Issue 10-25 June 23, 2016

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Cover photo by Reed R. Radcliffe © 2016

 In This Issue 

Terry Mullins has our feature interview with Tom Holland. We have 8 Blues reviews for you this week including a book about John Mayall plus new music from Dennis Jones, Adam Franklin, Time Gap, Black River Delta, Riff Riders, Mark Cameron and Roy Thompson And The Mellow Kings.

We have Part I of the photos from the Chicago Blues Fest. Our video of the week is Tom Holland & The Shuffle Kings.

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

 From The Editor’s Desk 

champaign blues logo picHey Blues Fans,

Our good friends at Fluid Events have their Blues, Brews and BBQ Festival this weekend in Champaign, IL and it is going to be a great show.

On Friday they have The Smokers Blues Band, Edward David Anderson, Kris Lager Band and Reverend Horton Heat on the main stage. On Saturday they feature David Dunavent, The William Marsala Band, Slam Allen, Howard And The White Boys and Kim Wilson and The Fabulous Thunderbirds

Plus Blue Blast Magazine will be there with exclusive advance announcements of 2016 Blues Blast Music Awards nominees and special early bird tickets to the 2016 Blues Blast Music awards for only $10. Tickets will go on sale at the regular advance price of $35 when the voting starts on July 1! So don’t miss out. Get yours at the fest this weekend for only $10!

For complete information on this great festival visit  or click on their ad below in this issue.

Wishing you health, happiness and lots of Blues music!

Bob Kieser

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 Blues Writers Wanted 

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

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

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

These are volunteer positions that need a person who really loves the Blues and wants to spread the Blues word! Must have good writing and composition skills, good grammar and spelling!

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

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

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

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 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 8 

dennis jones cd imageDennis Jones – Both Sides Of The Track

Blue Rock Records

13 songs – 51 minutes

Both Sides Of The Track is the fifth album from L.A.-based Dennis Jones and it’s a meaty slab of guitar-led modern blues-rock with a solid helping of funk on the side.

Ably supported by the dynamic rhythm section of Dale Black on bass and Raymond Johnson on drums, singer-guitarist Jones (who also wrote all the tracks) serves up 13 tracks that cover the full range of the blues-rock spectrum. At one end, there’s the balls-to-the-wall rock of “It All Depends” with its ascending start-stop verse chord progression and the wah-driven “Nobody’s Slave” where Jones sings with barely-concealed fury over the top of a descending chord progression that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Guns & Roses’ album. At the other end, there’s the upbeat acoustic guitar and harp of “What” and the modern acoustic shuffle of “Lonely Joint” with its striking lyrical image, ostensibly of a joint falling out of someone’s pocket onto the street but with the clear undertone addressing the wider societal problem of homelessness.

Jones sings in a smooth, warm, powerful baritone, which is especially effective on the gentler “When You’re Not Around.” He also plays incendiary lead guitar, firing licks and solos across the tracks like a modern day Johnny Winter.

The heart of the album is muscular blues-rock, as on “Skin And Bone”, where Jones artfully contrasts acoustic verses with roaring riff-driven choruses before a full band breakdown for the start of his solo, which slowly builds back up again to the ferocious chorus. But Jones and his compadres are equally impressive on the funky uptown blues shuffle of “Number Two”, the Albert King-esque slow blues of “Mr Right” or when dialing back the overdrive, as on the funky “Better Than Him”, where the results are particularly outstanding.

“The Machine” hints at Jimi Hendrix in its wah’ed guitar and pounding drums, with its angry lyrical observation that ““The American dream is fading fast, do you feel free [cue bitter laugh from Jones]? Free at last?” Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan (both for the solos) and Jimmy Page (for the song dynamics) are indicative of some of the more discernable influences on Both Sides Of The Track.

And, while Jones’ band is ostensibly a trio, he cleverly uses over-dubs as well as guest appearances from Jimmy Z Zavala on harmonica (“What”) and saxophone (“Enjoy The Ride”) and Teddy Zigzag on the B3 organ (“When You’re Not Around”) to add flavour and texture to the overall sound.

This album makes it clear that Dennis Jones must be an amazing experience in a live setting, particularly in the band’s clever use of dynamics. But this is not meant as a criticism of the CD. With well-constructed songs, smart lyrics, excellent production and ferocious playing, there is a lot to enjoy on Both Sides Of The Track. If you are a fan of modern blues-rock, you’ll definitely want to hear Dennis Jones.

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 – 2 of 8 

dinu logoz book imageDinu Logoz – John Mayall: The Blues Crusader

Edition Olms

272 pages

Since 1967, when a friend handed him a copy of A Hard Road by John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers, author Dino Logoz has looked to the British blues legend for guidance on understanding blues music. As the years past, Logoz began to wonder why more people didn’t give Mayall the proper level of respect the author felt he deserves for a career that was constantly in a state of flux. Mayall was never afraid to move beyond traditional sounds in search of new approaches that challenged his band members and his fans. As Mayall points out in the Foreword, “Let’s face it, I’ve never had a hit record…I’ve only got one Grammy nomination, You’ve got to realize, I’m pretty much an underground figure except to blues lovers who follow me and my career”.

Thanks to the extensive research that Logoz conducted, Mayall’s fans now have a in-depth review of his bands and the many notable musicians who have backed him through the decades. While some chapters delve into aspects of Mayall’s personal life, the majority of book follows the ebb & flow of his career, paying particular attention to key collaborators and groups that helped Mayall take the music in new directions, like the acoustic band on the seminal Turning Point album.

The opening chapter spends a scant eight pages on the formative years. At the start of the next chapter, Mayall is twenty-nine, living in London with a wife and children. Like many, he received a helping hand from Alexis Korner before deciding to put together a band that would feature his vocals and keyboard playing. It took months of long nights and bad gigs until he assembled a solid cast with Bernie Watson on guitar, John McVie on bass, and Peter Ward on drums. Blues music became the new sound for the hipster portion of London’s population. A year later the band had developed a tight sound that made them the backing band of choice for legends like John Lee Hooker, Sonny Boy Williamson, and T-Bone Walker when they toured England.

The band leader’s career really took off once Eric Clapton joined the Bluesbreakers after leaving the Yardbirds. Sharing a deep passion for the music, Clapton lived with the Mayall family, listening and practicing to his host’s extensive record collection. With McVie and drummer Hughie Flint under Mayall’s leadership, the band quickly rose to the top of the London scene before Clapton decided to keep pursuing his musical muse. Following chapters detail Bluesbreaker bands with two other legendary guitarists, Peter Green and Mick Taylor. Through it all, Mayall remained at the forefront with his singing, harp & keyboard playing.

Mayall’s strength as a songwriter stood out when he grew tired of the guitar-based sound, opting for a quieter acoustic approach for the Turning Point project, then shifting to a line-up featuring horns as he blended jazz and blues elements in notable fashion. Like many musicians, Mayall suffered through a number of dry years and shifting line-ups as Disco music dominated the record industry. But in 1985, Walter Trout joined Coco Montoya in a new version of the Bluesbreakers that tore up stages around the world. Logoz also chronicles Buddy Whittington’s lengthy fourteen year tenure before wrapping things up with the current band featuring another Texas guitar slinger, Rocky Athas.

Each chapter provides a wealth of information regarding live shows, personnel changes, and illuminating remembrances from friends, musicians and family members on each phase of Mayall’s career. Also included are numerous pages of photos, a detailed breakdown of his custom guitars, keyboards and harmonicas, a fifty-plus page “Bandography” section that lists the members of every band in chronological order, followed by a twenty page Discography of Mayall’s recordings and concert footage.

While there are some glimpses into Mayall’s personality, this is not a standard biography. Logoz wanted to set the record straight and press the case for Mayall receiving the acclaim and recognition he has earned over a star-studded sixty year career. You will find it hard to argue with him after reading this well-done tribute to the Godfather of British blues.

Reviewer Mark Thompson lives in Florida, where he is enjoying life without snow. He is the President of the Board of Directors for the Suncoast Blues Society and the past president of the Crossroads Blues Society of Northern Illinois. Music has been a huge part of his life for the past fifty years – just ask his wife!.

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 Featured Blues Review – 3 of 8 

adam franklin cd imageAdam Franklin – Outside Man

Blind Lemon Records BLR-CD1503

21 songs – 66 minutes

Here’s a truly interesting treat: an album of acoustic blues recorded live in Germany by Englishman Adam Franklin, who executes this collection of 13 covers and eight originals flawlessly as he breathes new life into the 100-year-old art form that remains vital, but has been overwhelmed by electric blues on American shores.

Best known in the U.S. for his work in a duo with Seattle-based guitar master Del Rey, Franklin possesses a soulful, powerful tenor as he accompanies himself on resonator guitar in multiple tunings in stylings ranging from claw-hammer and finger-picking to slide and doubling on ukulele. Not to be confused with a Brit with the same name who fronted the rock band Swervedriver, he’s the son of a jazz musician from Sussex who conducts frequent workshops.

Captured before a live audience at the Schwarze Ross in Bookholzberg, Germany, on the final night of a European tour and released on Blind Lemon Records, a label that quickly established itself as a force to be reckoned with in the world of acoustic blues, Outside Man features Franklin solo throughout with the exception of an assist from harmonica player Thomas Freund on the closing two cuts, and it’s accompanied by detailed liner notes in both English and German.

The disc kicks off with the Franklin original, “I’m Walkin’,” about surviving life without a car. It comes across flawlessly with the feel of a tune that could have been written in the 1920s. Next up is a treatment of “Jumpin’ At Shadows,” a hit in the ‘60s for Duster Bennett, the Brit bluesman who died in a car wreck before age 30.

Two tunes from the first generation of blues superstars — Willie Harris’ “New Drive A Stranger From Your Door” and Blind Boy Fuller’s “Catman Blues” – follow before the original, “Tucking With My Baby (On A Friday Night),” which saw former life on Franklin’s last studio album. Next up is “Teaching Rag/I’m Gonna Get High,” which combines a song Adam wrote as an instructional piece for fingerpicking students and a melody first set down by Tampa Red.

Robert Johnson’s “Terraplane Blues” before two more originals – the ukulele-driven “Crazy, Crazy Baby” and the cover tune “Outside Man,” inspired by Ray Davies’ “I’m Not Like Everybody Else” – flow seamlessly. Tampa Red’s “You Can’t Get That Stuff No More” and Washboard Sam’s “Tell Me Mama” sandwich the risqué original, “Jazz Hole Boogie,” about a pair of lovers looking for a place for romance.

Washboard Sam’s “Tell Me Mama” and Fuller’s familiar “Walking My Troubles Away” pave the way for the original, “Jackie Nunn,” written as a tribute to a trumpet player who was a good friend of Franklin’s father. A medley of “Summertime/St. James Infirmary” follows before Adam delivers the instrumental “Steve’s Train,” penned to honor U.S. singer-songwriter Steve James, a longtime Franklin favorite, before five more covers — Bo Carter’s “I Want You To Know,” Jelly Roll Morton’s “Dr. Jazz,” Son House’s “Preaching Blues,” Sonny Boy Williamson II’s “Cross Your Heart” and Johnson’s “Love In Vain” – bring the set to a close.

Available through Germany’s or directly from the artist, Outside Man is definitely worth the effort to acquire if your tastes run to acoustic blues. It’s a warm, rich production from an artist and label that truly understand and love the medium.

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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 Graphic Design Help Wanted 

Can you help us improve our looks?

Blues Blast Magazine is looking for a person with good graphic design skills to help us with occasional design needs. Must have good layout and typography skills. Needs include designing t-shirts, posters, programs and web ads. Experience with web and print media necessary. “Blues wages” and high exposure for your work.

Also, we frequently have advertisers who need help designing ads for our magazine and could refer them to you as clients.

If interested please email with links to previous work online or to your portfolio. A resume is appreciated too.

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

 Featured Blues Review – 4 of 8 

timegap cd imageTime Gap – Flashback

Self Release

7 tracks / 28:28

The members of Pennsylvania’s Time Gap have something special going on. Their debut EP, Flashback, is seven tracks of original blues music that are infused with bits of jazz to provide a cool twist. The other cool twist is that after hearing their work, it is hard to believe that all four of the band’s members are still in high school. Their efforts have not gone unnoticed, as they recently represented the City of Brotherly Love in the Youth Showcase at the International Blues Challenge, so they are definitely on the blues scene radar now!

Time Gap is led by guitarist Radka Kasparcova, along with vocalist Sophie Griffiths, Miles Burger on bass, and Noah Bryant behind the drum kit. These folks are influenced by The Allman Brothers, BB King, and Buddy Guy, and often perform songs from these artists at their shows, but this disc is all about their original music. As there are only seven songs on this half hour album, following is a rundown for each of them.

The first song in their set is “So Many People,” an up-tempo blues song with jazz inspired vocals and guitar. Griffiths has a sweet alto voice with good inflection as she obsesses over a man and sees his face everywhere she goes. Burger has a great tone and thump to his double bass, and holds down a solid beat with Bryant. The mood changes with the next tune, “Rain on My Parade,” which is a frenzied boogie with Kasparcova taking a strong lead on her guitar. This song would be a great calling card for any of the members as they each get a chance to show off their talents.

Then, with “New and True,” the band gets to take a bit of a breather with a jazzy ballad that tells the story of a woman who has to know where she stands. For this mellow tune, Griffiths maintains an edge to her voice, which provides contrast that keeps the mood from getting overly sweet – this is the blues, you know. Radka does extended work with her heavily processed guitar tone, and (as with the rest of the disc) she plays with wonderful touch. She also provides layers of acoustic and Hawaiian guitar for “Two Way Street,” which is a really cool combination. This song has a neat change of pace midway through, which is something this band is not afraid to try on a few of the tracks.

“Did you break my heart or did you spare me?” is the question that is asked in “Thursday,” a slick funk track that is very catchy and listenable. This song features a tastefully restrained guitar solo plus a few righteous bass and drum breaks from Burger and Bryant that bring it together well. There is also 12-bar blues to be found, and “As Time Rolls On” changes up this proven formula with a Latin beat and an extended instrumental interlude halfway through. Then, before you know it, the set wraps up with another ballad, “Simple.” Griffiths cements her role as a chanteuse as she pines for that which she has not and the group uses drastic dynamic and mood changes with this song to effectively create drama and to bring the story home.

Time Gap’s Flashback is a solid debut of all original material, and it is impressive that this quartet did not stuff any superfluous covers into the mix. Groups like this are the future of blues music and will act as a bridge to entice younger listeners into the genre. Hopefully they are working on more material for a follow-up, and in the meantime check out their Facebook page to check out their schedule of gigs around the Philadelphia area.

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

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 Featured Blues Review – 5 of 8 

blackriverdelta cd imageBlack River Delta – Devil On The Loose

Popup Records

8 Songs/33:26 Minutes

It appears that this Swedish trio has sucked Robert Johnson’s soul out of the ethos and electrified it. The music found here draws from among others the Hill Country sound ala R.L. Burnside, Black Flag and Jack White, all the while sounding like themselves. The wondrous noise they conjure up with the collision of two distorted guitars and thundering drums is at once refreshing and mind altering. The songs are all original and get this-no trace of an accent. You would think they were from stateside. The clever lyrics rush by you amid the musical onslaught and it may take several listening’s to comprehend them fully, but the overall feeling generated by the music is chock full of ominous overtones. The guitars are entangled in a joyous dogfight. Guitarists Erik Jacacobs and Pontus Ohlsson battle it out with drummer Erik Nilsson to the point were they get under your skin and you don’t want to let them out.

The assault begins with “A Buried Man” with guitars clawing to pick at your brain. The powerful noise of “Follow You Down” will energize and enlighten your body and soul. The title track “Devil On The Loose” is a slow and raw dirge. with a lonesome harmonica and group vocals. The band gets all grungy on Hearts” with it’s pounding drums and raw-bones guitar goodness. The hellhounds are unleashed on “Ghost”.

Rock territory is explored on “Broken For Years”. The lonesome sound of “Troubled Roads” closes out this amazing show…”Oh dear I’m on my way, travelin’ on troubled roads”.

This music will jolt you out of your coma. I’m not entirely sure of what I just witnessed here, but I’m quite sure I had an epiphany. These Swedes definitely know what they are doing and do it well. The vocals are discharged as if their very lives depended on it. The clamoring guitars almost sound hap hazard, but in essence they are in perfect alignment with the universe. This music deservedly needs to catch on in a big way. Something is happening here, but you don’t know what it is, do you Mr. Jones?.

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

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 2016 Chicago Blues Festival Part I 

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Chicago Blues Festival was first held in 1983 and this year marked the 33rd anniversary of the event. It is one of, if not the, biggest gatherings for real blues artists on the planet.

This year there were a total of 7 stages of continuous blues music, far to many to actually cover and enjoy by this one hard working photographer. The weather was hotter than blazes and so was the blues! Here are some of the acts that played on the first day of this 3 day festival.

We started out at the Windy City Blues Society “Street Stage” where Frank Bang and the Cook County Kings were playing.

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Frank formerly played guitar for Buddy Guy for 5 years.

Then we headed over to catch Fruteland Jackson on the Front Porch Stage.

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While we were there photographing it was Jamiah “On Fire” & The Red machine actually doing the playing with Fruteland simply sitting and smiling to show his approval of this young blues trio tearing it up.

Next we went over to the Jackson, Mississippi Rhythm & Blues Stage to catch a couple songs by Pat Brown. Most of the artists on this stage are from Mississippi and Pat still hails from Jackson.

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Pat and her band treated the crowd to some real soul blues.

Next we headed over to the Blues Kids Performance Space. This stages is part of Fernando Jones’ “Blues Kids Of America” program.

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We heard a couple of songs by Gabe Hall and his harp player.

Next we headed over to the Crossroads Stage to catch part of the set by Moreland and Arbuckle.

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Friday was “Alligator Day” at the fest in honor of the 45th Anniversary of Bruce Iglaur’s Alligator Records. Moreland and Arbuckle recently signed with Alligator.

Next we headed back to the Windy City Stage to catch one of my favorite acts (and my good friends) Kilborn Alley Blues Band.

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And to top it off, they even had the great singer from the Nick Moss Band, Michael Ledbetter sitting in on guitar.

Next it was back over to the Front Porch Stage for a few songs by The Omar Coleman Band.

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Omar is an up and coming harp player with his first album released last year on Delmark Records.

Making another round through some of the stages I headed back to the Jackson Mississippi stage to hear a couple songs by Blues legend Eddie Shaw and the Wolfgang.

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Blues Blast Magazine gave Eddie our Lifetime Achievement Award in 2013 and he is still going strong at the age of 79 years young!

Making one more stop at the Windy City Stage before heading over for the start of the evening headliner acts, we caught some great blues by Chicago’s own Charlie Love.

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Then it was off to the Pertillo Music Shell for the days headliners. Since it was Alligator Day at the Chicago Blues Fest, all of the evenings headliners were Alligator Records artists. They started with Tommy Castro and The Painkillers.

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Toronzo Cannon, another “new” Alligator artist, sat in with Tommy for a few songs and wailed!

Next up was Chicago favorite Lil’ Ed Williams and the Blues Imperials.

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As usual, Ed got the crowd roaring with enthusiasm. Ed then brought out harp legend Corky Siegal for a few songs for added excitement.

The final headliner for the first night of the Chicago Festival was Shemekia Copeland. Shemekia is another crowd favorite and gave her usual amazing performance.

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She brought out some real soul to her show when Curtis Salgado came out for a duet at the end of her set.

Hot and tired at the end of a long day of blues, I headed back to the hotel to cool off and rest for up the next day of this amazing festival.

Photos and commentary by Bob Kieser

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 Videos Of The Week – Tom Holland & The Shuffle Kings 

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Tom Holland & The Shuffle Kings at the Blues City Deli in St Louis, MO. Video by Reed R. Radcliffe.

Click on the image above to see this video.

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 Featured Blues Interview – Tom Holland 

tom holland pic 1With as many musicians as he’s employed over the course of the past six-plus decades, there’s probably no accurate way to ever tally the number of times that James ‘Mr. Superharp’ Cotton has uttered the words, ‘Hey, new guy.’

No doubt he never meant those words to be an insult, but when he looked around the bandstand and saw a newbie member of his crew, that was just the way Cotton would initially communicate with them.

Just inside the start of the New Millennium, one of those new guys in Cotton’s band was guitarist Tom Holland.

And just as clearly as if it happened yesterday, Holland remembers the instant he went from being the ‘new guy’ to just plain, ‘ole ‘Tom’ in the James Cotton Blues Band.

“The first tour that I went on with him, I think we were out on the west coast somewhere for three or four weeks. For the first week or so, he knew I was the new guy and could never remember my name. It was always, ‘Hey, new guy. Hey, new guy.’ We were playing somewhere and he threw me a solo and I pulled out some old Luther Tucker or (Robert Junior) Lockwood stuff. He swung around in his chair and his eyes got all big,” Holland recently said. “After the gig, he said, ‘Now what’s your name again?’ I said, ‘Tom.’ And he said, ‘Tom, you’ve got a job for as long as I’m willing to give you one.’ That was when it started to sink in that I may be able to play with James Cotton for a while. He was like, ‘I didn’t think anybody still played that kind of stuff.’ I said, ‘Oh, yeah there’s still some of us out there.'”

Holland’s last gig with Cotton -with whom he played with for 11 years – was at the 2014 King Biscuit Blues Festival in Helena, Arkansas. Since then, he’s managed to down-shift things just a bit.

“I’ve been taking it easy since I got off the road with James Cotton a couple of years ago. It was one of those things where he’s not getting any younger and he was starting to slow down (touring). It was to the point that I was working more in Chicago and in the Midwest,” he said. “It was just not financially feasible for me anymore. I’ve got a family to feed and trying to do that on a bluesman’s salary is tough enough already. I’ve been mostly just working local around Chicago, plus doing a few runs here and there if somebody calls. I’ve pretty much been staying home and being dad.”

Despite his ‘domestic turn’ of the past couple of years, Holland and The Shuffle Kings (Holland – guitar and vocals; Mike Scharf – bass; Tino Cortes – drums; Big D – Harp) have still been dishing out heaping helpings of the real-deal Chicago blues on a weekly basis, just as they’ve been doing for the past two decades now. Through a good, old-fashioned work ethic and a desire to succeed, the group has managed to become one of the ‘must see’ blues bands currently on the Windy City circuit.

“I’ve always been of the mindset to work, work, work and sooner or later, it all falls into place,” is how Holland explains The Shuffle Kings’ rise to the top of the pack in Chicago. “It also helps that I had been out on the road as a sideman with Cotton, Eddy Clearwater and John Primer … all those guys.”

There’s no shortage of blues bands these days that mix in liberal does of funk and rock-n-roll with the more traditional leanings of the blues. While The Shuffle Kings could most certainly do this too, they choose not to. Their main focus today is the same as it was 20 years ago – deliver a straight-ahead, true Chicago blues experience in the manner that the forefathers of the genre did back in their hey-day.

tom holland pic 2“That was the style of blues that grabbed me the most. I mean, I can funk-it and I can rock-it, but I’ve noticed that everybody else is doing that now. It’s not that I’m pigeon-holing myself, but my reputation is that I play the old Chicago stuff … and play it well,” he said. “That’s worked out for me, because there are bands on every corner and nine times out of ten, they’re all playing the same stuff. So we’ve always stuck to our guns and it’s always worked out for us.”

Holland has recently been in the recording studio, laying down tracks for what appears to be a follow-up to 2013’s No Fluff, Just The Stuff.

“I was just in the studio a couple of weeks ago working on some stuff with Darren Jay Fallas (a guitarist originally from Memphis) . He’s going to school (Art Institute of Chicago) up here doing recording stuff in the audio department and he was like, ‘Do you have anything you need to record? I’ve got to do a project and I figured you would be a good one to ask.’ So we went in and knocked out a bunch of material for probably another record in one afternoon,” he said. “I’m always working on something.”

Age differences in any kind of a relationship have the potential to turn into a huge stumbling block. You can oftentimes multiply those issues by 10 when it comes to one generation of musicians working with another generation. But even though Holland has spent considerable time working with bluesmen who were much older than he was, he somehow has avoided ever letting a difference in age get in the way of simply playing the blues.

“When I first started out, I hung around all the old guys and just soaked it all up. They saw that I kept coming around and finally said, ‘Maybe we should teach this boy,'” laughed Holland. “That’s pretty much how it all started for me. Just hanging out in Chicago and making it work anyway I could. When I was growing up, my dad’s record collection was gigantic. He had everything from classical to blues, rock, jazz … you name it. So from a very early age I was listening to music. I was listening to music before I really knew what it was. I was a bit of a blues nerd when I was learning to play and I soaked up everything I could. When I started sneaking into clubs, I wasn’t drinking. I would sit at the end of the bar with a glass of water and just watch. I would have enough money with me where I could butter up the old guys and buy them a drink and ask them to tell me what I needed to know about playing the blues. I really wanted to learn and I really wanted those guys to open up to me and help me learn. I was 17- or 18-years-old … this white kid in these bars asking all these questions. There were plenty of times when I’d go to see somebody and they knew I was trying to learn, so they’d turn their backs so I couldn’t see what they were doing. But later on, it was like, ‘You know why we turned our back on you? It was because you listen with your ears; you learn with your ears. Your eyes can do it to a point, but you’ve got to hear it.'”

Holland also spent two years with the great John Primer, after seeing Muddy Waters’ former guitarist up close and personal at one of his regular stomping grounds.

“When I started playing with John, it was right around the time that Junior Wells passed away. Me and Marty Sammon (keyboardist who has played on albums by Buddy Guy, Lil’ Ed, Devon Allman and Eddie C. Campbell, to name just a few) grew up together and he was out on the scene a little bit before I was. He took me down to The Checkerboard Lounge on a Sunday or Monday to see John. John had hired him (Sammon) to play on a couple of dates, so I went along with him for a couple of Sundays and Mondays,” said Holland. “After a couple of times, Marty was like, ‘OK. I know what I need to do.’ So he stopped going, but I didn’t. I kept going back for another couple of months – every Sunday and Monday when John was not on the road. Finally, one night John was like, ‘Hey, man. What are you doing Thursday?’ I said, ‘Nothing.’ He said, ‘Alright, I got a gig out in one of the suburbs and I need a guitar player for it. Can you do it?’ I said, ‘Yeah, no problem.’ So we went out that Thursday and played the first set and was on break and John sold a few CDs and after he got done with that, he comes over and said, ‘Alright. I have three questions. Number one, what drugs do you do?’ I said, ‘Well, I don’t do any of that stuff … I’ve already seen what it does to some of these guys on the scene, so I don’t touch any of that.’ He said, ‘OK. The second question is, when can you work? And the third question is, you’ve got a job until you don’t want it anymore.’ I was like, ‘OK.’

tom holland pic 3With Holland on board as the ‘new guy,’ Primer could have thrown him to the wolves once they hit the road. Instead, Holland found out that Primer really cared about him and was not hesitant to look out for the young man.

“I think we were playing at Warm Daddies in Philly and was checking into one of the old hotels downtown. They had given the band two big suite rooms to cut down on expenses and everybody would just pile into one of the rooms. The other two guys were still in the van when John and I went to check in at the hotel desk. John said to me, ‘You and me are rooming together, because you don’t need to room with those knuckleheads.’ After the gig, we get back to the hotel room and get out the guitars and he’d show me some stuff,” Holland said.

It was also on that same road trip when Primer convinced Holland to do something that he had pretty much decided that he would never be able to do – play slide guitar.

“John said to me, ‘By the time you leave this band, you’ll know how to do two things. You’ll know how to play behind anybody and you’re going to know how to play slide.’ I said, ‘My fingers are a little fat to play slide; I don’t think I can do it.’ But he would not take no for an answer,” said Holland. “We’d be playing a gig and John would end his solo, look at me and stick his pinky finger up … meaning play slide. I was like, ‘No, no, no, no.’ He’d keep it up and then he finally walked over and said, ‘If you want to get paid, you better put that slide on your finger.’ Well, that was the end of that and it finally sank in.”

Not too long after he left Primer’s employ and was working with Eddy ‘The Chief’ Clearwater, Holland realized just how much he had absorbed from his time with Primer.

“Yeah, the running joke around Chicago for a while was that I was ‘Little’ John Primer,” he laughed. “I thought, ‘Well, I’ve sure been called worse.’ That’s not a bad problem to have.”

Holland doesn’t take his tenure with legends like Cotton, Primer and Clearwater lightly. He knows that the opportunity to play with icons like those don’t come around on a daily basis. As such, he made sure to make the most of his time with those gentlemen, almost the way a good pupil pays attention to the lessons his teacher is delivering.

“Every band that I’ve ever been out on the road with, I’ve learned something. If you’re not learning, there’s no sense in doing it. With James, I had never seen someone that could read a crowd the way that he did,” he said. “It helps that his stuff was always high-energy, but he knew how to read the crowd … there was never a set-list or anything like that. It was always flying by the seat of our pants. We knew what we had to get done, but the only set tune was the one that he came up (to the stage) on. After that, all bets were off. I learned how to read a crowd from James and that’s kept me working.”

Thanks to being born and raised in Chicago – not to mention his dad’s impressive album collection – Holland grew up with the blues as his primary musical focus. He took lessons for a brief period of time, but today he doesn’t consider himself to be that well-versed in musical theory. Nor does he really seemed interested in learning such.

“When I first started, I did take lessons for a little while to get the basics down. Then, I would just sit and play the records over and over again until I got it. In terms of knowing my instrument; I know it. But in terms of theory, I’m like, ‘Well, I know I can play it all, but I can’t tell you what the chords are.’ I know where my fingers go,” he said. “There were times where I’d be out somewhere and someone would say, ‘I need you to play a diminished seventh.’ I’d say, ‘Just play it one time and let me hear it and I’ll figure it out from there.’ I would hear, ‘If you’re going to be doing this for a living, it would be wise to learn your theory.’ I was like, ‘Yeah, I know that’s probably a good idea, but I don’t want it to cloud anything.'”

Maybe Holland is not the world’s foremost authority on fretboard theory, but he is the owner of something that a lot of other guitarists would die to have – their very own signature model guitar. Holland’s is the Delaney Shuffle King.

tom holland pic 4He explains its origins.

“I had been playing St. Blues guitars for a bunch of years. Through playing with Cotton, I had gotten an endorsement with them. The guy that I dealt with there had left the company to pursue something else. He was the guy that got me pretty much anything I needed at St. Blues. I had run into Mike Delaney somewhere along the line and he was always like, ‘If you ever want to try anything else, I’ll gladly make you a guitar … however you want.’ A week or two after my guy at St. Blues left the company, Mike sent me an e-mail saying, ‘I heard your guy left. How’s that going for you? My offer is still open, if you want me to build you anything, just let me know.’ I started thinking about it and I did have an idea (for a guitar) in my head that’s been there since I was a kid. So I got in touch with Mike and explained what I was thinking of and asked him if he could do it. He said, ‘Oh, yeah. No problem.’ So I had him build the first Shuffle King model – the seafoam green one. When I got that, all the other guitars went in the closet. That guitar was the guitar for me. It took me a while, but I finally found the guy that knows how to do it the way I want it.”

Then, a not-so-surprising thing started to happen; other people wanted a Delaney Shuffle King guitar.

“A couple months after I started playing the Shuffle King model, we were going all over the world with James. Mike and I were talking and I said, ‘You’re probably going to start getting people calling you and e-mailing you asking about the guitar.’ He said, ‘That would be wonderful.’ That’s what happened with the St. Blues stuff. I was playing them all over the world and they’d (the company) call and say, ‘You must have just gotten back from such-and-such place. A bunch of people saw you playing there and want to know about your guitar.’ Well, that started happening with the Delaney guitar, too. Mike was like, ‘Would you be open to having that be your signature model? Would you be cool with us selling them to the public? We can all make some money.’ I said, ‘Yeah, man.’ I know they’ve sold a good number of those Shuffle Kings since then. After I started playing the Delaney and Mike Zito was playing a Delaney and Samantha Fish was playing a Delaney, Mike was like, ‘Man, between you Mike and Samantha, I’m cornering the blues market. That’s a beautiful thing … people really do love those guitars.'”

Being a working musician means that there’s no shortage of challenges to beat and hoops to jump through in order to be successful. Many have started down the path towards playing the blues for a living, only to have the rug pulled out from underneath them along the way. As has been proven time and time again, trying to earn a meager living by playing the blues is not something that should be attempted by the faint-hearted or weak-willed.

Good thing that Holland is neither of those.

“Honestly, I’m hard-headed. Once I figured out I like to play music and that I might be able to make a go at it, that’s all I’ve done. I had it in my head as soon as I started playing guitar, that was what I was going to do,” he said. “So far – knock on wood – it’s worked. I tell people I’ve been doing this too long to change now.”

Visit Tom’s website at:

Blues Blast Magazine Senior Writer Terry Mullins is a journalist, author and former record store owner whose personal taste in music is the sonic equivalent of Attention Deficit Disorder. Works by the Bee Gees, Captain Beefheart, Black Sabbath, Earth, Wind & Fire and Willie Nelson share equal space with Muddy Waters, The Staples Singers and R.L. Burnside in his compact disc collection. He’s also been known to spend time hanging out on the street corners of Clarksdale, Miss., eating copious amounts of barbecued delicacies while listening to the wonderful sounds of the blues.

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 Featured Blues Review – 6 of 8 

riff riders cd imageRiff Riders – Hit The Road

Self Release

12 songs – 63 minutes

Hit The Road is the debut release by Erie, PA, blues-rockers, The Riff Riders, and very impressive it is too, with strongly written songs, fine playing and crystalline production.

The band comes storming out of the blocks with the title track, an upbeat riff-based heavy blues rocker that nicely foreshadows the rest of the album. Vocalist Amy “Shally” Shallenberger is blessed with a superb voice, and she is backed by Sean Seth on lead and cigar box guitar, Otis James on harmonica, bassist Tony LaPaglia and drummer Joe Caprara. Together they produce an enjoyably assertive sound.

Shallenberger absolutely inhabits the songs she sings, in particular on tracks like “Rich Song”, displaying an admirable restraint that helps to add understated power to her soulful delivery. Seth’s guitar playing is punchy and notably melodic throughout. He is also adept at mixing wah wah guitar in and out of songs, such as on “Bounce Back” and “Open Door”, to ensure it retains maximum impact. Seth takes the majority of the solos on the album, although when James is given an opportunity to let loose on the harmonica, as on “Cut Me Down (12.5 bar blues)” or “Leave Me Alone”, he does not disappoint.

All the songs are original band compositions, often based around a guitar riff as on “Hit The Road”, “Rumours”, “Open Door” or the psycho rockabilly of “Back Door Kenny”, but always staying on the blues side of the blues-rock divide. This is modern day blues with an edge. “Rollin” has echoes of Muddy’s classic riff in “Rollin’ And Tumblin’” but is played with a contemporary attitude and approach.

There is a “tight but loose” feel to the music that suggests the band have played these songs in countless gigs, with the rhythm section of LaPaglia and Caprara playing right in the pocket throughout. The band also clearly understand dynamics, as demonstrated on the ballad “Cut Me Down (12.5 bar blues)”, which uses space enticingly, adding an extra half bar of silence in each verse, which contributes a surprising amount of tension to the song as the anticipated resolution is postponed. Likewise, on the slow grind of “Trouble”, the entire band pulls away, leaving only James’ echoing harmonica before kicking back in with another vintage Seth solo.

The upbeat final track, “Stuck On You”, is perhaps the most “poppy” song on the album, with fine solos by Seth and James, but it’s difficult to listen to it without a smile on your face and an urge to go back to the start of the album to listen to it all again.

For the musicians out there, a nice touch is the listing on the CD sleeve of the vintage instruments used by the band. Their love of all things vintage even extends to using a growling 1965 Harley Davidson panhead to introduce the upbeat rockabilly rock of “My 65” which also features Seth playing a four-string cigar box guitar.

Overall, Hit The Road is a very enjoyable debut release that really doesn’t sound like a debut at all and suggests there is a very bright future for Riff Riders. Warmly 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 – 7 of 8 

mark cameron cd imageMark Cameron – Playing Rough

Cop Records LPM-1677

12 songs – 50 minutes

Veteran Southern Minnesota-based singer/songwriter/guitarist Mark Cameron follows up on his well-received 2014 release, One Way Ride To The Blues, with this disc, which takes his recording catalog to a new level as it guarantees to keep you moving on the dance floor.

Possessing a clear, powerful voice and excellent six-string chops, Cameron cut his teeth in the folk-rock scene during the ’70s through the ’90s, during which he released five studio albums. He’s been a consistent top finisher in competitions since making the switch to the blues and, like Playing Rough clearly demonstrates, his songwriting talents are top notch. Since this CD – the fourth in his blues arsenal — was released in early January, it’s been rising steadily on charts and radio playlists.

His tight, four-piece backing unit consists of Bill “Killer” Keyes on harp, Scott Lundberg on bass and Dan Schroeder on drums. The band delivers a unique sound thanks to the presence of Mark’s wife, Sheri, who contributes flute throughout, adding an instrument that’s virtually disappeared from rock and blues after being a mainstay in popular music of the ’60s. They’re augmented by backup singers Sara Renner and Tonia Hughes, washboard and bones player Scott Sansby and keyboard player Jason Craft. Percussionist Greg Schutte and bassist Nick Salisbury, who engineered, produced and mixed the disc, also make guest appearances.

A brief guitar lick kicks off “Doctor In The House,” a moderately paced boogie that sings about how “the blues is goin’ around.” The song’s brief, but gives Keyes and Cameron plenty of space to make their intentions clear during solos. “Somewhere Down The Line” is a guitar-driven funk atop a medium shuffle beat that tells the story of waiting for revenge after having been sold out by someone who billed himself as “lightning in a jar.”

The slow Memphis-style blues “Almost” follows. It’s a dance-floor grinder, a love song full of regret, as it details a relationship that simply doesn’t work. Every time the singer gets close, the woman runs away. Cameron’s slide work delivers a Delta feel for a paean to a “Rusty Old Model T” before the sweetest tune on the disc, the seven-minute “Bluesmans Lullaby,” an honest look at both positives and negatives in a musician’s life. Sheri’s flute and Keyes’ harp add a sweet touch to the bittersweet mix, which builds in intensity as it progresses. It was written as a tribute to B.B. King.

The feel continues for the opening of “Morning After,” but the song quickly evolves into a straight-ahead blues as it describes a woman who obviously has another man on the line and a feeling that lasts for days rather than a few hours. Cameron’s mid-tune solo, which alternates single-note runs with chords, is stellar. Like the title states, “Done Me Wrong” delivers another message of abandonment with a stripped down Hill Country feel before the rock/gospel flavored “Together,” which is enhanced by the backup singers.

The straight-ahead 12-bar “Hammered By The Blues” gives Keyes plenty of space to stretch out as Cameron sings about the aftermath of unknowingly hooking up with a woman who has a jealous and angry man at home. The title cut, “Playing Rough,” picks up the tempo as it speaks of another bad relationship before Mark goes a capella for “Close My Eyes,” a modern-day field holler. The slow blues ballad “Borrowed Time” concludes the set as it describes a woman who changes lovers frequently, but can’t seem to get the old one out of her life.

Available through CDBaby, this album delivers completely original material throughout. Even the abundant relationship material has a fresh feel. If you’re tired of the old one-four-five, this one’s for you.

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

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 Featured Blues Review – 8 of 8 

roy thompson cd imageRoy Thompson And The Mellow Kings – 20 Days

Stag-O-Lee Records

songs-15 time-39:58

Frenchman Olivier Laporte aka Roy Thompson and his band The Mellow Kings have got the retro rhythm & blues sound down to a science, whether it’s a little known cover or and original. It’s hard to differentiate between the two as Roy’s grasp of the genre is amazing. His voice and the sound of the band could of just as well been from the fifties’ era. From the wailing sax and rockabilly guitar to the boogie-woogie piano styling’s, it’s all here. This is a totally enjoyable experience from beginning to end.

Otis Blackwell’s “Oh What A Wonderful Time” evokes Louis Jordan and gets you in a good mood to start things off. The jumping R&B continues with “Burnt Toast And Black Coffee”. The title tune features some really authentic sounding rockabilly guitar from Bastien Alzuria. The energetic instrumental “Hoppin” Mad” takes the listening back to a sock hop. The original “My Lovin’ Kind” features a bluesy guitar solo.

The piano craftsmanship of Jean Pierre Cardot is a highlight of the original “Tighten Heart”. “You Got Me” finds Roy in good voice as Freddy Pohardy Riteau’s sax vies for time with the guitar. Some nice boogie-woogie piano enhances “Take Me Back”. Little Richard’s “I Love My Baby” features drummer Gael Petetin on some tasty vibraphone playing. A “plucky” string section and twangy guitar compliment each other on the slow “I Don’t Wanna Leave”.

The fellows turn in a close to the original version of the New Orleans’ classic “Cha Dooky Doo” which was originally done by Art Neville, later of The Neville Brothers Band. It’s taken at a slightly slower pace, but it is just fine. The original “Kokomo Joe” once again brings in the influence of Louis Jordan with its’ infectious tom-tom beat. Johnny Otis’ sexy late night instrumental “The Midnight Creeper” finishes up this recording on a high note.

There is nothing to not like here. The grasp these Frenchman have on this fifties sound demonstrates the universality of timeless music. If I were you I would pick this one up, throw it on the stereo and put on your high heeled sneakers. Later Daddio and Daddio-ettes!

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

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 Blues Society News 

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Contemporary Art Center of Peoria – Peoria, IL

Peoria Contemporary Art Center’s 2nd Annual Harmonica Invitational is Friday June 24th, 5:30 – 8:30pm.

Enjoy three of the Midwest’s greatest harmonica players perform in a special 3-hour Live at the Five Spot event at the Contemporary Art Center at 305 SW Water Street, Peoria, IL 61602

Harmonica players include: Joel Fleming of Monmouth, Matthew Fuller of Peoria and Mark Russillo of Springfield. These fine harmonica players will be backed by the blues/rock band JuJu Jonny. For more information contact William Butler, Executive Director, Contemporary Art Center 309-674-6822 or or visit

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

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 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!

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 27 – Laurie Morvan.

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. 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

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