Shari’s 3 am Sessions: Late Nite Specials
Nite Owl Records

Now an all-night restaurant is not really the place you’re going to expect to run into live music.. Especially if it’s well after midnight, more on this side of the crack of dawn. But there amongst the insomniacs, the truck drivers and those that are just up all night type of folks, at …

The CD Woodbury Band - press photoHank Shreve has been honored six times by the Cascade Blues Association with Muddy Awards, including two in 2013 for Regional Blues Band and Harmonica Player (his second recognition in the latter). Having picked up the harmonica at the age of eight, Hank has proven himself one of the leading players of the instrument on the West Coast, and it is not too uncommon to see him step behind a keyboard or a set of drums as well. Based out of Eugene, his band took home Muddy Awards the past couple years for Best New Act in 2012 and Regional Act in 2013. They’re a powerhouse live band that features original blues to keep a crowd on their feet as featured on the band’s debut recording I’ve Had It which also received a Muddy Award nomination for Northwest Recoding of the Year.

The Hank Shreve Band does not make it up river to Portland too often, so when they do you know that it will be a party on hand. The band will be returning to Duff’s Garage, 1635 SE 7th, on Saturday, January 4th for a 9:00 pm show. This is a Cascade Blues Association co-sponsored event, so bring your current membership card and receive a $1.00 discount on the $10.00 admission at the door.


In The Pocket press photoIn The Pocket is a blues band in the true sense of the word “BAND!” Based in the Medford and Ashland area, they are striving for collective excellence with their music. This soulful band is creating a unique, sometimes “swampy,” niche in the world of blues and they will be making their Portland debut at Duff’s Garage on Thursday, January 9th with a 9:00 pm showtime.

In The Pocket features J. “Billy Rock” Smith and Leonard Griffie writing original music that lyrically speaks from the heart – often with a touch of life’s dark humor. With Leonard out front on guitar & lead vocals, Pat McDougall on multiple keyboards, Mark Cunningham on “stay just behind the beat” bass, and Billy Rock locked in on drums and lead vocals, this stellar musical quartet creates a powerful expression of blues… Want It, Need It, Got To Have It!

The band has been selected as the representatives for the Ashland Blues Society at the upcoming International Blues Challenge in Memphis, so this is actually a fundraising event for In The Pocket to help them raise the necessary expenses to travel to Tennessee for the competition. It is also a celebration of the release of guitarist Leonard Griffie’s new CD titled Give It To Me. There is a suggested $10.00 donation for this show. Duff’s Garage is located at 1635 SE 7th.  Come out and help the band. Let’s make sure that Oregon and the Northwest are well represented at the IBC!

Melody Ballroom, 615 SE Alder St., Portland
Wednesday, January 8th, 7:00 pm
Members always Free – Non-members $3.00
Opening Acoustic Set – Julie Yanko & Dean Mueller
Second Electric Set – Jesse Samsel

Hey everybody, hope you noticed that date for the meeting right off so you do not show up a week too early. You should be home with family, watching football, recovering from partying too much the night before or whatever you like to do on the holiday, so the meeting is pushed back one week.  But we guarantee that that extra week will be well worth the wait as the Cascade Blues Association begins year number twenty-eight of supporting, promoting and preserving the blues in our region. One way that we do this is by offering two great sets of music at our general membership meetings each month and we believe you’re going to truly enjoy the acts we have for January.

Dean Mueller and Julie Yanko -photo from Dean MuellerOpening the night will be Julie Yanko & Dean Mueller. The pairing of a Jazz vocalist and upright acoustic bass is a magical combination that leaves nowhere to hide. It is a setting reserved for the most qualified artists, a mingling that Julie Yanko and Dean Mueller bring together with unexpected delight. Julie is a strong yet sweet voice reminiscent of the 50’s when female singers ruled the jazz and blues world of music. Her repertoire combines the jazz of Billy Holiday with the soul of Nina Simone and the sophisticated country of Patsy Cline. Dean’s bass playing is rooted in the blues chops he earned playing with the finest blues legends in America and touring with the award winning international act, The Insomniacs. Over the last couple of years the pair has been performing as a duo or collaborating onstage with other northwest artists such as Curtis Salgado, Alan Hager, Chris Carlson, Henry Cooper, Dave Fleschner, and Alex Shakeri. Each situation brings out a different vibe and freshness that new relationships tend to do. At January’s CBA meeting the pair will be teaming up with Chris Carlson, a Northwest guitar master and bandmate with Dean in the Duffy Bishop band. Come join us as this trio brings a fresh take on a bygone era that is intimate, alluring, and hauntingly beautiful.

For the second set we have invited back one of Portland’s finest guitarists, Jesse Samsel. He Jesse Samsel - photo by Karylee Harrisionhas worked with many exciting acts over the years, both locally with the likes of Meredith Brooks, Paulette Davis, Steamy Windows and recording and toured the world with renowned artists like Ry Cooder, Bobby King and Terry Evans. This past year Jesse has been working as Jesse & The Loopers, which is actually Jesse doing all the parts by looping the tracks, something that he may be the only blues artist pursuing this direction. But for the meeting, Jesse is planning on bringing a band with him, so you should expect to hear that great solid rock and danceable blues that he is known for. He is also hoping to bring copies of a new CD that he has titled Blues Notes, which will feature all the songs that he recorded with people like Ry Cooder and Terry Evans that they allowed him to solo on. Sounds like a very cool collection for sure. Whatever setting you find Jesse Samsel in, you know that he is going to bring all he’s got, never a dull moment and entertaining for certain.

Remember to pick up your free drawing ticket as you enter the venue for a chance to win great prizes. We’ll also have another multi-CD package with tickets to win it all going for only $1.00 a chance, with the funds all going to help the Cascade Blues Association offer nights like these meetings and many other exciting projects throughout the year.

Hope to see you all there!


Have you ever dreamed of playing in Memphis, Tennessee on Beale Street? The storied location that has seen the rise of many of the most prominent blues artists of all time such as BB King, Howlin’ Wolf, Bobby Bland, Muddy Waters.  Now imagine having industry representatives from around the blues world in attendance: record labels, festivals, venues, media, agents, promoters and blues societies. You will never find so many seeking out new talent all in one place at the same time. Well, that opportunity just may be yours. It all begins with your application to take part in the Cascade Blues Association’s Journey to Memphis competition to select our representatives in the 2015 International Blues Challenge

Applications for entry into the 2014 Cascade Blues Association’s Journey To Memphis competition are now being accepted. Here’s how to apply:

1.      First and foremost, all applicants must be a current member of the Cascade Blues
Association. No act that has either won or has been nominated for The Blues Foundation’s Blues Music Awards may enter.
2.   Put together a promotional packet including:

  • A letter of intent
  • Band/Artist biography (including the names and ages of any members under 21 years)
  • A photograph for promotional use (must be a minimum of 300 dpi)
  • A CD sample of your music (please use full songs as your music may be used to promote the event on local radio)
  • Contact information including address, phone number and email address if available
  • $20 application fee. This fee will go toward the prize offered by the CBA to help defray travel expenses for the winning act. (Please make checks out to the Cascade Blues Association and note at the bottom “J2M” for our accounting purposes).

Depending on the number of applications received, venues and dates will be scheduled to hold preliminary competitions to select the final four entries to compete at the Safeway Waterfront Blues Festival on the Front Porch Stage on the 4th of July.. The winning act selected at the Waterfront will have the honor of representing the CBA at The International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tennessee. Also included as part of the prize is a guaranteed paid set at the following year’s Safeway Waterfront Blues Festival, a set at the 2014 Muddy Awards and a cash prize based on the amount of admissions sold during the first round of the competition.

Please send application packets to: Journey To Memphis, c/o Cascade Blues Association, PO Box 14493, Portland, OR 97293. Or you may deliver your applications at the CBA monthly meeting at The Melody Ballroom. All applications must be received no later than the April 2nd CBA Membership Meeting, so we may have appropriate time to set-up semi-final dates in early June and to promote the acts in the BluesNotes that month. Absolutely no late entries will be accepted.

All rules used for the Journey To Memphis follow those outlined by The Blues Foundation. These can be found at their website

North Mississippi All Stars - photo by Josh MintzWhen it comes to Mississippi blues today, perhaps no one outfit spreads the sound around the world as much as the North Mississippi All Stars. Since breaking out in the late ‘90s they have taken the tradition of artists such as Fred McDowell, Otha Turner, R.L. Burnside, Junior Kimbrough and the likes, expanding it into their own feel and brought it forefront into the 21st century. But they had the proper upbringing for this flavor of music. After all Luther and Cody Dickinson are the sons of the late Jim Dickinson, one of the South’s most distinguished producers and musicians himself, who always felt that his sons playing together would amount to a great deal more than working with others. Not that some of those others have been just anybody off the street as individually they’ve played with The Black Crowes, Robert Plant, Jimbo Mathus, Alvin Youngblood-Hart and many more highly recognized musicians. Touring in support of their latest release World Boogie Is Coming, the All Stars are joined by another Mississippi legend, guitarist Lightnin’ Malcolm, on shows across the country. Malcolm has worked with many of the best from his home state, including Cameron Kimbrough and Cedric Burnside.

The North Mississippi All Stars and Lightnin’ Malcolm will be returning to Portland on Saturday, January 25th for a night at Dante’s, 350 W Burnside. Showtime is 9:30 pm and this is a 21 & over event only. Tickets are $18.00 general admission and available through The band was one of this year’s highlights at the Waterfront Blues Festival, always a rock the house show, so don’t miss out.

A listing of new music received at the CBA office or purchased personally this past month that should be noted:

Bill Blues – Mojolation (Warmfuzz)
Billy Thompson – Friend (Soul Stew Records)
Bottleneck John – All Around Man (Opus 3)
Brett Wellman and The Stone Cold Blues Band – All I Had Was Gone (Stone Cold Music)
Charlie Musselwhite – Juke Joint Chapel (Henrietta Records)
Dan Burien – Empty Roads (Self Produced)
Dave Keller – Soul Changes (Tastee Tone)
Deb Ryder – Might Just Got Lucky (Bejeb Music)
Hank Mowery – Account To Me (Old Pal Records)
Leonard Griffie – Give It To Me (Pangoboy Productions)
Micah Kesselring – Log Cabin Blues  (Self Produced)
Pam Taylor Band – Hot Mess (Self Produced)
Quinn Sullivan – Getting There (Super Star Records)
Randy Scott – Out Of The Blue (Favored Nation)
Ross Neilson Band – Resurrection (Self Produced)
Savoy Brown – Songs From The Road (Ruf)
Spin Doctors – If The River Was Whiskey (Ruf)
The Randy Oxford Band – It Feels Good (Figgleblall Records)
The Rhythm Rockets – She Swings Blue Vol 1. The Joint Is Jumpin’ (Brother Racoon Records)
Various Artists – Shari’s 3am Sessions (Nite Owl Records)

It Feels Good
Figgleblall Records

 Randy Oxford Band CD coverEvery time I turn around it seems that Randy Oxford has a handful of new players in his band and the funny thing about it all is they keep sounding more impressive every time out. This new band features Randy on trombone of course, and the incredible Amy Jada is back on vocals, but stellar guitar players Randy Norris and Manuel Morais add their own unique blends, Richard Sabol is his animal self tearing up the drums, and they’ve enlisted the energetic Polly O’Keary, formerly of Too Slim & The Taildraggers, to fill in with the bass lines. Each of the guitarists, Jada and Polly are all accomplished songwriters, too.  Also appearing on the recording is percussionist L.A. Smith and bassist Farko Dusomov who have both played with the Oxford Band in the past. The individual musicians each have their own unique sound and this makes the Randy Oxford Band even more exciting as they can come at you in various directions and they’re all entertaining and top notch.

This blend of varying styles is showcased quite nicely in the latest CD from the band titled It Feels Good. Randy’s trombone is also at the forefront with the band and the album starts out with a quick run on his horn. But more than ever before this is an ensemble that can fill any of the others’ material and it works seemingly effortlessly. Morais, Norris, Amy and O’Keary each have written at least a couple tracks apiece on the disc, with the lone cover being Paul Simon’s “One Trick Pony.” Even that cover sounds like it was meant to be played by this group, they nail it precisely. Each of the numbers can be deemed highlights on It Feels Good, from Jada Amy’s steamy “Leave Me Alone,” Randy Norris’ burning and rocking piece “Run Over,  Polly O’Keary’s  fast-paced “How Come You’re Never Here (When I Come Home)” and the Spanish inflected guitar of Manuel Morais’ emotional “Your Love.” So many directions and all done so well.

It Feels Good is a crowning achievement by the Randy Oxford Band. With a line-up of some of the best players in the Northwest, this is a winning combination and the results are clear. It Feels Good is not only the title, it is a fitting title. That’s how this new music will come across and make you feel, too.

Total Time: 55:53

Trouble / Full Moon Rising / The Loudest Thing / When You’re Gone / One Trick Pony / Run Over / Leave Me Alone / Your Love / How Come You’re Never Here (When I Get Home) / I Believed

Gordon & Cavenah Duo (photo by Kat Rose Photography)The Rae Gordon Band, representing the Rainy Day Blues Society at the International Blues Challenge this month, will be holding one last fundraising event before making the trek to Tennessee. Taking place on Friday, January 17th for a 9:00 pm show at The Trails End Saloon, 1320 Main Street in Oregon City. Not only is this your chance to give Rae and the guys a hand, it is also Rae’s birthday. So there is double reason to make it to this show. And you know that Rae is always a sensational performer.


ramblings201306BNGreg Johnson / CBA President

This month I thought I would do something different with this column. I was contacted once again this year by Eric Steiner, the President of the Washington Blues Society, and asked if I could give them a top ten list for blues recordings of 2013. Always a difficult decision because there are so many that always stand out. But I did break it down to the ten that I believe I kept coming back to over and over again throughout the year and still play consistently. There are a lot that could’ve or maybe should’ve been included, but then again it is supposed to be my personal choices. So I thought I’d share them with you, too. Please note that not all of these are in any specific order, with the exception of the top two.

For me the one style that stood out more than any other this past year was soul blues. My list was topped off by two soul albums and another made the cut as well, though a fourth had its share of soul, too. My top two picks of the year were Otis Clay’s Truth Is (Putting Love Back Into The Music) and Johnny Rawls’ Remembering O.V. How can you possibly go wrong with Blues Hall of Fame inductee Otis Clay? The man simply has one of the smoothest voices on the planet and the music here is so remindful of what made you fall in love with soul music to begin with. As for Johnny Rawls, this tribute recording to his former employer and mentor O.V. Wright is something I cannot get enough of. It always seems to get picked up whenever I’m grabbing something to play in the car. And oh yeah, Otis Clay is on this one, too. The original track with Johnny and Otis “Blaze of Glory” that closes the disc would also be included in any list I made up of best songs of the year as well.

Local artists in the Northwest put out some fantastic music this past year, but I am sorry to say that only one of them made my list. This was tough, there were so many choices I could have placed on the list both regionally and internationally. I kept asking why it can’t be a top twenty-five, but I knew that would not make any difference either. I’d still be leaving something out. But my choice for Northwest album went to Kevin Selfe’s Long Walk Home. I had a copy of this for nearly nine months before it was actually released by Delta Groove, so it saw a ton of play time with me and it still garners that going close to two years now. Kevin at his best with songwriting and playing, backed by phenomenal musicians. Is there any doubt as to why he received so many Muddy Awards in November?

A couple acoustic recordings placed here, too. Doug MacLeod is always a perennial favorite with whatever he does and there was no exception with There’s A Time. His storytelling is exceptional and it comes across on disc just as well as it does live. And for sounding as if you’re listening to somebody live, Little G Weevil’s Moving brings it home. I had been impressed with his previous band recording and then seeing him take the solo competition at the International Blues Challenge gave him more attention in my mind. When Moving came out, I was completely sold.

Speaking of acts that I became aware of through the IBC, Mr. Sipp blew my mind with his performances in my venue and at the finals this past year. He can sound like BB King or Little Milton and his stage show was highly electrifying. He captured that mood perfectly on his recording It’s My Guitar. Also from past IBC exposure I first met JP Soars and had my introduction to Victor Wainwright. Along with Damon Fowler they make up the backbone of Southern Hospitality, one of the most exciting live acts around. I enjoyed their mix of modern Southern rock and blues on their debut album Easy Livin’ with each taking the forefront on the selections. Though I met him before he competed in the IBC (in fact when he did he was in my venue), Brandon Santini’s This Time Another Year was a pleasing surprise. Brandon has been a long time close friend so I knew he could perform the blues exceptionally, but this one surpassed everything I could’ve imagined and then some. Great harp playing, singing and songwriting with former Portland bluesman Jeff Jensen holding down the guitar.

As I said to open this column, soul music played a big part of my listening this past year and the newest CD on this list would be Dave Keller’s Soul Changes. Recording in Memphis with the cast that helped back people like Al Green, Otis Clay, Ann Peebles and others brought his songs to life. The second half of the album done in Brooklyn had updated takes on some soul classics. This man’s voice is going places as seen by his nomination for a Blues Music Award for soul-blues just announced. The final disc on my top ten is Mighty Mike Schermer’s Be Somebody. He can also bring on soulful vocals, but it is his guitar work and songwriting that really stand out to me. This is really a feel good disc for me and it always makes me smile whenever I play it.

But again, I need to stress that there were so many great recordings over the past year. Being limited to just ten is hard. I thought about listing others that I felt could’ve easily made this list, but I did not want to possibly omit anybody else. I recommend that you give these ten albums a listen if you have not heard them already. And let me know who you thought were your selections if you’d like. I always find what other people enjoy to be interesting as well. Here’s to 2014. I know there will be many greats coming out this year, too.