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The Iowa Blues Showcase is on the AIR
Saturday, May 23, 2009
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Hey Blues Fans,
This week we feature Live Blues show reviews of two great Blues festivals. Bob Kieser sends in a review of the Simply the Blues Fest in Fort Madison , Iowa and Pete Tomaszewski starts a two part review of the Doheny Blues Fest in Dana Point, California.
Mike O'Cull sends us a review of the new John Primer CD. James Walker reviews a new CD from The Insomniacs. Mark Thompson sends us a review of the new J. Hansen CD and a new CD by one-man band Bill Abel. Eric Steiner send a review of Bob Corritore’s "Broadcasting The Blues" CD.
Our Blues video of the week is a clip of British guitar sensation Joanne Shaw Taylor playing the instrumental title track from her new debut CD "White Sugar". All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN!!!
Watseka Theatre Blues, BBQ & Arts Fest
May 30th, 2009 Watseka, IL
Outdoors on The "Quality Blues Fest Stage"
11:00AM The Watseka Wonder Blues Band w/ Jeff McCord
Noon SGT. Kaper's Lonely Hearts Club Blues Band
1:00PM Hounds Tooth
3:00PM Little Johnny Blue Moore
5:00PM Curtis and the Mayfields
6:00PM After Midnight Blues Band
Move indoors to the Theatre Stage at 7:30PM
8:00PM Queenie and the Blue Cats
10:30PM Doug McDonald & the Blue Mirror Band
For tickets and complete info: CLICK HERE
Live Blues Review 1 of 2
Simply The Blues Festival - May 8 & 9, 2009 - Fort Madison Iowa
To see many more fun photos from this great festival CLICK HERE
Last weekends Simply The Blues Festival continued in the tradition a small but might Blues events. In it's sixth year they continue to feature one hell of a lineup. Attendance is always hampered by the fact that the festival is on Mothers Day Weekend but that never stops the dedicated Blues fans who show up for this premier Blues event.
The festival started of on Friday night with another of its famous themes. Every act that played on Friday featured a harmonica player!
The night started off with The Smokin Mojo Kings who played in the "Tent Stage" before the fest kicked off and between every act. They also hosted the after fest jam and the fest hotel on Friday night.
The first act up on the main stage was Pat Hazell.
Pat played solo singing, playing the piano and the harp. He is a Blues legend in the Midwest and true to form he put on one hell of a show.
Next up was a band from Austin, Texas, porterdavis. (Yes that is how they spell their name!) porterdavis is a trio with Daniel Barrett on Guitar and Vocals, Mike Meadows on percussion, and Simon Wallace on Harmonica .
Their music mixes roots rock, jam band and Blues into a very pleasant to listen to sound.
Their drummer has a very un-orthodox style and the crowd was beginning to grow as they got into their set. If you get the chance to catch these guys it is worth it!
The next performer was Grammy Award-winning harmonica virtuoso Sugar Blue.
Not your typical Bluesman, Sugar was born James Whiting and was raised in Harlem, New York.
His harmonica prowess is evident and many say he is the Jimi Hendrix of the harmonica.
He played a great set that clearly showed why he is regarded as one of the best harmonica players alive.
Following Sugar Blue was the legendary Bobby Rush.
Bobby had just driven all night from Memphis the night before where he won another Blues Music award for the best Soul Blues Male Artist of the Year.
Then he left immediately after his show to drive to Shreveport, Lousiana for the Lead Belly Blues Festival the next night.
This is nothing new for Bobby as he has been touring since his youth and is now a spry 76 years old.
If you have never seen Bobby's big show with his band and the dancing girls, put it on your to do list. Bobby is very entertaining.
Bobby dances around on the stage like a man half his age interacting with the crowd, telling jokes and man can this guy play the harmonica!
The show is a bit racy at tims and the girls can really shake their generous booty's in a way that is surely bordering on immoral and illegal. But it is a real hoot!
After a nice after fest jam at the hotel on Friday night we headed back to the fest Saturday for more great Blues.
The Avey Brothers kicked off the show in the "Tent Stage" and performed between acts on Saturday.
They are the 2009 Iowa Blues Champions and they are very solid as a band.
Kicking off the main stage on Saturday was the 2009 International Blues Challenge solo/duet winner, Little Joe Mclerran. Joe and a bass player we so tight they were squeaking. He gave the crowd a clear picture of why he won!
Little Joe plays Piedmont Blues and since the death of John Cephas, may be the heir to the crown of "the best" around. For a guy that is only 24 years old, this guy oozes with talent. Surely another artist you want to make a point to see.
Following Little Joe was the 2009 International Blues Challenge Band winner, JP Soars and the Red Hots.
We were at the IBC finals and I recall turning to my partner and remarking after JP played his set, "If this guy doesn't win, something is WRONG"!
There of course was nothing wrong at all as JP won both the band competition and was selected as the best guitar player, winning the Albert King award too.
The band had a long 90 minute set and it was obvious this guy is a monster guitar and slide player. Usually when a great player does a long set like that it all starts to sound like the same licks about an hour in the set. Not with this guy. He spent many years touring the world with heavy metal guitars bands before he realized his love for the Blues was pulling him toward a new kind of music career.
He can play it all, rock, metal, jazz, swing and the Blues. Catch this guy as soon as you can before he decides to venture off into another genre of music!
Following JP was Blues rocker Shannon Curfman. Shannon started her career with her first major label recording contract at the age of 14. Now at the still young age of 23, Shannon is a very talented singer, songwriter, guitar player and performer.
Quite mature as an artist, she treated the crowd to a great set that ranged from her original Blues and rock tunes as well as some great sing-along cover tunes.
Her new second lead guitar player (John?) had only played a couple gigs with her and they were really solid. Can't wait to see them in a few months or years when they really jell and show their full potential.
The Soul Of John Black was next on the bill and this band from Los Angeles showed why they are such a great band that get lots of recognition. They were nominated by both the Blues Foundation and The Blues Blast Music Awards for best new artist in 2008.
They played a soul Blues set with some kinda jam band vibe thrown in. They played a great set which included some of the songs from their 2008 CD, Good Girl Blues and songs fron the latest release Black John. Look for more from this band in the near future
Promoter Matt Eimer decided to make the theme of Saturdays festival about the 30th anniversary of Michael Frank's Earwig Music.
So the next few artists were form the Earwig label beginning smoking guitarist Scott Ellison.
Scott was a surprise quest and he was not officially on the schedule but he stopped in to play a few songs from his Earwig release, Ice Storm.
Continuing the Earwig theme, Liz Mandville and the Blue Points played a set of music from her latest Earwig CD, Redtop. This Chicago girl has got it going on!
She started out by playing the rub board and singing. She later switched to guitar and showed she can handle that quite well too!
Her CD is really good and she sold quite a few of them and signed many autographs after her set.
Liz was one of the artists who performed on the Blues Train this year too. Simply the Blues Fest worked with Amtrak to provide a train coming from Chicago on Friday that featured Liz and harmonica wizard Dan Beaver performing on the ride to Fort Madison. They also had a train from Kansas City to Fort Madison which featured acoustic Blues artist Rich Berry performing.
After Liz Mandville, Earwig artist Johnny Drummer took the stage. Johnny is a well known Chicago Blues piano and harmonica player and can be heard most nights performing at Lee's Unleaded Blue Club in Chicago.
He was joined onstage by Liz Mandville for a couple songs. Johnny plays a portable guitar like piano and played many of the songs from his latest Earwig CD.
The next act was my personal favorite of the entire festival. Earwig artists Chris James and Patrick Rynn with Bob Corritore sitting in on Harmonica.
They played tune after tune of REAL Blues including many of the songs from their latest CD.
What I liked was the level of real talent. Hard to find a more talented group. Bob Corritore has played with some of the best and this set ranked right up there.
James and Rynn don't get the chance to play with Bob Corritore very often and we are grateful we had the opportunity to see them.
The headliner on Saturday was the final act. Harper is a Blues musician from Australia. He plays harmonica and sings with a great band of Aussies.
He also plays the didgeridoo in his shows too. It is quite an interesting show. But his main talent is much more traditional as he is a great harp player and singer.
All in all the Simply The Blues Fest is one you want to put on your calendar.
Since it is going to remain on Mothers Day weekend, maybe you can make it a family affair and bring Mom too next year!
Review and Photos by Blues Blast editor Bob Kieser
The Rivoli Theatre - Monmouth, IL
CLICK HERE to Purchase Tickets
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Parkville Community Band
The Skip Hawkins Band
Featured Blues Review 1 of 5
John Primer - All Original
Blues House Productions
John Primer began his blues life as a sideman and saw the world playing behind artists like Muddy Waters and Magic Slim and eventually made the transition into being a bandleader and solo artist in his own right. Now, Primer and his guitar are going through another transition, transforming into a truly independent artist who is in control of his own destiny.
His latest release, All Original, is his first effort on his own record label, Blues House Productions, and all 12 songs are Primer compositions. This is something of a dream come true for Primer, judging by the liner notes on the album, and he has plans to put out other artists on Blues House and help expose other blues performers. Primer’s intent is to preserve blues history while producing original music for the future.
Primer’s style is well known in Chicago and beyond and he does not disappoint on this new outing. He is a fine example of the old school Chicago style of blues, not blues/rock, and has one of the best voices and vibes in the business. His playing is always in the pocket and taps into the true rhythmic aspect of the blues and never ventures into post-Hendrix bombast.
The songs shine here, as well. Primer originals like “Going Back To Mississippi” and “Every Day Brings By A Change” show John at the top of his songwriting game. It’s nice to hear an album full of fresh, new cuts rather than a bunch of reworked standards. If the blues is going to survive, it is going to need new songs and more albums like this that put those songs out there.
Primer is one of the best at what he does but, after listening to his newest music, one gets the impression that a whole new part of his career is kicking off and that the really good stuff is just now starting to hit.
Reviewer Mike O'Cull is a noted Chicago music writer and Blues Blast contributor. Visit his MySpace page at:
For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE.
Featured Blues Review 2 of 5
The Insomniacs - At Least I’m Not With You
13 songs; Time 56:14; Reference Quality (especially when paired with their debut)
Styles: West Coast Blues; Swing; Contemporary Blues; Chicago Blues
“At Least I’m Not With You” continues the finger-snapping, foot-tapping energy and fun of The Insomniacs’ 2007 debut, “Left Coast Blues.” While their debut essence is maintained, the scope of their music is broadened in a few songs by studio insertion of harmonica, saxophones, and even pedal steel guitar on one cut. The result is a multiple-generation-spanning winner!
Imagine a conversation between two Blues fans in the year 2020 referring to the first two albums from The Insomniacs.
Ed: “I think it was the arrival of bands like The Insomniacs, The Kilborn Alley Blues Band, and Rick Estrin’s post Little Charlie group. Remember how exciting it was to hear unique guitar solo passages created by The Insomniacs’ young Vyasa Dodson? His guitar riffs were inventive and fresh with bounce and joy, and all his notes were placed judiciously with no extensive, note wasting solos or shredding. Equally imaginative were the trade-off piano and organ leads of Alex Shakeri. Together with Dean Mueller (bass) and Dave Melyan (drums), they created so many catchy musical hooks and turnarounds that it made young people realize what fun Blues could be.”
Utilizing the internet, the band members took a page from the Obama campaign (or maybe vice-versa) by filling long drives between gigs surfing the web on wireless laptops, looking at MySpace and Facebook friends of the clubs down the road, and emailing blues fans inviting them to listen to the band and come to a show. The result is hundreds of plays per day on MySpace, a site usually focused on alternative, pop, and hip-hop music. They've engaged a whole new generation of first-time young blues fans, as well as older ones who recognize the roots of their music.
By finely tuning their songs night after night out on the road over the last two years, “At Least I’m Not With You” was ready, and it recorded in only two days. The Portland, Oregon based band led by 27-year old vocalist/guitarist/songwriter Vyasa Dodson has laid down another vibrant set of mostly original material.
Recorded at Clear Lake Audio in Burbank CA, Jeff Scott Fleenor from Delta Groove co-produced with the band, and they were joined by special guests Al Blake (harmonica), Mitch Kashmar (harmonica), Joel Paterson (pedal steel guitar), and Jeff Turmes (tenor/baritone sax).
The first song my radio co-host, “Shuffle Shoes,” and I played was the last cut, an instrumental titled “Insomniacs Boogie.” We played it first that night to launch our show on an upbeat note. The song epitomizes their music (minus vocals): two fisted piano opens, soon underscored by solid Melyan drum rhythm and Jeff Turmes guesting on tenor sax. At one minute in, Vyasa picks a solo of rapidly progressing notes that eventually adds chords and just keeps building in a purposeful direction. A quick mid-song drum solo, a group shouted “Hey!” and it’s back to the originally stated theme with Mueller matching bass notes with Shakeri on piano walking an intricate bass line with his left hand while pounding out an incendiary melody with his right. Smoking!
Other standouts are a killer slow blues, J.W. Henry’s “Description Blues,” a faithful rendition of Junior Wells’ “Hoodoo Man Blues,” another dance inducing instrumental, “Root Beer Float,” a humorous original “She Can Talk” (her only steady boyfriend is deaf), an instant classic “20/20,” and the swinging title track.
In 2007, I correctly predicted a Blues Music Award nomination of Best New Artist Debut for “Left Coast Blues.” With no hesitation, I’ll go on record right now with predictions of both BMA and Blues Blast Music Award nominations for Best Contemporary Blues Recording. Further, Vyasa Dodson could just end up with the BBMA “Sean Costello Rising Star Award!”
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.
"From fun to funky to soulful ballads and back again" - Blues Blast Magazine
To read the complete review CLICK HERE
Available now at:
Featured Blues Review 3 of 5
Bill Abel - One Man Band
Blue Skunk Music
16 tracks/55 minutes
There have been a few one-man bands scattered throughout the history of blues music. Many listeners may not be familiar with names like Dr. Ross, Joe Hill Louis or Juke Boy Bonner. They worked extensively as a self-contained musical unit, the same path Bill Abel has decided to travel. A Belzoni, Mississippi native, Abel was tutored by bluesman Paul “Wine “ Jones and he has backed T-Model Ford, Big George Brock and other delta musicians.
The focus of this release is squarely on Abel. Recorded live in the studio without any overdubs, he plays an assortment of guitars and a drum set consisting of kick drum, snare and hi hat cymbal. Abel maintains a steady pulse on the set, kicking out a powerful beat. His skill on guitar allows him to pick lead lines and rhythm patterns simultaneously. Mix the two together and you have a high-octane combination of elemental blues music driven by Abel’s raw-edged vocals.
There isn’t anything pretty or gentle about Abel’s music. It is a propulsive force that offers no quarter. His feet pound the drum kit while he tears notes out of his guitar strings. The opening cut, “Barkin’ All Nite”, finds Abel shouting out the lyrics, his voice on the edge of breaking from the effort to be heard over the musical maelstrom he creates. On “Rob and Steal”, a Paul Jones song, Abel dials back the intensity of his singing a bit but the music is a surging force of relentless intensity that suddenly just stops because there’s no where else to go. There are two instrumental tracks that lower the energy level and provide a respite from Abel’s energetic efforts.
Whether it’s a traditional song like “John Henry” or one of Abel’s thirteen originals like “Little Airplane”, the approach doesn’t vary much. Bill shouts out the simple lyrics in his deep, strong voice while his feet and fingers do their best to create the kind of blues music that would keep the dance floor filled all night long in any juke joint in the Mississippi delta.
This music is not for everyone. Some may find it too unrelenting, others too simple. Listening to this recording from start to finish can be an exhausting experience. But Abel’s performance harks back to a time when music was created for dancing, not for another display of instrumental virtuosity. He has mastered the art of creating a groove that rocks so hard that it can bring on a trance-like state of being. This one is made to be played loud – and don’t forget to dance like you mean it!!! Then you will understand the real beauty of Bill Abel’s music.
Reviewer Mark Thompson is president of the Crossroads Blues Society in Rockford. IL
For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE.
4th Annual T-Bone Walker Blues Fest
Pleasant Hill Quilting Group
Featured Blues Review 4 of 5
J. Hansen - Give the Drummer Some
For the past seven years, drummer J. Hansen has been a member of the Nightcats , backing Little Charlie and now Rick Estrin. His current band mates are all here - Estrin on harmonica, Lorenzo Farrell on bass, Kid Andersen on guitar and Bob Welsh on keyboards. With one exception, Hansen wrote all of the tracks and produced the recording. The songs showcase the musical forms that he is passionate about - blues, country and rock & roll. Instead of mixing his influences, Hansen writes in one style for each track. He has a solid voice with plenty of range that easily can handle the demands of his tunes.
“Firecracker” opens the proceedings with a quick burst of rockabilly. Hansen pounds out the beat, while Andersen supplies the first of his dynamic guitar solos. The abrupt ending leads straight into “I’m Takin’ Out My In-Laws,” a humorous examination of the perils of married life. Rick Estrin takes honors on the slow blues piece, “Wigglin’ on the Pole”, blowing hot harp licks that dance around Hansen’s vocal. Andersen lays down some awesome Muddy Waters-style slide licks with a full, rich guitar tone. The song examines a failed relationship with a stripper.
Hansen switches to an easy swinging jazz groove on “Equal Opportunity Lover,” which features Clint Baker on trombone. “My Little Girl” is Hansen’s tribute to his daughter done in a straight country format. Kid Andersen breaks out his wah-wah pedal on “No Good”, a funky track with one of Hansen’s strongest vocals. Hansen slows the pace on “Really Living”, a ‘50s style ballad with Welsh’s piano driving the arrangement and Andersen contributing a brief but intense guitar interlude. “Workin’ Man” is a tune that falls squarely on the point where country morphed into rockabilly - the beat a little harder and faster, Hansen’s singing using inflections common to the early rockers. The disc closes with minimal take on “Mack the Knife”, serving as a showcase for Hansen’s skills as a drummer. The cut is less effective due to his too hip vocal .
It might be tough for Hansen to get attention for this release as it will be competing with the new Rick Estrin and the Nightcats title on Alligator Records. In fact, one of the strongest cuts on this disc, “I’m Takin’ Out My In-Laws”, has a lengthier version on the Estrin disc. The other drawback to Hansen’s recording is the short playing time. That said, Hansen sings and drums with gusto on a batch of listenable original tunes. The support is impeccable, especially from Kid Andersen. Give the Drummer Some is not an essential purchase but it is definitely a solid listen..
Reviewer Mark Thompson is president of the Crossroads Blues Society in Rockford. IL
For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE.
For info and tickets visit www.briggsfarm.com
Featured Blues Review 5 of 5
Various Artists - Broadcasting the Blues!
Broadcasting the Blues is a silver anniversary of Bob Corritore’s blues radio program called Those Lowdown Blues on Phoenix’ KJZZ-FM at 91.5 FM in Arizona and www.kjzz.org everywhere else. There’s gold in many of the 20 tracks that feature Bob’s guests in the studio playing live on the air between 1984 to 2008. Those Lowdown Blues has been consistently recognized by the “Best of Phoenix” awards hosted by the alternative weekly New Times, and in 2007, the program received a Keeping the Blues Alive Award from the Blues Foundation.
Whenever I see Bob at a Blues Foundation event, he’s all over the place: if he’s not onstage playing with his friends (he’s in good company, upstairs at Rum Boogie playing with Chris James and Patrick Rynn at the 2009 International Blues Challenge, his harp playing was transcendent), he’s networking the room better than any politician I can name.
Broadcasting the Blues is worth discovering, particularly for songs from Billy Boy Arnold (“Shake Your Boogie”), Johnny Dyer, Chris James and Patrick Rynn (“Johnny’s Crazy Blues”) and Lazy Lester (“Out on the Road”).
With guests as diverse as Billy Flynn, Henry Gray, Chief Schabuttie Gillame, and Willie Dixon, Those Lowdown Blues has contributed immensely to the greater blues community. Each time I look at the inside photo spread, I wonder what it was like to be in the studio when this magic was made. Fans of authentic, stripped-down, acoustic blues will enjoy Broadcasting the Blues. Come to think of it, I’ve got his 20th anniversary compilation around here somewhere, and I’ll shout about that, too!
Every weekend, I make it my business to listen to Delta Frank Black, the Blues Doctor at WGLT-FM at my alma mater online at www.wglt.org, Illinois State University, and I also tune in to KBA recipient John Kessler’s All Blues program at www.kplu.org. Well, staring next weekend, I’m adding www.kjzz.org to my weekend blues radio journey so that I can catch Bob live on the radio.
Reviewer Eric Steiner is the President of the Washington Blues Society, a proud recipient of a 2009 Keeping the Blues Alive Award. For more information, please visit www.wablues.org.
For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE.
For more info visit: http://www.urbanablues.com
Blues Society News
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Central Mississippi Blues Society – Jackson, MS
The CMBS presents Blue Monday at Hal & Mal’s (200 Commerce St., Jackson, MS) every Monday night. Doors open @ 8:00 and music begins @ 8:30. Cover is $5.
The Blue Monday Band is comprised of the “best of the best “ musicians in the Central MS area. Featured artists are King Edward, lead guitar/vocalist and Pat Brown, Abdul Rasheed and Dennis Fountain as vocalists. Other regular band members are Dwight Ross and Rick Lewis (drums), Keith Collins (bass), Johnny Sharpe (keys) and Malcolm Shepherd (CMBS President) on Congas. Most of these musicians appeared in The Last of the Mississippi Jukes.
The Blue Monday Band plays the first set and then the event turns into a jam. For more info see: www.centralmississippibluessociety.com or call Peggy Brown @ 601-613-7377
Blues Blowtorch Society – Bloomington, IL
3rd Friday Blues - The Treehouse Lounge, 2060 Ireland Grove Rd, Bloomington, IL (309) 662-5231 A blues show the 3rd Friday of every month at 7:00 PM. June 19th – Watermelon Slim & The Workers
The Long Island Blues Society - Long Island, NY
The LIBS Presents Carolyn Wonderland, June 14th 2009 @ BOBBiQUE, 70 West Main Street, Patchogue NY (631) 447-7744. Joe Rock & The Allstars open the show! Tickets are only $18 ($15 for Blues Society members). Tickets are available at www.ticketweb.com and at BOBBiQUE. Doors open 2:30 PM. For more info visit www.liblues.org This is going to be one exciting performance – not to be missed. See y’all at BOBBiQUE!!
Friends Of The Blues Shows - Kankakee IL
The Friends of the Blues has started their 2009 Blues concert Series. Here are their currently scheduled shows. May 26 – The Insomniacs, Kankakee Elks Country Club Kankakee Elks Country Club, 2283 Bittersweet Drive, St. Anne IL. 815-937-1228, May 30 – 2nd Annual Blues & BBQ Festival, Watseka Theatre, downtown Watseka, IL June 16 – Joanne Shaw Taylor, River Bend Bar & Grill, 6070 E. Route 17, Kankakee IL. 815-933-0610 Aug 11 – Laurie Morvan, Kankakee Elks Country Club 2283 Bittersweet Drive, St. Anne IL. 815-937-1228
Mississippi Valley Blues Society - Davenport, IA
The Mississippi Valley Blues Society and the Dam View Inn present Joe and Vicki Price at the Dam View Inn, 410 E. 2nd Street in downtown Davenport, on Friday May 22. The show, a fundraiser for the Blues Society, starts at 9 p.m., and admission is $5. For more info contact call the MVBS office at 563-32-BLUES.
Illinois Central Blues Club - Springfield, IL
BLUE MONDAY SHOWS
Held at the Alamo 115 N 5th St, Springfield, IL (217) 523-1455 every Monday 8:30pm $2 cover - May 24 - Bruce Katz
River City Blues Society- Peoria, IL
The River City Blues Society's Wednesday Blues Series features the best traveling regional and National Blues musicians each Wednesday at 7:00pm. The shows are held at the Dragon's Dome, 3401 Griffin Ave in Pekin, IL. Admission is $4. Shows scheduled are: May 27 - The Insomniacs, June 3 – Rob Williams' Soggy Bottom Blues Band, June 10 – The Plateros, June 17 – Joanne Shaw Taylor, June 24 - Gina Sicilia
Rising From The Bushes
Hit #4 on the Roots Blues Charts prior to its release!
For complete info visit: www.bearcreekblues.com
Live Blues Review 2 of 2
Doheny Blues Festival May 16-17, 2009 Doheny State Beach, California Part I
I never got to see Jimi Hendrix perform. Or Janis Joplin, Paul Butterfield, Muddy Waters, Ike and Tina Turner, or all these other icons of the 60’s and 70’s. I was born too late.
I’m a fairly young and single record buyer and concert goer, ready, willing and able to spend my money on great concert experiences and records. But today’s major radio stations and music magazines aren’t being very helpful guides, playing the same oldies and being mere megaphones for the campaigning machines of advertisers and major labels. The instrument manufacturing business is desperate because kids aren’t buying enough guitars, as they say there are no guitar heroes today, motivating sales. Record and concert ticket sales are down. None of the acts that fill arenas today are below age 30. Some music industry figures say that music isn’t as culturally relevant to the masses as it used to be. Major label music has become a free bonus-feature to give away along with purchases of other products.
So with that being said, I always thought my photographer James and I were part of a lost generation, with very few musical heroes of our own to inspire us. But this year’s Doheny Blues Festival proved us wrong! After spending two days at this music fest on the crystal waters and white sands of Doheny State Beach, California, I wondered if this is how people felt at Woodstock back in -69, being blown away by one mega-talent after the other.
Saturday, May 16 (Day 1)
We only caught a few moments of the very first local SoCal bands to open the festival: The 44’s and White Boy James & The Blues Express. We started our Saturday coverage by heading over to the picturesque little Back Porch stage, designated for acoustic artists and smaller-sized bands. A trio lead by the young pianist/singer Taryn Donath with additional drums and alto sax played a smokin’ set of jump blues with soul, west coast swing and Latin flavors – and they were the only band not mentioned in the festival program! Researching their MySpace page, they turn out to be from San Diego, Donath has played piano professionally since age 12, and last year she was nominated for an award as the city’s best blues artist. Check these great bands out here: www.myspace.com/taryndoanth
Doheny featured one international act. A terrific guitarist, singer, harmonica player and songwriter, Sven Zetterberg is a household name in his native Sweden, nominated for multiple Swedish Grammys, and he tours all over Scandinavia. With a killer band and his feet firmly planted in classic blues and Southern soul, this Viking in a soul man suit drew a huge crowd to the mid-sized Renaissance stage as he launched into powerful renditions of Ann Peebles’ “The Handwriting’s on the Wall”, Little Milton’s “Let Me Down Easy” and Tyrone Davis’ “Turning Point.”
Zetterberg made fun of his Swedish accent, exaggerating it as he introduced one of the songs. When he introduced his band members, the audience were hard at work figuring out the very Nordic-sounding names. But no doubt is this man a great, authentic soul and blues artist. He referred to Little Milton being an early idol, and they share a similar gritty, yet wailing and passionate way of singing. Zetterberg also proved to be a fine songwriter with the brutally honest original “Baby, You’re Falling Apart” from his latest disc Hollerin’ Up a Storm. Later that night, the band hosted the festival’s fun after-party at Renaissance Dana Point. www.svenzetterberg.com
Having heard of the legendary Elvin Bishop, but never seen him live, we were in for a treat. What a funny character, great singer and masterful slide player - having been around for 45 years since his schooling with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band in the 60’s. With his beautifully worn 335 guitar adorned with faded stickers, and a blackened brass slide on his pinkie, he and his band – featuring trombonist Ed Early, guitarist “Mighty” Mike Shermer, bassist Timm Walker, keyboardist S.E. Willis and drummer Bobby Cochran - played a loose and funky set. He dedicated “That’s My Thing” to radio profile Brother Bubba, and as everybody sang the words to “Going Fishin’”, he walked out into the audience with his overalls and crazy bed-head hair, grabbing a seat amongst a group of picnickers, still wailing away on his wireless guitar. He pulled up a lady from the audience, gave her his pick and had her strum feverishly on every beat as he fingered the chords. He also had everybody sing on his biggest hit “Fooled Around and Fell in Love” as he played slide melodies that made me misty-eyed. Announced as “a new big star” by Bishop, up-coming singer and harp player John Nemeth joined the band to sing Ray Charles’ classic “(Night Time is) the Right Time.”
Bishop also showed up as a special guest on Derek Truck’s set the following day, but more on that later! Many artists in the Doheny line-up, including Trucks, Nemeth, BB King, Tommy Castro and many more, are playing on Bishop’s new Delta Groove release, The Blues Rolls On. www.elvinbishopmusic.com
Cedric Burnside & Lightnin’ Malcolm played as a drum and electric guitar duo on the Back Porch stage. Malcolm is an in-demand session guitarist, and Burnside is the grandson of the legendary country blues artist R.L. Burnside, as well as a great drummer. He was also featured as a drummer in the movie about his grandfather, Black Snake Moan, starring Samuel L. Jackson. Their instrumentation and raw sound resembles a bit of Jimi Hendrix, but also the minimalist rock duos that are so popular today, like The White Stripes and Black Keys. These guys also pay a similar homage to delta blues, while adding flavors of funk and hip hop. Over the years the two have made friends and worked with the some of the very best Mississippi Blues legends, including T-Model Ford and Hubert Sumlin, in addition to the younger generation of musicians including the North Mississippi All-Stars. www.lightninmalcolm.com
Singer/harmonica player/songwriter Rick Estrin ranks among the very best harp players in the blues world. The great guitarist Robert Lockwood, Jr. (who played on most of Little Walter's Chess recordings) once told Estrin that Little Walter would be very proud of him. After fronting Little Charlie & The Nightcats for 30 years along with guitarist Little Charlie Baty, Estrin is now leading his own Nightcats since Baty retired from touring. They played harmonica-driven and guitar-fueled classic blues at the Renaissance stage, and performed lots of songs from Estrin’s huge catalogue. His new guitarist Kid Andersen – hailing from Norway via Charlie Musselwhite’s band - also turned many heads as his piercing, fiery solos echoed across the festival grounds. www.myspace.com/rickestrin
John Hammond drew large, enthusiastic crowds to his one-man show at the Back Porch stage. Equipped with an acoustic, a Dobro, a harmonica and smoky vocal chords, he has a passionate commitment to traditional, acoustic blues. Because of that, he was the natural choice to host the Bravo TV special and Sony Home Video, The Search for Robert Johnson. As the afternoon sun started to set in Doheny, he was more than happy to share stories with us about the master musicians he’s played with in his 40-year career, including Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Howling Wolf and Willie Dixon. Hammond’s delivery is intense, and the closer up we got to him on stage, the greater listening experience we had. www.johnhammond.com
The first act to become a personal favorite, however, was the Keb Mo Band as they took over the big Doheny stage. Kevin Moore – aka Keb Mo - is a songwriter with a knack for making the blues accessible to a broader audience by adding soulful colors of Fender Rhodes and funky guitars. The band has a bell-like clarity in their sound - modern and polished - but not lacking sex, earthiness or grit by any means, as his steamy duet with singer Niki J Crawford (Macy Gray) made us worry for her on-looking husband out in the audience. He’s also a skilled lyricist and observer of contemporary life, making funny comments on relationships and what people bring to them in songs like “Suitcase”. Keb Mo also played a great acoustic set at the Back Porch stage the next day.
Astonishingly charismatic as a singer and Dobro player, my photographer James dubbed him “the Michael Jordan of blues.” “Why’s that?” I asked. “Because he’s tall and lanky, and moves around his instruments with the same confidence that Jordan possesses on the basketball court.” www.kebmo.net
“Did you feel like you had a religious experience? I saw eyes closed. I saw hands waiving.” Those were the words of the announcer after Grace Potter and The Nocturnals walked off the stage. A neoclassic rock band that has been welcomed by the jam community after tours with Gov’t Mule and The Black Crowes, Potter wasn’t too sure if she and her band of young, indie rock hipsters “fit into this kind of festival” with “all these great blues musicians,” but luckily the crowd didn’t share her concerns. Bonnie Raitt has called them “one of the most soulful new bands around.” Potter announced a recent line-up change and introduced two new Nocturnals - bassist Catherine Pepper and rhythm guitarist Benny Yurco – who fit into the band perfectly. They played several songs from their latest album, This is Somewhere, as well as a few songs from their upcoming collaboration with T-Bone Burnett, scheduled for release this fall.
Their influences run wide: from The Band, Lucinda Williams and Neil Young to Led Zeppelin, yet they don’t sound like any of these artists. Not only a very strong vocalist and songwriter with clever songs like “Ah, Mary”, Potter is also a great Hammond player, so she naturally grabs 90% of the attention. Her band is competent, without any stand-out players that have distinctive voices, but their strength is that they’re dynamic, lyrical and really play the right stuff for each song. With the exception of maybe a few die-hard blues purists, Grace Potter & The Nocturnals surely must have made plenty of new fans at Doheny. www.gracepotter.com
Being injected with such great music and vibrant performances, it was a bit of a disappointment to hear the night’s headliner, Brian Setzer, and his quartet The Nashvillains. He’s clearly an amazing guitar player, and every song he played was a showcase for his blistering jazz and rockabilly licks: “Rumble in Brighton”, “Red Hot” and “Peroxide Blonde in a Hopped up Model Ford.” He and his band seemed to enjoy themselves, and people danced frantically in front of the stage, but maybe James and I aren’t die-hard slaves of the rockabilly rhythm. The Nashvillains were great entertainers, no doubt. But once we had been fed by Keb Mo and Grace Potter, we were turned on to soul food, so off we went into the night in order to protect our musical buzz… NEXT WEEK - Part 2 of the Doheny Blues Fest
Review by Review by Pete Tomaszewski
Photos by James Porter and Pete Tomaszewski
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Blues Video of the Week
Joanne Shaw Taylor
This week we feature a video by another young white Blues guitar player from Great Britain but this time with a real twist! She's a gal. But she don't play like no girl!
Joanne Shaw Taylor's new debut CD on Ruf records, White Sugar was just released in the USA this week. We were first in telling you about another great young band from across the pond last year called Back Door Slam. We are every bit as excited to tell you about this one. The clip here is an instrumental but this lady can sing too and she wrote all the songs on her CD! We promise you are gonna be hearing more about this gal. (We will be reviewing her CD in the next few weeks.)
Some promotional materials say that if you want to know what she sounds like just try to imagine the lovechild of Stevie Ray Vaughan and Dusty Springfield. She plays as well as SRV and has one heck of a soulful voice. Check her out!
To see this cool video on our website, click the play button below.
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