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From The Editors Desk
Hey Blues Fans,
I am already feeling the pinch of the additional work of bringing you a new cover photo and feature interview each week. But it seems worth it as many of you responded positively to last weeks new format change. And really, what could be more fun that getting to talk with some of the greatest Blues artists on the planet to set up these interviews? It is good to be me!
This week we feature Bobby Rush. Read Terry Mullins interview below to see about the many facets and many talents of this living Blues legend.
Good Blues To You!
RIP Joe Willie "Pinetop" Perkins
July 7, 1913 - March 21, 2011
By now most everyone has heard the sad news that the Blues World lost its most senior Blues icon, Pinetop Perkins this week. The following is reprinted from Pinetop's website.
It is with deep sadness that we announce Pinetop Perkins passed away peacefully at home on Monday, March 21, 2011 in Austin, TX at the age of 97. Here is the information on Visitation and Funeral Services. Visitation and services will take place both in Austin, Texas and in Clarksdale, Mississippi as follows:
Visitation - Sunday, March 27, 2011, 3 - 5 p.m. at Cook-Walden Funeral Home, 6100 North Lamar Blvd., Austin, Texas 78752 512.454.5611
Funeral Service - Monday, March 28, 2011, 5 p.m. at Colonial Chapel of Cook-Walden Funeral Home, 6100 North Lamar Blvd., Austin, Texas 78752 512.454.5611
Celebration of Life - Monday, March 28, 2011, 8 p.m., Antone's Blues Club, 213 W 5th St, Austin, TX 78701
Visitation - Friday, April 1, 2011, 4 - 7 p.m., Century Funeral Home, 506 Ashton Avenue, Clarksdale, MS 38614 662.627.4182
Funeral Service - Saturday, April 2, 2011, 11 a.m., Century Funeral Home, 506 Ashton Avenue, Clarksdale, MS 38614 662.627.4182
Burial - Saturday, April 2, 2011 - immediately following funeral service at McLaurin Memorial Garden Cemetery, Highway 61 North, Clarksdale, MS 38614
Celebration of Life - Saturday, April 2, 2011 - Location and time TBD, Clarksdale, MS
Memorials - Pinetop Perkins Foundation - Please consider honoring Pinetop's legacy by donating to The Pinetop Perkins Foundation. Donations can be made by check or through PayPal. The Pinetop Perkins Foundation is a tax exempt non-profit organization. It's mission is to provide encouragement and support for youth and young people at the beginning of their musical career; and help provide care and safety for elderly musicians at the twilight of their career. Mail Your Contribution to: The Pinetop Perkins Foundation, P.O. Box 1916, Clarksdale, MS 38614 (Photo above by Steve Azzato)
In This Issue
Terry Mullins has our feature interview with Bobby Rush. James "Skyy Dobro" Walker reviews a new CD by Michael Osborn & The Drivers Mark Thompson reviews a new CD by John Alex Mason. John Mitchell reviews a new CD by Ross Neilsen And The Sufferin’ Bastards. Gary “Wingman” Weeks reviews a new CD by Gregg Allman. All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN!!!
Featured Blues Story - Bobby Rush Interview
To simply call Bobby Rush a bluesman would be doing him a huge disservice.
Sure, he rubbed shoulders with Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf during their Windy City hey-day.
And he counted Magic Sam, Elmore James, Freddie King and Luther Allison as members of his band at one time or another.
So sure, Bobby Rush is the real-deal blues.
No doubt about it.
But Bobby Rush is so much more than that.
He’s a family man. He’s an employer. He’s a record executive. He’s a chef. He’s a keeper of the flame.
And Bobby Rush is one heck of an entertainer.
Whether he’s on the huge stage at the Chicago Blues Fest, decked out in a flashy suit and backed by a big band and pair of beautiful female dancers, or whether he’s churning out the gut-bucket blues with just a battered acoustic guitar in a small juke joint in Clarksdale, Bobby Rush’s goal remains the same.
To entertain and make us forget about our problems for a few hours.
With all due respect to James Brown, or to anyone else who might have laid claim to the title, Bobby Rush is THE hardest working man in show business.
Even after grinding it out night after night for five-plus decades.
Nominated for a Blues Music Award in the category of Soul Blues Male Artist of the Year for an astounding 13th time in the past 14 years, Blues Blast recently caught up with the living legend to check in on all things Bobby Rush.
Blues Blast: How have the first couple of months of 2011 been to Bobby Rush?
Bobby Rush: Things are looking up. The dates (playing live) are starting to look up from where they were the last two years. So thank God things are looking up. I don’t know where things are going, because people are getting used to doing without, but it’s time for a change. I can’t put my finger on it, but so far so good.
BB: So on a good year, how many shows do you typically play?
BR: Well, I played less last year than I have in about 40 years. But I do about 220-250 shows a year. That’s for the last 50 years. Sometimes we do two shows a day – six for the weekend.
BB: You’re almost like two separate performers. You’ve got your big stage production - with the female dancers everyone talks about – a show that moves from light-hearted fun to straight-up comedy to down-and-dirty blues, and then you’ve got your solo shows – with just your guitar and harp. Which do you prefer doing these days?
BR: Well, when I’m doing the solo thing, I don’t have to have all the personalities and the band to deal with. But when I have the band with me, it makes me feel good that I’m able to employ people, especially in times like these. I’ve got nine people on the road with me and it gives them something to do and it feeds a lot of families. It’s something that I’ve been able to do for 30 or 40 years and that makes me feel good that I can supply a job for them and their kids and grandmothers and family. But doing them both gives me a wider range, because I want to go down in history as a performer, not just as a guitar player or a harp player. I’m labeled as that, but I want to be known as an entertainer. And it takes all those big-band things to make an entertainer out of me. But when I’m doing the solo acoustic thing, it narrows it down to a lesser worry, because sometimes I think people kind of miss what I’m about, or where I’m going. Especially like 10 years ago. It’s better now because they found out this old man knew what he was doing in the beginning. Because deep down inside, I’m the same person whether I’ve got 10 people around me – the strings, the horns, the guitars and drums – because I talk the same talk there that I do when I’m solo - I’m talking story-wise. I may tell it a bit different, but overall it’s the same meat, the same story. So overall, I’m wearing three hats, but they all keep the sun off of me.
BB: It seems like a lot of performers these days have totally forgotten about the venues on the Chitlin Circuit …
BR: Yeah. I’m glad you mentioned that. I’m so glad you mentioned that because my first reason for wanting to do the solo thing was not because I was so in love with it, but because it gave people the opportunity to see me that might not have had the chance to otherwise. Like the juke joints – the Chitlin Circuit with the 50- or 100-seat clubs can’t afford a Bobby Rush or a Buddy Guy or B.B. King or Clapton. But now, I can give them Bobby Rush on a smaller setting and it won’t cost them an arm and a leg. That makes me feel good. What we have done, I’m talking about entertainers and musicians, by pricing ourselves like we have, it has put the small clubs out of business. So I’m trying to bring back the small clubs and small promoters into business. Those small places and juke joints are where we all come from. That’s a bridge we’ve crossed and we don’t want to forget about it.
BB: Yeah, it just seems like there’s so few of those clubs around anymore.
BR: They are scarce and that’s why we want to save them. They’re like hen’s teeth. We want to save the ones that’s left and encourage the ones that were in business, or the ones that want to start a business, to come back. And when I say juke joint, I don’t mean that as being less than something else. It’s just a smaller business, a smaller club.
BB: In addition to a band leader, manager, performer and entertainer, you’re also a record label owner. Did the idea for Deep Rush Records come about because you wanted to unburden yourself from other record labels, or was there a bigger vision, like wanting to provide an outlet for other performers, who might not otherwise get the chance, express themselves?
BR: I had two game-plans. I wanted to have the power to do what I wanted to do, because I thought I could think better for me than the record labels could think for me. Like what should I cut, how should I cut it … I thought I could think for myself instead of having someone think for me. And at the same time, it would let other entertainers see that they could do this, also. Plus, it gives me the voice to speak to the issues that I want to speak about in my records. There’s just so much control with record companies. Don’t get me wrong, some artists needs management and controlling, but everybody doesn’t need that. I’m not saying record companies and management were not important, they just weren’t important to me.
BB: Let’s not forget about another one of your business projects – the Bobby Rush Hot Links. How did the idea for those come about?
BR: That came about because in Chicago, for about 20 years, I had a restaurant called Bobby’s BBQ House. It was successful but it took away from me a lot of time musically. Financially, it was good for me, but musically it just took away from me, because I didn’t have time to create a lot music-wise. So that’s what got the BBQ thing the first time – music. So I started making hot links, I learned how to make them as a kid from my dad, who taught me how to make hot sausage. So I just took that and instead of putting it in a patty, I put it in a link. And people started eating them and I started comparing them with other links around and I thought I was making something as good, if not better, than what there was around. That’s how it started. I made them for 15 or 20 years and cooked them and sold them and made a couple of nickels off them, so lately I started going back into the barbecue houses and making and selling links again. And I’m a great cook, if I do have to pat myself on the back. I make jelly and preserves – anything from apples, plums or pears – from scratch.
BB: Growing up in Louisiana, that kind of cooking was just a way of life, wasn’t it?
BR: It was. I was born between Homer and Haynesville, Louisiana, but I left there in 1947 for Pine Bluff, Arkansas and lived with my father on a farm there for a few years. In the early 50s I moved to Chicago and when I got there, there were many blues guys there. But the people I respected and knew well were Muddy Waters, Little Walter and of course, Willie Dixon, who was there with Chess Records. And Jimmy Reed was there, also.
BB: And you spent a good deal of time with Jimmy Reed, didn’t you?
BR: I was very good friends with Jimmy Reed. So good a friend that I often tell it that I think Jimmy Reed was the only guy that I ever called my friend and really cheated him. I hate that today, that I cheated him, but I laugh about how I cheated him. He was a drinker and he used to send me to the store to get him a bottle of gin and that would cost about 90 cents or less. And once he had a couple of drinks, I found out he didn’t know how much he was drinking, what he was drinking or what I was giving him. So I would take me an empty bottle and fill it halfway with water and halfway with gin and I would sell it to him for about $1.20 – about 10 times a day, man. So I was making about $5 a day or better off Jimmy. And in 1951-52, $5 or $6 was a lot of money. Yeah, I was making about $25 a week off Jimmy Reed. I was the richest dude around, making more than Muddy Waters or Howlin’ Wolf put together!
BB: Speaking of Jimmy Reed, Muddy and The Wolf, just how competitive was the Chicago blues scene in the 1950s and 1960s? Was it hard to get a gig because of all that talent and competition?
BR: There were so many (performers), but there so many clubs. There were a bunch on Roosevelt …and then on Lake Street, there was Silvio’s, where Muddy Waters played on Wednesday and Thursday. I played there on Saturday and Sundays. And then I’d play at Walter’s Corner on Wednesday, Thursday or Fridays … there was just a lot of gigs around. And I was in a position as a young man, who was a little younger than Muddy Waters, I was working two jobs a night and sometimes getting $12 or $13 a night. And that was more money than a lot of the guys were getting. I would jump from one club right to the next.
BB: Sounds like the opportunity was there if a guy wanted to take it.
BR: Yeah, yeah! But there weren’t a whole lot of entertainers. There were a lot of musicians, but not a whole lot of entertainers, understand? A lot of them didn’t stick out like Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters and Little Walter.
BB: There may be people that don’t know this, but a young Luther Allison got his start in Chicago in your band. What made him such a special performer?
BR: I met him when he was about 17- or 18-years-old. Luther was special because he was always such a good guitar player. I was playing at a place called the Squeeze-In, and at that time I had Freddie King on guitar with me. I wanted Luther to play with me because he was a young guy who was fresh, but he wasn’t old enough to play in the club. But I got him into Walter’s Corner – they let him play but he had to stay in the dressing room – but Mr. Walter (the club owner) let me bring him in, even though he was only about 18 and you were supposed to be 21 to get in. So I think I was one of the first guys that Luther played with. And from that, Magic Sam and from that, Elmore James played with me.
BB: Before you got to Chicago, what was the blues scene like in Arkansas – in Pine Bluff and Helena – in the 50s?
BR: Well, Helena was a little more advanced, music-wise, than Pine Bluff. Helena had Sonny Boy Williamson. There were little 40- or 50-seat juke joints that would have music Wednesday through Sunday. In Pine Bluff, there was a place called Drum’s that was owned by a guy named Drum, who played the drums. I was just a little young harmonica player and Drum would play the drums and I’d get on the harp. Then one night a guy called Jitterbug came to see me. He had a place on Third Street. And I became the talk of the town because Jitterbug came to see me at Drum’s. He wanted me to come over on Third Street and play. And from there, I went to a place called Jack Rabbit and that was where Elmore James was playing. So I kind of took his job and that’s how I became friends with Elmore James.
BB: It didn’t take Elmore James long to turn into a real force in Chicago blues, did it?
BR: I didn’t. It was 1953 when he played with me and he had halfway established his name out of Mississippi at that time. I met him in Belzoni, Mississippi one time. There was a gentleman in Chicago at that time named Lee Robizeen, that owned Lee’s Lounge. And he came down to Mississippi and met this young lady that owned the Delta Funeral Home. She had two of them (funeral homes) and she was a good-looking lady. And Lee Robizeen came down and got married to this lady. Lee was a friend of mine and Elmore James was also a friend of mine who I wanted to play with me, but I couldn’t afford him. He wanted $35 a night and I couldn’t pay that. So he (James) saw this lady sitting at the bar one night. He goes, ‘Wow, Bobby Rush, who is that fine lady you just talked to?’ I said, ‘She’s a friend of mine.’ And Elmore goes, ‘I’d do anything to get to talk to her.’ As I was walking away, I stopped and said, ‘Anything?’ So I said, ‘Elmore, if you’ll play with me, I’ll hook you up.’ He said, ‘I’ll play for you for free, if you hook me up.’ So it was a dirty thing really, they were both my friends (Lee and Elmore). I know it’s dirty, but when Lee wouldn’t be around, I’d tell Elmore and he would talk to her while the husband was gone. And then I’d get Elmore James to play this weekend with me for free. I didn’t have to pay Elmore James a dime. But I know that’s the wrong hookup. I shouldn’t tell that, but they were both my friends. Sorry about that, Lee (laughs). Sorry about that, Elmore (laughs). Elmore might have had a little rock in his jaw because I’d taken that gig from him (in Pine Bluff), or maybe he didn’t want to play with me because I was too small or didn’t have enough money to pay him. But after I introduced him to that lady, he thought I was the king.
BB: You’re nominated for (BMA) Soul Blues Male Artist of the Year again this year, after having won it four out of the past five years. I vote that we just go ahead and change the name of the award to The Bobby Rush Soul Blues Male Artist of the Year. Does it mean anything to win awards like this after all the years you’ve been playing?
BR: I’ll be honest with you. It means a lot to me. If I’m even in the running, whether I win or not, I’m still a winner, because of all the other artists that are up for the award. I’m just happy to be there. It’s like in 1971 when I had the Record of the Year (for “Chicken Heads”) and James Brown had the number two record and Bill Withers had the number three record. To beat out James Brown and Bill Withers? Come on, man! That’s a knockout. So sometimes, it depends on who you’re in the race with. When you beat out guys like that, you’re in good cotton. And it keeps your name relevant and out there. I don’t remember what year it was, but I think I was the only artist to have the acoustic album of the year and win the soul blues artist of the year and win the acoustic artist of the year (in 2008, for his album Raw). I mean nobody had done that before in history, not in the same year.
BB: With the way the economy has been lately, with gas and food prices going through the roof, meaning less disposable income for fun stuff, like buying records and attending shows, what do you see in the immediate future for the blues?
BR: Well, performers are going to have to be like I was when I first started in the 1950s – you have to be self-contained. Everybody’s had to cut back and we performers have to, also. I know the big band leaders are going to kick me in the head for saying this, but the guy who has 20 or 30 pieces on the bandstand – it’s not like they can’t get a job – but the way things are now, the performers and the venues will just not allow you to make money like that. So you have to find a way to down-size. But as far as the music, I don’t know where blues is going, because they’re downloading everything now. I really don’t know. All I can say is, if we as entertainers do real music and stick to the real-deal, people will buy that. People are just having to make hard choices on what they want to spend their money on.
BB: After performing and being on the road for so long, does retirement ever cross your mind?
BR: Yeah, it does. I’ve decided I’m going to retire when I’m 108. After that, we’ll talk about it again.
BB: So with no imminent plans on retirement, what’s on the horizon for Bobby Rush?
BR: I did a new record three or four months ago, and hopefully it’ll be out before the end of this year- I think I want to name it Down in Mississippi – and it’s all raw – just Bobby Rush with a harp and guitar. And I’m also dropping a new soul record in a few weeks, a regular kind of Bobby Rush thing. This is not something I did intentionally, but it’s like I’ve got two or three different heads (styles of music) on me. I’m so blessed that I crossed over to a white audience and didn’t have to cross out a black audience to do it. So many other guys like myself have crossed over to a white audience, but they crossed out the black audience. I did not. People expect me to be me and I’m still doing the same thing, the folk-funk kind of record, the R&B thing, the acoustic blues thing and they accept it all. And I’m so thankful. I just always tried to cut the kind of records that were true to me. Now you’ve got young black guys with the wah-wah pedals and the whole bit, trying to sound like the white guys who were trying to sound like the black guys. You follow what I’m saying? And there’s nothing wrong with either one, but I think that a man should just be himself and do what you feel..
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.
Willing To Crawl
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Blues Blast has the Lowest Advertising Prices Of The Year!
We know times are tough so Blues Blast Magazine is offering a Spring Ad special until April 15. This is our lowest pricing of the year and offers an effective way to get the Blues word out for Blues festival advertising budgets and CD promotion projects. This 6 week combo rate of only $200 allows you to affordably add significant impact to your Blues event. It is a great way to kick up the visibility of a CD release or Blues Festival! Normal 2011 Advertising rates are $45 per week for magazine ads and $70 a month for website ads.
So normal price for this six week advertising is $375. But during this limited time, you can advertise your Blues event or CD in six issues of Blues Blast Magazine and on our website for a month and a half for only $200. That is less than the cost of a small ad in your local newspaper to get135,000 ad views during the six week ad run. To get the special rate simply reserve your ad space by April 15th, 2011. Ads can be scheduled to run anytime between now and September 30, 2011.
Blues Blast Magazine is a great way to promote the Blues. More than 17,000 Blues fans read our magazine each week. They are located in all 50 states and in more than 80 countries. We get more than 25,000 visitors a month on our website and more than 1,000,000 (That's ONE MILLION) hits a month.
Blues fans want to know about Blues events and music! Reserve your space today! Space is limited and sold on a first come. Ads must be reserved and paid for before April 15, 2011. To get more information or to book your ad call 309 267-4425 or email firstname.lastname@example.org today!
Featured Blues Review 1 of 4
Michael Osborn & The Drivers - The Glamorous Life
7 songs; 30:50 minutes; Suggested
Styles: Chicago Blues; West Coast Blues
My secret weight loss program? “Sleep Your Weight Away.” It is based on the fact that even a sleeping person is burning calories, and, most importantly, one is not eating while asleep. Feeling hungry? Take a nap instead of having a snack!
“I went to the doctor he said lose some weight / And, if you don’t do it quick we got to operate .... Why Get Up?,” sings Dave Mathis, harmonicist and vocalist for Michael Osborn and the Drivers on Osborn’s latest CD. In the opening track, Mathis makes a convincing case for just sleeping the troubles away as he nails the vocals on this cover of the memorable Fabulous Thunderbirds song, written by Bill Carter and wife Ruth Ellsworth. Mathis, in addition to listing six more reasons to just stay in bed, adds a killer harmonica solo at mid song just after Osborn’s tasty guitar-break licks.
And, thus, we have the beginning of another standout set of Blues from Michael Osborn and crew. Thirty minutes is way too short for this CD, but I love the stripped down, real-deal approach of this veteran Bluesman’s quartet: guitar, bass, harp, drums -- and no horns!
Osborn’s guitar playing is a real highlight. With pleasing tone, he is tasteful in his note spacing, stretching, fills, and runs. Anything but over the top, he is, thankfully, not a string shredder.
Osborn’s sixth release is purest pleasing electric Blues across four originals and three covers. My favorite original, “Needles and Pins,” is written by bassist and vocalist K.G. Jackson. This mid-tempo shuffle opens with ear catching single notes from Osborn’s guitar. The rhythm joins, founded by John Moore’s pocket drumming, and then three part harmony vocals cement this song enjoyable and memorable. Melody is what makes this song joyously swing, a trait of the classics one remembers most. I also liked Osborn’s multi-tracked rhythm guitar alongside his lead guitar punctuations at the end of each vocal line.
“The Glamorous Life” is a humorous shuffle giving us our first listen to Osborn’s serviceable vocals. After listing a litany of road woes for a touring musician, Osborn sardonically sings, but “...it’s the glamorous life.” his song was also included in Osborn’s previous release, 2008’s What Goes Around.
Michael Osborn is well known and respected, especially in his home, the West Coast. Michael grew up in Ukiah CA with the Ford brothers, including the great Robben Ford. In 1970, he was one of the founding members of the Charles Ford Band. In 1981, Michael became the lead guitarist and band leader for Blues legend John Lee Hooker. For the next 13 years, Michael toured the world with John Lee. Since then, Osborn has played with Sista Monica, toured Europe with his own band, recorded three CDs on the Blue Rock'it label and three more on his own Checkerboard label. For seven years he’s been an outstanding contribution to Bill Rhoades and the Party Kings in his current home near Portland OR.
These four cats are just killer: three part harmonies plus all but Moore take a turn at lead vocals, Mathis deft on diatonic and chromatic harps, Jackson writing in classic style, Osborn playing ripping guitar (even channeling Albert King at one point), and John Moore’s veteran stick work being the band’s heartbeat. Electric Blues fans – this one is a delight!
Reviewer James "Skyy Dobro" Walker is a noted Blues writer, DJ, Master of Ceremonies, and Blues Blast contributor. His weekly radio show "Friends of the Blues" can be heard Thursdays from 7 - 8 pm and Saturdays 8 pm - Midnight on WKCC 91.1 FM and at www.wkccradio.org in Kankakee, IL
To See James “Skyy Dobro” Walker's CD rating system, CLICK HERE
Get Your Blues Music Considered for Nomination!
We have a simple process for Blues artists and record labels to get their recordings considered for nomination in our annual Blues Blast Music Awards.
We have 30 nominators and you can send in copies of your CD to be considered. Eligibility dates for recordings are releases between April 1, 2010 and March 31, 2011.
The 2011 nomination process started March 1st when we began accepting submissions from labels and artists. Artist do not necessarily have to submit their releases to be considered but any that do will have their recordings screened by the nominators. Read all the details at the link below for complete information to have your CD release considered now.
Our nominators include, music journalists, radio DJs, festival promoters, club owners and others who are very active in the Blues scene. This year as every year, the nominees are artists and music that the nominators got the opportunity to hear. (They can't nominate something they haven't heard!)
Our diverse group of nominators hear many CDs and see many performing artists but if an artist or label really wants a release to be considered by all the nominators, they can send in copies of their CDs beginning March 1. CDs will be sent to the nominators. You must send 30 copies so that all nominators get to listen to them. There is no charge for this in 2011. You send us the CDs and we will cover the cost of getting the CDs into the nominators hands. Act NOW to get your music considered! For complete information on sending in your release CLICK HERE
Nominators will start submitting their nominations May 1st and final nominations will be announced after May 31st, 2010. Voting Begins in July. The winners in the 2011 Blues Blast Music Awards will be announced on Thursday October 27th, 2011.
Blues Society News
You can submit a maximum of 125 words or less in a Text or MS Word document format.
West Virginia Blues Society - Charleston, WV
The West Virginia Blues Society presents the 4 th. Annual Charlie West Blues Fest May 20 & 21, 2011 at Haddad Riverfront Park in Charleston, WV . Showtime is 4 pm to 11 pm on Friday and Saturday 1 pm to 11 pm, with after jam to follow both nights at The Boulevard Tavern. Admission is FREE ! That’s right, FREE to everyone !Over the two day period we will be having over 18 acts performing on both stages. There will be plenty of food vendors to suite your fancy along with beer and wine sales this year.
The lineup includes Sit Down Baby, Izzy & Chris, Kinds of Crazy, Lil Brian & The Zydeco Travelers, Davina & the Vagabonds and Joe Louis Walker on Friday and Lionel Young Band, Slim Fatz, Mojo Theory, Sean Carney, Kristine Jackson, Smokin’ Joe Kubek & Bnois King and Ana Popovich on Saturday. For more info contact: 304-389-1439 or email@example.com or visit www.charliewestbluesfest.com or www.wvbluessociety.org
The Golden Gate Blues Society - Redwood City, CA
The Golden Gate Blues Society Membership Meeting and Concert - Sunday April 3 at Angelica's Bell Theater and Bilstro, 863 Main Street, Redwood City, CA. Meet from 3 - 4 then dance from 4 - 8 with Twice as Good, the award winning father/son lead band out of Northern Sonoma County. Twice as Good play from coast to coast and have opened for many of the top blues artists. Awards include recognition for their recent CD.
The Golden Gate Blues Society presents concerts, educational events, outreach, networking, and Blues in the Schools. http://www.tggbs.org/home for more information.
Mississippi Valley Blues Society - Davenport, IL
The Mississippi Valley Blues Society presents guitar virtuoso Joanne Shaw Taylor and her band on Friday March 25 at Rascals, 1414 15th Street, Moline. The show begins at 8:00 p.m. Admission is $15, $10 for MVBS members. For more information visit www.mvbs.org or call (563) 322-5837
Also MVBS presents the Iowa Blues Challenge Final Round in the Quad Cities Sunday April 3, 2011. For the first time, the Iowa Blues Challenge Final Round will be held in the Quad-cities instead of Des Moines. The band that wins this round will be representing the entire state of Iowa at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis in February, 2012.
The final round of the Iowa Blues Challenge will be held on Sunday April 3 starting at 5:00 p.m. at The Muddy Waters, 1708 State Street, Bettendorf. Competing for the prize package will be three bands from the Quad Cities: Blunt Trauma Blues Band, the Candymakers, and the High Cotton Blues Band. The fourth band, Trouble No More, hails from the Ames area.
The winner earns the right to compete in the International Blues Challenge held in Memphis next February. The prize package, considered one of the best for such a competition, includes cash, travel expenses, recording time and the opportunity to perform at the 2011 Mississippi Valley Blues Festival in Davenport and the 2012 BBQ’Loo and Blues, Too! in Waterloo.
Also MVBS presents Hawkeye Herman Returns for Blues in the Schools. During the week of April 11-15, blues musician Michael “Hawkeye” Herman will go into science, math, English, social studies, ESL, and alternative high school classrooms of four area schools. This is a new approach for Blues in the Schools in the Quad-Cities, but not for Hawkeye, who has been conducting cross-curricular blues workshops all over the world. Because teaching at the classroom level is more intense in both preparation and execution than the usual performing for school assemblies, Hawkeye will be presenting only one open-to-the-public event on Wednesday April 13 at Mojo’s in the River Music Experience (2nd and Main Streets in Davenport) beginning at 7:00 p.m. Admission is free.
Rosedale Crossroads Blues Society - Rosedale, MS
Rosedale Crossroads Blues Society presents The Crossroads Blues and Heritage Festival Saturday, May 7, 2011 at the River Resort. Highway 1 S. in historic Rosedale, MS. Gates open at 12:00 noon - music starts at 1:00. Admission $5 - adults, $1 - children under 12. Bring your own ice chest - $10 No beer sold - No glass - No pets, please! Parking $5 Lineup ( in order of appearance - subject to change): Vinnie C., Eddie Cusic, Mickey Rogers, T-Model Ford, Daddy Mack, Big T, Guitar Mikey and the Real Thing, and Eden Brent.
Fest Feast on Friday evening, May 6 at the River Resort with a 5-course Creole dinner, $50 per person - Cash bar. Limited seating. Call 662-759-6443 or 662-897-0555 for reservations and information. If you have questions about the above information, call 662-402-6251. Thank you. Mary Anna Davis Crossroads Blues Society www.rosedaleblues.com
Crossroads Blues Society - Rockford, IL
Also Lucky Peterson will be making a special appearance at Big Cities Lounge at 905 E State Street in Rockford, IL at 9:30 PM on Saturday, April 2nd, 2011. Big Cities is still open and they are proud to have Lucky coming out for this special show. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door. Crossroads Blues Society Members can get advanced tickets for $10 and a portion of all ticket sales will go to Crossroads' "Blues in the Schools" Program. Come out and hear this great musician and his band and help support keeping the blues alive! Tickets are available at Big Cities (call 815-965-6026) or through Crossroads Blues Society. Contact Steve Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org 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
The Friends Of The Blues - Watseka, IL
2011 Friends of the Blues shows - April 05 - Albert Castiglia, 7 pm, Kankakee Valley Boat Club, April 26 - The Rockin’ Johnny Band, Bradley Bourbonnais Sportsmen’s Club, May 03 - Too Slim and the Taildraggers, 7 pm, Kankakee Valley Boat Club, May 19 - The Sugar Prophets (2011 IBC Finalists), 7 pm, Bradley Bourbonnais Sportsmen’s Club, June 23 - Sean Chambers, 7 pm, River Bend Bar & Grill,
July 13 - Reverend Raven & C.S.A.B., 7 pm, River Bend Bar & Grill. For more info see: http://www.wazfest.com/JW.html
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
Illinois Central Blues Club - Springfield, IL
Every Monday night for the last 25 years - BLUE MONDAY SHOWS - Held at the Alamo 115 N 5th St, Springfield, IL (217) 523-1455 every Monday 8:30pm $3 cover. March 21 - March 28 - Rockin’ Johnny, Apr 4 - Andrew “Jr Boy” Jones, April 11 - Grady Champion, April 18 - Chris Cain, April 25 - Big Jeff Chapman. icbluesclub.org
Featured Blues Review 2 of 4
John Alex Mason - Jook Joint Thunderclap
Naked Jaybird Music
There have been many attempts over the years to take blues music back to its roots, to offer fresh interpretations of the traditional styles. Some musicians, like Chris Thomas King, have tried to extend the musical roots by incorporating modern styles like rap and hip-hop into the music. Rarely have both goals been accomplished as successfully as they are on this new release from John Alex Mason.
Mason has spent time busking on the streets of European cities while working for the Army and returned home, ending up in Memphis. There Mason honed his one-man band approach to a razor-sharp edge, utilizing a Lowebow cigar box guitar to create his elemental sound along with a drum kit. His skill with this rig can be heard on five of the tracks. Mason also gets plenty of help from a stellar cast of musicians that includes Cedric and Cody Burnside, Lightnin' Malcolm and recent IBC winner Lionel Young. Also appearing is multi-instrumentalist Gerry Hundt, Mason's former musical partner.
Willie Newbern’s classic “Rolled and Tumbled” gets a laidback treatment with Hundt’s harmonica playing dancing around Mason’s expressive vocal and slashing guitar licks. Backed by Malcolm on guitar, Andy Irvine on bass, Hundt on mandolin and Cedric Burnside on drums, Mason tears into “Signifying Monkey”, vocalizing like a man possessed. The same musicians turn in a spirited rendition of “Write Me a few of Your Lines”, with Young filling in for Irvine on bass. Mason’s lowebow purgatory hill harp cigar box guitar up front in the mix but his exuberant singing is a highlight, as is Hundt’s contributions on mandolin.
On the original material, Mason incorporates the African roots of blues music on several tracks. On “Free”, Fara Tolno punctuates Mason’s one-man band on the djembe, a skin-cover drum played with the hands. Tolno also appears on “Diamond Rain”, a subdued folk blues with Young on fiddle, showing the talent that has garnered him two top finishes in the IBC Challenge competitions.
Tradition merges with modern influences on “Riding On” as Alya Sylla joins Tolno on djembe and Fasinet Bangoura makes an appearance on the balafon, a percussive instrument played with padded sticks that was an early version of the xylophone and marimba. They bring a strong African flavor to the track until Cody Burnside jumps in with a fast-paced rap that fits like a glove. On “Gone So Long”, Burnside delivers another hip-hop vocal that rides the trance-groove perfectly, proving that the seemingly disparate styles can work together. Mason returns to a more traditional style with a tribute to his wife, playing “Whisper” on a 1925 Martin acoustic guitar and channeling all of his feelings into a magnificent vocal performance.
In another nod to modern technology, Mason is offering what he terms as Tracks 0 and 11 as on-line downloads, available as a Tweet, Facebook or through e-mail at Mason’s website (johnalexmason.com). “Delta Bound” is more upbeat than the material on the cd release while “If You’ve Got a Good Friend “ has Mason and band playing in a more traditional electric style. Lightnin’ Malcolm’s guitar work enlivens the former cut while Young’s solo on the latter song has his fiddle sounding like a slide guitar. Hundt blows some hot harp licks on both tracks.
Through it all, Mason pulls all of the elements together through the strength of his vision that embraces the old and the new. His passion is apparent in his heartfelt vocals and his instrumental efforts are the bedrock that lifts this release above the ordinary. If, like me, you are not familiar with Mr. Mason’ work up until now, take the time to check out this marvelous recording. It bodes well for the future of the music.
Featured Blues Review 3 of 4
Ross Neilsen And The Sufferin’ Bastards – Redemption
Thorny Bleeder Records 2010
11 tracks; 53.32 minutes
You have got to start with a smile when you receive a CD from a band with a name like this one! Described as ‘Canada’s hardest working blues rock act’, the band certainly plays a lot, with a gig almost every day from now until May on their website. This CD was recorded in Northern Mississippi at the famous Zebra Ranch and the intention had been for Jim Dickinson to produce. Sadly, just as all arrangements were in place, Jim passed away, so his son Cody, of the North Mississippi Allstars, offered to step into the breach. To make things more complicated the band were ineligible for funding in Canada as the CD was to be recorded in the States, so funds were raised from their fanbase by doing a bottle drive. Apparently vast quantities of empties were collected by the band and all refunds went to the recording project!
The core band members are Ross on vocal and guitar, with Shawn Worden on bass and Karl Gans on drums (The Sufferin’ Bastards). Producer Cody Dickinson added keys on two tracks and percussion on one, brother and fellow Allstar Luther plays slide on one track and Alvin Youngblood Hart lead guitar on another. The material is mainly by Ross (one in collaboration with fellow Canadian Matt Anderson) apart from covers of RJ’s “If I Had Possession Over Judgement Day”, Wolf’s “Commit A Crime” and “Human Mud” by Randall Cable, about whom I have not been able to discover anything!
The resulting album is very much a guitar focussed album. Ross is a powerful player whose tone at times reflects a number of guitar influences: for instance, when he and Luther Dickinson trade licks on the extended “She Ain’t You” it is the Allmans that come to mind. Ross also sings well; there is something in his voice that reminds me of Bnois King. The songs deal with the usual topics of love, lust and loss. I was particularly taken by the energy of the band, for which due credit should go also to the producer. Part of the style at the Zebra Ranch is to record in the old way, playing live in the studio, and that works very well with this sort of material.
The CD opens with “Afflicted”, the shortest song on the album at 2.49, which has been released as a single (I didn’t think such things still happened in the blues world!). This and the second song “Fire In The Ground” are both fast moving slide driven tunes, but “Hot Little Pistol” is a slower tune and is clearly in the ‘lust’ category! I liked this one a lot with its exciting guitar work and impassioned vocals.
“Devil Knows” is another slower paced song on which the keyboards offer a support that allows Ross greater freedom on guitar. “What You Can” has an insistent riff that recalls “I Ain’t Got You” in a song that says that we need to seize the moment – carpe diem indeed – “never said I was perfect, I’m just a man”. “Possession” (as it is titled here) follows the standard pattern for the song, with lots of slide and frenetic percussion. “She Ain’t You” follows and is, for me, the standout track on the album. Starting with big chords on guitar, Luther’s slide simply underpins the vocal at first before taking equal billing with Ross’ lead. The instrumental section of this track is superb, a real duel between the guitarists.
Wolf’s “Commit A Crime” attempts to recreate that ‘murky’ sound that many Wolf originals have and is largely successful in doing that. Ross does not have Wolf’s deep voice, but this is a good version of the song, containing enough drama to convey the menace of the song’s lyric. “Badlands” is not the Springsteen song but is an upbeat tale of being pursued into the Badlands by the Devil. Alvin Youngblood Hart adds lead guitar to the track and the doubling up of guitars adds to the excitement of the track.
“Human Mud” is a mid-paced tune with lots of distorted guitar and percussion sounds. Ross’ vocal is less clear here than on most tracks and this was probably the track I liked least on the album. The final track “Bold And Beaten”, the collaboration with Matt Anderson, considers the difficulties of life on the road for musicians. Ross plays here with a lot of distortion at times and Neil Young is the player that comes to mind.
My conclusion is that this CD is definitely worth investigating. It is not straight blues, but there is a lot of guts and plenty of excellent guitar playing. I guess that Canadian readers will already know the band, but those of us in other countries need to keep an eye open for this band touring and check them out. I expect we will not be disappointed if we do.
Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK. He also travels to the States most years to see live blues music. He was recently on the January 2011 Legendary Blues Cruise.
Featured Blues Review 4 of 4
Greg Allman - Low Country Blues
Fourteen years after his last solo release, Greg Allman comes back swinging in fine form with Low Country Blues.
Known for his work in the Allman Brothers who were the founders of psychedelic jams, Greg focuses on simplicity and the results are a cohesive group effort with the studio musicians he works with.
Produced by T-Bone Burnett, Low Country Blues grasps the sounds of old 78 recordings. And it helps that the music lives up to the title.
Though there is only one original song titled "Just Another Rider" co-written with Warren Haynes, Allman's renditions of blues chestnuts "Devil Got My Woman" and "I Can't Be Satisfied" are terrific treatments and unearthed in the Delta soil from which they came.
Greg's B-3 Hammond work shows up in the tracks. But the people he works with like Doyle Bramhall II and Dr. John help a great deal as the songs are peppered with a little gumbo for an extra spice.
Not too many musicians cut Otis Rush' "Checking On My Baby" in the studio. Only Allman can do it justice with his weathered blues growl pushing the song to its Maxwell Street roots.
Hopefully the wait for his next studio album wont be a long one. Low Country Blues captures what Allman does best: Wrenching blues from a battered soul that has used up all of its nine lives.!
Review by Gary “Wingman” Weeks.
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