Issue 11-24 June 15, 2017

Cover photo © 2017 SweetMusicChica


 In This Issue 

Bill Dahl has our feature interview with Katherine Davis. We have 10 Blues reviews for you this week including new music from Vanessa Collier, Sean Chambers, Kris Pohlmann, Konstantin Kolesnichenko, Vin Mott, Kat & CO, Pat Travers, Geoff Achison, Rochelle and the Sidewinders and Jeremy Bar-Illan.

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



 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 10 


vanessa collier cd imageVanessa Collier – Meeting My Shadow

Ruf Records

www.vanessacollier.com

11 tracks / 44:23

Vanessa Collier is a fresh face on the American blues scene, and in addition to her soulful vocals she brings a mighty sax to the table. I am not the only one that thinks so, as Vanessa was nominated for the best horn instrumentalist at the 2017 BMAs, putting her in the same club as Al Basile, Nancy Wright, Sax Gordon, and Terry Hanck. Also, her latest release, Meeting My Shadow, is making the rounds and it is a solid collection of original blues that serves to make the genre a bit more interesting.

Ms. Collier is based out of Philadelphia, and her background is as impressive as her music. Vanessa is a graduate of Boston’s prestigious Berklee College of Music, and she brought her vocals and sax to tours with Joe Louis Walker’s band. Also, Collier’s 2014 debut album, Heart Soul & Saxophone, was highly praised on Dan Aykroyd’s blues radio show, and she was honored as the Best of 2014 Blues Breaker Artist on House of Blues Radio. It would seem that her schedule is pretty full, but Vanessa also finds time to run her own teaching studio, volunteer at schools, judge solo and ensemble festivals, and offer clinics all over the country.

Meeting My Shadow is Collier’s sophomore album, which was recorded in six days at Music + Arts Studio in Memphis, Tennessee; it was produced by Vanessa, Kevin Houston, and Thomas Ruf (of Ruf Records fame). She was joined in the studio by Daniel McKee on bass, Ty Jackson on drums, Charles Hodges on keys, Marc Franklin on trumpet and flugelhorn, and the blues giant, Laura Chavez, on guitar. This is a stellar line-up, and on this project they demonstrate a palpable synergy that is infectious.

Eight of the eleven tracks are originals that were written by Vanessa, including the opener, “Poisoned the Well.” This song shows what a well-rounded musician Collier is, and she provides the vocals, flute, Rhodes piano, Wurlitzer, and clavinet. This funky blues rocker features smoky vocals with jazz influences in the phrasing, and a really neat orchestration that includes haunting flute parts. It must have been hard for her to set the sax aside at the beginning of the set, but hey – when was the last time you heard flute in a blues song? This is backed up by a little more funk with “Dig a Little Deeper” with its sassy vocals and 1970s vibe. We finally get to hear the sax here and Vanessa’s tone is amazing, as is her interplay with the clean horn style of Mr. Franklin.

The rest of the originals cover a wide range of the blues-based genres, and it is all tasteful and well written. “When it Don’t Come Easy” has a cool electric delta blues vibes thanks to Chavez, and one of the best phrases ever: “I’ve been sanding down my splintered heart.” The band also goes old school with the vintage rock and roll of “Whiskey and Women,” which includes hearty vocals from Vanessa and the healthy backline of Jackson and McKee. And the closer, “Devil’s on the Downslide,” has a sweet gospel feel that features Collier on the Wurlitzer organ.

There are also a handful of covers on Meeting My Shadow, including Rosetta Tharpe’s “Up Above My Head, I Hear Music in the Air,” which has a gospel call and response with ladies, killer piano, a hyper snare drum, a sweet chicken-pickin’ guitar solo, and a killer sax solo. There is also the unexpected inclusion of U2 and B.B King’s “When Love Comes to Town” from 1988’s Rattle and Hum. This version is slower than the original, which gives it a different feel, but it still rocks. Vanessa has an interesting character to her voice here and this complexity is compelling, which is helpful as this song is not presented as a duet this time. Also Laura Chavez tears off an amazingly raunchy guitar solo that fits in perfectly. It is hard to outdo the original, but this version comes really close.

Vanessa Collier and her crew did a wonderful job with Meeting My Shadow, and the result is an entertaining 45-minute set of original blues with a fresh sound. Regardless of what you think the blues should sound like, there is plenty to like here so you should take the time and give it a listen. Also, Collier has plenty of bookings coming up, with many North American tour dates from Florida to Maine to Canada, and everywhere west, as well as some shows in Europe. So, be sure to hit up her website for dates near you as Vanessa is an important part of the future of blue, and it would cool to support her journey.

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 – 2 of 10 

sean chambers cd imageSean Chambers – Trouble & Whiskey

American Showplace Music

www.seanchambers.com

CD: 10 Songs, 44:14 Minutes

Styles: Contemporary Electric Blues Rock

Make no mistake: Florida’s Sean Chambers is, first and foremost, a rocker. Although he had a five-year tenure (1998-2003) as guitarist and bandleader for Hubert Sumlin, no one would take him for the next B.B. King or Buddy Guy. Columnist Jerry Shriver from USA Today agrees, as quoted on Sean’s website: “Guitarist Chambers achieves the distinctly American blues/soul/country/rock sound that the Stones used to aspire to long ago.” Many purists wouldn’t consider Mick Jagger and company to be blues artists, so being compared to them wouldn’t endear our current guitar champion to such critics. Nevertheless, he’s a dynamite performer, both live and in the studio. The cover art of his newest CD features Sean “in the zone” – sweaty bangs plastered to his forehead, a grimace of concentration on his face, and fingers curling around his shredder strings to squeeze magic from them. No two-bit newbie is this maverick. A musician’s life is as strenuous as mountain climbing, but there’s nothing he’d rather do, and listeners can hear it in every single note he plays. On seven original tracks and three covers, Chambers explores timeless themes that would give anyone the blues: namely Trouble & Whiskey.

Sean’s webpage reveals background details of this latest release: “The album is produced by Ben Elliott, who has recorded classic artists such as Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, Billy Gibbons and Leslie West, among others. The core band on the album, aside from Sean on lead vocals and lead guitar, includes Michael Hensley on Hammond B3 & keyboards, Todd Cook on bass and Kris Schnebelen on drums. Special guests include Jimmy Bennett on guitar on track #8, John Ginty on Hammond B3 on track #4, and Andrei Koribaniks on percussion on tracks #1 and #7.”

Overall, this is a rock-the-place, in-your-face, drink-a-beer-in-any-case electric extravaganza. Need I say more? No, but I will, because there are three original songs I wish to highlight.

Track 02: “Bottle Keeps Starin’ at Me” – In psychology, there’s a technique called “projection,” a defense mechanism where people attribute their unpleasant feelings and worries to a source other than themselves. That’s what our narrator does on this savory stomp: “I’m sitting in my kitchen now. That bottle keeps staring at me. Even though I shut the cabinet door, bottle won’t let me be.” Addiction saps the will of its victims, siphoning power from them to their object of consumption. Speaking of which, listeners will get addicted to all Sean’s wicked guitar riffs.

Track 03: “Trouble & Whiskey” – Time for a mid-tempo burner. “Trouble and whiskey, baby, was all I ever used to know,” Sean sings in a voice startlingly reminiscent of the late Sean Costello. “But after you came along, all that trouble walked out the door.” Dancers, fetch a partner, because track three is surprisingly romantic. Even though Michael Hensley’s Hammond is understated here, in comparison to Sean’s guitar, it’s still beautiful in its melancholy harmony.

Track 10: “Gonna Groove” – Every blues CD needs a great opener and a great closer. “Gonna Groove” delivers with aplomb in the latter case. Combining ‘70s funk with 2010’s flair, this number’s another ode to love, with a catchy refrain: “‘Cause our love is strong, to help you carry on, we’re gonna groove.” If this shows up in a major motion picture sometime soon, I won’t be surprised. More likely, B.B. King’s Bluesville on Sirius XM should give it extensive airplay.

Trouble and Whiskey make for a crisp and catchy combo in Sean Chambers’ latest!

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 Review – 3 of 10 

kris pohlman cd imageKris Pohlmann – 10 Years Live

Black Penny Records BPR-0005

14 songs – 74 minutes

www.krispohlmann.com

Singer-guitarist Kris Pohlmann finally delivers the album he’s wanted with this collection of blues-rock captured live during his Spring 2016 European tour.

Born in England, but based out of Duisberg, Germany, since moving to the Continent at age 22 in the late ’90s. Pohlmann discovered the blues after a youth dominated by Cream, Free, ZZ Top and Status Quo. A high-energy performer who’s won six German Blues with three previous studio albums. This one features a mix of covers from Johnny “Guitar” Watson, Paul Rodgers, Freddie King and Lowell Fulson, all sandwiched among tunes cherry-picked from his own catalog.

Pohlmann’s backed here by his regular rhythm section of Janosch Brenneisen on drums and Jonas Bareiter on bass. The unit’s been together since 2013, and are featured on Kris’ 2015 release, Taylor Road, which earned a spot in the German blues-rock Top 10 as well as airplay around the globe.

“Don’t Make A Fool Of Me” fires out of the box to kick off the set. It’s a bottom-heavy three-note rocker that describes someone who doesn’t think before speaking and won’t back down when confronted. Kris’ vocals are somewhat smoky and strong. “Borrowed Time” picks up where that one left off as it expresses Pohlmann’s desire to make his mark in the world.

The mood and tempo change for the rocker “One Day Baby,” in which Kris tells a lady that he has to cut her loose because of the way she’s treating him. Then it’s deep into the blues vein for a supercharged taste of Watson’s familiar complaint, “Too Tired.” The original, “Got To Be The Blues” — about being solo, but never alone — follows, introduced by an extended guitar intro, before the melodic, 10-minute “Fallin’ Down” questions the motives of another lover whose actions set the singer free.

It’s back to the blues-rock foundation for the three-note “Used To Be” and “Soulshaker” before Pohlmann dips into the Free songbook with “Come Together In The Morning,” penned by Paul Rodgers in the ’60s before his long run with Bad Company.

Two more disparate covers — a faithful take on King’s standard, “I’m Tore Down,” and Status Quo’s “(April) Spring, Summer & Wednesdays” — follow before a reprise of “Taylor Road,” the title tune from Pohlmann’s most recent studio effort. An interesting, slow-blues take on Fulson’s “Reconsider Baby” and the original instrumental burner, “One For Sorrow,” bring the set to a close.

Available through Amazon, Israbox and other online retailers, 10 Years Live is a solid, lengthy effort delivered to an appreciative audience. If you’re a fan of blues-rock, you’ll like this one.

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 – 4 of 10 

Konstantin Kolesnichenko cd imageKonstantin Kolesnichenko – Hypnotized!

http://kolesnichenko-harmonica.com/

self release

7 songs time-29:25

Who woulda thunk it?…An all instrumental harmonica-organ-guitar-drums-bass album from a bunch of guys from the Ukraine that encompasses jazz, jump blues, west coast blues and Bossa Nova, all handled masterfully. Konstantin leads the band, on this his fourth album. His skillful harmonica playing is ably assisted by Paul Seedorenko on guitar, Mikhall Lyshenko on organ, Dmitriy Lytvynenko on drums and percussion and Mikhall Tolstolutskii on bass on three tracks. Try saying those names three times real fast. They are names you would do well to remember as this CD is a pleasurable experience right from the first note. The only minor squabble would be the relatively short playing time of just under thirty minutes…But boy do they fit a whole lot of fine playing into that allotted time. Konstantin is the leader, but pretty much equal time is given to all three lead players.

A cover of Stan Conover’s “Bad Girl” is a slow cool jazz excursion with the harmonica playing delightfully reminiscent of Cuban harmonica virtuoso Carlos Del Junco, who now makes his home in Canada. This is particularly evident when harmonica and guitar play lines in tandem. Konstantin’s harmonica snakes and swerves with ease throughout this CD. Next up is a tribute to one of my favorite harmonica aces, the late great William Clarke, the aptly titled “Tribute To William Clarke”. Clarke’s hard-blowing west coast blues style is captured perfectly with all the necessary energy and finesse. They segue right into the nifty Bossa Nova of “Canto de Ossanha” a song written by Vinicius de Moraes and Baden Powell. There seems to be nothing these guys can’t handle expertly.

They slip into a jazzy blues via “The Dog’s Tail”. Guitar and organ take their usual solos along with K.K. on harp. The organ playing owes much to the classic jazz players of the fifties and sixties. “East Breeze” is a way cool jazzy romp encompassing the usual tasty solos, including a well recorded brief drum solo. The guitar player shines on a great jazzy solo here as well. I repeat myself because the playing of all concerned is first rate all over this joyful disc. “Brother Jack, Bill And Gator” is a nod to Brother Jack McDuff, Bill Jennings and I don’t know who Gator is, but he has to be good. Fantastic organ energy on this one.

Things close out with the title track, one of four penned by Konstantin, a slow and soulful jazz burner. They make the originals sound like instant classics in their able hands.

You just can’t go wrong with this level of musicianship. A clear case of instruments in the hands of players who love and are well schooled in the music. You’ll never get tired the this musical journey. Jazz, blues, South American rhythms, it’s all here. If you are of a lover of music in general you are going to find much to like here.

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


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 Featured Blues Review – 5 of 10 

vin mott cd imagerVin Mott – Quit The Women For The Blues

https://www.facebook.com/vmott

Self Release

10 songs – 37 minutes

Vin Mott’s debut release Quit The Women For The Blues is an entertaining slab of modern harmonica-led blues that openly displays the notable influence of several first-generation electric blues icons as well as second generation stars such as the Paul Butterfield Band.

The title track kicks off proceedings with a heavy nod to Howlin’ Wolf’s “Killing Floor”, albeit with a slice of modern day attitude. Guitarist Sean Ronan even recalls the great Hubert Sumlin in his gloriously teetering-on-the-edge-of-control solo, while Mott’s harmonica playing recalls the power and aggression of James Cotton.

Ronan and Mott swap solos throughout the album, and are both top drawer soloists. Mott is especially impressive on rocking harp showcase that closes the album, “Hott Mott’s Theme”, while Ronan’s solo on “The Factory” is one of several stand-out moments on the album. The rhythm section of Andrei Koribanics on drums and Dean Shot on upright and electric bass excel in laying down a variety of tasty grooves throughout Quit The Women For The Blues, from the swinging shuffle of “Make Up Your Mind” and the old-fashioned rock’n’roll of “Don’t Make Me Laugh” to the classic rumba-with-a-shuffle-middle-section of “I Wanna Get Ruff With You”. Phil Silverberg also adds subtle organ to four tracks, perhaps most effectively to the fine ballad, “Living The Blues”.

While the production on the album is very modern, the structures of the songs themselves have a very 50’s feel to them. “I’m A Filthy Man” features Ronan on slide guitar re-working Elmore James’ old “Dust My Broom” riff; the stop choruses of the upbeat “Freight Train” do not distinguish it materially from Junior Parker’s “Mystery Train”; and the 8-bar shuffle of “Ol’ Greasy Blues” even borrows a couple of lyrics from Big Bill Broonzy’s “Key To The Highway” as well as the vocal melody. New Jersey native Mott wrote all ten tracks and he deserves credit for keeping one foot in the past whilst adding a modern perspective to tracks like “The Factory”, where his protagonist declares “I can’t drink no more whiskey, I can’t smoke no more weed. I can’t do no more cocaine, but that’s what I need. This living ain’t no living. I’ve been beaten down by the factory.”

Vin Mott is a young man and he will no doubt continue to develop his talents. At the moment, it is fair to say that his singing voice does not have the depth or subtlety of his harp playing although it does work well on the angrier, more aggressive songs (which is no bad thing because this is not an album of pretty love songs).

There is a sense of attitude and urgency about Quit The Women For The Blues, which sounds like it was recorded live. Certainly, on the evidence of this album, it is easy to imagine Mott and his band tearing up bars and giving superb live shows. There is a sense of early George Thorogood in the way the band goes about its business. Overall, Quit The Women For The Blues is an impressive debut from Vin Mott and this reviewer looks forward to more from this band.

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 – 6 of 10 

kat & co cd imageKat & CO – Blues Is The New Cool

http://tonetrade.co.uk

www.katandco.uk

12 tracks,40 minutes

London based outfit Kat & Co, consist of lead singer and front person Kathleen Pearson. She is a chanteuse with charisma and style who has a fantastic vocal range to say nothing of her awesome stage presence. She is joined by an international band that includes Francesco Accurso on guitar and various other instruments including dobro , piano and cigar box guitar. He also wrote most of the songs. On keyboards and harmonica is Federico Parodi. Mix this together with drumming by Nicholas Owsianka and bass by Marco Marzola and this has the ingredients of a very talented and professional band who certainly bring a new slant to the blues genre.

There are also jazzy tones, funk rock and sassy ballads in their repertoire so something for all tastes. Their previous release I Kat The Blues got a lot of plaudits and recognition. This release of twelve tracks, including two covers, raises the standards in places and mixes raw and cool similarly. It is very uplifting and takes a fresh approach to traditional tunes.

The opener, Albert King’s ” Born Under A Bad Sign” is a case in point. It blasts a heavy drum beat introduction and includes piercing guitar solo and interspersed with newsflashes underpinning the sultry grinding vocals of the confident lead singer. A brave cover as it has been done countless times but not like this , you do get a feel for the City scene on this one.

“Calling Your Name” has a heady mix of Hammond organ throughout with laid back sultry vocals. Tempo is increased on the powerfully angst ridden slide guitar play on the story of a suicide on the ” Bedroom Floor” , this track is full of raw emotion.” Selfish Blues ” puts the listener into the atmosphere of a steamy nightclub with great piano licks underscoring the lyrics. The slow piano introduction on ” Prelude To City Burn” is very short and bursts into a funky groove on ” City Burn” with a catchy chorus and some fine harmonica licks.

Paul Lamb guests on harmonica on the outstanding lament ” Nobody Dies For Love”. It just drips with heartache and pain though in a bizarre way could also double as a James Bond film theme.

We can all get on our knees and testify to the smouldering blues on the organ heavy track ” Whiskey” with the interesting line ” Jesus coming to save the day” .”Shake It All Away” is a hopeful tune with slinky tones. The band’s interpretation to Roosevelt Sykes’ tune “Night Time Is The Right Time” hits a jazzy tone with melodic guitar work matching direct vocals. The penultimate track is a “Piano Interlude” that is short and sweet. The final track ” Low Down”is pure modern blues with a twist in narration and full of passion showcasing a very tight band.

Overall a wonderful release. Well produced and full of different styles and approaches to musical interpretation. Lead singer Kathleen Pearson has a distinct powerful approach to the lyrics and a booming vocal range that is a joy to listen to. This is a band at the top of their game with a sublime mix of talent.

Reviewer Colin Campbell is a writer based in the UK.


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 Featured Blues Review – 7 of 10 

pat travers cd imagePat Travers – Live At Rockpalast – Cologne – 1976

www.pattravers.com

M.I.G. Music

CD & DVD

11 songs time-53:29

This CD-DVD set captures Canadian hard-rocker Pat Travers at the beginning of his career. He left his home land to set up a band in England with two Brits. He enlisted drummer Nicko Mcbrain who had recently left the Roger Chapman-Charlie Whitney (formerly of Family) fronted band Streetwalkers. Although short lived they were one of my favorite bands. Nicko joined Iron Maiden after his time with Travers. Two steps down the musical ladder, but two steps up the financial ladder. But I digress. Also on board was bassist Peter “Mars” Cowling. The band landed a contract with Polydor in London and were invited to play on the German rock showcase Rockpalast. A hard rock power trio as it was called at the time. One thing that differentiated them from heavy metal was that the lyrics were intelligible and not screamed in a harsh voice. This music has an abundance of power chords, distorted guitar solos, heavy drums and bass. The lyrics mainly concern the themes of music, his geetar, girls, love and such and are pretty much secondary to the crunching and throbbing music.

Nine of the eleven songs are band originals. “Hooked On Music” is typical and includes one of the most extended guitar solos found here. Pat’s soloing is speed freak fast and clean and crisp. The band is tight as all get out. The heavy bass playing supports the sound well along with the thrashing drums. The guys usually keep up a chugging beat. Their version of “Statesboro Blues” will make Gregg Allman turn over in his grave as it bears little resemblance to blues or blues-rock. It’s crunchified, full of guitar twiddling and noise. Little Walter’s “Boom Boom” is super charged and bares a bit more resemblance to blues-rock.

The DVD is of the same performance. You get to see Pat bopping and sweating in his state-of-the-art rock and roll vest. The rather small audience is mostly into the music. Rockpalast showcased a wide variety of rock acts in its’ day. The Europeans in general seemed to take rock music more seriously than here in the states, save for a few shows like Shindig and The Midnight Special. Rockpalast was mainly from a later era. It was well photographed and was always live.

Pat Travers fans and hard rock guitar geeks in general will find much to like here. Air guitar here we come…

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



 Featured Blues Review – 8 of 10 

geoff achison cd imageGeoff Achison – Another Mile, Another Minute

www.landsliderecords.com

www.geoffachison.com

14 tracks – 1hr, 1minute

It is almost ten years since his last studio release but Australian bluesman Geoff Achison is back with a bang on his fourteenth release. Backed by The Souldiggers as usual, this epitomises the eclectic musical range and pushes genres. Here you will find all types of influences and note that he has amassed through the years an eclectic mix of Country , jazz , blues and funk notes to boot. Not only is he a wonderful guitarist but a consummate songwriter. His husky vocal tones are akin to Joe Cocker dripping with emotion and style. Here he has written the songs and brought some guests with him to share this musical journey.

Geoff is supported by long time band mates Roger McLachlan on bass guitar , Gerry Pantazis on drums and Richard Tankard on keyboards. It was produced and recorded by Ben Harwood, Rob Harwood and Geoff at HS45 Studios in Melbourne. The balance between vocals and instrumentation is excellent. There is something for everyone here a quality release.

“High Wire” sets the tone with more than a nod to Steely Dan a perfect balancing act .His raspy tone suits the laid back jazzy effect with fine harmonies very mellow . The narrative to “Delta Dave” evokes acoustic tones similar to Johnny Cash really getting to the soul of self confession by a travelling musician. Backing vocals have a haunting refrain and the listener gets a feel for the singers’ destitution. Typically the next song “Working My Way Back Home” is upbeat with a funk driven beat and a smooth yet raspy vocal delivery some good keyboards here. Full throttle shuffle blues is next on “I’m Gonna Ride” with a magnificent harmonica solo by Chris Wilson a song about relationship breakdown you can almost hear the guitar say goodbye.

A favorite highlight is “A New Bad Habit” where the narrator has given up vices such as women and drugs but looking for something to take its place. A good vibe to this horn section blending with slinky keyboard and vocal delivery is a winner. ” I Wish You Were Mine” is bawled out as a self fulfilling prophecy to this one which rolls along well.

The title track ” Another Mile , Another Minute” is a pure blues ballad full of angst and self depreciation has superb musical arrangement and flows with passion.” Make No Mistake” again sees him repenting about his life and decisions made, a long tune but with the addition of Shannon Bourne’s burning guitar play out it gives a different kick to the song , just effortless. ” Dreaming I’m Awake” is a slow meandering ballad with interesting guitar licks and synthesizer chords. Tempo change to upbeat funk on ” Sum Peeples Got All the Funk” which is heavy on horns and a great groove to get down to. With drawling vocals it is a real soundtrack to modern day living.

“Baby Come Back ” keeps the tempo going with a biting guitar solo thrown in for good measure. ” I Need Help” brings tone down again but has a smokey bar room feel, very atmospheric . ” Make My Stand ” sounds pretty anthemic and manages to marry the crescendo of howling keyboards with Geoff’s wailing guitar for a real treat. Last track, “Front Porch Farewell” is an instrumental gem played on acoustic guitar which is beautifully crafted and a perfect send off to this classy release.

This is a very accomplished release full of great instrumentation, differing music styles, excellent guitar work blissful harmonies and a rhythm and tone in abundance from a man at the top of his game. Hope it isn’t ten years to the next release. A worthwhile addition to your music collection.

Reviewer Colin Campbell is a writer based in the UK.


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 Featured Blues Review – 9 of 10 

rochelle and the sidewinders cd imageRochelle and the Sidewinders – Live in Austin, Texas

Self-Produced

www.rochelleandthesidewinders.com

CD: 12 Songs, 49:44 Minutes

Styles: Torch Singer Blues, Soul-Influenced Blues, Live Album

Audio technicians at live concerts know a sound system can make or break a band as much as the music does. Artists can play all the crowd favorites in the book, but if their PA’s are crackling with static, their mics are ill-adjusted, and there’s no balance among bass, treble, and the various instruments, they might find beer bottles thrown at their feet instead of cheers directed in their ears. The same principle applies if you’re playing a live album via your own own sound system, blues connoisseurs. Tinny-sounding integrated PC speakers or a cheap boombox, will do nothing to enhance Rochelle and the Sidewinders’ Live in Austin, Texas. On the other hand, if your headphones Beexcellent™ like mine, they’ll increase the quality of this release from “pretty good” to “OMG!” Featuring an African-American chanteuse whose voice is as lovely as her face, it’s perfect for a relaxing evening with your partner, pet, or self.

The “Bio” section of this ensemble’s webpage exults: “Rochelle & The Sidewinders is [a] group comprised of seasoned veterans of the Austin music scene with the common desire to play the Blues! Focusing on original music as well as classics by the likes of Etta James, Koko Taylor, [and] Buddy Guy with a few bluesy twists on some modern tunes as well! Rochelle is a dynamic and striking presence with a voice that cuts right through to the bone! You will dance, groove and party-don’t miss an opportunity to catch this amazing act live!” Does this quintet deserve all those exclamation points? Short answer: Yes. Long answer: Instrumentally, there might be too much going on all at once, requiring continuous partial attention to the marvelous, myriad lines.

Performing with vocalist Rochelle Creone are Tom Coplen on guitar and vocals; Todd Frenzel on keyboards, vocals and harp; Jim Trimmier on sax, and John Powell on drums and vocals.

On nine original numbers and three covers, Rochelle and the Sidewinders give it their all, with their original material outshining the “crowd favorites” I mentioned earlier. For example:

Track 01: “Flip Side” – Why not get audiences dancing right from the start? That’s what this album’s opener does in spades. It’s high-octane, witty blues, but also a prime example of every instrument taking the lead and requiring listeners to multitask. “I guess I’ll catch you on the flip side, baby,” Rochelle sings with just the right touch of snark to her errant lover.

Track 05: “Drinking at Noon” – “It’s 5 o’clock somewhere,” the old saying goes, and our narrator finds herself falling into the midday-cocktail trap. “You’d do it too, if you knew what I was going to do,” our protagonist reveals in relation to her suck-cessful life. “Lost my job; I’ll find another. Lost my guy; someday I’ll recover. Got arrested; went to jail. Had to pawn my guitar just to pay my bail.” Jim Trimmier plays some sensational sax here.

Track 08: “Gotta Get Going” – Sounds like the subject of the previously-mentioned track needs an extra dose of this motivational powerhouse song. “Well, you gotta get going if you plan on getting there…There ain’t no use in sitting around.” Track eight mixes big-band swing with postmodern blues in another hit that will get everyone on their feet, or putting the pedal to the metal if they’re on the highway. Check out Tom Coplen’s terrific ‘50s-style guitar solo.

Rochelle and the Sidewinders pleased blues lovers in person and at home Live in Austin, Texas!

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 Review – 10 of 10 


Jeremy Bar-Illan – Diggin’ In!

Self-Produced

www.jeremybar-illan.com

CD: 8 Songs, 29:18 Minutes

Styles: Guitar Monster Blues, Debut Album, Blues Covers

When I was in the fifth grade, my class took a field trip to Chicago’s Field Museum, home of several recondite artifacts – including a genuine unwrapped Egyptian mummy. Most of us cried, “Eww!” when we saw it, including me. However, as grossed out as we were, fascination grabbed a hold of us, too. Native American pottery? There was a lot of that, in terms of other exhibits. There was only one exposed mummy, however, and we capitalized the M on it. To this day, I still remember that boy’s body, immortalized in a display coffin, his skin and bones revealed. The pottery? Not so much. Keep that in mind, Blues Blast readers, as you consider Diggin’ In! to the debut blues-rock album of New York’s Jeremy Bar-Illan. Seven out of the eight songs on it are covers so revered they might as well be showcased in a museum: James Williams’ “Big Legged Woman,” Segar and Broonzy’s “Key to the Highway,” Melvin London’s “Messin’ with the Kid,” and most of all, Robert Johnson’s “Crossroads.” You know you’ve seen and heard these treasures dozens of times before, if not hundreds, so can our current guitar monster top the originals? No, but this is his debut release, and who can do that on the first try? Nearly no one. Where Bar-Illan excels is in his Hendrix-esque shredder, overpowering every other musical aspect. To wit: There’s a lot of pottery here, the stunning clay vessels into which the old masters have poured their souls, but Jeremy doesn’t fill them all the way to the top. He soon might.

According to his online press kit, “Jeremy is also the founder and music director for the hit funk band, Dragonfly 13 – a nine piece funk and R&B orchestra. Their new album, Let the Music Bring You Back, is available at all digital outlets. In 2014 Jeremy was presented with the President’s Volunteer Service Award for his work with non-profits with music as a focus. He has been volunteering with Musicians On Call since January of 2011 with over 300 bedside performances donated. He is the founder and director of a non-profit organization, The Purple Hat Foundation, which is a conglomerate of volunteer musicians who perform benefit concerts to raise awareness and funding for pediatric cancer patients and related programs…Through these efforts, he lives his belief that music is a bridge to all of mankind and the universal language which can be harnessed to help create a better world.”

Performing along with Bar-Illan, lead vocalist and guitarist, are Otis Lee Williams on B3 organ and piano; Giacomo Tagliavia on bass, and Dale Paddyfoote on drums.

The only original song on Jeremy’s debut album is also his best, because it bares his own soul.

Track 06: “Nothing to Lose” – Who says that the B3 organ has to sound like a church instrument? Otis Lee Williams goes all out on this take-no-prisoners rocker. “I’ve got the blues, ‘cause I’ve got nothing to lose, hey, yeah,” exults Bar-Illan, holding a long, trilling note on his guitar that would cause lesser mortals to break a string.

Since Jeremy’s done so much good, for so many people and causes, it’s hard to break the news to you lovers of the blues: Vocally, he’s a bit dry, and if you don’t think Jimi Hendrix counts as a blues artist, this CD won’t be your cup of tea. However, if you love shredding blues rock, start Diggin’ In!

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 – Katherine Davis 

katherine davis image 1Over the course of her illustrious career, Katherine Davis has been hailed as a singer of several overlapping musical genres and as an actress as well. But she’s most visible today as an educator. Davis teaches at Chicago’s Stone Academy as part of the Blues in the Schools program, and she brought her grade school-age students to perform at this year’s Chicago Blues Festival, even accompanying them on piano for several songs.

“It’s very rewarding to introduce this type of music to them,” says Davis. “At first, when you just talk about it to them, they don’t have a clue. And then you play the music for them, and they still don’t have a clue. But when I sing the songs that I play for them, I will sing them, and then that’s when they get the message. Because I don’t just pick any songs; I pick songs that have something to do with our history, the migration, how migrants left the south and came to Chicago, and how different groups of people came from different areas. So Chicago being the melting pot of different styles of music, and it being blended together, it made Chicago have its own style.

“I teach from a blueswoman’s perspective,” she continues. “When I’m teaching blues in the schools, I’m saying, ‘Okay, I’m someone’s mother, I’m someone’s grandmother.’ And then I’m going in to educate. Well, children, the way that they think, they know their mothers and they know their teachers, but they don’t know what’s in between that. And so I’m introducing them to this music live, so that instead of them liking Beyonce and the other popular singers, nine times out of ten they won’t ever see them in person. But me, I’m the first one to sing to them live. So to me, they will never forget that. And teaching them the history, there’s so much. There is no end to teaching about the blues.”

Although you’re quite likely to catch Katherine sitting in with her old friend Erwin Helfer at the pianist’s regular Thursday evening gig at Barrelhouse Flat on Chicago’s North Side, she’s cut back on local engagements. “I’ve pretty much been on my own path,” says Katherine. “I still sing, but I’m not in the nightclubs. But I still sing. I like singing from a point of education, something that is going to be more valuable than singing in a bar while drunk people listen or not listen. I want it to be something that they learn something and appreciate, and pass it on to the next generation.

“My mother and her mother, all of them had pianos in their homes. But then when my mother became an orphan and her and her brother were split up, and had to live anywhere they could, we didn’t have a piano growing up. But I would hear my mother talk about how valuable the piano was. So I bought her a piano,” she says. “Everybody should know how to play an instrument, especially the piano, because that’s your getaway when you’re dealing with everything outside in the world. When you come home, you need to be able to escape and express yourself by playing music.”

Davis is a product of two vibrant Windy City areas. For the first 14 years of her life, she lived in the Cabrini-Green housing projects on the near North Side with her parents, both of them very musically inclined. “(My mother’s) mother was a singer who would always sing around the house when we would have family singalongs,” says Davis. “My mother would tell stories about her growing up in a musical family. My father, Wesley Davis, owned a bar on the North Side during that time. He had to manage doing all the work in the tavern, including deejaying.” Katherine’s grandfather, Earl Campbell, was a trumpeter who performed with Louis Armstrong and Count Basie. Along with the singing of her mother, Ethel Davis, Katherine cites a wide range of influences: Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Della Reese, Ethel Waters, Dinah Washington, Aretha Franklin, Mahalia Jackson, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Ray Charles, B.B. King, and James Brown.

“I’ve been singing since I was real young, me and all my sisters,” says Davis. “But I remember that I could always sing a 12-bar blues. I knew the melody. I knew where it would go before it got there. I always had that gift. But I when I was real young, I didn’t know what that was. So when I would sing the blues, they would laugh at me. ‘Cause they was like, ‘Ooh, you’re singing that old-timey music!’”

katherine davis image 2There was plenty of musical action at Cabrini. “Every building had doo-wop singers,” Katherine says. “I used to go to the talent shows in the projects. They had talent shows in their basements, and I always went to the talent shows. Then the singers were standing on the corners, singing their doo-wop, and we would make up songs, or we would make up (rhymes) jumping rope or doing dance steps and everything. We would make ‘em up while the doo-woppers were singing.”

Moving to the South Side in 1967 proved a big adjustment. “When we moved to the South Side, I didn’t like the South Side at all, because I had only known the North Side,” she says. “I knew moving to the South Side, (there) was racism. I remember seeing all the for sale signs up. White people were trying to get out of Englewood and Auburn-Gresham. They were selling their houses and everything, and all the blacks were buying houses, and how proud the families were to be able to own a house. So when that happened, I didn’t like the South Side, and I kept going to the North Side hanging out. But then when the riots happened, that scared me and I stopped going.”

Gospel music beckoned, but the minister at Katherine’s church proved less than nurturing. “I always wanted to lead a song in church,” she says. “He told me that I was too bluesy, and that I was disrespecting God. So I stopped singing in church because I thought I was disrespecting God. And I didn’t know any other way to sing. I had my own voice.” That preacher might have later regretted his words when Davis eventually formed her own spiritual group, the Victory Gospelaires.

When Davis made her secular bow as a singer, blues wasn’t yet part of the equation. “It was R&B. That was on the South Side at the El Matador Lounge on 75th Street. That was 1979. Daryl Mahon was the drummer, and his father was the manager of the group. Johnnie Taylor’s son was in that group, Johnnie Taylor, Jr. Back then, I was singing Phoebe Snow. I was singing ‘Poetry Man,’ and I was singing (Shirley Brown’s) ‘Woman To Woman.’ And I always loved Aretha, so I was singing a lot of Aretha Franklin,” she says. “That was like my exposure into the nightclubs during that time, hearing live music. All the doors, all the gates, everything, all the green lights said, ‘Go! Go for it, girl! Go for it!’”

During the early ’80s, Davis sang jazz before she realized the possibilities of specializing in blues. “One of Willie Dixon’s daughters, she was a singer too, and she was singing jazz. Because then I was hanging out in the jazz clubs with Von Freeman,” says Davis. “We used to go over to Willie’s studio when it was on 77th and Racine. At that time, because it was all much older people that were singing the blues, I heard it, but I didn’t pay attention.

“She told me I need to be singing blues. She said, ‘You can sing the blues, because you have the voice of a blues singer, and you can live a good life.’ And I said, ‘Uh-uh!’ She said, ‘Yes, you can. You can record, you can travel, and you can make money.’ I said, ‘Really? Off the blues?’ She said yes. So all the doors were all opening for me. Whatever type of music I wanted to sing, I had gigs. I had gigs everywhere, coming from every direction. I was in the blues clubs, and they would say I was a jazz singer. I was singing in the jazz clubs, they said I was a blues singer. I didn’t care because I was getting so much work.

“I was making decent enough money where I could hire bands to work with me, and I had gigs that lasted a long time. So I used to play at Remington’s, that was on Rush. It was next to the Backroom. I used to sing there with a group. I used to sing at Blondie’s. I sang at the Backroom, but I didn’t have my own group. I was there with King George, who was popular at that time. He sang and played piano. And I used to work with him. After I left the Gold Coast and (Willie’s daughter) told me to sing blues, that’s when I started hanging on the North Side. I met Detroit Junior, and then Detroit Junior took me under his wing, and I played with him at the Fallen Angel.”

katherine davis image 3Idiomatic boundaries notwithstanding, Davis studied another kind of classics in the early ‘80s at the Sherwood Music Conservatory, inspired once again by the talent that ran deep in her own family. “My mother wanted to be a jazz singer, but she chose to be a wife and a mother. But she always wanted to be a jazz singer,” she says. “So when I started studying music, I studied opera. Of course, that was in my family too, on my mother’s side. I wanted to be an opera singer because I thought I would become big. I would be a big star, and (have) a big stage and orchestra and big costumes and travel around the world. That’s how I looked at opera. And when I studied at Sherwood, my music instructor told me that I could sing at the Metropolitan Opera. But I had to have the training. So I trained. I was a dramatic soprano.”

Katherine ultimately stuck with the blues, becoming a regular attraction at Kingston Mines during the 1980s. “When I first started singing there, I was with Lavelle White,” she says. “And then John Watkins, and Wednesday nights I was with Sugar Blue. I was with Magic Slim, I was with Lovie Lee, I was with Casey Jones. I was with Joe Kelley–I sang with Joe on Fridays and Saturdays. Then on Tuesdays, I was there co-hosting the blues jam. I was performing there like four nights a week.”

But the club Davis is probably fated to always be associated with, even though she long ago stopped appearing there, is Blue Chicago because a stylized likeness of her several stories tall adorned the wall of one of their locations on Clark Street during the mid-‘90s. “(Blue Chicago owner Gino Battaglia) saw that picture and said he wanted to use that picture to promote his club,” says Katherine. “So he had my picture up on Ohio, when you come off the expressway, on the wall. And then he had the other one on Clark Street. So that picture circulated all over the world.”

Of all Davis’ musical relationships, the one with pianist Erwin Helfer, which began in 1986, seems to have been the most bountiful. The two are perfectly matched artistically; like Katherine, he has a special affinity for classic blues of the 1920s. “Tony Mangiullo from Rosa’s introduced us to each other. Tony wanted us to do a show for him at Rosa’s,” she says. “When he said he wanted me to meet Erwin, and he told Erwin he wanted him to meet me, we were like, ‘Why in the hell are you doing that? You can’t just put us…’ Because back then, Angela Brown was Erwin’s singer. And when I met Erwin, Mama Yancey had just passed. But he let me hear her music, and I fell in love with Mama Yancey’s music. So I started learning the songs of Mama Yancey so I would be able to expand my repertoire, and it made Erwin happy.

“Erwin is the one that I started traveling with. When we met, I toured with him and Odie Payne, Jr. and Clark Dean,” she says. “We toured throughout the U.S. (for the) National Association for Campus Activities, which took us around the country. We played universities and colleges throughout the country and abroad. I toured with Erwin for five years, and then I toured with (keyboardist) Sidney James Wingfield another five years.”

When Davis returned to Chicago in 1998 after an extended stint in South Carolina, initially landing there for two months in an artist-in-residency program before settling in, Helfer was instrumental in rekindling her local performance schedule. “I was there four years. But when my kids graduated out of high school, they wanted to come back to Chicago. I had so much work here that I left, and with me being gone, when I came back, everything was gone. The only one that kept me going was Erwin,” she says.

“After I did the artist-in-residency, I decided to move to Columbia, S.C., because they had a real strong blues society, and I just felt like there was an opportunity for me to send my kids to a better school. The weather was better, the cost of living was nice, so I moved to Columbia.”

As popular as Davis has proven in Chicago’s nightclubs, her profile has been just as lofty as an actress, starring in the acclaimed musical In the House of the Blues at Kuumba Theatre. Her career in local theater went further back than that. “I had studied at Kennedy King (College), so I was studying the part for Dreamgirls,” says Katherine. “But I dropped out, because during that time I was going through a bad marriage.

katherine davis photo 4“I auditioned for Kuumba Theatre because they were looking for actors and actresses for the play In the House of the Blues. They changed it later to In the Heart of the Blues, but it was In the House of the Blues. And that’s where I met Little Brother Montgomery. They were trying to get him to be the piano player, but we went through quite a few piano players,” she says. “Little Brother, he was fragile. He was still strong, but he was fragile. So when I did the audition, they had me portraying ‘Ma’ Rainey and Bessie Smith. So I got to do both characters. And from that, I fell deeper in love with the blues because I had a better understanding of the music.

“Back then, because the church said it was devil music and all that, so with me being religious and everything, I had to pray many nights. I asked God to please send me some angels or guardians to show me how they lived, and what kind of music, and what were they doing, what was their lifestyle so I could understand this music and be able to portray these characters. And it happened. The guardians and the angels, they came and guided me into learning these characters. And I started feeling like I was a guardian also, over the blues. I chose to be a guardian, so that’s what I’m doing. And that’s how it led me into being an educator of the blues. Because I asked for it, and it was given to me. Even if it’s in my own mind, in my own heart, no one can deny and say that I’m not a blues singer. I’m a blues singer!”

So much so that in 2006, a local theater company staged the story of Davis’ own life, I Dream in Blues. “The Vittum Theater wanted me to work with them on some music projects, teaching in the schools and then performing plays. So I hired lots of Chicago musicians for all the productions that I had put on. And then they asked me to do my life story, growing up in Cabrini-Green,” says Davis. “That show ran for about two months, and over 10,000 children from the schools got to see that play. I narrated the show and other actors portrayed me as a little girl and my mother, my father, and the boy that was a bully that used to pick on me. And it was all music.”

Katherine’s recording career commenced on Delmark in 1993 with four guest numbers on a trad jazz CD by the Dixie Stompers. After an extended stint with Mississippi Heat that included singing on their 1999 album Handyman (she wrote two songs for the set), a benefactor fronted a full-fledged Davis album, only to have the deal falter prior to release. “All my music was just sitting there at Southport Records,” she says. “Then Joanie Pallatto called me about a year later, and said, ‘What do you plan on doing with your music that you have here?’ I said, ‘Well, I can’t do anything because the guy who was sponsoring me, he stopped.’ She said, ‘Well, this is too good of a project to just be sitting and nothing happening with it. Why don’t you let me and (Bradley Parker-) Sparrow finish it off?’ And I said okay. So they finished it off, and we named it Dream Shoes.” Davis made another CD in 2006 for Steven Dolins’ the Sirens label, Rock This House – Live!, her backing cast including Helfer, drummer Kenny Smith, and guitarist Lurrie Bell.

Even if she’s scarcer on our local club scene than she used to be, Katherine Davis remains fiercely dedicated to teaching her students the rudiments of the blues and the cause itself. “I asked my guardians and my angels to watch over me and show me what I need to know,” she says. “What I need to do. So I let my heart, my mind, and my hands go there. And that’s what I’ve been doing.”

Visit Katherine’s website at: www.bluessingerkatherinedavis.com

Interviewer Bill Dahl is a lifelong Chicago resident who began writing about music professionally in 1977. He’s written for Vintage Rock, Goldmine, Living Blues, Blues Revue, Blues Music Magazine, the Chicago Tribune, and the Reader, and is the author of The Art of the Blues, a 2016 book published by University of Chicago Press, and 2001’s Motown: The Golden Years (Krause Publications). Bill was awarded the Blues Foundation’s Keeping the Blues Alive Award in journalism in 2000.


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 Blues Society News 


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Friends of the Blues – Kankakee, IL

Sat, July 15 – Polly O’Keary & Rhythm Method, CD Release Party, Watseka Elks, Thur, July 20 – The Nouveaux Honkies, Inside Out, Gilman IL, Thur, July 27 – Albert Castiglia, The Longbranch in L’Erable IL, Tues, Aug 08 – Frank Bang & Cook County Kings, Bradley Bourbonnais Sportsmen’s Club, Tues, Aug 22 – Jeff Jensen, Bradley Bourbonnais Sportsmen’s Club, Tues or Wed, Nov 7 or 8 (TBD) – Jim Suhler & Monkey Beat, Manteno Sportsmen’s Club. More Info at: http://www.facebook.com/friendsoftheblues.

Utah Blues Society – Salt Lake City, UT

The Utah Blues Society proudly presents their 3rd Annual Utah Blues Festival, their biggest fundraiser of the year! Saturday, June 17th from noon to 10 p.m. at The Gallivan Center in downtown Salt Lake City. This year’s Fest features the Blues Youth Showcase, Better Off With the Blues, Harry Lee & the Back Alley Blues Band, Annika Chambers, Samantha Fish, Rod Piazza & the Mighty Flyers, and Kenny Neal, as well as vendors, and free workshops. More information at UtahBluesFest.org.

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.  June 19 – Adrianna Marie & Her Groovecutters, June 26 – The Bridget Kelly Band.

For more information visit www.icbluesclub.org.

Crossroads Blues Society – Rockford, IL, IL

Blues trio Recently Paroled is at the Lyran Society Club, 1115 4th Ave, Rockford, IL 61104 on Friday, June 16th . the club is open to the public and there is no cover.

Rockford Illinois’ 27th Juneteenth celebration is Monday, June 19th from 3 to 9 PM at Sinnissippi Park at 1401 N Second Street in Rockford. Headlining the event is The Kinsey Report plus some local blues talent will also be featured. This is a free show.

Sunday, June 25th Doug MacLeod will be at All Saints Lutheran Church, 624 Luther Drive in Byron in Byron a 4 PM. Opening act Dan Phelps goes on at 3 PM. No cover, there is a free will donation to support Crossroads Blues in the Schools Program. Contact Steve Jones at sub_insignia@yahoo.com for more info on any of these events or go to http://crossroadsbluessociety.com/.


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