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2012 Blues Fest – Carrying the Torch: Kenny Neal (Friday, June 29, 10:30 p.m., Bandshell) PDF Print E-mail
Music - Mississippi Valley Blues Festival
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Wednesday, 20 June 2012 05:55

Kenny NealA lot of people count the harmonica player Slim Harpo as an influence – among them the Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds, and Pink Floyd – but nobody can claim a connection as direct (or harrowing) as swamp-blues master Kenny Neal.

Slim Harpo was a regular in the Louisiana home of the Neals, and Kenny – one of the sons of harp player Raful Neal – recalled in a recent phone interview the story of how he got his first harmonica when he was three years old.

“He was just playin’ around,” Neal said of Slim Harpo. “He tricked me into a trailer one day. ... He told me, ‘Look inside and see if there’s any more equipment in there.’ I went inside, and he closed the doors. It got pitch black and I got phobia. ... Freaked me out. I started screamin’ and yellin’, and that freaked him out. He was trying to quiet me down, so he decided to give me a harmonica – that was the closest thing he had that would probably soothe me a little bit.”

 
2012 Blues Fest – Happy Accidents: Kelley Hunt (Saturday, June 30, 9:30 p.m., Tent) PDF Print E-mail
Music - Mississippi Valley Blues Festival
Written by Mike Schulz   
Wednesday, 20 June 2012 05:54

Kelley HuntWhile listening to Kelley Hunt perform – the singer/songwriter’s joyously smoky, soulful blues vocals a perfect match for her funky and fiery piano skills – it’s easy to imagine that the Kansas-based musician never lacked for confidence. As she admits during our recent phone interview, though, she actually did. She just didn’t tell anyone.

“When I was about 17, I was in a band with my brother’s friends, and these were older guys – like 21 or whatever,” says Hunt with a laugh. “I wasn’t singing at all; I was just playing these keyboards that they had. And one night we were playing for an event at the college in Emporia, where I grew up, and we were being paid, and the gal that was supposed to sing just did not show up. And it was time to start, and the guys looked at me and just said, ‘Oh my God, we hope you can sing.’

“I was pretty much horrified,” she continues. “I mean, I knew I could, because I was doing it in school, but never in this kind of setting. So at that moment, I just made a conscious decision: ‘I’m going to pretend like I’m all about this, and I’m going to pretend like I’m not scared out of my gourd.’ And I just slammed it out for a couple hours, and I remember thinking, ‘Well, (a) nobody here even knows there’s anything different, (b) the singer’s fired, and (c) I now get paid twice as much.’”

Laughing, Hunt says, “I just stepped into it brazenly and naïvely, and just assumed that it would all work out.”

 
2012 Blues Festival – A Wider Audience for the King of Beale Street: Preston Shannon (Saturday, June 30, 6 p.m., Bandshell) PDF Print E-mail
Music - Mississippi Valley Blues Festival
Written by Karen McFarland   
Wednesday, 20 June 2012 05:53

Preston ShannonPreston Shannon was working and performing in Memphis during the 1960s and ’70s, when “Soulsville USA” rivaled Detroit’s Motown. Stax Records ruled the airwaves with Booker T & the MGs laying down the backing “Memphis Soul Stew” for hits by Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, and Wilson Pickett, while over at Hi Records producer and songwriter Willie Mitchell was working with Al Green and Otis Clay. It was a magic time. You can hear those soul influences in Preston Shannon’s music, but he doesn’t acknowledge the soul connection.

“I am really a blues man,” Shannon declared in a recent phone interview. “I know the blues, I’ve experienced the blues, I play the blues. You know, when I recorded all my CDs, the reason I inserted R&B ... was because at the time it was so hard to get airplay for the blues.”

 
2012 Blues Fest – Lady Sings the Blues: Lady Bianca (Sunday, July 1, 5 p.m., Bandshell) PDF Print E-mail
Music - Mississippi Valley Blues Festival
Written by Mike Schulz   
Wednesday, 20 June 2012 05:52

Lady BiancaLady Bianca. Her very name suggests confidence and brio and more than a hint of glamor, qualities that are readily apparent in the artist’s soulful, soaring renderings of blues originals and covers, and that led Blues Revue magazine to call her “a great talent whose hearty, refreshing approach tugs at the heart while moving the feet.” (For a quick, thrilling introduction to Lady Bianca’s gifts, check out her performances of “Ooh, His Love Is So Good” – from her 1995 debut album Best Kept Secret – and Elvis Presley’s “Heartbreak Hotel,” both viewable on YouTube.)

So when you learn that Lady Bianca (born Bianca Thornton) was given her stage moniker at age 17 – a name bestowed on her by the noted San Francisco-based bluesman Quinn Harris, for whom she sang backup – you might think that even then she boasted the electrifying magnetism and blues-fueled assurance that she does now at age 58.

“Oh, no,” she says, with a laugh, during our recent phone interview. “Quinn Harris named me Lady Bianca because I was so square.”

 
2012 Blues Fest – Friday, June 29: Bandshell PDF Print E-mail
Music - Mississippi Valley Blues Festival
Written by Administrator   
Wednesday, 20 June 2012 05:51

Matthew Curry & the Fury, 6:30 p.m.

The party starts here! Matthew Curry is a teenage phenom from Normal, Illinois, who plays guitar, writes songs, and sings. He is backed by the Fury – veteran performers Greg Neville on drums and Jeff Paxton on bass.

In 2011, Matthew was awarded second place (first was taken by a Tommy Castro collaboration) in the International Songwriting Competition for his composition “Blinded by the Darkness,” a slow, Chicago-sounding blues that features his Clapton-like guitar melodies. The song is included on the 2011 debut CD for Matthew Curry & the Fury, If I Don’t Got You.

 
2012 Blues Fest – Friday, June 29: Tent PDF Print E-mail
Music - Mississippi Valley Blues Festival
Written by Administrator   
Wednesday, 20 June 2012 05:50

Earnest “Guitar” Roy, 6:30 p.m.

Earnest Roy Jr. was born on September 25, 1958, in Clarksdale, Mississippi, under the watchful eye of his father, guitarist Earnest Roy Sr., who worked with Jackie Brinston, Ike Turner, John Lee Hooker, Wade Walton, Raymond Hill, and many of the other Clarksdale bluesmen. Earnest’s father taught him bass guitar at five, and when Earnest turned eight, he began playing in his father’s band, Earnest Roy & the Clarksdale Rockers, whose members included Big Jack Johnson. At age 11, Earnest Jr. began playing lead guitar, and he formed his first band at 14, which led to his being regular performer on Soul Train.

 
2012 Blues Fest – Saturday, June 30: Bandshell PDF Print E-mail
Music - Mississippi Valley Blues Festival
Written by Administrator   
Wednesday, 20 June 2012 05:49

Terry Quiett Band, 2 p.m.

As his Web site (TerryQuiettBand.com) says: “Terry Quiett explodes every power-trio cliché” by performing striking original material, from haunting Delta blues and sophisticated jazzy swing to rock-flavored riffs, all featuring his stunning guitar technique and soulful vocals. Hal Reed brought the Terry Quiett Band to The Muddy Waters, so we found out firsthand that his Web site doesn’t exaggerate.

 
2012 Blues Fest – Saturday, June 30: Tent PDF Print E-mail
Music - Mississippi Valley Blues Festival
Written by Administrator   
Wednesday, 20 June 2012 05:48

Bryce Janey, 2 p.m.

Bryce Janey grew up in a musical family and has been playing his guitar for almost 30 years. He started playing at 13 years old in his hometown of Marion, Iowa, in a blues trio with his mother on drums and his father also on guitar. They were simply named The Janeys. Both he and his father Billy Lee Janey are in the Iowa Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. They still perform as a four- or five-piece band called The Janeys; his mother no longer performs, but Bryce and Billy Lee still headline the band. Bryce also has a band of his own that performs under the name Bryce Janey Group.

 
2012 Blues Fest – Sunday, July 1: Bandshell PDF Print E-mail
Music - Mississippi Valley Blues Festival
Written by Administrator   
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.

 
2012 Blues Fest – Sunday, July 1: Tent PDF Print E-mail
Music - Mississippi Valley Blues Festival
Written by Administrator   
Wednesday, 20 June 2012 05:46

Winter Blues All-Stars, 3 p.m.

The Winter Blues All-Stars is a collaboration of graduates of the River Music Experience’s Winter Blues program, led by Ellis Kell and Hal Reed. The kids have been practicing hard, so their set will be sure to amaze the audience!

 
2012 Blues Fest – Workshop and BluSKool Performers PDF Print E-mail
Music - Mississippi Valley Blues Festival
Written by Administrator   
Wednesday, 20 June 2012 05:45

David Horwitz (blues photography): Saturday, June 30, 2:30 p.m.

Photographer and educator David Horwitz of Tucson, Arizona, has been traveling to clubs and festivals for decades in search of great blues music for his ears and visual images to capture on film. The winner of the 1999 Blues Foundation’s Keeping the Blues Alive Award for Photography, David has spent more than 25 years capturing moments of the blues masters. His works have appeared in countless publications. Last year, he was inducted into the Arizona Blues Hall of Fame. This is his 25th year of shooting the Mississippi Valley Blues Festival, and the free photo exhibit near the workshops will showcase David’s work. – Ann Ring

 
2011 Mississippi Valley Blues Festival Coverage PDF Print E-mail
Music - Mississippi Valley Blues Festival
Written by Administrator   
Wednesday, 22 June 2011 06:07

This year’s Mississippi Valley Blues Festival – co-sponsored by the River Cities’ Reader – will be held July 1 through 3 in downtown Davenport’s LeClaire Park. The event features 27 acts spread over two stages, and the music begins at 5 p.m. on Friday and 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

In the links that follow, you’ll find interviews with five of this year’s performers.

In addition, the full festival schedule can be found on the back page of this week’s River Cities’ Reader or at MVBS.org/fest.

Advance tickets – $17 for a single day and $50 for the weekend – are available through June 30 at the Adler Theatre box office, Ticketmaster outlets, and local Hy-Vee stores. Admission at the gate is $20 per day. Children 14 and younger are admitted free with a paid adult.

 
Thank You for Smoker-ing – The Paul Smoker Notet: Sunday, July 3, 5:30 p.m., Tent Stage PDF Print E-mail
Music - Mississippi Valley Blues Festival
Written by Mike Schulz   
Wednesday, 22 June 2011 06:05

Paul Smoker

It would be hard to argue that acclaimed trumpet player and bandleader Paul Smoker isn’t an ideal local-musician-makes-good choice for the 2011 Mississippi Valley Blues Festival. After all, the 70-year-old was raised in Davenport, performed in numerous Quad Cities nightclubs (starting at the tender age of 14), and earned four degrees from the University of Iowa, including a doctorate in music.

Granted, if you were feeling particularly quarrelsome, you could note that Smoker isn’t a blues musician, as he freely admits. But while he and his bandmates – the four-man ensemble the Paul Smoker Notet – will be performing at this year’s festival in the annual slot reserved for jazz artists, it’s not as though the blues is a genre he’s unpracticed in.

 
A Tiger Up on That End – Nellie “Tiger” Travis: Saturday, July 2, 7:30 p.m., Tent Stage PDF Print E-mail
Music - Mississippi Valley Blues Festival
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Wednesday, 22 June 2011 06:04

Nellie 'Tiger' TravisWhen Nellie “Tiger” Travis sang “Wang Dang Doodle” – Koko Taylor’s signature hit – she could never hit the high notes in the chorus: “We gonna pitch a wang dang doodle all night long.”

“I always did it down low,” Travis said in a recent phone interview. Then came Taylor’s funeral in 2009.

“I hit the high note for the first time ever,” Travis said. “That day, it just came out like that. ... I do it all the time now. ... I can’t explain it. I don’t know if it was a spirit thing, or if I was just so full until it just came out ... . I just know I hit it now.”

 
“God Loves It All” – Otis Clay: Sunday, July 3, 9:30 p.m., Tent Stage PDF Print E-mail
Music - Mississippi Valley Blues Festival
Written by Karen McFarland   
Wednesday, 22 June 2011 06:03

Is he soul? Is he blues? Is he gospel? Yes, and he has become an iconic figure in all those genres.” – Chicago Sun-Times

Otis Clay

“I’ve always been a bit open-minded about the music,” Otis Clay said in a recent phone interview. He recalled that when he first went professional, he performed a genre of music called jubilee that included show tunes alongside gospel. “In the ’60s we would be all up in the Catskills during the week, and do churches on Sunday. I had done secular even then. [But] I never left gospel. It was all mixed up in there.”

That genre-blending had begun even before Clay – who will receive the Mississippi Valley Blues Society RiverRoad Lifetime Achievement Award before his July 3 festival performance – started touring when he was 18. Born in Waxhaw, Mississippi, in 1942, Clay started singing in the church at four, but even then he was also getting a different music education. “My father was an entrepreneur – he always had a juke joint, and my mother was very religious. But ... for the Saturday-night fish fries, she would cook and sell sandwiches,” Clay said. There he would listen to John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, and Howlin’ Wolf on the jukebox. He was seven years old when he experienced his first live concert: Muddy Waters in Clarksdale.

 
Conquering the Fingerboard – The Lionel Young Band: Saturday, July 2, 4 p.m., Bandshell PDF Print E-mail
Music - Mississippi Valley Blues Festival
Written by Mike Schulz   
Wednesday, 22 June 2011 06:02

The Lionel Young Band

With his 2008 victory in the solo/duo division, and his six-man ensemble’s 2011 triumph in the band category, Lionel Young stands as the first double winner in the history of Memphis’ International Blues Challenge (IBC). Meanwhile, the reviews that he and his Lionel Young Band have amassed would seem to back up the IBC’s choices; Blues Blast Magazine wrote that the group “deserve[s] a place on your must-see list,” and American Blues News called Young himself “an entertainer’s entertainer.”

Yet even given his awards and plaudits, this Colorado-based musician – one of the genre’s few professional violinists – understands the importance of daily practice, and not just at the blues elements you might expect.

“Most people play loud and proud all the time,” says Young during a recent phone interview. “Especially in the blues. But in any music, just like in any conversation, dynamics play a very important part. You know, when people want you to pay attention to what they’re saying, they can either yell at you, or they can say something re-e-eally quiet. If you say something really quiet, people listen a lot harder.

 
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