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.

Eric Gales

You wouldn't know it from his discography, but 2010's Relentless marked a comeback for the blues-rock guitarist/singer/songwriter Eric Gales. The Story of My Life was released in April 2008, and its follow-up came this past July - a pretty standard interval in the music business.

But there's a hint of his troubles on Relentless' lead track, "Bad Lawbreaker," on which he sings: "I'm a bad lawbreaker / Three strikes ain't enough for me."

In between those two albums, Gales served 21 months of a three-year sentence for violating the probation he received in 2006 for drug and gun charges. "I was smoking weed on the road and I didn't want to risk them telling me to come home in the middle of the tour" because of a dirty urine sample, he said in a recent phone interview. "I just said to myself, 'I'll deal with it when I get home.'" So he turned himself in after the tour and was sent to prison. (He couldn't play a guitar for his first six months of incarceration but - because of the intervention of a warden who knew who he was - eventually led a prison band.)

Images by photographers Steve France and Chris Jones from the 2010 IH Mississippi Valley Blues Festival, held July 2 through 4 in Davenport's LeClaire Park. Click on any photo for a larger version.

Caroline Shines:

Photo by Steve France

Here you'll find links to all the content in the official guide to the 2010 IH Mississippi Valley Blues Festival -- taking place July 2 through 4 in Davenport's LeClaire Park -- along with previous coverage of this year's performers from the River Cities' Reader.

Friday, July 2
Bandshell (Performer bios)
5 p.m.: The Kinsey Report (2008 interview)
7 p.m.: Mud Morganfield (2010 interview)
9 p.m.: Bernard Allison
11 p.m.: Lil' Ed & the Blues Imperials (2005 interview)
Tent Stage (Performer bios)
5 p.m.: Alvin "Little Pink" Anderson
6:30 p.m.: Caroline Shines
8:30 p.m.: Lurrie Bell Chicago Blues Band
10:30 p.m.: Shirley King (2010 interview)

Saturday, July 3
Bandshell (Performer bios)
1 p.m.: Steady Rollin' Blues Band
2:45 p.m.: Ana Popovi? (2010 interview)
4:30 p.m.: Zac Harmon (2010 interview)
6:15 p.m.: Vasti Jackson
8 p.m.: Quad City Symphony Orchestra
9:30 p.m. Fireworks Presented by Red, White, & Boom
10:30 p.m.: Rosie Ledet & the Zydeco Playboys
Tent Stage (Performer bios)
1:30 p.m.: Little Brother Jones
3:30 p.m.: Olga Wilhelmine with Cody Dickinson
5:30 p.m.: Little Joe McLerran
7:30 p.m.: Ruthie Foster (2010 interview)
9:30 p.m.: Billy Branch & the Sons of Blues
Free Workshops
1 p.m.: Olga Wilhelmine with Cody Dickinson
2:30 p.m.: Alvin "Little Pink" Anderson
4 p.m.: Rosie Ledet
5:30 p.m.: Billy Branch
2:30 p.m.: David Berntson
3:45 p.m.: Winter Blues Academy Kids with Hal Reed & Ellis Kell
5 p.m.: Charles "Wsir" Johnson & the MLK Center Kids

Sunday, July 4
Bandshell (Performer bios)
2 p.m.: The Jimmys
4 p.m.: The Shawn Kellerman Band
6 p.m.: Reba Russell Band
7:45 p.m.: Doris Pierre Outstanding Volunteer Awards
8 p.m.: Legendary Rhythm & Blues Revue Featuring Tommy Castro, Debbie Davies, Magic Dick, & Sista Monica (2010 interview with Tommy Castro)
Tent Stage (Performer bios)
2 p.m.: Bill Sims Jr. & Mark LaVoie
3:30 p.m.: Dave Riley & Bob Corritore
5:30 p.m.: The David Boykin Expanse
7:30 p.m.: Kim Massie (2010 interview)
9 p.m.: RiverRoad Lifetime Achievement Award Presented to Hubert Sumlin
9:30 p.m.: The Nighthawks with Hubert Sumlin
Free Workshops
1 p.m.: Dave Riley & Bob Corritore
2:30 p.m.: David Horwitz, Blues Photography
4 p.m.: Bill Sims Jr. & Mark LaVoie
5:30 p.m.: Little Brother Jones
2:30 p.m.: Charles "Wsir" Johnson & the MLK Center Kids
3:45 p.m.: Winter Blues Academy Kids with Hal Reed & Ellis Kell
5 p.m.: David Berntson

President's letter

Bios of workshop and BlueSKool leaders not performing on the bandshell or tent stage

Mississippi Valley Blues Society Web site

Ticket information

Advance tickets for the 2010 IH Mississippi Valley Blues Festival are available at all IH Mississippi Valley Credit Union locations, the River Center/Adler Theater Box Office, and through Ticketmaster. The price of an advance weekend pass for the Fest is $25. Individual Fest tickets at the gate will cost $15 on Friday, July 2, and Sunday, July 4. Saturday, July 3, is a special free-admission day in association with the Red, White, & Boom celebration in Davenport.

IH Mississippi Valley Credit Union and Mississippi Valley Blues Society members can purchase individual advance Fest tickets at a discounted rate of $12.50 each only at IH Misssissippi Valley Credit Union locations.

Children 14 and under will be admitted free if accompanied by an adult with a ticket. Tickets are good for admission only on the day printed on the ticket.

Tommy Castro

At the 2010 Blues Music Awards in May, Tommy Castro and his bandmates walked away with four awards: band of the year, contemporary blues male artist, contemporary blues album (for Hard Believer), and the big one -- B.B. King Entertainer of the Year.

In a recent phone interview, Castro sounded genuinely grateful and surprised. "You need a shot in the arm," he said. "It was a big night for us." And with a charming lack of vanity, Castro offered two explanations for his four-for-four night specifically, and for his success generally.

"I got opportunities to have a career playing blues, I think, before I was really ready for it," he said. "When Blind Pig signed me [in the mid-1990s], I didn't have any songs. ... I've been learning how to do this while I was doing it. ... I think that over a period of time we've gotten a little bit better at making records."

He credited having a good band, a good producer, and good songwriter partners. "My talent might lie in surrounding myself with all the right people to help me do what I do best," he said. "I have my little thing that I do. I'm a fairly proficient songwriter, I'm a good singer, and a good guitar player. I don't think I'm great at any of those things. ... I'll take all the help I can get."

Kim Massie

"You know the saying that you got to be in the right place at the right time?" singer Kim Massie asked in a recent phone interview. "It wasn't until I came to St. Louis where it was like, 'This is the place I'm supposed to be!' Everything started to happen. One thing led to another."

Kim Massie is not a household name, even in the context of the blues. She has become an institution in the great blues and jazz city of St. Louis over the past 10 years, twice winning the Riverfront Times' female-vocalist-of-the-year award, and she's the featured artist twice a week at the blues club Beale on Broadway. Yet she rarely performs outside of her hometown -- trips to Hungary, Seattle, San Francisco, Kansas City, and Washington, D.C., but no tours. St. Louis is a place like Chicago or New Orleans where blues musicians can find enough work that they don't have to leave.

Mike and Nanci Livermore of the Mississippi Valley Blues Society's Entertainment Committee "discovered" Massie in St. Louis and were so impressed with her show that they suggested the committee get her for the 2010 festival. The committee loved her powerful, soulful singing, which described as "the voice of God with growling nuances of Etta James."

Ruthie Foster

The numerous plaudits for singer/songwriter Ruthie Foster include O magazine calling her "a blues powerhouse" and Paste magazine raving, "There's no denying the power of Foster's monstrous voice," and she received a 2009 Grammy Award nomination for her CD The Truth According to Ruthie Foster -- which is about as confident a title as one could imagine.

Yet during our recent phone interview, the Austin, Texas-based musician admits that power and confidence were by no means inherent traits.

"I knew early on that I wanted to be in music doing something," says Foster of her professional goals, "but being a singer out front was not my idea of what I wanted to do. I wanted to be support. For anyone. I was kind of shy, so I didn't really see myself doing what I'm doing now.

"So yeah, I wanted to be in music, but to this capacity?" she continues. "I just kind of learned how to be out in front of people and how to entertain. You know, you just keep saying 'yes,' and all these opportunities come up."

Zac Harmon

Growing up in Jackson, Mississippi, in the 1960s and '70s, guitarist and vocalist Zac Harmon says, "The thing about the blues is that it wasn't something you heard and said, 'Oh, I like that.' It was part of the culture, so when I started playing, it was only natural that that's what I played.

"Blues was like air," he adds. "And if you breathed, you was gonna get it."

With lauding his "soulful vocals and breathtaking showmanship" and the Edmonton Sun describing him as "the closest the blues gets to a heavy-metal star," it's clear that Zac Harmon got it good ... even if it did take a while for people to realize it. Following two decades as a Los Angeles-based studio musician, writer, and producer, Harmon released his first solo CD -- Live at Babe & Ricky's Inn -- in 2002, and four years later, at age 49, received the Blues Music Award for best new blues artist.

"It's kind of funny," says the musician, during our recent interview, of his relatively late emergence in the blues spotlight. "Folks sometimes say, 'Oh, wow -- he's an overnight success!' But overnight in the music business can sometimes be 20 years."

Ana Popović

It might seem strange for a European to be born into the blues, but that was the case for Ana Popović.

"This is the only thing that I remember as far as music growing up in Serbia," said the Belgrade-born singer, songwriter, and guitarist in a recent phone interview. "We never listened to Serbian music, and basically none of the European stuff ... ."

The blues came both from albums -- "I learned a lot of English from the records," she said, and "I sang those songs way before I could imagine and understand what they were talking about" -- and home jam sessions led by her father. (She eventually wormed her way into those sessions because she learned slide guitar.)

Her first concert (at age 13) was Tina Turner, and one can hear the vocal influence in the fiery defiance and soul of "Wrong Woman," from her 2009 album Blind for Love. Pair that with the subdued, quiet confidence of the same record's "More Real," and it's evident that this is an artist capable of nearly boundless blues. It's overstating her skills, but think Turner paired with Stevie Ray Vaughan and you'll get some sense of this woman's multifaceted attack.

Shirley King"I started gravitating toward the blues in about 1969," says 60-year-old vocalist Shirley King. "What happened was I'd moved to Chicago from California -- I'd been staying with my dad and came back to stay with my mom -- and I was supposed to be getting married to a boyfriend I'd been liking ever since I was small. So I pretty much followed him here to Chicago to get married ... and he decided he'd had a change of mind, and wanted to marry my girlfriend.

"So I think that must've pushed me over to the blues!" exclaims King, with a deep laugh, during our recent phone interview. "Because, man, I got it then!"

Did she ever. For nearly 20 years now, the Chicago-based King has been a staple at area blues clubs; a popular touring artist who has performed in Canada, Italy, France, and even Iceland; and a darling of blues fans and critics, with Prevue magazine describing her as "a musical gem" and the Web site lauding, "King sings with passion, energy, and power."

But what's surprising about King's reminiscence is that she didn't get the blues before that heartbreak of her youth, considering that her dad is the King of the Blues himself -- B.B. King.