Thursday, January 12, 2017

Celebrate Memphis Style With The International Blues Challenge #32

Every year, Memphis is the site for one of the greatest celebrations of the blues held anywhere in the world. The International Blues Challenge brings together blues artists from all across the country, and indeed, the rest of the world to compete in various locations throughout the city until at last the best are crowned.
Careers are often launched at this event – and not just for the winners. While it’s true that some of the best in the business have succeeded without winning in Memphis, it sure doesn’t hurt if you do…
This year’s competition is scheduled for the end of January. According to the website of the blues foundation:
The 2017 International Blues Challenge will be held from January 31st to February 4th, 2017. The International Showcase will open the event on January 31 with competition rounds on February 1-3 in venues located along historic Beale Street. The International Blues Challenge will conclude with finalists performing at the Orpheum Theater on February 4th. Tickets sales for the 33rd International Blues Challenge are officially open!
All this information and more is available at their website, https://blues.org/international-blues-challenge/. I suggest that every blues lover plan on making the pilgrimage to Memphis at least once in a lifetime, and once you do, you just might plan to come back every year.
There are three different categories of competition: band, solo or duo, and youth. All of them have their excitement and while the band competition gets the greatest amount of publicity, some of the most unique artists come out of the solo/duo competition.
Think about it, one or two people on a stage connecting with an audience with stripped down instrumentation, much like the old juke joints. It’s the blues at its purest form. And what better way to get ready for this celebration of the blues than to relive some of the best presenters at the 32nd Annual International Blues Challenge?
That’s exactly what Barbara Newman, The Blues Foundation, and Frank Roszak have done by compiling this collection of nine different performers in the solo/duo and band category onto this one CD.  
As a reviewer and a radio producer, I am very excited by the album as it offers a chance to sample several performers that are new to me. In fact, we’ve only featured two of the artists on this album previously on Time For The Blues, The Paul Deslauriers Band and Bing Futch. Both were great so I can’t wait to hear what else is waiting for us.
The Paul Deslauriers Band gets the album running with I’m Your Man, a flat out rocking blues number. This is the kind of song that can get the blood pumping in a stone statue! It’s dark, gritty, exciting, and sure to get just about any audience on its feet and shaking whatever they got.
Innervision is next with Hound Dog. No, not the Big Mama Thornton song, but their own unique number. Yeah, it’s got that early rock and roll/rockabilly swing to it and I really like it. It’s a classic sound and they do it well. Love it. More please…
Next up is Sonny Moorman with an acoustic blues song, You Make All My Blues Come True. The tempo changes dramatically from the previous two songs and we are in pure blues territory here. His guitar work is impeccable and his vocals evoke the past beautifully. Gorgeous number.
That is followed by The Norman Jackson Band playing Norman’s Blues. It’s a soul blues song that’s heavy on the funk and sax. Nice call and response to get things started. By now it’s easy to see that the artists on the album give us a wide range of blues. Oh yeah, there’s something for everyone on this CD.
The very clever Trey Johnson And Jason Willmon turn in a great song, When The Money Runs Out. It’s a lesson all those guys with money have to wonder about. Never having more than a couple of bucks to my name, I never had to worry about it. This is guitar, harp, and some great lyrics. I have to find more of their stuff.
The down and gritty Hector Anchondo Band unleashes Tall Glass Of Whiskey with its psychedelic pyrotechnics driving the song. It’s an ode to many of the things that we aren’t supposed to do any more, but sure do make life fun. Great band.
Aside from being the driving force behind the dulcimer revolution, Bing Futch happens to be an amazing guitar player as well. Here he turns in an emotional and sad song, Drinkin’ And Drivin’. Futch actually won the 2016 Best Solo Guitarist award, so you know he’s got to be good.
While Dave Muskett is often a solo performer, here he is joined by his band for Can’t Move On, a strong driving number filled with soaring guitar work. It’s a great song with a strong bassline and a good hook. If you like your blues hard, this is a song for you.
The winner in the solo/duo category for 2016 Ben Hunter and Joe Seamons close out the album with Black Sheep Moan, which is a re-working of Black Sheep Blues and Moaning The Blues by “Pigmeat” Terry. It’s only appropriate to end on the number with a more traditional sound. It’s a wonderful reminder of just how powerful the blues can be at its deepest level.
There you have it, nine different songs from nine different performers. Ranging from solo to good sized band, there’s a little something for every blues fan’s taste. And of course, by supporting this album, you are supporting The Blues Foundation, an organization dedicated to serving the entire blues community and keeping the music we love alive and thriving.
If you are not currently a member, please consider dropping by their website, https://blues.org/ and joining or otherwise make a donation of support. And if this whets your appetite, Memphis is closer than you think. The food is great, the people are friendly, and the music is the best in the world.

Save me a seat at the bar, will ya?

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