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C A T   S Q U I R R E L 

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S O L O   B L U E S

"BLUES WHAT AM"

Y

B

CAT SQUIRREL

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produced by
mike vernon

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vernOn - baLaaguer--kid - fdntanaLs - mOnge

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dixiefrog records 2023

release date 10/06/2023

(spain)

e  

p  l  o  s  i  o  n

recdrded at sputnik studid seviLLa spain

between 9TH and 12th may 2022

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(Bios by Mike Vernon)

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MIKE VERNON MBE [born in 1944], currently celebrating 61 years in the Music Industry, is now looking forward to launching a new project – CAT SQUIRREL.  “I feel as if I have now gone around in a full circle.  I am back where I was in the late 1950s/early 1960s – digging into the archives of the Blues Masters – and enjoying every minute.  I’ve been writing a lot of new songs with guitarist Kid Carlos; my voice is getting stronger and has substantially matured over the last few years and I am determined to make use of it – I’m ready!”

 Most of Mike’s career – as a Producer – has been focused on The Blues – he’s worked with Champion Jack Dupree, Eddie Boyd, Buddy Guy, Otis Spann and Muddy Waters; John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers (with Eric Clapton, Peter Green and Mick Taylor); Savoy Brown, Ten Years After, Fleetwood Mac, Chicken Shack with Christine McVie; Climax Blues Band, Dr.Feelgood, George ‘Harmonica’ Smith with Bacon Fat; Jimmy Witherspoon, Freddie King, Lightnin’ Slim, Kandye Cane, Jerry ‘Boogie’ McCain, Bo Diddley with Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson, Jimmie Vaughan, Billy Boy Arnold, Keith Richards, Ron Wood, Johnnie Johnson and Richie Sambora; Lazy Lester, Sherman Robertson, Oli Brown, Laurence Jones and Sari Schorr – the list is almost endless!  And not forgetting the substantial list of non-blues product that included David Bowie, Bloodstone, Olympic Runners, Rocky Sharpe & The Replays, Edwin Starr, Level 42, Roachford, Roger Chapman, Six Was Nine, Danza Invisible and Los Secretos.  Mike also cut four albums under his own name as the featured vocalist.  The first [1971] for his own Blue Horizon label – “Bring It Back Home” – featured Rory Gallagher and Paul Kossoff; the second [1973] for the New York based Sire Records – “Moment of Madness” – that featured, amongst others, Mitch Mitchell [Jimi Hendrix], Ric Lee and Leo Lyons [Ten Years After], Pete Wingfield, Bruce Rowland [Grease Band] and Joe Jammer.  The third album “Just A Little Bit” [2015] recorded in Andalucia, Spain for Cambaya featured Los Garcia – augmented by the outstanding wizardry of pianist Juan Ramon Veredas – along with a young and highly talented guitarist by the name of Kid Carlos.  Three years later [2018] Mike was back in the Studio with The Mighty Combo putting the finishing touches to “Beyond the Blue Horizon” – for Manhaton Records – featuring, once again, Kid Carlos.  But all of that happened in the past – so let’s get back to dealing with the present!

“I am now totally re-energised both mentally and physically and convinced that this project with Cat Squirrel hits all the spots” says the soon-to-be octogenarian.  “Following on from The Mighty Combo adventure I found the need to get back to my teenage years when my Blues ‘roots’ idols were Big Bill Broonzy, Muddy Waters, Little Walter and John Lee Hooker.  So inspirational!”

mike vernon
vocals

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MINGO BALAGUER [born in 1957] has been a stalwart of the Spanish Blues scene for some four decades and counts James Cotton, Little Walter, George ‘Harmonica’ Smith, Paul Butterfield, Walter Horton and Sonny Boy Williamson as his main influences.  In 1986 the now legendary Caledonia Blues Band was formed by a group of Sevilla based musicians headed by Lolo Ortega; a short while later Mingo joined.  In total, that very popular band, released 5 albums and were lucky enough to have worked alongside some of the ‘greats’ from the U.S. – Johnny Winter, Magic Slim, Charlie Musselwhite and Hubert Sumlin to name but four.   With the Millennium on the horizon Mingo was feeling restless and looking for an opportunity to start up on a new project – enter The Blues Blasters – a six-piece band featuring Australian vocalist Brent Larkham, guitarist Quique Bonal, Alberto Miras on keyboards, Fernando Torres on bass, Xavi Reija drums and Mingo on harp.  This band proved to be rather successful – they were signed to Big Bang (based in Granada) and their debut album “Keep the Blues Alive” did excellent business.  In fact, on the back of that success the band were able to make a two-week tour on the East Coast of the U.S. highlighted by appearances at the Millennium Stage, Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. and at the Artscape in The University of Baltimore [July 2002].  Returning to Spain, Mingo – the now very well-known harmonicist – decided to depart from The Blues Blasters as he moved on to play with Blues Machine.  Not long after that he ‘hooked up’ with guitarist Quique Bonal to form Mingo & The Blues Intruders with the help of Fernando Torres on bass and Juan de la Oliva on drums.   This combo was to record three CDs in its lifetime – “Goin’ West” [March 2008] and two years later the Cambaya/Karonte release entitled “Fun to Visit” recorded ‘live’ at the Cambaya Blues Club in Antequera, Provincia de Malaga. The third outing – “Wild Wild Women” – was also released by Cambaya/Karonte in February 2013. 

 Since that time Mingo has participated in a number of other Blues projects – most notably two albums with Blues Train featuring guitarist Francisco Simon – released in 2017 and 2019.  Finally, in 2020, Mingo released is first solo album – “Blue Shadow” – accompanied by Pablo Sanpa and Kid Carlos on guitars; Paul San Martin keyboards; Alain Sancho saxes; Oriol Fontanals on bass and Guillaume Destarac drums.  To date Mingo has released 17 albums and has had the privilege of playing alongside Kenny Neal, Raimundo Amador, Bobby Radcliffe, Miguel Rios, Carey Bell, Jerry Portnoy, Otis Grand and Lurrie Bell.  He is also well travelled – carrying his harps and amp to play at large and small Festivals in France, Germany, Bulgaria, Luxembourg, Georgia, Indonesia and the U.S.  Most recently his current ‘road’ band Mingo, Sanpa & Barez Bros. was awarded the Third Place Prize at The European Blues Challenge 2022 in Malmo, Sweden.

Mike Vernon comments: “I think it’s true to say that Mingo’s considerable reputation goes before him – he is highly respected as a harmonicist and vocalist in his homeland.  Do you think he might be interested in becoming a member of Cat Squirrel?” Mike enquired of Carlos. “Of course – ask him!” was his reply.  Mike did so – and Mingo replied: “Of course!”  Let the man himself have the last word: “Who would have thought that I would not only meet one of the people I have admired the most in the ‘music world’ but that I would also have the opportunity to work with him.  Well, that dream has now come true!”

mingo nalaguer
aarmonica

KID CARLOS [born in 1988] was introduced to Mike Vernon some eight years ago when he guested on Mike’s solo album “Just A Little Bit” – the beginning of an excellent working relationship.  Encouraged by his father – a huge Blues fan – Carlos began playing guitar at the tender age of twelve and is totally self-taught.  Born and raised in the small town of Guillena (Sevilla Province, Spain) the young teenager soon found himself playing gigs with a local band billed as Cotton Factory.  Carlos’s confidence coupled with his undeniable talent helped him to gain an enormous amount of experience during the following few years.  He hooked up with an American bassist/vocalist by the name of Bob Grove who led the band Black Jack Blues – a unit that became quite popular all over the Estados de Andalucia.  Those teenage years were spent honing his craft as a guitarist and as he says: “You never stop learning!” 

 As time passed by and still with that parental encouragement ongoing in the background, Carlos had the good fortune to meet up with a number of other experienced and popular touring (mostly) American Blues musicians – the likes of Kirk Fletcher, Carvin Jones, Monster Mike Welch, Sugar Ray Norcia and Otis Grand.  Finally, in 2007 – and still only a teenager – Carlos founded the Kid Carlos Blues Band featuring Jose Maria Pardo, Chechu Sierra and the Italian drummer Stefano Di Rubbo. The following years would see the popularity of Carlos’s Blues Band grow and naturally enough the decision was taken to record their own CD – “Talkin’ ‘bout the Blues” – with all original material!  It would be some seven years later [2014] when Carlos and Stefano looked to reform the line-up as bassist Raul ‘Lalu’ Cordon and vocalist Txako Jones joined the unit that would become Kid Carlos Band.  A few years later [2018] the Kid Carlos Band recorded their first album entitled “Cannonball” – a tribute to the Texan Blues ‘master’ Freddie King [Cambaya Records].  The band line-up was augmented for that recording by the appearance of keyboardist Alvaro Gandul and Mike Vernon as a guest vocalist on two songs – one of which was a ‘cover’ written by Vernon and originally recorded by Freddie King himself [1974].  Recently [2022] Kid Carlos & Quique Bonal have self-produced an album of instrumentals entitled “Last Man Standing” that shows their joint guitar knowledge and mastery of their chosen instrument – blues, jazz, swing, country, ragtime and western swing – all those styles together! 

 Carlos has this to say: “It is an honour for me to be part of this exciting new project working alongside two legends of the Blues world.  Mike Vernon produced many of the albums that I listened to when learning to play the Blues and, at that time, I could never have imagined that years later I would find myself actively working with him as part of Cat Squirrel.  And then the legendary Spanish Blues harmonicist Mingo Balaguer – for me the best in my homeland.  As a child I would go to see and listen to his concerts – the experience was scintillating; and now we are the best of friends and Blues companions.  It has also been a pleasure to work with Pascual and Oriol in the studio – their high levels of musicianship permeates the whole of our debut album – a truly exquisite rhythmic base!”

kid carlos
guitar

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ORIOL FONTANALS [born in 1986] grew up in Barcelona where he was to find his calling in life as a self-taught bass player. By the time he was in his late teens he had discovered a special passion and sensitivity for the Blues.  Indeed, that passion was so strong that he finally decided to enrol as a student at the Escola-Taller de Blues in Barcelona [2010] where Ivan Kovacevic became his teacher and mentor.  During his four years at that School Workshop Oriol met many artists and musicians that were part of the ever-growing Barcelona Blues scene and making the acquaintance of pianist David Giorcelli and harmonica wizard Victor Puertas caused him to start his professional career as a bass player.  To this day Oriol specializes in all styles of traditional blues – from Chicago, West Coast,  Jump, Delta and Ragtime – to Rhythm & Blues, Rock & Roll, Boogie Woogie, Gospel, Swing, Country, Dixieland, Jazz Creole and Calypso.  He has also developed his ‘slap’ technique having studied some   of the ‘masters’ of the Blues upright bass players and in particular Willie Dixon, Ernest ‘Big’ Crawford, Pops Foster, Ransom Knowling, John Lindsay and Larry Taylor.  Since 2012 Oriol has been working with some of the best bands on the Barcelona Blues scene – Ster Wax & Boogie, Martin Burguez & His Rhythm Combo, Victor Puertas & The Mellow Tones, The Groovy Four, Big Mama Montse, David Giorcelli Trio and The Black Snakes.  In his career, thus far, he has collaborated with international artists such as Rob Stone, Mike Keller, Hash Brown, Keith Dunn (USA); Drew Davies (UK); Jean Paul Amouroux (FR); J.T. Lauritsen (NOR); Roger Wade (DE); Thomas Toussaint (NL) and Gabriel Gratzer (AR).  And as of 2020 Oriol has recorded with Mingo Balaguer on his “Blue Shadow” CD and, currently, with Mike Vernon as a member of CAT SQUIRREL. 

oriol fontanals
upright bass

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PASCUAL MONGE (born in 1980) in Oviedo, Asturias but lived much of his early life in the small town of Almajano in the Province of Soria.  From a very young age Pascual showed a great interest in music and at the age of eight he began to play the drums – without formal lessons.  “I just played along with some rock, blues and soul albums that my family and friends loaned me”.  He subsequently received saxophone and solfeggio [vocal] training at the Soria Conservatory in addition to learning the basics of playing the piano – again, as with the drums, totally self-taught.  As time passed by Pascual found that his musical interests had focused on the Blues – travelling back in time to the 1950s, when rock’n’roll ruled the roost, and passing through Soul and R&B of the 1960s to the music of New Orleans and discovering the Blues of the Deep South and the industrial North of the U.S.A.  At the age of 19, Pascual moved to Madrid to study Sound.  It was there that he gradually entered the City’s musical circuit and began to play with different groups and to go to Blues jam sessions; the perfect way to meet lots of musicians and begin to collaborate with some of them.  As a freelance drummer Pascual played with Los 44 Dealers, Jose Luis Pardo, Quique Gomez, Pablo Sanpa and Tonky – to name but a few!  The collaboration of Madrid artists with visiting American musicians allowed him the opportunity to play with top bluesmen such as John Primer, Billy Boy Arnold, Tail Dragger, Bob Margolin, Kid Andersen and Johnny Burgin.  He currently gives private drum lessons and collaborates in different National and International Blues projects in addition to participating in a new project with Producer Mike Vernon – Cat Squirrel – alongside some of the best Blues musicians on the National circuit – Kid Carlos, Mingo Balaguer and Oriol Fontanals.  Mike has this to say about Pascual: “I recall taking the train to Madrid [on 19th October 2021] to see John Primer perform at Café Berlin.  He was playing with a bunch of local musicians who were all very good.  But it was the drummer that stood out for me…not sure if we actually said more than ‘Hola’ that evening but it was harmonicist Quique Gomez that was to inform me sometime later that the drummer’s name was Pascu Monge.  Fate strikes again!”

pascual monge
drums

Tracklist:

01 Feel So Good 04:56
02 What Might Be Your Name 05:03
03 Cat Squirrel 04:31
04 Sugaree Sugaree 04:00
05 Out On The Limb 05:09
06 Heart Of Gold 04:05
07 My Baby's Gone 04:30
08 Tell Me Mama 03:22
09 What The Blues Will Do 03:27
10 All She Want' Is Me 03:53
11 You Got Me Dizzy 04:00
12 Baby Please 04:15
13 One Minute 05:31
14 Boogie Rip 06:39

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Listen to samples - Cat Squirrell - Blues What Am
00:00 / 10:30
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no one
is
insensitive
to the
blues...

(they are pure blues)

listen to
cat squirrel!!

The man and everything else

MIKE VERNON

This man is a legend of the last century popular music. The British has produced about two hundred albums throughout his career, he has been involved in other dozens musical projects, most of them blues albums, some historic like "The Blues Of Otis Spann" (DECCA 1964), other iconic like "John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers with Eric Clapton" ( DECCA 1966), also Bowie's pop "David Bowie" (DECCA 1967), Savoy Brown's boogie "Shake Down" (DECCA 1967) to Level 42's funk-pop "Level 42" (Polydor 1981). The list is almost infinite,you can enjoy some of them below...

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solo efforts

MIKE'S

1971

1973

2015

2017

2018

MINGO BALAGUER 10.jfif

b21 interview

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mingo's

b l u e s h a d o w 

2020

2022

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t h r e e  s h o t s

kid carlos

2018

2020

2022

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ready to roll

cat
squirrel

Ladies and gentlemen, this is Cat Squirrel. Blues and only blues. They are a supergroup, Mike Vernon is the magic of the project, Balaguer the styling, Kid Carlos the lucidity and both Fontanals and Monge the sobriety. All of them have come together in the studio to unleash all their individual creativity and in a fourteen song jam crown one of the best blues albums of recent years. Vernon knows the trade and in addition to singing and songwriting he has assembled the best of each of his mates in an explosion of unspeakable classic blues, it's necessary to listen to this album. Mingo Balaguer does not leave an empty space where the presence of the harmonica becomes more necessary and irresistible. Kid Carlos is the best active guitarist on the blues circuit in Spain, in Cat Squirrel his omnipresence assures the band the best way to reach the top of the instrumental communion, each riff, each note, each solo has its reason to be there. From Barcelona and SORIA, Oriol Fontanals and Pacual MonGe complement each other perfectly in an essential rhythm section.
This is Cat Squirrel. It's going to be very difficult to improve this album.

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