The Sugaray Rayford Band is made up of world-class musicians. Ralph Carter on bass, Gino Matteo on guitar, Leo Dombecki on keyboards, Lavelle Jones on drums, Allan Walker on sax, and Gary Bivona on trumpet. With the onstage prowess of Sugaray he needs to have a stellar band to keep up with him, and with this group he certainly has just that.

Sugaray returns to Oregon for two shows in March, the first taking place on Friday, March 17 at the Double Mountain Brewing Company in Hood River. He will be headlining the brewery’s 10th Anniversary Party in the big tent, located at 8 4th Street. And don’t forget that it is St. Patrick’s Day, too, so make sure to wear green and celebrate. For more information, contact Double Mountain at 541-387-0047 for admission and times.

On Saturday, March 18, Sugaray and the band will return to what they have called their absolute most favorite venue to play, The Birk. Located at 11139 Hwy 202 in Birkenfeld, the band refers to the place as a second home and always makes sure that it is a stop any time that they tour through the Northwest. Show time is 7:00 pm, with tickets available in advance through for $25.00. Purchase them early if you choose to go, Sugaray always sells out at The Birk.

Hunter & The Dirty Jacks

Hunter & The Dirty JacksHunter & The Dirty Jacks are an Americana-crafted rock & roll band with influences based in the blues. Like a smoky whiskey with phosphorescent ice cubes in a blues-tinted glass. Led by frontman Hunter Ackerman and flanked by guitar players Carmelo Bonaventura and Jon Siembieda, with Aaron Barnes grooving the bottom end on bass and Brian Lara keeping the rootsy tribal beats, this band has been packing roadhouses and clubs in every town from San Diego to Seattle to Denver. For their music, think throwbacks and songwriting style like The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, and The Doors paired with a modern edge like the Rival Sons, Black Keys, Jack White, Mumford and Sons, and Chris Robinson Brotherhood, in a young, hip, accessible package. They have worked onstage alongside many familiar artists, such as Eric Sardinas, Coco Montoya, Kirk Fletcher, Arthur Adams, The Delgado Brothers, Roy Gaines and more. Their album, Single Barrel, was declared as one of the top 20 albums of the year by Blues Rock Review magazine.

The band will be making a return appearance at The Birk on Sunday, March 19 for an afternoon performance beginning at 2:00 pm. The Birk is located in Birkenfeld at 11139 Hwy 202. This is an all ages show with a $10.00 cover charge at the door.

Rich Layton & The Troublemakers

Rich Layton & The TroublemakersMatt Miner Presents and O’Connor’s Vault welcomes roots rockers Rich Layton & The Troublemakers with special guest Jon Koonce to the heart of Multnomah Village, Friday, March 3 at 7:00pm. Both Rich and Jon are dedicated “keepers of the flame” for American roots music. When they join forces, the fuse is lit for a night of high octane swamp rock, country, rockabilly and the honky tonk blues!

Rich Layton & The Troublemakers echo the sound of an East Texas roadhouse. With comparisons to such artists as Marty Stuart, Dave Alvin and JD McPherson, the band’s live shows take audiences for a ride from Sun Studios to Chess Records, and Muscle Shoals to Bakersfield. Rich’s original songs thread seamlessly into the mix, weaving his Gulf Coast roots through tales of rock and roll redemption, harmonica-fueled and swampified.Jon Koonce - The Lost Cause

Together a decade now, the band has released two albums, and performs at festivals and events throughout the NW, including the Safeway Waterfront Blues Festival. Each summer, Rich joins Lyle Lovett as a special guest when The Large Band comes to town. Rich also has played on Portland tour stops by his friends Lucinda Williams, Dale Watson and the late Buckwheat Zydeco.

Jon Koonce is an Oregon Music Hall of Fame member for his early work with Johnny and the Distractions, and has just released his 13th album, The Lost Cause. Since the seventies Jon has built parallel careers fronting rock bands and singing his own songs solo on acoustic stages across the country. His gritty blue-collar approach to rock carries over in his solo work with strong unabashed statements about right, wrong, truth and justice, supported by clean, clear energetic guitar work.

O’Connor’s Vault, 7850 SW Capitol Highway, is a friendly, comfortable neighborhood music venue offering a full restaurant menu and full bar. Tickets for this event can be purchased in advance at

Guitarist and songwriter Corey Kennedy has been described as an alternative, punk, blues, folk, indie artist hailing from Akron, Ohio. That covers a lot of ground in one breath, which only goes deeper with his own description of his act on his Facebook page, “If Jim Morrison and Jack White got white girl wasted at a dive bar in the afterlife, and sang ‘Missed The Boat’ by Modest Mouse, the squeaky and slurred mumbles would be somewhat similar to the anxious blues tone that is Corey & The Tribe. Sifting in between the sheets of blues and rock, remnants of the old times and the modern age of sounds have been married into an anxious foot tapping frenzy.” This is truly an eclectic presentation of music that just may have a little flavor for everyone.

Corey & The Tribe’s will be hitting Duff’s Garage, 2530 NE 82nd, Tuesday, March 28 for an 8:00 pm show. Admission is $5.00.

Randy McAllister BandRoustabout, maverick, spiritual, gritty, amazing, genius, wild, bad-ass, soulful… These are some of the words used to describe this Texas bonafide blue blood. He’s been flying in the face of convention his whole career. No smoke, no mirrors, no choreography, no industry machines. One of the most versatile bluesmen on the scene today, Randy plays driving drums and world-class harmonica (sometimes at the same time), writes incredible songs and sings like no one else. This is East Texas roadhouse soul by one of America’s true blues/roots originals.

Randy McAllister will be returning to The Birk, not only for a performance, but also for a handful of workshops during his March visit. On Sunday, March 26, his band will be holding an afternoon concert starting at 2:00 pm. Admission is $10.00.

On Monday 27, McAllister will host a harmonica workshop at 6:00 pm, then a singer/songwriter workshop at 8:00 pm. On Tuesday 28, he will hold the harmonica workshop at 2:00 pm, then the singer/songwriter at 4:00 pm. Workshops are $35.00 each, or two for $50.00. Call The Birk for sign up information at 503-755-2722.

International Blues Challenge - Rae Gordon & The Backseat Drivers

International Blues Challenge - Rae Gordon & The Backseat DriversThe Blues Foundation’s 33rd annual International Blues Challenge (IBC) was held in Memphis over March 31 through February 4, with more than 260 acts from fourteen countries performing on Beale Street before fans and industry personnel representing blues festivals, recording labels, agents, promoters, venue owners and others, for a chance to gain recognition and potential performance gigs. The IBC has been called the closest thing to a convention for the blues, with multiple showcases, seminars, jams and the Keeping the Blues Alive Awards taking place over the week of activities.

This year’s event certainly turned out to be fruitful for women in the blues as all three of the winning bands were led by strong female vocalists. First place going to Dawn Tyler Watson representing the Montreal Blues Society. Her guitarist, Ben Racine, was also declared the best instrumentalist – guitar winner in the band category. Second place for bands went to The Souliz Band featuring Sugar & Spice from Florida’s Suncoast Blues Society. Third place was awarded to our own Rae Gordon & The Backseat Drivers representing the Cascade Blues Association. It was reported in the Memphis newspaper, The Commercial Appeal, that the three bands’ scores were all neck and neck, which may account for the time lapsed awaiting the announcement of the results.

In the solo/duo category, Al Hill from the Nashville Blues Society was the first place winner and also chosen as the best instrumentalist – guitar winner for the category. Second place went to Brody Buster’s One Man Band from the Kansas City Blues Society. He was also selected as the best instrumentalist – harmonica winner for the event.

The Blues Foundation also announced the winner of the Best Self-Produced CD competition from the entries submitted by affiliated blues societies during 2016. JW-Jones’ disc High Temperature, representing the Ottawa Blues Society was selected for this year’s honor.

The Pacific Northwest was generously represented at the IBC, with six regional blues societies sending multiple acts. Aside from the third place winning band, Rae Gordon & The Backseat Drivers, the Cascade Blues Association also sent solo David Pinsky and youth showcase entry Timothy James & Ryan Stadler. Other Northwest socieites included Eugene’s Rainy Day Blues Society with semi-finalist The Hank Shreve Band, duo NattyBone, and youth Suite Clarity; from Washington Blues Society came semifinalist Polly O’Keary & The Rhythm Method, solo Stanislove, and youth Samsara Blues Band; South Sound Blues Association had the Randy Oxford Band and youth act Groovy Voodoo; White Rock Blues Society included Maple Blues Award winner Harpdog Brown & The Travelin’ Blues Show and duo Isaak & Hart; and from Fraser Valley Blues Society came band James “Buddy” Rogers, duo The Blue Hearts, and youth A Street Blues. All performed in the Greater Pacific Northwest Showcase in Club 152 as well.

The 34th annual International Blues Challenge will return to Beale Street next January 16 – 20, 2018.

G Love & Special Sauce

G Love & Special SauceG Love & Special Sauce return to Portland in celebration of their newly released album, Love Saves The Day, with a performance at The Hawthorne Theatre & Lounge on Thursday, March 23. Love calls the new album, “the fullest realization of the hip-hop blues” that he first pioneered with Special Sauce in the early ’90s. Filled with their down and dirty “trashcan blues” sound, G. Love making his guitar snarl and his harmonica moan, bassist Prescott bringing nimble funk to the bottom end and Clemens’ drum work crackling with power. “The music,” G. Love enthuses, “jumped off the tape.”

Love views today’s music world as the Wild West, with “all the lines washed away;” however, his genre-blurring music now is more relevant than when he started. “It’s a good time to be doing what we are doing,” he asserts, noting Gary Clark Jr., Jack White, Robert Randolph and Galactic as some fellow keepers of the blues flame who “maintain the roots but push music forward.”

The Hawthorne Theatre & Lounge is located at 1507 SE 39th Avenue. Tickets for this 21 & over show are available for $25.00 advance through or $30.00 day of show at the door. Show time is 8:00 pm with City of the Sun opening.

Laith Al-Saadi

Laith Al-SaadiIn 2016, Laith Al-Saadi won America’s hearts and a spot in the finale of NBC’s “The Voice.” Now he’s poised to bring his authentic blend of blues, soul and classic rock to audiences around the nation and the world. Laith Al-Saadi has always had the perfect combination of Midwestern hustle and incredible musical chops – honed at the University of Michigan school of music in his hometown of Ann Arbor, and on stages across the country working with legends like Taj Mahal, Luther Allison, Buddy Guy, Son Seals, Gregg Allman and B.B. King.

Guitar World Magazine has called Laith Al-Saadi a cross between “Danny Gatton and Buddy Guy at their best,” and Guitar Center crowned him one of the top four blues guitarists in the United States.

Audiences have agreed, propelling Al-Saadi’s most recent release “Real” to the top of the blues chart for five weeks and the top 20 album chart for two weeks. Laith also had four singles in the top ten iTunes singles charts, and his albums “In The Round” and “Long Time Coming” spent time at the top of the rock and album charts.

Laith Al-Saadi will be performing at Mississippi Studios on Friday, March 31 for a fully seated event. Tickets for this 21 & over show are available at for $25.00 and also at the door day of show for $30.00. Mississippi Studios is located at 3939 N Mississippi Avenue. Show time is 7:30 pm.

The 2017 Inner City Blues Festival returns to the Eagles Lodge Saturday, April 22. Originally in the 1980s and 1990s, the festival was a community event for various civil rights and social justice causes. Since its return six years ago it has been a major supporter of the cause Health Care For All Oregon, the campaign to bring universal health coverage to everyone (

This year’s event once again brings a sensational line-up of all-star musicians and dancers, featuring: Norman Sylvester Band; Obo Addy legacy Project “Okropong;” Mary Flower; Tevis Hodge Jr.; Mic Crenshaw; Sheohorn; The Strange Tones with The Volcano Vixens; Boco Alegria; Steve Cheseborough; Lloyd “Have Mercy” Jones; Tony Ozier “Doo Doo Funk;” Mad As Hell Doctors, Nurses & Interns!. Special emcees for the night will be Paul Knauls, Renee Mitchell and Ken Boddie.

The Eagles Lodge is located at 7611 N Exeter Ave. (at the intersections N Lombard & Exeter). The Inner City Blues Festival will begin at 5:30 pm and run until midnight.  Advance tickets are $20.00 and can be purchased online at or at the following outlets: Music Millennium, Geneva’s Shear Perfection, Peninsula Station, Musician’s Union Hall and the Cascade Blues Association’s general membership meetings. Admission at the door day of show is $25.00.

Ramblings On My Mind

Ramblings On My MindGreg Johnson / CBA President

I want to start this month’s column out with a big announcement. The Cascade Blues Association’s 30th Anniversary Concert has been scheduled for Sunday, May 21 to take place at The Crystal Ballroom in Portland. A huge thank you goes out to Terry Currier and Joey Scruggs for obtaining the room for our event. I am currently working with Joey to create a line-up that will represent our local artists from all eras of the Cascade Blues Association’s history. Please keep this date on your calendars because we want this to be an extravaganza for memories.

As you know, I have been a volunteer for The Blues Foundation for many years for both their International Blues Challenge and Blues Music Awards events. Each of these bring back so many fond memories every year. This year’s IBC created a good many for certain.

First and foremost was witnessing our own entry for the CBA, Rae Gordon & The Backseat Drivers, make it to the finals stage at The Orpheum Theater. It was especially a thrill having them there as I am one of the stage managers making sure that everything runs on time. From the very first vocals of their opening number, “Swing Me,” I knew that this was going to be one of the band’s finest moments. After a little glitch with being introduced before the sound crew was ready to let them start and a few minutes pause before they did that brought edgy nerves for the band I’m sure, they responded with a picture perfect performance that had the large audience cheering loudly with approvals. But it didn’t stop there. When they delivered their take of Otis Redding’s “Dreams To Remember,” truly a challenging song to take on in the city where it was recorded, Rae and the band left nobody doubting their right to be on that stage. Certainly the judges took note, declaring the band the third place winners for the day in what was said to be an extremely tight race between the top three bands. Congratulations big time to Rae & The Backseat Drivers! You did the CBA proud!

Rae and the band were also part of the Greater Pacific Northwest Showcase, which the CBA and the Washington Blues Society have helped put together for a few years now. Tony Frederickson from Washington Blues Society, White Rock Blues Society’s Rodney Dranfield and myself served as emcees for the day with all Northwest representatives including the youth acts performing along with guest sets from Ben Rice and Sammy Eubanks. Every artist that took part were sensational, and my personal favorites had to be Timothy James & Ryan Stadler handling the stage like they were decades old pros; Ben Rice’s star-studded set with Pat McDougall, Dave Melyan, Kivett Bednar, Ilana Katz Katz and Mark Telesca; and the Hank Shreve Band’s tribute to the great Paul deLay – I have said it for years now, nobody can play those intricate harmonica parts of Paul’s better than Hank Shreve, and he proved it here. My fiancé Cherie Robbins has been a big part of the showcase the past couple years as well, and Tony Frederickson will be passing on the scheduling of the acts directly to her for next year’s showcase as he will run with the event advertising.

Along with Cherie, who worked the entire week as judge’s assistant/time keeper at Club 152 and as judge’s assistant for the solo/duo judges at the finals in The Orpheum, it was nice to see another CBA member, Jeff Levine volunteering this year, too. Jeff worked as a judge’s assistant for the week at Alfred’s and he has written his reflections of the event featured in this month’s paper. Check it out.

Working as the venue coordinator in Club 152 I had the chance to meet and hear so many terrific artists. The overall winner of the band competition, Dawn Tyler Watson, competed the first two nights of quarterfinals in the room and it was obvious right from the get-go that this was an act that was well worth catching. Another fun act who Cherie and I also got to talk with for a while away from the competition was Norwegian bluesman J.T. Lauritsen. J.T. played all three nights in our venue and working between accordion, piano and harmonica as well as vocals proved that European blues is alive and in good hands.

The best part of the IBC is not about the winning, it is about the networking between the artists and the industry people on hand. Artists can make friends for life with each other through the IBC and it is working together that can make magic happen. It may be a competition, but it is the scores by the judges that they’re going against, not so much each other. They just need to be themselves and do what they do best. One of the greatest acts of camaraderie that I saw during the event came during the quarterfinals at Club 152. While performing their first song in a set a guitarist broke a string on his guitar. Being professionals, the band kept going as he started replacing the broken string, though this may have cost them points in their delivery with the time lost not having him playing with them. Without thinking twice, fellow competitor Jimmy Adler jumped up, grabbed his own guitar and handed it to the man on stage so that they could continue without losing a key member of their band for an extended period. Bravo Jimmy Adler for a true act of kindness and sportsmanship. That is what the IBC is all about.

On a side note, I recommend to anybody traveling to Memphis to catch as much great Southern food and Barbecue and to visit the museums around town to learn the history about the music and city. But two things that you should witness are more with viewpoints of the city that when travelling for the music you may not think of. After the event is over every year, Cherie and I get together with our friends (and IBC/BMA producer) Joe Whitmer and his wife Sara for a private day away from music. The past two visits they have taken us on excursions around their city. Last year we took the elevator inside the Bass Pro Shops Pyramid to the observation deck some thirty stories above the Mississippi River. I am no fan of heights believe me and could not pull myself onto the open air deck for too long, choosing instead to look through the windows inside, but this is a view of Memphis and the surrounding area not to miss. They also drove us last year across the river into Arkansas along the Mississippi River Bottoms where a new park and trail was being constructed that would take a path circling the city and the two bridges, much like the Esplanade along the Willamette River in Portland, only connecting to a 70-mile trail on the Arkansas side. The view of the Memphis skyline from the Bottoms is incredible. This year, a good portion of the trail is now open. We walked with their dogs to the Big River Crossing at the Harahan Bridge, but due to the open ventilation of the walkway on the bridge, one dog became nervous and we didn’t make it all the way across – and here I thought I’d be the one turning back due to the height. But the view here is also well worth seeing. My point in all of this is go for the music, but there is so much more to see and do in Memphis and the neighboring states of Arkansas and Mississippi, try to make some extra time to explore the area.