Reverend Raven & The Chain Smokin’ Altar Boys Nail It On ‘My Life’

"My Life' is an album that’s ahead of its time by staying behind the times"

The blues took an interesting leap in the 1960s, quickly going from traditional black American artists to the Rolling Stones and their straight blues covers, to The Paul Butterfield Blues Band and John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, who moved the blues needle right into Cream, who used the blues to segue into manic jams.

Before the 1960s ended, Led Zeppelin would release its debut album, and the blues was officially something almost completely different than it had been at the start of the decade. In the span of a decade, the blues became completely reinvented, its limits pushed to something very different from its origins. Those 1960s bands had the swagger of the blues, but it’s questionable to what extent Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson, or any of the Kings might have recognized their music. Boundaries had been pushed and the blues exploded into something completely new and different from what it had been.

But what if it hadn’t changed? That question is answered by Reverend Raven and the Chain Smoking Altar Boys. My Life is a blues album that sounds like it could have come out of the mid-1960s. It’s what the blues might have been had it not have become a departure point for acrobatic musicianship, breakneck tempos, and often-ridiculous lyrics.

My Life is a band revisiting its catalog. Reverend Raven takes original songs from his band’s four studio albums and uses various lineups to reinterpret the tracks. If you’re not familiar with Reverend Raven’s work, it’s a great and fun way to easily cover a lot of ground. The album plays like a live show. Reverend Raven is the common thread, providing guitar and laid-back vocals.

The laid-back vibe is what separates the album from so much of that later 60s blues rock. The sound is reminiscent of The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, with lots of impressive harmonica work and guitar solos that show flash, but that don’t overpower the songs.

The songs represent a survey of the blues. “Handyman,” the lead-off track is jazzy, featuring lots of impossibly clean guitar. “Creature of Habit” is a bluesier rockabilly take on “Stray Cat Strut.” “I Can Do You Right” is a slow blues with a huge organ sound that will make you feel like it’s Sunday. “My Life” is pure Elmore James. But where The Paul Butterfield Blues Band pushed that classic riff to its limits on “Look Over Yonder Wall,” Reverend Raven lets it breathe.

Lots of incredible music came out of the 1960s blues revival. But the time was so fertile, and creativity was so strong, that no one really dwelt in the sounds. Instead, artists built and built and built. My Life captures a moment that never was, or at least wasn’t long enough, in a fun, interesting way. It’s an album that’s ahead of its time by staying behind the times.


*** Track 1. - " Handyman"  Written by Reverend Raven

Sweet sweet swinging goodness from the Reverend and the band that showcases his stunning baritone voice. The years of travelling and playing as many shows as possible are more than evident right from the get go as this is one tight outfit that just lays down the perfect groove. "Cadillac" Pete Rahn provides the stunning reed work from his exquisite harmonica as does Reverend Raven on guitar. Super classy and deft in touch as he delivers a rounded mellow sound that emphasises the warmth of this track. The rhythm section of Bill and Spann certainly are precision personified as they simply cook up the perfect beat. Kovach provides the coolness factor on the keys and man doesn't this one just swing on out. Great intro all round so bring it on.


*** Track 2. - " Bee Hive Baby"  Written by Reverend Raven.

Rahn, Bill  and Spann trade licks to kick off this spoken word offering that just rolls along drawing the listener in to the laid back energy of this stylish rhumba and incredible musicianship from the Chain Smokin' Alter Boys. The Reverend contributes his wonderful baritone voice and the more than catching quirky guitar for good measure with some cool "chicken scratching" added for good measure. On this one we have the addition of Roberts on rhythm guitar to compliment Raven's guitar. Kovach adds to the mystique with his keys as the band certainly push the envelope on this one. Quite an ear opener for sure but heh Reverend Raven isn't going to just do the Blues by the numbers ya'all.


*** Track 3. - " Creature Of Habit" Written by Reverend Raven.

Rockin' boppin' R&B meets Swing Blues at it's absolute best. Rahn again lays down the killer harp as does Raven on guitar providing an impenetrable force of nature or should that be the Blues. Jumping swinging Blues certainly doesn't get any better than this an here the recipe is prime! Driving rhythm section of Spann and Bill are relentless but perfectly in time delivering the platform for one helluva' performance. The keys although subtle are perfectly placed in the mix as Kovach delivers the goods once again. Roberts provides the rhythm guitar to the brilliant swinging guitar from Raven in a two pronged guitar onslaught. Here we get a great insight as to what Blues has been like in the past and what has been lost of late, the ability to really swing, and what we can look forward to in the future as Reverend Raven and is band of mayhem raising Altar Boys are capable of laying on us. Can't wait for it to continue.


*** Track 4. - " Bad Little Girls"  Written by Reverend Raven.

Madison Slim takes on the harp duties on this one and instantly he takes command what with his very distinctive style that has an unbridled  potency from the top to the the bottom. Not one to be left out Reverend Raven displays his unbelievable guitar licks and it becomes a full on Blues assault that you just don't want to end. On this one the stunning driving rhythm section consists of Maritato on bass and Spencer Panosh on drums who really are right in the groove. Mickey Larson enters the mix on this one with the 88's and yeah l really dig the inclusion. Man if somebody tried to tell me Blues had lost it's way or had gotten stale then l would play this one for them and watch the reaction as it would be the same as mine. Every part of my body, soul and psyche started moving and grooving as Raven's richest of richest baritone voices took me to places a singer hasn't taken me to of late. Everything about this one is Blues perfection and apart from a amazing song we have virtuoso playing from all concerned. Look out everybody on the Roots Music Report as l think this one will be burning up the chart with a proverbial bullet! Get it or be square!


*** Track 5. - " I Want To Love You"  Written by Reverend Raven.

Continuing on with the introduction of more amazing artists here we have another masterful reed player Danny Rickman on harp who also has his own distinctive style. Quite an atmospheric style as he frames Raven's wonderful mellifluous voice perfectly. The guitar tone from Raven also adds to the that atmospheric sound that gives a roadhouse sound to this one in a true Texas vibe. Rhythm section on this one is Pederson on bass and Spencer Panosh on drums who really drive hard throughout just like a semi on a long road on a dark night. Tight and to the point Blues that just has every element perfectly in place on a song that again showcases just how good a composer Reverend Raven is. 


*** Track 6. - " Once The Women Start Talking"  Written by Reverend Raven.

Harking back to a little bit of a rhumba beat the guys play like there is no tomorrow and it is all about having as much fun as possible considering the subject matter. Raven's vocals are light hearted and not mean't to be too serious but that doesn't stop him from laying down some mighty fine vocals at that. Rickun provides the exquisite breathless harp that potently bounces from top to bottom throughout as Raven's guitar also shines brightly as it is tight and concise. Spencer Panosh on drums and Pederson on drums re the rock solid rhythm section once again with the addition of Moore on piano adding to the mix that is robust and potently enjoyable. Another example of the brilliance of this album.


*** Track 7. - " My Life"  Written by Reverend Raven.

Autobiographical Chicago Blues offering with Raven's vocals taken on a more fragility to his tone and his guitar tone straight out of the Windy City. A guitar tone that is scorchingly hot and encompasses all that has made Chicago great.Yeah solid Blues with Rickun absolutely ripping it up on harp ala Sonny Boy with a squeal that would raise the greats from their eternal slumber. Danny Moore lays down the perfect 88's that just add to the authentic sound throughout. On this one the stunning rhythm section consists of Bobby Lee Sellers Jr. on drums and P.T. Pederson on bass and what a rhythm section they are. Pounding along with a take no prisoners attitude that we have come to expect from Chicago and man this just delivers at every level. This is dah Blues.


*** Track 8. - " Here Comes My Baby" Written by Reverend Raven.

Wow what can one say with this offering ? Amazing full on intro after what is quite a subdued vocal and harp starter that just is incendiary to say the least. Raven's guitar absolutely sears itself into the cd with every note he plays such is the intensity. The vocals are pleading and somewhat subdued sung over some mighty fine harp work from maestro Benny Rickun. Pederson and Spencer Panosh provide the rhythm section on this one perfectly. Again Blues interpreted as Reverened Raven & The Chain Smokin' Altar Boys practice what they preach and they know all passages of the Gospel.


*** Track 9. - " Praying For A Princess"  Written by Reverend Raven.

Benny Rickun brings this swing Blues in kicking and screaming on harp introducing Raven at his best retro-swing  voice and bravado. Trust me when l say Rickun will blow you away on this one and when l say blow you away he will blow you away! Danny Moore takes us to the Barrelhouse smoking up the 88's as Pederson and Sellers lay down the perfect groove with a rhythm section in sync with all of the band. Interestingly Raven's guitar isn't prominent at all on this one but with the virtuoso display from Rickun it is understandable. Brilliant track. 


*** Track 10. - " Big Bee" Written by Reverend Raven. 

For me this one is a homage to the great Slim Harpo with that very distinctive buzzing beat. Rickun again steps it up and just blows your mind with his harp playing. Raven's vocals have that distinctive sung through the harp sound to round out the Delta Blues feel perfectly. The rhythm section consists of Pederson and Spencer Panosh who muscle their way through this one. Stunning moodiness that is oh so tangible to this track that epitomises the time and place of Harpo's life in Louisiana  where he developed his "swamp Blues" style predominantly during the late 50's into the 60's. Exquisitely written and performed song that l am convince Slim would of loved to have been able to record  in his very short life time.


*** Track 11. - Looking For Love"  Written by Reverend Raven.

Oh yeah, it's time for some boogaloo resplendent with the sax from "Big" Al Groth. Light hearted with a whimsical air about it as Raven doesn't appear to be not taking it too seriously. Danny Moore provides the obligatory piano and also does so with some abandon. Bobby Lee Sellers Jr. on drums and P.T Pederson on bass provide the solid rhythm section as Raven's guitar is on the mark displaying wonderful tone and timing. The charts for this one are certainly pleasing as it is just  a seriously fun track that explodes into a musical wonderment as all the musicians come together and bring this one on home with so much aplomb and abandonment. Again Raven shows the flexibility in his writing with this one as it starts rather whimsically but evolves into a solid Blues shaker.


*** Track 12. - " Slow Burn" Written by Reverend Raven.

As with the previous track "Big" Al Groth steps up and provides sax on this double shuffler that oozes sex appeal. Danny Moore then brings his keys to the mix and wow what a presence he makes in doing so, absolutely brilliant throughout. Raven's vocals are again exactly what you want to hear from him but his guitar, that guitar is something else again. He picks this one up, shakes it all about, then picks it up again laying down some delicious licks as Groth just rips it up along with Moore. Pederson and Sellers are not to be denied as they have to keep the rhythm section in check and that they do. All in all this is one arse kicking Blues that challenges you to keep up or get left behind. Ain't no room for stragglers here. Great track that is just so powerful and as potent as 100 proof moonshine.


*** Track 13. - "Someday When I'm Dead And Gone" Written by Reverend Raven.

One thing l think is very evident and that is that if there is one thing that Reverend Raven & The Chain Smokin' Altar Boys can do better than anybody else and that is they can swing. Sure most people can swing but l mean really swing the way it was done many a year ago in the last century. Now that was swing and you could feel it. Yeah feel it, you did right down deep in your soul so much so that you couldn't sit still and everybody had to dance. Everybody was smiling and having a great time dressed up in their finest looking mighty fine and very sharp. The Reverend was obviously born to do this, must be a re-incarnate of some past swing master but he was meant't to do this. Add to his obvious talent a band of special qualities we have this match made in heaven. Here Raven's baritone voice caresses the soul and croons to the heart as he entices all to dance. All the while laying down some of the hottest guitar licks one could hear today. Add to that composing credits for all the album's songs and it is evident we have a genius amongst us. "Westside" Andy Linderman stuns us on harp on this one and displays his unquestionable abilities to get the very best from his reeds laying down a scorching soundtrack on this song. Pederson and Craig Panosh are the solid rhythm section keeping it all in time. Danny Moore once again pounds the 88's as if there is no tomorrow rounding out this great recording. Yeah l can dig it as it puts one very big smile on my dial.


*** Track 14. - " I Can Do You Right"  Written by Reverend Raven.

Mmmmmmhh sweet sweet sloooooooow smouldering Blues that is so very emotionally charged. A much more stripped back feel than previous tracks in some ways but has a very complete sound. Raven's guitar is stinging like a wounded banshee as it cries out in pain writhing around with  a stunning tonality. Wow Linderman's harp is to die for and just so expressive that you can feel the pain and want in every note as he draws the listener into his web. As for the vocals Raven has risen to another level if that was at all possible as he has taken every emotion possible and wrung them out all over the floor weeping at their loss. There is no subtly about this pathos driven heart wrenching tearjerker as the heart can only take so much before it becomes too much to bare. Moore provides the exquisite keys that are also quite atmospheric in the mix. Pederson and Craig Panosh provide the rhythm section.


*** Track 15. - " She's Moving On"  Written by Reverend Raven.

Half spoken half sung lyrics make for a very engaging style to this track as Raven is very adept at either style as he has displayed on this album. Raven's vocals when sung certainly are expressive and quite driven to the point of wanting to make a point. Linderman's harp absolutely wails and displays all that is great about Blues harp. Raven's guitar is absolutely sublime as he takes this one to a whole new level of amazing with a  tonality that is brilliant and at times flesh shredding, mind jolting, or tremolo heavy,  then just takes you to a whole new place. Moore again places throughout the mesmerising keys that are sumptuous in the mix. Pederson and Craig Panosh provide the rhythm section on this one.


*** Track 16 - " I'm Your Honeyboy"  Written by Reverend Raven.

Honeyboy Edwards was the last of the Louisiana Delta Bluesmen to pass away and for me this is a fitting tribute to him and his distinctive guitar playing by Raven who himself is a masterful guitarist. Such a joyful celebratory song of a Blues great and then again why shouldn't it be. Danny Moore takes us straight to a juke joint, rent party or road house with his wonderful 88's pounding away in that unmistakable style  of the South as Linderman's harp absolutely rips the paint and old posters from the walls as he lights up the recording. Pederson and Craig Panosh are the rhythm section who do the mammoth job of keeping this one in time and wow they did it perfectly. Raven's voice is perfectly modulated for the song what with the frantic aspect of it and he appears to revel in the shear excitement of it and l can imagine it would be a firm dance floor favourite. Now this is how you have a great time and fill a dance floor every single time you step on stage. Great song and even better performance.


Having just had the sheer time of my life listening to "My Life" l need to write something about it for you. But the problem is l just want to keep listening to it as it is such a celebration of everything that attracted me to the Blues when l was a little boy back in the 1950's. My gran taught me the Blues and sang me the Blues and now Reverend Raven is doing it all over again with this album. This isn't a pretentious album full of trickery computer programs or undecipherable messages for the new age but rather a straight ahead genuine Blues album. Raven possesses the most magnificent of baritone voices with quite a brilliant range. He is warm and engaging with incredible control over his voice that can be simply breathe taking to say the least. Add to this some major facts and they are he wrote all songs on the album and each and every one is incredible encompassing many Blues styles tempos and moods. Then we add to his immense  talents already listed we have to then point out his sublime guitar playing  that is just jaw dropping with a deft touch and tonality that can be in your face or so very subtle. Added to this we then pay tribute to the band, The Chain Smokin' Altar Boys made up on this album by Cadillac Pete Rahn, Madison Slim, Benny Rickun, Westside Andy Linderman, Big Al Groth, Andre Maritato, Brad Bill, P.t. Pederson, Vic Spann, Spencer Panosh, Bobby Lee Sellers Jr., Craig Panosh, Ron Kovach, Jimmy Vogelli, Mickey Larson, Danny Moore and Jeff Roberts. Each and every player has made this one formidable outfit. Certainly one to be reckoned with.  This certainly is what l would call a expressive admiration of the past masters that have been a major influence on Raven and the groups lives and for that matter ours also. Every aspect of the album is everything you could ever wish for from a Blues album so my recommendation is that this is the album you have to have in your collection and there is no better way to kick off 2018. Blues can be interpreted in many ways but then again we want it to remain Blues not some shallow imitation. Trust me this truly is the skinny.    


Thank-you so much for this album Betsie and again Reverend Raven has pulled out all stops and produced a brilliant Blues album. I was excited to see this appear on your list and it has exceeded all expectations. I love it!!!!! This will be just so popular and it will feature big time on the RMR list very quickly for absolute sure.

Reverend Raven & The Chain Smokin’ Altar Boys

Twentieth Anniversary My Life 

Nevermore Records

Reverend Raven is currently a resident of Appleton, Wisconsin. He was born and raised in Chicago and began playing guitar after seeing Freddie King at The Kinetic Theatre in 1971. He spent the rest of the seventies playing clubs on the south side of Chicago. After spending fifteen years in the Navy the Reverend resumed playing in the taverns of the greater Milwaukee area. The Reverend became Scott Sharrard’s replacement in the Blues Disciples. Reverend Raven & The Chain Smokin’ Altar Boys released their debut album “Slow Burn” in 1998. Reverend Raven has opened for B.B. King, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, Junior Wells, Magic Slim; and is still a headliner at Buddy Guy’s Legends in Chicago.

Reverend Raven & The Chain Smokin’ Altar Boys 2010 recording “Shake Your Boogie” received two 2011 Blues Blast Award nominations in the categories of “Best Blues Band” and “Best Song”. Their last album was 2015’s “Live at The Big Bull Falls Blues Festival”.

This new album, Reverend Raven’s eighth, is a compilation of original songs re-mixed or re-recorded from his previous four studio sessions. As a guitarist he has great tone and has mastered all styles. As a vocalist the Reverend’s baritone voice displays great range and clarity. This recording documents his twenty year career.

The rhythm section heard is usually PT Pedersen or Brad Bill, bass; and Spencer Panosh, Craig Panosh, Bobby Lee Sellers Jr., or Vic Spann, drums.

Reverend Raven has played with some excellent harp players. “Slow Burn” his first album featured Cadillac Pete Rahn who plays on the opener “Handyman”, on “Creature of Habit” and on the Slim Harpo styled “Bee Hive Baby”. The title track from that early album features Big Al Groth on saxophone.

The fabulous harp of Madison Slim can be heard on “Bad Little Girls”. He was the featured harp player on Reverend Raven’s 2002 album “Live at Blues on Grand”. Slim also played with Jimmy Rogers and can currently be heard with Doug Deming and The Jewel Tones.

Harp ace Benny Rickun appears on the Reverend’s 2007 Big Bee recording. Reprised is this new album’s title track “My Life”. Danny Moore is featured playing barrelhouse piano on this tune and throughout the recording.

The Altar Boys’ current harp player Westside Andy Linderman plays harp on “Someday When I’m Dead and Gone”; on “She’s Moving On” with a fabulous narrative from the Rev; and on “I Can Do You Right” from the 2010 “Shake Your Boogie” recording.

As their name implies these guys are smokin’ hot. This is highly recommended Chicago blues.

Richard Ludmerer

Plutôt que faire l'énumération des seize titres de ce huitième album, je préfère vous parler de l'esprit de celui-ci. Ici, on retrouve les meilleurs morceaux que ce guitariste chanteur a glanés sur ses enregistrements précédents pour les remastériser ou bien les réenregistrer. Nous sommes en présence d'un artiste né à Chicago, basé actuellement à Milwaukee qui a écumé le Midwest et la Floride en long en large et en travers avec toujours un line up de rêve pour interpréter à la perfection un blues des plus traditionnels, qu'il soit jump, swing, du Delta, de Chicago ou autre. La voix de baryton et la finesse de jeu du Reverend sont sa marque de fabrique et pour le soutenir dans ce florilège de chansons, on ne trouve pas moins de trois bassistes, quatre batteurs, quatre claviéristes, un saxophoniste (Big Al Groth) et quatre harmonicistes : Cadillac Pete Rahn, Madison Slim, Benny Rickun et Westside Andy Linderman. Ces souffleurs de rêve méritent d'être cités car ils ont participé grandement au succès de cette formation qui fête avec cet album ses vingt ans de travail collectif. Il vous suffit juste d'astiquer au mieux vos chaussures et d'aller danser le blues sur les rythmes entraînants du Rev'. Et du Rev' au rêve, il n'y a qu'un pas.




Rather than enumerate the sixteen titles of this eighth album, I prefer to talk about the spirit of it. Here, we find the best songs that this guitarist singer gleaned from his previous recordings to remaster or re-record. We are in the presence of a Chicago-born artist, currently based in Milwaukee who has scoured the Midwest and Florida up and down with a dream line up to perfectly perform a most traditional blues, It is jump, swing, Delta, Chicago or other. The baritone voice and finesse of Reverend are his hallmark and to support him in this anthology of songs, there are no less than three bassists, four drummers, four keyboardists, a saxophonist (Big Al Groth) and four harmonica players: Cadillac Pete Rahn, Madison Slim, Benny Rickun and Westside Andy Linderman. These dream blowers deserve to be mentioned because they participated greatly in the success of this training which celebrates with this album its twenty years of collective work. You just need to polish your shoes and dance the blues on the rev 's lively rhythms. And from Rev to dream, there is only one step.

reverend raved cd imageReverend Raven & The Chain Smokin’ Altar Boys – My Life – Twentieth Anniversary

Nevermore Records

16 tracks/65 minutes

On any given weekend if had to pick one band in our area to go listen to I would track down where Reverend Raven and the Chain Smokin’ Altar Boys (CSABs) are playing and go out there and sit down with them to listen to them for some blues done the way they are supposed to be. This CD celebrates 20 years in the life of the best blues band in the Mid West. Rooted deeply in the sound of old school Chicago blues and based out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Reverend (Richard) Raven has spent the last two decades honing a sound that is unique, sublime and enticing. The vocals and instrumental work is never over blown or over done. The solos are tasteful and authentic. The band knows what everyone is supposed to do and does it. No one steps on each other’s toes and everyone works to make the sound better.

In 1993 Chief Raven got out the Navy and supplemented his separation pay with gigs in Milwaukee and Wisconsin’s Fox Valley area. He honed his sound as he replaced the 16 year old wunderkind Scott Sharrard with the Blues Disciples. He worked on his chops and tried to avoid getting his head cut off by special guests like Perry Weber, Billy Flynn and Mel Ford. The Chief then ventured out on his own a bit with Jimmy Rogers’ harp man Madison Slim. Slim was still touring with Rogers so the work with Slim was a side project for both the Rev and Slim.

When Rogers passed away the CSABs were born 20 years ago in a South Side of Milwaukee tavern called Jim Dandy’s. Larry “The Legend” Taylor was on drums. They were playing in a country bar but when George Stancell walked in with a gold fur coat and sang with abandon and Slim killed them with his sad and blue harp solo and the band began it’s trek across the Cheese Curd Circuit of the upper Mid West.

Lamont Cranston helped get them noticed and the crowds grew and grew. They worked their way up to playing Buddy Guy’s Legends and opening for B.B. King at the Surf Ballroom. They tour the Mid West and South East with annual tours to the Virgin Islands and now Jamaica. From a poor kid on the South Side of Chicago hanging out at the Checkerboard Lounge to today, the Rev never dreamed he would get this far. A half dozen CDs, many awards and packed houses wherever they go are the norm now. Life is good and the Rev is thankful for his hard won success.

The bands have changed over the years. Cadillac Pete Rahn played harp with the Rev after they met on Bourbon Street with Bryan Lee at the Old Absinthe Bar. Madison Slim was from Jimmy Rogers and the Legendary Blues Band. Benny Rickun was a harp protégé of Mid west harmonica legend Jim Liban and he and the Rev spent time together when Slim moved south. Big Al Groth played sax with the CSABs after the Rev met him with Bobby Sellers in the Rhythm Dawgs in Kenosha, WI playing that old style honking sound. His current harp cohort is westside Andy Linderman who he met when Andy was with Paul Black and Flip Kings. They tour today joined at the hip with the swinging-est and coolest sound on the circuit. Each of the players added their talents to the band and are represented on this CD.

Piano and organ players also came and went in the band. Ron Kovach, Danny “Pork Chop” Moore, and Mickey Larson have each spent time playing with the Rev and appear here. Jimmy Voegeli also makes a special appearance. On bass are Andre Maritato, Brad Bull and his long time bass man PT Pedersen. Vic Span, Spencer Panosh, Bobby Lee Sellers Jr., and now Spencer’s brother Craig Panosh have played drums for the CSABs. Jeff Roberts appears on rhythm guitar on a couple of tracks. Each has brought their enormous talents to the band and this CD.

All the songs were written by Rev Raven who produced the album with help from Steve Hamilton. The first three tracks with Cadillac Pete are completely remixed and sound fresh. Track 4 with Madison Slim has never been on a CD before. The stuff with Benny is on tracks 5 through 10 and Andy is featured on tracks 13 through 16. Moore is featured on tracks 6, 7 and 9 through 16. While these songs all appeared on other CDs with Benny, Andy and Pork Chop, tracks 7, 9, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 and 16 are brand new versions of the songs for us to enjoy. 

“Handyman’ opens the set. A long-time staple of the Rev’s shows, this is a sweet and bouncy little shuffle with some dirty killer harp from Pete. He gets the first solo and then the Rev lays out a tasteful and restrained solo of his own. “Bee Hive Baby” and “Creature of Habit” also feature Cadillac Pete. The former has a driving beat and the Rev’s vocals are sublime. The solos are Pete and then the Rev with some chicken scratching thrown in for good measure. The latter is a nice jump blues with Pete and Rev trading off solos again. “Bad Little Girls” is an older recording that was never released before. Madison Slim greases up his harp and the Rev delivers the lyrics in his ever-captivating baritone style. Slim takes the lead first and blows a mean solo and then the Rev rings clear with his own and takes us home.

The “Rickun Era” songs are next. “I Want To Love You” starts us off with a winner with a driving beat. “Once Women Start Talking” is another CSAB standard his fans have all grown to love that is well done here, too. It’s got a rumba sort of beat and just a great vibe to it. “My Life” is another Rev Raven classis. It begins with a nod to his sailor days, “I’ve been around this world, I’ve sailed the seven seas,” as the Rev embarks on a tune where he searched for the woman of his dreams. Danny Moore blazes on the ivories and Benny is quite effective on the harp, but the Rev sells one with his slick vocals and guitar. “Here Comes My Baby” is another rumba-styled tune with Jimmy Voegeli coming in for some pretty organ work. The Rev stings with his big time guitar solo and overall work here. “Praying For A Princess” is a jumping cut that Benny launches with abandon. He, the Rev and Moore once again blaze as this song goes 100 mph with reckless abandon for a very fun ride. “Big Bee” is classic CSABs, a take off of Slim Harpo’s “King Bee.” Distorted vocals dirty this up nicely and the big harp sound from Rickun also makes this one special.

“Looking For Love” and ”Slow Burn” are the two saxophone pieces with Big Al. The sax is awesome on both and Pork Chops piano interplay with him is also spectacular. The Rev jumps and jives with his guitar and vocal work as the boogie woogie of “looking For Love” unfolds. “Slow Burn” is a mid tempo piece strident guitar and the sax and organ adding a lot to the mix.

The last four cuts are the Westside Andy tracks. “Someday When I’m Dead and Gone” is a blues shouter tune as Andy’s harp responds to the Rev’s vocal calls. Andy plays some wicked harp to complement the well-paced and strident guitar. They take things way down with the slow blues of “I Can Do You Right” where the guitar, harp and organ all take us to church. The rumba returns with “She’s Moving On,” with a testimonial that the Rev testifies to us about how his heart was torn out by that woman in red Ferragamo pumps. This is another staple of his fine live shows that his fans (and I) love. All good things must come to end and so does this great CD. “I’m Your Honeyboy” is a swinging jump blues with Danny Moore on piano and Jimmy Voegeli delivering backing vocals. Andy’s harp work is spectacular here once again. The Rev’s guitar takes a long solo to take us home as he, Andy and Pork Chop help him fade into the sunset. Wonderful stuff!

What can I say? This is some great stuff to commemorate 20 years of some of the blues worlds best music from one of my all time favorite artists and his band. As I said earlier, this is blues the way blues were meant to be played. Run do not walk, and go buy this one NOW! You will not regret it!

Reviewer Steve Jones is president of the Crossroads Blues Society and is a long standing blues lover. He is a retired Navy commander who served his entire career in nuclear submarines. In addition to working in his civilian career since 1996, he writes for and publishes the bi-monthly newsletter for Crossroads, chairs their music festival and works with their Blues In The Schools program. He resides in Byron, IL.


Reverend Raven And The Chain-Smoking Altar Boys review…February 22, 2018….







A veritable institution in the Milwaukee area, guitar man Reverend Raven and the Chain-Smoking Altar Boys have also cut a wide swath thru the Midwest, and also deep down in Florida as well.  Armed with a tremendous traditional sound that incorporates vintage jump blues and R & B, along with Chicago and Delta-fired blues, the band celebrates its twentieth anniversary with sixteen of the best cuts from their previous albums, re-worked herein specifically for this occasion.  The result is “My Life,” as Reverend Raven recounts his life as a bluesman over this dance-floor-burnin’ set.

Another one of the blues’ “OG’s,” Raven was born and raised on the South Side of Chicago, and has been playing the blues on his guitar since 1971, after seeing Freddie King.  On this set, all his myriad of influences are on display, and all the cuts are heavyweights.  He utilizes four different harp players, all of whom are band veterans, each unique in their approach and sound.

Cadillac Pete is up first, as the Reverend touts his, er, “plumbing skills,”  on the slightly-nasty “Handy Man,” and keeps that groove going on the set-closer, with West Side Andy Linderman on harp, as the Rev. raps to another lover that, “I’m Your Honeyboy, satisfaction guaranteed!”  Benny Rickman is on harp on the swingin’ title cut, as “My Life changed at the age of 43, when I finally met the woman the Good Lord meant for me,” this one with Danny Moore on the 88’s, and the Rev. gittin’ down on some fine Elmore James-inspired guitar.

Favorites were aplenty, and we settled on two.  All that’s missing from that little “Bee Hive Baby” are those fishnet hose–cut kinda low at the top, and high at the bottom, ya know.  And, “Once The Women Start Talking” no man is safe!  Benny’s playin’ it cool on the harp, and the whole thing rides that rhumba beat for all it’s worth!

Twenty years in this bidness is a milestone, indeed.  Picking only sixteen cuts was arguably tough to do, but Reverend Raven And The Chain Smoking Altar Boys and “My Life” effectively traces the history of one of the Midwest’s , er, “smokin-est” blues bands ever to lay down a groove!  Roll back the rug, and dance your ass off until….next time!   Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.


Met de kernwoorden “Blues & passie” zou je Reverend Raven & the Chain Smokin’ Altar Boys kunnen omschrijven. Reverend Raven (zang, gitaar), groeide op in het wat minder fraaie South Side van Chicago, speelt al blues vanaf zijn zeventiende, was vijftien jaar bij de US Navy, verhuisde naar Milwaukee en geraakte er bevriend met Madison Slim, harmonicaspeler van Jimmy Rodgers. Harmonicaspeler Westside Andy isafkomstig uit Wisconsin, speelde in Paul Black’s Flip Kings, heeft een eigen band en werkt al drie jaar samen met Rev. Raven. Drummer Craig Panosh en P.T. Pedersen vormen de ritme sectie. 

‘My Life’ is het achtste album van de Reverend & CSAB. Het is een compilatiealbum met zestien originals uit eerder uitgebrachte albums, die herbewerkt zijn of opgenomen zijn met een andere line-up. Met muzikanten als Madison Slim, harmonica speler Cadillac Pete Rahn, Benny Rickun, Big Al Groth, Andre Maritato, Brad Bill, Victor Span, Spencer and Craig Panosh, Bobby Lee Sellers Jr., Ron Kovach, Jimmy Voegeli, Mickey Larson, Danny Moore & Jeff Roberts.

  Harmonica speler Cadillac Pete Rahn is te horen op de rustige bluesy opener ”Handyman”, de zwoele rumba ”Bee Hive Baby” en de jump blues ”Creature Of Habit”. Madison Slim op ”Bad Little Girls” enBenny Rickun op de volgende tracks, waaronder ”I Want To Love You”, de autobiografische titel track ”My Life” (met Danny Moore op barrelhouse piano) en ”Praying For a Princess”. Saxofonist Big Al Groth is te horen op de rocker ”Looking For Love” en de double shuffle ”Slow Burn”. Westside Andy Linderman is de harpist op de laatste vier tracks. Waaronder het swingende ”Someday When I’m Dead and Gone”, de dramatische slow blues ”I Can Do You Right””She’s Moving On” en de rockende zoete afsluiter ”I’m Your Honey Boy”

Reverend Raven & the Altar Boys spelen al meer dan twintig jaar originals met een knipoog naar Slim Harpo, Little Walter, Jimmy Rogers, Junior Wells & de drie Kings. Zij werken ook nu nog altijd verder aan hun missie: “to spread the gospel of the Blues…”. ‘My Life’ is een uitstekend compilatiealbum, dat o.a. gezien de line-up bij geen enkele blues liefhebber mag ontbreken!



With the key words "Blues & passion" you could describe Reverend Raven & the Chain Smokin 'Altar Boys. Reverend Raven (vocals, guitars), grew up in the somewhat less beautiful South Side of Chicago, has been playing blues since he was seventeen, was fifteen years with the US Navy, moved to Milwaukee and befriended Madison Slim, harmonica player of Jimmy Rodgers . Harmonica player Westside Andy is from Wisconsin, played in Paul Black's Flip Kings, has his own band and has been working with Rev. for three years. Raven. Drummer Craig Panosh and P.T. Pedersen form the rhythm section.

'My Life' is the eighth album of the Reverend & CSAB. It is a compilation album with sixteen originals from previously released albums, which have been reworked or recorded with a different line-up. With musicians like Madison Slim, harmonica player Cadillac Pete Rahn, Benny Rickun, Big Al Groth, Andre Maritato, Brad Bill, Victor Span, Spencer and Craig Panosh, Bobby Lee Sellers Jr., Ron Kovach, Jimmy Voegeli, Mickey Larson, Danny Moore & Jeff Roberts.

  Harmonica player Cadillac Pete Rahn can be heard on the quiet bluesy opener "Handyman", the sultry rumba "Bee Hive Baby" and the jump blues "Creature Of Habit". Madison Slim on "Bad Little Girls" and Benny Rickun on the following tracks, including "I Want To Love You", the autobiographical title track "My Life" (with Danny Moore on barrelhouse piano) and "Praying For a Princess". Saxophonist Big Al Groth can be heard on the rocker "Looking For Love" and the double shuffle "Slow Burn". Westside Andy Linderman is the harpist on the last four tracks. Including the swinging "Someday When I'm Dead and Gone", the dramatic slow blues "I Can Do You Right", "She's Moving On" and the rocking sweet ending "I'm Your Honey Boy".

Artist Name:  Reverend Raven & the Chain Smokin’ Altar Boys

Album Name:  My Life

Label:  Nevermore Records

Genre:  Blues

Track Listing:  1.  Handyman; 2.  Bee Hive Baby; 3.  Creature of Habit; 4.  Bad Little Girls; 5.  I Want to Love You; 6.  Once the Women Start Talking; 7.  My Life; 8.  Here Comes my Baby; 9.  Praying for a Princess; 10.  Big Bee; 11.  Looking for Love; 12.  Slow Burn; 13.  Someday When I’m Dead and Gone; 14.  I can do you Right; 15.  She’s Moving On; 16.  I’m Your Honeyboy

Publicist:  Blind Raccoon

Review:  Milwaukee-based Reverend Raven and the Chain Smokin’ Altar Boys have been playing Chicago-style blues for the past 20 years, and their new album is a tribute to that career.  It contains remixes of some of their greatest hits.  With a mixture of blues, swing, rhumba, roadhouse, delta and jump blues, their sound is as unique as their line-up, featuring the smooth baritone voice of Reverend Raven as well as the musicianship of Cadillac Pete Rahn, Madison Slim, Benny Rickun, Big Al Groth, Mickey Larson, Danny Moore and Westside Andy.  You can’t go wrong with this amazing collection of original songs.  Like Morvan, simply put this album on and groove.

Recommendation:  This amazing collection belongs in your library, regardless of your musical tastes.  Get it before it’s gone.


Geachte blues parochie….het doet mij deugt om een nieuwe voorganger aan u te mogen voorstellen. Hoewel nieuw…Reverend Raven zit samen met zijn Chain Smokin` Altar Boys al 20 jaar in het bluesvak en heeft in vrijwel elke tent in de Midwest en Florida gespeeld.
Dit achtste album van onze dominee is een compilatiealbum met hierop oude nummers in een nieuwe mix en in sommige gevallen opnieuw ingespeeld. Het is vooral Chicago blues wat hier de klok slaat. In de stijl van bijvoorbeeld Little Charlie & The Nightcats of The Fabulous Thunderbirds.

Zo is Handyman een luie shuffle met schroeiende harmonica van Westside Andy. De dominee biedt zich in dit nummer aan als klusjesman, die in elk vertrek van uw huis wel iets kan klussen. Inclusief de slaapkamer…
In de shuffle Bee Hive Baby met zijn donderende drums gaat de dominee op de Casanova toer. Hij doet dit met teksten als “You look so good, you make my stinger rise” De shuffle Creature Of Habitheeft een onweerstaanbare drive met een loeiende harmonica solo. In Bad Little Girls begeeft de dominee zich wederom op glad ijs middels een lekker swingende shuffle.
In de funky shuffle I Want To Love verklaart de dominee zijn parochie de liefde,  begeleid door brullende harmonica en priemende gitaar. Once The Women Start Talking vermengt blues met rhumba. Losjes vanuit de heupen wiegend zorgt de dominee ervoor dat het vrouwelijke deel van zijn parochie zich van hem af keert. In de pompende recht voor z’n raap Chicago blues van My Life kijkt de dominee terug op zijn leven. Het rauwe Big Bee met vervormde zang doet, niet verrassend, veel aan “I’m A King Bee” denken maar dan stukken rauwer. De slowblues I Can Do You Right valt op door zijn  deep soul geluid. De dominee laat zijn priemende gitaar prima spreken in het funky She’s Moving On.
De soepel swingende shuffle I’m Your Honeyboy zorgt voor de afsluiting van dit album.

Er staat echt niet één slecht nummer op dit album. Een album waarmee onze dominee zeer zeker nieuwe blues zieltjes zal winnen.




Dear blues parish ... it is good to be able to introduce a new pastor to you. Although new ... Reverend Raven has been in Blues for 20 years together with his Chain Smokin` Altar Boys and has played in almost every tent in the Midwest and Florida.
This eighth album from our pastor is a compilation album with old songs in a new mix and in some cases re-recorded. It is mainly Chicago blues that hits the clock here. In the style of, for example, Little Charlie & The Nightcats or The Fabulous Thunderbirds.

Thus Handyman is a lazy shuffle with scorching harmonica by Westside Andy. The minister offers himself in this issue as handyman, who can do something in every room of your house. Including the bedroom ...
In the shuffle Bee Hive Baby with his thunderous drums, the reverend goes on the Casanova tour. He does this with lyrics like "You look so good, you make my stinger rise" The shuffle Creature Of Habit has an irresistible drive with a roaring harmonica solo. In Bad Little Girls the vicar is again on slippery ice with a nice swinging shuffle.
In the funky shuffle I Want To Love, the vicar explains his parish of love, accompanied by roaring harmonica and piercing guitar. Once The Women Start Talking mixes blues with rhumba. Loosely rocking from the hips, the minister makes sure that the female part of his parish turns away from him. In the pumping right for his turn Chicago blues from My Life, the pastor looks back on his life. The raw Big Bee with distorted vocals reminds, not surprisingly, a lot of "I'm A King Bee" but then a lot of raw. The slow-blues I Can Do You Right stands out for its deep soul sound. The reverend lets his piercing guitar speak fine in the funky She's Moving On.
The smoothly swinging shuffle I'm Your Honeyboy takes care of the closing of this album.

There is not really one bad song on this album. An album with which our pastor will certainly win new blues souls.

REVEREND RAVEN/My Life: Looking back over 20 years of living on the road, this crew rerecorded or remastered their high points from their back pages. A loping, easy going good time that has a total blue lights in the basement feel, these white boys with the blues make sounds for that party that doesn't need to raucous energy to keep the energy flowing. Tasty stuff from some of the hardest working blues road warriors out there, it's time for them to be less of local Milwaukee treat and let the word get out. Hot stuff.

Reverend Raven & company are celebrating 20 years of playing blues throughout the Mid-West and Florida.  The Reverend has been playing blues ever since 1971, when he saw Freddie King perform.  I guess you could call that his "Damascus Road" experience.  It would have been enough to knock me off my ass, to be sure.  After a 15 year stint in the Navy he moved to Milwaukee, where he teamed up with Madison Slim.  He and Slim went to work, and the Reverend has hardly taken a break ever since.  Personnel have changed over the years, but the band has done nothing but get tighter with each passing gig.  This is Blues to the core...the kind  of stuff that has been pouring out of jukes, roadhouses, clubs, bars and dives every weekend since the blues began (pretty much).  Not unlike the DC based Nighthawks, these guys have a deep love for the blues in all forms and give 100%, whether playing for a small club or at a huge festival.  Their years on the road, while not making them rich, has honed their skills and their ability to read the crowd, to a razor sharpness.  Having had the pleasure of seeing the band perform live, I found their Twentieth Anniversary compilation to be everything I expected and then some.  Raven is as sharp as ever on guitars and his vocals are smooth as a well-aged bourbon.  The four harmonica players represented are among the best in the business, the rhythm sections are tight and right on the money and the piano/organ get the idea.  This is an album I would suggest getting several copies of...that first copy is sure to wear out quickly.  These guys do their blues heroes proud.  If, by chance, you have never heard of the Reverend Raven & the Chain Smokin' Altar Boys, now is as good a time as any.  This is as good as it gets. -- Bill Wilson

Reverend Raven & The Chain Smokin’ Altar Boys have
done it again! Here we go with their eighth CD and it is
fabulous! Hailing from Milwaukee, The Reverend and
his boys have played and toured the known universe for
20 years now! Over those years they have played about
every venue you can think of, while sharing the stage
with about every blues Icon you can think of. This
wonderful compilation of their best stuff is fabulous!
How do you pick the best out of 20 years together?
Well, you find a way. Pulling from their four studio
albums they have remixed, or all together just bluesed
up a new version with some new players helping out.
Reverend Raven nails it with his outstanding vocals,
guitar, and slide work! That big baritone voice just lays
right in there. Talk about harmonica players this CD
features some genuine monsters! Cadillac Pete Rahn,
Madison Slim, Benny Rickun, and Westside Andy
Linderman just blow up the tracks! I mean outstanding
harp players! If you’re a harp lover, this is enough to

get the CD! Born and raised on the South side of
Chicago the Reverends credentials and background are
impeccable! Over the last thirty years he has opened

Perkins, Junior Wells, Magic Slim Elvin Bishop, Sugar
Blue, tons of others, and has been on headliner status
rotation at Buddy Guys Legends Club for sixteen years!
Go to and check out his
extensive career! Reverend Raven “My Life”! Twenty
years of the best of the best. Just ace top drawer!
Better check it out. One Love, blue barry – smoky
mountain blues society.

"Each track has it's own timbre and sound and gives one a smorgasbord of listening pleasure."

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