Chocolate Cake by ZOOM with Shawn Kellerman Is Life-Affirming Party Blues

ALBUM REVIEW

Title: Chocolate Cake
Artist:  ZOOM with Shawn Kellerman
Label: Mouhaha Music
Released: 2021
Reviewer: Christine Bode
Stars:  4.5

In 2019, when the world was a different place, I attended a Kingston Blues Society show at the RCHA Club in which Shawn Kellerman played with Jerome Godboo and his band. I had seen Godboo a few times and had heard of Kellerman but never really paid attention to his superb guitar playing. That evening, he really got my attention. Like it says on his website, “Sitting up close at a live performance is truly an awesome, jaw-dropping experience.” That night, my jaw hit the floor. Kellerman’s guitar playing is transcendental in that you can almost see his spirit rise above his body when he’s playing the blues. Man, he is phenomenal!

Blown away by his skill, I chatted with Shawn at the break and after the show, and as I work as a social media manager/marketer for musicians, we stayed in touch. I had already heard Kellerman’s guitar playing on Miss Angel’s album, Down In Mississippi, as I’d done some work for her, but that album is Classic Blues in the Mississippi/Delta style and very different from Zoom’s new album, Chocolate Cake, featuring Shawn Kellerman.

Kitchener-based Kellerman played and toured with the late great Lucky Peterson (he passed in May 2020) for many years and I’d seen Peterson’s set at the RBC Ottawa Blues Festival in July 1997. He is also a gifted producer who started his label, Mouhaha Music, producing and mixing Bobby Rush’s Memphis Blues Award-winning acoustic album Raw, and most recently, his longtime friend, Zoom’s latest album, Chocolate Cake, contributing guitar and bass, with some talented musicians from the Waterloo region playing on it—Jimmy Boudreau on drums, Ray Podhornik on trumpet, Dave Wiffen on tenor sax and Matt Weidinger on keys.

Zoom’s boisterous, bawdy, blues/funk vocal performances on Chocolate Cake, knocked me out. I hadn’t heard of her before, but I’ll never forget her now. Based in Detroit, Zoom’s style is Chicago Blues, which to my ears means blues you can dance to. She’s played with legends, including Buddy Guy, Koko Taylor, and Bill Branch and the Sons of the Blues, around North America and Europe. Chocolate Cake is her comeback album after a twenty-year hiatus from music to raise her family.

After almost two years of the soul-shattering, livelihood-destroying pandemic blues, the raucous, danceable life-affirming party blues of Chocolate Cake, is just what the doctor ordered. Zoom’s dynamic vocals, Kellerman’s high-energy guitar, and the amusing, sexy, and saucy lyrics in many of the songs on the album are the perfect antidote to the tiresome, Groundhog Day-life perpetuated by the global pandemic. I laughed aloud at some of the lyrics more than once, with absolute delight! “Amazing Nepenthe (Weed)” might be my favourite new song. Sing it with me, “All I need is a little bit of weed.”

Zoom’s voice is sensational—she was truly born to sing the blues—and I love her passion and the raunchy humour in the lyrics. Standout tracks on the album include “Big Boss Woman” which should be an anthem for all female entrepreneurs. “I’m a big boss woman, I’m a big boss woman / oh, I’m big and I’m bad, I’m the best you ever had, I’m a big boss woman / I am a force of nature, pay me what I’m worth!”

As a single woman who has worked in the music industry for thirteen years, I’ve been living hand to mouth for most of that time. However, I’m a firm believer that music is one of the things that keeps us going during hard times. Its importance should not be understated and musicians should be supported.

“Born To Sing The Blues” is true of Zoom and this declaration is as genuine as it gets. “Still Got the Rhythm,” a testament to the wonder of Viagra, will make you chuckle while you’re shaking your hips to it in your living room. “He came home early in the morning, he was ready to jump / he took a funny little pill, he was ready to bump / I told him, take it, easy baby, you so big and strong / he said, don’t worry about it Mama, I don’t last that long.”

The title track, “Chocolate Cake,” is a funky, infectious horn-trimmed gem that reminds me, rhythmically, of Jack Mack and the Heart Attack. “Just like Ricky Bobby, we shake n bake / ah, come and get a piece of this chocolate cake / You like it when I give it to you, tell the truth / I satisfy your craving in your sweet tooth.”

Kellerman’s guitar solo in “My Baby Don’t Love Me” is a stellar accompaniment to Zoom’s weary, scratchy wail which is perfect for this classic, “damn, I’ve got the blues” composition.

The penultimate track, “Love Bone,” is another favourite because of Kellerman’s sensational wah-wah guitar and Zoom’s delivery of the naughty lyrics. “I’m like a bitch in heat, I want a doggy treat / I want your love bone / Don’t want to see your smile, we do it doggy style / I want your love bone / I’m going to twitch and twerk, Big Daddy, go to work / I want your love bone.” There aren’t too many singers who can get away with belting out lyrics like that while sounding like they’re keeping a straight face.

However, on the final, most consequential track, Zoom gets serious with the explicit “Tired of the Hate,” a lament about racism and an important reminder of why Black Lives Matter. “Sonny, day to day I’m going out for a run / I turn around, people chasing me with a gun / All I really want is vittles and iced tea / I got my hoodie on and, damn, they killing me / I’m tired of explaining, I’m tired of complaining / people always think the worst, my colour ain’t my curse.” Every Black woman and man I’ve ever known was born, made of love. This world wouldn’t be as rich, diverse, or meaningful without their contributions to every industry on the planet, and perhaps, Black contributions to music have been amongst the most remarkable.  


Chocolate Cake is a terrific feel-good party album that affirms that sex, weed, and the blues are still viable reasons for not giving up on life when it’s damn hard. But seriously, it’s also proof of why we should and do continue to care about diversity, equality, and every individual’s unique voice, regardless of their colour.

Listen to it on a Friday night or anytime you need to get your groove on.  And know that you would be remiss in not buying a copy for yourself and your friends who could use a pick-me-up this holiday season. It’s the perfect stocking stuffer for blues fans everywhere.

http://shawnkellerman.com/

https://zoombluesmusic.com/

Critically Acclaimed Blues-Rock Guitarist, Songwriter and Vocalist Jim Allchin Announces Prime Blues, His Newest LP, for Release September 21, 2018

Produced by Grammy and Blues Music Award Winner Tom Hambridge and featuring a team of veteran studio and touring professionals including special guests
Bobby Rush and Mike Zito

Jim Allchin Prime Blues

SEATTLE, WA, September 12, 2018 /24-7PressRelease/ — Jim Allchin, American guitarist, philanthropist, and a former software executive, is releasing his fourth widely distributed contemporary blues album: Prime Blues. Prime Blues was produced by Producer and Grammy®, ASCAP and Blues Music Award winner Tom Hambridge, whose production credits include: Buddy Guy, Marcia Ball, Susan Tedeschi and James Cotton, among many others.

Prime Blues features 14 new tracks performed by an all-star group of musicians including: bassist Glenn Worf, rhythm guitarists Rob McNelley, Bob Britt and Kenny Greenburg, keyboardist Kevin McKendree, drummer Tom Hambridge, vocalist Mycle Wastman, The Memphis Horns and special guest vocalists Grammy-winner Bobby Rush, and Blues Award winner Mike Zito.

Hambridge stated: “I’m so very proud of this major step forward in Jim’s journey as a Bluesman. We had an absolute blast co-writing some of the songs, planning and recording Prime Blues and we’re anxious for blues fans around the globe to hear these incredible tunes and performances.”

Featured in Apple Music and receiving wide critical acclaim, Allchin’s last LP, Decisions, topped Contemporary Blues and Blues Rock charts for months and was named a Top 20 Blues Rock Album of 2017 by the venerable Roots Music Report (RMR), the number one independent music chart in the world. RMR compiles radio airplay data from radio stations around the globe that play Roots Music and is widely considered a real-time industry barometer.

The reviewers said:
• “Decisions is Jim Allchin’s best release to date!” Blues Bytes Review
• “Lovers of modern blues need to check him out.” Norman Darwen, Blues in the South Review
• “If you decide to hear some great music, here it is!” Smoky Mountain Blues Society
• “Allchin flat out rips!” Rick Bowen, NW Blues

Allchin added: “The title Prime Blues refers to both my love of the blues as well as my love of mathematics. Prime Blues is more concentrated blues than my past albums and at the same time more diverse in terms of style, guitar technique, and guitar tone. Each song tells a story – about an experience, life observation, or my life philosophy in general. I hope you find some of these songs just flat out fun. And about that mathematics reference? Study the grill cloth on the front cover and let us know what you see.”

Prime Blues is widely available from iTunesSpotifyAmazon and the official website, jimallchin.com for digital downloads and CDs.

Founded in 2013, Artisanship Music Nashville is a multimedia production, marketing and distribution company dedicated to uncommonly great music and the artists who love to create and perform for audiences around the globe. We work with both well-established and emerging artists from concept to launch on their musical, entertainment and educational endeavors. Artisanship Music is a proud member of the Americana Music Association, The National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences, NSAI and ASCAP.

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Out Now: Chris Antonik’s New Release ‘Monarch’

Sarah French

The Toronto-based bluesman’s third album is available on iTunes

Monarch by Chris Antonik

Preview Chris Antonik’s “I’d Burn it All Down (For You)” here

Toronto-based guitarist and songwriter Chris Antonik releases his third album today and has already garnered extensive airplay and positive reviews from critics both at home and abroad.

Here’s what the reviewers are saying:

“Monarch is a classic modern blues album made with wisdom and style.  Antonik has a transcendent understanding of modern electric blues.” – Indie Folk Americana
 
“Antonik’s guitar playing is masterful.” – Toronto Blues Society
 
“One of the best artists we’ve heard from the Great White North.” – American Blues Scene

About Chris Antonik and Monarch:

What does it take to forgive? When is it time to let go and let live? The answers to these questions are always found in deeply personal, closely guarded corners of every heart and mind. Until we shine a light to explore those corners, we just might be driving blind on a collision course with heartbreak.

We can all suffer setbacks in life, but it is in the aftermath where the heart and soul can find healing. While creating his third album Monarch, critically-acclaimed guitarist/singer/songwriter, and Maple Blues award nominee Chris Antonik focused inward on his own deeply personal corners, against the backdrop of a marriage coming to an end.

Following up his self-titled debut in 2010 and his sophomore release Better For You in 2013, (named Blues-Rock Chris Antonik Blues GuitaristAlbum of the Year by Canada’s Blues Underground Network), Monarch closes a trilogy of self-expression. Traveling from an earnest desire to give more and make things better to a destination of peace and forgiveness, Monarch embodies an artist moving on with newfound energy, momentum and an understanding of the past. While forgiveness is free, there are most certainly tolls to pay along the journey. The songs on Monarch cover every mile of that emotional terrain as they ride through a rich and varied blues landscape punctuated by Antonik’s searing guitar work.

Joining Antonik are Chuck Keeping (Big Wreck) on drums, Guenther Kapelle (Wild T and the Spirit) on bass, Jesse O’Brien (Colin James) on keyboards, Samantha Martin and Delta Sugar on harmony vocals, and many others. Monarch was recorded by multiple Grammy and Juno award-nominated engineer Jeremy Darby (U2, Pink Floyd), and co-produced by Antonik and Ted Onyszczak.

While Kris Kristofferson may have surmised that “freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose,” then perhaps forgiveness is just another word for everything to gain. As we all face increasingly uncertain and unforgiving times, it is Chris Antonik’s sincere hope that Monarch can provide something personally valuable for everyone to gain from the music.

Monarch Track Listing

1. I’d Burn it All Down (For You) (4:56)
2. You’re Killing My Love (3:08)
3. Slow Moving Train (4:25)
4. Gold Star (3:55)
5. The Monarch and the Wrecking Ball (5:19)
6. Love, Bettike (7:07)
7. Forgiveness is Free (3:34)
8. The Art of Letting Go (5:48)
9. All Our Days (4:38)
10. New Religion (5:11)
11. Hungry Ghost (4:45)
12. A Slip in the Rain (4:15)
13. Everywhere I Go (2:49)

Upcoming Tour Dates

April 18 – The Casbah, Hamilton, ON
With special guest Jesse O’Brien
April 21 – Bar Spectacle Le Quartier de Lune, Quebec, QC
April 22 –  The Rainbow, Ottawa, ON
April 26 – The Rivoli, Toronto, ON
With special guests Samantha Martin and Delta Sugar, and opener Spencer MacKenzie
May 5 –  RCHA Club, Kingston, ON
May 18 – Spinoza’s, Riverside, OH
May 19 – Redstone Room, Davenport, IA
May 20 – The Flatted Fifth, Bellevue, IA
May 21 – Buddy Guy’s Legends, Chicago, IL
May 22 – The Alamo, Springfield, IL
May 25 – Chrome Lounge, Omaha, NE
May 26 – BB’s, St Louis, MO
May 27 – BBQ Blues & Bikes Festival, Elizabethtown, KY
June 4 – Orangeville Blues & Jazz Festival, Orangeville, ON
June 9 –  Moriarty’s, Lansing, MI
June 10 – Paddy Flaherty’s, Sarnia, ON
June 23 – The Boathouse, Kitchener, ON
June 24 – The Bar Upstairs, St Catharines, ON
Download hi-res album artwork here
Download hi-res promo photo here
Download liner notes and lyrics here
 
Chris Antonik is available for interviews and station IDs.

For CD or MP3 copies of Monarch contact Sarah French Publicity

ANN VRIEND WINS COBALT PRIZE AT 2017 MAPLE BLUES AWARDS!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Aporia Records Logo imageAporia Records Logo

ANN VRIEND

WINS COBALT PRIZE

AT 2017 MAPLE BLUES AWARDS

Ann Vriend Cobalt Prize


TORONTO – TUESDAY, JANUARY 24, 2017 –
Big Win for Ann Vriend! Following on the heels of her powerful and well-received Blues Summit Eight showcase with Rooster Davis Group (also her backing band), Ann Vriend is more than thrilled that she has won the Toronto Blues Society’s COBALT PRIZE at last night’s Maple Blues Awards. The event took place at Toronto’s Koerner Hall where Vriend was handed the award for Contemporary Blues Composition/Songwriting for her song “All That I Can” (Aporia Records), a soulful gospel tune. For more information please visit: www.annvriend.com / www.aporia-records.com.

The Toronto Blues Society’s annual Cobalt Prize is judged on a song’s ability to creatively utilize blues traditions within the broad contemporary musical landscape. With a focus on melody, song structure, lyric etc. they also choose the song that “will refresh and enrich blues as an art form.”

The Cobalt Prize judges decided that Edmonton-based Ann Vriend’s “All That I Can” achieved just that, and selected it as first place winner among 75 entries from across Canada. Shocked and ecstatic from the win, Vriend gave a speech noting the inspiration from the African-American community, reminding the audience that they were all there because of a music that came out of great hardship, slavery, and abuse of the African-American people – and yet blues music has had the most profound influence on almost all genres of music world-wide than any other genre.

“All That I Can” is a new track from AV’s upcoming EP release via Aporia Records. It will also be released in Australia next month, alongside four other original tracks, in an EP entitled Anybody’s Different, licensed by David Hand Productions from Aporia Records. With the vocals recorded in primarily one take, the song has a live-off-the-floor feeling and falls into the category of gospel blues with its 6/8 time signature. The music is very traditional gospel, but the lyrics are secular. The Hammond organ combined with upright piano and AV’s soul vocals are reminiscent of early gospel and soul recordings in the era of Sam Cooke. However, there is also a contemporary twist in the sound too – since the drums used on this track are sampled in the style of retro hip hop, and eq’ed to give the song a rough low-fi edge, in contrast with Vriend’s smooth and sweet (though powerful) vocals.

The lyrics of the song are an earnest promise to a lover to do “all that I can” if the lover is willing to “take me just as I am” – a plea to be a true friend and companion in a world where “sometimes I think they wanna break me, just to see if they can.” Though Vriend points out: “but they mistake me as a weak and silly woman,” which could be taken as a slight jab at the misogyny that is sadly, still so prevalent in the world.

Following this very fruitful weekend in Toronto, is a showcase tonight at Aporia Record Label, 714 Gerrard Street East, Toronto, at 6:30 pm. Then Vriend will tour Australia with the Rooster Davis Group next month for a five-week tour, to support the Anybody’s Different EP followed by a European Tour from May 13-29, 2017.

More on “All That I Can”

Composer: Ann Vriend
Producer: Tino Zolfo
Mixing engineer: Brandon Unis, Cylinder Sound
Film mastering engineer: Peter Letros, Wreckhouse Mastering
Label: Aporia Records 

Musicians

Vocals and Piano: Ann Vriend
Organ: Rooster Davis (David Aide)
Programming: Tino Zolfo

Upcoming Dates

February 9 – March 12 – Australia EP Release Tour

Artist Links

Soundcloud:

https://soundcloud.com/annvriend/all-that-i-canwav

https://soundcloud.com/aporia-records/ann-vriend-will-you-be-there

https://soundcloud.com/aporia-records/ann-vriend-anybodys-different/s-dEJII

Spotify: https://play.spotify.com/artist/3vjHMysd98leqhwDotu9fZ

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/AnnVriend

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AnnVriend

Twitter: https://twitter.com/AnnVriend #WillYouBeThere #AllThatICan

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/annvriend  

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For more information, photos, mp3s, WAV files, interviews, please contact:

MEDIA CONTACT:

Beverly Kreller, Publicist | SPEAK Music
bev@speak-music.com | 416-922-3620
Twitter: @SPEAKMusicPR
Facebook: www.facebook.com/beverly.kreller