Issue 5-29 July 22, 2011
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From The Editor's Desk
Hey Blues Fans,
Voting in the 2011 Blues Blast Music Awards continues until August 31. More than 3200 votes have been cast so far!
We drew three weekly prize winners today from those who have voted. Rich Cibelli won 2 tickets to the Blues Blast Music Awards at Buddy Guys Legends on October 27th. Debbie Johnston and Rene Malines both won free Blues Blast T-shirts.
If you haven't voted yet then you are missing out on a chance to win FREE Blues CDs, Blues Blast T-shirts or even tickets to the Blues Blast Music Awards. We are randomly drawing for prizes each week from those who vote in this years Blues Blast Music Awards. So don't miss out! CLICK HERE to vote NOW!
Speaking of tickets, Blues Blast Music Awards tickets are now on sale. The Blues Blast Music Awards are Thursday, October 27th at Buddy Guy's Legends in Chicago. Get your tickets for this great event now, CLICK HERE.
Good Blues To You!
In This Issue
Terry Mullins has our feature interview with Bryan Lee. Bob Kieser has a photo essay of the 2011 Mississippi Valley Blues Festival.
We have five CD reviews for you this week! Mark Thompson reviews a new CD from some of Chicago's best on the second edition of Chicago Blues: A Living History. Steve Jones reviews a CD by Swedish rockers Patrik Jansson Band. Gary Weeks reviews a new CD from Shawn Pittman. John Mitchell reviews a CD from Shar-Baby. Ian McKenzie reviews a CD from Estonia by Andres Roots. All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN!!!
Featured Blues Interview - Bryan Lee
Bryan Lee is no Johnny-come-lately when it comes to laying down authentic blues.
Since landing on Bourbon Street in the early 1980s - where he quickly
established himself as a fixture by playing five nights a week at the
Old Absinthe House for 14 years - the Wisconsin native has been-there,
done-that for so long that nothing can take the man by surprise.
Because even this seasoned veteran of the blues was surely not ready for
what happened just before Independence Day this year.
And as anyone who has seen the “Braille Blues Daddy” do his thing knows, Lee favors to close out his sets with his own take on Little Milton’s version of “The Blues is Alright,” turning the classic tune into a full-blown audience participation bit by having the crowd shout out, ‘hey, hey! The blues is alright!’
“We get the crowd to sing that line a couple of times around and then the band will stop playing and see what happens,” said Lee. “On this night when we quit playing, the crowd kept chanting, ‘hey, hey! The blues is alright.’ So we played some more and quit, and they were chanting still. And then we played some more and they were chanting still. This went on for probably 45 minutes and I thought, ‘this is unbelievable.’ They just simply would not quit. That playing-and-quitting thing is kind of our little trick on the audience, but this crowd sure tricked us.”
If 40,000 people jammed into a stadium shouting, ‘hey, hey! The blues is alright,’ doesn’t make the hair on the back of your neck stand straight up, nothing will.
“It was just this infectious, incredible thing going on. So we finally ended the song and they wouldn’t stop. They just would not stop,” Lee said. “So the promoter tells my wife (and manager Bethany Lee), that we were past curfew, it was like 3 a.m., but he wanted us to do another song because what was happening was just too incredible. So before we played what turned out to be our last song, I told the crowd, ‘as Jesus Christ is my savior, you are the greatest audience I have ever performed for in my life. This is just so overwhelming.’”
Relaying that story a little over two weeks since it took place, Lee still sounds as touched and awestruck as he probably felt standing in the hot Brazilian night, with a wave of love and affection from 40,000 strong washing over him.
But wait, there’s more.
The next night, during Tommy Castro’s set, the assembled masses were still feeling the buzz provided by Lee the previous evening and kept chanting, ‘hey, hey! The blues is alright!’ between songs in Castro’s set.
Not having witnessed what had happened the night before, Castro had no idea what was going on and thought the crowd was requesting him to do the Little Milton song.
“Tommy was asking the guys in his band – ‘do they want us to do this song? I don’t understand this.’ So that was kind of a funny thing on Tommy Castro,” Lee said. “And then on the Sunday of the festival, when we played the smaller stage that held 5,000, they were chanting, ‘hey, hey! The blues is alright’ when we got there. Totally unbelievable. Our T-shirts right now say “Are You Feelin’ It?” but my wife said, ‘when we got our new T-shirts done, we should put “Hey, Hey! The Blues is Alright!” on there. It was like a revival. You just can’t put that into words.”
So enraptured by the Brazilian spirit is he, that Lee has penciled in plans to record an album with native sons The Igor Prado Band in the near future.
“Those guys are so good and have become like my adopted sons,” he said. “And we’re talking about doing an album together next year. But I just gotta do something from down there because the rhythms are just so unique. I would love to take some of my original tunes, along with some traditional tunes and get that rhythm into them. I’d call the album, I Found My Blues in Brazil. I’ve got a tune called “Dear Lady Sunshine” that I wrote back in 1989 that I’m still sitting with. And finally now, with this Brazilian rhythm thing that I’m feeling, I’ll be able to do something with that song.”
That sense of elation in Brazil had to be light-years away from the feeling of desperation and despair that Lee and countless scores of other New Orleans residents had to wallow through in the aftermath of the devastating Hurricane Katrina in August of 2005.
Lee lost his music studio, along with a ton of vintage equipment, when a near seven-foot high wave of hellbent water slammed into the space.
“It was amazing. And at first, I was really bummed out – for about 15 minutes,” said Lee. “And then I said, ‘wait a minute. Thank God that’s all I lost.’ Think about the people that don’t know where their loved ones are. So I got over (the loss of equipment) it in a New York second. I was fortunate and just started praying for everyone.”
Almost six long years later after the wrath of Katrina, New Orleans and the surrounding area is still trying to pick up the pieces and find some sense of normalcy. And while the end of those efforts may be a ways off, Lee says that things are moving in a positive direction.
“I think overall, that the recovery process has gone well. The city has a decent mayor now and the people on the city council now seem to be people that care,” he said. “Our mayor now is coming at things with a positive point of view, where our last mayor was just so negative. But things are coming together now.”
The Katrina recovery process hit a bit of a speed-bump last year when the massive BP oil spill caused more havoc to the good people and places of the Gulf Coast.
But disasters be damned – man-made or otherwise, Lee says the people in his adopted hometown refuse to let anything stand in their way.
“I tell you what; we’re a tough group of people. We just had so much against us and really didn’t get the federal help we needed,” he said. “We’ve got one of the greatest places in the whole, wide world to come to and have fun and if people just give us a chance, they’ll find that New Orleans is still a great place to visit. I don’t think there’s too many cities that could have done what we’ve done in the six years since Katrina. The city was just decimated. It was like a war-torn city.”
A champion of all things New Orleans, Lee has played an amazing 26 Jazz Fests, just missing making it 27 in a row when a scheduling conflict with a European tour this past spring caused him to miss playing the fabled annual event.
In 2007 he managed to perfectly capture the feeling of anguish and helplessness that the hurricane dealt New Orleans on the haunting title track from Katrina Was Her Name (Justin Time Records). That album earned Lee a nomination for Contemporary Blues Album of the Year at the 29th annual Blues Music Awards in 2008.
“That song (“Katrina Was Her Name”) took me a year to write. And when I went into the studio, I still wasn’t sure how I was going to do it,” Lee said. “And then Duke (Robillard) and Brent (Emory Johnson) helped me on it and we ended up doing it the way we did. I had the words and Brent started playing that slide and Duke started throwing those big chords around and I said, ‘that’s it. There it is.’ To get help from your friends is a beautiful thing.”
Another highly-personal track, although one of a completely different nature than “Katrina,” is the title cut off Lee’s latest disc, My Lady Don’t Love My Lady.
“That song’s basically about my wife and my guitar,” he said.
Residual effects from a 1993 accident when Lee fell headfirst down three flights of stairs – and out a window – reared its ugly head 15 years later, forcing him back to the hospital in grave condition, with almost all of his oxygen leaking out of him.
“I had more carbon dioxide in me than oxygen. And when that happens, you’re going to die,” he said. “So the doctors had oxygen on me 24-7 there for awhile.”
However, after a lengthy stay in the hospital, a depleted and exhausted Lee, along with his wife, finally made their way back home to convalesce.
“My first night back at home, sleeping in my own bed again, I woke up a couple of hours after I went to bed. And I got up and quietly went into my music room and picked up one of my guitars. It was like I had to get back in touch with myself. I needed to play it,” said Lee. “I was just playing it lightly and not making any noise. And then my wife woke up and caught me. And she started crying. She said, ‘Bryan, my God, you almost died. Do you realize what I’ve been going through? And there you are, your first night home from the hospital, and you get up and play your guitar in the middle of the night? What is wrong with you? This so hurts me.’ And I tried to tell her it was not meant to hurt her or insult her; it was just something I needed to do. And at one point I just said, ‘you know, my lady just don’t love my lady,’ meaning my wife doesn’t like my guitar. And she said, ‘and you’ll probably write a song about it.’ And I did. But if you listen to the song, the words are good and the words are true. My wife comes first, but I love my guitar, too. She understands better, since she’s my manager now. I just can’t say enough good things about her. She’s done amazing things for my career. She’s really good.”
Although he’s now a free agent, leaving Justin Time Records after recording for the label for almost two decades, Lee’s last pair of releases on the label has been some of the most solid and well-received work of his career.
And both feature stellar guest appearances from stars like Buddy Guy, David Maxwell and a young man who burst upon the scene like a supernova back in 1995 – Kenny Wayne Shepherd.
Lee and Shepherd are more than just casual acquaintances, with their relationship dating back to when Kenny Wayne was a mere 13-years-old.
And of all things, it was a hair metal band that helped bring the two bluesmen together.
“Cinderella had just recorded an album at Studio in the Country was doing a record release party on the riverboat Natchez, which was docked in New Orleans. And they hired my band to play the party,” Lee said. “They sent out invitations to all the rock DJs in the area. Well, Kenny’s dad, “Shotgun” Ken Shepherd was a big DJ out of Shreveport. And Big Ken and his son Kenny came to the album release party. They’d never heard me before, but I mentioned that after the party I was going over to the Absinthe to play and for everyone to come on over. So they (the Shepherds) came over and Big Ken offered me $50 to let his son sit in with me. I said, ‘is your son any good?’ He said, ‘I think he is.’ So I said, ‘you don’t have to give me $50, but your son can play with me during the next set.’ So he started off the set playing with me and the kid played really good. So good that we played the whole set together. Well by that time, the whole club was packed wall-to-wall and outside the street was packed wall-to-wall. So he went on to play the next set with me. We were supposed to quit after that, but we ended up going another half-hour. And that was the beginning of me and Kenny. His dad told me later, ‘Kenny had never played in front of a live audience before and you’re the guy that gave him his first break. We’ll never forget you.’”
That would lead to the two kindred spirits swapping appearances on each other’s albums, with Lee playing a major role in Kenny Wayne’s CD/DVD documentary 10 Days Out – nearly stealing the show with the scorching “Tina Marie,” a hastily-penned song that doesn’t sound that way at all.
“About five days before the filming, I got a call from Big Ken and he said, ‘we need you, man. We’re going to film you and Gatemouth (Brown) over at your Blues Club and I want you to write a new song for it. Don’t use any of your Justin Time stuff, come up with something new,’” said Lee. “I said, ‘dang, you don’t give me much time.’ But I sat down and started thinking about it and I thought about this waitress we had at the club. She wasn’t the best waitress around, but she was a great dancer. And that’s where I got – ‘Tina Marie, work your show for me.’ And that song was the one that really jumped off the album and sold the most. It also crossed over to rock radio for awhile. In the end, it took all of five minutes to write that tune.”
Lee also played on Shepherd’s Live! In Chicago album, a disc that was up for Best Contemporary Blues Album at the 2011 Grammy Awards.
And while that album lost out to Buddy Guy’s Living Proof, Lee will still have a lifetime of memories from the ceremony itself.
“I couldn’t believe that instead of just doing the one Grammy nomination, they did the individual Grammy nominations (for performances from the album). That was so beautiful,” he said. “To be able to walk the red carpet and go through the whole thing – get that medallion and get your picture taken and sign the big book – it’s the real deal. And to think as long as mankind keeps musical records, I’ll be there, is just so overwhelming.”
Since he’s as much a part of New Orleans as red beans and rice, it’s no shock that Lee’s musical style runs the gamut -weaving jazz with blues and country and funk and rock-n-roll – with the end result being something that is distinctly Bryan Lee.
And that mixture of influences over the course of 13 albums is by no means an accident.
“I just love knowledge and I want to be able to do it all,” he said. “I
don’t want to be caught in just one bag. I want to keep learning and
trying different things. I’m a bluesman, but there are a lot of other
cool things out there. I love challenges.”
He decided early on that nothing was going to stop him from playing the blues.
Despite being without eyesight since he was 8-years-old, and despite being raised in the non-bluesy climate of northern Wisconsin, Bryan Lee was bound and determined he was going to play the blues.
“It’s so neat that after all these years, as hard as I’ve worked, to have the respect of my peers,” he said. “It ain’t about the money. It’s about the respect of my peers. I was just young kid that heard the blues and loved it. It was in my gut from an early age and would just not go away. I just can’t help it – it’s in me. I respect this art form and want to help keep it alive.”
Interviewer Terry Mullins is a journalist and former record store owner whose personal taste in music is the sonic equivalent of Attention Deficit Disorder. Works by the Bee Gees, Captain Beefheart, Black Sabbath, Earth, Wind & Fire and Willie Nelson share equal space with Muddy Waters, The Staple Singers and R.L. Burnside in his compact disc collection. He's also been known to spend time hanging out on the street corners of Clarksdale, Mississippi, eating copious amounts of barbecued delicacies while listening to the wonderful sounds of the blues.
For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE
Featured Blues Review 1 of 5
Chicago Blues: A Living History - The (R)evolution Continues
Various Chicago Artists (Buddy Guy, James Cotton, Magic Slim, Ronnie Baker Brooks, Billy Boy Arnold, John Primer, Billy Branch, Lurrie Bell, Carlos Johnson, Kenny "Beady Eyes" Smith, Zora Young, Billy Flynn, Matthew Skoller, Johnny Iguana, Felton Crews and Mike Avery)
Disc 1 – 10 tracks/34:52 , Disc 2 – 13 tracks/53:47
Producer Larry Skoller has gathered together noted members of the Chicago blues community for a second volume that celebrates the music's history over the last seven decades. The first release earned a Grammy nomination in the Traditional Blues Recording category and won a Blues Blast Music Award in 2009 in the same category. The premise is simple – get the leading blues musicians together to play a program of tunes composed by many of the most prolific blues songwriters.
Special guests include Buddy Guy, James Cotton and Magic Slim along with Ronnie Baker Brooks, Zora Young and Mike Avery, a cousin of the late Magic Sam. The other headliners are Billy Boy Arnold, John Primer, Billy Branch, Lurrie Bell and guitarist Carlos Johnson. The backing band is the same as the previous release – Billy Flynn on guitar, Johnny Iguana on piano, Felton Crews on bass and Kenny Smith on drums.
With such an impressive line-up, you would expect plenty of musical fireworks. And that is exactly what you get! The first disc opens with some exquisite guitar work from Flynn in support of Arnold's vocal on “He's a Jelly Roll Baker”. Billy Boy breaks out his harp on “She Don't Love Me That Way”, with Iguana's piano playing driving the arrangement. John Primer channels Muddy Waters on “Canary Bird” with only the rhythm section in support before tearing through “Chicago Bound” with Matthew Skoller on harp. Even better is Primer's spirited vocal on “Reelin' and Rockin'” with Flynn and Iguana providing the instrumental highlights. Lurrie Bell takes the lead on two songs and really shines on Floyd Jones' “Stockyard Blues” with Skoller blowing' some upper register harp licks. Cotton and Branch stage an all-too-brief harp showdown on “Rocket 88” before Branch closes the disc with a version of “Mellow Down Easy” that segues into an energetic rendition of “Bo Diddley” with plenty of dynamic harp work from Branch. Buddy Guy opens the second disc with a taut vocal and plenty of his patented guitar on “First Time I Met the Blues”. Next up is Magic Slim with former band mate Primer lending a hand on “Keep a Drivin'” to capture the leader's forceful style. On “Easy Baby”, Avery proves to be a talented singer while Flynn recreates Magic Sam's classic guitar licks. Arnold delivers another exceptional vocal on “My Daily Wish” before Branch pays tribute to Junior Wells on “Yonder Wall”. Zora Young storms through “Be Careful How You Vote” in memory of her mentor, Sunnyland Slim, with Flynn and Iguana matching her intensity.
Some listeners may not be familiar with guitarist Carlos Johnson but that will change once they hear his impressive covers of “Somebody Loan Me a Dime” and “Ain't Enough Comin' In” . It takes courage to cover songs by two Chicago bluesmen with distinctive styles – Fenton Robinson & Otis Rush – but Johnson sings and plays with a heartfelt passion that will capture your attention. Lurrie Bell pays tribute to his father on “Got to Leave Chi-Town” with Branch on harmonica.
Not to be outdone, Ronnie Baker Brooks covers one of his father's best-known tunes, “Don't Take Advantage of Me” before delivering one of his high-energy performances on “Make These Blues Survive” with a healthy sample of his forceful guitar playing. The disc ends with a bonus track of “The Blues Had a Baby (and They Named It Rock & Roll)”. Arnold, Primer, Branch and Bell share the vocal lead while Primer joins Flynn on guitar. It brings this release to a fitting close.
The packaging is first-rate with plenty of liner notes, wonderful photos and personnel listings as well as individual notes on each song. While some may fear for the future of blues music, this project offers a convincing rebuttal. There are still plenty of musicians around who can keep the music vibrant and meaningful. Make sure you do your part and buy a copy of this stellar release. Highly recommended!
Reviewer Mark Thompson is president of the Crossroads Blues Society in Rockford. IL. He has been listening to music of all kinds for fifty years. The first concert he attended was in Chicago with The Mothers of Invention and Cream. Life has never been the same.
For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE
Featured Blues Review 2 of 5
Patrik Jansson Band - Patrik Jansson Band
Sneaky Foot Records
Patrik Jansson Band is Per Enstedt on bass, Fredrick Hartelius on drums, Henning Axelsson on keys, and the namesake on guitar, vocals and percussion. Hailing from Sweden, these guys play all original music on this CD, which is pretty much blues influenced rock.
The songs are solid, have a good, driving beat and Jansson's vocals are good, too. They open with "That's What I Say", a rocking number that sets the tone well for this album. "Something Special" is one of the slower tracks, and throws down a nice groove that sets up this song well. The instrumental simply entitled "Instrumental" is well done; a bouncing pace and some well done guitar work. Six of the tracks are up-tempo while the other four show us the band's slower side, and they pull that off equally well.
While this is not an an extraordinary album, it shows that this guy and his band can write and play some good original songs and hold their own as a rocking blues band. I'd offer that they should hearken a bit more back to the blues influences they list on their web site to get a more bluesy and less rocking tone and sound. Musically well-done, I look forward to hearing more in the future from these young gents as they grow their blues band side a bit.
Reviewer Steve Jones is secretary 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, he writes for and publishes the bi-monthly newsletter for Crossroads, chairs their music festival and work with their Blues In The Schools program.
For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE
Featured Live Blues Review
2011 Mississippi Valley Blues Festival
July 1-3, 2011
Photos by Bob Kieser
Blues Blast Magazine made it to Davenport, Iowa for the 27th Annual Mississippi Valley Blues Festival. What does it mean when you say the 27th Annual? To this Blues fan it means lots of great memories from all the past festivals we have attended there but it also means they MUST be doing something right to be around that long.
The festival is put on by the Mississippi Valley Blues Society and the one most important things that this Blues society gets right EVERY year is their wonderful selection of a varied, cross section of Blues artists and styles. (Full discolsure - I am a lifetime member and had the pleasure of serving on the board of this great organization for 2 years!) This year was a fine example of how they keep getting it right.
The festival started off on Friday night with Blues guitarist and singer Linsey Alexander on the main Bandshell stage.
It was my first time hearing this great player and I will look for other opportunities to catch him again!
This festival always has 2 stages of great entertainment and starting off the fest on the other "Tent" stage was Chicago Blues legend Jimmy Burns. We have heard Jimmy on several occasions before but this was my first time hearing him play a set solo.
Burns had no problem with stepping it up for a great set all by his lonesome self!
Next up on the Bandshell stage was Eric Gales Band. There was no doubt after Gales struggled for a few years with drugs, addiction and a stint in prison, that this man has a fire storm of music inside him just waiting to bust out.
His fiery set of Blues rock was impressive. He has a new album due to be released next month called Transformation. We can't wait to hear that one!
Meanwhile back on the Tent stage, RJ Mischo was tearing it up with the help of Earl Cate from the Cate Brothers band on guitar.
Next up on the Bandshell was Dwayne Dopsie & The Zydeco Hellraisers. And man did they ever raise hell! Blues fans can't help but get a dancin when a great zydeco artists like this puts such a great groove on!
Paul Rishell and Annie Raines continued the great music on the Tent stage. They make a nice duet and if you have not heard them, it is worth your time to try and see them.
Following Paul and Annie on the Tent stage was a group called "The Way Of The Blues Revue". The group included bandleader Alphonso Sanders on saxophone. Alphonso has finished 2nd twice in the International Blues Challenge solo/duet competition. He was accompanied by a great group of musicians from Mississippi. These guys had a really nice set to finish off the night on the Tent stage.
Meanwhile the headliner act for the night on the Bandshell Stage was Smokin' Joe Kubek with Bnois King. This band fronted by these two great musicians is always a real treat to watch.
Saturdays show started off with a group called Chocolate Thunder. They played a nice mix of soul Blues that was quite enjoyable.
Kevin Burt started of the day on the Tent Stage with a solo acoustic set of his tunes and some great cover tunes.
Next up on the Bandshell stage was the Lionel Young Band. We last saw Lionel when he in February when he and this band won the 2011 International Blues Challenge. He had all the same members with him but we really enjoyed this set more. In the Challenge, there is an unnatural emphasis on original music. On this day it was great to see this band tear up the stage with some of their originals but also show how a fiddle can be used in such classics as Got My Mojo Working and other great cover tunes.
Their ability to use subtlety and dynamics was fully on display and quite impressive! Catch these guys if you get the chance. It is like nothing you have ever heard.
Next up on the Bandshell stage was a 24 year old player named Ryan McGarvey. He played a feisty set of Blues rock that often seemed to sound a bit like Steve Vai or Joe Bonamassa. He is quite an accomplished guitarist!
Meanwhile back on the Tent stage there was a great solo set by Johnny Nicholas.
Following Johnny was a set by Chicago Blues singer Peaches Staten. She wasted no time in winning the crowd over with her great band of Chicago pros like guitarist Mike Wheeler and bassist Larry Williams (both from Big James & The Chicago Playboys)
Peaches has a new CD called Peaches Staten - Live At Legends. You WANT to check this one out!
Back on the Bandshell stage Mississippi Heat showed why they continue to win awards. (They won Best Traditional CD in the 2010 Blues Blast Music Awards for their Delmark release Lets Live It Up.)
The headliner act for the Tent stage on Saturday night was billed as "Koko Taylor Tribute" and featured a number of singers and musicians paying tribute to Koko. The set started off with an introduction by Koko's daughter, Joyce "Cookie" Taylor. The backing band for this tribute featured some great Chicago musicians including Koko's guitarist Shun Kikuta.
It started off with Chicago Blues woman Delores Scott. She sang several tunes often performed by Koko and did a great job showing why she is a perennial favorite at the Chicago Blues Festival.
Following her was a set by Melvia Chick Rogers, another favorite at the Chicago Blues Festival. She is quite a dynamic performer and really got the crowd going.
Next up was east coast native Jackie Scott. Jackie is on a roll as she and her band "The Housewreckers" made the finals of the 2010 International Blues Challenge, won Blues Blast Magazines 2010 Best New Artist's Debut award for her album How Much woman Can You Stand, and has just released her sophomore recording effort called Going To the Westside which features the great Eddie Shaw on sax.
Jackie brought Eddie Shaw with her for this set too and he really got the crowd going too.
The last performer for the Koko Taylor Tribute was another great Chicago vocalist, Nellie "Tiger" Travis. Nellie is a real powerhouse singer and performer and finished off the set in fitting fashion.
Back on the Bandshell stage, the headliner act for Saturday night was multi-award winning artist Joe Lewis Walker.
Joe showed WHY he keeps getting all the attention and awards with a great set that capped off the second day of this great festival.
Sunday the final day of the festival kicked off on the Bandshell stage with a group called the Candymakers.
They were followed by Studebaker John and The Hawks. Studebaker John Grimaldi is a great musician who can sing, play guitar and a mean slide and is also quite accomplished on harmonica.
His set demonstrated why he is nominated for traditional blues Recoding of The Year in this years Blues Blast Music Awards for his latest album, Studebaker John's Maxwell Street Kings' That's The Way You Do.
On the Tent stage Australian native Harper put on a great set that include his unique use of the didgeridoo. He is the only artist we have ever heard that uses this aboriginal instrument for Blues.
Harper was followed on the tent stage by The Paul Snoker Nortet. Each year this festival features one act that strays into the jazz side of the Blues and this one was it. Their set included lots of avant garde or experimental jazz improvisation. It was an interesting break from straight Blues by some VERY talented musicians.
Back on the Bandshell stage, New Yorker, Chris Beard played a smoking set of rockin' Blues. He has often been compared with Hendrix and it is easy to see that influence in his style. But Chris plays REAL Blues and the crowd loved it.
Following the set by Beard, came the great Sherman Robertson. He can really play some explosive Blues guitar and to make things even more interesting he had Shawn Kellerman on second guitar. That was a real guitar lovers treat!
An interesting new band formed by Blues mandolinist Rich Del Grosso and guitarist John Richardson played next on the Tent stage. It was our first chance to hear these guys live and we were not disappointed. Of course how could we be disappointed by such a great mandolonist and the guitar player from Duinna Greenleaf's Blue Mercy Band? (John won the Albert King Award as Best guitarist in the International Blues Challenge a few years ago!)
Del Grosso & Richardson's 2011 release Time Slips By is nominated for Traditional Blues Recording of the Year in the 2011 Blues Blast Music Awards. They played several selection from the CD. Great Stuff guys!
The final act on the Tent stage was soul Bluesman Otis Clay. Otis is a legendary performer and his abilities were on full display as he brought the house down with his powerful set.
The final act of the fest on the Bandshell stage was Mitch Woods & His Rocket 88's. It was an interesting changeup in the fest lineup that the headliner on the last night was NOT a Blues guitar slinger. Mitch is a rockin piano player in the style of Jerry Lee Lewis and it was a great way to end this wonderful event.
We often mention this great fest to others and are surprised when they say they have never attended it. In my humble opinion, this is one of the greatest festivals anywhere. It is always on the weekend of the 4th of July. Check it out next year. You'll see why I say that.For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE
Blues Society News
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Cascade Blues Association - Portland, Oregon
The Cascade Blues Association, in celebration of their 25th anniversary, have released a compilation CD titled Puddletown Blues, Vol.1 that features selections from a dozen blues artists from the state of Oregon, or with ties to the state.
Most of the tracks are from live performances and only one has previously been released before. Artists included in this collection are Billy D & The Hoodoos, Boogie Bone, Duffy Bishop, Fiona Boyes, Hawkeye Herman, Kevin Selfe & The Tornadoes, Lisa Mann & Her Really Good Band, Paul deLay, Robbie Laws, The Strange Tones, Terry Robb, Ty Curtis Band and Woodbrain. This CD can be purchased on-line at www.cascadeblues.org.
Also, watch for our 25th anniversary concert happening on Saturday, September 17th at The Melody Ballroom in Portland, featuring performances by The Robbie Laws Band with special guest from Memphis Brandon Santini, Karen Lovely, The Lloyd Jones Struggle and Chad Rupp & The Ruppshakers.
Mid-Mississippi Muddy Water Blues Society -Quincy IL.
The MMMWBS is now co-hosting the "SMOKE ON THE RIVER BBQ & BLUES FEST" Sept 9th & 10th in Quincy's Kesler Park. A sanctioned KCBS BBQ Contest and Blues Festival, with 2 Bands on Friday (Blue-Eyed Soul and Dave Chastain) , acoustic Blues Saturday afternoon (Rich Berry), and 3 Bands on Sat.nite (BJ Allen & Blue Voodoo, Rockin' Jake, and The Reba Russell Band). Info for the event can be found at quincyblues.com
Topeka Blues Society - Topeka, KS
The Topeka Blues Society and Uncle Bo's Blues bar will be hosting their 3rd Annual Youth Showcase on Sunday, August 7th at Uncle Bo's, 420 E. 6th, Topeka, KS beginning at 1:00pm. Any young person that loves blues, plays an instrument or sings and wants to participate or see others their age play is welcome. The guest artist this year is 2010 International Blues Challenge finalist Sonny Moorman who will host the event, perform some of his songs and answer questions about being in a band.
On Sunday, August 14th the Topeka Blues Society will host their 3rd International Blues Challenge, also at Uncle Bo's Blues Bar. The event begins at 1:00pm and the following acts will perform: Band Competition - Coyote Bill, Ellie Smith and the Commotion, Nick Hern band with Margo Martinez and Where's Joe? Solo/Duo Competition - The Blue Devils and Two Blue.
There will be a silent auction of various blues memorabilia, autographed photos/posters and other items at both events to benefit the Topeka Blues Society. More information is available at www.topekabluessociety.org.
Cincy Blues Society - Cincinnati, OH
Cincy Blues Society presents the Cincy Blues Fest August 5 & 6, 2011. Cincinnati's Sawyer Point Park will be rocking with local and national blues performers. This year, the Budweiser Main Stage features Eden Brent, Big James Montgomery and the Chicago Playboys, Rick Holmstrom, Moreland & Arbuckle, Ben Prestage, and Tad Robinson, as well as Cincy Blues Challenge winners Miss Lissa & Company and Brian Keith Wallen.
Festival admission is $15 per person Friday and $15 per person Saturday (2-day passes will be sold for $25 at the gate on Friday), children 13-18 are only $5 each day, and children 12 and under (with parent/guardian) are free. A full list of performers and scheduled times is available on Cincy Blues Fest's website: http://cincybluesfest.org
Blues Society of the Ozarks - Springfield, MO
The Blues Society of the Ozarks based out of Springfield, Mo is happy to announce the line up for the 15th Annual Greater Ozark Blues Festival to be held at Chesterfield Village in Springfield, Mo September 9 & 10, 2011
We are proud to present on Friday September 9, 2011 Mary Bridget Davies Band, Larry Garner & Lil Ed & the Imperials on Saturday September 10, 2011 the line up includes: Terry Quiett Band, Grand Marques, JP Soars and the Red Hots, Shaun Murphy, and Joe Lewis Walker. For more information and tickets visit our web site at www.greaterozarksbluesfest.com or 417-860-5078
Illinois Central Blues Club - Springfield, IL
The Illinois Central Blues Club presents "Blue Monday" every Monday night for the last 25 years - BLUE MONDAY SHOWS - Held at the Alamo 115 N 5th St, Springfield, IL (217) 523-1455 every Monday 8:30pm $3 cover. July 25 - Bill Evans Birthday Party, August 1 - Lionel Young Band, August 8 - Ben Prestage, August 15 - Bryan Lee, August 22 - Grady Champion, August 29 - RJ Mischo. icbluesclub.org
Featured Blues Review 3 of 5
Shawn Pittman – Edge Of The World
13 tracks; 51.28 minutes
In the liner notes of his latest release Edge Of The World, guitarist/vocalist Shawn Pittman admits his love for records being released in the 50’s and 60’s as little technology was involved to over produce the sounds. So it seems he gets to realize his dream of releasing music that is out of a time capsule of that era. Listening to this music is like listening to sounds of old vinyl recordings.
Pittman is a multi-instrumentalist playing guitar, bass, piano and drums. With Jonathan Doyle handling all the horn arrangements, these guys are the only two people who created this album.
A natural reaction to being exposed to a guitar player with Texas Strat tones is rolling the eyes and thinking you’re going to hear another Stevie Ray Vaughan wannabe. Fear not. Pittman’s guitar playing instantly connects to the T-Bone Walker era with roots reaching to Gatemouth Brown, Johnny Watson and Albert Collins.
Tapping into that lineage certainly gives this a rootsy feel. Pittman makes the sock-hop era come alive but the music is contemporary enough without being relegated to being an old antique on display in a museum.
Speaking of T-Bone Walker before, what a better way to set the stage with Chester Burnett’s “Sugar” as an opening number that swings with Pittman’s Lone Star State guitar styling’s. Sean’s work on the other instruments is not too shabby as is becomes a power-house effect erupting under his smoking fret work.
T-Bone’s ghost is actually all over this old style recording. The dance fever continues in “Leanin Load“ with its two-step shuffle.
Sean seems to revel in music that is under the shuffle umbrella. But it’s something you don’t get tired of due to Pittman’s commanding of the genre. And he commands it well in “Scent of Your Benjamins.” With writing partner Lewis Dickson, Pittman crafts a piece of work that parents and grandparents can enjoy as they most likely lived through that era itself.
Doyle’s tenor & baritone saxophone contributions can’t be ignored. They are there giving a nostalgia feel to “Almost Good” with Pittman attempting to be a Jerry Lee Lewis imitator on piano. And to tell the truth, he does a pretty good job.
Pittman can be criticized for being too authentic and relying on shuffles to much to accentuate his musical points. But this is where people can miss the point. This is about a musician presenting music that feels real, looks good and smells good. There’s no hankering for mainstream radio airplay. Just an honest approach that in itself has become a lost art.
Pittman can play a mean 12 bar blues like the rest of them. Here he fires up “That’s The Thing” with enough bravado to make even Michael Bloomfield blush. The soloing is warm and crisp bearing no pretense.
Sean doesn’t play a lot of slide. When he does, he becomes a junior Elmore James in the short rocker “I’ve Had Enough.” The song’s only weakness is being too short because you want to bask in its rocking vibe for a while. A rocking vibe that continues in “This Time” with Pittman’s drum work being front and center and stomping enough to shake the dust off the beams.
It’s toward the end of the CD where Pittman moves from the shuffles to straight-ahead rockers. Rather then picking up steam, the energy begins to sag as it seems Sean’s trying so hard to please.
Still credit has to be given to Pittman. In an era where over-driven blues-rock seems to exhaust its resources, here is a young man wanting to tap into an essence of the past and bring its finest elements up to date. In this day and age, things like that are hard to pull off..
Review Gary Weeks is based in Marietta, GA.
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Featured Blues Review 4 of 5
Shar-Baby – Shar-Baby’s 11 O’Clock Blues
Digitdoc Records 2011
11 tracks; 46.31 minutes
Sharon Newport’s nickname came early, courtesy of her aunt Rosie Brittain who was dating Little Walter at the time. As well as that connection to the blues, little Sharon came from a musical family, listened to blues and R n' B as she grew up and has been playing blues for over 40 years, yet for many of us, myself included, she is little known. .She has been sparsely recorded over that period until she made an appearance at the Coin Blues Festival in Spain and met the folk at Digitdoc Records in the UK which in turn led to this recording being released. The CD was recorded back home in Birmingham AL with Shar-Baby on vocals and rhythm guitar, Jaydog on drums and Tim Boykin (who also engineered the session) on lead guitar, bass and keyboards. She plays mostly around her local area but has appeared twice in the UK and has plans to come back over again to the UK in 2012.
Although the CD has so few players, the sound is fine. Shar-Baby has a very pleasant voice, expressive without any hint of the raucousness which some female blues singers seem to strive for. All the material on the CD is original, composed by Shar-Baby herself. The one exception is the lyrics to “The Stalker” which come from the pen of her aunt Rosie Brittain.
The material here covers a good range. For instance “Pick In My Pocket” is a fast paced piece about playing the guitar for a living with a real country feel to the guitar solo. “Cause I Love Ya” is a soul ballad, beautifully sung by Shar-Baby and featuring a ringing guitar solo with lots of echo. Another fine ballad is “Remember When” where Sharon’s singing is excellent on a song about her early years in the blues business: “I wish I could be there again, playing all night. Everybody’s having fun, it was out of sight.” Shar-Baby’s rhythm guitar finds a figure that could have been Peter Green’s back in the day and a lovely cascading solo from Tim highlights the middle section of the song. “The Stalker” with its storyline of threatening behavior is more menacing, the basic rhythm embellished by occasional trills from the lead guitar. I felt that a harp would have further added to the sinister feel of this one, but it is still very effective.
There are a couple of familiar titles here, but “Busted” and “I’m Ready” are not the Ray Charles or Muddy Waters songs. “Busted” is a chugging shuffle about finding the evidence of a lover’s infidelity: “Caught in the act, why did you do me like that? Now you’re busted. Only man I ever trusted, now you’re busted”. “I’m Ready” has both Shar-Baby and Tim Boykin cutting loose on their guitars on one of the more strident cuts on the CD. “Alabama Bound” has a nice country blues feel to the playing on a song about getting back to Alabama “where the blues is going down”, a tribute to Sharon’s adopted home of Birmingham.
It’s also nice to hear some touches of humor in the songs. “Red Eyed Snake” is not about the wildlife of Alabama but a warning to the girls to avoid some undesirable guys. Hubert Sumlin’s playing comes to mind when hearing the intro to “Beer And Atmosphere”, a cautionary tale of how having too much of a good time can have dire consequences back home!
It looks as if Shar-Baby has a future in the UK but it would be good to see her name mentioned more often back home in the USA. This CD should enable that to happen with its balanced program of music and clear production. I am now looking forward to seeing her live in the UK next year.
Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK. He also travels to the States most years to see live blues music.
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Featured Blues Review 5 of 5
Andres Roots - Roundabout
12 tracks: 38.45 minutes
The reach of blues music at the start of the 21st century is nothing short of phenomenal. Whilst it is pretty easy to understand how the blues can have a significant presence in English speaking countries, is less clear how those with English as a second or even third language, can even feel the groove, let alone produce original and sometimes stunningly good blues as may be found on this CD.
Estonia, a country in eastern Europe, has its own small but highly skilled bunch of blues musicians. here some of them are joined by a smattering of Scandinavian, British and American artists to produce an album which could happily find a place on the shelves of the most dedicated roots blues collector.
The principal musician on this CD is Andres Roots who comes from Estonia and who is a multiple instrumentalist whose skills range from the one string diddley-bow, through harmonica to drums as well as delivering some tasty slide guitar. He is the composer of all 12 tracks on the CD and is joined by musicians from the USA, Sweden, the United Kingdom and Finland.
The opener, Duck Soup, an instrumental, features Andres on his diddley-bow with a rhythmic accompaniment and is a delightful touch of old timey music. The vocals on a number of tracks are provided by Eric Gebhardt from the USA who has a voice which is probably best described as Tom Waits meets Johnny Cash. Dave Arcari, and hails from Scotland also provides vocals on two of the tracks which come with an equally gravelly vocal style. Jukka Juhola, from Finland, who also wields a cigar box guitar, and goes by the delightful pseudonym, Black River Blues Man, provides a nice vocal on Thru The Valley which comes, believe it or not, with didgeridoo as a supporting instrument. Harmonica ace (third place in the 2009 World Harmonica Festival) Janso Jokelin also a Fin, provides some tasty harp on a number of tracks.
Increasingly finding a worldwide audience, Andres Roots, and his friends have here produced a modern sounding, traditionally based album, showing that the Mississippi delta is much more a state of mind than a geographical concept. Recommended.
Reviewer Ian McKenzie lives in England. He is the editor of Blues In The South (www.bluesinthesouth.com) a monthly flier providing news, reviews, a gig guide and all kinds of other good stuff, for people living and going to gigs along the south coast of England. Ian is also a blues performer (see www.myspace.com/ianmckenzieuk) and has a web cast regular blues radio show on www.phonic.FM in Exeter (Wednesdays: 1pm Eastern/ 12 noon Central, 10am Pacific).
For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE
Not familiar with some of the 2011 nominees?
Hear music by these great artists NOW on WGLT's Blues Blast Awards Listening Site
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Contemporary Blues CD
Traditional Blues CD
Robin Rogers - Back In The Fire
Eddie Turner - Miracles & Demons
John Németh - Name The Day
Damon Fowler - Devil Got His Way
JP Soars - More Bees With Honey
Buddy Guy - Living Proof
Bob Corritore & Friends - Harmonica Blues
Studebaker John's Maxwell Street Kings - That's the Way You Do
Charlie Musselwhite - The Well
Magic Slim - Raising The Bar
Song Of The Year
New Artist Debut Release
Shake Your Boogie (Big Joe Williams)
from Reverend Raven & The Chain Smokin' Altar Boys - Shake Your Boogie
Still the Rain (Dennis Walker/Alan Mirikitani)
from Buddy Guy - Living Proof
Don't Walk Away Run (Chuck Glass)
from Charlie Musselwhite - The Well
Almost A Memory by Wayne Russell
Sugar Prophets - The Sugar Prophets
Chris O'Leary Band - Mr. Used to BeRob Blaine - Big Otis Blues
Vincent Hayes Project - ReclamationMatt Hill - On The Floor
Peter Parcek - Mathematics of Love
Female Blues Artist
Male Blues Artist
|Teeny Tucker||John Németh|
Best Blues Band
Sean Costello Rising Star Award
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