FolkWorld #76 11/2021
© Rick J Bowen / Blind Raccoon

Mighty Bluesy

The pure simplicity of hearing a world-class artist alone in a room with their instrument is a rare event not often witnessed by many, let alone caught on tape and recorded for posterity. Armed with only his acoustic guitar, a list of favorite songs and his wits, 2013 International Blues Challenge champion, Little G Weevil, sat alone in the vaunted “Stone Room” at Super Size Recording earlier this year in Hungary for a spontaneous recording, simply titled Live Acoustic Session.

Little G Weevil

Little G Weevil "Live Acoustic Session", Hunnia Records, 2021

Weevil described the day; “my latest and most spontaneous work to date. I walked into a studio, had three beers, and played sixteen tunes. It came out mighty bluesy, 100% live, no editing.” Obviously inspired by the sound of the room with its handcrafted field stone walls ,high ceiling and wood floors, Weevil delivered a performance of blues, roots and rambles with fire and zeal, as if he were playing on a stage in a grand auditorium.

His opening salvo, “Keep Going (4.49),” lures us in with its hypnotic pulse and Delta Blues chant, as we hear his stomping foot echoing off the walls. The Hill Country Blues “Real Men Don’t Dance (3.30),” follows with back-porch authenticity. Weevil then raises the tempo for the enigmatic Dylan-styled romp “When The King Was Told (4.22),” before the traditional twelve bar “Early In The Morning (4.24),” shows off his deep skills as a blues champion. He reels off the blues of desperation “Place A Dollar in My Hand, (6.39)” from his 2016 album Three Chords Too Many , like an old friend, before recanting the sordid tale of dealing with a wild woman “Sasha Said (4.16).”

The loving tribute, “Dad’s Story (7.06),” is set to a jaunty Piedmont Blues pattern making effective use of Weevil’s fingerpicking and lyrical skills. The bump and grind blues “Apple Picker (5.38),” is a bawdy number full of flashy licks. He doesn’t miss a beat sliding into the reading of the old folk tale “Casey Jones (3.39),” and gives the R.L. Burnside classic “Poor Black Mattie (5.23),” a Jimi Hendrix Machine Gun redux. The thought-provoking “Fastest Man (4.07),” challenges our moral compass. He shares two songs from the years he spent in America, the rolling blues “Going Back South (4.32)” and the driving “On My Way To Memphis (6.36).” The colorful rag, “Back Porch (5.25),” may or may not be a true story with a hilarious intro, while the emotive “She Used To Call Me Sugar (5.05),” is an example of lowdown blues heartbreak that must be lived to be believed. He attacks the John Lee Hooker “Roll And Boogie (6.18),” a tune he recorded with The Cazanovas in 2015, like a runaway train ending the set with fury and bravado. Little G Weevil is an artist, who refuses to be pigeonholed, with a career full of varied material and colorful, unique cross-genre collaborations. This strong release demonstrates he is not afraid to go back to basics and revel in his roots.

Little G Weevil

Artist Video

Little G Weevil is a highly esteemed member of the worldwide blues community. He is the solo winner of the Blues Foundation’s 2013 International Blues Challenge, and a Blues Music Award, Blues Blast Music Award, and Independent Blues Award nominee. He has released eight internationally acclaimed albums and toured across the globe. During his travels he has shared the stage with Johnny Winter, the Neville Brothers, Terry Evans, John Popper, Lee Oskar, Anson Funderburgh and the Rockets with Sam Myers, Denise LaSalle, Billy Gibson, Otis Taylor, Big Jack Johnson, Lonnie Shields, Lurrie Bell, Willie King, Ian Siegal, Matt Schofield, to name just a few.

Gee grew up in Budapest, Hungary, where he formed his first band in 1996 and toured Europe before moving to the U.S. in 2004. He spent time in Birmingham, AL and Memphis, TN and secured a steady gig on Beale Street in Memphis. In 2005, he made his first solo recordings at Charlie Wood's studio in Memphis, but three out of the four tracks were lost. The one remaining track "Hey Jody" was missing the bass line, which was later added by Csaba Pengo. "Hey Jody" was eventually released as the intro to Gee's debut solo album Southern Experience in 2008.

In 2009, Gee relocated to Atlanta, GA, where he teamed up with legendary local musicians for his second album, The Teaser . The backing crew of long-time heavy hitters (John McKnight, Bill Burke, Bob Page, and Maurice Nazzaro) toured with icons such as John Lee Hooker and Chuck Berry. The record was released in December 2011 to critical acclaim; ranked one of the best blues albums of the year by Mojo and topped the French blues chart.

In 2013, Little G took first place in the solo/duo category in the International Blues Challenge (Memphis, TN), at which he was also awarded "Best Guitarist" in his category. The same year he released his first full-length acoustic album, Moving (VizzTone Label Group). Mojo magazine ranked it #3 "Best Blues Album of the Year" and it was nominated for a Blues Blast Music Award "Acoustic Album of the Year.” In 2014, Gee was nominated for a Blues Music Award "Acoustic Artist of the Year.” In the same year he was invited to join the judging panel in the 5th series of X-Factor (Hungary) the popular television music talent show franchise. In 2016 his fourth album, Three Chords Too Many , received an Independent Blues Music Award nomination as "Best Acoustic Blues Album of Year.”

With a collaboration between VizzTone Label Group and the Hungarian XLNT Records, he released his third electric band work in 2017, Something Poppin’. This was Gee’s first effort to venture away from traditional blues into a more contemporary sound. "Weevil mixes blues with hip hop and rap and the result is fantastic!" said American Blues Scene . The album was nominated by the Independent Blues Award as "Best Modern Roots CD of the Year" and by the Hungarian Music Awards (Hungary’s equivalent of the Grammy’s). The album, Back In Alabama , was released in 2018. However, due to family reasons Little G Weevil returned to Budapest in December 2018. He spent most of 2019 on the road touring his home country Hungary as well as Spain, Belgium, and the Netherlands.

During the first year of the covid pandemic Gee authored a novel based on his life, Játssz Tovább (meaning Play On), the adventures of a Hungarian bluesman around the world, which is now distributed nationwide in Hungary. There are plans to translate the book into English, Spanish, French and Portuguese. With his 2020 electric-band album, Play On , Little G Weevil continued his idea of blending genres, as he did in Something Poppin’ . However, this time he focused on his songwriting skills featuring vocalists from the UK and Hungary: Dionne Bennett, Ian Siegal, Fatima Mohamed, CéAnne, Vera Jonas, Sena Dagadu, Rita Foris, Jonathan Andelic, and Mo' Gigs frontman Csaba Gál "Boogie.” Gee’s 2021 Live Acoustic Session was nominated for Blues Blast Music Award in the “Live Blues Recording” category.

Sugar Hip Ya Ya

When you first experience the British Jamaican singer-songwriter, producer, and radio personality Dionne Bennett, one of the first words that comes to mind is powerhouse, defined as a person or thing of great energy, strength, skill, and power. It is no wonder producer, songwriter and artist Little G Weevil assembled a muscular wrecking crew of the best players for her new album Sugar Hip Ya Ya released on Hunnia Records.

Dionne Bennett

Artist Video

The ten-song collection covers all Afro-culture music genres from jazz to R&B, soul, reggae, funk, rock ‘n’ roll and beyond with a sound that leaps out of the speakers like Blood Sweat and Tears meeting the Red Hot Chili Peppers at Stax Records in Memphis for a supersonic soul party. Recorded in Budapest Hungary with local musicians - Laszlo Borsodi on guitar, Attila Herr on bass, drummer Lajos Gyenge and keyboardist Matyas Premecz - who are augmented by the Jambalaya Horns: trumpeter Tamas Sovari and Zoltan Albert on sax. Little G Weevil adds his acclaimed lead guitar and vocals to the mix of eight original numbers he wrote or co-wrote for the project and two classic cover songs that showcase every aspect of Bennett’s expansive dynamic range.

The chart topping 1968 hit for Etta James, “Tell Mama (3.39),” is a bold choice to open an album and Bennett and company do not fail to deliver by recreating the fire of the original Muscle Shoals’ recording. The title track, “Sugar Hip Ya Ya (3.22),” celebrates the voice of a strong independent woman over a heavy swinging groove. A thundering beat from Gyenge kicks off the jagged funk rocker “Spy Me (4.02),” before the sultry one drop infused “My Life (5.55),” embracing Bennett’s island roots. She salutes receiving her life’s calling to be a singer on the rowdy gospel fueled “Full Time Job (3.27).”

Allen Toussaint’s freedom song “Yes We Can Can (3.48)” is given more of that Stax Records treatment with greasy clavinet, fiery horns, and Bennett channeling Mavis Staples. Dubstep influenced “Let It Rain (5.38),” samples the voice of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., from his “We Shall Overcome” speech, with the southern influenced R&B licks of Little G Weevil and Bennett’s caressing vocal. The duo also issued a call to stand up against racism, writing “This song cannot be more accurate. Speak up against racism and social injustice!”

The dramatic torch song ballad, “Don’t Fall For Love (3.58)” has strains of Billie Holiday and Carmen McRae and is a modern twist on a traditional form. Bennett encourages us all to do better on the thumping track “Get It Right (3.44),” that features a wicked solo from Laszlo. Everyone shines on the Budapest-Goes-To-Brooklyn anthem “Get Style (8.54);” the musicians trading solos and Bennett leading a sing-along house party to close out the set. The collaboration of Dionne Bennett and Little G Weevil for Sugar Hip Ya Ya began as a guest spot on his project and blossomed into her full-blown album that is destined to bear fruit for years to come.

Dionne Bennett

Dionne Bennett "Sugar Hip Ya Ya", Hunnia Records, 2021

Dionne Bennett is a British/West-Indian singer-songwriter, producer, and radio personality. She started singing and performing live at age 14 and released her first soul single by the time she was 15. Dionne is internationally known for her unique and diverse vocal style that covers all Afro-culture influenced genres from blues, jazz, R&B, soul, reggae, drum bass funk, rock ‘n’ roll, and beyond.

During her career she has performed throughout Europe and has shared the stage with music legends such as Dr. John. She has also opened for Maceo Parker and the British super group Oasis, as one of the members of the ’The Peth’ fronted by Welsh actor, producer, and singer Rhys Ifans. She has released singles with renowned jazz pianist, Jason Rebello, Grammy award winner saxophonist, Tim Garland, and rock bands such as Super Furry Animals and The Earth. Dionne has had a varied career path within the arts and was part of a Cbeebies educational program called the Bobinogs. Dionne played the part of Bobin, who performed on the piano and sang, and the program used music and song to educate and inform preschoolers alongside positive messages and problem solving. She also presented the BBC program ‘The Maths Channel,’ another program, targeted at young school children to help educate and solve math problems while using music and song to educate.

Dionne also starred as a ‘Bluette’ in the official Blues Brothers Musical. She gained the part after beating thousands of singers and toured throughout Britain and Europe for 18 months. Dionne has recently started working for a sync music company, ‘Sonic Culture’ based in the U.S. and regularly writes toplines for TV programs and ads. She is also a vocal and performance university lecturer, who coaches the next generation of up-and-coming singers on the music scene and at degree level. Dionne hosts and produces her own music show ‘The Suga Shack’ for local radio station, Radio Cardiff, UK. On the program she spins an eclectic mix of black music genres. She is the chair of a grassroots music organization ‘Ladies of Rage.’ This network was set up to support women in electronic music genres in Wales and has been successful in highlighting the imbalances of the industry when it comes to women in music and providing support and advocating for 50/50 line up and the inclusion of women when programming for gigs and events. Dionne also chairs the Diversity Advisory Group at the Royal College of Music Drama, helping to ensure the inclusion of black music and black artists within the curriculum and the college itself.

Dionne has pursued her dreams even after suffering an acute asthma attack where she ended up in a coma and lost the ability to speak and sing due to a tracheotomy procedure, as well taking time out of the scene to raise her son. Her love and desire to sing and perform has never been lost and she continues to work, play, perform, and record music.

Photo Credits: (1)-(2) Little G Weevil, (3)-(4) Dionne Bennett (unknown/website).

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