Bob Log III

Bob Log IIIThe Owl Magazine states, “One would have to be in a pretty foul mood not to be entertained by the mysterious awesomeness of Bob Log III. Sure, his musical skills are something to behold, his one-man-band brand of blues/Americana displaying dexterity, creativity, and plenty of good old rock ‘n’ roll, but then there’s his wacky persona.”

Bob Log III is not your average musician. Appearing on stage in a jump suit and hidden behind a racing helmet with a phone receiver attached working as a mic, he showcases his dexterity at performing as a one-man band with guitar and kick drum while singing vicious blues, Americana and rock. Described as loud, strange and electrifying, he’s like Jerry Lee Lewis crossed with a little of Tom Waits’ heavy industrial sounds.

Bob Log III brings his eclectic showcase to Dante’s, 350 W. Burnside, on Wednesday, March 29, for a 9:00 pm performance. Tickets for this 21 & over show are $12.00 and can be purchased in advance at

Nick Schnebelen

Nick SchnebelenNick Schnebelen has blues in his blood. Nick and siblings grew up with their parents who played music full time in the Kansas City blues scene. Along with his sister Danielle and brother Chris, they formed the band Trampled Under Foot which took the blues world by storm winning the International Blues Challenge in 2008. Nick was named the Albert King most promising guitar winner of the event. After playing together for several years, the siblings went their own ways pursuing solo careers.

Nick has traveled the world playing festivals such as Notodden in Norway, Montreal, and on the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise. He continues to tour world-wide, bringing his raw blues energy guitar and vocals, backed by a hot rock n blues band. He has currently been working with renowned drummer/producer Tony Braunegal for a new recording to be released in 2017, but has found the time between to take on his latest world tour. The tour will bring The Nick Schnebelen Band to Oregon in March for two performances.

On Wednesday, March 29, Nick Schnebelen will appear at Duff’s Garage, 2530 NE 82nd, for an 8:30 pm show. Admission is $10.00. This is a Cascade Blues Association co-sponsored event, so show your current membership card at the door to receive a $1.00 discount on admission.

On Thursday, March 30, Nick will head out to The Birk, 11139 Hwy 202 in Birkenfeld. Show time will be 7:30 pm. Tickets will be available through for $10.00 in advance or $15.00 at the door.

Paris Slim

Paris SlimFormer Portland resident and Delta Groove recording artist, Franck Goldwasser aka Paris Slim will be heading back north for a spring tour of Oregon that will be making stops at numerous venues and featuring special guests along the way. Paris Slim, without doubt, is one of the finest and most creative guitarists internationally who has a handful of critically-acclaimed solo recording and a WC Handy Award (Blues Music Award) nomination for his disc Blues For Esther. Since moving to the United States from France in the 1980s, Paris Slim has been a mainstay of the West Coast blues scene working with artists such as Jimmy McCracklin, Troyce Key, Curtis Salgado, Alastair Greene and The Mannish Boys.

The tour will all begin on Friday, March 31 when Paris Slim will be joined by bassist John Mazzocco and drummer Brian Foxworth as he appears at Duff’s Garage, 2530 NE 82nd, in Portland. Contact the venue for admission information at 503-234-2337.

The trio will then be appearing the next night, Saturday, April 1 in Hood River for a show presented by Squrl at The Pines Tasting Room, 202 Cascade Avenue. Admission for this 7:00 pm performance is $20.00 and can be purchased in advance at the venue.

On Monday, April 3, Paris Slim will be joining Lloyd Jones at The Muddy Rudder for Lloyd’s regular acoustic showcase. Located at 8105 SE 7th in the Sellwood neighborhood, this is a free event, beginning at 8:00 pm.

On Tuesday, April 4, AC Porter & The Live Wires featuring Jim Wallace will welcome Paris Slim to the Blue Diamond, 2016 NE Sandy Blvd, for a special free evening in tribute of blues legend Muddy Waters, at 8:00 pm.

Then, on Saturday, April 8, Paris Slim will be appearing in Eugene alongside Henry Cooper at Mac’s At The Vet’s Club, 1626 Willamette Street. Show time is 8:00 pm, contact the venue for admission information at 541-344-8600.

Lorna Bracken Baxter

Portland singer and diva Lorna Bracken Baxter keeps her family’s rich musical legacy alive

By John Rumler

Lorna Bracken BaxterFrom a very early age, vocalist Lorna Bracken Baxter knew that she was going to devote her life to singing and music. “It has always been in me, from the earliest times I could remember sitting at the piano with my dad at home.”

It’s been a sometimes bumpy road, but the Lorna Baxter Trio (Billy Hagen, guitar, Joey Aloia, bass) enjoyed a banner year in 2016, playing Lair Hill Bistro, Magnolia’s Corner, Maryhill Winery,  Solea’s, Mock Crest, Orenco Station Grill, Holiday Park, and numerous private parties, company events, and weddings.  Lorna looks forward to an even better year in 2017.

Her father, Warren Bracken, was one of Portland’s giants of both jazz and blues.  Few artists in Portland, or anywhere perhaps, have a music pedigree as impressive as Lorna, who, from the ages of 12 to 18, was the only child singing in an all adult church choir, the St. Rose Choir in Portland. At the time, in the early 1970’s there was a national campaign to “keep Christ in Christmas,” and after a nation-wide competition, the choir was selected as the winner and was nationally televised out of the Hilton Hotel in downtown Portland.

When Lorna was growing up, her musical influences were numerous, including female artists such as Betty Carter, Carmen McRae, Cleo Laine, Dinah Washington, Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell, Lena Horne, Nancy Wilson, Mahalia Jackson, Patsy Cline and local artist Nancy King.

“I loved how I could feel what they were singing,” Lorna says. “The pain, joy, the sexiness and I was drawn to the uniqueness of each of their voices.”

Her biggest musical influence though, is without any doubt her father. Born and raised in Paducah Kentucky, Mr. Bracken learned to play the ukulele and in the 1930’s he joined the Navy and became the conductor, bandleader and pianist of the US Navy Orchestra.  After receiving his honorable discharge, Bracken joined the Blanche Calloway (Cab Calloway’s older sister) Orchestra and a few years later, in the early 40’s, he joined Billy Eckstein’s orchestra as composer, arranger, and pianist.

When Eckstein began moving in a different direction after signing with MGM, he cut down his big band orchestra to a quintet and left Chicago for sunny California with a lineup of Al Killian -trumpet, Sonny Criss- alto sax, Wardell Gray-tenor sax, Shifty Henry – bass, Tim Kennedy -drums and Warren Bracken – piano.

In California, Bracken married Vivian Dandridge (Dorothy’s sister) although they later divorced. He moved up to Portland in the late 40’s, and formed his own scaled-down orchestra and became one of the city’s top performers/bandleaders known for his swinging jazz, bebop and blues.

Growing up in an environment where music was a way of life, Lorna engaged in many musical adventures. When she was still in her teens, she sang in a variety of backyard and basement bands and she also did back up singing for a studio recording for the Rude Boys.

In 1982 she moved to Canada, and lived for 14 years on Vancouver Island and in Halifax, Nova Scotia. “It certainly wasn’t a blues mecca, but there was an interesting folk influence there that came at me from a different angle and I got to really like it,” she says.

Lorna worked at a group home for troubled youth and enjoyed providing a stabilizing and understanding presence. “They were runaways, throwaways, abused kids from very bad situations,” she recalls. Lorna and all the staff took many psychology classes and attended numerous counseling workshops, which she says, was a valuable learning experience. “We all grew a lot and it helped us all in our own relationships and with our own families.”

When time allowed, Lorna sang backup for other musicians, recorded with folk artist Jason Guest, and then moved back to Oregon in 1996 when her father died unexpectedly of heart failure: he’d struggled for much of his life with his weight, topping 400 pounds but at the time of his death, he drastically lost weight and weighed less than half of that.

Though Lorna lived in Canada and her father lived in Portland, she visited often and the two talked frequently on the phone. “We were always close. My dad, even though music was his life, remained a pretty balanced person. He was a fabulous listener and he was a sports nut—baseball, basketball, football, boxing, you name it.”

1996 Lorna settled back into Portland focusing on work and her family. When the music bug bit her again, she started circulating in the blues and jazz community seeing various artists including Paul Delay, Janice Scroggins, Nancy King, Linda Hornbuckle, Norman Sylvester and Franco Paletta. She says of Franco, who she’s known since 1982,  “Franco was bringing his harmonica to different jam sessions when I first met him. I knew him when he was just starting out.”

Around 2000 Lorna started hitting the blues and jazz jams with more frequency.

Sitting in with Norman Sylvester and his band at the Coliseum Red Lion and Candelight lounge, Janice Scroggins and Linda Hornbuckle at Billy Reeds.

Ron Steen, the drummer in her dad’s band for many years, was a big help, as Lorna frequented the jams at Steen’s Coffeehouse. Steen later booked and performed with her at Wilfs in downtown Portland.

But Lorna’s asthma became more of a problem, especially with the late night gigs in smoked filled rooms and bars. She often stopped in a Jimmy Maks to see Mel Brown and at Jazz de Opus to see Nancy King, but when she got home, she had to air out her clothes in the garage, shower to get rid of the nicotine film on her skin, and deal with the asthma onset. “I knew I could never perform in clubs, breathing the smoke-filled air. I figured that might be the end of my singing.

But in 2009, smoking was banned in bars, breathing new life into Lorna’s singing career.  She met Dan Gray, an extraordinarily gifted guitarist who invited her to work with him on some original music and was the encouraging factor to her forming a band.  The following year she launched the Lorna B band which featured top notch musicians such as Brett Malmquist on guitar, Donny Osborne, who played with Mel Torme, on drums and a host of others including Johnny Ward and Adrian Baxter of the Cherry Poppin Daddies on saxophone.  She also invited her brother Phil Reid who played bass, to join her band.

Lorna continued pushing into new musical frontiers with Johnnie Corrie and David Burrow on drums and she nailed down steady gigs at the Beaterville Restaurant and the Gotham Tavern in North Portland. She also played private parties, company events, street fairs, and charity events for groups such as the Oregon Humane Society and local Vietnam Veteran groups.

In 2012, just when all the doors seemed to be opening up for Lorna, she was attacked and severely injured which still affects her today. The trauma caused a spinal leak, permanent memory impairment and left a ringing and hissing sensation in her ears.

She was told she’d never be able to sing at her full volume again, but Lorna didn’t give up. The Blue Monk put on a successful benefit concert event for her in 2012 which helped some financially and boosted her spirits. Although she was forced to go on permanent disability, Lorna stubbornly inched forward in her recovery. “I lost a lot of things, but thankful I could remember the blues and jazz. I am so grateful for that,” she says.

In April of 2019, OPB aired a film entitled Jazz Town which tells the story of Portland’s Blues and Jazz scene, featuring her father, Warren Bracken and many of the city’s musical legends. Lorna, with her trio consisting of guitarist Billy Hagen and bassist Joey Aloia, were invited to perform at the pre-screening where many of Portland’s finest senior musicians appeared, including Lloyd Allen who played in one of her dad’s early quartets.

Billy Hagen, who’s appeared on stage 3 times with Chuck Berry and was the lead guitarist for Mel Brown and Johnny Limbo and the Lugnuts, played often with the Lorna B Trio. “Lorna’s got a sweet, smooth voice, yet she can also belt it out and improvise really well. She also has a very advanced use of intervals.”

Ashbolt Stewart, one of the top drummers and bandleaders in Portland, has known Lorna for so long he says he can’t remember when they first met. “She’s been at this for a long time, we’re both old souls,” he says. “Lorna’s one of my favorite go-to gals.   She’s working really hard and getting around, she’s doing great.” Ashbolt said he loved playing with her band. “I love Lorna’s energy, optimism, and honesty. She never holds back.”

Now living outside of Eugene, Bobby Selover plays guitar, mandolin, banjo and pedal steel for Gumbo Groove, a jazzy bluegrass band that recently released its third CD. Selover played with the Lorna Baxter Trio in 2011 and 2012. “She’s a happy, bubbly person, very fun to be around as well as an excellent singer, performer, and entertainer,” he says. Selover describes her musical range as highly impressive. “It’s not just blues, but anything from Nina Simone to Billie Holiday to Miles Davis, to Gil Scott Herron. I talk to Lorna often on the phone and just the other day and I can’t wait to play with her again.”

Lorna and her band play regularly at Kimpton Hotel Vintage and at Orenco Station Grill.

For more information on Lorna and a full calendar listing, go to

Robert Randolph & The Family Band

Robert Randolph & The Family Band“Robert Randolph is an American Original,” says Blue Note Records’ President Don Was. “He has mastered what is, arguably, the most complex instrument in the world and developed a unique voice that is equal parts street-corner church and Bonnaroo.”

Robert Randolph & The Family Band first gained national attention with the release of the album Live at the Wetlands in 2002. The band followed with three studio recordings over the next eight years which, together with tireless touring and unforgettable performances at such festivals as Bonnaroo, Austin City Limits, and the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, won them an expanding and passionate fan base. Randolph’s unprecedented prowess on his instrument garnered him a spot on Rolling Stone’s “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time” list, and also attracted the attention of such giants as Eric Clapton and Carlos Santana, who have collaborated with him on stage and in the studio.

Robert Randolph brings his intensely driving live performance celebrating his latest release Lickety Split to The Aladdin Theater on Saturday, April 1 for an 8:00 pm show. Tickets are $25.00 advance through and $27.00 at the door day of show. This is an all ages event. The Aladdin Theater is located at 3017 SE Milwaukie Avenue.


What’s on Tap for General Membership Meeting

Melody Ballroom, 615 SE Alder Str., Portland
Wednesday, March 1 – 7:00 pm
Members always Free – Non-members $5.00
Opening Acoustic Set – Mark Shark
Second Electric Set – Sister Mercy

If you look at the BluesNotes calendar for March you’ll easily see why Portland is in love with the blues. So many local heroes and a plethora of national touring artists coming through the city this month. The Cascade Blues Association is always proud to get things moving in the right direction each month with our monthly general membership meeting, offering two sets of music acts that you will definitely want to catch. This month we’re presenting two that should surely raise the roof with excitement.

Opening the evening will be an acoustic set from a fairly newcomer to the Portland area, but someone who has certainly raised the bar for all since relocating here. Mark Shark was born in St. Louis Missouri some years back and after spending 35 years in LA carving out a musical career performing with many renowned artists (Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, John Trudell and many others) he has transplanted himself and his talents to the beautiful City of Roses, Portland Oregon. Warmly welcomed into the thriving music scene here Mark has been privileged to play and record with Northwest Legends Lloyd “Have Mercy” Jones, David Kahl, Joe McCarthy, Brian Foxworth, Steve Kerin, Louis Pain, Ed Neumann, Jimi Bott, Ken Scandlyn, Jesse Samsel, Dean Mueller and Julie Amici, Karen Lovely, Ben Rice, Mitch Kashmar, Carlton Jackson, Ian and Chris Miller, and Jake Ray.

A multi-instrumentalist, Mark is a master at many strings instruments along with the guitar, including mandolin, banjo, ukulele, lap and pedal steel guitars and more. In addition to composing, playing and recording, Mark is also a busy author (Hal Leonard) and educator.  He is currently teaching at Portland Music Company at Beaverton, Division and soon the Broadway location as well.

“It isn’t easy moving to a new city and reshaping your career, notes Mark, “but all of these good folks extended their hand in friendship, took me in and gave me a place to play and teach and I couldn’t be more happy or grateful to be here.”

For the second set of the night we will have the Cascade Blues Association’s 2016 International Blues Challenge representatives Sister Mercy. This band possesses a high energy, blues driven sound.  Lead singer April Brown is mesmerizing with her powerful, beautiful presence, full range vocals and complete joy in performance. The band is filled with talented musicians that have a strong background in Portland’s scene. Steven Savoie creates memorable licks on guitar and Roger Espinor (drums) Ron Camacho (bass) and Debby Espinor (keyboards) hold the rhythms down tight. The band were semi-finalists at the IBC in Memphis and received a nomination for best new band at the 2015 Muddy Awards. This dynamic performing band, Sister Mercy presents original music that is a pleasure for the ears and a show that is a feast for the eyes.

And if the musical sets are not enough, remember that you will also have the chance to win CDs and tickets to events just by attending. Make sure that you received your free drawing ticket at the door. We’ll also have our multi-disc winner take all drawing for only a $1.00 per ticket chance. Buy as many tickets as you’d like, your purchase goes right back into allowing the CBA to bring you events and our paper.

See you at The Melody Ballroom for another great night of music and friends!

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:

Annika Chambers – Wild & Free (Under The Radar Music Group)
Billy D & The Hoodoos – Overnight Success (Rokdablu Records)
Corey Dennison Band – Corey Dennison Band (Delmark Records)
Corey Ledet & His Zydeco Band – Standing On Faith (Corey P Ledet Publishing Company)
Dan Bubien – Grinding These Gears (Self Produced)
David Bromberg Band – The Blues, The Whole Blues And Nothing But The Blues  (Red House Records)
Gary Hoey – Dust & Bones (Provogue Records)
Ilana Katz Katz – Movin’ On (Regina Royale Records)
Iron Bridge Band – Against The Grain (Messej Media and Publishing)
Jack Mack & The Heart Attack – Back To The Shack (SSR Freeroll)
James “Buddy” Rogers – By My Side (JBR Records)
JL Fulks – On Down The Road (JL Fulks Enterprises)
Matty Wall – Blue Skies (Hipster Dumpster Records)
NattyBone – Boneifide Blues Tunes (Self Produced)
Nick Moss Band – From The Root To The Fruit (Blue Bella)
The Hitman Blues Band – The World Moves On (Nerus Records)
The Jimmys – Live From Transyvania At Sighisoara Blues Festival (Brown Cow Productions)

Walla Walla Guitar Festival

Now in their sixth year, The Walla Walla Guitar festival has gotten even bigger than ever before. Combining forces with Feast Walla Walla, you’ll be treated to amazing national and regional acts, along with gourmet food and wine offerings. This multi-venue event will host approximately thirty bands performing in downtown Walla Walla starting with a jam on Thursday, April 6, with the main festival taking place Friday, April 7 through Sunday, April 9.

It all opens up at Sapolil Cellars on Thursday night with a pre-festival jam hosted by Randy Oxford and Robin Barrett.

On Friday, the festival officially kicks off with a 7:00 pm performance at Walla Walla Elks by Alligator recording artist and multiple Blues Music Award winner, including the 2013 BB King Entertainer of the Year, Curtis Salgado.

Friday will continue with The Friday Kick-Off Party, at The Eagles, The Elks, The VFW and Sapolil Cellars with performances from Junkyard Janes celebrating their 20th Anniversary, Shoot Jake, Brett “Bad Blood” Benton, Iguana Hat, Frog Hollow and Josephine Fox.

On Saturday, an acoustic showcase will begin at noon at The Elks with two acts; Chicago’s Jaik Willis and glass neck guitar master Ned Evett. Multi-platinum awarded master guitarist Pete Anderson will appear at The Elks. And the “Large Show” will be held in the Feats Party Tent with Robin Barret & The Coyote Kings featuring Tiph Dames, and The Mannish Boys All Stars with Sugaray Rayford, Kid Ramos, Anthony Geraci, Jimi Bott, Willie J. Campbell and Allan Walker. The Guitar Crawl begins at 8:00 pm at Sapolil Cellars with Debra Arlyn and Rafael Tranquilino, while at The VFW Post 992 The Thunder Brothers and Vaughn Jensen will hold the stage. The Walla Walla Eagles will host The Randy Oxford Band along with Polly O’Keary and The Rhythm Method. An all-star jam will be hosted by Vaughn Jensen from midnight ‘til 1:45 AM at the VFW to end out the night.

On Sunday Morning, the Downtown Gospel Brunch will feature a gourmet breakfast buffet while International Blues Challenge third place winner Rae Gordon will provide Southern Gospel performances, as you enjoy your Mimosas and Bloody Marys!

The Coyote Kings Invitational Walla Walla Guitar Festival is brought to you by Robin Barrett & Coyote Kings Tourism ,Walla Walla, The Downtown Walla Walla Foundation, The Walla Walla Blues Society, CH2M, The Washington Blues Society, The Cascade Blues Association, The Inland Empire Blues Society and the Blues Therapy Radio Show.

The WWFGF is a 21 and over festival. For tickets and additional information, please visit

Journey To Memphis

The Journey To Memphis is the Cascade Blues Association’s regional competition to select the acts that will represent our organization and region in next year’s International Blues Challenge (IBC) in Memphis, TN, held in early 2018. This year saw more than 260 acts converge on Beale Street to represent blues societies from around the world in band, solo/duo and youth showcase categories. And the Cascade Blues Association was represented extremely well as our band entry Rae Gordon & The Backseat Drivers came out in third place overall. A great achievement to say the least. The music industry is in full force during the IBC, searching for new talent and offering opportunities to win recognition and prizes that include major festival performances and more. But the only way an act may participate is to win a regional competition held by one of The Blues Foundation’s affiliated societies like the Cascade Blues Association.

The Journey To Memphis competition consists of two rounds. The opening round will be held on Friday, June 2 and Saturday, June 3 at The Vinyl Tap, 2099 SE Oak Grove Blvd. Acts will be selected by random drawing to fill the time slots during the event. Entries should keep both dates open until they know when they have been drawn for.  Acts are scored by a trio of judges selected for their backgrounds and knowledge of the blues. The highest scoring acts from each night of competition (up to four acts) will advance to the finals held at the Waterfront Blues Festival on July 4th.

Applications to participate in the competition will be accepted from now until Wednesday, April 5 at the Cascade Blues Association membership meeting. No late applications will be accepted. All eligible acts that meet our criteria as described below will be able to compete. The performance schedule for the competition is drawn at random.

Here’s what you need to do to enter:

  • Entry fee is $25.00
  • Each act must have at least one person in the band who is a member of the Cascade Blues Association.
  • Only acts located within the region of Oregon, Washington or Idaho are allowed to enter the Journey To Memphis.
  • Any act that has been nominated for or received a Blues Music Awards from The Blues Foundation are ineligible to compete.
  • Any act that has competed in the International Blues Challenge two consecutive years, regardless whether with the same society or as a solo/duo or band act, must sit out a year before being allowed to compete again.
  • Along with your $25.00 application fee, send an up-to-date band bio including names of all members, a 300 dpi photo of the band, full song samples of the band’s music (this may be used on a radio broadcast to promote the event), and we need to be made aware of any band member who may be under 21 years of age at the time of the competition so the venue is aware ahead of time for Oregon or Washington Liquor Commission laws.
  • We require that any act that moves forward in the competition must use the same band members that they won the rounds with. In other words, if you won with a certain bass player or drummer at the Waterfront Blues Festival, that bassist and drummer must be in your band to compete in Memphis. Exceptions will made in rare circumstances when not under control of the act, such as health issues.
  • We do not prevent acts competing with the Cascade Blues Association from doing so with other societies. All that we ask is that if you win another group’s competition before ours is held, or if you win ours before theirs, please remove yourself from further competitions to allow other acts the chance to win the right to go to Memphis.
The International Blues Challenge

Beale Street, Memphis, TN
January 30-February 4, 2017

By Jeff Levine

It’s great to be back in Portland, where the trees are green, the politics are blue and the living is healthy.  I had the chance to return to Memphis for the 2017 International Blues Challenge (IBC) as a fan and volunteer. Here’s my report.

The International Blues ChallengeThe IBC is a competition. This year featured 260 acts from 38 states and 14 countries. Each local blues organization selects and sends one band, one solo/ duo act to compete, and a youth act for the non-competitive showcase. But it is much more. It is a blues conference with workshops and classes to support the musicians. Picture a business conference with delegates from around the world wandering around with badges and rollaway bags. The difference is that the bags are guitar cases and cymbal bags and the convention center is Beale Street.

This Year’s Winners:
Band: Dawn Tyler Watson – Montreal Blues Society
Oregon Winner: Cascade Blues Association’s Rae Gordon and the Backseat Drivers win third place Band
Solo/ Duo: Al Hill – Nashville Blues Society
How it works:
The acts compete in a three-night elimination in the Beale Street clubs, scored by a panel of judges. Points are awarded for blues content, instrumental and vocal performance, originality and stage presence. Each act gets 25 minutes. Eight bands and eight solo/duo finalists compete in the historic Orpheum Theater on Saturday. Winners get a prize package, with valuable bookings in blues festivals. The 2017 competition was intense. The scores must have been razor close it took over an hour to calculate the winner.

This is an amazing event for blues fans.

Here are my 2017 highlights:

Representing Oregon
Oregon is a major player in the IBC. Oregon has not one, but two Societies. The Cascade Blues Association sent Rae Gordon and the Backseat Drivers as the band, David Pinsky as the solo/duo act and Timothy James and Ryan Stadler as the youth act. The Rainy Day Blues Society in Eugene sent the Hank Shreve Band. Rae Gordon goes on to win third place in the band competition. Mazel-tov (congratulations) Rae! As a fan, it was a joy to get to meet our wonderful musicians up close and personal and to cheer them on in the finals.

The Blues Foundation sponsors the IBC and volunteers run the events. I volunteered as a judge’s assistant in Alfred’s. The best part of volunteering was getting to meet the musicians and help with the all too short ten-minute sound check. I took it upon myself to bug the sound guy if the vocals were too low. (As a fan it is my pet peeve.) As the sole Oregon volunteer at Alfred’s, I got the honor of introducing the Hank Shreve Band. Hank’s dad was happy someone was there who knew how to pronounce Oregon.

260 Acts for One Low Admission Price
For blues lovers this is a smorgasbord of blues. Reasonable priced festival passes (sold for one night or for the week) allow admission into all of the events. The Beale Street venues have, big stages, great sound systems and wonderful, if not very healthy, food and drink choices. All on one closed street. It’s easy to hop around. With an estimated attendance of 3,000 per day the 18 participating clubs were full, but not crowded.

It’s an International Festival
Bands come from around the world, from Canada to Croatia. Dawn Tyler Watson from the Montreal Blues Society won the band competition. Israel’s SOBO made it to the finals as did Felix Smith from Hondarribia, Spain. As a fan you have the opportunity to hear and meet these wonderful artists that you might never get to hear locally.

The Showcases
The showcases are non-competitive shows to promote the blues artists. There was an International Showcase, a Northwest Showcase with our own Ben Rice hosted a Youth showcase and a Galaxie Records showcase. These events take place during the day; so you get band after band, day and night.

As blues fans we may forget the pain that inspired our favorite music. Many of our founding artists worked in the cotton fields around Memphis and came to Beale Street to cut loose on the weekends. In March 1968, Beale Street was badly damaged after the riots during the Memphis Garbage strike where protesters carried “I am A Man” signs and where Dr. Martin Luther King led the marchers. Dr. King and was later assassinated about a mile away in the Lorraine Hotel. Memphis and the surrounding area give you a chance to connect with music and social history.

The 34th Annual International Blues Challenge will be held January 16 – 20, 2018. Memphis is a long way from Portland, but it is easy to get around once you are there. Plan to stay for the week if you can. Take time to visit the historic sites including Sun and Stax Studios. Get a reserved seat for the Orpheum event and pace yourself with the food and drinks! Four nights on Beale Street is a lot for anyone.

If you are a band, get your entry in to the Cascade Blues Association by April 5 for the 2018 IBC! If you are a fan, plan to attend the local competition in June and the finals at the Waterfront Blues Festival. I hope to see you all there!