Shufflin' the blues review
This is classic blues, all down the line. Jon gets his guitar tone exactly right, no small achievement in a live setting, where even the most rehearsed songs can be subverted by bad acoustics or unexpected PA system fails. There’s a sweet fatness to his tone, not ripped up fuzz like Johnny Winter but just a little south of B.B. King’s clean, lean and pure guitar tones. Holly’s bass work is the engine of the duo’s rhythm section with drummer Marvin Walker. But where she really shines is in her interpretations of old standards. As if born to the blues, she nails it every time. Resonant, rich and deeply expressive, Holly’s vocals propel these songs to another level. Having been in the room the night this set was recorded at the old Silverton Gallery three years ago, I can safely say this recording captures the swing, the sweetness and the soul of that special evening.
Jon too on that night was in probably the best voice I’ve ever heard him. And I’ve been hearing these guys live for the best part of a decade, all over the Kootenays. Holly and Jon are dealing from the Classic Blues deck, reminding us why generations continue to be inspired by it. In addition to Muddy Waters’ Blow Wind Blow Jon uses a nimble slide to pull Robert Johnson’s Come On In My Kitchen out of the battered body of a guitar known as Gonzo. Holly’s originals Let’s Boogie, Lowdown Blues and Get Your Own Man swing and sway as naturally as if they were themselves old blues standards. When she gets into the scat vocals on Slushy Blues, the room warms up yet another notch. Here she’s as good as any blues torch singer ever was. Moving to a fast shuffle beat, this is no slow seduction. She’s astutely taken her cues from her heroines—Eva Cassidy and Bonnie Raitt—and has made of them something distinctly her own.
Jon’s social conscience is often subtly reflected in his song choices on their three albums. Memphis Slim’s Mother Earth Blues and Left-Handed Soul tip his hat toward a concern for the planet and the impact of consumerism. Yet he manages to avoid making you feel like you’re listening to a sermon, achieving a languid groove and soul-inflected vocal to lull you into the dance. Its refrain is in perfect tune with the blues spirit: “I feel so cold / living in this right-handed world / with my left-handed soul…” Blues, by making social problems deeply personal, roots them in the real. This takes them from something esoteric to something anyone can relate to. It’s something black people have known since the earliest field chants, with their coded messages about ‘the man.’ In that respect, Son House was wrong: it ain’t all just about a man and a woman. Read between the lines of the early classic blues songs and coded messages of slavery and abuse practically leap out at you.
Black Crow is an utterly wonderful original with a lovely acoustic guitar line anchoring and propelling the song. The lyrics represent a fascinating growth in their songwriting: “So much possibility / so much probability… So many questions / so many answers / will they meet up in the end?” This is a questing, questioning soul, keen to make the most of possibility. And aware that it requires a crow’s watchfulness, its legendary ability to shapeshift to a new form to meet life’s challenges.
Holly takes us gracefully shuffling home in Slushy Blues, leaving you wishing there’d been time for about 10 more songs. This is the magic of the blues—you walk out half on air.
Sean Arthur Joyce, Canada, 2016
Bluebird Reviews "Shufflin' The blues"
Music was considered back in the days one of the most powerful arts, able to bring people together everywhere in the world. That was a time when artists would come on stage at a music festival, armed just with a guitar and their voices to bring joy in the lives of thousands of people. The sound was simple, direct, without any artifacts of any sort, pure stripped-down music right to its bone.
This recipe has been at the heart of any music genres, folk, rock, blues, you name it. Times and technology have then, through the years, partially dismantled the concept of that straight-to-your-face music approach and because of this, it is an absolute joy to see that, in this present time of the world, there are artists brave enough willingly to play simple and wonderful music belonging to a sadly bygone era.
Holly Hyatt and Jon Burden from Canada, on their third official release called Shufflin' The Blues, bring back, under form of a live concert, the purity and beauty of playing acoustic and semi-electric blues without any overdubs or programming in a 9-tracks live performance recorded at The Silverton Gallery in British Columbia.
The voices and the instruments of Hyatt and Burden work in magnificent harmony throughout the whole record. While Hyatt's voice is able to travel gracefully and flawlessly through a wide variety of genres like jazz, folk, blues or even be-bop (she is also a talented bass player), Jon Burden has instead a more classic blues vocal approach although still very deep and intense. He also showcases repeatedly his incredible talent as a guitarist too, no matter whether it's an acoustic guitar, a slide or an electric one.
The album's set list is well balanced and alternates original material from the Canadian duo together with homages to giants of the blues like Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters or Memphis Slim. Accompanied on stage only by Marvin Walker on drums and percussion, Hyatt and Burden open the show by offering a hot rendition of the 1953's Muddy Waters evergreen Blow Wind Blow, with a magnificent guitar solo from Burden.
This is a duo that has got so many layers of talent to unleash on each passing song. Holly Hyatt's vocals on Black Crow are absolutely sublime, while Burden's acoustic guitar sound flies effortlessly and beautifully through the walls of The Silverton Gallery. Get Your Own Man is a slightly uptempo blues tune with tinges of jazz, able to demonstrate once again the fabulous vocal skills of Holly Wyatt.
Let's Boogie has got a distinctive 60's vibe. It's a song where Hyatt's voice feels like the sweetest caress in the middle of the darkest night, with Burden's craftsmanship on guitar in full swing.
The closing Slushy Blues amalgamates once again fragments of blues and jazz, with Burden, Hyatt and Walker inter playing very well with one another and capturing perfectly the artistic essence of the music style of the Canadian duo.
Hyatt's voice and Burden's guitar are a match made in heaven. Their music formula is simple and essential and that is the real secret behind the greatness of this album. Shufflin' The Blues is a record of timeless beauty that travels through the sounds of the 60's and the 70's blues with a more contemporary twist, something that cleverly links together different generations of music fans. A very inspired live performance.
Giovanni Pilato, Bluebird Reviews, UK, Sep 27/16
Smoky Mountain Blues Society review
If you are a singer, player, blues lover, acoustic or electric, this is food on your blue plate special!
Holly Hyatt and Jon Burden have a third CD out called “Shufflin’ The Blues,” and it is killer! Usually an acoustic duo, they have gone electric and added a drummer, bringing some fabulous music to their listeners. Holly sings, plays stand up and electric bass, while Jon plays electric, acoustic, slide guitar, and vocals. Together they are quite the package. In fact, they are the package! Holly has all of the notes, and sings them effortlessly. Jon is an extraordinary guitar player! He’s got that Chet Atkins stuff down, and Chicago blues, that Delta slide, right in his hands!
With five electric, and three acoustic tracks, nine in all, you get to hear some real blues! Holly and Jon either wrote or co-wrote five of them! This is just an ACE CD! This CD was recorded live in front of a small audience, and covers everything from the Delta to Chicago. Jon’s slide rendition of Robert Johnson’s “Come On In My Kitchen” starts out slow and Delta, and gains speed to a fine piece. They also cover “Mother Earth Blues,” which is one of my favorites, and they nail it!
As a guitar player you will love this CD because it is not only a quality player, but quality recording. Holly and Jon’s vocals are harmonized with his fine guitar, and it is just a good CD. In fact, one of my top five favorites so far this year! And I’m hard to please. Marvin Walker plays drums and percussion. The three of them are very reminiscent of that old Chicago sound. www.hollyandjon.com will get you there.
Enjoy! I sure have. This is the right stuff and the right time, thanks my friends for such good music! Wish I could play like that!
One Love, Blue Barry – Smoky Mountain Blues Society, Tennessee, USA
Blues Blast Magazine review
11 tracks; 48 minutes
Holly Hyatt and Jonathan Burden, from British Columbia, Canada, play acoustic blues in a traditional style, Holly on upright bass and Jon guitar, both sharing vocals. The only additional instrumentation is sax on one track by Clinton Swanson who also gets a credit for loaning the double bass! This is their second release and the material is mainly original, Holly and Jon writing separately and together, alongside two Robert Johnson covers (“If I Had Possession Over Judgement Day”, “Come On In My Kitchen”). Both are straightforward versions but well done. Jon takes the lead vocal on both songs with Holly harmonizing on the chorus. Jon also plays some nice slide on both tunes, overdubbed on “Possession” whereas “Kitchen” is a solo slide guitar piece. Jon’s voice is good and Holly sounds to these ears a little like Susan Tedeschi though the accompanying notes name check Eva Cassidy and Aretha as comparisons.
As the duo play traditional acoustic blues the title track “Back To 1929” would seem to be a key song, taking us back to what it would have been like back then. Starting with a field holler about finishing work, Holly then takes us for a Saturday night in the South, shooting dice in the back room with musicians of the period such as Son House and Charley Patton playing in the front. Unfortunately there is also an anachronistic reference to ‘Muddy Waters playing’. However, this song works very well with excellent harmonies and an attractive guitar figure at its center. Perhaps it was the excitement of that Saturday night experience that is preventing Holly from dropping off in “I Can’t Sleep”!
In the jaunty “Leavin’ Blues” it appears that the first shoots of Spring bring out Jon’s rambling tendencies. In contrast Holly sings about winter coming and a desire to get some home renovations done in “Home Reno Blues” on which the saxophone is a nice addition to the instrumentation. Jon gets serious on “They Is Us” where he concludes that “we’re all in it together” in a world of so many different problems. Again double tracking of his guitars allows Jon to get quite a full sound on this one. The short instrumental “The Resurrection Of Gonzo” may refer to Jon’s guitar which is seen on the cover with a ‘Gonzo’ sticker. Holly leads on the slow “Heartbreaker Blues”, a tale of lost love in which Holly is hoping that some rhythm and blues may make her man return but it sounds a hopeless case! Holly sings particularly well on “Wash Over Me” which is a more contemporary song than is typical here and shows that the duo may have another string to their bow beyond straight blues.
This well produced CD should appeal to acoustic blues fans who enjoy hearing new songs done in traditional style.
John Mitchell, Blues Blast Magazine, UK
Blues Underground Network review
Holly and Jon, (Holly Hyatt and Jonathan Burden), are based out of the Kootenay region of B.C. Canada, a region known for it's more laid back approach to life, especially the West Kootenay's, the home of many retired hippies and an area I have often loved visiting, simply for, as the Eagles put it, A Peaceful Easy Feeling.
Holly and Jon having been wowing audiences, as a Duo, with their infestious blend of Acoustic Blues/Roots, that originated in the southern states, since 2004. Both Holly and Jon have amazing musical backgrounds and have been honing their craft for decades, playing both together and separately at numerous music festivals, and events, with the cream of the crop of the finest Blues artists going, which included David Gogo, Rita Chiarelli, Jim Byrnes, Sonny Rhodes, Harry Manx, Carlos Del Junco, and many many more. "1929: The Summit Sessions" marks their 3rd release and has no problem showing off this amazing duo's immense talents.
"1929: The Summit Sessions" consists of 11 Tracks, 9 of which are originals, written either collectively or individually by Holly and Jon, and 2 great covers, Track 2, "If I Had Possession" an arrangement of (Robert Johnson's 1936 version of Rollin' and Tumblin', "If I Had Possession Over Judgment Day"), and Track 4, "Come On In My Kitchen", a Robert Johnson original, that he also recorded in 1936. Those are 2 songs that I absolutely love and Holly and Jon, did nothing less than a masterful job, with each of them.
For this album, both Holly and John did Lead and Harmony Vocals, with Holly playing Acoustic and Electric Bass and John playing Acoustic and Slide Guitar. Clinton Swanson joined in on Sax for Track 10 "Home Reno Blues".
"Back To 1929" is the opening Track on "1929: The Summit Sessions" and is basically a fantasy song about going back to 1929, which is considered the peak year for the first Blues recordings boom. The song plays tribute to many of the blues players of that time, including, Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, Son House, and Bessie Smith, to name a few. The song is built around the premise of working hard in the fields all week and then heading out on Saturday night to soak in the Blues.
"Back To 1929", certainly set the stage for what to expect from the rest of the album, with a true feeling that you are right there with Holly and Jon. This feeling comes from the fact that this album was done with a minimum of overdubs, with each Track recorded live off the floor on one or two takes. A true representation on how they would sound live as a duo.
Usually it is at this stage of a review that I pick 3 favorites, but with "1929: The Summit Sessions" being such a solidly entertaining album, I found that doing so would mean that there were a few songs that were not my favorites, for which was simply not the case for this little treasure of a release. Be it sufficient to say that this is the type of album, for which I am sure, each song will touch you in it's own special and memorable way.
I have had the good fortune of listening to some great albums from Blues duo's, such as Tracy K & Jamie Steinhoff Blues Duo "Canned Heat", Bill Hills & Ray Lemelin "Neither Here Or There", Smiling Jack Smith & David Gwynn "Now That Truth Was Gone", and Dick Farrelly & Mat Walklate "Keep It Clean", and now, without hesitation I am thrilled to add Holly And Jon to that list with "1929: The Summit Sessions".
"1929: The Summit Sessions", is a simply wonderful album that fans of great Acoustic Blues will absolutely love. It is also an album for which I had no hesitation in giving my 5***** rating.
Review by John Vermilyea (Blues Underground Network), Canada, 2013
Rodney Wilson Review
Rodney Wilson, Canada, Aug 12/2012
Blues In Britain magazine review
This third release from Canadian acoustic blues and roots artists, Holly Hyatt and Jon Burden, is a delight.
The eleven tracks contain nine, beautifully crafted, originals plus two Robert Johnson covers. Opening track ‘Back To 1929’, with its name-dropping lyrics, takes us back to the hey-day of the blues in the Deep South as the a cappella intro leads into a gentle acoustic number. Johnson’s ‘If I Had Possession’ introduces Burden’s accomplished slide guitar technique and gritty vocals. Hyatt’s jazz inspiration is to the fore on ‘I Can’t Sleep’, before a raw Fred McDowell-styled take on ‘Come On In My Kitchen’ has Burden again at center stage.
While the musicianship is of the highest quality, the star of the show is Hyatt’s soulful, melodic voice, epitomized by her passionate rendering of the six- minute ‘Heartbreaker Blues’, accompanied solely by Burden’s acoustic guitar. Such is the quality of the self-penned originals that you could be forgiven for thinking that fine old classics had been unearthed. Strangely sequenced at track ten, the more contemporary ‘Home Reno Blues’ must be a candidate for album stand-out track, with it’s rhythmic guitar and upright bass backing to Hyatt’s superb vocals.
Morgan Horgarth, UK
Big Wind album review
HOLLY AND JON ARE PURE “SMOKESTACK LIGHTNING”
To steal the title of a classic Howlin’ Wolf number, Holly and Jon are pure “Smokestack Lightning” - at their best when they’re cutting loose with Jon’s blues-rock pyrotechnics and Holly’s voice soaring from deep inside the well of Aretha Franklin and Eva Cassidy.
Judging by the thoroughly professional debut of “Big Wind on the Way”, this father/daughter duo is set to make big ripples on the Canadian music pond.
In his biography guitarist Jon Burden cites Freddie King, Dickie Betts (of Allman Brothers fame), and Jimi Hendrix as major influences. Yet, Jon’s precise, fluent solos are equally reminiscent of rock legend Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits - consistently intricate, clean and intense. Holly Hyatt’s soulful blues vocals pick up where legendary stylist Eva Cassidy left off. Holly’s honest, gutsy vocals are a refreshing tonic in an era of limp- throated Wal-Mart divas cranked off of the corporate assembly line.
Holly’s vocals kick off the album on “One Desire”, demonstrating the seemingly effortless ease with which she can propel a song with her honey-rich vocals and fat-bottomed bass guitar. Saxophones by Rick Lingard add a nicely integrated R&B groove to the song, which is a natural for radio airplay. Jon showcases his Dire Straits chops in the inventive lick that drives “Blood on the Trax”, with appropriately Dylanesque lyrics.
“I’m a Woman” is pure soul-blues gold, and has already received well-deserved airplay. Jon’s minimalist guitar styling beautifully compliments Holly’s, pile driver, blues mama vocals and bump n’ grind bass line. “Slushy Blues” smacks of big band Chicago blues, with a sashaying rhythm, horn section punctuating the stops, and Holly’s savvy, sexy, “Honey, take me where it’s warm” refrain. Jon’s Stratocaster mastery in “Train Wreck Blues” brings to mind not only Clapton but another legendary, often forgotten king of blues guitar – Albert King. Holly positively smolders here in slow blues mode – definitely part of the Holy Trinity of Holly’s Blues, along with “One Desire” and “I’m a Woman”. She’s just as gutsy in “Human kindness”, counter pointed by a jazzy sax riff to keep things hot.
Having seen Holly and Jon perform live numerous times, this reviewer can say there’s more and better to come on the heels of “Big Wind on the Way”. The paint peeling guitar intensity of original songs like “Hair of the Dawg” that didn’t make it onto the CD prove that Jon Burden easily has the ability of Clapton and Hendrix in their heyday. I await their next album eagerly..
2005, journalist/poet/author, Sean Arthur Joyce