Chicago, Ill – 1/3/2020
FORREST McDONALD BAND/Blues in a Bucket: Slinging his guitar over 50 years everywhere from Muscle Shoals to Boston with a slew of luminaries topped off by Bob Seger, McDonald doesn’t play like a 70 year old wondering what to do now. A high octane, high energy white boy with smoking soul, it’s clear he just doesn’t want to go home at the end of the night. A wild time that doesn’t give a whit about anything other than plugging into the cosmic, eternal groove.
(World Talent 15) – Chris Spector
Thursday, January 2, 2020
The Forrest McDonald Band Featuring Andrew Black ~~ Blues In A Bucket
New year, new opportunities, old friends (and new), and so much more. I am delighted to report that my mailbox has been overflowing recently with some great music and I am going to do my level best to get caught up PDQ. I figured it was best to start with somebody whose work I’ve enjoyed for many years and have been grateful that I can call him my friend.
Forrest McDonald has been a professional musician for something like six decades. As a guitarist, he has crossed genres. From rock to straight up blues, he’s played it all with a strong and steady hand. When you get a chance to catch him live with The Forrest McDonald Band, you know you are in for a good time. The music is good, the personalities of the band blend beautifully, and it’s almost impossible not to come away in a great mood.
Ditto with his albums. Blues In A Bucket came in from his publicist and I tore the shrink wrap off almost immediately. Nothing is going to keep me away from those great sounds. There are 11 songs on the album, each one written or co-written by McDonald.
Vocalist Andrew Black, who has his own pedigree that includes approximately 20 years in the Atlanta music scene, provides the lead vocals on 10 of the 11 tracks. The remaining track features McDonald’s former lead singer, the wonderful Becky Wright.
McDonald plays guitar and adds his vocals to two songs; Lee Gammon plays bass on all songs except for the one that Jan Schweike plays on; John McKnight is behind the drums; Pix Ensign plays harmonica; Jimmy King and Norman Franks make up the horn section with King on trumpet and flugelhorn and Franks on sax; and Matthew Waurhope plays organ and piano on most of the songs with Tony Carey taking over for two songs.
Backing vocals are provided by Shelene Huey Booker, Romney Sears, Monica Thrower, and Jacelyn Ware.
The album starts off with some swinging drums and sax as Boogie Me Till I Drop sets the mood. It’s a light-hearted shuffle that is designed to get the folks out on the floor. The party has definitely started and it looks like it’s going to last all night. McDonald takes a good guitar break at about the 2:30 mark and another around 3:50. This one is going to receive some airplay, including on Time For The Blues.
Things get slow and soulful on the next track, Blues In The Basement. Black has got some serious vocal chops and his smooth delivery makes this one great for late night listening. I would put this one up against any romantic blues ballad anytime. This one just gives you a case of the good feels.
Next up is the title track, Blues In A Bucket. It’s more soul but doesn’t move me the same way the first couple of songs have. It’s not a bad song, it just doesn’t quite get under my skin the way the others have. McDonald unleashes some cool six string pyro just ahead of the 2:00-minute mark.
McDonald and Company get funky with Blue Morning Sun. The song is a bit of a rollercoaster as it tries to make sense of the death of a brother. The emptiness that comes from the loss mixes with the hopeful prayer that the one you lost is in a better place, or at least out of pain. The lyrics are emotional and Black delivers them well.
They follow up with Hard To Lose, another song dealing with loss. McDonald’s guitar answers Black’s vocals almost phrase for phrase. The organ chords in the background give it a church feeling and Black yanks each note from his soul. Fascinating number.
Aside from being the title of a really cool book that my friend Scott Nugent gave me, Windy City Blues is a love story about the city that many consider the Mecca of the Blues. The keys and guitar supply the canvas for Black’s vocals, and the horn section steps in to give the song the right amount of spice. I love this one a lot and will be playing it as soon as I can.
There’s more funk brewing on Go To The Light. The choir of backing vocals elevates the song and the use of the horns adds to the overall feel of the song. The song is a reassuring one for those dealing with the loss of a loved one. We all want to believe that there is something beyond and that we will be bathed in light and love. Don’t wait to share the light that you have on earth.
Next up is a gut-wrenching track, Misery And Blues. With a title like that, don’t expect a happy peppy song, but McDonald lyrically strips this one down and exposes raw nerves. It’s a strong song and I hope that when people listen to it, they will have the same reaction I did. It’s a powerful song, and when done live, should give band members a chance to really punch it.
Becky Wright takes over the lead vocals for Powerhouse and it’s a delight to hear her beautiful voice. She and Pix Ensign slink their way through the song weaving a wonderful spell that could have come straight out of the swamp. I can’t wait to hear the band do this one live. Ensign’s harp break around 2:17 is a perfect complement to Wright’s powerhouse of a voice.
Business picks up with Going Back To Memphis. There’s more funk, more horns, and a fast-paced party atmosphere. Black’s vocals soar and the drum beats are infectious. I know this one will be getting some airplay and it should. While this may not be for the delta purists, those that like their blues alive and kicking will certainly dig it.
They close out the album with Let The Love In Your Heart, giving Wright and Ensign another chance to strut their stuff. The song is a reminder that even through the darkness, we have to remember to stay positive, that we can react to disappointment and pain with positivity. It’s a great way to end the album.
Blues In A Bucket is an interesting mix of fun time party music, funky sides, and heart-wrenching soul searches. It’s a mature effort from Forrest McDonald and Andrew Black that displays great depth. While still displaying McDonald’s penchant for tight hooks, his lyrics are among the best of his career.
Currently, on preorder with a release date of February 7, Blues In A Bucket will make a great addition to any blues lover’s collection. Get your order in early and check McDonald’swebsite for touring information. Catch ‘em where you can, live music is always better.
Blues Greece Q&A with veteran singer, songwriter, guitarist Forrest McDonald – earthshaking, soul-stirring music distilled in the blues
“It’s time to all join hands. We’ve got to live together. It’s time to stand up united as one through the hard times and stormy weather. I say hey, hey, the Blues is all right!”
Forrest McDonald: Blues In A Bucket
Award-winning singer, songwriter, guitarist Forrest McDonald has been performing and recording earthshaking, soul-stirring music distilled in the blues for nearly six decades. His insightful song writing skills embrace the journey of an adventurous explorer who plunges head first into every twist of fate life throws his way. He started playing guitar in 1964 after meeting Muddy Waters at the Café Midnight in Harlem. That same year his father gave him a copy of Two Bones and a Pick by T-Bone walker. He was hooked on the blues. His 15th CD “Blues in a Bucket” will be released February 10, 2020, on World Talent Records. Recorded mixed and mastered at Dogwood Recording & Mastering in Oxford, Georgia, with Ron Benner engineering, Blues in a Bucket showcases Forrest McDonald’s guitar mastery in full bloom, aided and abetted by a stellar cast of backing musicians, featuring the dynamic lead vocals of Andrew Black and special guest vocalist Becky Wright. Forrest McDonald / Photo by Robert O’Neal
Forrest McDonald has been performing and recording earth-shaking, soul-stirring music distilled in the blues for nearly six decades. His insightful song writing skills embrace the journey of an adventurous explorer who plunges head first into every twist of fate life throws his way. The addition of a full horn section and background vocalists to many of these musical tapestries adds remarkable texture as each song unfurls. The result is an array of finely polished, deeply faceted musical gems contained in Blues in a Bucket – reflecting those personal stories that evolve into universal experiences and outcomes. During his extensive career as a musician, Forrest McDonald has recorded with the legendary Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. His playing on Bob Seger’s Stranger in Town, Greatest Hits and Ultimate Hits garnered him three RIAA-certified platinum albums, which combined have sold over 15 million copies. That’s Forrest guitar solo heard on Seger’s classic, “Old Time Rock and Roll.” McDonald’s other accolades include his induction in the Boston Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, being awarded “Best Modern Southern Guitarist” by Real Blues Magazine (2002), which also voted his band as “Best Southern Blues Band” for three years-in-a-row (1999-2001). Forrest McDonald has performed with Debbie Davies, Bonnie Bramlett, and Kathi McDonald. He’s recorded with such legends as Bobby Womack, Steve Perry and Doris Troy, and over the years has swapped licks with such guitar greats as Duane Allman, Johnny Winter, Jeff Beck, Bob Margolin, Eddie Van Halen, Jimmy Page and Roy Gaines.
Interview by Michael Limnios Special Thanks: Mark Pucci Media
How has the Blues and Rock Counterculture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?
I was always a non-conformist and basically an unsupervised child. I first picked up an acoustic guitar in 1963 and began listening to Folk Singers like Odetta, Dylan, Leadbelly and Josh White. Odetta was a Civil rights activist. Although she grew up in the city, she described black folk music and spirituals as “liberation songs” and used this music to “do my teaching and preaching, my propagandizing.” Both Odetta and Bob Dylan sang at the 1963 Civil Rights March in Washington DC. The anti-establishment counter cultural phenomenon was developing in the United States at this time. The heart of the action began with the beat movement in New York City and then spread to San Francisco. Greenwich Village was where I went to immerse myself in a hotbed of early countercultural activity. In the coming years classic rock bands with a Blues influence hit the airwaves. The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Cream, and others covered Blues greats such as Muddy Waters, T-Bone Walker, and Slim Harpo on their albums. Muddy said the blues had a baby and they called it Rock and Roll. Drugs such as marijuana and LSD were now embedded into the counter culture. In 1968-69 I played my share of Moratoriums to End the War in Vietnam. I wanted to be in the heart of the action so I moved to California in 1973. I jammed with many popular band members from the Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead, and the Quicksilver Messenger Service. Playing in the San Francisco bay area was great. There were lines of beautiful women in front of the stage at my feet passing me lit joints and their phone numbers. We took the party with us wherever we played in Europe, Asia, and the USA. I have found that people around the world are basically the same. We all want food, clothing, shelter, love and entertainment. I see the world through the prism of music and love. Everywhere I go these days I hear the same complaint in 1,000 different ways we don’t have enough money. That view never changes and people everywhere confirm it. A small group of very rich people essentially control everything and we are all just trying to get by. That’s why they call it the blues.
“The impact is clear. We started with a line in one place and we crossed it. So, they redrew the line and we crossed that one. On and on it went until society eventually changed. Sex, art, music, video games, violence were expanded to appease the minds of those who had grown tired of the old ways. That’s why I love the blues and blues-rock it keeps me grounded.” (Forrest McDonald / Photo by Wayne Gammon)
What were the reasons that made the 60s to be the center of Blues, Folk and Rock researches and experiments?
If there was any money in the Blues, they would call it the greens. In the 40’s and 50’s the African-American musicians were confined to the “Chitlin Circuit.” After the white bands brought notoriety to Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry and others they were invited to play venues like the Newport Folk Festival and large concert venues. Listen to Elvis interpret Big Mamma Thornton’s version of Hound Dog. All early Rock and Roll songs are just like blues following the 12-bar format with just a different drum beat. Groups like Cream, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, The Doors, The Who and Jimi Hendrix really moved the needle. The Monterey Pop Festival and Woodstock were landmark music festivals. The flower power generation and the hippie movement were all a result of this musical evolution and the new counter culture surrounding it. It is no wonder researchers are consumed with the time period it was the greatest.
What characterizes “Blues in a Bucket” in comparison to previous albums? What touched (emotionally) you from studio’s sessions?
Blues in a Bucket is a culmination everything I had learned since I began writing and recording songs. The performances of each song are as good as it gets with your clothes on. That goes double for the sound quality, instrumentation, mixing and mastering. I have dedicated the CD to my brother, Steve, who I lost in January 2019 to cancer, and to anyone who has lost a loved one to this terrible disease. The song Blue Morning Sun tells that story. A related song, “Go to the light,” was written with positive and spiritual energy for those that have crossed over after passing. “Boogie me till I drop” has a great New Orleans party feel, so I started the CD with it to get everyone in good spirit. I was in China a few years ago and feeling lonely for the USA. I thought about two great blues towns—Memphis and Chicago and that led me to write “Windy City Blues.” It grounded me. I had some low points like we all do and I wrote “Misery and Blues” to relieve some of that anxiety. I was watching a lot of the series “Supernatural” at this time and “Powerhouse” just jumped out of me. The title track “Blues in a Bucket” is a positive classic. I was full of the blues one afternoon, pondering my problems, when I thought of how fantastic it would be to just put them into a bucket and then toss them away. The song tells the story. The closing song “Let the Love in Your Heart” is what we need a lot more of. It’s an optimistic vision inspired by love.
How started the thought of World Talent Records? Do you have a dream project you’d most like to accomplish?
When I was 29 years old, I had a vision of one day starting my own independent record label so that I could record my own music and call my own shots. It took me 15 years to save the money but I did it my way. My 9th CD is Titled Nothing Wrong with Dreaming. I am always moving forward. Today “Blues in a Bucket” is the dream project I would most like to accomplish. Forrest McDonald / Photo by Wayne Gammon
“If you know what you are doing and listen to all of the players it is amazing what you can play live with no rehearsal. Fortunately for me I love many styles of music and I did my best to master those styles. When you are selling yourself as a studio musician you have to put what you want to do in the back of your mind and listen to the producer or songwriter when they tell you what kind of solo they want.”
Are there any memories from Duane Allman, Bobby Womack, and Johnny Winter which you’d like to share with us?
I have several pages in a book I’m writing. I will lay out some of it for you to edit. I was living in Boston in 1970 when I read in the Boston Phoenix the Allman Brothers were coming to the Boston Tea Party November 19-21. Nothing was going to keep me from that show. I brought my 1955 Fender Stratocaster to show Duane as a door opener. He played it and dug it but had just traded a Marshall for a Gibson Les Paul and he was going to play the Les Paul. After the show I told Duane about my 1960 Gibson Firebird and he said to come back tomorrow, Saturday, and bring it with me. After the show on Friday I went to their hotel in Brookline and played acoustic guitars until the pre-dawn hour with Greg leading the way. I left just before the sun came up and returned with my Gibson Firebird the next evening. I also brought Chris Hayward my girlfriend at the time. Our names were on the guest list and we arrived just before the band. We went straight to the dressing room. Chris had strapped on my Firebird and was playing some hot licks when the Brothers walked in. Dickey and Duane were impressed with what she was playing and I felt good having brought her with me. Duane said Dickey listen to this girl play that guitar. She played a few cool blues licks and Duane said, “Dicky you may be out of a job.” Everyone laughed. Soon Duane relieved Chris of the guitar and started playing it. He liked it a lot. When it was show time he had Red Dog their head roadie, bring it to the stage along with Duane’s Les Paul. The set began with great energy and the band was on fire. After the first song they launched into Whipping Post and Duane’s E string broke just as his solo was coming up. I was standing right in front of him on the floor in front of the stage. He yelled “Red Dog, give me the Firebird.” Red Dog tossed him the Guitar. It seemed to sail 20 feet in the air across the stage and into Duane’s waiting arms. Duane plugged it in just in time to begin his solo. It was a great moment. I had friends there that night and they all knew that Duane was playing my Firebird. After the show we retreated back to the dressing room. The cold beer, weed, whites and wine were plentiful.
The afternoon I met Bobby Womack I was walking down the hall at the new Muscle Shoals Sound with my Stratocaster slung over my back like a rifle. Producer/guitarist Jimmy Johnson put his head out into the hall and said come on in here. He introduced me to Bobby who was there Recording “The Roads of Life.“ Bobby said I know the way you wear that guitar that you are a bad ass guitar player. I’m recording down the hall in studio B come give me some solos. So, I did and that’s how my friendship with Bobby began.
I met Johnny July 1969 as the Newport Jazz and folk festival. The three-day event attracted a record crowd of some 80,000, the heaviest attendance figures of 25,000 coming on Friday night, which was devoted entirely to rock. All of these hippies spooked the local authorities who, because of the tension and large crowd on Friday night, demanded that Led Zeppelin be cancelled from the final bill on Sunday. I loved Johnny Winter’s Set on Sunday. He was absolutely at the top of his game. His vocals were soulful and straight from the heart. His guitar let out a barrage of incredible tones during his slide solos on his Fender Mustang. My family was from Orange Texas and he was from and Johnny was born in Beaumont just west of Orange on I10. I talked to Johnny in his dressing room after his hour and a half set and he let me play his guitar while we talked. Well I tried to play it. His action was set really high for the slide and his strings were ultra-heavy gage. I could barely bend a note. Most guitarists of the day were using a Hawaiian G for our high E string that was equivalent to a 008 and Johnny was using a 013 for his high E string with the rest of his strings equally as thick. Johnny got the crowd fired up for BB King who came on next. I was sitting with Jimmy Page, Alvin Lee, and Robert Plant during BB’s performance. BB played all of his standards and the crowd loved him. There was talk that Johnny was going to come out and jam with BB. Sure enough BB came back for an encore and invited Johnny to the stage. Jimmy was sitting with a group of us and asked Alvin Lee how he thought Johnny would do playing next to BB. Robert Plant said loud and proud “BB will kill him.” They played a slow scorching blues “It’s My Own Fault.” BB played with great concentration and feeling. When BB finished his solo amidst the applause, he gave Johnny the nod. Johnny played like he just made a deal with the Devil at the crossroads. He was at the top of his game playing like a true blues master that could shred those strings making them scream and cry. What a show! Johnny blew them all away. Later in life my friend James Montgomery for the Boston Rock Symphony fronted Johnny’s band after Johnny’s health failed. I keep that first memory close to my heart. Forrest McDonald / Photo by Robert O’Neal
“I was always a non-conformist and basically an unsupervised child. I first picked up an acoustic guitar in 1963 and began listening to Folk Singers like Odetta, Dylan, Leadbelly and Josh White. Odetta was a Civil rights activist. Although she grew up in the city, she described black folk music and spirituals as “liberation songs” and used this music to “do my teaching and preaching, my propagandizing.”
What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in music paths?
If you know what you are doing and listen to all of the players it is amazing what you can play live with no rehearsal. Fortunately for me I love many styles of music and I did my best to master those styles. When you are selling yourself as a studio musician you have to put what you want to do in the back of your mind and listen to the producer or songwriter when they tell you what kind of solo they want. They will reference a solo off a track and ask you to play like that. Being well versed in all of the standards and classics it invaluable in the studio. In 1969 I auditioned for and landed one of the two guitar slots for the Boston Rock Symphony. The other guitarist was a music student at Juilliard named Melvin Wax from Long Island, NY. One day Melvin invited me to his apartment so we could have a jam session. When I arrived, he said I’m just finishing my homework come in and get comfortable. Mel was sight reading a classical piece by Mozart. It sounded beautiful. I thought to myself what I am doing here this guy is great I need to go. Before I could walk out the door Melvin stopped playing and said I’m done let’s jam. I said ok what do you want to jam on? He said let’s jam some Hendrix. I was cool with that and said let’s do it. We started playing and Mel sounded like Mozart and I sounded like Jimi Hendrix. This was astonishing to me. I realized Melvin was all head and no soul. I had learned to solo listening to and learning licks that really moved me. When I played I just blended them together. Our jam was cool but my playing sounded more in the vein I was trying to hit. I said to myself that day I am going to develop my style to the fullest before I learn any theory so that I don’t end up like Melvin; all head and no soul. I played guitar by year for 9 years before entering the Dick Grove Conservatory of music in Studio City California in 1974. Dick is a genius. He played a difficult Be Bop progression and played an impressive solo behind it. Then he casually mentioned I haven’t practiced in 10 years I just know what all the good notes are and I play them. The way he broke down songwriting was inspirational. I won’t give it away here but I strongly recommend his songwriting and composition courses.
What is the impact of the Blues and Rock culture on the racial, political and socio-cultural implications?
Many of the old hippies of yesteryear are now politicians. As at the end of 2018, 33 states plus D.C have legalized medicinal marijuana. Meanwhile, there are now 10 states (plus D.C.) where recreational weed is legal with others under consideration. Many of the SDS crowd that was feeding their propaganda to the college campuses in the 1960’s are embedded in Government today. There is something called the law of unintended consequences. They are outcomes that are not the ones foreseen and intended by a purposeful action. When I was a 9-year-old boy I often wished some of the actresses would appear topless. We have gone so far beyond that if makes you consider that old phrase be careful what you wish for. The impact is clear. We started with a line in one place and we crossed it. So, they redrew the line and we crossed that one. On and on it went until society eventually changed. Sex, art, music, video games, violence were expanded to appease the minds of those who had grown tired of the old ways. That’s why I love the blues and blues-rock it keeps me grounded. I avoid politics because it is spiritually draining. I don’t buy in to fear mongers on TV news that are shills for the Billionaires who try to pit one group against the other while they get richer. It’s time to all join hands. We’ve got to live together. It’s time to stand up united as one through the hard times and stormy weather. I say hey, hey, the Blues is all right!
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
BLUES BLAST MAGAZINE
OCTOBER 27, 2017 BY MARTY GUNTHER
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!!”
Blues News in Europe.
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.
The Sunday Night Blues Project – Wednesday, June 11, 2014
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
Reviewed By Michael Kinsman
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
Certified Blue :
Reviewed By Mark Uricheck
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
Forrest McDonald still feeling, playing the blues
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.
Forrest & Kaylon McDonald – Nothing Wrong With Dreaming
2007 World Talent Publishing
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.
Fort Wayne Blues Society
Spirit of the Blues
Reviewed By Connie Myers
Fort Wayne Blues Society
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.
Golden Isles Shag Club
Spirit of the Blues
Reviewed By Michael Roberts
Golden Isles Shag Club
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.
Natchel Blues Network
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.
Blues Access, December 2001
Finger Lickin’ Blues
Reviewed By Blues Access
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.
Whats it gonna take?
Reviewed By Southwest Blues, November 2000
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?
Rock & Blues News
Whats it gonna take?
Reviewed By Rock & Blues News
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
The Lilburn Courier
Forrest McDonald at the Roxy Theatre, Atlanta, GA”
Reviewed By By Kevin J. Moran, September 21, 2002
Blues guitarist Forrest McDonald still doing things “his way”
By Kevin J. Moran
“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!”
Blues Revue Magazine
Forrest McDonald ~ Live
Reviewed By Michael Cote, Feb/Mar 2003
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.
All Right Now
‘COLORBLIND’ IS ABSOULUTELY “BRILLIANT”
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.