ramblings201306BNGreg Johnson / CBA President

Hard to believe that it is April already. So many events have already happened in Portland just the first three months and we’re just now getting started on spring and the festival season is on the horizon.

The benefit for Tim “Too Slim” Langford was quite heartwarming. It was wonderful to see such a large crowd come together for one of our Northwest all-time favorites, and the volunteers and the musicians who all gathered truly showed the love held for Tim here. And words could not sum up the gratitude that Tim held as he made several personal phone calls to thank many of us involved. Make a point to come out and see Tim and his band, Too Slim & The Taildraggers, themselves at Peter’s Room at The Crystal Ballroom on Thursday, May 7.

I would like to welcome and thank new board members to the Cascade Blues Association, Fred & Joann Morgan, Barry Blackwell and Robert “Reggae Bob” Hamilton. Their willingness to step up and help out is very appreciated. There is a lot of work involved with keeping the CBA up to speed and planning new events and upgrading the old. Having four new sets of hands will be quite a relief from working with a bare bones staff for so long.

But it has not all been bare bones, mind you. Richard LaChapelle, though not directly a member of the board, has taken on the role of collecting volunteers for our various events that we are associated with or put on. Richard goes above and beyond any expectations and does just as much work as any of the board members. Thank you so much Richard, for your volunteering to keep our group vital.

There are so many extraordinary shows happening throughout the month of April, but I would like to suggest that everybody who can attend the fourth annual Inner City Blues Festival. This is important because it helps build awareness to Healthcare For All Oregons. Musicians do not make much money, unless they’re big time stars like Bonnie Raitt or Eric Clapton, and most live month to month making ends meet. They are part of the group that needs such Health Care to be affordable. But this program is not just aimed at musicians, it is for everybody. This cause is huge and one way you can show your support is to attend this incredible festival.

The CBA is already looking at summer time events — can never start too early — and we expect to be right back into the mix of things as the weather heats up, with the Waterfront Blues Festival, The Cider Summit and our own Summer Picnic among them. And who knows, with new volunteers we may just be present at more of the festivals around the Northwest as well.

I also hope to see some of you in Memphis the first week of May for the Blues Music Awards. I will be working as a stage manager again for the biggest night in the blues world. My role is shuffling those musicians onto the stage on time to present a gathering of acts that rival any festival or cruise in just one night. And so many blues heroes all in one place. Big shout out to our three local artists that are up for awards this year: Curtis Salgado, Lisa Mann and Jimi Bott. Good luck and see you there.

But if you cannot make it to Memphis, I will see you at the monthly meetings and in the clubs. Happy bluesing everybody!

Hey everybody, there’s an exciting new series about to launch at The Lehrer this coming May that promises to bring cutting edge and modern blues rock to the forefront. This is not your traditional blues, but is sharp and current and will present a new definition of blues for the next generation of fans. Every Thursday will be devoted to offering some of the newer young artists who are bringing excitement and new life to the music, with a workshop and jam to take place every fourth Sunday of the month.

Everything will start on May 7, with national touring act Next 2 The Tracks, an exciting band that calls both Texas and New Mexico home. They call their music outlaw rock that mixes western sounds with newer bluesy approaches. Other bands booked for this series so far include Neil Darling on May 21 and Ty Curtis on May 28.

Though the Sunday workshops and jam are slated for the fourth Sunday of each month, the first will occur on May 31 due to the long holiday weekend the week before. Artists for this event are to be announced.

Renegade Blues is the brainchild of venue owner Brad Lehrer, working with promoter Cherie Robbins and Cascade Blues Association President Greg Johnson outlining the event’s direction and goals. The Lehrer is located at 8775 SW Canyon Lane.

By Laurie Morrisey

Picture those old-time dance contests. The ones where the dancers groove the night away and nearly pass out on the Bottleneck Blues Band - promo photofloor, but are having so much fun they won’t stop until they drop. Now you’ve just envisioned the dance floor at the end of the night after the dancers have danced to Bottleneck Blues Band.

The band covers the classics and performs originals that will make you want to dance the night away. Their Facebook pages describes it this way, “Imagine Albert Collins meets Jimi Hendrix jamming with the Allman Brother Band. Bottleneck Blues Band will pull you in, get you moving, and make you feel alive.”

The band
The four band members that form this phenomenon hail from all around the country—Indiana, New York, Michigan, and Oregon, but came together to form Bottleneck Blues Band five years ago. Noah Bell plays guitar and handles vocals; Seth Zowader plays keyboards; Devon Shazier mans the drum kit; and Ethan Bear rounds out the quartet on bass. “We just added Ethan this summer. Dave Cushman, our original bass player, had to leave the group due to life issues,” according to Noah. Dave and Noah started the band out of their love for the blues.

All the guys have been serious about being professional musicians from a young age. Noah bought a guitar at a garage sale at age five and had always wanted to play music for a living. Seth began playing keyboards as a child and Devon grew up playing in church.

When not on stage, two of the guys still work in music industry. You can find Noah and Seth working at Portland Music Co. in Beaverton. Noah is the assistant manager and has been there for 15 years. Seth is the keyboard guru and has been employed there for five years.

“We are followers of the three Kings: BB, Albert, and Freddie. We also listen to a lot of Buddy Guy, Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters,” Noah said. Other influences are Clarence Gatemouth Brown, JJ Cale, Willie Dixon, Robert Cray, and Albert Collins. These artists have help shaped Bottleneck’s music—their sound. “Our music is red hot funky blues. The kind that make people dance.” And boy do they dance!

Bottleneck Blues Band released their first CD (self-produced) in December 2014, Twenty First Century Blues. Most of the tracks were first-take recordings. “The delivery is authentic. There is no over-embellishment that you’re likely to find with a lot of newer acts these days, and because there is no over-playing you are treated to a steady pulse that is raw and natural. Everything flows nicely,” said Greg Johnson, CBA President. (See the February CBA BluesNotes for the complete CD review.) They are currently writing their second CD. Noah says several of the tunes have made it into their set list.

With over 25 years of playing music, Noah has opened for a wide variety of top notch musicians from reggae’s Steel Pulse to the King of country music, Willie Nelson. He’s also opened for various members of the Grateful Dead, including Bill Kreutzmann, not to mention classic blues man Elvin Bishop. He also has a degree in guitar from Missouri State.  Seth trained at Berklee College of Music. “His masterful organ technique has thrilled spectators leaving them amazed at his sonic prowess.” Devon started playing the drums in church at a young age. His radical beats have amazed audiences across the US. Steve Rodriguez, owner of the Blue Diamond in Portland, OR, says “I can’t believe he keeps going the whole three hour set.”  The newest member of the band is Ethan. The Oregon native has been playing the blues since he started performing live up and down the coast. “His vibe has taken the band to a new level of excitement. This kid has skills as he holds down the bottom like an old pro. He plays like he has something to prove and the people respond” Noah said.

Bottleneck has performed with several bands around the Pacific Northwest, including Sammy Eubanks, Robbie Laws, Kevin Selfe, Norman Sylvester, and Papa Dynamite.

In Closing
Noah has a philosophy about blues, “Blues is music of life, love and loss, happiness and sorrow, and everything that happens in between. All these emotions come to life, and the standard grooves live again while Bottleneck lights up the dance floor.” You have to experience it yourself.

For more information and upcoming shows, visit the Bottleneck Blues Band website at http://www.bottleneckbluesband.com

Rite On! Rite Now!
Self Produced

Catfish CD coverFor anyone looking for an album that will get your pulse racing, look no further than Catfish & the Hollywood Hound Dogs’ Rite On! Rite Now! This is great grind-it-out West Coast blues with more than a hint of rockabilly, reminiscent of bands like Hollywood Fats or Rod Piazza & The Mighty Flyers — crunching harmonica riffs enmeshed with a swinging guitar that bring you right into the mix with the opening salvos of “Hound Dog Boogie.”

Front man, harmonica player, and vocalist Gilbert “Catfish“ Mares penned all but two of the numbers on this album, and you can tell that he has studied his West Coast blues history. Jumping and pounding just the way you like it, Catfish is joined by the slashing guitar stylings of Anthony Contreras, the “done-right” bass of Mark St. John-Jones, and the powerful drumming of Evan Caleb Yearsley. And since Thomas Yearsley of The Paladins engineered and mixed  Rite On! Rite Now! you know that there is going to be a steady pace of quick grooves throughout.

The two covers are both songs much covered by Hollywood Fats back in the day, “Rock This House” and “Too Many Drivers.” Both feature the stylings of guest Mike Malone, and Nathan James also takes part in the former.

You got to love this one. It’s full of attitude that’s going to make the speakers on your player smoke! Just try to sit still while listening to Rite On! Rite Now! I really don’t think it’s possible, and Catfish is destined to be the next name to watch when it comes to harmonica playing dynamos.

Total Time: 43:39

Hound Dog Boogie / Rock This House / Handsome Devil /Hot Rod Momma / High School Drama / Wrong Number / She Gotta Problem / Too Many Drivers / Super Bee / Fish Years / Fine, Foxy & Full Of Lovin’

Hard Road To Hoe
Self Produced

Ghost Town Blues Band CD coverI’ll tell you what — if I were in Memphis and wanted to book the perfect party blues band, I’d be calling the Ghost Town Blues Band. These guys put it all out, from grease to grit to funk; they’re going to fill your dance floor and put smiles and a groove into everybody in attendance. Their music covers ground from all over the map, which may be a reflection on not only leader Matt Isbell, but the entirety of the band’s taste and background. Their new album, Hard Road To Hoe, exposes the band’s musical diversity in all its glory from start to finish.

Remember this band’s winning performance at The Orpheum Theater during the 2014 International Blues Challenge where they began by doing a march from the back of the room to the stage. That number is here, “Mr. Handy Man,” and it serves as an intro into a jovial, finger-snapper of a song “Hate To See Her Go,” with Suavo Jones on trombone and Richie Hale on sax setting the mood. It’s another take of the old classic vision of “I hate to see you go, but I love to watch you walk away.” Also from that memorable IBC performance you’ll recognize Preston McEwen’s use of the electric analog broom with its distinct percussive sound on the title track, “Hard Road To Hoe.”

There are a number of really fun tracks guaranteed to put a smile on your face, like the pairing with Isbell and harmonica man Brandon Santini as they tell you all about “My Doggy” and all his little habits. Santini also guests on the song “Tip Of My Hat.” There is “Big Shirley,” with Jeremy Powell laying out the pace on keyboards, as Isbell describes that gal Big Shirley has little bitty feet and great big thighs, the kind that Mississippi could recognize. And when she hears that boogie woogie she’ll be shaking her rump.

But there are also moments on Hard Road To Hoe that are reminiscent of some of Robbie Robertson’s best songwriting. Matt Isbell captures this nicely on numbers like “Seventeen” and “Dead Sea.” On “Nothing But Time” Isbell soars on the slow guitar piece and you can feel his pain as he sings the loss of his love to a new man, but he will not shed a tear because he has nothing but time. The album finishes out with a beautiful acoustic guitar number, “Road Still Drives The Same.” It caps off a recording that takes on many shapes and moods, all of them good.

Ghost Town Blues Band have done it again, another terrific album. Hard Road To Hoe is very much recommended.

Total Time: 39:11

Hard Road To Hoe / Big Shirley / Tip Of My Hat / My Doggy / Mr. Handy Man / Hate To See Her Go / Tied My Worries To A Stone / Dead Sea / Nothin’ But Time / Dime In The Well / Seventeen / Road Still Drives The Same.

The Melody Ballroom, 615 SE Alder St., Portland
Wednesday, April 1, 7:00 pm
Members always Free – Non-members $3.00
Opening Acoustic Set – Robert Richter
Second Electric Set – GreyDogz

It’s April, spring has officially arrived Portland, and the light is lasting longer in the evenings. While the summer and festivals cannot be too far down the road, there is always something going on in Portland to satisfy your blues cravings, and of course the best place to quench that thirst is at the Cascade Blues Association’s general membership meeting the first Wednesday of every month. We will always line you up with the fun music and acts you know or should know.

Robert Richter - photo by Linda PaisleyFor the April meeting we are going to be bringing back singer/songwriter Robert Richter, an energetic performer creating music that blends different genres from folk to blues to rock — all played with passion and energy. His descriptive songwriting and storytelling covers topics dealing with everyday life.

A self-taught guitarist from the age of 12, Robert Richter has performed at numerous events and festivals, including The Rose Festival and NW Folklife. He recently released a new album of all original material, Thick and Thin, and he hosts his own radio show, Loca; Roots broadcast on KMUZ-FM 100.7 in Salem and streaming live online at KMUZ.org. The show features original music from NW Indie artists. It airs Sundays from 7 pm to 9 pm.

Joining Robert Richter will be part of his band with Olivia Duffy on vocals, mandolin, and violin, Willie Gilmore on bass, and Casey McBride on percussion. Expect the group to play songs from the new CD, as well as some classic blues from Jimmy Reed and Slim Harpo. Robert also expects to do at least one song solo on slide.

The evening’s second set will feature a trio of players whose backgrounds would make many other musicians quite GreyDogz - press photojealous. GreyDogz is guitarist John Crain, keyboardist Grant Johnson, and bassist Bill Hansen, and all have played with some of the best performers around the country. These are master musicians who seamlessly play blues and zydeco, standards and New Orleans jazz-inflected classics as well as original compositions, spanning over thirty years of experience living, loving, and interpreting this music in the tradition of the greats. GreyDogz has been working regular gigs at The White Eagle and Duff’s Garage.

Guitarist John Crain started Oregon’s first Reggae Radio Program and formed the band Native Pulse in 1980. The band held the closing spot at the Oregon Country Fair for three years running.  In Portland, Crain has played with J.C. Rico, Kita Montgomery and several gigs with Paulette Davis, as well as forming the band Mumbo Gumbo with Ural Thomas and touring cross-country with Etoufee.

Grant Johnson is a jazz and blues pianist with vast experience as a performer, session player, composer, arranger, and teacher. He recently finished recording Billy Wolff’s Threat Matrix with jazz legends Russell Ferrante, Will Kennedy, Bob Mintzer, and Jimmy Haslip of Yellowjackets fame, and was a founding member of the Bay Area jazz combo Segue. He has also performed and recorded with Grammy Award-winning blues and rock greats like Charlie Musselwhite, Jackson Browne, Dobie Gray, and Gene Vincent. Johnson was a founding member of The Psychedelic Rangers with Billy Wolff and John Densmore and Robby Krieger of The Doors.

Bill Hansen, originally from Portland, Maine, is a seasoned pro who has worked with a number of recognized artists like Dick Curless, Lenny Breau, Blood Sweat & Tears saxophonist Fred Lipsius, and Boston’s Brad Delp. Bill has an excellent sense of rhythm and groove, earning him the nickname from the band “The Thunder Pump.”

Come on out and join us for what is sure to be another fun night with CBA friends and great music. Plus you’ll have the chance to win prizes just by attending with our free ticket drawing. Don’t miss out. If you’re not a member, now is a great time to consider joining.

Oh, one more thing — for all acts wanting to participate in the Journey To Memphis, this meeting is the deadline to have your applications turned in. Don’t forget to do so!

The 4th annual Inner City Blues Festival returns with an all star line-up of the finest musicians in the Portland area to benefit Health Care For All Oregon (www.hcao.org) on Saturday, April 11, from 6:00 pm to 12:00 am. The location moved this year to the North Portland Eagles Lodge, 7611 N Exeter & Lombard. Admission is $20.00 and tickets can be purchased in advance through www.TicketTomato.com.

This year’s line-up is amazing, with headliners including Andy Stokes, the Norman Sylvester Band, Bill Rhoades, LaRhonda Steele, King Louis & Friends, The Strange Tones with The Volcano Vixens, Tevis Hodge Jr, Steve Cheseborough, Bloco Alegria, Richard Arnold, Dave Kahl, Sarah Billings, Jay “Bird” Koder, Newell Briggs, Renee Mitchell, Paul Knauls and The Mad As Hell Doctors.

The event will also honor the memories of these community and music ambassadors who were lost this past year: Janice Scroggins, Mel Solomon, Linda Hornbuckle, Jim Miller, Lucinda Tate and Geneva Knauls. They are all dearly missed.

This is a 21 & over event, with food, desserts and drinks for sale. There will be a silent auction, raffle prizes and a Community Village with information tables. The show will also be simulcast live on KBOO Radio for those unable to attend.

Let’s all get together and join forces — together we can “Heal the Healthcare Blues.”

Cherie Robbins - photo by Bill Bungard

Photo by Bill Bungard

Cherie Robbins, a BB Award winning producer from the Washington Blues Society, recently made the move from Tacoma to Portland and wants to combine the best of both Oregon and Washington’s blues communities in an exciting monthly event. Each month she will present a pairing of great Northwest artists from both states for the Sunday Gospel, Grooves & Blues showcase at The Lehrer, 8775 SW Canyon Lane. The first event took place on February 15 and featured Seattle’s premier vocalist Jada Amy along with Portland’s Ben Rice & Lucy Hammond, recent finalists at the International Blues Challenge. Cherie is sure to match that superb line-up each and every month with the wealth of talent to select from within the region, so keep your eyes on upcoming issues of the BluesNotes, Cherie’s Blues Highway Facebook page, and the Cascade Blues Association’s website and Facebook page to find out who will be performing at future shows.

The next two Sunday Gospel, Grooves & Blues will be held from 1:00 – 4:00 pm on March 15 and 2:00 – 5:00 om on April 12. For March, Cherie has combined two of the best harmonica players in the region as she pairs Seattle’s Alfie Harpo with Portland’s own Franco Paletta along with The Stingers. Then in April, it will be a Northwest Ladies Extravaganza as Lisa Mann and Lady A will be backed by Joanne Broh and her band. Now, that is two exciting shows guaranteed to make your heart rate quicken.

Admission is only $5.00 for the March 15 date, which will also be a celebration of Cascade Blues Association President Greg Johnson’s birthday. April admissiomn is $10.00 for the perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon. The Lehrer is family friendly and has a great menu selection, so bring the whole family and enjoy a day filled with uplifting music and fun.

By Cherie Robbins & Greg Johnson

WBF poster 2015Now in its fourth year, the Winter Blues Festival has certainly seen a fair share of changes within its growth. With humble beginnings born in a discussion over a glass of wine, it has taken on its own persona as the “Go To” event of the dreary days of winter. And it will all happen on Saturday, March 14.

New this year is the location. Moving to the Milwaukie Elks Lodge, 13121 SE McLoughlin Blvd, the venue will offer several great assets for a growing event, including two stages with large dance floors, a full service bar and food menu, on-site parking and access by a near-by bus line.

The line-up for this year’s event is also stellar, featuring the exciting sound of Texas blues courtesy of 4-time Blues Music Awards nominees Smokin’ Joe Kubek & Bnois King headlining the festival. Also performing at the Winter Blues Festival will be Northwest favorites, Junkyard Jane, The Ted Vaughn Band, J.R. Sims & Texas Special Blues, Bottleneck Blues Band, and 2015 International Blues Challenge finalists Ben Rice & Lucy Hammond. Plus, do not miss out on a special set from United By Music North America, a performance-based entertainment group for musically talented people who have developmental delays and intellectual challenges. Winter Blues Music Festival is excited to have this exceptionally talented band at the festival this year, led by the Dave Fleschner Band. (www.UBMNA.org)

Over the years, Winter Blues has helped many charities including C.H.A.P. (Children’s Healing Arts Project), the Oregon Food Bank, and this year, United By Music North America.

For those attending the festival from out of town, there are a number of motels nearby the Elks Lodge on McLoughlin Blvd., including the Milwaukie Inn, Econo Lodge, Travel Lodge and Best Western. There is also dry camping available at the Elks Lodge.

It all happens Saturday, March 14, starting at 3:00 pm, doors open at 2:30 pm. Tickets are available in advance through TicketTomato.com. General admission is $20.00, $10.00 for children 13-18. Other special rates include dry camping for $20.00, Early Admission $55.00 (includes entry for two with camping) and Supporter tickets for $125.00 (includes 2 tickets, 2 beverages, 2 meals, 2 raffle tickets, 2 festival shirts).

For further information and tickets, please visit www.winterbluesfest.net.

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Mary Flower (photo by Greg Johnson)

The third annual Women With The Blues concert is set for the Alberta Rose Theatre on Saturday, March 21 at 8:00 pm. This celebration of female blues artists is part of the National Women’s History Month are will feature returning artists multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Anne Weiss, Blues Music Award nominee and Muddy Award winning guitarist Mary Flower and vocalist LaRhonda Steele. Joining this trio will be special guests vocalist Sarah Steele, keyboardist Mark Steele and coming from Bend, OR harmonica master LynnAnn Hyde.

Tickets for this always extraordinary event are $17.00 general admission in advance and $21.00 at the door. VIP preferred seating is available for the first five rows in the front/center section of the theater; only available through advance sales. Tickets may be purchased at www.albertarosetheatre.com. This is an all ages show, minors are permitted when accompanied by a parent or guardian.