Melody Ballroom, 615 SE Alder St., Portland
Wednesday, September 7, 7:00 pm
Members always Free – Non-members $3.00
Opening Acoustic Set – Steve Kerin
Second Electric Set – Julie Amici

The summer of 2016 may be coming to a close on the calendar, but we’re still not ready to let go of all the great musical happenings around our area. One look at the event’s calendar page lets you know right off that September is going to be a hotbed of blues goings-on and we know that the Cascade Blues Association General Membership Meeting is one of those dates you’re not going to want to miss.

Opening the night we have something really special going on as one of the best piano players in the region. Steve Kerin will be bringing his authentic Louisiana boogie to The Melody Ballroom that is certain to have the dance floor break out with happy feet.

steve kerrinSteve Kerin was born and raised in Lafayette, Louisiana, the heart of Cajun Country. He first discovered the piano at the age of four and by time he was a teenager knew that music would be his life. He has immersed himself in the piano styles of Louisiana’s legendary artists like James Booker, Fats Domino, Dr John, and Professor Longhair. Since moving to the Portland area he has brought those sounds to the front of several bands including Berthaline, Atomic Gumbo, Too Loose Cajun Band, and the Rose City Kings. Aside from playing with a wealth of bands, he has also held a long-running gig as a solo musician Thursday nights at McMenamin’s Chapel Pub where he plays the venue’s pipe organ covering a wide range of music from pop and heavy metal to jazz and movie themes. Steve and his wife Jane-Clair were also at the core of founding the Mysti Krewe of Nimbus, Portland’s own Mardi Gras Krewe. For the flavor of New Orleans and Louisiana, there’s nobody more bona fide than Steve Kerin.

For the second set of the night we will be presenting Julie Amici, last year’s nominee for the “Best New Act” Muddy Award. Known for their spacious, intimate, and open sound, Dean and Julie have teamed up with Dan Gildea on guitar and Alan Jones on drums for their 2016 festival shows this summer. The addition of these two master performers have taken the band in a decidedly more powerful dimension suitable for the big stage. Alan Jones is also working as their producer for a new recording project coming out this fall.

“Julie Amici” is the collaboration between Julie and Dean Mueller that started in late 2014. Much like the name is a melding of the two, the music is much the same, combining Julie’s country roots and childhood dreams of singing jazz, with Dean’s deeply rooted blues foundation.

DeanJulieCurtisLake2Julie’s strong yet sweet voice is reminiscent of the 50’s when female singers ruled the world of music, a time when jazz and blues co-mingled at the height of popular culture. Her repertoire combines the jazz of Billie 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 some of the finest blues legends in America and touring with the award winning international act, The Insomniacs. Over the last couple years the pair has performed as a duo as well as collaborated onstage with some of the finest musicians in the Northwest including Curtis Salgado, Chris Carlson, Alan Hager, Dave Fleschner, Henry Cooper, Carlton Jackson, Mark Shark, and many others.

Guitarist Dan Gildea teaches jazz guitar at Portland State University and has a lengthy list of acts he has performed with in the area aside from Julie Amici, including recent collaborations and tours with Earl Thomas and Dave Fleschner. Alan Jones is one of the premier jazz artists in Portland with a long resume of places he has studied, taught and performed with, including the late Portland great Leroy Vinegar as well as leading his own sextet. The addition of Gildea and Jones to Julie Amici makes this a powerful line-up that surely speaks for itself.

Between sets we will tell you about the up-coming happenings in our blues community. And we’ll hold the ever-popular free ticket drawing for CDs and tickets, plus the $1.00 winner-take-all drawing for a collection of discs put together just for the meeting.

September is chock-full of great goings-on, don’t miss out on one of the best each month at the Cascade Blues Association’s membership meeting. Like every month, this is always going to be the place to hear the best in blues and catch up with good friends. Plan on being there!

Hard Times, Bad Decisions
JayRay Records

Lisa Mann CD coverWhatever recipe Lisa Mann is currently using to cook her albums, I hope that she has it written down, because they’re definitely a gourmet taste. Her latest release, Hard Times, Bad Decisions, is chock-full of that same winning flavor that has seen her star rise onto an international level, reaping all kinds of accolades and two consecutive Blues Music Awards.

There is a great cast of players working with Lisa on the disc. Aside from Her Really Good Band mates Jason JT Thomas on guitar, Michael Ballash on drums and Brian Harris on keys, she is joined by Portland-based friends Andy Stokes, Rae Gordon, Ben Rice, Sonny Hess, Louis Pain, Dave Melyan, Renato Caranto, Steve Kerin, Chris Mercer, Joe McCarthy, and Stan Bock. That is an all-star collection indeed, but there are also a couple of big-time out-of-towners included, too, Mannish Boys guitarist Kirk Fletcher and Black Sabbath drummer Vinny Appice.

There’s so much to like about this album. She is a vocalist who stands among the very best anywhere. And Lisa writes songs that range in multiple directions of emotion. She reflects on how choices for our lives are not always the best decisions made in the opening track “Hard Times, Bad Decisions.” “Two Halves Of One Broken Heart” is extremely touching in her duet with soul master Andy Stokes. This one grabs at your heart with its slower bluesy approach. “Doghouse” is a lot of fun as she tells her other half that he’s sleeping in the doghouse tonight and he ain’t getting any bone. And talking about fun on this song, how about Rae Gordon offering her vocals to the background, and throwing in a few of her own trademark dog barks, too. A New Orleans sound is all over “Ain’t Nunna Your Business” with Steve Kerin adding authentic Louisiana keyboards to the horn backing of Mercer, McCarthy and Bock.

There are four covers on the disc that Mann truly finds the right direction for. In particular, Portland’s own Mary Kadderly’s jazzy, bouncing number “I Go Zoom” features the guitar fire of pal Sonny Hess and the terrific piano playing of Alex Shakeri, with Lisa showcasing a nice bass solo that truly details why she is a two-time BMA recipient for her bass work. Also, Mann gives a beautiful take on Don Robertson and Jack Rollins’ 1953 piece “I Don’t Hurt Anymore” perhaps best known as sung by Dinah Washington, that has also seen covers by Hank Snow and Johnny Cash. Lisa’s take matches right alongside any of those renditions.

The album closes with a deeply haunting pace as Ben Rice dishes out a very swampy resonator guitar and Vinny Appice handles the drums superbly as expected alongside a moody bass line from Mann on “Judge A Man Forever.” This takes the album pretty much full circle, where past decisions have once again played a strong part in life. The hopes here are that one’s life is not going to be forever marred because of bad choice that happened early on. It is a strong and emotive number to close out a sensational album.

One thing that you can always count on with Lisa Mann, you’re going to be taken on a trip with lots of turns and excitement in her music. It just keeps getting better and more thrilling not just with every song on this album, but every album she creates, too. Don’t let it stop. Knowing Lisa, it’s just going to keep on rolling. Expect it!

Total Time: 45:30

Hard Times, Bad Decisions / Two Halves Of one Broken Heart / Certain Kinda Man / I Go Zoom /  Doghouse / I Don’t Hurt Anymore / Ain’t Nunna Yo Bizness / My Father’s House / You Need A Woman / Play It All The Way / I Love You All The Time / Judge A Man Forever

Been There Done That
McKenna Records

Barbara Healy CD coverBarbara Healy has long been one of the finest vocalists in the lower Willamette Valley whose talent is reflected in her amazing, passionate songwriting and performances. Since the 1980s she has been delivering smoking hot music filled with heartfelt soul in bands such as The Allnighterz, The I-5 Nine and her current outfit Groove Too. Her latest release, Been There Done That, is her sixth recording overall, the second with Groove Too, and it is filled with her own personal experiences.

All of the material on Been There Done That is original with the exception of the closing take on Big Jay McNeely’s classic “There Is Something On Your Mind.” Healy shares songwriting duties throughout with bandmates guitarist Gerry Rempel and keyboardist Gus Russell, and the band consists of bass player Scoop McGuire, drummers Brian West and Alex Huber, and “The Treacherous Horns” featuring Dave Bender on trumpet and flugelhorn, and Tony Johnson on sax. All musicians provide over the top performances and very tasteful solos throughout the entire recording.

The album opens up with a moody, slow burning number, “Struck By The Blues,” with all of the members taking nice showcase runs behind Healy’s precise vocal delivery. Rempel especially puts forth some sizzle on his guitar strings on this one. That is followed up with a bit of humor as Healy tells her pursuer to “Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is,” because buddy if you’re not going to deliver on what you claim to make her feel good, just stay out of her neighborhood. On “I Close My Eyes” there is so much going on in today’s world that she would like to close it all out of her mind. “Rumba Of The Heart” has a Latin percussive flow with a little New Orleans piano flavor, and another burning guitar solo. “Shake It Up” has a terrific Memphis R&B feel and may show Healy’s magnificent voice at its very best making it a stand out track among a disc full of winners. The final original “Four Alarm Fire” is introduced with some seriously punchy horn work that brings the song on strongly and the pace is fitting of its title and makes you want to snap your fingers right in time.

Been There Done That is a very pleasing collection of bluesy-soulful fun. There is a reason why Barbara Healy has stood tall within the Eugene and Oregon, blues scenes for four decades. When you have talent like this, material like the songs gathered here, plus an assembly of fantastic musicians, you have the formula for not only longevity, but for first-class releases as seen here.

Total Time: 37:04

Struck By The Blues / Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is / I Close My Eyes / Rumba Of The Heart / Shake It Up / Four Alarm Fire / There Is Something On Your Mind


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.

Journey To Memphis

From the listener’s seat

The Waterfront Blues Festival is my favorite Portland event. Where else can you see a whole year of blues entertainment with 15,000 of your closest friends for a $10 ticket?

We all love the headliners, but I always go to hear the up-and-coming artists. And what better place to catch them than our own Journey to Memphis competition? After my last visit to the International Blues competition, I was hooked. Memphis is my ancestral home, and a visit gives me a chance to see the family and cheer for our Portland band. For 2016, I am committed. How committed?  I told my mom I was coming, and that’s committed. So here is my report of the competition,  from the plastic chairs.

Independence Day, Portland, OR

Oregonian Front Porch Stage,

Early in the Morning I Can’t Get Right

It’s a cool, cloudy June-uary morning in Portland. To make it in from the ‘burbs for the 11:30 AM show, you have to hustle. There is only one coffee stand at the festival, and the line was about a mile long.  Nothing says Memphis like Coke for breakfast.

Here’s the rundown: four bands each get a twenty-five minute set. Three judges score on blues content, originality, stage presence, instrumental work, and vocals. One winning band goes to Memphis. Penalty points if you go over your twenty-five minutes, and that can cost you the prize.

Downhome Blues

Band #1 The Thunder Brothers.

Members: 4 piece band with 2 guitars, bass, drums

Guitars: Blackie Strat, 2 Teles, Les Paul (What can I say, I’m a guitar geek)

Several members have been prior competitors. The brothers opened with a shuffle, and got a great SRV vibe . Loved the line “if you’re gonna hurt me, you better hurt me good”. I counted four guitar switches in one set. That was brave. If I tried that with my band they would probably (to quote an old Memphis colloquialism) “peench my head off.”  The set included a scat solo, and a Bo Diddley style number with pounding toms that had us early risers drumming along. They finished with another shuffle with a single note line reminiscent of “Cold Shot.” Portland served up its own cold shot with a cloudy 60-degree morning.  Coke for breakfast doesn’t play in Portland. The coffee line parted enough to get Americano at the break, while the next band set up.

Band #2: Beacon Street Titans

Members: 5 piece band with guitar, piano, upright bass, sax, drums

Guitar: Gold strat

This band had the sharpest dressed front man. They came out swinging hard, with a jump blues featuring a harmonica solo. By the first solo, the swing dancers hit the dance floor. The piano sound came in late kenahora (Yiddish for keep the evil eye away), be careful about telling stories of past sound problems. The “Bad Habit” song featured a great T-Bone style solo. The “Please Pick Up The Phone” song reminds me of my house…would somebody please get that? I loved the harp solos, and thought the group could have used more. One thing was bugging me. Portland has a Beacon Street? Who knew?

Band #3: Rae Gordon and the Back Street Drivers

Members: 7 piece band, guitar, bass, drums, keyboard, horn section

Guitar: Guild Manhattan, Guild Starfire

The folks at the table with me were friends of the band, they helped me id the Guilds.  My Sister Mercy friends were a few tables over and dropped by so say hi. This band had the best vocals so far, and the only female vocalist of the contest. With more piano problems we had to wait for the Hammond. When it came in it was worth the wait. The horn section got the dancers up. The slide solo on the Manhattan brought out the missing catfish, like a good slide always does. Next up, a slow song, and the dancers stuck it out and waltzed on.  Three guitar switches in the set. Nervy, but you have to be nervy to back-seat drive in Portland. Rae really sold it with the “Mississippi Mud” number. We could all feel it. After all Oregon is the Mississippi of the West. And anyone from Mississippi in the Portland Blues scene has automatic yichis (distinguished lineage).

Band #4: Ben Rice Band

Members: 5 piece band, guitar, bass, drum, sax, piano

Guitar: Custom Washboard Tele

The washboard guitar looked like a Telecaster that had been treated like a Louisiana crawfish – pinch the head off, pull the guts out, throw the body away. This band had the best slide solo of the day. Ben was awesome trading fours with the horns. The set included what must be a traditional “Ida Mae.” (A top name on the popular baby blues name list.) One of my favorite Portland players was on the keys, Mac Potts, who we all used to watch on the kids stage. Once his solo finally came in, it gave me the chills. Or maybe it was the June-uary wind. Mac sang backing vocals on “Last Night I Got Loaded.” Careful Mac, that song is based on a true story. It was my favorite cover of the contest. One of the Cajun washboard guys from the next set hopped on stage to join in. Not to last, no jamming in the competition.  I thought Ben was the best front man of the day, and the outro vamp band introduction showed the best showmanship. This was my pick to win.

You Upsets Me Baby

The judges took five minutes to tally the results for the last band, as they had done after every set for the previous three. For the bands, the wait must have seen slower than the Interstate Bridge on a hot Friday. My tablemates picked the Backseat Drivers, with an admitted bias. And they were right. Rae Gordon and her band carried the day. Rae, I’ll see you in Memphis! And the rest of you Portland blues fans, get out there and hear some music. And if you can swing it, come down to Memphis to cheer on the band.

Until next time,

Jazzy Jeff Levine
‘Burbs of Portland
Oregon, USA

(Note: Jeff had submitted this story after the August deadline, but we felt it was worth publishing now. Thanks Jeff!)

Taylor Made Blues
Swing Suit Records

Mick Kolassa CD coverMississippi-based bluesman Mick Kolassa is back with his third recording in as many years, and as with those previous two he has hit another winning formula with Taylor Made Blues. Kolassa is an exceptional musician, working his acoustic guitar around his gravelly voiced singing. As a songwriter he is quite sincere. These are honest songs, often humorous, then at times telling emotionally from experiences filled with heartbreak and loss. Exactly the base that any strong songwriter and blues musician should draw upon. It is life and it is real. You have to live it to bring it across right. And Kolassa has done just that.

His heart is reflected in a multiple manner of expressions throughout Taylor Made Blues. He mourns the loss of his closest friend and brother-in-law Ted Todd in “Left Too Soon,” and pays tribute to the Brazilian fishing guide he shared friendship with in “Raul Was My Friend.” But he is not only filled with sadness on the album and he shouts out his happiness for those he still has in “With Friends Like Mine” and his love for his wife Molli in “Baby Faced Louise.”

Eight of the dozen tracks are Kolassa originals, with a ninth, the number “Keep A Goin’,” he has reworked from the Frank Stanton poem written nearly a hundred years ago. The three other selections are covers of Graham Nash’s “Prison Song,” Townes Van Zandt’s “Lungs” and The Temptations’ “I Can’t Get Next to You.” All are done tastefully in Kolassa’s own approach.

Named after the town he lives in, Taylor Made Blues was recorded in Memphis’ Ardent Studios with guitarist Jeff Jensen once again serving as engineer. Alongside Jensen, the core behind the album’s band is bassist Bill Ruffino, drummer James Cunningham and keyboardist Chris Stephenson. Kolassa also draws upon his wealth of friends to assist, including some of the finest in the region with Victor Wainwright, Castro “Mr. Sipp” Coleman, Eric Hughes, Reba Russell and Tullie Brae, plus Long Tall Deb Landolt, and Colin James also flew into Memphis to lend a hand.

As he has done with his other recordings, Mick Kolassa will donate all proceeds from the sale of Taylor Made Blues to The Blues Foundation to benefit their Generation Blues and The Hart Foundation programs. So the purchase of the album benefits you twicefold as you not only receive some terrific material to listen to, you also help young artists and musicians in need at the same time.

Taylor Made Blues is a very personal recording by Mick Kolassa. Filled with life’s ups and downs, he has once again delivered an exceptional album that stands out in every sense as genuine and bona fide as it comes.

Total Time: 48:34

Baby Faced Louise / Taylor Made Blues / Prison Song / I’m Getting Late / In The Way / With Friends Like Mine / Lungs / Keep A Goin’ / Left Too Soon / Can’t Get Next To You / My Hurry Done Broke / Raul Was My friend