Blues In A Bucket – Forrest McDonald Band – World Talent Records 2019
Review by David Bowling
Veteran songwriter and guitarist deluxe Forrest McDonald will release his 15th album early next month. He will turn 70 during 2020, and while this is retirement territory for many people, McDonald shows no sign of slowing down as Bucket Of Blues is one of the strongest albums of his career.
McDonald has always been an excellent songwriter and on his newest release, he wrote of co-wrote all 11 tracks. The songs range from thoughtful to explosive, which are helped by a horn section. Except for two songs where he assumes the lead, he turns over the vocal duties to Andrew Black and special guest Becky Wright.
“Blues In The Basement” is a slow blues tune powered by McDonald’s guitar and Black’s vocal. “Blue Morning Sun” is a poignant piece lamenting the loss of his brother to cancer.
Boogie Me Till I Drop” is the album opener and a good party song that presents another part of McDonald’s musical persona. Becky Wright’s lead vocal on “Powerhouse” brings a different perspective and textures to the album’s music. The brass section brings extra energy to “Windy City Blues,” “Go To The Light,” and “Going Back To Memphis.
Throughout the album, McDonald demonstrates his mastery of the guitar that he has developed over a near half-century career.
Blues In A Bucket travels in a number of directions but is ultimately tied together by incisive lyrics and McDonald’s guitar licks. A good way to start your 70th year.
Blues in a Bucket kicks off with a rousing, rambunctious New Orleans jump blues. Boogie Me Till I Drop, a joyous celebration of music of love that jumps off the grooves of the record. The exhilarating tune delivers the promise of a good time, and the rest of the album follows up on the song’s promise.
Acclaimed guitarist McDonald showcases his stellar chops on this collection of roving blues rockers, slow-burning blues movers, and boogie – down party songs. The languorous Blues in the Basement guides along unhurriedly, snaking along McDonald’s pure, never-waste-a-note lead runs as they float along the deep textures of Tony Cary’s organ. Andrew Black’s vocals transform this slow blues into a moving soul song. The title track shuffles along in a classic blues idiom as it opens into a blues rocker fueled by John McKnight’s propulsive drumming. Blue Morning Sun opens with Black singing note for note with McDonald’s lead solo before breaking into a riff recalling Crossroad Blues; the early verses of the song are up-tempo but then slow down into a break that represents the singer’s morning of McDonald’s brother. Forrest wrote this song about losing his brother, Steve, to cancer in January 2019. Windy City Blues delivers just what the title promises: some good old Chicago blues as a tribute to one of his favorite blues towns. McDonald throws a little Memphis soul still into the song in tribute to that other great blues town. Going back to Memphis rides along in a funked-up blues rock fashion, while the albums closing song, Let the Love in Your heart, bumps along soulfully with Becky Wright and Andrew Black trading lead vocals. It’s a celebration of love and a wish for the way the world might be.
Blues in a Bucket joyously celebrate life and love, and the joy with which McDonald’s and his all-star band delivered this music is palpable. We can feel their spirit in the music, and it reaches out and touches us with its power.
-HENRY L. CARDIGAN JR.
Forrest Howard McDonald was born in Austin, Texas the son of a Constitutional historian. He first picked up the guitar when he was fourteen and studied at both the Dick Grove Conservatory of Music in Studio City and at The Guitar Institute of Technology in Los Angeles. McDonald met Muddy Waters in 1964 and he remains a primary influence. McDonald can play rhythm behind a big band or step out front and solo. He plays blues, jazz and swing, and has headlined The Atlanta Blues Festival, the King Biscuit Blues Festival, the Melbourne Art Festival, Coca Cola Riverwalk Festival, and others. This is his fifteenth recording.
Andrew Black is a soulful vocalist and part of Atlanta’s music scene. He has over ten recording credits. He appears on Finnish guitarist Slim Butler’s 2012 “Inner Blues”, produced by Otis Grand, where he shares the album’s vocals with Sugar Ray Norcia.
The Forrest McDonald band includes, McDonald, guitars; Matthew Wauchope/Tony Carey, keyboards; Pix Ensign, harmonica; vocalists Black and/or Becky Wright; Lee Gammon, bass; and John McKnight, drums. The fabulous horn section includes Jimmy King, trumpet and flugelhorn, and Norman Franks, saxophones. The album is produced by McDonald.
All of the songs are written or co-written by McDonald. “Boogie Me Till I Drop” first appeared on McDonald’s 2001 album “Finger Lickin’ Blues”. On the new version the song is given a New Orleans second line beat. Featured are McDonald’s lead guitar and solo and Black’s expressive vocal. This is a great production.
Throughout the recording Black proves himself a great vocalist. “Blues in The Basement” is reprised from McDonald’s 2004 album “Colorblind”; guesting is Tony Carey on organ, and Jon Schwenke sitting in on bass. Other highlights include the title track; “Blue Morning Sun”;“Hard To Lose” with its four backing singers; and “Windy City Blues” with the lyric “grandma looks like Betty Grable”, a fabulous horn arrangement and a fine extended solo from McDonald. Wright takes the vocal on “Powerhouse” and shares a duet with Black on “Let
The Love in Your Heart”. McDonald steps up front to sing on “Misery and Blues”.
This is a really great album from Producer McDonald. Although released back in February it has stood the test of time. Accolades to both McDonald and Black.
Forrest McDonald might not be a household name but the 70-year-old has 15 albums to his name and shows no sign of letting up. McDonald has written or co- written all eleven tracks here and is a guitarist of some note. Lead vocals are provided by the most part by Andrew Black with the exception of two tracks where Becky Wright takes centre stage. Two tracks here were inspired by the death of Forrest’s brother Steve last year, the first Blue Morning Sun, tells the story of receiving the sad news whilst out on road. Great vocals by Black on what must have been a tough call. The other, Go To The Light is uplifting with positivity and gospel spirituality. The album opens with Boogie Me Till I Drop and is a big fat sound with horn section and boogie piano. Blues in The Basement is a heart felt slow blues with some excellent keys adding texture provided by guest Tony Carey whose CV includes Rainbow, Pat Travers and many more. Blues In A Bucket, the title track is amore traditional Chicago blues, as is Windy City Blues with its Pinetop-esque piano and understated brass. Forrest plays wonderful guitar throughout, always giving the songs just what they need. Never any flash or pyrotechnics for the sake of it, every note treated like a thing of beauty.
This is especially true on Misery And Blues, the solo towards the end perfectly in keeping with the song. Powerhouse features Becky Wright on vocals and is a slow burner, as the vocals build Forrest is providing the kind of guitar playing dished out at the crossroads. Going Back To Memphis is funky, upbeat and full of good vibes with Tony Carey again guesting and taking it to another level. The closer Let The Love In Your Heart is another up beat optimistic song with a great harp solo by Pix Ensign and features both Becky and Andrew providing vocals. Forrest covers lots of styles of blues on this and all with aplomb. He’s a seasoned performer whose has gathered a great set of musicians around him and produced a top-class album.
Here is a 4 star **** review from Keys and Chords Belgium.
The Dutch translation is below.
The award-winning singer-songwriter, guitarist Forrest McDonald has been playing soul music that has been distilled into the blues sound for almost six decades. As an adventurous explorer, he writes down his songs. McDonald started playing the guitar in 1964 after meeting Muddy Waters at Café Midnight in Harlem. In the same year his father gave him the album Two Bones and A Pick by T-Bone Walker. He actually became addicted to the blues. Forrest turns seventy and his 15th CD & Blues in a Bucke is already in stores. McDonald is also still an excellent songwriter and wrote all eleven songs together. And they vary and even have a wind section in the songs Windy City Blues Go To The Light and the funky Going Back To Memphis But &Boogie Till I Drop with its New Orleans vibe is an exciting opener. Becky Wright can put Powerhouse& in the pipeline. &Blues In The Basement is a blues ballad that is powered by McDonald's guitar and Andrew. Just like the funky gospel track Go To The Light and the Louisiana inspired and closing Let The Love In Your Heart Blue Morning Sun is also an emotional story about the loss of his brother who unfortunately lost the battle against cancer.
In the late 1970s, a young man, originally from Austin, Texas, walked into Muscle Shoals Sound Studio and told president/producer/engineer Jimmy Johnson that he was a guitar player and wanted to play on sessions. Johnson, on a lark, told him to go out to his car (in which his father, a University of Alabama constitutional scholar, and stepmother sat in the heat without an air conditioner), get his guitar and show what he could do. (McDonald had been in the Boston rock symphony in 1969 with Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops and an 11-piece rock band including harmonica player James Montgomery.) At the time, Johnson was cutting a demo of George Jackson’s “Old Time Rock and Roll” and allowed the young man to sit in, even doing a guitar solo.
That demo was submitted to Bob Seger who tried to cut it, but the Silver Bullet Band could not duplicate the groove by the MSS B-team demo musicians. He booked a session with the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section; they could not get the same feel. The upshot was Seger bought that demo and it was used as the master with his vocals added and released by Capitol as a single. The cut would later be used in the 1993 Tom Cruise film Risky Business soundtrack. Years later the record was named by the Amusement & Music Operators Association the most played song ever by a male artist. They ranked it second on their list of Top 40 Jukebox Singles of All Time. It was listed as one of the Songs of the Century in 2001. The Seger album on which the single was included was the 1978 album Stranger In Town, which by 2008 was certified as a six-times multi-platinum seller, meaning it had sold six million copies. Sadly, McDonald was not credited for playing on “Old Time Rock and Roll.” He was not credited until the song was included on Greatest Hits, which by 2017 had sold more than 10 million copies. It is also on Ultimate Hits: Rock and Roll Never Forgets, released in 2011. The latter was certified platinum in 2013, meaning it had sold a million copies.
One member of the rhythm section has often been quoted that the young guitarist never did anything else and has never been heard from since. I have just finished listening to that no-longer-young man’s 13th album – Stand My Ground – and am thoroughly impressed with his guitar playing and the sound achieved by his band. His name in the late 1970s was Howie McDonald. Today, he goes by Forrest McDonald. All of the 13 songs on the album were written or co-written by McDonald, except “I Put A Spell On You,” which was composed by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins. From the get-go with “Guitar String Blues,” the album is marked by McDonald’s signature rocking blues guitar play. With the kick-off of my favorite, “Chicken Scratch Boogie,” the tinkling piano and fiery guitar play, one is immediately invited to hit the dance floor. Band vocalist Becky Wright’s saucy interpretation of McDonald’s lyrics and the tight music makes one wonder why the band has not been booked to play the W. C. Handy Music Festival. He should have been presented a W. C. Handy Blues Award. McDonald takes a guitar solo on the song that is reminiscent of some of the blues guitar masters. If one did not know better, he would think he was hearing B. B. King riffing on “Til The Morning Light.” Some of the songs on this album have been title cuts on previous cuts, including “Turnaround Blues” and “Certified Blue.”
McDonald, of Richmond, Virginia, not only makes his own music, but has played with the likes of Kathi McDonald, Bobby Womack, Jimmy Reed, Jr., Eddie Van Halen, Johnny Winter and others. Steve Perry sang lead vocals on “It’s Over” on McDonald’s debut CD I Need You. A member of the Boston Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, McDonald was awarded the title of best modern southern guitarist by Real Blues Magazine. His band was voted best southern blues band for three years in a row by Real Blues Magazine readers.
I highly recommend the Forrest McDonald Band be considered for the headliner slot for the 2018 W. C. Music Festival in the Shoals.
© 2017 Bill Jarnigan
The Forrest McDonald Band – Stand My Ground
World Talent Records
13 songs – 54 minutes
Forrest McDonald delivers another outstanding collection of modern blues with a Southern soul feel with Stand My Ground. But that should come as no surprise to anyone who’s been following the career of the skillful guitarist/songwriter. Aided by smoky-sweet vocalist Becky Wright, he delivers more of the good-time music that’s kept him busy for the past five decades.
A native of Austin, Texas, but a member of the Boston Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall Of Fame, McDonald grew up in southeastern New England immersed at home in music. His love for the blues began at age seven at the Newport Folk Festival when he experienced Josh White on stage in the early ’60s. Later, he hitchhiked to New York, where he got to meet Muddy Waters, and he was a member of two popular regional bands before joining Boston Rock Symphony, an 11-piece ensemble that fronted Arthur Fielder and the Boston Symphony Orchestra, later in the decade.
Around the same time Forrest joined Wadsworth Mansion, a group that toured with Edgar Winter and also appeared on American Bandstand, thanks to their Top 20 hit, “Mary’s Coming Home.” But major fame came after he moved to the West Coast, where he played behind Bonnie Bramlett and Kathi McDonald and where he was a first-call studio musician.
A man who’s relocated frequently, McDonald was in Alabama to visit his father when his dad suggested they stop by the nearby Muscle Shoals Sound Studio “to see what was going on.” Friendship with studio personnel quickly resulted when he dazzled them with his playing after they asked if he’d brought along his axe. That brief encounter led to Forrest laying down the guitar part for Bob Seger’s monster hit, “Old Time Rock & Roll,” a few weeks later and Bobby Womack, and it also led to a stint in the legendary Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section.
McDonald launched his own World Talent Records in 1991 and has been pursuing a solo career ever since with 13 CDs and frequent studio work to his credit. Now based in Virginia, he rips and runs throughout Stand My Ground, but doesn’t hesitate to fall into the background in support of Wright, who supplies all of the vocals on this one, which features 11 originals and two covers.
They’re backed by a veteran ensemble that includes Pix Ensign on harmonica, Lee Gammon on bass and John Hanes on drums. They’re augmented by drummers Jon McKnight and Rob Robertie, guitarists Barry Richman and Valery Lunichkin, harp player Little Ronnie Owens and Jon Liebman, organist Rich Ianucci, and sax players Jeff Shellof and Chuck Williams.
Simple solitary strumming opens “Guitar String Blues,” which quickly erupts in a syncopated walk as Becky describes the feelings she has after her man’s left — and taken everything with him, including the strings off her guitar. Forrest’s brief mid-tune solo and tasty responses to her vocals throughout put his talents on display. “Chicken Scratch Boogie,” an uptempo pleaser, describes the singer’s love-making talents before a cover of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ classic, “I Put A Spell On You,” delivered as a burning ballad.
A military drumbeat and accompanying harp line introduces the title tune “Stand My Ground,” which deals with having to leave town to get away from a man who puts the singer down, while “Turnaround Blues” describes the pain a woman feels after learning her guy loves her no more. McDonald shines on “Certified Blue,” a slow-tempo number that continues the message forward. This time, the lady feels she’s being used. Apparently, all the abuse above leaves the lady feeling that “I Am A Stone,” the next tune. But she recovers well as stated in “The Feeling Is Gone,” which follows.
An uptempo cover of Big Joe Turner’s “Piney Brown” is up next, driven by Liebman’s harp intro, before another ballad, “River Of Tears” — the only thing the singer has left after crying over the man who broke her heart. The rapid-fire “Take It To The Top” sings praise of someone who’s proven himself to be more than a one-night stand. The good feelings continue as the couple plan a night of dancing in “Till The Morning Light” before “Riding On The Blues Train” pulls into the station and brings the CD to a close.
Stand My Ground is a rock-solid, well-paced group effort. McDonald’s an immensely talented string bender who’s comfortable enough in his talent to give plenty of space to his singer and fellow musicians throughout, and his songwriting talents put new spins on familiar themes throughout. And Wright is just as talented on vocals. Available through CDBaby and direct from the artist’s website (address above), it’ll be a welcome addition to anyone who wants their blues modern with an old-school feel.
What do you get when you mix a Texan—raised on rock and classic blues—throw in some harmonica, the hard-driving pulse of Chicago, some mean harp, a rhythmic bass, and a knock-your-socks-off vocalist?
You get Stand My Ground, a rocking, riveting, soulful new blues release, the latest offering from singer, songwriter, and instrumentalist Forrest McDonald and his award-winning band. Whether you’ve been following McDonald’s career over the last 53 years like I have, or are a new listener, run don’t walk to your computer to download these tunes or order a CD, or both. Your heart and your ears will thank you—it’s outstanding!
McDonald is a veteran blues guitarist with an individual approach to the genre, tempered by his roots in rock and his upbringing on the blues of the 20s, 30s, and 40s. He leads the Forrest McDonald band with the clear vision of someone who’s worked with the likes of Bob Seger (“Old Time Rock ‘n Roll” features his guitar solo), has traveled around the world performing, and has nearly two dozen recordings under his belt.
This is a CD you’ll play again and again. I’m hard pressed to say which is my favorite cut—the smooth-as silk-vocals of Becky Wright on “I Put a Spell on You,” her soulful cry on “Certified Blue,” and her heartfelt lament on “River of Tears,” are all top choices, especially with the haunting guitar work from McDonald.
But there are also the funky dance tunes such as the title track, “Stand My Ground” which makes it clear why Pix Ensign has won the Ohio and Florida blues harp championship. If you aren’t tapping your feet to this song or “Till the Morning Light,” you aren’t listening.
Then again, that last song, “Til the Morning Light,” might just have it all—it’s got something for every blues junkie. It opens with not one but three incredible guitarists, has Li’l Ronnie Owens killing it on the harmonica, Chuck Williams, of Albert Collins fame, wailing on sax, McDonald slicing the air with his solos, and drummer John McKnight and bassist Lee Gammon keeping pace all the way through. It also features guest solos from heavy hitters Barry Richman and Valery Lunichkin on guitar. Wow. I’m listening to it for a second time, and maybe it wins in the “favorite” category.
Guess I’ll have to play the CD again just to make sure… In short, this is a stompin’, rompin’, soul-satisfying CD.
Stand My Ground – Forrest McDonald Band – World Talent Records
“Guitar String Blues,” the first cut on Stand My Ground, the latest CD from The Forrest McDonald Band, practically jumps out of the disc and into your dancing shoes. If you like your blues marinated in electric energy, this CD is for you. The clean but saucy guitar licks we’ve come to expect from McDonald’s experienced lead guitar perfectly balance the robust vocals of lead singer Becky Wright. His guitar is so hot, I expected to see the frets smoking! But much as I love the groove of the many danceable tracks on this CD, the deep-river blues of the slow tunes made me moan with pleasure. The opening guitar on “I Put a Spell on You” lures you in like the tastiest bait on a fishing line. And once Wright’s soulful voice winds through the lyrics—well, you remember exactly why you’ve always loved the blues, and you just have to roll with it, hook, line, and sinker (to give a nod to one of McDonald’s early songs). The set consists mostly of originals with a classic bend to them, and whether they’re rollicking or thoughtful, every song has its own cool groove. The band is clearly in their comfort zone whether playing a boogie, a driving Chicago blues, or a raw, soul-baring Texas ballad. And if you’re one of these folks, like me, who thinks the blues also needs a scintillating harmonica to truly claim that label—fear not! Pix Ensign’s plays his harp on “Stand My Ground” like the soulful cries of a lone blues wolf, echoed across the mountain by McDonald’s wailing guitar and Wright’s naked pain. Mix in the naked pain of Wright’s voice, and this reviewer want to weep with the beautiful darkness of it. McDonald is originally from Austin, has won numerous blues awards, and has gained international acclaim in his 53-year career. For three years running, the group has been voted the Best Southern Blues Band. Listen to this rich rendering of blues, rock, R & B, and you’ll know why. s the groove throughout this set. Forrest McDonald cut “Stand My Ground” with a nod to songs that his fans love, and that are a part of his current live show sets. He dedicates this one to his fans, and we say, “keep on rockin!!”
GUITAR STRING BLUES–CHICKEN SCRATCH BOOGIE–I PUT A SPELL ON YOU–STAND MY GROUND–TURNAROUND BLUES–CERTIFIED BLUE–I AM A STONE–THE FEELING IS GONE–PINEY BROWN–RIVER OF TEARS–TAKE IT TO THE TOP–TILL THE MORNING LIGHT–RIDING ON THE BLUES TRAIN
Whether realizing it or not, most of the readers of these pages have heard Forrest McDonald literally thousands of times. Yup–that’s his guitar on Seger’s anthemic “Old Time Rock And Roll,” and also on Bobby Womack’s “Roads Of Life,” among countless other classics. He’s got a bluesman’s soul, too, and you can get a fine taste of what The Forrest McDonald Band is all about on his latest for World Talent Records, “Stand My Ground.” It’s eleven originals and two ballsy covers that show why his songs about the wins and losses in everyday life are so popular with his fans. Along with Forrest’s guitar work, which is some of the best anywhere and in any genre’, you simply can’t go wrong with Becky Wright, the band’s dynamite lead singer. The party starts with the scratchin’ funk of “Guitar String Blues,” where Becky sings “my baby left me last night/took everything but the wallpaper on the wall,” and “my guitar strings, too!” Pix Ensign is all over the harp, too. Next up is some of that old-time rock and roll with a bluesy twist, a downhome barnyard shuffle ’bout that “Chicken Scratch Boogie,” with red-hot piano and cool horns adding to the fun.
The title cut takes a turn waaaay down south to N’Awlins, where a second-line pattern drives Becky’s vocal about a no-good lover and her determination to “Stand My Ground.” Another dog who “played me and mislaid me” gives her the “Turnaround Blues,” while the band riffs on a jazzy, slow-blues, walkin’-beat tale of a lover who “put your guilt upon me” and “walked out the door,” leaving Becky “Certified Blue.” A driving, fiery shuffle kicks off Becky’s tale of redemption and “a little lovin’ to get me through the night”—“Take It To The Top and leave my blues behind!”
We had two favorites, too. Forrest, Pix, and the whole band get their collective mojo workin’ on a Chicago-styled throwdown all about ol’ “Piney Brown!” And, “Till The Morning Light” is exactly what this band is all about, y’all. This one practically jumps outta the grooves as Becky sings about “bumpin’ and grindin’ till that morning light!” It also features solos from heavy hitters Barry Richman and Valery Lunichkin on guitar, plus Little Ronnie Owens on the harp! What a helluva party!
That’s the groove throughout this set. Forrest McDonald cut “Stand My Ground” with a nod to songs that his fans love, and that are a part of his current live show sets. He dedicates this one to his fans, and we say, “keep on rockin!!” Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.
This is blues/rock as it should be. This band has not lost sight of the primary purpose of the music, which would, of course, be the blues aspect. His work can be heard on such iconic recordings as Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock & Roll”, recordings with Bobby Womack, Bonnie Bramlett, Jimmy Reed Jr. and more. His career has spanned some 50 years and has won him much deserved worldwide acclaim. A superb guitarist who plays what he knows, backed by a band that appears to anticipate his every move, makes for a recording that has to be a best seller. Traditional blues with a contemporary flair, Turnaround Blues has heart and soul that in our current musical climate is often lacking, or, at the very least, very weak. With McDonald on guitar, Andrew Black on vocals, John McKnight on drums, Jon Liebman on harp & vocals, Lee Gammon on bass ad Tony Carey on keyboards the band is as strong as bands get and then some. A good mix that brings primarily original tunes together with some of the greatest classics ever written, this one shows not only McDonald’s songwriting skins but the band’s ability to take a cover tune, break it down and make it their own. Bottom line, this is as good as it gets with your clothes on. This is McDonald’s 12th release on World Talent Records and, in this old man’s humble opinion, worthy of a Blues Music Award (Handy). You know you’re getting old when you have seen the fall of wax cylinders, 78s, LPs, 45s, 8-tracks, and very soon CDs and DVDs, as things move to strictly digital downloads. The one advantage is having been around long enough to pretty much hear it all. I consider myself well enough educated in the music to understand what makes a band good…and this band has what it takes and then some. This is blues, top-notch and worthy of a spot among the greats. I recommend it highly to one and all with no exceptions.
– Bill Wilson – Reflections in Blue
The Forrest McDonald Band Turnaround Blues
World Talent Records
Blue Barry ~ smoky mountain blues society
Say you haven’t heard any good blues lately. Well, the wait is over! Go out right now and get a copy of The Forest McDonald Band! CD BABY, or check him out at www.forrestmcdonaldband.com, Forrest is also on facebook, and you can purchase this CD, which is by the way his 12th, at Amazon.com. That’s how you get it, now let’s listen to it! Top to bottom great stuff! There are 14 cuts with 9 originals, 4 classic blues, and a few bonus tracks. EVERY ONE of them is great! No weak spots. Screaming guitar, great vocals, soulful touching slow blues, swinging shuffles, classics very well redone in Forrest’s style, and lots of unexpected surprises. Forrest McDonald has been playing for over 50 years now, and looks like he has no interest in slowing down. You have heard him on Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock and Roll,” and Bobby Womack’s “Roads of Life.” Great songwriting, and on the money vocals make this CD a monster! When you play for over 50 years you can pretty much play anything. You can make that instrument say what you want it to. Forrest McDonald talks to us with his years of experience, and miles on the road. He shares his love of the music with us, and tells us how he feels about it. This is one of those CD’s that you are just lucky to come across. Get a copy. You’ll see! The real thing. It has graced my CD player in the house, and the car. Every time I hear it I like it more. Yea, it’s one of those. You’re welcome. Your friend, blue barry ~ smoky mountain blues society This is a great band! I love it! It’s a 12-cylinder blues band!
The Forrest McDonald Band
World Talent Records
Reviewed By Midwest Record Entertainment
FORREST McDONALD BAND/Turnaround Blues: Here’s the reason behind a load of records you loved that never sold and had you wondering why. This vet of the Muscle Shoals service has been picking guitar of every kind for the last 50 years and added the special sauce that made that record your record because the expertise kept your head in the mix. With nothing to prove and having his name out front, McDonald let’s rip with some classic sounding blues rock that genre spliced within the genre for a really heady brew. This is the real deal throughout with no dust on it. Well done. Oh yeah, he did play on one or two records you know that are stone classics as well—and that’s where the non musos know his sound and vibe from.
Forrest McDonald Band review…June 11, 2014
Don and Sheryl’s blues blog
Turnaround Blues–Checking on My Baby-River of Tears-Cross My HEart–I’m a Fool–V-8 Ford–R & R Bye Bye Bye–Only Love–Woman Across the Ocean–Funny Thing Baby–Now I Know–Stay or Walk Away–Two for the Money, Parts 1 & 2 (Ints)
Yes sir, buddy. That indeed is Austin native Forrest McDonald’s guitar all over one of the most recognizable songs of the entire rock era, Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock And Roll.” It’s been used to sell cat food and Tom Cruise immortalized it in film in “Risky Business.” (You can read all about how it came to pass on Forrest’s website, and also over at http://www.songfacts.com–it is a very cool story!) Forrest has a bluesman’s soul, tho, and he has just released his twelfth set for World Talent Records, “Turnaround Blues,” fourteen cuts that show why Forrest McDonald has had a career that covers some fifty years—he’s a helluva guitar player who can bring a crowd to its feet with a driving boogie shuffle, or bring ‘em to their knees with a slow-burner, and even get a bit tripped-out on the spacey jam that he shares with Tony Carey that closes the set, “Two or The Money.” Along with Forrest on guitars and Tony on keys, there is Andrew Black on vocals, Lee Gammon on bass, John McKnight on drums, and Jon Liebman on vocals and harp. They really lay down a tight groove over the whole set, starting with the rockin’ funk of the title cut, a song that Forrest has been playing since 1972. Jon Liebman’s harp drives Junior Wells’ “Checking On My Baby,” and he and Tony do some serious wailing on “Cross My Heart.” As the set progresses, the music turns a deeper, darker shade of blue, and the fellows get into some ferocious jamming. “Woman Across The Ocean” is Forrest’s and Andrew’s “answer” to Freddie King’s “Woman Across The River,” and this one has a happier ending, and Andrew sho’ nuff kicks ass on the vocal, too. He shines on another slow blues, too, Forrest’s tribute to the classic sounds of the 40’s and 50’s, “Only Love.” We had two favorites, too. Jon Liebman burns up the reeds on his harp and the grooves on the record on the Chicago blues classic, Cotton’s kinda-morbidly-funny tale of “ridin’ down to your burial in my V-8 Ford!” Presented here as a slow blues, it’s a killer. And, Andrew Black turns in perhaps the set’s most outstanding vocal performance, reminiscent of Chris Robinson of the Black Crowes, on the soulful “I’m A Fool,” another good ‘un that Forrest has had in his back pocket since 1970. Forrest McDonald pulls no punches. Everything he plays is “Certified Blue” all the way through. With “Turnaround Blues,’ he and the band have cooked up another sure-fire winner!!
Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.
Here’s something I didn’t know–the great guitar work on Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock & Roll” and Bobby Womack’s “Roads Of Life” was by this guy–Forrest McDonald. He was born in Texas, and has played guitar for almost 50 years. He was a member of the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section and for a time the guitarist for Kathi McDonald and Bonnie Bramlett, Jimmy Reed Jr and Bobby Womack. And now he has released “Turnaround Blues,” his 12th cd on World Talent Records. This is a seriously good cd–good song writing, (most of both by Mr McDonald), good singing (mostly by Andrew Black and sometimes by Jon Liebman), and loads of good playing by everybody. The rhythm section is Lee Gammon on bass, John McKnight on drums, and Tony Carey on keyboards. Special guests include Darrell Cobb, (vocals and guitar on “Stay Or Walk Away”) Rich Ianucci (keyboards on “Checking On My Baby” and “R&R By Bye Bye”) and John Schwenke (bass on “River Of Tears”). There is a lot of really good blues music on this disc. It’s a Forrest McDonald release, and the guitar work throughout is stellar, but these guys play together as a band. There is room here for great turns on vocals, harp, and keyboard. I especially enjoyed their cover of Junior Wells’ “Checking On My Baby,” where Jon Liebman just channels Junior’s feel on harp, and “River Of Tears,” which is just smoking from start to finish, and “Funny Thing Baby,” which Forrest dedicates to Toy Caldwell, who was the great guitar player for the Marshall Tucker Band. The cover of Sonny Boy Williamson II’s “V-8 Ford” is terrific–here it is transformed from a country blues lament into a sizzling electric blues workout with solid solos by harp, guitar and keyboard.
Good stuff. Check it out. You can buy this cd at: http://www.forrestmcdonald.com
Guitarist Forrest McDonald was long ago “certified blue” before he ever came up with that name for his latest CD. McDonald is a highly talented blues guitar player and songwriter who has flirted with bright light for four decades, but who prefers to live quietly in Richmond, VA.
McDonald has always had a very clean approach to his guitar picking, choosing a bouncy phrasing that you might find Dickey Betts right at home with. This CD does nothing to hamper with his reputation as one of the best blues guitarists around that you’re likely not to identify.
Everyone has heard his work, though. It is his guitar solo on Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock And Roll” recorded in Muscle Shoals that became part of the collective American lore when it was used in the 1983 film Risky Business.
Yet despite jamming with the like of Eddie Van Halen, Steve Perry, Bonnie Bramlett, and Johnny Winter and recording with Jimmy Reed and Bobby Womack, few people know McDonald.
McDonald wrote nine of the 13 songs on this CD, which features his wife, Kaylon, on vocals on 10 cuts. From the get-go, McDonald lets his guitar lead the way on “Keeping the Blues Alive,” a fast-paced boogie about traveling the countryside spreading blues wherever he goes.
His rendition of Johnny Winters “You Keep Telling Me” is full of blustery guitar licks that never cross the line from sincere to show-off. McDonald demonstrates that a refined guitar solo can be just as powerful as one that relies on dozens of dazzling notes.
Though McDonald’s guitar work is essential to many of these songs, his solos are always tasteful and disciplined, ending as soon as his guitar makes its statement. It’s refreshing to hear a songwriter-guitarist-producer have the restraint to make sure he never overplays on a recording.
Kaylon McDonald’s vocals are workman-like, but when she sings Forrest McDonald lines such as “I walked in on my baby as he was walking out on me,” she sounds as though that experience is coming straight from her life.
Sterling accompanists such as singer/harp player Jon Liebman and former Albert Collins Band saxophonist Chuck Williams make important contributions to this CD.
But Forrest McDonald’s music doesn’t need anyone’s stamp of approval. It’s “Certified Blue” through and through.
– Michael Kinsman
Living Blues 40th Anniversary Issue
Forrest McDonald has been playing music for over four decades, jamming with Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page back in 1969, sharing the bill with Van Halen on the Sunset Strip during that band’s salad days, and playing the guitar solo on Bob Seger’s classic Old Time Rock ‘n’ Roll, recorded at the famed Muscle Shoals Sound Studio. Out of this varied musical past life McDonald forges his new disc, Certified Blue – a warm, R&B soaked slice of Texas Blues with a classic Chicago club vibe.
McDonald’s zigzagging guitar leads keep his music fresh. Forrest’s wife Kaylon McDonald, is sultry and sassy as a lead vocalist, providing an anchor for Forrest’s refined, jazz-inflected rhythm. Kaylon, Forrest, and the band swing with abandon through the Louis Jordan-inspired Till The Morning Light, spread a low down funk on Mess Around With Love, and dig their claws into a slow burner with a cover of Johnny Winter’s You Keep Telling Me.
Forrest takes a stab at vocal on Eddy “Cleanhead” Vinson’s Double Back, while band member ex-Albert Collins sax player Chuck Williams pop up in the rollicking Texas vamp Danced Our Last Dance. Forrest and the band are laid back throughout, yet they convey enthusuasm for their band of roadhouse meets backstreet Chicago blues.
Certified Blue proves McDonald deserves wider recognition.
– Mark Uricheck
The Providence Journal
January 15, 2009
Music is a family affair for Forrest McDonald. His wife, Kaylon, sings in his band, and brother Steve McDonald will also sit in Saturday at an 8 p.m. gig at Chan’s in Woonsocket.
It’s been 45 years since Forrest McDonald played his first gig, at the Harrisville Civic Center with The Seagram’s 7. The drummer couldn’t play the solo of “Wipe Out,” so the keyboard player jumped behind the drums and did it. The rhythm guitar player didn’t know all the chords to “Walk, Don’t Run,” so he unplugged his amplifier for that one. It was New Year’s Eve 1964, and they each got $40.
Things have gone uphill for McDonald from there. The Rhode Island native started his career at the beginnings of the ‘60s rock explosion, and he’s got the scars and the stories to prove it.
“Of the guys I started with, some are millionaires, some are broke, some are dead broke,” the guitarist says. “Some are dead and broke.”
He played with The Boston Rock Symphony, played Backstage with Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck at Newport, and joined the Rhode Island-based Wadsworth mansion, who had a hit in 1971 with “Sweet Mary,” toured the nation and were washed up – literally. On tour with Pennsylvania, the Susquehanna River flooded, destroying all their equipment. Some of the band reunited in California; some didn’t make the trek.
McDonald went West and started the band Slingshot, as well as playing sessions with people such as Bonnie Bramlett and Kathy McDonald, who sang with Big Brother and the Holding Company after Janis Joplin left. He also played and recorded with a pre-Journey Steve Perry and played onstage with a pre-famous Van Halen. & lt;p> But McDonald’s biggest claim to fame happened in the mid-‘70s on a trip to visit his father in Alabama. He wanted to visit the legendary studio Muscle Shoals Sound, and when he got there the studio players and producer Jimmy Johnson were in the middle of a demo session. Johnson asked McDonald to strap on his guitar and throw on a guitar solo and they’d see whether he was any good.
He was, and they told him they’d let him know whether anyone picked up the song and recorded it. Months later, he got a phone call telling him that Bob Seger was not only going to do the song, but that he had bought the recording, lock, stock, and barrel, and would simply put his own vocal on top of it.
Eleventy-kabillion records later, “Old Time Rock ‘n’ Roll” and Forrest McDonald’s guitar solo are part of the ‘70s-rock DNA But that didn’t make a lot of difference to McDonald’s life at the time. He got the Stranger in Town record and excitedly looked at the back, where all it said was “Thanks to the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section!” “I thought I was going to get all the session work from it, and [when I saw it] I thought, ‘Aw MAN!,’ “ he remembers with a laugh.
It took McDonald 25 years, with the release of Seger’s greatest-hits package, to get properly credited for it. Now he has a platinum record on the wa ll at his home in Virginia commemorating the success of the song (as well as gold records for a Bobby Womack record and backing vocals on the I Am Sam soundtrack).
After California, McDonald spent 13 years in the Atlanta area before moving to Virginia, and all the way through he’s been blues and R&B guitar, making 10 albums on his own World Talent Records and “winning over new fans one show at a time.”
Last Labor Day weekend, he came back to Rhode Island for his 40th high school reunion, and he’ll be making his first Rhode Island appearance in years this weekend.
These are challenging but rewarding times to be a blues musician, McDonald says. On the one hand, the audience for live music, especially blues, is drying up: “a lot of people don’t go out and support live music like they used to.”
As a result, the kind of “right place, right time” breaks that McDonald got are fewer and farther between for today’s musicians.
“Those people aren’t out playing in clubs. …It’s a different kind of music. But doing what I do has allowed me to maintain the link to the original blues and rhythm and blues that started it all.”
On the other, he says, the kind of technology, particularly the Internet, that is changing music is also allowing people like him to fly under the radar of=2 0the record labels and make fans all over the world.
In short, McDonald says, “Not much changes. Some gigs are better than others.”
That kind of constancy would drive some people crazy, but for McDonald it’s the other way around.
“It’s probably the one constant that I’ve got. You have all these ups and downs in your life. You have kids and they grow up and hate you … it’s a different world from when I grew up in the ‘50s.”
These days, music is already a family affair for McDonald, whose wife, Kaylon, sings in the band. (“I finally have a relationship that I think can go the distance,” McDonald says of his wife, “because we’re in the same band together and we have the same goals. It’s not like ‘Oh, you’r going out there to practice again?’ “) Brother Steve McDonald has been playing in Rhode Island for 35 years, but never on a gig with Forrest. And the band also includes Tommy Bonnariggo, formerly of Boston’s old Daddy Warbucks Band, on drums.
“It should be a good time,” McDonald says. “
As it turned out it was a sold out show so look for them to be back this Summer.
Forrest McDonald performs at Chan’s, 267 Main St., Woonsocket, Saturday evening at 8:00 pm. Tickets are $12; call (401) 765-1900.
By Tee Charles July 2008
Mellow blues. Summer blues. Country blues.
These monikers all characterize the feel of this album. Forrest and Kaylon McDonald wrote all but two of these laid back tunes. Bring the CD player or MP3 player out on the back porch – or to the barbecue or beach – add your favorite beverage and go with the flow. The feel may remind you of Charles Brown’s mellow, cocktail lounge blues.
Led by Kaylon McDonald on vocals and her husband Forrest on six-string guitar, bass, and keyboards, the group calls on the considerable talents of John McNight on drums, Jeff Jenkins and Ken Rhyne on harmonica, and Brian Berkoff and Rich Ianucci, both on piano and organ. Mike Lucci, MC, and Marc Caplan help out reliably on bass, and Tabetha Durham adds some unison and harmony vocals.
The bouncy “Gas Pump Blues” gets this album started with a timely topic now that gas is four bucks a gallon. “I can’t drive my car/ Can’t make it to the show” is a feeling shared by many starving musicians and non-musicians alike. Kaylon does a nice job with the vocals and harmonizing with herself. This is fresh, since harmonies don’t exist on most blues albums.
“You’re My Dream” is a love song in blues clothing. It works. Like Roy Orbison, Kaylon and Forrest write about dreams on this one, and two others: the title track, “Nothing Wrong With Dreaming,” (“Sometimes they come true,”), and also later on “Living My Dream.”
Forrest is cut loose and shows his familiarity with the fretboard on “I Feel So Bad,” a slow blues number. He plays a tasty guitar solo on this one, my favorite track on the disc. The blues feeling is deepest, and the sadness comes through the guitar and vocals.
On “I’ll Be There for You,” Brian Berkoff plays some tasty piano on this country blues track. I hear a little Floyd Cramer influence here. Tabetha Durham increases the variety and adds some value on “I’m Busy Now,” (“‘Cause I got a new love.”)
“Good Hearted Woman” also includes a tip-of-the-hat to the good-hearted man in her life —“He comes home and treats her right.” Again, nice guitar work by Forrest
“I’m Riding On Down” is a traditional song that fits in nicely with the mellowness on the album. Durham adds some nice vocal harmonies, and Forrest gives us a few layers of guitar.
“I’m Ready” is another original song. This one includes a come-on to her lover.
“You Still Got It Baby” is a bouncy number that will get your butt shakin’ and toe tappin’. This one goes on the iPOD. Like most guys, I probably don’t tell my woman often enough that she’s still the one. This will remind me.
The closer, “The World is Waiting (for things to change)” is also appropriate for the current mood in the country and the world.
Spirit of the Blues
Reviewed By Connie Myers
This is Forrest McDonald’s fourth CD he has released. Now I know you’re saying, “Who is Forrest McDonald?” That’s very much like asking who Lonnie Mack is. Forrest McDonald played backup for some pretty famous people like Steve Perry of Journey, Tony Carey from Planet P and Rainbow, Bobby Womack and you can hear him playing guitar on Bob Seger’s Old Time Rock and Roll.
Raymond Victor plays keyboard and is the lead vocalist. He has his own bragging list: John Lee Hooker, Mike Bloomfield, Bobby Blue Bland, Elvin Bishop, and Charlie Musselwhite.
The rest of his band consists of Diane Dutra on bass guitar.oh yea lady bass player, Chuck “CAP” Capdeville, known as Mr. Metronome, and David Parnell, who has a little bragging to do after playing with David T. Walker, David McCracken, and The Coasters.
I have listened to this CD many times. The liquid, grinding, If You Don’t Really Love Me made me envision dirty dancers undulating on a dark, smoky dance floor somewhere in bluestown USA. I had to get up and do the Stroll. WHAT!!! The Stroll?? Holy Cow!! Now everyone knows how old I am! This album covers it all. Good jump blues to ice smooth dirty blues. I hate the idea that I will be raffling this CD at the block party September 18. I may have to stalk whoever wins it. I loaned it to my brother who is a much harsher critic than I am and he gave it a grin and a nod, his sign of approval. Skip Calvin said, “It’s better than most out today.”
Forrest McDonald and the 3D Blues Band is currently receiving airplay on 175 radio programs in the USA. His Hard To Lose video is available nationwide. Other albums by Forrest McDonald and the 3D Blues Band are: I Need You, On Fire, Under the Gun. If you are looking for blues that won’t wear you out with flash and dash and confusing guitar workings, if you are looking for good, straight up blues that will cool you out, I recommend this CD.
Spirit of the Blues
Reviewed By Michael Roberts
I received this album from a pop jock friend of mine who knows good music when he hears it. His words to me were “I think this is something that you will like”. Like! I think that Forrest is a true undiscovered STAR. Containing thirteen cuts Forrest displays his vocal and guitar skills in the areas of Shuffle Blues, Jump Blues and the traditional Blues Ballad. Yes, sir there really is something here for Swing EC / WC & Shag Jocks as well as dancers of either style.
Tracks 5, 9,10, & 12 are great up tempo shuffles in the 120 to 124 BPM range that true blues lovers who shag or EC Swing will be moving to for some time to come. For you WC Swing folks let me say that cut one is a wonderful example of what makes you move. An example of a good solid ballad would be the Track entitled “Take me to the Country”. One listen to this will do just that, all you need is a jug of Hard Apple Cider or maybe a mason jar of liquid fire and you’ll be back to those roots you sometimes forget in the midst of today’s hustle and bustle.
Where does this gem rank on the “Ole, Give It To Mikey, He’ll Play it Scale?” This one deserves nothing less that a stone cold A! I hate to give such a high rating on my first exposure to a group but when it’s deserved….what else can you do.
Availability on this one may be a little difficult. At this time I know of only ONE specialty shop that has any in stock. That is “Judy’s House of Oldies” in North Myrtle Beach, SC. Call (843-249-8649). She’ll ship it to you. If she happens to be out you call also contact the folks at “World Talent Records” (770-931-8116) I’m sure they will be happy to sell you a copy.
Spirit of the Blues
Reviewed By John Hathaway
Natchel Blues Network
This CD grabs you from the very first chord of “That’s My Baby,” and doesn’t let your attention waver until the last note of “Rock This House” is dripping from your speakers!
Their fourth release together, McDonald teams up with his long time partner Raymond Victor, along with “Cap” Capdeville on Drums, Diane Dutra on Bass, and Dave Parnell on Saxophone, to take the listener on an hour plus long journey through some great traditional feeling down and dirty blues.
Victor’s voice has that guttural, kind of nasty feeling-one that tells you “blues are in the house,” and is complemented by his awesome work on piano. McDonald’s stinging guitar solos reach out of the speakers and grab you by the ears, forcing you to appreciate the beauty of his skills. Parnell’s horn work (and the mixing) is so good it feels like a whole section up there.
All told, this group melds their talents wonderfully to bring us a great new blues CD! Favorite cuts on this thirteen track compilation are: “People I’m Hurting,” “Cry No More,” “Ride My Buggy,” “Hard To Lose,” and “If You Don’t Really Love Me,” but with each listen I add another cut!
Detroit Blues Society
World Talent Records: 42253-2
Reviewed By Wolfgang Spider
Detroit Blues Society
The bluesy guitar lines of Forrest McDonald compliment the lusty vocals and keyboard work of Raymond Victor to provide a great party set. This album has that “let’s have fun” feel to every track.
They open with “That’s My Baby” featuring Victor’s keyboard and vocals in an upbeat song which sets the stage for all to follow. A medium speed blues called “Anchor to a Drowning Man” follows with great blues guitar and a solid beat. So as not to repeat myself too many times let’s just say that all the tracks have exceptional performances on guitar, vocals, and keyboards.
Working behind McDonald and Victor are Chuck “Cap” Cap Deville on drums, Diane Dutra on 5 string bass and Dave Parnell on tenor saxophone. Victor has backed John Lee Hooker, Bobby Blue Bland, Mike Bloomfield and Charlie Musselwhite. McDonald has worked with Bob Seger, Bobby Womack and many others. These are seasoned musicians and it shows in their recordings.
The CD includes slow blues on “Texas”, “People I’m Hurting”, “If You Don’t Really Love Me”, and “Take me to the Country”. These are balanced with medium and up-tempo tracks such as “Love Me In The Morning”, “Cry No More”, “Ride My Buggy”, Lazy Old Woman” and “Whiskey”. It is hard to pick my favorite song. I liked them all. The guitar work on “Hard to Lose” and the piano work on “Whiskey” make these strong candidates. How would you expect a blues party set to conclude? With a bluesy rocker of course and “Rock This House” fills that bill. I love this CD. It rocks the blues and makes me feel good.
Spirit of the Blues
Reviewed By Blues Access
Guitar-based blues at its best here on tunes like “Anchor to a Drowning Man” and “Texas.” McDonald is a really fine guitarist in the T-Bone Walker mold, and for all you gear-heads, the liner notes detail the guitar, amp and settings for every tune.
Spirit of the Blues
Reviewed By Andy Grigg
Here is a CD that has all the tasteful deejays whoopin’ and hoolerin’ and it only takes track 1, “That’s My Baby,” to hear why. This is the ‘cat’s ass’ as they say. It is a pure Southern, good time, easy rockin’ blues and is as pleasurable experience as it gets.
The Blues fans down in Georgia have been spoiled by Forrest and company for quite some time, and man oh man, when I listen to these guys, I’m wishing I could be at a table close to the stage and dance floor where they would be rockin’. This band is what a great bar room blues band should sound like. Dance floor friendly and guaranteed to make you forget your troubles in a very short period of time.
A super talented and cohesive unit like this really should be much wider known. I’m not sure if they tour outside of Georgia, but they can easily play rings around a lot of bands who wear ‘star’ status. McDonald is a very tasty guitarist of the ‘less is more’ school and he makes every note count. Lead vocalist/keyboardist Raymond Victor roars up a storm and is totally natural. Exceptional sax work from veteran Dave Parnell makes every track extra sweet of an experience and Diane Dutra lays down the perfect Fender bass bottom – some of the best blues bassists are women.
This CD will be on your player for an extended period of time if you like to do the ‘livingroom boogie’ (I sure do). 5 bottles for a great disc from a hot band. Check them out!
Rock & Blues News
Spirit of the Blues
Reviewed By Rock & Blues News
From piano-dominated, bouncy swing numbers (“That’s My Baby”) to guitar/sax-centered blues (“Anchor to a Drowning Man”), Forrest McDonald’s quintet sizzles. Lead vocals by Raymond Victor are remarkable, as is his keyboard work throughout this session. “Texas,” the third cut on this 13 song set, combines Robert Cray-type lyrics with powerful guitar licks reminiscent of Albert Collins. Wow! The tenor sax honking and musings of Dave Parnell are distinctive; the five-string bass work of Diane Dutra is solid; and the percussion magic of Chuck “Mr. Metronome” Capdeville is electric.
The performing maturity and clarity of this group, coupled with the lyrical rhythmic genius of Texas-born McDonald, make this fine production a can’t miss recording. ~ Cooper
Finger Lickin’ Blues
Reviewed By Blues Revue December 2001
Journeyman guitarist Forrest McDonald and veteran vocalist and pianist Raymond Victor blend elements of vintage Chicago and Texas blues with elements of soul, R&B and funk. Victor is a blues singer with depth. Over the years this duo has performed with such luminaries as John Lee Hooker, Luther Tucker, Charlie Musselwhite, Bobby Womack, and Bobby “Blue” Bland. The disc’s version of “Ode to Billy Joe” is by itself worth the price of admission: this one is a crowning achievement. Finger Lickin’ Blues covers a lot of ground and Forrest McDonald mixes his ingredients well. Bob Margolin’s haunting slide guitar, spooking along behind the verse, should send chills up the spine of any blues aficionado. McDonald’s sparse, understated rhythm guitar here is mesmerizing. There could be no better proof that less is more.
This Atlanta-based journeyman has hot licks to spare and they come down fast and furious. McDonald’s flat out Southern style of wailing is ably supported by a tight band featuring Raymond Victor’s excellent vocals and keyboard work. Lovers of white hot guitar will not be disappointed.
Extraordinary musicianship! McDonald’s glowing guitar teamed with Victor’s whiskey-drenched gutter voice, exceptional piano work and strong songwriting is a winning combination. Where have these guys been hiding?
Forrest McDonald’s quintet sizzles with great traditional feeling and down and dirty blues. Raymond Victor’s voice has that guttural kind of nasty feeling that tells you the “blues are in the house” and is complemented by his awesome work on pianos. Dave Parnell’s horn work sounds so good it feels like a whole section. The five string bass work of Diane Dutra is very solid; and the percussive magic of Chuck Cap Deville is electric. The performing maturity and clarity of this group, coupled with the lyrical – rhythmic genius of Texas-born McDonald, make them a band not to be missed. ~ Cooper
Forrest McDonald at the Roxy Theatre, Atlanta, GA”
“Total fun!” That’s what Lilburnite Forrest McDonald says when I ask him to describe his blues band’s sizzling performance at the Roxy in Buckhead on Saturday night, Sept. 21, 2002, as the opening act for blues legend Bo Diddley. Forrest and I are standing together in the lobby of the Roxy just minutes after he walked off stage and he’s there to autograph copies of his CD’s and mingle with his ever-increasing fan base. He says the Roxy is a “fabulous” place to play and he can’t say enough good things about his fans. As I soon find out, his fans can’t say enough good things about him either. One by one, fans of all ages, from budding teenage guitarists to middle aged couples, come up to Forrest and tell him how much they have enjoyed his music over the years and how much they enjoyed his live set tonight. Many fans just want a chance to meet this local guitar hero who’s also a nationwide blues celebrity, a hometown boy who’s made good in the rough and tumble world of professional music. One teenage kid actually brought his own guitar to the show and asks Forrest to sign it. Forrest patiently signs every autograph and takes the time to chat with each fan – not about himself but about them, asking their name, where they’re from, what they do for a living. He thanks every one of them for coming to the show and for their loyalty over his 38-year career. In a world of rock star prima donnas, Forrest is a refreshing presence; it’s almost impossible not to like this guy!
Despite his disarming off-stage presence, Forrest’s musical prowess is anything but easygoing. He plays blues guitar with an intensity and a passion that fills both knowledgeable and novice blues fans with excitement and leaves even experienced guitarists in awe of his playing ability. Listen to any of his CD’s or attend one of his live shows and you’ll hear his blistering guitar work overlaying traditional blues rhythms with a range of tempos, from slow heart-wrenching Texas blues reminiscent of blues originals like T-Bone Walker, to the more modern hard driving rock-blues mix of Jonny Lang and the late Stevie Ray Vaughan. During their 50-minute set at the Roxy, Forrest and his band played a range of blues selections from several of his recordings. The members of his band (the line-up at the Roxy included Andrew Black (another blues guitar virtuoso) on guitar and lead vocals, bassist Steve Mays and drummer Duke “Blues” Kelly) are all seasoned blues veterans and have been playing with Forrest for years and their long-term relationship has resulted in a nearly flawless kind of musical teamwork. Critics have hailed Forrest as one of the greatest blues guitarists of the day and his band has been voted “Best Southern Blues Band” by Real Blues Magazine in 1999, 2000 and 2001. In 2001, Forrest himself was voted “Best Southern Blues Guitarist” by the magazine as well.
Originally from Austin, Texas, Forrest grew up in a musical family. His grandparents both played music; his grandmother was among the first women to graduate from a music college and played and studied music her entire life until she died at age 101. His mother was a singer and also played acoustic guitar. His dad had an extensive record collection and that was how Forrest first discovered the blues, listening to T-Bone Walker albums as well as recordings by Muddy Waters and Sonny Boy Williamson. Then, at age 9, Forrest saw bluesman Josh White perform in concert. From that moment on, he was hooked on the blues. When he was just 14, he hitchhiked his way to New York City and spent time in Greenwich Village where he saw the great blues legends Muddy Waters and Mose Allison in concert. Shortly after that, Forrest took up the guitar. He took six months of guitar lessons and then taught himself blues guitar the rest of the way. Thirty-eight years ago, on New Year’s Eve 1965, Forrest started his first band; he’s been having “total fun” ever since.
But while music and the blues may have been a passionate pastime in the McDonald family, it was still a unique career choice for Forrest. His father is a renowned history professor at the University of Alabama and a leading American constitutional scholar who devised a new way of looking at the history of the U.S. Constitution by going back and reading the original documents that made up the framework for what the Founding Fathers had in mind when they wrote the document that still governs America after more than 200 years. When I ask Forrest why his career path to blues music differed so much from his father’s career in academia, Forrest credits his father’s attitude of open thinking. “My dad always told me to do what I wanted to do. He just said ‘whatever you do, be the best’. And I just wanted to do things my way.”
Despite his guitar wizardry and his business savvy, Forrest remains modest. When I ask him how a “master blues guitarist” ended up in Lilburn as opposed to a more traditional blues haven like Memphis or Chicago, he avoids my geography question altogether. Instead, he says. “Master blues guitarist in Lilburn? Well, when I run into him, I’ll let you know!”
For an album recorded on the fly, Live packs a mean punch. Though it captures a performance before a festival crowd, what it delivers is the sound you’d like to hear if you wandered into an out-of-town bar, and sat down to hear a blues band you’d never before encountered. Atlanta-based guitarist (and Austin, Texas, native) Forrest McDonald is the top billed performer, but this is clearly the work of an ensemble, featuring lead singer and piano player Raymond Victor – McDonald’s musical partner for three decades now – as well as second guitarist and singer Andrew Black, and the 3D Blues Band rhythm section of Jonathan Schwenke on bass and John McKnight on drums. McDonald’s guitar grabs much of the spotlight, but it’s Victor’s growl that initially commands attention: His rough-hewn voice, full of character, lends a distinctive touch to a batch of songs that adhere to familiar blues themes. It kicks off with “Anchor to a Drowning Man,” which includes a bit of feedback you might expect from an album mixed directly from the house sound system. But the warts and all approach offers a portrait of a road band that knows how to play to the crowd. Most of the songs come from the school of good-humored hard-lick blues; Victor introduces “Work Work” as a song about his second marriage and “Boogie Me ‘tilI drop” as a song about his third marriage. In addition to his playful singing, which can drop into Howlin’ Wolf territory, he’s got a boogie-woogie blues piano style honed from years of playing. McDonald’s clean, smoking leads offer plenty of flash, but he never gets overly indulgent. McKnight gets to play front man when he handles lead vocals on a cover of Wolf’s “Who’s Been Talking.” Let’s have some full disclosure: I had never heard these guys before. Now, I’m hoping they get to my town sometime soon.
The most refreshing album I have heard this year
Forrest McDonald With Andrew Black & Raymond Victor
About every decade, an artist comes on the horizon that changes the flow for the positive and “Forrest McDonald” is that vessel. Forrest McDonald indisputably sets the course for the next generation of blues-rock musicians. He is powerful, vibrant, unyielding and a testimonial all by himself. Take a ride in the fast lane with his all-star lineup and enjoy 10 red-hot originals and two classic covers on this monumental new release.
Forrest McDonald has been renowned as one of the world’s finest guitarists since the early seventies when he first gained prominence with the Wadsworth Mansion and later as a session guitarist in the Muscle Shoals, Alabama recording scene. He can be heard soloing on Bob Segers platinum hit “Old Time Rock & Roll” and may other great recordings. After 7 albums on the WTR label, he has astonished listeners with his remarkable, emotionally powerful playing and writing ability. Now he has launched an adventurous new project with producer Tony Carey culminating in the release of Colorblind his eighth CD.
Veteran Producer Tony Carey is well know for his work with many artists such as Rainbow – “Rainbow Rising “, “On Stage” and “Live in Germany”, Pat Travers – “Puttin’ it straight”, Peter Maffay – “Sonne in der Nacht”, “Tabaluga und das leuchtende Schweigen”, “Lange Schatten” (1988), John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers – “Chicago Line”, Joe Cocker – “Now that you’re gone”, Josep Carreras & Cris Juanico – “Tabaluga Viatja Buscant El Seny” and The Forrest McDonald Band – “Colorblind”. Tony will be producing the new John Mayall CD in January 2005.
Of their new album, Colorblind, singer Andrew Black says, “This album is a journey. We have created a powerful statement of where the band is right now, the songs are full of energy, tension, contrast and beauty.”
Members of the band are Forrest McDonald on vocals, and lead guitar; Andrew Black on vocals, and guitar; Raymond Victor on vocals, and keyboard; Tony Carey on Bass and keyboard; John McKnight on vocals, and drums.
Forrest McDonald’s U.S. tour dates will began with a kick off performance in Atlanta, GA the first weekend in October and concluded in Boston, MA in December 2004.