Issue 14-10 March 5, 2020

Cover photo © 2020 Joseph A. Rosen

 In This Issue 

Mark Thompson has our feature interview with Dexter Allen. We have 10 Blues reviews for you this week including a live benefit concert for Jack Bruce plus new music from The Mary Jo Curry Band, Vince Salerno & Gerald McClendon, Bobby Radcliff, Randy McAllister, Grant Dermody, Dave Specter, Mike Zito and Friends, Breezy Rodio and Katy Hobgood Ray featuring Dave Ray.

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

 From The Editor’s Desk 


Hey Blues Fans,

Spring is right around the corner. What does that mean?

It means that details of the 2020 Blues Blast Music Awards will be announced next week.

Stay tuned!

Wishing you health, happiness and lots of Blues music!

Bob Kieser

 Featured Interview – Dexter Allen 

IMAGEThroughout the history of blues music, there are many artists who left the South from areas like the Mississippi delta region and headed north, settling in large metropolitan areas like St. Louis, Chicago, and Detroit, where they established careers that for some lead to lasting fame. But, just as many Americans live close to where they grew up, not all blues musicians have a burning desire to give up the family ties and support network that come from staying close to home. You can count Dexter Allen as one of those people.

“My great grandfather, John Henry Sandifer, my grandmother’s father, was born in 1898. He did a lot of sharecropping, and had plenty of stories to tell. He was born and raised in the Delta region and later migrated down to the Crystal Springs area, which is where I was born. It is about twenty miles south of Jackson, MS. That is one of the things that keeps me grounded. I have traveled all over the world, seen a lot of things. There was a song I wrote, “Coming Home to Mississippi,” where I talk about my upbringing as well as what my granddaddy taught me. If I am home, I will still go down home on Sunday to my Mother’s house, visit with my uncles and cousins”.

“I was talking with a friend the other day about how we get caught up in a “microwave Society”. That’s where everything is fast. You stick something in and it is done real fast. Sometimes you can forget where you come from. It helps me stay grounded to be home with my uncles, going fishing on the river or coon hunting, pulling a transmission out of a vehicle. All of that stuff still goes on down there. It is one of the mechanisms that I use to help me cope. You can’t forget where you came from. You need to stay connected”.

Growing up on a farm, Allen got started in music as a teenager. His father became a pastor at the Christian Open Door Church, a non-denominational church.

“He is still the pastor there. It is not Catholic, Baptist, Methodists, Presbyterian, or any other religion. All Christians are invited there. That is how I was raised.. He had a gospel quartet called the Christian Travelers. They were an older group that probably started in the 1960s. They lost their bass player. My uncle Porter had been secretly teaching me how to play bass and guitar. They would rehearse every Thursday evening at my dad’s house, so I knew all of their songs. I’d be in room with my four string bass playing along. In those days they didn’t have five string bass guitars, at least I didn’t know about them. It was easy for me to find the notes that they were playing”.

“Uncle Porter heard me playing, and told me, boy, you know how play that bass. I told him that I could make the changes. They needed a bass player and there I was! I remember my uncle was telling them that I could play, but no one would believe him, because no one had ever seen me play but my uncle. At their next rehearsal, he told me to come out and play bass for the group. They started the song, and I played right along with them. Bass was my first instrument. I played from the age of twelve until I was eighteen or nineteen. But I was also playing other instruments along the way, like drums and keyboards, mostly in church”.

“I could play a little guitar, but I didn’t really get into it. I was playing some of everything, so guitar was the last thing that I really focused on. I was playing with another gospel group, the Robinson Brothers, and they needed a guitar player. So I made the switch. Their guitarist wanted to get out front and just sing. I was probably twenty-one or so at the time, been playing just anything I could pick up that was interesting. It wasn’t just blues, or gospel, that I was working on. Whatever I heard, I’d try to learn, any type of music. You had to have that skill in the church because you never knew what somebody was going to come up and sing. or how they were going to sing a song. So you had to be able to pick things up by ear, hear the changes. You might have somebody up there singing in five different keys!”

imageIt took some time before Allen was ready to step out and start singing.

“I got in with the Robinson Brothers doing backing vocals. I used to sing around the house but not in public. My brother and sister were the singers. They couldn’t play anything, and I was the musician. I sang a lot of background with the Robinson Brothers, and they let me take the lead on a couple songs that I liked. That was my first brush with singing until about 2001, when I sang some songs on the secular side with some local bands around the Jackson area. That started to get me more interested in singing”.

Being raised on a farm taught Allen a number of key lessons that have helped him to maintain his musical career.

“You have to be willing to work for what you want. Remember that things don’t come easy all the time. They seem to for some people, but if you aren’t one of the chosen few, you’ve got to work. It’s a daily thing. If you want to get a yield from your crop, you can’t sit idle and expect it to grow. I was raised by two old men, my great grandfather, who lived to be 103 years old and had a big hand in raising me, and my grandfather, Calvin Dixon, my mother’s father. We grew our own crops, had chickens, pigs, and hogs. It was farm life”.

“A lot of that stuff transcended into me being the person I am today. You mean what you say, and say what you mean. Sometimes your word is all you’ve got. It is what I call old school ethics. I tell the youngsters of today that things seemed pretty simple back then. There weren’t a lot of distractions. Even the music was different. It was understandable, it was simple. Now you have to get a thesaurus to figure out some of this stuff. You used to know what a song was about the first minute into it. Now you have probably listen to the whole thing to maybe get it. Country music always used to have great story lines. Other artists, say from R&B, would redo country songs and take them to another level. The biggest one might have been Whitney Houston’s version of Dolly Parton’s song, “I Will Always Love You””.

In 1995, looking for better musical opportunities, Allen decided to move to Jackson. He played in several churches as he worked on getting acclimated to the local scene. Since gigs were in short supply at first, he worked at a number of day jobs, too many to remember.

“I was a weekend music warrior, playing all kinds of music. A lot of people in Crystal Springs actually worked in Jackson because of better job opportunities. There weren’t any clubs back home”

“One church I played at, St. Luther, was where I met Bobby Rush. He and his band had been in a very bad accident on the road. One member was killed and the rest were injured”.

“When he got ready to tour again, he approached me about playing guitar with him. I was reluctant as I didn’t really know much about blues music. Bobby’s words to me were, “you can play the blues, I hear you play them, you just don’t know that you are playing them.”

“Bobby gave me a lot of his music, plus stuff by Luther Allison and Muddy Waters, to listen to at home and at his house. I quickly learned that he was right, I was playing blues. I had licks that I got from gospel music or R&B without realizing they came from blues. Gospel music didn’t have the blues lead licks, but it certainly had lots of the rhythm licks. Blues and gospel are like brother and sister – there are a lot of gospel songs you can sing over blues songs, and vice versa.”

“Even with my family coming from the church, I didn’t get much backlash from them when I made the switch to blues. I had played music since I had picked up the guitar at age seven or eight. They were used to me playing music, and probably expected me to do something bigger or different with music. There were some comments made by church members, especially when I pulled out of Bobby’s band to do my own thing, started playing the casinos. They would see my name on a big billboard along the highway, “ Dexter Allen – Live at the Ameristar Casino – This Weekend!”. Kind of hard to hide that on Interstate 20!”

image“I would hear little remnants of comments about me being the preacher’s son playing the blues. My father just told me to do what made me happy. He will come to a show if I am doing a festival near home. I heard him make the statement one time, that if I go in to see my son, I should come out the same way. What my family didn’t understand at the time, because they didn’t know the music business, is that I was going to be on the road, working music full-time. They thought music was something you did as a pastime.”

“I started with Bobby in 2000, and was part of the band until 2005 or 2006. I will say this – once you are with Bobby Rush, you are always with Bobby Rush. He might call me now, saying I got this thing going on and I need you, and I am back with Bobby Rush. Once you are in, you are always part of Bobby’s family. And if he needs you, you got to go! I toured extensively with him as the guitarist, and sometimes band leader. He took me in when he saw that I was interested in the music business. Bobby took me to his meetings with promoters and others in the business, introduce me to them. He showed me quite a bit on how to conduct business, how things are done. When I told him I was going to go out on my own, he gave his blessing and told me that he thought I would do well.”

“One thing Bobby taught me, that I try to pass on to younger musicians, is to recognize not only the music industry, which is very large, and includes fans, the clubs, the venues, the festivals, but also the music business. That is where you get the sustainability. They are two different animals. Most people in the industry don’t know many of the people in the business part, because those people are not there for the limelight. Whitney Houston was a big star, but what about Clive Davis, who guided her to stardom? The business side includes points, and publishing rights for original songs, things that many musicians don’t understand. But they are avenues to generate income outside of your live gigs.”

Allen released the first recording under his name in 2008. He had been playing locally in a cover band, The Essence of Soul, getting his feet wet playing guitar and handling the lead vocals. At one point, he played some of the band’s stuff for Rush.

“He looked at me, smiled, and said, you are doing just what I thought you were going to do. I said, what do you mean, Pop? I always call Bobby that. He answered, where’s your name at? Now, being a preacher’s son, I was reluctant to do that. But he told me to put my name out there, not to worry about what the church folk might or might not say. And he was right, so that is when I started using my own name.”

“That first recording, Bluezin My Way, was self-produced. I wrote all of the songs, and played all of the instruments. The band wanted money to come in and record with me. But I didn’t have any money! I couldn’t afford studio time, so I bought a workstation and some software to do it myself in the house. It seemed I finally had a reason as to why I had learned to play all of those instruments over the years. The record did well, and people thought it sounded real good. To this day, I don’t know why I started putting a “z” in there. But if you Google “bluezin,” the algorithms will probably pull up something about me.”

His second disc, Bluezin For Life, was released in 2011, featuring several musicians including Derrick D’Mar Martin on drums and Fred Robinson on bass. Both of those releases were on Airtight Records. He also had a Christmas single, “Hello, Ms. Santa Claus”. The Tate Music Group released a compilation album, Bluezinology, in 2014. Then Allen once again got a helping hand from his mentor.

Bluez Of My Soul was my first one on Deep Rush Records, which is Bobby’s label. He had only been handling his own releases at that point. I approached him about it, telling him I had done four self-produced, independent projects up to that point. I took him to my studio and let him hear the record, which he liked. I asked him to endorse the record, and he agreed, even though he had never done it before for anybody. Told me that I was going to make him proud. He played harmonica on a few tracks, ones that he picked out. I worked with Joey Robinson, who played keyboards, on that one, and the next one on Deep Rush, Trilogy Of My Bluez. Bobby and I did one song together, “Tell Somebody.”

“My latest one is Live From Ground Zero Blues Club. It is a CD release but they also shot video, which as yet has not been released on DVD. They were shooting the video for Netflix. That one was done by Pass The Pick Productions. It opens with Morgan Freeman bringing me on stage. The cool thing was that they had some affiliation with Paul McCartney. Somebody on Paul’s team wanted me to do one of his songs, so I was told to pick any song from his catalog. They gave me a couple of days of access to his music, a massive catalog. I picked out one called “Big Barn Bed”.

image“It was a song he wrote with Linda, his wife. When you went through the lists of songs, it would show how many people had covered each one. The one I selected had never been covered by anyone. I gave it a bluezy, gospelish sound, and I heard that McCartney liked it. Now I am getting ready to release another project this year. It is pretty much written, with about twenty-two songs ready to go. I am hoping to do some collaborations with some other artists. We have a list and plan to figure out who would be the best fit”.

When it comes to equipment, Allen favors Fender Stratocaster guitars. But he does have a secret weapon.

“I don’t collect guitars. I play a guitar on the tone and the feel. It doesn’t matter where it was made, which collectors really harp on. If it feels good to my hand and I like the tone, that is what I am going to play. I once saw Vasti Jackson in a club with a Fender Squier, and he was killing everybody’s head with it. That was the night I learned that it ain’t about the name, it’s about who’s playing it. I have an Ibanez Artcore model Ar620 that I like. There aren’t a lot of people playing Ibanez models on the blues side. It is known more in rock music. But mine has a real good tone.”

“For amplifiers, my go-to is a Peavey Delta Blues 210 model, a little amp that has the sound I like. I have a lot of effects and pedals, but don’t use them a lot. For blues, the one I use the most is the Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer. Lucky Peterson made me a believer in that little thing. I want a pure blues tone that will cut through. Like Bobby Rush used to say, you got to hit the guy standing in the back of the room. And not kill the people that are sitting up front!. It’s not about volume, it’s about tone!”

Allen had another unique experience when he was hired for a part in the major motion picture, Get On Up, which told the life story of James Brown.

“That was definitely an experience, seeing how a company like Universal Pictures does things. It is a lot of work, even if you don’t have a speaking part. For the band members, they picked musicians who could actually play the songs. Once they recorded the songs, we wouldn’t be playing them, but we had to be able to make the movements like we were playing them. Every time we rehearsed it was the full band, all the equipment, and we played the music. My part was Sam Thomas, who was Brown’s bass player around 1969. I am in the part about the T.A.M.I. Show.”

“If you buy the DVD, you can see me and Mr. Sipp, who was also in the movie, on the back of the box. It is hard to find me in the movie because you don’t recognize me with this big wig I had on. There I am standing next to Chadwick Boseman on the box playing the bass and Mr. Sipp is off to the left with a guitar. We had to get up at 5 am to sit in chair and get make-up on and they would glue the wig on. But it was nice to be able to reach up on my head and touch something. I hadn’t felt that in many. many years. I tried to get them to sell me the wig but they said no! That opened my interest in movies. A local filmmaker, Maximus Wright, gave me a speaking part in one of his movies, Soul Damage, and I had another role in the short film, Lola. So some people seem to think I can act. I’m not focused or driven on the acting thing. I leave that for my publicist, Karen Beninato, my manger Rod Carbo, and my booking agent, Kimberly Horton.”

“If it happens, great, but I will focus on the music.”

Visit Dexter’s website

Interviewer 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 former 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!


 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 10 

IMAGEThe Mary Jo Curry Band – Front Porch

Self-produced CD

11 songs – 44 minutes

Based out of Springfield, Ill., songbird Mary Jo Curry made such a positive impact with her self-titled 2016 debut album that a host of top-flight blues artist friends – including Albert Castiglia and Tom Holland and Andrew Duncanson – all wondered why she didn’t enlist them for the project.

One listen to this stellar follow-up with all three on board will definitely show you why: Mary Jo is a powerhouse vocalist with a distinctively different, honey-sweet attack who conveys the depths of emotion with each breath as she delivers modern tunes steeped with traditional feel.

A voice and musical theater major in college, Curry spent years on the road in touring theater companies. A classically trained singer, pianist and actor, she developed a love for the blues after hearing the music emanating from a club as she walked down the street about nine years ago – and meeting future guitarist and husband Michael Rapier in the process.

The pair quickly enlisted bassist Chris Rogers and drummer Rick Snow to form The Mary Jo Curry Band, the rock-solid unit that continues to back her today – aided by Brett Donovan and Ezra Casey on keys and Brian Moore on sax.

Mary Jo’s 2016 release was produced by another international blues talent, guitarist/vocalist James Armstrong, who volunteered his talents after hearing Curry sing. That CD debuted at the No. 1 spot in the Roots Music Report’s classic blues chart, maintained it for three consecutive weeks and finished as the fifth best album of the year. Three of its tunes also were chart-toppers, and a fourth climbed as high as the No. 2 spot.

The lineup here includes all of Curry’s regular bandmates with blues-rock favorite Castiglia sitting in on six-string for three cuts and Holland, one of the most beloved guitarists in Chicago for the past 40 years, joining in on two others. Duncanson – the golden-throated front man for Central Illinois-based Kilborn Alley Blues Band – joins Mary Jo to deliver one duet. Adding to the mix are Don Udey (trumpet), Conrad Lee (guitar) and Dave Alexander (sax).

With the exception of one cover, all of the material here is original – nine tunes penned by members of the band and another contributed by veteran Windy City percussionist Andrew “Blaze” Thomas. A solitary bass run opens the uptempo shuffle, “Nothin’ Is Easy,” with Albert in tow as Mary Jo finds herself willing to deal away her soul at the crossroads but not finding a buyer and realizing that hard times are on the way. Despite the Delta theme, this one’s a full-on modern electric blues that simply smokes with just about everyone given space to solo.

The driving boogie “Turn It Loose” brightens the mood as Curry’s voice cuts like a knife and hits like a hurricane as she anticipates a weekend full of good times, good blues – and you. Southpaw Holland’s on board next for “All Your Lies,” a deep-in-the-pocket Windy City shuffle in which Mary Jo wonders what’s really going through her man’s mind.

The music takes a jazzy turn in the bittersweet “The Man,” in which the singer knows she’s so deep in love, she’s unable to do anything as he gets ready to go his own way. Mary Jo has a change of heart and is on the hunt for a replacement in the intense, soulful “Lookin’,” aided by Duncanson.

“House Is Lonely” is up next and provides an immediate change-of-pace. It’s a torch-song ballad with a traditional feel delivered from the position of a woman whose husband has just split for greener pastures. The tempo’s still subdued, but the band’s all azure again and deep into the beat for Thomas’ “Explaining the Blues,” which describes the difficulties in describing a break-up to friends who simply refuse to understand.

The sprightly instrumental, “Shake & Bake,” brightens the mood and gives Holland plenty of space to rip and run before Castiglia joins the fray for a cover of the Dan Hartman/Edgar Winter classic, “We All Had a Real Good Time,” and the title tune, “Front Porch,” which heats to a boil with Mary Jo suspecting her man’s cheating as she waits with a six-shooter for him to return. The loping “Joyful” finds Curry walking hand-in-hand with a new lover to bring the action to a close.

Available through Amazon, iTunes and Spotify, Front Porch just might launch Mary Jo Curry into the blues stratosphere. Her time is now!

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.

 Featured Blues Review – 2 of 10 

imageVince Salerno & Gerald McClendon – Grabbing the Blues by the Horns

Pravda Records PR-6407

10 songs – 40 minutes

A double threat on tenor and alto saxes as well as harmonica, Vince Salerno and his soul-blues vocalist Gerald McClendon partner have been fan favorites for decades in Chicago, and they team together seamlessly here for the horn player’s debut release, a pleasant mix of blues, jazz and R&B covers and one original cut.

A native of Chicagoland, Salerno has been a fixture on the city’s music scene for the better part of 40 years. He picked up the harp at age 16 after catching the Sam Lay Band in performance and turned to the sax four years later, influenced by King Curtis and Jr. Walker.

He cut his teeth with a series of well-respected regional artists, including vocalists Vanessa Davis and Liz Mandeville and guitarist Pocketwatch Paul before graduating to bands fronted by Eddy Clearwater, Luther Allison and Pinetop Perkins. He currently splits his time between work with McClendon’s band and the Rhythm Rockets, a jazz, jump blues and R&B group who’ve been heating up cold Chicago nights since the ‘60s.

Most recently on disc as part of Twist Turner’s stellar Delta Roots release, Battle of the Blues: Chicago vs. Oakland, Gerald “Soulkeeper” McClendon is a Windy City native who’s a familiar face both on Rush Street and in musical theater, delivering a smooth blend of classic soul and blues, jazz and even a little country, too. He’s toured internationally after debuting as a front man with the album Choose Love in 2003, and his voice is featured on an Aerosmith tribute album.

The duo are backed here by longtime McClendon bandmates Thomas Klein on guitar and Paul Coscino on keys as well as the Rhythm Rockets’ rhythm section: bassist Lou Marini and percussionist Mark Fornek. They’re augmented by guest appearances by John Bowes on sax and Jack Cassidy and Ron Haynes on trumpets.

The disc opens with a cover of Earl King’s stop-time classic, “Come On.” McClendon’s warm tenor glides effortlessly slightly behind the beat as Salerno’s sax and Klein’s guitar drive the tune forward. Little Milton’s “Same Old Blues” opens with a strong, single-note run on the six-string and swings from the jump with Salerno’s fat notes on baritone propelling the bottom.

The horns propel a familiar arrangement of Otis Redding’s “Love Man” before Chicago comes to the fore with re-dos of Harold Burrage’s ‘50s hit, “Crying for My Baby,” and harmonica master Billy Boy Arnold’s “I Wish You Would” with Salerno rock-steady on the reeds. The duo dip into Redding’s catalog once again for “The Happy Song” before a take on Little Walter’s “Up the Line.”

Gerald’s on the sidelines beginning with Milt Jackson’s “Bag’s Groove,” the first of three closing numbers that put Vince’s on display. He’s on horn in a groovy jazz setting for that one as well as tasty take of Oliver Nelson’s “Stolen Moments.” Salerno’s on harp with a light, silky touch for the closer, “The Wobble,” an original blues instrumental.

Available through multiple online dealers, this one’s a treat for anyone who likes their blues served with a heaping helping jazz and soul.

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.


 Featured Blues Review – 3 of 10 

imageBobby Radcliff – Hard Hitting

Homework Records

12 songs time – 45:09

The toast of the New York blues scene Bobby Radcliff has enlisted a choice group of musicians from Finland and Sweden to back him on his latest project. This effort was recorded at Suprovox Studios, Finland. The guitarist-singer offers up twelve diverse blues covers with just a two guitar, bass and drums line up. He shares lead guitar duties with Jonne Kulluvaara from Helsinki, Finland. The sound is ok except for the fact that the drums tend to be mixed a little low.

“High Cost Of Living” is a slow-ish blues with skittering guitars with Bobby’s matter-of-fact vocals that set fine here. He shows a more exuberant vocal performance on the lively “Why Baby”. The band chugs along nicely on “Man Or Mouse”. Freddie King’s instrumental “In The Open” gets it just deserves as the guys give it a run for its’ money.

Up next is a two song visit to the New Orleans music scene, leading off with Professor Longhair’s perennial “Mardi Gras In New Orleans” were the rhythmic guitars make up for the usual piano parts. “The Fat Man” Fats Domino gets the Bobby Radcliff treatment on his “I’m Gonna Be A Wheel Someday”. Fats’ warm vocal is missed, but Bobby does it proud.

Jimmy Dawkins’ “I Wonder Why” takes things back to the good old Chicago blues. This versatile guitar band shows its mellow side on the Ivory Joe Hunter classic “Since I Met You Baby” that finds Bobby in fine voice. “Sometimey” friends are the subject on the reality checking “Talkin’ About My Friends”. This time they cover a more obscure Fats Domino track in “Please Don’t Leave Me”. It’s another New Orleans Rhythm And Blues gem featuring vocal-guitar call and response. Shop closes up with Elmore James’ instrumental “Bobby’s Rock” to take things out in style.

Here with have another keeper of the traditional blues that keeps things fresh and up to date. A steady vocalist, two well versed guitarist and a crack rhythm section what self respecting blues fanatic could want more? In a perfect world I would of liked the drums a bit more up front, but that’s a minor quibble. This band rocks out the blues in grand fashion.

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

 Featured Blues Review – 4 of 10 

imageRandy McAllister And The Scrappiest Band In The Motherland – Spitball, Shatter And Patch

Reaction Records LLC

10 songs time – 41:57

East Texan singer-songwriter-drummer-harmonica player Randy McAllister fuses an alliance of blues, southern soul, gospel and all manner of roots music with the aid of a solid support band on his latest release. His rich soulful pipes enhance every one of his original tunes right down to his core. Kansas City’s guitar ace Brandon Hudspeth from Levee Town handles all manner of guitars, his slide skills particularly powerful. The rhythm section he has gathered is solid as a rock. Heather Newman supplies her hearty background vocals on three tracks. His songs and delivery speak well of the human condition.

Bill Mckemy’s tuba replaces the electric bass on the laid back roots stroll “Relax Watch The Crash” that addresses the fact that sometimes you just can’t change things so you might as well chill out. Heather Newman’s background vocal compliments Randy’s vocal to a “tee”. Randy lends his hand at drums and harmonica on “The Loudest Chicken” as Brandon Hudspeth takes his electric slide guitar on a wicked trip. The slide doesn’t let up on the slower paced but intense “My Drawl Caused It All” and Heather Newman adds her soulful vocal behind the lead.

Drums are caste aside for a front porch acoustic guitar and harmonica simmered slow groove on “Kingsland”. “Rolling Up My Sleeves” bounces along via an intoxicating guitar riff under more electric slide goodness. Soul music meets the blues at the crossroads on the strutting “Straight Up Truckin”. More soul-blues fusion on “The Song That Writes Itself”-“Your choices have come back for you”.

Things get greasy-funky with crazy good electric slide on a song about lake “Pactola”. The Delta materializes right before your very peepers as we’re once again chillin’ on the porch with “Laid Back Jack”. Lazy acoustic slide and mournful harmonica. What a way to close things out-more electrified slide on the rockin’ blues of “The Girl’s In Love (With Herself)”.

Man!… A super soulful voice pared with a guitar wiz propped up by a rock steady rhythm section and sassy background vocals, what more could a music junky want for? It’s all here bolstered by great production and arranging values. If I were you I’d get it in gear and snatch this hot little biscuit up.

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


 Featured Blues Review – 5 of 10 

imageGrant Dermody – My Dony

Thunder River – 2019

13 tracks; 52 minutes

Harmonica player Grant Dermody is from Seattle but traveled to Louisiana to record this album with producer and guitarist Dirk Powell, with whom Grant worked on his previous album, 2015’s Sun Might Shine On Me. That one was acoustic but this time it’s a full band affair, with Grant handling the vocals and harp and Dirk on guitar, keys and B/V’s, as well as engineering the sessions. Rhiannon Giddens’ rhythm section is in support, bassist Jason Sypher and drummer Jamie Dick, and there are guest appearances by Corey Ledet on accordion and washboard. There are eight originals, three each from Grant and Dirk and two credited to the whole band, two traditional tunes and three covers.

The album opens with Dirk’s title song, his gruff vocals suiting the traditional, old-school feel of the song which is clearly about a woman, so I assume that the word is some form of local term. There is then a run of the three covers: Clifton Chenier’s “One Step At A Time” mixes Jimmy Reed-style harp with Corey’s wheezy accordion; “It Hurts To Be In Love” (Julius Dixon/Rudy Toombs) has been recorded many times since Annie Laurie’s 1957 original, including versions by artists as diverse as Frankie Lymon, Marcia Ball and John Mayall! Grant’s version shuffles along with his vocals dubbed over his harp work and Dirk pulling double duty on guitar and organ. Sonny Boy 1’s “Springtime Blues” is classic harmonica blues on a tune that recalls “It Hurts Me Too”.

Grant’s ‘Real Time Man’ sounds like “Help Me” played by a Cajun band: indeed, the Louisiana feel is particularly evident on the six tracks to which Corey contributes. “Too Late To Change Your Mind” is a stripped back affair with Dirk handling the vocals and the rhythm section almost absent. “Corner Strut” is credited to the whole band and, with the assistance of Corey on both accordion and washboard, it’s a lively little tune before Dirk’s ballad “I Can’t Turn Back Time”, a song in which he looks back wistfully at how he was saved from a dissolute life by the love of a good woman, supported by Kelli Jones’ harmony vocal. There are also superb harmonies from Rhiannon Giddens, Allison Russell and Amythyst Kiah on the traditional ‘Great Change’ which develops into a rousing piece of gospel music with Dirk’s mandolin picking featured. Another traditional zydeco tune “Morning Train” marks Corey’s final contribution before the album closes with three originals: a funereal pace belies the title of Grant’s “Come On Sunshine” which again finds his vocal dubbed over his harp; “35-59” is the second whole band composition, plus Lee Tedrow, the title explaining the age difference in ages between the two protagonists: “She’s 35, I’m 59, you know I still got lots of time. Oh baby, I can love you strong and slow, come on over baby, one more time before I go”.

Closing track “Hometown Blues” has a military marching drum behind Grant’s lyrics about how he feel a stranger in his own town.

Grant is a harp player with a strong reputation among harmonica experts and there is plenty for harmonica fans to enjoy on this album.

Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK who enjoys a wide variety of blues and roots music, especially anything in the ‘soul/blues’ category. Favorites include contemporary artists such as Curtis Salgado, Tad Robinson, Albert Castiglia and Doug Deming and classic artists including Bobby Bland, Howling Wolf and the three ‘Kings’. He gets over to the States as often as he can to see live blues.

 Featured Blues Review – 6 of 10 

imageDave Specter – Blues From The Inside Out

Delmark Records

12 tracks

Blues From The Inside Out is the brand new CD from Chicago blues guitar legend Dave Specter. We also get to hear Dave sing for the first time on CD, and I must say he does a darn good job. The CD features super guests musicians, including Jorma Kaukonen on guitar for a couple of tracks and Brother John Kattke on keyboards, organ and vocals on four tracks.

Daves long career has spanned three and a half decades. At last count he’s been on over 40 different CDs and is a 2018 inductee into the Chicago Blues Hall of Fame last year. His last album Message in Blue may have been his best ever, and now his new one rivals that with it’s great blend of blues and jazz.

Dave’s band features Harlan Terson on bass and Marty Binder on drums. I can’t say there are two better guys who do this for a living- I’ve loved their work for years and they are the real deal! Sarah Marie Young also appears on vocals on the 11th track along with Bill Brichta on acoustic guitar. Ruben Alvarez is featured on percussion for three tracks, too. The horn section is Liquid Soul Horns (also on three cuts). They are Mars Williams on tenor sax, John Janowiak on trombone, and Ron Haynes on trumpet. Long time associate of Dave’s Tad Robinson sings backup on four cuts, Devin Thompson joins Tad on those cuts.

Specter’s vocal debut is on the opening track and it’s the title cut. He does an admirable job, too, and croons about paying your dues playing the blues. His guitar work is, as always, stellar. He follows up his singing debut with “How Low Can One Man Go” on track 5, which provides us his opinion on Donald Trump. One can tell from the song’s name where Dave’s affections lie. One of two Jorna Kaukonen appearances is also on this track, and he does a wonderful job. We get Dave singing with real emotion here. “Asking For A Friend” is the last Specter vocal track (the 6th track), a very cool number about an unfaithful woman. Specter gives us two superb solos on guitar. It’s quite clear Dave can sing well enough to front his band, and I hope to hear more of this in the future on his next CDs and live performances; I did get a preview of his vocals this summer at some events, so I was ready to validate how well he did with this CD!

Kattke sings lead on the down home song for track 2, “Ponchatoula Way,” which also has the horn section John delivering a great piano solo. Dave’s guitar solo is also worthy of note. Kattke also sings on “March Through Darkness”which is the next cut. John sings about tolerance and unity and he give us a very cool and soulful performance. Kattke follows Specter’s guitar solo with a really well done one organ. Brother John then sings on track 8 on Kaukonen’s song “The Blues Ain’t Nothin’” which is some very jazzy blues that also features some spectacular horn work. Kaukonen also plays his guitar with a solo and going back and forth with Dave. John concludes his appearances with both vocals and piano on track 9 for “Opposites Attract.” The harmonies are pretty as we get treated to more fine keyboard and guitar. We get to hear Sarah Marie’s vocals on the acoustic track “Wave’s Gonna Come.” Daves guitar and the sounds of the surf crashing open the cut and Young then delivers a very fine performance for us.

A Specter album is never complete without some wonderful instrumentals. He starts with track 4 which is entitled “Sanctifunkious.” Very funky guitar and Kattke delivers some organ that is just outstanding. Track 7 is “Minor Shout,” a minor key, midtempo jaunt with more guitar and organ and some interesting key changes. “Soul Drop” on track 10 has the horns return along with more super guitar and organ. You can tell Dave and the band are enjoying themselves here. The album finishes up with “String Chillin’,” a slow and somber piece that builds as Dave shifts gears for a huge guitar solo. Kattke follows that on the piano and then the two of them return to relative calm and work their way to the end of the cut together for a fine finish.

This is another statement album by Specter; flawless guitar, spot on songwriting and now well done vocal work along with a bevy of fine guests will give all blues fans something to enjoy– I most highly recommend this album- you will not regret it! Also, for your information Dave also has a very well done podcast on the internet with the same title as this new CD. There are a lot of great interviews and music featured, and I urge you to check it out at:

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

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 Featured Blues Review – 7 of 10 

imageMike Zito and Friends – Rock’n’Roll: A Tribute to Chuck Berry

Ruf Records RUF 1269

20 songs – 68 minutes

Mike Zito delved deep into his personal struggles from addiction to musical success with his most recent previous CD, First Class Life, but goes in a completely different direction here: Joining forces with 21 other guitar giants to salute rock-‘n’-roll pioneer Chuck Berry, with whom he shares a common thread.

Berry was born and raised in St. Louis and spent the majority of his life in the surrounding area. Zito is also a Gateway City native, where he was already a fixture in the local music scene in his mid-teens. “I worked at a small musical instrument store where (Chuck’s) drummer also happened to be employed,” Mike recalls. “Chuck’s son also would drop by on occasion.

Berry “was an icon, and deservedly so,” he adds. “I’ve been playing his songs since I was a kid. He was a tremendous influence on my career, and, of course, many other musicians’ as well.”

Now age 49 and a St. Louis ex-pat, Zito burst onto the music scene with the release of Today on the Electo Groove label in 2008, and hasn’t looked back. This is the 15th album in his catalog, both as a soloist and with Royal Southern Brotherhood, the supergroup he founded with Devin Allman and Cyril Neville after first meeting Allman when they were both working at a local Guitar Center.

Guitar geeks will love this collection, which features a who’s who of guitar talent, including Joanna Connor, Walter Trout, Joe Bonamassa, Anders Osborne, Ryan Perry, Robben Ford, Eric Gales, Jeremiah Johnson, Luther Dickinson, Sonny Landreth, Tinsley Ellis, Alex Skolnick, Richard Fortus, Ally Venable, Kirk Fletcher, Josh Smith, Tommy Castro, Jimmy Vivino, Albert Castiglia and Kid Andersen.

Produced by Zito at his own MARZ Studios in Nederland, Texas, the disc combines straight-ahead covers with clever new arrangements of tunes woven into the musical fabric of America. A redo of W.C. Handy’s “St. Louis Blues” opens the action and features Chuck’s grandson, Charlie Berry III, on six-string before the Father of Rock ‘n’ Roll’s music takes over for the balance of the 68-minute set. The fret masters are supported by Matthew Johnson on drums, Terry Dry on bass and Lewis Stephens on keys throughout.

The action heats up with Zito and Connor sharing voc on “Rock and Roll Music” before Trout joins for a blazing version of “Johnny B. Goode” and Bonamassa’s at his bluesiest best for “Wee Wee Hours.” Other high points here include “Memphis,” a sweet shuffle with Osborne, “Back in the U.S.A.” with Gales, “Havana Moon” with Landreth, “Brown Eyed Handsome Man,” guitar bonanza featuring Fletcher and Smith and “My Ding a Ling” aided by Andersen.

Available through most major retailers, as you might imagine: there are no dead spots in this set. Strongly recommended.

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.

 Featured Blues Review – 8 of 10 

imageBreezy Rodio – If It Ain’t Broke Don’t Fix It

Delmark Records

16 tracks/69 minutes

Breezy Rodio is a Chicago blues man who earned his chops in a nine-year tenure as Lindsay Alexander’s guitarist. He follows up his first Delmark release Sometimes The Blues Got Me with this great, new album with all new songs. He shows us growth in his songwriting and performance with these fine songs and performances. He mixes straight up Chicago blues with a a little jump blues and some jazzy, crooner-styled stuff that makes for an enjoyable ride!

Joining Breezy in his cast of characters are Sumito “Ariyo” Ariyoshi on piano, Dan Tabion on organ, Light Palone on bass, Lorenzo Francocci on drums, Constantine Alexander on trumpet, Ian Letts on alto and tenor sax, and Ian “The Chief” McGarrie on baritone sax. A host of great guests also support the effort and are noted below.

Things kick off with the title track, a cool cut with dual tempos. The two high tempos verses are all driving and slick and the choruses draw down a bit and cool off before Breezy finishes up with a big guitar solo. Simone “Harp” Nicole adds some nice harp to this one and the next. “From Downtown Chicago to Biloxi Bay” has Breezy with Corey Dennison backing him on the vocals. It’s a cool cut with a fairly uptempo groove and Ariyo banging the keys in strident support. Kid Anderson picks up the 2nd guitar solo here, a fine addition to the cut. “A Woman Don’t Care” is next, a cool, slow cut with nice horn work to add to the guitar and piano. Breezy picks out a nice little solo mid-song, too. Breezy is a shufflin’ fool in a song with that name, a well done mid-tempo shuffle with piano and organ, Corey Dennison on the 2nd guitar solo and Quique Gomez on harp. Corey sneaks in for some backing vocals, too.

“A Minute of My Kissing” is a rollicking and rocking cut with Chuck Berry-like licks on guitar, barrel house piano riffs, and a driving beat, along with Breezy telling his woman how great his loving is. “Look Me In The Eye” has Breezy doing his crooner act with a sweet little romp with a swing cut. The tenor sax solo is well done. The backline lays out a nice pace and the piano support is cool. Breezy solos in the middle of the sax solo to good effect. “Desperate Lover” is up next, a bluesy ballad with Rodio confessing his relationship foibles and wanting to make things good again. “Los Christianos” is a slow blues about Breezy searching for love in Los Christianos, the long time resort town in Spain’s Canary Island of Tenerife. Rodio’s plea seems to go unheard as he has nothing but the blues there in this good cut.

“Led To A Better Life” starts with an almost solemn intro and then picks up as Rodio gives us a bit of a gospel testimonial. He gives us a slick guitar solo; later, Monster Mike Welch gives us another and then Corey Dennison comes in for some really cool lead vocals to take us home. Another winner! Things slow way down for “Green and Unsatisfied,” a song about a relationship gone bad. Rodio gives us some somber and interesting lead vocals along with an equally well done guitar solo. “The Breeze” is next, a short and sassy number that hearkens back to the 60’s. It’s a bouncy instrumental with the band shouting, “The Breeze” at the end of every set of measures. Guitar and piano are featured here as are the horns. “I’ll Survive” is another cool slow blues with Breezy again singing about lost love. Another somber guitar solo and sweet support from piano and horns round this one out nicely.

“Pick Up The Blues” has Quique Gomez return for some more savory harp. Rodio tells us that basically his woman left him with his ride and now he has the pick up truck blues. Gomez does a fine job and so does Rodio as he solos after Gomez. “Dear Blues” gives us Rodio thanking the blues for all that the genre and it’s artists have given to him. He does some guitar in the styles of B.B. King, Albert Collins, and T-Bone Walker before a very nicely done long outro on his guitar. “I Need Your Love” is next, another pretty ballad with organ and another good little solo on guitar. Breezy finishes up with “Another Day,” a mid to up tempo blues with a bit of a bouncy beat and guests Marvin Little on bass and Harley Gingras on drums. His final solo on guitar is again well done and not over done.

Whew! Sixteen songs is quite the effort! Rodio gives us a nice, big assortment of tunes from slow blues to high energy stuff. His lilting Italian accent adds a coolness and sexiness to his vocal delivery and his guitar is impeccable. The piano, horns and support work is well done and the mix is great. Kudos to Breezy and Delmark for this super album of all original stuff! It surely is great to watch and listen to Rodio as he hones his craft to newer and higher levels of musicianship. Highly recommended!

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

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 Featured Blues Review – 9 of 10 

imageKaty Hobgood Ray featuring Dave Ray – I Dream of Water

Out of the Past Music

CD: 10 Songs, 39 Minutes

Styles: Mellow Delta Blues, Folk, Americana, All Original Songs

Blues fans, what’s your sign? The Sun is currently in Pisces, a water sign typically characterized as dreamy, spiritual, peaceful, imaginative and compassionate. Those adjectives are also tailor-made to describe I Dream of Water, the newest release from Katy Hobgood Ray featuring Dave Ray. This Memphis-based duo presents the softer side of Delta blues. In contrast to blazing horn sections, wailing guitars and pounding drums, their new album features ten original mellow tracks that inspire us to unify (“Kings, Queens and Jesters”), testify (“Dirty Water”) and combat climate change (the title track). What the CD lacks in edge or down-and-dirty, romping-stomping instrumentation, it makes up for in heart. Katy’s vocals are as sweet as ice cream in early spring, backed up by David Eugene Ray’s stalwart pipes. Together, they make a poignant pair.

Dave and Katy met in 2001 at a songwriter’s night in their hometown of Shreveport, LA. Both write songs in the Americana/folk rock/country vein. In 2003, the couple moved to New Orleans, and over the years they’ve continued to perform at coffee shops and small venues, collaborating in various bands. They’re also members of Friends of Leadbelly, a group of musicians dedicated to promoting the legacy of North Louisiana songwriter Huddie Ledbetter. Over the last few years, Katy has become known for her work in children’s music with Confetti Park and has performed at numerous festivals: New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, French Quarter Fest, the Folk Art Fest, Mid-City Bayou Boogaloo, Beignet Fest and Red River Revel, among others.

Joining vocalists Dave and Katy are Chuck Dodson on piano and organs; Scott Frock on trumpet; Dave Hoffpauir on drums; Vikki McGee on background vocals; producer Greg Spradlin on guitar and background vocals; Dylan Turner on percussion; Brad Walker on saxophone, and Jason Weinheimer on bass and percussion.

Perhaps this duo’s greatest strength is their songwriting skills. Full disclosure: Most of the songs on this CD are political, but they pack a punch, especially track six. “Dirty Water” brings post-Katrina New Orleans back into the spotlight, highlighting its plight nearly fifteen years after the hurricane hit: “The president told us nothing would stand in his way. He’d move heaven and earth to make us whole once again. We waited so long, but the phone never rang. The promise meant nothing, and nothing has changed.” In a word: oof. Nevertheless, what’s all “That Really Matters?” “All the friends you made and all the love you gave away.” As long as there’s love, there’s hope. As long as there’s hope, cities like NOLA will rise time and again from high water.

I Dream of Water combines a sense of environmental urgency with Pisces-style Delta blues!

Reviewer Rainey Wetnight is a 40 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.

 Featured Blues Review – 10 of 10 

imageVarious Artists – Sunshine of Your Love: A Concert for Jack Bruce

MIG Music 02192

22 songs – 107 minutes plus full concert DVD

When Scotsman Jack Bruce lost his life to liver cancer at age 71 on Oct. 25, 2014, the world lost one of its most influential musicians ever – a man who rose to prominence alongside Eric Clapton in Cream after establishing himself in both the Graham Bond Organisation and John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. The co-writer of such classics as “Sunshine of Your Mind,” “White Room” and “I Feel Free,” he enjoyed a long solo career in which he was recognized by Rolling Stone as one of the ten greatest bassists of all time.

This thoroughly enjoyable 107-minute set captures a star-studded tribute concert to Bruce that took place at The Roundhouse in North London on the first anniversary of his passing, which benefited his favorite charity, East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices. Fans around the globe are finally able to enjoy that show thanks to Germany’s MIG Music, which released a two-CD/DVD box set of the performance with a portion of the proceeds earmarked for the charity, too.

Released officially last October on the same date, the roster includes Jack’s partner in Cream, Ginger Baker, as well as Jethro Tull front man Ian Anderson, Mark King of Level 42, Phil Manzanera of Roxy Music, Scorpions’ lead guitarist Uli Jon Roth, Joss Stone, members of Bruce’s Big Blues Band, Bernie Marsden of Whitesnake fame and a host of UK blues/roots royalty and Jack’s daughters Natascha – known professionally as Aruba Red — and Kyla and sons Corin and Nico.

Although unable to attend the concert, Clapton’s present here, too. He recorded a personal, unspoken tribute on acoustic guitar that’s remained unheard by the general public since being played at Bruce’s funeral. Those words appear here as a bonus cut for the first time, fittingly at the conclusion of the set. And the show includes video accolades from Charlie Watts, Ringo Starr, John McLaughlin, Robin Trower and others.

Opening with “Hit & Run” and the familiar “I Feel Free” with King on doubling on lead vocals and bass, all but two of the songs here were penned by Bruce in various stages of his life — either solo or in concert with Pete Brown, Kip Hanrahan, Margrit Bruce Seyffer and Clapton. The exceptions include the Clapton-George Harrison classic, “Badge,” and “I’m So Glad,” penned by Skip James in 1931 and first appearing on the Paramount label.

The ballad “Milonga” follows. It’s delivered by Scottish keyboard player Mark King with Anderson providing accents on flute. The ladies are in charge for the next pair with Nandi’s haunting rendition of “Don’t Look Now” followed with Kyla sweetly covering “Weird of Hermiston.” Marsden takes over for “White Room” and yields the mike to punk rocker Hugh Cornwell – best known for his work with The Stranglers – for “Hear Me Calling Your Name.” Two tunes covered by King — “Keep It Down” and “No Surrender” – sandwich British soul-blues/reggae star Liam Bailey’s reinterpretation of “Politician” before cellist/vocalist Ayanna Witter-Johnson’s take on “Rope Ladder to the Moon” bring the first CD to a close.

Beginning with “Candlelight” – delivered by blues-rocker Rob Cass – and “Tickets to Waterfalls” – featuring Anderson – disc two offers up much of the same. Young Scot Chloe Fiducia offers up “Ships in the Night” before Bruce’s daughter Aruba Red takes charge for “Folk Song.” Bailey draws an encore for “Badge” before Julie Iwheta, who provided backing vocals on Jack’s final album, is in command for “How’s Tricks.”

Bailey also handles “I’m So Glad” and “Sunshine of Your Love,” which bookend Stone powering through “Never Tell Your Mother She’s Out of Tune” Aruba taking on “We’re Going Wrong,” before Clapton’s moving acoustic tribute brings the night to a close.

Sure, there’s not much true blues here, but the thread runs steadily throughout. If your tastes run toward blues-roots, this one will definitely keep you entertained for hours.

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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The Charlotte Blues Society – Charlotte, NC

The Charlotte Blues Society presents our March Blues Event featuring an open jam following The Instigators, an exciting Charlotte based, four piece Blues band with a command of Southern Soul, R&B, Reggae and Rock influences. Band members are Rob Dayton, Stephen Foley, John Hartley, and Michael Ingmire. Ingmire, a nationally published writer and historian, has written many musical articles about many American musical icons and is also a writing contributor to and Charlotte Blues Society’s monthly newsletter.

The show starts at 7pm Sunday Mar. 1st, at The Rabbit Hole, 1801 Commonwealth Ave, Charlotte, NC. Free admission for CBS members w/valid cards. ($5 suggested donation) or $10 for others.Doors at 6:00pm. Jam at 8:45. Drums provided/Bring your own amps and for a great evening of music! We continue to collect non-perishable food items for loaves and fishes. Cash donations are also welcome. One can? YES, I can!

Other up coming CBS shows: Vanessa Collier on Sun April 5th and Jontavious Willis on Sun May 3rd. For more info on theses visit

The Great Northern Blues Society – Wausau, WI

To celebrate 21 years of the Blues Café, The Great Northern Blues Society will be starting things off for the weekend by hosting a 21st Anniversary ‘Kick-Off Party’, Friday, March 13th at the Rothschild Pavilion (near Wausau, WI). Doors will open at 5:30 pm, with Soul Symmetry getting things started at 6:30 and the Ever-popular Aaron Williams & the Hoo-Doo taking the stage at 8:30. Friday admission can be bought the night of the event for $10 and/or is included with all Saturday Blues Café tickets, which will be available to purchase at Friday’s event.

Saturday’s Blues Café lineup includes Boom Boom Stevie V. Band with Bruce McCabe on keyboard, at 1 pm, the Bel Airs at 3 pm, Venessa Collier at 5 pm, the John Nemeth Band at 7 pm, and the Ana Popovic Band at 9 pm. Doors will open at noon. We hope you can join us for a weekend of great music, and to celebrate 21 years of good times at the Blues Café. For more information, visit

Prairie Crossroads Blues Society – Champaign, IL

Prairie Crossroads Blues Society has announced their 3rd Annual Blues Fest will be held Saturday August 8. Watch our website and Facebook page for lineups and other information coming soon.

PCBS hosts two Blues Jams each month. Jams are held the 2nd Sunday of each month from 4 to 7 pm and the 4th Wednesday of each month from 7 to 10 pm. The host band plays the 1st set and then it’s opened up to all the jammers in the house. Jams are held at Pipa’s Pub, 604 S. Country Fair Dr. in Champaign. Bands hosting upcoming Jams in 2020 include: the Jack Whittle Band March 8 and Raw Sugar April 12. Bring your instrument and join in the fun. For more info visit:

Crossroads Blues Society – Rockford, IL

Crossroads Blues Society shows coming up in the Rockford, IL area.
Hope and Anchor in Loves Park, IL 2nd Saturday every month, 8 PM, $5 Cover: March 14 – Kilborn Alley Blues Band, April 11 – Cash Box Kings,
Lyran Society in Rockford, IL 1st and 3rd Fridays, 7 PM, No Cover: March 6 – Ivy Ford, March 20 Jonny T-Bird & the MPs, April 3 – Dave Fields, April 17 – Billy Flynn & Milwaukee Slim

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.  Mar 9 – Kirk Crandell, Mar 23 – Scott Ellison, Mar 30 – Tony Holiday.

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