On Friday, August 8th, The Birk will be featuring a double-headed bill of some of today’s rising stars in the blues, Toney Rocks and Jared James Nichols. For this special event, showtime starts at 6:30 and will run until midnight. Drop in early for dinner, enjoy the rustic setting and stay all night for a blues party.

Toney Rocks - press photo

Toney Rocks – press photo

Currently promoting his self-titled EP, Toney Rocks dives into the abyss of progressive blues rock music, pushing the culture forward by delivering a bold hybrid peppered with electronic elements. He isn’t just another guitar slinging bluesman. Toney Rocks’ conscious penmanship reveals a poet that identifies with today’s struggles and triumphs such as poverty, love, and self-liberation. He writes for the people, as a voice of the people who can’t be heard. His music has been compared to the soulful sounds of Robert Cray and the fusion of Jean Luc Ponty.

jared james nichols

jared james nichols – press photo

You can’t teach the blues. Either you’ve got it, or you don’t. Jared James Nichols has definitely got it. The Wisconsin-born, Los Angeles-based singer, writer and guitarist channels blues grit and gusto through bombastic arena-size rock ‘n’ roll. It’s raw, raucous and righteously real. Armed with a new EP, Old Glory & The Wild Revival, Jared James Nichols has recently performed at NAMM, SXSW and the Sturgis Buffalo Chip Festival.

The Birk is located at 11139 Highway 202 in Birkenfeld, Oregon.

Nikki & Matt Hill - photo by Greg Johnson

Nikki & Matt Hill – photo by Greg Johnson

Those who have seen Nikki Hill sing her ass off agree—this isn’t just another newcomer on the scene, this is a ‘whiplash’ moment. Hill and her band are climbing to the top of the roots music scene step by step and leaving jaws on the floor along the way. With a no-filter energy, they take all the flavors of American roots music and deliver a sound that will make you believe in rock and roll again! Nikki’s gritty and raw voice with Stax soul dynamics, driving rhythm guitar from Matt Hill, and a tight rhythm section provided by Ed Strohsahl and Joe Meyer come together and make a sound that just sounds like the truth.

After a handful of shows in the Portland area over the past couple years, Nikki Hill has made believers out of local fans and tends to pack the rooms she performs in. Dynamic shows at Duff’s Garage and the Waterfront Blues Festival quickly spread the name Nikki Hill as an artist to keep close watch on and not to miss when in town.

Nikki Hill returns to the region for a couple of dates. On Tuesday, August 12th, Nikki Hill will be performing for a dinner show at 6:30 at The Birk, 11139 Highway 202 in Birkenfeld, Oregon, and then on Wednesday, August 13th, the band hit the stage in Portland’s Duff’s Garage once again, located at 2530 NE 82nd . This one is a Cascade Blues Association co-sponsored event, so bring your membership card for a $1.00 discount at the door and be prepared to jump up and dance.

The Cascade Blues Association held the finals for the 15th annual Journey To Memphis competition on July 4th at the Waterfront Blues Festival. Four finalists selected by our judges scoring at the first round held at The Lehrer in early June, faced off against one another in the hot summer afternoon before three new judges. This year’s overall competition was without doubt one of the strongest fields ever, top to bottom. Covering a wide diversity of blues styles, twelve acts started out and four remained at the Festival.

David Pinsky and Phil Newton (use this shot with J2M article) - photo by Greg Johnson

David Pinsky & Phil Newton – photo by Greg Johnson

One of the three was a solo/duo act, David Pinsky & Phil Newton. They had already earned the right to travel to Memphis to represent the CBA at The Blues Foundation’s International Blues Challenge in January. We still had to decide on a band amongst the three remaining acts. Why were David and Phil involved then? They were competing for the overall prize money to help them get to Memphis. If they scored higher than the bands they would be awarded the grand prize.

The other three acts included two bands that made it to Memphis in 2014 for the IBC, Rae Gordon who made the semi-finals back East representing the Rainy Day Blues Society of Eugene, and Ben Rice & The iLLamatics who went for the CBA and made it all the way to the finals. The newcomers were Salem’s Still Water Vibes, a fiery new band with sensational vocals from Nick Wixom. All three acts, along with David and Phil, turned in knock-out performances, all worthy of taking home the prize.

But it was all up to the scoring of the judges. And we had three of the best judges you could ask for, all on the same level as those judges used in Memphis at the IBC finals themselves. Music writer and editor Stacy Jeffress from Topeka, Kansas; Delta Groove recording artist from Australia Kara Grainger; and Delta Groove artist and past IBC second place winner Sugaray Rayford. Each scored the competitors on five categories: blues content, originality, vocals, instrumentation and overall stage presence.

Rae Gordon - photo by Tony Kutter (use this shot with the J2M article)

Rae Gordon – photo by Tony Kutter

A tough call to make, but in the end it was the Rae Gordon Band coming out on top. Aside from the prize money and the right to represent the CBA in Memphis this coming January, the band will also open the Muddy Awards show this coming November and will have a guaranteed paid set at next year’s Waterfront Blues Festival.

Congratulations and good luck!


Melody Ballroom, 615 SE Alder St., Portland

Wednesday, August 6th, 7:00 pm

Members always Free – Non-members $3.00

Opening Acoustic Set – Root Cellar

Second Electric Set – Gabriel Cox


August’s Cascade Blues Association’s General Membership Meeting is going to be quite exciting. We will be presenting two acts at completely different takes on the blues. One taking on the earliest patterns of the music and the second the new rootsy rock direction that crosses over genres.

Lowell J Mitchell - courtesy Lowell J Mitchell (to use with meeting article)

Lowell J. Mitchell of Root Cellar – photo courtesy Lowell J. Mitchell

Root Cellar is an authentic jug band that recalls the times when such bands played on street corners and parks throughout the South. Root Cellar is made up of some of Portland’s most renowned acoustic musicians, all deeply inspired by the sounds of jug and string bands.

The group is led by guitarist/vocalist Lowell J. Mitchell, who brings a grass-roots jug-band sensibility to an upbeat blend of rock, blues, rockabilly, soul, island and gospel flavors. He has studied with Quicksilver Messenger Service’s John Cippolina, The Holy Modal Rounders’ Steve Weber and Baby Gramps amongst others. He has also recorded with local musicians such as Billy Kennedy, Bazza, Heavy Petting Zoo and The Four Dudes.

Also on guitar/vocals is Walter Cryderman who also plays banjo and mandolin and works with numerous bands around Portland including Jamie Leopold & The Short Stories, The New Iberians, The Eagle Ridin’ Papas and Bayou Cadillac to name but a few. Harmonica master Aaron Lowe is a respected songwriter and has also played with Jaime Leopold & The Short Stories, Dawn & The Dents and The New Skillet Liquors. Washtub bass and washboardplayer Giued Lutge rounds out the band with another fine collection of outfits that she has worked with, including The How Long Jug Band, The Pagan Jug Band and The Darlin’ Blackbirds. This is a powerhouse acoustic act that will surely convince you that jug music is dance music and highly enjoyable.

Gabriel Cox - photo by Greg Johnson (to use with meeting article)

Gabriel Cox – photo by Greg Johnson

The second set of the night will present for the first time at a CBA meeting one of Salem’s young guns who is about to take the Willamette Valley music scene by storm. Gabriel Cox took part in the Journey to Memphis competition back in June, and though he did not advance to the finals he turned a lot of heads and was invited to perform at the Waterfront Blues Festival. His strong self-titled debut recording has been getting steady airplay by Steve Pringle on KINK 101.9 FM, and it is filled with sensational songwriting, guitar work and vocals by Cox, and includes an impressive group of musicians working with him.

Gabriel Cox may not play a traditional style of blues, but he’s heavily steeped in soulful rock that has come directly from the idiom of the blues. With material perfectly made for cross-over appeal, remember seeing him here at the CBA meeting as his recognition starts to rise.

Remember, pick up your free drawing ticket as you come into the venue. You could walk home with a sweet prize like a CD, concert ticket or perhaps something else. We’ll also hold the winner take all multi-CD drawing with a package of discs put together just for the night. And we’ll let you know of all the great happenings going on in the area for the month. A fun night definitely is in store, so grab your friends and come on down to The Melody Ballroom. Always a nice way to hear the best blues in the area and to see your blues family.

Mike Eldred Trio - press photo

Mike Eldred Trio – press photo

Mike Eldred has been tagged with the title of “The Best Unknown Guitarist” by none other than former Stray Cat Brian Setzer. He goes on to say, “Mike Eldred is among the rare breed of guitarists who is not afraid of blurring lines in American Music. By bending all of his favorite musical styles, Mike has created his own original voice in modern electric guitar playing. He’s what it’s all about, Baby!”

Eldred has worked as guitarist in the band of another former Stray Cat, Lee Rocker. Joined by rhythm section John Bazz and Jerry Angel, both who cut their teeth playing with The Blasters, this power trio sits atop their class amongst bands offering Americana/Roots/Blues music today. They recently completed their fourth album, titled Baptist Town, recorded in Memphis’ famed Sun Studios.

Hank Shreve Band – photo by Laurie Shreve

Opening the night will be on of Eugene’s top blues acts, the Muddy Award winning Hank Shreve Band. Praised as one of the Northwest’s best harmonica players, Hank Shreve is actually a multi-instrumentalist and superb vocalist.

The Mike Eldred Trio will be appearing at Duff’s Garage, 2530 NE 82nd, on Friday, August 8th for a 9:00 pm show. This is a Cascade Blues Association co-sponsored event and current card carrying members will receive a $1.00 discount at the door.

The Tualatin Valley Park & Recreation District proudly presents their annual date-night showcase, Groovin’ on the Grass, on Saturday, August 9th. This year’s featured performers is a blues lovers’ dream with two of the hottest acts on the circuit today, The Robert Cray Band and Shemekia Copeland, appearing for the low, low price of just $5.00! And kids under 5 are free.


Robert Cray – press photo

Robert Cray broke out nationally from the Pacific Northwest in the mid-1980s and has steadily been atop the blues world ever since, earning Grammys, Blues Music Awards and induction into the Blues Hall of Fame. Along the way he has amassed numerous hit recordings that have cross-over to the pop charts and released more than twenty albums.

Shemekia Copeland has proven her talents time after time as the legacy of her legendary father Johnny Copeland. She has also garnered her share of awards throughout the years and has been hailed as the “New Queen of the Blues.”

Blues Royalty, Shemekia Copeland at Jimmy Mak’s

Shemekia Copeland – press photo

Both acts offer home-grown, Portland-based talent within their bands. Robert Cray employing the always popular Dover Weinberg on keyboards, while Copeland features guitar player Ken Scandlyn, so make a point to head out to cheer them on, too.

So make a point to come out to Tualatin Valley Park & Recreation’s HMT Complex, located at 15707 SW Walker Road in Beaverton on august 9th. Showtime is 5:00 – 8:30 pm. Food and drink will be available, including craft beers from Golden Valley Brewery.



Ori Naftaly Band - press photo

Ori Naftaly and Eleanor Tsaig of the Ori Naftaly Band – press photo

In a very short time this extremely talented band has gained international recognition and support by the international blues community and by an extended fan base, located in the USA, Holland, India, Germany and other countries all over the world. The first Israeli band to reach the semi-finals at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis in 2013 as well as out-selling every act at the IBC for CD sales, this band is all about energy and soul. Living in the United States the past year on a work visa, the band has been residing in Memphis and winning over audiences throughout the country as they make their first trip to the West Coast this fall. Led by the dynamic guitar playing of Ori Naftaly and the soulful voice of Eleanor Tsaig, their live performances are easy to see why they were chosen the Best Israeli Blues Act of 2013.

“This (‘I Feel Fine’) is what SRV might have sounded like if he had taken a more funk and jazz infused direction.” Barry Kerzner, American Blues Scene

The Ori Naftaly Band will be making their Portland debut on Tuesday, August 5th at Duff’s Garage, 2530 NE 82nd, for a 9:00 pm show. This is a Cascade Blues Association co-sponsored event. Bring your current membership cards to get a $1.00 discount on admission. You do not want to miss this one for one of the most exciting international blues bands working today!

Mel Solomon - photo by Val Davis

In Memory of Mel Solomon, Bluesman – photo by Val Davis

The Cascade Blues Association is saddened once again with the loss of one of our most beloved performers in the Portland area, Mel Solomon. Mel passed away on June 23rd, just days shy of his 81st birthday, after following a long battle with diabetes.

Mel Solomon moved to the Portland area in the early 1970s and worked at Freightliner until retiring in 1985 when he decided to pursue a renewed career in music. He was surrounded by music growing up in Louisiana and worked in many bands as a young man, moving from locations like Chicago, Dallas and Los Angeles. He even did a five-year period touring as part of Hank Ballard & The Midnighters.

In Portland, Mel worked with a variety of blues outfits, garnering a pair of Muddy Awards from the Cascade Blues Association for Best New Act with The Nightlighters in 1991 and Best Male Vocalist in 2001. Sadly, Solomon only officially recorded three songs during his career for Jan Celt’s Flying Heart Records’ compilation CD “A Taste of the Blue Rose”. He was also featured for a couple songs sitting in with guitar legend Hubert Sumlin at the CBA’s second Willamette Delta Showcase in 2001.

The past few years were tough on Mel Solomon as he began to lose his fight with diabetes. First he lost a leg and a few fingers, then his kidney started giving out creating the need for dialysis. Anybody who has known somebody or had to be treated for dialysis knows that it is not an easy treatment and encumbers many painful hours. After some time, Mel decided enough was enough and selected to halt all treatments. He knew that the outcome would be fatal, but he chose to go the path with dignity, deciding on his own that his time had come.

Mel Solomon will not quickly be forgotten. He was an individual everybody enjoyed working with. And when people asked who was the true, real deal bluesman in this city, chances were more than likely they would point out Mel Solomon.

kalama bfThe Third Annual Kalama Blues Festival will take place on Saturday, August 2nd along the waterfront at the Port of Kalama’s Marina Park on Hendrickson Drive. Just a short 45 minute drive north of Portland, this event helps support Kalama Helping Hands feed the region’s hungry.

This year’s festival will feature some of the finest blues acts from the Portland area with Ellen Whyte, Norman Sylvester, Kevin Selfe, Bolt Upright and The Bottleneck Blues Band.

Gates open at noon and admission is $8.00 plus two cans of food. Those under 15 are free with two cans of food. Music begins at 1:00 pm. There will be a beer garden with Ashtown Brewery, Roland, and Harmony Wineries providing beverages. Food vendors will include Terrel’s Texas Barbecue, Kat’s Crepes and Antique Deli. New to this year’s festival will be an Art Walk, where local artists will display and sell their crafts.




The 18th annual Bronze, Blues & Brews Festival happens August 9th in Joseph, Oregon at Joseph City Park. Headlining this year’s festival is 2010 Blues Music Award Entertainer of the Year Tommy Castro with his band The Painkillers. Also featured in the event will be 2009 International Blues Challenger champion J.P. Soars, Michael Osborn & The Drivers, an acoustic set from Franco Paletta & Jason “J.T.” Thomas, plus a special presentation of the fabulous “Tell Mama” Etta James Tribute show with a quartet of some of Portland’s most dynamic female vocalists (Lisa Mann, Rae Gordon, Lady Kat and LaRhonda Steele backed by the fabulous D.K. Stewart Sextet). Friday night will have a jam hosted by J.P. Soars.

Doors open Friday night,August 8th, for the jam at 7:30, running from 8:00 – midnight. This is a 21 & over event only.

Gates for the festival open at noon, with music running from 12:30 to 10:00 pm. All ages are welcome, kids 12 & under are free.

Advanced tickets are available for $30.00 through PayPal, go to the festival website at www.bronzebluesbrews.com for the link. Admission at the gate is $35.00 day of show. Also visit the website for information on camping and lodging.