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Sunday, June 24, 2012

Illinois Blues Blast


Cover photo by
Bob Kieser © 2012 www.thebluesblast.com

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In This Issue
We have the latest in Blues Society news from around the globe. Terry Mullins has our feature interview with legendary Blues bassist, Bob Stroger.
We have six music reviews for you! John Mitchell reviews a new compilation from Rockin Johnny. James "Skyy Dobro" Walker reviews a new release from the late Gary Primich. Steve Jones reviews another new CD from Willie May. Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony reviews a new release from Chris Watson Band. Rex Bartholomew reviews a new CD from Lisa Mann. Mark Thompson reviews a new CD from Jeremy Spencer. All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN!!!

From The Editor's Desk
Hey Blues Fans,
The nominators picks for the 2012 Blues Blast Music Awards are in and we are busy tallying the results.
We will announce the complete list of nominees in our June 28th issue.
We will also be announcing the details of this year's awards show and it will be held as usual at Buddy Guy's Legends in Chicago.
It will be even bigger and better than last year. You can start voting for you favorite artists on July 1st so stay tuned!
Wishing you health, happiness and lots of Blues music!
Bob Kieser

Blues Wanderings
We made it to the Chicago Blues Fest last weekend and it was a great event. We love reconnecting with our Blues family and friends who come from all over the world to see some of the best Blues talent on the planet.
One of the best things about this festival is that it brings out all those great Chicago musicians we never get to see enough. Below are Quintus McCormick, Zora Young and Eddie C. Campbell.
We will have complete coverage of all the Chicago Blues Fest fun in an upcoming issue.


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Featured Blues Interview - Bob Stroger
Blues fans are a fiercely loyal bunch.
They know what they love, and come Hell or high water, they're going to support the music that they love.
Even if that sometimes means putting their own heads squarely on the chopping block.
“Man, we was playing (Clifford) Antone’s one night and they was running so much electricity into the place, because we was recording, that the place caught fire,” said the legendary bass-playing Chicago bluesman Bob Stroger. “The building was on fire – burning – and people just would not leave. Blues people are special kind of people. They're a special family, for sure.”
That special family is something that Stroger has been a central and important part of since leaving his childhood home in the Missouri Bootheel hamlet of Hayti for the bright lights of the Windy City when he was a teenager.
And although casual blues fans may say, 'Bob who?' - those in the know rightfully point out that Stroger's bass playing has not only had a direct impact on scores of blues tunes from a list of artists longer than the Empire State Building, but that his tone and style have also served as templates for a generation of up-and-comers, as well, during his four-decade career of playing the blues.
And although he would be the first to admit he's no longer a spring chicken, Stroger has not let Father Time control his destiny one little bit.
“Been busy, busy, busy,” he said. “Just got back from Italy, Spain and Switzerland. I've been running all over the place. Just busy, busy, busy … all the time. I stay traveling. I’m always on the road.”
He's a regular at major festivals like the Chicago Blues Fest and the King Biscuit Blues Festival over here on our shores, and is certainly beloved by blues connoisseurs in the United States, but once he crosses the ocean, something especially magical seems to happen to Stroger.
“Here, I'm really nobody, but in Europe, I'm a superstar,” he said. “I don't know why that is, but that's just how it is.”
Stroger is still one of the first-call rhythm players and has backed up everyone from Jimmy Rogers to Sunnyland Slim to Snooky Pryor and Bob Margolin, but across the pond, he gets the chance to stretch out a bit and also wear the hat of bandleader, as well as featured attraction.
Stroger also has a pair of albums out under his own name – 2002’s In the House: Live at Lucerne (Crosscut Records) and Bob Is Back In Town (Airway) from 2007.
“When I go to Europe, I usually do my own thing. I don't do much of that here in the States, but over there I usually hook up with some guys and we play the blues,” he said. “In November, I usually go to South America for a couple of weeks, then after that, for the last 10 years, I've been going to Switzerland and working on my own. I've got some guys over there that I've been working with for awhile, but over here, I really don't have a band.”
In addition to racking up a ton of frequent flyer miles jetting over to Europe and back on a regular basis, Stroger has also recently managed to squeeze in an appearance at the annual Chicago Blues Festival, as well as lay down some low end on a new project Bob Corritore is toiling away on.
“When I was growing up, I never dreamed I'd be playing music (for a living). I always feel really proud that I was able to go from the cotton field to around the world three times, you know? I love what I do ”
“That's my good friend (Corritore) and he always calls me to work on anything he's got going on,” said Stroger. “We always try and hook up and work together whenever we can. He's my longtime friend from when he lived here in Chicago. He's a very good guy. We're going to Lucerne, Switzerland later this year, too.”
While kicking around in the cotton fields around Hayti, Missouri as a youngster, traveling to exotic locales like Spain, Italy and Switzerland had to be the last thing on Bob Stroger’s mind.
“When I was growing up, I never dreamed I'd be playing music (for a living). That was the furthest thing from my mind,” he said. “I always feel really proud that I was able to go from the cotton field to around the world three times, you know? I've been really blessed. I love what I do. It's really been amazing.”
While music surrounded Stroger during his youth, he never realized that his dad actually played the guitar until he turned 16 years old.
“We come from kind of a religious family and the blues was the devil's music,” said Stroger. “So I had to stay away from that. But I was really raised up on country and western music.”
Even though the blues was strongly discouraged in the Stroger (and many others at that time) household, once he relocated to the bustling city of Chicago, he quickly fell under the magical spell of the ‘devil’s music.’
And it's no wonder that he did.
“I was living behind this club called Silvio's and I used to listen to Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf and those guys,” he said. “That's when I really started to get interested in music – seeing all those musicians with the fancy clothes and the cars … that's when I said, 'Hey, that's what I want to do.'”
Most professional musicians are bitten by the bug in their early teens and from that point on, their chosen instrument is like an extension of their body. You don’t find the musician without the instrument being within grabbing distance.
That wasn't quite the case with Stroger, however.
“I was an old man – 21 – before I learned how to play the bass,” he said. “I used to go around with my brother-in-law, Johnny Ferguson, and J.B. Hutto when they were trying to play. But until that point, I wasn't even trying to play.”
“They had all these guitar players, but nobody wanted to play bass. So I decided that if I wanted to play music, I better learn to play the bass.”
And when he did decide to give playing the blues a go, Stroger shunned the route that most bluesmen seem to take.
Instead of learning the nuances of the six-string, Stroger opted to try his hand at the four-string.
“Well, bass is a background instrument and nobody wanted to play it,” Stroger explained as his reason for taking up the bass. “They had all these guitar players, but nobody wanted to play bass. So I decided that if I wanted to play music, I better learn to play the bass.”
While the classic Fender Precession is quick to pop to mind when thinking of anchoring the low end of a tune, when Stroger first got his feet wet with the bass, it was a different kettle of fish then it is now.
“When I started out playing, they really wasn't playing the portable bass,” he said. “They was playing the upright. I started off to trying to play the upright, but it was just too big to carry around.”
A solution to that problem was solved in short order, thanks in part to a device called 'the plank.'
“I don't remember if it was Elmore James or Homesick James who first came up with it, but they came up with something called the plank. They had made a guitar and turned it into a bass,” Stroger said. “I got a hold of that thing and played it for years … until I could afford to buy me a real bass. I wished I could have held onto that thing, it would have been a collector's item.”
While he saw other musicians with their name up in lights on the marquee – usually singers or guitarists – Stroger was more than content to stand back, out of the spotlight, and add vital lifeblood to the music, via four pulsing, throbbing and downright funky, strings.
“What I tell everyone is that the bass is the heartbeat, you know? Bass is not listened to. Bass is the instrument that people feel,” he said. “The only time people notice the bass is when it quits. Then they look around. But other than that, they be checkin' out the guitar player, or the harmonica player. But bass and drums are what leads the band. The other instruments do what we want them to do. Odie Payne taught me that, back in the day.”
Bass players and drummers go together like peanut butter and jelly and when you've got the right combo on the bandstand, you've got pure bliss.
“There's so many great drummers out there. But some of my favorites from back in the day were S.P. Leary and Odie Payne and (Fred) Below,” said Stroger. “Me and Odie Payne toured on some big tours for five or six years and he learned me a lot about how to handle musicians.”
After getting acquainted with the bass guitar, it didn't take Stroger very long to realize that playing music for a living was a pretty sweet deal.
A trip to Europe with the mighty Otis Rush sealed the deal.
“I owe him all the credit. He was the first one to take me to Europe. He's one of my favorites. We was just about a family,” Stroger said. “We went into Nice, France and got there about 8 o'clock in the morning and went by the venue we was playing that night and saw people laying on the street and a line around the building, waiting for the Otis Rush gig that was starting at 8 o'clock that night. I said right then, 'This is what I want to do.' People that was waiting a whole day just to get in to see an artist. It made me feel kind of special. I knowed then that I wanted to do this professionally.”
Not only did that particular gig with Otis Rush convince Stroger to ditch the 9-to-5 daytime lifestyle for the 9-to-5 nighttime lifestyle, it also made him see just how seriously Europeans treat blues music.
“Well, over there, they take this as an art. In the United States, some people take this for granted,” he said. “But over there, people know more about me than I know about myself. They read up and study up on the culture of the blues over there. It really means a lot to them. Over here a lot of times, it just means going out to a gig and having fun. But don't get me wrong, right here in the United States we have a lot of wonderful fans. I love them all.”
Stroger has crossed paths with all the greats, many of whom he developed relationships with that have lasted over 40 years.
A couple of those were the late Pinetop Perkins and Willie “Big Eyes’ Smith.
“We went much deeper than music. We were really deep friends; we was a family,” Stroger said. “We felt so proud of ourselves because we were the old guys. We were the troopers. We stayed on the road and people used to wonder where we got the energy from to travel seven or eight hours just to get to the gig. And then when we got there, we had so much energy and so much love for the people there. But those people are the ones that really kept us going. We work for them.”
Don’t expect to see Stroger ease into the comfort of retirement anytime soon.
He’s still having way to much fun to even consider hanging up his bass and his traveling shoes.
“Blues has been really good to me. I’m doing better now playing the blues than I ever have,” he said. “I had a little neighborhood store (in Chicago) and if I hadn’t picked up the bass and started playing it, maybe I would still be in there, doing that. But I had to make a choice. I had to make a choice between the music and the little handy store I had. And I wanted to travel. So I did. But I look at it like God gave me a gift and I want to share it with people all over the world. That’s why I love traveling. I think I would go crazy if I had to just play in one club like we used to have to do back in the day.”
Photos by Bob Kieser © 2012 www.thebluesblast.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.
For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE


Featured Blues Review 1 of 6
Rockin’ Johnny Band – Grim Reaper
15 tracks; 62.24 minutes
In the 1990s Rockin’ Johnny Burgin was one of the up and coming young guitarists on the Chicago scene. He released two well received CDs on Delmark but had to review his priorities as his family grew. After a decade away from music he released an independent CD entitled “Now’s The Time” in 2010 and now returns to Delmark with this CD. The band is classic Chicago with Johnny handling all the vocals. Johnny shares guitar duties with long-time collaborator Rick Kreher, newcomer to the band Davin ‘Big D’ Erickson plays harp, John Sefner is on bass and Steve Bass on drums (shouldn’t that be the other way round?): horns are added to two tracks by Kenny Anderson (trumpet), Dudley Owens (tenor) and Jerry DiMuzio (baritone). The material is a good blend of the new and familiar: tunes by Otis Rush, Muddy Waters, Little Walter and Fenton Robinson are included yet it is some of the originals (from within and outside the band) that grabbed my attention.
For starters there are two excellent up tempo songs in Billy Flynn’s “Don’t Mess With Me Baby”, fluid guitars throughout, and James Porter’s “One And One Ain’t Two” in which the harp meshes superbly with a driving soul rhythm. From within the band “Big D” provides “Brand New Boots”, a feature for his harp. Johnny wrote four songs including the excellent title track “Grim Reaper” which opens the album. Johnny’s light voice is expressive and conveys the harrowing lyric about death well, but it is the guitar playing that really grabs your attention – fluent, precise and varied, even including a reversed solo of a kind not heard since the psychedelic boom of the 60’s! “Shoe Leather And Tire Rubber” is an account of life on the road, a catchy shuffle with the harp accompanying the vocals in which I note the reappearance of karaoke as a threat to the blues musician – this is becoming something of a regular complaint in contemporary blues! In a similar vein lyrically is “It’s Expensive To Be Broke”, one of the tracks with horns, in which Johnny bemoans the fate of those who are unfortunate enough to be poor: “Being broke takes up lots of time, you always seem to be waiting in line”. “Window To Your Soul” is a slow burner with a touch of Magic Sam in the playing.
The covers are well chosen, offering a range of the familiar to some less well known songs. Otis Rush’s “My Baby’s A Good ‘Un” is taken at a slower pace than normal and Johnny’s guitar is beautifully expressive throughout. Similarly “Somebody Loan Me A Dime” adopts a slow yet funky style of guitar though “Rollin’ And Tumblin’” follows a more familiar pattern. Less familiar to me was “My Sweet Baby”, a song written by Robert Plunkett who once played with Elmore James and was an early mentor to Rockin’ Johnny. You can certainly detect some Elmore influences here and the addition of the horns on the track gives this one a great rocking groove.
Overall this is a superb album, the key feature being the precise playing of Rockin’ Johnny which is terrific throughout. I can recommend this one without reservation - already a contender for Chicago album of the year!
Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK. He also travels to the States most years
to see live blues music and enjoyed the Tampa Bay Blues Festival in April.
For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE


Featured Blues Review 2 of 6
Gary Primich - Just A Little Bit More ... with Omar Dykes
Old Pal Records
Two Discs; 23 songs; Disc 1 45:49, Disc 2 42:41 minutes; Library Quality
Styles: Harmonica led Modern and Traditional Electric Blues, Rock and Roll; Jazzy Blues
I was privileged to see Gary Primich perform live, but only once. He was touring in support of his 2002 release, “Dog House Music” with the multi-talented Jeff Turmes on bass, Shorty Lenoir on guitar, and harmony vocalist Jim Starboard on drums. Primich was built like a fire-plug, about 5’ 9” tall, slightly wide, and road-conditioned-solid. During the second set, Turmes switched from bass to screaming Delta Slide guitar for three songs. After the show, I asked Turmes how he got Primich to let him play guitar on those songs. Before Jeff could answer, the overhearing Primich wheeled around and needled, “It was all the whining and begging!” Therein lay the prankish humor of the late, great harmonica standout, band leader, guitarist, vocalist, and song writer, Gary Primich. Demonstrating his well studied versatility, Gary closed the first set by playing his harp like Al Hirt’s trumpet on Hirt’s 1965 Grammy winning instrumental “Java.”
That “Blue Monday” at The Alamo bar in Springfield IL was ten years ago June 17, 2002, and now, Gary has already been gone almost five years, succumbing to an accidental drug overdose in September 2007. Gary’s father, Jack Primich, began this project to keep Gary’s memory and music alive but mainly to showcase his wonderful talent. “Just a Little Bit More …with Omar Dykes” features 23 cuts of prime Gary Primich recordings that range from 1994 to 2006 and represent such CD titles as “Travelin’ Mood (1994),” “Mr. Freeze (1995),” and “Ridin’ the Darkhorse (2006).” There are seven previously unreleased tracks, courtesy of Omar, when Gary was a sideman with Omar Dykes between 1996 and 1997 (when a tempestuous Gary was temporarily fed up with all the responsibilities being of a bandleader, and he asked Omar if he could just play and have fun). Also included are several songs that first appeared on such Omar & the Howlers albums as “Muddy Springs Road,” “Swingland” and “World Wide Open” highlighting Primich’s unique talents as a harmonica player.
Primich was born in 1958 in Chicago, was raised in Gary (Hobart) Indiana, and was taught Blues harmonica by the masters at the legendary Maxwell Street Market. As a teenager, Gary got into Blues listening to the The Allman Brothers on FM radio. In a 2002 radio interview with Joliet DJ Chicago Slim, Gary revealed, “I remember being in my friend’s car under the influence of something that wasn’t legal and hearing the Allman Brothers version of ‘Hootchie Cootchie Man.’ Then they backed it with the original Muddy Waters version. That is what started me investigating and picking up records by him and Little Walter, Howlin’ Wolf, and people like that.” In 1984 Primich relocated to Austin TX and built a career that resulted in him being universally recognized by his peers as one of the country’s best Blues harpists. An artist whose entire focus was to just get better and better, he guest-appeared with many other artists (like Marcia Ball, Ruthie Foster, Mike Morgan and the Crawl, Doyle Bramhall, and Jimmie Vaughan) and on some of their recordings and toured worldwide.
This compilation which covers so many years of Gary Primich's career is a diverse menu of Blues and Rock and Roll which allows witness to his progression musically and lyrically. It is more of a career overview than a greatest hits CD. Cathi Norton in the liner notes writes, “[Gary] loved hard, played hard, made us laugh and made us crazy. Moderation was a stranger.” The first cut on Disc 1, “Satellite Rock” furiously demonstrates that quote and is a metaphor for that part of his lifestyle.
Styles range from the Bo Diddley rhythm of “Hoo Doo Ball,” the up-tempo shuffle of “Sweet Fine Angel,” to the finger-snapping, mid-tempo jazz of “School of Hard Knocks.” One of the previously unreleased gems is Jimmy Reed’s “Down in Mississippi,” with only Primich on harp and Dykes singing with his acoustic guitar. As the album’s title indicates, the CD showcases the special musical relationship Gary Primich had with Omar Kent Dykes, who sings and plays guitar on many of the tracks. Four standout tracks are Primich instrumentals including an especially lively version of Duke Ellington's “Caravan.” Variety abounds as the songs were recorded with different groups in different studios at different times; some are simple, with electric guitar, bass, drums and harp while others have horn sections.
The musicians on the CD represent a veritable “who’s who” of Austin’s finest, including Gary Clark, Jr., Derek O’Brien, Sarah Brown, Wes Starr, Mark Korpi, Dave Biller, Jay Moehler, Nick Connolly, George Rains, Mark Rubin and Billy Horton. There are more players listed in the liner notes who were regular members of Gary Primich’s band through the years, either on record or on tour.
Unless you already own everything Gary Primich recorded, get this double set for your library. In the process, you’ll gain seven previously unreleased songs and a treasure of great Blues from a too-soon-departed master.
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..
For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE


Featured Blues Review 3 of 6
Willie May - Stone Blue
Self-released
10 tracks
I got this CD and immediately thought of the Big Bill Broonzy song "Willie Mae", which has in fact has nothing to do with this artist. So now that that is cleared up, Willie May hails from Buffalo area, is a five time Buffalo Area Music Award winner and was voted Western New York Blues Beat Magazine's Band of the Year. From his minimalist web site, "Willie May has performed in basements, barns, garages, street corners, speak-easies, house trailers, preschool, high school, colleges, radio, television, bars, concert halls, outdoor festival arenas, and inside Attica prison." That for sure is certainly a wide variety of types of venues to have played!
May has written all ten cuts here and sings and plays guitar, bass and kalimba. Joining him are a variety of artists, including Jim Whitford on upright bass, Ken Parker on sax, Kevin Espinosa on harp, Kenny Peterson on pedal steel, Mark Garcia on drums, Owen Eishensen on drums, organ and guitar, Randy Bolanm on drums Ron Kain on guitar and Tom Corsi on bass.
The CD has it's minimalistic points, with May growling and groaning out vocals and adding a touch here and a touch there to give his stuff an authentic sound. "Stranger in My House" is straight up traditional twelve bar blues in an A A B format. Parkers sax sells this one, alternating the lead with Willie's vocals. I enjoyed this track because of the sax despite it's simplicity. The instrumental "Hola Teresa" is also cool, with electric guitar, trumpet and the highway driving beat along with some fun percussive stuff mixed in. The final cut, "Old Frinds" is one of the "bigger" numbers sound-wise, with a muddy electric guitar sound and lots of pieces and parts, with crowd sounds and cheering to boot. A little odd, but fun.
"Made in the Shade" has a reggae sort of beat to it for a change of pace. "Don't Do That No More" has a big drum and bass back line sound where the percussion also sets the tone. Willie goes out west with "Where Did We Go Wrong"; the pedal steel gives it the full effect, with the growling Willie trying to twang and ferociously pick along with the wail of the pedal steel.
May gives it his all. Vocally, he's quite raw and gruff sounding when he wants to be. That's probably the weakest part of the album. The songs are good and the orchestrated pieces always interesting. The instrumentals are all well done and balanced. I am sure Willie has a following with his live shows who are big into the good sized catalog of music on his site. A good mix of acoustic, electric and lots of other stuff is presented here, something in a style for everyone.
Reviewer Steve Jones is president of the Crossroads Blues Society and is a long standing blues lover. He is a retired Navy commander who served his entire career in nuclear submarines. In addition to working in his civilian career since 1996, he writes for and publishes the bi-monthly newsletter for Crossroads, chairs their music festival and work with their Blues In The Schools program. He resides in Byron, IL.
For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE


Featured Blues Review 4 of 6
Chris Watson Band - Pleasure And Pain
GatorMusic
Out of Denton, Texas come Chris Watson and company with a solid band effort that has the shadow of Stevie Ray Vaughn looking over their shoulder ever so slightly. The possessor of a soul-touched voice and fluid guitar skills to spare, he also contributes nine songs. The basic guitar-drums-keyboard lineup is complemented by horns and backing vocals from time to time. Chris has been a fixture on the Texas blues scene since an early age. The future looks bright for many more years.
The breezily funky “Heart On My Sleeve” displays his satisfying vocals and the first of his guitar solos in various styles. “Untrue” is a tough Texas-style shuffle owing a debt to SRV without mimicking him. The title song is a plaintive observation on love gone wrong, which also includes a soaring guitar solo. “Heartache” follows in a similar vein, bolstered by horns and backing vocals. More SRV-style funky rhythm guitar appears on the funky and muscular “Mama Told Me”. The traditional gospel song “Going Home” is given a funky blues groove. His solo contains carefully chosen notes, not just ripping out fast notes for affect. The recurring theme of breaking up is the subject of “Happiest Day Of My Life”, that has something of a Lynyrd Skynyrd-vibe, as well as rollicking piano work courtesy of Eric Scortia. On the cover of the late Sean Costello’s “Hard Luck Woman” his guitar plays in unison with his vocal. Bobby Womack’s “Check It Out” is a nice change of pace, offering a soul-blues workout. The upbeat “Don’t Turn Around” closes things out with his familiar relationship breakup theme.
Chris and company come up with a satisfying slice of Texas-style blues. His guitar and vocals flow naturally over the course of this CD. The backing musicians give him just the right foundation. Some of his solos show some originality, but he needs to find his own defining sound. Everything is excellently played, but much here is of the “we’ve heard that before variety”. He has a lot of talent for him to build on and progress. This is an easy listen. If you enjoy original blues that take influences and make them sound fresh, this is the place for you. Although his publicity handouts tout him as a blues-rock sensation, I find his music to be closer to straight ahead blues.
Reviewer Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony hails from the New Jersey Delta.
Reviewer Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony hails from the New Jersey Delta.
For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE


Blues Society News

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The Topeka Blues Society presents the 3rd Annual Spirit of Kansas Blues Festival 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!
Headlining is Royal Southern Brotherhood along with 2012 BMA Best New Artist Debut winner Samantha Fish, Southern Hospitality and Biscuit Miller and the Mix. Also appearing are the Nick Hern Band, the Terry Quiett Band and the Solo Hogs.
There will also be food, arts and crafts and a car show. Bring your lawn chairs, tents and coolers. 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 SOK group rate.
Madison Blues Society - Madison, WI
More than 4,000 Blues fans are expected at the 10th Annual Blues Picnic on Saturday, June 23. There'll be 9 hours of FREE music from noon to 9:00PM!
NOON: Westside Andy & Glenn Davis Duo
1:25PM: Jimmys with Perry Weber
2:45PM: Joe's Blues Kids
3:35PM: Shari Davis and the Hootchy-Kootchy Band
4:55PM: Tate and the 008 Band
6:15PM: Howard "Guitar" Luedtke & Blue Max
7:45PM: Richie Rich and the Chi-town Blues Band
The Blues Kids are back again, part of the MBS "Blues in the Community" program. Everybody loves to hear these kids get up and blow their harps along with Madison Blues Artists. We'll have lots of great food, drinks and beer and don't miss out on the Prize Raffle and the 50-50 Cash Raffle. Get the full story at www.madisonbluessocety.com/picnic12.htm
Dayton Blues Society– Dayton, Ohio
The Dayton Blues Society will be holding our “Road to Memphis” Blues Challenge on July 22nd at Gilly’s Nite Club in downtown Dayton. We are now accepting applications for our Band and Solo/Duo categories. Please go to www.daytonbluessociety.com for complete details.
Crossroads Blues Society - Rockford, IL
Hot June showscoming up in Rockford!!! Bryan Lee appears at Mary's Place at 602 N Madison St in Rockford, IL on Wednesday June 13th. Admission is $10; advanced tickets get reserved seating. Tickets at Mary's place or through Crossroads Blues Society. Call 779-537-4006 or email sub_insignia@yahoo.com for more info on either show.
The Blues Kids Foundation - Chicago, IL
The Blues Kids Foundation presents Fernando Jones’ Annual Blues Camp. This fun-filled experience awards scholarships to over 120 Blues Kids (ages 12 to 18), affording them a “priceless” fun-filled experience. They will learn and perform America’s root music in a fully funded, weeklong program with like minded others under the tutelage of national and international instructors. Blues Camp is in residence at: Columbia College Chicago, Huston-Tillotson University (Austin, TX) and the Fender Center (Corona, CA). This series is designed for America’s youth and educators. To be a sponsor call us at 312-369-3229.
CAMP DATES & CITIES
July 15 - 21 / Columbia College, Chicago, IL
June 17 - 23 / Fender Center, Corona, CA
June 13 - 16 / Huston-Tillotson University, Austin, TX
The Diamond State Blues Society - Middletown , Delaware
The 1st St. Georges Blues Fest sponsored by The Diamond State Blues Society is Saturday, June 16th, 2012, Noon to 8pm rain or shine, on the grounds of The Commodore Center, 1701 N. DuPont Hwy., St. Georges, Delaware. Featured are Garry Cogdell & the Complainers; lower case blues with special guest Johnny Neel; Dave Fields, Brandon Santini & his Band; J.P. Soars & the Red Hots; and headlining is The Bernard Allison Group. Details and links to tickets at www.DiamondStateBlues.com.
The Mississippi Valley Blues Festival in Davenport, Iowa is June 29th & 30th, and July1st. Scheduled performers include Mathew Curry and The Fury, Earnest ‘’Guitar’’ Roy, Sugar Ray and the Bluetones, Liz Mandeville and Donna Herula, Kenny Neal and Super Chikan Johnson on June 29th, Terry Quiett, Bryce Janey, Ray Fuller and the Blues Rockers, Doug MacLeod, Preston Shannon, Ernest Dawkins Quartet, Guitar Shorty, Moreland and Arbuckle, Coco Montoya and Kelley Hunt on June 30th. Lady Bianca, Paul Geremia, Johnny Rawls, Trampled Under Foot and the Brooks Family Blues Dynasty featuring Lonnie Brooks, Ronnie Baker Brooks and Wayne Baker Brooks, plus Bobby Rush with “The Double Rush Revue” on Sunday July 1st. http://www.mvbs.org
River City Blues Society presents: Bringing The Blues To You with the following shows at Goodfellas 1414 N. 8th St, Pekin, Illinois - 2011 International Blues Challenge winner Lionel Young Band with opening act The Governor on Friday, June 22 From 7:00 pm – 11:00 pm Admission: $5.00 For more info visit: www.rivercityblues.com or call 309-648-8510
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. Jun 11 – Deb Callahan, Jun 18 – Sugar Ray & The Bluetones Jun 25 – TBA. Other ICBC sponsored events at the K of C Hall, Casey’s Pub, 2200 Meadowbrook Rd., Springfield, IL from 7:30pm - Midnight - May 12 – Eddie Turner Band, , - Jun 30 – Matt Hill . icbluesclub.org
The Friends Of The Blues - Watseka, IL
Friends of the Blues present 2012 shows:
Tues, June 19, Sugar Ray Norcia & Bluetones, 7 pm, Kankakee Valley Boat Club
Tues, June 26, Tom Holland & Shuffle Kings, 7 pm, Bradley Bourbonnais Sportsmen’s Club
Thur, July 12, Dave Riley and band (outdoors with opening dinner hour acoustic set by Sugarcane Collins), 7pm, The Longbranch Restaurant, L’Erable IL
Tues, July 17, Sugarcane Collins, 7pm, Kankakee Valley Boat Club
Tues, July 24, Laurie Morvan Band, 7 pm, Bradley Bourbonnais Sportsmen’s Club
Thur, August 9, Too Slim and the Taildraggers, 7 pm, Kankakee Valley Boat Club
Wed, August 22, Smokin’ Joe Kubek w/ Bnois King, 7 pm, Kankakee Valley Boat Club
Thur, Sept 6, Ivas John Band, 7 pm, venue TBA
Tues, Sept 18, Smilin’ Bobby, 7 pm, venue TBA
Thur, Sept 27, Jerry Lee & Juju Kings, 7 pm, venue TBA
Thursday, Oct 18, Morry Sochat & The Special 20s, 7 pm, TBA

Featured Blues Review 5 of 6
Lisa Mann – Satisfied
Self Release
13 tracks / 51:09
When I got Lisa Mann’s latest CD, Satisfied, I was glad to find a fellow bass player who has the initiative to take the leading role in a band. She is accomplished in both roles, having won awards for both her vocals and bass playing from the Cascade Blues Association (she hails from the Portland, Oregon area).
Besides her performing roles, Lisa also has the principal songwriting roles in this release. She wrote nine of the thirteen tracks and they all have smart lyrics and great musical scores. It is nice that they give their customers over 50 minutes of music, as many new releases barely come in at 40 minutes these days.
One worry that I had before listening to this album was that if the leader and songwriter was a bass player, that this exercise would be a total bass wank-fest. It turns out that though the bass part is forward in the mix and a more complicated than on many blues albums, is never becomes overbearing.
“See You Next Tuesday” is the lead-off track on Satisfied, and right away the listener gets an up-tempo blues romp with Brian Harris on the organ and Jeff Knudson playing smooth licks on the guitar. If this is your first experience with Lisa Mann, you will find that she has a rich and full voice, and can really belt out a tune. It is a brief and humorous tune, which makes it like a good appetizer before a feast.
Jeff Johnson’s “Gamblin’ Virgin Mary” comes next and changes things up a little as it starts out with a growly bass lick that proves that Lisa has got the blues pouring out of her fingertips too. Lisa switches to more a gospel tone with her vocals, and the keyboards are layered with honky-tonk piano and organ tones. Michael Ballash’s drums are perfectly in sync with Lisa, providing a solid foundation.
“Always Nobody” is another original song with funny lyrics, describing how humbling is it to be home when it seems like you are appreciated everywhere else. Fellow Oregonian (and one heck of a musician) Lloyd Jones is featured on vocals and guitar on this track, and his voice works in very well with Lisa’s. I wonder if he does not feel famous in Portland too…
From the title you can figure out that “Have I Told You I Love Your Today” is a love song. It also happens to be a very good pop/rock tune that is as radio-friendly as you can get, and is yet another great showcase for Lisa Mann’s vocal talents, too.
Carlo Bayer Sager’s “Alone” is just Lisa and her bass, and she has tastefully reworked this song to make it her own. Her raw emotion and beautiful voice make this one of my favorite tracks on Satisfied. This track provides also gives the listener a small rest before jumping back into the blues with Johnny “Guitar” Watson’s “Don’t Touch Me”, which has some awesome guitar work from Kevin Selfe, and horns from Dan Fincher, Joe McCarthy and Brad Ulrich.
After eleven tracks with the usual blues themes of hard times, disillusionment and love lost, “Kings of Black Gold” is a splash of cold water to the face with its heavy political message. I do not see Satisfied as a political album, so this track does not fit in with the rest of the tunes. Of course it is a well-written song, and Mitch Kashmar does a nice job with the harmonica parts on this track, so I did not let it bring me down.
The somber tone does not last though, as the album finishes off with “Doin’ Alright”, which is an upbeat tune with Joe Powers sitting in on the harmonica. Also featured is Brian Fowxorth, who takes over as drummer and adds a little soul with his backing vocals on this track. This song was a great choice for ending the album, as it brings things to close on a happy note.
So, the bottom line is that Lisa Mann and her group did a very good job on Satsified, which provides a little bit of everything from blues to pop and sadness to humor. This is a solid album with consistently catchy tunes and a passel of great musicians, and is well worth the ten bucks it costs to download it online. I can’t wait to see what she comes out with next!
Reviewer Rex Bartholomew is a Los Angeles-based writer and musician; his blog can be found at rexbass.blogspot.com.
For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE

Featured Blues Review 6 of 6
Jeremy Spencer - Bend in the Road
Propelz
17 tracks/76:20
Once a member of the original, legendary Fleetwood Mac line-up that included Peter Green, Jeremy Spencer was the band's slide guitar wizard, channeling the classic Elmore James style. Spencer also lent his vocal skills to rockabilly tunes that energized the live Fleetwood Mac shows, being especially adept at Elvis and Buddy Holly songs. Spencer left the band after Green and delved deep into his Christian faith. He released three solo recordings in the 70's before dropping out of sight, a hiatus that lasted over thirty years until he reappeared in 2006 with the critically acclaimed Precious Little album on Blind Pig Records.
The new project is available in two formats. The limited edition, double-LP version was available in April as part of the International Record Store Day celebration. It contains seventeen cuts, including four tracks that are exclusive to the vinyl format. The cover is a watercolor done by Spencer. The CD version will have fourteen tracks that adds one song, “Homework”, that is not on the LP set.
Fans of his Fleetwood Mac days will relish performances like Spencer's reworking of Homesick James Williamson's “Homesick” and his rendition of “Stranger Blues” rocks harder than any of the other tracks. Spencer also covers one of Elmore James' classics, although you will be hard pressed to recognize it at first as Spencer strips away the blues influences from the opening segment of “The Sun is Shining” before settling into the familiar progression. Spencer also fills out the arrangement on piano, showing his talents aren't limited to the guitar.
Another Elmore James number, “Cry for My Baby”, has a light-hearted feel despite the despair described in the lyrics. “Strange Woman” melds biblical references to darker hued tune to describe the dangers of an enchanting woman. Spencer revisits his rock&roll roots on “Earthquake”, detailing his experiences during an actual event several decades ago in Greece. “I Walked a Mile with Sorrow” is done in a country rock mode with lyrics based on a poem by Robert Browning.
The remaining tracks expose Spencer's wide-ranging musical interests. “Whispering Fields” is a gentle country-styled instrumental while “Secret Sorrow” is highlighted by Spencer's yearning vocal. The contemplative “Merciful Sea” finds Spencer alone on piano for the first time. The swinging instrumental “Jambo” has Spencer adopting a darker tone than usual for his slide guitar. The other guitarist on the project, Brett Lucas, delivers a sharp solo. “Refugees” is an earnest rock number that ends with a spirited exchange between Spencer and Lucas.
The title cut is another Spencer tune that reminds us of the power of hope with a fine backing vocal from Rachel May. Other band members include James Simonson on bass, Todd Glass on drums & percussion, Molly Hughes on violin, Mimi Morris and Stefan Koch on cello with Duncan McMillan on accordion.
There may not be a lot of musical fireworks on this one but Jeremy Spencer has crafted a package that displays the breadth of his talents – singer, songwriter, guitarist, pianist and illustrator. His refreshing approach is a welcome respite from the world of amped-up guitars and over-bearing singers.
Reviewer Mark Thompson retired after twelve years as president of the Crossroads Blues Society in Rockford. IL. and moved to Florida. He has been listening to music of all kinds for over fifty years. Favorite musicians include Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Magic Slim, Magic Sam, Charles Mingus and Count Basie.
For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE

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