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Thursday, July 17, 2008

Illinois Blues News

Update from our friends to the east:-)

Hey Blues Fans,

Last weekend we traveled all the way to Windsor, Ontario to see Bluesfest International, a great four day Canadian Blues fest. Windsor is a cool city just across the river from Detroit, Michigan and the fest is held on the riverfront with the Detroit skyline as the backdrop.

Lineup included Taj Mahal, Rick Derringer, Woodstock Legend Richie Havens, 2008 Blues Blast Music Award Nominee, John Nemeth, Frank Marino & Mahogany Rush, David Wilcox, Ana Popovic, Eric Sardinas, Larry McCray and much more! There will be a special tribute to Jeff Healey by "Jeff Healey's Blues Band" with special guests Jerome Godboo, Tony Springer & more.

Fest promoter Ted Boomer and his wife Louise really know how to put on a great event. The fest ran as smoothly as clockwork and to make matters even more impressive they were simultaneously holding another second version of the Bluesfest International in London, Ontario. WOW! See Part One of the Bluesfest International show review below.

The 2008 Blues Blast Music Awards are off and rolling! Voting began July 14th and continues until August 31st!

Just like the US presidential election, turnout has been heavy so far. We think it might be because this is one of the only International Blues awards that is voted on by YOU the Blues fans and you do not have to buy anything to vote!

All you have to do to be eligible to vote for your favorite nominee is become (or already be) a Blues Blast magazine subscriber. Of course this is always free! (Current subscribers should enter the email address where they receive their Blues Blast!) CLICK HERE to vote for your favorite nominees.

Not familiar with some of the 2008 nominees?

Be an informed voter! Listen to the music of the nominees BEFORE you vote! Our partner public Radio station WGLT has set up a web page where you can play music samples of the 2008 Blues Blast Music Award nominees. CLICK HERE to hear these great Blues artists NOW! When you get there, click on one of the nominees links to listen.

More Blues Reviews

Bob Kieser reviews Part One of Bluesfest International in Windsor, Ontario. James Walker sends us a review of the Belleville American Music Festival in Belleville, Wisconsin and a review of a new CD by Willie "Big Eyes" Smith. Rob Paullin reviews a CD out of the Netherlands by Martijn Schok Boogie & Blues Band. Chicago editor Lordy reviews a show by Big Ray at the Harlem Avenue Lounge. We also welcome reviewer Tom “The Energizer” Schlesinger who provides a review of a new CD by Everett Smithson Band All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN

Live Blues Review (1 of 2)

“BAMFEST” Belleville American Music Festival - Belleville, Wisconsin - July 11 & 12, 2008

Photos by Susan Walker

At 5’3” tall, Britain’s Jeremy Spencer is proof that dynamite comes in small packages. In an absolute coup for the 3rd annual BAM Fest, Spencer gave a stellar performance, one of only three festival appearances in the US this year. The original slide guitar player for Fleetwood Mac (1967) had all but disappeared musically until his 2006 Blind Pig comeback album, “Precious Little.” Spencer had left the group suddenly in 1971 just before a Los Angeles gig, when a Christian cult called the Children of God took him in. He released a few solo albums in the 1970s to little attention but had always kept playing and writing.

Having just turned 60 on the fourth of July, Spencer played songs mainly from his comeback CD, “Precious Little.” Influenced by Elmore James, Spencer played the sweetest slide guitar with an instantly likeable tone unmatched by anyone. Spencer enjoyed the enthusiasm of the crowd and also quizzed them, looking for knowledgeable fans. “What was the name of Freddie King’s guitar?” No one knew. (Answer: Baby) “Who recorded ‘Double Trouble’?” Many shouted “Otis Rush.” One fan yelled, “But it was Ike Turner on guitar!” When Spencer looked doubtful, the fan added, “Cobra studios, 1958,” to which the entire band broke up laughing.

Backed by a Norwegian four-piece band called, The Vikings, along with stalwart Chicago drummer Marty Binder, Spencer’s cover of Rush's "Double Trouble" was a definite crowd pleaser. A personal favorite was the beautiful “Maria de Santiago,” inspired by a visit to Mexico.

It was 250 miles to get there, but Spencer made it well worth the trip.

Another BAM Festz coup was the rare Midwest appearance of California’s Robben Ford. Many blues fans were disappointed that he did not dig back into albums like “Blue Moon” and mainly played from his latest progressive release “Truth.” Another disappointment was his refusal of photographs, even denying press members the standard courtesy during the first song. That exposed an arrogance that pervaded his entire performance during which he never made eye contact with the audience and chided them for their lack of enthusiasm. Well, when one is playing jazz inflected music, he just might not get blues fans too excited.

Those blues fans got plenty of satisfaction from the booming vocals and deft guitar of Larry McCray. Friday night’s headliners were Wayne Baker Brooks playing “old school blues and new school blues,” Eric Sardinas performing his eye-popping wildman set on electrified dobro, and an unusually energized Sonny Landreth performing in his unique and creative style of slide guitar.

Friday’s music was kicked off by Madison, Wisconsin’s Mud Angels. Killer lead singer Laura England fronted the band whose debut album has strong legs to take the band beyond regional act status. Other regional favorites composed the Jimmy Voegeli Band and The Crashers (on Saturday afternoon) minus Voegeli.

Saturday noon brought area standout vocalist Queenie and the Bluecats followed by Aaron Williams & the Hoodoo showing off fireworks on Hendrix numbers like “Star Spangled Banner.” After The Crashers was young guitar slinger Joel Pingitore & Livin’ Will with an obligatory but proficient version of “Voodoo Chile.”

Located in a beautiful peninsula park surrounded on three sides by water, The Belleville American Music Festival started in 2006 with the idea of a blues festival to raise funds for civic projects in the Village of Belleville. The Village citizen volunteers are the backbone of the show, and it could NOT be done without them - from taking tickets to serving a cold beer and manning booths. Plan now to attend in 2009!

Reviewer James “Skyy Dobro” Walker is a noted Blues writer, DJ and Blues Blast contributor. His weekly radio show “Friends of the Blues” can be heard each Thursday from 4:30 – 6:00pm on WKCC 91.1 FM in Kankakee, IL

17th Annual

Pocono Blues Festival

July 25 - 27, 2008

Big Boulder Ski Area
Lake Harmony, PA

Root Doctor, Teeny Tucker, Lil' Dave Thompson, Joey Gilmore, The Kinsey Report, Sharrie Williams, Michael Burks, Nappy Brown, Kenny Neal, Sugar Pie DeSanto, Jimmy McCracklin, Michael Roach, Johnny Mars, Byther Smith, The Holmes Brothers, Lurrie Bell, Ronnie Baker Brooks, Bobby Rush, Eric Bibb, Geno Delafose

Festival Website Click Here

Blues Society News

Send your Blues Society's BIG news or Press Release to:

Max of 125 words, Text or Word file ONLY.

The West Virginia Blues Society Charleston, W.V.

The West Virginia Blues Society will hold its Second Annual Blues Competition on October 4, 2008 at Christopher's Banquet Center in Fairmont, WV. Blues bands and solo/duo blues acts will compete for cash prizes and WVBS sponsorship to the Blues Foundation's International Blues Challenge held every year in Memphis, Tennessee.

The West Virginia Blues Society will have 18 competition slots filled by regional blues acts from all over West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland and other states. The first-place winner of Blues Competition will receive $750 dollars in cash and WVBS sponsorship to the International Blues Challenge in Memphis in early 2009. The second place winner will receive $200 in cash and third-place winner will receive $100 in cash.

CONTACT PERSON FOR COMPETITION PARTICIPANTS: Complete information, application & rules are available online at . Deadline for application submission is September 1, 2008. For more information contact Competition Director, Jack Rice at 304-389-1438 or e-mail:

Illinois Central Blues Club Springfield, IL

Blue Mondays- Held at the Alamo 115 N 5th St, Springfield, IL (217) 523-1455 every Monday 8:30pm $2 cover - July 21 - The Damon Fowler Group, July 28 - Bill Evans & N Da Groove, August 4 - John Nemeth, August 11 - Steve the Harp Blues Band, August 18 - Springfield Shaky, August 25 - Peter Karp

Riot and his Rhythm Devils

Latest CD Tough Times is available now!


To Purchase this CD CLICK HERE

Streaming Blues Link of the Week

We have said it before and now we are saying it again, public radio station WGLT in Normal, IL has the Best 24/7 Blues music stream on the internet! Great Blues music commercial free anywhere, anytime right from your computer. It is FREE and there is no need to register or sign up! The GLT Blues 24/7 web stream will also be playing songs from the 2008 Blues Blast Music Awards nominees at least twice per hour from 6am to 6pm beginning July 14th, 2008!

CLICK HERE to listen to the GLT 24/7 Blues Music Stream now! Turn your speakers up LOUD!

Check out other great Blues Music Streams Click HERE

Other IMPORTANT News Help Save the music! CLICK HERE to Keep Blues Radio Alive!

The National Debonaires

New Sounds from Kansas City

2008 Blues Blast Music Award Nominee
"Best Blues Song" for Ain't Gonna Happen Again

CLICK HERE to purchases Now!

To read the Blues Blast CD review - CLICK HERE

Featured Blues Review (1 of 3)

Willie “Big Eyes” Smith - Born In Arkansas

Big Eye Records, Inc.

13 songs; 56:35 minutes; Library Quality

Styles: Chicago Blues, Country Blues

Should an “old man” want a young woman or an old woman? Not really that old himself at only 72, Willie “Big Eyes” Smith sings, “I’d rather be an old woman’s sweetheart than a young woman’s fool....An old woman is gonna treat me right...while this young one wanna fight.” Undoubtedly, that’s sage advice found in track 5, “Old Woman Sweetheart!”

Getting smarter while getting older is also evident with Willie choosing to create his own record label for his sixth album; “Born In Arkansas” is on his own, Big Eye Records, Inc. Most well known as Muddy Waters’ drummer on all his Grammy Award albums, Smith had released five previous CDs since 1995 for Blind Pig, Juke Joint, Electro-Fi, and Hightone labels.

For fans of Chicago Blues (and who isn’t), this CD is as good as it gets for contemporary real-deal blues albums. Smith’s choice of musicians for this studio production is simply stellar. Start with guitarist Billy Flynn, a musician’s musician proven by his first-call status for studio work and backing live concerts (e.g. Jody Williams). Second guitar is performed by “Little Frank” Krakowski who has played with Willie since his teenage years. Next, on piano and his Farfisa organ, Charles “Barrelhouse Chuck” Goering brings his extensive knowledge gained as an understudy of Sunnyland Slim, Little Brother Montgomery, and Pinetop Perkins. Consummate veteran bassist Bob Stroger holds down half of the engine room while Willie Smith passes the sweaty drum work to the younger generation, his own hard working son, Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith. That leaves Willie to masterfully play diatonic and chromatic harmonicas, sing all vocals in his likeable, wearied voice, write all the songs, and produce the album, too, dedicated to his mother Lizzie Mae Smith.

Among the many highlights are the Elmore James inspired slide guitar on “Sitting Here Drinkin,’” Willie’s beautiful chromatic harp on the slow instrumental “Dreamin,’” Willie singing biographical lyrics on the title track (“The blues had a baby/that’s where I come from”), Willie’s sensible advice on the socially conscious “World in An Uproar,” Billy Flynn’s mandolin on “Ain’t That A Shame,” the simple arrangement of the low-down country blues “Overcoat Mama,” and the up tempo shuffle “Believe Me.”

If all you know about Willie “Big Eyes” Smith is that he was Muddy’s drummer, then you are in for a real treat. With an outstanding cast in support, Smith proves himself entertainingly proficient in many dimensions on this CD. He’s not likely to get any better than this until he gets to heaven.

Reviewer James “Skyy Dobro” Walker is a noted Blues writer, DJ and Blues Blast contributor. His weekly radio show “Friends of the Blues” can be heard each Thursday from 4:30 – 6:00pm on WKCC 91.1 FM in Kankakee, IL

For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE.

Featured Blues Review (2 of 3)

Martijn Schok Boogie & Blues Band - Let the Four Winds Blow

If you’ve seen those Amstel Light commercials on television, you probably already know that Amsterdam is a dam good city, at least according to the Amstel people--and many others around the world. Now, thanks to the Martijn Schok Boogie and Blues Band, we are learning that Amsterdam is the home of some dam good piano boogie as well.

The Netherlands-based band, featuring leader and piano player Martijn Schok, vocalist Greta Holtrop, sax and flute player—and recording engineer—Rinus Groeneveld, drummer Maarten Kruijsijk, and stand-up bassist Sergei Shapko—who hand-crafted his own instrument, is just out with its latest release, Let the Four Winds Blow.

The 34-year old Schok is educated as a lawyer but earlier in life got addicted to piano boogie at the age of 15 in his hometown in the Netherlands. He’s been expanding his boogie credentials ever since. He and various bandmates—including Little Willie Littlefield--have played all the major European boogie venues in addition to gracing stages in New Orleans and Newport, among other major cities in the USA. Now he sponsors his own annual boogie festival in Amsterdam.

Here’s what we found on Let the Four Winds Blow:

The disk kicks off with “Roll ‘em Pete,” a high energy instrumental featuring Schok on the keys and Groeneveld on the saxophone. We get our first taste of the Billie Holiday-sounding Greta Holtrop on back-to-back Fats Domino classics, the title cut “Let the Four Winds Blow” and “Walking,” both of which will take you straight to Bourbon Street.

An unattributed whistling solo leads into the Professor Longhair standard, “Go To the Mardi Gras,” followed by the soulful-sounding blues tear-jerker, “Cry me a River.” The tempo then swings up nicely with “Has Anyone Seen Corrine,” a song that will remind most listeners so much of Scott Joplin that they’ll think it’s from the soundtrack of “The Sting.” Then comes the highly danceable “Swanee River Boogie,” a solid update of the Stephens Colliins Foster rendition of the original southern classic.

Some people left their hearts in San Francisco. I left my wife in Kansas City, but I still like Greta’s interpretation of the Little Willie Littlefield classic. I’ll bet she got some tips for her version of “Kansas City” from the master himself, who now calls Amsterdam home.

Most people have long forgotten that Hank Williams was anything but a country crooner, but his early hit, “Jambalaya,” lives on as a Cajun Louisiana classic, and now it’s well on it’s way to being a Dutch master thanks to the next cut on the disk.

Greta strikes up her voice again with “Women Be Wise,” a warning to all you ladies not to brag too much on your man to the girls. Following, the listener will pass “Go” and head straight to boogie heaven with the instrumental, “Texas Stomp.” Then comes the Harlem-sounding jazz/blues standard”I Gotta Right to Sing the Blues,” again featuring the voice of Holtrop. Then there’s the familiar-sounding “Flip, Flop and Fly,” a high energy ode to feeling good.

Greta takes the rest of the disk off as we gear up for four straight instruments, starting with the New Orleans piano blues instrumental “Yancey Special,” a song that begs for a Fats Domino vocal. The first of two originals, “For Mr. Walker”—whomever he may be—flows from the pens and instruments of co-writers and bandmates Schok and Groeneveld. “Doin’ It,” another Professor Longhair contribution, leads to the Schok original instrumental, “The Boogie Runner,” a piano boogie blow torch of a song to wrap up the disk.

If you’re a piano boogie fan, this one will wash down well with just about any adult beverage, so, two Amstel Lights up for Let the Four Winds Blow.

Reviewed By Rob Paullin

Blues Link of the Week

WGLT's 2008 Blues Blast Music Awards Listening site

We are proud to have public radio station WGLT in Normal, IL as our partner for the 2008 BBMA's. They have set up a website so you can listen to the music of all 40 the 2008 nominees. They have put together a short montage of the music of each artist so that fans can hear the nominees BEFORE they vote! CLICK HERE to check it out now!

Check out other great Blues Music Streams Click HERE

Other IMPORTANT News Help Save the music! CLICK HERE to Keep Blues Radio Alive!

Willie Big Eyes Smith

New CD

Born In Arkansas

CLICK HERE to Purchase this CD

4th Annual
Boxcar of Blues

Knuckleheads Blues Bar

2700 Rochester St Kansas City, MO

August 15
Sean Carney, Joe Moss & Trampled Under Foot & more TBA

August 16
Billy Gibson band, Mike Zito,
Charliehorse & Steamboat Willie & the Smoothi Kings

Featured Blues Review (3 of 3)

Everett Smithson Band - Mad Dog

Simmontree Records

By Tom “The Energizer” Schlesinger

This C.D. is Great! I figured I would pick out my favorite three songs and write about them. After seven to eight listens, I wanted to write about every one of them. I can not say enough about this, their third C.D. Every song is done very well, no, wait, how 'bout exceptionally well.

I did finally pick a favorite though, a rocking cover song by R. Penniman, “Long Tall Sally.” Kathleen Smithson (vocals, accordion, and washboard) has a Brenda Lee kind of a voice, sexy with a down home kind of charm, but with attitude. She really belts it out when she wants to and makes this older cover song sound like it’s her own. This song has three leads in it that were done very tastefully.

This is a very strong Minnesota band with the powerful Jimmie Vaughn style of lead guitar by Phil Schmid. That knocked my out! Barrel house piano by Bruce McCabe would make Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis proud, and even Bill Black on stand up bass got his fingers going on a lead part in “Long Tall Sally.” Jeremy Johnson’s drum rhythms made it good dance music; I could not sit still.

"Give Me the Right," track six, is a slow ballad by Wise Blagman that will make you want to slow dance with your sweetie. "Kingsnake" has Kathleen banging on the accordion in Zydeco style.

Evertt takes credit for three of these songs to be his own. When he sings, you think Howlin’ Wolf or Omar Dykes is in the house. He is also a very good harp player.

This album does everything from rocking blues to great dance music - fast and slow, dynamite harp, some rock and roll 50s style guitar, Zydeco, and there’s even a funky tune that made me think the next C.D. in my changer came on by accident.

I highly recommend this C.D. You will really get your money's worth. Great Job to the Everett Smithson Band!

Reviewer Tom “The Energizer” Schlesinger is a long time blues fan and veteran of many a Blues Cruise and Blues Festival.

The Code Blue Band

Tight at Midnight

Intensely energetic R&B, funk, and rockin' Blues

CLICK HERE to buy the CD

Live Blues Review (2 of 2)

Bluesfest International - Windsor, Ontario Part One July 10th - 11th, 2008

Day 1 - Thursday July 10th, 2008

We did not know what to expect when we left for Canada. Would it be a hassle to cross the border? What kind of city is Windsor, Ontario?

Let me tell you now that the trip was well worth it. The 14th Annual Bluesfest International was really a great show. We travel to a good number of Blues Fests but at this one we found great people, great music and a great city.

We wondered about the trip through Canadian customs. The car was loaded to the gills with our luggage, our booth tent, tables, chairs, coolers and more. But no worries, after a couple of questions from the Canadian Mounties we were on our way. Although passports are not required till next year it was a breeze getting through by showing our passport. So we wandered off to find we were staying at a great hotel where the folks from Bluesfest International had a little goodie bag waiting for us. Thanks for the hospitality Ted and Louise!

We dropped off our suitcases and headed down to the riverfront to set up our booth. The fest is held on the riverfront just across the bridge from Detroit. The Detroit skyline is the backdrop for this cool fest. (See photo above) The fest staff helped us unload and set up our tent. COOL! Now all we had to do was wait till the show started.

The Thursday lineup featured The Rust Wright band to kick things off for this four day fest. It was a perfect day and Rusty & Laurie kick started the show off by showing how real Blues is done!

After Rusty got the crowd warmed up a group called Pazman's Super session took the stage. Mark Pasman is a well know entity in the Detroit area and he brought along special guest Thornetta Davis who really sang the Blues.

Next up was 2008 BBMA nominee John Nemeth. John kicked it up a notch with his great singing and harp playing. The crowd responded enthusiastically and there was a long line at the artist CD booth where he signed autographs for the fans!

Thursday headliner was Taj Mahal. Taj did a great set and even did a song off of our favorite Grammy award winning CD, Senior Blues. So ended the first day of the Fest!

Day 2 - Friday July 11th, 2008

After a GREAT first day at Bluesfest International we were looking forward to round two. Friday's line up leaned toward the Blues rock direction but it was some great stuff to hear. It started of with Detroit Bluesman Motor City Josh. He put on a great set and got the crowd warmed up for the rockier music that followed.

Next up was Woodstock legend Richie Havens. This was our first time to see Richie and he looked remarkably vibrant and played a great set to an enthusiastic audience. Playing both solo and with a cello and guitar backup he played all his great hits including the immortal favorite, Motherless Child.

After Richie Havens the Fest turned sharply toward the rock side with Frank Marino and Mahogany Rush. The band played all their great hits and the boisterous crowd partied on with a live light show created by using overhead projectors, some clear glass plates, colored liquid and air bubbles. Made us remember some psychedelic times back in the early 70's. Holy Flashback!

The headliner for Friday night was rock and roll legend Rick Derringer. OK so they say that Blues had a baby and it name was Rock and Roll and you can really hear all the Blues influences in Rick's great guitar work. And of course we got to hear the Rock anthem "Rock & Roll Hoochie Coo" to cap of another great night of music.

Wow lots of great music! But this fest was just getting started. Stay tuned next week for Part Two of our coverage of this Great Canadian Blues fest.

Reviewed by Bob Kieser

Chicago Blues Update

Live Blues reviews by Chicago Blues editor Lordy

Blues Beat: Chicago (Photos by August Lord)

Big Ray & Chicago’s Most Wanted at the Harlem Avenue Lounge

On the ride to Harlem Avenue Lounge, I was listening to an old Fenton Robinson tune, thinking Big Ray would sing this well. I always look forward to the way live blues gets you tapping and swaying, but there are a handful of shows, like Big Ray & Chicago’s Most Wanted, that will feature outstanding vocals. Guitarist Mike Wheeler was already tuned up and waiting. As I claim my seat near the stage and see Mike, I tell myself that with just Ray and Michael would be a great show by themselves. Michael Wheeler also belongs to the exceptional vocal club. Melvin “Pookie” Styx the drummer, and Big Ray arrive and then it becomes clear that the scheduled bass player was not going to make it. What do you do in Chicago when you need a top-rate blues bass player? Well if you want to wait until the third set, you can count on one being in the house. In this case, a push of a cell’s speed dial button summoned Larry Williams to the scene.

The first two songs were done while the bassist was in route. Big Ray announced that it was like old days with two old Black guys sitting on a porch bluesin’. Well there were three Black guys on stage and they were all considerably younger than I am. I assured patrons near me that if anyone could pull this off, it would be this trio of professionals. Larry Williams showed up, set up and stepped in mid-song. Now we have four young Black guys and no old porch would have lasted too long with the energy these guys brought.

Did I mention that Larry Williams can sing as well? Papa Was a Rolling Stone featured all three vocal parts. Sweet! If you stayed in watching TV you missed other great renditions such as Bill Wither’s Use Me Up, a medley of Louie, Louie, Louie and its musical cousin Cold Shot. Michael Wheeler resurrected Jimi to the delight of the crowd. Bassist Larry William’s contagious enthusiasm layered with his outstanding bass chops had me thinking 7/11 was a very lucky night indeed to catch some live Chicago blues.

As you know I am not a professional photographer, but I do try to take pictures that will at least make you regret that you stayed in and watched TV. On this night however, I would miss many potentially good pictures because I was sitting there with a stupid smile on my face enjoying the sounds. They scrambled my senses as I picked up the camera muttering “Listen to this!” as I flashed the stage (with the camera). The things I don’t do to enlighten you people!

CLICK HERE to visit Lordy's website at

To see a Chicago Area list of upcoming events CLICK HERE

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