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From The Editors Desk
Hey Blues Fans,
We have a BIG dose of the Blues for you this week and this kind of medicine is good for what ails you. First we have Terry Mullens' interview with Ronnie Baker Brooks.
If you have ever heard Ronnie you know he is one of the best guitar players out there, but it took hard work to get to the top! Being the son of Blues Legend Lonnie Brooks didn't provide any shortcuts as you will read in the interview.
We also have some great photos of the artists who performed at the 2011 Blues Music Awards in a review by Marilyn Stringer.
In the next few weeks we will have cover stories on Dave Riley, Michael Frank, Teeny Tucker and the man himself, Buddy Guy. Stay Tuned!
Good Blues To You!
In This Issue
Terry Mullins has our feature interview with Ronnie Baker Brooks. Marilyn Stringer has a photo essay on the 2011 Blues Music Awards. James "Skyy Dobro" Walker reviews the 2010 Blues Music Awards DVD. George "Blues Fin Tuna" Fish reviews a new CD by Boogie Bone. Steve Jones reviews a new CD by Tab Benoit. John Mitchell reviews a new CD from Tweed Funk. Mark Thompson reviews a new CD by Big Shanty. All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN!!!
Featured Blues Story - Ronnie Baker Brooks
In the corporate world of big business, just being the offspring of a member of the board at a Fortune 500 company can put a person on the fast track to success.
It can be like getting handed the keys to the kingdom without ever putting out any sweat.
The same can also be true in the world of music and entertainment, too, where being the child of a famous musician or actor can make one’s pathway to stardom much quicker and much easier.
However, that’s not the way Chicago blues great Lonnie Brooks operates.
It didn’t matter whether Wayne and Ronnie Baker Brooks were his sons or not.
And how good they could play the guitar or sing as teenagers didn’t factor much in the equation, either.
If they were going to follow in Lonnie’s footsteps, they were going to do so by literally taking things one step at a time.
“When I first decided to take this on as a career, my dad said, ‘the first thing you have to do is be really serious this is what you want to do,’” said Ronnie Baker Brooks. “So he started me and Wayne out setting up the stage, tearing down the stage, carrying equipment, tuning guitars – I was doing everything but playing. He wanted me to see the whole thing, not just the star stuff and the glamour. And before he gave me the opportunity to get on stage and play, that’s what I had to go through. It was like going to school. And then once I got on stage, it made my appreciation that much stronger.”
And just because he had graduated from the ‘Lonnie Brooks School of the Blues,’ that didn’t mean that young Ronnie Baker Brooks was given full carte blanche once his boots finally did hit the bandstand.
“He started me off by letting me play one song a night and then after that I worked my way up to two,” Brooks said. “But you know, at that time I really wasn’t ready to go full-bore up there, but my father saw my hunger and my passion. Once I started playing more and more was when I started to feel the pressure of getting better. I didn’t want people to think the only reason I was up on stage was because my dad was Lonnie Brooks. I didn’t want that pressure on him. So I worked my butt off. I learned the songs inside and outside. And once I proved to myself that I belonged up there, I became comfortable and confident. Then it doesn’t matter what other people think. I wanted to continue to make the Brooks legacy grow.”
Ronnie Baker Brooks’ tutelage on how to handle the bright spotlights of the stage was not just confined to the teachings of his dad.
He also received a few insightful words of wisdom from The Iceman.“The man that really put the gasoline on the fire for me, other than my father, was Albert Collins,” Brooks said. “This was around the time when I was trying to prove myself to myself and get out of that shell of being Lonnie Brooks’ son and all that pressure. I would frown or get mad at myself when I made a mistake playing. But Albert pulled me to the side and said, ‘look man, I know you want to succeed, but quit frowning when you make a mistake. Every musician makes a mistake if they keep trying. But if you smile when you make a mistake, other people don’t know that you’ve made a mistake. Don’t give off the vibe that you’re mad. Smile and have a good time with it.’ And that changed my whole thought process. He just inspired so much confidence in me. He told me, ‘you’re not going to be like your dad, be like yourself.’”
Though it’s been a few years since his last solo CD hit store shelves – 2006’s The Torch, Brooks has definitely not been on any kind of an extended vacation from the world of the blues. He’s been busier than a bartender on payday, sliding into the producer’s chair for a host of artists, while also lending his guitar and vocals to a slew of other projects.
In addition to working on his dad’s latest disc, Brooks produced and played on Eddy Clearwater’s West Side Strut. He also produced The Juke Joints’ Let it Roll, while also showing up on works by Elvin Bishop and Biscuit Miller, among others.
“And this guy here in Chicago named Eric Davis has got a CD coming out and I produced it,” said Brooks. “So I’ve been busy, man. Then I did the live CD with Tommy Castro - Command Performance by The Legendary Rhythm & Blues Revue – and we toured around the country for two years doing that.”
Brooks also cut a pair of songs for the upcoming Chicago Blues: A Living History Vol.2, a disc that features work by such notables as Buddy Guy, Magic Slim, Billy Boy Arnold and Billy Branch.
For that particular disc, Brooks did something that he had yet to do.
He recorded one of his dad’s songs.
“That’s the first time I even approached considering doing one of my father’s songs,” he said. “They kind of talked me into it, so I did “Don’t Take Advantage of Me.”
But now it’s time for Brooks to once again focus on his own output and the process of gathering steam for a new disc has begun with the penning of a batch of new songs, all written by the man himself.
“I like doing originals because if I can’t bring anything new to a song that’s already been done, I’d rather not record it,” he said. “I have recorded other people’s songs, but I really like bringing new and fresh ideas to the table. That’s where I’m at in my career right now, doing as much original material as I can.”
Brooks, like most of us, is a product of the environment he was raised in. And Brooks’ environment included hearing an endless variety of music pouring out of the family stereo as a youngster, helping to explain why the music he now creates these days has so many different levels and layers to it.
“Growing up, my father played all styles of music around the house. He used to play in clubs during a time when top 40 and disco music was real strong here in Chicago,” Brooks said. “And so he had to learn how to play everything on the radio. And that rubbed off on me and Wayne. My dad would play all the top 40 stuff – country music, gospel. Early in the morning at our house would be tripped out - our auntie would be up making coffee and you’d hear gospel music playing. Then about the time my dad would get up, you’d be hearing the blues playing in the house. That’s how it was around my house at an early age.”
In addition to being exposed to virtually every type of music around, growing up in the household of Lonnie Brooks also meant being exposed to an unbelievable amount of top-flight blues players who visited the house on a regular basis.
Luther Allison, Koko Taylor and Son Seals, all mainstays of the Chicago blues scene and kingpins of the Alligator Records label, were personal friends of the family and all played huge roles in helping to shape Ronnie Baker Brooks’ sound.
“I was around those cats all the time and we did a lot of shows with them,” said Brooks. “So I got to rub shoulders with them and B.B. King and John Lee Hooker and Elvin Bishop. When you hear me play, you’re going to hear all those cats in my playing.”
Not just traditional blues, Brooks’ music also has touches and flourishes of another style of music that had an impact on his life as a formative youth – hip-hop.
“I grew up in the hip-hop area, when that explosion came along,” he said. “And so that’s a part of me, too. I liked hip-hop and also blues growing up. At an early age, I was listening to Lightnin’ Hopkins and Son House and Muddy and John Lee Hooker. I loved that stuff. And my friends back then used to ask me why I liked listening to that old stuff. But now, those same people are asking for backstage passes, you know.”
Filled with stinging blues licks, funky backbeats and the aforementioned influence from the early days of rap, Brooks’ style, while first and foremost is the blues, is also darn near impossible to pigeonhole.
“All that stuff is in me. I try to keep it authentic and try to keep all the elements of Muddy, my dad, Buddy Guy, B.B. King and Junior Wells in there,” he said. “Junior always used to tell me, ‘man, if YOU can’t feel it, you can’t make the people feel it.’ So all that stuff I feel. I just keep adding onto it and building onto it. That’s my formula. I don’t try to go out and make a hip-hop song, or a blues song, I just let it be what it is for me.”
There are most definitely more lucrative ways to make a living in the music industry than playing the blues. That much has been proven ad nauseam.
But even armed with that knowledge, especially after seeing how hard it was for his dad and other Chicago legends to make a decent living in times past, Ronnie Baker Brooks was not about to be swayed from the path of playing the blues.
“I knew what I was getting into when I decided to take this on as a career,” he said. “I knew that blues was always at the bottom of the barrel (commercial-wise) and never got the same attention as other genres of music. I understood that going in. But it is frustrating at times when you see other genres in music, genres that have been heavily influenced by the blues, get more commercial success. I mean, I have to have money to pay the bills and take care of my family, but I do this because I love it. So when you start thinking about money and commercial success - that can be a real distraction. But no one is ever going to get what they’re worth. Look at B.B. King. In my opinion, he should be making more money than any other artist in music. But he’s not. He’s doing well in our genre, but I think he should be at the very top, regardless of the type of music. But that’s the way the game goes.”
Hanging with the likes of Buddy Guy, B.B. King and John Lee Hooker, along with being placed under the microscope of being the son of Lonnie Brooks certainly must add more weight to a performer trying to find his own way in the music business.
Not so, says Ronnie Baker Brooks.
“I used to think that I had to carry that load, man. But now I think that it’s just an honor,” he said. “I just love to make this kind of music and to see people happy from listening to it,” he said. “Of course, if I could do it from a bigger platform, that would be great, too. But I’m truly blessed to be able to do what I love to do.”
It doesn’t take one long at a Ronnie Baker Brooks show to determine that the man is indeed doing what he loves to do.
Whether sharing the stage with Lonnie and Wayne, or whether leading his own outfit, Ronnie Baker Brooks’ shows are filled with a high-level of energy and intensity from the opening number on, as he seems intent on providing as much bang for the buck as is humanly possible.
“I look at it like this – when you’re up on the stage, it’s up to you to initiate the energy,” he said. “And then if you get the energy out to the crowd, they’re going to give it back. It gets the ball rolling. And then you get this thing going like an avalanche and the whole building is feeling it. And I get that from watching my father, and Buddy Guy, Albert Collins … they’re all showmen. They all have that extra thing. They’re not just showmen, they’re also great musicians and I try to follow that approach. I try to let it out – it’s in me. And these days, people really need to be entertained. I want to give the people that spend their hard-earned money to come see the best show that I can. I’m going to do the best that I can.”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.
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Presented by Metro PCS
Featured Blues Review 1 of 5
Various Artists - 2010 Blues Music Awards DVD
Blues Music Foundation
20 Artists Performing; 2 hours 05 minutes; No Subtitles
Styles: Modern Electric Blues; Traditional Blues; Acoustic Blues
In terms of artists and artistry, there is no argument; here is the cream of the crop. It was the 31st Blues Music Awards from the Cook Convention Center in Memphis TN last May 2010. A production of the Blues Foundation, the show was Hosted by Bill Wax and radio host Big Lou. Wax is program director and host of B.B. King's Bluesville channel on SiriusXM Satellite Radio, and Big Lou is a SiriusXM radio host. The DVD includes award presentations and a treasure of glitzy performances (this ain’t no greasy juke joint event).
The DVD is available only through The Blues Foundation's website, and all their efforts went into the video-taping of the show itself. The multiple cameras used in filming help create an engaging experience, and only occasionally do the house lights hit the lens at the wrong angle to cause a foggy picture. Surround sound audio would have been nice, but the stereo is well mixed. The package is devoid of any critical liner notes, and the list of performing artists is incomplete and out of order. The only musician credits anywhere are in the DVD itself. All of the night’s winners are in the DVD, seen either live or in pre-recorded footage, except for Irma Thomas, Buckwheat Zydeco, Cedric Burnside, and Deanna Bogart.
The DVD is divided into two programs: “Broadcast Performances” (the award-winners) and performances by “Nominees.” Among the best performances by the award winners are Eden Brent on boogie woogie piano and B.B. King Entertainer of the Year Tommy Castro and band. Others include Cyril Neville, Joe Louis Walker, Debbie Davies, Duke Robillard, Jason Ricci, Super Chikan, Johnny Rawls, MonkeyJunk, and Louisiana Red with Bob Corritore.
The most significant segment features the man seen in the painting on the cover of the DVD and that night’s program, Lifetime Achievement Award Winner Buddy Guy. Presented by Bonnie Raitt, it was a richly deserved honor for an artist who has continued to both entertain and kill audiences for over 50 years. The section begin with a list of the many contradictory descriptions of Guy's work through the years, like, “too young – too old; ... too Rock – too Blues.” Guy’s omnipresent smile beamed with pride and love, but his humility caused him to defer his own honored greatness to folks from whom he learned, naming Mississippi Fred McDowell, Son House, Johnny Shines, and the great Muddy Waters.
Buddy then launched his guitar, his voice, and band into a particularly incendiary performance of "Damn Right I Got The Blues." His band included multiple Blues Music Award-winning bassist Bob Stroger with Billy Flynn on second guitar, Johnny Iguana on keys, and Kenny Smith on drums.
The second program on the DVD includes performances by singer Candye Kane, acoustic bluesman Guy Davis, pianist Dave Maxwell, Saffire The Uppity Blues Women, and the Delmark Records Revue, with Eddie Campbell and Shirley Johnson. A highlight is Rick Estrin & the Nightcats burning on "Take It Slow."
Blues fans, from the comfort of your own home, you can enjoy an acme variety from the contemporary Blues scene. Unlike a Blues festival, everyone is in their finest sartorial splendor, and giving the full effort to musically impress. An any price, this DVD is a bargain.
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 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.
FUNK 'N' BLUES
Chicago's legendary "Ow-Wow" man,
Jesse Anderson, releases all of his
Funk & Blues from the 60's thru the 70's including his No 1 hit, "I've Got A Problem" and "What Will I Say".
Visit Jesse at his website:
See more about Jesse Anderson on CD insert.
Good Blues to ya'!
Memphis, TN – May 5th, 2011
by Marilyn Stringer
The Blues Music Awards (BMA) weekend is a fantastic gathering of musicians, fans, promoters, industry representatives, and a great place to network, meet new friends, and reunite with old friends. There are events and jams all over town before and after the awards ceremony, but the ceremony is where it all converges together for 8 hours of music, acknowledgement, and fun.
This year’s hosts were Big Llou – the voice of XM/Sirius Bluesville- and Mickey Thomas (Jefferson Starship). Additional presenters included Todd Park Mohr, leader of Big Head Todd and Lightnin’ Malcolm (pictured), Roger Earl-drummer for Foghat, Jason Lee-from TV show Memphis Beat, and later in the evening Grady Champion got into the role and may have found his new calling!
A complete list of the winners can be found at www.blues.org (and while you are there – Join!-support the blues). Many of the winners were not present to accept their awards - Jazz Fest in New Orleans created a rare conflict. Three recipients – Solomon Burke, Robin Rogers, and Pinetop Perkins passed away during the last year but were properly acknowledged, all receiving awards in their categories. Derek Trucks claimed two awards while Buddy Guy swept the night with four awards. At one point, one of the winners was glad Buddy didn’t play any more instruments or he might not be winning. (If you recall, The Tommy Castro Band took five awards last year).
Some of the award winners pictured below are: Big Eyes Willie Smith for Traditional Blues Album (with Pinetop Perkins); Randy Chortkoff & Bob Corritore accepting for Delta Groove’s Historical album Harmonica Blues; Derek Trucks for Band and a second award for Instrumentalist-Guitar; Bob Stroger for Bass; Buddy Guy for four awards, Sonny Rhodes for Instrumentalist-Other, and the Nighthawks for Acoustic Album.
Because May 8 was Robert Johnson’s 100th Birthday, celebrations were occurring all over the Delta. His grandsons and family were present for the induction into the Hall of Fame and a special video was prepared depicting his very colorful life.
The Chris O’Leary Band opened the event at the pre-party, followed by The Vincent Hayes Project. Both bands were nominated for the Best New Artist Debut and although neither of them eventually won, they were both well deserving of the nomination. Matt Hill, who did win, closed the event in style.
Pictured: Chris O’Leary Band: Chris O’Leary, Chris Vitarelo, and Frankie Ingrao
Pictured: Vincent Hayes Project: Christian VanAntwerpen, Vincent Hayes, and David Alves
The BMA’s is a non-stop evening of awards wedged between performances (just enough time to re-set the stage for the next performance). It was definitely a blues immersion and I tried not to miss anything (which isn’t possible). As I see other photos I noticed a few acts I did miss! Pictured below are some of the performers – all of which were nominees.
Performers Below: Bob Corritore and his All Star Band: Patrick Rynn-bass, Eddie Shaw-Sax (winner Instrumentalist-Horn ) and Chris James on Guitar. Bob won the Historical Award with his Delta Groove Harmonica Blues collection.
Performers Below: Arthur Adams, Buddy Guy, Todd Park Mohr of Big Head Todd
Performers Below: Denise LaSalle, Eugene Hideaway Bridges, and John Hammond (winner Acoustic Artist)
Kirk Fletcher and Rick Estrin teamed up for an acoustic set. It is always fun to see Rick do his harmonica solo with the “Look Mom!! No Hands” impression.
Janiva Magness and Karen Lovely were both nominated for Contemporary Blues Female Artist and both can belt out the blues and command attention. Lucky Petersen did a quick set with his wife on vocals.
The Mannish Boys – nominated for best Band- brought out the whole band including Randy Chortkoff, Finis Tasby, Franck Goldwasser, Kirk Fletcher, Willie Campbell, and Jimi Botts on drums (Jimi is not pictured – the fog was overwhelming throughout the entire evening making it impossible to capture performers past the front of the stage most of the evening). Big Eyes Willie Smith honored Pinetop and joined Bob Corritore earlier in the evening.
Other nominees included Magic Slim, Reba Russell, and Steve Miller, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame the previous night, Mitch Woods, Sonny Rhodes (Winner – Instrumentalist Other), and Tad Robinson (nominated for Soul Blues – who was a new performer for me and very impressive!), Walter Trout, and the Peter Parcek 3.
The Nighthawks “Last Train to Bluesville” won Acoustic Album.
And the last act of the night, starting after 1 am was Matt Hill with Bob Margolin. Although the room had thinned out, there was still a large group of us who have either seen Matt on the Blues Cruise and knew we needed to stay, or were just pure night owl blues fans. Either way, Matt fired up the room and declared he would keep on playing until they kicked him off the stage – which they did eventually. Matt won the Best New Artist Debut and like the two pre-party bands, he is well deserving and certainly a great addition to the blues community. And how could he go wrong with Steady Rollin’ Bob Margolin on his team?
The evening was a success, the awards were all passed out, and the room emptied. A group of us die-hards weren’t quite through and headed down to Westy’s for some Red Beans & Rice and were treated to a little acoustic guitar sit-in from Guitar Shorty.
There were so many activities before and after the BMA’s, jams and showcases all over Memphis, and a Robert Johnson celebration in both Clarksdale and Greenwood, MS. These photos are available on my website at MJStringerPhoto.com. Good Bluesin’ to Y’all!Marilyn Stringer is a noted photo journalist and frequent Blues Blast Magazine contributor. For more of her photos visit MJStringerPhoto.com
Blues Society News
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Crossroads Blues Society - Rockford, IL
Crossroads Blues Society is featuring two great shows in June. The first is Bryan Lee and the Blues Power Band at Mary's Place, 602 N Madison St, Rockford on Monday June 13th at 7 PM. Admission is only $10 and advanced ticket purchase gets reserved seating. This will be a hot time for all!
Later in the month on Friday, June 24th Doug MacLeod will be at the Just Goods Listening Room on 201 Seventh Street in Rockford at 7:30 PM. This great solo acoustic musician sold out his show there last year- tickets are only $10 in advance at $15 at the door. Call 779-537-4006 for tickets and information. www.crossroadsbluessociety.com
Topeka Blues Society - Topeka, KS
The Topeka Blues Society presents the Spirit of Kansas Blues Festival 2011 July 4th at Reynolds Lodge, 3315 SE Tinman Circle on the east side of Lake Shawnee in Topeka, KS. Music is from noon to 9 p.m. followed by fireworks. Admission is FREE!
The lineup includes 2011 Grammy and BMA award winner (with Kenny Wayne Shepherd) Buddy Flett, 2011 IBC Runner-Up and "Love, Janis" star Mary Bridget Davies Group, 2011 IBC finalists Grand Marquis, The Bart Walker Band with Reese Wynans (Double Trouble) on Hammond B3 and Paul Ossola (G.E. Smith and the Saturday Night Live Band) on bass, Mike Farris (Screamin' Cheetah Wheelies) with the McCrary Sisters and 2010 BMA Song of the Year winner Mike Zito.
There will also be food, arts and crafts and a car show. For more information go to www.topekabluessociety.org or find us on Facebook. Discounted hotel rooms are available at the Topeka Ramada Convention Center. Call (785) 234-5400 and ask for the Blues Society Group 6617.
Mississippi Valley Blues Society - Davenport, IA
The Mississippi Valley Blues Society presents the 2011 Mississippi Valley Blues Festival July 1 -3, 2011 in Davenport, IA.
Artists scheduled to perform include Linsey Alexander, Jimmy Burns, Eric Gales, Paul Rishell and Annie Raines, Dwayne Dopsie and the Zydeco Hellraisers, RJ Mischo with Earl Cate with Them, Smokin’ Joe Kubek & Bnois King,“Way of Blues” Revue from Mississippi on Friday July 1st, Chocolate Thunder, Kevin Burt, Lionel Young Band, Johnny Nicholas, Ryan McGarvey, Peaches Staten, Mississippi Heat, Joe Louis Walker and a Koko Taylor Tribute featuring Nellie “Tiger” Travis, Chick Rogers, Jackie Scott and Delores Scott on Saturday July 2nd, and The Candymakers, Winter Blues Kids, Studebaker John and the Hawks, Harper, Chris Beard, The Paul Smoker Notet, Rich DelGrosso and John Richardson, Sherman Robertson, Mitch Woods and his Rocket 88s and Otis Clay on Sunday July 3rd.
For more information or to purchase tickets visit www.mvbs.org or call (563) 322-5837
The Alabama Blues Project - Northport, AL
Rural Members Association and the Alabama Blues Project presents the 14th Annual Freedom Creek Festival in honor of the late, great Willie King. The festival will be held Saturday, June 2nd 2011 from 11am until 10 pm at “Cookieman’s” Place at 1438 Hwy 17 South/Wilder Circle, Aliceville, AL.
The Rural Members Association is proud to announce the 14th Annual Freedom Creek Blues Festival founded by the late great Willie King and held this year in his honor, following his untimely passing in 2009. Lineup: international blues stars Super Chikan and Homemade Jamz will headline the show.
The festival will open gospel music from the Mississippi Nightingales. Blues bands will play all day, including the Alabama Blues Project Advanced Student Band, local bluesmen Clarence Davis and “Birmingham” George Conner, the Alabama Blues Women Review including Shar Baby, Rachel Edwards, B.J. Miller and Debbie Bond. Birmingham blues great Elnora Spencer band, Little G Weevil, the Missississippi Blues Boys . . . and more! Admissions is by suggested donation of $10. For more information: www.willie-king.com or call (205) 752 6263.
The Santa Barbara Blues Society - Santa Barbara, CA
The Santa Barbara Blues Society is the oldest existing blues society in the U.S. The next SBBS show will be on June 11 with dynamic band Café R&B!
The SBBS has purchased a $4200 ocean view cabin for 2 on the October Pacific Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise. Raffle tickets to win the cabin are available for only $20 per ticket, or 5 for $100, by mailing us a check. A maximum of 500 tickets will be sold. Send to P.O. Box 30853, Santa Barbara, CA 93130-0853. Check www.SBBlues.org for more info.
The Henderson Music Preservation Society - Henderson, KY
The Henderson Music Preservation Society presents the 21st Annual W.C. Handy Blues and Barbecue Festival in Henderson on June 11-18. The festival will host performances in a wide variety of blues styles, from gritty Chicago blues to smooth soul to Delta blues. The lineup includes Preston Shannon, The Amazing Soul Crackers, The Cold Stares on Wendesday June 15, Matt Schofield and Terrance Simien & the Zydeco Experience on Thursday June 16, Dana Fuchs, Guitar Shorty, Deanna Bogart, Mightychondria, Beasley Band, Damon Fowler on Friday June 17 and John Primer with special guests, Lurrie Bell and Eddie Shaw, The Dynamites featuring Charles Walker, Carolyn Wonderland, Lionel Young Band, Eden Brent and Damon Fowler on Saturday June 18.
For more information about the festival, go to www.handyblues.org or contact: Christi G. Dixon at email@example.com, Marcia Eblen at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-800-648-3128.
The Blues Blowtorch Society - Bloomington, IL
The Blues Blowtorch Society presents the 2011 Central Illinois Blues Challenge on July 15 & 16, 2011 at Tri-Lakes in Bloomington, IL during the Ain't Nothin But The Blues Festival. The winner will be sent to Memphis in early 2012 to compete as our representative in the International Blues Challenge. To be considered bands must apply by June 18, 2011. The solo/duo acts competition is to be determined based on interest.
For further information and submission guidelines, please contact Deborah Mehlberg, Entertainment Director at: Deborah464@aol.com www.bluesblowtorch.org
West Virginia Blues Society - Charleston, WV
The West Virginia Blues Society presents the 4th. 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 Friends Of The Blues - Watseka, IL
2011 Friends of the Blues shows -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
Illinois Central Blues Club - Springfield, IL
The Illinois Central Blues Club presents "Blue Monday" every Monday night for the last 25 years - BLUE MONDAY SHOWS - Held at the Alamo 115 N 5th St, Springfield, IL (217) 523-1455 every Monday 8:30pm $3 cover. May 23 - Eric "Guitar" Davis and the Troublemakers, May 30 – Steve the Harp, June 6 – Matt Hill, June 13 - Frank Herrin & Blues Power, June 20 – Roger ‘Hunnicane’ Wilson, June 27 – Jim Suhler & Monkey Beat. icbluesclub.org
The Alabama Blues Project - Northport, AL
The Alabama Blues Project is proud to present the annual "Blues Extravaganza" Friday May20th 6pm at the Bama Theatre, 600 Greensboro Avenue, Tuscaloosa AL.
The show features Grammy winner Sugar Blue and the Alabama Blues Project student blues musicians. Sugar Blue is the Grammy-winning harmonica player who has played and recorded with Johnny Shines, Willie Dixon. Bob Dylan, Stevie Wonder and the Rolling Stones, amongst many others.
This annual celebration is the culmination of the Alabama Blues Project's after-school Blues Camp program and features our young students, alongside internationally renowned blues artist. The event will feature blues all night long showcasing our Blues Camp musicians' bands and our Blues Instructors Bruce Andrews, Shar Baby, Stuart Bond, BJ Reed, Debbie Bond and BJ Miller.
Featured Blues Review 2 of 5
Boogie Bone - Pro-Bone-O
Bone Daddy Records
12 tracks - Total time: 46:28
Portland Oregon’s Boogie Bone is a versatile and accomplished blues quintet with a flair for originality, and their CD, Pro-Bone-O, is unimpeachable testimony to that. Musically, Pro-Bone-O ranges across both acoustic and electric blues, and even modern jazz in the last track, “One Day.” The 12 tracks on the CD glide effortlessly from one style to another, and the band incorporates influences from modern rock, rockabilly, and James Brown percussive-horn soul into its efforts. All 12 songs here are original, penned by the band’s guitarist, Steven Dee Williams, in collaboration with Jason R. Pope, Pro-Bone-O’s associate producer and graphic designer.
In addition to Williams, who also plays keyboards, Boogie Bone’s personnel consists of Howlin’ Jake Johnson, vocals; Steve Snyder, another keyboardist, who especially shines here on acoustic and amplified blues harp, tenor and alto saxes, and on “One Day,” flute; and the rhythm section of drummer Todd “Spud” Stevens and bassist Henry Gavaldon. Jake Johnson’s moniker, “Howlin’,” is somewhat of a misnomer—while he can cry loudly with raging passion, he can also mourn softly, with his vocals consistently providing the full range of appropriate emotions across the variegated songs here.
While most of Pro-Bone-O’s lyrics are on the darker side of blues explorations, descents into impassioned desperation, regret and wonderment at mistreatment, tracks 2 and 8, “Got it Made” and “Good Times” respectively, are felicitously upbeat, celebrating on “Got It Made” an “OK-looking white boy” who has it made, while “Good Times” regales with the boys gathering together for a night in the bar, replete with bar noise and the waitress taking orders, giving last call. Williams and Pope have a way with truly striking lyrical imagery throughout: punctuating track 6, “How Blue Are You,” with reference to the lives of Robert Johnson, Magic Sam and Stevie Ray Vaughn; the rueful “I’ll write a song making fun of you” on the slow blues lamentation, “Why,” track 5; “You’re too young to die/but you’re too old to die young” thematic expression of track 7, “Too Old To Die Young;” the pointed “you smell like Jim” reproach to the cheating lover on track 11, “It Don’t Matter;” and the rollicking “making jokes about our sisters and our mothers” on “Good Times.”
Notable musical approaches grace several tracks: the acoustic country sound of chugging, train-like harmonica with acoustic guitar of the opening track, “Deep Black Water;” the rockabilly feel of track 2’s “Got It Made;” the classic 1950s feel of track 10’s slow blues ballad, “It Don’t Matter;” the equally 1950s rocking rhumba of track 9, “Inside Out;” the melancholy modal acoustic blues of “Too Old To Die Young;” the back-to basics simplicity of track 3’s ‘The Preacher,” with its elemental hand-clapping percussion and its guitar-and-harp interplay that’s reminiscent of the early collaborations of Muddy Waters and Little Walter; and the decidedly modern-rock guitar featured on “How Blue Are You.” Reed-instrument virtuoso Steve Snyder peppers track 4, “Stranded,” with a sax-percussive riff that’s classic James Brown, which also features the Steven Dee Williams mimicking a coffee percolator sound on his guitar. This same James Brown horn percussion is again adapted by Snyder effectively on the rocking “It Don’t Matter.” Both Williams and Snyder are extensively featured on solos, and organs and piano are also part of the musical background featured on Pro-Bone-O, all making for an unusual display of excellent taste in arrangement, musical and vocal virtuosity, and notably extensive variety of different musical styles and genre-crossing approaches throughout. This is what makes Boogie Bone stand out decisively: not just the musical variety, but the ability to play each of the variegated songs well. Pro-Bone-O is just a very accomplished CD from a very accomplished and original band.
Jason Pope’s graphic art aptly complements the musical art, both in its originality and in its technical excellence. The CD sleeve cover adapts the Ramones’ use of the official U.S. eagle-and shield seal as its logo to depict for Boogie Bone its own logo, one graphically emphasizing hellfire, skeletons, guitar and sax. This thematic emphasis carries on in Pope’s artwork for the sleeve tray, with its devil’s head and the band playing in the flames of hell, while the artwork on the CD itself pictures a grinning young man holding up a recording contract. All adding to Pro-Bone-O a felicitous artistic dimension to match its felicitous musical dimension.
Boogie Bone’s present fans are called Boneheads, and Pro-Bone-O can be expected to add more Boneheads to the ranks; for this CD is certainly no bonehead course, but truly at the advanced graduate level of creative explorations in contemporary blues-based musical approaches..
Reviewer George "Blues Fin Tuna" Fish hails from Indianapolis, Indiana, home of blues legends Yank Rachell and Leroy Carr. He has written a regular music column for several years. He wrote the liner notes for Yank Rachell’s Delmark album, Chicago Style. He has been a blues and pop music contributor for the left-wing press as well, and has appeared in Against the Current and Socialism and Democracy.
Featured Blues Review 3 of 5
Tab Benoit - Medicine
Tab Benoit is an iconic figure in the swamp pop/blues scene. His heart and soul are bared for all to see in each of his performances, both live and on CD. This new effort is another great effort and I was impressed with the playing by him and everyone on the CD. Seven new songs grace this CD, co-authored by Benoit and Anders Osborne.
Sometimes you get a sort of mailed in effort on all-star recording sessions and other times you might see artists trying to one up each other. Not here. Benoit has assembled some great artists and they blend together with great musicality into a wonderful sound. Recorded at Louisiana’s Dockside Studio and produced by David Z who has produced and engineered another great Benoit classic. The artists here are obviously Tab Benoit on Guitar and Lead Vocals, Anders Osborne on Guitar and Background Vocals, Ivan Neville on Keyboards, Corey Duplechin on Bass, Michael Doucet on Fiddle and Vocals and Brady Blade on Drums. Mostly recorded live on one take, this is a magical set. Also to note, Osborne is using BB King’s Lucille on Medicine and half the CD’s tracks, adding a nice acoustical touch to the proceedings.
From the opening notes on the title track to the final cut Benoit gives us a good sampling of his gumbo enhanced Cajun guitar and vocal goodness. “Medicine” opens with a slow, down home beat with a deep groove with Benoit and Osborne trading guitar licks that gets you ready for a fine set of tunes. He keeps it low tempo as he transitions into “Sunrise”, a beautiful swamp ballad where Tab’s vocal art work will have the ladies eating out of his hand and the guys wishing they had just an minute bit of his magical mojo. On “A Whole Lot of Soul” we get more of the throbbing, pulsating slow blues Benoit that delivers with great style. There is also a nice, ringing guitar solos midway through that is hard not to love. Benoit cuts loose on the fourth track with the driving beat of “Come and Get It”, a tune that will have them up on their feet and dancing at festivals this summer.
“Broke and Lonely” returns to a slower beat in a down tempo cut with some sad lyrics where he bemoans that “now when women see me they won’t even wave their hand”; obviously this is not a biographical piece, but it’s a cool little number. Doucet’s fiddle come in on “Long Lonely Bayou” another slow and mournful song that is beautifully done. Doucet gives a great performance here and on the other cuts he fills in on; the acoustic guitar work with the fiddle here is also quite haunting. “In It to Win It” brings the tempo up to a medium beat, and Benoit speaks to us about being yourself and getting into the game of life to win it. Doucet returns in “Can’t You See” and sets the stage for a cute down home track with a more country fried flavor.
Benoit returns back to the soulful ballad next with “Nothing Takes The Place of You”; he is obviously in his element here with heart throbbing vocals and guitar play. The CD closes a little more upbeat with “Next to Me” and then certainly upbeat with “Mudboat Melissa”. The final cut is another big-time dance tune with fiddle and big guitar sounds and gives the CD a rousing finish.
Blues fans will eat this stuff up and get a good representation of Tab and his talents. Add it to your collection.
Featured Blues Review 4 of 5
Tweed Funk – Bringin’ It
Tweed Tone Records 2011
10 tracks; 37.07 minutes
Tweed Funk is a four piece band from Milwaukee, Wisconsin and was a new name to me. The band consists of JD Optekar on guitar, Donnie Mac on bass (and keys on some tracks), Marcus “MG” Gibbons on drums and Joseph “Smokey” Holman on vocals on all bar three tracks where each of the other musicians takes the lead vocal. Additional keys are provided on three tracks by Stephen “Pierre” Lee and Macolm “Musicman” Ramsey, but the CD is very much an in-house affair, with engineering, production and mastering by JD Optekar and Marcus “MG” Gibbons. All the songs are original except for Sly Stone’s “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Again)”.
We are mainly in the area of funky tunes here but across the CD there are some straight blues influences as well as touches of soul. Singer Smokey started out under Curtis Mayfield and demonstrates that he has a fine voice for soul and blues. The playing throughout is very good, especially the guitar of JD Optekar.
JD contributes 4 songs to the album, starting with “Blues Is The Truth”, a shuffle with synthesizer highlights and a good guitar solo. The lyrics extol the virtues of the blues as an ever-present source of ‘real’ music. “I Know” is a more up-tempo tune and “My Baby’s Alright” features a strong piano break in the middle and guitar on the outro. The song is also JD’s chance to step up to the microphone and his vocal is suited to the song, without threatening to usurp Smokey’s position as the main singer in the band. “Black Coffee” is a relaxed tune with a strong vocal, Smokey needing the brew to clear his head from a difficult encounter with the blues on a Saturday night. It is all to the credit of the singer and the songwriter that one could hear someone like Bobby Bland tackling this song.
Drummer MG provides two solo compositions of very different types. “Super Mad Woman” is a slow blues of classic style with strong organ from guest Stephen Lee whilst “Brainfreeze” is a strange little number, just 1.35 in length, starting with a repeated shout of “It’s Tweed Funk time” before a very rocky guitar riff takes us to a song which appears to be about putting the tweed into the funk. For an Englishman who knows tweed as a fabric for rather conservative suits this is indeed an odd thing to contemplate!
Bassist Donnie Mac offers “Testify” which sounds like a Sly Stone tune, complete with wah-wah guitar and a short rap in the middle. The lyric tells us that “Funk is in my soul, it makes me whole”. His other tune is the very catchy “B-Line” which Donnie sings effectively.
Donnie and MG also provide a joint composition, the only instrumental on the album “Salsa Blues”, which I enjoyed a lot. It is a relaxed affair with a touch of Santana, perhaps not surprisingly. Percolating bass, rippling electric piano, gentle percussion and fluent guitar play the main tune before bass and drums each get an opportunity to play a short solo feature. The guitar then takes us home on a final chorus.
That leaves the Sly Stone cover. At 5.56 this is the longest track on the CD and, for me, rather outstays its welcome, but I was never a great fan of Sly. Opening with a drum riff the guitar then takes over, assisted by the synthesizer, but I found the whole piece too repetitive. Tweed Funk are obviously Sly fans and take the opportunity to quote from other Sly tunes, notably “Dance To The Music”.
Overall I found this to be a varied CD and I particularly enjoyed the more bluesy tunes such as “Super Mad Woman” and “Black Coffee” as well as “Salsa Blues”. The band has an excellent singer and strong instrumental players so I suspect that they would be worth seeing live when they come to your area. For those who like a good dose of funk mixed into their blues this CD is well worth checking out.
Review 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 5 of 5
Big Shanty - Collection
King Mojo Records
Disc 1 – 9 tracks/43:29 Disc 2 – 10 tracks/43:13
This two-disc set is a compilation of tracks by Big Shanty (aka Dick Wooley), a singer with rough, hard-as-nails voice who also plays a mean slide guitar. Pulled from several studio recordings and one long –out-of-print live disc, some of the cuts are from the Ride with the Wind release, which was named the #1 Blues Album of the Year for 2007 by Real Blues, a Canadian blues publication.
Apparently Big Shanty was an early convert to using the Internet to market his products as he claims to have recorded over 1,000,000 downloads of his music from the King Mojo website. Shanty’s music is described in the press release as “death metal blues” or “heavy metal funk”. He definitely likes to play loud and nasty, with a rough-and-tumble attitude that takes an unflinching look at life in the lyrics to the majority of tunes. Shanty wrote all of the songs, some with the help of various band members with drummer Scott Robertson the primary collaborator. His backing comes from a revolving cast of musicians with the liner notes identifying the line-up on each track.
The first disc starts off with “Whiskey Woman”, a grinding roadhouse rocker, and “Stop Pushing”, with Shanty railing against the constraints of the 9-5 world. Rick Phillip’s Hammond B-3 offers a nice contrast to the twin guitar attack of the leader and Chris Blackwell. Shanty is the sole focus on “They Say It’s Raining” with just Robertson and Dustin Sargent on bass in support. Shanty dials back the intensity and gives “Got a Hold on Me” a sensitive reading while Eddie Jett stretches out on guitar.
The five live cuts quickly prove that Shanty knows how to take charge of a stage and win over the crowd. “Right Combination” is all-out rock & roll given a boost by Rick Phillips on bass sax. The two slow blues, “Queen of Hearts Has Disappeared” and “World of Trouble”, feature Dave Hanbury’s fine lead guitar playing and expressive vocals from Shanty. “Smoke & Mirrors Jam” holds your interest with Hanbury and Dave Ylvisaker on keyboards making solid contributions.
The second disc features plenty of Shanty’s high energy, blues/rock sonic assaults with Liz Melendez shining on guitar on “Killing Fields” and “Uncle Sam Go to Rehab” as Shanty barks out his discontent over the mess politicians have created for all of us. “Living on the Edge of Time” is another dark dirge with Col. Bruce Hampton sitting in on steel guitar. The trouble with the rest of this disc is that most of songs use a few simple phrases for lyrics – and Shanty isn’t compelling enough as a singer to rescue the songs from lyrical boredom.
All in all, there is plenty of value in this package as it can be purchased on-line for less than $13. Big Shanty’s take-no-prisoners approach would certainly be welcome in biker bars and late-night saloons across the country. He has plenty to say and, while it’s not your traditional blues music, it definitely is grounded in travails of modern life.
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