Issue 13-30 July 25, 2019

Cover photo © 2019 Marilyn Stringer

 In This Issue 

Don Wilcock has our feature interview with Damon Fowler. We have 10 Blues reviews for you this week including a new book on Excello Records plus new music from Kelly’s Lot, Jay Kips Band, Li’l Chuck The One Man Skiffle Machine, The Texas Horns, Micart, JP and the Razors, The Duke Robillard Band, Jarkka Rissanen Tonal Box and Julian Sas.

Our featured video of the week is the Nikki Hill Band.

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

 From The Editor’s Desk 

Hey Blues Fans,

Our friends at the Prairie Dog Blues Fest are putting on a great show this weekend and Blues Blast Magazine will be there covering all the fun.

On Friday they feature a lineup that includes Tas Cru & His Band Of Tortured Souls, The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band, Ghost Town Blues Band, Toronzo Cannon and Nikki Hill. On Saturday the fun continues with Tommy Bentz Band, Craig Erickson & The Roadhouse Rockers, Sarah Grace & The Soul, Eliminator, Kris Lager Band, Eliza Neals and the Narcotics and Anthony Gomes.

For tickets and info visit or click on their ad in this issue.

Look for the Blues Blast shirts and be sure to say hello! See you there!

Wishing you health, happiness and lots of Blues music!

Bob Kieser

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 Blues Blast Music Awards Tickets 

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Tickets for the Blues Blast Music Awards show on September 13, 2019 in Rockford, Illinois are on sale. The presale price is $35 and $40 at the door. Save money by getting your tickets NOW HERE!

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 Featured Video Of The Week – Nikki Hill 

This video features Nikki Hill performing “I’m Right On The Brink” at Don Odells Legends.

Nikki Hill is performing at the Prairie Dog Blues Festival on Friday, July 26th, 2019.

For tickets and info on this Blues event visit or click on their ad in this issue!

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 Featured Interview – Damon Fowler 

damon fowler photo 3Patience!

That’s what 20 years in the music business has taught Damon Fowler. “I play music and I want to create music. I do things I like and hopefully people like it. I’ve been lucky so far that people do like it. So, it’s allowed me to have the lifestyle of a musician and use the creative side of my brain.”

He pauses and adds with a dollop of sarcasm, “That’s debatable!”

He calls me back seconds after missing our appointed interview. Two young children can be heard in the background. He admits life is crazy, but that’s what happens when you have a wife, two kids and you’re juggling gigs as a bandleader, solo artist, and guitarist in a number groups ranging from George Thorogood to Dickie Betts.

“It’s a blessing,” he says about his children. “We inherited my parents’ house. It’s a cool house, good neighborhood and all that stuff, but it needed some work, and I had some time off this summer, so my wife put me to work, and I don’t think I’ve ever worked this hard in my life.”

He’s 40 years old, right?

“I am 40, Can you hold on a second? I’ve got my son with me.”

No problem.

A minute later he calls me back.

“Alright, I’m back.”


“(Experience) has taught me patience, and it’s taught me there’s all sorts of different ways to work for the success of your art. It’s taught me to have an open mind and be patient. Every time I’ve ever made a specific plan and laid it out (and said) all right, this is going to happen, and that’s going to happen and we’re gonna execute this, that has never worked for me. Never worked! The only time its ever worked for me is when I’ve gone along with the universe, just taken what it’s given me and tried to make the best of it, and the next thing you know it turns out better. It turns out good.

“So, that’s what I’ve learned. It’s like everything. Any of the gigs I’ve done, how I got in with Butch Trucks and the Freight Train Band, how I got gigs with Dickie Betts and with Southern Hospitality most definitely was the kind of thing where we were just trusting our instincts a little bit. It’s all been just how it happens, being patient. Don’t push it. Don’t force it. Just let it happen.”

damon fowler photo 2Songwriting is a perfect example of how patience works for Fowler. His best songs just pop into his head. “Just ride around in the car with the radio off, and it will come to you. When I’m not thinking about it, next thing you know, I’m humming something, and I come up with an idea. That’s the way it organically happens with most of my favorite artists. Know what I mean? There’s always the people who have the business plan, and then they go out for six months. ‘Oh, man, it’s the best thing I ever heard of.’ And you like never hear from them again.

“I like guys like Willie Nelson. Willie Nelson didn’t even have a marketable career until he was like 45 years old. He was broke. He was a Nashville writer, and he’d sold a couple of songs. He sold “Hello, Walls” to Faron Young, and I think he sold “Crazy” and “Nightlife.” So, he had a little bit of success, but he was never this pretty Nashville produced guy. So, they never let him in. And it didn’t happen until he said, ‘Screw it. I’m gonna move to Texas and hang out and regroup,’ and that’s when he found Armadillo World Headquarters in Austin Texas and that redneck hippy scene.”

An only child, Fowler grew up in Tampa listening to Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and early rap. “I’ve been listening to everything. When you’re a kid you hear it on the radio, and your parents are listening to all of that stuff, and I think it’s all good. You have to keep an open perspective and an open mind.”

In his solo records Fowler has covered everyone from Leon Russell to country icons Merle Haggard and Billy Joe Shaver. He’s toured with George Thorogood, Dickie Betts, the late Butch Trucks and jammed with Derek Trucks when they were both 14.

“My uncle was in a country band. So, when I was a kid I would go sit in. I was in Florida in the late ’80s, early ’90s. In those days, Florida had a ton of honkytonk country bars. They were all smoky. They all had country fans in ’em, and in those days those guys would play George Jones and Lynyrd Skynyrd.”

James Taylor’s “Steam Roller Blues” was Fowler’s introduction to blues. He loved its lyrics about being “a churning urn of burning funk” and “a napalm bomb guaranteed to blow your mind.” “My uncle was doing it, and I saw the band doing it, and I thought the lyrics were cool.”

A week later, he was listening to B.B. King and was hooked. But he also loved Merle Haggard’s “The Bottle Let Me Down” and “Mama Tried.”

“Man, I loved Merle, dude.”

But Fowler doesn’t necessarily take the message – the truth as Willie Dixon would say – too seriously. “People go see a blues show a lot of times to go to any show. They go to have a good time and escape for a minute. I don’t like a whole lot of modern-day politics in my music. I don’t really want to hear about that. We all have our opinions, and hopefully everybody can come to my show and just take a couple of hours out of the day and not have a to worry about that crap, you know? People go to a blues show to be entertained. So, I think sometimes you don’t have to put all truth. It’s fun to write songs kinda like a story, like a book.”

He learned that early on from his uncles. “When I was a kid, my mom and I lived in my grandparents’ house. I was an only child and my grandparents ran a septic tank business out of their house. I had uncles that worked for them, and it was a family business, and the oldest uncle was in a country band. He played guitar and he wrote songs and stuff, and it was like the late ’80s and early ’90s bar circuit stuff – what was popular in the day.

“He played a lot of that stuff, and on Sunday at my grandparents’ house, they had a pool and a little deck, and my uncle would set up a p.a. system, and his friends would all come over and hang out by the pool. I saw that at an early age, and my cousin plays drums. He’s close to my age, a little younger. In those days we would just hang out. We thought everyone did that on Sunday. Some people throw a baseball around. At our house, we had a Sunday jam.”

Fowler’s grandmother bought him his first guitar when he was 10. “The guitar she got me I was happy with. It was an Ibanez acoustic. I loved it. I’ve still got it. I have an acoustic guitar she got me, and then the next year for my birthday I got an electric guitar which was an American made Fender Stratocaster, and I still have that in my house.

damon fowler photo 1“She went and bought all my uncles and my mom Gibsons. She got my uncle a J130. So, that’s what they did that year, and when she was buying these guitars, I was with her in the store. So, just to get me out of her hair – she was spending big money on these guitars – she just handed me a little Ibanez and said, ‘Here, man. Just sit over there.’ She said, ‘I’ll get that for you. Just be good.’”

Fowler has asthma and never played sports. He just hung out and played guitar as much as he could. “My Uncle Bobby would show me stuff and (friends) would show me stuff.”

He played everything. “I think you do yourself a disservice for not being open-minded. I like music. I don’t try and put it in a box.”

In his late teens he met Rick Derringer of “Rock ’n’ Roll Hoochie Coo” fame. Fowler was pretty much clueless about Derringer’s history with Jonny Winter.

“Rick is a really cool guy, fantastic guitar player. I was doing these gigs, and I was trying to get a gig at this club. The owner was also a booking agent and booked this other place that was north of Tampa by about an hour. It was really well known as a typical redneck place you go out on a Sunday, and there were a lot of bikers, rednecks.

“My cousin played drums, and we had a bass player, and so in order to play the cool club in Tampa, we had to play this other club a couple of times to make friends with the guy and prove we could hold our own. So, when we went up there, we ended up being the club’s favorite band. We started going up there all the time and just playing one Sunday a month.

“So, Rick Derringer was coming for a Sunday afternoon gig, and we had to do two sets, but Rick didn’t want to do two sets in a row. So, the club said, ‘Hey, man, why don’t you play a set and Rick will play a set? You guys play another set, and Rick will play the last set.’ I said, ‘Sure, man,’ and to be honest, I wasn’t really that aware of Rick’s music at that time.

“I was becoming a fan of Johnny Winter at that point. My uncle had given me (the record) Nothin but the Blues (1977), and it’s got Muddy Waters on there. Bob Margolin plays guitar and they got Willie Big Eyes Smith on drums. It’s a cool record. It’s Johnny’s record, and it was around that time that I got the record, and I thought, ‘That’s cool.’

“And I knew there was some kind of connection, and this was before the internet was really popular. You couldn’t just look it up, you know? So, I was aware of him. I knew about “Rock and Roll Hoochie Koo,” and I knew he had something to do with Johnny Winter. So, we did the show. He brought me out for the encore and let me play a song with him. I was just a young blues kid, and I didn’t know in his early life he was this young blues kid. He was with the (rock band) McCoys.

“He was just open to me and really nice. Hey, man, good job, and good luck kinda stuff, and any time he would come to town after that, he’d call me and invite me to come out and sit in with him, and so after that, I did a little more research. Holy shit, you know? So, when I was graduating high school, I had this every Friday night gig I was doing in Tampa, and we were developing a little following and, wow, man. He produced the record (Riverview Drive 1999) for me, and it really helped me, and so, it was right.”

Fowler played guitar like a veteran from the start, never sacrificing mood or tone for speed. That, plus patience and some just plain luck have served him well. At 14 he was playing with Derek Trucks who was also 14 and, as the nephew of Allman Brothers’ drummer Butch Trucks, had an inside track with that band.

“We would open for Derek Trucks at Skipper’s. A stream of light from heaven just skimmed down on Derek Trucks as a musician. At 15, that guy was almost as good as he is now. That guy is fantastic. You know, musicians are awkward, especially when you’re young, and Derek was shy, and I was super shy. But Derek was always kind, very kind, and he would get me up to jam. I still run into him, and we still talk about those days.”

A quarter century after jamming with Derek, Fowler would end up playing with his uncle, Butch Trucks, and his Freight Train Band. “I started doing those gigs for a couple years and had a fantastic time. I would ride around in a vehicle with him, and he would tell me all these stories, and he would talk a lot. He was a good guy.”

In 2018, Fowler played slide guitar on tour with another Allman Brothers alumnus Dickie Betts. “I think Dickie Betts is like the Keith Richards of the Allman Brothers,” says Fowler.

damon fowler photo 4Fired by Gregg Allman from the Allman Brothers allegedly for his drinking habits, Betts is rarely given the credit he deserves for contributing to their early sound and is always overshadowed by the messianic reputation of the late Duane Allman.

“If you do the research, most of their hits, the songs people know, were songs that Dickie wrote like “Statesboro Blues.” I know Gregg wrote “Whipping Post,” but for the most part, “Rambling Man, “Blue Sky,” “Elizabeth Reed.” It just goes on. Dickie was the guy.”

Rolling Stone magazine has characterized Betts as bitter toward his former bandmates in the Allman Brothers. Fowler doesn’t think so. “You know, I don’t know. I haven’t talked to him about that. My experience when I’ve toured with him, he doesn’t seem bitter at all. He’s gotta a lotta love for those guys, and he’s been nothing but great with me. I’ve never heard him say one word about any of that stuff. We did a gig in (The Allman Brothers’ hometown) Macon, and it was like going to the Super Bowl. I mean, we got there two days early, and there were already people camped in the parking lot, tailgating and stuff, you know.

“In certain circles, man, people have tons of love for Dickie and the Allmans, any of the Allmans. (Dickie’s son) Duane (named after the late Duane Allman) is actually the guy that called me for the Dickie gig. Duane’s a good friend of mine and so is Devon (Allman, Gregg’s son). Actually Barry Oakley, Jr. (son of another Allman Brothers alumnus) is the guy that got me the gig with Butch Trucks.”

Fowler has recorded eight albums under his own name and tours both solo and with his own band, but he’s defined as much by his work with other more high-profile artists as he is on his own. “I’m juggling a lot of stuff. But it’s been good. It keeps me fresh. I don’t want to be the guy that goes out on tour and plays the same thing every time. I like going out with a big band. I like going out with a three-piece band. I’ve also been playing acoustic gigs. I’ve been flying out and doing solo with George Thorogood.”

His favorite Thorogood number is “The Night Time.”

He sings, “I wanna be with you in the nighttime, da, da, da, da.

“Last year in fact right before I started the Betts gig, my trio did basically the entire Canadian tour with George Thorogood. It was fantastic. The first night of the tour was in New Hampshire at a casino, one of Thorogood’s favorites. We got there, the band greets us, and they’re all the nicest dudes. The manager comes up to us and says, ‘George does this every time he plays here, but you are the opening band. The soundcheck is “Under My Thumb” by the Stones. He wants to come and sing it with y’all.’

“So, I’m holy crap. I better learn it really quick. So, we learned it, and Thorogood came, and we played “Under My Thumb” with George in front of no one. It was killer!”

In 2011, Fowler teamed up with Victor Wainwright, J.P. Soars, Chuck Riley and Chris Peet to form Southern Hospitality and released Easy Livin’ in 2013 on Blind Pig Records. It was a hard groove that surfed the tall waves where rock and blues meet and was produced by Louisiana’s bayou master Tab Benoit. In 2014, Benoit produced Fowler’s Sounds from Home CD, and he co-wrote five of the songs and produced Fowler’s latest LP, Whiskey Bayou Session for Fowler’s own label, Whiskey Bayou Records.

“Tab Benoit is a real natural. He’s very low pressure. We kind of speak the same language as far as what kind of music we listen to and stuff like that. A lot of people don’t know this, but Tab can sing like George Jones better than anyone I’ve ever heard. He’s got a studio in his house, and he’s recorded a bunch of George Jones tunes, and he plays pedal steel very well.”

In 2005, Fowler was in an auto accident that caused him to lose part of a deltoid muscle in his left arm. He required skin grafts on his arm and head. It put his patience to the test, but it taught him new lessons, too.

“It made me listen more. It gave me a break. I ended up staying home and laying around on the couch just listening to records and changing my perspective a little bit on music. It changed my singing a lot. It made me want to sing better. Made me want to write better. I’ve always loved guitar and in my teen years and 20s I kinda looked at it as a sport. But I don’t do that anymore. It’s more about the songs.”

Visit Damon’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 – 1 of 10 

KELLY'S LOT CD IMAGEKelly’s Lot – Can’t Take My Soul


CD: 12 Songs, 49:49 Minutes

Styles: Contemporary Folk and Blues, All Original Songs

Don’t let the soft pastels and starry background on the CD cover of Can’t Take My Soul fool you. Kelly Zirbes is the best friend with the gritty voice and wild hair who always has your back. Although several of her newest songs are relentlessly positive (“Woe is Me,” “Let it Breathe,” “Little Bit of This”), she performs them with an edge that grounds them in our down-and-dirty world. Genre purists will note that “folk” is listed before “blues” under “styles,” and for good reason. Every blues song on this album contains a little bit of folk, and vice-versa. Zirbes channels Edie Brickell, Sheryl Crow, and Alanis Morissette with considerable skill. The best numbers on this CD, however, are ones where the full Lot shines in the spotlight (the opener and title track). They provide a lilting French vibe on “Rise Up” (Lève-Toi) and “Mon Ami.”

Since 1994, this band has composed 14 CDs and gone on countless tours in the US and Europe. Kelly’s Lot hails from the Los Angeles area and features our leading lady on vocals and acoustic guitar for track five. Joining her are Perry Robertson on guitars, Matt McFadden on bass, Mike Sauer and Michael Mason on drums, Bobby Orgel on keys, Rob Zucca on lead guitar for track six, Frank Hinojosa on harmonica, Jean Paul Monshè on accordion, Eddie Baytos on washboard and accordion for track four, Jean-François Thomas on duet vocals for track six, and Jeri Goldenhar, Andrew Mushin, Jenna Mushin, and Aviva Maloney on background vocals.

The blues are paradoxical, meant to banish bad moods instead of instill them. Without a doubt, these three songs will get one’s toes tapping and one’s fingers snapping, live or at home.

Track 01: “All I Ever Want is the Blues” – Kelly pays homage to the masters in this upbeat, mid-tempo blues rocker. “Robert Johnson’s mean guitar, Stevie Ray, he took it far; Etta James sang her song, and I can last all night long.” Perry Robertson nails it on guitar, and there’s a slight ‘50s atmosphere to the proceedings. It may drop a lot of names, but that’s no shame.

Track 02: “All Hope Ain’t Lost” – With smooth funk and jazz flavors, track two reminds us not to throw in the towel with “greed and money getting in the way” and “big bad boss holding on to all he’s got.” Highlights here are the melodious guitars, background vocals, and Bobby Orgel on understated keyboards.

Track 04: “Woe is Me” – Some people can be real downers, so cheer them up with this flaming-hot Zydeco track. It will call them out and give them hope at the same time: “You tell me you’re in ruin and have many bills to pay, a job that you cannot stand you have to do each day. Oh, you’re so sad, and you’re so mad. You don’t know what you have.” The playful way Kelly sings this last part will make even the most die-hard pessimists laugh (at themselves). Dig Eddie Baytos’ accordion and washboard.

Times in the ‘10s may be hard, but as Kelly’s Lot admirably proves, they Can’t Take My Soul!

Reviewer Rainey Wetnight is a 39 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 – 2 of 10 

JAY KIPS BAND CD IMAGEJay Kips Band – How To Polish Your Longhorns

Self released

38 minutes

How To Polish Your Longhorns is the 2017 debut record from Ontario based harmonica lead Jay Kipps Band. Longhorns has a throwback 70’s Roots Rock sound akin to Lynard Skynard, Marshall Tucker Band and J.J. Cale (they cover “The Breeze”). This record has a mellow medium tempo vibe that runs through songs of love, tradition, rural life and fidelity. Kipps is a tender singer and harmonica player who writes all but the Cale cover. Guitarist Chad Burford is steady and consistent. Rhythm section Chris Lubker, bass, and Cory Bruyea, drums, stay locked in with Burford throughout creating a straightforward unobtrusive base.

A loose concept album, How To Polish Your Longhorns has very distinct packaging and art work of the band in old-timey costume and settings. Bookend instrumentals “Colt 45” and “Surffarie” bring the spaghetti western sound and with the short harp blast of “Harp Bomb” keep the Cowboy concept going. The other songs on the record work well with each other and fit together but do not fit the theme. Medium tempo, “Strange Brew” sounding, “Rotten Apple Blues” is hoppy and bouncy.

“Everyone But Me” has the same type of jumping rhythm and tempo, but minor chord this time. Alternate chords for the chorus, a 90’s Alt Rock progression, gives “Everyone” a nice nuisance and breaks up the hypnosis of the medium tempo hop. Background vocals by Strawberry Sunshine (Maddie Ball) also add great texture on this track and a number of others. “Hard Core” is melancholic and at the same slow to medium tempo with nice simple slide offered by Stewart Gunn. The tempo is lifted on “Big Old Engine” and the most rocking track on the record “Sinister” (with obligatory cowbell).

There are two live tracks. The original spoken word “Gonzo” is a cry to Hunter S. Thompson’s ghost to help make sense of the current world. This track is an outlier and the in-your-face spoken word performance is jarring in contrast to Kipps’ normal tender tenor. The live performance of “They Call Me The Breeze” has the same rhythm hop as the studio tracks and puts the band’s own stamp on this bar band staple. The live tracks work well in the sequence of the record and sound in line with the studio tracks, which is not always easy to do.

The music of Longhorns is more transparent, less layered and more rhythmically open than the famous 70’s bands it is indebted to, due to being mostly medium tempo, having restrained on-the-beat rhythm and slightly muted production. The sound of this record, the production quality and mellow performances are either intentionally simplistic or belie a lack of recording experience. However, album highlight “The Only Reason” stands out and transcends the other tracks. Its a tender ballad with a 50’s doo wop structure that gives way to a big chorus finish. With spiked ukulele from Erin Kipps and cello from Lillian Penn, “The Only Reason” is Kipps’ most impassioned vocal performance and breaks free of the medium tempo and locked in rhythm.

How To Polish Your Longhorns is a fine first album. The strength of Kipps’ singing and songwriting point to continued artistic development and make Longhorns a solid first chapter in his journey. Since this record was released in 2017 it would be great to hear how this band has developed and grown in the past 3 years.

Reviewer Bucky O’Hare is a Bluesman based in Boston who spreads his brand of blues and funk all over New England. Bucky has dedicated himself to experiencing the Blues and learning its history. As a writer, Bucky has been influenced by music critics and social commentators such as Angela Davis, Peter Guralnick, Eric Nisenson, Francis Davis and Henry Louis Gates Jr.

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 Featured Blues Review – 3 of 10 

RANDY FOX BOOK IMAGERandy Fox – Shake Your Hips: The Excello Records Story

BMG Books (RPM Series)

170 pages

A chronicle of one of the great partnerships in the music business, this engrossing book tells the story of one of the most influential American record labels, and the two men who were the driving force that made it all possible.

Ernie Young learned to run a business working in his family’s grocery stores and wholesale distribution company. He later struck gold with coin-operated machines like pinball games and, more importantly, jukeboxes. Young viewed music as an opportunity to earn a comfortable living. It wasn’t long before he opened a retail store in order to liquidate record inventory from the jukeboxes, and his own record label. Nashboro Records was focused on the Nashville gospel scene, with a few hillbilly records mixed in. It took the formation of the Excello label to garner Young his first major hit, Arthur Gunter’s “Baby Let’s Play House,” a tune later recorded by Elvis Presley for Sam Phillips at Sun Records.

One reason for Young’s success was his abiding understanding of the importance of marketing. He quickly saw the benefit of advertising on the WLAC radio station, featuring DJs like Gene Nobles and Jon “John R” Richbourg throughout the evening hours playing a mixture of R&B records from black artists that were ignored on other stations. Borrowing an idea from a competitor, Young advertised heavily for his mail order record business, making the sounds listeners heard on the air available to buyers throughout the country, and in some cases, far-flung regions of the planet.

With the formation of the Excello label, Young started working with Joseph “Jay” Miller, from Crowley, Louisiana. Miller had a successful electrical contracting business but music was in his heart. He also had a record store and a small label for releases by local musicians. Eventually, Miller found success in country music, working with legendary figures like Lefty Frizzell and Kitty Wells. To save money, he built his own recording studio. A chance encounter allowed Miller to hear a local blues singer and guitarist, Otis Hicks. A recording session was scheduled, and soon Miller had a release out on his Feature Records label, credited to “Lightnin’ Slim”. The disc sold well regionally, but a lack of distribution limited any further impact.

From his numerous trips to Nashville for his work with country artists, Miller was acutely aware of Young’s growing presence and marketing skills. After months of negotiations, the men settled on an arrangements that had the artists signed to Miller’s production company. Young and Excello owned retained the rights to all completed masters for any song released on the label. The financial aspects were a bit complicated, with Young paying Miller a percentage for each record sold. Miller would then be responsible for the artist and any songwriting royalties.

From this point, author Fox, a long-time music journalist, details the result of their efforts in chronological order, records that are still influencing generations, from revered artists like Slim Harpo, Lazy Lester, and Lonesome Sundown. Miller’s recording style gave the records a unique sound, often referred to as swamp blues for the relaxed feel and mood. Together the men were a formidable team, bringing them both plenty of financial rewards. The success also brought new concerns, Slim Harpo was constantly at odds with Miller over money he felt he was owed. Success meant more staff and higher operating costs, stretching the profit margin in a notoriously tough business.

Fox provides the factual history with a minimum of conjecture. Readers will quickly be hooked on the story-line, and those unfamiliar with the Excello label will get an education that will undoubtedly open up a new world of listening opportunities, and a corresponding dent in the personal finance department. The efforts of Young and Miller ended up having a far greater impact than just the sale of records. The author notes that Excello records reached far and wide through the mail-order channel, influencing many musicians including Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. A must read for anyone with a love blues music!

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

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 Featured Blues Review – 4 of 10 

LIL' CHUCK CD IMAGELi’l Chuck The One Man Skiffle Machine – Mono

Backyard Music

14 songs time-43:36

Your first thought generally when thinking of a one man band is that it will be the same blop-blop-blop beat in song after song with pretty much the same formula over and over. What Li’l Chuck(David Thorpe) manages to accomplish with a resonator guitar, rack harmonica, kick drum, hi-hat cymbal and voice defies the limits of dexterity. he injects diversity into the program of songs, often rearranging blues standards. His harmonica playing is flexible and melodic while keeping up on guitar. There must be something good in the water of his home base of Christchurch, New Zealand. All this was recorded in retro fashion with one microphone with no overdubs. All instruments are clearly picked up. The guy has a strong vocal delivery. The CD consists of half originals and half covers.

His kind of honky tonk country voice fits like a glove on “Right By My Side” and everything else here. “Backyard Harmonica Boogie” is just what the title promises as his harmonica leads an upbeat romp. Robert Johnson’s “Cross Road Blues” gets a slowed down treatment and it has a mournful quality. Chuck’s own “Crying” is heartfelt and melancholy.

The narrator tells his two-timing girl friend to hit the road in no uncertain terms in the old-timey sounding “Outta Here”. He drops the “Little” in Howlin’ Wolf’s song to call it “Red Rooster” and a great recitation it is. The harmonica playing is nicely melodic on “Sweet Sue”. Chuck’s sprightly vocal on the traditional “Shady Grove” does the song justice.

Willie Dixon’s “My Babe” is given an energetic treatment. The original “The Devil Came To See Me” is just voice and harmonica, a song taken at a slow pace. Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup’s “That’s All Right” is sped up to good effect. This approach is also applied to John Lee Hooker’s classic “Boom Boom” with equal results.

Yes ladies and gentleman in this case less certainly is more. How he gets his fingers and mouth to work so well simultaneously is way beyond my comprehension. You tend to forget it is one person making all this music. He has the blues and old-timey music down pat. If you want to get your big toe a jumpin’ do yourself a favor and pick this one up in a jiffy.

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

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 Featured Blues Review – 5 of 10 

tHE TEXAS HORNS CD IMAGEThe Texas Horns – Get Here Quick

Severn Records CD 0075

12 songs – 52 minutes

Based out of Austin, The Texas Horns follow up their red-hot 2015 release, Blues Gotta Holda Me, with this long-awaited album, which features a revolving, star-studded lineup and delivers an all-original set of soulful blues and R&B that’s guaranteed to get you moving your feet from the first beat.

Most music lovers recognize them for their work as supporting musicians. In recent months alone, they’ve supported Jimmie Vaughan, Buddy Guy and Eric Clapton. Three of some of the most sought-after sessions players in the industry, their work graces dozens of albums, including releases by the late Candye Kane fellow Lone Star State favorites Los Lonely Boys, Pat Boyack and Johnny Nicholas and European soul-blues sensation Ina Forsman. But they’re truly stars in their own right.

Led by Massachusetts-born, Chicago-trained tenor sax and harmonica player Mark “Kaz” Kazanoff, the trio also includes baritone player John Mills, whose diverse background includes everything from experimental jazz and salsa to country and funk, and trumpet player Al Gomez, who – like Mills – is a college professor who’s a member of the Tejano Music Hall Of Fame and whose career has included everything from Broadway and symphonies to R&B and more.

Together for the better part of 20 years, The Texas Horns are augmented here by Curtis Salgado, John Nemeth, Guy Forsyth, Gary Nicholson and Carolyn Wonderland, who trade off on vocals, and Anson Funderburgh, Jonn Del Toro Richardson, Denny Freeman, Johnny Moeller, Derek O’Brien and Ronnie Earl, who split guitar duties. Rounding out the sound are Red Young and Nick Connolly on keys, Russell Jackson and Chris Maresh on bass and Tommy Taylor and John Bryant on percussion.

The driving modern blues “Guitar Town” features Funderburgh and Forsyth to open. It warns that you’re going to need plenty of luck to find a better sax player in a city known for its six-strings. The uptempo action continues with Wonderland at the mike for “I’m Doin’ Alright, At Least For Tonight” before Young’s keys trade off with the propulsive horns for the instrumental, “Feelin’ No Pain,” which is loaded with spectacular solos.

“Fix Your Face,” the first of two tunes penned by Grammy-winning songsmith Nicholson, is up next. It’s a stop-time pleaser with Earl on lead and Gary on vocals and rhythm. The tempo slows for the medium-paced instrumental shuffle, “Better Get Here Quick,” before Nemeth makes his sole appearance, delivering the Memphis-flavored soul blues ballad, “Love Is Gone.” Another instrumental, “2018,” follows. It’s built atop a military beat, but the Horns play in precise harmony as they deliver a South Of The Border feel.

Salgado takes to the mike and is at his melismatic best for the deep soul “Sundown Talkin’” before The Horns heat it up with the instrumental, “Funky Ape.” Nicholson’s “Soulshine” – not to be confused with the Allman Brothers tune of the same name, follows before Kaz delivers “You Can’t Be Serious” with Richardson handling lead guitar responsibilities. He yields to Earl for the instrumental, “Truckload Of Trouble,” which powers the disc to a close.

It took The Texas Horns four years to follow up on their first disc, but Get Here Quick was worth the wait. If you’re a fan of horn bands, you’ll be wearing this one out. It’s available through most major retailers.

Blues Blast Magazine Senior Writer Marty Gunther has lived a blessed life. Now based out of Charlotte, N.C., his first experience with live music came at the feet of the first generation of blues legends at the Newport Folk Festivals in the 1960s. A former member of the Chicago blues community, he’s a professional journalist and blues harmonica player who co-founded the Nucklebusters, one of the hardest working bands in South Florida.

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 Featured Blues Review – 6 of 10 

MICART CD IMAGEMicart – Self Titled

Hicktown Records

songs – 11 time – 46:28

If you were a fan of the light weight pop music from the sixties such as Every Mother’s Son, Harper’s Bazarre or The Monkees, have I got a German band for you with a “white bread” singer void of an accent. One plus is that they have an excellent guitarist in singer Mick B. Hardt. The rhythm section is solid and several guests contribute lap steel, dobro, accordion blues harp, percussion and backing vocals. The ten out of eleven original songs contain pretty mundane lyrical content. Micart is mostly pop with a few country-fied songs thrown in.

“Beautiful Smile” is pretty much a throw away slice of pop fluff with some Chuck Berry style guitar. The light weight “Ain’t Good Enough” could be David Cassidy. The vocals on “You’re Close” remind of Bare Naked Ladies sans the humor. The lone cover song “Country Memories” sounds like John Denver backed up by dobro and lap steel. More in the way of country style in “Head Over Heels” that features some nicely melodic guitar work.

“Too Busy”(Gettin’ Drunk) might be what The Monkees would sound like doing a drinking song. “Why” has some good accordion playing courtesy of Sonja Schroth. This song tends to be a tad too repetitive. The amusing title of “Zihuatanejo” is about prison life that includes a neat guitar riff. Acoustic and electric guitar are the sole instruments on “Missing You”. “I’m a missing you”.

No blues to be found but if rather light weight happy music is your thing, here you go. It’s an interesting throw back to a sixties vibe. It is a refreshing style of music not often heard in these modern times. The quality of the musicianship, Mick B. Hardt in particular, that give this recording credibility. Close your eyes and envision the band playing their pop tunes on American Bandstand or The Hollywood Palace. Whatever your take on this music is, it is a fun throw back to ones’ youth.

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

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 Featured Blues Review – 7 of 10 

JP and the razors cd imageJP and the Razors – The Devil’s Make


10 Tracks; 30:30

Northwich in the UK is home to JP and the Razors. They have been bringing us their music for the past few years. This is their 4th release since 2016 (3 full length CDs and an EP). For this release 16 year old guitar player Jake Poole has been added to the former trio. He joins vocalist, guitarist and harmonica player Jonny Slidewell (JP), bass player Dave Roberts and S.A. Wright the drummer. Leigh Eaton added drums on 4 tracks. There is only one cover here, with Jonny Slidewell writing the rest with Jake Poole co-writing on 2 of them. The music is a mix of rock, blues & and a dash of R&B. I am sure they have fine tuned their skills in the pubs and clubs in their home country.

The opening cut is “There’s Something Going Wrong”. It has an old country blues feel with a rocking beat. On “The Waiting” the guitar work reminds me of Mark Knopfler’s guitar sound from Dire Straits. Leigh Eaton keeps a nice pace on his drum set. I like the rocking beat in “I’m Losing”, it is my favorite track of the release. The band cooks on this one. “So In Love, Part 2” is a follow up to a tune on a prior release. The guitar work is quite fine. The mix on “Love Disfigured Me” is quite good. There is nice separation of the two guitars in the speakers. The sound is crisp, but the vocals are a bit buried in the mix.

The guys rock out on the Chuck Berry penned “Nadine”. Jake Poole handles the guitar licks with grace and fire. On “The Devil’s Make” the sound has good quality. This is one they may have been able to rock out much more. The softer feel continues on “It’s Getting Late”. It has a bit of jazzy feel to it and does pick up the pace a bit in the middle of the song. “The Pedler” is a southern rock tune, with a fast pace jam to it. The release’s closing track is “You’re On My Mind”. Jake Poole’s lead guitar work has some good Clapton feel to it. It is the best guitar work on the CD and the best track. I wish it was a longer track that let him and the band really stretch out.

There is some blues here, and a very good sound mix of the music, though the vocals are a bit buried at times. There is some variety in sound, but at times the more laid back sound got a bit repetitious. I had hoped they would really attack the music on more of the tunes. It is not a volume issue, I’d just like to feel more live feel in the music.

Jake Poole may be a young guitar player to keep an eye on for the future. I like that there is plenty of original material. A feature on UK’s RnR Magazine’s sampler Un-Herd Vol. 74 will increase exposure. The band is growing and writing their own material. To the band, keep working on it. Bring on the drive felt from the tunes on your ReverbNation page and “The Waiting”. It will help you make your way forward. Keep the blues music alive around the world!

Reviewer Mark Nelson is from La Grange IL and had been enjoying the blues for the last 40 some years in the Chicago area. Chicago blues is his favorite, but he enjoys all the range of blues types.

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 Featured Blues Review – 8 of 10 

duke robilard cd imageThe Duke Robillard Band – Ear Worms

Stony Plain Records SPCD 1403

13 songs – 51 minutes

One of the most stylish guitarists on the planet as well as one of its foremost musicologists, Duke Robillard has spent a good portion of his life breathing new life into tunes of bygone eras. This album successfully delivers the sounds he couldn’t get out of his head as a youth – everything from jazz to jump, from swing to blues dating as far back as the ‘30s – and stylishly reworking them for a new generation.

Based out of his home base of Pawtucket, R.I., where he’s fronted his own bands since the ‘80s, Duke’s pedigree is impressive. Not only did he found Roomful Of Blues in 1967, but he spent time in both The Fabulous Thunderbirds and Legendary Blues Band. A producer and label owner in his own right, he’s toured with both Tom Waits and Bob Dylan and recorded with everyone from Ruth Brown, Jimmy Witherspoon, Rosco Gordon and Jay McShann to Kim Wilson, Pinetop Perkins and Maria Muldaur, just to name a few.

Most of the songs here have been running through Robillard’s brain since childhood. With the exception of the opener, a Duke original that first appeared in 1988, all of the other tunes are sounds he hasn’t been able to shake since first hearing them in the ‘50s and ‘60s. And his stellar fret work comes to the fore on four dazzling instrumentals.

Robillard, Bears and Teixeira all contribute lead vocals on one cut each of the 13 tracks, which were captured at Lakewest Recording and Duke’s own Mood Room in the Ocean State. The sound’s enhanced by an all-star lineup, which includes vocals from Dave Howard, Julie Grant, Sunny Crownover, Chris Cote, Mark Cutler and Klem Klimek with additional instrumentation from Cutler and Baxter Hall on guitar, Klimick and Doug James on saxes, Jeff “Doc” Chanon on trumpet and Marty Ballou on bass.

A paradiddle military drumbeat opens “Don’t Bother Trying To Steal Her Love” — which Duke released with his band, The Pleasure Kings, in 1988 – but quickly evolves into a rockabilly pleaser with Howard at the mike. Penned by Carole King but a hit for the Righteous Brothers, Duke delivers the vocals on a slow and easy take of “On This Side Of Goodbye” before Cote takes command of the Tracy Nelson/Mother Earth blues, “Living With The Animals.”

Duke soars with an instrumental take on “Careless Love” — a number popularized by Buddy Bolden in New Orleans at the onset of the 21st century – before Grant takes to the mike to reprise Muscle Shoals founder Arthur Alexander’s “Everyday I Have To Cry Some.” It’s déjà vu for her because she had a major hit with the tune herself in 1964 when she recorded it for Pye Records in her native England.

Dylan’s “I Am A Lonesome Hobo” precedes the Brenda Lee classic “Sweet Nothin’s,” the first of two tunes delivered by Crownover before Duke’s six-string talents come front and center for an instrumental cover of “Soldier Of Love,” first released by Alexander on the Dot imprint in 1962. Klimick delivers Chuck Berry’s “Dear Dad” before Bears tackles Allen Toussaint’s “Yes We Can,” making a rare appearance on the mike – as does Teixeira for the Neville Brothers’ “Yellow Moon,” which follows.

Two beautiful instrumental send-ups of ear worms familiar to anyone who grew up in the late ‘50s — Link Wray’s “Rawhide,” the theme for the early ‘60s TV Western that made Clint Eastwood a star, and Patsy Cline’s classic, “You Belong To Me” – will leave you smiling as the album comes to a close.

Sure, this CD is a time capsule. But don’t let that dissuade you. This is one heck of a production from beginning to end, and there’s plenty of blues here despite the origins of the material.

Blues Blast Magazine Senior Writer Marty Gunther has lived a blessed life. Now based out of Charlotte, N.C., his first experience with live music came at the feet of the first generation of blues legends at the Newport Folk Festivals in the 1960s. A former member of the Chicago blues community, he’s a professional journalist and blues harmonica player who co-founded the Nucklebusters, one of the hardest working bands in South Florida.

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 Featured Blues Review – 9 of 10 

jarkka rissanen tonal box cd imageJarkka Rissanen Tonal Box – Trimmed and Burning


CD: 10 Songs, 35:00 Minutes

Styles: Gospel Covers, Traditional Gospel Blues

Gospel blues has always been a sub genre one can clearly pinpoint and recognize, no matter how unique its interpretation. Trimmed and Burning, the latest release from Jarkka Rissanen Tonal Box, demonstrates this like few albums have. This ensemble hails from Finland – one of the furthest nations from the Deep South in the U.S. Faith in the songs of “that old-time religion” has spread further than its originators ever suspected. It’s a gift that keeps on giving, year after year, generation after generation. Even though all ten tracks on this album are familiar, though, it’s hard to know what to make of them. Maybe yours truly, approaching forty, is a fuddy-duddy. Maybe the outré arrangements of classics such as the title track, “Up Above My Head” and “John the Revelator” become more beautiful the more one hears them. Or maybe, just maybe, the Tonal Box is on to something big. Maybe they’ll be trendsetters as the 2010’s draw to a close.

Instead of three-part harmony and traditional accompaniment such as washboard and hand drums, Jari “Jarkka” Rissanen and company add postmodern flair. As well as doing vocal duties, Jarkka plays all guitars, mandolin, Fender Rhodes, percussion and drums. With him are Jussi Kettunen on drums and percussion, guest star Dave Forestfield on organ, and Jorma Välimäki on double bass and tuba. Yes, that’s right. Who knew a little oom-pah-pah could liven Gospel music up even further? These four pour their heart and soul into tunes that are part of the bedrock of Christian belief.

The third song on this release is no doubt the catchiest, even though it’s a warning.

Track 03: “Can’t Nobody Hide” – People justify and rationalize their behavior all the time, trying to conceal their faults from others. Yet Rissanen reminds us: “You can hide from your elders, but you can’t hide from God. Can’t nobody hide from God.” The atmosphere of the instruments is at once merry and menacing, making listeners laugh and wince at the same time. Sing along if you dare. Keep doing so because you must. We all know this one, if only in spirit.

Tonal Box’s fans will love their take on Gospel favorites, keeping their lamps Trimmed and Burning!

Reviewer Rainey Wetnight is a 39 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 

kulian sas cd imageJulian Sas – Stand Your Ground

Cavalier Recordings

8 Tracks; 40:41

The Netherlands is the home of blues rocker Julian Sas. He has been making music for almost 25 years. His 4 piece group consists of Sas (guitar & vocals), Rob Heijne (drums), Roland Bakker (Hammond B3 & piano) and Fotis Anagnostou (bass). This is his 10th studio release, with an additional 6 live recordings/DVDs. The band tours around Europe, increasing their fan base. Stand Your Ground was analogously recorded in the completely renewed The Van Studios of Jan and Paul Schuurman in Spakenburg, Netherlands. All of the tracks were written by Julian Sas.

The opening track is “Runnin’ For The Money”. I like the B3 work by Roland Bakker and the fine guitar work by Julian Sas. This tune has a great modern blues rock feel. The 2nd tune is “Don’t Let Me Down”. This cut is a slower blues rock tune, but with a nice dose of power in the music. The band cuts loose on “Stand Your Ground”. This cut is powerful blues rock, with stinging guitar. There is a great guitar solo that does not go to excess, and a 70’s Deep Purple feel B3 solo too. It is my favorite on the release. Up next is “Anything”. I like the feel of this ballad. The solid back beat of Rob Heijne gives the rest of the band a platform to layer their sounds over. Clocking in at just over 8 minutes, the band really gets to stretch out on this tune.

“Howlin’ Wind” is another long slower blues rock tune. The band sounds good on this one with the B3 and guitar weaving their magic together. I like the sound of “Get On Up” The pace is quick and they band members play together as a unit. On “Tell Me Why” there is a very good intro with the bass and then the sound builds from there. It is a powerful tune without any overdone playing. Closing out the release is “These 18 Wheels”. The pace is high on this 70’s period rocker.

Overall this one hits much more to the rock side of blues rock spectrum. I like the sound mix, but I would have liked the vocals a bit higher in the mix sometimes. I am a fan of the B3 and guitar interactions here, but others may not. Blues fans away from the blues rock vein may not enjoy this one as much.

Stand Your Ground is well written and performed. Julian Sas is a veteran blues rocker with a cohesive set of band mates. The music he makes has always straddled the blues rock line and always will. His formula for all these years works. Sas plays for himself and his fans and that is what matters. There is not excess in the playing which I applaud. Without covers we listeners must pay more attention to the music as it is a new discovery. I found that easy to do on this release. Overall this is a very good effort for music of this vein. Go give it a listen.

Reviewer Mark Nelson is from La Grange IL and had been enjoying the blues for the last 40 some years in the Chicago area. Chicago blues is his favorite, but he enjoys all the range of blues types.

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Prairie Crossroads Blues Society – Champaugn, IL

The Prairie Crossroads Blues Fest is 2 – 10 pm Saturday August 10th at the Champaign County Fairgrounds 1302 N. Coler in Urbana. Headliners include: Brandon Santini, Demetria Taylor, Lucious Spiller and Laurie Morvan. Local and Regional Acts include: Skylar Rogers & The Blue Diamonds, Ray-Band and David Lumsden Blues Band. Acoustic and Solo/Duo Acts include: Joe Asselin and Jenkins Bros. electrified blues duo. Plenty of Free Parking. Bring your lawnchairs and enjoy a full day of music for only $10.00.For more info visit:

Southeast Iowa Blues Society – Fairfield, IA

The Southeast Iowa Blues Society and Fairfield Convention & Visitors Bureau proudly present the 6th annual “Blue Ribbon Blues Fest”, August 3rd, 2019 at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds, Fairfield, Iowa. Gates open at 4:30 with music beginning at 5pm..

Opening things up will be the Iowa and International Blues Challenge winner “Kevin B.F. Burt” at 5:30pm He will be followed at 7pm by a red hot newcomer from Chicago the “Ivy Ford Band” and our featured act coming off a nationally recognised CD the “Altered Five Blues Band” at 9pm. And of course our own Iowa Blues Hall of Famer “Tony Blew” playing between main stage acts.

Sweet n’ Saucy BBQ, Golden Kettle Corn and the famous Iowa Beer Bus, (No outside Food or Drinks) will be on hand for your enjoyment…bring your chairs and camping is available. Tickets are $25 and SIBS members $20 for more information call 641-919-7477 or go to

The Charlotte Blues Society – Charlotte, NC

The Charlotte Blues Society is pleased to announce our August Blues Bash will feature an Open Jam following The Instigators, an exciting Charlotte based, four piece Blues band that also demonstrate a command of Southern Soul, R&B, Reggae and Rock influences in their repertoire. The band members are as follows, Rob Dayton, Stephen Foley, John Hartley, and Michael Ingmire. Michael is a nationally published writer and historian who has written many musical history articles about many American musical icons. He is a consistent contributor to and the Charlotte Blues Society’s monthly newsletter with his writing.

The show will be held Sunday, Aug. 4th, at The Rabbit Hole, 1801 Commonwealth Ave., Charlotte, NC. Admission is free for members with valid cards and $5 to everyone else. Doors at 7:00; music at 8:00. Open jam at 9:30. It will be a great evening of music!

We continue to collect non-perishable food items for Loaves and Fishes. Cash donations are also welcome. 1 can? I can! More info at

Crossroads Blues Society – Rockford, IL

Crossroads Blues Society summer schedule. Shows at the Burpee Museum in Rockford Free 5:30-8:30 PM, VIP Seating and Parking $15. July 31st: Dave Keller Trio & Wheatbread Johnson 4:30 PM

Shows at the Lyran Society in Rockford to 10 pm no cover! – 8/16/19 Brother Dave Kaye

The monthly shows at the Hope and Anchor in Loves Park continue $5 cover, 8 to 11:30 PM: 8/10/19 Dave Weld & The Imperial Flames

Crossroads Blues Festival is Saturday, August 24th at Lyran Park, Rockford – Blues Disciples, Chris O’Leary Band, Westside Andy with Reverend Raven and the Chain Smoking Altar Boys, 6 PM: Nick Moss Band with Dennis Gruenling, John Primer, Joe Filisko harp workshop, Wheatbread Johnson, Justin “Boots” Gates and our own Rick Hein and Bill Graw!

The Illinois Central Blues Club – Springfield, IL

The Illinois Central Blues Club has announced the line-up of talent for Blue Monday live performances and other shows held at the Alamo, 115 North Fifth, Springfield, IL from 7:00pm to 11:00pm. Additional information on any performer listed below is available upon request.  July 29 – Murali Coryell, Aug 5 – Polly O’Keary and the Rhythm Method, Aug 12 – Laurie Morvan Band, Aug 19 – Jonny T-Bird & the MP’s, Aug 26 – Chris O’Leary Band.

Friends of the Blues – Kankakee, IL

Shows start at 7 pm, and are open to the public. Food and Beverages available at all Friends of the Blues shows. July 30 – Frank Bang – Bradley Bourbonnais Sportsmen’s Club, August 3 – The Nouveaux Honkies – Inside Out – Gilman IL, August 15 – Albert Castiglia – The Longbranch – L’Erable IL, November 6 – Mike Morgan & The Crawl – Kankakee Valley Boat Club. More Info at:

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