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Dixon’s bluesey genius on full display in Pueblo show

jonpompia

Jon Pompia

BY JON POMPIA
Published: October 10, 2016; Last modified: October 12, 2016 11:51AM

At times, the music smoldered, other times it wept. 

Moments of foreboding were tempered with bursts of joyful swing.

There was a time to rock and a time to slither, a time to contemplate and a time to wail.

And while the music wore many faces, on this night, its common thread was the legend who crafted it.

The genius of American songwriter Willie Dixon — whose numbers have been covered by The Rolling Stones, The Doors, Cream, Led Zeppelin and countless others — was exuberantly exposed to several hundred blues aficionados Sunday at Memorial Hall.

“Way Down Inside: Songs of Willie Dixon” is a project of Colorado’s favorite sons Big Head Todd and the Monsters with able assistance from genuine blues royalty.

This all-star collective, tagged the Big Head Blues Club, features vocalist Mud Morganfield, son of Muddy Waters; guitarist/vocalist Ronnie Baker Brooks, whose father Lonnie Brooks is a Chicago blues master; vocalist/mouth harpist Billy Branch; and Erica Brown, perhaps the most powerfully voiced of this all-star collective.

While the nearly two-hour show is designed to show Dixon’s astonishing songwriting range and influence across all genres, it serves another, equally enjoyable purpose: to expose the incredible vocal and instrumental chops of this exclusive eight-member club.

In blues terminology? These cats can play.

Branch is a bonafide genius on the harmonica, and no slouch as a singer. (Big Head) Todd Park Mohr and Brooks are as masterful on the fretboard as they are the microphone.

And both Morganfield and Brown have been blessed with voices that simply ooze the blues in its rawest form.

The songs, of course, speak for themselves. While you might not recognize Dixon’s name, if you’ve heard the Doors’ treatment of “Back Door Man,” The Rolling Stones’ take on “Little Red Rooster” or Zeppelin’s reworking of “You Need Love” into “Whole Lotta Love,” you know his work.

With the exception of the sorely missed “Back Door Man,” these and other gems were flashed in all their ragged yet polished glory.

There were shades of romance (“I Want to be Loved,” “Let Me Love You”) tempered with flashes of sexy (“Hoochie Coochie Man,” “Wang Dang Doodle,” “Midnight Lover”).

If the club was in a buoyant mood (“Good Advice,” “Spoonful,” “Hidden Charms,” “Pretty Thing,” “Crazy Mixed Up World”), they also showed a haunting, moody side with “My Love Will Never Die,” “Sitting and Crying the Blues” and the timeless “It Don’t Make Sense (If You Can’t Make Peace),” a high point of the evening.

Noting that the politically charged number is “more relevant now than ever” in this age of destruction, Branch said blues has never shied away from the darker side.

Rather, “Blues is the facts of life.”

Another peak came during “Hoochie Coochie Man,” which was interspersed with recollections of Dixon from the club’s main voices, including words of wisdom spoken to a young Brooks.

“At that time I had just started singing, or trying to sing,” Brooks said. “And my dad, Lonnie Brooks, asked Willie to give me some pointers.

“So Willie told me, ‘Son, you got to come from the heart when you sing the blues. What comes from the heart, reaches the heart.’ ”

And way down inside, that’s exactly what the world needs now more than ever.

jpompia@chieftain.com

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Big Head Blues Club at Arcada Theatre, St. Charles, IL

143 Photos

Big Head Blues Club featuring Big Head Todd and The Monsters with Mud Morganfield, Billy Branch, Ronnie Baker Brooks & Erica Brown presents: The Songs of Willie Dixon. Nov. 2, 2016 Photos by Dianne Bruce Dunklau. Read a review of the concert by Chicago Blues Guide Editor Linda Cain: www.chicagobluesguide.com

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Review of Tangled Road Again from Cascade Blues Association

Portland, Oregon
Reviewer:  Greg Johnson, President

I first saw Erica Brown a few years back when she competed in the venue I run at the International Blues Challenge. An exciting performer who had talent in bunches. I also saw Dan Treanor’s Afrosippi Band perform in Memphis during the event a couple years later and was flat out floored by their presentation. So imagine my thoughts when this past year I discovered both Dan and Erica teamed up. This has got to be a killer pairing for sure. And it was. The band took third place overall in the band competition, putting on one of my most favorite sets in the finals in recent memory.

Now Dan Treanor’s Afrosippi Band featuring Erica Brown have released an album together titled Tangled Road Again and it is sensational. Dan is  a blues historian, who has been awarded a Keeping the Blues Alive recognition from The Blues Foundation for his work with Blues in the Schools. The disc opens up with Dan explaining that the original blues came from field hollers and work songs and the band incorporates the use of African instruments such as the Khalam and gitjo. Erica takes center stage on the number in a call and response with the band chanting out “Who’s that walkin’ down a tangled road . . . ain’t nobody but me Lord, ain’t nobody but me.” It is a strong emotional number that sets the pace for this extraordinary album.

Erica’s soulful vocals shine throughout this disc, especially on tracks like “Nothing Can Take The Place Of You” and “Give Me Some Roses.” Merrian Johnson holds the lead vocals on four numbers and back-up voice on the album. She is also a terrific singer and holds more than her own on “You’re Going To Miss Me” and the closing cover of “Wang Dang Doodle.’

Tangled Road Again is very fresh music that explores the blues world in many fashions. Treanor plays mean guitar and blows strong harmonica, as evidenced on a tune like “Tell Me Daddy,” and haunting slide on “I Want Love.” Lionel Young offers his blues violin on the Louisiana-styled piece “Hey Mister” and The Subdudes’ John Magnie on accordion on the same song as well as on “I Want Love.” Erica Brown is a force to reckon with and it is most properly displayed as she belts out Koko Taylor’s “Ernestine” as she tells you women to stay away from her man or you’re going to suffer the consequences. And the way she delivers the message you’re sure to believe her.

Dan Treanor and Erica Brown are a great pairing. This album is already a favorite of mine for the year. Can’t wait to see what comes next. They’re having a ton of fun. You can see it when they’re on stage and it comes across on this fine recording, too.

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Review of Tangled Road Again!

Mary4Music.com

By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © June 2013
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient

 Listening to any of Dan Treanor’s music makes it quite obvious that he is as equally knowledgeable, as he is fond, of the history of the blues. As a matter of fact, just last year he was presented a Keeping The Blues Alive Award, in the Educational Category, for his work with the Blues In The Schools Program. With a Masters Degree in American History; outstanding vocal, harp, guitar and songwriting skills; and the knowledge and love he has of this genre, this was easily a no brainer for the Blues Foundation.

On “Tangled Road Again”, the latest in a long line of Dan Treanor releases, The Afrosippi Band consists of: Dan on harp, guitars, Khalam and vocals; Erica Brown on lead vocals; Michael Hossler on guitar, lap steel, gitjo and vocals; Mike Wysocki on bass and vocals; Gary LaDuke on drums and percussion; and Merriam Johnson on lead and backup vocals. Guest Afrosippians include: Lionel Young on Violin; John Magnie on accordion; Dan Haynes on organ; Chuck Smith on keyboards, and Gary Flori on percussion.

The CD opens with the very intensely produced and presented title track, “Tangled Road”. As Dan’s narration goes: “Blues came from Africa a long time ago. Based in the African tradition of ring singing and call and response. Oldest kind of blues there is, it’s called a field holler or a work song”. With that said, Erica’s vocals – with some tremendous help on backup vocals – then transcends you right to the middle of that field. Bordering on bizarre, the culmination of the intense voices combined with the profound instrumentation and percussion create a near maddening effect. To say this was one hell of a moving song would be a severe understatement.

“Hey Mister”, whatcha gonna do? shouts Erica on the opening line of this track and from what I’m hearin’, my answer is “PAAAAAAARTY”! With Lionel wailin’ away on the violin, John squeezin’ the hell out of the accordion, Gary LaDuke making various noises on various percussion type things, and Dan blowin’ hell through the holes in the harmonica, it’s sounding a lot like Fat Tuesday in my house.

“Nothing Can Take The Place Of You” and nothing can take the place of good, slow blues. This beautifully done ballad’s filled with whispering rhythm, delicate harp tones, mellow guitar notes and wonderfully soulful and emotional vocals. The slow dancers will be in heaven with this one.

This time it’s Merriam with the explosive voice on a track called “Dynamite”. It’s one of those head bobbin’, toe tappin’ shuffles that just reeks of blues. Gary and Mike are in the right spot rhythmically, the guitar leads smoke, Dan’s blowin’, suckin’ and even grunting on intense harp leads and while that’s all going on Merriam’s belting the hell out of the blues. So much music – so little time. I never wanted this one to end.

If “Ernestine” knows what the hell is good for herself she’d better heed Erica’s advice and find her a man of her own. As mean as this vocal whooping is sounding I wouldn’t want to be her if Erica gets physical. Damn girl, you’re belting the hell out of this one. Dan and Michael are also all over this one with the harp and guitar as well. Great stuff!

The Latin vibe of “Love Knot” makes this another good one for the dancers….but you’d better have the moves, ’cause the song sure does. The smooth guitar and harp chords and the relaxed rhythm on the bass and drums create the perfect background for Gary Flori to work his magic on this tracks’ percussion. Once again, Merriam’s magnificent vocally.

In a word association exercise the words “Wang Dang Doodle” would most likely draw responses like Koko Taylor, Willie Dixon and Howlin’ Wolf. And rightfully so! However, responding with Merriam Johnson, Dan Treanor, or The Afrosippi Band, shouldn’t sound so far fetched… especially after you hear this version. It’s a classy rendition of a classic song with Merriam, along with superb backup, doing a stand up job on the lead vocals.

Other tracks on “Tangled Road Again” – a sure contender for the 2013 Blewzzy Award – include: “Tell Me Daddy”, “I Want Love”, “Bridges”, “Your (sic) Going to Miss Me”, “3 O’Clock In The Morning”, “Love Is Just For Fools” and “Give Me My Roses”.

You really should check out Dan Treanor atwww.dantreanorband.com. There you’ll be able to learn a lot more about this interesting man, purchase some CD’s and tell him his buddy the Blewzzman sent ya.

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Rootstime Magazine in Belgium Loves Tangled Road Again!

http://www.rootstime.be/
(then under CD/DVD Recensies – this review is in Belgian)

TANGLED ROAD AGAIN’ Tangled Road Again from Dan Treanor’s Afrosippi band featuring Erica Brown is a darn interesting and pleasant album. Actually, it’s a serious candidate for our End Of Year List. Treanor is a seasoned blues man and KBA winner for his work with Blues in the Schools. Erica Brown is nothing less than a fantastic energetic and soulful singer The nearly one hour long album consists of 14 songs, both Dan’s originals as well as neat covers. Opener is the brilliantly original ‘Tangled Road’, which instantly nestles itself between the best blues songs of the year! Automatically you will feel an emotional connection with the fields and its workers, suffering under the exploitation that was common in those days. It’s a magisterial song, intensely sung by Erica Brown and the answering choir. Dan’s love and knowledge of and for this music is dripping from this song. It’s a track that over here is on a constant ‘repeat’ and that is sung along loudly. Another song that in itself justifies the purchase of this album is the unreal great version of Koko Taylor’s beautiful ‘Ernestine’. Michael Hossler’s guitar play in this song can easily be called masterful. Erica Brown warns other women to stay away from her man and by the way she sings this you better believe her. The entire band, including the guest musicians, shine in this song. The violin by, yes, Lionel Young, and the accordion by John Magnie on Hey Mister prove this to the fullest. The enthusiastic harp play by Dan himself, and creative drum parts by Gary LaDuke, complete this song. The obligate breather is there with the excellent slow blues from Toussaint McCall: ‘Nothing Can Take The Place Of You’, sung emotionally with soft cheerful harp play. There is another great singer in the group: Merrian Johnson. This lady sings on the danceable ‘Dynamite’ and also does this wonderfully. She as well convincingly brings the slow ‘You’re Going To Miss Me’ by Hossler. Dan’s harp play again is right on, and that same Hossler kills it once more on his with Erica Brown co-written ‘Give Me My Roses’. Brown nearly narrates this track but what a beautiful song again. From the two songs that close this album, ‘Love Knot’ has a Latin feel to it, and honestly this is the least strong track on this release. Willie Dixon’s ‘Wang Dang Doodle’ is a dignified closer of this memorable album. I am not surprised at all that this group took third place in this year’s IBC. The added video clip does not provide the best sound quality but it gives an idea of the fantastic song ‘Tangled Road’. This album is an absolute must!

Luc Meert

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BLUES 411 Review of Tangled Road Again

September 23, 2013

Review:
ChefJimi Patricola
Blues 411
http://blues411.com/chef-suggestions-september-23-2013/

We are soon to be seeing the end of September and the official start of Autumn. Must say it’s great down in South Carolina, it is still in the high 80′s and sunny.

It’s always sunny when we start our week off with some tasty ‘Chef Suggestions’ – I don’t think it comes as a surprise to anyone following these that this weeks #1 slot goes to Dan Treanor’s Afrosippi Band with Erica Brown. A superb release, worthy of a BMA nomination please check it out if you have not already!

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Blues Matters Review of Tangled Road Again

Blues Matters, the UK’s largest Blues Magazine reviews Tangled Road Again:

DAN TREANOR’S AFROSIPPI BAND WITH ERICA BROWN
Tangled Road Again
P&C Plan-It Records

The clue to the music within lies in the name. The Afrosippi Band offer a blend of both the traditional and the modern day blues. They are fronted by guitarist and harmonica player, Dan Trea…nor, who was taught to play the harp by fellow GI in the Mekong Delta, and he has since spent a lifetime of playing and living the blues. In 2012 he was the recipient of the Keeping The Blues Alive award from the blues Foundation. Right from the opening slide guitar and spoken statement that the blues came from Africa a long time ago, giving us R&B and Rock’N’Roll, this CD hits hard. Tangled Road Again is a straightforward field holler, a work song with call and response, but it is the voice of lead vocalist Erica Brown that shines through. This lady has the power and depth that could easily see her elevated to the ranks of Diva. The band is extremely well drilled and throughout is comfortable with either the up-tempo numbers or the emotionally charged soulful ballads such as Nothing Can Take The Place Of You. There is also a backing singer in the band who can front the vocals and who brings a slightly different dynamic to the microphone as shown in the rocker Dynamite or the hauntingly slow Your Going To Miss Me. Merrian Johnson is an accomplished vocalist and her version of Koko’s Wang Dang Doodle, menaces in the same way as the original. Cajun style inflects on Hey Mister with the use of violin and accordion and the accordion is used in a very haunting and stylish way on I Want Love. Together this is a quality release and one that all blues lovers should give a listen to.
Merv Osborne

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Review of Dan Treanor’s Afrosippi Band with Erica Brown

Dan Treanor’s Afrosippi Band with Erica Brown

By Revbobj3220

I first had the pleasure of meeting Erica Brown when she started singing with my friends in the legendary Denver band, Foreskin 500. That’s right! She sang on their last album, Starbent But Superfreaked! Pick up a copy and check it out, it’s pretty incredible! I could tell back then she had an amazing voice! So when a friend told me that she was performing at The Pearl St. Blues And Brews Festival this past weekend, I had to go check it out. Needless to say, as she came out on stage singing Tangled Road, I was once again blown away! I haven’t been that moved since I first saw Etta James up at Red Rocks back in the 80’s! Between Erica Brown and the incredible vocal talents of Ms. Merrian Johnson and the rest of The Afrosippi Band, they had the audience in the palm of their hand from the minute they hit the stage! Big thanks out to Mr. Dan Treanor, local Colorado blues guru, for putting together this band. They are SMOKIN’! I, for one, will be coming to see you a lot more in the future! Thanks for a stellar performance! Now, through the miracle of modern technology, you can watch the complete performance! The crowd was very drunk and rowdy (why is it every time a drunk white college guy sees a video camera, they have to make stupid faces in front of the camera and make an ass out of themselves???), got bumped A LOT, so it’s a little shakey in places. I still feel it documents the moment really well and it’s a great show! Special thanks to Dan Treanor, Erica Brown, Merrian Johnson and the rest of The Afrosippi Band for a great performance! Be sure to pick up a copy of the new CD, Tangled Road Again! If it’s anything like their live performance, it has to be good!
So, if you haven’t already, sit back, turn it up to 11 and get ready for a soul changing experience! Dan Treanor’s Afrosippi Band featuring Erica Brown live at The Pearl St. Blues and Brews Festival in Denver, CO an August 10th, 2013! This clip is brought to you for your educational and entertainment purposes from The Rev. Bob Archives. Always be excellent to each other and enjoy the show!

Musicians work very hard and get paid very little for the amount of joy and happiness they bring into our world. Always buy copies of music / CD releases from the band! Support the artist! Always trade / circulate live recordings freely! Never take financial gain from the fruits of an artist’ labor! That being said…
Rev. Bob’s Fair Warning!! You can copy it. You can trade it. But if I catch you selling it, I’ll kick your ass!

I almost forgot! Special congradulations to Dan Treanor and The Afrosippi Band for recently winning 3rd place in the Blues Foundation’s International (yep, that means world wide) Blues Challenge! Way to go guys! They obviously know talent when they see it!