Issue 7-4, January 24, 2013
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Cover photo by Marilyn Stringer © 2013
In This Issue
Mark Thompson has our feature interview with Blues legend Chick Willis.
We have 5 music reviews for you! Marty Gunther reviews a new album by Teresa James. John Mitchell reviews a new release from Craig Chaquico . Steve Jones reviews a new release from Dave Widow and the Line Up. Rex Bartholomew reviews a new album from Sugar Blue. James "Skyy Dobro" Walker reviews a new DVD from Elvin Bishop. We have the latest in Blues Society news from around the globe. All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN!!!
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Featured Blues Interview - Chick Willis
Chick Willis - A Lifetime of the Blues
Hit records are hard to come by no matter what kind of music you play. It is even harder to reach the top of the charts where your record is released on a tiny label with limited distribution based out of a small upper mid-western city. And if the record is never played on commercial radio stations, you don't have a prayer of denting the charts, let alone reaching the top. But Robert “Chick” Willis defied the odds and that one hit record sustained his career for four decades.
But that is just one of the many interesting facets of Chick's story, which started after he finished a stint in the military. He started working as a valet and driver for his cousin, singer Chuck Willis, who had a string of hits including “C.C. Rider”, “What Am I Living For”, “I Feel So Bad” and “It's Too Late”. Chick was already doing some singing of his own. “ I worked at an American Legion club in Atlanta that had a house band. Me and the guitar payer didn't get along too well. I'd call for a shuffle in the key of C and he'd say OK, then start playing in the key of F or G. When I started singing, I'd be out of key. So I went to the pawnshop and bought me a guitar for $12.50.”
Willis immediately started practicing, getting plenty of coaching and pointers from other members of the band. In 1956, his father passed away. Willis got his first new guitar when his mother took part of the insurance money and bought her son a brand new Gibson Les Paul Special with a Silvertone amplifier. He kept practicing and practicing. Then in 1956, Lee Rupe arrived in Atlanta looking for talent for her new label, Ebb Records. She staged a talent show at the Magnolia Ballroom. Willis won first place with Roy Lee Johnson coming in second. The prize was a recoding contract., which Willis used to cut “You're Mine”. “It was doing good,” Willis remembers, “ It was selling right up there with “Buzz, Buzz, Buzz” by the Hollywood Flames. Then all of a sudden the company went bankrupt. Everybody lost but the company.”
After Chuck's untimely death in 1958, Chick hit the road, eventually ending up in Chicago where he did a stint in the Elmore James band. “ I wasn't with him for too long because Elmore didn't allow you to solo. You had to play rhythm and that's it!He did all of his own solos. But that gave me a chance to get into Chicago. And I got to play with just about everybody there then – Muddy, Little Walter, Jimmy Reed. Blues was hot in Chicago back then!” Willis kept moving and managed to stay afloat by playing clubs. In 1972, he decided to cut a record of a tune with risque lyrics that was a staple of his live show.
“I rented a studio in New York City and I recorded “Stoop Down Baby” with my band. But I couldn't get anybody up & down Broadway to accept it. Once they listened to it, they wouldn't take it.” Then singer/comedian Rudy Ray Moore told Willis about La Val Records in Kalamazoo, MI. “ I went there and played the record for Vic LaVal and he went crazy over it – loved it. So he pressed several thousand 45 records and we hit the road.” LaVal and Willis knew better than to approach the radio stations. Instead they went to the jukebox companies who would buy enough copies of the record to get one in each of the units the company owned. Before the duo could get back to Kalamazoo, they already had a hit record on their hands.
“ It was the #1 record in Chicago, St. Louis and down to Memphis. It could down Beale Street in Memphis and each club you passed would have “Stoop Down Baby” playing on the jukebox. It was a wonderful thing. The only drawback was that when it came time for my first royalty check, the company was broke – no money. I didn't get paid, Rudy Ray Moore didn't get paid because La Val wanted to be a big backer in the numbers racket, which was real big back then way before the lottery, They already had a number one numbers backer company. in the city and they told LaVal not to get involved. But he did anyway.”
The decision ruined it for everyone, as Willis recalls, “Somehow they fixed it so people hit LaVal and he didn't have enough money to pay off. He had to pawn and hock everything he had in order to pay off the bets so they wouldn't drop him in Lake Michigan. There was no room for anybody else in the numbers racket.”
Still, the record significantly raised Chick's profile, making it easy for him to get gigs across the country. “I worked mostly in the East and the South. I'd work from Texas through Louisiana to Georgia, then along the East coast up to Virginia and the D.C. Area over to the Midwest. We'd hit the West coast once or twice a year but travel wasn't as easy then as it is now. We'd have to ride3-4 days to get there and another 3-4 days to get back. One time I got lucky – got booked to play a series of dates at the military bases.”
“Stoop Down Baby” was working so well that Willis didn't need another record. “I cut plenty of other titles but you just didn't hear about them because they couldn't touch “Stoop Down”. Every time I'd cut something else and present to somebody, they'd always say don't you have something else like “Stoop Down Baby”? It was to come from behind that song with a clean song. The only people doing stuff like I was doing was Hank Ballard & the Midnighters and Screamin' Jay Hawkins.” It took a lot of years for him to make a name for himself but he could finally book Chick Willis.
“Everybody knew who I was then. I've always had a great show. I've always been a showman. I'd walk the bar, turn flips, play the guitar behind my head, play it with my tongue and all that kind of stuff. It was a show that the average club owner didn't mind booking. And everybody came to see me do “Stoop Down Baby”. And I started drawing a lot of women because they love it when I'd talk about them during the song. I formed that kind of relationship with my audience.. It lasted a long time and I had a good time.” When asked if he managed to stay out of trouble with all of the women around, Willis laughs and replies, “No, no – I got married five times! I never stayed out of trouble – it was no fun staying out of trouble! That was part of being a bluesman. You had to have a lot of women back then because then you'd fill the house.”.
After sixteen years, Willis was working with the late Gary “B.B.” Coleman in Tulsa, OK. Coleman wanted to take Willis into the studio and produce a record. Willis agreed to do the project and they headed to Atlanta to work with Ichiban Records. “Owner John Abbey was not trying to promote any acts. He was only trying to build a good catalog because that was good money. We went to Europe and I've never seen a man sell so many cds in my life. Me, Jerry McCain, Luther “Houserocker'” Johnson and Kip Anderson did six week tour. We made money – not as much as we thought we should get – but we had to split the money up between everybody in the group because you could only bring back so much per person.”
The group played a variety of venues on the tour with shows at colleges, schools, concert halls and even some five-star hotels. They also managed to do a couple of festivals. Willis returned later to tour on his own for Big bear Records out of Birmingham, England. When asked if he noticed a difference in the audiences in the USA versus Europe, Willis answers, “There is a big difference. They have more respect for the blues over there. I think it's because back then it was newer for them. It was a new thing. When you came home, there was a lot of it. They appreciated it more and they gave the black blues players more respect than they did back in the states.”
“I can remember playin' when there was nothin' but black blues players. There was no other kind. No white boys or white girls playing the blues – only black people playing the blues when I first started. Every once in awhile you'd find somebody like Johnny Otis who was different.” Willis has very strong opinions about the music that has been his life's work. Five years ago, he wrote a lengthy piece that allowed him to voice some of his concerns for the music he holds dear to his heart. “ A Lot of my friends thought it was a bad idea publicity-wise but I've always had in me. I thought it was about time I let it out. I didn't state anything but facts. I didn't fabricate anything. Like I told everybody, the Blues is just about dead – just about gone. All the blues you hear now is mostly rock. It's a mixture of rock, C&W and blues. There's very few pure blues acts around any more. Even the young blacks aren't playing the blues. Very few original blues players left and after awhile there won't be any. I wonder what the story will be then.”
Willis also bemoans the quality of songwriting these days, especially what you hear on the “chitlin' circuit”, his old stomping grounds. “The girls are getting reasonable hit records because they're singing about sex and what they want the guy to do to them. They call that southern soul. That makes me sick. There's nobody singing the blues. And they are catching more hell than when I was coming up. They've got no stories to tell. They haven't experienced anything in life. All they did was follow along behind somebody else. Everybody's got some blues in their own background if they would just look for it. If someone out there has a hit record , the next person's going to cut something just like it and the next person too. After while, too many records sound the same so nobody sells. You use to be able to listen to a song and tell who it was. You can't do that any more. The blues is slipping away. One day somebody will be singing the blues and it won't have one iota of the real thing.”
“The world is in worse shape now than it's ever been since the beginning of the country. There's too many people. The world is too full, man, there's not enough room for all of the people trying to pile up in cities like Atlanta, LA and New York. When I was coming up, even though there was lynching going on, they wasn't killing as many people as we are now.”
In recent years Chick has released a steady stream of recordings on several smaller labels, with the last two on the Benevolent Blues label, that feature plenty of his original material. Those recordings helped reestablish his name in the blues community. “ I felt the label had more clout than me- more outlets and connections out there. That helped especially with the festivals like the Pocono and Monterey fests. I've been headlining them. Releasing a lot of material gives me a better shot at different venues. But I can't do a show without doing “Stoop Down Baby” - the people won't let me! But I also get request for my songs like “I Got a Big Fat Woman” and “One Eyed Woman”.
Asked to recall a memorable moment from his long career, Willis pauses briefly before giving an excited description of a show at the end of 1972, at the height of popularity for “Stoop Down Baby”. “It was show at the Grand Ballroom in Chicago. It was me by myself with the band. We were driving up from St. Louis. The show started at 3 pm. By noon, you couldn't find a seat – standing room only! They were jam-packed all because of that #1 song that none of radio stations had ever played it!”
Recently Willis has been dealing with some blues of his own. He is undergoing chemo treatments for lung cancer that has formed a mass in his chest. It is one more struggle but Willis remains upbeat. He plans to release a collection of his material, titled What's To Become of the World, in a few months. Fans have staged several benefits and he received a donation from the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise organization. In addition to getting hundreds of cards, Willis has found Facebook to be helpful in connecting with others who have battled cancer.
“I've had a lot fun. You've got to enjoy what you're doing. That has been my reward. I love the blues. Blues gives you a chance to tell your story. I'm getting older and my time is getting shorter and shorter, so I'm m using the time to say what I am going to say. I was always a lover. I loved singing the blues and I'm going to keep on trying to do that until I leave here. To everybody who ever bought one of my recordings, I appreciate it. I love them to death and I thank them for loving the blues.”
You can read the article Mr. Willis wrote here :
If you'd like to send get-well wishes to Chick or help cover the cost of his medical treatment, you can contact him here: Chick Willis P.O. Box 561 Forsyth, GA 31029
Visit Chick Willis' website at http://www.chickwillis.com/
Photos by Marilyn Stringer © 2013
Interviewer Mark Thompson retired after twelve years as president of the Crossroads Blues Society in Rockford. IL. and moved to Florida. He has been listening to music of all kinds for over fifty years. Favorite musicians include Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Magic Slim, Magic Sam, Charles Mingus and Count Basie.
For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE.
Featured Blues Reviews 1 of 5
Teresa James and the Rhythm Tramps - Come On Home
Jesi-Lu Records 1008
12 songs – 49 minutes
Houston-born singer/barrelhouse piano player Teresa James has her fans proud by cooking up this country-tinged stew of blues, boogie, soul and Cajun funk. With 10 originals and two covers, this CD has a true, no-holds-barred ’60s feel. It was funded through a successful appeal on Kickstarter.com, the online platform for creative projects.
A veteran performer who postponed her career to raise a son and daughter, James is now throwing herself into it full-time. Levon Helm calls her “a true original -- when she sings, you feel it in your bones.” The redheaded firebrand has surrounded herself with a bevy of quality musicians on this work, her eighth CD. She and bass player/percussionist/pianist/producer Terry Wilson penned all of the originals. He doubles as Eric Burdon’s bassist in the current version of the Animals. They’re joined by guitarist Billy Watts, drummers Jim Christie and Herman Matthews, Jerry Peterson on sax, Lee Thornberg on trumpet and trombone and Debra Dobkin on percussion. Two members of the Phantom Blues Band are on board to turn up the heat -- Mike Finnigan provides perfect counterpoint to James’ piano on the Hammond B-3 organ, and famed drummer Tony Braunagel adds additional rhythm on two songs. Another top-flight keyboard player, British-born, New Orleans-based Jon Cleary, also lights a fire under two tracks.
Even though James moved to Los Angeles several years ago, she never strays from her East Texas roots. The funky horn-driven first track, “Come On Home To Me,” sets the burners to high as she admonishes a wayward lover: “Bring your sorry ass back/I ain’t done with you yet.” The Henry Fuqua/Etta James classic, “If I Can’t Have You,” follows. It’s a soul-drenched duet with Finnegan that also features a solid guitar solo by Watts. A love song -- “My Baby Knows What I Want” -- cools things off a bit before James delivers the Tommy Kay-penned “Long Way From Texas,” a hard-driving boogie that features her talent on the 88s.
James turns on the waterworks with “Forgetting You,” a tear-drenched ballad next. The horn section sets the mood as she wails: “It’s two o’clock in the morning/I keep wondering if you’re at home/Worried if I call/Would somebody else pick up the telephone.” The theme continues into the next tune, Memphis-style send-up, “Still Got The Message.” The tables are turned here, however. She’s been sitting by the receiver, but the phone never rings. The music takes a Motown turn on “She’s Got A Way With Men” and returns to Memphis for the romantic “That’s Just Love” before venturing to the bayou for “Voodoo Doll, ” in which she volunteers to be the doll to set her hoodoo man free. “Carry The Burden” follows. It’s a gospel-flavored crowd pleaser. “It’s not the road that makes you weary,” she sings. “It’s how you carry the burden all the way to the end.”
The singer admonishes a mediocre lover in the “I Can Do Better” before the funky finisher, “All I Want To Do Is Dance.” It’s an uptempo funk, but James manages to summon the ghosts of Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon in the verse: “I’ll get my wang dang doodle/Maybe my Johnny Condaroo/I’ll get my mojo working/Sooner or later I’ll get back to you.”
This is a fun CD. Teresa uses tried and true recipes throughout, and the dishes are warm, satisfying and worth a second serving. .
Reviewer Marty Gunther has lived a blessed life. His first experience with live music came at the feet of the first generation of blues legends at the Newport Folk Festivals in the 1960s. A former member of the Chicago blues community, he’s a professional journalist and blues harmonica player who co-founded the Nucklebusters, one of the hardest working bands in South Florida.
For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE
Featured Blues Review 2 of 5
Craig Chaquico – Fire Red Moon
10 tracks; 47 minutes
Confession time. Although blues is mostly what I listen to these days I still enjoy some of the old rock stuff and Jefferson Starship’s mid 80s albums like “Red Octopus” and “Spitfire” are two of my favourites. Part of that enjoyment is the guitar playing on the albums, by a young guitarist called Craig Chaquico. Craig auditioned for Starship on his sixteenth birthday and stayed with the band for twenty years until its break-up in 1990. Since then he has recorded mainly in the new age/smooth jazz idiom and this album is his first foray into the blues (though Craig states that the blues is at the root of all his music).
The band on this album is Craig’s regular road band: Rolf Hartley on vocals and rhythm guitar, Wade Olson on drums, Jim Reitzel on bass and Bill Slais on keys. Album co-producer (with Craig) Bill Heller adds keys throughout and on two tracks a different lead vocalist is used. Seven of the tracks are originals, composed by Craig and Executive Producer Thomas Hyman and cover a fair range of styles from blues-rock to jazzier pieces. The three covers are all well-known blues classics.
The album opens strongly with “Lie To Me” (not the Jonny Lang song), a mid-paced tune with Noah Hunt (Kenny Wayne Shepherd) taking the lead on vocals. Noah is a great vocalist for this sort of blue-rock tune and Craig’s fills on guitar sit nicely above the organ-led arrangement before he takes a strong solo. Another lead vocalist, Eric E. Golbach, sings “Bad Woman” in a whisky-soaked voice that suits the brooding mood of the song well; Eric also supplied all the choral background vocals. We are in slow blues territory here, think Gary Moore in terms of the guitar style and it is a solid track. Regular vocalist Rolf Hartley sings on three songs: “Devil’s Daughter” is in a smoother style which did not work well for me, making it one of the weaker tracks on the CD. “Little Red Shoes” is the most upbeat rocker on the set, a nice slice of rock and roll: “She walked into a roadhouse, they were playing the blues. She got up on stage and started to get down in those little red shoes. She had the whole house rocking, but I couldn’t take my eyes off those little red shoes.” Lots of strong contributions here from Craig and from the piano player – this is probably my favourite cut on the album. Rolf’s third vocal contribution is the uptempo version of “Crossroads” that closes the album. Craig sticks fairly closely to Clapton’s seminal version with Cream in his solo here.
There are five instrumentals. The band’s version of “Born Under A Bad Sign” works fine though it would be hard to identify Albert King’s original here. Craig’s playing is interesting with lots of chopped chords underneath a soaring lead. The cover of “Rollin’ And Tumblin’” (here credited to Muddy Waters) is great fun, opening with a frantic handclap beat and lots of slide from Craig. The title track “Fire Red Moon” is another instrumental, a moody piece with strong guitar and a persistent backbeat which does not seem to quite take off. “Blue On Blue” is perhaps the tune that harks back most to Craig’s new age material but it also works well as a slow blues-based tune with a soaring refrain from Craig’s guitar at its centre. “Fogtown Stroll” follows immediately and is a good contrast with its loping beat giving us just a touch of Caribbean lilt.
Although one or two tracks here are a little too close to smooth jazz there is certainly enough good playing and blues-based material here to warrant our attention.
Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK. He also travels to the States most years to see live blues music.
For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE
Featured Blues Review 3 of 5
Dave Widow and the Line Up - Waiting For The World to End
Dave Widow: guitar player, vocalist and song writer. I’d never heard of him; that’s not abnormal in my position. I get a lot of CDs done by folks I’ve not heard of. Sometimes I am surprised, both good and bad. Well, here in this CD I was mostly surprised in a good way.
Dave Widow admittedly is not a household name. Hailing from Cincinnati and now from L.A., Widow blends blues, soul, funk, and rock. He’s got a good lineup of L.A. Area musicians backing him up, for the most part being Reggie McBride on bass, Gary Mallaber on drums, Mike Finnigan on organ and piano (along with David Morgan on piano, too), and a host of backing vocalists and other musicians picking up a track here and there.
He starts this set with a down tempo track called “Bluesman” and follows it with three more slow to mid tempo cuts. Good songs, but he doesn't let it all hang out until track five, “Baby Wants to Rock.” As you continue to listen you see that’s not his scene. The styles change, but rocking out is not the norm here. Two other tracks really can be said to be truly up tempo. But while that is perhaps a small complaint, the mid and down tempo stuff has feeling, depth, really decent lyrics and varies in style from track to track. The closer “Sweet Janine” is a pretty little love ballad. The title track is funky, sarcastic and cool He says, “I’m not afraid of Jesus, I’m afraid of germs” and goes on about how dumb society can be. Sadly, one has to agree with his assessments if you watch the news.
“Leave a Piece of Me” opens like a Motown cut, with a catchy intro. “Piss You Off” is a deep blues, with a nice guitar solo; this demonstrates Dave’s feeling for the genre. He growls out about the woman who doesn't treat him right in an updated blues on a subject we all know well. “Nothin’ On You” is another nice funky cut, with a big chorus of backing vocalists on the chorus and some wicked keys. He even goes acoustic on “Picture of You,” somewhat folksy and country. It leads into “Second Hand Love,” a big, bold statement of another not-so-hot relationship. It’s my favorite track, too.
The songs are cool, the musicianship is professional and together, and Widow makes some statements. An interesting CD; I bet we hear more from this Southern California bluesman!
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 work with their Blues In The Schools program. He resides in Byron, IL.
For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE
Blues Society News
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Cincy Blues Society - Cincinnati, OH
Cincy Blues Society Announces 2013 Winter Blues Fest - On February 8 and 9, 2013, Cincinnati will be rocking with more than 25 blues bands. The Cincy Blues Society's Winter Blues Fest celebrates over two decades of supporting the Blues. This year's festival showcases the best local and regional Blues musicians for two nights, from 7:00 pm to 1:00 am at The Phoenix in downtown Cincinnati.
More than 25 local and regional blues bands will perform over two nights. Headlining Friday night is award-winning guitar player Sonny Moorman. Saturday night features a Cincinnati homecoming for the Nashville-based Stacy Mitchhart Band.
Buy Advance Tickets Online at the Brown Paper Tickets website for $20 (plus a $1.69 service fee per ticket) per night, or a weekend pass for $30 (plus a $2.04 service fee per ticket). Tickets will be available at the door for $20 per night, or $35 for a weekend pass. More information is available on Cincy Blues Fest's website: http://cincyblues.org
Illinois Central Blues Club - Springfield, IL
The Illinois Central Blues Club presents "Blue Monday" every Monday night for the last 25 years - BLUE MONDAY SHOWS - Held at the Alamo 115 N 5th St, Springfield, IL (217) 523-1455 every Monday 8:00pm $3 cover. January 28 - Alex Jenkins, Feburary 4 - Robert Sampson & Blues Gumbo, Feburary 11 - Victor Wainwright, Feburary 18 - Hurricane Ruth, Feburary 28 - Lionel Young, March 4 - Brandon Santini, March 11 - Eddie Snow Birthday Tribute w/ Bill Evans, March 18 - TBA, March 25 - JP Soars. More info available at icbluesclub.org
West Virginia Blues Society - Charleston, W.V.
The West Virginia Blues Society, Inc. presents the return of its rockin’ annual event, the 6th Annual Charlie West Blues Fest (CWBF), Friday, May 17th and Saturday, May 18th at Haddad Riverfront Park in Charleston, WV.
This free event, which has gained national attention throughout its five year history, will play host to some of the most talented and up-and-coming blues artists in the country and from around the world. The return of the legendary Ava Popovich as well as Davina and the Vagabonds will surely get you moving, and other highlighted artists include Kim Wilson & The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Magic Slim & The Teardrops and Mojo Theory, just to name a few.
The CWBF is an annual event dedicated to support wounded service members through the Wounded Warrior Project (WWP)—a nonprofit organization whose mission is to honor and empower wounded warriors. For information on sponsorships and donations contact Jack Rice, West Virginia Blues Society at (304) 389-1439or firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit www.wvbluessociety.org.
Nashville Blues Society — Nashville, TN
The Nashville Blues Society and Galaxie Entertainment are presenting a very special showcase at B.B. King's Blues Club during the IBC in Memphis, TN, on Thursday, January 31 — free to IBC badgeholders. The showcase begins at 11:30 a.m. and ends at 4:30 p.m. and will feature internationally touring artists the McCrary Sisters, Etta Britt, Scissormen, the Andy T — Nick Nixon Band, Jesse Black, Boscoe France, Tom Buller and Just Plain Trouble. This is the third annual "Nashville Showcases the Blues" concert during the IBC presented by Galaxie and the NBS. B.B. King's is at 143 Beale Street, in the center of the action. www.nashvillebluessociety.org.
The River City Blues Society - Pekin, IL
The River City Blues Society (RCBS) presents Jimmy Nick & Don’t Tell MaMa on Friday January 25 from 7:30 pm – 11:00 pm at Goodfellas 1414 N. 8th St. Pekin, Illinois. Admission: $6.00 general public or $4.00 Society Members. Also RCBS presents Harper & The Midwest Kind on Wednesday February 8 from 7:00 pm – 13:00 pm at Goodfellas 1414 N. 8th St. Pekin, Illinois. Admission: $6.00 general public or $4.00 Society MembersFor more info visit: www.rivercityblues.com or call 309-648-8510
The West Michigan Blues Society - Grand Rapids, MI
The West Michigan Blues Society in cooperation with community supported radio station WYCE 88.1 present the 2013 Cabin Fever Blues Series. The Series will be held at Billy's Lounge 1437 Wealthy St. SE, Grand Rapids, MI. 616-459-5757. Music starts at 9:30 PM. The band participating this year are: February 9 - Reverend Raven and the Chain Smoking Altar Boys, February 16 - Damon Fowler, February 23 - Sena Ehrhardt, March 2 - Peaches Staten. Cover for the shows are $10.00 per show. http://www.wmbs.org.
The Great Northern Blues Society - Wausau, WI
The Great Northern Blues Society is having our annual fundraiser known as the “Blues Café” on 3/9/13 in Rothschild, WI (near Wausau, WI)
Doors to the Rothschild Pavilion (1104 Park Street, Rothschild, WI) open at noon, music starts at 1:00PM with 10 hours of non-interrupted Music featuring Donnie Pick & the Road Band, Kilborn Alley Band, Grady Champion, Magic Slim & The Teardrops. Corey Stevens and Robert “One-Man” Johnson will be playing Acoustic Sets between main stage acts. There will be 4 Food vendors on site, with Cold Adult Beverages.$17 in advance - $22 at the door. For general information, and Ticket information go to – www.gnbs.org.
The Dayton Blues Society – Dayton, Ohio
The Dayton Blues Society presents the 5th Annual Winter Blues Showcase January 26th at Gilly’s in downtown Dayton. Featured acts are 2012 DBS Blues Challenge winners The Dave Muskett Blue Show (Solo/Duo) and Blue Sacrifice (Band). This year’s headliner will be none other than The Kinsey Report. Tickets are $15 for members and $20 for non-members. For more details and to purchase tickets go to www.daytonbluessociety.com.
Crossroads Blues Society - Rockford/Northern Illinois
On Sunday, January 27th Crossroads is holding a fund raiser for Hurricane Sandy and the Blues Hall of Fame. It will be at 3 PM in the American Legion Hall, 116 N Union St, Byron, IL. This will be a fun day of music, auctions, raffles and fun. Reverend Raven and the Chain Smokin' Altar Boys along with Westside Andy Linderman will be performing. $10 suggested donation to get in. Come support the hurricane relief and HOF.
Then on Monday January 28th, Reverend Raven and Westside Andy will be performing for two area schools as part of Crossroads Blues In The Schools program. They will spend and hour at each of two schools in the AM and PM. For more info see www.crossroadsbluessociety.com.
DC Blues Society - Washington, DC
Keep your dancing shoes handy because ObamaRama II: The Final 4 takes place on Saturday, January 19 at 8 PM at American Legion Post 41, 905 Sligo Ave. Silver Spring, MD 20910 (entrance on Fenton by public parking garage). Our red, white & Blues pre-inaugural blow-out features Fast Eddie & the Slowpokes (DCBS' 2013 IBC entrant), the DC Blues Society Band and special guests. Tickets: $10 members (advance)/$12 (door) ~ $12 non-member (advance)/$15 (door). Proceeds help defray travel expenses to IBC for Fast Eddie & The Slowpokes. Info & tickets: www.dcblues.org or call 301-322-4808.
Featured Blues Review 4 of 5
Sugar Blue – Raw Sugar
2 discs / 13 tracks / 119:16
If you love the harmonica, then picking up a copy of Sugar Blues’ Raw Sugar album will be a no-brainer. Sugar, originally known as James Whiting, is one of the finest players around and has the credentials to back it up. He was brought up in a musical family, was inspired by the jazz greats, and learned the harmonica by playing along with Bob Dylan and Stevie Wonder songs. He has been appearing on recordings since 1975, and has played with the Rolling Stones, Prince, Bob Dylan, Willie Dixon, Frank Zappa, and too many other fine artists to list.
Sugar has released at least a dozen albums, and had his hand in a few Grammy awards over the years. Raw Sugar is a two disc live recording that includes Blue on harmonica and vocals, Rico McFarland on guitar, Damiano Della Torre on keyboards, Ilaria Lantieri Blue on bass and James Knowles on drums. This two hour collection of songs is broken up into two sets, with seven pieces written by band members as well as some neat cover tunes. Many of the songs on this compilation can be found on his earlier studio releases.
“Red Hot Mama” is the first song on disc one, and at 5 ½ minutes, it is one of the shortest tracks on Raw Sugar. This up-tempo piece kicks off their show like an old time blues review with a driving bass line, a machine-gun fast drum part and a full-blast organ. Right away you can hear that this a tight band and these guys feel the soul. Sugar Blue enters the fray with his distinctive harp sound, and we get to hear a bit of his smooth voice too. This was a great choice for starting things off!
There is an extra injection of funk as this song quickly segues into Muddy Waters’ “One More Mile” and Rico McFarland gets a chance to shine. Rico is straight out of Chicago and has played with some of the best including James Cotton and Lucky Peterson. His hot contemporary blues licks and smooth solos bring a lot to the table and are a nice counterpoint to the hopping rhythm section.
On this release there are plenty of songs over 10 minutes, as Sugar Blue lets his band mates have plenty of room to experiment, showing that he is not one to hog the spotlight. A great example of this is the band’s 14-minute version of Muddy Waters’ “Hoochie Coochie Man,” perhaps one of the most recorded blues songs ever. They did a great job of making this song their own by giving it a faster and more modern arrangement. Della Torre had a part in this by adding a steady stream of honky-tonk piano throughout and even some subtle jazz work during a break in the action. I cannot say enough about Sugar Blues’ showmanship and harmonica skills, as he is one of the best out there and this song should be required listening for anybody that is learning to play the harp.
There is little chance that Sugar Blue would do a show without including his two most famous songs, “Another Man Done Gone” and “Miss You.” Sonny Boy Williamson recorded “Another Man Done Gone” first, but Sugar earned a Grammy for it with his fabulous performance at the Montreux Jazz Fest in the early 1980s. Of course he has played this song quite a bit since then, and it comes off perfectly on this recording. The Rolling Stones’ chart-topper “Missing You” is Sugar Blue’s most commercially successful song, and I always considered it to be Jagger/Richards’ funkiest effort -- it was certainly popular in the clubs back in the late 1970s. But Sugar’s band takes this song to a whole new level, led by Iliana’s hot bass line which is perfectly synced with Knowles’ drums, and it is most definitely one of my favorites on Raw Sugar.
Many times artists edit out their conversations with the crowd from their live albums, but Sugar Blue left many of his in, for which I am grateful. If you have not seen the man play live, these excepts give you a great insight into his personality and nature, and it is plain from these CDs that he is a humble and sweet man who loves to play out with his friends and lives to please his fans.
If you are a fan of Sugar Blue or have been lucky enough to attend one of his shows, Raw Sugar is a must-have CD. If you love blues harmonica and want to capture the energy of a great performance, you should make the effort to check this CD out; if you do you will want to get a copy for yourself!
Reviewer Rex Bartholomew is a Los Angeles-based writer and musician; his blog can be found at www.rexbass.blogspot.com.
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Featured Blues Review 5 of 5
Elvin Bishop - That’s My Thing - Elvin Bishop – Live in Concert DVD
Delta Groove Music, Inc. and VenMundi
18 Songs - 96:00 minutes; Bonus material includes a definitive interview
Format: Anamorphic, Color, NTSC
Rating: Library Quality
Styles: Modern Electric Blues; Traditional Blues; Rock and Roll
Among contemporary Blues artists, there are some who are not only gifted musicians but also real characters. Two of the most colorful are Watermelon Slim and Elvin Bishop. The former released a DVD in 2010, and, in late 2012, Delta Groove Music, Incorporated, issued a simply wonderful DVD about the unpretentious, unaffected, and amiable Elvin Bishop. He’s a veteran guitar master, song writer, and band leader, and Elvin’s DVD is so good that it has been nominated for a 2013 “Best DVD for 2012” Blues Music Award. Both DVDs included bonus interviews that made the price tag seem insignificant, but especially this 22 minute definitive retrospective with Elvin Bishop.
Firstly, did you realize that a very young Elvin Bishop was one of the two guitar players in the original Paul Butterfield Blues Band (along with Mike Bloomfield)? Did you know that the late Paul Butterfield, a monster on harmonica, was first a guitar player? Did you know that when Butterfield picked up the harmonica, he got as great as he was in just six months? I learned an interesting variety of things from watching that interview in the DVD. Personally, I did not encounter Elvin Bishop until his mid-1970s Southern Rock days on Macon, Georgia’s Capricorn label, with the Allman Brothers Band. I had my trigger tripped by hearing Bishop’s “Travelin’ Shoes” on the radio and meeting him, with his Southern-Rocky clothes and cowboy hat, when he performed live in 1975 (or ‘76) in Springfield, Illinois at an Ice Hockey arena. Clearly having a ball playing his guitar and singing, Bishop paused between songs to lubricate his vocal chords with beer. After tilting the can all the way back and taking a long pull, Elvin flipped the can into the air backwards over his head; it spun through the air spraying the brew residue like a pinwheel. Coming to the mic, Elvin challenged, “If you kids want to get big and strong like your Uncle El, you just keep drinking that Budweiser!”
This DVD presents a memorable 2011 performance by Elvin Bishop (dressed this time in worn-comfortable denim overalls and plaid flannel shirt) and his road-tested touring band recorded live in front of a sold out crowd on December 17, 2011 at Club Fox in Redwood City, California. Bishop exuberantly “struts his stuff” while simultaneously coaxing his "Red Dog" to howl (aka his trusty cherry-red, 1959 Gibson ES-345 axe) on a selection of 18 glorious numbers including “Travelin' Shoes,” “Rock My Soul,” “Fishin',” “Stealin' Watermelons,” “Party 'Til The Cows Come Home,” “Little Brown Bird,” “Calling All Cows” and eleven more. In addition to Elvin Bishop (vocals & guitar), the all-star players are: Bob Welsh (guitar), S.E. Willis (keys & accordion), Ed Earley (trombone & percussion), Ruth Davies (bass), and Bobby Cochran (drums).
From deep down gut-bucket Blues to low-down New Orleans Funk to Southern Rock to fun Rock and Roll, all the songs are instilled with Bishop’s passion and creativity, and the evening’s set features a healthy helping of Elvin’s wisdom, wit and great “Okie” humor. In the mix are generous doses of Bishop’s picking and terrific slide guitar chops. Serving as the perfect second guitarist, Bob Welsh plays some slide himself, and check the dual harmony guitar licks Elvin and Bob display in “Travelin’ Shoes.”
As mentioned above, the DVD includes a bonus interview of Elvin Bishop taped at his Hog Heaven Studio. This is the best recorded interview of Elvin, tracing his life and career from the farms of Oklahoma, through his Blues apprenticeship in Chicago, to his breakout as a solo star (including his top ten hit “Fooled Around and Fell in Love” sung by Mickey Thomas), all the way to his present career. Elvin Bishop's music has been making people smile for over 50 years, and Elvin has performed and recorded with music legends such as B.B. King, John Lee Hooker and the Allman Brothers.
Overall, this show is incredibly fun, the musicians are all spot on experienced professionals, and the production and camera work are outstanding. Far from an aging, jaded and tired star going through the motions of another performance, Elvin Bishop is obviously in control and having a good time, and you can see the audience is, too. This DVD is a great addition to any Blues fan’s library.
Reviewer James "Skyy Dobro" Walker is a noted Blues writer, DJ, Master of Ceremonies, and Blues Blast 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.
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