Posted in blues, Music, Uncategorized

2020 BLUES MUSIC AWARD WINNERS

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This year’s Blues Music Awards were different, but proved that no pandemic is going to stop the music! The awards were presented in a virtual ceremony Sunday, May 3rd in a virtual ceremony. If you missed it, you can still see it on the Blues Music Foundation’s YouTube channel!

2020 BLUES MUSIC AWARD WINNERS

BB King Entertainer of the Year

Sugaray Rayford

Album of the Year

Kingfish, Christone “Kingfish” Ingram

Band of the Year

The Nick Moss Band feat. Dennis Gruenling

Song of the Year

“Lucky Guy,” written by Nick Moss

Best Emerging Artist Album

Kingfish, Christone “Kingfish” Ingram

Acoustic Blues Album

This Guitar and Tonight, Bob Margolin

Acoustic Blues Artist

Doug MacLeod

Blues Rock Album

Masterpiece, Albert Castiglia

Blues Rock Artist

Eric Gales

Contemporary Blues Album

Kingfish, Christone “Kingfish” Ingram

Contemporary Blues Female Artist

Shemekia Copeland

Contemporary Blues Male Artist

Christone “Kingfish” Ingram

Historical Blues Album

Cadillac Baby’s Bea & Baby Records – Definitive Collection, Earwig Music

Soul Blues Album

Sitting on Top of the Blues, Bobby Rush

Soul Blues Female Artist

Bettye LaVette

Soul Blues Male Artist

Sugaray Rayford

Traditional Blues Album

Lucky Guy!, The Nick Moss Band Featuring Dennis Gruenling

Traditional Blues Female Artist

Sue Foley

Traditional Blues Male Artist

Jimmie Vaughan

Instrumentalist Bass

Michael “Mudcat” Ward

Instrumentalist Drums

Cedric Burnside

Instrumentalist Guitar

Christone “Kingfish” Ingram

Instrumentalist Harmonica

Rick Estrin

Instrumentalist Horn

Vanessa Collier

Instrumentalist Piano

Victor Wainwright

Instrumentalist Vocals

Mavis Staples

Congratulations to all these marvelous winners! I especially wish to congratulate Bobby Rush and any other fellow Covid-19 survivors on the list and hope to see you all live someday soon!

Posted in blues

Mark Telesca Higher Vibrations

Mark Telesca has a new solo acoustic blues album, Higher Vibrations, out, and it is a smooth-sailing winner. With a total of 16  songs, 9 of which are originals while the other 7 are pre- WWII blues songs, the whole album fits together perfectly. Mark is a skilled finger-picker and an amazing storyteller, and he knows how to get every ounce of feeling out of a song.

Take his own “99 Years” or “Black Dress,” the first two songs on the CD and thus setting the mood for the whole thing beautifully. You are immediately reminded of how powerful acoustic guitar and vocal can be, all by themselves! After all, many of the early greats, as represented in the covers, performed just this way. Listen to “Come On In My Kitchen” and “Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning” and you clearly hear Telesca’s excellent renditions as well as the echoes of those who came before him.

Another song to pay close attention is “Papa’s on the Housetop,” a raucous number written by pianist Leroy Carr in 1930. This version is a lot sparer than most I have heard, but it works this way!

There’s not a note or a vocal second in this album that is not just what it should be. Telesca is obviously enjoying himself and you will too. He has a wonderful ability to connect with his audience. This is a great listen any time, whether alone or with company.

Posted in blues, Uncategorized

Eddie 9V Left My Soul In Memphis

Eddie9vEddie 9V, pronounced 9 Volt, is a phenomenon on his own. He is only 23 years old but under a different name he has been playing Atlanta clubs since he was 15 years old. In 2014, he and his brother competed, with their band, in the IBCs. So when you learn that he is only 23 years old, don’t think he is a beginner in the blues! This January, he is headed back to the IBCs to showcase Left My Soul In Memphis as Atlanta’s Best Self-Produced Album.

Not only did Eddie produce the album himself, working hard to produce a lo-fi sound, he also played all the instruments except the keyboards as well as doing all the vocals. The keyboards were provided by Rhett Huffman. Eddie did drums, that searing guitar, bass, and horns, working on mixing and layering in a genuine Georgia shack he turned into a studio. He wanted a vintage sound and he got it, while still filling the album with funk, soul and absolutely authentic blues.

Eddie’s hero is Freddie King and he shows that influence everywhere, including the incredible version of “Yonder’s Wall” that opens the album. Next, we get the strongly STAX influenced “Left My Soul In Memphis,” which also shows the amazing songwriting talents of this young man. Then comes the intense “Bottle and the Blues,” an original with a very traditional subject and some mighty sweet guitar. If you don’t know his story, it is probably hard to comprehend how he could get that good so young, but we train them that way here in Georgia!

“New Orleans” lets the guitar do a lot of talking, while Eddie sounds more world-weary than he ought to be. “Bending With the Kings” is an incredible instrumental tribute to Freddie, Albert, and BB King, and 9V holds his own with all of them.

“Woke Up Sweatin’” is driven by a catchy riff that draws you into the song’s narrative about love and the need for it, and includes some hot piano by Huffman. In “36th &Main” Eddie considers a musician’s common  solution to that problem: He’s going to 36th and Main to find himself a “midnight woman – one who “don’t talk or complain!” Yeah, he plays those horns, in this jazzy, upbeat number.

“Ghosts” has the most country-blues feel, with strong traces of Dylan and Hendrix in the lyrics and pure blues in the guitar. This is a highlight for the great songwriting and evocative singing. “Lo-Fi Love” is the most contemporary and vocally a definite highlight, showing off 9V’s range.

It’s time for some funk with “Don’t Test Me, Baby” and then Eddie wraps it up with some fine picking and strumming and a trip back to “1945 (Cocaine & Rum.)” Remember that he is the only one playing anything on this track!

Eddie 9V is a genius and “Left My Heart in Memphis” should explode him onto the national scene. As long

 

Posted in blues, Folk, Jazz, Music, Uncategorized

Snave and The Third Stream – Tin Can Fish House

by Rhetta Akamatsu

In 1957, Gunther Schuller described the Third Stream as a place where jazz and classical music meet halfway. For Snave and the Third Stream, that definition expands. It is where jazz, pop, country, blues, Cajun, folk and rock come together.

And they do merge beautifully on Tin Can Fish House. The name comes from the restaurant in Sandy Springs where it was recorded. The musicians are long-time Atlanta vocalist, guitarist, and flute master David “Snave” Evans and well-known and respected bassist Jon Schwenke, saxophonist Tim Crump and percussionist Will Groth. Lucky for us, all of the songs give the musicians ample room to display their prodigious talents.

Things kick off with the classic “Summertime,” which allows everyone to shine in the long instrumental breaks, while Snave handles the vocals ably. Then, we slide into a Zydeco groove with “Goin’ To New Orleans” which leads into the very jazzy “Little Birdie,” written by Vince Guaraldi for a Peanuts special, which has an especially tasty saxophone and distorted guitar, excellent percussion, and rock steady bass. There is nothing at all wrong with the vocals on this recording; it is just that the music is so spectacular!

Then we take a trip into the blues with the Mose Allison song “Mind on Vacation,” and here the vocals and the sax do shine even while that “wah-wah” guitar takes a fun turn as well. But we can’t leave ballads out of the stream, so next is a beautiful rendition of Little Country Giant’s “Just A Little Bit,” with gentle guitar, tender sax. and some nice harmony on the refrain. The song is perfectly suited to Snave’s plaintive vocal.

Just in case you think things are getting too mellow, they are about to get seriously heavy. Wait till you hear what the band has done to Donovan’s “Season of the Witch!” I am seeing this one finding its way onto many Halloween playlists! It is followed by a blazing version of Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower.”

This is an excellent collection of songs and styles, beautifully performed. No matter what your taste, you will find a lot to love here. Well done!

 

Posted in blues, Uncategorized

Beverly “Guitar” Watkins is latest in a year of losses to Atlanta blues

She beat cancer twice. She recovered from a heart attack and a stroke. She kept on returning to her music. But in late July, she suffered a second stroke and could not recover. Now, Beverly “Guitar ” Watkins is dead.  She was a ray of joy, a bright light to everyone who saw her perform and a truly talented musician and friend to many. At 80, her spirit has finally gone home.

In April, we lost another of our mentors and friends, Eddie Tigner. Eddie was 92 when he passed. I still think I see him every time we go to Blind Willie’s, where I saw him most often. He was another bright spirit and a talented pianist and singer, with a smile for everyone.

Earlier this month we lost drummer Yonrico Scott at age 63. Yonrico had drummed for a long time with the Derek Trucks Band and then with Royal Southern Brotherhood. He was a prominent member of the blues community in Atlanta and his death was a great loss to us as well.

The sadness we have felt at the loss of Beverly, Eddie, and Yonrico is only a measure of the joy they gave us in their lives. So thank you, Universe, for allowing us their presence in our lives.

If there are other losses I have forgotten, please understand. I am still reeling from the news of Beverly.

rhetta beverly

Me with Beverly, 2014

 

 

 

 

Posted in blues, Music

Sautee Nagoochee Blues Fest Sept. 14, 2019

Saturday we went up in the North Georgia mountains to a community called Sautee Nagoochee for the Sautee Nagoochee Blues Fest. We were pleasantly surprised to be joined there by seven other members of the Atlanta Blues Society (if I counted right.)

We had a fabulous time at the Sautee Nagoochie Center from start to end, despite the summer storm in the middle which forced us all inside.

It all started with the colorful and talented Feed and Seed Marching Band. They are all volunteer musicians who come together when they can, but after years of practice, they know how to play and how to entertain, with men and women sporting flower or flamingo hats and a wild array of clothing. They were wonderful, and some of their members continued to add sparkle throughout the event by dancing and encouraging others to do so because they were obviously having so much fun.

Next, The Andy Johnson Band took the stage. Many of us had seen Andy as part of Royal Johnson until the death of the other founding member forced the name change. The present band did a bang-up job playing over an hour of blues and Southern rock, including a marvelous version of “Georgia On a Fast Train” that seems permanently stuck in my mind.

Next up was The Kerry Hill Band.  It had been some years since we had seen him, and in that time he and the band had gotten even better.  They were excellent, in fact.

After they finished their set, the rain started so the whole crowd was bustled into a big white building that had been laid out for basketball but also had a very nice stage. We saw Markey and Ric of The Markey Blue Ric Latina Project. They are dear friends and fantastic entertainers and we were happy to get a chance to talk to them. But in minutes, the stage was set up and it was time for The Squirrelheads. We were really impressed with how prepared and organized the event staff was.

Some people let the storm scare them away, but there were still many hardy “survivors” and we were well-rewarded. We were not familiar with The Squirrelheads but now we are, and we love them! They play New Orleans-style music, and they had the house rockin’!

After their act, it was time for the Markey Blue- Ric Latina Project. The man next to me had never seen them, and it was a delight to see how blown away he was! We were too, of course, but we make a point to see them whenever they are near so we expect it. He was just discovering for the first time how magical they are! They did a mix of old and new songs and as always, Markey was in constant motion and Ric killed it on guitar. The rest of the band were perfect too, including the new keyboardist (new to us, anyway.) Markey told me that she had only had about 3 hours of sleep before they drove from Nashville, but you surely could not tell it onstage.

By this time, I was very tired, but there was no way I was missing Delta Moon. Just hearing Tom Gray’s rusty voice perked me up and listening to him and Mark Johnson spit out that amazing slide and lap steel guitar sound, ably assisted by the rest of the band, made everything worthwhile. We actually stayed to the very end and got to hear some great news from Markey and Ric and speak to Tom and buy a t-shirt from him. We didn’t have a Delta Moon oddly enough, so we remedied that!

It was a wonderful event, and we enjoyed it outside and inside. Kudos to the organizers and staff and all the performers. We loved you all!

Posted in blues, Music, Uncategorized

WRFG BBQ Sept 2, 2019

My husband and I had such a great time at the WRFG Labor Day BBQ, with delicious BBQ from Williamson Bros., wonderful music and the company of many of our friends! We were entertained by Bill Sheffield and Sandra Senn, Eddie  9V, The Larry Griffith Band, this year’s honoree Lil Joe Burton with Albert White and The Atlanta Horns, and Selwyn Birchwood.  They all did an amazing job.! Wish I had time to write a full report, but I don’t/ I just want to acknowledge what a great job all the organizers did as well as all the participants and share the photos with you. And listen to WRFG, either on the radio or on the Internet! Here are photos of the performers and the amazing Park Tavern venue!

Photos by Takesi Ken Akamatsu

Posted in blues, Music

The Atlanta Blues Challenge 2019

Route 66 in Johns Creek was packed for the Atlanta Blues Challenge. It’s a new and impressive club. Everybody kept the bar hopping and the kitchen busy as the contestants delivered what was one of the tightest and best Challenges in recent years!

This was a new venue for the Challenge and it has many positive qualities. It is big with enough room for everyone to sit and also room to dance! The stage is huge and you can see the band from wherever you are sitting. The food and drink are good but pretty expensive and waits for food were long but that may be because they did not expect such a big crowd!

As for the music, it was amazing. We had a brand new Youth Group from middle Georgia, three teenage girls and a boy who played sax.  They call themselves Menagerie. They were very good and show great potential to be even better as they gain experience and confidence. We were then entertained by Sam Chung, The Sawgrass Blues Band, and Mandi Strachota in the Solo/Dup category, and Mandi won.

Competition really heated up as the crowd got larger for the band category, with seven groups, all delivering stellar performances. The Let It Rip Band, The Sweet and Salty Blues Band Red Sugar Blues, The Trouble Tones, The Johnny Scales Band, and Eddie 9V were all fantastic but we had to leave before the last act of the night, The Garrett Collins Project and as it happens, The Garrett Collins Project won! Go figure! But we have seen them many times and know they will represent Atlanta well. Eddie 9V took 2nd place and The Johnny Scales Band took 3rd. These groups were chosen by our judges, all either musicians or musical professionals. Red Sugar Blues took the People’s Choice Award, voted by the attendees.

All of the performers deserve a lot of respect and appreciation for entertaining us so well, and all of them are winners in my eyes. It was a pleasure for us to attend and to volunteer our small part at the Membership table happily signing people up to the tremendous team effort that went into making everything go smoothly! Now it’s on to Memphis in January for GarrettCollins and his band and Mandi Strachota for the International Blues Challenge!

 

 

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Posted in blues, Classic Rock, Music, Rockabilly

Alzheimer’s Music Fest features Rev Horton Heat!

At 6:00 PM on September 21st, 2019, MadLife will host the 8th Annual Alzheimer’s Music Fest for a powerful and moving night of performances. The evening will culminate with a headline concert by The Reverend Horton Heat.” Other performers during the day include Gurufish, Ralph Roddenberry, Zangaro, Mikail Peterson and Donna Hopkins. Tickets are $50-$75 and support this great cause!

Alzheimers music fest

 

Posted in blues, Music, Uncategorized

Billie Williams – Hell To Pay

by Rhetta Akamatsu

Billie Williams’ second album, Hell To Pay, shows that she is is a fantastic soul and blues singer, and like many of the best, she is tuned in to the world around her. So whether it’s political issues in “Hell To Pay” and “Ten Million Sisters” or a bad, bad breakup in “Damn,” she speaks her mind. But she and the fantastic bunch of musicians she has assembled can handle other emotions in marvelous musical style as well, never letting one emotion rule for too long.

Things start out with “Damn.” letting her ex know what she thinks with no messing around and no modest language. The next song continues the theme, in the slightly more restrained but no less emotional, piano-driven “Cold November.” Next is the much more conciliatory “Start All Over,” a soulful and rueful account of bad moves.

Next is the bouncy “You,” about a much brighter and better relationship. Then, Williams is back to angry, but this time on a more socio-political scale with “Hell To Pay,” which starts out quiet and builds to a righteous rant, In my opinion, this is the highlight of the album.

“Hour By Hour” then slows the tempo down again and returns to heartbreak in the pure blues of “Hour by Hour.” “Drink From My Cup” offers something else different with a roguish lilt and a honky-tonk piano and some flirty, sexy words. The rollicking organ will alert you to the 60’s sound of “Lost In The Wilderness,” which is a love song despite the Gospel sounding title. It is followed by another one, “My Everything,” but this one has a Stax feel to it.

The wistful “Take These Dreams” returns us to the sad breakup for a ballad this time. Then it’s back to social justice for the anthem, “Ten Million Sisters,” inspired by Williams’ experience of The Women’s March in Washington in 2017. It is, for me, another of the highlight tracks.

Overall, the album is about half dark and half light but whichever half you prefer, the 11 original tunes show that Billie Williams is an artist full of skill and passion. She is one to be aware of.