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Hey Blues Fans,
Voting for the 2011 Blues Music Awards ends at 07:59:59 (CST) Tuesday, March 1, 2011. So if you have not yet voted be sure to make your voice heard while there is still time. CLICK HERE to cast your vote now. To see a list of all the nominees, CLICK HERE
You must be a member of the Blues Foundation to vote so if you want to vote you need to join soon. Here is the link to do so. CLICK HERE.
The winners will be announced at the 32nd Blues Music Awards on Thursday May 5, 2011 at the Cook Convention Center in Memphis, Tennessee.
And speaking of music Awards, we will have details in next weeks issue of the 2011 Blues Blast Music Awards and how you can get your music release considered by this years nominators. Stay Tuned!
We made it out to hear The Kilborn Alley Blues Band this week. They are going on a European tour in May.
We got to hear more new music from them too. Andy Duncanson, Josh Stimmel, Ed O'Hara and Chris Breen above, are headed into the studio in the next couple months. The bands first two CDs got BMA nominations and we think the new material continues to be impressive. Look for this release later this year on Blue Bella Records.
In This Issue
We have part two of our coverage of the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise from John Mitchell and Marilyn Stringer. We have four Blues music reviews this week! James "Skyy Dobro" Walker reviews a new CD by Damon Fowler. George "Blues Fin Tuna" Fish reviews a new CD by Rocket 88 & The Rockettes. Gary “Wingman” Weeks reviews a new CD by North Mississippi All-Stars. Mark Thompson reviews a new CD by The Mark Slim Band. All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN!!!
Live Blues Review
Legendary Rhythm And Blues Cruise January 2011 - Part Two
By John Mitchell [with additional comments and photos by Marilyn Stringer]
One of our ports was St. Johns, USVI, and the island was happy to have us there. Along with the concerts in the town square, there were three Blues in the Schools performances. I, along with other media people, were taken on a tour of the island, with our final stop at a local school, where Terrance Simien’s band was inspiring the kid’s to get involved with music. Zac Harmon was entertaining the cruisers in the square.
Half Moon Cay is the very epitome of a Caribbean island, a small crescent of bright blue water and white sand. Swimming in the sea, basking on the loungers and eating a wonderful BBQ lunch may sound idyllic…but this is THE BLUES CRUISE! So, at noon a stage was set up in front of the wonderfully named “I Wish I Could Stay Here Forever” Bar and we were brilliantly entertained by two superb bands. First up was the Debbie Davies/Matt Gross/Don Castagno/Gina Sicilia combo.
RBB did an excellent set, starting with some of his own material, accompanied by Jellybean Johnson on guitar and all manner of effects pedals, Anthony Tucker on muscular drums and Carlton Armstrong who wielded his bass like a machine gun at times. Ronnie spotted a bare chested Ryan Shaw enjoying the music in the crowd and invited him up for an impromptu version of “Superstition” that had some cruisers within my hearing asking whether it did not surpass the original, which is a huge compliment to both performers.
PERFORMANCES (not covered last article)
A veteran R n’ B singer, Denise LaSalle’s best known song is “My Tu Tu”. Her band, Black Ice, kicked off with a short set of covers of great soul tunes, including two from the Temptations songbook which had me singing along happily! Denise played a couple of songs from her latest CD “24 Hour Woman” but preferred to concentrate on her back catalogue, including “Drop That Zero” as well as the aforementioned anthem. A big part of Denise’s show is her raunchy character and she had the audience in stitches at times with some fairly explicit language about relationships with men and what women expect from their guys.
One of the favourites on the boat is Kansas City’s Trampled Under Foot for whom this was the third cruise in a row following their success in the 2008 IBC. This time all three Schnebelen siblings, Danielle (bass/vocals), Nick (guitar/ vocals) and Kris (drums) were fit, well, and had a lot to celebrate. First they had added a keyboard player, Mike "Shinetop Jr" Sedovic, whose skills definitely enhanced the band’s overall sound. Second they had a new CD to launch, which they did with a flourish on the Pool Deck. Produced by Tony Braunagel of Phantom Blues Band fame, the CD is well worth checking out. The band played an extensive selection of songs from the new CD plus some fan favourites and attracted a huge crowd despite being (for the cruise) at the early time of midday. Nick opened each set solo on dobro and created a real back porch feel before the other members of the band joined in.
[MJS] The acoustic performances, usually found in the intimate Queen’s Lounge included a wonderful collaboration of Phil Wiggins & Corey Harris, playing gentle and heartfelt blues and harmonica; Dion, third time cruiser, treated us (again) to a one-time only hour show full of history and stories, jaded by his New York attitudes, humour, accompanied by some fine guitar ranging from old pop to deep blues; Virgin cruiser John Mooney, brought his mind-boggling slide guitar to life and jammed whenever he could; and 2010 IBC Single winner, Matt Anderson, with his curly hair flipping all over the place, wowed the packed venues with his lightning, complicated, blues guitar. And although not acoustic, and bringing his own band, Jon Cleary was one of my favorites. When he sat down at his piano, he played his New Orleans blues with a fury from beginning to end – I never wanted to miss a note!
Late at night, and well into the mornings, the Piano Bar is always a gathering of performers and cruisers, who either love piano, or know that something fun is always going to happen eventually and park there and wait for it. Cheryl Rene, Mitch Woods, Dave Keyes, and Eden Brent were in charge this cruise. Although Mitch can get the crowd crazy, Eden is the Queen. On one of my trips across the boat, I popped in and found Eden schmoozing with Steve Simon (Bluestock.com) who was charming her and the crowd with his clarinet.
And, in every nook and cranny, someone is playing music. We cruisers love to see the future blues performers in their younger years. My treat was passing by the Big City Blues booth and finding Deak Harp, Dave Fields, and his son, jamming in the booth. And his son can actually play quite well!
The Holmes Brothers were all back together this trip (Wendell missed the last one due to illness) and were joined by Joan Osborne. Popsy Dixon(drums), Sherman Holmes (Bass), and Wendell Holmes (Guitar)
The Sisters of the South were a wonderful addition to the cruise. Pictured are: Ardie Dean (drums), Dave Keyes (piano), Lil Joe Burton (trombone), Mother Blues, Pura Fe, and Sweet Betty (who was quite a jammer!)
And the final band, and to quote Roger Naber-our LRBC Captain, ”The hidden gem of the cruise”, was Ryan Shaw. All I could do was melt when he sang, perhaps because he brought me back to the smooth R&B vocals I grew up on, wrapped in some high energy blues & soul, with a refined edge and a big heart. When he brought his shy, little (younger) brother, Dante up to sing with him, we all were mesmerized. His band includes John Aschettino (guitar), Keith McCray(drums), and Michael Lindsey (bass).
Although not technically a jam session the final show on the Pool Deck became one as Kenny Wayne Shepherd was joined first by Danielle and Nick from TUF and then by Janiva Magness and Bob Margolin for a really memorable version of “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl” (renamed ‘Schoolboy’ for the occasion) in which Janiva’s sexy performance appeared to have KWS and the usually calm [Noah Hunt] & Bob Margolin both over-heating – well it was a warm Caribbean night! Janiva then left the stage and Terrance Simien joined in on frottoir with Ronnie Baker Brooks adding to the guitar.
The jam sessions are a unique feature of the cruise, simply because there are so many great players together on the ship. Each night on the Pool Deck a different band acts as host to the Pro Jam. On Day 1 was Tommy Castro, who clearly has a lot of experience hosting such occasions (after all the LRBR is a sort of jam session in itself)-the players were forming a long line to join in. Pictured are random jam sessions and jammers – too many to include everyone!
Big James & The Chicago Playboys:
Debbie Davis Jam:
Tommy Castro & Ronnie Baker Brooks:
Another Cruise in the history books but there are more to come. All the staff and performers hope to see you there! www.bluescruise.com
John Mitchell is a British blues enthusiast, currently recovering from his week on the blues Cruise. All photos can be seen – eventually- at http://MJStringerPhoto.com
Featured Blues Review 1 of 4
Damon Fowler - Devil Got His Way
12 songs; 45:09 minutes; Suggested
Styles: Americana, Roots Rock and Roll, Swamp Rock
First, let me clear the air; secondly, let me fill the air. For clarity, this is not a Blues album. However, let me fill the air, again, with praises for Tampa FL area’s Damon Fowler. There is something very special here that Blues fans will enjoy - except for the purists still mad at Muddy Waters for going electric.
Because the incredibly entertaining Fowler is young (at 30), it’s written that his artistry is “in the making.” I disagree; he has arrived with this CD! We are well beyond the “one hit wonder” (or even two hit wonder) stage. His fifth album since 1999, “Devil Got His Way” showcases Damon’s maturity in song crafting: confident writing, audience winning singing, and masterful, crowd slaying melodic leads on six-string, slide, Dobro, and lap steel guitars.
Re-teamed with “Sugar Shack” producer Scott Cable, Fowler has written or co-written all but two of the songs. From the heart tugging title track to the bouncy metaphor in “Fruit Stand Lady” to the enlightening “Cypress in the Pines,” there is variety in styles and moods. Fowler is backed across nine songs only by long time bassist Chuck Riley and James McKnight on drums.
Underneath the swinging tempo and boisterous guitar riffs of the title track, there are three things that make this song genuinely creepy. First, Damon Fowler leaves it up to the listener's imagination to decide what happened to the people mentioned in this song when “the devil got his way”. Secondly, there is something decidedly dark about the way several brooding guitar notes linger, and sink ever lower and deeper, on this song's refrain. Third, and most insidiously of all, the sinister situations portrayed in this ditty are of the completely natural (rather than supernatural) sort: “Up to his neck in trouble, up to his ears in debt/Collectors are calling, but they haven't caught him yet/Turned his back on his family, said he can't afford to stay/The devil got his way!”
Typically, songs about persons getting drunk and partying are warnings, musical cautionary tales about the dark side of “the wild side.” “Once In Awhile” is a perfect honky-tonk number, however, characterizing one woman's night out as a release from her usual life: “All week long, she is prim and proper/She's going out tonight, and nothing's going to stop her!” Fowler isn't completely condoning, but he does joyously concede that “even good girls gotta let loose once in awhile!”
“You Go Your Way” was my first ear-worm, and it wasn’t even my favorite song. Almost the polar opposite of track five, “28 Degrees,” this breakup ballad has twice the tempo and pep, and none of the angst. The narrator seems almost happy to leave his lover--not because he's sick of her, necessarily, but because he's tired of living the frenetic, fast-paced life that she does. “I've got my job; you've got Saturday night,” he observes, and for a person such as Fowler describes, every night's Saturday night! “I hope your little party never ends,” Fowler sings, and he doesn't sound sarcastic when he does. If only all breakups could be as amicable, and as drama-free, as this song portrays.
variety, there is a beautiful, slow ballad “After The Rain.” To
surprise, Leon Russell's “Tight Rope” is covered with creative guitar,
but you may prefer the original. For some Swamp, try “Cypress In The
Pines,” a markedly non-majestic tribute to the rougher aspects of the
woods--fire, snakes, and all--complete with growling bass guitar. And,
to totally amuse,
While the variety may disappoint those wanting all songs to be like the killer title track, this is a superbly crafted CD. There is no one doing what Damon Fowler does, and he is doing it great!
Amy Walker contributed to this review.
Reviewer James "Skyy Dobro" Walker is a noted Blues writer, DJ, Master of Ceremonies, and longtime Blues Blast Magazine contributor. His weekly radio show "Friends of the Blues" can be heard Saturdays 8 pm - Midnight on WKCC 91.1 FM and at www.wkccradio.org in Kankakee, IL. To See James “Skyy Dobro” Walker's CD rating system, CLICK HERE
For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE
Fried Grits & Greens
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Blues Society News
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Crossroads Blues Society - Rockford, IL
On Friday, March 18th the Crossroads Blues Society presents Blues in the
Schools (BITS) Wine Tasting Fund Raiser at Artale Wine Co. 6876 Spring Creek
Rd # 128, Rockford, IL 61114-7405. The event will be held from 5:30 PM to
8:30 PM. Tickets are $15. Food will be provided by Joesph Barbados/Pearl and
a karge assortment of wines will be available to sample. Tickets are
available at the store whose hours are 10 AM to 9 PM daily except Sunday
when the hours are 11 AM to 6 PM.
The Grafton Blues Association - Grafton, WI
The Grafton Blues Association & the Cedarburg Cultural Center will present Tinsley Ellis on Thursday March 24 at the Cedarburg Cultural Center. Doors open at 6pm show starts at 7pm. Food and drink will be available for purchase. Tickets are $14 in advance for GBA and CCC members, $15 in advance for non-members and $17 at the door for everyone. For more info visit - www.graftonblues.org
The Great Northern Blues Society - Wausau, WI
The Great Northern Blues Society in Wausau, WI will be hosting their annual fundraising event “Blues Café’”, on Saturday 3/26/11 at the Rothschild Pavilion. (Near Wausau, WI)
Performing will be Jumpship Blues Band, 12 Year Old Tallan Noble Latz, Red White & Blues Band, Young British Blues Diva Joanne Shaw Taylor, and Atlanta Based Blues Guitar Flamethrower Tinsley Ellis. The Fun Starts at 1:00PM. $13 in advance, $18 at the door. Bulk ticket rates also available. For more info see www.gnbs.org
West Virginia Blues Society - Charleston, WV
The West Virginia Blues Society presents the Charlie West Blues Fest May 20 & 21, 2011 in Haddad Riverfront Park, Charleston, WV Here is the lineup: Friday May 20 - Sit Down Baby, Izzy & Chris, Mojo Theory, Lil Bryan & The Travelers, Davina & the Vagabonds and Joe Louis Walker. Sat. May 21- IBC Band Winner, Slim Fatz, Trampled Under Foot, Sean Carney, Kristine Jackson, Smokin’ Joe Kubek & Bnois King and Ana Popovich. The Charlie West Blues Fest is produced by the West Virginia Blues Society, Inc. www.wvbluessociety.org and www.charliewestbluesfest.com
Illinois Central Blues Club - Springfield, IL
The Illinois Central Blues Club 25th Anniversary Celebration is Saturday,
March 5, 2010, at the Knights of Columbus Hall, 2200 S. Meadowbrook,
Springfield, IL from 7:30 pm to 12:00 am.
This event serves as a fund raiser for the ICBC’s “Blues in the Schools” programs which bring live blues music and oral history of the blues to children and adults in the community. The admission fee is $8.00 for members and $10 for non-members. For more info contact Mark Edmiston at 217-679-0721 or visit www.icbluesclub.org
Also BLUE MONDAY SHOWS - Held at the Alamo 115 N 5th St, Springfield, IL (217) 523-1455 every Monday 8:30pm $3 cover. Feb 28 - Bruce Katz. icbluesclub.org
Featured Blues Review 2 of 4
Rocket 88 & The Rockettes - One-Footed Cockroach Stomp
Rocket Records (Sweden)
13 tracks Total time: 49:35
Sweden’s Rocket 88 was formed in 1999, and even played at famed New Orleans blues club Tipitina’s in 2003. One Footed Cockroach Stomp is the group’s second CD, recording of which began in 2005, with the CD released in 2009. During the recording, the core comprising Rocket 88—Benny Arvesen, vocals, keyboards, viola; Jim Öman, guitar; Håkan Dahlqvist, bass; and Magnus Melin, drums—was augmented by three women singers who later became The Rockettes, the band’s choral group, and who are extensively featured on the CD. Comprising The Rockettes are Béatrice Öman, Helen Berlin, and Anna Arespång. Guest musician Bengst Ek appears on several tracks with baritone sax low-note grunts and alto sax solos, while Patrik Ömalm and Sigge Öman add slide guitar accents and accordion respectively to create an old-timey band sound on track 10, the traditional “Diggin’ My Potatoes.”
The blues approach of Rocket 88 is gritty and sophisticated, clearly patterned after late 1950s-early 1960s Chicago blues; the vocal choruses of The Rockettes add to this to give an even more polished “commercial” sound; yet the overall feel is not one of emotionless commercial adaptation, but one of emotive depth that encompasses impassioned soul as well as bluesy grit. Impassioned soul is certainly part of Benny Arvesen’s vocals, especially on track 1, “Let Me Love You;” track 2, “Shake For Me;” and track 6, “Hard But It’s Fair.” While the CD is overwhelmingly a “covers” album, with 12 of the 13 songs written by the blues songwriting masters, that seems only fitting for a band that so well re-creates the later Chicago sound. Seven of them come directly from Chicago masters: four from Willie Dixon; one from Howlin’ Wolf, “I Don’t Know,” track 7; one from J.B. Lenoir, “The Mojo,” track 4; and one from Buddy Guy, “I Found A True Love,” track 9, done here as a pouring-out-from-the-heart celebration of a good woman that’s six minutes and 35 seconds long, much in the modern soul vein of impassioned long, slow ballads. Maestro Dixon is featured here not only with “Let Me Love You,” “Hard But It’s Fair,” and “”Shake For Me,” but also with “Down In the Bottom,” track 5, thus providing two Dixon songs made notable by Howlin’ Wolf on the “rocking chair” LP. Wolf’s own “I Don’t Know” is given an unusual arrangement on the CD with Benny Arvesen playing viola on the track over an electric blues foundation of rhythm guitar, bass and drums.
Rounding out the playlist are two more city blues numbers, the Duke/Peacock “It’s My Life” and the Bobby Robinson-Champion Jack Dupree “Shim, Sham, Shimmy,” along with three more traditional numbers given a “modern” old-timey treatment, played as old-style acoustic numbers with electric adaptation: Johnny Shines’s “Please Don’t,” track 8; Lightnin’ Hopkins’s “I Mean Goodbye,” track 12, built on an electric-acoustic train-like chugging guitar riff, with Arvesen again contributing viola; and the above-mentioned “Diggin’ My Potatoes.” Rounding out the list is a modern dance tune, “Cockroach Stomp,” from Patrik Ömalm, who has become Rocket 88’s original songwriter. Here Ömalm builds dance steps around the stomping out of cockroaches with one’s feet! Indeed, three of the songs on the CD are dance numbers, songs devoted to, and expressive of, dancing and dance steps: not only “Cockroach Stomp,” but also “The Mojo,” on New Orleans terpsichorean boogie; and the self-descriptive “Shim, Sham, Shimmy.”
Quite in contrast to most contemporary blues bands, Rocket 88’s sound is not essentially lead-guitar-driven. More emphasis is placed by the group on rhythm guitar and second-voice lead guitar than on guitar solos from band member Jim Öman, who plays solos only on four tracks. Far more dominant in carrying the musical load here are Benny Arvesen’s organ and piano playing, with several solos, and Bengst Ek’s sax accents and solos. These form a sound backdrop whose foundation is rhythm guitar, keyboards and sax, with a very strong role played by organ and piano.
Rocket 88 is as versatile and adept in electric-folk adaptations of country blues as it is in re-creating the contemporary Chicago sound. Benny Arvesen’s incorporation of viola is a refreshingly original touch as well. All this makes the CD a “cover” CD that does far more than simply cover—it creates, and creates well, and does not simply mimic.
I always find it interesting to note the different timbre created by blues band vocalists whose native language is not English, and while the English enunciation here is clear and fluent throughout, it will sound clipped to English-speaking ears, and one will sense a lot more “y” and “v” sounds where the English ear would expect a ‘j” or “w” sound. But Rocket 88, The Rockettes, and One-Footed Cockroach Stomp are yet another demonstration that African American blues and soul have become an international idiom, and that blues translates into Swedish quite well indeed!
Adding visual aesthetics to the musical aesthetics here is the highly notable cartoon artwork by Dan G. Larsson on the cover, along with his appropriate photo on the CD tray.
Reviewer George "Blues Fin Tuna" Fish hails from Indianapolis, Indiana, home of blues legends Yank Rachell and Leroy Carr. He has written a regular music column for several years. He wrote the liner notes for Yank Rachell’s Delmark album, Chicago Style. He has been a blues and pop music contributor for the left-wing press as well, and has appeared in Against the Current and Socialism and Democracy.
For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE
Featured Blues Review 3 of 4
North Mississippi All-Stars - Keys To The Kingdom
Songs Of The South
Eulogizing their father Jim Dickinson in the release of Keys To The Kingdom is the best therapy for sons Luther and Cody who make up two thirds of the North Mississippi All-Stars.
dwell in a post-mortem state of depression, The All-Stars use this music
to celebrate life. It's what Jim would have wanted.
Substituting their hill-country roots with more of a rocking sound has been this bands biggest suite. Opening cut "This A' Way" comes off with great hooks and choruses that would make this a great number to perform live. Ditto for second track "Jumpercable Blues" that has Gordie Johnson guesting on guitar to add a little flash to its raucous boogie.
Mavis Staples adds her vocals to the gospel tent revival "The Meeting." Guitarist Luther Dickinson seems willing to meet the Grim Reaper head on in the rejoiceful proclamation of "Hear The Hills."
only cover on this cd is Bob Dylan's "Stuck Inside of Mobile With The
Memphis Blues Again," the All-Stars twist this ditty into a real roots
Southern rocker. Dickinson with his slide makes "Let It Roll" a piece of
White Lightning cruising on Highway 61.
The final two tracks wrap this cd up giving its final closure. Ghosts of the hill-country revisit the rocking mantra of "Aint None O' Mine." And "Jellyrollin' All Over Heaven" points out that Jim Dickinson is going to have a helluva party behind them Pearly Gates. The song bounces along with a country blues line giddy in nature.
The production credit reads Produced For Jim Dickinson. With Keys To The Kingdom, it's the best tribute these guys can make.?
Reviewed by Gary “Wingman” Weeks.
For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE
Featured Blues Review 4 of 4
Mark Slim Band - Katrina
On first glance, one might wonder why a guitar player from Italy would be moved to dedicate his latest work to the suffering Katrina caused for the people of New Orleans. And do we really need any more songs about that natural disaster?
Fortunately Mark Slim limits his NO references to the title track, which sports a bouncy rhythm that would seem at odds with the subject. The leader's clean guitar lines are a delight while Luca Dell 'Aquila on bass and Marco Manassero on drums lay down a strong backbeat. The final band member is Martino Repetto, who handles the rhythm guitar parts on most tracks and gets a chance to solo on three cuts.
Slim is a serious student of the music, making numerous extensive trips to the U.S.A. to soak up the music and play with as many blues musicians as he could find. His travels have taken him to Memphis, Chicago, New Orleans, St. Louis and the Mississippi delta. He also has spent a lot of time in the Texas cities of Houston and Austin, learning from the likes of Texas Johnny Brown, Big Walter Price and Rich Del Grosso. It is apparent right from the start that Slim learned his lessons well as he nails a tribute to Lightnin' Hopkins on “Back Door Friend”, recreating the blues legend's laid-back electric style.
Another influence is T-Bone Walker and Slim pays homage to him on two instrumental numbers. The title says it all on “Mark Slim Shuffle” as the leader's guitar picking is never forced and void of any rock influences. His rendition of Walker's tune “Hard Way” features another dose of Slim's fluid guitar style. Guitarist Pee Wee Crayton is another of Slim's favorites and his fleet-fingered West Coast style is covered on “Mark Slim Boogie” and “Bop Hop”. Slim credits Son House as an the inspiration for “North-East Blues” but the arrangement featuring slide guitar has more of a classic 50's Chicago-style sound.
The group's cover of Tommy Johnson's “Big Road Blues” retains the country blues flavor over a furious shuffle beat. “Jimmie Vaughan Shuffle” is another obvious tribute with Slim capturing the famous guitar sound of Stevie Ray's older brother. The pace slows on “Hard Time Blues”, a Slim original that laments the monotony of a life without love. The disc closes with a musical celebration of Slim's cousin and her victory over cancer on “Blues for Sabrina”.
The one issue with this recording is Slim's vocal abilities. He has a higher pitched, thin voice that tends to warble a bit. He also struggles a bit to clearly enunciated the lyrics, perhaps due to singing in English rather than his native tongue. His efforts aren't helped by his voice being buried deeper in the mix, which hampers efforts to understand what he is singing at times. The issues are most apparent on “Tell Me, What Have I Done Wrong”, a jazzy tune that features a brief solo from Repetto.
Even with that caveat, there is still plenty of reasons to recommend that you check this one out. Mark Slim is a talented guitarist backed by a solid band playing straight-ahead blues without a hint of rock influences or over-driven guitars. This is one of those recordings that grows on you with repeated listens.!
For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE
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