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UNIVERSAL HIPPIES
Mother Nature Blues
Grooveyard Records

Mother Nature Blues is the debut instrumental from Greek band Universal Hippies. Lead by guitarist Stavros Papadopoulos with bassist Jim Petridis and drummer Chris Lagios, the trio deliver one the most mind blowing heavy blues rock records in years. With an ear for melody and phrasing, the band construct an incredible array of beautifully crafted rock numbers that fall in line with Mountain, Cream and Hendrix. Papadopoulos is a wizard when it comes to writing catchy riffs that inspire the listener. Opening track ‘Redemption Day’ captures the imagination with a power-driving chug that hangs on the lower E string. When the drum and bass kick in, hairs start to rise and the song moves from a slow burner into a melodic rumble. Papadopoulos’ solos are engaging and hummable standing as the vocal over the surging rhythm. The same technique can be heard in the hard-hitting ‘Mountain’ with a subtle Mediterranean flare in verse-like solos. When the bass and drum join in, the bombastic nature of the song is chilling.

Some may be familiar with Papadopoulos form his bands Super Vintage, Freerock Saints and Hard Driver, but with Universal Hippies the guitarist is given the freedom to really stretch out. Listen to ‘Homo Sapiens’ which moves from a winding, layered melody into a strutting riff that thrives under the sonic weight of a densely heavy bottom end. The mood is uniquely European but with a traditional blues structure and freedom to soar. Being near the Aegean Sea gives a nautical boost to tracks like ‘Mermaid’ and ‘Mariner’s Dream’. One can imagine aqua colors and tapestry in the shimmering notes of ‘Mermaid’ that flow like a storyline into rougher waters, whereas ‘Mariner’s Dream’ is tighter with a clear focus on the drum beat and rowing tempo. Unafraid of taking risks, the band find equal footing in the tribal ‘Sacred Land’ and the repetitive call and response of ‘Holy Slave’. A more metallic crunch is heard in the Sabbath-like ‘Reincarnation’ while title track ‘Mother Nature Blues’ stands as the record’s crowning glory.

Website: Grooveyard Records

ULRICH ELLISON
Dreaming in The House of Blues
Grooveyard Records

Ulrich Ellison is an award-winning, Austin-based singer, songwriter and guitarist with a flair for electric blues and bad-ass playing (hence the title Dreaming in the House of Blues). Though born in Austria and a student of classical piano and jazz, the 37-year old musician found his way to Texas and became indoctrinated into soul, blues, rock and pop playing with a myriad of high profile musicians including soul singer Nakia and Grammy-nominated singer Abra Moore. His three-piece, The Ulrich Ellison Trio has won numerous awards and is a favorite among the Austin nightlife crowd. As a solo record, Dreaming in the House of Blues finds the guitarist playing with a host of musicians and friends that capture the cosmic vibe of the likes of Robin Trower, Joe Bonamassa, or Doyle Bramhall II. Lead track ‘America’ is a dirty chunk of savage playing fueled by a gut reaction to the current political circus. The video is hilarious while showcasing Ulrich Ellison (and Tribe) in top form.

The disc boasts 19 tracks (79 minutes) of snarling, untamed and fiercely played rock and roll while still holding the listener with soulful vocals and seductive, groove-filled melodies. A treasure trove of hard hitters includes the ballsy ‘Ten Feet Tall’ complete with organic keyboards and echoed feedback, the blistering Muddy Waters cover ‘Rollin’ and Tumblin’ and scorching ‘I’m Down’. Ellison lyrically bites with ‘Wallflower’ and ‘Running on Empty’ with plenty of emotion tied in the chorus. Yet it’s the visceral blues of ‘Messin’ Around’, the Nugent-like sting of ‘Way Down on the Ground’ and the smooth grinder ‘Just You’ (instrumental) that pack the greatest punch. Among Ellison’s more catchy compositions is ‘Waiting for a Better Day’ and ‘Feeling like a Rich Man’ where elements of jazz and smooth, groovy rock are spiced with piercing guitar. Hidden nuggets ‘My Maryann’ with its radiant banjo and the organ-drenched ‘Sleepless’ are just as notable as the louder guitar-center pieces. It’s as if the disc was designed to play like a ‘70s radio station featuring the multitalented Ulrich Ellison. He covers all bases perfectly.

Website: Grooveyard Records


DIRTY DAVE OSTI
Rare Tracks
Grooveyard Records

We are huge fans of our musical bother Mr. ‘Dirty’ Dave Osti. Over the years he has provided some of the best in electric blues that not only pay a fitting homage to Trower, Hendrix and Clapton but fuel the imagination of for fans of ZZ Top and Johnny Winter. Rare Tracks pays homage to more of Osti’s heroes in a string of classic covers including ZZ Top’s ‘El Diabolo’, Dylan’s ‘All Along the Watchtower’ and Hendrix’s ‘Who Knows’ Jam (live with bassist Dave Batti and drummer Moyes Lucas). Not only does Osti’s blazing guitar do the songs justice but his whiskey-soaked vocal deliver is convincing as well. As a collection, Rare Tracks is open game for the guitarist tasty treats, even throwing in his ID for Grooveyard Radio that really gets cooking on the fad out. Not to leave the listener hanging Osti moves right into ‘Grooveyard Ride’ a sizzling wall shaker that sets the frets a’flame. Adding to his musical foray Osti handles all drums and bass making the collection a true solo project.

Surely ‘Walking Dead’ has some history to it as the singer uses an acoustic folk style to ‘go down to Mexico’. The gruff ‘Lap Dawg’ is a nasty piece of ‘Dirty Dave’ magic as he growls his way through a nest of blues riffs while ‘Mind Tripper’ takes on psychedelic acid blues. Classic Osti is the thriller ‘Louisiana Outlaw’ that combines a power-packed chord sequence, a dangerous story line and hip-shaking groove to stack up to one great song. ‘Blur the Lines’ follows in quick order with a similar snarl and bite while ‘Bastard’ boasts one of the best lyrical lines on the disc with ‘I’m the bastard in the other half of a photograph of you’ over an acoustic delta groove. Showcasing the guitarist’s dexterity and picking style is ‘The Scornfield’ with its country twang, mesmerizing tone and artistic soundscape. Capturing Osti’s mellow side is ‘More Love’ which uncover real depth and emotion as does ‘Lucky Child’ which has almost a Cat Stevens mournfulness to it. An incredible set!

Website: Grooveyard Records

HARD DRIVER
Freedom Machine
Grooveyard Records

Hard Driver is the classic heavy rock outlet for Greek guitar wizard Stavros Papadopoulos. Like Gus G (Firewind, Ozzy) and Michael Amott (Arch Enemy, Spiritual Beggars), Papadopoulos thrives when working on a colorful array of projects that give him creative satisfaction. Joined by rhythm section Jim Petridis (bass) and Chris Lagios (drums), both of Universal Hippies, the power-trio make an impressive debut in Freedom Machine. For Hard Driver, it’s all about the almighty riff - big, fat, chunky riffs. It’s also about the open road, motorcycles and loud guitars. Opening track ‘Freedom Machine’ blasts like a canon with the rhythm section galloping headlong into a sonic attack. It has the lyric line ‘I gave all I had for my need, my highway queen’, which kinda sums the whole disc up. Look at the song titles: ‘Ride To Live’, ‘Mr. Highway’, ‘Long Way’, ‘Electric Ride’ and ‘Falling’ all pointing to one direction. Ya know what you’re gonna get with these boys and they do not let you down.

The usual suspects are mixed in the influence bag including Nugent, ZZ Top, and James Gang. Yet, there are some surprises like ‘Live For Better Days’ which leads with a sexy groove textured with a hook chorus and Papadopoulos furious solos. The guitarist’s vocals are finely suited for rough and ready rock (think Billy Gibbons, Ronnie Van Zant and Nazareth’s Dan McCafferty) with just enough gravel and soul to sell an outlaw biker image. It’s the voice and guitar licks that make ‘Tough Game’ spring to life with just a hint of UFO in the refrain. Heavy hitters ‘Mojo Man’, ‘Pride’ and before mentioned instrumental ‘Electric Ride’ explode from the speakers as the guitar chugs in synch with the bass and drum for a nostalgic Trower/Hendrix/Mahogany Rush workout. Deep cut ‘Price To Pay’ deserves its day as one of the record’s true monster tracks. A drifter’s tale with guitar punch and rhythmic blast, it recalls classic ‘70s hard rock complete with an ebb and flow dynamic and rapid-fire solos. The production is dry and simple keeping the focus on heavy with an addictive hook.

Website: Grooveyard Records

FREEROCK SAINTS
Electric Passion
Grooveyard Records

Our favorite classic rockers from Greece return with their sizzling sophomore release Electric Passion. Packed with a solid hard rock sound established on their debut, the band take it to the next level with gorgeous melody lines, foot-stomping anthems and shout-along choruses. Fans of Lee Aaron, Joanna Dean and Saraya will dig Areti Valavanopoulou’s voice as it’s rough and ready while still delivering the goods. Guitarist (and producer) Stavros Papadopoulos puts the kick behind the band’s whiskey-soaked blues while lighting fire to each solo. The group is anchored by the grinding rhythm section of bassist Dinos Maltezos and drummer Chris Lagios leaving a lasting impression on ‘Rocking in The Fast Lane’ and ‘Funky Mama’. Opening track ‘Made for Freedom’ sets the pace with a classic blues riff and a thumping bassline while Areti’s sultry vocals tell the tale of meeting the “Mojo man” who encourages her to “sing the sunshine of her soul”.

overing Heart’s ‘Sing Child’ is the perfect move for the four-piece as they nail down the song’s original Zeppelin thrust while adding some streaming sex appeal of their own. The vintage ‘70s swagger makes its way into the chugging ‘Soul Train Ride’ with a nicely crafted Aerosmith vibe. Pulling from the band’s heavier side comes ‘Beautiful Dissonance’ with a near metal approach in the burning six-string lick and ‘Why Lie?’ with a spurned lover, dance with the devil sting. A couple tracks take a slightly different direction, like ‘The Reason Why’ with its Police-like rolling rhythm and the lovely power-ballads ‘Blind’ and ‘First Water’ that have a terrific pop rock sound. On the opposite side of the spectrum, the band occasionally lean toward Southern Rock. Biting down hard is the Country-tinged ‘Passion City’ with a two-step beat, a nasty guitar snarl and Areti’s take-no-prisoners sass. Easily one of the standout tracks is ‘Southern Sky’. A cross between Blackfoot and Skynyrd, it is 6-minutes of Florida moonshine kicking up dust with slide guitar and a loud raucous beat.

Website: Grooveyard Records

BLINDSTONE
Blues-O-Delic Celebration (A Tribute to the Blues)
Grooveyard Records

Mr. Martin J. Andersen returns to his roots with his power trio Blindstone to give us the thrill of a life time. The Danish three piece rip the roof off with inspired version of blues classics from B.B. King’s ‘Rock Me Baby’ to Buddy Guy’s ‘Stone Crazy’ and the Hendrix monster ‘Hey Joe’. Having waved the flag for blues-based heavy rock through some seven albums, it’s only right the group finally release a set of standards that inspired them in the first place. To quote the liner notes, “The blues are a crucial part of Blindstone’s DNA…it has influenced us, our heroes and our heroes’ heroes”. Nowhere is that more evident than on ‘Hey Joe’. The Hendrix song featuring Jens Andersen (Martin’s father) and Magnus Andersen (Martin’s son) guesting on guitar. It was the one song each learned to play when first learning the guitar. The very special “three generational” 7-minute track is breath taking as it fuels the imagination of what music ‘is’ for the Andresen family. The word “brilliant” doesn’t do it justice. It must be heard!

Everybody has their favorite blues song, but we guarantee you’ll pick a few new cherries from this tree. Ours were ‘By the River’ from the Leslie West Band (1976) where rhythm section of Jesper Bunk (bass) and Sigurd Johnk-Jensen (drums) locks in on a heavy foundation of bone-crushing beats and sultry groove. The riff is in-your-face, unapologetic and dangerous, exactly the way it should be. Rocky Hill’s ‘Blood Stream’ (found on Texas Shuffle, 1989) is deep cut satisfaction where Andersen captures the pure essence of Rocky (who is the older brother to ZZ Top’s Dusty Hill) guitar prowess. His solo maybe note-for-note to the original, but smolders like molten lava. The real gem is the cover of Guitar Shorty’s ‘Old School’. It is a find just to track the song down but the way Blindstone interprets the side-winding shuffle and the snake-bite solo is exquisite. Freddie King’s Pack It Up’, B.B. King’s ‘The Blues Comes Over Me’ and Albert King’s ‘Finger on The Trigger’ are just a hint at the quality standards this disc offers. Blues-O-Delic Celebration will re-kindle your love of the blues.

Website: Grooveyard Records

JIMMY RYAN
21st Century Riffology
Grooveyard Records

For those who get caught up watching YouTube guitarist that can play 10 classic riffs in a minute – this one’s for you. 21st Century Riffology is a 50-minute set with 21 instrumental tracks of monster riffs played by Illinois-native Jimmy Ryan with Dan Van Schindel on drums and percussion. Ryan, who’s success with his brother Johnny in The Flyin’ Ryan Brothers (and later Truth Squad), put him on the world map. Heavily influenced by the twin-guitar attack of Wishbone Ash inspired Ryan’s own playing which can be heard in “Speedloader’, the densely layered ‘Piledriver” and the dynamic ‘Slipstream’. Most of the songs hover around the 2-minute mark with the exception of ‘Ad Astra’ a cosmic masterpiece and its sister track ‘Stardust’. The two combine into a fusion of jazzy rock where the musical journey is melodically interoperated for the celestially minded.

Comments Ryan in the liner notes, “This release is an attempt to better reflect what the consumption of music means in the Anthropocene: short, tightly focused, fully realized and highly controlled bursts of guitar madness liberated from the structural constraints of the past.” With that he throws a volley of unorthodox guitar pieces against each other in a dizzying array of twists and turns. The Schenker-like construction of ‘Event Horizon’ is pitched against the metallic ‘Thor’s Hammer’ and beefy ‘Superchunk’. Thundering ‘Rockcutter’, the Thin Lizzy-esque ‘Skullduggery’ are juxtaposed to the groovy ‘Funkalicious’ while the slow-paced and emotional ‘Inside America’ breathes a certain cosmopolitan unity to it all. ‘Zenology’ maybe be the perfect summation with its passion and feeling laid open, and where color and texture meet.

Website: Grooveyard Records

JIMI BARBIANI BAND
Boogie Down the Road Live!
Grooveyard Records

Italian blues master Jimi Barbiani releases his third record with his band and first on Groovyard Records. Barbiani first gained his reputation with Back on The Tracks (2010) and Blue Side (2014) which featured Johnny Neel of the Allman Brothers / Gov’t Mule fame. With his live set boasting 10 songs (four originals and six blues standards) the listener gets a front row seat to the guitarist signature stomp and roll. John Lee Hooker’s ‘Boogie Chillen’ steps up to the plate with an electrified swagger allowing Barbiani to add subtle frills (string plucks and chord nuances) that spice up his 12-bar rattle. Bassist Daniele Vicario and drummer Gianluca Zavan are right there in the pocket building a bedrock of rhythm and groove. The guitarist originals like the slow grinder ‘Looking for The Truth’, the passionate ‘Sad Soul’ and Delta-slide of ‘Ten O’clock Train’ inspire goosebumps as they penetrate deep into the soul.

As much in line with Michael Landau, Alvin Lee and Tinsley Ellis as with the bluesmen of the past, Barbiani lets the music move through him while his fingers interoperate an original musical language. Inspired version of ZZ Top’s ‘La Grange’, the sweet, almost jazzy, version of Steve Wonder’s ‘Cause We’ve Ended as Lovers’ and the driving Don Nix classic ‘Going Down’ all showcase the band’s ability to reinterpret the conventional while breathing new life and vision into the forefront. Timeless Elmore James tune ‘Look on Yonder Wall’ gets an old school workout when the band brings in a piano to give it a traditional bar room boogie feel. The disc closes with the appropriately titled ‘Boogie Man’ where a fully-fueled injection of rough-n-tumble geetar playing is made complete with a screaming electric organ. The dust never settles leaving the listener begging for more.

Website: Grooveyard Records