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Hey Blues Fans,
It has been a great Blues year here at Blues Blast Magazine. Our writers and staff wish you a Happy, Blues filled New Year!
In This Issue
We have five Blues music reviews this week! James "Skyy Dobro" Walker reviews a new CD from Sugaray. John Mitchell reviews a new CD by The John Stephan Band. Steve Jones reviews a new CD by Gary U.S. Bonds. Chuck Gomez reviews a new CD by The Steve Wiggins Band. Mark Thompson reviews a new CD from Paul Thorn. All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN!!!
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Featured Blues Review 1 of 5
Sugaray - Blind Alley
10 Songs; 40:35 Minutes; Suggested
Styles: Soul, Blues, Gospel
For me, experiencing Sugaray’s wonderful, debut solo album has been a study of the Propinquity Effect. Explained by the Mere Exposure Effect, it holds that the more exposure a stimulus gets, the more likeable it becomes. For example, people generally like a song (or album) more after they have heard it a few times. After a few listens, this CD became very“likeable” to me. However, I first found, and still find, the first fifteen seconds of the first song to be startle reflex style nerve grating.
I can imagine an overly busy radio programmer or reviewer popping in a CD and listening to the first song. Upon hearing an opening of harsh cacophony, that person throws it in the trash and hollers, “Next.” That approach would be totally unfair, but, I am thinking, not unrealistic in this age of sensory and CD overload. Trashing the balance of this album would be tragic because it is chock full of exceptional artistry.
Texas born Caron “Sugaray” Rayford is a big man (6” 5”) with an equally big voice that superbly echoes Muddy Waters and Otis Redding. Growing up in Gospel and Soul, he switched to contemporary music in the San Diego area, singing lead vocals with Urban Gypsys. Soon giving his heart and soul to Blues, he next became lead vocalist for Aunt Kizzy’z Boyz, a Temecula CA Blues band. Aunt Kizzy’z Boyz won second place in Memphis 2006 at the International Blues Challenge.
After moving to Los Angeles, Sugaray met and played with innumerable world-class musicians. His solo career has flourished in LA, and he has done studio vocals on several projects. He has partnered with Chuck Kavooras, a long time LA guitarist and owner of Slide Away Studios who booked artists around Sugaray’s vocals. Kavooras produced and recorded this debut solo project. Sugaray states, “I am so grateful for the high caliber of talent [22 guest artists] that has played on this project.”
Each successive listen revealed the intricate layers of different genres and woven tapestry of diverse and exciting sounds behind Sugaray’s skilled singing adaptations. “Blind Alley’s"” ten songs feature two co-written by Sugaray, “Blind Alley” (Ralph Carter/ Rayford) and “I Sing the Blues” (Sugaray/Chuck Kavooras). It also contains a splendid collection of eight covers by Al Kooper, Blind Willie Johnson, Son House, B.B. King, Arthur Adams, and Joe Gorfinkle.
True deep Blues moments are found on tracks two and three, “Dark was the Night, Cold Was the Ground” and “Death Letter.” Audibly dedicated to Rayford’s late mother, the former features Chuck Kavooras on slide guitar with Sugaray moaning Gospel sorrow. After two minutes, a heart wrenching version of Son House’s "Death Letter" follows with Kavooras adding the best slide guitar since Jack White’s version.
“Blind Alley, the Soulful title, is a great Voo-Doo woman story. At seven minutes plus, this killer is laced with layers of keyboards, sax, trumpet, guitars, and backup vocals.
I swear I
hear beautiful Beatles influences in Rayford’s slow and smooth version
of Al Kooper’s “I Let love Slip Thru My Fingers.”
For his debut, Sugaray has split the uprights from 55 yards back! This CD is just loaded with wonderful sounds and music, more appreciated with each listen.
Reviewer James "Skyy Dobro" Walker is a noted Blues writer, DJ, Master of Ceremonies, and longtime Blues Blast Magazine contributor. His weekly radio show "Friends of the Blues" can be heard Saturdays 8 pm - Midnight on WKCC 91.1 FM and at www.wkccradio.org in Kankakee, IL. To See James “Skyy Dobro” Walker's CD rating system, CLICK HERE
For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE
Blues Society News
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Colorado Blues Society - Boulder, CO
On Feb 13, 2011 please join CBS for an afternoon of Blues and Heart Awareness at Jazz at Jacks in the Denver Pavillions (500 16th Street Suite 320 Denver, Colorado 303-433-1000) . National recording Blues star, Deanna Bogart is headlining the event. Deanna, the 'Girl in the Band', is a multi talented award-winning pianist, writer, songstress and saxophone player, who has performed with the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise Revue in addition to fronting her own outstanding band. Joining Deanna on the marquee are three extremely talented Colorado Blues bands: Papa Juke, the Delta Sonics, and Eef & She Grooves.
In addition to a fabulous Blues lineup, the afternoon will present valuable information on cardiovascular disease and strokes. There will be an AHA informational booths and Heart Check America will provide free heart scans to emphasize the importance of heart health awareness and early detection. There will also be silent auctions and raffles with some pretty amazing prizes.
The funds raised will be presented to AHA and will go towards public health education, early detection, research and community service. Tickets are $20. www.coblues.com
River City Blues Society - Peoria, IL
The River City Blues Society presents Blues shows during the winter season. The shows start at 7:00pm at Good Fellas Pizza and Pub, 1414 N 8TH St Pekin, IL. Admission for all shows is $4 or $3 for RCBS members. Shows currently scheduled are: January 12th - Billy King, January 19th - Grady Champion, January 26th - Matthew Curry, February 9th - Gina Sicilia www.rivercityblues.com
West Virginia Blues Society - Charleston, WV
The West Virginia Blues Society presents the Charlie West Blues Fest May 20 & 21, 2011in Haddad Riverfront Park, Charleston, WV Here is the lineup: Friday May 20 - Sit Down Baby, Izzy & Chris, Mojo Theory, Lil Bryan & The Travelers, Davina & the Vagabonds and Joe Louis Walker. Sat. May 21- IBC Band Winner, Slim Fatz, Trampled Under Foot, Sean Carney, Kristine Jackson, Smokin’ Joe Kubek & Bnois King and Ana Popovich. The Charlie West Blues Fest is produced by the West Virginia Blues Society, Inc. www.wvbluessociety.org and www.charliewestbluesfest.com
Cincy Blues Society - Cincinnati, OH
The Cincy Blues Society celebrates its hottest Winter Blues Fest line up yet! On January 28 and 29, 2011 The Southgate House in Newport, KY, will be rocking with 25 of the best local blues bands.
At 6:00 pm on each evening, the Fest will be kicked off with special performances by Cincy Blues Society's Blues in the Schools (BITS) Band. The full line up includes: B. Hatfield Band, Bad Men on a Mission, Balderdash, The Blue Birds, The Blues Merchants, Blues Therapy Rx, Chuck Brisbin & the Tuna Project, The Electric Souls, G. Miles & The Hitmen, The Gear Shifts, John Redell & Company, The Juice, Kayneevol, Leo Clarke Band, Miss Lissa & Company, The Mudpies, Ralph & the Rhythm Hounds, Richie & The Students, Sonny's All Blues Band, Tempted Souls Band, Them Bones, Thomas Long & Blue Sacrifice, and Voodoo Puppet. This line-up may be subject to change.
Advance tickets will be available for purchase on January 1 online -- a link to the new ticket vendor will be on the CincyBlues.org website -- for $15 (plus a $2.75 service fee per ticket) On each day of the show, tickets will be $20 at the door. A full list of performers and scheduled times is available on Cincy Blues Fest's website: http://cincyblues.org
The Southern California Blues Society - Los Angeles. CA
The Southern California Blues Society presents Eric Sardinas and The Delgado Brothers for a This year's New Year's Eve Blues Party & Concert with a sizzling Tex-Mex theme. Show time is 9:00 pm until 1:00 am. Advanced tickets are highly-recommended: SCBS Members $27.50 /non-members $37.50. Nick's Taste of Texas is located at 545 N. Citrus Avenue, Covina, CA. So join us for two outstanding, internationally-known, rockin' soulful blues bands. As one of the best NYE values in So Cal, it truly has all of the elements for an amazing time: an exciting double bill, fantastic down-home atmosphere, incredible Tex-Mex menu (optional), dancing, raffles and a roomful of blues fans ready to party, as well as ample free parking! For details: www.socalblues.org or call 714-209-7347.
Crossroads Blues Society - Rockford, IL
Crossroads Blues Society is proud to sponsor a benefit for the Lance Corporal Alec Catherwood Memorial Scholarship Fund on Saturday, January 15, 2011. The benefit will be at the American Legion hall in Byron, IL and will run from 7 to 11 PM. JB Ritchie and the Power Blues band will play their rocking style of hot Chicago blues.
The evening will also feature silent auctions, ticket raffles and a 50-50 raffle. The suggested donation to attend is $10 per person. All proceeds from the door and event go to the Alec Catherwood Memorial Scholarship Fund. Alec was killed in action in Afghanistan on October 14, 2010 and the scholarship fund was set up in his honor. To donate items for the silent auction and raffles or for more information call Steve Jones at 779-537-4006.
The Blues, Jazz & Folk Music Society - Marietta, Ohio
The Blues, Jazz & Folk Music Society will host the 19th Annual River City Ohio Blues Competition on February 18 & 19, 2011, at the historic Lafayette Hotel in Marietta. Blues Bands and Solo/Duo blues acts will compete for cash prizes and BJFMS sponsorship to the International Blues Challenge (IBC) in Memphis, TN, in early 2012.
First place will receive $1,200 in cash and BJFMS sponsorship to the IBC. Second place wins $600 and third place wins $300. No geographic restrictions apply. Any serious blues musician is invited to apply. Winning this preliminary competition gets your ticket punched to Memphis, and offers valuable exposure to record labels, A&R representatives, blues industry professionals and festival promoters capable of providing real career advancement.
Complete information, format, Application & Rules are available online at www. bjfm.org. Deadline for application submission is January 8, 2011. For more information contact Steve Wells at 304-295-4323 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Mississippi Valley Blues Society - Davenport, IA
Join MVBS in Memphis for the IBC in February! The Blues Foundation’s International Blues Challenge [IBC] will take place in Memphis February 2-5, 2011, and the Quad-Cities’ Steady Rollin’ Blues Band will be there to represent the state of Iowa. We are trying to organize a contingent to go down together for this event.
If you are interested in being part of a party bus traveling to Memphis in the early hours of Wednesday February 2 and returning on Sunday February 6, please contact Lonnie Britt. You can e-mail him at email@example.com or call him at 309-737-5087.
We have also reserved a block of rooms through Linda Kibak, the travel agent for Big City Rhythm & Blues magazine. Unless you are a member of the Blues Foundation, rooms at the host hotel, the Doubletree on Union Avenue, are already sold out. Linda has reserved us a block of 25 rooms for February 2-5 at the Benchmark, right across the street from the Doubletree on Union Avenue, about 3 blocks from Beale Street. The rooms are $114 per night, both kings and doubles, smoking and non-smoking.
To reserve your room, please contact Linda by e-mail before January 12 at either firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com . You will need to tell her what kind of room you want (king or double, smoking or non) and give her your credit card number to guarantee the room. www.mvbs.org PH 563-322-5837, MWF 11:30 - 1:30, 2:00 - 5:30
Illinois Central Blues Club - Springfield, IL
BLUE MONDAY SHOWS - Held at the Alamo 115 N 5th St, Springfield, IL (217) 523-1455 every Monday 8:30pm $3 cover. Jan 3 - Stone Cold Blues Band, Special Show at The Alamo Sunday January 9 - RJ Mischo, Jan 10 - Cabin Fever, Jan 17 - The Groove Daddies, Jan 25 - Texas Groove, Feb 7 - Eddie Snow Tribute w/ Bill Evans, Feb 14 - Dave Lumsden Blues Band, Feb 21 - Kilborn Alley, Feb 28 - Bruce Katz. icbluesclub.org
Featured Blues Review 2 of 5
John Stephan Band – Know Your Driver
Self Release 2010
12 tracks, 45.10 minutes.
John Stephan hails originally from Alaska where he started playing guitar at a very young age and formed a band (The 3 Js) that still gigs from time to time in the NW USA. However, here he is fronting a four piece band which features John on guitar and all vocals, long-time bass player Tom Roesch, drummer Trev Cutler and Jeff Conlin on organ. Piano is added to most tracks by either Steve Flynn or the memorably nicknamed Eric “Two Scoops” Moore! The CD was recorded in Seattle and is a well-produced record of the band’s repertoire.
The CD is
mainly original material written by John. The three covers are a
traditional tune, one Willie Dixon number and one by the late Isaac
Scott, a Vancouver bluesman with whom John used to play backing up
Albert Collins when Albert was touring in the NW.
The original material is reasonably varied. I was a little surprised that “Working On A Building” was selected as the opener as it is one of the more pedestrian tunes, both lyrically and in terms of rhythm. The title track “Know Your Driver” is good, driven by rolling piano, the lyric recommending that you check on your companions in life: “If you’re out there catching a ride, you should know who’s at our side. You best get acquainted before you trust someone with everything you got, you better check your load before you climb on board, know your driver, know your driver.” “I’m Your Weatherman” is a slower paced number about how, in a mature relationship, the partners can see each other’s moods changing, just like the weather.
“Root Hog Or Die” is listed as a traditional song, not one I have heard before. It starts with brooding slide guitar before the uptempo rhythm appears and drives the tune along, recounting a tale of hard times and how one is forced into doing things one does not want to do in order to survive – the meaning of the title. The next track “Hard For The Devil” was the pick for me, a slide driven rocker with well-crafted lyrics: “He’s out on the street, walking like a man, looking for a sucker wherever he can, so make it hard for the devil, you make it hard for the devil when you spread that love around.”
“Let My Mind Run Back” is a gospel infused tune written by Isaac Scott which might have benefited from some backing vocals, but still works well, with a graceful guitar solo in the middle set against very nice churchy organ. It is followed by “A Day At A Time” which is in similar vein. The church-like spell is definitely broken by “Down In The Bottom”, the Willie Dixon tune best remembered for Howlin’ Wolf’s version. The JSB uses slide but takes the tune at a slower pace than is often the case. The piano is a strong element here, along with John’s keening slide, the whole getting the toes tapping.
Having got us up and dancing again, the band carries on with a further slide driven tune “Trouble Machine”, a tale of unreliable vehicles. I liked the start of the lyric, with its reference to Robert Johnson’s classic: “We’re always breaking down, if you know what I mean. There’s just something about us, we’re a trouble machine.” A fun song, with the Elmore James riff present and correct.
“Treatment Blues” is a slow paced solo acoustic tune about taking a case of the blues to the Doctor’s. The lyrics are clever, but the arrangement is rather sparse for my taste. It does provide another dimension to the CD, however, and shows another facet of John’s playing. The full band returns for “Hard Worker Down” which portrays the tough economic times in which we are all living. The final track “Last Call” is subtitled “A Tribute To Albert Collins & Isaac Scott” and is a slow paced instrumental which at times recalls “Soul Serenade” and is mainly a feature for some soulful and reflective guitar playing.
Overall I found this a good CD which grew on me as I listened to it. It gives a good feel for the variety of the JSB and I hope that it introduces them to a wider audience.
Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK. He recently attended the Blues Blast Awards in Chicago and had a great time! Back in the USA for the January 2011 Blues Cruise!
For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE
Featured Blues Review 3 of 5
Gary U.S. Bonds - Let Them Talk
My first memory of Gary U.S. Bonds comes from my childhood and seeing him on the dance music shows of the early 60’s. His return to the music scene in the 80’s showed that he still had it and he has done some good work since then in the rock and country genres. He has also spent a lot of great time and efforts with Global Village Champions Foundation bringing hope, food, water, school and medical supplies to the needy children around the world.
Now 71 years young, he apparently still has boundless energy and has taken on record production responsibilities as President of GLA Records. Backing him up are The Roadhouse Rockers; Mark Leimbach on guitar, Lance Hyland Stark on drums, Hal B. Seltzer on bass, Danny Kean on organ/keys and Dan Cipriano on horns are perfect accompaniment to Bond’s soulful, rocking style. Big Mama and Little Mama Anderson’s backing vocal work adds depth and beauty to each of the nine songs they contribute to.
These new songs (four of which Gary hand a hand in writing and most of which were written by the band) take his early blues proto-rocking into a somewhat more modern setting but hearken back to his early days, too. He opens with the rocking number entitled “Whine”; this track burns with a hot horn and guitar accompaniment and Bonds shows us he can still belt one out with the best of them. Tracks like “Pour Me” and “I forgot How Bad My Good Woman Could Be” give us the country side of Bond’s style and he sells it well; Kean’s organ is hot here and throughout. Bond’s ballads like the title track and “She’s a Woman” are moving cuts; his vocals are soulful and stirring. The full out bluesist song on the album is probably "Burden"; Bond's vocals and Kean's piano are really good as are the Andersons backing him and Leimbach's guitar work. Bonds completes the set in Gospel style with a moving love song called “Shake a Hand”. The Andersons and he growl out this secular song in full church style, and Lembach’s guitar solo adds to the pieces' soulfulness.
Is this blues? Mostly not. There are some blues and many bluesy parts to the rocking and country songs. Is it fun and good music? Hell yes. I’ve heard Gary sing for almost 50 years now and he is a great artist and entertainer. I actually wish he’d have done albums more over the years, but the stuff he’s given us has always been entertaining and a lot of fun to listen to..
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Featured Blues Review 4 of 5
The Steve Wiggins Band - Precious Cargo
To the readers of this review, let me first adjust your attitude as to what I like in the way of a Blues sound and a Blues Band and may that assist you in the understanding of my rambling writings; first- I’m not that much of a Delta guy, swamp boogie blues are great but not my style.
Memphis sound is most excellent but not the choice of a South side Chicago boy like myself and modern Blues that sound like the hard rock English invasion of yesteryear is fine -------------- for some, but for me give me that up tight out of sight City Urban sound of the Blues that can almost make you taste the grilled onions and pork chop sandwiches right off the ol’ Maxwell street Blues scene.
Now those are Blues. I can recall seeing and hearing countless Blues bands there, sitting out front of the record stores and clubs playing right out there on the sidewalks, morning, noon and night. Boom, boom, boom, boom! Thank you John Lee!
So that’s what I enjoy most, that’s my calling card for the Blues. Clean pure and simple, keep your digitaldelayreverbphasers for something else. Blues down to the bone. Nothing watered down, and that’s exactly what you’ll receive when you snap off the plastic wrapper and play this “Precious Cargo” CD.
Man this is the ‘BLUES’! From the very first notes you know instantly that you are going to have to buckle up tight, pull on the seat belt hard and hang on for your life as this band takes no prisoners. What? No guitar? Who needs one with these guys. Steve Wiggins on Keys, Lenwood Cherry Jr. On drums, Bruce Hebert bass, and Wally Tirado blowing like a hurricane on sax, what more could you ask for?
That first tune, Steve’s Boogie, starts the tracks off right out of the box like there’s no tomorrow. Steve breaks into the tune with piano keys but its not long before those sweet and sexy sax sounds start to emerge and just when you have settled into that style the room gets ripped wide open all over again with Steve on the B3 organ. If ever there were ‘other’ instruments meant for the Blues they are sax and the Hammond B3 organ. Man I am in heaven!
Next up is ‘Cold Shot’ dedicated to the late great Les Paul. Walking bass opens the door and “kabam” there’s that sax and B3 combo taking charge. It just doesn’t get much better. And when you think it can’t get much better Wally of Wally’s sax world knocks the door down with his solo which in turn leads to that organ again. How can it get any better? Well it does ‘cause the classic, ‘Steam Roller’, take your time, take your time, TAKE YOUR TIME, its Steamroller time. Honky-Tonk piano, sax riffs and an easy going but driving driving driving drum riffs, and always that balanced just right walking bass showing light on the path. Man this is good stuff!
Now I am not going to write about each track as we’ll all be here all day but let me say that all 11 tracks are tracks to please. Next to last is one of my signature numbers by the great Bill Withers, ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’. Just including that number alone should make you run to get this CD but that ain’t all. Slow it down, look deep into these blue waters and repeat after me, “ Ain’t Sunshine When She’s Gone”. It will blow you away.
Thank you Linwood for these vocals, a man who knows and feels the pain of the Blues. His own man, my man, take it where no one else takes it! Bring that sax in to make me cry and cry you all will. Tears of joy, blue joy for sure! So OK, you’ve heard what I have to say about this band, this fine ass CD so lets end on a high note, ‘I’m Doing My Thing’ and for all those babies out there that think you can’t have the Blues without a guitar, this studio track, the only studio track of the group throws in a guitar so we all can say.
This Steve Wiggins Band, Precious Cargo CD has EVERYTHING!!!Reviewer Chuck Gomez worked out of Chicago’s Mayor’s Office of Special Events for over a decade back at the start of the Chicago Blues Fest, plays sax and tours with many leading Blues musicians/Chicago style. He is Columbia College’s special events producer and owns/produces/promotes the Watseka Theatre, Iroquois Performing Arts Center. The Watseka Theatre Blues, BBQ & Arts Fest is the last Saturday of each May. Go to: WatsekaTheatre.com for more information.
For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE
Featured Blues Review 5 of 5
Paul Thorn - Pimps and Preachers
Perpetual Obscurity Records
13 tracks/51 minutes
One thing for sure – Paul Thorn has a sense of humor. The name of his record label is a wry comment on the state of his career after releasing eight recordings. It’s a good bet that all that will change with his latest effort, which shows the full scope of Thorn’s talents.
While several cuts exhibit a blues influence, this project is really a straight-ahead rock album. Thorn has knack for writing lyrics that mould simple phrases together in a manner that never fails to capture your imagination. Some people would overplay the humorous aspects of “Tequila is Good for the Heart” but Thorn’s vocal is full of regret and resignation over a failed relationship. Ringing guitar chords and Michael Graham’s sensitive piano work transform the country-tinged barroom weeper into a rousing anthem.
The title track examines Thorn’s upbringing at the hands of his father and uncle – one a man of God while the other taught him about the realities of life on the street.
The struggle is captured when he belts out the chorus – “One drug me through the darkness, one led me to the light.” On ‘Love Scar”, Thorn relates a story that came from a conversation he had backstage at the Royal Albert Hall. The title refers to a woman’s tattoo – a blue eye with a tear - that serves as a bitter reminder of a one- night stand. A similar theme drives “Buckskin Jones’ Illegitimate Son”, as razor-sharp guitar licks punctuate a son’s telling of his mother’s one true love.
Thorn’s songwriting ability is highlighted on “There’s Weeds in My Roses” as his description of the pleasures of his garden morphs into suspicions about the fidelity of his lover. The cut rocks hard with Bill Hinds and Thorn cranking out the heat on their guitars. The humor returns on “I Don’t Like Half the Folks I Love”, with Thorn delivering a honest assessment of family relationships that is sure to hit home with many listeners. His earnest vocal on “Nona Lisa” perfectly captures the sense of yearning in the simple lyrics as the band lays down a performance that would make Springsteen proud.
On “You’re Not the Only One” and “You Might be Wrong”, Thorn does some preaching of his own as he utilizes two different approaches to deliver the message that life is precious. The first track features ringing guitar chords while the latter settles into a gentler groove with a strong rhythm. He delivers a message of hope on “Better Days Ahead” with a strong arrangement that starts out with a featuring a mandolin that gives way to Hinds’ slide guitar. The closing track, “That’s Life” is a soothing ballad that seems to be about a father sending a child out into the world.
In addition to Hinds and Graham, Thorn gets expert accompaniment from Doug Kahn on bass, Jeffrey Perkins on drums plus Kevin Holly and Billy Maddox on acoustic guitars. Donnie Carpenter’s fiddle playing really sets the mood on “Ray Ann’s Shoes”, a touching acoustical ballad about the break-up of a long-term relationship.
There is plenty to enjoy on this one, especially Thorn’s great songs, his expressive vocals and the band’s stellar accompaniment. It may not be blues but this one delivers an unflinching view of life with humor and Thorn’s belief that the world can be a great place to live. Don’t let this one slide by without checking it out!
Reviewer Mark Thompson is president of the Crossroads Blues Society in Rockford. IL.
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