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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Illinois Blues Blast

Cover photo by Marilyn Stringer © 2012 MJStringerPhoto.com

Links to more great content on our website:  Reviews    Links   Photos    Videos     Blues Radio     Blues Shows    Advertise for FREE!     Past Issues

 In This Issue
We have the latest in Blues Society news from around the globe. Terry Mullins has our feature interview with Blues Blast Music Award winners, Trampled Under Foot. Marilyn Stringer has photos and commentary from the Big Easy Music Festival.
We have six music reviews for you! John Mitchell reviews the new Michael Burks album.  Ian McKenzie reviews a new release from Ms Dee. Jim Kanavy reviews a new release from Grady Champion. Sheila Skilling reviews a new album from Zac Harmon.  Mark Thompson reviews a new CD from Jeff Strahan. Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony reviews a new release from Alex Jenkins & The Bombers. All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN!!!


 Featured Blues Interview - Trampled Under Foot
No disrespect intended towards the Royals or the Chiefs, but neither squad can lay claim to the title of Kansas City's hottest team.
Where the Royals managed to limp to yet another sub-.500 finish in MLB's American League Central division and the Chiefs opened up their 2012 NFL campaign with four bad losses in the first five games of the season, there is one team in Kansas City that has managed to hit the mark of consistency, remaining at the top of their game every time they step into the arena.
For the team of Danielle, Kris and Nick Schnebelen -better known as Trampled Under Foot (TUF), it's hard to imagine things going much better than what they are right now.
The hard-charging trio of siblings racked up the 2012 Best Blues Band award at the 16th annual Pitch Music Awards and then added more bling to their trophy case by recently notching their second straight Blues Blast Music award for Band of the Year. TUF also took home the Sean Costello Rising Star Award from last year’s Blues Blast Music Awards.
Not too shabby, especially when considering the competition, along with the fact that TUF has been together as a fully-functioning unit for less than a decade.
“Oh, man – we were so completely honored to be just considered for a (Blues Blast Award) nomination, let alone to come away as a winner, especially with so many other amazing artists in the field,” TUF guitarist and vocalist Nick Schnebelen said recently. “To win such an award once – let alone twice – is so important to us. It really means a lot.”
With a band name that also shares the title of a thick, muscular tune off Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti album, one wouldn’t expect Trampled Under Foot to play things strictly by verses written into the Blues Bible.
And they don’t.
Comprised of bass (Danielle), guitar (Nick) and drums (Kris), TUF is a power trio that owes equals amounts to the affore-mentioned Zeppelin and Cream as it does to Muddy Waters and Robert Johnson.
Along with some greasy soul and some nasty funk, to boot.
That blend of styles seems to be what just what Nick has envisioned for the band.
“We don’t feel like we need to preserve it (blues), per-say. We want to open it up to more people. Sitting down and building a museum with a turnstile doesn’t always get the job done,” he said. “Sometimes you have to go out and go up and down the aisles and spread the music. People will say that they didn’t know that they liked the blues until they heard us and that really makes me happy. I think the blues platform right now is where rock-n-roll should have gone had it not taken such a sharp left turn at some point back in time.”
Another factor that sets TUF apart from a number of other blues bands is the composition of the group itself. While the exception of Homemade Jamz comes quickly to mind, there’s really not a whole lot of other groups playing the blues that are made up entirely of blood brothers and sisters.
For Trampled Under Foot, the decision to work together as a family unit was one that all the members of the group viewed as too good an opportunity to pass up.
“It was definitely by choice. I was living in Philadelphia playing a lot of different styles of music – funk, jam and blues – and my brother Kris really hadn’t played with too many bands, but my sister Danielle had made a name for herself throughout Kansas City and the Midwest,” Nick said. “At that time, my band was kind of winding down and we all got on the phone and decided it was time to start playing together. And it took us about a year-and-a-half or so to wrap up all our different bands and start working on Trampled Under Foot.”
The egos that normally frolic freely in a band environment can sometimes be too much for some musicians to handle, but when you mix in the family dynamic as well – especially between brothers and sisters –that can create an entirely new and deadly minefield for a band to navigate its way through.
However, according to Nick, that’s not the case for TUF.
“Well, for most bands, it’s quite a challenge; but for us, not so much. We just get along so well and we also see eye-to-eye musically,” he said. “We all had careers in the past before we started playing together, so coming together more as adults really helps in a family band. Coming together in our mid-20s really helped galvanize us as artists and as a unit. We understand that we have something that we should really work hard for and stick with.”
Trampled Under Foot really hit the radar screen of most blues fans by taking top honors at the 2008 International Blues Challenge (IBC) in Memphis.
A couple of years before their life-changing trip to Memphis, the group had already started to carve out a name for itself all around the heartland of the country by playing almost anywhere that a stage could be found. And although they may not have fully been aware of it in the early days of the band, all this roadwork was going to pay off in Spades once they hit Beale Street.
“That (winning the IBC) changed things incredibly for us. It really put us on a whole new platform. We were doing great as a band on our own and thought we’d just go down to Memphis, make some noise, rattle some cages and maybe get some festival work out of it – just build our name a little bit,” Nick said. “But as the week was going, we started hearing all kinds of good stuff on the street about our performances and the buzz we were creating.”
Just like with any kind of competition – whether on the football field or on the bandstand – a good game plan is an indispensable component for a successful outcome.
“Well, we played it pretty smart. They have all kinds of rules – most are loose – but some are really important that you have to watch. The times (performance times are clocked) have to be under time and it really helps your scorecard if you play original music. And that’s basically the two main points,” said Nick. “So we did that. We planned our set (for the IBC) and worked it into the shows we were playing leading up to us going to Memphis. We had our set down. I did a song, Danielle did a song and then Danielle did a ballad. Just like that -1-2-3. So we had the timing down perfectly. It was funny, but in the finals we came in at like two seconds from being over. Some of the people must have been thinking, ‘Oh, my gosh they’re going to go over.’ But we cut it off right at the end. Bam! So we didn’t lose any points and we ended up winning the hearts of the judges.”
Not only did Trampled Under Foot come out in first place during the band competition, Nick Schnebelen also walked away with the Albert King Award, annually given to the most promising guitarist at the International Blues Challenge.
“My approach to that was to send a clear message from the instrument. Just play with your heart and make your musical statement a poignant one,” he said.
Consider that message sent and received.
The Schnebelen crew is currently hard at work on the follow-up to last year’s Wrong Side of the Blues (Vizztone).
“Things are going great for it- I’ve been doing some song-writing and it will be our second record with Tony (Braunagel) producing,” said Nick. “We’re doing it in L.A. at Studio City and Johnny Lee Schell (Phantom Blues Band, Bonnie Raitt) will be the engineer.”
“Tony’s really got great insights from so many years of touring and playing. He’s had a lot of projects over the years to learn from, so he definitely comes with a lot of intelligence and experience. So on that front; it’s really cool to work with a pro that’s been around the block.”
As would be expected of a band borne during the great internet revolution, Trampled Under Foot has eagerly embraced the wealth of new technology that has become something of a major equalizer for all musical groups – giving bands a venue to get their message out to the public in ways they could not have 20 years ago, even if they were signed to a major label.
“The internet has made the music industry wider and bigger in general. And that helps to bring more people to our attention and it brings our music to the attention of more people,” Nick said. “Basically, music has always been a technology-driven art form. It’s always been moving in that direction and I think it’s our responsibility as artists to use that to keep up with the times, so-to-speak.”
Fans that may not have had the opportunity to catch Trampled Under Foot on the road can now see a sampling of what all the buzz is about, thanks to the TUF Web site (www.tufkc.com) and The Sound Check Sessions.
Filmed in rich, vibrant detail before TUF’s show at the Iridium in New York City, The Sound Check Sessions is a sparkling primer for those not familiar with the band’s work, yet it also offers die-hard fans of Trampled Under Foot a chance to glimpse the group playing a show right before a show, in a razor-sharp, but also loose and relaxed manner.
“That was our manager’s idea. He wanted to create some videos for us, so he arranged for this wonderful guy (Martin Halo) to come down and spend some time with us during our sound-check. I thought it was a great idea,” Nick said. “So we were waiting for the doors to open – just kind of hanging out – so we decided why not put a little performance together and do a quick interview? It was a neat idea.”
Kansas City has long been heralded as one of the most important spots on the face of the earth for the birth, evolution and continued development of jazz music. With artists such as Count Basie, Charlie Parker and Pat Metheny all calling Kansas City home, the city’s claim to a jazz Mecca is undisputable.
But the blues also have long and deep inroads through Kansas City, as artists like Big Joe Turner, Little Hatch and Pete Johnson’s presence in the city can attest to.
“Kansas City is a pretty small, large town in the Midwest. With the rich music scene in general here, it attracts a lot of musicians from all over the Midwest,” said Nick. “These days, there’s a lot of younger blues bands coming up in the city. When we were young and coming up, we got to hang out with Little Hatch and Lawrence Wright – the old guys. We were lucky enough as kids to have some of those old guys around to learn from. Not too many people get to do that anymore.”
“The city really is a hidden gem. And as the years go by and I get older, I’m really starting to enjoy Kansas City’s jazz scene. They’ve got some really amazing jazz players to go see around here.”
Even though the Royals and Chiefs have had some disappointing seasons the past couple of years, Kansas City still remains as one great sporting town.
Trampled Under Foot has certainly done its part to keep the Kansas City sports’ flag flying high, including re-working the old Leiber and Stoller standard – “Kansas City” – taking it from the version that Pinetop Perkins regularly used to belt out and turning it into one that fits nicely alongside “We Will Rock You” when blasted over the P.A. at Arrowhead and Kauffman Stadiums.
“The Kansas City soccer team (Sporting Kansas City) came to us and said they wanted us to do the music for their franchise. So we were flattered, of course. And I came up with the idea of using our song “Have a Real Good Time” and then changing up the lyrics to make them about the team,” Nick said. “So we went into the studio and cut that and then they said they also wanted us to do a version of “Kansas City.” So we said, OK, let’s do it. So we made it a little funkier, a little more up-dated from the old, swinging version that everyone knows and has heard.”
At the end of the day, for the Schnebelen kids, it’s always been about the music and about family.
From forming a blues band with their brother and sister, to recording a couple of their dad, Bob’s, songs (“Evil Train” and “It Would be Nice”) on Wrong Side of the Blues, to having their mother, Lisa, sing backup with them, for Danielle, Kris and Nick Schnebelen, it’s all second nature.
And by the way things look, those family and musical roots are not about to keep from spreading anytime soon.
“I have a daughter who’s 5 and she performs with us some – gets up on stage and sits in – and my sister’s son Eli is 2 and he’s already drumming away,” said Nick. “He’s had a long-standing interest in rhythm and even though he’s just 2, he can drum. So it’s inevitable; you can just see the music passing through us and on to them.”
Visit TUF's website at www.tufkc.com
Photos by Bob Kieser © 2012 Blues Blast Magazine
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 Staples 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, Miss., 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 6
Michael Burks – Show Of Strength
12 tracks; 62.04 minutes
The loss of Michael Burks in May was felt right across the blues world. Not only was he playing at the peak of his powers but he was the very definition of the ‘gentle giant’ – monster guitarist on stage, friendly, quiet and thoughtful off stage. This last CD had been recorded just before Michael’s untimely death and now acts as a final chapter in his recorded output, a fourth CD for Alligator and possibly his best.
As on the previous CDs Michael co-produced the CD with label boss Bruce Iglauer. The band is his regular road band: Chuck ‘Popcorn’ Louden on drums, Terrence Grayson on bass and Wayne Sharp on keys, all three contributing background vocals. Scott Dirks plays harp on one track and Roosevelt ‘Mad Hatter’ Purifoy plays keys on three tracks.
The CD makes a spectacular start with the catchy “I Can Always Count On You”. This is not an original tune (written by two members of Texas band Big Mouth) but all the hallmarks of classic MB are here; Michael’s soaring guitar, Wayne’s B3 providing a warm blanket and the rhythm section doing exactly what is needed. Indeed, recent recruit Terrence Grayson’s supple bass is a key ingredient to the track. Lyrically the track can be summed up by what follows the title – “…to let me down”. After just a couple of plays this is now one of my favorite MB tracks!
“Take A Chance On Me Baby” is an original ballad and “Storm Warning”, an up-tempo rocker, comes from Jon Tiven and Jimmy Vivino. 60’s Miami soul men Clarence Reid and Willie Clarke wrote “Can You Read Between The Lines?” and Rick Estrin suggested it to Michael; Rick must have seen that the song would suit Michael’s soulful style beautifully. After that we obviously need some darker stuff and Michael’s own “Cross Eyed Woman” fits the bill perfectly, Michael singing the ‘evil woman’ lyrics over his guitar fills with Wayne’s organ coming across like vintage Deep Purple. “Little Juke Joint” pays homage to Michael’s apprenticeship in the family blues club. The classic blues shuffle is enhanced by Scott Dirk’s harp and Wayne’s piano which support Michael’s tough but fluent guitar throughout.
One of the outstanding covers for me is “24 Hour Blues”, best known from Bobby Bland’s version but Michael makes it his own with a superb rendition. This is one of those slow blues with a tune and lyrics that define the blues – the loneliness, the suffocating sorrow of the narrator who has lost his love, balanced with Michael’s emotive playing and the band’s perfect accompaniment make this a standout cut. “Valley Of Tears”, a song from Chris “Hambone” Cameron, keyboard player with, amongst others, Mississippi Heat follows and is another excellent upbeat cut.
Michael had a particular affinity with slow blues and the longest track on the CD is “Since I Been Loving You” which is not the Zeppelin song but has some common DNA! The extra length allows Michael to really wring every last ounce of emotion from his guitar. “I Want To Get You Back” is a Gary Nicholson/Tom Hambridge tune and is one of the rockier tracks on the album. The ‘get you back’ is not regaining a lost love but gaining revenge and Michael’s guitar sounds sufficiently aggressive to believe him! A complete change of style follows with Michael playing a guitar borrowed from Dave Specter to produce a T-Bone Walker effect on his own shuffle “What Does It Take To Please You?” with Wayne Sharp’s piano adding some boogie feel to the track.
Last but not least is a wonderful take on Charlie Rich’s “Feel Like Going Home”. Perhaps it is hearing this in the knowledge that Michael has left us but his world weary vocals and the sad lyrics bring a chill to the spine: “I tried and I fell and I’m tired and weary. Everything I did was wrong and I feel like going home. Lord I tried to see it through but it was too much for me. And now I’m coming home to you, I feel like going home.” While I am sure that Michael had no idea that his life was about to be cut short the effect of this song and this performance on all of us who loved Michael and his music is amazingly powerful. It is a perfect closer to a great CD and a final chance to hear that soaring guitar one more time.
Now that Michael has passed all that we can hope is that somewhere in the archives there are live recordings that can be issued. As good as Michael was on record, his natural habitat was the stage. Special request: if there is a recording of Michael’s version of “I’ll Play The Blues For You” from the 2011 Blues Cruise, please put it on a live CD!
In the meantime fans of Michael will love this CD and to anyone who has not yet discovered him, this is a great place to start. In my opinion this is definitely one of the best CDs of 2012 and definitely the best of a very strong discography.
Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK. He also travels to the States most years to see live blues music.
For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE


 Featured Blues Review 2 of 6
Mz Dee - Letters From The Bootland
12 Tracks; 59:44
Actually, the full attribution for the artists involved in this one is Mz Dee with the Maurtzio Pugno Organ Trio but even that is sort of inaccurate, because the music comes with some fantastic arrangements, featuring a crack horn section (The Cape Horns) and a girl vocal group (The Sublimes). The Maurtzio Pugno Organ Trio consists of Mr Pugno on guitar and his colleagues, Alberto Marsico keyboards and bass, and Gio Rossi on drums and percussion. The astute among you will have noticed already the frequency of names ending in vowels and will have realised that this is blues from Italy…more evidence of blues as a world-wide phenomenon.
Now anyone who has read my reviews over the years will know I am a sucker for a good horn section and for that reason alone this CD is a delight, but it’s not just the horns, the arrangements are tight and well structured and they set off Mz Dee’s gospel tinged vocals to a tee. Mz Dee (DeJuana Logwood) comes from San Francisco and she independently released her first album "Real Woman, Real Soul" in July 2005. I have not heard that but I gather that it was not straight blues but included Reggae, Funk, Soul, R&B and Jazz.
Here, mostly blues including a terrific version of St Louis Jimmy’s Going Down Slow, and music from the from the song book of the late Etta James (I’d Rather Go Blind), from Billy Preston (That’s The Way God Planned It), Al Kooper (I Love You More Than You Will Ever Know) and the aforementioned James Oden as well as originals from Maurizio Pugno and Mz Dee herself.
Try Sugar Man Sugar Man, a kind of 1930’s big band arrangement with a super Hammond break, or Sticky Situation a song I can hear Ella performing. Finally how about Desire Street, which as the name implies, is a Crescent City styled piece with a seriously funky theme - Anywhere they go is the place to be - a fabulous big band sound that reminds me of the very best of Benny Goodman and or Ellington and comes with riffs like those of Stevie Wonder’s Sir Duke. Outstanding!
This is a terrific effort which deserves a big audience. Strongly recommended
Reviewer Ian McKenzie is English and is the editor of Blues In The South, [http://www.bluesinthesouth.com] a monthly blues information publication. He is the producer/ host of two blues radio shows Blues Before Midnight on KCOR (Kansas City Online Radio: www.kconlineradio.com) Fridays; and Wednesday's Even Worse on Phonic FM (www.phonic.fm) alternate Wednesdays.
For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE


 Live Blues Review - Big Easy Music Festival
The Big Easy Music Festival was another “1st Annual” Festival for me this summer and what a success!! Easy access, perfect weather, small and intimate, great New Orleans style food, a true NOLA festive atmosphere, and great attendance made for a fun day!
Organized by Jay Meduri, owner of the extremely popular San Jose venue Poor House Bistro (PHB), the festival started with breakfast at the PHB and a group parade to the festival. On Dis Stage and Dat Stage the festival showcased Bay area blues and Zydeco talent. There are so many blues musicians residing in the Bay Area that it had to be difficult to choose who to schedule.
The opening band on Dis Stage was San Francisco’s Con Brio (“with vigor” or “spirit”). Their style is soulful, old school & new school, with beautiful vocals by Xandra Corpora and rich tones from the rest of the band. The band includes: Xandra Corpora - Vocals, Guitar; Micah Dubreuil - Organ, Keyboards; Mike Hirsch – Saxophones; Jonathan Kirchner – Bass; and Andrew Laubacher – Drums.
On Dat Stage the Zydeco Flames got the Cajun music started. With a strong blues influence, the band fired up the crowd and got the groove and dancing going. The band included: Lloyd Meadows-Rubboard, vocals, harmonica; Timm Walker-bass, vocals; Bruce Gordon – accordion; William Allums Jr. – drums; and Frank Bohan – guitar.
Back on Dis Stage, the Poor House Bistro All-Stars took over. The PHB is a very popular New Orleans Joint in San Jose, hosting so many local and national bands, jams, and a gathering place for Bay Area Musicians and fans/friends. The PHB All Stars included Kid Andersen (Rick Estrin & The Nightcats) – guitar; Gary Smith – harmonica; Ron Thompson – slide guitar wizard; Sid Morris – keyboards; Paul Revelli – drums; and Dave Chavez - bass.
Beuafunk – a combo of Oakland and New Orleans blues & funk – is always a welcome favorite in the Bay Area. The band includes: Timm Walker-bass; Frank Acosta – guitar; Jim Peterson - sax; William Allums – drums; and Lorenzo Hawkins – keyboards.
The Girls Got Blues is a band formed by singer/guitar/bandleader Lara Price. Lara told me that she is always looking for great blues women and wants to continue to bring them together and showcase the female talent that doesn’t always get heard or the exposure they should have. The group this day was extremely talented and the combination was pure blues. The band included: Lara Price, Annie Sampson, and Pam Hawkins – vocals; Dolly Rappaport – funky sax and additional vocals; Laura Chavez (Candye Kane Band) – bass; Sweet Nectar – backup vocals, Jan Martinelli – bass; Pamela Charles Arthur –keyboards; and Robin Roth – drums.
Back on the Dis Stage, John Nemeth, another Bay Area favorite, belted out the blues with his high energy band. We love John, with or without his suits – he is a true classic. Hi both soulful and retro on vocals and harmonica!! And his guitar player – AC Myles – is equally classic and talented. The band also included: Tommy Folen – bass and Joe Meyer – drums.
I have always thought that Chris Cain could do some magic on Ray Charles when I have seen him zone out on the keyboards. When I saw the lineup included a Ray Charles Tribute, I didn’t know that Chris was part of this band. So when he showed up to play, my thoughts became reality!! And when Chris Cain and Dave Mathews (Santana & Etta James) sat down on the keyboards together, the double dose of reality was off the charts. I found out after the gig that this was their 8th Tribute show and they were having a blast. An entire set of Ray Charles performed by the best of the Bay Area was the highlight of the day!! The band included Tony Lindsay (Santana, Spang-A-Lang) and Glenn Walters (Hoodoo Rhythm Devils & Zazu Pitts) - vocals; DeWayne Pate (Robben Ford) – bass; Desmond Claiborne (Charles Brown) – drums;, and some backup vocals from Lara Price and Pam Hawkins.
 
The last band on Dat stage was Zigaboo Modeliste. This was a rare appearance for “Ziggy” – founding member of the Meters. The band was great and the treat was ours!
The final act of the day was Bay Area’s iconic group Lydia Pense & Cold Blood. (I had just seen them in Oregon and was looking forward to a second appearance within a month). Lydia and the band have been together for over 20 years and have not lost one bit of their energy or Lydia’s gutsy sound (often compared to Janis Joplin and Aretha Franklin). What a great ending to The BIG EASY!! The band includes: Steve Dunne – guitar; Steve Salinas – keyboards; Rich Armstrong – trumpet and percussion; Rob Zuckerman – sax; and Billy Roberts – drums.
Every time someone decides to put on a new festival they never know how it is going to turn out. Well this one was a huge success. And let’s hope that this becomes an annual event and maybe it will even turn into two days!! The Bay Area is packed with huge blues & Zydeco talent, they all know each other, play well together, and the possibilities are endless. So thanks to Jay Meduri & Lara Price (and the Poor House Bistro too) for your inspiration and hard work and to all the sponsors and volunteers for another great festival!! See you next year!!
Photos and comments by Marilyn Stringer © 2012 MJStringerPhoto.com
For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE


 Blues Society News

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The members of the Suncoast Blues Society are proud to join the many sponsors, including the Realize Bradenton organization in sponsoring the first annual Bradenton Blues Festival.
The inaugural fest will be held on Saturday, Dec.1, in downtown Bradenton in the newly redeveloped Riverwalk area along the Manatee River. Gates open at 10 a.m and music starts at 11 a.m. with the Steve Arvey Horn Band. Additional acts include Ben Prestage, Homemade Jamz, Southern Hospitality, Johnny Sansone, Dave "Biscuit" Miller, Kenny Neal and Ruthie Foster.
Tickets are only $25 and can be purchased at the festival website. For more information, please go to : www.suncoastblues.org
MVBS Presents virtuoso guitarist, outstanding vocalist and gifted songwriter Billy Thompson and band on Friday October 12, 2012, at The Muddy Waters (1708 State Street in Bettendorf, Iowa). The show starts at 9:00, admission is $10, only $8 for MVBS members.
Billy’s credits are many, including playing lead guitar for several years with both Little Milton and Larry “Arkansas” Davis as well as stretches with Albert King, Earl King, Elvin Bishop, Chuck Berry, Art Neville and many others. He also did theatrical stints playing lead guitar for the Broadway show Ain’t Nothin’ But The Blues and for Tony Award winning playwright Keith Glover’s “Bluesical,” Thunder Knocking On The Door, which Billy then recorded with award-winning bluesman Keb Mo. His current CD, A Better Man, features members from the bands Little Feat, Robert Cray, Bonnie Raitt and Crosby Stills and Nash.
"You may not of heard of Billy Thompson but I got his newest CD, A Better Man, via Blues Blast Magazine, as Billy’s latest work was nominated for best Contemporary Blues CD this year. Well, let me tell ya, he’s a good one. His songs are laced with poetic lyrics, his vocals both varied and soulful, and his guitar work first-rate. It’s one of the duties of the MVBS to bring blues acts here that otherwise wouldn’t be booked in this area. Especially the good ones. Check him out at reverbnation.com/billythompsonband. Don’t miss this renaissance bluesman at The Muddy Waters on Friday, October 12th, in a show sponsored by the MVBS." --Steve Brundies www.mvbs.org
The River City Blues Society presents John Primer at 7:00 pm Wednesday November. 7th at Goodfellas 1414 N. 8th St. Pekin, Illinois Admission: $7.00 general public or $5.00 for Society Members For more info visit: www.rivercityblues.com or call 309-648-8510
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 8:00pm $3 cover. • 10/15/2012 - Jason Elmore • Oct 22 - James Armstrong •Oct 29 - The Mojo Cats More info available at  icbluesclub.org
Friends of the Blues present 2012 shows:
Thurs, October 11, Sonic Soul, 7 pm, Kankakee Valley Boat Club www.sonicsoul.net
Thurs, Oct 18, Morry Sochat & The Special 20s, 7 pm, Kankakee Valley Boat Club www.special20s.com/
Thur, Nov 1, Steve “The Harp” Blues Band, 7 pm, Moose Lodge in Bradley www.stevetheharpbluesband.com/
Thur, Nov 8, Eddie Turner, 7 pm, Bradley Bourbonnais Sportsmen’s Club www.eddiedevilboy.com/
For more info check out www.facebook.com/friendsoftheblues or contact jawalker4@yahoo.com
The DC Blues Society - Washingon, D.C.
DC Blues Society: Celebrating the Blues for 25 years in DC-MD-VA!
DC Blues Society's Annual Battle of the Bands takes place 7:00 pm - 12:30 AM on Saturday, October 13, 2012 at American Legion Post No. 268, 11225 Fern Street, Wheaton, MD. Plenty of free parking! The winner represents DCBS at the International Blues Challenge and local events like the Annual College Park Blues Festival at Ritchie Coliseum, University of MD in College Park, MD on Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012 and 25th Annual DC Blues Festival in Washington, DC on Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013. This is your chance to support your favorite group and learn more about area bands. A night not to be missed!
Purchase advance tickets online. DCBS Members: $10 advance/$12 door/ Non-members: $13 advance/$15 door. You can also join & renew on-line: www.dcblues.org  or call 301-322-4808
Crossroads Blues Society - Freeport, IL
Vizztone Recording Artist Gina Sicilia and her band will be in the Rockford area on Wednesday, October 17th, in support of Crossroads Blues Society and their Blues in the Schools (BITS) Program. Hailing from Bucks County, Pennsylvania (just north of Philadelphia), Ms. Sicilia is a superb young artist with a huge and expressive voice. With three great CDs under her belt, she is getting noticed in the blues world both in the US and internationally.
She will be conducting an evening show open to the public as part of the BITS effort. Admission to the show is only $5 and is free for students. The show is at the Adriatic Live Music Bar on 321 W. Jefferson. Call 779-537-4006 for more information.
Prairie Crossroads Blues Society - Champaign-Urbana, Illinois
Prairie Crossroads Blues Society of Champaign-Urbana, Illinois will present its 2nd Annual International Blues Challenge on Saturday, October 20th at Memphis on Main, 55 East Main St., Champaign.
Admission is $5 and the doors will open at 3 p.m. Bands will begin competing at 3:45 p.m. We will have food available from Holy Smoke BBQ. Bands taking part in the event will be able to sell their CDs.
The winning band will receive $1000.00 in travel assistance and go on to represent our blues society at the 2013 International Blues Challenge scheduled for January 29-February 2, in Memphis, Tennessee.
Matthew Curry & The Fury will be performing after the event. For more information please visit our web site at www.prairiecrossroadsblues.org
West Virginia Blues Society - Charleston, W.V.
The West Virginia Blues Society will hold its Sixth Annual Blues Competition on October 13, 2012 at The Sound Factory, 812 Kanawha Blvd. Charleston, WV 25301. Blues bands, solo/duo and a Youth Division blues acts will compete for cash prizes and WVBS sponsorship to the Blues Foundation's International Blues Challenge held in Memphis, Tennessee. Jan. 29 - Feb 2 - Jan 2013.
CONTACT PERSON FOR COMPETITION PARTICIPANTS: Complete information, application & rules are available online at www.wvbluessociety.org . Deadline for application submission is September 21, 2012. For more information contact Competition Director, Mike Price at 304-389-5535 or e-mail: utauka@hotmail.com  or Jack Rice at bkravenhawk@gmail.com.
Minnesota Blues Society - St. Paul, MN
The Minnesota Blues Society presents 2012 Minnesota Hall of Fame inductees. MnBS would like to congratulate this years' honorees: Big Walter Smith, "Blues Performer"; James Samuel "Cornbread" Harris, Sr., "Blues Legend"; Dan Schwalbe, "Blues Sideman"; Electric Fetus, "Supportive of the Blues (non-performer)"; Cyn Collins, "West Bank Boogie", "Blues Art and Literature"; Lamont Cranston, "Tiger in your Tank", "Blues Recording"; Will Donicht, "Blues on the Bank", "Blues Song". 2012 Minnesota Hall of Fame event will be held, Sun, Oct 14, Wilebski's Blues Saloon, St. Paul. Mn details to follow @ www.mnbs.org 


  Featured Blues Review 3 of 6
Grady Champion - Shanachie Days
GSM Music Group
17 Tracks; 68:55
Grady Champion is a former boxer who started out in music as a rapper and gradually discovered the blues. In 2010, Grady won the International Blues Challenge and was nominated  for 3 Blues Music Awards this year. His independently produced 1998 disc Goin' Back Home was noticed by Shanachie, a label known for roots and blues reissues. That resulted in Grady recording two albums for the label. Shanachie Days draws tracks from both 1999's Payin' For My Sins and 2001's Two Days Short Of A Week.
This CD shows all facets of Grady Champion’s talent, from his personal, skillful songwriting to his formidable harmonica playing, to his powerful and emotive vocal delivery. The disc opens with barn-burning rocker “Brother, Brother.” It’s got tough, terse chords and fiery guitars with Grady’s raspy tenor turning up the power of his plea. “Let Me Be” is another scorcher with hot guitars, sparkling piano and a deep shuffle groove. There is something for everyone in this collection which is stacked with Soul, Funk, Roots, Rock and Blues. “You Got Some Explaining To Do” has swirls of B3, funky bass, and punchy horns. “Policeman Blues” features a sweet urban soul sound which belies the racial troubles of the lyrics and mistreatment at the hands of over-zealous and violent police officers. “My Rooster Is King” borrows structurally from “Wang Dang Doodle” but unlike its predecessor’s build up in the verse and release in the chorus, “My Rooster Is King” falls a bit short, maintaining a singular tempo and never really reaching a true crescendo of release.
The release of pain is prevalent in the old-style “Roberta.” Its plaintive wail and plodding shuffle make you feel the despair, desire and desolation while Grady pines for Roberta and urges her to come on home. “Troubled Mind” has percolating drums, and howling vocals crying out the blues with lonesome harmonica layered and intertwined with a grating slide guitar screeching and whistling like a storm of confusion in that troubled mind. Grady Champion has been lauded as a harmonica disciple of Sonny Boy Williamson II and while he doesn’t quite live up to Rice Miller’s standards on these early recordings, his playing is enjoyable and enhances many of the songs and takes the focus on a few too. The oddly named “Children Of The Corn” features Grady’s harp and he plays his heart out for the children. I still can’t figure out why a song about kids and guns is titled that way, but stranger things have happened in the blues, like when Grady starts rapping in the middle of “Policeman Blues.” I like blues without the rapping; I’ve always been that way.
This collection is very enjoyable, but with the range of styles on the disc it can seem somewhat unfocused. It is certainly diverse and runs the gamut of blues and Grady Champion’s voice and lyrics sell every song. I haven’t heard Grady’s original Shanachie recordings but I definitely have to track them down now.
Reviewer Jim Kanavy is the greatest guitar player in his house. He has been reviewing albums in his head for 30 years and in print since 2008, and is deeply committed to keeping the blues alive and thriving. For more information visit http://jimkanavy.com.
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 Featured Blues Review 4 of 6
Zac Harmon – Music Is Medicine
11 tracks; 55:40 minutes
Music Is Medicine is Blues with a healthy dose of soul and maybe a shot of Gospel. The new CD contains 11 original tracks. Besides winning the 2004, International Blues Challenge, Zac Harmon has won a Blues Music Award and a number of other notable awards. A Grammy-nominated producer, he also has written and produced for many of the biggest names in music. Zac Harmon has energized and enthralled audiences across the country and is often on the Blues Cruise.
It will come as no big surprise to those who know Harmon’s music that he previously wrote some songs for the O’Jays. Harmon’s vocals are super-smooth and expressive, much like the more recent direction of Robert Cray’s music. Harmon is backed up by the flawless Temptation-esque harmony of his band’s other vocalists. These include Cedric Goodman on vocals and drums, Corey Lacy on vocals and keyboards, and Buthel on Bass. This album also features several guest instrumentalists.
Harmon’s band sounds like they’ve been singing and playing together for decades - and perhaps more importantly, they sound like they’re having fun. The last track on this CD, “Joanna,” serves as a showcase for the considerable talents of Harmon’s band members.
The biggest treat here is Harmon’s guitar work. This Jackson, Mississippi native knows his way around a fret board. His solos are confident, clean and much more Blues-infused than your average guitarist. He’s also not afraid to change up the styles a bit. For example, “I’d Rather Be With You” has a Caribbean feel, while the Gospel vibes are prevalent in “Grandma’s Prayer.”
 “Wounded,” would be the strongest song in this collection featuring other talent from the Urban Eagle LLC label: Sue Ann Carwell, Gregg Wright and BR Million. This song is the “he said/she said” account of a relationship gone wrong. The main line and theme of the song is, “I gave you my heart (or soul), but I didn’t know I would be wounded by you.” The male and female vocalists repeat this line, in turn, with varying degrees of emotion. Meanwhile, the accompaniment very skillfully builds and softens at just the right places. As a result, you not only hear the story, you feel it.
“Blue Pill Thrill.” seems a bit distasteful – in much the same way as one might dislike a song that talks about female problems. But, to each his own.
Harmon reveals his personal faith in several of the songs on this CD, from the edgy “Running From the Devil” to the very sweet “Grandma’s Prayer.” The CD jacket contains a whole page of thank you shout outs with the first thanks going to God, in gratitude for the opportunity to “share his music with the world.”
In “I’m A Healer,” Harmon reveals that he wants to heal the world with his music. I, for one, am convinced that Harmon takes his mission seriously.
Reviewer Sheila Skilling is a self-professed “blues fan by marriage,” who was hooked by her husband’s musical preferences, but reeled in by the live performances of Stevie Ray Vaughan, Buddy Guy and others. She lives in the Minneapolis area.
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 Featured Blues Review 5 of 6
Jeff Strahan - Blue 'Til I Die
Self-released
13 tracks/63:38
It would be hard to argue about Jeff Strahan's commitment to music. After establishing himself as a trial lawyer, Strahan decided to forgo law in favor of a full-time music career. On his seventh recording to see the light of day, he handles the lead vocals, plays the guitar and keyboards in addition to writing all but one song. The sturdy rhythms throughout the disc are supplied by D.C Duncan on drums and John June on bass.
As you might expect from someone steeped in the Texas music tradition, the disc features plenty of boogie and shuffle tunes. The driving beat on “She Only Hates Me” propels Strahan's humorous description of life with a hard-drinking woman. On “U-Turns”, the leader doubles on keyboard and guitar, wringing a stinging solo out of his Stratocaster. Strahan switches to the Hammond organ on “Do Me” as he confesses to some of the mis-steps in his life. Casey Klepfer sits in on harmonica.
The other guest appearance is by the legendary Augie Meyers (Texas Tornados, Sir Douglas Quintet) on his original, “Betty Sue”, a toe-tapping rock & roll number energizes by the leader's slide guitar and Meyer's pumpin' piano licks. The ominous tone on “River' Gonna Rise” recalls Tiny Bradshaw's classic “Train Kept A Rollin' “ with Strahan using a threatening storm as a warning for people to get right with the world. His bone-chilling vocal coupled with a memorable guitar solo make this track a standout. The opener, “Good Outweighs the Bad”, provides the leader with a chance to voice his appreciation for life while filling in the arrangement on the organ.
The high-octane instrumental, “Mayhem”, gives all three band members a chance to stretch out before hitting another high mark on “Sancho”, a cheating song with a twist. Strahan shows he knows his way around a slow blues, creating tension with gritty singing and volatile guitar playing. “Wishin' Bone” is equally strong with a performance that simmers with stark emotions while “Shine Her Up” finds Strahan paying homage to three key parts of his existence – his woman, shotgun and guitar. He also includes a tribute to the sacrifices of the men and women serving our country in the Armed Forces on “Gonna Be Blue”. Strahan gets a chance to demonstrate his skill on piano on “Less is More”, delivering a engrossing solo over June's thick bass line.
While Strahan isn't breaking any new ground, he proves that he knack for creating interest in familiar themes and standard blues progression. He alludes to that point in the final track, which features him discussing the disc. He dedicates the project to his friend, the late guitarist Lil' Dave Thompson, before sharing comments on the tracks and closing with a thank you for supporting his music. It is a sincere moment that gives more insight into Strahan's musical world and serves as a fitting close to a rewarding project that garner more attention for the multi-talented Jeff Stathan.
Reviewer Mark Thompson retired after twelve years as president of the Crossroads Blues Society in Rockford. IL. and moved to Florida. He has been listening to music of all kinds for over fifty years. Favorite musicians include Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Magic Slim, Magic Sam, Charles Mingus and Count Basie.
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 Featured Blues Review 6 of 6
Alex Jenkins & The Bombers - Creepin After Midnight
Self Release
Time-40:17
This Chicago native and cohorts offer juke joint styled blues with a touch of soul, funk and jazz. Alex surely knows his way around Chicago style blues guitar technique. He lays his lead guitar over his own rhythm guitar playing to give the music a firmer foundation. Alex grew up on Chicago’s southwest side where he would peer through the windows of the blues clubs to watch Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy and others. What he lacks in vocal range he more than makes up for with his unbridled enthusiasm and love for the genre. Basically a three piece here with sax by Dennis Lansing on three tracks. All ten songs are band compositions steeped in blues goodness.
“Let’s Stick Together” is a nice jump blues featuring a fine bass solo by Mike Crisp. Chicago hipster cool is displayed on “Look What The Cat Dragged In”, a tale of an old girlfriend returning. The guitar playing on this one “rips her a new one”. The saxes are overdubbed to create a sax section giving things a boost. A boogie with Chuck Berry leanings is the propulsive “Good Bye Baby Blues”. The title tune displays the funkier side of Chicago blues with the always rock-steady rhythm section pulsing things along. A change of pace is offered up in the slow-burning blues of “Over You” wherein Alex squeezes every bit of emotion out of his guitar. Another change of pace is the slow soul-blues “Back In My Arms Again”. The swamp-growl used on “Mojo Woman” is an obvious affectation. Too many blues bands feel a need to perform a “mojo” song seemingly as a way to display their hipness. The music on this one is just fine, but the lyrics have little substance.
All-in-all a solid showing on this recording. Alex has surely been staying up late doing his homework absorbing blues guitar technique. He has the styles down pat and gives them a sharp attack His vocals are adequate for this type of music. The guys of the rhythm section reinforce the grooves throughout. Alex and his brothers Tim and Ben produce modern blues rooted in the foundations of the past.
Reviewer Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony hails from the New Jersey Delta.
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