Waterfront Blues Festival Cancelled

Waterfront Blues Festival Cancelled

As with many events scheduled for this coming summer, the Waterfront Blues Festival has been cancelled this year due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Though this was surely a hard decision, it is the correct one and the Cascade Blues Association agrees with it. Since it is unknown now how long the pandemic will endure and threaten the public’s health, it’s simply too risky to attempt to plan for this year’s festival. It is not easy to schedule so many acts and make arrangements to accommodate their needs, as well as planning with the City, staff, and volunteers, as well as the financial challenges involved.

Thank you to the Waterfront Blues Festival staff for making this decision. We will miss the event this year, but know that it will return stronger than ever next year.

2020 Sunbanks Music Festival

2020 Sunbanks Music FestivalAt the time of this writing, the 2020 Sunbanks Music Festival is still scheduled to occur, depending on Washington Governor Inslee’s decision whether the state’s stay-at-home and limited gathering size order is lifted beyond May 4. Please check with the festival website, sunbanksfestival.com or Facebook page for updated information including possible date rescheduling..

The Sunbanks Music Festival will celebrate its 25th anniversary with the first of two biannual weekends, with its spring event scheduled for Thursday, May 14 through Sunday, May 17 in Electric City, Washington. This year’s event will feature: Leroy Bell & His Only Friends, Delgado Brothers, Duffy Bishop, Teresa James & The Rhythm Tramps, Junkyard Jane, Rich Layton & Tough Town, Harlis Sweetwater, Felix y Los Gatos, TuN the Band, Ben Rice Band, Coyote Kings, Sister Mercy, Diego Romero, Brooks Forsythe, James Coates, Kristen Marlo & Gina Belliveau, Sherie Roberts Greimes Duo, and Curtis Moore.

Sunbanks Resort, 57662 WA-155, Electric City, WA.

The Promise of the Blues - Anthony Proveaux

Book Review by Greg Johnson:

The Promise of the Blues - Anthony ProveauxThe Promise of the Blues
Anthony Proveaux
Pro-Arts Production 2020.
181 pages

“The Promise of the Blues” is a work of historical fiction that offers more than you’d expect from such a genre of writing. It does revolve around the central character of Cyris Jordan, a writer for the Chicago Defender, but aside from his encounters with famed musicians and music industry personnel of the early twentieth century, it can also be read as a work of historical document. The research that author Anthony Proveaux, himself a professional musician from the Eugene, Oregon area, is astounding, with great detail going into the landscape of the Delta, racial attitudes, and the music that shaped it all.

The story bounces on occasion, between Cyrus’ earliest time spent in the Delta and the encounters he has of hearing the sound of call & response field hollers to the sounds of musicians on train platforms playing the new sounds of the blues, to his return in 1930 and the changes that the Delta has gone through, while also giving accounts to the famous trip made to Grafton, Wisconsin by Charley Patton, Son House, Willie Brown and Louise Johnson to create some of the most recognized music of the time.

Cyrus makes friends with Charley Patton and Willie Brown early on, and is reunited with them during his return. He also comes into contact with Son House, Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters, as well as a friendship made with famed record producer/talent scout J. Mayo Williams. Working for the renowned newspaper The Chicago Defender, the first paper aimed at an African-American readership, also plays a role in his story. His life is greatly influenced by the blues and it is a life-long goal to document what it has meant to him.

The Promise of the Blues is a nice journey into the blues in its earliest years and offers quite a bit of historical fact intermingled with the fictional accounts between the main character and those he meets. Well considered in its presentation and easy to read without losing attention to the detail behind the story. You get to know the man behind Cyris Jordan and experience the personalities (whether factual or fictional) of Charley Patton, Son House and Willie Brown.

Little Albert - Swamp King

Swamp King
Aural Music

Little Albert - Swamp KingLittle Albert is a side project for Italian heavy-doom-metal guitarist Alberto Piccolo that stands apart from his band Messa. Piccolo has always held a fascination for the blues, and before you start pointing out his metal background, remember that he is a graduate of jazz guitar studies. His playing, as expected, tends to lean toward blues rock than Delta or Chicago-based stylings. There’s a lot of Robin Trower-esque feel here, which is evident with his inclusion of a spot-on cover of “Bridge Of Sighs,” which seem appropriate. There’s also a nice take of Blind Joe Reynolds’ “Outside Woman Blues,” perhaps best known through Cream’s take on the song.  This album is filled with really nice guitar tones and smooth playing.

Total Time: 33:58

Swamp King / Bridge Of Sighs / Mean Old Woman / Blues Asteroid / Maryclaire / Outside Woman Blues

Jimmy Johnson - Every Day Of Your Life

Every Day Of Your Life
Delmark Records

Jimmy Johnson - Every Day Of Your Life“Every Day of Your Life” is Blues Hall of Fame inductee Jimmy Johnson’s first recording for the Chicago-based blues label Delmark in forty years, and it’s actually his first in the past ten years. As was the case previously on Delmark, including the classic 1979 release “Johnson Whacks,” he is once again delivering blues that forces us all to pay attention.

At 91 years of age, Johnson shows no sign of slowing down. While I was in Chicago last year for the blues festival, he was presented the key to the city for his contributions and longevity as one of the elite musicians. Aside from that festival set I also caught him at a club a couple night later where when it came to closing time he was far from wanting to stop playing. Check out his monthly calendar and he always seems to have a gig or more every week.

This new album is packed full of great instrumentation, particularly with Johnson’s guitar playing. His take on Fenton Robinson’s “Somebody Loan Me A Dime” is over the top delicious as is the slow blues “Strange Things Happening. He also throws down a truly exceptional take on Bobby Bland’s  beautiful “Lead Me On” as he plays solo on piano. Guitar pairing with Rico McFarland on the funky “Rattlesnake” is spectacular, while he delivers a reggae feel to “The Ring” with the story that the last time he saw his wife smile was on their wedding day, “yesterday was sunshine, but today is rain, and I don’t believe it is ever going to change.”

He states in the title track, “Live every day of your life as if it will be your last, one day you will be right, it’s going come to pass.” Let’s hope that is a far way off for Jimmy Johnson, because when he releases albums the caliber of this one it makes us yearn for more, and as stated earlier his performances are still extraordinary after 61 years tearing it up on Chicago stages. Keep it going Jimmy Johnson!!

Total Time: 44:17

Every Day of Your Life / I Need You So Bad / My Ring / Rattlesnake / Somebody Loan Me A Dime / Down In The Valley / Strange Things Happening / Better When It’s Wet / Lead Me On

Jesse Mae Hemphill

Run Get My Shotgun
Big Legal Mess Records

Jesse Mae Hemphill I’m a sucker for the Mississippi Hill Country Blues of R. L. Burnside, Junior Kimbrough, Fred McDowell, Ranie Burnette, and of course, Jessie Mae Hemphill. This particular genre of  blues possesses an urgent intimacy that can not be faked. Its mesmerizing pulses of rhythm and stripped-down musical structure provides a stalwart vehicle for the expression of raw, often brutal, emotion. Like muddy flood waters spilling over a dam, a gritty authenticity gushes from this music.

And Jessie Mae Hemphill was a master of Hill Country Blues. Hemphill, who passed away in 2006, was a member of Mississippi blues royalty — the great granddaughter of the revered fiddle player Dock Hemphill and granddaughter of bandleader Sid Hemphill, one could use the cliché here and be entirely justified: The Blues was indeed in Hemphill’s blood.

This new album, “Run Get My Shotgun,” of hitherto unreleased songs was recorded on New Year’s Eve, 1989 and is a soulful and righteous collection of field recordings that verify just how powerful a performer Hemphill was. Her voice migrates effortlessly from the angry resentment of the title track “Run Get My Shotgun” to the hypnotic in the gospel-infused “Holy Ghost,” to soulful longing of “Married Man Blues,” as she pleads for her man to “please don’t go.” But as compelling as her voice is, her exquisite guitar skills are no less impressive, particularly on the cuts “Train Train” and “Feelin’ Good.”

For any fan of Mississippi Hill Country blues, this album is a fine example of the genre and its possibilities. Highly recommended.

Total Time: 34:29

Run Get My Shotgun / Shame On You / DC 9 / Go Back To Your Used To Be / Holy Ghost / Married Man Blues / Train Train / Nothing That You Say / Feelin’ Good / Eagle Bird

2023 Journey to Memphis Finalists

2020 Journey To Memphis PostponedThe Cascade Blues Association’s signature event, the Journey To Memphis competition to select acts to represent the organization and region at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, has been postponed due to the current coronavirus pandemic. This wasn’t something we had envisioned, but the situation is out of our control. Restaurants and bars have been closed under State order, as well as gatherings to avoid potential exposure to the virus.

Our competition was originally scheduled to take place on Friday, May 15 and Saturday, May 16 at The East Eagles Lodge. We do not foresee businesses being reopened by this time. Our finals were also scheduled for July 4 at the Waterfront Blues Festival, but that event has also been cancelled.

Due to the impact of the pandemic, we had to cancel our general membership meetings in both April and May. The original deadline date for applications was for our April meeting, but with the State closure order dropping off the applications on this date could not be kept. We extended the deadline for a week, but did not receive as many applications as we have in the past. We feel that many who did not submit decided that the current status was uncertain and being able to prepare as a band could not be accomplished.

Therefore, the CBA has decided to postpone the competition until the health risk has passed and gatherings are once again allowed to take place. We do not have a date set as of yet, but hopefully toward the end of summer or early fall. Venues and dates to be determined. Depending on the time frame, we will make the decision to cancel the event if too late in the year.

Applications will continue to be accepted and to make it more convenient we will keep the deadline open for a few weeks following the reopening of businesses up to the first membership meeting after that time, no earlier than June at this point. Any act that has already submitted their application prior to the original deadline who wishes to withdraw may do so and their application fee will be returned. If the event does end up being cancelled, all application fees will be returned.

Thank you for understanding.

Here’s the application information:

  • Entry fee is $25.00
  • Each act must have at least one person in the band who is a member of the Cascade Blues Association.
  • Only acts located within the Oregon and Washington region are allowed to enter the Journey To Memphis.
  • Any act or member of an act that has been nominated for or received a Blues Music Awards from The Blues Foundation are ineligible to compete. No exceptions.
  • Any act that has competed in the International Blues Challenge two consecutive years, regardless whether with the same society or as a solo/duo or band act, must sit out a year before being allowed to compete again. Acts can only participate three times in Memphis (acts competing previous to 2017 receive grandfather status and may compete three times starting from 2017).
  • Along with your $25.00 application fee, send an up-to-date band bio including names of all members, a 300 dpi photo of the band, full song samples of the band’s music (this may be used on a radio broadcast to promote the event), and we need to be made aware of any band member who may be under 21 years of age at the time of the competition so the venue is aware ahead of time for Oregon or Washington Liquor Commission laws.
  • We require that any act that moves forward in the competition must use the same band members with whom it won previous rounds. In other words, if you won with a certain bass player or drummer at the Waterfront Blues Festival, that bassist and drummer must be in your band to compete in Memphis. Exceptions will made in rare circumstances not under the control of the act, such as health issues.
  • We do not prevent acts competing with the Cascade Blues Association from doing so with other societies. All that we ask is that if you win another group’s competition before ours is held, or if you win ours before theirs, please remove yourself from further competitions to allow other acts the chance to win the right to go to Memphis.
Gary Burford  Passes On

Gary Burford  Passes OnGary Burford, perhaps one of the best-loved members of the Salem and Oregon music community, passed away this past month after a long-term battle with cancer. He had worked with a number of the Northwest finest bands, including the Boyd Small Big Blues Band, The Terraplanes, the Bob Beck Band, as well as a leader of his own groups. He could often be found working with well-known artists such as Curtis Salgado, Terry Robb, Paul deLay, Lloyd Jones, Randy Flook, Dave Fleschner, and Jake Blair. The Salem-based newspaper The Statesman recognized Gary multiple times as the area’s Best Musician and Best Band, and the Cascade Blues Association had also nominated him for a Muddy Award as Best Regional Act.

Aside from being a performer, Gary could be found teaching guitar at Guitar Castle and working at Ranch Records. He was also a promoter and booking agent, bringing acts to Salem from throughout the Northwest and nationally for over 30 years.

Knowing that his life’s end was near, Gary began raising funds himself for his end of life needs. An all-star concert was held this past February that helped celebrate his life and achievements to help pay for his burial and other expenses.

Dom Flemons Prospect Hill

Dom Flemons Prospect Hill

The American Songster Omnibus
Omnivore Recordings

Prospect Hill was originally released in 2014, the third solo outing from Dom Flemons, the multi-instrumentalist founding member of the Grammy winning Carolina Chocolate Drops. It was a wonderful sampling of Americana music done at its best. Featuring songs with a Pre-War feel that included blues, string & jug bands, jazz, and country and instrumentation offerings of guitar, banjo, quills, rhythm bones, clarinet, fiddle, even drum & fife groupings. Just can’t get any more rootsy than that. He is backed by some pretty fine musicians, who are exponents of the Americana scene in their own right such as Guy Davis, Keith Ganz, Pura Fe, Kobie Watkins, and International Blues Challenge winners Ben Hunter and Joe Seamons.

Flemons returned to Prospect Hill this year and expanded the album with a second disc filled with alternate takes, instrumentals, the material from the previously vinyl only EP What Got Over and newer numbers adding twenty-one new selections to a recording that already stood tall on its own. In this new format it now should be a must hear for anyone who loves traditional roots music.

Total Time: 1:26:48

35 Tracks

Crawling Up A Hill

Crawling Up A Hill – A Journey Through The British Blues Boom 1966-71
Grapefruit Records

Crawling Up A Hill

This is an extensive look at the British Blues scene beginning with the release of John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers with Eric Clapton and pushing through an eclectic mix of bands that were all performing their take on the genre. It’s definitely not the first compilation of British Blues, but it is the first to offer an overall look that is not aimed at a specific label such as the prominent Blue Horizon which is still represented by Fleetwood Mac, Chicken Shack, and Duster Bennett. Within its fifty-six tracks it covers a blend of rocking numbers, country blues, covers of well-known American originals, and a touch of psychedelic, which considering the time frame, should be expected. There’s even a little humor thrown in with The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band and the Liverpool Scene.

Because the collection offers only one tune from each artist, there’s a good variety of music here and plenty of the performers on this three-CD collection will be familiar right off, including Savoy Brown, Free, Spencer Davis Group, Taste, Alexis Korner, Graham Bond Organisation, Jeff Beck, Status Quo, Ten Years After, Jeremy Spencer, Bloodwyn Pig and Stone The Crows. And you’ll find many of the future heroes of British blues and rock scene playing in outfits before becoming huge stars: Robert Plant, Rory Gallagher, Christine Perfect, Gary Moore, Dave Edmunds, and the band Quiet Melon who was basically an early version of The Faces. And it should be noted that the acoustic performances from highly successful acts in their homeland like Ian A. Anderson, Jo-Ann Kelly and Mike Cooper are more than exceptional.

Packaged in a small box, there is a 40-page book that offers background about each of the included acts in order of their appearance on the discs, plus a little history about the British music scene of the time in England and Ireland. Much of what is found is truly hard-to-find on their own, so it makes a good deal here indispensable. It is a well put together collection, thoughtfully covering a period of time with acts that explored and pushed the boundaries of the blues and set the feel for what a good deal of British music was to follow.

Total Time: 3:50:02

56 Tracks