Greg Johnson, Cascade Blues Association President
It really is something of an issue of pride when you see a young performer that has been a part of the Cascade Blues Association’s family since he was an early teenager become recognized amongst the best players in the world. It seems that Ben Rice has always been there as a part of the CBA and at times it is hard to believe he is still only 31 years old.
For the past two decades we have watched his evolution. Taking part in CBA youth jams led by former Blues in the Schools (BITS) director Fast Jimmy Hale. Sharing the stage in BITS fundraisers alongside Kenny Neal. His first trip to the International Blues Challenge with The Youth of Blues years before there was such a thing as the Youth Showcase – yes Ben won the right outright to be part of the competition at age 18. Graduating from the University of Oregon, touring with Bay Area harmonica man Phil Berkowitz and more recently with local BMA nominee Karen Lovely and winner Lisa Mann. More IBC trips making the finals representing the CBA with The iLLamtics and again for Eugene’s Rainy Day Blues Society he made the finals as a duet with Lucy Hammond, winning the St Blues best guitar award. He was planning on doing the same for the CBA again this year, where we were all holding hopes of his bringing home a prize once again, but fate stepped into play.
Ben Rice found himself nominated for three Blues Music Awards. The Best Emerging Artist nomination may not have been too unexpected. But those for Acoustic Artist of the Year, and Acoustic Album of the Year simply laid the foundation that this young man that we’ve watched grow and improve almost daily over the years is now one of the elite musicians of the blues world. When you look at those he is up against in these two latter categories it says a lot of the impact he has achieved: Rory Block, Guy Davis, Joe Louis Walker, Eric Bibb, Hadden Sayers, Harrison Kennedy – these people have been the leading forces of acoustic blues and more for many years. A huge congratulations to Ben Rice and good luck with the awards and the future. Unfortunately, with these nominations Ben is no longer eligible to compete in the International Blues Challenge. But despite that step-back, this is a forward motion as BMA nominations will bring more focus upon him and should bring with it more gigs across the country and internationally at venues and festivals.
But Ben is not our only local musician up for the BMAs. Jimi Bott is right there again in a position that he seemingly always represents in the Instrumental drums category as well as being a part of The Proven Ones all-star band. And Curtis Salgado is no stranger at the awards either, taking home the biggest of prizes in the past. But it’s great to see Alan Hager receive the nod alongside Curtis this year for the Album of the Year for their Rough Cut release. Alan has long been one of our most cherished guitarists, a man who can hold his own against anybody on the planet with either an electric or acoustic guitar. Their album was one that I was certain would receive a nomination from the first time I listened to it at the beginning of the year. It was just that exceptional. The cream always floats to the top and this disc was the beginning of the young year’s cream.
Best of luck one and all of our blues nominees this year!! Well deserved honors one and all!!