Saturday, December 25, 2010

Sugar Blue Bringing the Blues to Jazz Alley in Seattle

Touring in support of his much anticipated 2010 record, Threshold, Grammy Award-winning harmonica virtuoso Sugar Blue has once again captivated listener's world-wide with his visionary and soulful style. Sugar Blue will be at Dimitriou's Jazz Alley for one night only on January 10, 2011. Band members are Sugar Blue (vocals/harmonica), Rico Mc Farland (guitar/vocals), Ilaria Lantieri (bass/vocals) and James Knowles (drums).

It is due to Blue's creativity and precision that makes Threshold so out of the ordinary and one of the most exciting blues releases of the year. His distinctive sensual voice, astounding technique, and unique ability to transcend any genre by bringing an energetic expressiveness to his music, brings every crowd to the edge of their seat.

Raised in Harlem, New York, to a singer and dancer, the born James Whiting spent his childhood surrounded and influenced by renowned musicians such as Billie Holiday, Dexter Gordon, and Lester Young. Deciding at an early age he too wanted to become a performer, the now renowned and celebrated bluesman began sharing his talent as a street musician. The year of 1975 marked Sugar Blue's first recording accompanied by the legendary blues figures Brownie McGhee and Roosevelt Sykes. The following year, after contributing to recordings by Victoria Spivey and Johnny Shines, he took the advice of blues pianist Memphis Slim and moved to Paris, uniting with members of the Rolling Stones to work on the Some Girls album. Falling in love with his sound, the Rolling Stones officially offered Blue the session spot in their group.

Driven by his desire to evolve as a blues harmonicist, Blue declined the invitation and instead recorded his albums Crossroads and From Paris to Chicago, inspired by his then return home to the U.S. in 1982. Sitting in with famed blues musicians in Chicago such as Big Walter Horton, Carey Bell, James Cotton and Junior Wells, he spent two years touring as part of the Chicago Blues All Stars with mentor Willie Dixon. By 1983, Sugar Blue had put together his own band and was well on his way to winning his Grammy Award in 1985 for Best Traditional Blues Album, titled Blues Explosion. Since, Blue has taken the stage and shared his incredible talent across America, Europe and Africa, performing with the likes of B.B. King, Art Blakey, Muddy Waters, and Lionel Hampton. Perhaps those at Village Voices in New York said it best, "Sugar Blue is…a superstar."

Show information and tickets at

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Biggest Washington Blues Society Holiday Party So Far

by Robert Horn 
Every year it happens, but this time it broke all records. The annual Washington Blues Society (WBS) holiday party officially started at 7 pm in Forcaster's Pub at the Red Hook Brewery in Woodinville. By 8 pm a security person at the door was telling people there was no more room and each of them had to wait for a someone to leave to be able to enter. Meanwhile inside, Tony Frederickson was giving away merchandise in a raffle and the tickets read like: "number 521.... number 942..." Yes there were hundreds of people there and even though they were sometimes packed a little like sardines, the next day all the emails I saw were from people saying they've never had so much fun.

Why were these people so happy? Well, I will tell all about that in aWBS Bluesletter article to be out in February. But, I can tell a little right now...

The music was amazing. Members of Charles Whites' Band performed at the party. They are all part of the blues family in this region, and it was fitting that we all were thinking of Charles. We also had Mark Riley, Tim Langford, and Rob Moitoza performing (there are some photos of these guys I took including one with a green light shining on Rob that sparked a caption writing contest I started on Facebook---Rob is a great guy and if he doesn't think it is funny I will buy whatever he wants me to buy to make up for it.). Kathy McDonald sang later and there was a great featured guest from a long ways away: Sammy Eubanks, the guitar magician.

Hundreds got into dancing, eating, drinking, laughing, hugging, and talking for hours. Yes, the Blues are alive and well in Seattle --- LIFE IS GREAT!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

An Interview with Seattle's Brian Lee - Scientist and Artist

Guest blogger Tim Maher, impressed by Brian Lee's musicianship and blues style, set up a series of meetings with Brian to learn more about him and his music. As a result, Tim has produced a very interesting and in-depth interview with the Seattle based artist (and scientist!). The full interview can be read below...

(Click on "Fullscreen" or "Download" below to open the interview in a bigger window)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

“Carriage House Sessions” - Jeff Ray and Hurricane Harold (Self-Released)

By Eric Steiner
It's impolitic for me to review another blues society's entrant in the Best Self-Produced CD competition during the 2011 International Blues Challenge, but I promised a friend at the Greater Twin Cities Blues Society in Minneapolis-St. Paul that I'd listen to his latest CD. I initially discovered "Hurricane" Harold Tremblay through the Blindman Blues Forum, and met him at a St. Paul harp show featuring Billy Branch, Mark Hummel and the Twin Cities ' RJ Mischo. Down the street, local harp player Steve "Boom Boom" Vonderarr tore it up, and Harold was an expert tour guide.

The first time I heard Carriage House Sessions, I knew that our own CD in the competition, Walk the Talk from Son Jack, Jr. and Michael Wilde, had a strong challenger. Carriage House Sessions features inspired interpretations of "Key to the Highway," "Buckets of Rain" and "Can't Lose What You Never Had." The original material is fresh, too. Jeff and Harold are also their society's entrant in the solo/duo competition (a challenger to Nick Vigarino and Porch Stomp).

We've reviewed Harold's other band in the WBS Bluesletter , Cool Disposition, and Carriage House Sessions offers up a nice alternative to the electric Jump in the Mudd. It's an achievement for a solo/duo blues act to receive its societies' nod to compete in both the CD Competition and the Solo/Duo competition, and I wish Jeff and Hurricane the best (only after Son Jack Jr. and Michael Wilde, and Nick Vigarino and Porch Stomp, make it to the finals in Memphis!).

Go to to purchase the CD

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

"Insufficient Funds" - Blue Five Five (Self-released)

By Malcolm Kennedy 
Glen Stewart has two bands on Insufficient Funds: on six tracks recorded at Fasttrax Studios, he has Dave Thorp on bass, Ralph Waters on drums, and Ron Weinstein on the Hammond B-3; on the remaining seven, he has Lissa Ramaglia on bass, Andy O on drums, and Scotty Harris on sax, recorded at Jimmy Free Studios.

In the liner notes Glen states that "This CD is far from perfect, but at some point I had to move on." And I heartily concur; but I will say this CD definitely has its' moments of brilliance. The project has been a long and drawn out one, going on some eight or ten years in the making, and maybe more. In his live shows, Glen features a mixture of styles: from rock to blues, and even surf music. Glen covers material as varied as Bo Diddley, Robert Johnson, Buddy Guy, John Lee Hooker, and Freddie King.

One of the tracks that stand out for me is the original instrumental "Candy," which showcases Scotty Harris' honking sax with Glen on some spine tingling slide. Glen's take on "Going Down" is inspired, and again aided by the stellar sax playing of Scotty Harris. The title track is a medium paced blues shuffle with a subject that really is all too familiar to working blues men and women. Another original instrumental is "Evening Blues," with some T-Bone Walker licks and some slinky sax. Glen closes the CD with an instrumental reprise of Buddy Guy's "100 Bill," and this almost has a rocking surf thing going on. Some things don't work so well on this CD; but when they do, the CD works very well.

You can sample songs from the CD at

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

“Know Your Driver” - John Stephan Band (Self Released)

By Malcolm Kennedy 
Know Your Driver

I mentioned John Stephan to someone recently and they quipped “yeah, he’s good; but he’s so loud” to which I replied, “Sure he can peel paint with the best of them; but you really need to hear his new CD Know Your Driver.” I think that John is possibly the most overlooked guitarist in town [Seattle]. This man has chops to spare, from blistering leads to impeccable rhythm guitar skills, and all points in between.

John is also an accomplished vocalist with a pleasing and seasoned voice. John’s got Tom Roesch on bass, Trev Cutler on drums, and Jeff Conlin on keys with special guests Steve Flynn and Eric “Two Scoops” Moore adding piano to two tracks. The opening track, “Working on a Building,” gets you moving with its funky groove and tough guitar solo. This is followed by the title track where John sings ‟you best get acquainted before you trust someone with everything you’ve got,” advice that can be equally applied in relationships as on the open road.

I could write something on just about every one of the dozen tracks, nine of them originals; but I will be brief here. My favorite cut is “Root Hog or Die” to which John applies a deft touch on slide guitar. Another I particularly enjoyment is “Last Call,” a tribute to Albert Collins and Isaac Scott which John infuses with a fat jazzy tone. “Hard Worker Down” got my attention as John sings about the tough times the workers face in today’s job market. You will find slashing slide work on “Hard For The Devil” and Willie Dixon’s “Down in the Bottom,” followed by melancholy acoustic stylings on “Treatment Blues” where John informs us that the blues is a preexisting condition. John imbues “Trouble Machine” with the ghost of Elmore James as he sings the evil car blues, a tune that reminds me of my own ride. The liner photo of John as a young boy in Palmer, Alaska in a field standing next his horse Prince is absolutely priceless. Do yourself a favor and pick up this excellent CD.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Blues Cruise On Land at Left Coast Rogers'

by Robert Horn

As happens every year in Seattle, a large three story house seems like a blues cruise on a weekend in early December. Roger has a giant house party each year with several hundred blues fans and a jam with about 100 blues musicians coming through over the weekend. Some show up on Friday and some are getting ready to leave on Sunday. Of the several hundred that may be there - after a few drinks the crowd looks bigger - many are musicians, and the jam that happens on Saturday is good enough to rival a small blues festival.

There is so much food that it never seems to get low. There are cases of wine (a good variety), liquor and beer. Its a perfect way to gain weight between Thanksgiving and Christmas since it is on the weekend of December 4th. Don't confuse this with the Washington Blues Society Holiday Party, which is also coming up on December 19th and a must to be at if you love the music.

A few photographs were captured. Mark Dufresne was wearing a hat that got some laughs, and he said that if anyone put this on YouTube he'd kill them. Since this isn't YouTube, I guess I am safe! Oh, hey, I will claim I did not take the pictures. I have a list of people I can blame it on. The party was great, and the blues musicians performing there were a big part of why that was. Now on to the Washington Blues Society holiday party!!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Legendary Blues Cruise Pacific Report

By Daphne Kilburn 
Some have called it a “Blues Woodstock At Sea” while others just call it amazing, year after year. The Legendary Rhythm & Blues Pacific Cruise sailed October 17-24, and numerous Washingtonians enjoyed the cruise. We sailed from San Diego, to Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta, and Mazatlan, with a two-day sail back to San Diego.

Teach You A Lesson
Several Washington-based blues artists were the line-up, with Grant Dermody performing harmonica with Eric Bibb’s acoustic guitar genius. Randy Oxford returned to host the jams, and his trombone sounded a more exciting blues repertoire than ever before. Grant and Randy were warmly received and hung out with blues fans on the week-long journey.

Crossing That RiverThis year’s cruise was very smooth compared to last year’s, when the ship was out-running a hurricane and didn’t make its three ports of call. This time, however, there were permit issues with Cabo Wabo, the Sammy Hagar’s famous joint in Cabo, so Larry McCray and Grady Champion did sets on the ship just before we sailed from Cabo. Champion was this year’s International Blues Challenge band winner.

Live! Down The RoadFan favorites this year included Marcia Ball, Coco Montoya, Tommy Castro and Elvin Bishop. The Lowrider Band, Smokin’ Joe Kubek with B’nois King, Wayne Baker Brooks, and Café R&B thrilled the audiences in the various venues with their unique styles. All of them seemed relaxed yet refined, searing their blues into the hearts of the nearly 1,300 fans on board the M/S Zaandam of the Holland America Line. Fans got a dose of every type of blues, from funk and soul, to the deep South. Piano Bar hosts Eden Brent and Leon Blue created their own soulful and steamy blues. Rev. Billy C. Wirtz put a comical twist on the blues with hyperactive hilarity and intimate story-weaving by way of his own creations, as well as remembrances of old blues blasts.

I heard only a couple of complaints aboard ship, mainly focused on the sound system in the Piano Bar or the amps blowing on a stage. Raves and accolades were abundant when it came to the performers. The musicians were accessible and available through autograph parties, constant mingling, CD signings and presence in the Bluesin’ Bazaar.

Second WinterThe once-in-a-lifetime, take-your-breath-away appearances by Edgar and Johnny Winter left many fans wanting more. For the first time in over 30 years the two brothers came together to perform and complement each other’s talents, closing out the last performance of the week with Edgar displaying synthesizer perfection on “Frankenstein” with Johnny’s band. As they left the stage we could hear them comment that this was the first they had played it together ever !

Tin Can TrustLos Lobos had a definite following of lifelong fans as well. Their sound, was classic and engaging. Three decades of performing has brought about an evolution in their music, and no one could sit still.

Reservation Blues

Touted as “Chicago’s premier blues showman” by the Chicago Tribune, Eddy “The Chief” Clearwater ripped through some amazing guitar riffs and bluesy funk, with a loud and flamboyant stage presence. He even renewed his marriage vows in a ceremony officiated by the ship’s captain, immediately after the Blues Cruise Awards Ceremony. Some may remember him as “Guitar Eddy,” the self-taught left-handed guitarist’s music career dates back to sometime around 1948, but his songwriting is a timeless merging of blues and rock.

MercyKelley Hunt’s performances on this year’s cruise led to her CD “Mercy” flying off the table in the Bluesin’ Bazaar. Her website best describes the intent of the album, with “rich veins of political and social commentary threading throughout”. It was later just plain exciting to see this piano blues woman sit next to Marcia Ball and do what only they can do on the keyboards. She is quite accomplished as a guitarist, songwriter, and singer. “Mercy” was her fourth CD release back in 2008 but has found a fresh audience of late; she’s back on tour this month!

Live In EuropeTommy Castro’s Legendary Rhythm and Blues Revue spotlighted Santa Cruz favoriteSista Monica, onboard without her band this year. Larry McCray was, again, magnetic, drawing people into his guitar exploits time and timeagain. Elvin Bishop’s Hell Raisin’ Blues Revue and Kim Wilson’s Blues All Stars gave us an even deeper exposure to some blues artists we might not have been exposed to otherwise, along with old friends like John Nemeth and Kid Andersen.

Lost In The OzoneFinally, there was Commander Cody. His boogie woogie is priceless, his stories of blues history and other anecdotes were captivating. He was gracious toward the fans, and compatible onstage with other greats as he conducted a Boogie Woogie workshop with half a dozen other keyboard specialists. Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen debuted in 1967, and he showcased some of his original art on the cruise, too.

The folks at Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise are negotiating the continuation of the Pacific cruise after October of 2011, the official word remains that October 2011 could be the last of these amazing cruises on the left coast. This could mean an even tougher task of making the reservation list for the January dates out of Fort Lauderdale each year. We’re all keeping our fingers crossed and keepin’ the blues alive while we await word from Roger Naber and his team. In the meantime, visit the LRBC web site at On behalf of a grateful and satisfied blues cruisin’ fan base, it’s time to listen to all those new CDs we brought home.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Blues Trippin’ and Ranting and Raving!

By Blues Boss 
This month is going to be some ranting and raving…

Let’s start with a rant - blues fans still staying away from Pioneer Square. I’m telling you, it’s like a sleepy little fishing village down there now. You want unruly crowds go to Belltown (or Ballard on a weekend)…you want blues music, well one of the many places you can go is back to the “Square.”

Rave – to all those venues who have stuck with the blues during hard times. And those venues who have come back to blues music, like the J&M Café - or the new venues like Rhythm & Brews in Tacoma.

A rave – Christmas! Pretty much lost interest in it as a holiday (because of the rampant commercialism) until I got grandkids….now, it is fun again.

Another rant – although it’s not about music, it’s about age! The “senior citizen” designation will no longer apply. From now on 55-75 will be called “Classic citizens” (like classic cars – we don’t call automobiles from the 50’s & 60’s “senior cars”).

Back to a rave – those members Board of Director of the Washington Blues Society (not including my lazy self) who give their time and effort consistently and unwaveringly to the local blues scene. Three cheers.

A small rant – And this one doesn’t happen very often – Two national acts in town on the same night! We don’t get that many of them here as it is, and then to have Irma Thomas (at Jazz Alley) up against Charlie Musselwhite (at the Triple Door) on the same night just ain’t right!

Rave – about the level of musical talent in the greater Seattle area! I’m active on an International Blues Forum (and several other blues societies) and I get the opportunity to check out music from all over the world. Let me tell you, the Greater Seattle area (and our neighbors to the south in Portland) can hold a candle to just about any music market when it comes to the blues. PERIOD. And, as a music fan I thank all of you for the joy it brings me.

Have a great holiday season – stay safe, and keep Blues Trippin…. See you at the WBS Holiday Party!

Usually I make a nostalgia recommendation, but this month I am making a strong recommendation to do your Christmas shopping with your favorite local blues musicians – buy “local” CDs, they make wonderful Christmas presents…

Thursday, November 25, 2010

“Chris Eger Band “- Chris Eger Band (Self released)

By Malcolm Kennedy 
The Chris Eger band plays tough R&B and blue-eyed soul with a guitar edge filtered through rock and a touch of blues. Even when Chris plays homage to the all mighty guitar and icons like Stevie Ray Vaughan, he does it with a funky groove.

Formed in 2007 in Mount Vernon, Washington,  the band is made up of Chris on guitar and vocals, Brendan Abshier on keyboards and vocals, Mark Clark on drums, and Chris' father Randall Eger on bass. The album also features the Powerhouse Horns: Pete Kirkman on trumpet and Mike West on saxophone. This debut self-produced and self-titled CD features 10 tracks opening with an inviting take on AI Green's classic "Love and Happiness," followed by Lil' Dave Thompson's "Standin' In The Rain" and also features a couple of Heatherly's tunes including the standout "Wrong Five O'Clock" a relationship song with the line 'I got home at the wrong five o'clock."

The album also features four original tunes with the soulful "Lay It Down," Chris' ode to the guitar, he sings 'turn it on, crank it up, lay it down! ' and that is exactly what they do. On Rollin' Thunder, co-written by Chris and Brendan, Chris sings about 'two wheeled warriors' and opens the throttle a little on his axe too. Chris has been playing guitar since he was 13, and the other members of the band have been playing around the region for many years as well. The Chris Eger Band is an excellent live act that performs with energy and style. I recommend you check them out and get a copy of their CD quick because everywhere they play they sell out all the CD's they bring with them (It's the only place to buy it, or I would have put a link here!!).