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Hey Blues Fans,
Last Sunday's Grammy Awards show partially restored our confidence in the future of the Blues.
In the last few years there have been some confusing "Blues" choices for both nominations and winners by the Recording Academy and the Grammy voters.
These included last years win by an artist who had/has no intent to be a Blues artists and a CD that won 2 years ago that only had a single Blues song on the entire album.
This year we feared a repeat of last year where an artists who has never played Blues wins for a token first Blues CD.
But we were wrong as Pinetop Perkins and Willie "Big Eyes" Smith won traditional CD for their Joined At the Hip release and Buddy Guy won for Contemporary Blues CD for his Living Proof release.
We recently saw Rock icon Rod Stewart confirm to Jay Leno that he has a "Blues" CD in the works. Let's hope the Grammy voters aren't fooled by this kind of fake "Blues" artists trying to cash in.
Keep up the good work Grammy folks and continue to nominate and vote for real working Blues artists!
We made it out to hear Vizztone recording artist Gina Sicilia last week. She had one of our favorite guitarists, Dave Gross, playing with her again after an absence for the last couple years.
They have a new CD coming in March. They played many of the tunes from the new recording. You are gonna want to get this one!
In This Issue
Bob Kieser reports on the 27th International Blues Challenge. We have four Blues music reviews this week! Ian McKenzie reviews a new CD by Son Jack Jr & Michael Wilde. Steve Jones reviews a new CD by Jeff Turmes. Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony reviews a new CD by The Bonedrivers. Rainey Wetnight reviews a new Deluxe Edition by Shemekia Copeland. All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN!!!
2011 International Blues Challenge
For the 7th year in a row we were fortunate to make the trip to Memphis for this years International Blues Challenge. Unlike previous years, our mission was to cover only the band semi-finals and finals. (Our apologies to all the folks competing in the solo duet categories for not having enough staff to cover this important part if the IBC!)
There were some rule changes this year that seemed to improve the event. This years challenge was a day longer so there were 2 days of "quarter-finals". After the second day of these, the top four acts from each of the 11 participating music clubs advanced on Thursday night to compete in Friday's "semi-finals". So our trip to the competition on Friday night gave us the opportunity to see the "cream of the crop" right off.
Being limited by time and staff, we had looked over the list of semifinalists and chose what looked to be the 12 most promising acts to see. Of the 12 on our "must see" list, 7 of them made the finals. We were not familiar with the Mary Davis Bridget Group, but all the other finalists were on our list. This was a significant change from past years where we did not get to hear ANY of the finalists before the finals.
(We think these changes improved the event as it solved a problem we have witnessed in the past where two or more of the best entrants in the entire competition ended up in the same club on the first night resulting in only one of them advancing to the finals. It also also seems to help with the ever present problem of a band having to go first on either night. A few points lost by having to go first one of the nights did not necessarily mean an act would not advance.)
In addition to the acts that actually made the finals, we made it out to hear a few act that did not make the finals. These included Mikey Junior and The Stone Cold (they were VERY impressive!), Carlos Del Junco (wanted to hear them based on their last CD on Northern Blues), Erin Harpe & the Delta Swingers and Tip Of The Top (based on their recent Blues Blast CD review). We also got to hear piano player Lee Pons and Billy Jones, a Blues artists who resides in Europe. We hope to post some pictures of those artists later but for this report we just wanted to send pics of the band finalists.
The finalists proved to be one of the strongest set of acts we have seen since we have been attending the IBC. Not a bad one in the bunch thanks to the new format. Here are some shots of the finalist in the order they performed.
Stevie J & the Blues Eruption – Central Mississippi Blues Society
3rd place winner Rob Blaine’s Big Otis Blues – Windy City Blues Society
Rob Blaine also won the award for best guitar player.
We were impressed with Lionel Young Band's performance. After thinking about it for a few days we realized that Lionel, having already won the Solo Duet category 2 years ago, understands the scoring system VERY well.
There was a change to add vocal performance to the scoring criteria last year. It has the second highest multiplier in the scoring after Blues content. At first we were confused when the Lionel Young Band performed a rock cover tune. Cover tunes are usually frowned on by the judges. But Lionel Young Band did the Rock cover tune acapella showcasing their vocal ability. Lionel also jumped off the stage and headed into the crowd playing his fiddle behind his back thus maximizing points in the performance/crowd reaction category. Brilliant and effective for a convincing win!
In addition to the impressive acts that won and placed, the Sugar Prophets also turned in a exceptional performance. The band features Josh Spence on vocals and harp as well as Kilborn Alley Band alum Joe Asselin on guitar and second harp.
All these finalists deserve a place on your must see list. And if you have not made it to the International Blues Challenge before, you gotta get there next year!
Photos and comments by Blues Blast Magazine publisher Bob Kieser.
Featured Blues Review 1 of 4
Son Jack Jr & Michael Wilde - Walk The Talk
43mins 23 secs
Son Jack Jr was born and brought up in the UK. He left in 1997 and around that time he decided to revive a musical career that had been dormant for 20 years. In the ‘70s and ‘80s he had recorded, performed and toured extensively in the UK. Wise move. Since the renascence he has recorded three albums, all of which have been well accepted and this one will expand his fan base and may even win some awards.
Here Mr Jack is working with harp man Michael Wilde and a small band; Mark Davies (b) and Billy Barner (d) with ‘special guest’ Eric Robert (keys). The CD consists of 12 tracks many of which were written by Jack or Wilde. But the album includes covers of music by John Lee Hooker, Charley Patton and R.L. Burnside (twice!)
I’ll come back to the covers in a moment, but first let me say that some of the self-penned songs are just terrific. For example, the wonderful emotional and controlled solo that opens ‘Crying Time’ (written by Wilde) is just outstanding. In addition the harp playing on that track (chromatic, I think) is an exemplar for any aspiring blues harmonica players. Check out too the title track “Walk The Talk” a ‘walking blues’ with a vengeance! Try keeping your feet still while this is on the CD player.
This CD is a nice mix of originals and covers. Often, CDs that fall through my letter box, by bands on the edge of ‘making it’ are all covers or all originals. Now, I can understand why folks want to push their own stuff and I can equally well understand how some people want to recognize, laud and promote the music of people they admire and seek to emulate. But when it is ALL original it is almost impossible (unless you know the musician from live performances or some such) to judge how they think about the music of others who have inspired them.
The major strength of this CD is that the covers tell you ‘how deep is the love’ that these musicians have for their Delta roots. An accomplished acoustic player Son Jack Jr has some strenuous workouts here on electric guitar including slide (‘Miss Maybelle’ is enough to make the dead get up and dance). All in all, this could be work by folks born and raised in the Delta or the Mississippi Hill country, rather than by an ex-pat Brit and a bunch of musicians from Seattle.
Some nice finger-clicking music that will make your feet tap and satisfy your soul. Recommended.
Reviewer Ian McKenzie lives in England. He is the editor of Blues In The South (www.bluesinthesouth.com) a monthly flier providing news, reviews, a gig guide and all kinds of other good stuff, for people living and going to gigs along the south coast of England. Ian is also a blues performer (see www.myspace.com/ianmckenzieuk) and has a web cast regular blues radio show on www.phonic.FM in Exeter (Wednesdays: 1pm Eastern/ 12 noon Central, 10am Pacific).
Blues Society News
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Crossroads Blues Society - Rockford, IL
On Friday, March 18th the Crossroads Blues Society presents Blues in the Schools (BITS) Wine Tasting Fund Raiser at Artale Wine Co. 6876 Spring Creek Rd # 128, Rockford, IL 61114-7405. The event will be held from 5:30 PM to 8:30 PM. Tickets are $15. Food will be provided by Joesph Barbados/Pearl and a karge assortment of wines will be available to sample. Tickets are available at the store whose hours are 10 AM to 9 PM daily except Sunday when the hours are 11 AM to 6 PM.
Steve Ditzell will be playing acoustic blues at the event, which is a huge treat for him and attandees. He doesn't go acoustic much at his shows but when he does the music is always outstanding! Steve has played with many a great and is most noted for his outstanding work with Junior Wells (whom he played and toured with extensively). His complete musical biography: http://www.bluelightningband.com/blue2.htm
Call Artale Wine Co at (815) 877-9463 if you need directions or more info from them. Contact Steve Jones at email@example.com for more info. This will be a great event; we hope that you can come out and help our BITS program and have a good time, too! www.crossroadsbluessociety.com
The Grafton Blues Association - Grafton, WI
The Grafton Blues Association & the Cedarburg Cultural Center will present Tinsley Ellis on Thursday March 24 at the Cedarburg Cultural Center. Doors open at 6pm show starts at 7pm. Food and drink will be available for purchase. Tickets are $14 in advance for GBA and CCC members, $15 in advance for non-members and $17 at the door for everyone. For more info visit - www.graftonblues.org
The Great Northern Blues Society - Wausau, WI
The Great Northern Blues Society in Wausau, WI will be hosting their annual fundraising event “Blues Café’”, on Saturday 3/26/11 at the Rothschild Pavilion. (Near Wausau, WI)
Performing will be Jumpship Blues Band, 12 Year Old Tallan Noble Latz, Red White & Blues Band, Young British Blues Diva Joanne Shaw Taylor, and Atlanta Based Blues Guitar Flamethrower Tinsley Ellis. The Fun Starts at 1:00PM. $13 in advance, $18 at the door. Bulk ticket rates also available. For more info see www.gnbs.org
West Virginia Blues Society - Charleston, WV
The West Virginia Blues Society presents the Charlie West Blues Fest May 20 & 21, 2011 in Haddad Riverfront Park, Charleston, WV Here is the lineup: Friday May 20 - Sit Down Baby, Izzy & Chris, Mojo Theory, Lil Bryan & The Travelers, Davina & the Vagabonds and Joe Louis Walker. Sat. May 21- IBC Band Winner, Slim Fatz, Trampled Under Foot, Sean Carney, Kristine Jackson, Smokin’ Joe Kubek & Bnois King and Ana Popovich. The Charlie West Blues Fest is produced by the West Virginia Blues Society, Inc. www.wvbluessociety.org and www.charliewestbluesfest.com
The Blues, Jazz & Folk Music Society - Marietta, Ohio
The Blues, Jazz & Folk Music Society will host the 19th Annual River City Ohio Blues Competition on February 18 & 19, 2011, at the historic Lafayette Hotel in Marietta. Blues Bands and Solo/Duo blues acts will compete for cash prizes and BJFMS sponsorship to the International Blues Challenge (IBC) in Memphis, TN, in early 2012.
For more information contact Steve Wells at 304-295-4323 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.bjfm.org.
Illinois Central Blues Club - Springfield, IL
The Illinois Central Blues Club 25th Anniversary Celebration is Saturday, March 5, 2010, at the Knights of Columbus Hall, 2200 S. Meadowbrook, Springfield, IL from 7:30 pm to 12:00 am.
Kicking off the celebration at 7:30pm will be local favorites The Mojo Cats. The featured artist will be the living blues legend Magic Slim and the Teardrops. Magic Slim will take the stage at 9:00pm.
This event serves as a fund raiser for the ICBC’s “Blues in the Schools” programs which bring live blues music and oral history of the blues to children and adults in the community. The admission fee is $8.00 for members and $10 for non-members. For more info contact Mark Edmiston at 217-679-0721 or visit www.icbluesclub.org
Also BLUE MONDAY SHOWS - Held at the Alamo 115 N 5th St, Springfield, IL (217) 523-1455 every Monday 8:30pm $3 cover. Feb 21 - Kilborn Alley, Feb 28 - Bruce Katz. icbluesclub.org
Featured Blues Review 2 of 4
Jeff Turmes - Five Horses, Four Men
Fat Head Records
Jeff Turmes has a strong foundation in roots and blues music. This CD perhaps leans more toward the folk side of roots music, but there are some straight up blues songs here. The good news is that there are 13 original tracks and every one of them is well crafted and performed in an even better manner. Musically speaking, this is a solid set, but don’t expect every track to be heavily into the blues.
No less than 18 musicians join Jeff in this endeavor. Jeff plays guitars, banjo, some acoustic bass, a little bariitnoe sax, and the bass clarinet and dumpster (yes, a dumpster for percussion) each on a track. He is a multi-talented musician who sings on all but the final instrumental track. Jeff Turmes has been a superb sideman and songwriter for many a year. He toured in his early days with James Harmon and Gary Primich. He is married to Janiva Magness (who records his compositions but the two tour separately to keep their marriage healthy). Magness does backing vocals on “Honey Man”, a slow and wailing number with a neat snare drum giving the tune a downbeat marching rhythm. He backing vocals wail in an almost funeral-like manner as Turmes delivers the lyrical message to the honey man where he wants to buy some honeycomb so he can draw his baby home.
Since 2007 he’s toured with Mavis Staples, playing slide guitar and bass. Her 2008 CD “Hope at the Hideout” was a 2010 Grammy nominee, where Turmes was joined by longtime friends Rick Holmstrom and Stephen Hodges to play on this acclaimed set. He’s been a sideman for Tom Waits (on the Tonight Show), Kim Wilson and the Fabulous Thunderbirds, Ronny Earl, Billy Boy Arnold, Robert Gordon, Duke Robillard, James Cotton, Jody Williams, Canned Heat, Pinetop Perkins, Koko Taylor, James Gadson, Mike Finnigan and recorded with Richard Thompson, R.L. Burnside, Gatemouth Brown, Peter Case, Norah Jones, Eleni Mandell and Jake La Botz. Check out his web site for the discography of discs and songs he’s written for others- amazing!
Turmes bio calls this CD, “less ironic, more contemplative but no less intense” than previous ones. I would have to agree; the songs are not so ironic but they all make you think/listen closely. The CD opens with electric blues on “Something Must Happen” with Hodges and Holmstrom on drums and guitar. The songs’ got a great groove with a little dirtied up and minimalistic guitar solo. Nicely done. “Give Satan a Chance” is roots and blues all rolled up together. “Weeds Like Us” is a folksy acoustic blues with an interesting cello solo and backing added by Tania Magidini. “Hew to the Roadside” is a little more acoustic blues with Turmes picking out a mean lead and blowing bass clarinet and baritone sax. “Jack-A-Hammer” alludes towards the blues in an almost James Taylor “Steamroller” manner, but it’s dirtier and a lot more rootsy with a heavy percussive beat. “God Came Down from Heaven” approaches blues on some levels. There is a haunting accordion backing Turmes done by Stephen “Doc” Patti making this track especially cool. More dirty percussion is offered up on “When My Baby Wakes Up”, with Turmes baritone sax blurting out a deep backing beat in this bouncing cut.
The rest of the tracks are mostly folk and country. That’s not an accusation, just a point of fact- they are all well crafted cuts. From the title track to the final instrumental “Iron City” we get a very folk-oriented set of roots tunes to accompany those that are bluesy. “Don’t the Moon Look Real” is a jazzy country song with a deep, twangy guitar style that will impress.
Turmes is a talented musician and song writer. The lyrics grip the listener and make one want to hear his stories. His vocals are clean and even maybe a little subdued, leaning perhaps towards more of a folk styled delivery than a blues sound, but never the less delivered with a cool style . I was very impressed with this CD. While the blues purist may shy away, music fans will love the diversity of sounds and instruments and the melding of instruments in this 13 song album. It’s a well done CD delivered by a man with a keen musical sense.
Fried Grits & Greens
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Featured Blues Review 3 of 4
The Bonedrivers - Mobile
Total Time: 56:09
Have I got a band for you if you’re partial to Foghat, Grand Funk Railroad, southern rock, BTO or the crunchier reaches of the Led Zeppelin catalog. Throw in a dash of The Outlaws and stir vigorously. Snippets of classic rock tunes appear as regular as Betty White on the tube. Blues-rock paradise awaits you compliments of this San Francisco boogie band. Thick power chords, thumping jungle-drums, manic slide guitar excursions and even harmony vocals are here for the taking. Front man-guitarist-singer Keith Karloff leads his merry troupe thru power-rock accented by funk and the requisite positive “dude commander vibe”. His adequate vocals suit this medium just fine.
Oh here comes their cover of “Pictures Of Matchstick Men”…..oh no….it’s “The Trouble With Love”, one of ten Karloff originals. What sounds like pedal steel gives it an Outlaws-meets-Poco twist. “High Tides And Mellow Country Meets Captain Crunch” anyone? Great googily moogily now it’s “Rocky Mountain Way”…….would you believe “You Win Again”?, the band’s closest foray into straight blues territory. Karloff stretches out his guitar prowess here in fine form, helped out by blues piano.
Our daily dose of “Foghat Boogie” comes in the form of “Moonlight Ride”, whose title would not be out of place in the genuine article’s repertoire. “Northwest Girl” is a vehicle for a slide guitar workout that is interrupted briefly by boogie-woogie piano courtesy of Austin DeLone. “Honky Tonk Prayer” slows things down as a county-ish lament. “Locked And Loaded” begins life with jazzy guitar segueing into a tale of a bad girl who loses her skinny man in a fire….go figure. Alright!!!!....Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith form a super group…..wait…it’s “That’s The Way I Roll”. The band pulls off a perfect Zep “Houses Of The Holy” crunch-romp complete with patented Jimmy Page stop-start-stutter single string runs. “It’s A Beautiful Thing” sounds like funky-period Grand Funk with its organ-fueled summery-riff and harmony vocals.
Very little Blues included here, but these guys have sure absorbed the ins-and-outs of classic rock and blues-rock to a tee. The heavy backing provided by the rhythm section completes the effect. The lead vocals show more depth with each repeated listening. Four radio-edited versions are included as extras, trimmed by a minute or so. This isn’t my cup of tea, but they do their chosen genre proud. What more could any self-respecting card-carrying rock fiend ask for?
Reviewer Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony hails from the New Jersey Delta. He is the proprietor of Bluesdog’s Doghouse at http://bluesdog61.multiply.com.
Featured Blues Review 4 of 4
Shemekia Copeland - Deluxe Edition
16 songs; 66:57 minutes
Styles: Blues; Soul; R&B; Blues-Rock
Alligator Records knows the sound of terrific blues. It also knows how to winnow and select “the cream of the crop”-- the best songs from its various artists! Thus, Alligator’s owner, Bruce Iglauer, periodically releases “Deluxe Editions”: collections of their stars’ greatest hits. One may ask, “If I’ve already purchased and perused all of a musician’s previous albums, why would I need to buy one with no previously unissued tracks?” The answer is akin to savoring one’s favorite meal or beverage--all the right notes of flavor are hit, with no weird aftertaste! Alligator’s list of luscious “Deluxe Editions” provides just that.
That said, let me introduce (or reintroduce) you to one of the most powerful female mavens: 31 year old Shemekia Copeland, pronounced with a silent “I” in her first name and the soul of blues within her frame! Her warm, dulcet-toned voice resonates throughout the room when you play one of her albums, and with the “Deluxe Edition,” it is especially true. In fact, you’ll be tempted to turn it up loud and sing along proud(ly)! It contains sixteen of her finest works, with nary a flop or half-step among them. And, Iglauer always made sure she was supported in the studio by first class musicians and producers.
The album starts out strong and steamy with “Turn the Heat Up” (the title track from her first CD, released in 1998) and never cools down from there. Shemekia warms our hearts and ears with stellar songs such as “It’s 2 A.M.”, “Wild, Wild Woman”, “Livin’ on Love”, “Better Not Touch” and the real show-stopper “Who Stole My Radio?” Her voice has grown deeper and stronger throughout the years as heard across this collection. True vocal highlights are on poignant, slower ballads like “Ghetto Child”. Copeland’s chief strength, besides her vibrant vocals, is her inventive song interpreting. For example, getting deep inside the lyric in “Turn the Heat Up”, she laments, “When I first set my eyes on you, I thought you were my hero. But now, your kisses--they are tastin’ something like 14 degrees below zero!” Verbal treats such as this are sprinkled liberally throughout her “Deluxe Edition”. Here’s hoping you’ll catch them all!
What makes Shemekia Copeland different from other female singers, and even from other blues artists? For one, she relishes innovative, witty lyrics. Secondly, across her 15 year career, her voice and personality have shown no bounds. On every track, you can tell she truly LOVES the blues and doesn’t just sing them in order to earn a paycheck. Don’t believe me? Check out “Beat Up Guitar” and stand corrected! It’s the best traditional blues song on the album, reminiscent of “Crossroads” with its mournful acoustic flair.
Unfamiliar with Copeland? There is no finer introduction than this Deluxe Edition. Even if you own all four CDs from which these songs are taken, here are the hits in a nice package including a fold-out poster and never before seen photos. Deluxe indeed!
Reviewer Rainey Wetnight is a 31 year old female Blues fan. She brings the perspective of a younger blues fan to reviews. A child of the 1980s music, she was strongly influenced by her father’s Blues music collection.
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