Issue 12-20 May 17, 2018

curtis salcado cover image

Cover photo © 2018 Marilyn Stringer


 In This Issue 

Bill Dahl has our feature interview with Curtis Salgado. We have 8 Blues reviews for you this week including new music from Frank Raven, Mud Morganfield, Seth Walker, Eric Corne, Burning Frets, Howlin’ Mojo Bones, Deva Mahal and Bear Williams.

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


 From The Editor’s Desk 

bbma logoHey Blues Fans,

The suspense is building as we tally up the nominations for the 2018 Blues Blast Music Awards. In the coming weeks we will be contacting the nominees and in the June 7 issue we will announce the 2018 nominees. Then you will be able to see what a great party the Blues Blast Music Awards is gonna be!

Tickets for the Blue Blast Music Awards are on sale at our BBMA website at www.TheBBMAs.com. Earlybird tickets are $30 until we announce the nominees in early June. Beginning June 15th advance tickets are $35. Tickets will be $40 at the door.

The Blues Blast Music Awards website at www.TheBBMAs.com has information and news about the 2018 Blues Blast Music Awards including how to get there, where to stay, information about the venue and more. Check it out to get your tickets and hotel reservations now!

Wishing you health, happiness and lots of Blues music!

Bob Kieser


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2018 Blues Blast Music Award Tickets On Sale Now

This years awards are being held at the Tebala Event Center in Rockford, IL on September 29th, 2018 beginning at 6:00pm. (Doors open at 5:00pm)

Early-bird tickets are $30 until we announce the nominees in early June. Beginning June 15th advance tickets are $35. Tickets will be $40 at the door.

Tables for ten are only $250. To get your tickets now click HERE!

Information on travel, lodging, tickets and sponsorships is available on the Blues Blast Music Awards website at www.TheBBMAs.com.

 

WHERE TO STAY – We have chosen La Quinta in Rockford as the host hotel for fans and artists. La Quitna is about 4 blocks from the venue. La Quinta is offering a special rate of only $89 for those attending the Blues Blast Awards. Simply call them at (815) 227-1300 and ask for the “Blues Blast Fan Rate”. First come first served.

Please note that there are a limited number of rooms available, so get your tickets and rooms booked now!


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 Featured Interview – Curtis Salgado 

curtis salgado photo 1If you only know singer/harpist Curtis Salgado from his two R&B-focused albums on Alligator, Soul Shot and The Beautiful Lowdown, his latest release for the label may come as something of a surprise. Rough Cut is a duet album with Portland, Oregon-based guitarist Alan Hager, uncompromising blues with a decidedly stripped-down feel. Salgado and Hager explore classics by Muddy Waters, the second Sonny Boy Williamson, Big Bill Broonzy, and Son House alongside a half dozen originals.

Longtime Salgado fans know it isn’t that much of a departure. “I’ve done this before. I’ve been playing like this for a long time. It isn’t something like, ‘I think I’ll try this now,’” says the Portland, Oregon-based Salgado. “I made one in 1997, it was called Hit It ‘n Quit It. I did it with a (guitarist) named Terry Robb, and Butch Cousins, Richard Cousins’ brother, on drums. I was given ten grand to go make a blues record. And I made that record so I could launch myself. So that was an acoustic record.

“It’s been since then—close to 20 years—since I have made a record of solid blues. Only this time, I think it’s better,” he says. “I think we’ve made a pretty good blues record.”

Indeed they have. The combination of Salgado and Hager is heavenly, the two melding musically like they’ve been together forever. In fact, they have been collaborating for quite a while; it was 2003 when Curtis first witnessed the guitarist stretch out. Ironically, Salgado was there to see Portland blues fretsman Lloyd Jones. “Lloyd didn’t show up at the gig. He was sick, or had something else (to do), so he hired Alan Hager,” says Salgado. “His guitar’s laying on his lap, and he’s playing Charley Patton. I know Charley Patton. By God, he’s killing it. He’s really paid attention. And he’s playing it—and this is important—with feeling. And then we start talking about it, and I was just like, ‘If I can come up with a gig, would you play?’

“So we played at this one bar in Vancouver, and we have not stopped playing since. And we’ve never rehearsed,” he says. ”I think one of the first songs we played was, ‘Depot Blues’ by Son House?’ He started playing it, and I started singing it.” “Depot Blues” is on the album, along with Elmore James’ “You Got To Move” and Robert Wilkins’ “Long Train Blues.” But the disc kicks off with four splendid originals; the stark opener “I Will Not Surrender” is influenced by Texas blues guitarist Lil’ Son Jackson.

“I listen to a lot of him,” says Curtis. “That was kind of like the feel to it or something I was hoping to get. I mean, it came out totally us, and it’s going to, because I’m not Lil’ Son Jackson. We put that song together, and we did it in my living room. And I had lyrics, and I wrote down the lyrics, kind of tweaked them a little bit. We didn’t even play it. And then we just ran tape. So that was something. We tried to just run tape and not overthink it and overdo it.

“Actually, it’s a funeral song. It’s not about me. I spent a lot of times in funerals over the past few years, and at that time over the past few months,” he says. “I will not surrender the memory of this person. And that’s what it’s about. I’m at a funeral. So that’s what it is.”

The insistent “So Near To Nowhere,” another Salgado/Hager co-write, sports another intriguing storyline. “Alan had this groove, and he just started playing it one day at the house,” recalls Curtis. “‘Hey, Alan, what are you doing? Can we get together? We’re going to make a record, so we’ve got to come up with material!’ So I had written down these lyrics, and he had this groove. I said, ‘You know what? These lyrics might fit that groove. I’ve just got to figure out a melody.’ It took me a while to turn it around. I had to rewrite. It didn’t take long.”

The harpist reveals a lifelong love for canines on the heartwarming “I Want My Dog To Live Longer (The Greatest Wish).” “When Chester, my dog, passed away, I was 14 years old, and Chester was 14. So when he was a puppy, I was a puppy,” says Salgado. “We took Chester to the vet. He’s foaming at the mouth in the living room. I lived in the same house my whole life, the same neighborhood. The whole process was etched into my brainpan, and that’s when I discovered that dogs don’t live long enough.

curtis salgado photo 2“I was at a funeral, and it was the wake of a very popular deejay here in Portland. His name was Les Sarnoff. Les was wonderful, and he always pushed my records. He always had me come in and play on the radio if I had a gig. He was a fan and a dear friend. The wake, a lot of it was about how much he was a dog lover, which I never knew,” he says. “We never talked about dogs. He’d passed away, and I missed him. And dogs don’t live long enough, and I just started writing. And I wrote that song in about 20 minutes.”

For the rumbling “One Night Only,” the pair was joined by pianist Jim Pugh and drummer Jimi Bott. “I said, ‘Hey, I’m going to try and duplicate the feel of John Lee Williamson,’ which is the phrasing and the cadence,” says Curtis. “So that’s what we were trying to do. And Jimmy Pugh flew in, sat down at the piano. It was a hard one to wrassle the left hand of Jim’s bass, because there is no bass (on Williamson’s original).

“We did that just boom, boom, boom. Stepped into the studio and it was done in an hour or less.

A lot of one-takes, one or two. ‘Surrender’ is a one-take. I think once you’ve got it, you get a sound, you’re going through like a half a song or whatever, and then—so I think it’s two takes of that song. And then we picked between take one and take two.”

Salgado moved over to the 88s himself for the droll “Hell In A Handbasket.” “Now that is not a one-take thing. What they did was give me a piece of equipment that I know nothing about. They downloaded it on my MacBook, and they set me up,” he says. “Came over to my apartment. I can’t play piano unless it’s in my apartment, because they all feel different, and they all have different action. ‘Wow, this is fast!’ But I’m used to my piano. I can play a pretty nasty blues in several keys on my piano. So they hooked me up with this equipment, and all I had to do was turn around and push play, or push erase and push play again. So I did about 28 takes over a period of about two weeks.

“Finally one day it was like, boom! Because I’m fooling around the piano and I wrote it, and then I had a mental map of what I wanted to do. And I nailed it, and that was it.”

Rough Cut contrasts with Salgado’s 2012 Alligator debut Soul Shot, a Memphis-influenced R&B set that found him backed splendidly by the Phantom Blues Band, including co-producer Tony Braunagel on drums, guitarist Johnny Lee Schell, and organist Mike Finnigan. “I was talking to Tony Braunagel, and I said, ‘I want to make an all-soul record, and I want to pick the stuff. I’ve got a song I’ve always wanted to do, and I know we could tear it up. It’s “Gettin’ To Know You,” by Parliament,’” says Salgado. “Tony sent me ‘What You Gonna Do?’ by Bobby Womack.” Otis Redding’s pulsating “Love Man” and the Detroit Emeralds’ “Baby, Let Me Take You In My Arms” received spirited reprises, as did O.V. Wright’s surging “Nobody But You.” Salgado is a fervent Wright fan.

“I said, ‘I like this. This would be perfect!’ And I’d been listening to it for years. So we get in the studio, I think we killed that,” he says. “Of course, you don’t want to copy it straight off the thing, so we added a small little piano break in it. That was Jimmy Pugh’s idea. He does this gospel church run. One take, boom! You don’t want to work it to death, so you rehearse a little bit. You rehearse, then you go in the studio, and then you try to do it in three takes, three or four. And if it doesn’t happen, you do it again tomorrow.”

Much the same backing cast reconvened for 2016’s The Beautiful Lowdown, an exquisitely crafted contemporary set with only one cover, Johnny “Guitar” Watson’s “Hook Me Up” (Watson is another Salgado favorite). Curtis wrote prolifically with David Duncan, Kevin McKendree, Finnigan, bassist Larry Fulcher, guitarist Vyasa Dodson, and several more, the Phantom Blues Band providing crisp support while a full complement of backing vocalists added robust harmonies. “You have to write the background vocals as a call-and-response. You have to decide what kind of ‘ooohs’ and ‘aaahs,’ or if they’re going to come in,” says Curtis. “So it is a production process. I went over to Margaret Linn’s house. She’s a wonderful vocal teacher and sings background with me whenever you hear backgrounds.”

curtis salgado photo 3Born in Everett, Washington and raised in Eugene, Oregon, Salgado was surrounded by music in his own home as a youth. “My parents were into jazz. They had all the swing catalog. One of the first records that blew my mind was ‘Sing, Sing, Sing,’ Benny Goodman at Carnegie Hall,” he says. “I was a complete blues nerd. I got into Count Basie at a very early age, and I got into Fletcher Henderson. My father was a piano lover. That’s how I grew up. My father was like, ‘Listen to this!’” Curtis’ brother and sister were blues fans too, bringing home the latest records by harpist Paul Butterfield.

Then Curtis’ sister introduced him to Chicago’s greatest harmonica ace of all. “She brought home Hate to See You Go by Little Walter,” he remembers. “And I’m a harmonica player, and I already have Stand Back!, with Charley Musselwhite. I don’t have (Muddy Waters’) Sail On yet, but I will soon have it. But that Little Walter record was just like—you know what? I listened to it every (day). I still listen to it.” Salgado keeps his own harmonica passages concise and to the point. “I still think that harmonica is an annoying instrument. I can only take it from particular people for a short period of time. Those that can play it, I can hear all day,” he says. “I can hear Little Walter all day, but I can’t hear x, x, and x all day. So I don’t play a lot of harp.”

Eugene boasted two promising young bands back in 1977 that mixed blues and soul with daring aplomb: the Nighthawks, with Salgado fronting, and the Robert Cray Band. Salgado and Cray’s bassist, Richard Cousins, were roommates when Animal House was being filmed there. The two bands were co-starring one weekend at the Eugene Hotel when Salgado first made contact with the film’s rambunctious star. “I’m up onstage singing. And this guy comes up and yanks on my pantleg. He goes, ‘Hey, Belushi wants to meet you!’” says Curtis. “Richard and I don’t own a television. I didn’t know who John Belushi was, nor did I care. I’ve never seen Saturday Night Live, for the simple reason that we work on Saturday night.”

But the comic came up and introduced himself during the set break, and once Salgado learned that Ray Charles was slated to guest on the next episode of Saturday Night Live, his interest was piqued. The two soon became friends. “We exchanged phone numbers, and three or four days later, in the middle of the week, he calls me up and wants me to come over and bring my records,” says Salgado. “I brought him a large stack of records: ‘Sweet Home Chicago,’ ‘Groove Me’ by King Floyd, ‘Soul Man.’ He saw us do ‘Soul Man’ night after night. He would come in and see the Nighthawks. We were doing ‘Soul Man’ before he met Steve Cropper. ‘Hey Bartender,’ ‘Groove Me,’ ‘Sweet Home Chicago,’ ‘Soul Man,’ and ‘I Don’t Know’ all come from me. ‘I Don’t Know,’ Willie Mabon did it. But I had black comedy records. And there was a routine on a record that I infused into my version of ‘I Don’t Know.’”

Salgado recoiled when Belushi sat in at the Eugene Hotel and sang Floyd Dixon’s “Hey Bartender” as though he was doing an impression of Joe Cocker. “I reached out and I tapped his heart,” he says. “And I went, ‘You gotta be yourself, and you gotta come from here. That’s what music is about.’ He just kind of had his arms down. And he goes, ‘Yeah, you’re right.’” Curtis’ mini-sermon served Belushi well when he invented his Blues Brothers alter ego of Joliet Jake, and the group made those songs a staple of their act, including the humorous monolog that Salgado always included when he sang “I Don’t Know.”

“Years later, when he invited me, I end up at a Blues Brothers concert,” says Curtis. “I got tickets, got to go backstage. And I saw him play, and he was fantastic. They did this one where he does this ballad, and the spotlight shined on him, and he sang ‘Hey Bartender’ and gave me credit, and Floyd Dixon credit. Those guys were really gracious. He invited me to come see him make the movie 1941, and he put me up in a mansion. We kept in contact with each other until his death.”

curtis salgado photo 4The Nighthawks weren’t long for the world. “They didn’t want to go do anything,” says Salgado. “We were just a small town blues band. But we played Seattle; Portland, Oregon; Corvallis, Salem, and Eugene. The other thing that kind of stopped the Nighthawks was there was another Nighthawks. But they’re not from Eugene, Oregon. They’re from Washington, D.C. And they’ve got their street hustle a lot better than ours. They had a whole record out. We had an EP.” Since Curtis was already playing in a “side band” with Cray and Cousins, there was an obvious solution. “Robert and Richard were like, ‘You should join us!’ So I joined them.”

With Cray and Salgado sharing vocal duties and the band serving up a non-stop menu of blues and soul obscurities, the Robert Cray Band was the hottest thing in the Pacific Northwest during the late ‘70s, though Alligator took a pass on signing them. “Bruce Iglauer came to see the Robert Cray Band,” recalls Salgado. “Iglauer didn’t go for it. We were too slick.”

Producer Bruce Bromberg recognized Cray’s potential, bringing the band to Eldorado Studio in Los Angeles for their debut session. “He just wanted Robert. So we went into the studio, and the first song we cut, was ‘Who’s Been Talkin’,’” says Salgado. “We’ve been playing this song for quite some time. Robert picks what Robert knows he can do really well, which is anything. So okay, we play this song, there’s a little pause, and then a voice comes over and goes, ‘Okay, move on to the next one.’”

The four songs cut that day, including a sparkling remake of O.V. Wright’s “I’m Gonna Forget About You” featuring Salgado’s lead vocal, were spotlighted on Cray’s 1980 debut album for Tomato Records, Who’s Been Talkin’. The remainder of its contents were cut with Cray backed by a studio combo hand-picked by Bromberg and co-producer Dennis Walker. Cray would soon embrace blues superstardom, but his relationship with Curtis was coming to a close.

“I’m a front man that plays harmonica. I’ve nothing else to offer, unless background vocals. And I loved playing with Robert,” says Salgado. “Robert’s his own man. He plays guitar great. Robert’s fully realized. He has not changed one iota, except he’s a more adventurous guitar player. The guy has not changed vocally at all. He’s always been that good. I was thinking we were going to be the next salt-and-pepper Sam & Dave. And that is what he doesn’t need. So it was time for me to go.

“I had to start all over again.”

So that’s exactly what Salgado did, fronting Roomful of Blues during the mid-‘80s before launching his solo recording career in 1991. There was a ’95 release, More Than You Can Chew, on the Rhythm Safari logo, and a series of albums for the Shanachie label spanning 1999-2008. Soul Shot, his Alligator debut, won him three Blues Music Awards, including Soul Blues Male Artist and Soul Blues Album of the Year. Otis Clay was one of his fellow nominees that year and was in the audience when Salgado mounted the stage to accept his statues.

“The first words out of my mouth were, ‘There must be a mistake.’ And I really felt this.

‘This is a mistake, because I voted for Otis Clay.’ That’s the first thing I said, and everybody laughed,” he says. “I said, ‘I tell you what—it would be disrespectful if I did not accept this award. But I’ll just cut off the foot, keep that, and give the rest to Otis Clay.’” The Beautiful Lowdown snared three more BMAs.

Clean and sober for nearly three decades, the Portland, Oregon-based Salgado has survived serious health challenges in recent years, triumphing over liver cancer in 2006 and lung cancer in 2008 and 2012 as well as undergoing quadruple bypass surgery last year. Happily, he’s now healthy and back in action. “This is the only thing I know how to do,” he says.

“I don’t think of crying about it or whatever, because I’m blessed,” says Salgado. “It’s my journey. It’s my thing. I’ve been very, very blessed.”

Visit Curtis Salgado’s website at: http://curtissalgado.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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 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 8 

frank raven cd imageFrank Raven – Lucky Cat

Raven Records

www.frankravenmusic.com

10 tracks | 39 minutes

Frank Raven grew up on Chicago’s Northwest Side during the 60’s and is primarily a harpist in the Junior Wells / Paul Butterfield tradition. Frank is a veteran who began his illustrious career playing six set nights in Chicago’s South Side lounges with singer Vince Young, the brother of John Lee Hooker’s bassist Geno Skaggs. His real blues schooling came from Monday jam sessions at The Checkerboard, one of South Side’s juke joints hosted by Lefty Dizz where he got to play regularly often with Buddy Guy.

Frank is assisted on this disc by producer, engineer and guitarist: Jay O’Rourke and Lee D’Budda on additional guitars. This album is a rock solid set of original grinders sure to please the blues-rock crowd. This concept album revolves around songs devoted to the unlucky side of life inspired by the passing of his longtime partner Jim Desmond in the Lucky 3 Blues Band along with Jay that left behind two albums Howl! and Blues Time.

Highlights on the album are many and there is a consistency of quality that is admirable but the vocals are more in the Joe Jackson snarky new wavy Look Sharp vein than in the gut bucket soulful blues that normally accompany such green bullet style overdriven and utterly pleasant harp licks. Frank may have learned from the masters but he retains an originality in his playing style that is unmistakably his own. One can learn new tricks from this old cat. There are punk/new wave overtones that can be heard just below the surface due to Frank’s membership in the Slammin’ Watusis, who were signed to Epic Records and released a Jay O’Rourke produced LP in 1988. They opened for Killing Joke, Butthole Surfers and Living Colour.

All ten tracks are great like the 7 minute slow burning blues magnum opus “I Wake Up Screaming” which lays down some stinging Charlie Musselwhite level mud. The one track that really sticks out as the hit would have to be “Blues Confusion”. Nothing new here written in the “I’m A Man/Bad to the Bone” format but the story is a nice ride through the mean streets of Chicago with the windows rolled down blasting the blues. The lyrics kill it: I may be down, but I’m still around. You say I’m old, I’m not cold. I been hit, but I don’t quit. Yeah I’m broke but I can still blow.” This is the old this and that familiar stop and start blues differentiated by Frank’s own, doubled with guitar, signature harp licks that go up and then down in a flow and tone all his own.

The use of programmed drums and bass does make the CD sound smoother in many ways. A capable rhythm section might have bumped it up.

Nevertheless crank this up in your car or put it on at the bar or heavy headphone rotation there is no problem that Lucky Cat cannot add some insight and give some solace for. The three blues men shine brightly with all the right moves unhampered but any potential irregularity. The blues is all about feeling and they get the feeling right.

A true harp hero with a satchel full of original ideas and a pleasant articulate vocal delivery makes this disc a worthwhile purchase to add to any serious blues connoisseur’s collection.

Reviewer Reviewer Steve Gabe is a musician, writer, actor, comedian and lawyer.


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 Featured Blues Review – 2 of 8 


mud morganfield cd imageMud Morganfield –
They Call Me Mud

Severn Records

www.mudmorganfieldblues.com

CD: 12 Songs, 56:31 Minutes

Styles: “Classic Contemporary” Electric Blues

What’s in a name? Some are as common as weeds in spring: Jones, Lee, Smith. Some are exotic: Cumberbatch, Kardashian, Kotb. In the blues world, one particular name is magic – Morganfield. It’s a mojo hand in and of itself, channeling the legacy and power of one of this genre’s gods.

Every one of McKinley’s descendants has been anointed with his surname, synonymous with never-ending excellence. As for one blues-blessed son? As he cheerfully comments on his latest excellent album, They Call Me Mud. No one else wants their name to be an insult resembling wet dirt, but in this case it’s a high compliment. On twelve tantalizing tracks (ten of his own and two of his founding father’s), Mud Morganfield does what he does best – seamlessly merging a traditional blues sound with twenty-first-century sensibilities. His style’s “classic contemporary,” an oxymoron if there ever was one, but it fits like a glove. With understated crooning and fluid, molten-metal instrumentation, Mud’s blues glows red-hot as Damascus steel being poured in a foundry. It’s hard to be a demigod of any art, but he’s well his way to full canonization.

“As soon as I introduced myself and he began to talk,” CD-liner-note-writer and co-performer Rick Kreher states, “I knew without a doubt that this was Muddy’s son. No one could have that deep baritone voice, and as soon as he gave that little ‘chuckle’ that Muddy always did, I was convinced. Since that first meeting, I am proud to say that we have become great friends and have worked together on many musical endeavors…Mud comes as close to the Muddy experience as one can get.” This Severn Records release proves it beyond a shadow of a doubt.

Along with Mud, lead vocalist and bassist, are Rick Kreher and Billy Flynn on guitar and backing vocals; Studebaker John on harmonica and backing vocals; Sumito Ariyo Ariyoshi on piano and backing vocals; E.G. McDaniel on bass and backing vocals; Melvin “Pookie Stix” Carlisle on drums and backing vocals; Lashunda Williams on female vocals; Anne Harris on violin; Billy Branch on harmonica; Mike Wheeler on guitar; Bryant “T” Parker on percussion; Phil Perkins on trumpet, and Michael Jackson (no, not MJ) on saxophone.

It’s a magician’s trick – or a reviewer’s – to pluck the finest gems from this treasure trove.

Track 02: “48 Days” – Superbly melodic and featuring one of the best guitar intros, “48 Days” is a tale of a man who’s trying to get ‘clean’ after being addicted to his longtime lover. Sobriety’s not going well, however: “If you don’t want to see a grown man cry, please come home to me.” Phil Perkins and Michael Jackson are stellar on their respective horns.

Track 09: “Can’t Get No Grindin’” – “What’s WRONG with the MILL?” blurts Mud on naughty number nine. “Done broke down,” his numerous backup singers chime in. Addicting, catchy and irresistibly boogie-worthy, this one’s sure to get a top spot on BB King’s Bluesville playlists or yours truly will eat her hat – and she’s not even wearing one.

Track 12: “Mud’s Groove” – There’s nothing better than a soul-soothing instrumental to round out a rowdy time. “Mud’s Groove” will do the trick for sure, starring Billy Branch on harp and Bryant “T” Parker on percussion. Mellow and atmospheric, it radiates relaxation and good vibes.

“They Call Me Mud, ‘cause what I love, I love so deep.” Mud is raw, earthy, the stuff of life itself. Such is the blues, and such is this album.

Reviewer Rainey Wetnight is a 38 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 8 

seth walker cd imageSeth Walker – Live At Mauch Chunk Opera House

www.sethwalker.com

Royal Potato Family

10 songs – 47 minutes

North Carolina native, Seth Walker, has led something of a transient existence in recent years, moving from Austin to Nashville and then on to New Orleans. Along the way, he has released nine albums prior to Live At Mauch Chunk Opera House, whilst establishing a glowing reputation as a singer-songwriter of rare subtlety and nuance and a singular guitarist with a distinctly individual style. His earlier releases were significantly more blues-based than his later efforts. Indeed, it’s probably fair to say there is not much (if any) straight-ahead blues on Live At Mauch Chunk. What you do get however is a collection of tightly-crafted roots/Americana songs, played by a crack band, sung with unaffected emotional honesty and which contain some top notch, idiosyncratic guitar solos (his turn on “In The Meantime” is particularly impressive).

Live at Mauch Chunk was recorded in 2017 at an opera house in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, during Walker’s Gotta Get Back US tour. As a result, a number of songs from that album appear on this live release, including “Fire In The Belly”, “Call My Name”, “Way Past Midnight” and “High Time”. Other songs come from his earlier releases (two from Sky Still Blue, one from Time Can Change and the always entertaining “2’ Left To The Ceiling” from Seth Walker). The sole cover on the album (and also the only song not written or co-written by Walker) is also the only track not previously recorded by Walker, Willie Nelson’s “Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain”, a long-time staple in Walker’s sets and which features a lovely accordion solo from Stefano Intelisano.

Walker’s excellent band comprises Intelisano on keyboards and accordion, Myles Weeks on bass and vocals and Eric Kalb on drums (Weeks and Kalb gets extra points for their short, melodic yet punchy solos in “High Time”). Together, they lay down a series of mid-paced grooves, with hints of reggae (“Tomorrow”), soul (“Call My Name”) and funk (“High Time”). This is not easy music to categorise, however, other than under the broad labels of “roots” or “Americana”.

Produced and mixed by Walker, Mike Poole and Kenny Raduazzo, Live At Mauch Chunk has an excellent sound quality and is a first-class recording of a performance by a seriously match-fit ensemble. The band sound relaxed and at ease but also like they are having an absolute ball.

There is always a lot to enjoy in the music of Seth Walker and Live At Mauch Chunk Opera House is no exception.

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 – 4 of 8 

eric corne cd imageEric Corne – Happy Songs For The Apocalypse

www.ericcornemusic.com

Forty Below Records

12 songs – 42 minutes

Eric Corne is not an easy man to categorize. The founder and President of Forty Below Records is also an award winning producer/engineer and songwriter with over half a dozen Top 5 Billboard Blues albums to his credit, including Walter Trout’s recent We’re All In This Together. He has worked with a wide range of rock, blues and country artists, including Joe Walsh, John Mayall, C.J Chenier, Glen Campbell, Michelle Shocked and Lucinda Williams. He released his debut album, Kid Dynamite & The Common Man in 2008 to widespread acclaim. It has taken 10 years for him to release his sophomore effort, but the wait has been worthwhile. Happy Songs For The Apocalypse is a vigorous collection of Americana, with rock, pop, blues, folk and country all blended together.

Despite the large number of different musicians and the wide range of instruments used on different tracks, there is a sonic and thematic consistency to Happy Songs… that is based around Corne’s smartly-structured, self-penned songs and vibrant production skills. Corne himself contributes (at different times) lead and harmony vocals, acoustic and electric guitars, bass, harmonica, ukulele, percussion and whistle. He is aided and abetted by a throng of musicians, including Sasah Smith, Bo Koster and Skip Edwards on keys, Eamon Ryland, Walter Trout, Doug Pettibone, Nick Luca and Rick Holmstrom on guitars, Blair Sinta, Michael Leasure, Matt Tecu and Andrew Crosby on drums, Ian Walker, Ted Russell Kamp and Joe Karnes on bass, Freddy Koella on violin, David Ralicke on horns and Lara Wickes on Theremin.

The opening two tracks lay the foundations and expectations for what is to come on the rest of the album. “Mad World” kicks things off with a dreamily strummed acoustic guitar, echoes of Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers in both the melodic structure and intertwining pedal steel, Theremin and finger-picked electric guitar, and socially aware lyrics: “If we stumble, if we fall, find our backs against the wall, revolution of the world begins to stall.” The grinding blues-rock of “Ridin’ With Lady Luck” immediately follows, with Trout taking the lead guitar break.

Corne’s “kitchen sink” approach to making music is evident in the likes of “Locomotion”, which features horns, harmonica, steel guitar and even cowbell on a track that sounds like Ginger from the Wildhearts has joined the Traveling Wilburys. There are even hints of Uriah Heep’s “Easy Livin’” on the fadeout. And somehow it all works magnificently.

Highlights abound, from the always-potent Rick Homstrom’s typically shin-kicking guitar on the upbeat pop-rock of “Pull String To Inflate” to the catchy terrace-chant chorus of “Short Wave Preachers”, which wouldn’t sound out of place on a Pogues album.

If you were being picky, you could say that Happy Songs… doesn’t do anything that hasn’t already been done before, but what distinguishes it from many other albums of Americana is the almost punk-like attitude to the songs. The album cover itself recalls the Sex Pistols’ Never Mind The Bollocks in its use of “ransom note” style lettering. But there is also some serious attitude at work here, both in the socially aware lyrics but also in the approach of the various musicians who attack the songs with real gusto whilst still retaining musicality and melody.

Happy Songs For The Apocalypse may not be blues, but it is an impressive and highly enjoyable collection of modern Americana.

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 – 5 of 8 

burning frets cd imageBurning Frets – The Rhythm, The Blues, The Hot Guitar

Koko Mojo Records

28 songs time-70:18

Another in a series from Koko Mojo Records. This one features mostly obscure guitar based artists. It’s mainly a whole lot of fun. Anything from blues, rockabilly to cheesy rock and roll. Some of the stuff here brings to mind the fake movie bands in teenage beach “B” movies. Like when there’s a hokey band with a name like Stinger & The Mosquitos. Corny rock, but way cool and fun. Beats me where Koko Mojo finds this stuff, but it’s well worth a listen. Takes one back to when rock music was just fun without a message or virtuoso instrumentation. Dig in guys and gals.

“Want To Jump With You Baby” by Clifford King is only rhythmic guitar over a primitive rhythm section. The raggedy blues vocal mostly consists of variations on “jump, jump, jump”. Opposed to other collections in the series that feature only African-American artists, you get some white boy’s music like the rockabilly vulgarity of Boliver Shagnasty’s “Tapping That Thing”. A fun slice of mindless rockabilly. You just gotta love that name. “Farm Dell Rock” is a snappy rock instrumental by Bo Toliver & His Timers. Happy R&B with nifty guitars and horns.

T. Valentine’s “Teen Age Jump”, you tell me. Poor enunciation over rockabilly guitar. I can pick out maybe every fourth word, but a fun rocker. The old chestnut “Crawdad Hole” is given a good rockabilly guitar workout by Chuck Harrod & The Anteaters. Heck if you can’t write your own song take an old one and put your own lyrics to it like Gabriel And His Band Of Angels did with Fats Domino’s “I’m Ready”. They turned it into “I’m Gabriel”.

John Fred & The Playboys of the radio pop hit “Judy In Disguise” fame turn in a “white bread” version of John Lee Hooker’s “Boogie Children” that isn’t half bad. “I Can’t Be Satisfied” finds TV Slim’s bluesy voice along with blues-meets-rockabilly guitar. It’s definitely a keeper. The Raymarks instrumental “Back Fire” is an explosion of energetic guitars, sax and cheesy organ with wacky yelling from the guys. You gotta love this stuff. Blue Charlie talks his way through “I’m Going To Kill That Hen”. To use a cliché, you can’t make this stuff up. Some really nice blues guitar.

Jackie Brensten, the singer of Ike Turner’s “Rocket 88”, the song purported to be the first rock and roll song does another Ike Turner penned song “Trouble Up The Road”. It isn’t a guitar song per se, but it’s a good’un. Googie Rene serves up a hipster instrumental in “Side-Track”, complete with groovy sax, piano and rockin’ guitar. The singer of The Sharps uses a voice that is very similar to Clarence “Frogman” Henry’s on The Coasters sounding “Have Love Will Travel”. Curious why this song never saw the light of day. Really catchy ditty.

Odd that Lazy Lester’s “I Hear You Knockin'” made this collection. It’s basically a harmonica song and should of been on the harmonica collection. Oh well, a fine song none the less. The Valiants “Walkin’ Girl” has The Coasters vibe as well. An early track by Guitar Shorty makes an appearance. “Ways Of A Man” is a swinging R&B romp with very good guitar playing. As far as I can tell this is Leo Price the guitarist from New Orleans. He offers up “Quick Draw”, a typical R&B instrumental burner with a great guitar tone.

John Lee Hooker’s “Dimples” is covered by The Fabulous Silver Tones in a delightfully spritely version. Really fine guitar playing highlights the R&B instrumental of “Say When” by Pee Wee & His All Stars from the fifties. Alton Joseph & The Jokers’ “Where’s The Place” features a talking cool cat narrative over driving boogie woogie piano. “Let’s Party” by Jesse Allen is a jumping R&B romp with a wailing sax. McKinley Mitchell borrows an intro from John Lee Hooker. He changes it from Henry’s Swing Club to Jimmy’s Swing Club on his R&B fueled “Rock Everybody Rock”. Fine guitar playing on this one.

There are many hidden gems here if you enjoy jumping rhythm & blues, swing, rockabilly or blues. Whole bunches of fun are in store for you in this one. It’s the musical equivalent of a rare archeological discovery. Tons of cool cat moments here!

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


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 Featured Blues Review – 6 of 8 

howlin; mojo bones cd imageHowlin’ Mojo Bones – Self titled

Left Hand Down Records

www.howlinmojobones.com

11 tracks – 48 minutes

Every once in a great while there’s a blues band that reminds you why you love the blues. This band fronted by a spectacularly original lead singer is why these reminders are so far and few between. It’s ultimately the truth and depth of feeling dispensed on this disc that drives these extraordinary North East Londoners down their own boogie blues highway not necessarily all the way to hell but definitely one of the stops. North London blues veteran Howlin’ George Winter, born in Jamaica but came to London in the mid-sixties. His singing goes from growl to howl, from high to low, whatever the song demands, he delivers. He goes for it all without a net or filter and Steve Crane, electric guitar/musical soul mate, is always there to catch him with slick leads that come in just as many shades, moods and tones. The backup band is top shelf with Mick Whitehead on Bass and a nice “Shanty” style harp on the last tune, and John Baker on drums who is also name credited as producer of this fine sounding set of rocking blues recorded at Woodshed Studios, London. The songs, all originals, are credited to all band members who also share producer credit as a band with John. This is an all for one and one for all blues band of merry men.

The CD kicks off with the triple purpose band name; album name; and upbeat swinging title track letting the audience know the name is true and that they are about to have a great time. On track 2 it jumps right into the deep end of the pool of despair on part one of a conceptual song duo Never Say Never. The conclusion of which is Never Say Never Again on track 8. Howlin’ George lets us in on his personal troubles with a continental lady he chases over the two tunes only to find out in the end he’s not her number one. This is probably not a reference to the Romeo Void masterpiece punk dance floor filler but it does let non-believers in on a dirty little secret that punk sensibility is a part of the blues palette with this hard rocking outfit.

Track 3 “Cash Converter Blues” is a nod to mod and is the track most likely to break over the airwaves. But what follows is just as tasty. “Sugar Sweet” is a lament that wraps around your heart and doesn’t let go for both the long time lovers and the lovelorn. The next “Rhumba Woman” gets the Latin blues beat a nice run around the track as do all the tracks throughout the CD. There is not one single miss on this disc and by the end of the program we’re back down to that old familiar place in hell with “My Liver Don’t love Me no More” and an acoustic finale about the mantra of letting things go.

The messages here are clearly delivered with humor and humanity and more than enough great music going on around it to compel many repeat listens. This is a band to watch. They are the real blues thing that so often is missing from the mailing-it-in types endlessly touring until all the originality has been spent delivering the tired but true message. They could be much bigger given the quality of devotion to the art of getting the feeling just right for each tune. Variety is the spice and there is much to discover here.

Radio programmers should jump on this quick and let the people in on what is going on across the pond once again.

Reviewer Reviewer Steve Gabe is a musician, writer, actor, comedian and lawyer.



 Featured Blues Review – 7 of 8 

deva mahal cd imageDeva Mahal – Run Deep

Motema Music

http://devamahal.com

12 tracks, 46 min 33sec

Deva Mahal’s debut album Run Deep is an inspired R&B statement. Simultaneously grounded in tradition while being thoroughly modern and relevant, it is a knockout work that opens a window for the listener into the heart, mind and soul of a dedicated and unique artist. Mahal wrote or co-wrote 11 of the album’s 12 tracks. Deva’s vulnerable opening of her mindset, her passions and her frustrations create an intimacy and understanding that is powerful and moving.

The production of Run Deep, handled by Scott Jacoby (Vampire Weekend, Jose James, Coldplay) with 2 tracks by Jarrett Wetherell (Beyonce, FKA Twigs), is clean, clear and unobtrusive allowing Mahal’s strong voice, both as a singer and songwriter, to take center stage. A core group of musicians including Adam Jackson on drums, Antoine Katz on bass, Nir Felder on guitar and Daniel Mintseris on keyboards, help Mahal realize her vision. This record is more akin to the holistic, hand-crafted breakthroughs of Erykah Badu and the Roots than some of the auto-tuned antiseptic music that is currently being passed off as R&B. As a result Run Deep is a breath of fresh air. It stands out in it’s realism lyrically and sonically.

In Deva’s music there are traces of Diana, Aretha and Etta. There is strong clear singing like Whitney and affected sneering like Amy (yes Winehouse, don’t hate, Mahal doesn’t seem to). But Deva Mahal is her own woman. A strong and confident singer; at times soaring with long beautiful choruses, other times overwhelming the listener with rapid fire syncopated couplets that demand multiple listens.

The title track “Run Deep,” is a testifying of Mahal’s resolve to be an independent artist. Mahal sings with a strong limber confidence that perfectly matches the empowered defiant lyrics. The chorus “Cause I’ll gather my armour, and I’m ready for battle, I’ve got my weapons drawn, takin’ the road less traveled,” is proclaimed over an infectious hard grove that means all business. Mahal’s sister Coco Peila drops a rap that ramps up the intensity like early Queen Latifah.

“Fire” is Mahal’s unique take on the mid tempo rock ballad. Hushed choruses of Deva’s voice play underneath her inspired lyrics of the complexities of love, loss and identity, “I can’t go any further, if you only knew the darkness inside of me.” The soaring arrangement and unbearably catchy crescendo at the 3 minute mark, punctuated by a musical whoop, is chill inducing.

The last song is a cover of Carole King’s beautiful “Take A Giant Step.” This song was made immortal by Deva’s father, the legendary Taj Mahal, in 1969. Ms. Mahal pushes this unique song into the stratosphere with her impassioned singing and a gospel inspired choir.

With this final statement, Mahal is defining a mission statement for her work: “It’s time you learned to live again and love at last, come with me and leave your yesterday, yesterday behind, and take a giant step outside your mind.”

Deva Mahal has issued a call for love, dignity, resistance and innovation with Run Deep. Take a giant step with her and bask in the depth of her love and commitment.

Reviewer Bucky O’Hare is a Bluesman based in Boston who spreads his brand of blues and funk all over New England. Bucky has dedicated himself to experiencing the Blues and learning its history. As a writer, Bucky has been influenced by music critics and social commentators such as Angela Davis, Peter Guralnick, Eric Nisenson, Francis Davis and Henry Louis Gates Jr.


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 Featured Blues Review – 8 of 8 

baer williams cd imageBear Williams – Waters Of Love

GVR Records – 2018

10 tracks; 48 minutes

www.bearwilliamsmusic.com

Bear Williams is the alter ego of Larry Kimpel who will be a familiar name from his time as bassist/musical director with Maze (featuring Frankie Beverley). The name arises from his wife’s pet name for him and he decided to use it for this project. Using a band of experienced LA session players, Bear has created a solid album that mixes soul and Rn’B influences: Ricky Zahariades (Bill Champlin and many others) is on guitar/BV’s, Billy Steinway (Stevie Wonder, Patti Austin) on keyboards and Herman Matthews (Tower Of Power, Kenny Loggins, Teresa James) on drums; Julie Delgado duets on one track and adds B/V’s on others. Bear plays bass, handles lead vocals and wrote all the material apart from one cover, collaborating with Ricky and Billy on some of the songs.

Bear has a strong voice and uses it well on both uptempo material and ballads. The ballads in particular take us into familiar soul arrangements, Bear emoting well on tracks like “I Cry” and the title song which has some beautifully restrained playing from the band with acoustic guitar, shimmering piano and electric guitar as Bear bares his soul about his love for his partner. On “I’m Your Friend” Ricky’s guitar adds a hint of country over mainly acoustic backing.

Closer to the blues is “Backyard”, a mid-paced groove with the versatile Ricky laying down an extended solo that fits the style well, Bear recognising the merits of a girl who will lend a hand in the garden! Bear’s brooding bass opens the insistent groove of “No Love” in which he sings of having lots of possessions but “what kind of life is it with no love”. Maybe salvation lies in an “Old Fashioned Girl”, a track which builds up a head of steam as Bear celebrates his new love in fine style, Billy’s keys providing a backdrop to some double-tracked guitar work by Ricky that takes us briefly into Allmans territory, a fine start to the album. “Should’a Known Better” is a fast-paced funk/dance tune sure to get the feet moving and mid-tempo soul tune “I’ll Be The One To Last” takes us into Stevie Wonder territory.

The pick of the album for this reviewer was the medley of “Dancin’ Shoes/Two Of A Kind” which across 8 minutes blends funk, soul and catchy hooks to great effect. Ricky’s slide features on both halves of the medley and Julie Delgado duets on the lively “Two Of A Kind”. Both songs are attractive and certainly caught the attention of this listener. The sole cover is Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood’s “Stay With Me” which seems a strange fit with the rest of the album which mainly celebrates Bear’s new found love but, for all its misogynist lyrics, it is an old favourite and the band plays it fairly straight, albeit without the sort of loose and louche feel of The Faces’ original.

Overall an enjoyable album with several high points. Not a blues album but still plenty to enjoy.

Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK who enjoys a wide variety of blues and roots music, especially anything in the ‘soul/blues’ category. Favorites include contemporary artists such as Curtis Salgado, Tad Robinson, Albert Castiglia and Doug Deming and classic artists including Bobby Bland, Howling Wolf and the three ‘Kings’. He gets over to the States as often as he can to see live blues.



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Santa Barbara Blues Society – Santa Barbara, CA

The Santa Barbara Blues Society will host one of S.B.’s most popular bands ever, Café R&B, on Saturday, May 19, 2018, at the Carrillo Recreation Center, 100 E. Carrillo Street in downtown Santa Barbara.

Opening act will be Santa Barbara’s own solo acoustic bluesman, Jeff Joad, “Son of the Mississippi Delta blues.” Doors open at 7:00 PM; Joad will play from 7:15 to 7:45 PM; Café R&B will play two long sets, starting at 8:00 PM, with an intermission.

Tickets are available online at www.SBBlues.org, and will be available at the door. VIP tickets may sell out in advance; get them early! For discount tickets for groups of 5 or more, or for questions, leave name and phone number at (805) 722-8155.

Blues Society of Western New York – Kenmore, NY

Blues Society of Western New York presents the 5th Annual Buffalo Niagara Blues Festival July July 14, 2018, noon to 11:30pm at Silo City, 92 Silo City Row, Buffalo, NY 14203. Tickets are $30.00 advance/$40.00 day of the show; members receive significant discount.

This event is a fundraiser for educational, community outreach efforts to support the Blues Society of Western New York’s Blues in the Schools (BITS) educational programming for K-12 students and other community outreach programs including Nursn’ Blues, a Blues music therapeutic program for those suffering from addiction in conjunction with Horizon Village and Music Is Art (MIA). More info at http://buffaloniagarabluesfestival.com.

The Sacramento Blues Society – Sacramento, CA

The Sacramento Blues Society presents Too Slim And The Taildraggers at the Powerhouse Pub, 614 Sutter St, Folsom, CA on June 9, 2018 from 4:00-7:00 PM. Cover $15 public $12 SBS Members.

This Pacific Northwest band, consisting of Tim Langford, Jeff “Shakey” Fowlkes and Zach “The Kid” Kasik, has been performing and recording their rock-blues sound for over 30 years and still going strong! Their album “Shiver” was the Blues Foundation’s 2012 nominee for Best Rock-Blues Album of the Year and was followed by “Blue Heart”, which reached #3 on Billboard’s Top Blues Album Chart in 2013. Each of the last four studio album releases have charted in the Top 10 and Heat Seeker Chart. Tim Langford has received Lifetime Achievement and Hall of Fame Awards from three Northwest Blues Societies, as well as more than 40 Regional and National Music Awards. More info at www.sacblues.com.

Friends of the Blues – Kankakee, IL

Shows start at 7 pm, and are open to the public. Food and Beverages available at all Friends of the Blues shows. July 10, Brandon Santini, Manteno Sportsmen’s Club, 851 N Main St, Manteno, IL More Info at: http://www.facebook.com/friendsoftheblues.

The Charlotte Blues Society – Charlotte, NC

The Charlotte Blues Society announces our June Blues Sunday with with Pam Taylor Band and special guest Shelia Carlisle, on June 3rd, at 8:00 pm (doors at 7:00) at the Rabbit Hole, 1801 Commonwealth Ave., Charlotte, NC 28205. (Original talent Geoff Achison had to cancel to extend tour in Australia.) Admission is only $5, free to members with valid membership card. We are requesting canned food or donations of other non-perishable household items (or cash) for Loaves and Fishes. 1 can? I can!  More Info at www.charlottebluessociety.org.

The Blues Society of Central Pennsylvania – Steelton, PA

The Blues Society of Central PA. invites you to join us for our Mom I Picnic ( formerly known as the BSCP Treasurers Picnic ), advanced tickets now available for $20. ( Admission at the gate picnic day will be $25 ) Sunday, May 27th Noon- 8PM Mechanicsburg Club Picnic Grounds 199 Glendale Rd. Mechanicsburg, PA 17050.

Includes live blues music all day, Bar B Q Chicken, Burgers, Hot Dogs and tons of side dishes and desserts, coffee, bottled water, assorted can sodas and 3 beers on tap. Details at www.bscpblues.org.

The Illinois Central Blues Club – Springfield, IL

The Illinois Central Blues Club has announced the line-up of talent for Blue Monday live performances held every Monday night at e Alamo, 115 North Fifth, Springfield, IL from 8:00pm to midnight. Additional information on any performer listed below is available upon request.

Blue Monday Schedule: 5/21 – Billy Galt & The Blues Deacons, 5/28 – The Dennis Jones Band, 6/4 – TBA, 6/11 – Rockin’ Johnny Burgin, 6/18 – The 44’s with Tex Nakamura, 6/25 – Laurie Morvan Band. For more information visit www.icbluesclub.org.

Central Iowa Blues Society – Des Moines, IA

Central Iowa Blues Society presents the Second Annual SpringFest will be May 27, 2018 at the Jasper Winery, 2400 George Flagg Parkway in Des Moines beginning at 2:00pm . This free event a great way to kick-off the Memorial day weekend with great music featuring four acts from Iowa, Minnesota, and Florida – including International Blues Challenge Winner Kevin “BF” Burt, Ducharme-Jones Band, Paul Mayasich with Benderheads and Lauren Mitchell Band.

Bring your blankets and lawn chairs, enjoy the music, relax, and unwind with wines from Jasper Winery, beer from Madhouse Brewing, BBQ as well as other food vendors. (In accordance with state law, any alcohol must be purchased from the winery – attendees are not allowed to bring in their own.)

SpringFest is brought to you by the Central Iowa Blues Society, Jasper Winery, and Fat Tuesday Productions. For more information visit www.cibs.org, or contact Scott Allen (prez@cibs.org).

Crossroads Blues Society – Rockford, IL

Monthly shows at the Hope and Anchor in Loves Park, IL are on the second Saturday of the month. They are from 8:00 to 11:30 PM and there is a $5 Cover Charge. Scheduled shows: May 12 – Cash Box Kings.

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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