2012 Blues Fest – Sunday, July 1: Bandshell Print
Music - Mississippi Valley Blues Festival
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Wednesday, 20 June 2012 05:47
Jeff Banks & the Pain Killers, 3 p.m.

Congratulations to the winners of the Iowa Blues Challenge: Jeff Banks & the Pain Killers! They emerged victorious from tough challenges by two Quad Cities bands – Serious Business and The Mississippi Misfits – at the final round in Des Moines in May.

The Pain Killers will represent the state of Iowa at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis next February. Besides their set at the Mississippi Valley Blues Festival, they will receive recording time and cash to help defray expenses in Memphis.

Formed in Des Moines in January of this year, the Pain Killers feature singer/songwriter Jeff Banks on guitar, Jon Locker on bass, and George McCutchen on drums.

The 2012 Iowa Blues Challenge is sponsored by Central Iowa Blues Society, the Mississippi Valley Blues Society, Lizard Creek Blues Society, South Skunk Blues Society, Southeast Iowa Blues Society, Budweiser, Summit Brewing, Cumulus Media, and Cityview.

Lady Bianca, 5 p.m.

I remember seeing Lady Bianca at the Pocono Blues Festival a long time ago and noticing her pink tutu before being amazed by her deep, soulful voice (I hear Etta James, maybe Tracy Nelson) and her strong piano-playing (from boogie to the deep blues of Otis Spann). I’m looking forward to an exciting set by this Oakland artist!

Her Web site (LadyBianca.com) says that she’s had the gift of singing and piano-playing since the age of four. Her vocal influences include Bobby “Blue” Bland, Etta James, Koko Taylor, Dinah Washington, Aretha Franklin, Billie Holiday, and Bessie Smith. Her piano style is influenced by Ray Charles, Meade Lux Lewis, Charles Brown, Mabel Scott, and Amos Milburn. In her youth, she sang gospel and studied opera.

Born Bianca Thornton in 1953, by the mid-’70s she was a backing vocalist and keyboard player for Sly & the Family Stone, and as a session singer she backed Taj Mahal. Between 1981 and 1986, Lady Bianca toured with and recorded backing vocals for Van Morrison, and appeared on his recordings Beautiful Vision (1982), Inarticulate Speech of the Heart (1983), Live at the Grand Opera House Belfast (1984), A Sense of Wonder (1985), and No Guru, No Method, No Teacher (1986).

She met her songwriter/producer husband Stanley Lippitt in 1983. Together, they have produced, written, and arranged five CDs for various record labels as well as their own Magic-O Records. Since 1995, Lady Bianca has released six solo albums, three of which were nominated for a Grammy Award: Best Kept Secret, Rollin’, and Through a Woman’s Eyes.

In April 2007, at the Bay Area Black Music Awards, Lady Bianca was named Best Blues Performer. In March 2008, she was voted into the West Coast Blues Hall of Fame. In 2009, she appeared with Van Morrison at the Royal Albert Hall in London. And in 2012 she’s here with us, ready to give us a show we won’t forget!

For an interview with Lady Bianca, click here. – Karen McFarland

Trampled Under Foot, 7 p.m.

All right! Finally, we have Trampled Under Foot coming to the Mississippi Valley Blues Festival! I have been waiting for them since I had the opportunity to see and hear them at the 2008 International Blues Challenge (IBC) in Memphis. My wife Nanci and I were down there for the challenge, and some friends from Kansas found us and said we needed to get down to Club Superior to see this band named Trampled Under Foot.

Well, they won the Blues Challenge that year, along with Nick Schnebelen receiving the Albert King award for Most Promising Guitarist at the IBC. And the rest is history.

To describe them as a power trio just doesn’t fit. This is a true family band, two brothers and a sister: Nick on guitar, Kris keeping it tight on the drums, and Danielle on bass. They share the vocals. They have the harmony and the chemistry that you can see and feel. When Danielle opens up with her strong, soulful vocals, it all just blows wide open. This band will give you goosebumps. Rarely do you hear so much raw emotion coming right at you. They can play traditional roots, all the while putting their own feeling to it.

I sometimes think that the blues scene is fading somewhat, with a lot of the early blues artists leaving us. But then a group like Trampled Under Foot comes along, and you can hear influences from Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, and Howlin’ Wolf. They play with the passion of Etta James, Aretha Franklin, or Koko Taylor. They take these influences and wrap them into their soul.

For more information, visit TUFKC.com. – Michael Livermore

The Brooks Family Blues Dynasty, featuring Lonnie Brooks, Ronnie Baker Brooks, and Wayne Baker Brooks, 9 p.m.

The Brooks Family Blues Dynasty features the musical family of Lonnie Brooks, father to Ronnie Baker Brooks and Wayne Baker Brooks. All have established solo careers with their own bands and gained fan support worldwide.

Lonnie Brooks has been performing for almost six decades! He learned to play guitar in his native Louisiana and then made his way to Chicago, which has been his home for more than 50 years. There he hooked up with Alligator Records and released Two Headed Man, which quickly became famous for the “Voodoo Blues’’ sound that is now his trademark. He has recorded 15 total records, one of which was his Grammy-nominated Bayou Lighting. He’s also been featured in the movie Blues Brothers 2000 with Dan Aykroyd and John Goodman.

Ronnie Baker Brooks was playing guitar on-stage at age nine and joined his dad’s band right after high school. He released his debut album Golddigger in 1998, which earned him a W.C. Handy Award nomination for Best New Blues Artist. The Ronnie Baker Brooks Band has been headlining shows around the world ever since. Anyone who’s seen him knows that what it says on his Web site is true. Ronnie enlivens blues rock with deep soul and modern hip-hop vocals and funk rhythms. Working with Minneapolis producer Jellybean Johnson, a veteran collaborator with Prince and Janet Jackson, Ronnie takes roots sounds and transforms them into something that spans the ages. Ronnie compares this to the way that Muddy Waters took Mississippi Delta blues and adapted it for Chicago audiences. Like his father and brother, Ronnie Baker Brooks is also a songwriter.

Wayne Baker Brooks joined his father’s band as a roadie in 1988, and started playing guitar in the band in 1990. In 1997, he formed the Wayne Baker Brooks Band. His latest release is Something’s Going Down, featuring platinum-selling artist Twista, as well as GLC and Sugar Blue. Wayne has been making a name for himself ever since his 2004 release of the album Mystery, which received five awards from Real Blues magazine and four stars in the All Music Guide. Wayne was also in the Blues Brothers 2000 movie. And he co-authored the book Blues for Dummies with his father and Cub Koda.

For more information, visit BrooksFamilyBlues.com. For an interview with Lonnie Brooks, click here. – Steve Heston