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!
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!
Eliza Neals comes out swinging on her new EP, Sweet or Mean! She found a real match when she teamed up with notorious guitarist, vocalist, and producer Ted Horowitz, better known as Poppa Chubby, who can be just as rough and tough as Neals herself can. Poppa Chubby also arranged all six of Neals’ original compositions for the EP.
Other great artists who lend their talents on the recording are Dave Keyes on piano and Hammond organ, Chris Gambaro-Vega on bass and John Madieros Jr. on drums. The horn section includes saxophonist Ian Hendrickson-Smith from Jimmy Fallon’s band and Michael Leonhart on trumpet.
But even with all this firepower backing her up, it is Eliza who burns the brightest. While you know you’re in for something special from the first notes of Poppa Chubby’s slide guitar on “Pawn Shop Blues,” it is that barrelhouse voice of Neals’ that grabs you and won’t let go! This is followed by “Blackish Gray,” full-on blues in reality, with more fantastic instrumental work perfectly showcasing Neals’ raw, deeply emotional voice.
Things get confessional on” Bitten By The Blues,” about a “rock ‘n roll girl who’s been bitten by the blues.” It has Poppa Chubby channeling vintage blues-rock gods on guitar and excellent keyboards by Dave Keyes. Then we get the not and humorous “Livin With Yo Mama.” Lordy, how they all do wail!
“Knock, Knock, Knock,” hits the rock side of blues-rock with some really tasty guitar and a less frantic shuffle rhythm for its sly, witty vocal. Then we end up full circle with a rousing roadhouse version of “Pawn Shop Blues,” quite different from the first but just as entertaining.
This EP offers a solid rush of music that is as satisfying as many full albums. If there is a modern successor to Janis Joplin, this may convince you that Eliza Neals is it. If you’re looking for something to get a party started or blast out your car windows, or just dance to with abandon in your living room, Sweet or Mean is what you’re looking for!
Tullie Brae’s album, “Revelation,” is climbing the blues charts, and naturally so. Tullie has been wowing audiences for some years now, and with a new record label and master producer and musician Jeff Jensen wringing every nuance from her incredible voice, this was destined to be an astounding recording.
Add to that Jensen on lead guitar along with his bandmates in Tennessee Redemption Brandon Santini on harmonica, Bill Ruffino on bass and David Greene on drums, plus 11 more great Memphis musicians, and Tullie herself on keyboards as well as vocals and you have an unbeatable mix.
Brae’s voice is mesmerizing and she knows just how to use it, whether for the abrasive blues-rock of The Price of The Blues”, the deep gospel mysticism of “Seven Bridges Road,” or the powerful blues lament of “Mississippi Rain.” Remember as you listen that Brae wrote all of these songs and you will be even more impressed.
After “Mississippi Rain” heavy guitars introduce “Break These Chains,” with Brae’s powerful vocal being supplemented and underscored by Brandon Santini’s expert harmonica. Then comes the beautiful celebration of love and renewal, “New Shoes.”
Brae is a Louisiana preacher’s daughter and she excels at this Hill Country style song about a battle between the Devil and a country preacher, which also features some hot guitar and bass from Jeff Jensen and his band among other guest musicians. Then she returns to more personal battles, the fight to gain her own freedom from a bad relationship in “Ain’t No Good.”
In “Watch Her Move,” the woman has come into her own power, in an electrifying way. “Shine” is a highlight, about being yourself and claiming your own light, with great backing vocals by Susan Marshall and Danielle Hill.
This fantastic album ends with the sweet and sincere song, “Thank You Mom,” which frankly brought this writer to tears.
By herself, Tullie Brae can make a very good album. With the help of Executive Producer Mick Kolassa, producer Jeff Jensen, and these 15 guest musicians, she has created something breathtaking, something to finally let the world hear what Tullie has to offer in a fitting way. This is an album to treasure.
Here is the complete list of Blues Music Award winners (final)
1. Acoustic Album: Journeys to the Heart of the Blues – Joe Louis Walker/Bruce Katz/Giles Robson
2. Acoustic Artist: Rory Block
3. Album: America’s Child – Shemekia Copeland
4. B.B. King Entertainer: Michael Ledbetter
5. Band: Welch-Ledbetter Connection
6. Best Emerging Artist Album: Free – Amanda Fish
7. Blues Rock Album: The Big Bad Blues – Billy F Gibbons
8. Blues Rock Artist: Eric Gales
9. Contemporary Blues Album: America’s Child – Shemekia Copeland
10. Contemporary Blues Female Artist: Danielle Nicole
11. Contemporary Blues Male Artist: Kenny Neal
12. Instrumentalist-Bass: Danielle Nicole
13. Instrumentalist-Drums: Cedric Burnside
14. Instrumentalist-Guitar: Monster Mike Welch
15. Instrumentalist-Harmonica: Dennis Gruenling
16. Instrumentalist-Horn: Vanessa Collier
17. Instrumentalist- Pinetop Perkins Piano Player: Marcia Ball
18. Instrumentalist-Vocals: Michael Ledbetter
19. Song: “No Mercy In This Land” Written By Ben Harper and Performed by Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite
20. Soul Blues Album: I’m Still Around – Johnny Rawls
21. Soul Blues Female Artist: Annika Chambers
22. Soul Blues Male Artist: Sugaray Rayford
23. Traditional Blues Album: The Blues is Alive and Well – Buddy Guy
24. Koko Taylor Award for Traditional Blues Female Artist: Ruthie Foster
25. Traditional Blues Male Artist: Nick Moss
The Blue Ridge Blues and BBQ Festival took place on September 15. What a perfect festival it was! It smelled fantastic, the surroundings were beautiful, and the music was great. What more could you want from a festival? Oh, and the BBQ was delicious!
We got there after the first band, The Red, White and Blues Band started, but the two songs we heard were well-done. Unfortunately, we only got photos with our more professional camera, which turned out to not be working.
Luckily, I took pictures with my phone of The Tullie Brae Band because, full disclosure, Tullie is a friend. She is such a dynamic performer, songwriter, and vocalist. She always blows me away.
Next was The Rolling Bones Band. They put on an entertaining set. We had not yet realized the problem with the camera, though.
Suddenly, during the break between The Rolling Bones and Cradle, the skies opened up. Rain poured down! An army of umbrellas opened up, but we didn’t have one. My friend Kathy came to the rescue and insisted I use hers. I owe her a favor for that!
It did not rain for long, but it did cause some technical problems, particularly for Cradle, who are a large group, eleven members in all. They soldiered on, though, and delighted the audience with classic rock songs we happily sang along to. It was during their set that we realized the camera was not working and started using my phone exclusively. I got these pictures.
After a short delay, Victor Wainwright and The Train came onstage. The three members of The Tain came out first and did a couple of numbers. At this point, there was no electricity on one side of the stage because of the rain, but they did not let that stop them. They are such a tight group. And then Victor Wainwright came on stage, and The Piano from Savannah proceeded to blow us all away. He played mostly songs from the Victor Wainwright and the Train album and managed to fit quite a lot of magnificent music into a rather brief amount of time allotted to him before the festival ended. But what a fantastic end to the evening.
My friend Alby told me a couple of groups (not Tullie or Victor) annoyed him because they kept attributing songs to the wrong artists. I am not the blues scholar Alby is, but I said I would mention that not every song was done by Little Walter!
Despite that quibble, a good time was had by all! Thanks to Tullie Brae and Jaymie Fallon for the hugs and love and to everyone involved in the festival for a great time! This was our 4th Blue Ridge Festival and it won’t be our last.
Disability notes. It is a challenging venue. There are speed bumps, grassy areas, and railroad tracks. But people are so eager to help! I was in the wheelchair Saturday and Ken was pushing me and if we even wobbled for a second somebody jumped in to help. You can do it if you take it slow, and it is so worth it!
Here is a complete list of the BMA winners. For once, people I voted for actually won!
1. Acoustic Album: Break the Chain – Doug MacLeod
2. Acoustic Artist: Taj Mahal
3. Album: TajMo – Taj Mahal & Keb’ Mo’
4. B.B. King Entertainer: Taj Mahal
5. Band: Rick Estrin & the Nightcats
6. Best Emerging Artist Album: Southern Avenue – Southern Avenue
7. Contemporary Blues Album: TajMo – Taj Mahal & Keb’ Mo’
8. Contemporary Blues Female Artist: Samantha Fish
9. Contemporary Blues Male Artist: Keb’ Mo’
10. Historical: A Legend Never Dies, Essential Recordings 1976-1997 – Luther Allison (Ruf Recordings)
11. Instrumentalist-Vocalist: Beth Hart
12. Instrumentalist-Bass: Michael “Mudcat” Ward
13. Instrumentalist-Drums: Tony Braunagel
14. Instrumentalist-Guitar: Ronnie Earl
15. Instrumentalist-Harmonica: Jason Ricci
16. Instrumentalist-Horn: Trombone Shorty
17. Pinetop Perkins Piano Player (Instrumentalist – Piano): Victor Wainwright
18. Koko Taylor Award (Traditional Blues Female): Ruthie Foster
19. Rock Blues Album: We’re All In This Together – Walter Trout
20. Rock Blues Artist: Mike Zito
21. Song: “The Blues Ain’t Going Nowhere” written by Rick Estrin and performed by Rick Estrin
22. Soul Blues Album: Robert Cray & Hi Rhythm – Robert Cray & Hi Rhythm
23. Soul Blues Female Artist: Mavis Staples
24. Soul Blues Male Artist: Curtis Salgado
25. Traditional Blues Album: Right Place, Right Time – Mike Welch and Mike Ledbetter
26. Traditional Blues Male Artist: Rick Estrin
Best Traditional Blues Album: “Blue & Lonesome” — The Rolling Stones
Best Contemporary Blues Album: “TajMo” — Taj Mahal and Keb’ Mo’
Best Regional Roots Music Album: “Kalenda” — Lost Bayou Ramblers
Best American Roots Performance: “Killer Diller Blues” — Alabama Shakes\
Best American Roots Song: “If We Were Vampires” — Jason Isbell, songwriter (Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit)
Best Americana Album: “The Nashville Sound” — Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit
The Rolling Stones started out as a blues band way back in the ”60s, and not only played the music bu actively supported the blues musicians who were living and working at the time, It is great to hear them get back to their roots. And surely no one can argue with the greatness of Keb Mo and Taj Mahal, a pairing that had to happen.
As for the roots and Americana artists, Alabama Shakes really were killer on :Killer Diler Blues.: And The Lost Bayou Ramblers, working with Jack White, did something very different with Kalinda, a whole albun inspired bty one song. It was a gamble, but it paid off!
I had never heard “If We Were Vampires,” so I listened on Spotify and it is a beautiful song about love and the fear of loss and a worthy winner.
In Meet Me In Memphis, Eric Hughes and his band do a fabulous job of not only capturing Memphis in all its diversity but of moving smoothly from blues to blues-rock with hints of soul and country as well.
Hughes and the band start out with a powerful blues rocker, “Freight Train of Pain,” just to show what they can do. They then launch into “Meet Me in Memphis,” such a powerful ad for the city that you may find yourself packing your suitcase and heading for Beale! The voices of Reba Russell and Susan Marshal on the chorus invite you into church and the piano and organ, played by Chris Stephenson, add to the gospel flavor, while Art Edmaiston and Marc Franklin, on saxophone and trumpet add spice and beckon you to the clubs along Beale.
“Roll a Fatty For Your Daddy” is pure blues, the sort of song you might hear on a Memphis street corner back in the day. It is followed by a highlight of the album, “The Day They Hanged the Kid.” This epic piece of storytelling in song captures the grit of classic Western movies.
“Here Comes the Boogie Man” is a different kind of storytelling song, one that evokes scary movies and campfire tales, before the mood changes completely for the sweet, slightly vintage-sounding ballad, “:I Left My Heart at Your Place (For Donna).”
“Midtown Blues” is a humorous blues with smoking music behind Hughes’ sly vocals. It is followed by the blues-rocker, “I’m Knockin’ On Your Door,” a tale of love and suspicion. The Album ends with the charming ‘i Believe I’m Going Fishing,” an ode to that activity. It leaves you feeling good.
There are hints here of the old bluesmen, of ZZ Top and Jimmy Buffet. But mostly there’s Memphis. Hughes has done a great job of capturing his hometown, and the album is a delight.magazine
Updated from the original article by Rhetta posted in Making A Scene magazine.
ThunderGypsy is the group chosen at the Atlanta Blues Challenge sponsored by the Atlanta Blues Society to represent the city at the International Blues Challenge 2018. They have a new CD out, produced by Richard L’Hommedieu at Midnight Circus Studios, and it is phenomenal. They won the unlimited studio time as a prize for winning the challenge and they took advantage of it masterfully! While they did not win in the tough Memphis competition, they will win you over with this album.
Heather Statham, the vocalist, has a strong, clear voice that is a pleasure to hear, and the band backing her up are highly skilled. Ken Williams on drums and Richard Price on guitar really know their stuff, but for me, it is Statham and Paul Allison on keys who really adds sparkle to these songs.
And what songs they have chosen! The CD opens with “Chasin’ the Miles,” a road song that opens with the organ and then serves as a strong introduction to Statham and the rest of the band. It is followed by a highlight of the recording, an absolutely stunning version of “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right,” a Bob Dylan song I have loved since the first time I heard Dylan sing it many years ago. Yet here, Statham and the rest of ThunderGypsy make it sound fresh and new and riveting all over again.
“Don’t Cry To Me” begins with mellow horns and then continues with Statham proving she can do a heartbreaking ballad as well as the best crooners, with drummer Williams providing a soft, persistent beat and the rest of the band keeping it appropriately understated in the background.
Picking up the pace again, Statham gets into the gospel-flavored “The River,” which will make you want to raise your hands and shout. Quieting things down again, we get the contemporary blues of “Turn On the Bright Lights,” showing this group can do this style well, too. Statham’s voice has just enough of a rasp on the chorus to convey the emotion. “New Secrets” continues the contemporary mode and allows Price to show off some tasty guitar along with the organ.
Returning to a familiar favorite, the band delivers the smooth gospel of “People Get Ready,” with marvelous organ solos and that effective drumming from Williams as well as that perfect vocal. It is followed by “Anyday,” with Statham seeming to channel Tina Turner and more great organ and mellow guitar solos.
Fearlessly, the band then takes on “St. James Infirmary,” one of the most spine-chilling blues songs ever written, and they do a beautiful job of it. Then they finish off on a blues romp with “I Don’t Need No Doctor.”
This CD proves that ThunderGypsy is a force to be reckoned with and that you need this in your collection. They can handle a variety of styles with ease and Atlanta can be proud to have had them represent the city. No matter what happened with the Challenge, they are winners and