Issue 13-18 May 2, 2019

Cover photo © 2019 Gary Eckhart


 In This Issue 

Marty Gunther has our feature interview with Jimmy Voegeli. We have 6 Blues reviews for you this week including new music from Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith & The House Bumpers, Kate Lush, Trevor B. Power Band, Mary Lane, Tomislav Goluban and Dee Miller Band.

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


 Blues Wanderings 

boz scaggs photo shemekia copeland photo kenny neal photo

jp soars photo tab benoit photo johnny lang photo

We had a great time at the Tampa Bay Blues Festival Recently. Some of the great artists we got to see included Boz Scaggs, Shemekia Copeland, Kenny Neal, JP Soars, Tab Benoit and Johnny Lang. We will have a complete photo review in an upcoming issue.



 

 2019 Blues Blast Music Awards – Save The Date 

The 2019 Blues Blast Music Award submissions have now ended. Nominees will be announced in June. Voting begins in July.

SAVE THE DATE – September 13, 2019 for the Blues Blast Music Awards at Tebala Event Center in Rockford, IL. More details of the 2019 BBMAs coming soon!


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 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 6 

kenny smith cd imageKenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith & The House Bumpers – Drop The Hammer

Big Eye Records BE005

12 songs – 52 minutes

www.beedyeyes.com

Percussionist/vocalist Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith plants one foot firmly in the past and the other squarely in the future with this CD as it carries the blues tradition forward from its roots in the cotton field as it lays groundwork for the music for future generations.

Kenny grew up surrounded by the greatest musicians Chicago has ever known. An eight-time Living Blues magazine drummer of the year, he learned how to play at the feet of his universally beloved father, Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, who was Muddy Waters’ percussionist for 18 years before launching a solo career as a vocalist and harmonica player. And he who grew up in Muddy’s former South Side home.

Smith delivers a musical tip of the hat to his forebears here, but it serves simply as the foundation of what is truly a contemporary set. He relies on modern polyrhythms to lay the foundation as he delivers an all-original collection of tunes that echo the sights and sounds of the inner city — where he grew up — far more than that of any cotton field.

Recorded at Blaise Barton’s Grammy-winning JoyRide Studio on Chicago’s West Side, Kenny handles vocal and percussion duties throughout aided by a cross section of several of the best musicians, young and old, that the city has to offer. Billy Flynn, Ari Seder, Buddy Guy’s son Greg, Nelson Strange and Guy King alternate on guitars while Omar Coleman and Sugar Blue share harmonica duties.

Luca Chellini provides piano and organ while Felton Crews, who’s played with everyone from Miles Davis to Charlie Musselwhite, holds down bass. Andrea Miologos, Dana Gordon and Kimberly Johnson deliver backing vocals. And his three young children — Mae, Clara and Theodore – serve as a heartwarming chorus for one cut.

The music’s Mississippi heritage comes through strong and clear in the opener, “Head Pounder,” aided by Flynn on sitar. The Delta polyrhythms that initiate the tune are quickly enveloped in the beat of the city as Smith describes having a worried mind as he searches for the reason why. It’s somewhat unsettling and delivers its message, which is intensified by multi-tracking and state-of-the-art technology throughout.

The mood brightens for the “Hey Daddy,” a sweet, clean shuffle that features call-and-response between Kenny and the kids as Coleman’s harp floats in the background. The theme’s simple: All the children have to do is speak the words of the title and he’ll make things right no matter what’s going on. The mood darkens and the sound gets funky for “Drop The Hammer,” a slow-and-steady warning to someone who gets in the singer’s face.

“Scratchin’ Your Head” hints of Slim Harpo as Smith tells his lady to leave his clothes in the yard because he’d found another woman the night before. Polyrhythms are back for “What In The World,” which wonders if the lady’s turned the tables and is glaring at him as she speaks to the other man on the phone. “No Need Brotha’,” a straight-ahead slow blues featuring Sider and Guy on guitars, deals with being treated like a second-class citizen while the percussive “Puppet On A String” describes a female playa who wants everything her own way.

The pleasing “Keep On Pretending” speaks out against prejudice atop a sweet shuffle before Crews drives “Living Fast” from the bottom as Smith announces he’s no longer running the street now that he has a new lady at his side or has any interest in a “Second Hand Woman,” which follows. The blues-rocker “One Big Frown,” which features Johnson on vocals, wonders why she’s being treated so bad before the quiet instrumental, “Moment Of Silence,” provides time for reflection as it brings the album to a close.

Available through most major retail outlets, Drop The Hammer is a winner on all counts. Highly recommended for anyone with a taste for modern sounds but strong blues roots.

Blues Blast Magazine Senior Writer Marty Gunther has lived a blessed life. Now based out of Charlotte, N.C., 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.



 Featured Blues Review – 2 of 6 

kate lush band cd imageThe Kate Lush Band – Headline

Self-Released

http://katelush.com

11 tracks

Kate Lush and her band deliver 11 new tracks with a full sound from down under. Spirited and soulful R&B and funkiness abound as Lush shows her stuff in this well made CD. The horn section appears on four tracks and add a lot of depth to the sound, but Lush and the main players hold their own throughout. Aussie guitar legend Dave Hole also stops by for a couple of well-done solos.

The title tracks begins the set. It’s got an R&B pop tune sound. Lush sings with authority and the horn section and piano led band do their job to round out the sound. The electric piano gets the funk going from the start as Lush delivers a cool and funky cut in “If You Don’t Like It.” Everyone joins in the fun and several of the band members get into the vocals. Piano and trombone give thoughtful solos, too. Lush then takes us up to the Hill Country for the acoustic start to “Jackson.” The band comes in to build things up and then we gets some hauntingly cool howls to give the tune authenticity. Dave Hole delivers a stratospheric slide guitar solo mid way through that is quite cool. “Goodbye to the Rain” is a nice little ballad where Lush sings her lover perhaps will miss her when she’s gone.

“Rock That Won’t Roll” is a mid tempo funky cut that picks up the pace a bit. The band does a little response to her call. The song builds well in intensity as it goes along. “Weakness” is a song with funk and attitude. Lush sings about the weakness she has the guitar in her man’s hands in this driving cut. Guess who returns for another huge slide solo? Hole nails another one and blows the roof off again. “You Already Knew” is a slick funky tune where Lush again shows us some attitude. Matt Roberts gets a cool guitar solo here.

The horns section returns with some sweet sounds from their layoff after the first two tracks for “”Fall Down Seven Times.” Lush sings that she may fall down with adversity but always stands up one more time that she gets knocked down. Next is “One Heart to Break,” another well done ballad where Lush emotes so well. “How Will I Hold Out” is a midtempo sort of country rocker where Roberts’ guitar gets aired out a little backing Lush. The concluding track brings the horns back for a full and very cool sound. Lush sings in this soulful R&B production entitled “Sanctuary.”

Lush received 2 IAMA Songwriting awards and she has also won Best Female & Best International in U.S. IAMA & SAW Awards. Her band is Matt on guitar, Tim Wilson on bass, Tony Boyd on drums and Wes Harder on keyboards. Jason Bruer on sax, Mike Raper on trombone and Adrian Beale on trumpet are Lush’s horn section and really do a fine job, too,

If you are looking for straight up Chicago blues this is not what you are looking for. But if you like modern blues with an R&B, soul and funky approach delivered by a woman with a passionate voice and a band ready to back her to the max, then look no further. I enjoyed the CD and look forward t hearing more from Kate and her band again!

Reviewer Steve Jones is president of the Crossroads Blues Society and is a long standing blues lover. He is a retired Navy commander who served his entire career in nuclear submarines. In addition to working in his civilian career since 1996, he writes for and publishes the bi-monthly newsletter for Crossroads, chairs their music festival and works with their Blues In The Schools program. He resides in Byron, IL.


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 Featured Blues Review – 3 of 6 

trevor b power band cd imageThe Trevor B. Power Band – Everyday Angel

self released

www.trevorbpowerband.com

10 songs/42 minutes

The Trevor B. Power Band’s debut record Everyday Angel is emotional and deeply personal. This record is the culmination of a life’s journey, so far, through love, pain, loss and parenthood for singer/songwriter Trevor B. Power. Half Blues, a quarter Rock and a quarter heartfelt Folk ballad, this album slides the listener between feels as Power pours his heart out, one assumes, autobiographically. The core band of Billy Gensch on lead guitar, Mark Enright on bass and Tom DiCianni are at the heart of this record and are augmented or replaced by a number of guest musicians.

The strongest performances are the Blues numbers. Admitting that he is relatively new to the Blues, Power sings with a spoken word simplicity that does well. This technique is in prime effect on “You Ain’t Acting Right.” With a Louis Armstrong sense of irreverence and joy, Power busts up at the end. Slow powerful (excuse the pun) Blues are in full effect on “Saddest Thing” with Gensch burning it down on lead. This song has a moving, ice-cold, turnaround “B” couplet on the third verse: “and when I asked you to be my only one, your reply was the saddest thing that I ever heard.” Multi instrumentalist Anthony Krizan one-man-band-s it with overdubs playing slide guitar, bass, drums and background vocals adding to Hammond wizard John Ginty and Power’s rhythm guit and vox on “I Wrote It Down;” a growling menacing Howlin’ Wolf styled dress down.

The strongest track is the rocking opener about Power’s dog “Jack.” The band is augmented by Krizan on slide among other instruments and Ginty on B3. “Jack” has the ragged chord jangle of post-Punk alt-Country bands like Son Volt or The Replacements. “Jack” is a stand alone anomaly on this record and could point a way for future projects for Power. Another stand out is the horn studded boogie woogie, courtesy of Ginty on a baby grand, “Future Plans.” This track is in the school of super upbeat music delivering incredibly morose and sad messages: “God forgive me because I wish you were dead, cause I can’t find the strength to pray for you anymore.”

The quarter of this record that is Folky lush syncopated ballads is a mixed bag. Power’s voice is too gruff and plain spoken to fully realize these songs stylistically. The strongest track musically is the Bobby Whitlock and CoCo Carmel supported title track, “Everyday Angel.” Whitlock (Derek and the Dominoes) and Carmel are a roots music power-couple. They produced this track, playing and singing all over it creating an atmospheric grooving foundation. Trevor testifies about his love for his daughter and his desire to see her more than he does. It is a beautiful sentiment and a fitting way to cap off this album.

The lyricism on Everyday Angel is inconsistent. For every clever surprising line, like the ones quoted above, there are some overused cliques. The use of a train metaphor in “Jack” falls short. The conceit of “Murder In the First Degree” too well worn. And as lovely and heart felt as the title track is, the unfurling of the story and the use of Angels is a little too obvious. However, Power is a veteran bar band entertainer, already well into his career. He has grinded it out in his native New Jersey and he knows how to write and perform good songs. With this debut record he has laid out some impressive groundwork for music to come.

Additional musicians: Bob Lanza guitar, Nick Conti saxophone, Jim Ruffi drums, CC Coletti background vocals, Niles Terrat bass, Danny Pompeii percussion

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 – 4 of 6 

mary lane cd imageMary Lane – Travelin’ Woman

Women Of The Blues Records/OWL Music & Media

www.ormanmusicmedia.com

10 Tracks/38:54

After more than twenty years, blues singer Mary Lane finally has another release under her own name. She had a 45 release on the Friendly Five label in 1964, with her partner Morris Pejoe on guitar. Lane continued to appear in Chicago clubs, even serving a stint as lead vocalist for Mississippi Heat that ended as Lane’s aversion to flying severely limited her ability to tour with the band. In 1997, the Noir label released Lane’s first album, Appointment With The Blues, to great acclaim. That project had her tough vocals backer by Johnny B. Moore on guitar and Detroit Junior on piano, and Lane’s husband, Jeffrey Labon, on bass.

One listen to her new project quickly illustrates that Lane’s voice remains a potent instrument. On “Leave That Wine Alone,” she lays down a stern warning to a wine-headed man in hopes of saving their relationship. Phil Miller flavors the proceedings with some tightly drawn slide guitar licks while the rhythm section consisting of Larry Beers on drums and Jim Tullio on bass conjure up a memorable shuffle groove. The duo also appears on “Let Me Into Your Heart,” as the eighty-three year old singer is at her best throughout a performance full of fervent emotions. Chris “Hambone” Cameron spices things up on Hammond B-3 and piano. John Rice makes his sole appearance on electric guitar.

Those tracks are two of the nine songs Lane co-wrote with Tullio, with the singer handling the lyrics while Tullio composed the music. Their partnership comes up with another stout shuffle on “Ain’t Nobody Else,” with Travis T. Bernard occupying the seat at the drum kit and Shedrick “Shedman” Davis joining Tullio on guitar. The track is further enhanced by the sparkling harp fills from Billy Branch. Another venerated Chicago harp player, Corky Siegal, shines on “Some People Say I’m Crazy,” and along with Johnny Grey’s rollicking piano runs, inspires another stirring Lane vocal. The title track rolls along, tracing the arc of Lane’s career, bolstered by a three piece horn section that includes Terry Ogolini and the legendary Gene “Daddy G” Barge on saxophone plus Don Tenuto on trumpet, and Louie Zagoras on slide guitar.

Fans of Chicago blues guitar will certainly recognize Dave Specter’s tasteful playing on “Bad Luck And Trouble,” which, combined with another gritty Lane vocal, elevates the track to highlight status. “Blues Give Me A Feeling” slows the pace a bit. The generic nature of the lyrics are overcome by some fine harp blowing by Indiare Sfair and the guitar shadings from Tullio and Bill Ruppert. The late Eddie Shaw appears on “Ain’t Gonna Cry No More,” but playing harp instead of his customary saxophone. “Raining In My Heart” is another steady-rolling cut with Tullio and Sam Butler on guitar plus some seasoning once again from Miller on slide. The final track, “Make Up Your Mind,” breaks things down to Lane accompanied by Colin Linden, playing slide on an acoustic dobro guitar. This haunting plea from the singer burrows deep into the universal wellspring of emotions.

Thanks go to Lynn Orman Weiss, along with her partner Allen Winkler of OWL Music & Media, for starting a new label in order to release Lane’s latest project. The singer is part of a traveling exhibition that is part of the Weiss organization, The Women of the Blues Foundation. There are plans to release a compilation CD featuring other women blues singers deserving more recognition, as well as a documentary film, I Can Only Be Mary Lane, that examines the singer’s life and career in-depth. Weiss will also be staging an exhibit of her photography at the Blues Hall of Fame in Memphis in November, sponsored by the Blues Foundation. In the meantime, make a point to give Mary Lane a listen. She is one of the few surviving members of the generation that popularized blues music around the world. She is, indeed, the real deal!

Reviewer Mark Thompson lives in Florida, where he is enjoying the sun and retirement. He is the past President of the Board of Directors for the Suncoast Blues Society and a member of the Board of Directors for the Blues Foundation. Music has been a huge part of his life for the past fifty years – just ask his wife!



 Featured Blues Review – 5 of 6 

tomislav goluban cd imageTomislav Goluban – Chicago Rambler

www.goluban.com

Spona

12 songs time-47:00

Chicago blues by way of Croatia as long time blues harmonica player-singer-songwriter from afar Tomislav Goluban chose to come to the source for this his tenth album. Assisting him in this quest is an A-team of Chicago stalwarts. Journeyman drummer Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith, bassist E.G. McDaniel and guitarist-producer Eric Noden are more than up to the task. Tomislav composed all the songs that pay musical homage to the blues tradition. He is an harmonica ace. While trying to rein in his accent his vocals at times sounding stilted. It limits his ability to exude unrestrained energy.

The jump blues instrumental “Pigeon Swing” showcases his undeniable harp skills. The title is a nod to his moniker of pigeon. He charges through like a whirlwind. “Locked Heart” explores Slim Harpo territory as the tune has an obvious similarity to the swamp blues master’s “Raining In My Heart”. Joe Filisko adds his harmonica to “Bag Full Of Troubles”. The liner notes don’t specify if both men handle the harp chores on this one, but whatever the case it’s first class all the way. Great guitar as well. His tribute to his mentor Philadelphia Jerry Ricks has a moving sentiment that is marred by an awkward delivery. His always tasty harp and Nodens’ slide guitar redeem the song. The acoustic version is more of the same.

Noden’s slide takes on a mournful tone along side the harmonica on the melancholy “Can’t Find Myself”. “One Way Ticket” gets the Sonny Terry style harmonica train imitation while the lyrics are rather mundane. The Bo Diddley beat appears on the upbeat “Do The Right Thing”. The band dusts off a slow Chicago blues groove for the autobiographical “Little Pigeon”.

More nice Chicago style playing on “Searchin’ For My Baby”. Croatian lyrics set against a Chicago groove on “Isel budem v kleticu(I’ll Go To My Cottage)”. Tomislav is obviously more comfortable singing in his native tongue.

The vocal delivery throughout detracts a bit, but there is no denying the superior quality of all the musicians involved. It’s heart warming to see international appreciation of America’s beloved blues music.

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


 


 Featured Blues Review – 6 of 6 

Dee Miller Band cd imageDee Miller Band – Leopard Print Dress

Self-released

www.deemillerband.com

10 songs/ 54 minutes

Regional Blues bands are truly keeping our beloved music alive and well. Unique, highly skilled professional Blues men and women play all over the world in relatively small catchment areas maintaining enthusiastic audiences. These audiences then support national and international touring acts and help fuel the larger Blues industry. This is why the annual International Blues Challenge (IBC) is so important; highlighting these regional acts and giving them an international stage to develop their careers. The Dee Miller Band, Minnesota Blues Society’s 2019 representative, is a perfect example of how talented regional bands can be. Their newest self released album Leopard Print Dress is a hard hitting R&B inflected Blues record that bumps and grinds the listener right into a sweaty Twin City bar.

Dee Miller is known as “The Duchess of the Blues.” A Minnesota Blues legend with a long professional career under her belt, Miller sings with a husky Tina Turner style and has layers of emotion and attitude in her voice. Leopard print is apparently her brand. On the rock-shuffle title track she explains “nothing screams cougar like a little leopard print dress.” She is all attitude and hard work. Guitarist and co-lead singer/duet partner Craig Clark adds depth and variety. Clark is an impassioned Gospel singer who takes lead on a couple of songs and goes muscular toe-to toe with Dee on others. Craig’s guitar playing is sharp and on point throughout. He uses a saturated tightly distorted guitar sound for his leads, think Eddie Van Halen. This is a sound that rarely works well in the Blues, but here is a nice counterpoint to the organic locked in R&B of the rest of the band. The secret weapon is keyboardist Jesse Mueller. A hard working player, Mueller’s impressive chops are fluid but never overbearing. Eric Meyer on bass and Mike DuBois on drums lay down well oiled up-on-the-beat R&B bedrock for all their bandmates unique stylings.

This band burns brightest when in R&B mode. The rhythm section locks in and gallops ahead on Etta James’ “Strongest Weakness.” A soulful take of the Eagles’ “Take It to the Limit” morphs into a Black Crows styled power ballad. This must be a showstopper with Miller and Clark trading tortured yelps. Clark’s lead on Jonny Taylor’s “Last Two Dollars” is pitch perfect. The band pushes the up beat and the monotone background vocals give this cover layers and depth. Studded by John Pinckaers on piano and Toby Marshall on Hammond organ, “Two Dollars” must slay live.

The band also swings, albeit a little muscularly. The original “Hot and Sweaty” and the horn flecked (courtesy of Steve Clarke and Kevin Nord) “Back In the Saddle” both swing with a straight ahead locked in flow. However, the on-the-beat rhythm aesthetic doesn’t allow enough swagger and grease for some of the more swampy Blues such as “Steppin’” and “I Sing the Blues.” These Hubert Sumlin indebted tracks require more variance and a little less precision.

Dee Miller Band push themselves on a cover of Tedeschi Trucks’ “Midnight In Harlem.” This song is lush with 6th and major 7th chords, chilled out jazzy substitutions not found in the other cuts. With organ help again from Toby Marshell, slide guitar from Dylan Salfer, harmonica from Steve “Boom Boom” Vonderharr and tambourine from John Wright, this track is deep and expansive. Dee Miller sings with less fireworks but no shortage of emotion, showing a tender side. This arrangement is hard for a bar band to sell to a Saturday night audience wanting to get down. This is the struggle of the regional Blues band: how to evolve your music. To balance meditative and emotional music with the need to keep asses shaking.

Dee Miller Band is a hard hitting R&B band that knows how to rock an audience. In their music you can hear the grind of working it on the local circuit. In that brand defining title track, Dee and company sing the chorus “leopard print dress, high heel shoes, paying my dues, belting out the Blues.” This defines the regional band: looking hot, being unique, finding your own sound and hammering it out the hard way.

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 Interview – Jimmy Voegeli 

jimmy voegli photo 1Traditions run deep in the upper Midwest, where family values are still cherished and good music is, too. And nobody delivers that better than keyboard player/vocalist Jimmy Voegeli and his seven-piece show band, The Jimmys.

It doesn’t matter whether they’re playing a grange hall in a small town in Wisconsin, where they’re based, or entertaining hard-partying beach crowds on the Gulf Coast or enthusiastic festival audiences in eastern or northern Europe, concertgoers are treated to intense blues, soul, funk and R&B in a manner that breathes new life into a style of musical performance that peaked the ‘50s and ‘60s.

Voegeli – pronounced “Vaguely” — is a modern-day master of the Hammond organ, and his individual talents have been on display at the piano bar stage aboard frequent Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruises. Despite his international following, however, few fans are aware that he has an entirely parallel, separate life – one that’s both highly demanding in and of itself and certain to take them completely by surprise.

Based out of Monticello, Wis., a hamlet with 1,200 residents located about 20 miles north of the Cheddar Curtain separating the Badger State from Illinois, Jimmy’s a major contributor to one of the most important farming operations in the world today.

Blues Blast caught up with him recently after he’d returned home after thawing out during late winter musical tour of Jamaica and Florida. The warm sands and bright sunlight were already a fading memory when he came back to melting snow and flooded fields.

Now in his early 50s, he had virtually no time to catch his breath before returning to what he jokingly refers to as his “part-time” job: toiling 35 to 40 hours a week as he tends to equipment and fences at world-famous Voegeli Farms dairy before sequestering himself into his office to devote his “free” time on the phone to book future gigs.

Sitting on 1,400 acres a short drive north to Madison, the farm was founded by his ancestors who emigrated from Switzerland in 1854. Its herd of Brown Swiss cows – true thoroughbreds in the dairy industry — produce cheese and yogurt, and the family’s breeding operation regularly ships award-winning stock and embryos to every continent except Antarctica from a herd consists of about 500 head, 220 of which are milked twice daily and can individually produce 20,000 pounds of liquid gold in a single year.

“My nephew who’s now starting to take over the farm – he’s in his late 20s – that makes six generations on the same place,” Jimmy says. “My brother, Bryan, is most certainly the overlord. He puts in 75 to 80 hours in a typical week, and I’m most certainly lucky that I can kinda come and go and that they don’t need me there to do 365 days of milking chores. I’m more in charge of mechanics and field work.

“That said, I do hold off booking the band a little bit in spring and fall for planting and harvesting. It’s a unique thing, but I’m proud of it. It grounds you in ways that are pretty hard to explain.

“I just came off a really fun run in Florida, met some great people and got great reactions. It’s always an honor when folks want a picture or a signature. Twenty-four hours later, though, I’m back here fixing a manure spreader… (laughs)”

Both Bryan and Jimmy grew up in a typical farm family, learning how to operate tractors long before they were old enough to drive. They followed in the footsteps of their father, Howard, by graduating from the University of Wisconsin with degrees in dairy science.

“My dad had in mind to become a veterinarian,” Voegeli says. “But his father kinda made him come back to the farm.”

It proved to be a wise decision because Howard, who passed in 2003, overcame his initial regret to become a pioneer in the field of the multi-billion-dollar field of bovine genetics and its related world of cow show competitions – a family tradition that Bryan continues today.

Howard was instrumental in bringing the World Dairy Expo to Madison in 1967, and the advancements in breeding that he brought about turned what had been an idyllic homestead into the dairy epicenter that it is today, earning earned him awards from several world leaders along the way.

“There’s always something going on here, and we’re always busy,” Voegeli insists, pointing out that Bryan had just returned from the Dominican Republic, where he delivered several head of Brown Swiss to eagerly awaiting clients.

Jimmy’s love for music came about through his folks. His father spent his free time playing trumpet in polka bands, still popular across the upper Midwest in towns that, because of their relative isolation, still maintain the essence of the homelands of their founding fathers.

jimmy voegli photo 2“That’s how my parents met,” he says. “My mom, Alice, loves to tell the story, and she always gets a twinkle in her eye when she tells about it. “Dad was playing in a big dancehall – Turner Hall — that’s still operating in Monroe, Wis., and he saw this beautiful girl – my mom — walk in. When the band took a break, he tried to find her, but she’d already left.

“My dad told the bandleader that the next time she came to a gig, he was going to put his trumpet down and go ask her to dance. The bandleader said: ‘That’s all fine and dandy. But if you do, I’m not gonna pay you.’”

Sure enough, that’s exactly how events transpired about a month later. Howard offered her a ride home after a stop at another watering hole. Little did he realize that she lived on a farm about 20 miles away. He had to awaken her uncle and enlist him to syphon gas from one of their vehicles because Howard’s tank was empty and he was penniless because he hadn’t been paid.

“You’ll never see that boy again,” the uncle said.

“Whenever both sides of the family got together, we were always singing four-part harmonies all the time I was growing up,” Jimmy recalls. “My dad was listening a lot to Louis Armstrong and Benny Goodman – big-band stuff. I know that’s what planted the horn sounds and horn lines and the love for swing music in my brain. I can’t play it for a darn, but I sure love and appreciate it!

“I back-doored into the blues,” he says. “Our parents made us all pick up an instrument, and I was in chorus and all that kind of stuff. I started out with trumpet and had a hard time with it, switched to euphonium (a valved bass instrument similar to a tuba) in high school and always relied on my ear to play because we had three different teachers in four years.

“I was just a lazy punk, and didn’t try to read (music) very well. My junior year, my band teacher, Mike Korth, flunked me. It was his way to get me to stop goofing off. At the time, my dad asked me: ‘How the hell can you flunk band?’

“It was the proverbial wake-up call for me.”

Voegeli started fooling around with piano at college after playing horn in the marching band. He continued working toward his dairy science degree, but his true passion was music. His inability to sight read became instantaneously apparent during his junior year when he attempted to enroll in a piano course in the UM School Of Music. His prospective professor initiated the tryout by placing a sheet music on the piano rack and instructed him to play.

“I couldn’t do it,” he remembers. “I said to her: ‘You play 24 bars, and then I’ll play it back.”

She relented, and Jimmy passed the test. But he quickly became fearful that the formal structure he was being introduced during classes would alter the feel he’d developed on his own by learning everything by ear.

After graduation, he hooked up with a succession of local bands, enjoying an 18-year run as the keyboard player in the Westside Andy-Mel Ford Band, one of the most highly decorated units in the state. Several of the relationships initiated then continue 30 years later in The Jimmys lineup today.

The turning point in Voegeli’s life away from the dairy and toward the bright lights of the stage came when he and the band traveled up I-39 for a festival in Wausau and he received a standing ovation after a solo.

“As soon as we got done with the show,” he says, “my dad came up to me and said: ‘I was so-o-o proud.’ I choked up and walked away, but that was the day I became a musician first and a farmer second.”

Voegeli love for the organ came about by accident in 1990 when bass player John Wartenweiler, a vital part of The Jimmys today, spotted an ad in the local paper. A retired church organist was selling a blond Hammond B-2 model complete with Leslie speaker, a large box with a revolving cone that provides the unique sound perpetuated by Jimmy Smith, Booker T. Jones and other keyboard legends.

The band stopped to see it in the old school bus they used as a van on their way to a show. As soon as the owner fired it up, the Leslie issued forth a gust of wind that sent papers flying.

“Man, I gotta have this!” Jimmy said.

Quickly agreeing on a price, he loaded it into bus. Voegeli christened the formerly sacred instrument by playing numerous versions of Steppenwolf’s “Born To Be Wild” to a crowd of enthusiastic, heavily tattooed, booze-infused bikers.

“It was the first time I’d ever touched a Hammond,” he notes. “Heck, it was the first time I’d ever seen one!”

Today, his love for the instrument has become somewhat of an addiction. He currently owns six Hammonds and seven Leslies in different degrees of playability, and the figure has been higher in previous years. The pristine B-3 sitting in his living room has only been moved three times since it was built in 1955. Most of his acquisitions have come about through casual conversations.

At the time of that first purchase, Voegeli’s band was already deep into the blues, he says. “Stevie Ray Vaughan was bringing it into the mainstream. So we were learning and doing a lot of that music…Johnny Winter and things of that nature, and I kept hearing the Hammond in a lot of it.”

Jimmy started doing his homework by studying the work of Reese Wynans — a member of Vaughan’s band, Double Trouble, who began his career with founding members of the Allman Brothers and established himself as the go-to organist in Nashville after Stevie Ray’s untimely death, which occurred later that summer.

Like many of his peers, he worked backward in time to research a galaxy of stars — Bill Doggett, Isaac Hayes, Booker T., Billy Preston, Otis Spann and others. “I tried to study that stuff as much as I could,” he says – although he freely admits he’s not as knowledgeable about music history as many pros.

In the early years, he also got to play side-by-side at a festival with the legendary piano player Pinetop Perkins, who taught him a valuable lesson. “I said: ‘I love the way you present yourself and the way you dress,’” Jimmy recalls. “He said: ‘Listen here, I believe when you walk into a club, you should know which one is the piano player.’”

After the show, Jimmy told him: “It was an honor to play with you. He said: ‘Yeah, boy. You play really fast.’ I say: ‘Oh, no-o-o-o! I don’t think that’s a compliment.’ He said: ‘No, no. You’re good.’

jimmy voegli photo 3“I tried to take that to heart and be more poignant with my notes…to be more sparse.”

Voegeli has also been inspired by the delivery, drive and showmanship of guitarist Albert Collins, and Barrelhouse Chuck is one of Voegeli’s latter day heroes. “He was such a gentleman to me…so nice and so encouraging. I loved the guy!”

He’s also fascinated by the playing of British émigré Jon Cleary, who’s been based out of New Orleans for decades. “I can’t really grasp what the fuck he doin’,” Jimmy jokes. “He’s so smooth and juicy, and his timing just pisses me off. I just want to give up!

“And then what makes it even worse is that he’s nice. At least be a dick so I’d have something to hate you over!”

Voegeli’s solo recording career began in 2006 when he was still a member of the Westside Andy-Ford band. Entitled F Is For The Blues, it featured his report card with the failing grade on the cover. It started out as a horn-based six-song demo, and it was a star-studded effort from the jump.

Green Bay native and Grammy winner Billy Flynn handled guitar duties along with Ford and the percussionists included Nashville tunesmith Jon Nicholson, James Brown’s original funky drummer, the late Clyde Stubblefield, and Mauro Magellan, a longtime member of the Georgia Satellites. Jimmy’s former teacher, Mike Korth, now a close friend, sat in on trombone for one cut.

“We got done with the demo, Billy said to me: ‘You’re more than halfway done with a whole album – and this is not a full album,’” Jimmy recalls. “’You need to go for it.’”

A great lover of horn bands, Voegeli’s keyboard prowess has been featured on more than 100 CDs in the years that have followed. But it took him a few years before deciding to form, following his father’s advice to “bide your time because you’ll know when it’s right.”

“I talked with Westside Andy for months about leaving,” he says, “then took many, many more before I actually did because I had such an amount respect for him and the rest of the guys in the band. It was a really tough decision. There was a lot of energy there. We could really throw it down.”

Delivering everything from straight-ahead blues to second-line New Orleans funk, The Jimmys roster includes several close friends Voegeli made during that era, including his longtime rhythm section of Magellan and Wartenweiler and a horn section of Mike Boman on trumpet, Pete Ross on sax and Darren Sterud, who doubles on trumpet and trombone.

But the guy who truly makes The Jimmys great, Voegeli says, is his guitarist and longtime buddy, Perry Weber. His background includes lengthy stints with harmonica players, Milwaukee legend Jim Liban and Madison Slim, who’s played with a who’s who of musicians, including Honeyboy Edwards and The Legendary Blues Band.

Weber’s enjoyed a national presence, too. Hubert Sumlin – with whom he lived — considered him an adopted son, and he also received invaluable training through close relationships with Muddy Waters percussionist turned harp player Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, Luther Allison and New Orleans legend Bryan Lee.

“He’s so old-school and so well-known behind the scenes, and he has his own unique style and sound that’s unmatched,” Voegeli says. “He’s so true to his art, a relentless, fingers-to-the-grindstone guy. I find it kinda embarrassing that someone who’s as well-known as he is in his own state doesn’t get the recognition that he deserves nationally.

“But he’s not the type of person who’ll go after it himself. I have to put it upon myself to get people to realize what kind of a player his is and the history that’s comin’ through his fingers.”

The Jimmys shared a common mindset from the jump, preferring to concentrate on booking festivals and concert series rather than club dates. “It’s no secret that it’s harder to book and travel with a group of our size,” Voegeli says. “We’re more comfortable playing for two hours straight and laying it all on the line in one extended show than playing two or three short sets.”

Since forming about a decade ago, The Jimmys have produced four albums, including two powerful live sets that capture them at their best, receiving favorable reviews on both sides of the Atlantic. A two-time Blues Blast Music Awards finalist, they’re currently working on a follow-up to Live In Transylvania, a runner-up to a Walter Trout release in the 2017 live-release competition.

“They always take longer than you think they will,” Voegeli points out. “We’re about 90 percent done with it, and we’re currently in a holding pattern because we’ve been on the road and our producer (Grammy winner Tony Braunagel) has been busy on other projects.

“I’m proud of all the new songs, but especially one I wrote years ago when I was with Westside Andy and Mel Ford. We opened up for the Kentucky Headhunters, and we were in their tour bus doing what musicians do after a show, acting stupid.”

Like Voegeli, the founding members, brothers Richard and Fred Young, have a farming background. “They started talking in their foreign of Kentucky) and the drummer (Fred) tells me how he had this antique tractor collection and everything. But he got a divorce and his wife took it all.

“In his wisdom, he says: ‘I gotta write a hit to get that back.’

“I was sitting there going: ‘Woah! That’s genius!’ I made him write it down and sign (a waiver) on a paper towel after hearing it, telling him: ‘I’m going to turn that into a song someday.’

“About a year ago, I was cleaning out a bunch of stuff after building a studio in a barn that I’m repurposing. I got all the posters out from the past, and out on the floor drops this piece of paper. It was the towel, bringing back the old memory.”

Jimmy started writing the tune, envisioning it as a duet with a man and woman trading verses. When Voegeli played it for Braunagel, he quickly suggested Marcia Ball for the part, and she agreed to join the project during a phone conversation a few minutes later.

“We just recorded it when she came through a week ago at the studio we work at in Milwaukee,” Voegeli says. “We videotaped it, too.

“I was cryin’ because it was so beautiful. She’s a wonderful gal.”

jimmy voegli photo 5Just to keep things on the up-and-up, Jimmy telephoned the Young brothers, too, in an effort to make sure that he could tell the story without creating any hard feelings, even offering co-writing credits if that was their desire.

Richard was on the other end of the line when he called. His response, Voegeli says, was: “Naw, my friend, I know there’s no troubles. You don’t have to worry about copyright and all. But I gotta tell ya: My brother done snookered your ass. He’s been married to the same woman for 35 years.”

“I sat there and listened to that sob story and held onto it for 20 years before writing the song,” Jimmy chuckles, “and it was all a lie!”

Look for the album later in the year. There are other well-known guest stars involved in the project, but Voegeli’s currently keeping them under wraps. He and Ball are in discussion about another large-scale joint venture somewhere down the road, too.

After a decade together, he says, the band is finally starting to get the notice that anyone who’s heard them or their albums realizes they already deserve. After playing the Bonita Blues Festival in Florida the week before this interview, they were immediately booked for next year’s Tampa Bay Blues Festival. And other good things are on the horizon.

Whatever transpires in the future, however, you can rest assured that Voegeli and his bandmates are well-grounded like the Midwestern stock from which they come.

“We’re certainly not the tightest, not the bluesiest, but you won’t find a band with more heart,” he insists. “We have so much fun onstage and off that we create a certain aura, I hope, that we’re just puttin’ on regular clothes and puttin’ on a regular show and acting like regular guys.

“That makes it so easy and fun because we’ve been accepted by our peers by just doing exactly what we want to do. It’s a disgusting amount of work, but we’re having a blast! Every part of my life is unique from the other parts,” he says. “It’s joyful and filled with great people. I’m grateful for what I have.”

As spring finally arrives in the heartland, Voegeli is far busier with farming than music right now, laying down crops and tending to his fields. It’s a delicate tightrope that he walks on a regular basis this time of year. But rest assured, he’s still working the phone when chores are done, lining up gigs.

Be sure to see The Jimmys if they’re in your neighborhood. You’ll be glad you did. But as Voegeli jokingly suggests, be sure to “bring both livers and a fun attitude” when you do.

Visit Jimmy’s website at: www.thejimmys.net.

Blues Blast Magazine Senior Writer Marty Gunther has lived a blessed life. Now based out of Charlotte, N.C., 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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The Blues Society of Western New York – Buffalo, NY

The Blues Society of Western New York in conjunction with Music Is Art presents the Nurs’n Blues Music Fest, Saturday, May 25 from 3pm to 10pm at The Cove, 4701 Transit Rd., in Depew, NY. $20. donation in advance, $25. (door). Info:
http://wnyblues.org . Proceeds benefit Nurs’n Blues Therapy Program, that uses Blues Music Therapy for those struggling with chemical dependency. Two stages with continuous music all day long, headlined by Grammy nominee, blues guitar great, Kenny Neal. Also performing: Robert “Freightrain” Parker; Jeremy Keyes Band; Grace Stumberg and Grace Lougen; Hanna PK; 12 Pack Jack McArdle; Sheila Connors; and the Patti Parks Band (Parks is the creator of the Nurs’n Blues Music Fest). Now in its fourth year, the program has served over one-thousand clients and families.

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. June 4 – Ben Levin (piano) w/ Aron Levin, Marty Binder, and Chris Bernhardt – Kankakee Valley Boat Club, July 30 – Frank Bang – Bradley Bourbonnais Sportsmens’ Club, August 3 – The Nouveaux Honkies – Inside Out – Gilman IL, August 15 – Albert Castiglia – The Longbranch – L’Erable IL. More Info at: http://www.facebook.com/friendsoftheblues.

The Charlotte Blues Society – Charlotte, NC

The Charlotte Blues Society is pleased to announce that our May Blues Bash will feature an acoustic evening with Australian singer/guitarist Geoff Achison. The show will be held Sunday, May 5th, at the Rabbit Hole, 1801 Commonwealth Ave., Charlotte, NC 28205. Admission is free for members with valid cards and $5 to everyone else. A limited number of reserved seats/tables will be available online through the website, for $10 each. Doors at 7:00; music at 8:00. It will be a great evening of music!

We continue to collect non-perishable food and household items for our charity partner, Loaves and Fishes. It’s our goal to collect one ton of donations this year to help stamp out hunger in Charlotte. Cash donations are also welcome. 1 Can? I Can!

Crossroads Blues Society – Rockford, IL

Monthly shows on the second Saturday of each month at Hope and Anchor English Pub on N 2nd St in Loves Park, IL. 5/11/19 Corey Dennison Band. All shows 8 PM to 11:30 PM.

The Illinois Central Blues Club – Springfield, IL

The Illinois Central Blues Club has announced the line-up of talent for Blue Monday live performances and other shows held at the Alamo, 115 North Fifth, Springfield, IL from 7:00pm to 11:00pm. Additional information on any performer listed below is available upon request. May 6 – Orphan Jon and The Abandoned, May 8 – Paul Bonn & The Bluesmen 6:00 PM, May 13 – The Drifter Kings, May 20 – Chris Antonik, May 22 – Brother Jefferson Trio 6:00 PM, May 27 – J.P. Soars & the Red Hots, June 3 – Chris Ruest – Eve Monsees & Mike Buck, June 10 – Guitar Shorty, June 12 – OddsLane CD Release Party 6:00 PM, June 17 – The Bridgett Kelly Band, June 24 – The 44’s.


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