Cover photo by Bob Kieser © 2012
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In This Issue
We have the latest in Blues Society news from around the globe. Terry Mullins has the first installment of our two part feature interview with Bob Koester. Bob Kieser has photos and commentary on the 2012 Old Capitol Blues And BBQ Fest.
We have six music reviews for you! Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony reviews a new release from Oli Brown. Rex Bartholomew reviews a new release from Chemako. Rainey Wetnight reviews a new release from Stacy Jones Band. Steve Jones reviews a new album from The Blasters. John Mitchell reviews a new CD from Tommy McCoy. Sheila Skilling reviews a new album from Rosetta West. All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN!!!
Last Saturday we made it out to see a show by guitar phenomenon, singer and songwriter, Matthew Curry and his band, the Fury. Seventeen year old Matthew is starting to make a real name for himself. He garnered three Blues Blast Music Award nominations this year and his 2011 album If I Don't Got You made it to #19 on the Blues & Roots Airplay charts last week!
The band had a great set with a huge stage show that included backup singers and a horn section. Matthew is working on songs for his next album which will be his second recording before he graduates from high school! And what exactly were you doing in your senior year in high school?
We also made it out to catch a River City Blues Society show featuring Chicago Bluesman Studebaker John.
Now that is what we call a great Blues week!
Featured Blues Interview - Bob Koester Part I
There’s very little that the eyes and ears of Bob Koester have not seen or heard.
You might picture him as the wise old owl that sits high atop a tree, surveying everything surrounding him in all directions.
And that picture would be pretty accurate.
Koester’s fingerprints are all over everything related to blues and jazz music and his presence in the genre goes back over six decades.
Simply put, without Bob Koester’s involvement in making, marketing, promoting and selling recorded music, there’s no telling how the fields of blues and jazz specifically, would have suffered.
But suffered they certainly would have.
Since morphing his hobby of digging on the sounds of big-band jazz and collecting music into a full-time occupation back in the early 1950s, the Blues Hall of Famer, who was born in 1932 in Wichita, Kansas, has been a key component in the efforts to keep blues and jazz music from fading into the background and becoming something strictly for historians to reminisce about.
In addition to giving birth to Delmark Records, a label that is on the precipice of its 60th anniversary, Koester also breathed life into what has become the world’s largest jazz and blues record store – called the Jazz Record Mart – located at 27 East Illinois, in the thriving metropolis of Chicago, epicenter of the American blues scene.
It takes plenty of gumption to own and operate a blues record label these days, but with gas hovering around four bucks a gallon, it’s every bit as hard, if not harder, to keep a successful retail operation – one that caters to the entertainment side of things – up and running.
“Business in the store has been a little off from last year and we’re not quite ready to figure out why, except for the recession and people finally figuring out, maybe, that it’s not going to be over too soon,” Koester said.
Not just a recent phenomenon, the painful downward slide of recorded music sales started back a few years ago.
“It was pretty bad. Downloading has had a serious effect on the record business. Our sales were down 40-odd percent and almost everybody else went out of business (over the past decade),” Koester said. “But we had a real, serious comeback when (mega-retailer) Tower (Records) closed. That was the worst thing that happened to the general market and the best thing that happened to Jazz Record Mart.”
While other industries can point the finger at the rising cost of everything production-related as the reason for soft sales, for the music biz, it’s basically been all about computers and their widespread dominance of our lives.
“We were hurting, even before the recession, so it’s downloading. It’s estimated that something like two percent of all downloads are paid for,” said Koester. “One of the hopes is, there’s been some laws passed in France that have made it – I wouldn’t say impossible – but extremely difficult, to do illegal downloads over there. I’m not sure about the details, but there was a similar bill in Congress and I see where the Republicans were on the side of the record companies and music publishers and the Democrats were on the side of the musicians, songwriters and vocalists. But it came up and Google said it was a violation of Freedom of Speech, so they’ve got to re-write it. I don’t think anything’s going to happen until after the election, which I hope will give us a more united Congress.”
That change in the way people purchase their music has not only crippled the outlets that sell the music, it’s also had a devastating impact on the companies that make the music, big or small, as well.
“There’s nobody to talk to at these major labels anymore. Everybody’s either in the ivory tower or they’ve got some shit job in the warehouse,” Koester said. “They’re (major labels) firing all kinds of hip people.”
Back when just about every town had a record store among its grocery stores, barber shops, restaurants and gas stations, it was easy for a music lover to keep up with the latest sounds on a weekly basis.
Part of that was due to the ease in which those record shops could be stocked.
“In those days, there were distributors in about 20 or 24 different cities throughout the country,” said Koester. “There were distributors in Chicago, New York, Boston, Denver and St. Louis … but today there are three distributors in the United States. There’s City Hall in the Bay Area, Select-O-Hits in Memphis and a place called Traditions Alive in Cleveland. There are other accounts that we (Delmark) sell to, but they’re not really doing that much actual business.”
Delmark and its staff is certainly not ‘anti-computer’ and a big portion of the label’s offerings can be found on sites that specialize in the MP3 format, sites such as iTunes or Amazon.com.
But that doesn’t mean the label is in a hurry to make downloads available through its own Web site (www.delmark.com).
“Well, I don’t know the technical side of it, but I gather it’s not something we’re interested in doing,” Koester said. “We’re on iTunes and through some other people. And there’s one company – we can’t go direct with them, we go through another company – and of course they take a bite out of it. So if somebody pays 99 cents for a track, we get 15 or 20 cents, something like that. Of course, the music publisher gets money. I’ve checked out the numbers and once your product is available on download, your sales go down 95 percent.”
Back in the hey-day of vinyl, or even 8-tracks, the notion of getting music over a glorified television sitting on top of a desk probably seemed like something straight out of a Buck Rogers sci-fi flick. Those were the days when the sound that poured out of your stereo speakers was warm, inviting and anything but digitally processed. But those days are long gone.
“Well, those days are not totally gone. Fidelity is back. We’ve noticed an increase in LP business, for instance. We’re about to put out Otis Rush’s first Delmark recording on LP – we’re expecting the pressings any day. And we’ll be expanding the catalog at the rate of several albums a year,” Koester said. “Plus, some of our artists want to have LPs and we work out deals were they buy a certain quantity, so it’s feasible for us to issue them. Very often, they’ll buy more than we’ll sell the first year. In terms of the blues catalogs, the classics, and a few of the jazz records – we put out the two Sun Ra’s and Roscoe Mitchell from our back catalog – they do OK, but they don’t sell like the blues. The champ seller, of course, is Hoodoo Man Blues. But the percentage of sales on LPS has gone up, while total sales of CDs have gone down slightly. But getting back to downloads, people still want the liner notes. They’ll illegally download their CDs, but they’ll still buy LPs. Young people will come in the store looking for LPs. They sell very well in the avant garde and modern jazz categories, but they’ve got to be the classics.”
Some of the major labels have been hesitant to jump back into the production of vinyl after a hiatus that began in earnest back in the 80s, and according to Koester, they’re missing the boat.
“We stock something like 50 or 60 Sun Ra titles available on LP, which is way more of his albums than were in print during his lifetime. But stuff like the Miles Davis Prestige classics and some of the Columbia’s, there’s just so few of them available. The major labels are really missing the market. I mean, it’s a small market, but they’d better get used to a smaller industry. Most of the LPs you’ll see on Columbia or Blue Note were not pressed by the company that owns the masters. There’s an outfit called Scorpio in Pennsylvania and they do probably half the LP titles we sell in the store and possibly more than half the volume. MCA or Universal these days, is goofing by not pressing Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf and so forth.”
So far, Delmark’s delving into the world of vinyl focuses primarily on the label’s back catalog, while newer works like Toronzo Cannon’s Leaving Mood is not currently available on LP format.
“Our new products tend not to be available on LP. If an artist wants to buy a bunch of them, then maybe,” Koester said. “An artist is a very important outlet for our records, especially vinyl.”
Koester was born and raised in the very un-bluesy environs of Wichita, Kansas. But he didn’t let his surroundings dictate or hold back his tastes in music. As a young man he still found a way to be smitten with the sounds of jazz.
“The KFH (radio station) Ark Valley Boys were one of the early influences because they had a real good stride or ragtime piano player. And of course, that was western swing, which was derived from jazz,” he said. “Back when I was a kid, big bands were still around. I couldn’t go hear them, although I did catch Count Basie, with Jimmy Rushing singing, at the Miller Theatre in Wichita when I was quite young. And that really turned me on to jazz and blues, although I didn’t understand blues. But I still don’t see blues as a separate body. To me, it’s part of the jazz scene. Although some jazz fans don’t like that, because they see blues as too primitive.”
Koester’s first essential brush with the world of recorded music occurred when his family moved into the house of his deceased grandfather.
“We moved into this nice, big house on Douglas Avenue and he (Koester’s grandfather) had an Original Dixieland Jazz Band 78 in with all his classical records. And he also had a turntable – a phonograph – so I went out and started buying records,” Koester said. “And I also heard the Eddie Condon jazz show, which had a 13-week run on the blue network and at least for part of that, it was broadcast in Wichita.”
Then in the mid 40s, a film called New Orleans, a film that Koester, an avid 16-millimeter print collector, now has several copies of in his collection, opened in Wichita.
“It showed at The Palace Theatre, I think, the one across from the Wichita Theatre on Douglas, and one of the shorts they showed was Jammin’ the Blues with Lester Young,” he said. “It was an Academy Award winner done by Norman Granz with Gjon Mili doing the photography. And that really turned me on. I was a jazz fan from then on. I was going to be a movie cameraman at one time. But instead of a film maker that collects records, I became a record maker who collects films.”
Koester’s film collection currently stands at over 800 features – including the always popular Laurel & Hardy comedies – along with several thousand cartoons.
When it became time for Koester to attend college, he ended up in Missouri, at St. Louis University, because his parents insisted he go to a Jesuit college.
“If I’d have went to (college in) New Orleans or Chicago, I would have been seduced by the music, so I went to St. Louis. But the first group (Windy City Six) I ever recorded played a block off of campus, two blocks from my dorm,” he said. “And I joined the St. Louis Jazz Club and was selling records out of my dorm room through The Record Changer magazine and at the jazz club meetings.”
Just a little over a year after landing in St. Louis, Koester and fellow jazz club member Ron Fister opened their first retail outlet, a store fittingly called K & F Sales, in a small place they rented for $40 a month.
K & F quickly outgrew its original location and soon the shop was re-christened as the Blue Note Record Shop after taking over an out-of-business restaurant’s spot.
However, the partnership between Koester and Fister was also about to dissolve.
“He wanted to sell all kinds of pop shit and I didn’t, so we broke up the partnership. I paid him off. That was in 1952, I believe,” said Koester. “At first, I thought it was just going to be selling out of the dorm and at the meetings. I thought it would just be a sideline. Then we opened the store and it just went from there.”
After his split with Fister, Koester relocated the store to a spot on Delmar and Oliver Streets in St. Louis. Thus, Delmar Records – later changed to Delmark - was born and what had started out as an interest and hobby became all-consuming for young Koester.
“Eventually I got so involved with it that I flunked my third year and they (St. Louis University) asked me not to come back,” he said.
At first, Koester really didn’t know what to do when it really dawned on him that his collegiate days were over.
“I was very indecisive. I got called up in the draft, but flunked the physical because of an irregular heartbeat. And so I decided that I’d stay with it (selling records). But I didn’t have a hell of a lot of capital,” he said. “I remember my inventory would be about 100 LPs, but of course I’d buy and sell 78s, too, collector’s items. The blues 78s, I’d keep one of each. I had a collection of about three or four thousand blues 78s and several thousand jazz 78s. And I was selling off the jazz 78s for capital, because the stuff was coming out on LPs, but I kept the blues stuff. But if I got a new blues 78, it’d go in the pile for a dollar or two bits apiece. Nobody wanted them. That’s why blues records are so valuable today, because so many of them got thrown away.”
One of the major pitfalls of owning and operating your own record store is having the ability to let go of a cool piece of music that might fit in well in your own personal collection, when on the other hand, the sale of that item could bring in a bit of much-needed cash.
So how did Koester separate his collector side from his business side?
“Well, I usually kept it. If it was something I didn’t already have, I’d keep it,” he said. “When stuff would come out on LP, I’d sell the original.”
But buying and selling records produced by other record companies was to be only a small part of Koester’s budding enterprise.
Next Week Part II - The Delmark Records recording legacy begins
Photos by Bob Kieser © 2012
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
Oli Brown - Here I Am
Oli Brown is touted as Britain’s next blues “phenom” in the press and in his publicity handouts. There is only one problem, in this release there are no blues to be found and hardly anything you could call blues-rock. What he does here sounds like late sixties-early seventies hard rock. Gee, maybe he met the ghosts of Steve Marriot and Foghat’s Lonesome Dave Peverett at the crossroads. Perhaps a change in direction, but his guitar solos are mostly quite short with a hard attack, but showing little in the way of originality. His voice and lyric writing are the two things they set him above the pack. He possesses a strong and pleasing voice and his lyrics are more inventive than most. He has the requisite bravado and swagger for the genre. What we have here is a power trio that is augmented with keyboards as a backwash at times.
He jumps right into the fray with a life statement in the title track where he exclaims-“A little change wouldn’t do any harm” and “Ain’t tryin’ to be no Jimi or Stevie; I wanna be my goddam self”. It looks like there is little chance of him rivaling either. Then he proceeds to lunge into “Thinking About Her” with a rift that sounds like it was lifted from a SRV song. He does rip off a nice stinging jazz-inflected solo. “Manic Bloom” employs a catchy riff, as well as a short rip-roaring solo. The breakup song “All We Had To Give” strolls along nicely with the inclusion of a soaring solo. He does a successful reading of Al Kooper’s classic “I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know” from the first Blood, Sweat And Tears album taken at a slower tempo with a slow jazzy guitar solo. His vocal shines here and snyth-strings don’t sound out of place. “Mr. Wilson” is a well executed cheater’s tale, where the rhythm section hangs on to every turn-in-the-road, as they do all over this record. Nikki Costa’s “Like A Feather” is super catchy and playful with the added vocals of Dani Wilde. Former Manfred Mann lead singer Paul Jones contributes low-in-the-mix harmonica to the closing song “Solid Ground”. The record goes out as strongly as it began.
Although Oli doesn’t live up to the hype bestowed upon him as a blues guitar-singer hero, what he does is done well. Producer-drummer Wayne Proctor does his job well along with bass player Scott Barnes. Joel White’s keyboards add a boost without taking solos. Songwriting is handled well on their ten originals and the two covers are given new life. With his good looks and pretty boy swagger as an extra tagged on to his talent he could become today’s Peter Frampton, or better yet today’s Oli Brown.
Reviewer Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony hails from the New Jersey Delta.
Featured Blues Review 2 of 6
Chemako – Chemako
11 tracks / 47:18
When I think of Italy it conjures up images of a rich history, beautiful architecture, fine food and wine, and the most desirable sports cars on the planet. But until recently I had never considered the country’s blues scene, which is also quite good. I have been listening to Chemako’s eponymous CD and have come away very impressed. This four-piece band has been working together in one form or another since 1993, and it is a shame that they did not get into the studio sooner.
The core personnel of the band for this project are bassist Roberto Re, guitarist Gianfranco "French" Scala, drummer Stefano Bertolotti, and vocalist Marcello Milanese. There are at least a dozen featured guest artists, with many of them supplying vocal, harmonica or guitar support. For the Chemako CD they put together ten original songs, mostly from Scala and Gianni Rava, and a cover of George Harrison’s “All Things Must Pass.” In case you were wondering, the songs are all sung in English, and I could hear no traces of an Italian accent.
As far as describing their sound, I hate to pigeon-hole anybody and the guys in Chemako defy easy categorization anyway. Their songs vary between delta blues and more modern countrified blues, and all of it has a laid back vibe. This variation in styles is seen right from the first track, “Red Diamond Train,” which starts out with just some banjo picking and Milanese’s husky voice, and gets modern in a hurry as more layers are added. These layers include some very pretty and well-harmonized background vocals and plenty of neat slide and picked guitar. Scala and Rava also throw us some great lyrics here, including my favourite lines of the whole CD, “You know I liked long legged girls/cuties with big Bambi eyes/I just love to break their hearts/with lots of my disgusting lies.” I wish I had written that.
At this point it would be good to note that Chemako has not fallen into the same traps that many bands do when they are singing songs that are not in their original language. The lyrics all make sense on this album, and the vocals are phrased naturally with all of the breaks and emphasis placed correctly. They have done a very good job of making this sound like an American blues album. Going through all of the tracks, I am stuck with observation that they are all very good, which is refreshing in a world of CDs that maybe only have one or two good tracks, if you are lucky. Though all of the songs are more towards the easygoing side of things, the band managed to provide a variety in the music thanks to the all of the guest musicians that appears on the album.
“Maintenance Free” comes up next on Chemako, and this is the first of three songs that feature Angelica Depaoli on lead vocals. This song, as well as “Save the Moon” and “All Things Must Pass” shows that she has a strong voice with an impressive range. Angelica interacts well with the guitars and piano, and her voice is very pretty to listen to. The slow tempo of the songs she is featured on really plays to her strengths, showing that the producer (Scala) knew what he was doing when he put this project together. “Lost My Way” and “Falling Star” both have a distinct Dire Straits country rock feel to them. This is mostly due to the tasteful guitar work of Maurizio Fassino and Maurizio Glielmo. Also, both of these songs were sung by Marcello Milanese, and his one-of-a-kind raspy drawl makes the country mood feel genuine.
I like the placement of “Momma’s Words” as the final track, as it is cool to end an album on an uplifting note. Martell Walton takes care of the vocals on this song, and Gianni Rava takes a break from his song writing duties on this song and picks up his saxophone to honk out a few notes. After the song ends there is a hidden one-minute instrumental (guitar and accordion) jam to bring this work to a close.
Chemako is a really neat CD, and it would be well worth your time to track down a copy to add to your playlist. Hopefully they will not make us wait another twenty years before they record again!
Reviewer Rex Bartholomew is a Los Angeles-based writer and musician; his blog can be found at rexbass.blogspot.com.
Live Blues Review - Old Capitol Blues Fest
Friday August 24th. - The Old Capitol Blues & BBQ Fest is an annual event held next to the old Illinois State Capitol Building just a block from the Lincoln Presidential library in Springfield, IL.
On Friday night we heard JD McPherson. He had a great set with some Chicago pros backing him up including bassist Jimmy Sutton. Jimmy is know for his work with The Cash Box Kings among other great Chicago area bands. The group played a great set of jump and swing blues.
Fridays headliner was Chicago Bluesman Wayne Baker Brooks. It was another great set by a talented artists and a fine way to close out the first night of the festival.
Saturday 25th - The day started out with a Blues Challenge!. The 6th Annual Illinois Central Blues Club Blues Challenge was held from noon to 4PM. The winner in the solo/duo competition was Robert Sampson. This will be Robert's 4th trip to Memphis to compete in the International Blues Challenge.
The band winner was Back Pack Jones With Mike Wallace, Kirk Lonbom, Wandell Day, Mike Baier, And Harvey Horton. Congratulations to the winners who will represent the Illinois Central Blues Club in the 2012 International Blues Challenge
First up on the main fest stage was Brooke Thomas & The Blue Suns. Brooke competed in the International Blues Challenge in Memphis last year. It was my first opportunity to hear this awesome vocalist! She had me on the first note of a Smokey Robinson tune she sang. If you haven't heard her, make a point to do so. Promise you won't be sorry!
Next up was a Central Illinois band called Chicken Shack. We have heard them before and they always perform a great set. This day was no exception!
Next up was Hurricane Ruth. She and her power trio including David Lumsden on guitar were on fire this day! I spoke with Ruth afterward and she told me she has had a great summer. I seriously though that I would not really want to be following this powerhouse singer!
And following Hurricane Ruth was Maria Muldair. Unfortunately she would not allow ANY photographs. Her set was slow paced and devoid of energy, a real contrast following Hurricane Ruth's Set
Closing the festival was Delmark Recording artists, Rockin' Johnny Burgin. He and a band of Chicago Blues pros played a set od real Blues to cap off a great fest.
Photos and comments by Bob Kieser @ 2012
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Crossroads Blues Society - Rockford, IL
Crossroads Blues Society is featuring noted blues artist and music educator Spencer Bohren for their Blues In The Schools on Wednesday, September 26th. Mr. Bohren hails from New Orleans and has a program entitled "Down The Dirt Road Blues" that follows the journey of a single song as it travels through America’s history and culture. Performed on appropriate vintage instruments, Spencer’s captivating story carries listeners of all ages along with him on this amazing musical journey and leaves every listener with an appreciation for America’s unique treasure of traditional music.
Spencer will be conducting programs at both Byron Middle School in the morning and Highland Elementary in Stillman Valley in the afternoon. After these two programs, Crossroads will have completed 108 school programs over the last ten years for about 32,000 students in Northern Illinois. Crossroads is a 501c3 non-profit that raises funds to put these programs on for schools free of charge.
Spencer will also be performing in Rockford at Just Goods Listening Room on Tuesday, September 25th at 7 PM. Located at 201 7th Street, they are one block south of State Street. Just Goods has a unique and exceptional listening room with acoustics well suited to acoustic blues. Admission is only $5 and is free for students. Call 779-537-4006 for more information.
River City Blues Society - Peoria, IL
The River City Blues Society and Freebird Chapter of Abate of Illinois presents Bikes, Blues and BBQ September 29th at VFW Post 1232 at 15665 VFW Road, Pekin, IL. The show starts at 1pm and features 3 bands including Nick Moss & The Fliptops, Rooster Alley and The Governor, The event features BBQ by Sammy Lynn's Smokehouse, beer, soda and water for purchase. Bring your lawn chairs. Admission is $10.
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. • 9/24/2012 - The 44s • 10/1/2012 - Levee Town • 10/8/2012 - Rich Fabec • 10/15/2012 - Jason Elmore • Oct 22 - James Armstrong •Oct 29 - The Mojo Cats More info available at icbluesclub.org
The Friends Of The Blues - Watseka, IL
Friends of the Blues present 2012 shows:
Thur, Sept 27, Jerry Lee & Juju Kings, 7 pm, Kankakee River North Restaurant
Tentative Tues, Oct 9, Too Slim & Taildraggers, 7 pm, Kankakee Valley Boat Club
Thurs, Oct 18, Morry Sochat & The Special 20s, 7 pm, Kankakee Valley Boat Club
Thur, Nov 1, Steve “The Harp” Blues Band, 7 pm, venue TBA
Thur, Nov 8, Eddie Turner, 7 pm, Bradley Bourbonnais Sportsmen’s Club
The DC Blues Society - Washingon, D.C.
DC Blues Society: Celebrating the Blues for 25 years in DC-MD-VA!
DC Blues Society's Annual Battle of the Bands takes place 7:00 pm - 12:30 AM on Saturday, October 13, 2012 at American Legion Post No. 268, 11225 Fern Street, Wheaton, MD. Plenty of free parking! The winner represents DCBS at the International Blues Challenge and local events like the Annual College Park Blues Festival at Ritchie Coliseum, University of MD in College Park, MD on Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012 and 25th Annual DC Blues Festival in Washington, DC on Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013. This is your chance to support your favorite group and learn more about area bands. A night not to be missed!
Purchase advance tickets online. DCBS Members: $10 advance/$12 door/ Non-members: $13 advance/$15 door. You can also join & renew on-line: www.dcblues.org or call 301-322-4808
Prairie Crossroads Blues Society - Champaign-Urbana, Illinois
Prairie Crossroads Blues Society of Champaign-Urbana, Illinois will hold its 2nd Annual Local International Blues Challenge on Saturday, October 20th at Memphis on Main, 55 East Main St., Champaign.
The winning band will receive a minimum of $1000.00 in travel assistance and go on to represent our blues society at the 2013 International Blues Challenge scheduled for January 29- February 2, in Memphis, Tennessee. We will provide a drum kit donated by Skins-N-Tins Drum Shop. All bands taking part in the event will be able to sell their CDs.
Please visit www.prairiecrossroadsblues.org/ibc_challenge13.html to find out more about our event and other rules for competing bands. Deadline to enter is Tuesday, September 25, 2012. Event start time will be determined by the number of bands competing.
West Virginia Blues Society - Charleston, W.V.
The West Virginia Blues Society will hold its Sixth Annual Blues Competition on October 13, 2012 at The Sound Factory, 812 Kanawha Blvd. Charleston, WV 25301. Blues bands, solo/duo and a Youth Division blues acts will compete for cash prizes and WVBS sponsorship to the Blues Foundation's International Blues Challenge held in Memphis, Tennessee. Jan. 29 - Feb 2 - Jan 2013.
CONTACT PERSON FOR COMPETITION PARTICIPANTS: Complete information, application & rules are available online at www.wvbluessociety.org . Deadline for application submission is September 21, 2012. For more information contact Competition Director, Mike Price at 304-389-5535 or e-mail: email@example.com or Jack Rice at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Decatur Blues Society - Decatur, IL
Decatur Blues Society will hold their annual "Road to Memphis" blues challenge on Sept 22, 2012. Open to both band and solo/duo. Winning band and winning solo/duo will represent the Decatur Blues Society in the International Blues Challenge held in Memphis in Jan 2013. Entry forms and complete info can be found at www.decaturblues.org.
Minnesota Blues Society - St. Paul, MN
The Minnesota Blues Society presents 2012 Minnesota Hall of Fame inductees. MnBS would like to congratulate this years' honorees: Big Walter Smith, "Blues Performer"; James Samuel "Cornbread" Harris, Sr., "Blues Legend"; Dan Schwalbe, "Blues Sideman"; Electric Fetus, "Supportive of the Blues (non-performer)"; Cyn Collins, "West Bank Boogie", "Blues Art and Literature"; Lamont Cranston, "Tiger in your Tank", "Blues Recording"; Will Donicht, "Blues on the Bank", "Blues Song". 2012 Minnesota Hall of Fame event will be held, Sun, Oct 14, Wilebski's Blues Saloon, St. Paul. Mn details to follow @ www.mnbs.org
Featured Blues Review 3 of 6
Stacy Jones Band - Live and Untapped
EZ Money Records
11 songs; 62:28 minutes
Styles: Modern Acoustic and Electric Blues
Summer is a fantastic season for live blues concerts, whether indoors or out. In 2011 the Stacy Jones Band took the stage at Kennewick, Washington’s Untapped Blues and Brews festival--hence the name of their third album, “Live and Untapped.” Featuring music from their 2010 “Long Time Comin’” and 2011 “No Need to Spell It Out,” this release is a crowd-pleaser. Blues artists often pour extra energy into their live shows, although the overall sound may be less polished than on a studio album. That energy is certainly the case here, revealing why the Washington Blues Society deemed Seattle’s Stacy Jones and her crew “Best New Band” in 2009, and Jones as “Best Female Vocalist” in 2010. Joining her are Jeff Menteer on guitar and vocals, her father Tom Jones on bass, and Rick Bowen on drums and vocals. Besides a killer arrangement of T Bone Walker’s “T Bone Shuffle,” here are the three best of the band’s five original songs, among eleven total:
Track 02: “Heavy Water”--Written about New Orleans, this track eerily describes its conditions during hurricane season: “Black skies boiling far out to sea. Shades of warning, I do believe. Get yourself ready….” The chorus is far more infectious than those in natural-disaster songs have a right to be, and despite its moderate tempo, this song feels heavy due to Tom Jones’ bass and Bowen’s backbeat. “Feel the waves; feel the sound. Heavy water comin’ down!” In the wake of Katrina and, recently, Isaac, it’s especially poignant.
Track 06: “You Belong to Me”--The sixth song on this CD is a low-down, throw-down, swinging sensation! Stacy tells her latest conquest, in no uncertain terms: “Like a fish in the sea, you belong to me!” Her keyboard work here is absolutely phenomenal, and so is Menteer on growling electric guitar. Listeners, if they’re already standing up, will move and groove, and those who remain seated until this track’s over will wish they had.
Track 09: “Waitin’ On Love”--Number nine features another of Stacy Jones’ various talents, blues harmonica, with savory riffs in the middle. No one likes to play the waiting game when it comes to romance, least of all our narrator. “You’ve got me anticipating, baby, when you’re gonna make your move….” Her vocals are the most striking on this short and sweet selection, clocking in at three minutes and twenty-three seconds. Perhaps the band doesn’t want to keep blues aficionados waiting for a good time to grab the dance floor!
Since Stacy Jones and her band are decent songwriters in and of themselves, one might wonder why they spent so much time on covers here (e.g “Miss You,” “I’d Rather Go Blind,” and “You Upset Me Baby”). However, when one’s “Live…”, festival-goers might still gravitate toward the familiar. It’s a shame, because their full potential is still “…Untapped.”Reviewer Rainey Wetnight is a 32 year old female Blues fan. She brings the perspective of a younger blues fan to reviews. A child of 1980s music, she was strongly influenced by her father’s blues music collection.
Featured Blues Review 4 of 6
The Blasters - Fun On Saturday Night
Over 30 years have passed since the original Blasters came on the scene. In the 1980's they defined a big part of the LA music sound. The band has continued to exist in various formats and levels of success since their heyday, but this new album marks somewhat of a renaissance for them. Led by Phil Alvin on guitar, piano, harp and lead vocals, they also are staffed by Keith Wyatt on guitar, John Bazz on bass and backing vocals and Bill Bateman on drums. Eddie Nichols and Jeff Neal add backing vocals, Kid Ramos adds flavor on the 12-string bajo sexto guitar and Exene Cervenka sharing the lead vocals on Jackson.
Phil Alvin approached Scott Abeyta, friend and owner of Rip Cat Records, that he was planning a Blasters tour and needed a new CD to sell to their fans. Phil and Scott got into it and produced this album together in a hands on and loving manner. The Blasters are perhaps more bluesy here, but still blend swing, country, New Orleans and Memhis R&B, Tex-Mex and other forms into a high powered blend of really great new songs and covers.
The title cut is a bold and brazen rocking romp with gritty shouted vocals, a driving guitar lead and big monster beat. Old style swing here- a mere 2:12 like an old-fashioned Jerry Lee Lewis tune. "I Don't Want Cha" takes more of that approach while "Penny" takes it down a bit in tempo, with a big, evil bass vocal telling Penny, 'you shouldn't do the things you do."
Sonny Boy Williamson's "No More Nights by Myself" is soulfully covered. "Love Me With a Feeling" gets a very cool rock-a-billy work over- I really like it when artists take something to another level like this, taking Magic Sam's great tune and creating something new. Tiny Bradshaw's "Well Oh Well" is a swinging opener for the CD, and it's jives and bounces nicely. Alvin shows some diversity with "Maria Maria", a Dave Alvin south of the border tune that he pulls of nicely with Kid Ramos' help. "Please Please Please" is a pleading and gutsy vocal by Alvin that is a great period piece yet sounds fresh. The cover of "Jackson" was right out of Nashville; my only tiny complaint for the whole CD would be here- Alvin does not try to be Johnny Cash but Cervenka seems to try to be too much like June Carter Cash. This is a minor complaint- the guitar work here more than makes up for this. "The Yodeling Mountaineer" is fun and show Alvin is still able to sing whatever style he sets his mind to.
Overall, it is good to see these guys with their feathers bristled up and ready to rock. Alvin's vocals are excellent throughout, the fret work is great and the overall sound is crisp and tight. If the Blasters were "gone" I would have to say that based on this CD that they are certainly back and sounding damn good!
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.
Featured Blues Review 5 of 6
Tommy McCoy – Late In The Lonely Night
11 tracks; 41.39 minutes
Tommy McCoy has been based in Florida for many years and has recorded with a number of well-known blues performers, including Lucky Peterson and Double Trouble, but here he is centre stage with mostly a quartet format of guitar, keys, bass and drums. Tommy has support from two different rhythm sections and several keyboard players; young slide guitarist Joel Tatengelo appears on two tracks as does sax player Bob Saccente. Liz Pennock plays piano on one track, as does Rick Hatfield on harp and Karyn Denham sings on two cuts. All bar two tracks are McCoy originals, the two exceptions both coming from the pen of Eddie Cornelius and were originally hits for the Cornelius family soul group in the early 1970s. “Too Late To Turn Back Now” was covered quite recently by Tad Robinson and it would be a tough call to match Tad’s wonderful voice. Tommy does not do so but his guitar playing is excellent throughout the song. “Treat Her Like A Lady” is not the Temptations song but another Eddie Cornelius song with a similar sentiment in terms of lyrics and a strong rhythm with sax and guitar working well together, making this one of the catchiest tunes on the CD.
The CD opens with the title song, a classic mid-tempo blues with excellent guitar and a strong organ solo. “Angel On My Shoulder, Devil On My Back” is a funkier tune embellished by Joel Tatengelo’s slide guitar. “Never Shoulda Listened” is a great stomper with Liz Pennock’s barrelhouse piano to the fore, honking sax and Karyn Denham sharing the vocals with Tommy – a song that lists those to whom the author wishes he had never listened: lots of targets here, from the personal to political. I don’t know Karyn but on this evidence she has a great voice which could well deserve more exposure.
“Space Master” is apparently a live favourite and it is easy to see why as Tommy battles with drummer Pug Baker as well as sharing the guitar duties with Joel Tatengelo. “Language Of Love” lives up to the title by being a real love song delivered by Karyn Denham in collaboration with Tommy. In contrast we get “Cars, Bars And Guitars”, a tongue in cheek piece about what Tommy spends his money on. Musically this is a laid back tune which allows us to enjoy the ironic lyrics. “Life’s Tides” started out as a poem and is a further switch of theme; gentle piano and guitar introduce a beautiful song with delicate and emotional guitar. Sadly Tommy’s voice struggles to deliver this one but it is a song that might well be covered by others in due course.
The amusing “Dance Your Pants Off” has sax and harp in support of Tommy’s song which explains how he plans to get his girl by feats of endurance on the dance floor! Closer “My Guitar Won’t Play Nothin’ But The Blues” is another amusing song: “I got a beat-up old Gibson guitar, that thing nearly made me a star. I wouldn’t trade it for a beautiful girl, it has paid its shares of dues – my guitar won’t play nothin’ but the blues”.
It is good to hear so many original songs that make you think and enjoy the lyrics. Tommy sings very clearly and you can catch all the lyrics straight off the bat. On the down side his voice does not have a great range but he is clearly an excellent guitar player and the songs are a fine spread of contemporary blues and rock. Excellent playing and production make this a CD worth checking out.
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.
Featured Blues Review 6 of 6
Rosetta West – Underground Volume 1
14 tracks; 49:30 minutes
Underground Volume 1, a new CD by Rosetta West, is without a doubt the most difficult reviewing assignment I’ve received, to date. My difficulty arose from a lack of available background information on the band, a further stretching of my definition of the Blues genre, and the raw nature of the music, itself. My desire is to give you an impartial appraisal of what I hear in their music, while giving Rosetta West appropriate credit for their creative work on this CD.
I generally like to research the bands I review, and Rosetta West seems to literally exist “underground.” This may be considered a plus by their fans who, perhaps, prefer artists outside the music industry establishment. They appear to have no official website, and there is little general information about them on the web – though there are some reviews posted of their earlier albums, and a few of their song clips available online.
Rosetta West describes their band as “a very eclectic blues band from Illinois,” saying that, “although fairly obscure” they are “highly respected in select international circles.” Joseph Demagore is the guitar and keyboard player, vocalist, songwriter, producer, and all-around mastermind of Rosetta West, which was founded in 1996. (A number of artists are listed as playing drums, percussion and bass for this CD.) After viewing some of their videos on YouTube, with their prevalent images of death, darkness and devils, one can’t help but wonder if the name Demagore is actually a play on words or stage name, crafted to go along with the theme of their music.
Their genre has been described online as psychedelic blues/garage/rock, which might indicate that they are not easy to categorize. I would have to add metal to that list, and downplay the Blues part of this description, as the Blues influence didn’t seem all that obvious to me. Their music bears some similarity to music by The Melvins, or The Black Keys “Little Black Submarine.” In addition, there is a pervasive Middle Eastern flavor to at least half a dozen songs on this CD, expressed through Demagore’s guitar work and his sometimes-wailing vocals.
In his submission letter, Demagore points out Tracks 1, 4 and 5 as the more Blues-related songs. Cut 1, “Underground” does feature a nice beat and a generous amount of (somewhat raw) slide guitar. And though it is one of the more upbeat songs on this CD, it still hovers somewhere between dark and depressed. I didn’t feel that Cut 4, “Nightmare Blues” was overly bluesy, but I have heard a similar song – “Hypocrisy Blues” by The Boogie Monsters – played on Sirius XM’s Bluesville channel. Cut 5, “Suzie,” did not seem to obviously fall within the Blues genre either, but it does have a nice guitar solo in the middle, and I believe it is one of the stronger tracks on this album. It tells the chilling story of an insane homeless girl who dies but continues to haunt the singer. You’ll find that the song’s video contains some moderately disturbing images.
In my opinion, the most polished cut on Underground Volume 1 would have to be “Inferno,” a highly synthesized instrumental, which could easily be used as a score behind a nightmare sequence in a horror movie.
My main complaint has to do with not being able to understand the song lyrics (and believe me, as I say this, I hear echoes of my parents’ voices in my head). However, Demagore’s vocals are fairly processed, not overly enunciated, and he tends to sing right on top of each guitar strum. Some online fan postings praise this particular style, saying that it ensures that the vocals don’t get in the way of hearing the band. Personally, I suspect that some of the lyrics are poetic, and I’d like the benefit of hearing them. Perhaps, if the band prefers this vocal style, they will consider printing the lyrics in future CD inserts.
Reviewing Underground Volume 1 has certainly been a challenge. Its musical style is quite raw (read: unpolished) - sounding much like the songs I used to hear coming out of garages as a teenager. Is it Blues-based? I’m not sure. If this music is, indeed, Blues, Rosetta West’s dark, minor chords and moaning, depressed-sounding vocals take the Blues to its farthest reaches of despair…a place where hope no longer exists.
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.
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