Issue 11-10 March 9, 2017

this weeks cover story image

Cover photo by Joseph A. Rosen © 2017


 In This Issue 

Don Wiilcock has our feature interview with Ronnie Baker Brooks. We have 8 Blues reviews for you this week including reviews of new music by Cee Cee James, Vince Junior Band, The Smoke Wagon Blues Band, The Kentucky Headhunters, Peach and the Almost Blues Band, Cheese Finger Brown, Reverend Freakchild and Don Scott and Rosanne Licciardi.

Our video of the week is Tab Benoit.

We have the latest in Blues society news. All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN!!!


 From The Editor’s Desk 

Hey Blues Fans,

We are excited to announce a new advertising option. We now offer custom individual “Blues Blasts” for artists, venues, festivals, labels or publicists to promote your artists, music and performances.

These individual custom email marketing blasts can be created by your designer with your text, logos, videos, music, links and photos and we will blast them to all 36,000 of our opt-in subscribers. Or we can design them for you.

The cost is just $225 if customer supplies HTML code or $300 if we design the blast for you. For more information please contact me at: bob@bluesblastmagazine.com.

Wishing you health, happiness and lots of Blues music!

Bob Kieser


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Blues Blast Magazine’s Early Bird Special is our lowest priced advertising of the 2017 year. It offers an affordable & effective way to get the Blues word out!

This 8-issue discount ad campaign allows you to add significant impact to your Blues advertising and promotion campaign. It is a great way for artists to solicit festival gigs or can be used to kick up the visibility of your summer Blues festival, new album release, Blues event or music product all around the globe! This is perfect for a new album release, a festival advertising campaign or any new music product.

Normal 2017 Advertising rates start at $150 per issue of Blues Blast magazine. BUT, for a limited time, this special gives you eight issues of Blues Blast Magazine for only $400. (A $1200 value!)

Blues Blast Magazine is a great way to promote anything Blues. 36,000 opt-in subscribers read Blues Blast Magazine. Our subscribers are located in all 50 states and in more than 90 countries giving your products global coverage at an affordable price. Weekly issues of Blues Blast Magazine are also posted on our popular website. We get more than 2,000,000 (That’s TWO MILLION) hits and 65,000 visitors a month at our website.

To get this special rate simply buy your ad space by APRIL 15th, 2017!!!! Ads can run anytime between now and December 2017. So get your ad package now for that fall album release!

With this special rate, your ad can be viewed more than 370,000 times by our readers who want to know about your Blues events and music! Reserve your space today! Space is limited and will be sold on a first come first served basis.

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Ads must be reserved and paid for by April 15th, 2015!!!


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 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 8 

cee cee james cd imageCee Cee James – Stripped Down & Surrendered

FWG Records

www.missionofsoul.com

12 tracks

This new CD by James comes four years from her last release. She claim’s it’s taken that long for her soul to mine the diamonds. She and husband Rob “Slideboy” Andrews wrote all of the songs for this together. Her second release takes a dark and interesting path through the world of her emotions. Joining the couple on the album are Dave Malony on drums, Jeffrey Morgan on keys for two tracks, Kevin Sutton Andrews on lead guitar for two tracks, and Terry Nelson on keys for another 3 tracks.

The title tracks starts the album out. It’s a cool cut, a tune where James bemoans her emotions being stripped sown and that she has emotionally surrendered. Cee Cee calls this song the anthem for the second half of her life. Having surrendered to her life after coming to terms with those inner demons, she now can move on and find trust. A minimalistic tune with acoustic guitar and a bit of percussion, it’s got some nice accents on guitar by Andrews to accompany James’ vocals. Electric slide guitar introduces “The Edge Is Where I Stopped” and Andrews adds some acoustic guitar to the mix. James sings about going to the brink in her life but not passing the edge. Another song about her life in this biographical album. The pace of things pick up a bit with “Hidden and Buried,” a cut about all the things in our lives that we’ve conveniently tucked away and ignored that we should dig up and face. We get some organ work in this cut along with backing vocals and percussion emulating a steam engine driving the device digging out the things we need to face. The song builds into a whirling dervish of musical angst. “He Shut The Demon Down” is a song of faith and how with Jesus help her demons were defeated. James gives a gritty performance; the guitar and she spar nicely. The song moves along as she vocally testifies and the guitar in turn does its’ own testifying.

Next is “Glory Bound,” a song that is Gospel-y tinged as James chants about being glory bound. “Love Had Done Left Home” is a nice little blues ballad with Cee Cee and the guitar in a sultry mode. More slow blues with “Cold, Hard Gun,” a dark and emotional piece about her man taking his life and giving up the one thing that could have saved him. To note, James has worked with veteran’s organizations to help prevent suicides. As many as 8,000 veterans are thought to commit suicide each year. “Thank You For Never Loving Me” is a song about a father who left his child and the song is a dark thank you because it helped give her the blues.

A bit of a Willie Dixon sort of groove gets going for “Before 30 Suns.” It’s a tune about a man who she thinks will recognize within a month that what’s she’s got is better than anyone else. “You’re My Man” is a more up tempo and bouncy cut with James singing about her knight in shining armor. “Miner Man’s Gold” is a mid tempo cut that builds nicely and has a cool groove and a nice guitar solo. The album concludes with “So Grateful,” a slide acoustic and vocal song where James expresses her thanks for what she’s had in her life that she’s loved and learned from.

After a few listens I figured out the one thing that I could not at first quite put my finger on. The songs are a compendium of James’ life experiences, and as I said things generally are thematically down. That in and of itself is not bad, but it is the length of the songs that generally extends those feelings. Perhaps if they were a bit shorter the album would be even better. But this is a small complaint. James has delivered some powerful songs after a four year layoff. She really wears her emotions on her sleeve and has produced a fine album for us.

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 works with their Blues In The Schools program. He resides in Byron, IL.


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 Featured Blues Review – 2 of 8 

vince junior cd imageVince Junior Band – Refreshingly Soulful Blues

www.vincejunior.com

self release

11 songs time-34:27

If you’re looking for some blues music you’ve come to the wrong place. If you’re looking for some good music you’ve come to the right place. The music put down by Vince Junior Band owes more to cool jazz, light funk and even a bit of country coloring. There are touches of blues in some guitar solos, but blues aren’t the main thrust of this music. Vince’s husky and warm voice over the soothing cool jazz vibe of the band comforts you like an old friend. Vince handles the guitar with a light touch. Noah Pitts is a wiz on Fender Rhodes electric piano, supplying jazzy goodness to the songs. Steve Frankel’s steady hand on the bass along with David Cohen’s on the money drumming give a solid foundation to the songs. These guys do it all without any outside musicians helping out. Vince wrote all but two of the songs with an eye for original subject matter and thoughtful lyrics.

There is nothing to not like here, refreshing is the word that comes to my mind. Whatever label you choose to give to this music it will have to be preceded by good. This Asheville, North Carolina outfit follows their own muse.

The band just kind of breezes right into things with the jazzy “Empty Nesting”, an ode to the relief of the kids “flying the coop”, all set to an easy rolling groove. “Small Ghosts” is a bouncy country-ish tune that lopes along quite nicely. The guys get funky on “Step Sister”. It features some country meets funk guitar styling’s by the boss. The narrator pines for the girl and her car in the way cool and smooth “Camaro Sue”.

The tempo picks back up on the jaunty “Tight Tonight”. Noah lays down some really tasty piano here, as he does through out the proceedings. This is a song about “the horizontal mambo”…nudge, nudge, wink, wink…say no more. Their instrumental version of Jimi Hendrix’ “Little Wing” bares little resemblance to the original, but it is a lovely tune. “Shake Your Rig” is dedicated to the writer’s fondness for big woman and their skill on the dance floor. “If you’re kinda big, come and shake your rig”.

Bluesy-jazzy guitar informs “This Is The Way”. “Never Got Grey” mourns the passing of young musical stars, pondering on what their future music might of sounded like. The Beatles’ “Don’t Let Me Down” is given a reggae beat with a lovely guitar solo along with prominent bass playing from Steve Frankel.

Here ya have it folks. Although the title is a misnomer, there is plenty of good music within. It’s a nice change of pace. Nice to see a band apply their own unique vision to their music. And what’s more-It works!

Reviewer Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony hails from the New Jersey Delta.


 Featured Blues Video Of The Week
Tab Benoit 

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Tab Benoit at 2016 Chesapeake Bay Blues Festival playing the song “Night Train”. (Click image to watch!)

Tab is headlining at the Tampa Bay Blues Festival on Sunday, April 9th, 2017.

For tickets and info to to see this exciting artist at the festival visit www.tampabaybluesfest.com or click on their ad below!


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 Featured Blues Review – 3 of 8 

smooke wagon blues band cd imageThe Smoke Wagon Blues Band – Cigar Store

Self-Produced/Distributed by Indie Pool

www.smokewagonbluesband.com

CD: 13 Songs, 49:45 Minutes

Styles: Ensemble Blues, 1950’s-Style Blues, Jazz-Influenced Blues

In the interests of full disclosure, Ms. Wetnight confesses that she has a soft spot for Canadian Corey Lueck (pronounced “Luke”) and his Smoke Wagon Blues Band. With their 2013 release It Ain’t Easy, and their 2014 follow-up Live in Hamilton, they won her heart. Will they continue to do so with their 2016 album, Cigar Store? The answer is an emphatic and unequivocal YES! Their boisterous, good-natured energy, clever songwriting, and superb musicianship make this band one of Canada’s premiere blues acts. Here’s one caveat for you, faithful fans: If you don’t like jazz-style horns in your preferred form of blues music, this CD is not for you. If you do, though, and enjoy a 1950’s oeuvre along with your tunes, hop on the Smoke Wagon right away.

Their promotional materials explain their roots and accolades: “Formed in 1996, the band became crowd favorites in Hamilton, Ontario’s famous Hess Village…The band has three Hamilton Music Award nominations for Blues Album of the Year, and a Maple Blues Award nomination for Best New Blues Artist…It Ain’t Easy reached #3 on Canada’s Roots charts (#1 for blues), #13 on North America’s Top 50 Roots and Blues charts…Based on their live performances, the band was selected for the 2016 International Blues Challenge in Memphis, where they became fan favorites during a three-night stand at Club 152 on Beale Street.” Hopefully, this new CD will propel Smoke Wagon to greater fame and new heights in the U.S.

Performing alongside lead vocalist and harpist Corey Lueck are Mike Stubbs on guitars, dobro and backing vocals; Nick Succi on piano, organ and backing vocals; Gordon Aeichele on saxophones; Jason Colavecchia on bass guitar and backing vocals; Steve Sherman on percussion, organ, bass, and backing vocals; and Tibor Lukacs on drums and backing vocals.

The following three songs definitely have the smokiest flavor to savor in the Cigar Store.

Track 02: “Must’ve Read It Wrong” – When it comes to “the birds and bees,” some people get their information from questionable sources: “Sweatered girls in pencil skirts, readjusting till it starts to hurt. High heels, long and mean – learned all I know from a girlie magazine. I must have read it wrong…I’m going to yodel in the valley till the cows come home.” Check out Lueck’s killer harmonica and the guitar intro that’ll make any live crowds, drunk or sober, yell “YOW!”

Track 07: “Cigar Store” – Starting out nice and slow, with Nick Succi’s jazzy piano and ‘50’s vibe, the title track soon turns into a swinging sensation, with Gordon Aeichele on sensational sax. “Yeah, Daddy likes that lightning in a bottle,” Lueck reveals and “Mama serves it straight from the panhandle!” If this doesn’t get people dancing, yours truly don’t know what will, especially during its second half.

Track 13: “You’ve been a Good Old Wagon” – This tongue-in-cheek tune features a vehicle that’s seen better days – a human one, nonetheless: “When you were in your prime, you used to run around. You’ve been a good old wagon, but Mama, you’ve done broke down.” Un-PC? You bet. Sexist? Definitely. Nevertheless, this lucky thirteenth track is the best when it comes to humor. As for the instrumentation, everyone goes all out, especially Lueck and Aeichele.

Cigar Store also features a cover by R. Newell in its thirteen terrific tracks. Give ‘em all a listen!

Reviewer Rainey Wetnight is a 37 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.


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2017 Blues Blast Music Award Submission Are Now Open

The 2017 Blues Blast Music Awards series has begun. Submissions are open until April 15th, 2017 The Blues Blast Music Awards are the largest fan voted Blues awards on the planet. But hurry! Submissions end April 15,2017!

To visit our website for complete information on how to have your music and musicianship considered for nomination, CLICK HERE


 Featured Blues Review – 4 of 8 

kentucky headhunters cd imageThe Kentucky Headhunters – On Safari

Plowboy Records

www.kentuckyheadhunters.com

12 tracks

The Kentucky Headhunters are a Southern Rock band with lots of blues influences. The album is predominantly rock but it’s a rocking good time. These guys have been around for a long time and this is their 12 album. Released after their first-ever European tour, the Grammy Award winning group features Richard Young on vocals and guitar, Doug Phelps on vocals and bass, Greg Martin on lead guitar and vocals, Fred K. Young on drums, percussion and vocals, and their Safari brother Kevin McKendree on keys and Hammond organ. Their promo stuff calls this post-tour CD, “another musical expedition…the Kentucky Headhunters return from the rock n’ roll jungle…” The tour must have been a wild time to call the results here as On Safari.

“Beaver Creek Mansion” opens things. A heavily country influences southern rocker, it’s a brash and driving tune with strong vocals and blistering guitar. “Deep South Blues Again” takes things into the stratosphere with howling vocals and a stinging guitar lead and solo. “I Am The Hunter” offers another heavy dose of guitar as they proclaim themselves atop the food chain. A slow rocker, it still blasts the listener off well into space. “Caught In A Dream” mixes heavy drums and percussion with piano and nasty guitar and turns it all into a frenzied sound. Things tone down for “Crazy Jim,” a story about a weird local guy with growling vocals and the Hammond organ filling things out. A couple of what in the Headhunters eyes would be thoughtful and introspective guitar solos are features. It’s still not for the faint of heart. “Big Time” ends the first half of the set. More growling vocals shouted out with another driving drum beat and bass line in a heavy and rocking mid tempo cut.

“Lowdown Memphis Blues” shows some blues influence in the slow to mid tempo ballad with a forthright lead guitar. “Rainbow Shine” starts to an almost reggae sort of beat and then becomes a slow bluesy rock song.. It reminds me a little of a Stones country blues rocker except the coolly off key vocals have a twang instead of Jagger’s English accent. “Way Down Yonder” is a Charlie Daniels song with attitude. It’s a gutsy Southern rocker with stratospheric guitar and strident vocals. High energy, honky-tonk fun is what “Jukebox Full of Blues” is all about. Piano, guitar and vocals let loose with reckless abandon. “God Loves A Rolling Stone” is a waltzing rock ballad that takes things down several notches but still gives us the feel of this band’s energy. Things conclude with “Governor’s Cup,” what I’d term an instrumental ditty in comparison to the flames and energy of the rest of the album. Thoughtful guitars trade licks and notes as the backline keeps a moderate but also thoughtful beat. It’s a stark contrast but a nice ending to the album.

Ok, so it’s not blues. Even the tunes that have blues in the title are not “real” blues songs. But it’s a darn good album of blues influenced Southern rock. The boys let it all hang out and it is a fun ride to accompany them on this CD. While not traditional blues, if you like Southern rock with its’ country flair and a big momentous sound, then this one’s for you! Lots of fun here!

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 works with their Blues In The Schools program. He resides in Byron, IL.


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  Blues Want Ad
Volunteer Writers Needed 

Do you really know your Blues and enjoy telling others about it?

Blues Blast Magazine looking for a few good writers to volunteer to help us out. We need reviewers who know Blues and can write a minimum of two reviews or stories each month. We will provide access to downloads or physical CDs, DVDs and books for review. The writer keeps the album, book or DVD for doing the review. We get music submissions from all over the world and we publish music reviews each week so there is a steady flow of things that need reviewed.

We are also looking for folks to write stories for our website, blogging style, and other occasional story assignments. We will assign subjects and stories and also entertain your story ideas.

These are volunteer positions that need a persons who really loves the Blues and wants to spread the Blues word! Must have good writing and composition skills, good grammar and spelling! Experience using WordPress is a big plus!

Experienced writers are encouraged to send samples of previous work. All Blues Blast staff started out as volunteers like this. We have kept those with dedication on as staff writers afterwards.

If you are interested, please send an email to info@bluesblastmagazine.com and tell us about your Blues background. A resume is always appreciated too.

Please be sure to include your phone number in your email reply.


 Featured Blues Review – 5 of 8 

peach cd imagePeach and the Almost Blues Band – A Night in Copenhagen

Magic Music

www.almostbluesband.dk

8 tracks / 36:28

A cool thing about the blues is that the form easily translates to different cultures and allows musicians from all parts of the world to get together and create killer music. Language is not much of a barrier, as the chord patterns and song structures are familiar to anyone who has played the blues for a while. Peach totally gets this, and this fixture of the Los Angeles music scene has released a cool set of blues that she laid down with some friends in Denmark, titled A Night in Copenhagen.

Peach (her last name is Reasoner) grew up in the Midwest, but found work and built her musical career on the West Coast as a jazz and blues singer and guitarist. Along the way she has toured the world and collaborated with folks that include Taj Mahal, Jim Messina, Keb’ Mo’ and Condoleezza Rice. Yep, it is the Condoleezza you are thinking of – she was Peach’s accompanist at the University of Denver.

A Night in Copenhagen was recorded in February 2016 straight out of the mixing board at Café Bartof. Peach handled the lead vocals and played her sparkly Tele; she was joined by locals Michael Engman Ronnow on guitar, Helge Solberg on bass, and Niclas Campagnol on the skins. Her longtime band mate, Ken Stange from Los Angeles, made the trip across the Atlantic and sat in on keys and harmonica for this gig. This disc includes eight songs from the show, and most of them are covers that perfectly fit Peach’s vocal style.

First up in the set is “Tonight I’ll Be Stayin Here With You,” a Bob Dylan tune from 1969. Things get off to a soulful start with Stange’s sweet harp work, and it is not long before Peach joins in. Her voice has all the right things going on – it is strong and has a weathered character that sets it apart, but that is not all. Her phrasing and timing are both spot on, and she comes off like the true pro that she is. This gives Peach the ability to take this song from a Nobel laureate and make it her own. The same can be said about the second song on the album, B.B. King’s oft-covered 1978 hit, “Never Make Your Move Too Soon.” This song comes off as a roadhouse tune with Peach howling the vocals over Solberg’s thumping bass, Campagnol’s hard-hitting snare, and Stange’s barroom piano.

This is pretty much how the album proceeds, as the band is not afraid to take on songs that were made famous by others, but they consistently prove that they have the talent to pull them off. Junior Wells’ 1960 song, “Little by Little” is a tough shuffle with lovely organ from Stange and a walking bassline from Solberg. The lyrics translate well to having a woman sing them and Peach delivers them with sass! There is also Harvey Scales and the Seven Sounds’ “Love-It is,” which most folks will associate with the J. Geils Band. The guitars shine on this rocker, and the band kicks in with backing vocals on the super-catchy chorus, which really helps to bring this tune together.

The covers are all great, but one of the standout tunes on the disc is an original that was written by Peach, “Tell Me You Love Me.” Maybe it is because this song is a ballad, but the change of mood is striking as Peach’s emotional lyrics rise to the top over multiple layers of keys and the heavy high-hat and snare of Niclas Campagnol. This song could make the listener wish that the band had snuck a few more originals into the mix.

This is a short set, and a little over a half hour in the band takes on the finale, Frankie Miller’s “Ain’t Got no Money,” a song that was also done by Cher and Bob Seger. This uptempo romp is barroom blues at its best, and after a slick break on the piano from Stange, the band brings things to a close on a high note

A Night in Copenhagen is a neat recording of a fun show by Peach and the Almost Blues Band. Her jazzy blues interpretations of classic songs work very well, and the band was definitely hitting on all cylinders that chilly winter night in Denmark. Give it a listen for yourself – there is plenty here for blues fans to enjoy!

Reviewer Rex Bartholomew is a Los Angeles-based writer and musician; his blog can be found at rexbass.blogspot.com.


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 Featured Blues Review – 6 of 8 

cheese finger brown cd imageCheese Finger Brown – Low-Down People

www.facebook.com/cheesefingerbrownmusic

Humu Records

15 songs – 42 minutes

Cheese Finger Brown is the pseudonym of Pim Zwijnenburg, a Dutch blues musician living in Finland. He wrote, performed, and recorded all of the songs on Low-Down People, an album of Mississippi Hill country-style blues given something of a modern makeover. He also created the album’s cover art, purportedly telling the back-story of Cheese Finger Brown, but actually raising (and leaving unanswered) more questions than answers.

Opening with the title track, Brown immediately lays out his stall with intertwined, hypnotic electric guitars providing a one chord backdrop over which heavily distorted vocals (as if sung through a harp mic) rasp inaudible lyrics. There is an ominous, almost threatening overtone to the music that is both thrilling and enticing and the one-chord structure lends an air of enveloping tension to the music.

Each track follows a similar formula, with slow to mid-paced songs, droning guitars, few (if any) chord changes, and discordant, distorted vocals with almost indecipherable lyrics. Brown makes use of a variety of instruments on the album, which helps to lend some light and shade to the songs. Harmonica appears in tracks like “Good Old Fashioned Murder Boogie” and “Days Of The Cruel And Greedy”. Slide guitar features in “Bend Over Mama” and “Lullaby Before I Go”. Rudimentary percussion lends drive to “Good Old Fashioned Murder Boogie”; Jew’s harp echoes in “Country Shake Down” and some instruments are simply unidentifiable (the electronic noises buried in “Dr. Jesus”, for example).

Brown’s guitar playing is particularly good throughout the album, particularly in the way the different guitars “fill in the holes” in the music, like a modern Muddy and Jimmy Rogers or a Jimmy Reed and Eddie Taylor. But, but, but….

While the musicianship on Low-Down People cannot be faulted, there is something about the album that does not quite ring true. Above all, the blues is a declaration of life. It is a rage against the dying of the light and it is truth. The CD cover notes say that Brown does not play live and, if this is correct, it perhaps explains the slight emotional distance detectable in the music. It is difficult to shake the sensation that Low-Down People is an expression of how someone thinks blues should be, rather than an artistic Cri de Coeur. This might be because of the overdubbing that is necessary on any album where one person plays all the instruments. It might also be because of the studio trickery that can over-shadow the songs themselves. The crackling, hard-to-hear vocals are striking initially but quickly start to sound affected. The spoken word “Grey Eagle” has background static across the entire track, as if to emulate early blues recordings but actually distracting from the music, while “The Big Cheese” has audience applause dubbed at the beginning and end of the song, suggesting a live recording.

If you are a fan of Hill Country Blues artists like R.L Burnside, Junior Kimbrough and Robert Belfour, you should check out this album. It is different and has many individual highlights. It may very well be to your liking. For this reviewer, however, Low-Down People is an easy album to respect, but a hard album to love.

Reviewer Rhys Williams lives in Cambridge, England, where he plays blues guitar when not holding down a day job as a technology lawyer or running around after his children. He is married to an American, and speaks the language fluently, if with an accent.


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 Featured Blues Review – 7 of 8 

reverend freakchils cd imageReverend Freakchild – Preachin’ Blues

Treated And Released Records T&R 008

16 songs – 40 minutes

www.reverendfreakchild.org

Don’t let the name fool you. Reverend Freakchild definitely preaches.

An eclectic guitarist and harmonica player, he was raised in Hawaii, the son of a blues loving father and classical pianist mom, and possesses a degree in divinity and philosophy from Boston’s Northeastern University, where he played in alternative rock and jam bands and appeared at Carnegie Hall with a gospel choir before embarking on a career in music delivering what he’s termed in the past hillbilly Zen-punk blues.

Preachin’ Blues is his seventh album using the unusual moniker, and a follow-up to Illogical Optimism, a three-disc release that hit the street last year. This release finds him solo and acoustic, accompanied only by his resonator guitar and a rack-mounted harmonica, as he delivers an interesting take on spirituality in performances captured live at KBOO radio in Portland, Ore., and a blues club in Berlin, Germany.

The Reverend needed plenty of faith to produce this one. Just prior to the Oregon sessions, he lost his guitars and gear to a thief in San Francisco during a stop on a three-month tour. All of the material here — eight tunes interspersed with a seven brief portions of an academic essay entitled “Transcendence Through Music: Buddha And The Blues.”

The message, I’m sure is heartfelt, and the songs and accompanying sermon – broken up in the seven brief segments — flow in the songster style – a mix of tunes from different genres interspersed with insights from the stage.

The original instrumental “Holy Breathing Blues” kicks things off. Freakchild lays down a repetitive accompaniment on six-string as he plays lead on harp. He’s a lip player who plays chords rather than individual notes, and his technique on the instrument doesn’t range far beyond what you’d expect when you give a youngster a diatonic harp for the very first time. The first portion of the essay follows — with others preceding all but the final song.

Next up is a pedestrian cover of Blind Lemon Jefferson’s “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean” before the traditional “In My Time Of Dyin’” precedes the title cut, a version of Son House’s “Preachin’ Blues.”

“Kiss,” once a huge hit for Prince, receives an acoustic treatment before the Freakchild original, “All I Got Is Now,” stresses acceptance of your current situation instead of worrying about the past or what’s to come. Three more frequently recorded tunes from the past – the traditional “Wish I Was In Heaven Sitting Down,” Rev. Gary Davis’ “It’s Gonna Be Alright” and another House number, “Grinnin’ In Your Face” – bring the set to a close.

Well-meaning with a good message, and available through CDBaby. But here’s the sad truth: As a blues critic, my job here is to focus on the music, and I’m afraid that the thief at the top of this review probably was trying to do the world a favor when he stole the gear. The best part of this CD is the spoken word intervals, not what surrounds them. Reverend Freakchild’s caterwauling vocals are a perfect match with rudimentary picking and harp skills. That said, his spiritual views are worthy of a congregation.

Pick this one up only if you’re gathering a Top 10 list of worst recordings of the year. Fortunately for anyone who gives it a listen, it’s pretty short in duration.

Reviewer Marty Gunther has lived a blessed life. His first experience with live music came at the feet of the first generation of blues legends at the Newport Folk Festivals in the 1960s. A former member of the Chicago blues community, he’s a professional journalist and blues harmonica player who co-founded the Nucklebusters, one of the hardest working bands in South Florida.


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 Featured Blues Review – 8 of 8 

DON SCOTT CD IMAGEDon Scott and Rosanne Licciardi – Glad to Have These Blues

Self-Produced

www.donscottblues.com

CD: 10 Songs, 39:27 Minutes

Styles: Blues Covers, Traditional and Contemporary Acoustic Blues, Piedmont Blues

In the Bible, 1 Peter 4:8 says, “Love covers a multitude of sins.” When a blues artist has been performing, producing and perfecting the art he loves for over 45 years, it’s easy to forgive his voice for lacking a young musician’s range and zesty energy. Such is the case with Minnesota native Don Scott, who has been doing just that. Accompanied on his new album by Rosanne Licciardi on cajon and OctoSnare, this harpist, vocalist and acoustic guitar veteran is Glad to Have These Blues. A musical “sin” that can also be forgiven is the lack of original material on his newest release: seven out of its ten tracks are perennial covers. They include Jimmy Rogers’ “What Have I Done,” Brownie McGhee’s “Move to Kansas City,” Chuck Berry’s “Too Much Monkey Business,” and Muddy Waters’ “Catfish Blues”. Scott is far more than a half-decent harmonica and acoustic guitar player, showcasing a distinct Piedmont style in his songs.

His website states, “Don Scott has surely kept the flame burning with his finger-picking style and foot-stomping rhythms in the tradition of the Delta masters and Piedmont stylists…A Minnesota native, Scott started the legendary Dust Bowl Blues Band in 1970 and never looked back. Over the years he’s shared the stage with Lazy Bill Lucas, Mighty Joe Young, The Legendary Blues Band, James Harmon, William Clark, Chris Cain, Janiva Magness and countless others. Whether in a full band or solo, Scott pays his respects to the originators while putting his own stamp on the classics with self-penned originals as well. In 2012, Scott hooked up with Minnesota Blues Hall of Fame member “Harmonica” Curtis Blake. A stellar performance at the Bayfront Blues Festival in Duluth earned them a standing ovation. Sure Thing, their first CD, was named “Best Self-Produced CD” by the Minnesota Blues Society and nominated for a BMA award in Memphis that year. His song, ‘JP Morgan, Citibank, Wells Fargo,’ was nominated for the Minnesota Blues Hall of Fame award for Best Original Song in 2014.”

When it comes to blues festivals, Don Scott is no slouch. He’s graced the stages of Blues on the Chippewa in Durand, MN; Bayfront Blues Festival in Duluth MN; Blues on Belgrade, Mankato, MN; Smokin’ in Steele BBQ and Blues Festival in Owatonna, MN; Mississippi Valley Blues Festival in Davenport IA; Tucson Blues Festival in Tucson, AZ, and the Pecan Festival in Florence, SC.

One of the following original songs on Scott’s new album may not be blues, but it IS great:

Track 05: “Samba for Zihua” – As demonstrated at the Rio Olympics last year, the samba can either be done slowly and sexily, or at a blistering tempo that non-native dancers can rarely match without a ton of practice. The instrumental “Samba for Zihua” is of the relaxing variety, featuring Don Scott’s guitar at its sweetest and most melodic. Grab a partner and dance, because fabulous track five is tailor-made for it.

Don Scott, after more than forty-five years, is Glad to Have These Blues. His fans will love it!

Reviewer Rainey Wetnight is a 37 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.


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 Featured Blues Interview
Ronnie Baker Brooks 

ronnie baker brooks photo 1Chicago bluesman Ronnie Baker Brooks’ fourth solo album, his first in 10 years, is called Times Have Changed. It was produced Steve Jordan whose credits include Keith Richards, Neil Young and The Blues Brothers. The title cut features 11 musicians on everything from a Hammond organ to viola, violin and cello. This big production number leads into a street smart rap by Chicago’s Al Kapone who lays it down: “You use to have to date a woman for a minute/But she pop a pill she gone let you go up in it/ One night stands is a normal thang.”

Times have indeed changed.

But change itself is timeless. Ronnie’s background includes three smoking guitar CD extravaganzas, tours and recording sessions with his father, Lonnie Brooks, and a well-earned reputation for heart wrenching guitar solos that bleed all over the floor.

His dad, now 83 and retired, told me in 1995: “I play blues, country, zydeco, rock’n roll, everything.” His advice to Ronnie? “I talk to him like I talk to anybody ’cause things have changed so much. I tell him be a good guitar player, but when you get ready to record, make sure you’re going to travel the same road all the time for a while. You gotta jump on the train and stay on that sucker because whatever you cut first, that’s what the people are looking for you to be. If you cut rock and roll, they looking for you to be a rock and roll player, if that’s your first record. If you play a blues, then you’re stuck with blues. You jump out of that field if you want to, but they looking for that first record they heard you on.”

Times change, but change is timeless.

Lonnie always felt his own lack of stylistic focus hurt him in the market place. His first single under the name Guitar Junior was a rocker “Family Rules” in 1957. At the time he also played zydeco with Clifton Chenier. “I think I was the first black person to cut a country tune (“Pick Me Up on Your Way Down” in 1957). I know I did it before Ray Charles and Charlie Pride,” he told me. Moving to Chicago in 1959, he changed his name to Lonnie Brooks and toured with Jimmy Reed and Sam Cooke. By 1996 he’d cut nine solo LPs for Alligator, but also appeared on the country TV show “Hee Haw” with Roy Clark in 1981.

The oldest of 12 children, Ronnie’s Dad Lonnie got his love of music from his granddad, Lonnie’s great grandfather. “He was the only person who played music in my family. He played banjo,” explained Lonnie. That’s why I’m playing. I wanted to be like my grandfather. He was such a happy go lucky man. He’d get up early in the morning. He was a hunter and a trapper and a musician. That’s how he made his living. He had killed one of these ’bout a hundred-year-old rattlesnakes, and he took the skin and filled it up with meal, dried it out and hung it up in the house.

“I wouldn’t go through that door where that thing was hanging. I was so scared of snakes. One of the things he did was say, ’Come on! I’m gonna play some music for you.’ I had never heard him play. I probably heard him back when I was a baby, but I remember back when I was about two years old, I knew a snake when I seed it. Then, he started playing this music. It sounded strange. Back then, they had Gramophones, record players. I’m looking at the person playing it, and I fell in love with the sound. Then, after my grandmother died, he moved in with us, and then I had a chance to hear music every day. He was playing this New Orleans kind of stuff, New Orleans jazz on the banjo.”

ronnie baker brooks photo 2Times change, but change is timeless.

Like his dad, Ronnie’s introduction to music was as a toddler. “One thing I remember was Theresa’s Lounge here in Chicago. I was too young to go in there, and my dad would take me and park the car right in front of the door at Theresa’s, and I would sit in the car, man, and just dream and wish I was in there. I mean, I would be fascinated with this vibe that was coming out the door.

“The doorman would always watch me. My dad would say, ‘Watch my boy. I’m coming in here for a minute,’ and I would say, ‘One day I’m gonna get in that club, man. One day I’m gonna be in there and feel it and see it, and draw up all that energy and all that love that was coming out that door, man. All that vibe!’ And my dad exposed me to this, and when I started to write my own material, all these elements were there growing up.”

When Ronnie internalized the full impact of his father’s talent, he wasn’t thinking about whether the music was blues or country, black or white, timely or timeless. It was about an intensity that was palpable. He was 12 years old, “I didn’t know the impact my father had until I got to see him live at the Chicago Blues Fest. I was old enough to go and see him play in front of a huge crowd. Now, I saw him at Pepper’s Hideout when I was nine. It was a small club, but it was intimate, but when you see someone play at a festival, you got 10,000, 20,000 people moving. It was a huge difference for me. So, I didn’t know the impact my father had, let alone Bobby Bland and Wayne Bennett and all these guys. It really intimidated me to be honest. It was like I can’t do that. I wanna play some basketball.

“When I saw my dad play at the Chicago Blues Fest in front of all these thousands of people, (I’d say to myself) ‘I can’t do that.’ And my dad would always say, ‘Yes, you can. You can be better. You can be better than that’ ’cause he would always instill that confidence in us. I’m fascinated by “Lonnie Brooks,” man. Look, I see my father pull a rabbit out of his hat, man, and make it work many times when all odds was against him, and in the back of my mind, (I would think) I could never do that, but all the time he was preparing me for this.

“The blues sometimes you gotta go through it to get to it.”

Times change, but change is timeless.

“I had 17 songs on The Torch (his last album released in 2006) which is way too many songs. (Producer) Steve (Jordan) wanted some songs (on the new album) that I may have recorded. So, I sent him some stuff that was unreleased. And he heard “The Times Have Changed.” ‘Like, man, let’s do that one.’ So, I was thinking acoustic. He’s like, ‘No, I’m gonna use the band, and I got some ideas,’ and we got to the studio. He added some strings on it. He added the band on it. He added Al Kapone, and when we got through with it, it was like, ‘Whoa! Whoa!’ And it was just so appropriate now, today, for what was going on.”

Today’s core blues audience can react as viscerally to hip-hop as Dylan’s folk fans did when he plugged in. Dylan’s hard core constituency felt violated. After all, folk music was serious. Rock and roll was not. It was the old guard against the new. Many of today’s blues fans have a similar response to hip-hop. They feel that hip-hop pushes forward against the legacy and history of the blues. When you know Ronnie Baker Brooks’ background, you can understand why such thinking is wrong headed.

“Hip-hop helped me get through what I was getting through, and I just tie that to what I’m doing because that’s what I feel, and I truly believe what comes from the heart reaches the heart, and if you’re coming from the heart with a positive attitude, then you’re gonna touch some people. Even sometimes if you come up with a negative attitude, you’re gonna touch some people because that’s the power of music, but I try to keep it on the positive tip, and what I can feel in my heart. I’m not just gonna throw some hip-hop on it because even working with Steve Jordan, man, I had to connect musically. I didn’t wanna just do it because of his name. I didn’t want to do it because it’s Bobby Bland or Felix Cavalieri (who both appear on Times Have Changed.) I wanted to connect some way musically with these (guys) even though they are iconic musicians. They’re Hall of Famers and that could be a little intimidating, but I have to thank my father for giving me that confidence to work with them.”

ronnie baker brooks photo 3Times change, but change is timeless.

It was more difficult for Ronnie to give up his effects pedals that had been a kind of a comfort blanket. “Years ago, my dad’s driver, Jesse – he’s no longer with us. He passed away last year. We were somewhere in San Francisco, and I went and sat in with some friends of mine. Jesse was with me and he was like – they didn’t give me any pedals or anything. I just went straight into the amp. He told me – this always rings in my head when this happened on my record, he said, ‘Ronnie, you need to put them damn pedals down and play just like you played that night. I can feel every note you play. It was soulful, man.’ I said, ‘Come on, Jesse,’ ’cause at the time pedals was huge and still is and then eventually when I left Dad’s band I was doing a three-piece. I would use pedals of different colors to keep people’s interest instead of having one tone forced down their throat. So, I would use all the different colors, and tones for different songs.

“And when I got to Memphis (to record the new album) I had my bus driver bring all my gear down, and we pulled down amps and guitars and pedal boards. I had several different pedal boards, and Steve was like, ‘You can leave those pedal boards right there. You don’t need ’em. All I need you to do is to plug into the amp and play.’ And that was a little adjusting mentally. Then, I reverted back to Jesse. ‘Hey, man. You don’t need those pedals, man. Just play the blues, man. You could hear every note you’re playing, and I could feel it, every note you’re playing.’

“And that’s what gave me the confidence to say, ‘Ok, alright. I don’t need the pedals. I think if you can connect with the pedals and manipulate to where you feel what is in your head, then it’s worth using. If you’re chasing a sound that someone else did, or you’re trying to chase something you’re not familiar with, that’s when they can become a problem. Or you use it too much, It’s just my personal opinion. You use it too much to where you force it down the people’s throat.”

Times change, but change is timeless.

“I’m trying to learn to get better, and I trusted Steve. That was the key. Those were the key things for the whole session. There are some people that are so stuck with what they’re doing, they’re like, ‘No, I’m not doing that.’ It may work for them, I’m not saying it’s right or wrong, but for me I was open enough to say, “I gotta trust this guy ’cause he got a track record. and whatever he threw at me, I gave it a shot. Gave it a shot, man. And I found myself within that. So, that helped me today to be the musician I am today.”

From Joe Tex’s “Show Me” with Stax guitarist Steve Cropper to The Rascals’ “Come On Up” with Felix Cavalieri on keyboards, from Robert Cray’s “Old Love” featuring Bobby Blue Bland’s last recorded vocals to Curtis Mayfield’s “Give Me Your Love (Love Song),” the new CD was pushing Ronnie in directions that were over the top even by his dad’s standards. The only consistent thread running through the 11 cuts is Ronnie’s heart felt vocals and sparkling guitar runs. And when Steve Jordan suggested “Twine Time,” Ronnie at first found that a hard pill to swallow. It has been a huge crowd pleaser in black Chicago clubs in 1965, two years before Ronnie was born.

“When Alvin Cash (and The Crawlers) would come in and do that “Twine Time,” man, the crowd would go nuts, and I was so caught up on the traditional thing, so when Steve said, “Twine Time,” I said, ‘Come on. Are you serious?’ He said, ‘No, let’s do “Twine Time,”’ and once we started, the guitarist for Cindi Lauper – he’s the rhythm guitarist (Michael Toles) on that track with me – he was tuning up. So, it was just me and Steve and Willie Weeks grooving it. And Charles Hodges on keyboards. We’re grooving it, and trying to get a tempo.

“We’re trying to get an arrangement, and I just hit this chord, (He scats) And Steve’s like, ‘Yeah, Michael, let’s do that,’ and Michael said, ‘That ain’t me!’ And Steve says, ‘Ronnie, is that you playing that?’ He couldn’t see me. He could only see my head. He couldn’t see if I was playing. I said, ‘Yeah, that was me.’ He got up off the drums and came in the booth with me and said, ‘Man, that’s what I’m talking about. That is the shit. That’s what I’m talking about,’ and that just elevated the whole CD for me, man, because I felt like I connected with Steve.

ronnie baker brooks photo 4“That song “Twine Time” was the key to that whole session for me, because I felt the connection with Steve and the band totally. Of course, I felt it coming in, but I mean it solidified it. Like, now, let’s do it, man. Let’s go. And my confidence level went up and the spirit of the whole session went up after that for me.”

Times change, but change is timeless.

“My father always told me, you can never beat nobody being them. Ain’t nobody can ever beat you being yourself. If you try to be like Bobby Bland, it’s not gonna happen. You’re gonna lose. You’re gonna look stupid. I have to thank Steve Jordan because he had the sense and the knowhow to implement all that. He could see where I was coming from, and he knew where Bobby (Bland) was coming from. He knew where Felix Cavalieri was coming from. He knew where Steve Cropper was coming from.

“So, he was more so the guy that finessed the atmosphere to where I could be productive and they could be productive, where I wasn’t intimidated. I wasn’t even though I was initially to be honest, but I always say that experience with my father helped me pull it together, say, hey, man. This is a great opportunity. Let’s have some fun with this. Do what you can do and put your heart and soul in it, and the people will feel that, and that’s what I try to do with every record I do, man.

“I always give credit back to my dad as far as it all started with Dad and the people he allows me to meet, the music that he presented us as kids, listening around the household, me and my brother Wayne Baker Brooks. We heard this music. It’s instilled in us as kids, man, when we were in our mom’s stomach.

“All this stuff’s been around us all of our lives, and then him allowing me to go on the road and meet with his friends, hang out with some of the world’s greatest. I mean the world’s greatest and rub shoulders with them, pick their brains. I always gravitated to it, and I remember begging my dad to take me to see Son Seals, taking me to see B. B. King, taking me to see Bobby Bland and all those people when I was a kid.”

Lonnie Brooks in 1995: “I got two great kids that travel with me (Ronnie and his brother Wayne Baker Brooks.) They look after me like I used to look after them. They love me and they make sure I don’t get into any trouble. They watch over me.”

Times change, but change is timeless.

Visit Ronnie’s website at: www.ronniebakerbrooks.com/

Interviewer Don Wilcock has been writing about blues for nearly half a century. He wrote Damn Right I’ve Got The Blues, the biography that helped Buddy Guy jumpstart his career in 1991. He’s interviewed more than 5000 Blues artists and edited several music magazines including King Biscuit Time.


 Blues Society News 


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The Illinois Central Blues Club – Springfield, IL

The Illinois Central Blues Club has announced the line-up of talent for the Blue Monday live performances and jam sessions held every Monday night at The Alamo, 115 North Fifth, Springfield, IL from 8:00pm to midnight. March 13 – The Chris O’Lleary Band, March 20 – Joe Tenuto, March 27 – The Brother Jefferson Band, Aptil 3 – The Joe Moss Band, aptil 10 – Roger “Hurricane” Wilson & The Hurricane Homeboys, April 17 – The Green McDonough Band, Aptil 24 – Chris Ruest Featuring Gene Taylor.

Additional ICBC partnered shows: March 16 – Marry Jo Curry hosts James Armstrong Presents At The Alamo, April 20 – The MOJOCATS host James Armstrong Presents At The Alamo.  For more information visit www.icbluesclub.org.

Ventura County Blues Society – Ventura, CA

(Camarillo, CA) – The 12th Annual Ventura County Blues Festival, a Spring SoCal Tradition, Keeping the Blues Alive for a dozen consecutive years, Saturday, April 29, at Studio Channel Islands, 2222 E. Ventura Blvd. Gates open 10:00 am, music starts 11:00 am. Tickets $30. (Pre-Sale), $40. (Gate). Kids 12 and under free with paid Adult. V.I.P. Tickets $125. (online only). Festival proceeds benefits Food Share and other Ventura County area charities (please bring food item to donate). Info: (805) 501-7122 or visit venturacountyblues.com

Performing this year: Two-time Grammy winners, Phantom Blues Band; award-winning singer/songwriter/guitar player, Debbie Davies; renowned guitarist, Chris Cain; RJ Mischo, considered by critics to be in the upper echelon of today’s great harp players and singers; Michael John And The Bottom Line, fronted by VCBS President/Festival founder, Michael John; purveyors of deep-seeded Blues and smoky Southern rock, Crooked Eye Tommy; Jim Gustin and Truth Jones, fronted by blues singer/guitarist Jim Gustin, and Jeri Goldenhar, a/k/a Truth Jones, who has a big voice to match her six-foot stature.

The Sacramento Blues Society – Sacramento, CA

The Sacramento Blues Society is hosting Kenny Neal and the Neal Family Band on March 31, 2017 at the new Burgers and Brew Station 1, West Sacramento, located at the foot of the I St Bridge from 7 PM to 10 PM.

$25 Public $20 SBS Members All Ages Food and Drink Available Wheelchair Accessible. www.sacblues.com

The Santa Barbara Blues Society – Santa Barbara, CA

The Santa Barbara Blues Society will celebrate its 40th birthday on Saturday, March 11, 2017 with an all-star show at the Carrillo Recreation Center, 100 E. Carrillo St. in downtown S.B.

The show features the Delgado Brothers band who won the International Blues Challenge in January 2016. They will be joined by award-winning guitarist Kid Ramos plus multiple surprise guests.

Doors open at 7 PM, and there will be free BBQ snacks. Music will begin at 7:30 PM. Plus there will be birthday cake!

General admission is $30; VIP seats, in front of the stage with one free drink, are $40. Multiple discounts are available for SBBS members and others. VIP tickets will probably sell out before the show. For more information go to www.SBBlues.org or call (805) 722-8155.

Central Iowa Blues Society – Des Moines, IA

Central Iowa Blues Society Announces Iowa Blues Hall Of Fame Class Of 2016. This year’s inductees include Ellis Kell, Tony Blew, Dan “DJ” Johnson, J C Anderson and Fletcher Henderson “Sonny” Lott.

Save the date for the Induction Ceremony to be held on April 8, 2017 at Noce’, 1326 Walnut St in Des Moines. The doors open and dinner provided by Flying Mango will start at 5:00 PM. IBHOF house band Sumpin Doo will perform at 6:00 PM with the ceremony at 6:30 PM and a Jam after the ceremony until 10:00 PM. Tickets will be available soon at Noce’ and Midwestix.

The nominated artist’s bios with additional info will follow and be posted at www.cibs.org and the CIBS Facebook page.

The Washington Blues Society – Seattle, WA

The Washington Blues Society’s annual Best of the Blues Awards returns to the Kirkland Performance Center on Sunday, April 9th to honor musicians and artists nominated by society members in 32 award categories. The 2017 BB Awards show features performances by select nominees and recognizes new inductees into the Washington Blues Society Hall of Fame.

The nominees represent the best blues performers throughout the Pacific Northwest. Long-time favorites Brian Lee and the Orbiters return with five nominations, including Best Blues Band, Best Performer and Best Songwriter. Fresh from their 2017 International Blues Challenge performances in Memphis, Polly O’Keary and the Rhythm Method garnered five nominations, including Best Band, Electric Guitarist and Female Vocalist of the Year. Stanislove, the blues society’s representative at the 2017 International Blues Challenge is also up for a Solo/Duo BB Award. First-time nominees include vocalist Sheri Roberts Greimes, guitarist Brett “Bad Blood,” Benton, Hammond B3 master Joe Doria and Kenmore’s Capps Club, home of the Washington Blues Society’s free Blues Bash held on the second Tuesday each month. More information: www.wablues.org

The Great Northern Blues Society – Wausau, WI

The Great Northern Blues Society of Wausau, WI (GNBS) is Proud to announce the lineup for our 18th Annual Blues Café fundraiser to be held at the Historically Registered Rothschild Pavilion (near Wausau, WI) on Saturday, March 11 2017.

The Lineup will include Joyann Parker Band, Jimmy Nick & Don’t Tell Mama, Ghost Town Blues Band, Brandon Santini, Becky Barksdale, and Bing Futch playing acoustic sets between main stage acts. Doors open at noon, and Music will start at 1:00PM and continue non-stop until 11:00PM. Chairs, Food, and Cold Beverages will be available on-site. Special Hotel Rates available at the nearby Stoney Creek Inn. Limited supply of rooms available so make your reservation now.

Please come, sit by the huge stone fireplace, with a beverage of choice in hand, and join us for 10 hours of non-stop glorious Blues Music on 3/11/17. Artist Biographies, directions, and Tickets are available on our Website at – http://www.gnbs.org


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