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From The Editors Desk
Hey Blues Fans,
A few weeks ago we ran a feature story on drummer Kenny "Beady Eyes" Smith. This week Terry Mullins has a follow up interview with Kenny's father and Blues legend Willie "Big Eyes" Smith. The interview was conducted just after the passing of his friend and band mate Pinetop Perkins and their recent Grammy win for their CD Joined AT The Hip.
Good Blues To You!
We had a GREAT Blues week. On Monday we made it out to hear Chicago area Bluesman Eric "Guitar" Davis at the weekly Blue Monday show in Springfield, IL.
Eric and his band "The Trouble Makers" have a new CD in the works produced by none other than Chicago Blues great Ronnie Baker Brooks. Based on what we heard, we think you are going to want to get this new one!
We also caught a show on Wednesday by the 2010 winner of the International Blues Challenge, Grady Champion.
They have just released a new CD produced by another winner of the International Blues Challenge, Zac Harmon. The new CD is called Dreamin' and it is available on CDbaby now. Look for a review in an upcoming issue of Blues Blast Magazine.
In This Issue
Terry Mullins has our feature interview with Willie "Big Eyes" Smith. Award winning Blues photographer David Horwitz has a photo essay on the 2011 Baton Rouge Blues Festival. Rainey Wetnight reviews a new CD from The Veldman Brothers. Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony reviews a new CD by Midnight Shift. Gary “Wingman” Weeks reviews a new CD by Joe Bonamassa. John Mitchell reviews a new CD from Tracy Nelson. Mark Thompson reviews a new CD by Los Fabulocos. All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN!!!
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Featured Blues Story - Willie “Big Eyes” Smith
A picture is indeed worth a thousand words.
Just by gazing at Joined at the Hip (Telarc), the collaboration between Pinetop Perkins and Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, it’s quickly evident there is no need for vocalization to illustrate the deep bond shared by the two distinguished gentlemen pictured on the cover.
The look on their faces say way more than any string of words ever could.
Ever since the ivory-tickling Perkins joined the Muddy Waters Band in 1969, a group that featured Smith on drums, the fire of friendship has burned bright between Pinetop and “Big Eyes.”
Unfortunately, Perkins recently left this earth, rejoining Muddy on the other side of the Pearly Gates, but his old pal “Big Eyes” offers up a reason while Pinetop, though now gone, will never be forgotten.
“Why did everyone love Pinetop? Because he was good, that’s why,” said Smith. “He loved what he did and he was good at it. It’s simple. That’s why we’ll always remember him.”
Though they were by no means spring chickens when Joined at the Hip was released in 2010 – Perkins was 97 and Smith was 73 – the album still found a place in the collective conciseness of blues lovers everywhere.
And oh yeah, it also won a Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues Album, making Pinetop the oldest living recipient of one of the music industry’s most coveted trophies.
Muddy is no doubt smiling in approval.
And as for Smith?
“It’s still sinking in,” he said. “I’m just a little ole speck and when you get hold of a big ole piece of gold, you gotta’ take your time and let it sink in.”
The reunion on record of Pinetop and “Big Eyes” was not done with some kind of a cosmic plan in mind, but rather as another chance for the two elder statesmen to cut loose, doing what they do best.
“It was the producer’s (Michael Freeman) idea for the name,” Smith said. “Pinetop was getting up in age – his mind may have been slippin’, but his fingers sure weren’t – and Patricia Morgan just decided that since Pinetop and I had been playing together on and off for 40 years - mostly on - it would be good for us to do something and call it Joined at the Hip. None of us was thinking about no Grammy or nothing like that. They just wanted us to do something together, like in the old days.”
The rest, as they say, is history.
History that culminated at the 53rd annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles, California.
“Now that was a surprise, even when they told us we had been nominated,” Smith said. “I just couldn’t believe it. Just to even be nominated was hard to believe. But when we walked away with it … I’ll put it like this – the man upstairs knows best, because everything seems to work out for a reason. It was sure in someone else’s hands.”
Joined at the Hip also took top honors in the Best Traditional Blues Album category at this year’s Blues Music Awards in Memphis.
Pretty cool stuff for a couple of cats that first crossed paths in Helena, Arkansas, back when Smith was just a young lad.
“I remember seeing Pinetop play around Helena,” Smith said. “And him and my auntie and uncle were friends, so that’s how I got to meet Pinetop for the first time. I was about seven years old.”
Smith was born in the town of Helena, and it was also there that he got the first taste of the music that would soon shape his life.
“When I was small, in the early 40s and 50s, the best thing they had there was Sonny Boy Williamson and that program on KFFA (King Biscuit). It was 15 minutes of blues every day and every day we’d try to make it home by 12:00 to hear the King Biscuit Boys,” he said. “And maybe one or two Saturdays a month, we had this place called the Miller Theater and they’d have people there playing the blues. I was kind of small then and some of them (performers) I can remember and some I can’t.”
After moving to Chicago when he was 17, Smith picked up the art of playing the harmonica and was soon keeping pretty busy by blowing harp all over the city.
And as Smith says, going from the small town environment of Helena, Arkansas to the wide-open, 24-hour a day happenings in the Windy City was “like walking on Broadway.”
“Oh, man. Things were different in Chicago, for sure,” he laughed. “Different than they were in Helena. But now West Memphis, that was another story. That was almost like Chicago back in the day. It may have even been better than Chicago. It wasn’t no big place, but they had what I call the heavy artillery there. All the players played West Memphis. And everybody knew everybody there. That’s where all the action was.”
Just as he started to find his way around Chicago as an in-demand harp player, even playing on chestnuts like Bo Diddley’s “Diddy Wah Diddy,” a new storm was brewing on the horizon, a force of nature that would have a direct impact on Smith’s career.
A force called rock-n-roll.
“When I started out playing, the blues was doing pretty good. But in the middle to the end of the 50s, like Muddy said, ‘blues had a baby and they called it rock-n-roll,’ and that meant the blues started to take a backseat,’ Smith said. “It was a different generation. The music was the same, they used the same words and things, but they just speeded it up. And that’s what everybody liked.”
That new infatuation with that burgeoning form of music also proved to make it tough for a harmonica player to find steady work.
That’s when Willie “Big Eyes” Smith first decided to grab a pair of sticks and move to the ‘rat-a-tat-tat’ of the drums.
And the results were immediate.
“I went from playing just on weekends, playing my kind of music on the harp, to working throughout the week by switching over to the drums,” he said. “I started working five or six nights a week. I was still playing the blues, but I also played a little rock-n-roll, too. It wasn’t so much of an economic thing, cause weren’t none of us making any money, but the good thing of it was you got to play music and have fun.”
Chicago was certainly stocked full of inspirational drummers at the time and a couple of those - Elmore James’ drummer Fred Bellow, along with another alumnus of Muddy Waters’ band, Francis Clay, turned out to be mentors that Smith turned to while developing his craft on the skins.
“They both really influenced my style. I wanted to play like both of them,” said Smith. “And what can I say? I guess out of that, I just developed me – my style.”
That style has most definitely served Smith well over the years, whether he was holding down the backbeat for over 15 years in what would become Muddy’s last core band, or whether keeping time for The Legendary Blues Band, or on his own solo works.
It also gave a whole new generation of would-be drummers inspiration to pick up the sticks – including a young man right in Smith’s own house – his son, Kenny “Beady Eyes” Smith.
As it turns out, “Beady Eyes” was a quick study. Playing in the true Chicago style that his father helped make famous, Kenny Smith has become a first-call session man and bandleader in his own right.
And as one would expect, father and son share a lot when it comes to laying down a groove.
“When I hear him (Kenny) play, I have to listen real close, because if I don’t pay attention to the little things that go on, I can’t tell him from me a lot of times,” the elder Smith said. “And I have a lot of fun playing with him. It lets me know that I’m moving on up the ladder. But I do have a lot of fun with him. I really appreciate him.”
Kenny Smith was nominated for a Blues Music Award (BMA) in the category of Best Instrumentalist for the second year in a row.
However, “Beady Eyes” has a ways to go before he catches up with his old man when it comes to the BMAs.
“Big Eyes” has won the Blues Music Award for Best Instrumentalist an incredible12 times.
Twelve times and counting, that is.
“I’ve got about 10 or 12 of those (BMAs) and a couple of years ago, I told ‘em that it would be nice if they didn’t put me in (the nominations) so some of the younger people could have a chance to get recognized,” Smith laughed. “But I’m nominated once again this year … so I guess they just didn’t listen.”
Blues Music Awards … Grammy Awards … it’s got to be a bit surrealistic for a country boy from Phillips County, Arkansas to be hailed as one of the best at what he does.
“Well, I don’t consider myself to be the best, but I do know my job,” he said. “And if you know your job and can be the best you can … that’s all you can do. But as far as winning it, it does make me feel good. Because over the years, I’ve worked, but never really tried to win anything (awards). If I can just get up there and play, that makes me feel good, too. But it also makes me feel good that people know that I’m still around.”
Relevant as ever, Smith was also recently a part of another BMA-winning album, Kenny Wayne Shepherd’s Live! In Chicago, a disc that won for Rock Blues Album of the Year at this year’s Blues Music Awards. Smith blows some gritty harp and handles lead vocals duties on a simmering version of “Eye to Eye.” He even engages in a bit of harmonica-guitar back-and-forth with Shepherd in the middle of the tune.
For Smith, getting on stage and jamming with groups like the Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band is just another way to make sure the traditions and ways of the past continue to live, breathe and grow.
“I think some of the young bands we got these days are real good. That means the blues are in good hands,” Smith said. “And we’ve (the older generation) got to show them what we know. It wouldn’t be worth having if you can’t pass it on to someone else and that’s what I want to do. Pass the blues along to the young ones, just like it was passed to me when I was in their shoes.”
That’s probably never been as important as it is these days, when making a living out of playing the blues can be one tough order of business.
“Well, I don’t call it hard work, or really work at all,” Smith said. “I call it having fun. I’ve been fortunate enough to make it through the lean times playing the blues. I’ve been able to feed my family and keep a roof over their heads and that’s the most important thing. There have been some lean times, but you just use what you got.”
And Smith plans to keep on using what he’s got for as long as the good man upstairs will allow. There will be no slowing down or putting up the drumsticks and harmonica in the near future for Willie “Big Eyes” Smith.
“Nope, not until they do me like Pinetop,” he said. “I’m going to play right until the end. My intentions are to keep doing what I’ve been doing for quite a few years and then just lay down and go to sleep and don’t wake up.”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
The Veldman Brothers - Spreadin’ Around
11 songs; 48:58 minutes
Styles: Blues-Rock, Harmonica infused traditional blues
SRV! Aficionados of 1980’s blues know exactly of whom I speak: the late Stevie Ray Vaughan. When he passed, the blues world lost one of its modern paragons. He may not be with us anymore, but his style echoes throughout a magnificent blues CD by a duo deemed the Veldman Brothers. You might guess they're from Chicago or Texas, but they hail from across the Atlantic. That's right: Holland isn't just for tulip-sighting anymore!
Before you start perusing what is perhaps the most riveting offering of 2011 from a foreign blues artist, hear this: They grow on you. The more one listens, the more one is prone to fall under their spell! Some may sneer: “Their guitars are too loud, and their song selection is not representative of real blues.” Don't listen to them! Instead, sit back, relax, and do whatever you enjoy most as you absorb their music.
Gerrit and Bennie Veldman are two siblings who'll admit, from time to time, “[We're] not that man. [We're] just poor souls with some blues inside.” You know they mean it. They haven't sung these eleven original songs just for the cash. If they had, they wouldn't have poured such gut-wrenching emotion, nearing ferocity, into every note they play. Sometimes it's too much—the Veldmans pull no punches and mince no words. However, that's when one turns the blast of music down, not off! At the end of this roller-coaster ride, one might feel ecstatic exhaustion.
Each of their eleven original songs is like a stick of dynamite waiting to explode into your consciousness, whether it's a rollicking opener like the title track or a powerful 6/8-timed swayer like “Leavin'.” The only two that are jarring are “Need to Know”--with perfectly unquotable lyrics save the three words in the title—and “Questions,” which is placed on the album a little too late and a lot too long. Aside from “Leavin',” the best slow blues number this reviewer's heard this year, the other masterpiece is “Evil.” It's an up-tempo ballad that's “on the down low” about the Devil and his schemes.
You know what? I was wrong. “SRV” may be channeled some here on “Spreadin' Around,” but the Veldman Brothers deserve far more credit than that. They're not imitators; they're true blues.
Reviewer Rainey Wetnight is a 31 year old female Blues fan. She brings the perspective of a younger blues fan to reviews. A child of the 1980s music, she was strongly influenced by her father’s blues music collection.
Featured Live Blues Review
2011 Baton Rouge Blues Festival
By David Horwitz
The Baton Rouge Blues Festival (BRBF) and Blues Week seek to fulfill both the contemporary and historical blues music scene. It should be noted that Baton Rouge is one of the touchstones of the blues. Swamp blues that is, starting with Slim Harpo, Silas Hogan, Guitar Kelly, Lazy Lester, Raful Neal and many others. Baton Rouge is home to many blues stars? past and present: Tabby and Chris Thomas, Henry Gray, Johnny Adams and the Neals to name a few. Blues Music Award winner Buddy Guy got his start playing bass for Raful Neal’s band before moving to Chicago.
BRBF started in 1980 at Scott’s Bluff on the campus of Southern University, and after two years moved to the streets of Baton Rouge. My first trip to BRBF was 1988 and I was blown away as three stages were set up on the streets downtown. The event was all Louisiana artists. The festival continued until 1996 in various formats, then sponsors and money dried up. After a 13 year hiatus it was reborn with significant influence from the Baton Rouge Blues Foundation, grants from the parish, city, state tourism department, various arts organizations and a ton of volunteers.
The mission of the foundation is to promote and present Baton Rouge and Louisiana blues music as a cultural entity as well as within a historical cultural component. The festival is the climax of Blues Week which is comprised of workshops, lectures and performances. This free festival and blues week is produced by Pal Productions. Johnny Palazzotto somehow manages to book the acts and presenters, find venues, set the stage and present a world class event. Nobody can do this alone so a big shout out goes to all the volunteers.
What makes this event so enticing when just 80 miles up the I-10 is the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival? Let’s start with the fact that this is a FREE event. Some of the acts that play NOJHF play Baton Rouge as well. Southern hospitality and food both events have in spades. The things that Baton Rouge does not have are the crowds, long food lines and tight security. You can get 15 feet from the stage, and hear and see from almost anywhere, plus the usual merchandise (t-shirts, posters, CDs), again without the long lines. Blue skies, mid-80’s with pleasant breezes, crawfish pies, red beans & rice, the Neal family chicken wings, pulled pork, potato ribbons – it’s got it all.
As I said the festival is the main event of a week of blues related events. On the Friday night before the festival a mini-festival/showcase/jam takes place downtown at an outdoor venue. This precursor primes you for what’s to come on Saturday – local artists get to strut their stuff. It’s three hours of Baton Rouge blues and R&B – a great way to kick off the weekend!
Saturday the festival started right on time at high noon with Mr. Hinson and the Jazz Blisters, a group of high school students from magnet schools in the parish. They formed a big band blues performing group: horns, accordion, keyboard, guitars, drums and multiple lead singers taking turns and showing their talent. Part of the mission of the Baton Rouge Blues Foundation is to educate and generate interest in the blues. It would seem that with this program in the schools the future of the Baton Rouge blues is well on its way to the next generation of blues music.
Next on the bill were Sue Foley and Peter Karp. Sue should be familiar to some blues fans—I first saw this Canadian in the late 80’s playing with Mark Hummel. She has since formed her own band, toured the world, won a Juno (Canadian music award), moved to Texas and made a few CDs. But she hasn’t stopped playing her pink paisley Fender or bringing you the blues her way.
For this go-around she has teamed up with singer-songwriter Peter Karp. They are showcasing their Blind Pig Records CD “He Said, She Said”, a disk based on email correspondence between the two. It was clear to me their collaboration was more than musical. The songs on the CD deal with life and love and the distance between them. The new CD and much of their set was a magical blend of blues with country, jazz and even some Latin overtones and undercurrents. It was a treat watching Sue and Peter playing with-against-and-off each other, at various times taking lead on the vocals or Peter on guitar and keys. Then Sue on electric or acoustic guitar backed by a solid rhythm section who knew when to lay back or help out a bit more. The music flowed from the musician to one another then out to the crowd.
Jimbo Mathus and the Tri-State Coalition came on like gangbusters. Jimbo may be best known as the founder and leader of the Squirrel Nut Zippers, who had some commercial success. Jimbo is a writer as well as a performer. Talking to him backstage he comes across as a laid back good old boy from Mississippi. But turn him loose on stage and it’s blues meets country rock with a psychedelic twist. The Coalition is made up of guys with almost as much energy as Jimbo. Second guitar, keys, bass and drums—the group goes from 0-60 in seconds and never slows down. This contrast in pace from Sue & Peter’s was not lost on the crowd as they were up on their feet dancing. If it’s high energy blues you want, this is the group for you.
Moreland & Arbuckle were next and after Jimbo’s hell raising set I wasn’t sure this more laid back trio could hold the crowd. Boy was I wrong! Moreland on multiple guitars, Arbuckle on harp and vocals, backed by drummer Brad Horner. Their music is sometimes primitive sometimes rocking but always rooted deep in the blues. My first encounter was seeing then on the streets of Helena at the King Biscuit Blues Festival playing mostly straight ahead Delta blues. That has changed in that their music takes on at times a dark quality, blues-based but with various iterations that are a bit spooky, sometimes leaning toward R&B, other times hypnotic. This is especially true when Aaron Moreland plays his 4-string square cigar box guitar – almost an electric diddley bow with one string dedicated to the bass, the others to the guitar amp. Sometimes the guys come across as roots music, this may be related to growing up in the heartland of Kansas and not the Delta. Dustin Arbuckle’s vocals have just enough raspyness to come across as R&B or Delta blues. His harp playing runs deep from Sonny Boy to Little Walter – somehow he blends it all together. Never overly flashy, these guys make you listen rather than overwhelm you. It’s like finishing a good meal – you feel full and satisfied.
The next set was special in so many ways: Henry Gray, born in Kenner, Louisiana in 1925; Tabby Thomas, born in Baton Rouge in 1929; and Carol Fran, born in Lafayette in 1933. These artists represented a combined 180 years of bringing Louisiana music to the world. What binds these 3 artists together is all were born in Louisiana. It seems they all had a common experience with Excello Records; all had heard and played with Slim Harpo, and all have contributed to the swamp blues sound of the Baton Rouge area.
Another goal of the Baton Rouge Blues Foundation is to honor the elder contributors to the Baton Rouge blues scene. What better way than showcase their talent at the festival? Henry on vocals and piano; Carol and Tabby on vocals backed by a solid band showed that they still have what it takes to entertain an audience.
Henry Gray, best noted for being Howlin’ Wolf’s piano player 1956-1968 started playing at age 16 in Louisiana. He moved to Chicago and did many recordings for Chess Records; he then moved back to the Baton Rouge area and has stayed ever since, touring the world, playing NOJHF and Baton Rouge since their beginnings.
Carol Fran, known primarily as a singer, also plays piano. Her career began at age 15, and she had some regional and national songs that made the charts. She has been on the blues scene as both a solo artist and in bands. Still active and available for gigs she says “I’m too old for a top-40 hit, but I can still sing those mellow blues!”
Tabby Thomas started working after a stint in the Army in the mid 1940’s in the Bay area. He moved back to Baton Rouge and has been a force in the blues scene ever since. In the late 70’s he opened up The Blues Box Heritage Hall, and this club became the local place to be seen and heard. The Blues Box became a focal point as it introduced young whites and blacks to the music of Baton Rouge, plus being a steady place for some of the older blues players to gig. Tabby is still going strong as a DJ and singer, even after suffering a major stroke. While the Blues Box has closed, its memory lives on.
A common thread with all three of these artists is that while they toured the world they never forgot their roots, the music steeped in the swamps of Louisiana.
What can you say about Jimmie Vaughn, the older brother of Stevie and guitar master in his own right, but at times overshadowed by the legend of Stevie? Well forget about all that: Jimmie’s playing and band are a sight to behold. Backed by Greg Piccolo on sax (a teenaged player with Roomful of Blues), drum legend George Rains, and Lou Ann Barton on vocals, this set was a Texas tornado blowing through Baton Rouge in a good way! Jimmie’s so comfortable in his role as the leader of this super-talented group that he lets Lou Ann and Greg take the vocal leads and he supports them. It was a solid non-stop set of Texas blues at its best. Keys, two horns, bass, drums, second guitar – a tight Texas music machine.
Closing the show would be tough. The crowd swelled and covered almost every inch of real estate. People were standing 10 deep in front of the stage. The crowd was buzzing from all the great music they had heard all day. If anyone could take this crowd a notch higher it would be Delbert McClinton. His music has always been hard to categorize: blues/country/country rock/rock & roll. I know when there were still record stores you could find his music in various bins. I guess you can put him in Roadhouse Americana since it embraces all that is good in American music. Delbert’s been out there doing his thing for a long time. In 1962 his harp licks found their way to Bruce Channel’s “Hey Baby”, which in turn sparked Beatle John Lennon’s curiosity, so Delbert introduced him to the harp. So it’s been over 50 years of touring and playing.
Delbert always has a tight band - consisting of guitar, bass, drums, keys, sax, trumpet and harp – that just knows when to lay back and support his vocals or harp solos, or shine as a musical force of its own. Somehow Delbert has the ability to bring the roadhouse feel to a big stage and crowd. Somehow you’re transported to some smoky juke joint, where you or Delbert first heard the blues. As I said I would have felt sorry for the closing act if it was anyone except Delbert. He gave them 90 minutes and then the crowd begged for more. He came out for a 20 minute encore – a perfect way to close the Baton Rouge Blues Festival.
Bottom line: if you want the true Louisiana experience – the food, hospitality, atmosphere and swamp blues, plus world class musical acts, then don’t miss next year’s Baton Rouge Blues Festival and Blues Week. And did I mention it’s all FREE? Check out http://www.louisianasmusic.com for details.
Photos and commentary by 1999 “Keeping the Blues Alive” Award recipient David Horwitz - David Horwitz Blues Images 4243 E. 6th Street, Tucson AZ 85711-1921 DavidHorwitzBluesImages@msn.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 Clarita Valley Blues Society presents the 4th Annual Santa Clarita Valley Blues Festival & BBQ In The Park - June 4th, from 11am - 5pm, at Mountain View Park, 28502 Seco Canyon Rd., Santa Clarita, CA. 91390. Artist lineup includes Austin Scott & Triple Threat, Susan Rey Band, Wumbloozo, Kelly's Lot, Bob Malone Band, Toni Dodd & Southbound Blues, Michael John & The Bottom Line and Mistress of Ceremonies - Teresa James.
Admission is Free, all ages welcome. Bring a blanket or a chair. Free parking and shuttle at Mountainview Elementary School, 22201 Cypress Place, Santa Clarita, CA. 91390 and on streets surrounding the Park. This is a Charity event for the Tom Bolewski Special Needs Trust. For more information, contact info@SCVBlues.org or find us at www.facebook.com/SCV.Blues
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 proudly presents Big James & The Chicago Playboys Friday June 3, 2011 at The Castle Theater, 209 East Washington Street, Bloomington, IL. The show starts at 7:00PM
ALso 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 please contact Deborah Mehlberg, Entertainment Director at: Deborah464@aol.com or visit 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
Featured Blues Review 2 of 5
Midnight Shift - Rhythm Rockin’ Boogie
This Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania ensemble brings a sound honed from catering to dancers, while slowing down the pace at times to vary the attack. An amalgam of rockabilly, 50’s rock and roll, jump blues and blues is delivered by a very capable unit of musicians. Front man Mike Mettalia provides vocals well suited to rockabilly and easy roclling rock and roll, along with a craftsman’s grasp of electric harmonica skills. Guitar man Mike Mcmillan compliments the other Mike with his nimble-fingered guitar playing. Oft-times going from rockabilly riffing to blues licks all within one tune. The guys have their style firmly planted in rockabilly and 50’s rock and roll, at times adding blues touches. The only true blues songs are “The L & N” and the blazing harmonica romp of “Back Off”. Steve Guyger, Tommy Conwell and others lend handy harp, guitar and keyboard support. Mettalia matches Guyger in the harmonica department with varied grooves.
The largely band-penned tunes infuse the best elements of rockabilly, rock and blues that would keep any dance floor bopping ‘til it drops. For lack of a better description, I’ll call it blues-a-billy, perhaps best displayed on the opener “Real Good Sign”. The leader’s strong harp skills come to the forefront quickly in the lead-off track and never show signs of letting up throughout the CD. Johnny Burnette’s “Tear It Up” is given it’s due with rockabilly riffing all over the place. Mcmillan again shows his versatility by taking up the piano parts of the R&B chestnut “Mess Around” with his skittering guitar parts. He gets into surf territory on his guitar showcase on “The Girl From Nogales”, which he penned. The sympathetic rhythm section of Tim Smith and Paul Pluta is there and every turn in the proceedings, never missing a beat. The addition of Steve Guyger’s beefy harp and the boogie-woogie piano of Dan Mckinney along with fleet-fingered guitar render “The L & N” as a soon to be classic in the pantheon of blues train songs. The ghost of Buddy Holly is evoked with jangly guitar backing on the easy bopping “Crash Into Love”.
These groove-masters are surely in possession of “the right tools for the job”, but at times the blueprints need a bit of tweaking. The lack of rhyming lyrics in the occasional song causes a lack of flow. The instrumental skills executed throughout are much more than impressive. Minor flaws aside, fans of an upbeat good time can’t go wrong with working this “Midnight Shift”.
Reviewer Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony hails from the New Jersey Delta. He is the proprietor of Bluesdog’s Doghouse at http://bluesdog61.multiply.com.
The Moon Is Rising:
Songs of Robert Nighthawk
From the uproariously funny to the beautifully dramatic, Chicago blues singer and slide guitarist, Donna Herula, performs the neglected songs of slide guitar master Robert Nighthawk in a country/Delta Blues acoustic style. Solo slide guitar; duets with harmonica, guitar and violin.
Featured Blues Review 3 of 5
Joe Bonamassa - Dustbowl
On his latest release Dustbowl, guitarist/vocalist Joe Bonamassa once again comes up with an colorful palette that blends the best of blues, classic rock and country.
Using various guests on this release contributes to the varying textures of the songs. While some long time fans may cringe when they hear Vince Gill appears on this cd, one listen to Gill's "Sweet Rowena" shows that a country boy can write a blues shuffle and play his instrument pretty good. Gill's guitar playing suits the mood just fine in JohHiatt's in "Tennessee Plates" that Bonamassa turns into rocking hard country.
Opening track "Slow Train" with its slow ominous beat captures a ghostly effect undermined by Bonamassa's haunting slide guitar which is the perfecting setting for title track "Dustbowl" that echoes vintage Pink Floyd.
Working with Glenn Hughes in the side project of Black Country Communion inspires Bonamassa to use the singer in Paul Rodger's "Heartbreaker" which could have been an out-take from a BCC album. Joe's British influences ranging from Gary Moore to Jimmy Page are worn openly on his sleeve. Original tune "The Last Matador of Bayonne" sounds like a tribute to the late Irish rocker as Joe's soloing bears his imprints. "Black Lung Heartache" was probably recorded at Black Rock Studios in Greece as it drenches itself in Eastern mysticism. Bonamassa works the pedal hard and heavy in the thunderous stomp of "You Better Watch Yourself."
Ending track "Prisoner" might have been made popular by Barbara Streisand back in the day. But Joe turns this ballad into hard rock candy with impassioned singing and guitar work coming from the British schools of the sixties.
Like all his previous work, "Dustbowl" marks an evolution in the musical journey Joe Bonamassa takes that only piques the curiosity of his long time fan base wondering where he will turn next.
Review by by Gary “Wingman” Weeks.
Featured Blues Review 4 of 5
Tracy Nelson – Victim Of The Blues
11 tracks; 40.36 minutes
Tracy Nelson has been recording for over 40 years and is probably best remembered for her vocals with San Francisco based band Mother Earth in the late 60’s. She has had success in blues and country music, but her initial recordings were heavily influenced by what she discovered in the blues clubs of Chicago in the early 60’s. Although Tracy has remained linked to the blues, this is her first out and out blues recording for many years. The CD is a return to the music that first influenced her, a homage to the original artists, many of whom Tracy was fortunate to see live in Chicago. Tracy has not written any new material for the record, but there is really no need, as she interprets a selection of the greats of the blues. There are two Jimmy Reed songs, one each from Willie Dixon, Muddy Waters, Lightning Hopkins, Ma Rainey, Percy Mayfield and Joe Tex and one made famous by Irma Thomas, written by Danny Small. The one exception is a contemporary Earl Thomas song that in the sleeve notes Tracy says she heard it and assumed it was “written back in the day”.
The album was recorded in three studios in Tennessee and produced by Tracy’s partner Mike Dysinger. The core band on all tracks is Mike Henderson on guitar, Jimmy Pugh on keys, Byron House on bass and John Gardner on drums. Guests include Angela Strehli and John Cowan on vocals on one track each and Marcia Ball brings her piano and vocals to one track. There is a choir of five backing vocalists, including the afore-mentioned John Cowan and Reba Russell from Memphis.
The album starts in fine style with “You’ll Be Mine”, Willie Dixon’s song best known from Howling Wolf’s version. This version rocks along with excellent piano and a searing guitar solo, all supporting Tracy’s strong vocal performance. Next up is Earl Thomas’ “Lead A Horse To Water”, a mid-paced soulful number with echoey electric piano and moody guitar. “Shoot My Baby” is the first of two consecutive Jimmy Reed songs, an uptempo foot tapper which is the shortest on the CD, again led by the piano, this time played by Marcia Ball who also sings. “I Know It’s A Sin” is more sedate, the choir supporting the vocals well and the organ giving almost a hymn like quality to the tune.
Ma Rainey’s “Victim Of The Blues” provides the album title, most appropriately as the album tapes were saved from a disastrous fire at Tracy’s home in 2010. The title also fits with Tracy’s early seduction by the blues; she always tries to include one of either Ma Rainey’s or Bessie Smith’s songs on her albums. This sad tale of the girl rejected by her lover is played pretty much as it might have been when it was first recorded, with an instrument billed as a “banjolin” taking one solo alongside the piano. Wolf’s “Howlin’ For My Baby” is a duet with Angela Strehli and barrels along nicely with more strong piano and guitar support. Muddy’s “One More Mile” came to Tracy through Otis Spann’s version and appropriately Jimmy Pugh’s piano is very much to the fore on this slow blues. Percy Mayfield’s lament “Stranger In My Own Home Town” follows a similar lyrical vein before Joe Tex’s “The Love You Save” brings a touch of gospel feel to the CD. “Feel So Bad” is a well-known song and its stop/start rhythm is always catchy. Tracy learned it from Little Milton but it is correctly attributed to its author, Lightning Hopkins. The final cut is a tribute to one of Tracy’s great influences and friends, Irma Thomas, “Without Love (There Is Nothing)”, a slow, soulful song that is done here as a duet with John Cowan with stellar support from the choir. A fine and moving finale to the disc.
This is a fine CD, allowing us to hear Tracy’s great voice in a solely blues context again. It is interesting to see that Delta Groove have picked up this CD, once again demonstrating their good judgement on material that deserves to be heard widely.
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.
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'!
Featured Blues Review 5 of 5
Los Fabulocos featuring Kid Ramos - Dos
Los Fabulocos were formed in 2004 by Jesse Cuevas and Mike Molina, former members of the east LA band, The Blazers, that achieved some measure of success before the turn of the century. The additions of James Barrios on bass guitar and the outstanding blues guitarist Kid Ramos completed the line-up. Cuevas is the lead singer and also tears it up on the accordion. Molina on drums joins Barrios to form a rock-solid rhythm section.
The band's music is a rich blend of many styles. Some refer to it as “Cali-Mex”, but it would be difficult to squeeze all of the group's influences into an all-encompassing label. Whether playing a conjunto ballad or straight-ahead rocker, the band's energetic performances and stellar musicianship make labels a moot point.
Listen to the surging drive of “She Wakes Up Crying” with Cuevas' smooth vocal setting the stage for a raging solo from Ramos. Cuevas refuses to take a backseat and after another verse, he matches Ramos with some hot licks on the accordion. Ramos delivers more taut guitar work on Little Richard's “Keep a Knockin' “with Cuevas alternating verses in Spanish and English. “I Never Thought” has a swaying rhythm that is guaranteed to get couples out on the dance floor. Big Manny Gonzales, another member of the Blazers, helps out on backing vocals and Rob Dziubla adds his tenor sax to the mix.
It's hard to resist comparing Los Fabulocos to another east LA band, especially when you hear tracks like “Everything Will Turn Out Alright”, which sounds like a gem from early days of Los Lobos. Cuevas lays down a heartfelt vocal on a tune in a roots-rock vein with a dose of country music. “Los Chuchos Suaves” finds the group in overdrive on a traditional Mexican tune from Lalo Guerrero, with Ramos taking solo honors for more wicked guitar playing. Cuevas take center stage on “Una Pura Y Dos Con Sal”, squeezing delightful runs out of his accordion while the rest of the band creates another pulsating rhythm in support.
Ramos handles the lead vocal on his original “My Brother's Keeper”, his distorted guitar tone creating the perfect backdrop for the biblical-based lyrics. The band also does a tune written by Barrios. “The Coffee Song” captures a man reminiscing about a lost love and features another strong vocal from Cuevas. Cuevas penned “The Vibe”, with Molina's pounding beat and Ramos exquisite rhythm guitar work making this one another highlight.
Call it what you want – rock, R&B, rockabilly, norteno, Tex-Mex – the simple truth is that Los Fabulocos make damn fine music. Jesus Cuevas has really come into his own as the front man and his superb accordion playing energizes the entire disc. And for those who thought Kid Ramos should have been given more chances to stretch out on the band's first recording, be advised that his brilliant work is all over this one. If you just want a standard blues record, you'll have to look elsewhere. But if you crave a varied program played with energy and gusto, this one offers plenty of first-rate performances for your listening pleasure.
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