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LIVE REVIEW -- Blues Blast Awards 2011

Blues Blast Music Awards 2011

October 27, 2011

Buddy Guy’s Legends, Chicago, IL

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Buddy Guy sings
Buddy Guy belts one out at his club for the Blues Blast Awards 2011
photo: Jennifer Wheeler


by Liz Mandeville

Thursday, October 27: Dateline -- Chicago!  Buddy Guys Legends was the place and Blues Blast Magazine’s “2011 Blues Blast Music Awards” was the draw. Blues royalty from all over the country had turned out to celebrate another year of the Blues, to mourn our losses, fete our accomplishments and, best of all, play some great music.

Nominees in all eight categories (Best Female, Best Male, New Artist Debut CD, Rising Star, Contemporary Recording, Traditional Recording, Song and Band) gave stellar performances throughout the long night of blues, booze and BBQ.

Gina Sicilia
Gina Sicilia backed by Dave Gross on guitar
photo: Michael Kurgansky

As I arrived, nominees in the Female Artist category were treating us to a small sampling of their art. Gina Sicilia, a fashion statement in a black, strapless, bubble dress, was belting one out as we situated our camp with photographer extraordinaire, Queen Bee and Denise Lynch, both from Lansing’s Capitol Blues Society in Michigan, who’d come to support their local heroes The Vincent Hayes Project. Their finely wrought CD, Reclamation, was up for a Best New Artist Debut CD and the band gave a fine live performance led by Vincent Hayes, with his guitar and voice as the focal point, tight pocket rhythm section and the unusual combo of piano on one side and organ on the other.  Theirs was one of the most dynamic, musically interesting performances of the evening, although they didn’t win the award.  That honor went to Chris O’Leary Band; more on that later.

Karen Lovely
Karen Lovely
photo: Jennifer Wheeler

Gina was swiftly followed by nominee Karen Lovely who treated us to a rendition of her powerful hit “Still the Rain.” The tune, written by Dennis Walker and Alan Mirkitani, which could easily be translated into a screenplay, was also nominated for Best Blues Song.

The honor went to the title track from Buddy Guy’s Grammy winning CD, Living Proof, co-written by producer Tom Hambridge and Buddy Guy.  More on them later.

Oozing attitude, Karen Lovely paced the stage like a caged tigress, growling out the disturbing lyric with passion. She was accompanied in her short but powerful set by Chicago’s Kate Moss on bass.

Despite the early hour we were almost finished with all the female performances for the evening. Master of ceremonies, David Bernston, and stage announcer James Skyy Dobro Walker, kept things moving by bringing out Teeny Tucker, daughter of Tommy “High Heeled Sneakers” Tucker, another nominee for Best Female Artist, to the stage.

Teeny Tucker
Teeny Tucker
photo: Jennifer Wheeler

Teeny brought a trio of female back-up singers and was paired with Vincent Hayes’ pianist, Steve Doc Yankee and harp impresario Bob Corritore along with members of her road band. Teeny Tucker took the place by its tail and shook it, with a set paying tribute to the great Etta James. Wailin’ like Koko Taylor to a big fanfare she gave us “Tough Lover” and followed with an energetic “I’d Rather Go Blind.”

Next, Cookie Taylor Threatt, daughter of the late Queen of the Blues, presented the award for Female Blues Artist of the Year. It went to the late Robin Rogers and was accepted by her husband Tony, who was also her guitarist. Tony played a brief set with singer Sharrie Williams in honor of his wife.

Sharrie Williams, Tony Rogers
Sharrie Williams & Tony Rogers
photo: Michael Kurgansky

After that it was Men Men Men! Bob Margolin protégé, young Matt Hill debuted a new song he’d just written, called “Same Old Fuckin’ Thing.” Matt, known for his wild stage antics, was a nominee in the Sean Costello Rising Star category, but the honor went to Trampled Under Foot, the youthful family band from Kansas City that has done so well since winning the IBC in 2008. Guitarist and Albert King Award winner, Nick Schnebelen, was there to accept the award for his talented family. He also took home to his siblings the trophy for Best Band, beating out some hefty competition.

SO many great performances followed, I’ll just highlight a few:

Peter Parcek, Vincent Hayes
Peter Parcek & Vincent Hayes (right)
photo: Jennifer Wheeler

Peter Parcek, New Artist Debut nominee, looks like his hand isn’t moving at all, but he’s just played the most interesting three hundred notes you’ve ever heard. Peter was joined onstage by members of Vincent Hayes Project for a truly enjoyable guitar workout.

Chris O'Leary
Chris O'Leary
photo: Michael Kurgansky

 Chris O’Leary’s “Dress Blues” showed us why he’d garnered the coveted New Artist Debut CD award.

Bob Corritore and Dave Riley treated us to a “Harp Salute.” They’d been nominated in the Traditional Blues Recording category, but the prize went to our dearly departed Pinetop Perkins and Willie “Big Eyes” Smith for their Grammy winning  Joined At the Hip CD. They were and continue to be sorely missed.

Traditional Blues CD nominees Rich Del Grosso and John Richardson gave us some blues from the country with much mandolin; I thought of my old pal Yank Rachell.

Blues Band of the Year nominee, Wisconsin’s Reverend Raven heated up the joint with his tasty guitar and tight band, the Chain Smokin’ Altar Boys.

Michael Frank, Bob Kieser
Bob Kieser honors Michael Frank
photo: Connie Kenny

There was a momentary break in the action as Blues Blast Magazine presented a Lifetime Achievement Award to Earwig Music label president, Michael Frank. Frank, who has just lost longtime musical partner, Honeyboy Edwards, mentioned that he’s started a Honeyboy Edwards Foundation and aims to raise funds in Honeyboys’ name to continue his legacy.

Eddie Turner
Eddie Turner
photo: Michael Kurgansky

After that it was a mixing of bands that gave us a sampling of Rob Blaine, Sugar Profits, Eddie Turner, Nick Moss and others.  At the same time there was a second Blues Blast party in progress on the second story of Legends where nominees sold their CDs and merchandise, so I went upstairs to a quieter clime to do a little networking with friends. Notably, Lori Lewis was there representing the Windy City Blues Society.  She was snapping photos of Jimmy Burns who dropped by to talk about his newest project for Delmark (you’ll see it reviewed here in CBG in the near future). Kate Moss stopped by to talk about the record label biz, while Nick Moss wasn’t far behind to discuss his work with Curtis Salgado and his band The Flip Tops, not to mention a new CD. Reverend Raven came up to cool off after his smoking set and we all went downstairs to see who was going to win the coveted Male Blues Artist Award.

Buddy Guy with Blues Blast Award
photo: Connie Kenny

Of course it went to living legend, Buddy Guy, who also won for Contemporary Blues Recording and Best Song, racking up three big wins that night.  Buddy treated us to a rare, singing only, performance that gave new meaning to the phrase “takin’ it in the alley.” After being plied with corn liquor (or maybe cognac), Buddy was coaxed up on the stage to sing. His was an exercise in band control as he snapped the all-star line-up (which included producer Hambridge on drums, keyboardist Marty Sammon and bassist Melvin Smith) down to the barest whisper as he sang some of the most filthy, suggestive lyrics I’ve ever had the pleasure to hear, and I’ve been to the West Side!  As the crowd egged him on, a great time was had by all.

Laura Chavez & Nick Schnebelen
Laura Chavez & Nick Schnebelen
photo: Jennifer Wheeler

I regret missing the late night jam that followed; I understand that Candye Kane’s guitarist, Laura Chavez, did a terrific guitar showdown with Nick Schnebelen from TUF.  Even the cleaning service people, normally anxious for the place to clear out so they can get to work, enjoyed the show and were in no rush to start performing their duties. I’m also really sorry to have missed Memphis singer/songwriter/bandleader Reba Russell, who was the opening act of the night. She is an immense talent who, ruefully, is rarely seen north of the Mason-Dixon Line and is someone I can’t say enough great things about. Having seen her several times in Memphis and at the King Biscuit Fest, Reba’s inclusion on the bill was one of the treats I’d anticipated but just missed. Nevertheless, Blues Blast Music Awards 2011 proved to be a long, fun night jam-packed with stellar blues talent from all over the country from the first note to last call.  Mark your calendars for next year’s fifth annual Blues Blast Awards show to be held October 25, 2012.

Blues Blast Music Awards 2011
The Winners

Contemporary Blues CD -- Buddy Guy for Living Proof

Traditional Blues CD -- Pinetop Perkins & Willie "Big Eyes" Smith for  Joined At The Hip

Song of the Year -- "Living Proof" by Buddy Guy & Tom Hambridge

New Artist Debut CD -- Chris O'Leary Band for Mr. Used To Be

Male Blues Artist -- Buddy Guy

Female Blues Artist -- Robin Rogers

Blues Band -- Trampled Under Foot

Sean Costello Rising Star -- Trampled Under Foot


rambler.jpg lynnejordan.jpgLynne Jordan