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Blues Blast Magazine - February 16, 2012 - Lurrie Bell Interview
Issue 6-7 February 16, 2012
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Cover photo by Marilyn Stringer © 2011 MJStringerPhoto.com
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In This Issue
We have the latest in Blues Society news. Terry Mullins has our feature interview with Lurrie Bell.
We have six CD reviews for you! We welcome new reviewer Sheila Skilling. Shelia reviews a new CD by Nora Jean. Gary Weeks reviews a new CD by Christy Rossiter & 112 North Duck. James "Skyy Dobro" Walker reviews a new CD from Ian Siegal. John Mitchell reviews a new CD from Dave “Snaker” Ray. Ian McKenzie reviews a new CD from Levee Town. Jim Kanavy reviews a new CD from Bernie Pearl. All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN!!!
Featured Blues Interview - Lurrie Bell
Lurrie Bell is not a doctor.
He never attended medical school, wrote a prescription or wore a stethoscope around his neck.
But regardless of that, Lurrie Bell still knows what it takes to cure a severe case of the blues.
Doesn’t matter if he’s bummed out because of a lover’s quarrel, depressed by the insane price of gasoline, or fretting over a loss by his favorite football team, the cure remains the same.
And it comes attached with six strings.
“When I get down or think about the way things are these days, I thank God that I own a guitar,” he said. “Because I pick up my guitar and all those down feelings and depressed feelings that I may be having, they just go away. Like a magic wand.”
And even though he may not have a medical diploma to hang on his office wall, Lurrie Bell has nevertheless been helping folks feel better about themselves by dishing out generous helpings of Chicago blues since the mid-1970s.
Hailed back in the day as a member of the “younger generation of Chicago blues,” Bell has long since surpassed that tag and has became one of the elder statesmen for an art form that refuses to die.
Ever since he first cradled a guitar in his small hands at the age of 5, the son of harmonica legend Carey Bell has had one simple thing on his mind – to play the blues.
“When I first picked up the guitar, I knew right then that I wanted to be a blues musician,” he said. “Hanging around with all the old legends that my dad knew, I would listen to them and it did something to me. It did something to my heart and I knew right then that I wanted to be a bluesman. I think my favorite player growing up was Eddie Taylor. I used to listen to him and say to myself, ‘If I ever get anywhere close to him, I’ll be bad.’”
And “bad” is just what Lurrie Bell soon became.
Raw, emotive guitar licks, topped with heartfelt vocals and straight-forward subject matter, is what Bell is all about.
Not only did he get a chance to play with his idol, Eddie Taylor, Bell also pulled duty playing guitar in Koko Taylor’s Blues Machine for four years. Four years that helped Bell hone his considerable skills, while also teaching him how to become a professional musician.
After that apprenticeship, Bell teamed up with Billy Branch to form the Sons of the Blues, an act that quickly became a staple of the Chicago blues scene for a long time.
Bell and Branch can be heard together once again on the recently released Chicago Blues: A Living History – The (R)Evolution Continues (Raisin’ Music).
That disc is a follow-up to the Grammy-nominated first edition of the series, and in addition to Branch and Bell, features Windy City stalwarts like Billy Boy Arnold, Buddy Guy, James Cotton and Magic Slim.
And if you don’t bring your “A” game to a session loaded with as much firepower as the ones that it took to complete the Chicago Blues: A Living History discs, you’d be better off to just stay at home.
“That project is a good one. Me, John Primer, Billy Branch, Billy Boy Arnold … that project is one of the greatest ones that I’ve been involved in,” Bell said. “When you’re playing with guys like that, it does something to you. It just hits you right in the heart. Working with those cats just inspires you. It makes you really dig in.”
While the Chicago Blues: A Living History series is just what the name implies it to be, according to Bell, the game-plan going in was to add a touch of “today” to the songs of yesterday.
“We’re carrying on the tradition, but we’re also trying to put new stuff into the blues, as well. This is a connection (between the old and the new) that the blues has been looking for,” he said. “That’s why the project is called Chicago Blues: A Living History. We’re trying to carry on with what came before us.”
But instead of learning about the Chicago blues from old records, old video tapes or older stories, Lurrie Bell learned about the rich history of the music first-hand, part of a living, breathing history lesson taught by his iconic father.
Before his passing at age 70 in 2007, Carey Bell played harp with everyone from Muddy Waters to Robert Nighthawk to Lowell Fulson and Jimmy Dawkins and beyond. He was also an accomplished bandleader in his own right.
Not only did Lurrie learn from watching and listening to his dad, he also had had the opportunity to do something that only a select few youngsters get to do – work side-by-side with their father on a night-in, night-out basis.
“Oh, man. Working with my dad was everything to me. I felt like I was one of the luckiest persons around. Being able to share the stage with my father, Carey Bell, was an honor and a privilege, man. It was a powerful thing,” he said. “I took that very seriously. I tried to show my father that I was just as interested in the blues and in music as he was. I wanted him to know that I was his son and I was there to make things happen for both of us.”
Carey and Lurrie Bell made a lot of things happen as a duo, sharing the spotlight on 10 releases, including the live platter Gettin’ Up, Live at Buddy Guy’s Legends, Rosa’s and Lurrie’s Home (Delmark Records).
Needless to say, the chemistry the two men shared was something special. This bond is especially evident on Gettin’ Up’s last four tunes, songs recorded in the intimate setting of Lurrie’s house in the summer of 2006. Those were also the last songs that Carey Bell would lay down to tape. Fitting then, that those were tunes recorded with his son right at his side.
“I just got so much inspiration from working with my dad,” Bell said. “A lot of people never get the chance to work with their father as closely as I did. I learned so much from him. Touring, recording … just everything about the blues, I learned from my father. More than I could ever imagine.”
His father’s death left blues lovers all around the world saddened, as it did Lurrie, but at the same time, it also served as a wakeup call to the younger Bell.
A wakeup call he immediately heeded.
“Well, when my father passed a few years ago … I hated to see him go, of course, because I loved him with all my heart and soul … but when he passed, that was a message, man,” said Bell. “One that was deeper than I ever could have thought about. It’s hard when you lose a father - a family member - but the positive thing it did for me was to make me focus on my music more than ever. I take music more serious now than I ever have.”
And even though he no longer is capable of standing side-by-side with his father, backing up Carey’s sweet blasts of harp bliss with a sturdy bed of blues guitar, Lurrie Bell still has plenty of reminders of his larger-than-life father.
“I look at the harmonicas (his dad’s) and that makes me feel good. I’ll never forget him,” said Bell. “I want to continue to remember what he taught me and try to carry on in his footsteps. I want everyone to know what my dad meant to me. I miss him so much, but he still lives in my heart. Before we went on stage, we would laugh and talk and joke around and humor each other. I loved the way he blew the harp.”
Just like any son would be, to hear his father’s words of approval at the skill in which he went about his profession made Lurrie Bell swell with pride and satisfaction.
“He would compliment me and that carried me a long way,” he said. “To have him tell me I sounded good meant the world to me.”
Just like his father used to do back in the day, Lurrie Bell spends the majority of the year on the road, packing up his guitar, his band and playing anywhere there is a stage and an audience.
“I went to Europe three times this year and those tours were fantastic, man,” he said. “The audiences over there are really into the blues and what the blues represents.”
And when he’s not thrilling European crowds with his brand of the blues, Bell can be found at several different venues right on his home turf of Chicago.
“Well, I’ve been working at Buddy Guy’s Legends and the Blues on Halsted and Rosa’s, too,” he said. “So I’ve been busy on the blues scene. I’m just trying to stay as busy as I can. I just love the blues.”
Bell has also recently spent time in a recording studio in Chicago, emerging with his newest disc, the soon-to-be-released The Devil Ain’t Got No Music.
Although there’s plenty of the Lurrie Bell that his fans have came to know and love on his latest offering, there may also be a bit of a surprise in store, as well.
“It’s blues, but it’s more gospel. I’m singing about the Lord,” Bell said. “I’m singing some of the spirituals that I learned when I was living in the south with my grandparents down in Alabama. I used to attend church a lot and I also played in church. I wanted to revisit that whole scene on this new CD.”
The Devil Ain’t Got No Music also offers Bell an opportunity to stop for a moment and reflect on just what all he’s accomplished to date.
“I think a lot about how I’m blessed with a talent and get to play music these days,” he said. “And to be able to do something for the Lord after all these years of playing the blues and going to all those countries and recording all this music … I just wanted to spend a little time and thank God for what he gave me.”
And if Lurrie Bell has any say about it, he’ll continue to use those God-given gifts as long as he’s able to.
“I get up early in the morning and look forward to the day. I get my guitar and it’s like the power of the Lord is moving in me nowadays,” he said. “To me, the blues is the most powerful music in the world. And I think about this more and more each day. The blues is the foundation, the backbone of music. Period. And if you’re playing blues and mean it from your heart, I think God will bless you in a lot of ways.”
Photos by Marilyn Stringer © 2011 MJStringerPhoto.com
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.
Featured Blues Review 1 of 6
Nora Jean – Good Blues
11 tracks; 47:52 minutes
Nora Jean (Wallace, formerly known as Nora Jean Bruso) is being mentioned as the next “Queen of the Blues,” and after listening to her new CD, Good Blues, I can see why. Wallace sings with the power, confidence and soul of a Koko Taylor or Big Mama Thornton. In fact, Taylor has even compared Wallace’s sound to her own, when Taylor was Wallace’s age.
In Good Blues, her 3rd CD, Wallace collaborates with northern Minnesota native, Little Bobby (Houle) in songwriting and production - in effect merging the musical influences of South and North. Little Bobby is also part of Nora Jean’s 5-piece band, which backs her with solid, professional licks that enhance the mood of every song, without stealing the limelight from her lead vocals.
In the title track of this CD, Wallace’s 3rd outing, Nora Jean pays homage to many blues legends, both present and past. She then follows these roll calls with the line “That’s what I was born to do.” It does seem Wallace was destined to sing the blues. Born 7th of the 16 children of a Mississippi sharecropper, she grew up in a music-oriented family. Her father and uncle were blues performers and her grandmother, the proprietor of a juke joint. Even the children of the family would stay up past their bedtimes and sneak over to the juke joint to enjoy the tunes.
Wallace’s mother was a gospel singer, and Nora Jean’s soulful side is evident in the 3rd track, “How Long,” which features heartfelt, ad lib vocalization. The 8th track, “It’s Over,” is a sad monologue about the inevitable end of a relationship. The musical style is similar to some Eric Clapton songs of his mid-80’s “Forever Man” era.
The shortest cut on the CD, at less than 2 ½ minutes, is “Waiting On Your Love.” This saxophone-laced little song is reminiscent of Elmore James’ work in the early 1960s.
In the only track not co-written by Wallace, “Rodeo,” the lyrics seem a throwback to the double entendre songs performed by earlier female blues singers like Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey, and Wallace handles it well.
This stands in contrast to the closing track of Good Blues, “You Gotta Pray,” a soulful number backed up by wailing guitar, which explains how vital faith in God is to Wallace’s life and career. Her faith keeps her anchored, and her sense of purpose or calling keeps her coming back, again and again, to singing the blues…a lifestyle that has included its share of heartache. But, ultimately, more heartache just serves to make her a better singer.
By all indications, it does seem that Nora Jean Wallace was born to sing the blues. And if she is, indeed, crowned the next “Queen of the Blues,” she’ll wear that crown with pride and dignity. Hopefully, she’ll find the time to mentor some younger artists to ensure the royal lineage continues. Then, a generation or two from now, maybe they’ll be adding her name to the roll call of blues legends in the song “Good Blues.”
Reviewer Sheila Skilling is a self-professed “blues fan by marriage,” who was hooked by her husband’s musical preferences, but reeled in by the live performances of Stevie Ray Vaughan, Buddy Guy and others. She lives in the Minneapolis area.
Featured Blues Review 2 of 6
Christy Rossiter & 112 North Duck – Gone Fishin
The forty six second “Prelude” written by guitarist Michael Beebe is the lead-off track for Christy Rossiter & !12 North Ducks’ Gone Fishin release. It’s a short solo spot for Beebe displaying slide skills that sound like he just got back from the Delta and he is an inspired man for it. This leads a listener to think they are in for a treat of tasty blues-rock erupting like a volcano.
Unfortunately this doesn’t raise the bar high enough to meet expectations. What this band has got going for them is they write original material and don’t rape and pillage songs from blues song books that the world has heard a million times over.
The major problem lies within the fact that this material doesn’t jump up and deliver with a visceral punch. Sure there a moments in the lazy shuffle “It’s Just Another Day” and the funk strut of “The Louisiana Way.” In a live setting maybe this material is presented as loud rockers if the amps are dialed at 11. The studio might just be too much of a sterile environment as the production seems to be really slicked down. At best this sounds like a band that is a work in progress.
As a vocalist Rossiter is in her own league. But the singing seems best suited if she was heading an alternative rock outfit given her range. You won’t find a Susan Tedeschi or a Bonnie Raitt here. This is more or less a lone wolf running with her own pack.
The woman isn’t a bad writer. Her assistance in penning the title track with the rest of the boys turns out a piece of blues that shows potential. And if the whole album followed this similar pattern, more light would emerge from the end of the tunnel.
At best this CD is a good companion to take with you on a thirty minute plus drive to work. There’s not too much aggression to make you burst through the seat belt. It’s a nice top down drive and the band can hit an occasional groove here and there that sparkles with promise.
Wisely this CD clocks at 42:19. Any longer than that would be overkill as this music tends to sink or swim depending on the nature of the tune.
Reaping the rewards for success is a long way off for this group. The best business move is being signed to a small time label. Compared to the other work being released in the Blues industry, this CD stands a great chance of being overlooked because of mediocre songwriting.
Rossiter as a front woman isn’t leading musicians on a road to ruin. A listen to “Throw The Dog A Bone” stands as ample conviction that these guys can turn up the heat as rock your world. Then again their journey to candy mountain will be a rough one.
They have the right idea in writing their own material. What this band has to concentrate on is a more aggressive approach to make a listeners turn their heads. This doesn’t mean they have to be maniac shredders. But they can’t continue this type of formula in attempts to gain recognition. They might as well hang it up and go back to working normal day jobs like everyone else. Or attending blues jams where they can gain a better fix of how the music should be played. That in itself is an education to which everyone gains and there are so very few losses. The lid on the coffin doesn’t have to be closed just yet.
Reviewer Gary Weeks is a contributing writer. He resides in Marietta, GA.
Featured Blues Review 3 of 6
Ian Siegal & The Youngest Sons - The Skinny
11 songs; 55:09 minutes; Splendid
Styles: North Mississippi Hill Country; Blues Rock
You are probably familiar with the story of The Rolling Stones coming to Chicago in the 1960s to visit Chess Records and get to the base of their adopted roots, the Blues. In a modern and similar move, England’s award winning vocalist Ian Siegal came to Mississippi August 2010 to record. Ian Siegal (born Ian Berry, 1971) is a singer, songwriter, and guitarist with musical interests in Blues roots. His influences include Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, Bo Diddley, Son House, and Junior Kimbrough. His goal on this pond crossing was to get a particularly unique style of Blues, North Mississippi Hills Country music.
North Mississippi Hills Country Blues' style is characterized by a vamped, repetitious groove and a stable driving rhythm. It has sometimes been called “Drone Blues, Hypnotic Blues, or Trance Blues.” Often raw in sound, there are few chord changes and unconventional song structures. In the nineties, this style was popularized by the Fat Possum label recordings of local Holly Springs MS musicians such as R.L. Burnside and David "Junior" Kimbrough.
“The Skinny,” Siegal’s fifth album on the Nugene label, was recorded in Coldwater, Mississippi at the Zebra Ranch studio of the late, legendary producer and musician Jim Dickinson. His sons Luther and Cody Dickinson are the nucleus of the “North Mississippi Allstars.” Cody produced the album while adding some drums, percussion and woogie board. The Band, “The Youngest Sons,” are the youngest sons of local legends: Garry Burnside (bass, son of R.L.), Robert Kimbrough (guitar, son of David Jr.) and Rodd Bland (drums, son of Bobby Bland). Guesting are Alvin Youngblood Hart, Duwayne Burnside, and Andre Turner.
Siegal described the recording experience as “unlike any previous recording I’ve done.” He describes a group of artists jamming, having fun and taking pleasure in composing. The lyrics are full of familiar Blues thoughts, but the songs seem to be prime moments from jam sessions with some wonderful moments emerging. The result is a Contemporary Blues-award-nominated CD with eleven songs – seven Siegal originals, a couple of covers, and two Burnside contributions.
The title track, “The Skinny,” is a mid-tempo song with a solid beat, Hart and Kimbrough on rhythm guitars, and Ian’s slide guitar supporting raw, brawny vocals. “Master Plan” allows Siegal the peculiar Howlin' Wolf growling vocals that reaffirm him as a disciple.
The songs “Picnic Jam,” “Natch’l Low (Coolin’ Board),” and “Devil's In The Detail” are examples of that Hill Country Blues style. The latter also features another component unique to the Hills, flute accompaniment reviving the traditional Hill Country Fife-and-Drum.
“Moonshine Minnie” with its swampy, sultry soul is perhaps most radio-friendly for general Blues audiences. Finally comes an amicable tribute to actor Dennis Hopper, “Hopper (Blues for Dennis).” It finds Ian himself on solo lead guitar, "Well, here comes trouble with that grin across his face....”
There are still Blues fans who just don’t get the Hills Blues, but that is ok, there’s plenty of Blues styles to go around. For those that do, and especially for fans of the roots music of Ian Siegal, I think there will be general agreement that his pond hopping to the Hills was worth it.
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.
Featured Blues Review 4 of 6
Dave “Snaker” Ray – My Blue Heaven
Blue Suit Records
14 tracks; 47.52 minutes
Dave “Snaker” Ray passed away in 2002, shortly after the last of these recordings was made. In the well written and detailed sleeve notes his former collaborator Tony Glover gives us a real feel for the man and his passion for the blues. This CD stands as a worthy marker of a career spent in the playing and the promotion of the music.
Dave started out with friends ‘Spider’ John Koerner (guitar) and Tony Glover (harp) in a trio “KR&G” which went on to record several albums for Elektra. Dave continued to record both solo and in bands and became particularly known for his 12-string guitar prowess. In the mid-1990s Dave moved to Toledo, Ohio, home of Blue-Suit Records and became very involved with local events that the company was promoting, including local blues festivals. KR&G had reformed to record an album and played at a 2001 festival from which two tracks on this CD are taken. Two further, previously unissued, tracks were recorded at sessions for Eddie Kirkland’s “Democrat Blues” album, with Dave singing and fronting Eddie’s band; the remaining tracks are all live and solo, recorded the day after the Kirkland sessions.
Dave had a pleasant voice which works well across all the material presented here and across the recordings demonstrates his mastery of electric, 6- and 12-string guitars. The two tracks recorded with KR&G come from a gig at the Toledo Museum of Art, June 2, 2001. Big Bill Broonzy’s “Key To The Highway” is a favorite warhorse of many players, both acoustic and electric, and the trio do a fine job on it, Tony Glover’s harp taking the first solo after Dave’s relaxed vocal, with plenty of guitar picking following. “My Blue Heaven” is a pop standard from long ago, but Dave apparently often played it, using its changes of chords to take us on a 12-string race.
The two outtakes from the October 4 2002 Eddie Kirkland session are full band productions. Fuzzy Samuels (ex-Steven Stills) is on bass, Andre Wright on drums, Eddie Kirkland and Dave on guitars, with Dave singing. “Hootie Blues” is a Jay McShann number, quite jazzy in style. Dave takes the solo part on the intro, Eddie featuring on the middle solo. Johnny Adams’ “Moment Of Weakness” has a funky beat and Dave’s vocal adopts a more soulful delivery to fit the tune. Eddie Kirkland handles the lead guitar duties on this one.
The solo performances from the following day’s concert at the Macomber Auditorium (October 5 2002) cover a good range of material. “Way Back Down Home” is from the pen of Freddy Spruell and is a sprightly 12-string driven piece which takes us back to an era when communication was either by telegram or telephone at the Western Union. I particularly enjoyed Little Willie John’s “Person To Person” (which fits well with the telephone theme of the Spruell tune!) and Dave’s fast fingered version of “Rock Me Mama” (Lightnin’ Slim). Appropriately Dave gets his slide out for Blind Willie Johnson’s “Lord, I Just Can’t Keep From Crying” and tackles a medley of John Lee Hooker tunes, “Big Legs, Tight Skirt/Serve Me Right To Suffer” with a catchy beat.
This is a well-deserved tribute to Dave’s career. It is good that the record company was willing to issue these recordings and I am sure that they will be appreciated by those who enjoy well played and sung acoustic blues.
Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK. He also travels to the States most years to see live blues music.
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Dayton Blues Society – Dayton, Ohio
The Dayton Blues Society & Team Vanderpool will be holding our 3rd Annual Benefit for the American Cancer Society on March 3rd at Gilly’s (corner of 5th & Jefferson in Dayton, Ohio). This year’s event is called “Ladies of the Blues” and features: Cheryl Renee from Cincinnati (Placed 3rd at the IBC in 2010 w/ Them Bones), Inner City Blues Band from Columbus, Ellie Lee & Blues Fury (Dayton Challenge winner – 2010 / Pomeroy Challenge winner – 2011), Miss Lissa & Company (Cincy Blues Society Challenge winner 2011), Music begins at 6pm – For more details go to www.daytonbluessociety.com
Crossroads Blues Society - Freeport, IL
Crossroads Blues Society is holding a benefit blues event for Bryan Lee at the American Legion Hall in Byron, Illinois at 116 Walnut Street just a half block north of the light at IL Route 2/Blackhawk Drive and Walnut Street. The fundraiser will be on February 24th and begins at 7 PM. Reverend Rik Raven and the Chain Smokin’ Altar Boys will be performing along with Steve Ditzell, and Barstool Bob Levis and his band. Admission is a suggested $10 donation.
Bryan Lee is a guitar wizard, singer, song writer, blues performer who underwent back surgery on January 12th to relieve intense pain and to allow him to walk and perform his craft normally. He was cleared for surgery and was a high risk due to lung issues. The surgery has now gone fine and he is rehabilitating, but he has no insurance and his recovery will lay him up for 8 to 12 weeks.
There will be great silent auction items and a 50-50 raffle to help raise money to support Bryan. Bryan also worked with Crossroads in June 2011 at a show in Rockford and performed three sessions for their Blues in the Schools (BITS) program in 2010 along with holding an evening show.
If you would like more information, call 779-537-4006. Donations can be made at the event or via mail or Paypal. Send checks to: Brian Kumbalek, PO Box 9453, Metairie, LA 70055 or use Paypal on line to email@example.com. www.crossroadsbluessociety.com
River City Blues Society - Pekin, IL
River City Blues Society presents: Bringing The Blues To You with the following shows - Friday February 24at 7:30pm • Bill Porter, March 28th at 7PM • Albert Castiglia, April 11th at 7PM • Sean Chambers. Location Goodfellas 1414 N. 8th St, Pekin, Illinois $5.00 non-members $3.00 members. For more info visit: www.rivercityblues.com or call 309-648-8510
Windy City Blues Society - Chicago, IL
The 2012 WCBS Annual General Membership meeting and Election of Officers will be held on THU MAY 17th at 7:00p (location TBD). Candidates for President, Vice-President, Treasurer and Secretary will be elected to two year terms. Winners officially take office JUN 17, 2012. The nominating process will run thru FEB 17, 2012. Members in good standing can nominate other members for these positions.
After FEB 17th, we will communicate the list of candidates to all WCBS members. All members in good standing are eligible to vote either in person (at the annual general membership meeting on May 17th) or by mail (mailed ballot must be received prior to MAY 1st).
How do I nominate someone? Nominations must be received in writing via either email or US Postage) and should include the name(s) of the nominee and the office (president, vice president, etc.). Nominations must be accepted by FEB 18th to be valid. Mail your nominations to: WCBS PO Box 7389, Chicago, IL 60680-7389 Visit our website for updates. www.WindyCityBlues.org
The Phoenix Blues Society - Phoenix, AZ
The Phoenix Blues Society is proud to be bringing Blues Blast 2012 to the Margaret T. Hance Park in downtown Phoenix on March 10, 2012 Featuring Sugar Ray & the Bluetones, The Sugar Thieves, Big Daddy D & the Dynamites, George Bowman and the Baddboyz Blues Band featuring Lucius Parr, and Common Ground Blues Band.Music starts at 11:00AM. There are a limited number of $15 early bird tickets available...go to www.BluesBlast.info for tickets and more information.
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 8:00pm $3 cover. Feb 20 - The Distillery, Feb 27 - The Blues Deacons. icbluesclub.org
The Diamond State Blues Society - Wilmington, Delaware
On Saturday, March 3rd it's the Diamond State Blues Society presents the 15th Annual House Rockin' Party. Opening the show at 3pm will be Nuthin' But Trouble, followed by Florida's great Blues Guitarist, Albert Castiglia, and headlining the show is the ironman himself, the phenomenal Michael Burks! Full details can be found at www.DiamondStateBlues.com
The Friends Of The Blues - Watseka, IL
Friends of the Blues present 2012 shows:
Tues, March 6, The Sugar Prophets, 7 pm, Kankakee Valley Boat Club
Tues, March 13, Harper & Midwest Kind, 7 pm, Bradley Bourbonnais Sportsmen’s Club
Thur, March 29, Albert Castiglia, 7 pm, Kankakee Valley Boat Club
Tues, April 10, Sean Chambers, 7 pm, Bradley Bourbonnais Sportsmen’s Club
Tues, April 17, Too Slim & Taildraggers, 7 pm, Kankakee Valley Boat Club
Thur, April 26, Al Stone, 7 pm, Kankakee Valley Boat Club
West Virginia Blues Society - Charleston, W.V.
The West Virginia Blues Society, Inc. and Thornhill Auto Groups present the 5th Annual Charlie West Blues Fest May 18, 19 and 20, 2012 at Haddad Riverfront Park, Charleston, WV including headline performances by Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Rod Piazza & The Mighty Flyers and Ruthie Foster. For more information visit http://wvbluessociety.org/
Prairie Crossroads Blues Society – Champaign-Urbana, IL
Prairie Crossroads Blues Society shows: Friday March 2, 1st Friday Blues, Danny & the Devils, 8pm studio visit to WEFT 90.1FM during the Blues Live show, 10pm, performance at Memphis on Main, Champaign. $5 non-members, $3 members. Friday April 6, 1st Friday Blues, Johnny Rawls. For more info: www.prairiecrossroadsblues.org
The West Michigan Blues Society - Grand Rapids, MI
The West Michigan Blues Society and radio station WYCE 88.1 FM present the 2012 Cabin Fever Blues Series at Billy's Lounge 1437, Wealthy St. SE Grand Rapids, MI. Up coming shows include Feb. 18 Hadden Sayers, Feb. 25 Nora Jean Wallace, March 3 The Chicago Rhythm & Blues Kings. Tickets are $10.00 per show at the door only. Doors at 7:00 PM Music at 9:30 PM. Info at: www.wmbs.org
Rosedale Crossroads Blues Society - Rosedale, MS
Rosedale Crossroads Blues Society presents The Crossroads Blues and Heritage Festival, Saturday, May 12, 2012 at the River Resort at Highway 1 South in historic Rosedale, MS featuring Bill Abel, Cadillac John, Big Joe Shelton, DSU Ol’ Skool Revue and other area artists.
Gates open at 12:00 noon, music starts at 1:00 Admission $5 – adults, $1 – children under 12 Bring your own ice chest – $10 No beer sold – No glass – No pets, please Parking $5
Featured Blues Review 5 of 6
Levee Town - Pages of Paperwork
Self LT01175 - CD BABY
14 Tracks - 54min 05 secs
By their own admission, “Levee Town is a hot rockin’ Americana foursome out of Kansas City” and who am I to disagree with that.
The band consists of Jan Faircloth on drums Jacques Garoutte a multi-instrumentalist on the bass; Jimmie Meade plays the harmonica and the band is fronted by axeman Brandon Hudspeth and the music they produce is B L U E S pure and simple.
Right from the get-go, with the title-based track, a slow blues - It’s All Over But The Paperwork - in which the singer bewails the end of a relationship and the Meade harp work surges and falls back in away that reminds me of James Cotton with Muddy – things are right-on blues. Hudspeth brings some inventive guitar work to the killing floor and all the time the rhythm section keeps a steady beat, perfectly supporting the front-line.
Lowdown, the next track up, is a rocker with some driving rhythm guitar and a searing solo from Meade, “I took your picture down and changed the lock, but the memory of you can’t be soon forgot…that’s lowdown baby……” Fabulous.
A Muddyesque lick opens Hurt But Strong, which is is a twelve bar slow blues; a real plodder in the walking blues sense; but nothing plodding about the music. More fine harp work here too and a head nodding, rhythmic power from the band. I bet this is a killer live. Ready… arm up in the air, light from the cell phone on and sway to the beat. This is the type of right-ahead blues – including some slide work – which you too rarely hear these days. Nearly five and a half minutes that hit you in the face. Wonderful.
Song She Sang, is a Peter Gunn like riff-driven rocker, with a close harmony chorus and some delightful picking by Mr Hudspeth……. and the beat goes on.
I like this one so much, I am in danger of trying to sell every track on this album, No need, just let me say that the straight-at-cha blues goes on to the very end; 54:mins and 5 seconds, so no short change here - 14 tracks of pure pleasure, which surely must get some recognition in the traditional blues categories of awards ceremonies before long.
These guys really do keep the blues alive with gusto and fire and are not ashamed (as far too many seem to be these days) to remember, as Willie Dixon put it that ‘blues is the roots, everything else is the shoots’. Long may they continue to do so.
Reviewer Ian McKenzie lives in England. He is the editor of Blues In The South (www.bluesinthesouth.com) a monthly flier providing news, reviews, a gig guide and all kinds of other good stuff, for people living and going to gigs along the south coast of England. Ian is also a blues performer (see www.myspace.com/ianmckenzieuk) and has two web-cast regular blues radio shows. One on www.phonic.FM in Exeter (Wednesdays: 1pm Eastern/ 12 noon Central), the second on KCOR – Kansas City Online Radio (on Fridays at 1pm Eastern/ 12 noon Central).
Featured Blues Review 6 of 6
Bernie Pearl - Sittin’ On The Right Side Of The Blues
Major Label Recordings
15 Tracks; 65:29
Bernie Pearl is a life-long student of the blues. Introduced to the music by Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee, Pearl began playing in the 1950’s. He learned from some legendary bluesmen like Lightnin' Hopkins and Mance Lipscomb. Pearl’s brother Ed had the legendary Ash Grove club in Los Angeles, CA where Bernie learned about music and life from the musicians who graced the stage like Big Mama Thornton and Freddie King. Pearl has shared the stage and sat in with a mind-boggling array of blues musicians like John Lee Hooker, Albert Collins, Koko Taylor, Big Walter Horton, Willie Dixon, Big Joe Turner, Lowell Fulson, Papa John Creach, B.B. King and Stevie Ray Vaughan. It seems Bernie’s whole life has been dedicated to the blues. In 1968 he became Los Angeles’ first all-blues FM disc jockey, hosting a show on KPPC FM. He later hosted blues shows on KLON and KCRW between 1980 and 1992. He is one of the founders of the Long Beach Blues Festival, and has taught blues history and guitar courses at some colleges in his area. Bernie was even named "Blues Promoter of the Year" by the Blues Foundation in 1987 when he was president of Big Time Blues Productions.
With the blues and its history firmly entwined with his own, it is no surprise that Bernie Pearl plays and sings like the masters of old. His new disc, …Sittin’ On The Right Side Of The Blues, captures a live performance from February 5, 2011 at Boulevard Music in Culver City, CA. By all accounts, Boulevard Music is an intimate room and perfect for Bernie Pearl, accompanied by Mike Barry on upright bass, to display his considerable mastery of acoustic blues. The upright bass gives the performance a bottom end that is often sorely missing from solo acoustic blues and makes the recording and songs aurally appealing. It also gives the impression of a back porch jam which perfectly suits the material.
Pearl covers Fred MacDowell, Son House, Muddy Waters, Bessie Smith and others, but the revelation here is Bernie Pearl’s original compositions. His originals capture the spirit of early 20th century blues, telling stories of hard ship and commenting on social issues through colorful metaphors and twists of fate as he does on “I’m Up A Tree” and “Flat-Footed.” His tunes seamlessly blend with the old material, sending the listener back to the liner notes to see who wrote what. Pearl does not engage in imitation or plagiarism any more or less than Robert Johnson, Skip James, or Muddy Waters. He carries on the blues tradition of taking favorite bits and melding them into something new. Acknowledging this openly, Pearl mentions to the audience that you can’t finger pick in the key of G without sounding like Mississippi John Hurt which is why the song “I Ain’t Hurt” is titled this way.
There is nothing wrong with liking a style and putting your own spin on it. It’s been done for ages in all styles of music. That’s how the music stays fresh, but establishes continuity with the past. Bernie Pearl the historian knows this better than most and Bernie, the guitar player and singer, has the ability to pull it off. His guitar playing flows like the muddy Mississippi and his voice and vocal style evoke the emotions to match the music. He gives Muddy Waters’ classic “I Can’t Be Satisfied” a visceral urgency and “Jailhouse Blues,” which Pearl says is based on Lightnin’ Hopkins version of Bessie Smith’s original, has a lowdown, lonesome jail cell melancholy that would make even the most hot-blooded sinners sigh.
At every turn, Bernie Pearl displays passion for the music’s past, present and future, honoring those who came before and presenting fresh music that will continue to pull in new listeners and fans. …Sittin’ On The Right Side Of The Blues, is a perfect primer for someone who wants to experience the music of the past without the lo-fi hotel room recordings and noisy crackling of tin 78 rpm records from the first blues era.
Reviewer Jim Kanavy is the greatest guitar player in his house. He has been reviewing albums in his head for 30 years and in print since 2008, and is deeply committed to keeping the blues alive and thriving. For more information visit http://jimkanavy.com.
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