Wayne Nicholson & John Campbelljohn 

Wayne Nicholson & John Campbelljohn 

Elmore’s Blues
Grindstone Records 

Reviewed by Greg Johnson 

Though the names may not be familiar to blues fans in the United States, in their homeland of Canada they’re musical icons. Wayne Nicholson has one of the country’s most notable voices, strong and gritty that he has developed with more than 50 years of performances. John Campbelljohn has released nearly twenty albums over his career and plays slide guitar that can be set next to the very best. These two award-winning artists joined forces for their latest recording, the outstanding tribute to the great Elmore James, titles appropriately Elmore’s Blues. 

Most of the tracks on this disc are Elmore James numbers, many instantly recognized just by their titles alone: “Shake Your Moneymaker, “Standing At The Crossroads” and “It Hurts Me Too,” but also perhaps lesser known numbers like “Sinful Woman,” “Happy Home” and “Sunnyland.” The pair turn in exceptional renditions and they also included a couple of their own originals done in James’ fashion that work remarkably well: “If I Was Blue” and “Dancin’ With The Blues.” 

It should be noted that alongside Campbelljohn’s guitar playing, the bouncing barrelhouse piano provided by Barry Cooke is smoking tasteful, too. Rounding out the band are Neil Robertson on drums, organist Kim Dunn and bassist Bruce Dixon delivering a great bluesy pace that fits just right. 

When paying accolades to an iconic bluesman like Elmore James, it should be noted that an artist should place their own mark on the material. Rather than just coming out and doing a note for note copy of the original, there should be something additional to make it sound fresh while not losing the master’s intentions. Nicholson and Campbelljohn do that quite well here. A beautiful tribute to James with enough fresh ideas of their own thrown in to make this album shake all on its own. 

Total Time: 47:46 

I May Be Wrong / Standing At The Crossroads / I Believe / If I was Blue / Knocking At Your Door / No Love In My Heart / Rollin’ And Tumblin’ / Sinful Woman / Happy Home / Shake Your Moneymaker / Sunnyland / Strange Kinda Feeling / It Hurts Me Too / Dancin’ With The Blues 


New Music to Note-September 2021

New Music of Note August  2020

August  2020 New Music Releases 

There is so much good music out there. To help sort through it, we recommend starting here. 

CD Woodbury – World’s Gone Crazy (Self Release) 

Dave Fields – Force Of Will (FMI Records) 

Dion – Blues With Friends ( KTBA Records) 

Duke Robillard – Stretchin’ Out Live (Stony Plain) 

Eliza Neals – Black Crow Moan (E-H Records) 

Forrest McDonald – Blues In A Bucket (World Talent Records) 

Hurricane Ruth – Good Life (American Showplace Records) 

Joe Louis Walker  – Blues Comin’ On (Cleopatra Blues) 

Larkin Poe – Self Made Man (Tricki-Woo Records) 

Mandalyn – Mandalyn – EP (Shocaroff Management) 

Mark May Band – Deep Dark Demon (Gulf Coast Records) 

Pascal Bokar – American Trails (Savanna Jazz Records) 

Peter Karp – Magnificent Heart (Rose Cottage Records) 

Shawn Pittman – Make It Right! (Continental Record Services) 

The Nighthawks  Tryin’ To Get To You (Ellersoul) 

Too Slim & The Taildraggers – The Remedy (VizzTone Records) 

Various Artists – Lockdown Sessions: An International Down Home Blues revue (CrossCut Records) 

Wayne Nicholson & John Campbelljohn – Elmore’s Blues (Grindstone Records) 


Mary Jo Curry Band - Front Porch 

Mary Jo Curry Band - Front Porch Mary Jo Curry Band

Front Porch
(Self Produced) 

Review by John Taylor 

People tell the damnedest stories out on the porch, and Mary Jo Curry’s got a few you’re gonna want to hear. So pull up a chair, grab a lemonade or a beer out of the cooler and get ready for some genuine house-rockin’ blues. “Front Porch,” the Mary Jo Curry Band’s second release, is something to write home about. 

Northwest listeners might not be familiar with this Illinois-based outfit, but they’re not exactly newcomers. Curry and guitarist Michael Rapier started playing together nine years ago, picking up bassist Chris Rogers and drummer Rick Snow four years later. In 2016, they turned heads with their first album, “Mary Jo Curry,” which broke out in the top spot on the RMR Classic Blues Chart, yielded three No. 1 hits and held court as the top blues album for three weeks. They’ve played regularly at stops all over the Midwest, and two recent Western tours took them through North Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota and Nebraska. 

Now they’re starting to get the recognition they’ve long deserved. As 2019 wound down, the Illinois Times named Curry Best Female Vocalist of the Year. 

Good call. Curry’s got a wall-banging voice that knows exactly where it’s going. And it’s got some places to go on “Front Porch.” 

First stop: the crossroads, where in “Nothin’ Is Easy, she encounters a shadowy figure in a burned-out pickup truck who tells her he doesn’t have any more deals to offer — she can’t even give her soul away. 

It doesn’t stop there. Throughout “Front Porch,” Curry’s muscular vocals belt out blues that stay true to tradition, but advance modern themes and relatable circumstances. 

“The Man” laments the pain of realizing that a love has cooled from dismissive to degrading. Which apparently leads to “Lookin’ ” – a rhythm-driven rhyme (featuring Andrew Duncanson’s guitar work) about when it’s time to move on to the next one. 

“Explaining the Blues” is a spot-on take on the complications and situations that only make sense to those who’ve tried to account for a complicated breakup to well-intentioned, but prying, friends. 

Or maybe it’s just time everybody got up to “Shake & Bake,” with the agile artistry of the late James Cotton’s guitarist, Tom Holland. 

The songs are solid, the sounds are tight – and the more you listen, the more this album sticks with you. This is a band with a powerful voice, and it’s not timid about raising it. 

The neighbors complaining about all that racket aren’t the only ones who’ll be taking notice of “Front Porch.” 

Total Time: 44:00 

Nothin’ Is Easy / Turn It Loose / All Your Lies (feat. Tom Holland) / The Man / Lookin’ (feat. Andrew Duncanson) / House Is Lonely / Explaining the Blues / Shake & Bake (feat. Tom Holland) / We All Had a Real Good Time (feat. Albert Castiglia) / Front Porch (feat. Albert Castiglia) / Joyful 


Lockdown Sessions CD cover

Lockdown Sessions CD coverLockdown Sessions
– An International 
Down Home Blues Revue 

Various Artists
CrossCut Records 

Review by Greg Johnson 

The idea wasn’t a hard one to come up with. Due to the Covid-19 virus music had pretty much come to a standstill in the ways of performances for musicians world-wide. Still in a creative mind, European harmoniuca great Roger C. Wade (Little Roger & The Houserockers) decided to put his ideas down to recording new material. He asked close friend guitar player Andreas Arlt (BB & The Blues Shacks) if he’d like to collaborate and that kicked things off in what turned out to be a project that spread around the globe with more people wishing to participate than they could handle on a double-disc recording.  

Appropriate to the time of uncertainty, the original songs that the artists contributed to the recordings had a theme regarding the loss and loneliness brought about by pandemic.  It’s not surprising to see titles such as “Lockdown Blues, “ “Personal Shutdown,” “Home Alone Stomp,” “Everything Has Changed, “Mean Old Quarantine” and most notably “Fuck You, M. Virus.” Being shut-in did not suppress their need for expression and as artists having their music was their outlet. 

The songs came about written by one artist who would send it to their friends to add their own input via the internet. Dubbed together in this fashion it is amazing at just how well everything comes together on every number. With multiple takes on blues, ranging from boogie, R&B, traditional and urban stylings. And the musicians lending a hand are some of the foremost from around the world, including Americans Larry Garner, Fred Kaplan, Big Daddy Wilson, Joe FiliskoAki Kumar and Nathan James, Germany’s Abi Wallenstein, Michael Van Merwyk and Tommy Schneller, Spain’s Victor Puertas, and Belgium’s Jack O Roonie amongst the many stand-out participants from throughout Europe and America. (The package includes a booklet with short bios on each of the musicians.) 

We all have been going through the hardships of being locked down and exploring music where we can find it, on-line and recordings. Listening to the Lockdown Sessions makes being shut-in a little more bearable and a huge thanks to these artists for trading their ideas amongst one another. In times of hardship such as this, expressions of frustration and loneliness can flow into a positive output that speaks for us all. 

Total Time: 1:25:06 

Lockdown Blues Can’t Get Too Close / Personal Shutdown Death Letter Blues / Mean Old Quarantine  Low-Down Lockdown / Get Me Outta Here / Blow A Poor Man Down / Boogie Galore / The Death Of Louisiana Red / Home Alone Stomp / World Crisis Blues / Be Ready When He Comes / Why You Lie Hey Sweet Marie / Destination Mississippi / Come See About Me / I Know Sax Supreme Fuck You, Mr. Virus / I Can Tell The World / Lockdown Shuffle Everything Has Changed / Come What May Give Me My Heart Back


Jose Ramirez CD cover

Jose Ramirez CD cover

Jose Ramirez 

Here I Come
Blind Racoon

Reviewed by John Taylor 

Costa Rican native Jose Ramirez, the second-place finisher at the 2020  International Blues Challenge in Memphis, has brewed a wicked concoction of straight-ahead blues, passionate soul, and tasty R&B with his debut release Here I Come.”  

Ramirez is joined here by famed producer and bandleader Anson Funderburk, who adds some fiery licks (check out his rapier-like lead guitar attacks on Gasoline and Matches) while drummer Wes Starr and bassist Nate Rowe supply a stone-solid rhythm section. Organ and piano marvel, and Robert Cray alumnus, Jim Pugh offers some sinuous keyboard playing, particularly on Goodbye Letter,” “One Woman Man,” and Waiting for Your Call.” All this is then topped off with The Texas Horns — saxophonists  Kaz Kazanoff and John Mills and trumpet player Al Gomez — and their tough, razor-edged horn riffs.  

Ramirez is as fine a songwriter as he is guitarist and singer, and while several of his original songs stand out on this album, Three Years,” a blues and soul-infused shuffle that echos Stevie Ray VaughanCold Shot” and features fine guitar work from both Ramirez and Funderburk along with some luscious organ lines from Pugh, is the finest track on the album and alone testifies to the promise of Ramirezs talent.   

Included on Here I Come” are remakes of two definitive blues numbers: T-Bone WalkerI Miss You Baby” and Robert JohnsonTraveling Riverside Blues.”  Ramirezs version of Walkers classic song manages to capture the spirit of the original yet sound fresh and dynamic, but his version of JohnsonTraveling Riverside Blues” is too languid. I appreciate the attempt to give that famous tune a new, slightly soulful spin, but its been covered so often, (I imagine at some point The Archies recorded “Traveling Riverside Blues) and by such heavy hitters as Clapton and Zeppelin that nearly any other recording is fated to fall short. Degree-of-difficulty points awarded for giving it a shot though. 

RamirezHere I Come” is a mature, rock-solid blues album steeped in soulful musicianship and superb songwriting. The fact that its a debut album makes it all the more impressive. Jose Ramirez is clearly an up-and-coming contender for the first rank of blues songwriters and performers working today and is a major talent to watch. One hopes, after all this virus craziness passes, to catch him on tour.

Total Time: 54:42 

Here I Come / I Miss You Baby / Gasoline & Matches / One Woman Man / Goodbye Letter / The Way You Make Me Feel / Three Years / As You Can See / Waiting For Your Call / Traveling Riverside Blues / Stop Teasing Me 

Johnny Burgin CD No Border Blues

Johnny Burgin CD No Border Blues

Johnny Burgin 

No Border Blues
Delmark Records 

Review by Greg Johnson 

If you take a look at the touring itinerary that Johnny Burgin carries on a yearly basis it surely shows what a road dog he really is. Whether touring with well-known Chicago musicians such as Billy Boy Arnold or on his own with local musicians thrown together, Burgin always brings forth the tastiest of Chicago-based blues. You wouldn’t expect anything less from somebody who has been such an impact on Chicago’s scene as he has himself. And it may be a surprise to many, that fact also comes across with the bands he puts together while touring Japan. 

Japan has long been addicted to the blues. Perhaps birthed during the 1970s when artists like Jimmy Dawkins, Eddie Taylor and Otis Rush made their way through the country. Burgin has collected a handful of Japan’s most talented blues artists and listening to them perform you just may believe that you’re sitting in Kingston Mines or Rosa’s listening to a Chicago-based band rather than half-way around the world in Osaka. Players such as guitarist Yoshi Mizuno, bassist Zee Yanaga and drummer Takagiman handle a number of the tracks, with Lee Kanehira (Cash Box Kings) also laying down killer piano riffs. Burgin appears on guitar on all numbers and vocals on four, while others like Kanehira, Nacomi Tanaka, Kotez, Iper Onishi and Kaz Nogio fill in their voices throughout the disc. 

The song selections filling this recording are more than exceptional. There’s a lot to take note of, including Burgin’s own composition “Old School Player” as well as pieces written by John Brim (“Rattlesnake”), Carey Bell (“One Day You’re Gonna Get Lucky”), Tampa Red (“Sunnyland”) and Robert Johnson (“Sweet Home Chicago” reworked under the title “Sweet Home Osaka”).  The nearly six-minute instrumental “Samurai Harp Attack” features the trade-off performances of three harmonica masters in Onishi, Nogio and Kotez that is not to be missed as is Little Walter’s “I Just Keep Loving Her” sung in Japanese as “Mada Sukinanda.” Don’t be surprised if you start singing along with the latter. 

If you haven’t paid attention to blues artists from other locations around the world, you just may not know what you’re missing. No Border Blues is a great place to start digging into world blues. And Johnny Burgin is the perfect leader to bring us all along. 

Total Time: 44:16 

One Day You’re Gonna Get Lucky / Sunnyland / So Crazy About You / Hurry Up Baby / Pumpkin’s Boogie / I Just Keep Loving Her (Mada Sukinada) / Rattlesnake / Old School Player / Two Telephones / Samurai Harp Attack / Sweet Home Osaka 


2023 Journey to Memphis Finalists

2020 Journey to Memphis Postponed

This is a message that we were truly hoping that we wouldn’t have to announce, but for the first time in over twenty years, the Cascade Blues Association will be cancelling our Journey to Memphis competition for 2020. As the summer rolls forward and Covid-19 shows no signs of letting up to allow us to utilize a venue to full capacity that we’d need to present a proper event, we feel that preparation time for both the participating acts and the Cascade Blues Association, along with our prime opportunity to raise funds to assist with our winners to travel to Memphis is quickly eluding us.  

The Blues Foundation have cancelled the 2021 International Blues Challenge. We look forward to being able to resume the Journey to Memphis next year in hopes of sending representatives to the International Blues Challenge in 2022.  

2021 Best Self-Produced CD Competition

2021 Best Self-Produced CD Competition
Entries Now Being Accepted

Since 2005, The Blues Foundation has annually held a competition to recognize excellence in independent blues recordings. The Best Self-Produced CD competition is open to affiliated blues societies from around the world to submit one entry each, preferably selected by a regional competition. 

The Cascade Blues Association has taken part in this event since its inception and submitted the overall winner chosen in 2011 — Joe McMurrian’s Get Inside This House. Last year’s entry, Rich Layton & Tough Town’s Salvation Road was one of the top five finalists. 

The CBA is now accepting submissions for this year’s competition. All are welcome to enter with the exception of artists who have been nominated for or received a Blues Music Award, or recordings on labels that have been nominated or received a Blues Music Award. No compilation discs, and only artists from Oregon, Washington or Idaho will be accepted. Only CDs released between November 1, 2019 and October 31, 2020 are eligible.  

Entries will be judged on Blues Content, Musical Performance, Audio Quality and Production Value of the Recording, Professionalism and Visual Appearance of Cover Art and Design, and Credits and Liner Note Information by a local committee. The winning local disc selected will be submitted to The Blues Foundation for the international competition, with the winners announced during the finals at the 2021 International Blues Challenge in Memphis. 

Mail your entries to: BSPCD c/o Cascade Blues Association, PO Box 6566, Portland, Oregon 97228. All entries must be received by Wednesday, October 7, postmarked no later than October 6th. Depending on the status of the pandemic situation, if we are able to hold general membership meetings, entries may be dropped off in person at those through October 7th. 

October 2020 cancelled

General Membership Meeting Cancelled
August 2020

As we approach another month in this time of Covid-19, we do not seem any closer to being able to have a live membership meeting. Portland still sits in phase one, with phase two not allowing groups of more than 25 people still to come. We just do not know when things will turn around for us. 

We apologize to our members and to the acts scheduled during these months, but we basically have our hands tied at this point. Phase one has allowed some venues to be able to hold shows, so help them out and attend when possible – but remember, the fact is that the pandemic still exists, so be safe. We do not want to move into the position that the State of Washington resides with no music allowed until they reach phase four, or California where the entire state is shut down for all restaurants and bars. Don’t let us move backwards. 

Keep a watch on our Facebook page and the Cascade Blues Association website, if anything changes for the positive where we might be able to have a meeting, we will let you know. We’re heavily anticipating when we may be able to gather again and enjoy our friendships and great music. 

2020 Performance Venue Project

Performance Venue Project
Progress Report 7/28/20 

The shutdown of businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic has affected musicians and venues particularly hard. As we re-open the economy we can see independent music venues struggling; some are trying to balance physical spacing and capacity limits and some are no longer offering live music, while others will stay closed.  This has resulted in a shortage of performance opportunities for local talent, especially those musicians who have had their livelihood dry up, and also for music lovers who may not be ready to return to indoor spaces.   

The Cascade Blues Association has teamed up with Portland Parks & Recreation Division to address this entertainment shortage by offering paid performance opportunities to participating local blues and roots musicians who are current CBA members, while supporting the Parks and Recreation’s Free Lunch + Play initiative by providing entertainment at the Park distribution sites.  This project will provide income for musicians as well as increasing awareness of the CBA to the public.  

Portland Parks & Recreation Division has diverted 100% of their Summer Free For All funding to The Free Lunch + Play program that supports families by offering nutritious meals and recreational activities during the summer recess, supporting the thousands of children who qualify for subsidized lunches during the school year.  With this partnership, the CBA will be supporting its mission to preserve and promote blues and roots music by providing free entertainment at pick-up sites and other public locations while offering a little financial relief to participating local musicians.   

We’ve had to make adjustments along the way as stubborn COVID-19 trends have prevented Multnomah county from advancing out of Phase 1 for longer than we’d imagined. We’re still moving forward with the project, although with a longer timeline as we wait for opportunities to open up in advanced Phases.        

The CBA has contributed base funding for the first round. We launched a GoFundMe campaign and are seeking additional sponsorships. To date, we’ve raised almost $3000 of our $5000 goal! With additional funds raised, the CBA will be able to expand this project to offer more opportunities at more locations where friends and fans will be able to enjoy. 

 All funds donated through the GoFundMe campaign go directly to the performers.   

Any amount you can contribute will help us work towards our initial goal of $5000.  The Cascade Blues Association is a 501(c)(3) and your donation will be tax deductible. GoFundMe will provide an immediate tax receipt.  

Online:  charity.gofundme.com/o/en/campaign/2020-performance-venue-project 

By Mail: Cascade Blues Association Attn: PVP, PO Box 6566,  Portland OR 97228-6566