I first became acquainted with Roger “Hurricane” Wilson through online blues discussion boards nearly twenty years ago. Roger Wilson book coverThrough these conversations I knew him as a touring musician and not much else at the time. Not too long down the road we had the opportunity to meet face to face at the International Blues Challenge. Roger would become a regular judge for the event while I was working as a venue coordinator. I became more aware of his music as he gave me a few of his CDs, including work that he had recorded with high school students at festivals as part of the Blues in the Schools program. He even made a trip to Portland, attending a Cascade Blues Association membership meeting and a jam at Duff’s Garage afterwards. So when he released his autobiography I was interested in finding out more about his musical life. But what surprised me was just how much more to his life there was beyond music.

Hurricane is easy to read, with short chapters reflecting on various times and occurrences in his life. It starts off with his family and his new-found interest in music. You follow him through his early studies with guitar teachers and his time in school bands in both New Jersey and Georgia. The friendships he developed, the bands he formed, and working at the Garden State Arts Center right out of high school witnessing performers like Bob Hope, Duke Ellington, Andy Williams, as well as pop acts of the day like David Cassidy and The Carpenters. It covers his dealings with the choice of becoming sober, and another interest that took on a major role in his life, broadcasting.

A lengthy career with various radio outlets as a programmer, DJ, air traffic control and various other positions, sometimes with multiple stations all at the same time spending long hours while trying to raise his own family, plus teaching  and performing music along with the hardships of traveling between gigs and assignments. And he covers the number of  years that he spent at CNN and the places it took him to, including a press conference at the Bill Clinton White House.

It is not only Roger’s life that we witness. It is the people he encounters along the way and the friendships he makes. We see the likes of Bruce Springsteen in his early days, the breaking out of The Allman Brothers and the influence of Duane Allman upon Roger’s own playing, the impact that Roy Buchanan had upon him, and encounters with acts like Doc Watson, The Indigo Girls, and Stevie Ray Vaughan. Close friendships that developed between himself and TV commentator Andy Rooney, the long-time closeness with the legendary guitarist Les Paul, and his association touring and recording with blues man Willie “Big Eyes” Smith.

The book taught me more about my friend and made me more impressed with his accomplishments that are far from being finished. It is a very deep dive into his life and more than just an interesting read. It is the story of a man who has lived a full life seeking his dreams and living on his own terms.

Hurricane Roger Wilson, Author; eGenCo Publishing 2016, 209 pages. $19.95

On an overcast, humid afternoon at the Waterfront Blues Festival, the Cascade Blues Association held its 17th annual Journey To Memphis finals.

In early June, eighteen bands began the competition to select the Cascade Blues Association’s representative for the International Blues Challenge next January in Memphis. The Rose Room hosted two hard-fought evenings of music where CBA judges determined the four finalists to perform during the Waterfront Festival.

One thing was certain, all four finalists were prepared to amaze our judges and delivered some of the very best performances ever seen in our competition. The Thunder Brothers started things out with exactly that — a thunderous set that set the pace for the day’s entire festival. Then the Beacon Street Titans brought a swinging show that had the dance floor moving. Rae Gordon & The Backseat Drivers then mesmerized the crowd with her soaring voice and muscular big band. Closing the competition was the Ben Rice Band showcasing his guitar prowess and vocals with a knife-sharp performance. This was an unbelievable combination of acts, and each band had the talent and musical ability to represent CBA in Memphis and make us proud.

Given this incredible collection of talented musicians to evaluate, the judges definitely had the toughest job of the day. Scoring each act separately on blues content, vocals, instrumentation, originality, and stage presence had to be tough as all four acts brought the goods. Huge kudos to our trio of judges, entertainment attorneys Bart Day and Peter Vaughan Shaver and Reno Blues Society board member Sherrie Clay, for taking on this role. Many thanks!

Rae Gordon and the Backseat Drivers - photo by Cherie RobbinsWhen the dust cleared and all acts were finished, the scores came back hailing Rae Gordon & The Backseat Drivers as the winners of the day. This will be Rae’s second time representing the CBA in Memphis and her third trip overall. Her last trip found her reaching the semi-finals, let’s hope to see her go even further if not all the way to the top this time!

Joining Rae in Memphis will be this year’s solo/duo winner David Pinsky, making his second appearance for the CBA, having represented the organization with Phil Newton two years ago. Also, young guitarist Timothy James will head back and participate in the Youth Showcase. We’d love to see a large grouping of CBA members and local blues fans head back to the International Blues Challenge to cheer our performers on. It’s well worth the experience if you can to see the future of the blues today.

Good luck to Rae Gordon & The Backseat Drivers and David Pinsky!

Dave Miller - photo from Pattie MillerLast month we lost Dave Miller, who was known by many around the Portland blues scene. Dave’s business card said “Brewing the Blues since ’62.”  In grade school and high school Dave played Dixieland jazz on trombone with his brother Fred on clarinet and their band teacher on cornet. Dave went to a congressional page high school in Washington DC, and in that town got introduced to the blues. After learning guitar he formed the The Miller Bros. Blues Band with Fred on tenor sax and younger brother Bob on bass while in law school at Stanford. After moving to Portland in 1968, eventually Dave’s son David III became rhythm guitarist. With Mike Oxborrow on bass and Dave Smith on drums a good portion of the time, for some 40 years the Miller Bros. Blues Band entertained in the Portland area under Dave Miller’s inspired and charismatic leadership. Dave was an active supporter of the Cascade Blues Association and KBOO’s blues staff headed by Tom Wendt.

Keep it up, Dave, wherever you may be.

A celebration of life event will be held at 2:00 pm on Sunday, September 11, 2016, at the World Forestry Center, Miller Hall, 4033 SW Canyon Rd, Portland, OR 97221.

Obituary written by Jeff  Dayne

New Music to Note

Here’s a list of new music received at the CBA office or purchased personally this past month that should be noted:

AG Weinberger – Mighty Business (Bigfoot Records)
Chase Walker Band – Not Quite Legal (Revved Up Records)
David Vest – Devestation Rhythm ( Ark-O-Matic)
Kalo – Dear John, (Self Produced)
Markey Blue – The Blues Are Knockin’ (SoulOSound Records)
Mick Kolassa – Taylor Made Blues (Swing Suit Records)
Rose City Kings – A Love So Strong (Self Produced)
Sammy Eubanks – Sugar Me (Underworld Records)
The Jordan Patterson Band – The Back On Track Recording Project (Flaming Cheese records)
Ty Curtis – Blame Me (Self Produced)

I Surrender
Self Produced

When I reviewed Gabriel Cox’s debut album a couple years ago, the first thing I said that you’re going to notice is that this man can sing. Does that bear repeating? Cox is a natural singer whose voice is filled with so much soul and emotion that it can make you feel it coming directly from his heart. And it only is one part of this amazing young performer’s musical vocabulary as you have to note his guitar playing and the incredible songwriting talent he also posseses.

Gabriel Cox CD coverGabriel Cox has now released his sophomore recording, I Surrender. He opens the disc with perhaps his most renowned tune in a updated take with “Willie Brown II.” This is a mostly an a cappella number that finds Cox not only using a stomp-box to bring out the rhythms, but in fact a whole box, upon which he stands and stomps. It is a highlight to witness at his performances and this time he brings in a huge supporting cast behind him. If there’s any way possible to surpass the original take of this song, he has done just that.

Did I mention the supporting cast behind him? Well, most of them hail from the Salem base area that Cox calls home, but he has brought in some heavy hitters, too, including Eugene’s Hank Shreve on harmonica and Portland’s Rae Gordon adding her instantly recognizable voice. Other artists include Jarred Venti, Brandon Logan, Derek Jones, Nathan Olsen, Jason Carter and vocalists Miranda Vettrus, John Pulvers, and his father Mark Cox. All shine highly throughout the album.

The songwriting once again excels with immediate noticeable standouts like “Best That I Can,” “Your Touch,” his duet with Miranda Vettrus on “This Love,” the frenetic pace of “Fever,” and the heartfelt passion emoting from the closing number “I Surrender.”  Even though Robert Johnson’s masterpiece “Come On In My Kitchen” is not an original, it has been given the Cox treatment, totally making the song his own.

I Surrender is a roots album of extraordinary merit. Gabriel Cox has a lot of himself inside his music and it reflects his blues in his own manner. I said it before, and I am saying it again, Gabriel Cox has the magic. He is pure alchemy. There’s gold dripping from his fingers when it comes to talent and songwriting. His time is now. He is an artist that deserves to rise to the very top. Another outstanding release from somebody that we’re sure to be seeing a lot of for a long time to come.

Total Time: 58:38

Willie Brown II / Best that I Can / Fever / Pretty Little Lady / The Railman / Still The Man / I Can’t Take This / I’m Gone / Your Touch / Come On In My Kitchen / This Love / Boy In Blue / I Surrender

Since 2005, The Blues Foundation has held an annual competition to recognize excellence in independent blues recordings. The Best Self-Produced CD competition allows affiliated blues societies from around the world to submit one entry each, preferably selected by a regional competition. The Cascade Blues Association has taken part in this event since its inception, including having the overall winner chosen in 2011 — Joe McMurrian’s Get Inside This House.

The CBA is now accepting submissions for this year’s Best Self-Produced CD competition. All are welcome to enter with the exception of artists who have been nominated for or received a Blues Music Award; or recordings that are released on labels that have been nominated or received a Blues Music Award. No compilation discs are accepted. The CBA will accept for consideration only discs from artists in Oregon, Washington, or Idaho.

A committee will judge the entries using the same criteria that The Blues Foundation will later use in its own evaluation. These are: Blues Content (This is a blues recording), Musical Performance (musicianship), Audio Quality (production values, levels), Cover Art & design (professional packaging — is this recoding ready for the rack at your favorite music outlet?), and Credits & Liner Information (informative, professional).

After submissions from each affiliated blues society have been received, The Blues Foundation will conduct judging in three stages, with the first two rounds being conducted by a select group of radio/print media people. The finalists will be announced a week prior to the 33rd annual International Blues Challenge and the winning recording will be named at the IBC finals in Memphis on February 4, 2017.

All entries for the CBA must be received no later than the October 5 membership meeting at The Melody Ballroom.

Blame Me
Self Produced

Ty Curtis CD coverTy Curtis makes authentic music from his heart. His songwriting skills are amoung some of the very best I have heard as of late with lyrics and instrumentation finely melded together to appeal far more than to just one defined genre of listeners. Like his previous recordings, his newest release Blame Me explores new realms in the sound of the blues. It may not be the traditional blues that we’ve been exposed to since the beginning of the twentieth century, but it is an exciting track that he is taking us on and it is undeniably blues for this modern world.  And like the very best in music, Blame Me is a collection of songs that you want to listen to repeatedly.

It’s easy to see that Curtis has the feel for blues rock in his blood. He is a master at over the top, exceptional, and burning guitar work as seen in the rocking title track “Blame Me.” But he also knows how to write some of the most heart-endearing ballads imaginable, as he proves in the number “Heaven Save Me.” There is emotion that runs deep in the song that speaks with complete honesty. Then he can trip into a reggae piece without missing a beat with “Urge And Temptation” and can also bring out complete funky soulfulness on “I Can Say.” There are a lot of melodies, harmonies and groove in Ty Curtis’ music and it’s clear that he is game to take on every angle in his craft. His efforts and commitment make it all come out with exceptional results.

Blame Me was recorded in Austin, where Curtis now calls home while still splitting time with trips back and forth to his native Oregon. It was engineered by Grammy winner Anton Pukshansky with mixing from Chris Athens. Both have worked with some major artists in a variety of genres, from hip hop to R&B, country to rock. The musicianship at hand for this recording is absolutely impressive, with regular bandmates Jerry Jacques on drums and Tony Valdez on bass, with additional help from some of Austin’s best: Nick Jay, Dane Farnsworth, Carmelo Torres, and Jeff Bryant.

Ty Curtis once again convinces us that he is a triple threat, singer, guitarist and songwriter that we have to watch with anticipation that greatness is directly at hand. Blame Me shows us once again that his development is racing faster than we can keep up and it’s time for the rest of the world to catch up and take note.

Total Time: 44:18

That Good / Blame Me / Back Again / I Can Say / Heaven Save Me / Shake It Up / Urge And Temptation / Blow Me Away / Who Are You / Never Get My Love

A Love So Strong
Self Produced

Rose City Kings CD coverA Love So Strong represents the return of the Rose City Kings after a hiatus of several years after band leader Dan Berkery decided to step away from music for a little while.  Always an exceptional songwriter with a knack for catchy, sing-along, and danceable tunes, Berkery steps right back into the fold with a new collection of material every bit as fun and exciting as before.

The revised band includes some old friends and newer members, but they’re all right in line with Berkery’s mindset. Well-known local players like keyboardist Steve Kerin, harmonica ace David Lipkind, bass man Tim Shaughnessy, Blues Music Award winner Jimi Bott, trumpet player Joe McCarthy, conga player Heidi Shuler, and vocalist Katy Oberg are amongst this star-studded cast behind the music here. This diverse grouping brings a lot of history and different approaches to the format. The recording were laid down at Jimi Bott’s Roseleaf Studios, with all but three tracks penned by Berkery.

There’s a lot of kick behind these numbers and right off the bat you’re going to hear the strong impact that Lipkind provides with his harp. Also front and center is the voice of Oberg, whether teaming alongside Berkery on a piece like “All Your Love” or taking the lead on her own as she does in “Working Girl Blues” where Steve Kerin and Berkery offer some exceptional accompaniment.

The title track “A Love So Strong” is classic Berkery at his best. With his soaring vocals and lyrics that invite you to join in on the chorus. The group throws down a funky little jazz instrumental on “Superbee” where several musicians get a bit of spotlight. “A Sight To See” brings a little flavor of Louisiana to the mix, with Steve Kerin working the accordion and harmonies from the band. There is a bit of humor as Berkery sings about being knocked out by the girl with the “Love Karate Chop” who grabbed his full attention with such ease and gained his attraction beyond his own belief. The album closes out with another fun number titeld “Nah Nah Nah” where the storyteller speaks about the women he has known, lounge-like backing from Kerin, Shaughnessy and Bott stand out nicely.

This is a welcome return from the Rose City Kings, one of Portland’s favorite bands from the past who should step right back into place from where they left off. With a recording like “A Love So Strong” it should be an easy step. Very much recommended.

Total Time: 54:14

One Lonely Morning / A Love So Strong / Just Like I Treat You / Working Girl Blues / My People / Superbee / All Your Love / Love Karate Chop / Rumba All Night / Sight To See / No Justice / Nah Nah Nah

Duffy Bishop (photo by Greg Johnson)In a special press conference held on Tuesday, August 12 at Tony Starlight’s Showroom, the Oregon Music Hall of Fame announced their 2016 inductees and college scholarship recipients. Among this year’s inductees will be one of the Northwest’s most beloved blues musicians, Duffy Bishop. Other 2016 inductees include Pete Krebs, Sleater-Kinney, Fernando, Brian Berg, Paul Brainard, Tim Ellis Bart Day, and Dave Cutter

Duffy Bishop began her professional career while in her teens and has been performing for more than four decades. Both the Cascade Blues Association and Washington Blues Society has honored Duffy with inductions into their Hall of Fames and recognized her with Lifetime Achievement Awards. In fact, Bishop received the Cascade Blues Association’s Female Artist Muddy Award so many times that the award now bears her name: The “Duffy Bishop Female Vocalist” Muddy Award. With eight recordings under her belt leading her own band, she has also performed onstage as Janis Joplin in the Seattle production of Janis, regularly performs in the lead role of the cabaret show Teatro ZinZanni, and has toured with Big Brother & The Holding Company.

Bishop will be performing alongside fellow inductees Fernando with guests Pete Krebs and Paul Brainard, and Three Leg Torso at the Aladdin Theater on Saturday, October 8, with Tony Starlight as emcee.  Tickets are now on sale through Ticketfly.com for $25.00 advance general admission, $30.00 day of show. There are also a limited number of $100.00 Gold Circle reserved seats in prime center location. The Aladdin theater is located at 3017 SE Milwaukie Avenue. The Hall of Fame show will begin at 7:00 pm.

Sugar Me
Underworld Records

Sammy Eubanks CD coverSugar Me, Sammy Eubanks new album, kicks off with a little swampy and gritty guitar riff as he describes that what ever he’s listening to it’s “It’s All Blues to Me.” And it’s hard to argue as he explains how he was touched from first hearing BB King through his father and that led to further discoveries of artists that all rang true to him in a bluesy vein. It is an opening to a well-conceived collection of songs that shows Eubanks knows a little bit about the blues himself. A little bit? Hell, this man can bring it on home every time and with Sugar Me, his fifth release, he has it nailed down perfectly.

Eubanks has long been renowned throughout the Northwest and beyond for his tasty guitar work, clever songwriting, and a voice that has few equals. All three are expressive and impassioned. Sugar Me was recorded in Nashville and is his debut on the Underworld label. The disc offers three original tracks, including the opening “All Blues To Me,” along with the title number “Sugar Me” and the closing piece “I’m Gonna Leave You.” Along the way he covers a wide variety of songwriters, including well-known people such as Willie Dixon and Don Robey alongside others like Los Lobos’ Cesar Rosas, Indigenious’ guitarist Mato Nanji, and Portland-based DK Stewart.

Backed by a great rhythm section of bassist Darren Theriault and drummer Chris Kimmerer that enhances the openings for Eubanks’ guitar solos, the trio is also joined by former Double Trouble keyboardist Reese Wynans. Guitarists Bob Britt and Matt Hauer add their accompanying licks. Together this group of players is known at Underworld Records as “The Club Roar Players,” a spot-on collection of ace musicians.

His cover of “I Just Wanna Make Love To You” is presented in his own jumping method, but with his frenetic guitar it still maintains the flavor that Willie Dixon had in mind when it was composed. There’s a bit of country going on in the tune “Born To Love You” that showcases yet another side of music that Eubanks touches on occasionally with appreciation.  On “It’s My Life Baby” his voice roars on the Bobby Bland classic as Wynans lays out some of the best piano work on the album. And he closes everything out with “I’m Gonna Leave You,” a rockin’ number that may contain one of the best original lyrics in this whole package, “I’m gonna leave you, if you don’t come back.”

There’s so much to like about Sugar Me. It is Sammy Eubanks at his very best. This is one that has repeat play all over it … again and again!

Total time: 34:18

It’s All Blues To Me / Stop That Grinnin’ / Blues All Mornin’ / I Just Wanna Make Love To You / My Baby’s Gone / Sugar Me / No Excuse For The Blues / Born To Love You / It’s My Life Baby / I’m Gonna Leave You