "Cold Is the Night," "Don't Play Games," and "One Woman."