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2014 Blues Fest: Friday, July 4, Tent Bios PDF Print E-mail
Mississippi Valley Blues Festival
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Thursday, 26 June 2014 06:08

Winter Blues All-Stars, 3 p.m.

The Winter Blues All-Stars is composed of talented young musicians selected from the River Music Experience’s Winter Blues program. The annual Winter Blues program features vocal and instrumental workshops (guitar, bass, harmonica, keyboards, and drums), as well as a concentration on blues composition and improvisation. These sessions are open to musicians from eight to 18 years of age and are led by Ellis Kell of the River Music Experience and Hal Reed of the Mississippi Valley Blues Society, with other veteran blues musicians from the region as special guests.

2014 Blues Fest: Saturday, July 4, Bandshell Bios PDF Print E-mail
Mississippi Valley Blues Festival
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Thursday, 26 June 2014 06:07

Little Bobby Houle, 3 p.m.

Bobby Houle makes his home in Thief River Falls, Minnesota. He is a third-generation musician who was born on Red Lake Reservation and eventually followed in the footsteps of his grandfather, Robert “Bashful Bob” Houle – a member of the Minnesota Music Hall of Fame and National Rockabilly Hall of Fame – and father, Robert Houle Jr.

A self-taught musician like his elders, Bobby began playing guitar in high school. He wasn’t exactly following in his grandfather’s and father’s footsteps of country music. Bobby said, “I don’t know how I fell into the blues, but once I did I was hooked on it. I love playing the blues, because each performance will be different from the previous performance.”

In 2005 Little Bobby released his first CD, Before the Storm. Later that year he landed a spot on the Last Ride Blues Festival in his hometown, and Buddy Guy was the headliner. What a way to kick off a blues career!

2014 Blues Fest: Saturday, July 5, Tent Bios PDF Print E-mail
Mississippi Valley Blues Festival
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Thursday, 26 June 2014 06:06

The Westbrook Singers, 3 p.m.

The Westbrook Singers are an extraordinary family group that is committed to spreading God’s message through music – in a style that is both contemporary and traditional. The origin of this seasoned group dates back to the mid-’70s, when 11 siblings came together to complement a ministry that began with their father some 20 years earlier. Thus, the children of Bishop Charles B. and Barbara Westbrook came to be known as The Original Westbrook Singers.

Over the years, the group has changed in its makeup but not in its focus. Today, only four of the siblings continue in performance roles, though appearances by other siblings are not rare. They are Brenda Westbrook-Lee, Delores Westbrook-Tingle, Gary Westbrook, and Cynthia Westbrook-Bryson.

Thinking Inside the Box: Catfish & the Bottlemen Perform a Communion Barnstormer, June 19 at Codfish Hollow Barn PDF Print E-mail
Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Thursday, 12 June 2014 07:58

Van McCann, singer and guitarist for the United Kingdom’s Catfish & the Bottlemen, has a strange relationship with the song “Homesick.”

“I thought it was the worst one of the batch we did ... when we first started recording for Communion,” he said, referring to the label/tour founded by Mumford & Sons’ Ben Lovett. “Since then, it’s become my favorite.”

What changed, McCann said, was that other people liked it. And therein lies a great deal of the charm of Catfish & the Bottlemen, a band described by the UK’s The Guardian as “deeply old-fashioned – and unfashionable.”

McCann doesn’t disagree with that assessment – whether it means an indifference toward appearance or, in a larger sense, a band more in love with the idea of playing for as many people as possible than selling lots of records or making artistic statements. When the quartet performs a Communion/Daytrotter show at Maquoketa’s Codfish Hollow Barn on June 19, expect no-frills rock-and-roll with one goal: to connect with the audience.

Fearlessly All in: Lewis Knudsen, “Joy, Pain, Love, Songs.”; June 5 at the Redstone Room PDF Print E-mail
Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Wednesday, 28 May 2014 10:19

Last year, Quad Cities-based singer/songwriter Lewis Knudsen decided to give up substitute-teaching to devote himself full-time to music. Lots of musicians make a similar leap, but few of them commit to it as fearlessly and smartly as Knudsen has.

He performed at open mics and got gigs wherever he could – restaurants, bars, wineries, nursing homes, birthday parties, company parties.

He set out to write and record a new song a week in 2013, a project that ended up generating 40 tracks (all of them available on his Web site at For the uncharitable who think Knudsen was a slacker for falling short of his goal, the song-a-week project was waylaid by a three-week tour of Europe through the Germany-based Songs & Whispers organization.

He assembled a band and professionally recorded the self-released album Joy, Pain, Love, Songs. – whose debut he’ll be marking with a June 5 show at the Redstone Room.

And while studio recording can be a challenge for neophytes, Knudsen sidestepped that issue in two ways – by fine-tuning the songs in live settings and having the process come to him by tracking with mobile equipment in his quintet’s practice space. “It was exactly like being in my living room and recording the whole album,” Knudsen said in a phone interview last week.

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