We thought we would reprint a few, no, a lot, of the reviews we have received over the past few months. We will be doing this periodically. I hope you like them. We do!
Nashville Blues Society Review
DICKY JAMES AND THE BLUE FLAMES
A REAL GOOD BLUES–HARD RAIN–ROCK ME–BULLDOG TALKIN’–IT’S ALL TRUE–BORN UNDER A BAD SIGN–LOW DOWN DIRTY DOG BLUES–ICEHOUSE SHUFFLE–GAME ON–SPECIAL TO ME–WE GET TO PLAY–???
Richard Wagster is better known in the blues world as Dicky James, and he and his Indiana-based band, The Blue Flames, have been tearin’ it up in the Midwest since their formation in 2008. With their second album, “Hard Rain,” they have taken a major step forward in the heady playing field of contemporary blues. It consists of nine originals and two covers, and showcases Dicky’s maturity both as a writer and guitarist. He’s joined by Bob Freeze on harp, Johnny Beeson on B-3, Mark Ford on bass, and Will Cox on drums, who handles some tricky arrangements throughout the set, all without missing a beat!!
The set kicks off with the funky “A Real Good Blues,” with nits message of the spiritual, feel-good power of the blues. A no-good lover is warned in “It’s All True,” that “you reap just what you sow,” featuring sweet harp and B-3 interplay. An ultra-funky horn section adds spice to the tale of another lover who’s been messin’ around, “Game On,”where “every dog has his day and every man has his say!” Bob Freeze’s harp drives the instrumental tribute to Little Walter, “Icehouse Shuffle,” while guest vocalist Wes Cox lays down a reggae-fied rap delivery to the love story entitled “Special To Me.’
We had two favorites, too. The classic riff to “Born Under A Bad Sign” is given a chugging rhythm pattern here, while “Bulldog Talkin” takes us on a trip deep down to the Delta with Dicky’s dobro and Bob’s harp leading the charge on the tale of a lover who gets a little too rowdy after a night of too much partying!
This set is dedicated to the memory of the late Pinetop Perkins, and fittingly so. Like Pinetop’s music, “Hard Rain” keeps the soul and history of the blues intact while simultaneously looking ahead to the future!! Until next time….
Sheryl and Don Crow
Nashville Blues Society 7/30/11
Jazz News/Rock Over America Review
by Melissa Martinez
Richard “Dicky James” Wagster may not be a musician that you’re familiar with, and to be honest, I wasn’t either before hearing this CD. In 2008 Dicky (vocals, guitar) formed the Flames with Bob “Icehouse” Freeze (harp), Johnny “Lightning Boy” Beeson (Hammond), Mark “P Funk” Ford (bass), and Will Cox (drums). Hailing from Terre Haute, Indiana the boys take the Chicago Blues and make them their own. The CD has nine original tracks, two covers, and is dedicated to the memory of Pinetop Perkins, a Blues legend. I think Pinetop would be proud of what the band has done on this album. From the opening notes of “A Real Good Blues” to the final notes of the “hidden track” that’s not listed on the liner, Dicky James And The Blue Flames prove that they know what they’re doing.
Let me touch on the covers briefly. We all know that I am NOT a fan of covers, but sometimes they are done well. Such is the case here. “Born Under A Bad Sign” is given a fresh sound that’s raw and gritty. B.B. King’s “Rock Me” is down and dirty and by far one of my favorite covers of all time. Considering that I am in awe of all B.B. does, that is high praise indeed.
Now onto some of the original songs and what stands out to me. “Bulldog Talkin'” has some great slide work and has you groovin’. “Low Down Dirty Dog Blues” is full of great lyrics and great musicianship and truly says “Blues” to me. One track that takes a complete left turn but had me liking it in spite of myself is “Special To Me”. It combines the grooves of Chicago with a lyric that is definitely rap. I don’t know why it works so damn well, but it does. I’m not a fan of rap, mostly because of the lyrics, but taking a Blues sensibility and combining it with some killer riffs from James makes this a winner.
The whole CD is great. There isn’t a track that screams filler to me and it isn’t all just one style of Blues. Although it’s rooted in the Chicago sound, it never grows boring. James delivers raw emotion, and The Blue Flames add serious chops throughout.
Alternate Root Review by Danny McCloskey
Dicky James and The Blue FlamesFor many, The Blues is a life-long companion. It can emotionally color the past and ease the hurt as it follows you through to the present. Musically, it gives a platform for those who can lend their souls if only for the sake of the song. For Dicky James and The Blue Flames, hot blue infects their playing and an eternal fire of a backbeat rides shotgun in their grooves. Heading out of Indiana, the band hold to the history of uptown blues that took root in Midwest territories. From St. Louis on up to Chicago, the blues unpacked a worn southern manufactured satchel and gave an electric surge to field songs of love and life gone bad, sound tracking the nighttime. Dicky James doubles up on vocal and songwriting chores. The Blue Flames have got Dicky’s back with a solid rhythm section and the flash of organ, horn and harmonica riffs. The story lines snatch life in a sonic snapshot. You can see fingers shaking in your face and see a big head coming your way in “Bulldog Talkin”, heed the harmonica signal of a freight train groove on “Icehouse Blues” and stare through a blue window as real life runs by in the streams of a “Hard Rain”. Ever wonder how somebody remains true? Listen to the reasons of Dicky James and The Blue Flames in “We Git to Play”. Commitment is easy when The Blues hammers in your heart.
Blues In Britain Review
To sum up, this is a fine set from a hard-working band. Most readers should enjoy it!
Dicky James And The Blue Flames – Hard Rain
The second CD from this five-piece band based in Terre Haute, Indiana, under the leadership of passionate vocalist, incendiary guitarist and chief songwriter Richard “Dicky James” Wagster has a modern but traditionally-rooted blues sound. Try the title track, which sports funky horns, a rock-inflection in the vocal and the concise guitar break, wailing blues-harp from Bob “Icehouse” Freeze, and a generally tough approach. The six minutes plus ’Low Down Dirty Dog Blues’ finds the band in minor mode, tackling the slow blues in classic fashion, though to be honest, they have already established their credentials by then with a smouldering, sensual cover of ‘Rock Me Baby’ and an inventive rendition of Albert King’s ‘Born Under A Bad Sign’. The rap/ reggae ‘Special To Me’ is a little out-of-place, but for original material, try the dobro driven ‘Bulldog Talkin’’ or the spiky Chicago blues club sound of ‘It’s All True’ – and the two together remind me that this is also a good place to mention the excellent if generally unobtrusive playing of Hammond organist Johnny “Lightning Boy” Beeson, which certainly helps give the band a distinctive sound that sets them apart from many others.Rating: 8 – Norman Darwen
Blues Blast Magazine review
Just what you would expect from the Midwest, good and sturdy blues. Based in Indiana, but musically traveling through Chicago and Mississippi along with a stopover in “Funk Town”, Dicky and associates dish out a heaping helping of working man’s blues. Dicky leads the guys with his guitar, vocal and songwriting skills, ably bolstered by an ace rhythm section along with organ and harmonica shadings. Mr. James possesses the requisite whiskey-soaked voice to make everything copasetic. The occasional use of a horn section provides an extra kick.We get two paeans to the blues in “A Real Good Blues” and “We Git To Play”, both taken at a sprightly gait. Right from the git-go the fearless leader’s guitar cuts right through the air and doesn’t let up till this party is over. The former leads in with a snare drum shuffle followed by a heavy bass sound, amped-up harp and organ washes. The latter tune enthuses about the lift they get from playing the blues. The first of two covers, B.B. King’s “Rock Me”, benefits from a driving rhythm push and a refreshing Hammond organ solo courtesy of Johnny “Lightning Boy” Beeson. Dobro-slide is trotted out on “Bulldog Talkin’”, a laid-back country-blues underpinned by a thumping bass drum and Bob “Icehouse” Freeze’s snaky harp playing.What goes around comes around is the lesson taught within “It’s All True”. Stinging guitar licks fly out like sparks over a tough groove supported by sturdy harp, leading into a cool-jazz organ workout. The title track rides along on a funky guitar-horn riff as the singer berates the listener that “The muddy water gonna wash all over you”. Dicky’s strong vocal here supports the vibe along with his usual out-front guitar skills. In the hands of these cool-customers, the old blues chestnut “Born Under A Bad Sign” sounds born-anew.The lone instrumental “Icehouse Shuffle” is a chance for its namesake to show the extent of his harmonica prowess, not to mention more strong vocals and axe tricks from our hero. What starts out sounding like the intro to “Somebody Loan Me A Dime”, turns out to be the slow blues vamp of “Low Down Dirty Dog Blues”. More funk is brought to the front in the horn-driven goodness of “Game On”.“Special To Me’’ stands out like a whore in a nunnery. This must have been a favor owed to a friend. In the midst of all this blues goodness Wes “Dub C” Cox’s dub workout just doesn’t work out. Taken as a separate tune elsewhere, its lilting reggae backdrop has a certain appeal and Dicky manages to interject some blues licks.The unlisted “Roll the Credits” is just that, as DJ Doc Long recites the credits in his radio-worthy pipes over some more tasty blues riffing. One miscue doesn’t mar the praise worthy musical effort put forth here. Musicianship like this needs to be rewarded. Pick this puppy up and groove to it until the next helping comes along..
Reviewer Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony hails from the New Jersey Delta.
Midwest Record Online Review
DICKY JAMES & THE BLUE FLAMES/Hard Rain: A bunch of white boys from Indiana forget they’re white boys from Indiana and once again return to the roots they never had on Chicago’s west side and tear it up like they are at some dive on Madison with the brothers. Going old school all they way, this stuff is too deep to even be called frat boy blues. They know it, they love it and they put it on parade quite nicely. They even tip the cap to Pinetop Perkins. They do a fine job of bringing new blood to the old sound.
Blues Music Review: Dicky James and the Blue Flames – Hard Rain – Self Released 2011
Indiana-based five piece Dicky James and the Blue Flames celebrated the release of their second album earlier this year. The band worked incredibly hard to capture the energy and passion that they display in their live show. If you’re a regular visitor to the website, you’ll remember that late last year, I had the opportunity to be one of the judges in the Indiana Blues Society’s I.B.C. qualifier. Dicky James was one of the stellar bands that played in that event, and in my opinion, put on far and away the best show of any of the groups. When they combined the scores of the three judges, another band was crowned the winners; but if you ask me, Dicky James and company left the biggest impression.Their live set is pretty awesome. During a performance of “Icehouse Shuffle,” a song I’m glad they included on this new record, things got under way with Dicky James taking his wireless guitar into the crowd for some intimate shredding. Things ended with Bob “Icehouse” Freeze standing on a chair, surrounded by folks cheering on his harmonica wailing! I was hooked.
features 11 tracks, as well as the uncredited “Credits.” Out of those 11 performances, the band lays down only two classic covers, “Rock Me” and “Born Under A Bad Sign.” It kicks off with “A Real Good Blues,” which perfectly sets the tone for the album by letting folks know what hardcore fans of this music know very well – “A good blues will lift your spirits up.” The song is smooth, and moves right along at a slow and steady pace. It gives the listener a great opportunity to single out each band member with their ears over the course of the track.
The title track follows, and continues that deliberate pace set forth in the opener. The song is thickened by the addition of horns – a fantastic addition to this band’s sound! Freeze’s harp is subtle and skilled. James drops in a brief but strong guitar solo just ahead of the last roughly minute of the song, which comes to a climactic end with a clap of thunder and the sound of rain falling!
“Rock Me” is sandwiched between the title cut and “Bulldog Talkin’,” a track that kicks off with the thumping bass drum of Will Cox and some absolutely terrific dobro. I mentioned that the band is incredibly entertaining, and part of that includes Dicky’s occasional asides and comments in the songs. I’ve always referred to such mannerisms as “two cents,” when an artist adds their little personal touches to a song. James can often be heard laughing on songs, talking to the band, or in the case of this tune – barking. It’s just another cool little element that this band brings to the table.
“It’s All True” is a slow-burner that lays it all out for you – “You reap just what you sew.” The rhythm section of Will Cox on drums and Mark Ford on bass are presented very well in the mix here, and Johnny Beeson’s Hammond solo is wonderful. The depth that the Hammond provides to this band is one of the things that I like most about it. It gives a warmth to their sound, in my opinion. “It’s All True” is followed by DJBF version of “Born Under A Bad Sign,” which leads right into “Low Down Dirty Dog Blues.” This is a stout number that features fantastic layering in the mix of each of the band members. The intro to the song alone is some of the best material on the disc, and the song as a whole is one of Hard Rain’s standout numbers.
As I mentioned earlier, the instrumental “Icehouse Shuffle” is included on this album, and I was excited to see that when I first got this disc. The composition, put together by Freeze, is just a monster dance tune. The band locks in behind Freeze and goes to work, cranking out a little over three minutes of sonic muscle that gets you revved back up for the album’s home stretch.
“Game On” is simply a cool tune, and the band brings back the horn section, here, as well. Give a call to Norm Hanson on trombone, Matthew Balensuela on saxophone, and Daniel Hayes on trumpet for the work they put in on these tracks. The Flames enjoy another special guest on “Special to Me,” in the form of Wes ‘Dub C’ Cox, who raps (you read that correctly) on the track. The band lays down a tropical flavored jam to back Cox’s rhymes. Dicky James hammers out a pair of strong solos on the number, as well. It’s a little unorthodox, but it’s not the first time I’ve heard Rap weaved into the Blues, and if it gets young people to take an interest in this great music, then it’s certainly worth taking the risk.
The music wraps up with “We Git to Play,” a salute to the weekend warriors who hold a day job in addition to getting on stage each weekend. It’s a cool tune, and provides a nice bookend to the opening salute to this most special of music genres. The horn section comes back in for the closer, and the entire song gives me a kind of Blues Brothers Band vibe. Let’s hope, however, that we don’t hear this band of brothers playing behind bars anytime soon.
Make sure you check out the 12th track on this album, which isn’t listed in the packaging. James and the guys knock out another fantastic instrumental ahead of Doc Long’s voiceover credits. It’s a wholly unique and clever way to close out a great record. It’s especially cool for me, as a Hoosier boy, to hear a few names I recognize in the “thank you’s” on the cut.
The title cut, “Icehouse Shuffle,” the opening number, and “Low Down Dirty Dog Blues”
News From Terre Haute, Indiana
May 27, 2011
Flames deliver quality follow-up with ‘Hard Rain’Mark Bennett
TERRE HAUTE — After a hard rain, there’s usually clear skies on the way. Maybe even a rainbow.
Such is the case with the latest album by Terre Haute blues makers, Dicky James and the Blue Flames. The 12-song disc, “Hard Rain,” provides a clearer picture of the band’s musical chops, and some crafty songwriting by its frontman, Richard “Dicky James” Wagster.
With this collection, the Flames deliver a quality follow-up to the the entertaining but hastily produced 2009 debut album, “The Blues Taste Good.” For “Hard Rain,” they went to CRS Studio in West Terre Haute, and enlisted Curt Hall of CLH Sound in Lewis to do the final mixing.
Best of all, Wagster — lead singer and guitarist — crafted some enjoyable tunes that become more engaging, song by song, on the album. The mood is lighter than “The Blues Taste Good,” though some lyrics carry a sharp edge and a listless spirit. (It is the blues, after all.)
“It’s happier, more uplifting,” explained drummer Will Cox. “It’s blues, for sure, but it’s danceable.”
The prime opportunity to hit the dance floor comes on Track 8, the lone instrumental, written by Flames blues harpist Bob Freeze. He leads the crew through the fun “Icehouse Shuffle.” Two tracks later, friend of the band Wes Cox raps the vocals of his own “Special to Me,” backed by a hefty, traditional blues sound by Wagster, Cox, Freeze, organist John Beeson, and bassist Mark Ford in an unusual clash of genres.
The Flames also cover classics “Rock Me” and “Born Under a Bad Sign” with spirit.
The rest flows straight from the mind of Wagster, a native of Gary who’s lived in the Wabash Valley since 1994. The album opens with his “A Real Good Blues,” a straight-up style that is just what it claims to be. The title track follows, and generates some of Wagster’s most memorable guitar riffs. Still, the best is yet to come, once “Hard Rain” ends.
After “Rock Me,” the most vivid lines on the CD emerge in “Bulldog Talkin’” — a funky retort to a scolding by a woman. Up next is a cry for some Golden Rule living on “It’s All True.”
The centerpiece, though, arrives at midpoint, an edgy, 6-minute and 14-second lament, “Low Down Dirty Dog Blues.” It revisits those thoughts that keep us awake in the wee hours of the night. “There’s things I’ve done and said in my life I can never take back; the road that I’ve traveled got me way off the track; but I ain’t makin’ no excuses, I’m not blaming it on you. I’ve got to pay my own freight, baby, for the things I say and do.”
The homestretch turns playful with “Icehouse Shuffle,” “Game On” (where scores get settled in a done-me-wrong relationship), “Special to Me,” “We Git to Play (the Blues)” and an quirky but exceedingly clever finale called “Roll the Credits.” For that closer, the band enlisted veteran Terre Haute radio personality Doc Long to list the contributions of the band members and guest musicians (including a tight horn trio that gives tunes such as “Hard Rain” a Chicago sound), and a few thank-you’s, while Wagster, Cox, Freeze, Beeson and Ford jam in the background.
In Long’s closing comment, he says, “We hope that you like this album. And if you don’t, give it to someone you don’t like.”
The latter probably won’t happen much; this CD’s a keeper.
Dickey James and the Blue Flames
These guys are totally into the spirit of the Blues. This is great stuff and it sounds like home, with the Blues coming’ through strong. They have an ominous, laid back sound that gets you ready to polish a belt buckle with your baby. I met these guys in Clarksdale (that’s a pic of Red’s Lounge during a Hard Rain on the cover) and they sent me the CD. That’s a good thing – I was delighted. I put on the CD and was immediately curious as to why they aren’t better known. Perhaps Indiana isn’t the most typical Blues state, but, hey, we love Indiana.
Dickey James is on guitar & vocals, Bob Freeze on Blues harp, Johnny Beeson on Hammond organ, Mark Ford is on bass and Will Cox on drums. There are also some guest musicians on brass and reeds, bass & vocals. All tunes are originals by the band except ‘Rock Me’ and ‘Born Under A Bad Sign‘. I especially liked the exceptionally slow but very soulful ‘Low Down Dirty Dog Blues‘, backed by great B-3 Hammond sound and great vocal. The harp work by Bob Freeze is very nice. And “different strokes for different folks” rap song ‘Special To Me’ by Wes Cox, may seen a little much for most purists, but that’s alright. A really funny ending voice over, called ‘Roll the Credits’ is an unexpected romp, but they do get to thank everyone.
I love the sound of these Blues guys from the Midwest. Go listen. Turn it up LOUD. Pretty cool stuff.
(C) 2011, Gary W. Miller
Indiana Blues Society Review of Hard Rain
By Mark Novak
Dicky James and The Blue Flames “Hard Rain” album is a great follow up to their last offering of “The Blues Taste Good”. Not being a writer by trade and taking into consideration how subjective one’s music taste can be, my opinion is that Dicky James and the Blue Flames’ “Hard Rain” would be a good addition to anyone’s Blues collection.
This latest album is 11 tracks with Terre Haute, Indiana DJ, Doc Long, doing an entertaining voice over listing the credits on the 12th track.
All songs are written and produced by Dicky James & The Blue Flames except “Special to Me” – lyrics by Wes Cox; “Ice House Shuffle” – by Bob Freeze; “ Rock Me” and “Born Under a Bad Sign”. Guest musicians that filled out this album were Wes “Dub C” Cox on “Special to Me” with Norm Hanson on Trombone, Matthew Balensuela on Sax, Daniel Hayes on Trumpet, and John Ford with additional Bass.
Mastering and sound is consistent thoughout and done by Curt Hall at CLH Sound, Lewis, Indiana. It was recorded at CRS Studio in West Terre Haute, Indiana. All the vocals are clear with no one stepping on each other. The harp licks will ring a bell for some when it comes to that old school Chicago / Rod Piazza sound. The tracks with horns add a nice fill and balance.
A standard jewel case with a front cover flap that had a realistic digital overlay of Dicky James and The Blue Flames on a Mississippi Blues club awning that made me do a double take. The inner photo spread and credits are easy on the eye and organized. The back outside flap doesn’t list the 12th track by design to catch you off guard, I assume. It did me. Very clever and entertaining.
These tracks are some of the highlights for me:
“A Real Good Blues” is a nice opener with a gritty harp / guitar solo mix that gives off a Chicago vibe with lyrics that tell a story.
In “Hard Rain”, Dicky’s old school vocals pack a real Blues punch. With a melding of tough bass, lead guitar and a tight horn section, it results in a grinding Blues track.
‘Hard Rain’, came from a motorcycle ride that Dicky James and Will Cox made to Memphis. They rode all 400 miles in a driving rain.
“Rock Me” has deep soulful vocals that are complimented with a touch of overdrive on the lead guitar and nice mix of harp and keys.
“Bull Dog Talkin’” offers a deep Delta feeling with a slide in lead that is reminiscent of juke joints of old. This track may offer some insight for upcoming Blues harp players.
“Low Down Dirty Dog Blues” – It wouldn’t surprise me if someone knocks on Dicky James’s door for rights to add this to their album. The vocals have a real hook.
“Special To Me” will catch you by surprise. It has a Jamaican, reggae flavor mixed with their Blues that is unique to this album.
If you cannot decide what Blues you want to listen to, this CD is an excellent choice. It’s a Blues album that is easy listening, and can fit into a party atmosphere.
Blues Bytes Online Review
Indiana-based Dicky James and the Blue Flames recently released their second disc, Hard Rain. The disc is made up of eleven tracks (plus a hidden twelfth track), two of which are covers. Most of the songs were written by James and the band, with a couple being penned by Wes “Dub C” Cox, who “sings” on his tune, “Special To Me,” and the rough and ready instrumental, “Icehouse Shuffle,” written by Blue Flames harp man Bob “Icehouse” Freeze. The rest of the band consists of Dicky James (guitar and vocals), Johnny “Lightning Boy” Beeson (organ), Mark “P Funk” Ford (bass), and Will Cox (percussion).
The funky opener, “A Real Good Blues,” opens the album up on a positive note, followed by the ominous title track, punctuated by a full horn section. B. B. King’s “Rock Me Baby” is next, with the country blues “Bulldog Talking,” with nice work on the dobra by James. “It’s All True” is a minor-key blues that features James’ stinging guitar, some of his best work on the disc, along with Freeze’s harp and some tasty Hammond B3 from Beeson. Albert King’s “Born Under A Bad Sign,” gets an interesting fresh read from the band.
The slow blues, “Low Down Dirty Dog Blues,” is one of the album’s standout tracks, a tune of regret and remorse, with some great fretwork from James and a perfect world-weary vocal. The horns return for the funky “Game On,.” The previously mentioned “Special To Me” veers sharply into reggae territory, but “We Git to Play” closes the disc on a strong blues-based note, with Elmore James-styled slide guitar, Freeze’s harp, and those punchy horns. The hidden twelfth track, “Roll the Credits,” where DJ Doc Long reads album credits over a groovy shuffle, is not to be missed.
James plays some first-rate guitar and his vocals are a barrel of fun, as he growls, wails, cackles, and even barks his way through this strong set of songs. The band is superlative in support. These guys nearly made the IBC competition last year, just falling short during the Indiana qualifier. Don’t be surprised if you hear from them next year in Memphis. Hard Rain is a rock-solid set of blues that will appeal to any discerning blues fan.
Blues Notes Blog Review
Dicky James and the Blue Flames, “Hard Rain”
Dicky James is a tough-sounding traditional electric blues player out of Indiana who creates his own music based on Chicago-type blues. And he’s quite good at it.
This CD is mostly original, with a strong sense of the blues and with a passion for their work. “Bulldog Talkin’ ” is a dobro slide that’s especially tasty, “Special to Me” shuffles along nicely, and Bob “Icehouse” Freeze works a little blues magic on his harp. The band has a strong sound and if they ever show up at Moondog’s, you should take them in.
Dicky James and The Blue Flames
This, the second CD from DJBF, those electrified blues masters of Terre Haute, strikes a more optimistic feel than their first must-have CD “The Blues Taste Good.” Be warned that my word “optimistic” doesn’t mean this strong follow up is trite or formulaic.
While much of their first CD’s highlights address visceral themes of grit, pathos, and reality in “Chicago Skyway,” “Sound Mind, ” and “Main Road Blues” (the latter of which was inspired by the misfortunes of the Donner Party), Hard Rain has more of a redemptive quality—it’s admittedly happier, fully exploring the irony of stomping away the blues by singing the blues! Even the most road weary and hard-edged biker-types will smile as they listen and understand the band hasn’t gone soft.
Let there be no doubt, Dicky James is the quintessential blues singer and guitarist. His laughs and guttural “huh!” interjections are real, not contrived. And his band is both solid and spontaneous, just like you would hear in an inspired live gig. This is the real thing, folks. I think even the modern version of Alan Lomax would agree.
Beeson’s unpretentious but ever-present Hammond provides an almost palpable syrupy thickness to the texture of the music. Freeze’s blues harp playing is vernacularly eloquent and nearly omnipresent, yet never gets in the way. The drums and bass are simultaneously solid and spontaneous. I particularly enjoy hearing a tasteful bassist who’s allowed to explore a bit rather than being relegated to an uncreative “thump thump thump thump thump” background role. This rhythm section is alive, even when functioning in a supportive role.
Track one, “A Real Good Blues” personifies the optimism of the CD without losing the musical nutrition of a solid bluesy backdrop. Try to listen and keep your head still. You can’t.
Track two, the title track “Hard Rain” brings them closer to uptown (while still retaining the redolence of their Wabash River roots) by adding a horn section. Not some prissy producer’s afterthought—the horns add both legitimacy and soul to the band without removing any gutsy core drive.
Track nine, “Game On” and track ten, “We Git To Play” also use the horn section to enhance the band’s sound. I’m sure the Blue Flames get through their tunes just fine without the horns, but still, what a nice effect. If I were to pick just one single from the album, the New Orleans flavored “Game On” would be it.
“Rock Me” has an infectious, deep, slow shuffle that’s just right. “Bulldog Talkin’” manifests more of a traditional swampy acoustic sound, but there’s no deficit of attitude.
“It’s All True” works a deep, slow blues feel. Lesser bands might take this kind of slow tempo and watch the music die a slow death. Not this band.
DJBF’s take on “Born Under a Bad Sign,” while not paving new ground, is nothing short of an honest and unpretentious rendition of a living classic. There’s no concern here of trying to pave new ground–it simply sounds like a great, solid live band should.
“Low Down and Dirty Dog Blues” is reminiscent of their previous album’s “Main Road Blues,” as a minor-key blues ballad. The line “I lay awake at night and I wonder what can I do?/to help me stop doin’ the things I put myself through” addresses the psychobabble concept of problem identification that is central to the blues—working to figure out exactly that thing which makes one sad—that’s the first step to doing something about one’s condition. Whether we’re talking about deep stuff or just common colloquial wisdom, Dicky James gets it right.
The upbeat instrumental “Icehouse Shuffle” showcases Bob Freeze’s blues harp riffing. It’s just fun and honest. With a back beat.
In addition to the earlier comments about the following track “Game On,” listen to the percolating bass part. Great stuff here.
The odd tune of this release is “Special To Me.” On first listen, I could only scratch my head and wonder what was going on. Is this the same band? The seemingly anachronistic reggae hip hop-influenced style sticks out on this CD kind of like a giant M&M on your Doritos or in your barbeque sauce. But on the other hand, sauce makers put all sorts of weird things in their concoctions, and this is no different. I have to admit, after the initial whiplash brought on by the style diversion, I grew more convinced with further listens.
Track eleven, “We Git To Play” wonderfully explores and exploits that inexplicable irony manifested in the joy of playing the blues. It’s just a fun, sincere shuffle played by masters. And it ends with call and response with the band—further acknowledgment of blues tradition.
The last track, aptly titled “Roll the Credits,” does just that over a nice backbeat groove. Guest announcer Doc Long provides audio commentary a-la Don Pardo.
Hard Rain comes with a dedication to the memory of the late bluesman Pinetop Perkins. This recording is testament to the essence of blues music living on, with informed nods to the past. All the while, the blues keeps digging its heels even deeper into a new geography. Sure, you have to take the Mississippi upstream a bit—then you take a right on the Ohio, and then a left on the Wabash. Or continue almost 200 miles south of South Chicago. Either way, if you dig the electric blues, you’ll be glad you made the trip.
Pete Ford (May 2011)
Assistant Professor, Music
The last time I saw Dicky James and The Blue Flames (a couple months ago at Players), noted Bloomington musician Rex Miller said this to me about them – “This is one of the best bands that plays here.” High praise, indeed. And, well deserved, as you will see this Friday night. Dicky James’ lead vocals and ebullient personality is the accelerant, while his stinging guitar is the firestick that stirs and whirls the Blue Flames fantastic!
Tim Haas – ‘Blue Monday‘, WFHB-FM
Your cd sounds great. Thanks for the copy. Must be fun playing with
this group, hope to catch a show some day. Nice mix.
Producer – Jeff McNabb
“Hastings College artists and painters were groovin’ to the hot sound of Dicky James and the Blue Flames this afternoon.”
“Heard your CD w/ Dickey James & the Blue Flames today. Sounds great. Congrats…nice write-up by Mark Bennett.
Guitar virtuoso & teacher
DJ and the BF sounded incredible last night. I couldn’t get over how clean everything sounded, yet how deep and solid the pocket was (you and Mark share a mental metronome). I’ve never heard better live sound in a club, or at a more room-appropriate volume. As to the performance, I think you guys were made for this band — it was extraordinarily tight, which even Doris noted. After playing 3 hours I was stiff and shot or even I would have been dancing.
David M. Frisse
“It’s contagious! It seems like these boys really love the blues and love playin it.”
Rod Piazza of the Mighty Flyers
I have never been a big fan of the blues, but after seeing Dicky James and the Blue Flames, I can honestly say that I am now. You need to check them out the next time they are playing in your area. If you are a blues fan, or if you are not a blues fan, you will definitely enjoy them. It is not all crying in your beer blues, it is a mixture of Chicago and Memphis blues, and everything in between. I guarantee you will have a good time. I certainly did.
Eddie Davis – Eddie and the Motivators
“I didn’t realize that blues could be so cathartic. Your band is fabulous.” – Kathy
“Mark, I THOROUGHLY enjoyed your music last night at the Noodle. You guys are truly excellent. I hope you go far! I’ll try to catch you whenever you’re in town.”
“You guys sounded great Saturday night when I finally got to see you live!” – Pete Ford
Our band has played (the Slippery Noodle) for eight and you guys are the best band we’ve heard in here. – bass player for Alex Wilson Band
What a wonderful time we had over the weekend! You guys were awesome!
Thank you so much! Glad the Noodle was impressed. I thought they would be.
Jan & Kyle
“That was a blast! Keep us posted as to where you might be and we will see you again! Thank you for a fun time you guys are gr8:)
Mike and Christine”
I noticed in the January issue of Thunder Roads Magazine that you were looking for bands to feature in the Rockin’ Roads section of the magazine. I’d like to suggest you look into a band from the Terre Haute area called ‘Dicky James and the Blue Flames’. I’ve seen them a couple of times at the Slippery Noodle here in Indy. They are a fantastic electric blues band and Dicky James has the most stage presence I’ve ever seen…extremely entertaining. They’ll be great for biker events.
To the Band:
You all were great again last night at Bear’s Place. A few hours of blues and a basket of wings was a good way to take my mind off some stuff! Lately I’ve been trying to figure out which of your songs is my favorite, but I can’t narrow it down to less than five or six. Although right now, I’m in the mood for some Game On, that one’s a ton of fun.
Knock ’em dead in Danville tonight for me! I’m looking forward to your show at Player’s Pub next Thursday.
To the Band:
Thanks again for a rousing show Thursday night! It’s amazing, I’ve had ton of energy and I’ve been in a good mood the past couple of days, and I think it owes a lot to your performance. Glad to see you’ve got more Bloomington shows coming up, you can count on me being there! Take it easy and be well.
“Totally enjoyed listening to Dicky James and the Blue Flames last night! You guys were awesome!! Looking forward to listening to your cd!!!! Thanks for such a great evening!!”
Saw you at the Apple Club. You guys are awesome!
Just wanted to say I love listening to your cd!!!!! When is the next one coming out?
Great event!! If anyone else is looking for a group to book, this is it….Dicky James and the Blue Flames know how to lay the music on you. As they say…the Blues taste good!
Will…Went to the Crossroads just to see you guys. Sounded GREAT! Keep on Bluse’n!”
“Awesome show at the blues fest”
“You guys sounded great Saturday at Olney…..”
“Stopped by The Music Shoppe couple of weeks ago. John B and I’ve been good friends for at least 25+ years. He was saying how busy you guys are. I really like your sound, keeps the people coming back for more.”
“Heys guys! finally got the chance to check ya’all out in Olney last weekend, AWESOME! was so impressed, I used to be the drummer for W,T, feaster years ago, also friends of mine, ken Tucker and Tony spoke highly of u, “they were right ON “! Blessings to ya,,”
“Your band was awesome! You put on a SHOW!”
Penny Lane WSVX radio
“Great sound and performance at the Player’s Pub!”
Mark Bastin IndyConcerts.com
“Best show band of the night……….They’ve got their live act down cold and all the players were terrific! Fantastic stage presence!”
Indiana Blues Society
“I think you guys are great!”
“You guys were great at Sparky’s Roadhouse. This was this 1st time I had ever heard you play. Aint nothin’ like the Blues! It was AWESOME!!!”
“Heard you guys for the first time tonight. Awesome!”
I’ve been listening to the CD. You guys should feel really good about it. I’m struck by the amazingly tight pocket you and Mark create — if it were any tighter it wouldn’t be a pocket. I like everything about it. It shows great progression in every regard — nothing is over-done, the guitar and harmonica are both serving the songs well, and the organ is really tasty. I think Dicky’s lyrics have also gotten more interesting. Congratulations to all.
“You guys were great last night!”
First off, we can not thank you guys enough for the great performance you put on at our event! We’ve had several comments about how great you guys were and how amazing it was that we were able to put on a free concert of this quality for our community! We wouldn’t of been able to do that without you guys graciously offering to support our organization by performing! So for that we all send our gratitude and thanks!
Clay Co., Indiana Search & Rescue
Dicky James and the Flames are a stand alone / off the hook band.
Mark, Indiana blues Society
I listen to Nothin’ but the Blues on KJAZZ here in the Los Angeles area whenever I get the chance, which I did today. As you know, you were the unsigned set today and I was moved listening to your music. And by moved… my feet started dancing, my hips started swaying and my soul was touched. You really have all the ingredients of a great blues’ band and I wanted to thank you for doing what you do!! By the way, I am a HUGE blues’ music fan and have exquisite tastes, which include, Joe Bonamassa (my favorite), Ronnie Baker Brooks, Tommy Castro Band, all the Kings, John Lee Hooker… you see where I’m going, right?
I will ‘like’ you on facebook, but in my case I will ‘love’ you on facebook! LOL!!
Keep on bluesin’ boys and I will do the same!!
The Bluesy Redhead
Listening to the band is like listening to a recording you have loved your whole life . Even the first time you hear it. Giving a listen to “The Blues Taste Good” is like having an old friend return home from a long journey.
I’m looking forward to seeing a live performance sometime.
Hey Will, Congrats on winning the ‘Battle of the Bands’. I knew you’d win before you went. I just couldn’t imagine another band being better than you guys.
Eddie of ‘Eddie and the Motivators’
Dicky James and the Bue Flames run pure riot with the blues at heart, with
grace and melodic detail and incisive soul. what an earthy, real treat.
John Shelton Ivany Top21
Hey Guys, We just watched you on Susanne McAlister’s show. You sounded WONDERFUL!! I hope to see you all Sun.
You guys ROCKED show Me’s! It turned into Hear Me’s.
Betsy, (Publicist Betsie Brown of Blind Raccoon)
First up, a big thanks for the recent CD’s (Dicky James, Ian Siegal and Jim Allchin). I’ll be getting cuts on by Dicky and Ian on this weeks show. BTW, the Dicky James CD is fan-damntastic! There’s a unique spontaneity from Mr James, that exudes fun and excitement, that you just don’t get from so many other artists, even if they’re performing LIVE! This CD will get a lot of play on my show in future weeks. Looking forward to giving the other CDs a complete uninterrupted listen.
Thanks for everything you throw my way, Betsie. I try to do it justice.
CKWR Waterloo, ON
“I just want to thank you all for the wanderfull time you gave us at the Cabin last Tuesday night. What an awesome band. You guys ROCK ! Thanks so much ”