Issue 10-32 August 11, 2016

Cover photo by Bob Kieser © 2016

 In This Issue 

Don Wilcock has our feature interview with Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne. We have 10 Blues reviews for you this week including music by Markey Blue, Joe Bonamassa, Tim Williams, Black River Bluesman & Bad Mood Hudson, The Wayne Riker Brotherhood, Jeff Healey, Jamiah On Fire & The Red Machine, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Alabama Lovesnakes and Professor Longhair.

Marilyn Stringer has photos and commentary from the Blues From The Top Festival.

Our video of the week is Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne.

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

 From The Editor’s Desk 

BBMAs logo imageHey Blues Fans,

You only have 4 days left to vote in the 2016 Blues Blast Music Awards. Voting ends at midnight CST on Monday, August 15th. Join more than 6,000 blues fans and support your favorie artists. Vote now HERE.

Also, get your tickets are for the 2016 Blues Blast Music Awards on September 23rd at the Fluid Event Center in Champaign, Illinois. The awards show features performances from Too Slim & The Taildraggers, Peter Karp, Dave Weld & The Imperial Flames, Bob Margolin, Shaun Murphy, Fiona Boyes, Jonn Del Toro Richardson, Shoji Naito, Big Harp George, Markey Blue, Dave Muskett Acoustic Blues Band, Danielle Nicole, Andy T-Nick Nixon Band, Anthony Geraci & Monster Mike Welch, Andy Poxon & Little Ronnie, Henry Gray, Bob Corritore, Guy King, Eugene “Hideaway” Bridges, Jon Spear Band and the Corey Dennison Band. This gonna be one BIG Blues party!

We have 2 stages in one large auditorium space with general admission seating. Reserved sponsor VIP seating is also available right in front of both stages.

There will be continuous performances from the time the show starts at 6pm (Doors at 5pm) until past midnight. Food and beverages available at the show. It is a show you don’t want to miss! Complete information is at!

And while you are there be sure to check out our General Admission VIP Tickets. No waiting. no line, you can use the VIP entrance and it includes an official 2016 Blues Blast Music Awards t-shirt, poster, and official 2016 Blues Blast Music Awards pin for only $50. (Every year, we run out of official t-shirts, so this is your best bet to get one!)

Wishing you health, happiness and lots of Blues music!

Bob Kieser

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 Blues Wanderings 

Blues Blast made it out to the Pekin Boat Club right in our own town to catch a show by Ruf Recording artist Albert Castiglia.

Albert is on tour in support of his latest album entitled Big Dog. I got a signed copy while I was there. Look for a review of this great new release in an upcoming issue.

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 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 10 

markey blue cd imageMarkey Blue – The Blues Are Knockin’

SoulOSound Records SORCD103

10 songs – 41 minutes

Based in Nashville, Markey Blue burst upon the blues scene with the release of their debut CD, Hey Hey, two years ago and quickly established themselves as a force to be reckoned with, delivering a soulful brand of blues that’s part Chicago, part Memphis and all the way blue, and earning several honors, including a nomination last year as Best New Artist in the Blues Blast Awards.

Formed by veteran guitarist Ric Latina, who’s toured with Waylon Jennings, Clint Black and Gary Puckett and been a first-call studio musician, and vocalist Jeannette Markey, a former Las Vegas showgirl, actress and stand-up comedienne who’s worked with Taj Mahal, Delbert McClinton, Anson Funderburgh and Bobby “Blue” Bland, the duo met by chance when both were backing other artists and were booked on to the same show.

What started as a songwriting project quickly evolved into much, much more. Three of the songs on this CD have been picked up for TV placement, and another for the movies. They reached the semi-finals of this year’s International Blues Challenge in Memphis, winning over fans and judges alike with their high-energy stage show. And they’ve been tabbed for consideration for another Blues Blast Award, this time in the Sean Costello Rising Star category.

Latina is a smooth, adept guitarist who delivers crisp, clean runs as a perfect bandleader for Markey, whose Southern-tinged vocals are a match for her statuesque brunette beauty, both sweet and sultry at the same time. They’re backed by a who’s who of Nashville talent, including Chris Tuttle and Mike Maiocco on keys, Truman Virden, Randy Coleman and John Marcus on bass, Dion Clay, David “Smitty” Smith, Tom Larson, Rodney Ledbetter and Jim Klingler on drums and percussion and a horn section that includes Dana Robbins on sax and Jim Williamson and Scott Ducaj on trumpet.

Dedicated to the memory of Randy Chortkoff, the late founder of Delta Groove Records, who gave them their first break, the album features nothing but original material both co-written and produced by Markey and Ric. It’s well-paced music that’s guaranteed to get your toes tapping and your feet on the dance floor.

Don’t be fooled by his Hill Country-flavored slide guitar intro to “I’ll Wait For You” into thinking this CD is directed at a country audience. It’s a departure from what you’ll hear going forward, and evolves quickly into something that true blues fans will adore, guaranteed to get your toes tapping and your feet out on the dance floor. Eventually a fast shuffle, it features as Markey, who uses her last name as a showbiz moniker, pleading for her man to hold on to her until morning night. She drives the rhythm forward by accompanying the percussion on tambourine.

The pace speeds ups a little for “That Ain’t Good Enough,” with Latina driving the beat with a single-note guitar hook as Markey demands that her man become more than a part-time lover, insisting that his reluctance is tearing her apart. Like lipstick on a collar, she feels washed out again. The beat gets funky for the medium paced shuffle “Cold Outside,” in which Markey relates hanging around in the chill, waiting for her man to come home. The horns feature prominently behind the vocals with Ric delivering a solid mid-tune solo.

Delivered atop a walking blues beat, “Cash Is Always King” claims that it doesn’t matter what you have in life, it’s always better to have money. The title tune, “The Blues Are Knockin’,” follows. It’s a slow-blues burner that wonders if an ex-lover ever thinks about the singer in the dead of night. She still cares for him more than he’ll ever know. Two tributes to lost blues superstars follow. Dedicated to Little Milton Campbell, “Be My Train” is a love song while “Lay Down Lucille” is a tip-of-the-hat to B.B. King with Latina and the horns in commands as Markey delivers an ode to his guitar, noting: “Don’t you worry about your daddy/In our hearts he’ll always stay.”

Markey recounts lessons she’s learned in life in “Nobody’s Fool” before she launches into another song of separation in “Me Missing You.” The album closes on the slow blues, “Worries,” which tells the listener not to cry any tears even though she’s lost her man because she’s dealing with many other, more important problems to face.

Available through CDBaby, iTunes or Google Play, The Blues Are Knockin’ delivers a strong dose of original, modern blues and, like the band’s first release, proves once again that Markey Blue is a band on the rise. Strongly recommended.

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 – 2 of 10 

joe bonamassa cd imageJoe Bonamassa – Blues Of Desperation

J&R Adventures

11 songs time-61:48

Blues-rock poster boy Joe Bonamassa’s newest release finds him veering closer to singer-songwriter territory while still sticking to his guitar attack. He does mellow out a bit with a few acoustic guitar forays. His soulful voice enhances everything he touches here. All songs are original and all but one are with the assistance of a co-writer. He surrounds himself with first call musicians. Anton Fig and Greg Morrow handle drums, Reese Wynans on piano and organ, Michael Rhodes on bass along with background singers and a small horn section. The songs contain various aspects of rock. blues-rock, gospel, jazz and even a touch of blues.

The fast paced “This Train” has a modern hard country tinge to it as it powers along with slide guitar, piano and occasional backing vocals. Aside from the vocal “Mountain Climbing” a bit of a Billy Squier feel to it with it’s incessant beat as it portrays mans’ everyday struggles. It features Joe’s string-bending guitar at its’ best. The song does tend to get a bit repetitive, but that’s only a small quibble. “Drive” is moody and the guitar tone, soloing and atmospherics owe a debt to Peter Green.

His vocal on “No Good Place For The Lonely” brings to mind James Dewar of Stone The Crows and Robin Trower fame. It’s a lovely, moody piece that makes good use of a string section. He lets loose a long soaring solo at songs’ end. The title song is moody with some Led Zeppelin-like crunchiness and mysteriousness to it. It closes out with some nice slide and straight guitar work. The first acoustic guitar song “The Valley Runs Low” is slow with a gospel feel.

“You Left Me Nothin’ But The Bill And The Blues” is guitar based blues=rock at its’ best that also features some pounding piano by Reese Wynans. Heavy tom-toms and guitar charge intp “Distant Lonesome Train”. “So take me down to the gates of hell on that distant lonesome train’. Distorted guitar jumps back and forth from left and right speakers. “How Deep This River Runs” goes back and forth from mellow to a lush heaviness.

He throws in a nice and mellow jazzy song in “Livin’ Easy” with acoustic guitar, piano and some moody sax by Mark Douthit. Things finish off with a slow burning horn infused blues in “What I’ve Known For A Very Long Time”.

This is my first full dose of Joe Bonamassa and I like what I hear. He presents strong songs while infusing them with his energetic powerhouse guitar. His soulful vocals hold your attention. Everything here is well crafted and performed. He gathered some fine musicians to back him here. That, his guitar skills and the collaborative song writing make for one fine listening experience.

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

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 Featured Blues Review – 3 of 10 

tim williams cd imageTim Williams – So Low

LowdenProud Records Ltd.

10 songs – 33 minutes

One listen to this short, but sweet CD and you’ll have no question why Tim Williams walked away with top honors in the Solo/Duo category at the 2014 International Blues Challenge.

Originally from Los Angeles but based out of the plains of western Canada for the past four decades after a brief stay in Vancouver, he’s a gifted multi-instrumentalist skilled on most stringed instruments who possesses a warm, rich tenor voice. No stranger to the recording studio, he released his first album on the Epic label in 1970. It was produced by the legendary Chris Strachwitz, founder of the Arhoolie label.

A three-time nominee for the Juno Award, Canada’s equivalent to the Grammy, as well as several for the Toronto Blues Society’s prestigious Maple Blues Award, he’s also skilled in the control booth, too, earning Juno recognition for his production work on Ray Bonneville’s Rough Luck album. A songwriter, too, he’s been published by country music legend Mel Tillis and recorded by zydeco superstar C.J. Chenier.

Proficient on guitar, mandolin, banjo and dobro, Williams recorded this album solo in one take and without the benefit of any editing or overdubs. The only accompaniment were occasional foot taps from his winged-tip shoe on the studio floor. It’s a masterful recording with few, if any flaws. Self-produced and released on his own label, it features a 50-50 mix of covers and tastefully chosen originals.

So Low kicks off on a funky note with a version of Mose Allison’s “If You Live,” a personal favorite of the guitarist. He toured extensively with the piano virtuoso in the early ‘70s. Next up, the tasty “More Peppers In Your Chili” is an original Williams composed after observing how many different spices he had scattered around his house. It puts his fingerpicking on display.

Tim pulls out the mandolin next for a reworking of Big Bill Broonzy’s “My Big Money” – about the cash promised but denied to African-American GIs in World W-ar I — before switching to slide guitar for the “Anywhere c/o The Blues.” It describes troubles in the world and advises: “Keep your hand on your wallet/And one eye on your brother/While you’ve got your shoulder to the wheel.” Despite being a new tune, it has a timeless feel that fits perfectly in the mix of the song that came before and the reworking of Blind Boy Fuller’s “Pistol Snapper,” which follows.

Tampa Red’s “The Witching Hour” comes next before the original “The Grizzly Bear,” which is based on a craze of the early 1900s in which folks tried to mimic the bear’s movements on the dance floor. This version is based on one Williams heard performed by Geoff Muldaur, a key member in the Kweskin Jug Band of the 1960s.

Johnny Cash’s early hit, “Big River,” precedes two more originals to conclude the set. “Midnight After Midnight” features Tim playing in drop-D tuning in the style of Lonnie Johnson as he sings about walking the floor nightly, worrying about the way he’s being treated by his woman. “Lightnin’” is a finishing tip-of-the-hat to Lightnin’ Hopkins, who was one of Williams’ biggest influences.

Available through CDBaby and other online retailers, So Low is a terrific example of the timelessness of acoustic blues.

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

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 Featured Blues Review – 4 of 10 

black rives bluesman cd imageBlack River Bluesman & Bad Mood Hudson – Moonshine Medicine

Gecko Yell Records

10 tracks/27:30

Coming direct from Finland, Jukka “Black River Bluesman” Juhola and “Andy” Bad Mood Hudson are a duo act with a number of recordings under their belt. Juhola handles the lead vocals while accompanying himself on Lowebow guitars, a custom version of the cigar box guitar, produced by Johnny Lowe in Memphis in a number of configurations and tunings. Hudson plays drums as well as adding backing vocals to an all-original batch of songs.

They create a distortion-laden wall of sound full of droning slide guitar tones riding ponderous drum beats. The title track opens the disc with Juhola barking out lyrics over accompaniment that resembles the Mississippi Hill country sound, minus the finesse and at a considerably louder volume level. “Big Alligator” continues in the heavy vein while “Latest Stranger” and “Gasoline” could be the duo’s attempts to emulate Black Sabbath.“Bucket Hot Water” finds Juhola playing in a more traditional manner while chanting, then shrieking mundane lyrics.

“Chicken Song” slows the pace, allowing the band to establish a more traditional blues sound. The frenzied approach is back on “Candy Box Blues,” “Knock Knock,” and “Digital Ghost,” causing the songs to blend together into a continuous cacophony of hard-edge sounds. The disc ends with “Going Down With The Lowebow” as the the two men repeatedly sing the title line while Juhola rips off taut licks from his instrument.

Black River Bluesman and Bad Mood Hudson have a unique insight into blues music. Fans of cigar box guitars and listeners who are open to a more modern rendering of blues may find this approach appealing.

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 – 5 of 10 

wayne riker cd imageThe Wayne Riker Brotherhood – Blues Convocation

Fretfull Records

CD: 8 Songs, 43:10 Minutes

Styles: Blues Covers, Ensemble Blues

Yours truly has often tried to discover the reasons why covers remain so popular, especially in the blues genre. Oddly enough, some Olympic athletes have helped me find out another one. Gymnasts create, and then try to emulate, each other’s signature moves: the Amanar vault, for example, and a new one named for (I kid you not) Marisa Dick. The point in performing such flourishes is twofold: 1) Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery; and 2) Novelty counts nowhere near as much as execution, at least in gymnastics scores. The same might be said for blues covers. Some bands may not put their own material forward, but, man, can they belt out the classics with uncharacteristic power! This is what San Diego’s Wayne Riker Brotherhood does on their newest release, Blues Convocation. On eight well-percolated covers, they give their all in a robust brew of blues. His usual four-piece band adds seven special guests, for a savory result.

On his webpage, Riker comments: “My journey on guitar began shortly after the Beatles hit the shores of the U.S. in 1964. What started as a hobby, became a passion and career, shortly afterwards, beginning with my first gig in 1967 at The Cafe Bizarre in Greenwich Village, in my hometown of New York City, winding through the heyday of the Jersey Shore, to the plains of the Midwest, to my present situation as a freelance guitarist in San Diego, California. I’ve played in over fifty groups, spanning most all the musical spectrums, including Rock, Funk, Country, Jazz, Blues, Latin, Top 40, Big Band, World Music, show bands, musical theater, and concerts backing up numerous ‘well known’ and ‘hardly known’ entertainers, in addition to performing solo guitar instrumental shows. Concurrently, I’ve taught guitar as my parallel passion, since 1972.”

Accompanying guitarist/vocalist Wayne Riker are regular keyboardist/vocalist Mike Finnigan, bassist Nathan Brown, and drummer Walt Riker. Ensemble guests include Bill Shreeve on alto and tenor sax; Lance Dieckmann on harmonica, and vocalists Missy Andersen, Whitney Shay, Shelle Blue, Scott Mathiasen, and Miki Purnell.

The following cover is this CD’s vocal best, and one of its finest overall tracks as well.

Track 06: “Willow Weep for Me” – Miki Purnell steals the show and listeners’ hearts on her rendition of Ann Ronell’s hit, popularized by legends like Steve Miller. With a medium tempo and clear diction, she pours her heart out: “Willow, weep for me. Willow, weep for me. Bend your branches green along the stream…Listen to my plea: Listen, willow, and weep for me.” Miller’s melancholy may be absent, but Purnell’s voice is sweet and pliant as a willow branch. Riker’s guitar is as melodic as a mountain stream, burbling in some places, yet roaring in others.

The word “convocation” means “a coming together,” as in a church congregation. Not only have these eleven blues artists come together in a physical sense, performing together, but they’ve also gathered eight of the world’s best-loved blues songs into a convocation of classic style. Their execution is top-notch, deserving of a high score on all fans’ playlists!

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 – 6 of 10 

jeff healy cd imageJeff Healey – Heal My Soul

Provogue – 2016

12 tracks; 52 minutes

Between 1996 and 2000 Jeff Healey did not issue a record but did record plenty of material, most of which remained unissued – until now. Painstakingly researched by former colleagues of Jeff’s the twelve tracks here present the best of Jeff’s talent, some fine songs, plenty of firepower on guitar but also gentler moments which provide several of the highlights of the album. Most of these tracks feature Jeff’s long-serving bandmates Joe Rockman on bass and Dean Glover on drums; other musicians include Tom Stephen (drums on two tracks), Paul Kehayas (guitar, bass and keys on two tracks), Phillip Sayce (rhythm guitar on one track) and Cristie Healey (background vocals one track). Jeff did write songs but always found the process difficult; here his contributions are collaborations with others including Marti Frederiksen, Arnold Lanni and Stevie Salas, together with six covers.

“Daze Of The Night” opens the album with ample evidence of Jeff’s ability to rock out on a riff-driven tune with a rousing chorus and some striking guitar fills. “Moodswing” is the first of two songs written by the members of Toronto band The Phantoms, a hard-hitting number that provides the album title in its chorus as well as finding Jeff double-tracking sinuous slide over the core riff, his multi-layered backing vocals offering a sweeter tone against the almost heavy metal guitar work. Baby Blue (T. Beattie) is a complete contrast with Jeff’s emotional vocal matched by the stellar guitar layered over acoustic backing, followed by a solid take on Richard Thompson’s “Misunderstood” with its lilting chorus and chugging rhythm. “Please” is a fast paced number with lots of aggressive wah-wah before the second Phantom’s tune “Love In Her Eyes” provides pace allied to lyrical guitar. “Temptation” is more of a slow-burner but still packs a punch in the guitar stakes as Jeff uses plenty of rhymes to match the title, sounding desperately under the spell of someone here.

Another song from outside the band is M. Ferrari and P. Huxley’s “Kiss The Ground You Walk On” which has a wonderfully uplifting chorus, Jeff accompanying his own lead vocal with multi-layered backing. Jeff had recorded two acoustic guitar parts, lead and harmony vocals for “All The Saints” and the producers pondered completing the track with drums and bass but resisted the temptation – a good decision, as what is here is simply superb, Jeff’s vocal entirely convincing as he sings that “You’re supposed to be strong, supposed to be brave ‘cos that’s the way someone I love should behave. You’re supposed to be you and not somebody else; I’ve always known more about you than myself.” Albert Collins’ “Put The Shoe On The Other Foot” is the most obvious blues song here, played in restrained but still funky style as Jeff’s wild lead work sits above Phillip Sayce’s rhythm work. Two of Jeff and Marti’s originals round out the album: “Under A Stone” finds Jeff sounding a little desperate and in need of “a hand to work it out”, his guitar break matching that sentiment; strangely “It’s The Last Time” has a writing credit for Joe Rockman but bass duties are handled by Jeff with just drummer Dean on hand to assist. It makes a fine finale with Jeff’s acoustic rhythm providing the base for some subtle slide work on a country-tinged tune with another earworm chorus.

Sadly cancer took Jeff from us in 2008, at a far too young 41. These lost recordings provide a fitting reminder of what a talent Jeff was in the blues-rock area though he was equally happy playing jazz at his Toronto club.

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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 Video Of The Week – Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne 

kenny blues bos wayne video image

Here is an extended set of Kenny playing at Moscow’s B.B. King Club this past March. Click on the image above to see this video.

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 Featured Blues Interview – Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne 

“Between the very few records I heard and the gospel background, I think that kind of summed me up,” says Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne. His dad was an AME minster who liked only sophisticated big band music, but Mom would play blues 45s before she went out on the town with her girlfriends. And Kenny could pick up whatever he heard and play it on the piano after one listen.

“It’s a real fine line between blues and gospel. There’s not too much difference other than the high notes I would say. The high notes being the tinkling of the ivory. In gospel music you don’t tinkle the ivory.” Kenny found the middle ground between the two styles. The left hand is like God, and the right hand is like the devil.

“What my mother and I used to do when my father was at extended church meetings is we would sit and do boogie woogie. My mother loved the boogie woogie. I did the bass runs and she did the high notes, and we would switch and just play a few things I knew.”

Wayne’s more than half a century career can be loosely defined as the push and pull between the devil’s high notes and God’s low notes. He takes the nickname “Blues Boss” from Amos Milburn’s last record, The Return of The Blues Boss. “Yeah, he did “Bad Bad Whiskey” and all that stuff. But that was a song my mother liked, but I never played that in front of my dad. I never played it in the house. If I went over to my cousin’s house or anybody else’s house, we played blues, and that’s what we would do, but in our house it definitely wouldn’t be blues. The records I heard from my mother ’cause she was a social person. This was the kind of music she heard when she was getting ready to get dressed to go out, and my dad didn’t necessarily go out with her. She went out with her girlfriends or the ladies of the Eastern Star or whatever that was. So, they had their night out, and so she put on these records.

“I couldn’t put the records on. My mother could put the records on. So she put it on because her purpose was getting ready to go out, and they were gonna have a few drinks and so that was ok, but for me because I wasn’t gonna go out, and I wasn’t gonna have any drinks, I shouldn’t be listening to that kind of music. It wasn’t really tolerated for my ears. She loved Little Willie John, and then she played Amos Milburn, and she just liked that kind of music, and that was her and her friends’ kind of music.”

As he got older, Kenny would learn that that distance between those high and low notes was a cultural chasm. “It’s almost like tinkling up someone’s dress. You just don’t do that. No, no. You keep your hands on your lap and that’s pretty much right straight in front of you. And I think that’s the difference between the blues and the gospel.

“The high notes, the tinkling of the ivory is a little devilish. When you’re way up in the high Cs, and you’re staying up there and tinkling those ivories, it does something to the female. It’s a strange thing, but that frequency that female feels. Maybe the male doesn’t quite feel that, but the females? When I’m playing something and I’m way up and tinkling that ivory, it’s devilish because you’re tickling that frequency.

“So when you’re in church you’re not supposed to be thinking about and playing that way. Gospel music usually tries to keep their piano playing in the mid-section. There’s a lot of things you can do in the middle, and it doesn’t mean you can’t go up to a high note. It just means you can’t stay up in the high note. The high note’s trying to get attention. That’s exactly what it’s trying to do, and in gospel music it’s not your job to get attention. The devil wants your attention. So that’s Kenny Wayne psychology.”

His mother’s secular influence on Wayne’s muse clashed with his father’s more “sophisticated” taste and exploded in confrontation when Wayne was 17. He had been hired in Los Angeles to play piano for a pickup band backing Chicago blues legend Jimmy Reed. “I almost had my father swayed to at least give the blues a chance. He was convinced that this was not a juke joint. This was a venue. It was basically a hall that you could rent out. We’d had events there before. They had the Shriners meetings, my mother’s Eastern Star. So the venue was not a juke joint where you had to be 21 to get in.

“Dad wasn’t really familiar with Jimmy Reed. My mother was. She loved Jimmy Reed and Little Willie John and all those guys, B. B. and all. My dad had respect for B.B., and big sophisticated blues bands. It’s those other ones he had problems with. I think he had more problems with juke joints more so than the musicians’ music.

“He always wanted upscale stuff. If you’re gonna do something, always look at upscale: Nat King Cole, Duke Ellington. Everything was a big band. We got ’em good seats right up in the front. We brought Jimmy on. He sat down and he was starting to play.

“That’s when the fight broke out with a couple sitting right next to my mother. This guy came in. The table’s five feet from the stage. You can bring your bottles in, and of course that’s when the brawl happened. I didn’t see him do this, but I did look over and see a scuffle with the security grabbing this guy, and there was blood all over this guy’s head and on my mother’s dress.

“The band leader was telling us to keep playing. ‘Whatever you do, don’t stop.’ So, we kept playing. I’m looking over at the side, and he said, ‘Keep playing. Don’t worry about it.’ And I’m looking at him ’cause my mother and dad were standing up. Before I knew it, my dad grabbed me from the back of the collar and said, ‘We’re leaving,’ and he dragged me out, went through the back kitchen. The security guy opened the back door. I went out there, and that was the end of my blues career on that second song.”

It would be more than 30 years and a country away before Wayne got back into the blues bag full time. Instead, his ability to play just about anything on piano after one or two lessons got him session work, club and concert dates with high profile acts like Delanie & Bonnie, Billy Preston, Sly Stone, and the Doobie Brothers.

“I was pretty well known in the L.A. area in the early and late ’60s, especially the guys around the Hollywood area. So, I had that style. I had the gospel background. I had the R&B. I mean the R&B and funk and all of that stuff came right out of the church. I played all the time, and I had the right equipment. I had a B-3, I had the clavinet, I had the Rhodes, and I had a van. I was pretty well known in the area. When anybody needed somebody that needed very little rehearsing and had that style and just jump in and play, I was that kind of guy.”

Wayne just never knew who he’d run into. One night at a rehearsal playing bass with his band the Latin Jazz Prophets, a musician he’d never seen before came up to him. “He comes up to me and says, ‘You sound pretty good. Would you mind if I played your bass?’ I ended up talking to Roland’s mother in the kitchen and came back. They finished, and I go in and grabbed the bass back and said, You sound pretty good, too.’ So, everybody was cracking up.’”

The bass player turned out to be jazz icon Charlie Mingus. “He did come back a few weeks later, and he told me I should learn how to read. He said, ‘You sound good, but you know what? You can speak, but you don’t know what you’re saying.’ So, at that particular time I decided not to play the bass. (laugh) That was embarrassing. So, I never did pick the bass up after that.” But the blues kept coming back to haunt Wayne.

“I didn’t actually start delving into the blues until 1994. I was playing a lot of covers mostly for dancing cabarets and stuff like that. So I never really seen a market for the blues even when I was in San Francisco. Back in the ’70s the East Bay, Oakland area, and of course in San Francisco, they had all the top bands like Sly and Doobie Brothers and the guys that were doing big concerts, and I only knew one blues guy at the time. That was Sonny Rhodes, and so Sonny hired me for a gig, and I went and played, and I don’t think I got paid that night. “They didn’t have a table for my keyboards, and they put it on a table. Then, they didn’t have a light. So, they put a little lantern next to me and put a red bulb in it, and I’m thinking about my dad. ‘What would he say?’ So, I thought I would go back to the Bay Area and hang around with successful people who got these Rolls Royces and are playing these big arenas. So, I did that.

“In 1994 I was in southern Spain, and I’m playing basically Spanish music, and I listen to Nat King Cole Española, and I learned all the songs on there, and I could sort of know it. There was another piano player from London, and he was playing all Jerry Lee Lewis stuff, and Frank Sinatra, and he was making all the tips, big tips, and I’m playing all this romantic stuff and not making anything. So, this guy from England comes up to me and says, ‘You look like you can play some blues.’ I said ‘Yeah, I can play some blues. I don’t know any blues, but I can make up something.’ “So, I played the blues for him, and I started getting tips. I said, ‘Shit, he’s gotta be kidding me. I’m playing this old shit, and I’m making some money.’

“Now, this other piano player comes on and I say, ‘You know, I think I’m gonna play some Fats Domino and some Little Richard.’ I’m playing some blues in between that, and this guy says, ‘You know, when I listen to you play the blues you remind me of Champion Jack Dupree.’ I said, ‘Well, who is that? Sounds like a fighter to me.’ He says, ‘I’ll tell you what. I’ll mail you some copies. I have some CDs, some tapes.’ “So he sent me some tapes of Champion Jack Dupree. So, I listened to some of him. I could see a little similarity. A good buddy from Germany lived in Vancouver. He said, ‘This guy gave you a hint,’ and I said, ‘Ok’ and I wrote a bunch of blues songs, and that was my (1995) Alive and Loose CD, and that was the first one, and then from then things started happening. I was getting more attention playing the blues than I was getting every other kind of music. Had this guy in Spain not said, ‘Play the blues,’ I probably wouldn’t be playing blues now.” Wayne’s 10th CD, Jumpin’ & Boppin’ is all originals in the Amos Milburn tradition. The one cover is “You Don’t Know Me” written by country artist Eddy “The Tennessee Plough Boy” Arnold, but Wayne was inspired by Ray Charles’ version.

“I love the way Ray Charles did it. It’s almost like I would have done it the same way if I just heard a country version of that song. That’s why I kinda picked up – his background was pretty close.

“Most blues piano players got their shtick from the church, or from someone who had been part of a church who they admired. So, a lot of stuff I could do that way because we used to take songs even when I was in the youth choir like “Amazing Grace.” I mean “Amazing Grace” was basically a 3-4 beat song, and most Baptist churches would take it and make it 3-4 or 4-4 beat to give it that pulse. I love that song, so Ray did it, and a lot of stuff I did sounded kind of like Ray doin’ it.

“I haven’t ever heard Eddy Arnold’s version, but I know that he’s the writer. I haven’t a clue what it would sound like, but I think a lot of the country music – I think I kinda approach a lot of the country music kinda like with a gospel feel. “It’s his interpretation. He has a way – I mean the things that he does – everything he does it melds any genre with the gospel type which is basically soul. Soul and gospel music are basically the same thing except the subject you’re talking about, but he brings out, it’s his soul-plus genius. He can put those two things together really in a genius way without saying, ‘Oh, that’s a gospel sound.’ He’s able to put even some of the R&B and the country and even some of the big band – ’cause he was a sax player. So, he was very good at arranging.

“He could actually mix gospel with all the other genres of music. If you get a different gospel player, for example, who just played gospel music, and you want that gospel player to play the blues, it probably wouldn’t come out quite the same. It would come out like he’s playing gospel, but there’s something you can change.

“I don’t know what it is, but you can make it more of a bluesy type thing where a street gospel player wouldn’t be able to or not even want to play it the way a bluesy guy would because he don’t want to be going into the devil’s den, but Ray was able to go into that without offending one or the other. “If you’re a gospel person, you can hear that song “I Got a Woman” It sounds similar to a gospel sound, but then when you put the other elements into it, it sort of changes. So, Ray approached the country music like kind of country gospel music and gospel like a blues gospel. He’s very unique at doing that. So that’s the genius that he could just put that together. It seems like it’s simple, but it’s not quite simple. It’s almost like B. B. King hits that high note on guitar. So if you get 20 guitar players all hitting high notes like B. B. does it have the same effect? You got the note there. That’s his note that he goes up to. You got the fingering, but there’s something else that’s missing.”

It was one thing to listen to Mom’s boogie woogie records, but quite another to take lessons from the church organist who a Julliard graduate and agreed to teach an eight-year-old child prodige the devil’s music on the big pipe organ. “I said, ‘If he can play me a boogie woogie on this big church organ, then I would study and do all my musical homework.’ So, that was our deal. I had a very good ear because he would change notes, and I would play what I learned, and he said, ‘Are you reading this,’ and I said, ‘Yes, sir!’ He said, ‘No, you’re not because I made some changes in there. You’re playing the way it (played it).’ So, I had a pretty good ear.”

Visit Kenny’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 – 7 of 10 

jamiah on fire cd imageJamiah On Fire & The Red Machine – Winners Never Quit

Self-Release – 2015

10 tracks; 34 minutes

Jamiah Rogers is the son of a musician and has been playing since he was just four years of age. Starting on drums, he switched to guitar and won the award for the top guitarist under 12 at the Chicago Music Awards three years running. Still in his teens, Jamiah has been playing in an electric trio since he turned 16 and this is his debut release, featuring ten songs all written by Jamiah and his father Tony. Jamiah plays lead and rhythm guitar and handles all vocals, with bass duties split between Jamiah and Tony with Jalon Allen on drums. Strangely the CD cover shows a trio of very young guys of which Jamiah is clearly the oldest so perhaps that is his regular band, billed here as ‘The Red Machine’.

Recorded on home turf in Chicago, the style here is heavy on the funk with plenty of choppy rhythm work backed up by heavy drums and bass, Jamiah riding that wave on his solos, as he does very well on “I Like You”. The title track has Dad’s wise words to the eight year-old Jamiah: “You’re a winner and quitters never win; you might not get everything you work for but you’re gonna work for everything you get”.

The opening track “When Will It Happen” has some clichéd phrases (“patience is a virtue”, “good things come to those who wait”) put together over the chugging rhythm, Jamiah wondering when the hard work will pay off. Vocally Jamiah is fine but his solo is pretty histrionic with lots of screaming wah-wah which is also the case on the slow blues “It’s Alright To Cry”, a shame as Jamiah shows some subtler touches in the rest of the tune.

Not surprisingly with titles like “Boogie Shack”, “Play For You” and “Find Your Groove” the groove-based approach dominates the rest of the album. For a very young man Jamiah has a good voice and can clearly play guitar but it would be good to hear him in a wider range of styles.

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 – 8 of 10 

john mayall cd imageJohn Mayall’s Bluesbreakers – Live in 1967-Volume Two

Featuring Peter Green, John McVie and Mick Fleetwood

Forty Below Records

13 Tracks

This is the Blues – elemental, unapologetic and unsullied by wannabe rock stars. John Mayall has been writing, recording and playing blues for more than 60 years. Over that time, his bands, almost always called the Bluesbreakers, have been home to a to a veritable who’s who of blues and rock superstars and legends: Peter Green, Eric Clapton, Mick Taylor, Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, Jack Bruce, Coco Montoya, Walter Trout … and more. John Mayall wasn’t merely one of the British Blues artists who broke out in the 60s, he was the father, godfather and undisputed champion of the British Blues scene. The latter day bands were born from his ribs. Eric Clapton, Spencer Davis Group, Savoy Brown and the very musicians who play on this CD.

The line-up here consists of Mayall on vocals, harp, organ and piano with John McVie on bass, Mick Fleetwood on drums and the absolutely incredible Peter Green on guitar. These last three, of course, went on to form another of the seminal British Blues groups of the 60s, Fleetwood Mac.

A note on production values: the tracks on this CD were recorded live in various clubs around London in 1967 on a single channel reel-to-reel tape recorder. The sound is uneven, to say the least. In fact, a couple of tracks sound like they were recorded in the bottom of a 45-gallon drum. This is not a CD for audiophiles, it is a CD for blues lovers. And what a musical feast it is for that happy band of brothers and sisters.

It kicks off with “Tears In My Eyes”, a delicious slow blues where we can hear Peter Green’s guitar mastery right off the bat. It also showcases an often overlooked aspect of Mayall’s talent, his voice. He is as good a blues singer as you’ll find, with hints of the soaring notes BB King was known to hit is his younger days. Mayall’s vocals are a study in control, and it is truly great to hear voice as a blues instrument rather than as a necessary evil to separate two 24-bar solos.

But it is the next slow blues tune, “So Many Roads”, that showcases the depth of talents of the band. Peter Green gives a master class on blues guitar where you can hear the skills that prompted BB King to say, “He has the sweetest tone I ever heard; he was the only one who gave me the cold sweats.” There is no better example for today’s high-octane shredders to learn that speed and volume are no substitute for talent.

His playing is nuanced and evocative. It caresses, cajoles, strokes and holds the listener in its embrace. This is why he was known as the Green God.

He maintains this excellence track after track. On “Sweet Little Angel”, his inspired musicality intertwines with Mayall’s fine organ playing, weaving a sweet little arrangement of the BB King. Green’s indescribable arias on “Stormy Monday” may be the most sublime tone ever recorded.

McVie’s bass playing is solid, and in places, goes above and beyond while Mick Fleetwood’s forceful drumming drives hard (including in a couple of places it might have been better to coast). Here are the glimpses of the solid rhythm section they would develop into in Fleetwood Mac.

What really brings this CD together is the cohesiveness of the band. Even while displaying their individual talents, ultimately they shine in serving the music first, egos second.

John Mayall turns 83 this year and still tours, although on a much reduced schedule. Mick Fleetwood has formed the Mick Fleetwood Blues Band and still tours with Fleetwood Mac along with John McVie. Peter Green who has struggled with schizophrenia is still active as a solo artist and collaborator. But it is in these golden moments that we can appreciate what they have meant to the world of the Blues.

This collection of original and cover tunes is a visit with those who revered its authentic American roots and its African American originators. It’s clear with every note that John Mayall and his band of impeccable artists truly love the genre. That’s why you should listen to this album.

Reviewer Lex Dunn is a writer and musician living on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. He has fronted blues bands in Toronto, Montreal and Halifax and looks forward to his next venture on the Island. He is passionate about music in general and the blues in particular.

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 Featured Blues Review – 9 of 10 

Alabama Lovesnakes – Everybody’s Gotta Go

On The Hill – 2016

13 tracks; 47 minutes

According to the sleeve notes The Alabama Lovesnakes are ‘bad news and play the blues’. Despite the name the band comes from Sweden but, frankly, you would never know. Lead guitarist and songwriter ‘Crocodile’ Claes Nilsson sings in a whisky-soaked voice that has no trace of accent and the whole album sounds like it could have been recorded in the USA or the UK as the band has influences that include Chicago, Texas and the British blues/Rn’B scene of the late 60’s/70’s. Joining Claes are his regular bandmates Fredrik Nilsson on bass and Henrik Gillgren on drums, the basic trio having recorded all this original material in one twelve hour session.

Later overdubs include Johan Gund’s piano (two tracks), Daniel Nolgard’s organ (four tracks), Bruno Yxenholt’s harp (two tracks), Johnny Lindstrom and Thomas Thornquist (‘The Principal Horns’, sax and trumpet on three tracks). There are also backing vocals in places from Ida Bang, Peter Hallstrom, Asa Gillgren and Louisa Birgersson.

The opening four tracks set out the band’s stall: “Prison Of Love” is a pacy rocker with plenty of ringing guitar; “Your Little Key” is an excellent slow blues with the horns adding their distinctive ‘push’ to the song; the fast-paced Texan rocker “Something You Got” delivers exactly what we want from such a tune with female backing vocals and harp adding to the fun; “Searching High And Low” takes us to Chicago on a lively number with plenty of solid guitar riffs. There are few weak points here as the band takes us on a dramatic slow blues in the extended “The Matters Of The Heart” on which Claes channels his inner Otis Rush and the energetic “I Need You To Take The Devil Away” which has the latin drive of a tune like Bobby Parker’s “Watch Your Step”.

The title track is a loose-limbed toe-tapper with some high energy guitar and the band shows that they can also tackle the deep south (USA!) with the terrific rocker “Got To Get Back To New Orleans”, Claes’s rhythm work reminding us of the accordion that is so typical of NO, the horns pushing the song along really well. Things get a little weird on “Daddy’s Beard” where the title character is apparently stuck in a mail box! The band gives us a full-blown boogie John Lee Hooker style on “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright” and “I Got To Take You Back Home” sound like Little Feat on vacation in the swamps of Louisiana. The album closes with the hard-rocking “Back In Town” and the instrumental “Kokobello Blues” that takes us back to early John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers/Clapton when the guitarist always had a feature instrumental number.

Overall this was a very enjoyable album. The Alabama Lovesnakes would certainly work well on the current UK blues scene and perhaps I will get the pleasure of seeing them live someday soon.

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 – 10 of 10 

professor longhair cd imageProfessor Longhair – Live In Chicago

Orleans Records

8 Tracks/29:14

The legendary Professor Longhair – Roy Byrd – created the classic New Orleans piano style when he blended the traditional second-line back-beat with the rhumba and other exotic rhythms into a distinctive musical gumbo. His records for Atlantic Records in 1949, produced by label co-founder Ahmet Ertegun, form the basis of his sound as his fingers roll over the piano keys in support of his distinctive vocals.

Those records failed to connect with the buying public, as did subsequent releases on other labels. Longhair slid into obscurity, spending his time gambling when he wasn’t working as a janitor. Eventually he was “rediscovered,” leading to an appearance at the 1971 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival that jump-started his career revival and cemented his place at the top of the New Orleans piano pantheon.

This brief set was originally recorded by WFMT-FM radio at the 1976 Chicago Folk Festival. The backing band included Billy Gregory and Will Harvey on guitar, Julius Farmer on bass, and Earl Gordon on drums. Gregory, who did a four year stint in the San Francisco rock band It’s A Beautiful Day, helped mix the recording and kept it in his personal collection until now.

After a short introduction, the Professor plays the melody line for the instrumental “Doin’ It”. Gordon supplies the beat as the rest of the band joins in. Longhair’s fingers roll across the piano keyboard playing phrases that will be familiar to anyone who has spent time listening to other great New Orleans players like Dr. John and the late Allen Toussaint. Gregory uses his solo space to exhibit his fleet-fingered techniques. Longhair then calls for one of his memorable songs, “Big Chief,” full of rollicking piano. The leader switches from his hardy whistling to a boisterous vocal that leaves no doubt who is in charge.

Next comes a steady-rolling rendition of “Every Day I Have The Blues” followed by a song popularized by Ray Charles. The Professor gives his keyboard an spirited workout as the band follows his every move. He finally belts out a couple of verses before Gregory plays another rapid-fire solo. There is more robust whistling on another memorable Longhair original, “Mardi Gras In New Orleans” before the band delivers a blazing version of “Got My Mojo Working” that bristles with energy spurred on by the leader’s pounding piano action. An instrumental, “Fess’s Boogie,” brings the set to an end with Gregory getting the first solo slot. The Professor adds a few flourishes before the song comes to an abrupt conclusion.

Given how much the artistry of Professor Longhair has influenced modern music in untold ways, any recording of his has significant value. This release features him four years before his untimely passing, full of life and laying down beautiful music. Other recordings like Live On The Queen Mary and The Last Mardi Gras offer greater value for readers who aren’t familiar with Professor Longhair, due to extended run times. For those already under the Professor’s spell, this release will make a welcome addition to your Longhair collection.

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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 Blues From The Top Festival 

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From the stage, the views of the Rockies can’t be beat at Blues From The Top (BFTT). And neither can the music at this family friendly festival. Each year, John Catt finds a great variety of performers from all over the country who have their own great bands, or come as “& More” to add to the mix at the jams and throughout the days. The festival atmosphere permeates the small town of Winter Park from the first performances Thursday night through the last note on Sunday night. The attendance at “High Note Thursday” at Hideaway Park was the biggest ever and the crowd was treated to two bands. The first band was the Magic Sam Revue featuring Kate Moss, Steve Marriner (Monkey Junk), Andy Irvine (bass), Scotty Rivera (drums), and Bart Szop (KB – Boogie Boys, Poland). Each of these performers has their own bands and the combination was “off the charts”! They were then followed by Willie K & The Warehouse Blues Band from Hawaii. This was the first time I, and most of the crowd, have seen this band and I never wanted them to stop. Willie’s voice and wide range of styles on guitar drove the crowd out of their seats and set them up for massive anticipation for their Sunday show.

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Friday night has the Pre-Party at Smokin’ Moe’s. John is a firm believer that since the bands are in town for the festival, they should start the festival on Friday night. The first band up was Ori Naftaly and Southern Avenue, followed by the Magic Sam Revue, who were joined by Albert Castiglia and Jimmy Carpenter, and closing out the night was Trampled Under Foot Reunion. Again, another night of fantastic music.

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One of the great inclusions in BFTT is the showcasing of the “Keeping The Blues Alive” stage, which features all the blues kids, who practice like mad prior to festival, and they play their sets in between the main stage sets. Over the years, these kids have honed their skills and always benefit from the on-stage exposure that BFTT affords them. Many of the kids, who have grown up on this stage, have gone one to form their own bands and have been mentored by some of the greatest blues performers out there. Watching these kids develop over the years has been fun and seeing some of them take over the main stage with their own bands is a testament to John Catt’s commitment to kids. Shown below are different iterations of the kids including Sadie Moss (Nick & Kate Moss’s daughter), Grace Kuch, and Sadie Johnson (who toured with Girls With Guitars).

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The first set on Saturday morning was one of those kids, Austin Young, who has gone on to have his own band, along with Michaela Rae Knox, who has been playing the festival for 11 years, and featured Michael Hornbuckle, Jimmy Carpenter, Ori Naftaly, Tiernii Jackson, with Forrest Raup on drums and Alex Goldberg on bass.

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Next up was Josh Hoyer & Soul Colossal from Lincoln, NE. Josh, on keyboards and vocals, and the band cross all musical boundaries, ranging from blues, soul, and funk and have a great time which spills out into the audience. His band includes Kenneth “Memphis” Shepherd (drums), Benny Kushner (guitar), James Fleege (bass), and Mike Dee (sax).

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Backed by My Blue Sky (Jimmy Hall’s Sunday band) members David Brandt (bass), Tim Kestle (guitar) and Jamie McGregor (drums), and joined by Josh Smith (a well known SoCal performer who has come back on the music scene recently, Bart Szop (Keyboards – our favorite Polish Boogie Boy returning for his third year at BFTT), Kara Grainger returned to Colorado and the crowd was pleased to have her back for a third time. The Australian born singer/songwriter is one of the finest blues women living in the USA. Whether she is playing slide or electric, her music is mesmerizing

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Encore from Canada!! Monkey Junk came back for their second time to BFTT. Steve Marriner (guitar/harmonica/vocals/high jumper) was seen every night at all the jams but that didn’t slow him down for their set on Saturday. They are one of the most honored and loved bands in Canada and having them come back to Colorado was just a thrill! The threesome includes Tony Diteodoro (guitar) and Matt Sobb (drums). They don’t even need a bass!!

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Another annual favorite “& More” performer at BFTT is Albert Castiglia (I used to call them “floaters” but he doesn’t care for that term). Well this year he came with his entire band. Everyone loves Albert in Colorado and having him backed by his own band this year was a bonus. And, true to the inclusive nature of BFTT, he had some “& More” performers join him: Josh Smith, Kate Moss, Jimmy Carpenter, and Mike Zito. Fun set!! His band includes Brian Menendez (drums) and Jimmy Pritchard (bass).

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The final set of the day was the Trampled Under Foot Reunion. They have played BFTT as a band and Danielle is a part of the BFTT family of performers. It was a real treat to have the Schnebelen siblings – Nick, Kris, and Danielle – back on stage together and were joined for a few songs by Danielle’s husband/keyboard player Mike Sedovic. For those of us who have watched them since they won the IBC’s, it was nostalgic to have them back together.

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The Sunday morning Gospel set comes really early for most festival goers, especially if they stayed up for the Saturday night jam at Smokin’ Moe’s. But, every year John Catt puts together a group of musicians that are worth the early morning 10 am music call. This year was no exception. The High Mountain Gospel Choir packed the stage and woke up the neighborhood. Performers included: the entire Ori Naftaly Band, Jasco Duende, Sadie Johnson, Kara Grainger, Tempa Singer, Mer Sal, and Jimmy Carpenter.

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If that band didn’t wake you up, then John Nemeth did. Sporting his new Ace of Spades electric blue tie-dye jumpsuit and a case of harmonicas, John and the band, joined by Deanna Bogart and Jimmy Carpenter on sax, are always high energy and his blues and soul vocals are the reason he has been named “Best Soul” singer/band repeatedly. His band members include: Danny Banks (drums), Matt Wilson (bass), and Johnny Rhoades (guitar).

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With high anticipation to re-experience what we heard on Thursday night, we were all ready for Willie K & The Warehouse Blues Band. All I can say is their set was just too short, or maybe it went too fast…but it was off the charts again. I can’t quite express the crazy range of musical styles Willie and his band possess, blues and beyond, and I can’t recommend too much that they need to come over to the mainland as much as possible. There was a rumor that Willie will occasionally break out into opera and, luckily, we got to experience “Phantom of The Opera” Willie style, that literally put goosebumps on our sweat beads. Whew!! His band includes: Tom Conway (guitar), Kris Thomas (drums), and Jerry Byers (bass).

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As if the energy level couldn’t get any higher, it did!! Jimmy Hall with My Blue Sky took over the stage and the happiness level escalated. Jimmy is a bundle of energy and great music spanning decades of blues and southern rock. In addition to band members already listed his band includes his sister Donna Hall Foster, Bob Kalkman, Gretchen Kunz, Kathy Bloom, and a cameo appearance by Tommy Castro, who flew in for this special weekend at BFTT.

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Samantha Fish Rocks… What else can be said? And her band does too. And when Mike Zito joins them, the collaboration is undeniable. Her band includes: Chris Alexander (bass) and GoGo Ray (Drums).

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The closing set of the festival was another encore set by Eric Gales. Touted as one of the best guitar players out there, his style is reminiscent of Hendrix and his biggest fans are guitar players. His heartfelt appreciation as being asked back was apparent throughout the show – he is fascinating to watch, photograph, and listen to, all at once. His wife LaDonna joins the backup singers and his bass player Cody showed up as an entity unto himself. Josh Smith joined Eric for a few songs during the set. (Sorry, I don’t have the rest of the band member’s names).

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Blues From The Top is a festival that gives it’s proceeds to John Catt’s love, Blue Star Connection, a foundation that provides musical instruments to children with life threatening diseases. Musical Therapy is a life saver for these kids who are struggling with serious illnesses. This is what John does and who he is. Earlier this year, John let us know that he has become one of those kids and is now fighting his own health battle. John is deeply loved by all the lives he has touched and all the performers he has brought to Colorado. In the deepest appreciation and show of profound affection and gratitude, all of the staff, BOD, and performers who were at the festival, and some that came just to honor him, gathered on Sunday morning for a special tribute to surround him with their love. Thank You John for all you do!!!

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And thanks to Grand County Blues Society for putting on one of the finest festivals in the country!

Photos and commentary by Marilyn Stringer

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 Blues Society News 

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The Kansas City Blues Society – Kansas City, MO

The Kansas City Blues Society is raffling a cabin for 2 on the sold out January 2017 Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise. Only 500 tickets are being sold. You may purchase tickets for $20 each online at

KCBS has paid out almost $9000 this year to aid local music industry people in financial crisis. It is hosting the 5th Annual Michael Shannon Memorial Golf Tournament on Sept. 7 to raise funds. A fundraiser concert will occur a week earlier.

KCBS is sponsoring Blues in the Schools at Gillis (serving at-risk youth). Every other week, kids get to listen and learn from a local musician and write and perform their own songs. Local blues diva and music therapist and Gillis employee Lauren Anderson initiated this program. Visiting musicians include Jason Vivone, Brandon Hudspeth, and Jaisson Taylor, all former KCBS IBC winners.

Crossroads Blues Society – Byron, IL

The seventh annual Crossroads Blues Festival is ready to go! Held annually since 2010, the festival’s home at Lyran Park has won blues fans over. The park is a natural amphitheater situated on the confluence of the Kishwaukee River and Kilbuck Creek, just south of Rockford Airport. Lyran Park is privately owned by the Lyran Society. They and co-sponsors the Crossroads Blues Society are both non-profit organizations. Located at 4781 South Bend Road, Lyran Park offers a beautiful, shady setting with great acoustics, plentiful free parking and primitive camping opportunities for the festival ($20 per night Friday and/or Saturday). The festival remains on the Saturday before Labor Day weekend, which is August 27, 2016. Gates open at 11 AM, the music starts at noon and runs through 9:30 PM.

Headlining the event is Southern Indiana’s hill country group Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band at 8 PM. Soul blues great from Indianapolis Tad Robinson is on at 6 PM. At 4 PM the Ghost Town Blues Band from Memphis grace the stage. Chicago’s slide guitar wizard Joanna Connor is on at the 2 PM time slot. The day opens at noon with the fantastic band from Auckland, New Zealand who were in Rockford in 2013- The Flaming Mudcats. Birddog and Beck, winners of last year’s Crossroads Solo/Duo Blues Challenge, will be featured between acts. Ken Olufs will conduct a harmonica workshop at 3:30 PM with free harmonicas for the first 25 kids who are 10 and under.

Beverage Garden and BBQ & more..(No Outside Food or Drinks) Bring your chairs and Camping is available. Tickets $20 Day of Show – $15 Advance and SIBS members.

Advanced tickets are once again only $5 and are available through both Crossroads Blues Society and the Lyran Society. They can be purchased mail by check; please include a self-addressed stamped envelope. Mail orders go to Crossroads, Post Office Box 840, Byron, IL 61010. Tickets can be purchased on line with a credit card via PayPal at Ticket outlets are in Rockford and the Stateline area. Rockford: Woodmans Supermarket on Perryville Road, Culture Shock and Guzzardos Music, both on Charles Street; Just Goods Store on 7th Street; CD Source on State Street; Toad Hall on Broadway;. Other locations: Snyders Drugs (Byron, Oregon, Winnebago); Value Fresh Market (Byron); Paradise Guitars and Grand Avenue Pub (Beloit); Cristy’s Bar (Freeport).Proceeds from the festival support Blues in the Schools, an effort Crossroads began 14 years ago. Since then 180 programs have been conducted for 50,330 area students. Please come out and support live music and help keep the blues alive. Call 779-537-4006 with questions.

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. August 15 – Too Slim And The Taildraggers, August 22 – Jeff Jensen, August 29 – The Hector Anchondo Band.

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

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