A Tale of Three Cities  Part 1 Following the Allman Betts Band

A Tale of Three Cities
Part 1 Following the Allman Betts Band on tour

By Kirk Anderson

“It was the best of times,

It was the worst of times …”

So starts Charles Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities,” a story of a life deprived in lockdown and then released back to an uncertain life.

Third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic reaching throughout our planet.  “…the worst of times.”

Live music is again cautiously coming back and there’s new music.  “…the best of times.”

If you missed the articles about the Allman Betts Band’s musical history and previewing the postponed 2020 tour, please take a few minutes to go back and learn about this band as well as the articles of music history that have been assembled by the band to form a new project that looks to be with us for years into the future. May 2020 and September 2021 Washington Blues Society’s Bluesletter and September 2021 Cascade Blues Association’s Blues Notes.

This article, Part 1, and the complementary article in the Washington Blues Society’s next Bluesletter, Part 2, will cover the shows themselves. We’ll also look at the venues and the music communities around the venues that supported the tour.  I had promised interviews with the band members but this turned out to be impossible due to the bubble around the band which keeps the tour rolling.

As the tour rolled toward the West Coast, rumblings of the delta wave of the COVID-19 pandemic saw different bands canceling or postponing tentative tour plans until 2022. The Allman Betts Band tour turned northward in California amid more tour cancellations and postponements.  Would it happen again?

Nope. History did not repeat and as the tour came to the PNW, the tour picked up opening duo The River Kittens out of St. Louis and the current project for the former guitarist for the Black Crowes, the Marc Ford Band.

Well in a demonstration of their desire to work past their fathers’ coattails and earn what came their way on their own, they kept performing.  They did not let audiences down until the Neptune Theater had to cancel the Seattle date due to positive COVID-19 tests from a band that had recently played the venue.  For the protection of everyone, they had to cancel several weeks of shows, including the Allman Betts Band.

The band didn’t flinch and added a show at the Blues Bender in Las Vegas to their 80-gig tour. This added an extra 1,500 miles to the tour (with no extra travel days) and made me wonder how prepared they would be for the Spokane show.

Century Center – Bend, Oregon

A Tale of Three Cities  Part 1 Following the Allman Betts Band

Bend’s Century Center is in the southwestern portion of Bend just a few blocks from the Deschutes River as it runs north through the Cascade Range to the Columbia River.  Century Center Bend is more of a pop-up amphitheater that was becoming a regular part of Bend’s music community when the pandemic hit.  Scheduling only four concerts in 2021, Century Center’s concerts were rare and unique as a more personal venue than the Les Schwab Amphitheater, where the Dave Matthews Band was playing this same night.

Neither venue was taking any chances with the pandemic. Both required attendees to either show proof of full vaccination or a recent negative COVID-19 test. Balancing state regulations with community rules, Century Center’s staffers were strict at the doors, but also provided a safe-within-reason and intimate feeling inside.

As the River Kittens came out first, there was still light in the sky. A duo playing mandolin and acoustic guitar and trading off vocals, the term Americana came back into focus. Devon Allman had mentioned in several interviews for their second album that he considered the Allman Betts Band’s genre to be Americana.

Second on the bill was the Marc Ford Band. Ford, who played two stints with the Black Crowes, is the winner of an NAACP award for his work with Ben Harper and the Blind Boys of Alabama album, “There Will Be Light.”  Interestingly enough, the trio also included Berry Duane Oakley (do you remember that Berry Duane Oakley is the bass player for the Allman Betts Band?) on bass. Marc and Berry have a long musical relationship, going back to their stint together in the mid-’90s in Blue Floyd along with Allen Woody (guitar), Matt Abts (drums) and on one tour, Johnny Neel (keyboards).

Speaking of keyboards, John Ginty (déjà vu — do you remember that Ginty is the keyboardist for the Allman Betts Band?) came out for several songs to provide some extra meat to the proceedings.

As the Allman Betts Band came out, it was fully dark outside and the Vari-Lites lit up the stage and the stage-wide screen behind the band lit up with the band logo. The setup at Century Center meant there were a few picnic tables set up around the highest end of the amphitheater, but unless you were sitting atop a short wall, you were going to have to stand and dance. Those who needed to sit found their places and the music started.

Dancing — OMG there was dancing. The fans seemed in touch with the music and hot to let go.  For a new band with only two CDs, the crowd seemed very familiar with the songs from “Down to the River” and “Bless Your Heart.” As Devon Allman sang the single, “Down To the River,” his call and response for the titular chorus to the crowd was met with amazing participation.

As most good bands will, the Allman Betts Band added a few covers such as “Shakedown Street” from the Grateful Dead and “Purple Rain” from Prince. Dancing — OMG there was dancing … and singing along.  As I’ve seen since my first concert back in early July, people’s initial apprehension about being out in public subsided as the music started and memories of good times past flowed.

The addition of popular songs from two of the band’s influences had them hitting a note with the fans as they built to another plateau and  gave the fans what they wanted — a few covers of the Allman Brothers Band. I did not expect the incredibly interesting mix of original material and covers.  All of the songs had tight, professional feels but also had some Allman Betts Band originality added to the mix.

Being an amphitheater set in the middle of town meant tight sound ordinances for a Wednesday night.  Fortunately, after all of that dancing, the dumpling truck in the back of the amphitheater was still open.

Roseland Theater – Portland

The Roseland Theater building has been in Portland’s Old Town Chinatown area since it started as the Apostolic Faith Church in 1922. All of the labor needed to build this church was donated by the community. After many years of serving the community, the church eventually closed and in the early 1980s, it became a music venue for the first time. The old Starry Night fulfilled the need for a medium-sized venue for the early music scene in Portland.

In the early 1970s seminal Pacific Northwest promoter David Leiken had hung out his promoter shingle for good booking acts across Oregon and Washington. David took a few minutes to talk to me about his promoting past and the Roseland Theater as part of the music community now.  He said two things that are relevant to the person buying a ticket. “To stay relevant you have to care and stay on top of the minutia,” he said. “Every individual ticket holder is as important as each individual staff member and each individual artist.”

In the 1990s, the building and David Leiken became linked as David’s Double Tee Promotions purchased and renovated both floors of the facility and the eclectic mix of artists took the stages. Artists from small, local bands to huge international acts have graced its stages and fans seem to understand how important this old-school venue is to the music community.

With a later curfew, the Thursday night show started at 8 p.m., again with the River Kittens. Again the clean, stripped-down sound filled the theater with attention-getting lyrics and instrumentation with so much feeling. Hearing their short set inside of a theater instead of outdoors at an amphitheater gave a different dimension to their sound. Listen up, dudes, one of their tunes has direct advice to you.

The Marc Ford Band was again up as the trio ran through a short set of songs punctuated by blistering guitar solos at times and rhythm guitar at others. Playing his Signature model Asher guitar through the show ended up giving a nice change of tone as Johnny Stachela (do you remember that Johnny is one of the three guitar players in the Allman Betts Band?) brought out his Gibson SG to sit in on Marc’s set. As was the case from the night before in Bend, John Ginty came out to sit in on a couple of tunes with the Marc Ford Band.

As the Allman Betts Band started their set, the energy in the theater grew. The 2020 pandemic tour suspension just prior to the PNW run had made the anticipation that much greater.

This night’s set list included three songs from their first CD, “Down to the River,” nine songs from their current CD, “Bless Your Heart” and four covers (one from a Donald Fagan solo effort outside of Steely Dan and three from the Allman Brothers Band). The Allman Betts Band again proved that fans know the original material, and not just because the band has been through town several times per year.  This was their first show in Portland, but fans still knew the original tunes and got into seeing the tunes live. The single from their first CD, “Down to the River” turns out to be a song that the fans know and when Devon Allman asks for audience participation in this original tune, the fans are only too happy to join in the chorus. Days later I can still hear the fans singing along.

The second CD’s “Doctor’s Daughter” is a Berry Duane Oakley-penned tune about a dear friend lost.  He moved over to the keyboard corner with John Ginty, Devon moved over to bass and Marc Ford came back out to sit in as Berry’s vocals moved front and center.

Something I haven’t seen in decades of concerts, for the encore, the opener, River Kitten’s logo came out on the big screen and Allie and Mattie (they are River Kittens) came out and started playing their tune, “Atlantic City.”  How unusual to see the openers come out and start the encore.

As the song progressed, the Allman Betts Band members came back on stage and finished the tune.  River Kittens stayed on the stage with the headliner for the final song of the evening, “Should We Ever Part” from “Bless Your Heart.”

The fans seemed happy as the theater emptied and the band and crew hurried to break down the stage as they had to make the 16-hour ride to Las Vegas for the Blues Bender and another 15 1/2 hours back up to Spokane the next night.

Finally, I am always looking for signs of working or not working when a new band starts. Pandemic-era international travel has forced the postponement of the European portion of the 2021 tour until 2022, The Allman Betts Band will finish their current Autumn in America Tour in Honolulu on Halloween. Less than two weeks later, they start on the Allman Family Revival tour. Eighteen dates throughout the U.S. following the theme of prior Allman Family Reunion and Revival one-off gigs since 2017, which is honoring Gregg Allman.

As Rolling Stone Magazine’s Andy Greene reports in his Sept. 14th article, “… Allman Betts Band will be the featured act alongside Robert Randolph, Donavan Frankenreiter, Eric Gales, Joanne Shaw Taylor, Jimmy Hall and Lamar Williams, Jr. They will be joined in select cities by Kenny Wayne Shepherd, G. Love, Samantha Fish, Alex Orbison and Kenny Aronoff.”

Looks like rolling with the punches, big and small, then getting up and moving forward has been and continues to be a signature of the Allman Betts Band. You’re a part of supporting this new band. Let’s sit back and see where they take us.

Part 2 of this Pacific Northwest tour review is going to be reviewing the Allman Betts Band gig at the Martin Woldson Theatre at The Fox in Spokane next month in the Bluesletter of the Washington Blues Society.  I met four people in Bend who had driven down from the Walla Walla area who are Cascade Blues Association and Washington Blues Society members. They were also going to Spoken for Saturday night’s show. When they read in both organizations’ magazine about this tour, they decided to take the road trip to support both communities and see one gig in Bend and one in Spokane.

Robert Cray Band - Oct. 15 - Aladdin Theater

Robert Cray Band
Oct. 15 – Aladdin Theater

Interviews with Robert Cray and Dover Weinberg

By Kirk Anderson

The Influence: Born in Clarksdale, Miss., in early 1931, Sam Cooke made the most of his 33 years traversing this Earth. He was on the downside of a racially segregated society in central Mississippi and on the heels of some of the original blues greats. He transitioned many artists from gospel into secular practitioners of the blues, rock ‘n’ roll and soul. “A Change is Gonna Come” is a favorite of lovers of Cooke’s bluesier side about an ever-running man who yearns to have a better life. He knows this means leaving the fast life behind someday and that inevitably …” A Change is Gonna Come.”

Peter Guralnick’s Sam Cooke autobiography, “Dream Boogie” is a delicious trip through Sam’s influences, those he influenced and the music sliding from the blues, gospel, soul and rock ‘n’ roll. Driving ambition, roots in the Mississippi Delta, a rise to the top with his career, people he helped as well as the unpolished dark side …oh, man! I want to read this history again. Amazon it if you must, but wouldn’t it be more fun to go down to the local bookstore? And that would help support your local community.

What the heck is the connection between Sam Cooke and Robert Cray Band’s new tour? Robert is quick to share the pre-recording story of him and producer Steve Jordan kicking around a definitive feeling for the upcoming recording.  Robert notes that Steve sent him a recording of some Sam Cooke’s tunes and again the two clicked right into the new record.

The Interviews:

Two members of the Robert Cray Band have ties to the area. Robert spent his early years in Fort Lewis just south of Seattle and Dover Weinberg (keyboards) makes his home near the City of Roses. An exciting but busy time for a musician is getting ready for — and starting — the first week or so of a tour. It’s a time of anticipation and a time of relearning to click with other musicians. So it is with appreciation that both took time out to talk with the Cascade Blues Association.

Dover was up first just a few days prior to the start of their fall 2021 tour in support of “That’s What I Heard.” Blues Notes readers will remember the article last year of another record released right before the pandemic started.

In talking about recording “That’s What I Heard,” Dover remembers that the grand piano that Nat King Cole played during his stint at Capitol Records’ Studio B was a prominent part of history that carried a positive ghost to influence the upcoming recordings.

When asked about what instruments he plays on the record and on the road, Dover shared that in the Robert Cray Band, his main ax is the classic Hammond-Leslie pairing for a majority of the texture needed.  When the other needs arise, his Rhodes Electric Piano gives him the versatility to play a lead or rhythm role.

I asked Dover about one of his favorite memories of working with Robert  Cray. He was quick to recall that eight or nine years ago he was just minding his business when his phone rang. He felt compelled to answer, and a cat on the phone claimed he was Dover’s longtime acquaintance, Robert Cray. Robert said he was calling to offer him a slot in his band as keyboardist.  With so many friends who love to get one over on each other, Dover was sure it was a friend playing a joke on him.

Robert tried to convince Dover, but he had been caught one too many times. Finally Robert asked Dover to ask him a question from their past that only he would know. Dover thought for a second and asked Robert to say the nickname that he had for Dover years earlier when they shared time in England.

Oh man, this should be a climax paragraph, but you know, if I tell you the nickname, then everyone would know. We’ll just say that it had to do with a famous English landmark.

Dover has added his blues/rock keyboards to perennial blues in the studio and with road acts from Albert Collins to Otis Rush to Janiva Magnus, Curtis Salgado, Duffy Bishop, Kevin Selfe to Charlie Musselwhite and Elias McDaniel, better known as Bo Diddley. And that’s just eight musicians/bands out of several dozen. He’s been influenced by and continues to influence many others.

Robert’s interview took place about a week and a half later, after the tour had already started.

Robert’s memory of recording was finally entering the building he had driven by so many times, the Capitol Records Building. He remembers walking down the hallway, lined with so many pictures of music’s heroes, who had walked down that same hallway toward that same Studio B to record memories that marked good times throughout our lives. “Respect the building. Respect the people,” notes Robert.

When asked about his guitars of choice, Robert sticks with the American Standard Stratocaster with the Alder body, Maple Neck, Rosewood Finger Board, three Custom Vintage Fender Stratocaster single coil pickups.  He also mentions his preference for using a pair of Matchless Clubman 35 as his main amp with its Class A 35 watts with a 4×10 cabinet.

As an artist whom critics have awarded five Grammy wins over 20 strong records, Robert is always quick to talk about how this isn’t about him, but about the musicians that he’s worked with to ply a profession based on love of music. “Love of playing, listening, sharing. This is what we do every night and we can’t do it without love.”

I asked Robert who he has been listening to recently, and he mentioned Larry Young and Art Blakey.  Both are known as trail-blazers in the blues sister genre, jazz. Larry was an American jazz organist who pioneered a more experimental modal approach to the Hammond.  Larry also is known for his jam with Jimi Hendrix that was captured and then posthumously released on the record, “Nine to the Universe.”

Art is a revered American jazz drummer and bandleader who is influenced by and has influenced the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Thelonius Monk and Wayne Shorter. Want to learn more about the music you love by hearing what your favorite musicians like Robert Cray are being influenced by?  The two cats and their influences are a helluva start.

The Tour: It is with these feelings that the Robert Cray Band brings their 2021 tour to the Aladdin Theater in the Brooklyn neighborhood of southeast Portland, Friday, Oct. 15. The tour that started in September will wind its way across the United States, headed for the Pacific Northwest. A week into the tour, I asked Robert if they are able to bring the vibe from recording at Capitol Records to the tour.

Robert shared that the recording was more than 20 months ago. The lockdown put time between the recordings and the tour.  Locking into each other’s playing at the recordings and the contributions of Steve Jordan, although still remembered, had faded some from muscle memory. But Robert was quick to add that as they play more gigs together, the magic from the recording’s interplay is coming back.

A longtime friend, schooled in the ways of live music, saw an early gig for this tour at the State Theatre in Kalamazoo, Mich. A fan of Robert Cray since just before Cray’s “Strong Persuader” record came out in 1986, the friend confirms that the current live performance didn’t suffer from the pandemic break.  Adding this first-person gig review to Robert’s comment that more of the recording memories are coming back as the tour progresses makes me mark the Aladdin date on the calendar as “Can’t Miss.”

The Community: Vaudeville is a term I had to look up as this type of early 20th century entertainment was the impetus of so many theater venues being built. Oxford Languages define vaudeville as, “a type of entertainment … featuring a mixture of specialty acts such as burlesque, comedy & song and dance.”

The Aladdin was built in the late 1920s as a venue for Vaudeville acts. The original name was Geller’s Theatre. As the Great Depression hit, a new form of entertainment known to us now as “movies” forced the change for many vaudeville houses to new places for families to enjoy the medium together. With this change, in 1934, the Geller changed its format from vaudeville to movies and changed its name to the Aladdin Theater.

Forty years later saw a change in the makeup of these neighborhoods and the prosperity that America was graced to enjoy post-World War II. In the 1970s and ‘80s, family films turned into adult movie theaters. Then VHS proved too strong for the adult movie theater, leaving the building with a history of performances for the community with property values that had tanked.

This formula has been proved over and over again in Portland, the United States and around the world to provide a low-cost venue with an infrastructure for renovation back to the live performances of the ‘90s through to the present. Forwar- thinking people with their own passion around music invested their fortunes in the community and took the chance to put money into the renovation of the building and booking acts to come in and fill a much-needed hole in the fabric of their communities.

Well, now you’re mentally prepared for the Oct. 15 show of the Robert Cray Band at the Aladdin Theater in Portland. Now you need to get your tickets and start looking around for a pre-concert place for dinner before the show … or just drinks. Maybe make plans to meet up with some of your Cascade Blues Association sisters and brothers.

In doing research for this article, another comment that Robert posted on his website, RobertCray.com, hung with me and I thought you might like it, too.

“Hearing is a funny thing. It’s not just receiving sound – it’s understanding and interpreting it, making sense of variations swirling around in our heads. That’s how people can listen to the same thing, and come away with opposite impressions. The sounds may be the same, but the comprehension isn’t.” Robert Cray – robertcray.com

“My Baby Likes to Boogaloo.”  I hope you’re ready and like to Boogaloo, too.

Board Update - October 2021

Board Update – October 2021

By Shelley Garrett

We hope everyone is excited about the projects that the CBA is working on. If you see anything that interests you, please reach out to us at cascadebluesstaff@gmail.com to join a committee!

Each month we will introduce you to another person serving on the board. This month we are showcasing Ron Johnson. So far this year, we have highlighted membership director Mike Todd, general secretary Marie Walters and at-large member Randy Murphy. Each person brings unique skills and perspectives. If you’ve missed reading about anyone, all the past articles can be found on the CBA website.

The board is committed to following all COVID protocols for any event we are involved in.

The membership meeting/concert this month will be at the Spare Room, 4830 NE 42nd Ave. Note the new start time at 6:30. Members are free, the general public is invited for $5. This is a 21-plus venue (though we are working with them to allow under 21). See the event write-up for more information, including the Spare Room COVID-19 entry requirements.

October events the CBA is cosponsoring, or presenting, are Oct. 22, Midnight at the Crossroads at the Echo Theater, and Oct. 15, NW Women in Blues (Sonny Hess, Julie Strange, Rae Gordon, Kathryn Grimm, Myrtle Brown, Leah Hinchcliff, and Ward Griffiths) at the Lovejoy Rooftop at the Botanist. See the event write-ups for more information and where to purchase tickets.

Remember, Sunday, Oct. 17, is Blues for Slim Lively, a benefit for CBA President Greg Johnson at the Crystal. Get tickets here or at Music Millennium.  As of press time, the lineup is Curtis Salgado & Terry Robb, Ty Curtis Band with Steve Kerin & Too Slim, and Rich Layton & Trouble Town with guest April Brown. More info will be coming in a special eblast next week! Great prizes are in play, too — such as a two-week Mississippi Delta trip … including the King Biscuit Festival, dinner and lodging. This will be a limited raffle item. You will not need to be present to purchase a ticket or to win the trip. Read the email blast next week!

Planning is ramping up for “Mini Muddy Awards” on Nov. 3 at the Lovejoy Rooftop at the Botanist.  The committee identified and the board approved 10 categories that we believe make sense (Paul deLay “Lifetime Achievement”, Virtual Livestream Performance, Virtual Live Stream Production, Venue, NW Event, Live Performance, NW Recording, National Recording, Dance Ambassador) and the George Page “Back What You Believe In” that is voted on by the Board. Music will be announced soon with all-star sets being put together by Rae Gordon and Ben Rice. The awards will include the months that would have been eligible for the 2020 awards, Sept. 1, 2019, through Aug. 31, 2021. Members will be voting in mid-October. The member newsletter and the CBA Facebook group will have ticket and reservation information soon.

Plans for the Holiday Party are in full swing, (committee members Robert Evans, Anni Piper and Jeanette Aglipay). We will again be at the Moose Lodge, 16411 NE Halsey, with music by Billy D and the Hoodoos, Nikki Jones, Fenix Rising and Los Demon Drivers. This is the only fundraiser we do for ourselves. Please let Jeanette or any board member know if you have anything to donate for the silent auction/raffle.

Other projects in the works (leads noted)

Mission Statement Update — Randy Murphy

Planning and Diversity — Brad Bleidt

Blues in the Schools — Robert Evans

Scholarships — Randy Murphy

Lovejoy Rooftop at the Botanist/Elevate Unity Collaboration — Brad Bleidt and Marie Walters

Membership Growth — Mike Todd

Officer Elections 

It’s not too soon to think about running for a CBA office. All elected positions (president, vice president, membership director, general secretary, treasurer) are up for re-election. It’s time to pass the torch and add more diversity.

Job profiles can be found here. Intent to run and a short bio are due to Brad Bleidt at cascadebluesstaff@gmail.com by Sunday, Nov. 14, at 11:59 p.m. We will publish the remainder of the deadlines next month. We still have room for additional at-large board positions. If any of the initiatives above pique your interest, please join us in guiding the future of the CBA.

Be kind, stay safe, music is a healer.

Key Events and Save the Dates! October 2021

Key Events and Save the Dates! October 2021

10/3 Triple CD Release Party-Johnny Wheels and the Swamp Donkeys, Sugar Roots & Mick Schafer, The Garages

10/9 Oregon Music Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony and Concert, Aladdin Theater

10/15 The second installment of the Blues Nights series, presented by the Cascade Blues Association and featuring the NW Women in Rhythm & Blues lineup starring: Sonny Hess, Julie Strange, Rae Gordon, Kathryn Grimm, Myrtle Brown, Leah Hinchcliff, and Ward Griffiths. Lovejoy Rooftop at the Botanist

10/15 Robert Cray, Aladdin Theater

10/17 Blues for Slim Lively, A Benefit for Greg Johnson, Crystal Ballroom

10/18 John Hiatt and the Jerry Douglas Band, Revolution Hall

10/22 Midnight at the Crossroads, Echo Theater-CBA cosponsored event

10/28 Anderson East, Aladdin Theatre

11/3 Mini Muddy Awards—The Covid Edition, Lovejoy Rooftop at the Botanist

11/7 Chris Hamann Celebration of Life, Catfish Lou’s

11/9 Paul Thorn, Alberta Rose Theatre

11/14 Los Lobos, Aladdin Theater

11/11 JJ Grey and Mofro, Crystal Ballroom

11/18 The Record Company, Roseland Theater

11/20 JD Simo, Jack London

11/22 Lukas Nelson & the Promise of the Real, Crystal Ballroom

 

12/1 Marc Broussard, Revolution Hall

12/8 & 12/9 Black Pumas- Roseland Theater

12/12 CBA Holiday Party, Moose Lodge

2022

1/21 Tommy Castro & the Painkillers, Jack London

3/23 Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Revolution Hall

4/21 Buddy Guy, Tom Hambridge Duo, Revolution Hall

Thanks to Mike and Debra Penk for adding to and editing this!

Johnny Tucker feat. Kid Ramos and the Allstars

Johnny Tucker
feat. Kid Ramos and the Allstars

75 and Alive
Blue Heart Records and Highjohn Records

Reviewed by John Taylor

Following the 2018 success of Johnny Tucker’s acclaimed, but austere “Seven Day Blues,” his manager, Bob Auerbach, figured it was time to open things up.

So Auerbach invited L.A. guitarist Kid Ramos and pianist Carl Sonny Leyland to pull together some serious talent and build a backup band for Tucker.

And boy, did they: John Bazz on electric and standup bass, Jason Lozano on drums, Ron Dziubla on sax and Bob Corritore on harp signed on as the Allstars.

Then Auerbach cleared the floor and let ’em play. The result? A genuine, one-take recording among friends on Tucker’s 75th birthday.

From the downbeat of the album’s first song, “All Night Long, All Night Wrong,” you know you’re in for a treat. Tucker’s voice summons distant, but distinct, styles – old-school Chicago, West Coast jump, New Orleans R&B.

The Fresno, Calif., native – who cut his teeth beating rhythms on pots and pans during family jam sessions – sings with the hard-earned authority of an artist and the joy of a master.

His casual asides and between-song conversations speak to his comfort level with his craft and his collaborators. And as the songs unwind, the mood relaxes.

Ramos and the Allstars frame Tucker’s vocals with stylish takes on traditional sounds. Ramos channels Albert Collins, Earl Hooker, Buddy Guy, while Bazz, Dziubla, Corritore and Lozano add rhythms, riffs and notes so sweet and spot-on that you’d swear they’d been playing together for decades.

“It just flowed in my head,” Tucker explains in the album’s liner notes. “I didn’t know what I was going to say until I said it. So it came out beautiful, man. Everything was right on time, like I’ve been doing the same songs for a long time, and that’s the first time I did it.”

Tucker devoted the CD to his wife, Georgia May Tucker, who sat in on the session, but passed before the album’s release. Wherever she is, we’re betting she loves this collection as much as we do.

This is one of the most authentic and enjoyable albums we’ve heard in a long time. We recommend you buy at least two copies – you’re either gonna want to pass one along to a friend, or you’re gonna wear out your own in a very short time.

 

 

 

 

 

Total Time: 51:18

 

All Night Long, All Night Wrong / There’s a Time for Love / If You Ever Love Me / Can’t You See / What’s the Matter / Treat Me Good / Snowplow / What’s On My Mind / Hookline / Dance Like I Should / Have a Good Time Tonight / Gotta Do It One More Time

Bobby Rush Autobiography - I Ain’t Studdin’ Ya

Bobby Rush Autobiography – I Ain’t Studdin’ Ya

By Randy Murphy

“All bluesmen are optimists,” Bobby Rush explains in his splendid new autobiography I Ain’t Studdin’ Ya.” “You almost gotta be. The next record. The next big gig. And maybe this old bumpy dirt road will turn into a freshly paved easy street.” I’m not sure I’d limit this sentiment bluesmen (or women) alone but the comment is telling and Rush easily qualifies as a classic example of someone who takes the sanguine view on just about everything. While the road to stardom that many of his mentors and contemporaries—Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Howling Wolf, Little Milton—followed eluded Rush, he seldom allowed it to discourage his confidence or diminish his love of this music. And now, with two Grammys in his pocket and a newly-minted autobiography in bookstores, Rush’s road seems finally to have received some newly laid and richly deserved blacktop.

I’ve read more autobiographies of musicians, writers, artists, and politicians than I care to admit, and the one theme common to nearly all of them is that of obsession. At some point in the narrative, a passion, sometimes bordering on mania, grips the author, and from that point he is bound to its whims and consequences and heartbreaks. Rush’s story is no different.

Bobby Rush, whose birth name is Emmett Ellis Jr., begins by taking us back to Circuit, Louisiana during the decade before World War II. There, growing up one of ten children in a tiny town that, in his words, was “like a million other[s] in the rural South. It was just a road with a sign,” Rush’s fixation with music began when his father “pulled out of his pocket a dull silver harmonica.” His vivid description of the effects his father’s playing had on Rush will sound familiar to anyone who’s been gobsmacked by music: “On his rock-solid knee, my mouth hung wide open. I was astonished. I could do nothing more than to stare deeply into his brown eyes and listen to the greasy yet melodic sound coming out of the harmonica.” That’s how it starts, isn’t it? Once music chooses you, there’s not really too much one can do about it but let it live in and through your life. To quote Hooker, “let that boy boogie-woogie.”

Through both his music and in his memoir, Rush displays his abilities as a natural storyteller. His prose is rooted in a rural, Southern vernacular—conversational, informal, full of those colorful and clever colloquiums that add spice to our language: “shotgun house,” “smack-dab,” “pig-in-a-poke,” and he’s structured the chapters his book, some barely spanning half of a page, as a series of anecdotes, vignettes, reflections, and commentaries. But oddly enough, it hangs together due to Rush’s ability to maintain twin narratives of survival and redemption throughout the books’ various scenes and episodes.

This memoir is also often hilarious, whether Rush is describing how to create a false mustache from burnt matchsticks (helpful if you’re a twelve year old looking to crash an adult music club) or the proper way to run a “mule hustle,” essentially stealing a mule a couple times a week and then returning it to its owner for the bounty:

We stalked through high brush to the farthest end of Mr. Yuke’s mule corral. Hunched down like commandoes invading enemy territory, we knelt real low and cut that fence. We then clicked out tongues to draw a mule near, carefully looking around to make sure we weren’t seen. That old mule walked out. Alvin put a rope around his neck while I sealed back the fence by twisting the wire together. Taking the long way around, we were soon at Mr. Yuke’s door [and] he thanked us and gave us a dollar. We did that a few times a week. It wasn’t right, but we didn’t feel it was too wrong, either—with the wealth they [White land owners] had inherited and all the Negroes they had working for scraps.

Of course, anyone growing up or writing about life in the Jim Crow south will run headlong into questions of race—it’s simply inevitable, but Rush deals uniquely with the vile prejudices of the era by often viewing them through a musical lens. It’s this lens that allows Rush to place all the racial turmoil and wretched injustices into a larger context. Here, he uses the idea of “naming” to examine the cultural appropriation of Black music by White culture.

Daddy taught me biblically, through the Old Testament, that it was an act of superiority to name something. And it was an act of submission to take the name shelled out to you. I know history gets written by the powerful. And white folks were trying really hard to take what we’d cooked up and make it theirs. But the fact remains that the only thing that white folks did to create rock ’n’ roll was Allan Freed giving it the name rock ’n’ roll. And with white folks being in power in every layer of American society, there was an immense power in the naming.

So even today, I hear their voices screaming in my memories and howlin’ from the heavens: the voices of Ike Turner, Big Joe, Little Richard, and they all are shouting the same thing: “It ain’t motherfuckin’ rock ’n’roll! To hell with that. It’s rhythm and blues.”

This is a tough truth to read. I always knew—well, suspected anyway—that much of the music I grew up listening to, rock, blues, most of the jazz, was not really mine in the sense that it didn’t emerge from the experiences of my ancestors. Rush validates that knowledge without belaboring the point. Of course, that does not diminish any of our appreciation for this music or our love for it, but Rush does us a service by placing the origins of the music squarely within its proper context.

In the end, this is a delightful book written by a man who endured much during the course of his life, but who made it out clean on the other side.

Elly Wininger – The Blues Never End

Elly Wininger

The Blues Never End
Earwig Music Company

Reviewed by Anni Piper

Lulled into a false sense of security by the innocuous cover art, Wininger had me fooled for the first few minutes of the listening experience. Styling some silver bangs and sensible glasses on the front jacket of ‘The Blues Never End,” I must confess my first thoughts were of my favorite auntie or diner waitress.

“Oh, this will continue to be a nice ambling lazy Sunday mix of country, folk and Delta blues,” I said to myself, and went about my morning. That is, until Wininger launches into “Alabama Blues” and I realize I have been duped. Favorite auntie, she is not. Wininger is akin to a Valkyrie atop a flaming chariot, a veritable Boadicea of the blues, a badass in a bronze breastplate leading an army of amazons. Her lyrics are a scathing indictment of the restrictions that are being placed on access to abortion, and she also references incest as the reason for needing the procedure. This song could not be more relevant right now. Wininger’s boldness and courage in tackling these issues in her art, in the context of an America that’s as divided as a quotient, has to be commended.

It’s not just “Alabama Blues” that will get your attention. All the original numbers on this album glow like a white dress in a nightclub. From the slinky, sultry “Right Kind of Trouble” to the Zydeco bop of “(I Wanna Be Like) Rosie,” Wininger has obviously earned her place in the New York Blues Hall of Fame. She showcases her diverse understanding of blues styles, using a range of instrumentation, in tracks such as Blind Lemon Jefferson’s “Black Snake Moan.” However, most of this album is carried by Wininger herself on vocal and guitar, and damn, she carries it well.

Total time: 51 minutes

Let That Liar Alone / Skinny Legs Blues / Right Kind Of Trouble / Special Rider Blues / Alabama Blues / The Blues Never End / (I Wanna Be Like) Rosie / As The Crow Flies / Black Snake Moan / God Moves On The Water / Range In My Kitchen / Leavin’ Blues / Old Riley

CBA Presents Blues Night - NW Women Rhythm & Blues

CBA Presents Blues Night – NW Women Rhythm & Blues

Produced by Sonny Hess

Part of the Elevate Unity Benefit Series at Lovejoy Rooftop,
the event side of Botanist
910 NW 14th Ave., Portland

NW Women Rhythm & Blues are composed of top female performers in the region as well as fresh new talent ready to be introduced to the Portland blues scene. This night’s planned impressive line-up includes Sonny Hess, Julie Strange, Rae Gordon, Kathryn Grimm, Myrtle Brown, Leah Hinchcliff and Ward Griffiths. Every show is a little different. When women perform with women, a certain magic happens!

The CBA has been working in partnership with Elevate Unity, a 501c3 charity, to advocate for social equality and address the need to support our local venues, production staff, restaurant workers and musicians from the devastating effects of our industry shutdown. The benefit music series spotlights Portland’s top soul, blues, Latin, jazz, and rhythm & blues artists, and features positive commentary from community activists, nonprofits and social equality advocates, sharing ideas and tangible strategies to unite our divided country.

This series is a fundraising effort for various nonprofits, including Elevate Unity, Cascade Blues Association, Jazz Society of Oregon, Ethos Music Center, Black United Fund, Legacy Mentor & Friends of Noise. Even if you can’t make it to the show, please consider offering a direct contribution from the ticket page to support this very important work.

The Deets:

Friday, Oct. 15

Lovejoy Rooftop at Botanist, 910 NW 14th Ave., in The Pearl

Door: 5 p.m. / Show: 6 p.m.

Tickets: $20 — required two-drink minimum (cocktails, beer, wine, N/A)

  • CBA Members can get $5 off their ticket from Eventbrite

Seating is limited due to city and state restrictions / Reservations are suggested in order to ensure entry (971.533.8064) / 21 and older / Tickets are Non-Refundable / Performers subject to change.

Midnight at the Crossroads - feat. LaRhonda Steele

Midnight at the Crossroads
– feat. LaRhonda Steele

by Marie Walters

The CBA has partnered with Querencia Dance Productions and Echo Theater Company to promote a completely different kind of blues show on Oct. 22. “Midnight at the Crossroads” is a celebration of the blues and burlesque, an adult-oriented show, presented dinner-theater style at Portland’s Echo Theater.

Querencia Dance Productions and ETC are turning the historic Echo Theater into the hottest juke joint in town with “Midnight at the Crossroads,”’ a dark cabaret featuring burlesque and cabaret acts accompanied by live music. Fresh off her induction into the Oregon Music Hall of Fame, “The First Lady of Portland Blues,” LaRhonda Steele, and her band will provide the smouldering soundtrack for the rest of the performers.

The cast consists of Dahlia Kash, Kizmyastrid, Viper and the featured performer from Seattle, Nox Falls “The Naughty Body.”

  • Dahlia Kash is known as “The Mocha Mae West” for her quick wit and sultry moves. A burlesque performer since 2013, this queer fat femme is gonna rock your world!
  • Viper (they/them) is a burlesque/drag performer from Chicago. A sex-positive African deity that aims to please, they will tantalize you with their style, grace and fierceness …
  • Nox Falls “The Naughty Body” is a “slow- burning doomwitch” with a niche for nasty — they have earned international accolades and a reputation for doing anything for you … in the dark.
  • BeeBee Sanchez, whom many of you may remember from her years volunteering on the hospitality team at the Waterfront Blues Fest South Stage, will emcee and perform.

This is participatory theater, costumes and other finery are highly encouraged. Let the spirits inspire you and dress however you dare! But please wear a mask (required).

The audience is requested to wear masks and engage in physical distancing. Reduced capacity. Show is for ages 18-plus ONLY, no exceptions. VACCINE or negative COVID test required for entry. No refunds will be given for not meeting entry requirements.

Friday Oct. 22nd

Showtime: 9 p.m.

Tickets at Arts People:  $20 advance, $25 at the door (if tickets remain)

$40 VIP front row table seats available, plus goodies. Must select two tickets at time of purchase.

Size positive and accessible seating area and entry.

More information on the Facebook event or at Echo Theater.

For proof of vaccination, they will accept one of the following:
• Your physical vaccination card
• A clear, legible photo of your vaccination card
• A digital vaccination record
• A negative result from a COVID-19 test (PCR only, test taken within 72 hours)
You may also be asked to show your photo ID along with proof of vaccination.

 

Ron Johnson
CBA at-large board member since 2018

Ron says. “I joined the CBA Board of Directors about three years ago. I joined to see what I could do to help with the future and direction of the CBA — and out of curiosity about how they work. The future of the CBA is looking up these days, as we are able to put more events out there for our members and the general public. And this in turn gives more exposure for the Portland blues community, especially the music, musicians and the venues. And that’s why the CBA exists.”

Ron is quick to lend a hand, often volunteering for events.  He is often out supporting live music and is usually dancing!