Issue 10-23 June 9, 2016

sugar blue cover pic

Cover photo by Bob Kieser © 2016

 In This Issue 

Don Wilcock has our feature interview with harmonica master Sugar Blue. We have 9 Blues reviews for you this week including music from Jason Vivone And The Billy Bats, Morry Sochat & The Special 20s, Mike Zito & The Wheel, Steve Howell and the Mighty Men, Corey Dennison Band, Shoji Naito, Boogie Beasts, Toronzo Cannon and Mr. Sipp.

Our video of the week is Sugar Blue with a little help from his friends.

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

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 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 9 

Jason vivone cd imageJason Vivone And The Billy Bats – The Avenue

Self- Release – 2016

8 tracks: 40 minutes

For their third album Jason Vivone And The Billy Bats have produced a concept album featuring songs about or inspired by their home base of Kansas City and the particularly notorious street in which Jason lived at the time. Jason is the lead vocalist and slide guitar player and is accompanied by Paula Crawford on guitar, Rick McIvor on keys, Ben Hoppes on banjo, Jeremy Clark on bass, Matt Bustamente on drums; most band members add backing vocals to assist seventh Billy Bat Joanna Berkebile. All bar one of the songs is original, written by Jason.

Opener “The Vivone Song” is a semi-spoken story about Jason and how to pronounce his name, including reference to his struggles to get a recording contract with Chicago labels Alligator and Delmark. The tune has an insistent drum beat that recalls Bo Diddley and a tongue-in-cheek reference to Lou Reed’s “Walk On The Wild Side” as Jason introduces his choir of backing vocalists but very little else musically. The cover of Jim Jackson’s “Kansas City Blues” has greater instrumentation with piano and Jason’s slide to the fore on a rocking tune.

Title song “The Avenue” is a ‘down’ song as Jason describes some of the shady characters on his street, just melancholy guitar and the choir here. Another strange character who regularly dialled and spoke into a pay phone that did not in fact work is the theme from “Hello Mrs Radzinsky” which fades in with organ beneath Jason’s vocal, Jason adding some slide after the first verse to good effect but again it’s a fairly minimal piece. “Train Musta Jumped The Track” has rather dreary spoken vocals; I doubt if this will fulfil the desire to reinstate the train song. “Calendar” is about the sort of calendars that used to be sold from beneath the counter but have now been superseded by Photoshop and is apparently a live favorite but it is hard to tell from this version which plods along for over seven minutes at funereal pace though Jason’s slide work is fine.

Even longer is “My Heart Is In The Right Place” which the notes describe as “a funky little band breakdown” and here we get a livelier performance with the piano, banjo and slide all featured. Although almost an instrumental this was the strongest track for this reviewer’s tastes. The album closes with the solo slide instrumental “His Honor, The Mayor”, a short tribute to another character from The Avenue, a man well known to everyone who, following a childhood accident was left with the mind of a child but a kind heart.

This band has won a loyal following and they will undoubtedly enjoy the latest offering from the band.

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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 Featured Blues Review – 2 of 9 

morry sochat cd imageMorry Sochat & The Special 20s – Dig In

Galaxie Records

11 songs – 38 minutes

Dig In is the fourth release by Morry Sochat (pronounced “Socket”) and The Special 20s. It marks the 10 year anniversary of a band who continue to mine the same rich seams of Chicago blues, swing and vintage rock’n’roll as on their 2006 self-titled debut, 2008’s Swingin’ Shufflin’ Smokin’ and 2010’s Eatin’ Dirt.

The front and back cover art of the album features black and white photographs of the musicians in dark suits and narrow ties, adopting a variety of curious poses in front of a backdrop of the WindyCity. On the inner sleeve photo, were it not for the sneakers they all appear to be wearing, they could almost pass for lawyers. There is nothing sober or bromidic about their music, however. Opening with the old-fashioned rock’n’roll of “Pine Box”, Sochat issues slightly disturbing threats about how he is going to put his baby six feet under the ground in a pine box while The Special 20s lay down an irresistibly energetic groove . It is an impressive statement of intent, quickly followed by the softer, jazzier swing of “Little Melody” and the harp-driven Texas shuffle of “Rodeo Gal”. A pretty dramatic set-up that lays a route map for the rest of the album.

“Mary Jane” and “As Long As You’re By My Side” explore the funkier side of the blues. “Big Red Rooster” and “The Honeydripper” both feature Doug Corcoran’s lap steel, giving them a slight country edge. The heart of the album, however, is top quality shuffles such as “The Last Time”, “She’s Got It” and “Baddest Cat Alive”, all of which manage the rare trick of sounding thrillingly contemporary and distinctive even when they are really in pretty standard form. At times, The Special 20s capture that delightful synthesis of Texas and Chicago blues, a la Anson Funderburgh and The Rockets featuring Sam Myers or the Little Elmore Reed Blues Band.

Sochat sings in a strong, clear baritone voice that is sometimes reminiscent of the great Sugar Ray Norcia. The musicianship throughout is absolutely top drawer, with Sochat on vocals and harmonica, Shoji Naito on guitar and harmonica, Chris Neal on saxophone and vocals, Marty Binder on drums, Doug Corcordan on keys, saxophone and lap steel, Billy Flynn on guitar and Ted Beranis on bass. There is a sense that the players really enjoy playing with each other, and producer Tim Bluhm deserves credit for capturing this feeling on tape.

Sochat wrote seven of the songs on the album and Chris Neal contributed two tracks. Of the covers, Joe Liggins’ “The Honeydripper” is given a revitalising update, which electric guitar replacing the pounding piano of the original. The second cover, “The Last Time” is curiously credited to Jimmy Dooley, although it sounds nothing like the song of the same name with which Dooley is generally associated.

Dig In is an album of modern electric blues, played with emotional and technical authority and no little panache. It is also one of the most enjoyable releases this reviewer has had the pleasure of hearing for some time. Highly recommended.

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 – 3 of 9 

zito cd imageMike Zito & The Wheel – Keep Coming Back

Ruf Records

12 tracks/51 minutes

Mike Zito remains one of the hot commodities in the blues world. Winning a BMA aside, his star is shining high with his solo work and work with Royal Southern Brotherhood. As always, Mike is on guitar and vocals; also featured are Jimmy Carpenter on sax and backing vocals, Lewis Stephens on keys, Scot Sutherland on bass, and Rob Lee on drums.

Zito penned ten of the tracks here, three jointly with Anders Osborne. His gritty and open approach to baring his soul makes his sound and act appealing and real. The album opens with the title track where Zito sings of his personal resolve. He blazes on slide and Carpenter’s sax is equal the task. It’s a big, driving blues rocker that is spectacular. Stephens piano stays with the mix and adds a nice honky-tonk effect. “Chin Up” is also uptempo, with Zito complaining about war, poverty and Big Brother and telling us we have to do what the song title says. “Get Busy Living” slows things up, a blues rock ballad with a message that tells us we need to get on with life and live it to its’ fullest. “Early In The Morning” is a song that takes us south with a sweet, country flair. “I was Drunk” features Anders making his lone appearance on both guitar and vocals on a track that he helped write. Both Zito and Osborne sing of the pain they inflicted on others with their addictions. Another cut with a country sound, the acoustic guitar picking on the solo is pretty and effective. “Lonely Heart” is next, with a nice guitar solo by Zito.

“Girl From Liberty” mixes Billy Joel and Texas blues rock to sing about a girl back home. A peppy beat and nice groove make this one quite dance-able. The first of the two covers is Bob Seger’s “Get Out Of Denver,”a rocker in Chuck Berry style that keeps things going. “Nothin’ But The Truth” sets you free as Zito sings; lies will take a relationship down. Carpenter blows some great sax here. We go to “Cross The Border” next, a mid-tempo piece that features some great guitar soloing. Things slow down for “What’s On Your Mind,” another ballad. This time Mike sings of a relationship gone bad. The vocals and tenor sax both lament about the loss. John Fogerty’s CCR tune “Bootleg” closes the album and is the second cover. Zito loves to break out the Fogerty/CCR stuff at shows and here he does a lesser know cut that showcase his gritty vocals. Carpenter adds more beautiful sax soloing and Zito again shows his mettle on the guitar.

This is a nice blues rocker with a country edge. Zito’s fans will eat it up. Those new to Zito can get a taste of how he melds the blues into a modern mélange of rock that demonstrates his Texas roots. This is another fantastic album by Zito!

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 – 4 of 9 

howell cd imageSteve Howell and the Mighty Men – Friends like Me

Out Of The Past Music

10 tracks

Steve Howell and his friends cover ten songs that are important to him and his band. Howell sings and plays acoustic and electric guitar, Chris Michaels plays electric guitar, Dave Hoffpauir is on drums and Jason Weinheimer is on bass. Howell tells a story about each song in his notes on the gatefold CD cover.

“Another Friend Like Me” inspires the album title and is a Jesse “Baby Face” Thomas cover. Howell notes he’s been playing it for 40 plus years after hearing it done by Roy Book Binder. An electric guitar groove sets the tone here. “Aberdeen, Mississippi Blues” is next, a Bukka White cut. A song about White’s hometown, there is a couple of pretty electric guitar solos featured here. Charley Patton;s “Elder Green is Gone” originally was recorded at Paramount Records in 1929. The pair of guitars play off each other nicely here. “Oh, Lord, Search My Heart” is a Reverend Gary Davis song that inspired Howell over 40 years ago when Hot Tuna covered it. “Little Sadie” is a rockabilly little traditional song. A haunting lead guitar and contrasting rhythm guitar sets this song off. Howell really excels in the more uptempo vocals.

“Roustabout” comes to us from Josh Thomas who recorded this at 80 back in 1970. Originally a banjo piece, the acoustic guitar give a haunting rendition and the electric guitar provides an equally haunting echo. The folk blues song “This Old Hammer” is next, a Nelson Harmon song based on the mythical John Henry. “Viola Lee Blues” comes to us from Noah Lewis who was part of Gus Cannon’s Jug Stompers. The Grateful Dead jammed to this often nd here the Mighty Men do it justice. John Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas wrote “Me and My Uncle” and the song was made famous by Judy Collins and the Dead. He wrote it and forgot about it until he heard it on one of Judy’s records. He called her when he got a royalty check he thought was mistakenly credited to him; it must have been a wild night. Mark Barkan wrote “Pretty Flamingo” and Manfred Mann made it a #1 hit in 1966 in the UK. it’s a pretty ballad.

Steve Howell sings with an old time approach to carry a tune, but his voice trails off key a bit and does not resonate well at times. The songs are cool and played well. Folk and folk blues fans will recognize the material here. It’s a really great set of tunes played with real heart and emotion.

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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 Videos Of The Week – Sugar Blue with a little help from his friends 

sugar blue video pic

If you are a fan of Blues harp you are going to love this one! Here is Sugar Blue Band doing the song Help Me at the 2015 White Mountain Boogie And Blues Harmonicon with a little help from Billy Branch and Jason Ricci. Enjoy!

Click on the image above to see this video.

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 Featured Blues Interview – Sugar Blue 

sugar blue pic 1Sugar Blue likes to tell people that blues isn’t tragic, it’s black magic, but he adds that b.l.u.e.s stands for black life under egregious suppression. A veteran blues harmonica player, singer and songwriter, Sugar Blue is a cat who has lived 13 of his nine lives.

Born James Whiting in 1949 to an absent father and a mother who was a chorus singer and dancer at Harlem’s Apollo Theater. The future bluesman who did for the harmonica what Hendrix did for guitar lost five of his six brothers to street violence. Moving from tenement to tenement as a child he avoided the street by burying himself in the pages of Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath and Hemmingway’s Old Man in The Sea. He jumped three grades when he transferred from Catholic to public school.

As a youngster he wanted to play saxophone like Lester Young. But his mother would have none of the squealing that marked his practices. Legend has it that she took him to see Little Stevie Wonder when both he and Stevie were 12 because she felt guilty about refusing to listen to his practicing while encouraging him to take up the quieter harp. “No,” he says, “she took me to see Stevie Wonder because she wanted to see Stevie Wonder. Actually, I think if I was meant to play sax I would have gone after one, and I’d have bought one and managed to play it.”

Instead, the harp, in his words, became part of him. His goal? To make his playing on what some call the poor man’s sax as fluid as the instrument his mother wouldn’t let him play. “I still listen to a lot of saxophone players and trumpeters and listened a lot to Charlie Christian and a lot of big band stuff long before I ever got into the blues.”

By the time he was 18, he was playing in the street, hanging out in the heart of the folk movement, the West Village, listening to Dylan as much as he was Lester Young. “There were never any harmonica players that did anything for me outside of Dylan. Now, Dylan played some of the raggediest stuff that you’d ever want to hear played on a harmonica, ok? But within the context of his music it was perfect. It fit so very perfectly into what he was doing. He had a very plaintive sound. I loved him back then because I loved listening to the words he was writing. I loved the songs that he was writing. His acoustic period was very touching for me.

“I sat down and tried to play along with some of the stuff that he was doing, and I was saying, ‘S***, he doesn’t need this kind of cleanliness.’ He needs that raw talent that he paints with to be able to get away with what he does, and that raspy, almost in-pitch voice and that squeaky harp and that very dry acoustic guitar just fit so well, man. It was perfect.

“I remember, I played Bob Dylan for my mother who was a singer with big bands back in the day, and she said, ‘He can’t sing. He can barely play, and what the hell is he talking about?’ And I’m like, ‘Mom, listen to this song “Blowin’ in the Wind,” and she liked that. She liked the story.”

When he was 25 Sugar Blue met Victoria Spivey, a kind of one-woman Harlem Renaissance, the first black woman to own her own record label, Spivey Records, in 1962. She wrote songs, sang them and accompanied herself on piano and organ. Her first release featured Dylan as an accompanist. Sugar Blue was jamming on MacDougal and 8th when he first encountered her.

sugar blue pic 2“Victoria was the self-described Black Queen of America, and she drove up in a black 1947 torpedo-back Cadillac that was in pristine condition, and it looked like they’d just drove it off the showroom floor. She was dressed in the high style of the late ’40s, crinoline and those big picture hats and gloves and those wonderful, old platform-styled shoes. I mean she looked like she’d just stepped out of a film in the ’40s, and she was wonderful. She stood there, and she listened to us.”

Patti Smith was in the audience and dropped a $50 bill in Sugar Blue’s hat. “She and Victoria started talking. When she went on her way, Victoria came over to us after we had finished our set and said, ‘Would you like to record?’ I was like, ‘Record?’ Hell, I’d been playing in the streets for about a year. The last thing in the world I was thinking about was recording in the studio. I had no idea how to (do that).

“I think she liked what she heard. I was working very hard to sound like Sonny Boy Williamson and Little Water, and I was playing my little semi-jazz licks and whatnot and having fun with the music, man, and we kept a good crowd. We entertained the people well, and that’s what she liked about it.

Sugar Blue jumped at the Black Queen’s offer and eventually became a session musician on Johnny Shines’ Too Wet to Plow. At the time of her offer he was an Army deserter from Vietnam, a potentially capital offense in time of war. “I figured what the hell did I have to lose? I’d spent years dodging bullets in Harlem and so what? I’m gonna go to Vietnam and do the same? Screw that. A war is a war, and basically I was just going from one war zone to another.”

Eventually, he turned himself in and was court martialed. At the time of his court martial, his father had been murdered, and he was a member of the Black Panthers. His defense lawyer was a young lieutenant fresh out of college.

“I was like, ‘Oh, God. I’ve got the junior JAG officer.’ Yeah, I thought at least I was gonna do some time, you know? (But my defense attorney) was like a preacher in the Baptist Church, man, and he had their ears.

“The most important thing that he said was how can you expect a soldier to have any respect for what he’s doing and who he’s fighting for when the Commander in Chief (Richard Nixon) is about to be kicked out of the White House? He said, ‘This is enough to ruin the morale of any soldier.’ And they stopped the trial right there. I mean, they stopped the trial, and they took a recess. I came back and I was free to go.

“I think basically, the reason they ended all that crap was because they didn’t want it on the records. Screw the war! Screw all those bastards that drug us over there to fight for nothing. Later for that. I don’t really want to talk about it. This is the most I’ve conversed about that since it happened.”

sugar blue pic 3Victoria Spivey introduced Sugar Blue to Memphis Slim who would eventually convince him to move to Paris in 1978. Slim was playing Top of The Gate, and Sugar Blue screwed up the courage to ask the vaunted bluesman to let him sit in.

“He said, ‘Well, I’ll let you sit in, but if you mess up my music see the size 14 here? I’m gonna put it where the sun don’t shine.’ I was like, what the hell. I (took) that chance, and I played.

“He liked it, and we had a drink, we talked, and I asked him what did he think about me going to France to do what I do, and he said, ‘Well, they like Sonny Boy Williamson, and if you’ve got the courage and the stick-to-itiveness to go for it, why not? Give it a try. Nothing beats a try, but a sell.’ And so about two or three weeks later, I was on a plane, and that was a good move for me.”

In Paris he recorded “Miss You” with the Rolling Stones and made his debut solo album Crossroads and From Paris to Chicago. He also got to hang with Luther Allison who he thinks would have eclipsed Buddy Guy had he lived into the new millennium. But it was Willie Dixon who gave Sugar Blue his Ph.D. in blues when the emerging blues man came back to the states and moved to Chicago in the early ’80s.

Sugar Blue by this time was a firecracker of a blues harp player, his style forged in the street with influences ranging from Dylan to Coltrane but seasoned with Sonny Boy Williamson’s Delta grit. It would take a man the caliber of Willie Dixon, blues’ most celebrated A&R man, to tame him down.

“Willie Dixon told me, ‘Son, a bluesman ain’t but half a bluesman if he ain’t got some stories to tell. I don’t care how well you play. You gotta understand the music that you’re playing is only the framework. That’s the frame of the picture. The true picture, the true picture of the blues is the songs that you write. The songs that you write are the canvas and the painting. All the rest of that stuff, if you ain’t got nothing to talk about, and you play your ass off basically all you got is the solo.’ I was like, ‘Yes, sir, Mr. Dixon.’

“What I wanted to do with Dixon’s music didn’t work. When I did what he wanted me to do with it, it worked. So I found out that with all the technique I’d been working on all those years, and figuring out what I wanted to do, I needed some direction to fit his music because his music had a particular groove, and he had a particular way he needed it to be played.

“After I messed up a live recording that we did and then I listened to it back, I was like, oh, my God! It was like somebody needed to burn all of these, and from that point on I started doing exactly what Dixon wanted me to do, and then when it came time for me to solo, he said, ‘Then do whatever you want to do, but up until that point I want you to play what I want you to play,’ and he was right. That I could not accept that from a genius like him just shows you how immature I was at the time.”

sugar blue pic 4Sugar Blue performed on Willie Dixon’s Grammy-winning album Hidden Charms released in 1989.

Alligator released two Sugar Blue albums licensed from a Japanese label, Blue Blazes in 1994 with his own solo version of The Stones’ “Miss You” and In Your Eyes in 1995. In a 2011 interview with Living Blues, Alligator’s CEO Bruce Iglauer is quoted as saying he wouldn’t sign Sugar Blues because he was a hothead. “He might have been right back in those days,” admits Sugar Blue today, then adds, “I just wanted to do things my own way. I was more stubborn than anything else.”

Growing up with violence that was killing off his family but rubbing shoulders with some of music’s greatest exponents from around the world and holding his own gave Sugar Blue an attitude that would eventually come back to threaten his muse in the form of drug addiction.

“I mean I know that I have an egregious personality, so I have to watch out for what I do. I didn’t know it back in those days. Then, too, I knew that I was basically trying to stop the pain that I felt about so much of my growing up, seeing so many of my friends and my brothers cut down before they had a chance to even live. So, I was basically insulating myself from the pain of that stuff by doing these drugs, and I didn’t understand it that way at the time, but that’s what was going on.

“There came a point where I decided, it’s either I’m going to get off, or I’m going to die from this s***. So, there really wasn’t much of a choice. It was either death or my music, my life, my daughter, my wife up to that time. Everything that I had worked for as a musician up to that time was about to go down the toilet and me along with it. So, it really wasn’t a difficult decision to make.

“(But) it was difficult to do, and it’s a fight I have to deal with every day, but you know, there were so many people that didn’t make the choice that I did that are not here today that were acquaintances of mine. So I did the only common sense thing. I quit!”

The insidious pull of that addiction never leaves him. “There are those little synapses in my brain that are buried real deep and sometimes they wake up and they go, ‘We want it, we want it, we want it!’ And I say, ‘F**** you! F**** you!’

He says he doesn’t buy into the old saw that musicians like Coltrane and Miles saw drugs as an assist to their creativity. “No I didn’t buy that. I didn’t buy into that. No, it was just something I did. It was something I did. I thought it was hip. I thought it was cool, but it wasn’t.”

We did this interview the day after his son James’ third birthday. “My daughter moved back from France, and so we invited over a bunch of friends of ours, his Godmothers and his Godfather, And we had a wonderful party, beautiful champagne that as given to me last year that I saved until his birthday. We had a great time, lots of gifts. He got a saxophone and a trumpet and a drumstick bag and new drumsticks. Oh, he was a happy little camper.”

sugar blue pic 5Voyage, Sugar Blue’s latest album, is a masterpiece, an autobiographical showcase of one man’s epic struggle the break the bonds through a creativity that chronicles his epic struggles. On the inside cover is a picture of him with James, and the sparkle on Daddy’s face shows right through his dark glasses. The young boy has brought out a side of Sugar Blue only hinted at in his earlier releases.

I told him in our interview, “There’s such a yin and a yang to your music. On one hand it’s light and simple and airy, but on another it’s very dense and complicated. You can listen to it on both levels and enjoy it equally from either one.”

I am reminded of the Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Summer in the City” when I listen. Like John Sebastian, Sugar Blue is able to take an instrument that’s often associated with sadness and give it a sunny disposition that’s all honey and daisies on a summer day.

And some people think blues’ only color is blue.

No, this album connects the dots between Sugar Blue’s disparate influences and is an aural resume of his colorful life story. His harp playing displays a masters’ command of an instrument that he makes far more versatile than its pejorative definition of a poor man’s saxophone. While honoring his blues legacy with a tip of the hat to Sonny Boy Williamson, he acknowledges Dylan’s contribution to the genre in making the instrument an accompaniment that puts his words into a setting like a diamond in the ring of knowledge and personal experience.

Like Willie Dixon taught him he paints pictures with his songs that allow the astute listener to hear the intricacies of his Lester Young and Coltrane jazz inflections while at the same time offering the casual listener a pleasant diversion that explodes beyond the fundamental catharsis that is the blues to be appreciated on a pop music level.

To bring the kind of intellect he has together in a genre as guttural as the blues is a rare gift. Not only does Sugar Blue succeed in this endeavor, he creates autobiographical truths in his music that make it all the more stunning when you know the back story.

“On My Way (Sarah’s Song)” is a father’s loving tribute to the struggles his 25-year-old daughter has gone through and secondarily the story of his own bouts in search of maturity. “12 Steps” announces his success in fighting back the life destroying cancer of addiction. “Love Is Everywhere” is a celebration of his relationship with his wife/bass player/co-writer Ilaria Lantierie and his son James whose gurgling and ecstatic laughter on the song become music to our ears. “New York City” is an ode to a home that’s so nice, they named it twice. “Mercedes Blues” is a contemporary triumph of triple entendre and a bow to traditional blues’ strengths.

Early in his career, Sugar Blue got to sit in with the avant garde jazz master Sun Ra at the Jazz Loft in New York. “He said, ‘I like the way you’re playing, son. I never heard anyone playing one of them little harps like that. I want you to come on the road with me,’ and one of my greatest regrets is that I did not go with him. I would have learned so much, but at the time I was AWOL, and I was thinking I’m gonna go back a couple weeks to the Army and turn myself in. Oh, hell, I spent another six months before I did that, Ha, ha.”

I asked him if he thought his mother’s insights into culture were an extension of the Harlem renaissance. “You could say that. You could say that. The complexity of the music and the vibe was totally different. The Harlem Renaissance was a black thing, period.”

Visit Sugar’s website at:

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

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 Featured Blues Review – 5 of 9 

corey dennison cd imageCorey Dennison Band

Delmark Records – 2015

13 tracks: 57 minutes

Originally from Chatanooga, TN, Corey Dennison established himself on the Chicago scene playing guitar for twelve years with Carl Weathersby and has now released this impressive debut studio album. Corey handles all vocals and plays guitar with Gerry Hundt (ex-Nick Moss & The Fliptops) on guitar and organ, Nik Skilnik on bass and Joel Baer on drums. Corey and Gerry collaborated on eleven of the songs and Gerry contributed two of his solo compositions so there are no covers at all.

The CD opens with “Getcha’ Pull!”, a song about family members and moonshine, an infectious tune led by the twin guitars on the riff and bubbling bass holding it all together. Corey has a good voice for the music, a touch of grit with soul inflections and the whole thing is a slow-growing earworm that latches on to your mind after a couple of plays. “Tugboat Blues” has everything we all love about electric Chicago blues; driving rhythm, ringing guitars and impassioned vocals before Gerry’s “The Deacon” which has a really soulful feel, Corey’s voice carrying the song well, the whole bringing Marvin Gaye to mind and the interchange between the guitars is great!

However, the definitive proof that Corey can sing soul comes with the gorgeous “Room To Breathe”, a standout track with its easy soul groove, shimmering lead guitar and Corey’s excellent vocal. The soul continues with another first class song “City Lights” which shows the influence of former mentor Carl Weathersby but we return to the blues with “She’s No Good” which could easily be a lost Jimmy Reed tune as the rhythm section drives the song forward.

“Aw, Snap!” has a slinky funk rhythm and some nice Albert King guitar fills as Corey recounts in mainly spoken form some tales from everyday life that force the reaction of the title – ‘what else can I do?’ “Don’t Say You’re Sorry” returns to soul with Corey moving on from a failed relationship and playing some superb guitar in the central solo.

So far we have not heard a slow blues but that is remedied with “A Fool’s Goodbye” in which Corey’s guitar again has a lot of Albert King’s style about it. An instrumental workout “Jasper’s Hop” gives plenty of space to both Corey and Gerry before “Shame On Me” provides one of those classic break-up songs. Gerry’s “Strange Things Happening” is a short, upbeat tune in which the lyrics certainly match the title before the album closes with a solid shuffle “Good Enuff” which it certainly is to close this excellent album that deserves to bring a new name on to the blues scene beyond Chicago. Highly recommended!

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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 Featured Blues Review – 6 of 9 

shoji naito cd imageShoji Naito – New Cool Old School

Ogden Records ORCD 380

14 songs – 58 minutes

Shoji Naito probably isn’t a name most blues lovers recognize, but he’s made quite a name for himself behind the scenes since emigrating to the U.S. in 1996 to study guitar and bass at Chicago’s Columbia College.

A gifted harmonica player, too, he started playing the blues professionally at age 16 at home in Toyota, Japan, and quickly started making the rounds of some of the best clubs in the Windy City. Through his college years, he sat in with John Primer, Carey Bell, Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, Lurrie Bell and others.

His big break came 12 years ago, when guitarist Eddy “The Chief” Clearwater invited him to join his band, a relationship that continues today. In addition, Naito performs regularly with Morry Shocat & The Special 20s. As a duo, he and Sochat won the 2013 Chicago Blues Challenge.

In addition, since 1997, he’s worked with legendary harmonica instructor and builder Joe Filisko at the Old Town School Of Folk Music, laying down most of the practice tracks that Filisko uses in his lessons. And he also markets play-along tracks for harp players through his website.

New Cool Old School is Naito’s debut as a front man after appearing on one of Shocat’s releases and producing albums for him and Clearwater. He’s featured on guitar and harp throughout, but hands over the vocals to others on all but one tune. He’s backed by a who’s who of Chicago blues artists, including Clearwater, Billy Flynn, Gerry Hundt, Harlan Terson, Cicero Adams and Marty Binder on guitar, bass and mandolin; Rie “Lee” Kanehira, Erwin Helfer and Sumito “Ariyo” Ariyoshi on keyboards; Marty Binder, Mark Fornek and Flynn on drums. Willie Buck, Katherine Davis, Milwaukee Slim and Clearwater handle most of the vocals, and Grant Kessler sits in on harp on the final cut.

All but two of the cuts here are covers. Everything you’ll hear here was recorded in one take without overdubs and retains the feel you’d experience in an intimate bar during the time most of the authors’ heyday.

Naito’s on harp with Buck handling the vocals for a rousing version of Little Walter’s “I Got To Go” and a traditional take on Muddy Waters’ “Honey Bee” to start the set before Clearwater takes the mike for versions of the Jimmy Reed standards “Big Boss Man” and “I’ll Change My Style.” His style on the reeds is classic Chicago old-school, active, but never intrusive. He’s no copycat, preferring to add his own touches rather than playing like his predecessors note for note. He picks up the six-string for an instrumental cover of Guitar Gable’s “Congo Mombo.” His guitar stylings are crisp and feature single-note runs. On both instruments, he’s slightly behind the beat, driving the rhythm forward.

Davis steps to the mike for Alberta Hunter’s “I Got Myself a Workin’ Man” and her own “Bopp’n And Jumpin The Blues” with Naito on guitar before Milwaukee Slim and Clearwater take turns covering Robert Johnson’s “Sweet Home Chicago” and Big Walter’s “Last Night.” Buck’s back to deliver the Willie Dixon/Muddy original “I’m Ready,” and Eddy takes on Jimmy Rogers’ “Walking By Myself” before Shoji’s talents on the strings are on full display for a version of sax player Sonny Thompson’s “Blues For The Night Owl,” retitled “Sad Night Owl.” Naito and Ariyo trade licks on acoustic harp and piano for their original, “Same Old S’cool,” before Shoji abandons his instruments to sing a version of Rogers’ “Money, Marbles And Chalk” to conclude the set.

Although there’s relatively nothing new or groundbreaking here, New Cool Old School is one sensational album if your tastes run to traditional Chicago blues like mine do. Available through most major retailers, it’s going on my short list as one of the best CDs I’ve heard this year.

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

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 Featured Blues Review – 7 of 9 

boogie beasts cd imageBoogie Beasts – Come and Get Me

Blues Boulevard

CD: 11 Songs; 41:22 Minutes

Styles: “Punk Blues,” Contemporary Electric Blues Rock, Hard Rock

What is “Punk Boogie”? It’s no secret that this magazine’s favorite topic has been mixed with rock, country, folk, jazz, and soul, but punk? That’s a new one, at least according to yours truly. Also new are a debut band from Belgium, Boogie Beasts, and their album Come and Get Me. Featuring eleven original songs, no one will be able to say this CD is derivative or cookie-cutter. Not only do they not sound like traditional blues artists, but they also don’t sound like traditional punk bands. Albert Collins and Mud Morganfield would be hard-pressed to recognize them as fellow genre artists. So would Green Day, the Clash and the Ramones. The Boogie Beasts’ music is absolutely unique – perhaps too unique for some listeners. It lacks any sense of structure, lyrical flow, or instrumental balance. Everything is all the way ON and UP, all the time.

According to their promotional information sheet, “White-hot punk Boogie defines the debut album by the Boogie Beasts from Belgium. Obviously, it is the result of blending two parts of pure coal from the depths of the country’s eastern mine pits (Jan Jaspers, guitar and vocals, and Gert Servaes, drums) with an equal amount of fiery passion from Liège, the country’s self-described ‘ardent city’ (Mathias Dalle, guitars and vocals and Fabian Bennardo, harmonica). Coal and fire equals scorching heat. Beastly passion with passionate beastliness: Boogie Beasts.”

An even more esoteric description of their music reads, “Essentially, the Boogie Beasts play naked blues, dressed in a coat with a bearded lining.” Blues fans, if that makes you scratch your head, so might the tunes on Come and Get Me. The artists themselves describe their title track as “a chain of numerous desires: tragedy, melancholy, wild lust, timid advance, blunt rejection, all- consuming passion and profound pain of love, but also a ‘so what?’ state of mind, hope, doubt, healing self-criticism, self-mockery and quiet resignation.” Wow. This reviewer doubts that even Leo Tolstoy provided such a detailed analysis of a character from War and Peace. The Beasts sure have a lot to say and play. How they say and play it isn’t common to any other band.

The only song that even comes close to sounding traditional on this CD is also its catchiest one:

Track 03: “Shake ‘Em” – Move over, Silento! Sometimes dancers don’t want to “whip” or “nae nae”. Sometimes they just want to “shake ‘em on down.” “Move it like a machine. Move it – you know what I mean. Move it. Here’s my cue. Got to make my move, get you into my groove. Gimme one more shot. Gimme all you got. Gimme something new. Gimme a sign to get down with you.” The tempo is a bit slower than Too Slim and the Taildraggers’ song along the same lines, but it’s just as catchy. Jan Jaspers’ guitar is smooth yet chaotic on the solo in the middle.

Come and Get Me is a wholly original anomaly in the blues and the punk world!

Reviewer Rainey Wetnight is a 36 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 – 8 of 9 

toronzo cannon cd imageToronzo Cannon – The Chicago Way

Alligator Records

11 tracks / 51:40

If you were to write a novel about a modern day Chicago bluesman, it would be hard to find a better model than Toronzo Cannon. He grew up on the South Side, and as a child he would idle near Theresa’s Lounge where he could hear legends such as Buddy Guy and Junior Wells through the open door. Cannon got started on the guitar at 22, and after a brief foray into the world of Reggae he gravitated towards the blues music he heard on the street and in his grandfather’s home. His influences of Buddy Guy, Alert King, Freddie King, and Albert King (among others) can still be heard in the music he writes and plays today.

Though Toronzo maintains a day job as a bus driver for the Chicago Transit Authority, his nights and vacation days are free to pursue the blues, which he has been working hard at since 1992 as both a sideman and a bandleader. His career has included nine appearance at the Chicago Blues Festival, and tours of Europe, the Americas, and South Africa. Cannon’s fourth album (and first with Alligator Records) is The Chicago Way, and he once again demonstrates that he is a modern day blues master.

This disc includes eleven tracks, all self-written, and Toronzo handles the vocals and guitars. He was joined by a fine group of musicians, including Pete Galanis on rhythm guitar, Larry Williams on bass, Melvin Carlisle on drums, and Brother John Kattke on the keys. Alligator’s Bruce Iglauer co-produced this album with Cannon, and the results are solid. Subjects covered within include the blues staples of love and loss (as well as infidelity), and a few tracks about the society we live in and findinghope for the future. Toronzo’s day job must give him a lot of material to work with.

Things get started with a bang with “The Pain Around Me,” a socially relevant tune that provides a glimpse into the Chicago that Toronzo sees on a daily basis, and he takes on religious leaders, politicians, and the general depravity of man. This is a fat chunk of heavy blues-rock that gives Cannon a chance to shine on both the vocals and his guitar. It is also a cool showcase of the incredible bad, with heavy drums, popping bass, and loads of Hammond B3.

There is a lot of blues-rock and rhythm and blues on this disc, but there are a few tracks that have more of the Chicago blues sound that one would expect from Toronzo. One of these is “Walk it Off,” a slow roller with searing guitar, wonderful piano, and aggressive bass from Williams. This is a song of love that has gone truly wrong, and there are more than enough disagreements to be resolved. Another wonderful Chicago track is “Mrs. From Mississippi,” which is a rollicking tune will trick rhythms and phrasing. From his description, this lady sounds like a keeper, and it nice to have one song on this album where there is not any drama (other than Cannon’s smoking guitar, of course).

Cannon calls on the horn section of Doug Corcoran, Steve Eisen, and Robert Collazo for two of the tracks. “Fine Seasoned Woman” is told from the player’s point of view, and extols the virtues of more mature women, with a big band sound behind him. But it is important to keep in minds that this is a two-way street, and the “seasoned woman wants a man, not a fool.” And “Midlife Crisis” features more of well-arranged horns, but this time with a nice dollop of Kattke’s electric piano. A nice twist on this tale is that the narrator allows that his wife is going through the same angst, and for some reason he is surprised when he discovers she is stepping out on him too!

The set finishes up with “I Am,” which brings acoustic guitar in for the introduction then quickly morphs into a serious blues rock song with a modern sound and a serious dose of Cannon’s killer guitar tone. This coda to the album is sung with passion and has a mature message of resisting the temptations of the world. Melon “Honeydew” Lewis, who has a breathtakingly lovely voice, provides amazing punctuation and soul to this final production.

The Chicago Way is a smart album of original contemporary blues songs with just enough of the Windy City charm. Toronzo Cannon has a great band, a unique voice, and a guitar style that ensure that he will be a contributor to the progress of blues in the states for years to come. Check it out for yourself, and be sure to find his website and see if he is playing any shows near you (including the Chicago Blues Festival in June). It will definitely be worth your time!

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

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 Featured Blues Review – 9 of 9 

mr sipp cd imageMr. Sipp – The Mississippi Blues Child

Malaco Music Group MCD 7547

14 songs – 66 minutes

Don’t be fooled by his boyish appearance or the Erkel glasses he and his bandmates wear on stage or the astronomical ascendance he achieved after winning the International Blues Challenge two years ago – Mr. Sipp isn’t a blues child, as the title of this album implies. He’s definitely a man among men as soon as he steps foot on stage.

Born in McComb, Miss., the home of Bo Diddley, King Solomon Hill, Omar Kent Dykes and Britney Spears, Sipp was a child prodigy. He’s a powerful vocalist and songwriter who enjoyed a 20-year career in gospel before leaping into the blues, working on several Grammy-nominated projects with groups that included The Williams Brothers, the Jackson Southernaires, Rhonda Chambers, the True Believers and the Pilgrim Jubilee Singers, among others, and traveling the globe.

When the Vicksburg Blues Society needed a representative for the IBCs in 2004, however, he jumped at the chance to represent them, arriving in Memphis knowing only six blues tunes upon arrival, but walking away with the title. Other honors have followed quickly as he’s established himself as one of the rising stars in soul-blues.

This is the fourth album to his credit and the first on the legendary Malaco imprint following his victory, and features his regular rhythm section of Stanley Dixon Jr. on drums and Jeff Flanagan on bass and backing vocals. Rounding out the sound are a horn section comprised of Kimble Funchess (trumpet), William Brown (trombone) and Jessie Palmer (saxes) with assists from Murph Caidedo and Timothy Henderson (drums), Damien Strauder and Michael Thomas (keyboards) and Chris Gill (slide guitar).

“TMBC” – an acronym for The Mississippi Blues Child – kicks off the disc. In it, Sipp delivers his autobiography, describing how he picked up the guitar for the first time at age six and faced scorn from preachers when he decided to make the leap from gospel to blues. His prodigious six-string talents are on display during the mid-tune solo. Next up is a loping marriage proposal, “Jump The Broom,” which refers to a custom between bride and groom that dates to the 18th Century and has become a common practice during African American weddings in the South.

“In The Fire” starts with a power trio feel before evolving into a ballad that recounts Sipp having to defend himself for criticism – in their eyes, setting his soul ablaze — as he launched his new career, while “Hole In My Heart” addresses the pain felt when love goes sour. A single-note guitar run kicks off the follow-up, the B.B. King-influenced ballad “Say The Word,” which requests the woman reveal her true feelings in order to set him free.

“Sipp Slide” fires out of the box. It’s a fast-paced boogie that urges folks out on the dance floor to bust it loose in any manner they wish. Next up, “Nobody’s Bizness” delivers a message about anyone who wants to criticize the singer for spending money the way he does. “Jackpot” is a tune reminiscent of the Detroit Junior classic, “Call My Job,” in which the subject cashes in on a windfall, this time at a casino and in a dream, not a race track in real life, and isn’t going to work today. It’s soulfully funky and fresh.

The mood quiets for “What Is Love,” which is delivered with a spoken introduction and perfect for grinding on the dance floor. The theme continues with “V.I.P.” — the soulful request for the woman to allow him into a special section in her heart – and “Tonight” – a tender ballad that expresses a wish that the woman is “doing fine” and wondering if there’s something on her mind.

“Hold It In The Road” is a soul-blues standard that describes a beautiful woman. The title refers to how the singer has to conduct himself when she asks how he’s doing – even though he’s totally bowled over. “Be Careful” is a cautionary tale of faithfulness and denial after someone claims she spotted the singer at a motel with another woman. “Too Much Water,” the disc’s finale, speaks to a former lover’s request to pick up the relationship again while the singer simply wants to remain friends.

One of Sipp’s favorite expressions is “Let’s knock a hole in it,” and The Mississippi Blues Child does just that, as evidenced by his recent win at the Blues Music Awards for Best New Artist Blues Album. If this record were on vinyl, you’d wear it out from repeated plays. It’s that good. Available everywhere.

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

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 Blues Society News 

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Capital Region Blues Network – Albany, NY

The Capital Region Blues Network is proud to present guitarist Tinsley Ellis on Monday, July 18th at The Linda (339 Central Ave in Albany). Tickets are priced at $15.00 General Admission and $10.00 for all Capital Region Blues Network Members.

Tinsley Ellis has traveled a million miles, and through that journey he has become a man with clarity about where he stands today and his future destination. As a proud Georgia-based artist, with his new album Red Clay Soul he celebrates a legacy built on four decades of performing, recording and song writing.

Tinsley Ellis has achieved a lot of success and worked with some of the best in the business. He has toured the globe, released 19 albums, and hit the heights of commercial success with songs covered by other artists – notably, Jonny Lang recording “A Quitter Never Wins.” Ellis even gave Derek Trucks his recording debut on Ellis’ Storm Warning. He won Rock/Blues Album Of The Year with Tough Love in 2015 from Blues Blast Magazine and made many “Best Of” lists within Downbeat and others. Tinsley Ellis continues to release compelling music. And he continues to bring it night after night at one venue after another across the globe, sharing his blues-steeped legacy, fine songwriting, and deep pride in being a Georgia-based artist. For more information visit

Mississippi Valley Blues Society – Davenport, IA

The Mississippi Valley Blues Society is proud to present a Midwestern’s-blues-fan-favorite, Reverend Raven and the Chain Smokin’ Altar Boys, at The Establishment, 220 19th Street, Rock Island, IL on Sunday, June 26, 2016, at 6:00 p.m. The cost to see this performance will be $10 if you are a Mississippi Valley Blues Society member, or $12 if you have not yet joined the Blues Society (applications will be available at the door).

Reverend Raven and Chain Smokin’ Altar Boys were chosen by the Wisconsin Music Industry (WAMI) for best blues band in 1999, 2000, 2004, 2005, 2008, 2010, and again in 2015. They also received the People’s Choice Award in 2006, 2008 and 2010. The band has played in the Quad Cities several times since their 2013 appearance at the Mississippi Valley Blues Festival, but this will be a first-time show at The Establishment, Rock Island, IL. The Establishment features a large dance floor, state of the art sound system, and plenty of seating.

For more info visit

Utah Blues Society – Salt Lake City, UT

The 2nd Annual Utah Blues Festival (UBF) ramps up with more national headliners and a new downtown location – the Gallivan Center on Saturday, June 18th. The UBF is the signature benefit event of the Utah Blues Society (UBS), a two year old 501(c)(3), dedicated to expanding the reach of the blues genre throughout Utah, promoting both local and national touring blues artists, and providing educational programs to further increase the blues’ visibility in our community.

From 1 – 10 p.m., catch The Blues Youth Showcase, Tony Holiday & the Velvetones; the Sister Wives; Jordan Young and national headliners Toronzo Cannon, Bernard Allison, and Ronnie Baker Brooks.

Further info at: and as well as Facebook pages for each.

Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation – Falls Church, VA

23rd Annual Tinner Hill Blues Festival, June 10-12, a tribute to Blues legend, John Jackson, is “All Blues, All Weekend, All Over Town” in Falls Church, VA, 7 miles from Washington, DC.

Festival opener, Friday, June 10 at The State Theatre: Blues & Soul Divas with Mable John, Trudy Lynn, Gaye Adegbalola & The Wild Rūtz.

Saturday, June 11: All-Day Concert, Cherry Hill Park, features BMA winner Victor Wainwright & The WildRoots; Mac Arnold & Plate Full O’ Blues; Andy Poxon Band; Charlie Sayles & Blues Disciples; Carly Harvey with Kiss & Ride and Mike Terpak Blues Explosion. Craft beer, BBQ and soul food, films, discussions, mini-guitar lessons, kids’ instrument petting zoo.

Need more music? Join our post-festival Blues Crawl to local restaurants and bars. Sunday, June 12: Pack a picnic lunch, grab your chairs and come to an Old-Fashion Blues Gospel Concert at the Tinner Hill historic site. Music by The NENO Project and gospel choirs from historic churches. We’ll supply lemonade and sweet tea.

Full schedule and ticket information:

The 2016 Iowa Blues Challenge is sponsored by Budweiser, Summit Brewing Co., Junior’s Motel, Rieman Music, Zimm’s Food and Spirits, Lefty’s Live Music, River Music Experience, Cityview, Central Iowa Blues Society, Mississippi Valley Blues Society, South Skunk Blues Society and Southeast Iowa Blues Society.

Crossroads Blues Society – Byron, IL

Crossroads Blues Society has a hot musical summer planned! Big shows in June and July, our festival in August and our regular programming offers a dozen opportunities for blues fans over those months.

The Lyran Society Friday Night Fish Fry Blues for June is on the 10th from 7 to 10 PM with Mighty Mo Rodgers and Italian guitarist Luca Giordano! No cover charge, fish fry and dinners available. Located on 4th Avenue just East of 7th Street behind Katies Cup in Rockford, IL.

Second Saturday Blues at the Hope and Anchor English Pub in Loves Park, IL, will have great Chicago blues guitar player Steve Ditzell and Blue Lightning. 8 pm to midnight, no cover at this great restaurant on 5040 N. 2nd Street.

The big event for June is Mark Hummel and the Golden State-Lone Star Revue on Saturday, June 25th at the Mendelssohn PAC in Rockford. At 406 N. Main Street, this event is $15 in advance and $20 at the door. Featuring Little Charlie Baty and Anson Funderburgh on guitar! Get tickets at:

July 16th we feature Bryan Lee at Rockford’s Sinnissippi Park. Starting at 6 PM, this is a free show. The park is at 1401 N 2nd Street in Rockford.

The 7th Annual Crossroads Blues Festival at Lyran Park is August 27th. Featuring Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band, Tad Robinson, Ghost Town Blues Band, Joanna Connor, the Flaming Mudcats and Birddog and Beck! $5 in advance at, $10 at the door!

Jersey Shore Jazz and Blues Foundation – Red Bank, NJ

Jersey Shore Jazz and Blues Foundation presents Point Pleasant Boro Jazz & Blues Festival Saturday, June 18, 2016 at the Riverfront Park, Corner of Maxon & River Rd. Point Pleasant Boro, NJ from Noon to 8:00 PM. Headliner is Billy Hector Experience Featuring The Midnight Horns plus Food, Crafters, Beer & Wine Garden, Kids activities. FREE Admission!

For more information, go to

Grand County Blues Society – Winter Park, CO

The 14th Annual Blues From The Top Festival, presented by the Grand County Blues Society, happens June 25/26 at Hideaway Park in Winter Park, Co. Features a special Trampled Under Foot Reunion, plus headliners including Eric Gales, Samantha Fish Band, Jon Nemeth, Kara Grainger and more. “Keeping The Blues Alive” Stage features young up-and-coming Blues artists. Portion of the festival’s proceeds benefit Blue Star Connection, which provides access and ownership of musical instruments for children and young adults with cancer and other serious challenges, as well as providing music therapy departments with instruments.

For more information, go to

The Illinois Central Blues Club – Springfield, IL

The Illinois Central Blues Club has announced the line-up of talent for the Blue Monday live performances and jam sessions held every Monday night at The Alamo, 115 North Fifth, Springfield, IL from 8:00pm to midnight. June 6 – Joel DeSilva and the Midnight Howl, June 13 – Brandon Santini, June 20 – TBA, June 27 – Laurie Morvan.

Additional ICBC and ICBC partnered shows: June 16 – James Armstrong Presents @ The Alamo, 6 pm.

Friends of the Blues – Kankakee IL area

The Friends of the Blues announce their 2016 Concert Series. All shows start at 7 pm and are open to the public – and – Food and Beverages available at all Friends of the Blues shows. Thursday, June 16, Nick Harless Band, Moose Lodge, Bradley IL, Thur, June 23, Golden State Lone Star Blues Revue (Mark Hummel, Anson Funderburgh, Little Charlie Baty), Moose Lodge, Bradley IL, Tues, June 28, Cash Box Kings, Kankakee Valley Boat Club, Kankakee IL, Thur, July 14, Joe Moss Band, The Longbranch, L’Erable IL, Tues, July 26, Nikki Hill, The Longbranch, L’Erable IL, Thur, Aug 4, Albert Castiglia w/ Opening Act: Maybe Later, The Longbranch, L’Erable IL, Fri, Aug 12, Polly O’Keary & The Rhythm Method, Watseka Elks Club, Watseka IL, Tues, Aug 16, Too Slim & the Taildraggers, The Longbranch, L’Erable IL, Thur, Sept 15, Danielle Nicole Band, Moose Lodge, Bradley IL.. For more info visit

Central Iowa Blues Society – Des Moines, IA

The Central Iowa Blues Society is now accepting applications for the 2016 Iowa Blues Challenge. This includes entries for both the Blues Band and Solo / Duo categories. Preliminary rounds began April 24, 2016 and this year the finals will be held on Saturday, June 18, 2016 at the Downtown Marriott in Des Moines.

Prize packages to the first place winners in each category include cash, 8 hours recording time courtesy of Junior’s Motel, opportunity for paid performances at area events and festivals throughout the year, and entry into and travel expenses for the 2017 International Blues Challenge in Memphis TN.

For more information, go to

The 2016 Iowa Blues Challenge is sponsored by Budweiser, Summit Brewing Co., Junior’s Motel, Rieman Music, Zimm’s Food and Spirits, Lefty’s Live Music, River Music Experience, Cityview, Central Iowa Blues Society, Mississippi Valley Blues Society, South Skunk Blues Society and Southeast Iowa Blues Society.

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P.O. Box 721 Pekin, Illinois 61555 © 2016 Blues Blast Magazine (309) 267-4425


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