Issue 11-33 August 17, 2017

Cover photo © 2017 Bob Kieser

 In This Issue 

Tee Watts has our feature interview with Deitra Farr. We have 10 Blues reviews for you this week including new music from Altered Five Blues Band, Peter V Blues Train, Rault and Sweetwater, Mr. Sipp, Andy B.AND, Selwyn Birchwood, Katie Webster, The Dirty Mojo Blues Band, Martin Harley & Daniel Kimbro and Erja Lyytinen.

Our video of the week is Altered Five Blues Band.

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

 From The Editor’s Desk 

2017 bbma logo 300Hey Blues Fans,

Voting in the 2017 Blues Blast Awards ended on Tuesday and we are hard at work tallying up the results.

We are not having an awards ceremony this year. We will announce the winners in a live stream on Facebook at the Crossroads Blues Fest in Byron, IL on August 26th. Complete details will be in next weeks issue. For information on the Crossroads Blues Fest visit or click on their ad below.

Wishing you health, happiness and lots of Blues music!

Bob Kieser

 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 10 

altered fice cd imageAltered Five Blues Band – Charmed and Dangerous

Blind Pig Records

13 tracks

Altered Five Blues Band’s fourth release Charmed and Dangerous is the first release of an album on the reinvigorated Blind Pig Record label as part of The Orchard organization. Their third release Cryin’ Mercy was nominated as Contemporary Blues Album in the 2015 Blues Blast Awards and the band was also nominated for the Sean Costello Rising Star Award. Additionally Cryin’ Mercy was chosen as the International Blues Challenge Best Self Produced Album for 2015 all because of their fantastic talents and the production by Tom Hambridge. This album follows closely on the heels of that release, with tight production and all new songs.

The band is Jeff Taylor on vocals, Jeff Schroedl on guitar, Mark Solveson on bass, Raymond Tevich on keys and Hambridge on drums. The production is what I’d expect from Hambridge, with songs blending blues and rock with the guitar sound often leaning more towards rock than blues. The band is at ease with each other and they are always tight and together. Steve Cohen appears on harp for two cuts and Candice Smith is the backing vocalist on three other cuts.

The CD opens to the title track. A solid intro on guitar and keys sets us up for the vibrant vocals of Jeff Taylor. Taylor’s voice exudes power, emotion and soul. He fronts the band with authority and commands the listeners attention. Schroedl’s guitar solo is long and rocking, taking a big place front and center in this cut. The opener grabs the listener nicely. “Mint Condition” is a bouncing cut with a strident guitar lead and organ filling in right behind. Taylor once again showcases his pipes and impresses the listener with his work.

Next up is “Three Forks,” a cut built on the music of Robert Johnson’s “Cross Road Blues” with new lyrics by Jeff Scroedl. It is written about the place Johnson was purportedly poisoned in 1938. Featuring stinging guitar, big time harp work, and, of course, big time vocals, this is a high energy take on the classic song with huge solos on the harp and guitar. “On My List To Quit” is up next, another song to showcase Taylor’s powerful vocals and Schroedl’s axe work. Taylor bemoans his job, relationships and other “vices” of things on his list to quit. “If Your Heart Went Public” opens to another stinging guitar in an amped up slow blues. Taylor testifies poignantly as Schroedl replies to each vocal line on his guitar. Another big guitar solo is featured here along with a powerful delivery by Taylor.

“Gonna Lose My Lady” takes up the beat and jumps and jives nicely. A short, blues guitar solo and some nice work on the keys are showcased in this energetic cut. A sweet slow blues with guitar and piano intro “Cookin’ In Your Kitchen” where Taylor then takes the lead in this traditional Chicago blues cut. The take things right back up in the hot and swinging “She’s Still Crazy” The harp returns to banter with Taylor and the organ helps drive the song at 100 miles an hour. The guitar takes things out with everyone joining in; really high energy stuff. The tempo takes a 180 with the ballad “Eight Wonder.” Taylor sings lovingly about his woman who is so wonderful she might be the 8th wonder of the work. It’s a stark contrast to the last cut.

“Three Alarm Desire” follows, with Taylor holding back a bit on the verse then letting loose on the choruses. A big guitar solo is once again featured mid stream and then again takes us home. “Small Talk” is next and Taylor and company show a little restraint here to start, then there is a big guitar solo before Taylor returns as he builds things a bit to finish things off with Schroedl’s help. “Rotten” gets into a dirty groove and continues that way as Taylor sings of a relationship where there is something not right and just rotten within. A nice organ solo is offered up for us here, too, along with the two Jeffs going back and forth on vocals and guitar. The CD closes to “Look What You Made Me Do,” another pretty much traditional slower blues. Taylor gives a gutsy vocal performance, Schroedl offers up a more restrained guitar solo, and the band just sounds sweet as they accompany Taylor in this down home and cool cut.

Jeff Taylor’s style is big and no-holds-barred in his approach; he never takes any prisoners as he attacks each song with his powerful vocal work. Schroedl takes the same approach on guitar, blazing a path on each cut with his fretwork. The keyboards are used effectively to balance out the songs and the harp work begs for maybe even more – it was a nice addition.

Charmed and Dangerous is not for the faint of heart – most the of cuts here are big and hot. This is a powerful album.

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

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 Featured Blues Review – 2 of 10 

PETER V BLUES TRAIN CD IMAGEPeter V Blues Train – On Track

Self-produced CD

11 songs – 49 minutes

Led by guitarist/vocalist Peter Veteska, Peter V Blues Train delivered a promising, self-titled debut album last year after representing the Jersey Shore Jazz & Blues Foundation at the International Blues Challenge. Creating a sophisticated blend of modern blues with jazz and funk overtones, they prove that the first one was no fluke with this release.

Now in his early 50s, Veteska was born in Manhattan and grew up in Queens, where, influenced by Derek And The Dominos, Alvin Lee and The Allman Brothers, he bought his first guitar at a pawn shop. A self-taught musician, he began playing professionally at age 15, but basically put the six-string down for good after being disillusioned by the music business at 21. A building tradesman by profession, he didn’t pick it up again until nine years ago when that industry soften.

At that point, he started delving deeply into his blues roots, discovering for the first time many of the great guitarists of the ’50s in addition to contemporaries, including Robert Cray. A solid tenor, he didn’t start working on vocals until sitting in at local jams. It’s obvious from this recording that he worked diligently at his craft.

Veteska blends four self-penned originals and seven covers on On Track, backed by his regular unit: keyboard player Aron Gornish, a Philadelphia native with classical training who’s influences include George Duke and Donald Fagan; bassist Sean “Gravey” Graverson, a New Jersey-based iron worker who’s worked with several area bands; and drummer Alex D’Agnese, whose influences include jazz and British blues and rock. They’re augmented by New Jersey Blues Hall Of Fame inductee Bob DelRosso on guitar for three cuts and harp player Gary Nouwirth on two with sax players Danny Walsh and Scott Soloman also making appearances.

A brief staccato guitar riff opens the percussive original, “By The River.” It’s a powerful love song with a funky beat and fiery runs on the six-string that asserts “lovin’ you is no pick-up line” as it describes a tequila-fueled journey in which the couple have nothing but time. The theme continues with a reworking of Ray Charles’ “I’ve Got A Woman.” Soloman’s horn is featured as Veteska delivers a jazzy, unhurried version of the 1954 chart-topper. Brother Ray would enjoy his soulful vocal.

The original, “What Ya Want” is up next. Reminiscent of Average White Band’s “Pick Up The Pieces,” it’s a pure funk with jazz nuances that features Gornish and Walsh and is sure to get audiences up on the dance floor. The tempo slows dramatically for Indigenous’ “Blues This Morning” with Peter V laying down some tasty single-note runs before a thoroughly modern re-do of Lee’s “Me & My Baby.”

The band dips into the songbooks of B.B. King and T-Bone Walker for interesting takes on “Help Poor Me” — delivered atop a regimented drumbeat — and “Old Time Used To Be” — performed as a stripped-down slow blues — before the original “Hey Little Babe” fires out of the gate. It’s a funk-based blues that wonders where the lady “got that thing”– a not-so-subtle reference to the way her derriere swings. It features another Soloman solo.

Robert Johnson’s “Crossroads” is up next, delivered as a syncopated urban blues, before a cover of Willie Dixon’s “Seventh Son,” a standard for Muddy Waters. Peter’s vocals slide seductively throughout atop another funky beat. The set concludes with “Still Got The Blues,” a searing blues delivered from the point of a man who’s still in love with a lady who’s moved on to another man.

The production and music are classy and rock-solid throughout. If your tastes run toward modern urban blues, you’ll definitely get into this one.

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.

 Featured Blues Video Of The Week – Altered Five Blues Band 

Altered Five Blues Band video pic

Official music video for “Charmed & Dangerous,” the first track off Altered Five Blues Band’s album Charmed & Dangerous, on Blind Pig Records. (Click image to watch!)

 Featured Blues Review – 3 of 10 

rault & sweetwater cd imageRault and Sweetwater


CD: 8 Songs, 25:17 Minutes

Styles: Blues Covers, Duo Album

Time for a nursery rhyme! “I had a little nut tree. Nothing would it bear, but a silver nutmeg and a golden pear. The King of Spain’s daughter came to visit me, and all for the sake of my little nut tree.” What on Earth does this have to do with the blues? Here are some more queries: Why do performing artists release albums and conduct live shows? Do they only do it for the love of the music? Did the King of Spain’s daughter come to visit the hero of this rhyme only because she loved him? In both cases, the answer is no. The princess wanted the silver nutmeg and golden pear. In the case of LA and FL’s Rault and Sweetwater, releasing their self-titled new offering, one of their motivations is most likely “money.” “Musos” have to eat, whether fruit or otherwise. As to whether they feel the eight covers they’re playing here, that’s up for debate. The best feature of this CD is Jimmy Sweetwater’s harmonica, more than a cut above the rest. As for Rault? If his guitar riffs were a lot more passionate and a lot less basic, they’d be a hit, too. On vocals, they’re practiced workmen, not artistes. They get the job done – no more, no less.

In the “Press Kit” section of their website, a sparse paragraph explains who they are and what their aim is on this scene: “Jeb Rault hails from New Orleans, Louisiana. Jimmy Sweetwater hails from Gainesville, Florida. Together they combine their music forces and their new CD is scheduled to be released in 2017…They are available for touring and festival and club dates.” Photos and videos of their songs follow. This reviewer was hungry to know more about these two: How did they get their start in the blues? What got them on the road – especially some tour dates in California? Whom do they consider their greatest influences? That kind of information belongs in a “Press Kit” too. As it is, Rault and Sweetwater remain near-enigmas to Ms. Rainey.

Robert Johnson is one of the world’s most renowned blues artists, and our guitar and harp heroes give one of his most popular hits a go:

Track 08: “Malted Milk” – Back when I was a little girl, I thought Johnson was singing about a different sort of malted milk, specifically the kind used in Whoppers® candies. My dad had to explain that, no, R.J. was actually singing about whiskey. No wonder he kept drinking it, “trying to drive my blues away.” The thing with alcohol is, those blues come back in painful hangovers and worse. Nevertheless, such “malted milk” has timeless appeal for those who wish to ease their misery. Speaking of which, Jimmy’s harmonica soars sky-high in the middle of this cover.

Rault and Sweetwater are a determined duo, and with time, they might become truly dynamic!

Reviewer Rainey Wetnight is a 37 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 – 4 of 10 

mr. sipp cd imageMr. Sipp – Knock A Hole In It

Malaco Records MCD 7551

13 songs — 65 minutes

Plenty has changed for Mr. Sipp since the release of The Mississippi Blues Child, his debut on the legendary Malaco imprint, which captured the Blues Music Award for best release by a new artist. World tours and continuing acclaim followed. And if you caught the eight-episode CMT Network Sun Records docudrama earlier this year, that was him in heavy makeup and using his birth name, Castro Coleman, in the role of young B.B. King.

Since winning the International Blues Challenge in 2004, he’s become a fan favorite around the globe, and this CD picks up where the previous release left off, albeit with a much harder edge.

Now in his early 40s, the McComb, Miss., native turned his back on 20-year career in gospel a few years ago after appearing on several Grammy-nominated recordings, fully aware that many folks in that genre still carry their old beliefs forward and consider blues to be the devil’s music and anyone who plays it a pariah. A man of deep faith and married father of four who led the gospel brunch on the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise a couple of years ago, he’s pursued the blues relentlessly despite the slings and arrows coming in his direction from former friends.

Now in the final stages of opening Sipp’s Place, a juke joint in Magnolia, a short drive from the Mississippi-Louisiana border, he channeled his pain and detailed his background in the autobiographical first cut of the previous album before proceeding to deliver a smoking set of soul-blues, and follows the same format on Knock A Hole In It, the title of which comes from the catch phrase he uses frequently on stage before launching into a searing guitar solo.

A powerful guitarist, Sipp also plays some strings, percussion and bass on this one, sharing those duties with Jeffrey Flanagan, who adds backing vocals. They’re joined by Carrol McLaughlin on keys and strings, Stanley Dixon and Murph Calcedo on drums and The Jackson Horns: Kimble Funchess (trumpet), Jessie Primer III (tenor sax) and Robert Lamkin (trombone).

The first 12 songs in the set are originals, beginning with “Knock A Hole In It.” An ominous guitar riff kicks off the tune as Sipp’s spoken words announce that he’s back again and won’t give up what he’s always wanted to do: travel the world, play music and touch folks’ lives. Labeled a “stray” by the folks he’s left behind, he believes the music has no secular/religious limit, launches into a hard-edged rock-blues solo and adds: “Although I made a change/I’m still the same./I praise the Lord.”

“Bad Feeling” follows, but the message is completely different. The first in a run of love-related songs, this one’s a soul-blues, and the singer’s got a strong suspicion that his woman’s got another man. The perils faced by a touring musician surface in “Stalking Me,” an autobiographical blues that details meeting a woman at a show and subsequently relentlessly being pursued by her through emails, unable to get her to understand he’s not interested. “Sea Of Love” — not the Phil Phillips ’50s classic — is up next. It’s a sweet ballad, and Sipp is so overwhelmed by the feeling that he feels like he’s about to drown. It’s a gift he has to share with the world, and he can’t hold back tears while doing so.

In contrast, “Gotta Let Her Go” is a bluesy number with a fiery guitar solo in which the lady tells the singer she loves her when they’re home, then tells her girlfriends that the romance is kaput, while “Going Down,” a blues-rocker, reflects after the act that it’s probably better to keep the woman you’ve got. “Baby You’re Mine,” a tender blues ballad, carries the message forward after the separation’s already taken place.

Sipp sings praise for the “Juke Joint” next before the slow blues burner “Strings Attached” delivers a stern warning to a lover that the relationship is falling apart. The action picks up again for the straight-ahead soul-blues, “Turn Up,” which advises telling the deejay to play your favorite song and get out on the floor to dance your troubles away. “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore” — an original ballad, not the Rose Royce number — and “Love Yourself,” a soul-blues tune directed to good ladies who’ve been mistreated by bad men, follow before a cover of the Jimi Hendrix classic “Little Wing,” which is infused with a version of “The Star Spangled Banner,” bring the action to a close.

Available through most major retailers, Knock A Hole In It is a winner for anyone who likes his blues and soul with a message.

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 – 5 of 10 

andyb.and cd imageAndy B.AND – My Roots Are Showing


9 Tracks/32:14

Long-time member of the New Jersey band, the Voodudes, singer Andy B. (Bernstein) has put together a collection that highlights the broad range of his musical influence on an all-original program. “Great Time Comin’” unfolds with numerous biblical references punctuated by stark tones from Gary Ambrosy’s dobro. John Pittas adds a Stevie Wonder – inspired electric keyboard fills. The next track mixes country and gospel a with dueling guitars from Ambrosy and Greg Stier on “One More River”.

Andy B. has an easy-going vocal style, delivered with a deep, gruff voice on tracks like “Incandescent Lightbulb Blues,” a tribute to Thomas Edison that harks back to New Orleans traditional jazz, thanks to Tommy LaBella on saxophone and Perry Leandro on fiddle. Bob Bernstein’s pedal steel work in conjunction with Paul Daloia’ upright bass and Jake O’Handley gives “Better Do Something ‘Bout That” a pronounced western swing feel. “My Baby’s Gone” is highlighted by somber notes Dick Paul pulls out of his fiddle while “In My Dreams” has Pittas switching between accordion and keyboards, giving the mid-tempo ballad a touch of the Cajun sound.

“Mary Ellis” is modern rendering of a story surrounding a grave in movie theater parking lot in New Jersey. Once again, Dick Paul lays down some impressive fiddle work. “Slow Dancin’ Barefoot” glides along, fleshed out by horns and a backing chorus. “In My Dreams” has Andy B. name-dropping Elvis & Ann Margaret while fantasizing about dancing with the woman of his dreams, urged on by John Asti’s tenor sax.

The singer’s finest hour occurs on “Break Someone Else’s Heart,” as his voice takes on a harder edge on a song about love’s betrayal. He finally generates a emotional connection that is lacking in the other tracks. And, in the course of covering all of these musical genres, Andy B. only makes a few fleeting stops at the house of the Blues. It adds up to a wide-ranging project that will be of limited interest to blues fans.

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 – 6 of 10 

selwyn birchwood cd imageSelwyn Birchwood – Pick Your Poison

Alligator Records

13 tracks/53:59

It has been quite a ride for guitarist Selwyn Birchwood. After winning the 2013 International Blues Challenge in the band category, he was signed by Alligator Records and quickly released Don’t Call No Ambulance, which garnered two Blues Blast Award nominations and received a Blues Music Award in the Best New Artist Debut category. For the last three years, Birchwood has been touring steadily throughout the world, building on his success.

His new release makes it clear that while blues is his musical bedrock, the guitarist has a wider vision that can’t be ignored. The opener, “Trial By Fire,” starts off some light notes from a flute played by horn-man Regi Oliver over a rolling drum beat from Courtney “Big Love” Girlie. Then Birchwood hits you with swirling slide guitar riffs straight from the Mississippi hill country, mixed with Huff Wright’s thick bass line. From there, Birchwood breaks out his lap steel guitar to take listeners to church on “Even The Saved Need Saving,” urging people to show some love instead of pointing fingers.

On “Guilty Pleasures,” the singer’s gritty voice runs down a series of personal vices over some taut, slashing slide guitar. Oliver plays several saxophones on “Heavy Heart,” building a horn section behind Birchwood’s slow, somber description of good love gone bad. The title track depicts a man battling with himself to hold the demons at bay over a reggae-tinged rhythm, finally finding release in a blazing six-string interlude. “Reaping Time” opens with an acoustic guitar and slide backing Birchwood’s moody tale about a disconsolate soul about to exact vengeance for the wrongdoing he has suffered. Oliver’s baritone sax underscores the depth of the turmoil.

To his credit, Birchwood doesn’t shy away from tackling real-world issues. “Police State” is a righteous lament about losing focus on the difference between right and wrong, an issue that goes beyond black or white, left or right. “R We Krazy?” mixes a bit of funk and jazz on a self-examination that finds the singer “…talking to myselves, They’re the only ones that know the shape I’m in.” He celebrates his escape from the modern work environment on “Corporate Drone,” feeling fortunate to escape cuts to pay, hours, and the threat of having to cut his huge Afro.

Other songs indicate that Birchwood hasn’t been real lucky in love. “Lost In You” is a dreamy, lush ballad about trying to regain emotional equilibrium after a break-up. The singer delivers a more forceful declaration on “My Whiskey Loves My Ex,” unable to break through the pattern of alcohol-stoked, late night text messages. The situation is more dire on “Haunted,” as a sleep-deprived Birchwood just can’t move beyond the empty bed, try as he might to release the tensions through his guitar. “Are You Ready” is strong musically but the lyrical themes of breaking the chains and turning the page are handled more effectively in other songs.

His first Alligator release left no doubt that Birchwood is a skillful, singer, songwriter, and guitarist. On his latest, he gives listeners a deeper look at Birchwood, the man – repeatedly sharing his innermost thoughts, fears, and emotions. The expert backing of his skilled band gives him the confidence to expand his version of the blues beyond the usual staid progressions. Complete with arresting arrangements and thought-provoking lyrics, this one needs to be heard by anyone remotely interested in blues for the modern age.

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!

 Featured Blues Review – 7 of 10 

katie webster cd imageKatie Webster – The Swamp Boogie Queen Live

Topcat Records

15 songs time-68:06

The Texas Topcat record label has released this live recording from 1990 of the late Katie Webster, The Swamp Boogie Queen. It was recorded in Athens, Greece and features only her voice and her boogie-woogie piano styling’s on a variety of genres, including boogie-woogie, blues, R&B, soul and rock all given her boogie-woogie treatment. Her piano playing is fine, but a band setting would of allowed for a more diverse sound palette. Nevertheless, she accompanies herself on a variety of musical styles.

The lead off song “It’s Good To See You” is a nice to be here song, but as she says “God bless you” at the song’s end it makes me wonder if it is actually the last song taken out of place. The old chestnut “Basin Street Blues” is invigorated by Katie’s energetic and rollicking piano skills. “Katie’s Boogie” is a rewrite of “Dust My Broom” to fit a woman’s perspective. In her spoken intro to “Sea Of Love” she mentions that she played piano on the original by Phil Phillips at the age of thirteen. Talk about your early bloomers.

An unusual choice of a cover song in Dire Strait’s “So Far Away” starts out slow, then takes on a spiritual revival quality. “Two Fisted Mama” serves as her theme song. She works in a few blues tunes, Jimmy Reed’s “Honest I Do” being a personal favorite. “I’m Bad” is an adaptation of “Hoochie Coochie Man”. As one time she was a part of Otis Redding’s backing band she includes “Try A Little Tenderness” and “Sittin” On the Dock Of The Bay”. The former runs on a bit long for my taste, but over all a good version. The whistling is left off “Dock Of the Bay”, one of my favorite parts.

If you are a fan this CD will please you enormously. I being casually familiar with her music can take it in small doses. Whatever the case she could sure play the hell out of eighty-eights.

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

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 Featured Blues Review – 8 of 10 

dirty mojo blues band cd imageThe Dirty Mojo Blues Band – Made Cents At The Time

self release

11 songs time-43:54

All is not lost blues my fellow blues lovers when out of Central Pennsylvania of all places comes the CD debut of lowdown, gritty juke and honky-tonk fired original blues band. These dudes are funky in all the right places. Lead by front man Shawn Strickland on harmonica and gravelly vocals that demand your attention along with his witty lyrics. His voice has a striking resemblance to that of Florida bluesman J.P. Soars. Shawn’s dad Gary handles guitar chores alongside Al Meck. Talk about yer gruesome twosome, these guys churn out beautifully off kilter guitar solos that dig deep into the soulful blues well. Mark Peterson’s drumming adds depth with his dynamic style, while bassist Tim Reinhard anchors it all down. Special guest Greg Burgess adds piano as needed. No frills here, just a gut bucket ensemble churning it out. Shawn’s song writing pulls from the blues tradition to form something that is uniquely their own. To use an over used cliché, this music is “real”. It rings true as a depiction of their blues reality.

A strong tom-tom beat kicks off “Thin Ice”, as Shawn’s menacing vocal and harp lead the charge over the raunchy guitar assault. “That’s Alright” is a slow and deliberate goodbye song that benefits from some piercing guitar. Ever present creative harp and distorted guitar power “Morrow County Jail”. The title song is some rollicking good rockin’ blues that has a nice under current of boogie-woogie piano. “Honey Bee” is a slow profession of love. The infectious riff of “Go Ahead” just sticks in your brain.

“When You Smile” has a hypnotic effect as Shawn’s harmonica seems to play the perfect notes. “Broken Strings” is funky as a drunken monkey. The mournful harp on “Papa Bear” digs deep into the essence of the blues. Some funky wah-wah guitar is thrown into the mix on the closer “I Gots This”.

Strong original songs in the hands of a band that really knows the blues inside out is what’s going on here. I’ve tried to describe this music the best I can, but you need to hear it for yourself. Gritty, nasty, lowdown, real life juke blues is as close as I can come to an apt description. There is really some heavy going ons here. I gots dem old Central Pennsylvania blues agin mama!

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

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 Featured Blues Review – 9 of 10 

martin hartley and david kimbro cd imageMartin Harley and Daniel Kimbro – Static in the Wires

Del Mundo Records

CD: 11 Songs, 44:35 Minutes

Styles: Contemporary Electric and Acoustic Blues, Mellow Ballads, All Original Songs

Recently on the Internet, I read a comment that said something like, “This computer game caters to a nitch market.” Note to commenter: It’s spelled “niche” and pronounced “neesh.” Sheesh! The UK’s Martin Harley, along with East Tennessee’s Daniel Kimbro, have released an album that definitely caters to a “nitch market.” Static in the Wires is a cross between Eric Clapton’s Unplugged and any given Leon Russell album. Even though it contains excellent electric guitar work, it’s the acoustic side of this instrument that really shines here. As for this band’s blues, it’s strictly coffeehouse, not roadhouse. These two don’t need to rip-snort their way through this CD’s eleven original songs. Some of them might be a bit too trance-inducing if you’re in a party mood (witness the last track, “Mean Old City”), but for long summer nights on the porch or patio, Static in the Wires will come in crystal-clear.

Martin Harley’s Facebook page reveals his acclaimed background: “Renowned for his prowess as a slide guitarist, Martin is almost unique in the UK in his playing lap slide. During year-round worldwide touring, he’s absorbed a plethora of diverse influences, honing his craft into the classic songwriting style he possesses today.

“In the US, Martin has headlined Music City Roots in Nashville and toured coast to coast with ZZ Ward, [and] Delta Rae and opened for Iron and Wine, Bruce Hornsby, Five for Fighting, World Party, Beth Hart, [and] Joe Bonamassa amongst many others.”

As for Daniel Kimbro? He explains how he got his start in music, even though he “really hates bios.” “My Dad found a nice Japanese-made Fender Precision Bass in a Knoxville pawn shop. Mom had taught me the recorder and I’d played the trombone since 5th grade, so I figured out where all the E pitches were on the neck and then set about teaching myself to read bass charts and walking bass lines. I stuck with the guitar though, playing with our family bluegrass band called ‘Mountain Soul.’ Dad drove us all over East Tennessee, playing only the finest backwoods shacks, swap meets, cake walks, Civil War reenactments, volunteer firehalls, and tanning bed salons.” In the “name-dropping” section of the page, he lists Mary Chapin Carpenter, Alison Krauss, and Roseanne Cash as some of his famous on-stage collaborators.

Along with Harley (vocals, acoustic and electric guitars, Weissenborn, and lap steel) and Kimbro (double bass, vocals, piano, acoustic guitars) are Derek Mixon on drums and percussion, Jerry Douglas on dobro, and Micah Hulscher on piano.

The following three songs are the best of this duo’s blues, sounding the most traditional.

Track 01: “One Horse Town” – It’s tough to live in a town where you “get no love at the pony club” and that “mare won’t pull [your] plow.” This trope may be familiar, but the tongue-in-cheek vocals give it fresh life. Micah Hulscher plays sly ragtime piano.

Track 02: “Feet Don’t Fail Me” – Terrific track two is a plea for anyone who’s ever been in a heap of trouble, even if it’s mental or existential. “Oh, feet, don’t fail me now. I’ve got to get where I’m going somehow. I’ve got a world of worry on my mind. Got to leave it all behind. Oh, feet, don’t fail me now.” Who in this world has never had the traveling blues, or the longing to escape present hardships by escaping one’s current set of scenery? Jerry Douglas, dobro sensei, knows all about them. His contribution is, by far, the best part of this song.

Track 08: “Trouble” – “Like a river on the rise, I’ve got trouble on both sides of me, oh, me, oh, my.” What an image to kick off number eight, to which everyone can relate. Dig those keys!

There’s no Static in the Wires for Harley and Kimbrough’s superb musicianship!

Reviewer Rainey Wetnight is a 37 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 – 10 of 10 

Erja Lyytinencd imageErja Lyytinen – Stolen Hearts

Tuohi Records

CD: 11 Songs, 50:47 Minutes

Styles: Soul-Influenced Blues Rock, Torch Singer Blues, All Original Songs

Finland’s Erja Lyytinen is like Sinéad O’Connor without the buzzed head, and Yoko Ono without all the nonstop screaming. Without a doubt, she’s talented and avant-garde, taking her preferred genres of soul and blues rock to mysterious new places. Unfortunately, they could be a little too mysterious, as none of the eleven songs on her new CD, Stolen Hearts, sounds traditional. More often than not, the blues is like fan fiction on the Internet. It relies upon familiarity and tropes. There are tons of love songs, which is great for fans of nightclub and torch singing, and is also the number-one topic of blues tunes. On the other hand, when love and heartbreak are one’s sole subjects, one might wish Erja would have added some money and difficult-people songs, too.

Vocally, Lyytinen has genuine passion and energy, but her accent makes understanding the lyrics difficult. Instrumentally, everyone goes all out at the same time. Imagine an abstract painting, featuring lots of shapes in different colors. Or, for an example from Broadway, imagine Joseph’s Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat®. There are so many hues to look at that it’s impossible to find one focal point, one shade that you might consider your favorite. So it is with the instrumentation on Stolen Hearts. As might be expected, the guitar leads the pack, but only by a nose. There are also keyboards, horns, drums, and other guitars to catch in your ears’ delicate nets. Who are the other musicians performing with Erja in this case? Good question. Here’s what her website says:

“With the exception of long-standing guitarist Davide Floreno, Lyytinen worked with a new group of musicians in Helsinki during the summer of 2016 and then proceeded to step even further outside of her comfort zone when multi-platinum selling engineer and producer Chris Kimsey agreed to participate in the sessions. Kimsey is best known for having worked on many of the biggest selling albums by The Rolling Stones but his CV also includes the likes of Led Zeppelin, Peter Frampton, Marillion, The Quireboys and The Psychedelic Furs among many others. Lyytinen was thrilled to fly to London to record her lead vocal tracks and then sit back and watch as the Englishman mixed the results at a studio called The State Of The Ark, equipped with a desk once owned by EMI.” The promotional copy of this CD contained no further info.

The last song on the album, although it isn’t blues, showcases Erja’s talent to a haunting degree.

Track 11: “Broken Eyes” – Featuring piano notes that fall like raindrops on a summer evening, this ballad is an absolute stunner. “You close your eyes and try to let it be, and your heart can hold more than you see. Try to watch your life on a movie screen, to close your eyes, just want to set you free. Eyes can show you what you should have seen. They will tell you lies…But eyes get broken for what they’ve seen,‘cause what your eyes don’t see, your heart won’t grieve. Broken heart, broken eyes, broken eyes don’t see.” The first time, you’ll sit up and pay attention, as I did. The second time, you’ll get cold chills, as I also did.

Stolen Hearts may not be pure blues, but it’s certainly soulful blues rock, perfect for romancing!

Reviewer Rainey Wetnight is a 37 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 Interview – Deitra Farr 

deitra farr photo 1From a young age, Deitra Farr knew she would sing. “I knew I was gonna be a singer, but didn’t know I would be a Blues singer, even though , Blues was probably the first music I heard when I was born. As I grew up, I also loved Soul music. Al Green is still my favorite singer. My mother used to tell me, ‘Don’t you bring another Al Green record in this house.’ I would wear the grooves off them!

For sure, I first heard live Blues on Maxwell Street in Chicago, where my dad used to take me when I was a little girl. I was born in 1957 which was the heyday of Blues, Doo Wop, Gospel and Rock & Roll.”

At the age of seven years old, young Deitra Farr gave her gigging Uncle Nate who brought her to see his band, a prophetic word.

“Oh, you’ve got a female singer. When you get tired of her, give me a call.”

That was quite a stretch for a youngster, but ten years later, her aunt called with the news that Deitra’s predecessor had indeed left the group and the teenager was free to audition.

“I already had a show together because I had learned every song on the radio that I liked. The band was called Central Power System and I did indeed audition. I was up against 11 girls, but I got the gig and played with them the following weekend. That’s one many lessons that I give young people. Be Ready.

To be honest, Phil Guy is the reason I became a Blues singer. I was working at the University of Chicago in one of the dormitories, when Phil Guy came to perform for the students. One of the students dared me to sit in with the band. I can’t resist a dare. Don’t you dare, dare me! I told my co-worker to watch my station. I asked Phil if I could sing a song with the band. When he agreed, I sang “Steal Away,” the record made famous by Jimmy Hughes. Well, the students’ mouths were wide open and Phil came around after the set and suggested that I come around to his regular gigs at Theresa’s and the Checkerboard.

So, I started hanging out and sitting in with Phil, then branched out to the clubs on the North side, where I’d see Buddy Guy, Junior Wells and Mighty Joe Young. At festivals I saw Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker and Big Mama Thornton. That was the reason I decided to start singing Blues. I just got deep into that world. After I graduated from Columbia College, I decided this was really what I wanted to do and my dad had a fit. ‘You went to college to be a Blues singer? What’s wrong with you?’ In the end though, before my dad passed, he was quite pleased with my Blues successes. He let me know that he was glad I chose not to listen to him when he tried to dissuade me from this path.

You know we all want to be happy and want our parents to be proud of us, so I find great joy in the fact that he left this earth being proud of me.

deitra farr photo 2When I’m mentoring young people I also tell them to always do their best (as was taught to me) and use the following anecdote as a case in point. I was working with the great Sam Lay and his band. We had just left Atlanta to play a gig at a Black club Birmingham. Now Sam Lay had a White band and that didn’t sit too well with the patrons. As a matter of fact when I came out to do my segment, the club was empty except for one guy at the bar. Nonetheless, I did my thing like I had a full house. After the set, I walked to the bar and after putting my glasses on, recognized Eddie Kendricks of the Temptations as the lone bar patron.

Now when I was a child, I was obsessed with two vocal groups; the Supremes and the Temptations. I used to just stare at Eddie’s picture and first met him when I was sixteen through Brenda Lee Eager who dueted with Jerry Butler on the hit “Ain’t Understanding Mellow.” It was at Brenda Lee Eager’s home that I glimpsed my first gold record.

Brenda Lee Eager had two babysitters – me and Maryann. Maryann, was a little older than me and also Jerry Butler’s secretary. She would keep Brenda Lee Eager’s daughter whenever she would go on the road with Jerry. I would babysit the little girl if the duo had local gigs.

Maryann mentioned to me one day that she was going to the High Chaparral, a fabulous South Side club. She said, ‘I’m going to see my friends David Ruffin and Eddie Kendricks. ‘

I said, ‘What? Can I go?’ At that time I was living with my dad and really too young to go to a club. I asked him if I could go see Eddie Kendricks and David Ruffin with Maryann. To my surprise, he said okay! That’s how I met the fabulous lead singers of the Tempts.

So, the Birmingham gig with Sam Lay was ten or twelve years after I first met Eddie Kendricks. I walked up to him at the bar and said, ‘What are you doing here?’ He said, ‘I came to see you!’ We then got off the bar and got a table. When we were settled, I asked him why he was the only customer in the place and how we’d just played for a packed house in Atlanta. He said, ‘This is Birmingham, not Atlanta and coming to this club with a White band offended the people. They don’t play that.’

Despite Eddie being the only patron, the club owner made the band do another set if they wanted to get paid. Since Eddie Kendricks was sole audience member, I asked him what he wanted to hear. He said, ‘I’d like to hear some Jimmy Reed.’

I then went up there with the band and did a show. I sang every Jimmy Reed song I know. After the show Eddie drove me to the store to replace my cigarettes (I was a smoker then) that he’d smoked up. During the trip to the store, I told him that I had met him all those years before at the High Chaparral with my friend Maryann. Surprisingly enough, he actually remembered the meeting saying, ‘Oh yeah, I remember, you had on a sailor suit.’

deitra farr photo 3I was blown away that he remembered. He always had an eye for wardrobe as that was one of his functions as a Temptation. He said that everyone in the group had a function besides singing, whether it be wardrobe, choreography or whatever. So he remembered that Maryann Johnson’s friend had on a sailor suit. I was so honored that he remembered me. And his wardrobe eye was still intact. He told me that night in Birmingham that I was dressed like a school teacher. Little did he or I know that I would become one, for a time.”

En route to her storied station in life, Deitra’s high school music teacher was Lena McLin, the niece of the Father of Black Gospel Music, Thomas A. Dorsey. Deitra was able to see him perform with his choir at Chicago’s Pilgrim Baptist Church.

It should also be noted that Deitra Farr was the original female vocalist with the acclaimed Chicago Blues band, Mississippi Heat, from 1993 to 1996 and recorded two Cd’s with them.

“It was interesting. We had a lot of fun. If you saw our van parked somewhere, it would be shaking, because we were always laughing. I’m a road dog. I love jumping in the van and hitting the highway. They were like the brothers I never had. It was Pierre Lacocque on harmonica, Bob Stroger on bass, Alan Kirk on drums with James Wheeler and Billy Flynn on guitars. Billy Flynn has a recent recording on Delmark records that I’m on entitled, Lonesome Highway. I sing two duets with him on that.

The current group I’m working with is called Chicago Wind. The members are Matthew Skoller on harmonica, Tom Holland on guitar, Felton Crews on bass, Johnny Iguana on keys and Marc Wilson on drums. I’m really excited to be working with Matthew Skoller. We are just getting started and working on our recording project. I’m also trying to finish my book, my memoir. My life is so complicated, I’m just in the late ’70s in terms of the chronology of my life. When you’ve lived sixty years, there are a lot of stories. And you have to really think about what to put in and what to leave out. It’s very time consuming. I’m not an open book by nature, but have a lot of people pulling at me to do it, not necessarily to tell my story, but to perhaps help somebody learn something. Young artists do call me for advice and I love mentoring. That’s how the Eddie Kendricks story gets out, as it was how I learned to always do my best. So there are certain stories I like to tell young people to give them an idea of how this thing works.”

People also wonder when the next Deitra Farr Cd will be released. She is in no hurry.

“Some people put out records every so often according to a timetable. I don’t work that way. I believe in releasing a record when I have something to say. The next Deitra Farr Cd will happen when I finish deciding what I want to say. At this moment, I have an idea but I’m a slow writer and when I do write, I write a lot. On my last Cd, Let It Go I wrote all twelve songs. I had something to say at that time and I said it. Now, a lot has happened since 2005 but you’re just going to have to wait until I say it. Until all the songs are written. Some serious growth has gone down. Recently, I’ve done recordings on other people’s albums. I’ve done dates with Billy Flynn, Raphael Wressnig, Ruud DeVries and Brother Jacob

deitra farr photo 4Actually, I’m not formally signed to a label but I consider myself a JSP artist. I assume when I want to release a Cd, John Stedman will let me do it. I believe that I am the first woman the JSP label recorded. On the first Cd, The Search Is Over, Johnny Rawls opened that door for me and produced that albums. Johnny is a brilliant songwriter, singer and entertainer. I’m glad he’s catching some good breaks out there. We like the same kind of music. He’s a Soul man and as I stated, I love Soul very much.”

Music has taken this iconic Southside Chicago Blues singer through the portals of Gospel and Soul back to the Blues and a healthy appreciation of Chicago Blues Queen Koko Taylor.

“I didn’t actually grow up listening to her because I came from the Southside Soul tradition first. By the time I decided to become a part of the Blues scene, I had moved to the North side and pretty much established who I am, so I didn’t study under her per se. But she definitely inspired me as I got to know her and talk to her over the years. She was very, very inspirational. She always pushed the ladies that wanted to sing Blues. I can’t think of a better role model for Blues women than the great Koko Taylor. It’s a great honor for me to receive the Koko Taylor Queen of the Blues Award from the Jus’ Blues Music Foundation this year. I’m stunned actually.”

Deitra Farr is surely no one dimensional artist. Aside from being a singer/songwriter, she has a degree in journalism from Columbia College and writes a regular column for Living Blues Magazine. She is a visual artist and a painter.

“I write all my songs in my head. I can pick out chords. Usually the subject matter will come out first. Somebody will say something or a subject will come to me and I’ll start messing with it. Frequently, I’m inspired in the bathtub or shower, a habit that goes back to my childhood. I would sing in the bathroom to keep from disturbing my mother. Sometimes I get a title or someone can say something to me on the phone. For example, my bandmate Matthew Skoller said to me once, ‘Oh, you mean a week from yesterday.’ It sounded so good I had to write that one down and wrote a song called “A Week From Yesterday.” So melodies don’t usually come first for me. I’m a wordsmith. I’ve been writing as far back as I can remember.”

Deitra especially admires the work of Mexican self-portrait artist, Frida Kahlo.

“Yes, Lord. I love Frida Kahlo and her work. Who would’ve thought I’d sing in Mexico? When a club owner offered me a gig in Mexico City, I told him I would only come if he would take me to Frida Kahlo’s house. His wife took me and when we pulled up in front of her blue house, which is like a museum, I cried like a baby, like somebody crazy. I remembered the house from books I’d read thirty-five years ago before. I never dreamed in a million years that I would be in her house. When you’re a child, fantasizing about different things, you have no idea where life will take you. My dad and I used to talk about this all the time. I was a young Southside girl. I wasn’t thinking about singing in foreign countries. I thought I would be singing around Chicago. In my head, I didn’t know anybody that went anywhere. My people went to St Louis and Mississippi on vacation. I didn’t know anybody that was doing what I’m doing now.

Some years I’ve gigged in a dozen countries. I love to see other lands. I’ve been places I never would’ve imagined; the Middle East, Dubai, Lebanon, Qatar, Israel and beyond. I went back to Mexico City and sang with a Gospel group in the town square. That was probably my favorite gig of all time. There’s hardly anywhere in Europe I haven’t been including Iceland. One journalist wrote that I am not a road warrior. He heard it wrong or wrote it wrong. It’s quite the opposite. I love the road! One of my pet peeves is journalists who don’t get it right.

Visit Deitra’s website at:

CyberSoulMan Tee Watts is music director at KPFZ 88.1 fm in Lakeport, California. His radio show, The CyberSoulMan Review airs Tuesday afternoons from 3-5 PST. He is road manager for Sugar Pie DeSanto, the last Queen standing from the glory years of Chess Records.

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Central Iowa Blues Society -Des Moines, IA

Iowa Blues Challenge Finals – The preliminary rounds are complete and the lineup is now set for the 2017 Iowa Blues Challenge Finals on Saturday, September 16, 2017 at Des Moines Social Club, 900 Mulberry St, 5 pm Admission at the door is $15, $10 for members of any Iowa Blues Society with a current card.

Competing in the Solo/Duo bracket at 5:00 pm will be Bruce Kort & Forrest Rische, Freight Train Frank Strong and Kevin BF Burt. The 3 contesting bands starting at 7:15 pm are Blue Scratch, Avey Grouws Band and Hound Dog Shy. Winning acts will represent Iowa in Memphis at the 2018 International Blues Challenge.

Special thanks to our sponsors Budweiser, Exile, Iowa Public Radio, Zimm’s, Rieman Music, Junior’s Motel, Lefty’s, Des Moines Social Club, Vividpix, Central Iowa Blues Society, South Skunk Blues Society, MS Valley Blues Society and Southeast Iowa Blues Society. For more information go to

Sacramento Blues Society – Sacramento, CA

The Sacramento Blues Society will be hosting the fabulous Golden State-Lone Star Blues Revue on September 3, 2017 at the world famous Torch Club, 904-15th St. This band consists of Mark Hummel and RW Grigsby representing the Golden Gate and Wes Starr and Mike Keller from Texas. Keller was once a member of the Fabulous Thunderbirds and is stepping in for Little Charlie Baty, who is on yet another endeavor. Music is from 4:00-7:00, 21+, $15 SBS members, $20 public.

Also, it is with great pleasure that we announce the 2017 Sacramento Blues Society Hall of Fame Inductees. They are: Bill Scholer, Fred “Deacon” Baker, Kenny “Obie Dee” Van Cromphaut, Stan Powell, and Tim Wilbur. And special HOF Induction Presentation for the late Jay Peterson by 2010 SBS Hall of Fame Members Rick Estrin and Charles Baty.

Please join us for the Induction Ceremony on Sunday, September 24, 2017 from 1 pm – 5:00 pm at Harlow’s, 2708 J St, Sacramento, CA (SBS members $10, non-members $15) followed by an after party from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm at the nationally known Torch Club, 904 15th St, Sacramento, CA.

For more additional information:

Long Beach Blues Society – Lohg Beach, CA

The Long Beach Blues Society is proud to present New Blues Festival 4, Saturday, September 2 and Sunday, September 3 (Labor Day Weekend) at El Dorado Park in Long Beach, Calif. 2017 Contemporary Blues Album Nominee Janiva Magness and Serbian-born guitar great Ana Popovic, along with Blues legend Guitar Shorty and Chris Cain, headline a strong 2-day Main Stage lineup. Vendor Village, Craft Beers on Tap, BBQ Vendors, Gourmet Food Trucks, and more. The Golden Groove Stage will feature performances by many of the Southland’s best Blues acts.

More info at or

The Blue Jay Jazz Foundation – Blue Jay, CA

Blue Jay Jazz Foundation presents The King Brothers Thursday, August 10 (at 6 p.m.)at SkyPark at Santa’s Village, the entertainment and dining destination that reopened in 2016. The King Brothers are bringing the blues back to the San Bernardino Mountains to kick off the 2017 Blue Jay Jazz Festival concert series.

The Brothers, whose first Festival appearance in 2007 helped launch a serious blues component to the Blue Jay event, established a new standard of blues while staying true to a solid blues tradition. Drummer Sam and guitarist-vocalist Lee have played, toured and recorded with their cousin Freddie King and their “adopted uncle” Albert King. Their recent CD is Get up and Shake It, which All About Jazz called “blues played the way it should be, by guys who have been doing it for a while.”

The series is produced by the non-profit Blue Jay Jazz Foundation and continues with Greg Adams and East Bay Soul on August 17 and Adrianna Marie and her Groovecutters on August 24. More at

Friends of the Blues – Kankakee, IL

Tues, Aug 22 – Jeff Jensen, Bradley Bourbonnais Sportsmen’s Club, Tues, Nov 14 – Jim Suhler & Monkey Beat, Manteno Sportsmen’s Club. More Info at:

The Illinois Central Blues Club – Springfield, IL

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

Blue Monday Schedule: Aug. 21 – Lucky Loser’s, Aug. 28 – Green McDonough Band.

Additional ICBC partnered shows: Aug. 17 – James Armstrong Presents @ The Alamo, 6 pm Sam Crain Trio, Aug. 26 – Old Capitol Blues & BBQ Festival – Mary Jo Curry, Albert Castiglia, Lil’ Ed, Aug. 27 – Old Capitol Blues & BBQ Festival – James Armstrong, Kenny Neal, Eric Gales. For more information visit

BB logoP.O. Box 721 Pekin, Illinois 61555 © 2017 Blues Blast Magazine (309) 267-4425


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