Tinsley Ellis Coming to Franke Center on Saturday, November 21, 2015

The Eaton Blues Series continues at the Franke Center for the Arts in Marshall on Saturday, November 21, when Tinsley Ellis returns to the main stage.

Tinsley Ellis at the Franke Center, April 7, 2012

Tinsley Ellis at the Franke Center, April 7, 2012

Tinsley Ellis easily ranks as one of today’s most electrifying blues-rock guitarists and vocalists. He approaches his music with rock power and blues feeling, in the same tradition as his Deep South musical heroes Duane Allman and Freddie King, and his old friends Derek Trucks and Warren Haynes. Since first hitting the national scene in 1988, Ellis has toured non-stop and has released numerous critically acclaimed albums. Rolling Stone writes that his guitar skills “rival early Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton”.

Born in Atlanta in 1957, Ellis grew up in southern Florida, and first played guitar at age eight. He soon was immersed in the music of British Invasion bands The Yardbirds, The Animals, Cream, and The Rolling Stones, and especially loved the Kings — Freddie, B.B. and Albert. Ellis’s live performances have become legendary for their unique blend of blistering guitar licks and soulful vocals.

Tinsley Ellis with Albert Castiglia and Coco Montoya and the 2014 Kalamazoo Blues Festival

Tinsley Ellis with Albert Castiglia and Coco Montoya and the 2014 Kalamazoo Blues Festival

Tinsley Ellis at the Franke, April, 2012

Tinsley Ellis at the Franke, April, 2012

This is the second appearance at the Franke Center for Tinsley Ellis, who last performed there in April, 2012.  And those who were fortunate enough to catch him at the 2014 Kalamazoo Blues Festival will remember not only his solo performance, but his outstanding turn on stage with fellow Festival performers Coco Montoya and Albert Castiglia.

Acoustic blues in the Downstage Club starts at 7:00 pm, with beer, wine and soft drinks available. The main stage show starts at 8:00 pm. Tickets are $26 advance, $28 at the door, and can be purchased at www.frankecenterforthearts.org, or by calling the box office at 269-781-0001. Student tickets are half price.

2015-16 KVBA Sunday Blues Series Lineup Announced!

SWB, Marci Linn Band To Open Series Sunday, November 8, at Shakespeare’s Lower Level

Fall is upon us, with its shorter days and cooler temperatures, which means it’s time for the KVBA Sunday Series!  The popular live music tradition resumes in November, as the Kalamazoo Valley Blues Association once again presents the Sunday Blues Series, a fundraising event for the Kalamazoo Blues Festival.  As in previous years, this season’s event presents four “double-header” shows, each featuring a pair of local blues bands who’ll take the stage at Shakespeare’s to fill a chilly Sunday afternoon with hot music, great friends and good fun.12108809_1171435396217911_1667927689973825226_n

On Sunday, November 8, the series will kick off with SWB at 3:00 pm, followed by the Marci Linn Band at 5:00.  Doors open at 2:00, and the charge is $6.00 at the door, or buy a series pass for only $20–a great deal!  All proceeds go to help stage the 23rd Annual Kalamazoo Blues Festival, July 7-9, 2016.

A Kalamazoo-based blues/rock band comprised of Dave Sabin and Tim Williams, veterans of the local blues scene, and Jason Barber on bass, Kalamazoo’s SWB (Sabin Williams Band) plays a mix of classic and contemporary blues, and blues rock. Dave and Tim, formerly of BluesTime, have been performing together for 7 years.10421151_537142606396528_6165608076452226957_n

Dave Sabin (guitar and vocals) is a veteran player with 10 years touring with the band Radioactive. After retiring from the road, Dave attended local jams, playing with many area bands and musicians. Originally from Jackson, Dave now resides in the Kalamazoo area. Tim Williams (drums & vocals) was raised in Marshall and has been playing drums since age 10. He studied Music Education at Central Michigan University, and played in CMU’s Percussion Ensemble. He has performed in various groups and DJ’d since college. Jason Barber (bass & vocals) is a student in Kalamazoo, and has been playing bass since age 13. He’s played with various groups including Toddzilla and Hot Pot of Coffee. Together they make a very unique band, appealing to all ages.
Marci Linn and her musical colleagues have been serving a rich blend of blue-eyed soul to audiences across southwest Michigan and beyond for several years, and listeners come up the winners every time. The Marci Linn Band is anchored by Linn, a longtime fixture on the regional music scene, and her husband, Jim Beebe, a veteran blues musician in his own right.   Hailing from Lansing, Mich., Linn started singing in bands in the early 80’s and has toured nationally.  As lead singer for Loaded Dice, she was instrumental in helping that band win the 2002 Kalamazoo Valley Blues Association talent contest and an all-expense-paid trip to the 2003 International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tenn.

Marci Linn and Jim Beebe of the Marci Linn Band

Marci Linn and Jim Beebe of the Marci Linn Band

Beebe also is a familiar force on the regional scene and beyond, with 20-plus years on the scene that include time in such well-known bands as Blueshouse, Dr. Bones and the Skeletones, Three City Five and Night Train. Beebe and the rest of Three City Five were hired to back up legendary bluesman and recording artist Robert Ward in 1998 on a club tour. Said Ward, after a date at Buddy Guy’s Legends, “He plays the guitar as well as anybody that ever put it on.”

Rounding out the Marci Linn Band are  bassist extraordinaire Greg Orr, guitarist Geoff Stockton, and Mike Curtis on drums. Greg Orr and Mike Curtis are also alum of Three City Five, and carry on that fine band’s reputation for stellar musicianship.


So mark your calendars for the afternoon of Sunday, November 8, as well as December 13, January 10, and February 14, and plan to come on down to Shakespeare’s Pub, lower level, to hear two great local blues bands and support the 23rd Annual Kalamazoo Blues Festival at the same time! This is a unique opportunity to hear two bands on the same stage, enjoy an afternoon of great music, good food and drink, and good friendship, and support your local blues festival!  Sundays at Shakespeare’s! See you there!




Bobby Whitlock & Coco Carmel Whitlock At The Beachland Ballroom With Special Guest Angelo Santelli

By Mike Irelan
We went to Cleveland, Ohio and the Beachland Ballroom to see our friend Angelo Santelli back Bobby Whitlock and his wife Coco. We were not disappointed!

Mike Irelan with Angelo Santelli and Bobby Whitlock

Mike Irelan with Angelo Santelli and Bobby Whitlock

Bobby told stories of his life and music that led into a song. He and his wife played acoustic guitar and Angelo held down the electric portion. During the first song both Bobby and Coco looked back in amazement at what Angelo was playing, and at one point in the evening, Coco touched her heart and motioned to Angelo. Bobby explained that that somebody had kept sending him videos of a guitar player, saying “you got to hear this guy”! Bobby kept dragging his feet to do it, until Coco said “just listen and be done with it”! He listened and got on the phone to Angelo: end of story! Angelo was hired.

Angelo Santelli With Bobby Whitlock and Coco Carmel Whitlock

Angelo Santelli With Bobby Whitlock and Coco Carmel Whitlock

We heard several songs from the “Layla” LP along with other songs Bobby had written. Coco also played some sax, and Bobby switched to keyboards at the end. It was a night of truly great music.

Angelo, who had moved to Sarasota, Florida, has grown into a full-blown hired gun of an axe man! His time down there was well spent! I think it is safe to say we will hear a lot more from and about him in the future.

Angelo Santelli With Bobby and Coco Carmel Whitlock

Angelo Santelli With Bobby and Coco Carmel Whitlock

The Danielle Nicole Band at the Kalamazoo State Theater, October 10, 2015

By Nick Hatzinikolis

Did you ever wonder how cool or awesome it would be to open for and share the same stage with a real “major artist” when you are out on the road promoting your own EP and CD?

Danielle Nicole and Brandon Miller of the Danielle Nicole Band

Danielle Nicole and Brandon Miller of the Danielle Nicole Band

Well, the Kansas City-based Danielle Nicole and her band had that very opportunity recently when they opened for someone named, maybe you heard of him… Buddy Guy, on October 10, at the beautiful Kalamazoo State Theatre. No pressure right?

As a veteran musician, Danielle Nicole has already spent several years on the road touring with her brothers, Nick and Kris Schnebelen, in the popular band Trampled Under Foot. After several acclaimed self-released albums, Trampled Under Foot released “Badlands” on July 9, 2013. “Badlands” debuted at #1 on Billboard’s Blues Chart, and Trampled Under Foot performed live throughout the United States and Europe in support of the album.

After 13 years, Trampled Under Foot wound down and was over. Not wasting any time, Danielle formed her own band and recorded and released a New Orleans-flavored, blues-soul based EP, featuring GRAMMY®-winning producer-guitarist Anders Osborne. Danielle Nicole already had a solid blues foundation, but as she mentioned from the Kalamazoo State Theatre stage, “I found that groove — or new variations of it — in New Orleans”.

Danielle Nicole with Nick Hatzinikolis of the KVBA

Danielle Nicole with Nick Hatzinikolis of the KVBA

The singer-bass player Danielle Nicole and her band are out on the road on her first tour as a solo artist in support of her CD “Wolf Den” on Concord Records, where she once again worked with Anders Osborne. “Wolf Den” went on sale September 25th, 2015. You can hear and feel that Big Easy influence on the “Wolf Den” tracks she played on stage, from the sexy jazz-blues licks of “It Ain’t You” to the funk-heavy “How You Gonna Do Me Like That. “ Her set list also included “I Feel Like Breaking Up Somebody’s Home”, “You Only Need Me”, and the title track to her new CD “Wolf Den”.

From the first song, she had the crowd in the palm of her hand. It was obvious to all in the theatre that this girl’s got it. Everything was there, the funky, the blues, along with the soul that came pouring out of her as she was dancing about the stage while playing to and with her band mates and a very enthusiastic crowd.

I had the chance to talk to Danielle Nicole at her merchandise table in between a lot of adoring fans coming up to her table wanting to meet her, and the paying customers who were purchasing her EP and CD’s and taking pictures of her, and occasionally her guitarist Brandon Miller. Danielle Nicole mentioned to me that “when Brandon was a teenager, he would come to my jams, even when he wasn’t old enough to be in the bar, and the owner would have to leave the back door open in case the cops showed up so he could get him out. That was the trick back then.”

Danielle Nicole and Brandon Miller sign the KVBA raffle guitar, with Colleen Barker of the KVBA

Danielle Nicole and Brandon Miller sign the KVBA raffle guitar, with Colleen Barker of the KVBA

Danielle Nicole went on to introduce and talk glowingly about the rest of her band mates, Jan Faircloth (drums), and her new husband and keyboardist, Mike “Shinetop” Sedovic. Both Jan and “Shinetop” were part of her previous band Trampled Under Foot.

I asked Danielle Nicole how her brothers were doing and what projects they were part of. Kris is currently playing drums with the South Florida guitarist Albert Castiglia, and her other Brother Nick is playing guitar in his own band The Nick Schnebelen Band touring around the country.

“It’s really weird not being out with my brothers. Being out my own under name rather than the band and the democracy, it all falls on me. But it’s been great! I love writing new stuff, and doing any song I want to do. We still have the family feel with this band. It’s working out and it feels good!”

Catch Danielle Nicole on Facebook, and on her web site: daniellenicolekc.com

Buddy Guy WSG Danielle Nicole at the Kalamazoo State Theater, Saturday, October 10, 8:00 pm


Reserved Seating: Gold Circle $100, $65 Orchestra/Front of Mezzanine, $55 Rest of Orchestra, Back of Mezzanine/Balcony $45, More
Stop in person or order online here!

Ticket Information:
All seating is reserved and this is an ALL ages show
$100 Gold Circle – Best 26 seats in the house!
$65 Orchestra 7 rows directly behind Gold Circle & first 3 rows of Mezzanine
$55 Remaining Orchestra
$45 Remaining Mezzanine & All Balcony

“Every time we would finish a session,” says Buddy Guy, “if everybody felt good about it, we’d say, ’Let’s do another.’ You need about 14, 15 songs for an album, but we had passed 18 songs and I said, ‘Man, when is this going to be over?’ But they kept throwing songs at me, and every damn thing we cut sounded pretty good. I got the word back that the label thought maybe it was a good idea to put two CDs out—one of them the slow stuff, more for listening, and the other, like B.B. King said, if you want to boogie-woogie all night long.”

The result has a title both simple and clever: Rhythm & Blues, the first double-album set of his storied career. But more than five decades into a life as one of the world’s leading bluesmen, Buddy Guy is used to new surprises, challenges, and accolades.

At age 78, he’s a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, a major influence on rock titans like Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, and Stevie Ray Vaughan, a pioneer of Chicago’s fabled West Side sound, and a living link to that city’s halcyon days of electric blues. He has received 6 Grammy Awards, along with a 2015 Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award, 34 Blues Music Awards (the most any artist has received), the Billboard magazine Century Award for distinguished artistic achievement, and the Presidential National Medal of Arts. Rolling Stone ranked him in the top 25 of its “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.”

2012, in fact, has proven to be one of Guy’s most remarkable ever. He was awarded the 2012 Kennedy Center Honors for lifetime contribution to American culture; earlier in the year, at a performance at the White House, he even persuaded President Obama to join him on a chorus of “Sweet Home Chicago.”

Also in 2012, he published his long-awaited memoir, When I Left Home, and released Live at Legends, which was nominated for Best New Recording in the Living Blues Awards. Meanwhile, Guy keeps looking to the future of the blues through his ongoing work with his 15-year-old protégé, Quinn Sullivan.

Now the story continues with Rhythm & Blues, 21 tracks which feature contributions from a stellar and wide-ranging set of guests, including Steven Tyler, Joe Perry, and Brad Whitford of Aerosmith and rising guitar wizard Gary Clark, Jr. “If you watch a ballgame, it seems like those guys are angry at one another, but when they finish playing, they go out and have drinks together,” says Guy. “Musicians were doing that before anybody—we don’t have rivals as far as who can outplay who, but we have so much fun letting other people think that’s what it is. So it’s really a blessing to have all of these guys on here.”

He had a specific inspiration for a duet with his friend Kid Rock, realizing that “Messin’ with the Kid”—a 1960 hit for Guy’s long-time partner Junior Wells—was a perfect fit lyrically and musically. “I was surprised he hadn’t gotten there himself,” says Guy. “I saw him at the White House and I thought, ‘I ain’t gonna tell him, ’cause he might go and do it himself, I’m going to wait until I can do it!” I threw it at him and he jumped the fence—he did a hell of a job with it.”

Probably the most unexpected guest on Rhythm & Blues (which was produced by Guy’s frequent collaborator Tom Hambridge, and recorded at Nashville’s Blackbird Studios) is country superstar Keith Urban, who joins Guy on an emotional ballad called “One Day Away.” Guy maintains that he was well aware of Urban’s instrumental prowess before they teamed up. “I listen to everything, regardless of what type of music it’s branded,” he says. “If I hear a guitar that makes me pat my feet, and try to not go to sleep ’cause I’m afraid I might miss something, it’s all right with me. Any guy who can think about playing music is a friend of mine, and the door is always open.”

One song in particular jumped out at Guy, a funky travelogue called “Meet Me In Chicago” written by slide guitar maestro Robert Randolph. “I really fell in love with that one,” he says. “I been in Chicago 56 years—that sounds just like me. It’s not really blues, but it’s a good beat, so I wanted to see if I could do something with it.”

Though Buddy Guy will forever be associated with Chicago, his story actually begins in Louisiana. One of five children, he was born in 1936 to a sharecropper’s family and raised on a plantation near the small town of Lettsworth, located some 140 miles northwest of New Orleans. Buddy was just seven years old when he fashioned his first makeshift “guitar”—a two-string contraption attached to a piece of wood and secured with his mother’s hairpins. On the new album, he recounts these days on such deeply personal songs as “I Came Up Hard” and “My Mama Loved Me.”

In 1957, he took his guitar to Chicago, where he would permanently alter the direction of the instrument, first on numerous sessions for Chess Records playing alongside Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, and the rest of the label’s legendary roster, and then on recordings of his own. His incendiary style—still in evidence all over Rhythm & Blues—left its mark on guitarists from Jimmy Page to John Mayer. “He was for me what Elvis was probably like for other people,” said Eric Clapton at Guy’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction in 2005. “My course was set, and he was my pilot.”

These many years later, Buddy Guy is a genuine American treasure, and one of the final surviving connections to an historic era in the country’s musical evolution. And still, as one glorious track on Rhythm & Blues puts it, he claims that “All That Makes Me Happy is the Blues.”

“I worry a lot about the legacy of Muddy, Wolf, and all the guys who created this stuff,” he says. “I want people to remember them. It’s like the Ford car—Henry Ford invented the Ford car, and regardless how much technology they got on them now, you still have that little sign that says ‘Ford’ on the front.

“One of the last things Muddy Waters told me—when I found out how ill he was, I gave him a call and said, ‘I’m on my way to your house.’ And he said, ‘Don’t come out here, I’m doing all right. Just keep the damn blues alive.’ They all told me that if they left here before I did, then everything was going to be on my shoulders. So as long as I’m here, I’m going to do whatever I can to keep it alive.”

Official Website here.

Danielle Nicole

A 2014 Blues Music Award winner, there’s not a time in her life that singer/ bassist/ songwriter Danielle Nicole (born Danielle Nicole Schnebelen) doesn’t remember loving to perform. As a child, she would sing for her family at holidays and took tap, jazz and ballet lessons for many years competing in numerous events. Danielle also took band in middle school, playing the tenor saxophone and enjoying it quite a bit. Unfortunately, she was forced to quit when the family moved to Kansas City and the new school did not offer band.

Danielle comes from generations of singers. Her grandmother, Evelyn Skinner, was a big band singer. Danielle’s mother, Lisa Swedlund, taught her everything she knew while growing up and listening to all different kinds of music from the Everly Brothers to the B-52s.

It wasn’t until she was 12 that Danielle took to the stage for the first time singing, Koko Taylor’s “Never Trust a Man” at a Blues for Schools program that her parents were playing at Englewood Elementary. From then on, she knew music would be her passion for the rest of her life.

Danielle began singing in coffeehouses and at open mic events at age 14, jamming with her parents whenever she could at clubs that would allow minors. At 16, she began singing lead in her father’s band, Little Eva and the Works – until he became too sick to play. In March of 1999, she started her own band, Fresh Brew, with Kansas City music veterans Steve Gronemeyer, Steve Hicks, Chuck Payne and Terry Roney. They performed for four years and even represented Kansas City in the International Blues Challenge.

It was during this time that Danielle and her brothers Nick and Kris began talking about a family band that would eventually become Trampled Under Foot. Not only did she and Kris have to move to Philadelphia (where Nick was living), but she would have to learn the bass guitar to keep it a family band. It took a few years of lessons and saving money before that could become reality.

After several acclaimed self-released albums, Trampled Under Foot released Badlandson July 9, 2013 on Telarc, a division of Concord Music Group. Toughened by years of nonstop roadwork, Badlands revealed a musical sophistication well beyond the band’s years.

On Badlands, the band worked with veteran producer Tony Braunagel at his Ultratone Studios in California. The drummer in the Phantom Blues Band, Braunagel played some percussion on the album and recruited veteran keyboardist Mike Finnigan (Jimi Hendrix, Bonnie Raitt, Etta James) to play keys. Johnny Lee Schell, who also recorded the album, added acoustic guitar to one track and John Porter mixed the final results at Independent Street Studios in New Orleans.

Badlands debuted at #1 on Billboard’s Blues Chart and Trampled Under Foot performed live throughout the United States and Europe in support of the album.

As Trampled Under Foot wound down after 13 years, Danielle formed her own band and now makes her Concord Records solo debut with the March 10, 2015 release of a New Orleans-flavored, blues-soul based EP, featuring GRAMMY®-winning producer-guitaristAnders Osborne, Galactic’s co-founding drummer Stanton Moore and her regular keyboardist Mike “Shinetop, Jr.” Sedovic.

The self-titled EP is an introduction to Danielle as a formidable solo artist. A full length album is currently scheduled for release in late summer 2015, featuring more music created in New Orleans with Osborne, Moore and Sedovic.

The 22 Annual Kalamazoo Blues Festival Revisited

A Retrospective, by Tim Richards (don’t miss Tim’s complete photo gallery below)
Once again, the fine folks at the Kalamazoo Valley Blues Association (KVBA) brought together a great blend of local, regional and national talent to provide a weekend of blues that was second to none. Located in the beautiful Arcadia Festival Park in Downtown Kalamazoo, the festival does something that more festivals need to do. They use two stages adjacent to each other; one, a permanent bandshell and the other, a portable stage. So there is never a lapse in the music. As one stage is being used, the other is being set up. A tented area is provided in case the crowd needs a break from the sun, and a water mister is available where you can walk through and cool off.


But there is much more I like about this festival than the stages. It’s an educational experience as well. They have free workshops Friday and Saturday designed to teach you various aspects of the blues. On Friday, Tim Brouhard and Doug Beckman show you DIY instruments including Canjos, Diddley-Bo’s, Boomboards and more. Saturday, harpist extraordinaire Dave Hunt will instruct you on the beginning aspects of the harmonica and, after that, will spend time with the more advanced players for discussions on the more technical points of playing. Saturday also sees two more workshops: with Dave Allemang on beginning blues guitar, focusing on the basic 12-bar structure and rhythmic grooves, and Bryan Blowers teaching the most distinctive sound in blues music, the slide and Dobro guitar. So it’s not just about sitting and listening to music, there is much more to it because KVBA is aware that for blues to survive, it has to be handed down.

And speaking of handing down, KVBA also has a scholarship program aptly named for fallen comrade “Boogie Woogie” Bob Peters who passed away in 2010. With the help of Bob’s family, the KVBA awards the scholarship to a high school senior who shares Bob’s passion for music to keep the blues alive. This year’s recipient was Shelby Lentz, who after receiving her check performed one of her original compositions for the appreciative crowd.
Things kicked off with Groove Platter, a quartet of local musicians that knows how to find the groove and keep it rolling. With special guests Megan Dooley (vocals/guitar) and Nick Baxter (percussion), the band featured the guitar and vocals of Greg Shackleford and Ben Kim whilethe bottom was held together by Q-nardo Edmonson on bass and DeShawn Wilkerson on drums, with Jay Hunt on sax and synth. They were perfect as openers and got the people toe-tappin and finger snappin’.
Following that groove was the Gator Blues Trio, featuring the guitar stylings and vocals of Jim Klein and the bass and vocals of Tom Elliot, all rounded out by the rock solid drumming of Bryon Tabor. The trio combined all the different styles of blues and even stretched out into the jazz realm with some of their innovative arrangements. They definitely were up to the task of keeping the high level of entertainment rolling along.

Lansing, MI- based Kathleen & the Bridge Street Band are no strangers to the area and, while only three years old, they have built a large fan base by presenting quality music. Kicking things off with the Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings tune “100 Days, 100 Nights”, Kathleen led the band through its paces. No matter how good the singer is, if the backing band isn’t strong it’s all a waste. But no worries here; this band can jam, and jam they did. With special guest, original guitarist Steve Dely, the band set the pace while the crowd hung on as they mixed soul, blues and a little rock. Relying on the rhythm section of Eric Payne on drums and Tim Brouhard on bass, harp and trombone to keep things on the straight and narrow, the guitar work of Doug Fitch was complimented by Jon Gewirtz on sax. As any good leader should, Kathleen stepped aside and allowed the band member to stretch and showcase their abilities in extended jams, including one where harpist Tim Brouhard jumped off the stage and danced with a young member of the audience (turns out it was his daughter) who couldn’t have been more than 4 years old, proving that everybody from young to old has fun at this blues festival.

It’s been nine years since Rev. Payton’s Big Damn Band’s last performance at this festival, and if the Rev has anything to say about it, it won’t be that long until his next appearance. Armed with his blazing finger-picking guitar style and his roughhewn vocals, the Rev was in a “take no prisoners” mode. Backed by Breezy Payton on vocals and washboard and drummer/vocalist Ben Russell, the band’s all-or-nothing style was contagious. And, soon the crowd was gathered around the stage and clapping and singing along while the whirling dervish trio brought an almost tent revival atmosphere to the festival. The Rev’s song topics vary from cell phones to life on the road, and are all sung with honesty and a “this is who we are” attitude. With the band encouraging the crowd to join them in a call and response on several occasions, the audience was more than willing to clap their hands, stomp their feet and scream. As I watched, I saw many people singing the words to most if not all of their music. After they ended their set with Breezy twirling her flaming washboard, the band spent quite a while signing CD’s and posing for pictures with their fans new and old.

Here was a question mark for me: while I’d seen guitar wizard Josh Roberts on several occasions, I had never seen the Ghost Town Blues Band before, even though they have played in my home town. I had a conflict and couldn’t get there, but that won’t happen again. This band is a high energy-driven band that, with their take no prisoners approach, leaves an audience drained but supremely happy. Mixing blues, funk and rock, they just don’t slow the pace for 90 minutes.It’s a full frontal assault on your senses and you like it! They have the ability and talent to change direction at the drop of the hat, going from raw country blues to urban funk to Allman Brothers jams. At the center of all it is Matt Asbell (guitar/vocals/cigarbox guitar/trombone), backed by the locomotive-like rhythm section of Preston McEwen (drums) and Matthew Karner (bass/sax).The icing on this musical cake consists of Josh Roberts (guitar), Jeremy Powell (Keyboards/trumpet), and Suvavo Jones (trombone). They even stopped during their set and shot T-shirts out in to the audience. They are a must see!

Day two of the festival was another fine day to look forward to with sunny skies and warm temperatures, and it was going to be one fine day of blues. Mortals 2 are a group of veteran musicians who first worked together in the 1980’s as Mere Mortals. Two of the founding members, Jimmy Philips (guitar/vocals) and Denny Anderson (drums/percussion), have reformed along with bassist Terry James to form this power trio. For this performance, they added guitarist Brendon Frank. Pulling songs from their first CD “Listen Up” and blending them seamlessly with classics from Cream and Hendrix, these guys were out to make an impression, and I believe they accomplished their goal. Perfect start!
A Kalamazoo favorite, the Marci Linn Band, fronted by singer Marci Linn and backed by Jim Beebe on guitar, Greg Orr on bass, Mike Curtis on drums and Geoff Stockton on guitar, covers the spectrum of blues from old to new and even takes side trips into R&B, which fits their musical style perfectly. Dressed like a ‘50’s chanteuse, Marci led the band through a rousing set that encouraged dancers and hand clappers to crowd the front of the stage to enjoy firsthand the musicals talents of this quartet.

Next was a band I was familiar within name only. Canadian based, they are just now starting to venture into the U.S. and are quickly gaining a large fan base. The 24th Street Wailers originally met in music school and are all drawn to the same style of rough and tumble music from the 50’s and early 60’s. I hesitate to call them rock-a-billy, because they cover a much broader base than that. How about if I just call them really good? Drummer/vocalist Linsey Beaver never wavers in her driving drum work, and that provides a solid anchor for guitarist Elliot Sowell, keyboardist Jesse Whitely and saxophonist Jon Wong, while bassist Mike Archer seals the deal. Their material is fresh and the few covers they did were given their special touch.

I first saw Scott Holt when he was playing with Buddy Guy. I won’t say how many years ago that was, but suffice it to say it was more than a few. Now fronting a three piece blues/rock power trio, Holt has not lost that firebrand style that stood out with Buddy. Backed by drummer Ray Gonzales and bassist Doug Swanson, he tore through his set like it was his last chance at redemption. Drawing hits from all seven of his solo releases, he clearly was a fan favorite. It must have been something in the water, but just about every guitar player strolled through the crowd and Scott was no exception. He handed his guitar off to different people and let them attempt to play, even giving it to a person in a pig costume. Never a dull moment.

As many times as I’ve seen her, I never tire of hearing that huge booming voice of Shemekia Copeland. Her range is seemingly endless as she effortlessly soars though every song, and she has so much control that whether it’s a whisper or a roar, it’s always tone perfect. I’ll guarantee you that every person heard every word she sang when she walked to the front of the stage without a microphone. Running the gambit of her catalog, she was open and friendly and chatted up the audience telling stories as she went. Always the ultimate entertainer, tonight was no exception. Backed by long time guitarist Arthur Neilson, joined by guitarist Willie Scandlyn, bassist Kevin Jenkins and drummer Robin Gould, Shemekia wove her spell on the crowd, and they gave back with thunderous applause ringing off the surrounding buildings.

Day three of the fest is one that showcases more local and regional talent, starting with the Shoestring Blues Jam. While only a few months old, the band draws on a multitude of blues influences from old to new. Formed by drummer Mike Mills, who enlists the rockin’ blues style of bassist/vocalist Lynnie K., Shoestring includes guitarist Rich Edwards adding the roots element, while lead guitarist Marcus Gidding brings the funk into the mix. And it’s all topped off by Luke Palmer’s abilities on harp, vocals, and slide guitar. From BB to Stevie, it’s all good for these players.
Hunt & Gator have been around the area for years, playing in different bands and now as a duo. That distinction won them a spot at the 2015 IBC event in Memphis. Dave Allemang (guitar/harp/vocals) and Dave Hunt (harp/vocals/mini scrub board) have a way of taking classic songs and giving them a twist to make them unique. Though both are stand-out musicians, together they create a distinctive sound.
Hailing from Grand Rapids, MI, Barrelhouse Catts fuses blues with R&B, soul, Motown and a healthy dose of funk. The Barrelhouse Catts have been on the scene a number of years, and show no signs of slowing down. Drawing on each member’s musical knowledge, the band meshes its various styles seamlessly. Building off the bass lines laid down by Russell “Tazz” Bullen and backbeat by drummer Papa Chief, the band comes together with the guitar work of Clark Witherspoon and harpist/vocalist Patrick Mohr. Then it’s all topped off by vocalist Donna Cattenhead. Together they are a winning combination.

For sixteen years, Stan Budzynski & 3rd Degree has been quenching the blues thirst in the Lansing Area of central Michigan. The core of the band has been playing together since 1999 with the newest member coming onboard in 2007. They combine the best of the Chicago sound with Detroit soul mixed with the best of their own influences, resulting in a first-class band. Featuring guitarist/vocalist Stan Budzynski, his special tone is accompanied by Greg Hodge on keyboards, drummer Dan Mead, and it’s all tied together by bassist/vocalist Ron Bretz. Mixing covers with originals, Stan included my favorite, Jeff Beck’s “Cause We Ended as Lovers”. Made my day.
That brings us to the Big Boss Blues Band. These guys are all from the West Michigan area, and always seem to be working. Why? Because they can lay down some serious blues. Each member brings a slice of the musical pie to the table, which causes their sound to fall together like pieces of a musical puzzle. No band can do that without a solid rhythm section, which gives this band a substantial advantage. With bassist Bill LaValley and drummer Eric Busch paving the way, guitarist/vocalist Charlie Schantz and harpist/vocalist Joe Ferguson are free to perform their magic. With the release of their first CD in June, the band continues to bring a fresh attitude to blues.

I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Jim Shaneberger since he was a skinny little kid and watched him grow into an amazing singer/songwriter/guitarist. Now fronting the band that carries his name, he and his bandmates are pushing the envelope of blues/rock. This power trio has released their debut CD entitled “Work in Progress”, which I believe applies to the band perfectly. Anchored by the powerhouse drummer Karl Schantz, and bassist Jeff Baldus, they provide a solid platform for Shaneberger to lay down some blistering leads to accompany his roughhewn vocals. As their music continue to grow, so does their fan base.

Here was a question mark for me. My friend Larry Lisk (KBA winner in 2014) told me not to miss her and to be prepared for some powerful vocals. Well, now my interest was piqued. Crystal Shawanda has abandoned her country roots and has found the blues and fallen in love with them. Her new CD is an all blues release entitled “The Whole World’s Got the Blues”. One can’t help but compare her voice to Janis Joplin, Dana Fuchs and Beth Hart, just to name a few. Crystal has evolved from Nashville roots to a passionate love affair with the blues, and in doing so has forged her future in music. The whirling dervish of energy on stage, she was backed by DeWayne Strobel on guitar, Nioshi Jackson on drums and Nalani Clissett on bass. You’d be hard pressed to find a more energy-packed set.

Everybody knows Larry McCray and if you don’t, then you’ve been living in a cave. A leader in contemporary blues, Larry has been cranking out the blues since his debut release in 1990, “Ambition”. He certainly doesn’t lack any of that. He has a long history with music starting with his sister Clara, a guitarist who Larry says taught him about the three Kings (Albert, BB, and Freddie). And later, he expanded his range with influences from musicians like Jimi Hendrix and other contemporaries. Larry’s first foray into music was backed by brothers Carl and Steve. Steve is still providing a foundation on the drums for Larry, who now has added bassist Kenny Clark, rhythm guitarist Carlton Washington and keyboardist Bill Thompson. Wherever Larry plays, you see the same thing: the crowd surges towards the stage to be closer to a person who knows no enemies and turns no fan away.

I hadn’t seen Dawn Tyler Watson since she was at this festival in 1999. Some things get better with age, and she is definitely one of them. Backed by the Ben Racine Band, Watson tore it up! What most people didn’t know was that she almost didn’t make the festival. Problems getting into the country took many calls to various government officials to help solve the situation, but all’s well that ends well, and believe me, it was worth the wait. Born in England and raised in Ontario, Watson has degrees in jazz studies and theater from Concordia University and has become an accomplished singer/songwriter and actress, all of which is evident when she graces the stage. Before she took the stage, the Ben Racine Band started a fire that Watson would pour gasoline on. Featuring Ben Racine on Vox guitar, Laurent St. Pierre on drums, Charles Trudel on keyboards, Duth Dube on bass and the mighty horns of Frank Thiffaut (tenor sax) and Moose Moosseau (baritone sax), it was an amazing performance on all counts, and she won over a mass of new admirers.

I’d seen Southern Hospitality as individual performers, but never together. It was a full on hi-revving musical barrage. When you combine the immense talent that was on the stage, it’s mind-boggling to think that they can exist without self-destructing. It’s happened to so many “super groups” in the past that it seems pre-ordained. But these guys seem different…more laid back in personalities…that southern thing. Instead of mining each performer’s catalog of songs, they have all written songs expressly for this band. With the talents of Damon Fowler on guitar/lap steel/vocals, JP Soars on guitar/cigarbox guitar/vocals and Victor Wainwright on keyboards/vocals, you can add drummer Chris Peet and bassist Matt Walker to the foray. Man, they were a non-stop musical overload that had everybody on their feet. What a perfect way to end the festival.

Once again, the KVBA scored a knockout with a festival that has the best of music, presentation and class of any festival I attend. Many thanks to the KVBA staff for their generous hospitality. It was great to see old faces and make new friends. I’m already looking forward to next year.
© Tim Richards

2015 Blues Blast Music Awards Winners


And The Winners Are…

Contemporary Blues Album
Elvin Bishop – Can’t Even Do Wrong Right
Traditional Blues Album
Mud Morganfield & Kim Wilson – For Pops

Soul Blues Album
Otis Clay & Johnny Rawls – Soul Brothers
Rock Blues Album
Tinsley Ellis – Tough Love
Acoustic Blues Album
Steve Earle & The Dukes – Terraplane
New Artist Debut Album
Magnus Berg – Cut Me Loose
Live Blues Album
John Mayall – Live in 1967
Historical / Vintage Album
John Mayall – Live in 1967

Blues Band
Mississippi Heat
Male Blues Artist
Elvin Bishop
Female Blues Artist
Marcia Ball
Sean Costello Rising Star Award
Selwyn Birchwood

Johnny Lang At The State Theater, Friday, September 25


Jack Semple To Open Franke Center Season Saturday, September 26

The 2015-16 Franke Center Season Starts September 26 With The Eaton Blues Series, Featuring Canadian Guitarist Jack Semple
Fresh from a total renovation of the facility over the summer, the Franke Center in Marshall reopens on Saturday, September 26 with Canadian blues guitarist Jack Semple and his band. Widely known as the premier blues guitarist in Canada, Semple will bring his blistering guitar playing and soul/R&B-influenced music to the Franke Center as part of the Eaton Blues Series.

Jack Semple

Jack Semple

Jack Semple writes and performs “modern blues” without forgetting where he came from. He is an epic guitarist and a soulful singer. His music is like Stevie Ray Vaughn meets James Brown meets Robben Ford. Listening to and watching Jack play fills one with a sense of having witnessed an event in time, one not soon to be forgotten. Jack Semple is an absolute virtuoso of his art form, playing with unparalleled feeling and total technical control.

Semple grew up on a farm north of Regina, Saskatchewan. He started his musical career playing with various Regina-based bands, and later relocated to Toronto in the late 1980s to become the lead guitarist of The Lincolns, a popular funk and rhythm and blues band. He left the band after  two years and returned to Regina to pursue a solo career and to spend more time with his family. After his move back to Regina, Semple contributed to television and music scores and appeared in the title role of Guitarman, a 1994 television movie. Semple also commenced a solo recording career that has resulted in the release of ten albums. In 1992, Semple came to national prominence through winning the MuchMusic “Guitar Wars” contest. Semple has been twice nominated, in 1999 and 2000, for a Gemini Award for his soundtrack work on the television series “Incredible Story Studio”. Semple won a Juno award in 1991 for best roots recording. He has won two Western Canadian music awards for “Qu’Appelle” and “In the Blue Light”. Semple continues to perform as a solo artist and with The Jack Semple Band across Canada.

Jack Semple

Jack Semple

The Franke Center For The Arts is a small, intimate theater located in historic downtown Marshall, Michigan that is quickly becoming one of the Midwest’s premier concert venues. Our two performance spaces offer a range of entertainment for all ages.

The evening program will start with acoustic blues by Doug Beckman and Cliff Babcock in the Downstage Club at 7:00 PM, followed by Jack Semple on the main stage at 8:00 PM. Beer, wine, and soft drinks will be available. Tickets are $23 in advance and $25 at the door, and can be purchased online at  www.frankecenterforthearts.org or by calling the box office at 269-781-0001. Student tickets are half price. Make your plans now to be at the Franke on September 26 for this rare opportunity to see Canada’s premier blues guitarist!

KVBA Blues Competition A Winner!

Amays & Blue, Kevin Nichols and Blue Tuesday Set For The IBC

by Lynn Headapohl

Thank you to the artists, the blues fans, the friends of the artists, and the judges for supporting blues music in our little piece of paradise we call Kalamazoo at the Kalamazoo Valley Blues Association Blues Competition.  Each and every one of you got a taste of some of the best bands, including two of the finest solo-duo acts, bringing the blues to this area.

Congratulations to our winners, Amays & Blue for solo/duo act and Kevin Nichols and Blue Tuesday in the band category.  All the performers that day were phenomenal, and we know the judges had a difficult time choosing the winners from all the day’s great talent.

Solo/Duo Competition:  Amays & Blue; Bluesy Suzy

Eddie Blue Lester and Alex Mays of Amays & Blue

Eddie Blue Lester and Alex Mays of Amays & Blue

The afternoon was alive with anticipation as vocalist and sax man Eddie Blue Lester and vocalist/guitarist Alex Mays took the stage.  Amays & Blue demonstrated how tasteful restraint can bring blues alive in an acoustic environment.  Mays started out with a Wes Montgomery styling on guitar to introduce B. B. King’s “The Thrill Is Gone”.  Alex’s tasteful backups meshed well as Eddie’s soulful voice told the story.  The real treat was Eddie’s smooth styling on tenor sax, never overstepping the acoustic barrier for the sound the duo created.  Mays proved himself a refined singer/songwriter with his original roots blues song, “Have Mercy”.   His fine bluesy voice was matched by tasteful augmentations from Eddie’s silky sax.

The duo performed seven tunes, including the stepping’ sound of “Read ‘Em & Weep”; “Got It Bad”, a slow stomp where Eddie was able to display his masterful control of the tenor sax; and “Tell Me What You’re Trying To Do”, a sultry, ambling tune you might hear walking down Beale Street.  Changing it up, Alex put a funky spin on “Hard To Handle”, and then closed with “Do Sweet Things”, a John Lee Hooker-style honky tonk where May’s great guitar and Eddie’s sax were the perfect mix for a fun, rousing blues.  It proved to be the winning solo/duo combination for the day.

Band Competition:  Gator Blues; Steve Hilger Band; Kathleen and the Bridge Street Band; Kevin Nichols and Blue Tuesday; Jim Shaneberger Band.

You know a man has positioned himself to win when he wears a suit.  (All bluesmen know this.)  Enter, Kevin, Nichols.  His showing at this competition earned his band the title as the 2016 candidate to represent the KVBA at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tennessee.

Mike Crupi, Kevin Nichols, and Rex Hambone of Kev Nichols and Blue Tuesday

Mike Crupi, Kevin Nichols, and Rex Hambone of Kev Nichols and Blue Tuesday

Kevin, the consummate entertainer, not only brought his “A” game to the day, but added a secret weapon to his arsenal of talented players.  Mike Crupi, a multi-faceted musician, brought keyboards, a lap steel guitar, tenor sax, and harmonica, a combination that enhanced Kevin’s already powerful blues show to sway the judges’ vote in the direction of his “Blue Tuesday” crew.  One would wonder what more could be asked for, with the talents of Tony Riske on guitar, Heather Kulaga on 6-string bass, and the driving power of drummer Rex Hambone, not to mention Kevin’s rock-solid vocals and guitar work.  They took it home with five blazing blues interpretations that never let up, all while taking it to new instrumentation with the addition of Mike Crup playing “everything he could fit on the stage”.

The band opened with the little funk tune “Preachin’ ‘Bout The Blues”, then transitioned to Kevin’s happy tune about “Going Down To Memphis”, where the slide guitar fit gleefully into the incredible guitar mix of Riske and Nichols.  Kevin’s jump beat original “Shame Shame” moved to his unique slow, steamy ballad “(No Kind Of) Angel” that takes the crowd out every time.  He told us about the complex balance of relationships with “Hell Of A Man”, before closing with the bouncy “Ain’t No Closing Time” that encouraged the dancers to take the floor.  Beaming, they took home the win.

As mentioned in the beginning, all the performances were incredible.  The ballots were very close.  Thank you to Amays & Blue, Bluesy Suzy, Gator Blues, Steve Hilger Band, Kathleen and the Bridge Street Band, Kevin Nichols and Blue Tuesday, and the Jim Shaneberger Band for sharing your unique sounds and love of the blues with us.  You are all winners.  In the following weeks, I would like to let you know a little more about each and every one of the participants and the wonderful music their talents bring to our area.  Stay tuned!


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