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Reviews, Press & Industry Quotes:
Lighter Side of the Blues (Sandwich Factory Records) is the fifth release from California blues rockers Val Starr & The Blues Rocket and it lives up to his title with a baker’s dozen pleasing and energetic upbeat blues originals. Starr (vocals/rhythm guitar) is backed by her husband John Ellis (bass/slide guitar), Timothy Brisson (lead guitar), Frankie Munz (harmonica), and Paul Farman (drums) with guest artists Todd Morgan (keyboards), Horacio Socarras (percussion), Danny Sandoval (sax), and the intriguingly-tagged Saxophone Zot (duh, sax).
The funky shuffle “Say Goodbye To The Blues (Like You Mean It)” opens the disc, with a driving rhythm and twin saxes wailing. “Sactown Heat” keeps up the funk as it describes the summer heat in Sacramento, and the theme of the Windy City-flavored “If She Can Get A Man (Anyone Can)” will crack you up, while the jaunty title track will put a hop in your step. “All or Nuthin’ Man” is a slow burner fueled by guest Morgan’s keyboards, Munz’s harmonica, and Brisson’s lead guitar, and it’s hard not to smile at the jubillant “Can’t Get Sad Tonight.”
“Lift A Finger” is a gritty blues rocker where Starr grumbles about getting no help around the house. Her husband Ellis lays down some splendid slide guitar on this track so he can be forgiven for neglecting the chores. Apparently, all is forgiven because the next track, “Mister Bassman,” is a love letter of sorts from Starr to Ellis (who’s a force of nature on the entire album) and other bass players. “Movin’ On” is a energetick R&B tune with Sandoval chipping in big on saxophone, and “24 Hour Blues” has a nice, clean pop sheen, while the Jimmy Reed classic “Big Boss Man (#MeToo)” gets a 21st Century update.
On the closing tracks, “Shame On You” and “The Blues Doesn’t Pick Or Choose,” the band rocks hard (on the former) and wraps up things nicely with a lively blues stepper (the latter). All in all, Val Starr & The Blues Rocket’s Lighter Side of the Blues is a fine set of blues and R&B that will put a smile on your face and some pep in your step.
Val Starr and the Blues Rocket Album Release “Lighter Side of the Blues is refreshing and energetic…Marty Memphis Delia (The Blues Music Blog )
Val Starr & The Blues Rocket – “Lighter Side of The Blues” (Sandwich Factory Records) The title indicates that on this set, California singer/ guitarist Val is looking at the joy that the blues can bring, and I confess I was extremely happy by the end of this rather tasty album. Although she is not afraid to look for inspiration outside the blues per se, this is a set that certainly fits into the more traditional end of the modern blues spectrum. Try the brassy, jumping opener, ‘Say Goodbye To The Blues (Like You Mean It)’, the belly rub sound of ‘If She Can Get A Man (Anyone Can)’, the statement of intent that is the title track, the slow ‘All Or Nuthin’ Man’ (besides the excellent vocal there is a lovely controlled guitar break here too) or the uptempo closer ‘The Blues Doesn’t Pick Or Choose’. ‘Can’t Get Sad Tonight’ is something of a rocker with a poppish feel, though it remains well within the blues canon too. Things become a little more contemporary with ‘Sactown Heat’, about Summer in Sacramento, which has some lovely Albert King influenced playing and something of a soul feel; so too does ‘Shame On You’ (echoes of Cream on this one as well). ‘Movin’ On’ has an almost girl group melody and delivery, whilst ‘Lift A Finger’ nods towards blues-rock with its heavy guitar sound and the album’s only cover, ‘Jimmy Reed’s ‘Big Boss Man’ is updated very effectively with #metoo lyrics -
Blues In The South – February, 2020
Based in Sacramento, Val Starr & the Blues Rockets started out as a rock cover band before making the move to the blues around 2010. Since then, the band has released four CDs, received significant radio airplay, appeared at multiple west coast blues festivals, including their own summer concert series, Blues On The Patio, and reached the finals in the 2012 Sacramento I.B.C. Starr began in the music business in the ’70s working for record labels, later moving to radio promotions, all while playing in rock bands and even starting several of the first streaming audio networks, including GotRadio.com.
The band (Starr – vocals/rhythm guitar, John Ellis – bass/backing vocals, Frankie Soul – guitar, Paul Farman – drums) recently released their fourth CD, I Always Turn The Blues On (Sandwich Factory Records). Starr penned all 12 tunes, most of which deal with “love and loss,” as she points out in the liner notes. The opening shuffle “High Time To Go” is an example, as is “You Better Stop,” the countrified blues “Please Don’t Go Away Mad,” “Bad Luck & The Blues” (a bump-and-grinder featuring Tim Barron on harmonica), and “Out With The Old,” a spirited shuffle. “Blind Eye” is another standout along the same theme and includes guitar work from guest Steve Wall.
Starr includes a few other tunes of different themes. The title track is her love letter to the blues, spiced up by Todd Morgan’s jazzy piano and Barron’s harmonica, while “Whether Blues” addresses society’s current issues (with Bay Area guitarist Daniel Castro contributing some fiery guitar). Starr has a good time with “The Baby Mama Song,” a spicy, soulful number, does a fine job on the after-hours slow burner “Bye Bye,” and will make everyone smile on “It’s Always Somethin’,” the closer that everyone can relate to.
The Blues Rockets have a great sound together and nimbly handle the variety of blues styles, getting assistance from a few guest musicians, including Barron, Castro, Wall, Morgan, and Guyle Taber (drums). Their new release is a well-crafted set of original tunes that display their versatility and love for the blues.--- Graham Clarke, Blues Bytes January 2018
Val Starr & the Blues Rocket- "I Always Turn The Blues On" (Sandwich Factory Records)-This is Val Starr's fourth album, which consists of 12 original songs. Her songs tend to address love, loss, bad relationships and finding good one. She testifies on the title song that she gets lost in the music whenever she turns the blues on. The songs are always rooted in the blues but move from jazzy up-tempo songs to ballads and pure Chicago on "Out With The Old". On "What Happens After Midnight (Nothin' Good)" she cites that after midnight you are better off in bed, but if you do, it certainly would not hurt to be listening to this music. Kentuckiana Blues Society December 2017
Val Starr & the Blues Rocket have brought first class blues to the Sacramento area. Recently Val has come back on stage with her band and publish this album, that includes twelve of her own compositions based on shuffles, bluesy ballads, Memphis soul or rockin' Chicago blues. The band hits the target with the way they approach songs where, together with Val Starr’s vocals and rhythm guitar, you will also find John Ellis on bass, Frankie Soul on lead guitar and Paul Farman on drums. All together plus five significant guest musicians, give a charismatic substance to this rewarding album. VERY GOOD. La Hora del Blues (Spain) February 2018
"With this new record, Val Starr definitely leaves no doubt that she is a 'Woman on A Mission.' This is a very fun blues record that has something on it for every blues lover." - Lynda Weingartz, CEO of Airplay Direct.
"I have always been an avid fan of the ladies of song. And with so many excellent female blues artists, out there, that list of ladies continues to grow. With that said, having recently discovered Val Starr, I'd like to officially welcome her to that list." - Mary-4-Music reviewer, Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
"An exhilarating new contemporary blues performer." - Wayne Rhinehart of Blues E-News
"Val Starr’s newest CD, Woman On A Mission, speaks to the hearts and souls of women everywhere. I wanted to get up and dance the minute the first song started, and it just got better from there. Sacramento is proud to have Val Starr and The Blues Rocket as a part of our Blues Community." - Renee Erickson, President of the Sacramento Blues Society
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