Sass Jordan’s new Stony Plain Records album, Bitches Blues, can almost be considered part two of 2020’s Rebel Moon Blues.
Like the previous record, it has eight tracks and features both originals and covers of songs from Taj Mahal, Freddie King and others.
“It was just the songs that stood out to me and asked me to sing them,” Jordan says of assembling the material for what most would call her second blues album, even though the style has influenced her music since she first came to popular acclaim with her 1988 Tell Somebody debut.
While it wasn’t Jordan’s intention to cover a variety of different blues styles with Bitches Blues, a title that’s a play on jazz trumpet legend Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew, there’s gutsy blues rock, slower numbers, piano-driven New Orleans sounds, and even some talkin’ blues.
Guitarists Chris Caddell and Jimmy Reid, bassist and harmonica player Steve Marriner, drummer Cassius Pereira, and keyboardist Jesse O’Brien made the album with Jordan. She’s previously recorded and performed with them, which is evident by the cohesion that comes across on an album that was recorded partially live at Villa Sound in Singhampton, Ont.
Bitches Blues was produced by someone Jordan is even closer to, her husband Derek Sharp, who is credited under the name D#.
Album opener “Still Alive And Well” by Johnny Winter rocks out of the starting gate as hard as German bobsledders, with impressive guitar work and edgy vocals from Jordan. It’s particularly meaningful considering the pandemic the world has experienced over the past two-plus years.
“I think it resonates with people who are hopefully starting to come out of this dark tunnel of hell and saying ‘Well, I’m still here, I’m still alive and well,’” says Jordan, who had a Johnny Winter album in the first record collection she had access to as a youngster that forged a special connection that has carried on until today.
Taj Mahal is another longtime favourite and, while “Chevrolet” has been covered often, Jordan said she’s never heard a woman do it and wanted to provide a female take on the number.
Jordan and Sharp co-wrote “Even” years ago, and a different version closed 2006’s Get What You Give album.
The new rendition highlights O’Brien’s mastery of the ivory keys and Jordan says the song, which was recorded live, is now much closer to what it was originally intended to be,
“It sounds like a bar in New Orleans at about 3 a.m. when everybody’s in their cups. It also sounds like an old man singing it, which is very interesting.”
Jordan and Caddell co-wrote the chugging “Still The World Goes Round” six years ago. Caddell is responsible for a lot of the lead guitar on the album, but it’s his slide guitar that stands out and provides a nice complement here.
Even though it isn’t new, it’s another song that Jordan believes has relevance to the world’s current state of affairs.
“You Gotta Move” is a languid blues number written by Gary Davis and Fred McDowell, but Jordan grew up with the Rolling Stones version of it from 1971’s Sticky Fingers. It’s a song that Jordan sings around the house while doing chores, and now people get a chance to hear what that sounds like with a band in a studio owned by Adam Fair, who engineered Bitches Blues.
Lowell George’s “Sailin’ Shoes” was the title track of a 1972 Little Feat album, but it’s Robert Palmer’s version from his 1974 Sneakin’ Sally Through The Alley debut album that particularly inspired Jordan.
“I could have done all the songs on that album, but we just had this great idea for this arrangement that we did and that made it even more exciting. That was a really fun one to do.”
“Ain’t No Big Deal On You” was written by Freddie King, who may be best known as a guitarist, but Jordan says she’s learned a lot from his phrasing while listening to him sing.
Album closer “Change is Coming” was co-written on the spot in the studio by Jordan, Sharp, Caddell, Reid, Marriner and Pereira.
“It’s almost like a chant, which to me always holds an element of the sacred in it because I’m very attached to Indigenous culture,” says Jordan, who adds that Reid’s electric sitar contributes to that vibe. “And of course the lyric is again very relevant to now.”
Another interesting element of Bitches Blues was that the frequencies of gold and silver were mixed into each song at a very low level. Jordan — who has studied these things as well as biophoton therapy, which involves the healing characteristics of powerful waves of light — believes this may be the first time this has ever been done on an album.
“You can’t hear it with your ears, but your energy field picks it up. Both gold and silver carry a very high frequency and were often used for healing in many ancient cultures. The great thing is, if you don’t need it, it won’t affect you at all. But if you do need it, it will positively influence your energy system.”
The Juno Award winner and four-time nominee sees herself as someone who brings healing through sound, and it’s her intention to lift and inspire people when she sings.
While that’s been accomplished with Bitches Blues, Jordan plans to hit the road in a large way for the first time since the pandemic hit and perform shows that will be about 75 per cent comprised of her recent blues-based material and rounded out with hits from earlier gold- and platinum-certified albums.
Those sales and awards were nice, and Jordan probably would have appreciated more of them when she was younger, but they were never the driving forces behind her music or her long career.
“I care about enjoying myself and having people I care about around me, and then making an audience happy,” says Jordan. That’s what I care about, and just having fun.”
GA-20 clearly is on to something big. It’s a movement, a new traditional blues revival. The dynamic, throwback blues trio are disciples of the place where traditional blues, country and rock ‘n’ roll intersect. “We make records that we would want to listen to,” says guitarist Matt Stubbs. “It’s our take on the song-based traditional electric blues we love.” Stubbs and guitarist/vocalist Pat Faherty, and drummer Tim Carman have been at the forefront of this traditional blues revival since they first formed in 2018. It’s no wonder they skyrocketed to the top of the Billboard Blues Charts.
“Since we started the band we’ve focused on the story, the melody, and on creating a mood. Playing live as much as we do, we’re finding more and more that people are discovering how cool it all is. Traditional country, soul and funk music have all had these massive recent revivals, but traditional blues so far has not.” With their new Colemine album, Crackdown, and an intensive tour schedule, that’s all about to change.
On Crackdown, GA-20’s third full-length release, the band creates an unvarnished, ramshackle blues that is at once traditional and refreshingly modern. Expanding on their previous releases (2019’s Lonely Soul and 2021’s Try It…You Might Like It! GA-20 Does Hound Dog Taylor) GA-20 finds inspiration on the edges of the genre, where early electric blues first converged with country and rock ‘n’ roll. The album’s nine original songs include the loping Louisiana-flavored Dry Run, the dirty and bare-bones Easy On The Eyes and the melodic garage tinge of Fairweather Friend. With tight, propulsive performances and a brevity and punk energy reminiscent of The Ramones, Crackdown is rowdy and fun, filled with instantly memorable and well-crafted songs.
Crackdown was recorded live at famed Q Division Studios in Somerville, Massachusetts, and, like GA-20’s previous releases, produced by Stubbs. “We set up the drums and amps all in one room, using a limited number of microphones and employing some vintage recording techniques,” explains Stubbs. “We brought in a lot of old amps and guitars and had fun exploring different amp/guitar combinations, and took a good amount of time dialing in the drum and guitar sounds before getting down to work.”
Since first forming in 2018, GA-20 has drawn inspiration for their old-school sounds from the music they love by artists such as Otis Rush, J.B. Lenoir, Howlin’ Wolf, Junior Wells, Hound Dog Taylor, Lloyd Price, Johnny “Guitar” Watson and so many others. Performing with what feels like reckless abandon, GA-20 brings a timeless immediacy to every song they play with a sound that continues to grow and evolve. The Boston Herald calls them, “a magical blues trio.”
Matt Stubbs is a 14-year veteran of legendary blues master Charlie Musselwhite’s touring band, and has performed with James Cotton and John Hammond, among many others. Stubbs met Faherty in Boston, and their mutual love of traditional electric blues, R&B, and rock ‘n’ roll led them to write, perform and eventually record their modern vision of this life-altering music. GA-20 quickly drew a large following, and the band soon signed with acclaimed soul/R&B label Colemine Records, releasing their debut, Lonely Soul, in 2019 to widespread critical and popular acclaim. The album – with guests Charlie Musselwhite and Luther Dickinson – premiered in the #2 position on the Billboard Blues Chart. With new drummer Tim Carman on board, their 2020 EP Live Vol. 1, debuted at #1. Medium.com declared, “This is the kind of music that travels through time while taking from the era where it was born and turning it into something fresh. Dirty and raw…timeless and modern.”
With GA-20’s sophomore album, 2021’s Try It…You Might Like It! GA-20 Does Hound Dog Taylor, the band resurrected and reinvented the raw and dirty blues music of the late six-fingered slide guitar Chicago blues legend, Hound Dog Taylor. Released in partnership between Colemine Records and iconic blues label Alligator Records, the album debuted at #1 on the Billboard Blues Chart as well as #1 radio charting in the UK and Australia, and it was nominated for a 2022 Blues Music Award. Songs from the record received airplay on over 350 radio stations worldwide. Critics from home and abroad heralded the coming of a new wave of blues for the next generation of blues fans.
American Songwriter says the band plays “rough and tumble, relentless blues” with “tough, insistent vocals” and “maximum intensity rocking.” UK tastemaker magazine MOJO says GA-20 makes “a joyful noise.” With the help of their relentless tour schedule, GA-20 reached many fans who had never heard of Hound Dog Taylor, and who were now not just fans, but recruited to this new, growing traditional blues revival as well. “We’re proud to bring this sound to a new audience,” says Stubbs. “When people hear it, they get what we’re doing and they’re into it. It’s very important to us to make a personal connection,” he continues. “Blues is meant to be played live. It’s about telling stories. We love making records but performing live is even more important to us.” Now, with Crackdown and an ever-expanding tour schedule, GA-20 is clearly on to something big. It’s a movement, a traditional blues revival.
Regina’s Terraplane covers a lot of ground within the blues genre. Blending traditional elements and slide guitar with more modern, electric improvisation, this quartet has been a mainstay of the Regina Blues Festival for years. Featuring Shane Reoch on vocals, Troy Bleich (Planet Eater and Into Eternity) on bass, Colin Lynn (Nickletree) on drums and Ethan Reoch (Hoodoo Mafia and People of the Sun) on keyboards and guitar, Terraplane is sure to please both casual listeners and deeper blues enthusiasts.