Over the years, The Cascade Blues Association’s Sweethearts Dance has become a Valentine’s weekend tradition, as we have brought some of the finest local talent to help celebrate the event. That talent has included the likes of  Mary Flower, Duffy Bishop, Robbie Laws, Bill Rhoades, The Strange Tones and one year we even had Blues Music Award winner Watermelon Slim drop by to help out while he was in town. Always a fun night of the blues and dancing with that special sweetheart, we’re hoping to have you join us again this year on Friday, February 15th at Vie de Boheme (1530 SE 7th). And we’re going to make this year’s event a showcase of local Women in the Blues.

We will open the night with a familiar face if you attended last year. Melissa Buchanan sat in with the Deep Blue Soul Revue last year and she was so well received we decided to invite her and her new band to play this year. The artful subtleties and straight, but powerful delivery of the vintage masters are inspiration to Melissa as she works to deliver a performance to remember. She employs several genres of music to fit the audience mood or event ranging from jump blues to smoldering torch songs. Melissa also has a swing and blues dance background, so when it comes to performing music, danceability is of utmost importance.

Making the trip from Eugene for the second set will be the Joanne Broh Blues Band. A past finalist in the Cascade Blues Association’s Journey To Memphis and a musical mentor with United By Music, Joanne Broh is also a recipient of the Rainy Day Blues Society’s Rooster Awards for Female Vocalist. Joining Joanne for the performance are several of the Eugene area’s finest players, including Jerry Zybach, Jim Badalich, Sean Brennan and John Bryson. Joanne has been known to offer a variety of music, from rock and funk flavors, but it is always steeped heavily with the blues in everything she does.

Headlining this year’s Sweetheart Dance will be one of the quickest rising stars on the international blues scene today, and recent transplant to the Portland area from Southern Oregon, Karen Lovely. Following her taking second place at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, representing the Cascade Blues Association in 2010, Karen has released two highly praised CDs, received seven CBA Muddy Awards and was nominated for three Blues Music Awards in 2011. And she has also been a favorite for festivals and concerts throughout North America and into Europe. Joining Karen will be her regular guitarist Leonard Griffie, making the trek up from Ashland for the event, and a yet to be named group of Portland area all-stars to compliment her performance.

Vie de Boheme is an urban winery with great food and plenty of room for dancing. Admission to the Sweetheart Dance is $10 per person or $15 for couples. Everything will start at 8:00 pm, so grab your sweetheart and come celebrate Valentine’s Day with three outstanding vocalists and good friends. Always one of the most fun nights on the CBA calendar every year. Hope to see you there.

Steve James is a songsmith and bottleneck guitarist from Austin Texas, described by Third Coast Magazine as “a true Americana hero…his intensity and focus always reminds me of James Coburn’s character in the Magnificent Seven.” Del Rey hails from Seattle Washington and is a complex, pianistic guitarist, described as “a combination of Bo Carter and the Andrews Sisters.” These two powerful exponents of American vernacular guitar-playing, have joined forces to make musical testament to the hillbilly/smarty-pants/country blues aesthetic. Sharing a sense of humor and a similar manic intensity, their duets are smart, funny and full of instrumental virtuosity. Del Rey doubles on resonator ukulele and Steve James is known for his “noble savage” mandolin style.

Always a smile-inducing show, Steve James and Del Rey return to Portland for a 9:00 pm show at Duff’s Garage (1635 SE 7th) on Thursday, February 7th. This is a CBA co-sponsored event, so bring your current CBA membership card for a $1 discount at the door. Acoustic blues in its most authentic and inspiring presentation.

By Tom Harmon of Positively Entertaining Magazine

The buzz, the electricity, even before the band started, was fantastic. The band members were really enjoying the idea of performing at the Blue Diamond in Portland OR. They greeted customers and friends as they came in the door, which created a real welcoming atmosphere.

As things came about and it was time for the first set to begin the Sonny Hess Band started to cook with the very first song (an original by Sonny). The house roared with approval.

Then, by the third song, the new vocalist Vicki Stevens came up on stage. Just as she was introduced a smile came across her face and a rumba broke out (a rumba, not a rumble). Vicki’s dominance and great voice captivated the audience to its next level of interest.

Between Vicki and Sonny, Jim on bass, and Kelly on drums the crowd continued to respond after every song with outstanding approval. As the evening progressed the band was met with applause from the very first song. They started out hot and just got hotter. The Sonny Hess Band will hold your interest all night.

Sonny Hess is a great and seasoned player no doubt. Having played the Portland and regional circuit from the 80’s and 90’s Sonny played lead guitar for the Paulette N’ Power Band from 1991 to 1996. The Power Band took Portland by storm in the early 90’s winning the Best R&B Act Award by the People’s Choice Crystal Awards.

They had a tight sound with a recording contract in the works when Paulette met her untimely death. Since then, Sonny has continued looking for that “special connection” while performing in clubs and festivals with the Sonny Hess Band. When Vicki sat in with the legendary band, something happened that couldn’t be denied, it was like, MAGIC and that magic was felt by everyone.

Vicki Stevens holds a Rainy Day Blues Society Rooster Award for Best Female Blues Vocalist. She was also a semi-finalist in Memphis’ International Blues Challenge and continues to slam the Northwest audiences in the face with her bluesy vocal style and show-stopping performances. She connects with her crowds as though she knows them personally. Vicki has a dynamic presence on stage. When she sings and moves the audience is focused on her. She molds herself to each song as she performs them. She’s an artist with great expression.

Sonny Hess is the first woman guitar player to hold a nomination for Best Lead Guitar Muddy Award by the Cascade Blues Association as well as a nomination for a lifetime Achievement Award. She has implemented many music programs in the area, fundraisers and benefits, and is known for her productions of the NW Women R&B shows. Hess started playing guitar when she was eight years old. Her influences have been Grand Funk, John and Edgar Winter, Clapton, B.B. King, Bonnie Raitt.

Bass player Jim Hively had some of the most slick bass lines and runs. Using his five string custom bass he ran off eighth notes that created a full sound while playing off lead guitarist Hess. The fullness of his playing made the band sound complete something not always achieved by a three piece band. Hively has played ever since he was a kid at school and at church. He was influenced early by bands like Earth, Wind and Fire, Cold Blood, and others. He’s played with Sonny Hess for the last nine years and is excited about the possibilities that the band has.

Drummer Kelly Pierce has professional delivery in every song he plays whether it’s funk, blues, or rock. Tonight both he and Jim were in the pocket on every song. The energy he pours into the Sonny Hess Band behind the drums shines. He’s played with Sonny for eighteen years providing the driving force behind her guitar playing. Playing since he was sixteen his early influences were Tony Williams, John Bonham, and Sonny Payne (Big Band and Swing). He recently was in the studio with Hess and Hively finishing their most recent CD.

The mix for the band was perfect. Each player maintained a volume that didn’t overpower anybody and the vocals were clearly heard from all four mics. And their harmonies were strong and right on.

So what’s in the future for the Sonny Hess Band? Sonny has planned on being a regional touring act. They have national ability and are looking for a good deal. Just recently they released a new CD All Aces and another CD is planned to come out in 2013.

For bookings contact Sonny Hess at www.sonnyhess.com

The Blue Diamond bar is located at 2016 NE Sandy Blvd Portland. The Blue Diamond is a long time club that features Rock, Blues, and Funk entertainment. Steve the owner offers a complete menu with breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Dinner and lunch specials are offered daily (a favorite dish is the Halibut Bites). The food is great and is served by an excellent staff. There is a full bar with large screen TV’s and slot machines. It’s a great atmosphere. Open from 10am til 12am with entertainment six nights a week. If you’ve never been here you should come in for a visit.

Robben Ford is one of the premier electric guitarists today, particularly known for his blues playing as well as his ability to be comfortable in a variety of musical contexts. A five-time Grammy nominee, he has played with artists as diverse as Joni Mitchell, Jimmy Witherspoon, Miles Davis, George Harrison, Phil Lesh, Bonnie Raitt, Claus Ogerman, Michael McDonald, Bob Dylan, John Mayall, Greg Allman, John Scofield and many others. Ford will be returning to Portland for a show at the Aladdin Theater on Tuesday, February 26th and will be celebrating the release of his latest album, Bringing It Back Home (the new album will be released on February 19th). With this new disc, Ford returns to his first musical love, the blues, with songs ranging from the early Delta masters to the more urban sounds of classic Stax soul.

Tickets for Robben Ford are available through www.ticketfly.com, $30 advance or at the Aladdin box office for $35 day of show. Minors are permitted with a parent or guardian. Show time is 8:00 pm. Make a point to get your tickets early as Robben Ford always fills the house in Portland.

Somethin’ a lil’ different for Tuesdays in February! Every Tuesday at the Blue Diamond (20th and NE Sandy), Bluesman and NW Harmonica icon-extraordinaire BILL RHOADES will be holding court in a cool, laidback style with local blues guitarists WHIT DRAPER (Sportin’ Lifers, etc…) and AC PORTER (LiveWires, etc…) in a trio that just wants to have a good time and lay down some serious blues for y’all. Some acoustic, some electric, some city, some country, some sweet, some stanky….you get the idea. This will be the first time all three of these cats have had the chance to play together at the same time, and it will absolutely be a jukin’ good time! Starts at 8pm to 11 every Tuesday, and NO Cover! (I bet a few choice friends sneak in to add to the musical atmosphere, too!)

On February 1, a new music-cinema project takes flight at the Clinton Street Theater. Called Reel Relics, it features an assortment of the best, unseen live performances from a broad mix of talent. Probing deep into the vaults of history finding meticulously curated live performances. Seeking to educate through direct transmission and purposeful alignments that encourage the desire to alleviate suffering through universal music. This self-produced program by local independent film producer and musician Darren Aboulafis showcases some of the finest live performances from a diversity of talent spanning the last 40-odd years that have never been seen before.

Of special interest to CBA members will definitely be the February 22nd showing of Down So Long that captures performances by Bonnie Raitt (from 1974), Memphis Slim (1976), B.B. King (1971) and Koko Taylor (1988), and also the Slowhand showing on May 10th & 11th, an unreleased documentary on Eric Clapton filmed in 1979.

The Reel Relics schedule is as follows:

Feb. 1-2: David Bowie/Story of Ziggy Stardust; Feb 8-9: 70’s Women Rock; Feb 22: Down So Long; Mar 8-9: Conspiracy; Mar 22-23: Revolutions; Apr 12-13: Adjustments; Apr 26-27: Wonderland; May 10-11: Slowhand; May 24-25: Who is Poly Styrene/X-Ray Spex?; Jun 14-15: MC5: A True Testimonial; June 28-29: Synthestesia; Jul 12-13: The Who: Can You See the Real Me?

The Clinton Street Theater is located at 2522 SE Clinton Street.

Ramblings On My Mind

Ramblings On My MindGreg Johnson / CBA President

Wow! Putting together the BluesNotes for February I am overwhelmed by the number of shows happening throughout the month. And that is on top of all the great local music that takes place every single night of the week all year long. I for one have to say I need somebody to give me a loan, because there is just no way I can afford to make all of these events, let alone having the time to see them all. Unless somebody has one of those “Way Back Machines” from the old Rocky & Bullwinkle cartoons so I can time travel and hit them all.

My month really starts out busy, though, away from home. I will once again be traveling back to Memphis to help The Blues Foundation with the International Blues Challenge. This is always a privilege for me as I get to assist my good friends in Tennessee, while being able to see lots of great acts I may have never heard of or only seen a few times. Plus I get to be around first-hand for our own entries in the competition, Franco & The Stingers and The Muddy Sons. Let’s wish them great success in Memphis. If not coming home as the winners, which we hope they do, they will also make top contacts that will help to further their careers.Go get ‘em guys!!

As happens quite often in a city filled with so many wonderful musicians and events taking place all the time, many happen on the same date. That occurs this month with the CBA’s Sweetheart Dance and the Winter Blues Festival and again in early March with B.B. King and Bill Rhoades’ Harmonica Summit. The CBA is not going to recommend one event over another, even if it is our own. We want you to decide what shows you want to see. Our job is to let you know about all of the blues happening in our area so you can make a thought-out decision on what to attend. You really cannot go wrong with any choice you make. And maybe you’re a brave and challenging soul, like I have been known to be, and find yourself bouncing from one venue to another trying to take in as much as you can. But at least we have this option here as many cities across the country, and many far larger than Portland, do not have the number of choices we do on a regular basis.

Which leads me once again to state to all of you performers and venues out there, please submit your dates to the BluesNotes (by the 15th of the month) so we can include them in our calendar. If people don’t know, they’re not going to show up to see you. And isn’t it a lot more fun when you can have a crowd in a room to hear you perform?

Anyway, after February is over with and trying to see as many acts as possible, it might be time to take a nap to catch up on some rest . . . but I am more than certain March will be just as exciting, and then April, May and so on. Don’t you just love how much blues there is in our little Northwest corner of the country? See you out there and enjoy!!

North Mississippi Allstars formed in 1996; the product of a special time for modern Mississippi country blues. Brothers Luther and Cody Dickinson soaked up the music of their father, Memphis legend Jim Dickinson, and absorbed the North Mississippi legacy while playing and shaking it down in the juke joints with their blues ancestors. R.L. Burnside, Junior Kimbrough, Otha Turner and their musical families were at their peak, making classic records and touring the world. Eventually, Luther (guitar, vocals) and Cody (drums, vocals) formed the North Mississippi Allstars and pioneered their own brand of blues-infused rock and roll that has taken the blues world by storm. With bassist Chris Chew, they are a powerful trio that has earned many accolades, including Grammy and Blues Music Awards nominations. Very intriguing and original, Rolling Stone magazine stated, “the Allstars may be children of tradition, but they’re digging deep in undiscovered country.”

Touring in support of their latest release, Live in the Hills, Vol. II, they will be returning to Portland for a night at the Doug Fir Lounge (830 E Burnside) on Tuesday, February 12th. Showtime is 9:00 pm, 21 & over only. Tickets can be purchased through www.ticketfly.com for $18.00. Rocking duo The London Souls will open the show.

“Nobody else these days plays so many styles so well, be it old time country blues, low down Memphis or Chicago blues, or even uptown string bending blues.” -Rick Holmstrom

High praise from a well-respected guitarist in his own right, but Rick Holmstrom is spot-on correct when it comes to Nathan James. Having played with a virtual who’s who of West Coast blues musicians, including a long-time stint as James Harman’s ace stringer and an International Blues Challenge win in the solo/duo category with former partner Ben Hernandez, Nathan James is one of the finest players around. He has made frequent visits to The Rose City over the last few years, building a steady following of faithful fans that just cannot get enough of his blues and roots music.

Nathan’s band The Rhythm Scratchers are Troy Sandow on bass and Marty Dodson on drums, two of the finest rhythm in California. They provide that snappy drive behind Nathan’s tasty fingerpicking guitar work and the infectious rhythms from his washtar, baritar and tritar instruments that combine the guitar design with a rub-board that can pick up scratchy sounds much like a zydeco artist, only while still able to play the stringed pieces.

Touring in support of their Delta Groove debut recording What You Make Of It, Nathan James & The Rhythm Scratchers head back for what is sure to be another sensational night at Duff’s Garage on Thursday, February 28th for a 9:00 pm show. This is a CBA co-sponsored event, so bring your current membership card to show at the door to receive a $1 discount off admission. Duff’s Garage is located at 1635 SE 7th.

When it comes to the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, people may come for the competition, but it is not unusual to make good friends that you keep in touch with for years to come. In 2011, two award winning artists from opposite sides of the country made such a friendship, Portland’s own Lisa Mann and Boston’s Diane Blue. They have worked out an arrangement where they will each travel to the other’s area and work a number of shows with one another. They will be making one such appearance in Portland on Saturday, February 16th at Jimmy Mak’s.

Diane Blue is a strong vocalist, skillful harmonica player and a crowd pleasing entertainer who was selected in Boston area readers’ poll as Outstanding Female Singer in 2011. Soulful and sassy, she has a strong, confident attack and energetic delivery, serving up her own spin on soul, blues and R&B. Diane Blue has performed with such blues luminaries as Ronnie Earl, Big Jack Johnson, Luther Guitar Jr. Johnson and Irma Thomas.

Lisa Mann & Her Really Good Band were the 2012 Muddy Award recipients of Best Contemporary Blues Act and Lisa was also selected as the Duffy Bishop Female Vocalist and is a Muddy Hall of Fame member as bass player. The band also took home the 2012 Portland Music Award for best blues act. Always entertaining, they will be performing their own sensational music and backing Diane Blue for what should make for an exciting evening.

Jimmy Mak’s is located at 221 NW 10th Avenue, show time is 8:00 pm. Ticket price is $10.00 and this is a CBA co-sponsored event, so show your membership card at the door for a $1.00 discount on admission. Reservations are highly recommended for Jimmy Mak’s and can be made by calling the venue at 503-295-6542.