Sunday, June 27, 2010

Sunbanks: "The Festival That's Not a Festival!"

by The Blues Boss

A few years back, the Sunbanks Music Festival used a “take off” of the famous Las Vegas sign in their logo, obviously tagging on to the “What happens in … stays in…” idea. Well, it’s very appropriate! These semiannual events (May and September) are decidedly not typical “festivals”. They are more like a big private party; many regulars always referred to as “Billy Stoop’s Private Party”. There is way too much fun going on!

Musically, the Sunbanks Festivals aren’t typical either. Not 100% locked into blues, blues, blues, Sunbanks throws in a smidgeon of other musical genres just to keep you guessing. But, it’s all good, toe-tappin’ music, enjoyed every year by the “regulars”. Yes, regulars! Your typical attendees at Sunbanks are there every time – up to say 90% return year after year. That’s why it has such a “private party” feel.

This year, the Stacy Jones Band kicked off the musical festivities, exposing the eastern Washington music lovers to some musical fare from west of the mountains. MC, promoter, performer Billy Stoops and his
gang grabbed the stage next. Billy Roy Danger and The Rectifiers, “swampa-billy” at it’s best… Filling in, the Pat Coast Band out of Spokane kept the audience grooving despite the weather, which was a tad brisk! After sundown, the wind blew a steady 30 mph and the mercury dropped down into the 30’s, and if you figured wind chill, we’re talking chilly! Hambone Wilson out of Bellingham had his hands full warming up the crowd, and Hambone did admirably.

Saturday’s line up started with a bunch of “has-beens” (I can say that, they are good friends of mine) putting themselves out there as Snake Oil-Blues Elixir. Guitar driven mayhem ensued, a high-octane start to the day. The C.D. Woodbury Band followed, showing the audience why they recently grabbed a couple “BB Awards” presented by Washington Blues Society. Next up, giving the audience a different musical path to stroll down was the Trevalyan Triangle, and it was a nice change of pace. Then, Sunbanks turned into “Ladies Day” for awhile. The rockin ‘n roll Neil Rush Band featuring Bruce Robertson and Kathi McDonald were next, and Kathi still brings it home every time. Not slowing down, up came the Strange Tones with the Volcano Vixens. The Vixens add a great “visual touch” to the Strangetones “crime-a-billy” rollicking’ good time music.

Teresa James & the Rhythm Tramps - LiveStaying with the female theme the next act was Teresa James and the Rhythm Tramps. Texas blues with a twang, and one of the best rhythm sections you’d ever want to hear. James is a mainstay on many blues cruises. Getting some testosterone back into the mix, Lloyd Jones closed Saturday, doing what Lloyd Jones does, and always with that Cheshire cat smile!

Live! At The Sierra Nevada Brewery Big Room
I’m sure that Sunday’s starting act was booked to ease the crowd into the day. Didn’t happen! The Rae Gordon Trio out of Portland. The lady with the big......Pipes! Keeping the “Oregon theme” going, Big Monti and his band took over driving the festival bus, at breakneck speot a Festivaled, down the musical road. Roy Rogers and The Delta Rhythm Kings followed Big Monti; Roy is a slide guitar master on the twin-necked guitar, and Roy Rogers never fails to impress.

Live in England
The festival ended with Hamilton Loomis. All year long I kept hearing about Hamilton “@#$%^&*” Loomis, and frankly I was getting a bit bored with the entire hubbub. Well, my boredom was misplaced. The kid (he’s younger than my son, so he’s still a kid in my book) is a phenomenal performer serving up rocking’ Texas flavored funk and soul tinged blues with an excellent young supporting cast, too. But, make no mistake, the show is Hamilton Loomis! There is an elusive “it factor” in music, and Hamilton Loomis has “it”! Don’t miss him if you have the chance. And, remember, what happens at Sunbanks stays at Sunbanks… unless it’s a great story that I can jawbone about. Or better yet, print it in the Bluesletter…then all bets are off.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

"Big Rockin’ Boogie" - Becki Sue & Her Big Rockin’ Daddies! (Underworld Records)

Review by - Mark Dalton

Big Rockin' BoogieWhat a treat. Simply put, Becki Sue and Her Big Rockin’ Daddies!’ new album, “Big Rockin’ Boogie”, is their best release yet. Fans of this hard working Northwest band are gonna love this collection, as it offers up heaping helpings of everything we love about them - and folks that are picking up on the BRDs for the first time are gonna love it too, if they know good music and good blues.

For starters, Becki Sue continues her remarkable development as a blues artist and an entertainer, and the evidence is right here to prove it. Becki has always been gifted with a rich, powerful voice, but she really comes into her own as a stylist with this CD – and she’s got a rocket in her pocket and she’s rarin’ to go! When Becki growls “something bad might happen to you” on “Neighbor Tend To Your Business,” you hope they’re listening. Great singing throughout, but I was especially pleased to hear her really pushing herself on songs like “Can’t Stop These Teardrops” – Becki has never stopped growing as an artist in all the years that I’ve known her; she just keeps on pushing!

There are great guitarists who can play the blues, and then there are great BLUES GUITARISTS. Tom Boyle is the latter – and he is one of my favorite blues guitarists from anywhere, any time, because Tom has taken a giant gumbo of blues influences and slowly, lovingly simmered it down over the years into a sound that is unique, instantly recognizable, and strong enough to make your hair stand on end! Tom’s playing is as soulful as it gets (the ghost of Magic Sam points the way at times) and it takes a lifetime of work to learn to wring this kind of music out of a guitar. Check out the solos on “Rocket” “What Have I Done Wrong,” or “I’d Walk A Mile” and you’ll hear what I mean.

Jim King’s raunchy tenor playing, sly vocals, and the fat horn arrangements by the late, lamented Robbie Jordan deserve kudos here too, as does the piano and organ tracks from guests David Vest and Ron Weinstein. The rhythm section: Les White blows me away on that stand-up bass – doing stuff that’s hard enough on a Fender bass and making it sound easy! Jeff Hayes is rock solid on drums; the extensive work he’s done with players in the Mississippi Delta really shines here – Nothin’ but the blues! Like I said earlier – this CD has heaping helpings of everything we love about this band – great playing, soulful, serious blues, Big Fun and Big Rockin’ Boogie! Pick it up – you can’t go wrong!

Preview and purchase songs from the album Big Rockin' Boogie by Becki Sue and Her Big Rockin' Daddies.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Blues at the Upstage - Port Townsend, Washington

By Robert Horn

The talent coming to The Upstage in Port Townsend is very impressive. This has been true for a while now and seems to still be getting greater. In late May, the Upstaged hosted Pinetop Perkins, Roy Rogers and The Delta Rhythm Kings, Willie Big Eyes Smith Band, Mark Dufresne, Country Joe McDonald, and Marcia Ball and her band.

Peace, Love & BBQI was there for the Marcia Ball show. It was impressive to say the least. She arrived as the news reported about the horrific oil spill that’s impacting Gulf of Mexico and New Orleans. Many of her songs were about New Orleans where the band has had its roots. Songs like “Where Do You Go (When You Can’t Go Home)” and “Louisiana 1927” (which was about one of the devastating hurricanes to hit the area) caused the crowd to hang onto every word in respectful silence as she sang, but applaud long and loud afterwards. She talked about the need to help the fishermen out of work down there. Much of the music was typical of Marcia and New Orleans: a rousing call to party with songs like “New Orleans Is A Party Town” and “Watermelon Time.”

Marcia Ball Live: Down the RoadSax player Thad Scott delivered what may have been the best sax performance I have seen. Mike Keller on guitar was great, too. I was impressed with the rhythm section and talked with bass player Don Bennett after the show. Don’s known Maria since 1974, and has consistently played bass for many of those years with Marcia. The place was packed with people sitting on the stair steps and hanging out in the balcony window area. The band performed two encores, and clearly appreciated Marcia and her band going the extra mile.

When the time comes to nominate Blues Clubs for the BB Awards next year, consider The Upstage. Of course, I still love the old favorites like the Highway 99 Blues Club, Engels Pub, The Oxford, The New Orleans Creole Restaurant and Salmon Bay Eagles, among others, but it’s always good to consider another exceptional blues destination like The Upstage in Port Townsend. Congratulations....