Reserved Seating: Gold Circle $100, $65 Orchestra/Front of Mezzanine, $55 Rest of Orchestra, Back of Mezzanine/Balcony $45, More
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$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.
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.
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
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
Male Blues Artist
Female Blues Artist
Sean Costello Rising Star Award
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 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.
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!
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
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.
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!
Don’t miss one of the first big blues events of the fall, when the Kalamazoo Valley Blues Association offers the annual Kalamazoo Blues Competition on Sunday, September 13, in the Lower Level at Shakespeare’s Pub!
This event offers local and regional blues acts a chance to compete to win a spot on the stages at the 32nd Annual International Blues Challenge (IBC), to be held January 26-30, 2016, in Memphis, Tennessee. The IBC bills itself accurately as “the largest gathering of blues musicians in the world”, and is an event that has to be experienced to be fully appreciated–over 200 blues acts from all over the world, each performing at the top of its game.
The 2015 Kalamazoo Blues Competition will feature two acts in the Solo/Duo Category, and five in the Band Category. Competing acts perform in the same time format as the acts at the IBC, and the judges use the same scoring system as the judges in Memphis. The winning band will receive a $1000 donation towards its expenses at the IBC, while the solo/duo act receives a donation of $500.
2:00 – 2:30 Amays & Blue: a recently formed duo that pairs popular local musicians Alex Mays and Eddie Blue Lester, of Crossroads Resurrection.
2:45 – 3:15 Bluesy Suzy: well-known Kalamazoo singer/songwriter Susan Harrison.
3:30 – 4:00 The Gator Blues Band: Jim Kline, Tom Elliott, and Bryon Taber, three highly experienced and talented musicians with an outstanding approach to rhythm and blues / jazz.
4:15 – 4:45 The Steve Hilger Band: original progressive blues and jazz.
5:00 – 5:30 Kathleen & The Bridge Street Band: longtime Lansing songstress Kathleen Walters teaming up with a great group for blues, soul, rock and r & b.
5:45 – 6:15 Kevin Nichols & Blue Tuesday: 6 times a semi-finalist at the IBC, Kev appears with Blue Tuesday, a “rockin’ blues band you’re gonna love”.
6:30 – 7:00 The Jim Shaneberger Band: 2014 winner of the Kalamazoo Blues Competition, the Jim Shaneberger Band brings its mix of blues, rock, gospel and funk back for a second time.
Don’t miss this great afternoon of blues, excitement, and fun! Doors open at 1:00, the music starts at 2:00 and runs till 7:00 pm, and the door charge is $8.00.
See you there!
DO YOU LOVE THE BLUES? CARE ABOUT THE BLUES IN OUR COMMUNITY? JOIN THE KVBA BOARD OF DIRECTORS!
Big news, folks: the Kalamazoo Valley Blues Association board of directors is looking for good people who love the blues and live music, and want to see both continue to flourish in our area.
The KVBA has been around for over 20 years and just staged its 22nd Annual Kalamazoo Blues Festival (one of the longest continually running festivals in town). In addition, the KVBA promotes blues music and culture in countless ways, including sponsoring local blues acts each year at the International Blues Challenge (IBC) in Memphis; offering the Boogie-Woogie Bob Peters Musical Scholarship annually to an area high school senior; presenting Blues in the Schools programming to local educational institutions; promoting live music and musical acts through its weekly calendar, band membership benefits, and many other ways; and generally working to help as many people as possible have the chance to hear a great variety of the best of the blues whenever and wherever possible.
So, you ask, what does this mean to me? Well, if you’re an individual with skills and talents (you KNOW you are), a love of the blues, and time to share with the KVBA, the KVBA needs YOU to help continue to make all this great stuff happen. The KVBA is governed by a 12-member (9 voting members and 3 alternates) volunteer board of directors, elected annually to varying terms on the board. Elections are coming up in October (sooner than you think!) and interviews for prospective board members will be held the end of this month. So don’t wait to make your interest known: we need your response by Friday, September 18!
Working with the KVBA is a chance to use your skills to help make something wonderful! Look through the lists below, see where you think you might fit, and tell us why you are interested in being a part of the KVBA board and how you feel you can help.
Skills we need:
- Organizational and/or Project Management skills
- Independent/critical thinking skills
- A positive attitude and a willingness to work on projects independently and with others
- Connections to resources in the business community
- Proven/demonstrated leadership skills
Areas where we need help:
- Technical skills (database management, web design)
- Accounting/bookkeeping/records management and reporting (experience in non-profit accounting a plus)
- Blues in the Schools program management
- Grant Writing
- Graphic Design
- Promotion/Public Relations
- KVBA Historian/Archives/Librarian
Board Member Time commitments:
- Monthly board meetings (usually held on the 2nd Thursday of each month)
- Periodic blues community meetings
- Second Sunday Blues Series
- The annual Kalamazoo Blues Festival (2nd weekend in July)
- Additionally, committee meetings/work is conducted outside the board meeting and can be quite involved at times (depending on the committee)
We want to hear from you! Tell us about yourself, why you are interested in being a part of the KVBA board, and how you feel you can help. Include your full name, phone number and the best times to reach you.
Responses must be received by Friday, September 18. Interviews will be scheduled for the end of September at the KVBA Office. Prospective candidates will be contacted to schedule specific dates and times. Questions can be emailed to email@example.com or left at 269.381.6514. We look forward to hearing from you!
“I Pick Up The Guitar And Forget Everything Else”: Rod “Whitey” Smith of Warren, Michigan Winner of 2015 Kalamazoo Blues Festival Raffle Guitar
Rod “Whitey” Smith, who describes himself as a “basement player”, has some extra inspiration for his music these days. He’s the proud new owner of a 2015 Epiphone guitar bearing the signatures of Larry McCray (one of Whitey’s personal favorites), Reverend Payten, Samantha Fish, Tab Benoit, and many others of the blues performers who’ve visited Kalamazoo in the last year. Whitey and his wife visit several blues festivals around the region during the year, and it was on his second trip to the Kalamazoo Blues Festival that he bought the raffle ticket that was pulled from the jar by J. P. Soars of Southern Hospitality on the final evening of the festival.
“We were already in bed watching TV when we got the call,” Whitey says. “We came over Wednesday night and went to Music on the Mall, and then we were at the festival all three days—we were tired! We left right after Larry McCray, and missed the drawing, so the call came as a real surprise.” He went back to the festival site Sunday morning to collect the guitar and the accompanying album of photographs of performers signing the guitar taken by KVBA photographer Dennis Tuttle throughout the year.
“I haven’t been in a band since I was 17, but I love the music,” says Whitey. “I sit down to play, and everything else leaves my mind.” He and his wife, both retirees, spent the festival weekend in their RV at Kalamazoo’s Markin Glen Park, and had a great time. “I’m ‘old school’”, he says of his taste in music, citing Larry McCray and the 24th Street Wailers as two standouts among the many great acts he saw at the 22nd Annual Kalamazoo Blues Festival. He has a long list of festivals and blues events he and his wife have attended over the years, including Delbert McClinton’s Sandy Beaches Blues Cruise and the Madison, Indiana Ribberfest. They’re headed to the East Ports Blues Festival in Port Sanilac, Michigan in a couple weeks, and after that they hope to hit Blues By The Bay in East Tawas at the end of August.
“We go to lots of festivals,” Whitey says, “and I would definitely recommend the Kalamazoo Blues Festival. It’s run especially well, and the venue is great—couldn’t be better. We especially like the two stages, with no down time between acts. Everyone’s really friendly, and the sound people are incredible. Prices are very reasonable too—it’s a great deal.”
The raffle for the guitar and the accompanying album of photographs of the performers is a popular fundraising event for the festival, offering blues fans an opportunity to win a unique souvenir and support the festival at the same time. Whitey Smith joins a long list of fortunate festival-goers to take home not only excellent memories of a great weekend of music and fun, but a one-of-a-kind piece of memorabilia testifying to one more year of “blues in the ‘zoo”.
“I’ll be back next year for sure,” is Whitey Smith’s final word on the subject of the Kalamazoo Blues Festival. Congratulations to Whitey from the KVBA on winning the guitar, and see you next year!
Located by the Service Gate entrance (southeast corner of the site)
These workshops are free to everyone and last between 45 minutes and an hour. Your instructors are local working blues musicians who are happy to share their knowledge. Even if you don’t play an instrument you will enjoy these seminars!
Friday 6:30pm: DIDDLE IT! DIY Instruments for Jamming on a Budget with Tim Brouhard of Out of Favor Boys, and Doug Beckman, formerly of Big Trouble and Seventh Son
Join the DIY (do it yourself) revolution! Learn how to build and play some of the instruments which have inspired blues legends. Experience Cigar Box guitars, Canjos, Diddly-bos, Boomboards, Wash Tub Basses and more. And get a DIY instrument to take home with you!
Saturday 4:00: BLUES HARMONICA with Dave Hunt of Seventh Son
You’ll be playing songs within the first 10 minutes! Topics include; chords, playing a single note, bending notes, scales, octaves, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd positions, and how to do that train thing. Also, examine Dave’s unique collection of unusual harmonicas. More experienced harmonica players are invited for further discussion and play at the conclusion of the seminar.
Saturday 5:00: BLUES GUITAR with Dave Allemang of Crossroads Resurrection
(Bring your own guitar!) Learn the blues fundamentals for beginning and intermediate level guitarists. Topics include 12 bar blues structure, alternate chordings, and rhythmic grooves.
Saturday 6:00: SLIDE GUITAR/DOBRO with Bryan Blowers, formerly of Bryan Michael Fischer Band. Also a graduate of WMU School of Music and former member of WMU Jazz Band. The sound of a slide guitar is one of the most distinctive in the blues. Learn the classic licks, riffs, and various tunings in this workshop.
Saturday 7:00: BLUES JAMS and OPEN MICS with Danny Ouellette and Joel Krauss, both of the Out of Favor Boys
You’ve been practicing in the basement. You’ve been singing in the car. Karaoke seems kind of silly. Maybe it’s time to get out to a blues jam and play in public with real musicians! You know you want to! It’s totally not hard! Out Of Favor Boys hosted blues jams for over 10 years and have helped countless amateur musicians enjoy the pleasure of playing with others. Learn some basic changes, how to listen to others, when to support a soloist and when to be a soloist.
*Students from KVCC’s Senior Graphic Design class competed to make this year’s festival artwork/design. Check out the 3 designs on display in the Workshop Tent *
** Children’s Tent Activities Saturday noon-5pm (free for kids 12 and under) **