ramblings201306BNGreg Johnson / CBA President

The Portland music community has seen its overabundance of losses this past year when it comes to iconic musicians in the city. In the past eleven months we witnessed the untimely deaths of Jim Miller and Janice Scroggins, both completely unexpected. Mel Solomon left us in late June after a long time run against diabetes. But personally, it was the loss of Linda Hornbuckle this last month that really struck home. Even though we all knew that she was battling a no-win situation with kidney cancer, I could never imagine Portland not having her with us.

When I began working in the music industry back in the early 80s for the national distributor Lieberman Enterprises, new recordings were flying through our doors every week that found its way onto the players in the building. We would often head out in the evening to catch performances in the thriving local clubs downtown. Several bands from the area were gaining national attention, such as Nu Shooz, Quarterflash and the Dan Reed Network. Linda and her strong soulful voice played a part with each of those acts as they played around the country. But it was the soul band Body and Soul that really captured Linda in this time period. We knew without a doubt at that time that their featured vocalist Linda Hornbuckle was indeed Soul Sister #1 in a city filled with terrific musicians. If you wanted to get out and dance or just to hear some of those great Motown and soul hits, there was no better band to be found.

A few years later, blues legend Paul deLay began a hiatus from performing courtesy of the Federal Prison system, leaving his band without their vocal leader. Many acts’ members may have moved on in different directions at that time under this type of circumstances, but the band recruited Linda to become their focal point and it was a winning formula. She won her first of three Muddy Awards for best Female Vocalist in 1992 (the others coming in 1994 and 2004)and the band released a superb album titled Soul Diva Meets The Blues Monsters under their new name Linda Hornbuckle & The No DeLay Band. Already a star in the soul and R&B community in town, this collaboration firmly set her footprint in the blues scene as one of its best. And I can remember how proud I was to see her included in an article in Living Blues magazine naming her one of the Top 40 Under 40 in the world of the blues.

Sadly, If there is any one part of Linda’s career that I felt was missing, it was the fact that she was highly under-recorded. Aside from the No DeLay album, she only released two others under her own name, 2001’s Clearly and 2009’s Sista, the latter a beautiful meshing of her voice with the piano of her close and long-time friend Janice Scroggins.

Linda Hornbuckle became a regularly featured performer at many festivals and events over the years. She was featured annually with The Trail Band’s Christmas shows at The Aladdin Theater. She was routinely scheduled to sing the National Anthem every 4th of July at the Waterfront Blues Festival, an event that saw her perform in many of that festival’s best known showcases such as the tributes to Paul deLay and Ray Charles. Yet, it was always her annual “Old Time Gospel Hour” that proved to be the most emotionally moving. Not a big surprise as Linda Hornbuckle was born singing the music of church from a young age in her father Bishop Howard Hornbuckle’s congregation at Portland’s Grace and Truth Pentacostal Church. It obviously was this early training that helped develop her strong and heartfelt voice.

In 2010, she was given the highest honor for a musician in the State of Oregon as she was inducted into the Oregon Music Hall of Fame. A place she so rightfully deserved.

Diagnosed with cancer in 2012, performances would continue over the next two years, though sometimes those scheduled appearances were missed due to her painful condition. And she continued to book gigs at Jimmy Mak’s and the Doug Fir Lounge for her gospel shows. I spoke with Linda’s husband Mark Young not too long ago one night at Jimmy Mak’s asking how she was feeling. I felt bad as it had been too long since I had made my way to one of her shows and I promised that I would do so as soon as I could. I never got the opportunity and it crushes me for not making it more of a priority. But again, it is the perception I falsely led myself to believe that I could not imagine Linda not being around. The last two times I saw her perform was at Janice Scroggins’ Celebration of Life and the Old Time Gospel Hour at the Waterfront Blues Festival. How I wish there was more. I hear her now in my mind, singing “Natural Woman,” “Georgia” with The Ray Charles Tribute Band, and mostly “Amazing Grace,” nobody could do that hymn like her.

Not having Linda Hornbuckle amongst us is going to take a long time to comprehend. For so many years she has always been there giving her heart and soul to her music. Thank you Linda for all the wonderful memories you gave to us and which will forever be held within our hearts. You certainly made my life better with your songs.




Greg Johnson / CBA President

Wow, just where has the time gone? Things seem to be flying by as of late. It seems like the Waterfront Blues Festival and the summer picnic were both just a couple of weeks ago. But we’ve already stormed past those as well as the annual rummage sale and now we’re full steam ahead working on this year’s Muddy Awards and making plans for the holiday party.

And let’s not forget about the annual voting for the elected officer positions. Though it seems like a ways off, the Cascade Blues Association truly does need your assistance. Running the organization and all of our events is quite a chore for only a handful of people. even if it’s just three or more joining on board can make a world of difference from the shoulders of the few. You do not need to apply for an elected position, there are openings with the At-Large spots and we can use your skills with merchandising, finances and a number of other projects.

Or you can simply volunteer your time. Having Richard LaChapelle has been a godsend to us with the amount of time and work that he does. He has not committed to becoming a board member, but he always shows up for board meetings and is the first to jump in to help with any of our events. In fact, he has been taking on a lot of the volunteer sign-up responsibilities which is an immense undertaking of its own. Thank you Richard, you really cannot imagine how much you are appreciated by the board.

Please consider giving a little of your time to the CBA if you’re able. We only have board meetings once a month and overall it is a lot of fun and the people are great to work with.

Aside from the business, I want to note what a fantastic night was had at the White Eagle this last month with the rare visit by Pete Karnes. I had not seen Pete perform in close to thirty years, as the last time he came around in 2010 I was somewhere in the air between Memphis, Denver and Portland returning from the International Blues Challenge. It brought back a lot of memories from those White Eagle show days of the late 70s and early 80s where I spent a many a night. And seeing old faces from so long ago mixed with those who’d never had the chance to see the original band’s days made it a magical show.

Okay, a little more business, don’t forget to send in your Muddy Award ballots. I say this every year, if you do not take the time to send in your votes, then you really can’t complain about the outcome. And if you’re not a member and you’re complaining, it’s falling on deaf ears buddy, this is a members only ballot. If you want to have your say, join the CBA. It’s easy to join and has a lot of perks that ends up rewarding you many times over what the annual dues cost if you take advantage of them.

So, let’s see, we’ve covered board positions and Muddy ballots. Is there anything else? Oh yeah, get out there and support our blues musicians and venues as often as you can. Without your support the scene is not what it can and should be. Get your butts in the seats, feet on the dance floor, pay that cover and throw a little something extra in the tip jar and to the venue staff. Support and promote the music that we love. And most of all, just have fun!

ramblings201306BNGreg Johnson / CBA President

Well I think I am going to be a little more personal this month in this rambling. I want to personally apologize to all the local musicians and those touring through the area this past month and a half. I have missed a good deal of your shows. It’s not that I didn’t want to attend those, it was my vehicle deciding to take itself out of service about a week-and-a-half after the Waterfront Blues Festival. So I have only seen a small handful of happenings over that time. And since we’re talking about Portland that means an awful lot of shows coming through our area. It was hard not being able to see friends like Janiva Magness, Grady Champion, Cee Cee James and Too Slim when they stopped through.

And it was especially hard to turn down an offer from my friend Mike “Bear in the Chair” Berichon sent me. Bear is the producer of the Project Blues Review in Columbus, Ohio, raising money for the Columbus Cancer Clinic and he had asked me to come out with Karen Lovely to help with the event. One look at that line-up just killed me to have to say no. So many friends were involved: Karen, Sean Carney, Jonn Del Toro Richardson, Diunna Greenleaf, Tom Holland, Bob Corritore and Bob Margolin, plus David Maxwell, Kenny Smith, John Primer and Bob Stroger. I do want to thank those friends who offered to help get me back to Columbus, but I just felt that I needed to get back on track with my car expenses and travelling was not something I should be doing at this time.

I guess this just means I’m living the blues this summer. But I did manage to attend a few shows that I would not have missed for anything. The celebration of life for Mel Solomon was a very heartfelt day at The Lehrer with terrific performances by everybody. Getting to see Shemekia Copeland and the Robert Cray Band almost in my back yard was certainly a treat. And after about a year-and-a-half of pushing them to come out to the Northwest, having The Ori Naftaly Band finally in Portland at Duff’s Garage proved to be well worth the wait. Anybody who missed this one should pound their head on a wall now. They delivered a sensational night just as I knew they would. Hope they come back sometime soon.

The world lost one of the blues true giants this past month with the passing of Johnny Winter. Without him Muddy Waters career may not have caught that second wind that it did with Johnny behind the production helm. A blistering slide playing guitarist himself, he earned the right to call himself a bluesman. I am happy that I had the opportunity to see him perform a handful of times. He will surely be missed.

Watch your mail boxes for your Muddy Award Nomination Ballots and make sure to take the time to fill them out and return them. This is your chance to tell us who you want on the final ballot and it is part of your membership with the Cascade Blues Association. If you do not vote or you’re not a member, you have no right to complain if you do not agree with those on the final ballot.

And do not forget about the Fourth Annual CBA Rummage Sale on Saturday, September 6th at The Bomber in Milwaukie. Bring us your usable items that you no longer want and donate them to the CBA. You can help us raise money for the organization for various projects and it’s tax deductible, too. You may also want to consider volunteering to help out with this rummage sale. We can always use the help and it’s fun to hang out with friends.

Well, I hope to see you out there a lot more in the oncoming months, hoping to have these car troubles handled soon. And I’m missing being there to support the music as often as I’d like.

ramblings201306BNGreg Johnson / CBA President

It’s already mid-July as I write this column. What? The summer is half-over and it seems like it just begun. So much happening around Portland and the area it is next to impossible to keep up with it all. As I sit here behind my computer screen, I am seeing photos and notices reported from shows all around town happening just tonight. It makes your spin, and it is not slowing down any come August.

One thing I do want to say, though is, enough is enough. Two months and two of Portland’s blues icons have passed on first Janice Scroggins and then Mel Solomon. This is too much hurt for our blues supporters to have to take. It is time for that grim reaper to give us a pass before claiming somebody else. At least give us some time to recover from those we have already lost.

On a better note, and I cannot believe it has already come and gone (I may have said something different last week when my legs were still feeling the pain), the Waterfront Blues Festival was once again off the charts. I do not know how he does it, but Peter Dammann continues to bring in the best performers to make the event roll smoothly. My favorites of the year? There were so many, but to keep it somewhat short: Leo Welch, Sugaray Rayford, Lee Fields, Curtis Salgado, Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials, Andy T & Nick Nixon, the entire Journey to Memphis competition, , where do I stop? Always way too many to catch everybody you want to see.

A huge thanks to Steve Pringle who scheduled the emcee announcing. I had a plethora of introductions this year including two of the four closing headliners, Los Lobos and Maceo Parker. But Steve gave me a last minute addition that certainly had to be a bucket list intro for me with Charlie Musselwhite. And as I walked off the stage, Charlie made a point to walk up to me and say, “Nice job, thank you.” It made it that much more personal and falls right in line with my all-time favorite introductions alongside Hubert Sumlin, Robert Lockwood Jr, Phillip Walker and Bobby Bland.

Hey, there’s still a lot more summer to come. Don’t miss out on the CBA’s members only picnic and the CBA Rummage Sale is right around the corner in September. And you’ll also be seeing those Muddy Awards nomination ballots making it your way, too. Get out. Enjoy the sun. And find some blues to keep you company. This is Portland, so that should not be too hard.

ramblings201306BNGreg Johnson / CBA President

The City of Portland shed a collective tear on Tuesday, May 27th when the word spread that one of our most beloved musicians, pianist Janice Scroggins, had moved on to Heaven’s gate after suffering a heart attack. Things just seemed to come to a sudden halt within the music community in disbelief. Janice Scroggins? How can this be? Her playing had touched us all. It did not matter what genre of music you preferred, she had graced her magical presence on it all. Her passing has left a tremendous void that can never be replaced and the early weeks of June found us all paying tribute to the legacy she had left us. Though she may have seemed so quiet sitting behind her keys on stage, it was her playing that was the glue that bound every performance she was a part of. She had a natural ease that came from years of practice beginning when she was still yet a toddler, begging to be placed on the piano bench. She was determined to be the best. And she was. Local musicians from the time word spread that she had passed began dedicating their shows to her. Everybody came out, musicians and fans alike to share their sorrow. Her memorial at Vancouver Avenue 1st Baptist Church was attended by a standing room only crowd that the Fire Marshall had to request the service find room to keep the aisles clear. That hours long service was an emotional gathering with memories, tears and joy for the gift that she had brought us. It was followed the next Monday with a tribute concert that sold out quickly to help her family make ends meet and had so many artists from the world of jazz, blues, gospel, funk and African rhythms that each was only allowed to perform one song. And still it was not enough time to feature all those who wished to be there. If everyone who wanted to be a part of the event had been permitted to take the stage that night, it would have lasted days. Janice Scroggins was the ultimate artist that everybody wanted to work with. She had that rare quality that made everybody sound better. You never had to question what she was doing, even if she had not rehearsed with the band, it just came across perfectly the first time. Every time. Inducted into the Cascade Blues Association’s Hall of Fame and the Oregon Music Hall of Fame, she was nominated for a Grammy for her recording of Scott Joplin rags. She knew that she was talented. But she did not come across as a prima donna. Her faith, family and music came first. That was the same story that was said over and over from everybody who paid her tribute. Stories were told how she would come into a studio to record and if she heard something that she felt would improve the music, she would just offer her thoughts and give an example of how she felt it would sound better. And it always was. She could do it the first time from the top of her head leaving everybody in awe, leaving no questions as to whether it was right or not. Janice Scroggins did not request or seek praise. Education and the continuation of music was what she sought most, especially with younger musicians looking to learn. It is evident in her daughters Arietta and Nafisaria, and the many others she help guide to the musical world she loved. She worked with many of the best in the city and beyond. And she made them all better yet. We were all blessed for having Janice amongst us. And in her music and the legacy of those she touched it will live on and she will forever be loved by those who knew her and had the pleasure of hearing her piano. Thank you Janice Scroggins for making all of our lives richer and more enjoyable with your presence.

Got to say, I really think the Blues Music Awards is getting better every year. The performance line-up continues to be stellar and this year having sets from Ronnie Earl with guests Kim Wilson, Dave Keller and Bob Margolin; James Cotton with Elvin Bishop; Beth Hart; Brandon Santini with a very animated Jeff Jensen; Anson Funderburgh; and the tremendous grouping for the Remembering Little Walter set, just clicked from out of the gate. And yet, this was just a drop in the bucket of all the terrific music on hand for the night. Once again, I was privileged to work as one of the stage managers. Hanging out with the artists all day, making new friends, and then their utmost professionalism during the event made this quite an easy job this year. Not a glitch to be had.

I have said it before, these trips to Memphis are more about catching up with friends. We may be working, but we find the time to have a little fun, too. A huge thanks once again to The Blues Foundation for letting me be a part of their premier event and the biggest night in the blues world.

But back at home, we need to keep things real here. Rumblings of one of the top venues having hard times and thinking of closing is always a hard pill to swallow. We need these rooms people, go out and support the venues that offer us the music we want to hear. Sometimes it might mean having to drive across town, but the owners are trying to bring you the best around and that little drive every now and then is definitely worth it to keep our multiple options open week after week.

Hope that you’ve had the chance to check out the new digs for Duff’s Garage as Jon and Jennifer continue to bring in the best of local players as well as a rolling line-up of touring acts. I have yet to check out The Tillicum since the new owners have taken over, or to make it out to The Birk, but both are definitely in my sights and plans, as are making trips to some of the older locations I have not hit in a while.

And the summer is also coming on strong. Lots of festivals happening in the Northwest, including the biggie for us, the Waterfront Blues Festival. Thanks to all who have volunteered to help out for both the CBA and the Oregon Food Bank. The line-up is once again coming together with an incredible group of acts; got to hand it to Peter Dammann, who amazes me year after year.

But don’t forget about the Journey To Memphis competition. The first Friday and Saturday in June, we’re going to kick things off to find out who will represent us in Memphis next January. Whoever it ends up being, we know that we’ll be sending some of the best of our region and they’ll give a nice shake-up on Beale Street.

Lots of fun ahead over the next few months. Get out there, hear some music and support our local blues scene. It is one of the best things going when it comes to living here. Keep it vital and magical!!

ramblings201306BNGreg Johnson, CBA President

Beware, rant ahead.

Over the years I have heard it said many, many times regarding shows, from fans, venue owners and musicians, “Where are all the CBA members at such and such a show?” People, it is not the responsibility of the Cascade Blues Association to tell our members what shows that they have to attend. If you look at our monthly calendar, there are a crazy number of venues in this city offering shows seven nights a week. Compare this with many other cities, many with far greater populations, which do not have such a plethora of performances and venues to choose from night after night. And even with all of those venues who report their calendar dates to us, this is by no means all that are out there with live blues music happening regularly.

The CBA is here to inform you what is going on. We try to include all that we’re aware of. It is not solely our job to find out from everywhere what is going on. That responsibility still has to come from the artists and venues if they want to inform potential audiences to attend. Just because we may do co-sponsorships on a number of shows, this is also not a guarantee that it is going to pull in a full house every time. It is an incentive for our members to attend by offering discounts for these events. And we fully intend on continuing doing these as it helps to spread the word on what may be going on that you may want to consider. But the bottom line for all shows is that it is up to the members to decide who they’re going to see and where they’ll spend their hard-earned money.

The competition for your dollar is incredible. There may be touring artists hitting town on occasion, but we are insanely overwhelmed in Portland with top-shelf musicians who live and play here regularly. And those local artists have their own followings who will choose to go to their shows every time the chance arises. There is nothing wrong with that. Support our local musicians every chance you have. But do not place the blame on CBA members if there is not a large crowd every night they play. We are one of the largest blues societies in the country, but that only amounts to around 1000 people. And 1000 people are not going to fill every venue in this city every night. We are talking about a city with about 2.5 million people living in the metro area. 1000 members is just a drop in the bucket when compared with the numbers of that population who attend music events, not only blues, routinely.

I have asked many times over the years, “How do you know that CBA members are not in attendance? Do you know each and every member by name or sight?” I certainly don’t. There are only eight board of director members in the CBA, so if you’re judging attendance by the CBA from the board appearing at these shows, there is simply no way that they can be everywhere they’d like to be. And like the rest of you, the board has to pay for their admission, too. We also have to pick and choose who we can afford to see. And also like all of you, they’re going to have their favorites that they’re most likely going to go out to see as well.

Another point. You also cannot assume that because there are not a lot of people requesting the discount for co-sponsored events at the door that CBA members are not there. I have been told by one venue owner that even though we offer the discount there is only a small number that actually ask for it. And looking through the crowd at many of these shows I have recognized a great number of our members that I know. I do not always ask for it and I know of several others who do not as well.

What it all comes down to is we are quite spoiled in this city when it comes to blues performances on just about any given night. Go out and see all that you can. Check out new acts if you want. Try to attend events with touring acts so we can keep seeing them make plans to stop on Portland when they’re in the area. But if the crowds are not there, please do not point fingers at CBA members for not being there. Chances are that they’re probably at another show showing their support for the blues. We cannot be more than one place at a time; as much as we’d like to be.

Thanks to all of you, fans, musicians and venues, for making Portland a world class blues city. Keep on supporting the music you love by seeing those you select. There is no wrong decision.

ramblings201306BNGreg Johnson / CBA President

The other day I had one of my co-workers stop by my little corner of the warehouse where I put together kits for the production line. As normal, I had music playing in my area. That is usually where I listen to the discs I have purchased or CDs that have been submitted for BluesNotes reviews. What I usually refer to as my homework. Anyway, the guy makes a statement, “Man, there is only so much blues you can listen to, don’t you ever get tired of it?” In short, the answer is no.

The blues has so many different directions and sounds. If you grow too tired of listening to one at any given time, there are dozens more you can choose from. Think about it. Traditional Chicago blues with Muddy Waters or Howlin’ Wolf one day, then you can take a trip to Louisiana the next for classic R&B, a little Mardi Gras street parades or zydeco, then maybe jump to Kansas City for a bit of horns and jump blues. There’s the intricate acoustic stringwork of Piedmont, the trance hill style of North Mississippi, or the rockin’ blues of the British bands of the 60s and 70s. The West Coast has its swing feel in Southern California which is completely different than the sounds you hear from the Bay Area or the Northwest. From the Delta to the raga blues of Harry Manx, or the Brazilian music explored by Charlie Musselwhite, or even the deepest of origins stemming from Malian artists in Africa, many still performing today in areas of that country where music has not yet been banned by religious extremists trying to overtake the government. And this is only touching on a handful of many blues expressions.

The blues has grown world-wide and with each location there is a unique flavor all its own. It is the variance of interpretations, what the individual performer feels within them. It’s very personal and it’s social, or as Jimi Hendrix said, “The reflection of the world is blues,” meaning the artist tells it like it is from their own view and stance, be it happy or sad. It may be an old music in the realm of modern days, but it evolves like everything else. The catch phrase “keeping the blues alive” is a nice rallying point, but honestly the blues is not a dying art form. It has always been around and it is the birthplace of all those other popular styles of music whether they want to acknowledge it or not. Kind of like most media outlets today promoting music; it’s everything but the blues. To them I say, “Hey, the blues is not going anywhere, open your eyes and ears and give it a listen. You might actually enjoy it if you give it a chance.”

So back to my original thought. Is there only so much blues you can listen to? Of course not, there is a seemingly endless number of artists and variations of the genre. It is certainly not the only music I listen to. I have a wide open mind when it comes to listening to all types of music. I’ll give it all a chance, but like everybody else I’ll have my favorites and my dislikes. To each their own. Just don’t pigeon-hole the blues into the stereotype of being a tired old music form. If that’s the way you feel, you’re not paying attention to what is being created here and now.

Okay, I’ll step off my soapbox now.

ramblings201306BNGreg Johnson / CBA President

As I sit here with less than a week before I head to Memphis for the International Blues Challenge, things seem to be out of place in a way. Why? Because here we are putting the finishing touches on the BluesNotes and normally we would be reporting on the results of the competition. But we’ll have to wait until next month to report that (though you’re more than likely going to hear how things came out long before we even get to this point next month) and you’ll most likely be seeing posts from Memphis on the happenings when this issue is delivered to you. C’est la vie, it is what it is.

But I have good feelings on what both Ben Rice and Tevis Hodge can accomplish with their trip to Tennessee representing us.  And at the same time I get to gather with close friends, eat great food and hear a bevy full of new acts that we’re sure to be hearing about many in the future. Can things get any better than that?

2013 sure took a sad turn as it came to a close, with the passing of Jim Miller. You’d have to be pretty hard pressed to find anybody who did not get along with Jim. He was everybody’s friend and always there to offer advice or assistance if needed. And though people from elsewhere may ask who? Those in the Portland music community know that he was a true icon in these parts. We’re going to miss you Jim, sending you our love always.

On a happier note, 2014 is going to have a great beginning as two of our area’s musicians (well, one has been living in Nashville for the most part), Melody Guy and Jake Blair will be walking down the aisle of matrimony in early February. A match truly blessed as you could not ask for two nicer people to be matched up with one another. The Cascade Blues Association offers congratulations to you both and we’re certain there will be some creative music from this harmonious union.

But then again, it is a new year and the CBA still has the same need. The Board of Directors is sorely lacking bodies. Following the election in December we have five elected officers and one at-large member. Two people have recently expressed interest in possibly coming on board, but we sure could use maybe three or four more. It is a lot of work for such a small group. We are fortunate to have such a great support from volunteers when needed. Recently Vice President Wendy Schumer put out a notice that we needed people to help distribute the BluesNotes around town as we were losing a couple people that had extremely large routes and new venues were popping up. With that one notice she received multiple calls from those willing to give a hand. In fact, she had more than necessary, so we can split up to shorter routes and have added some new names to our list of volunteers. Thank you all so much!!

Yet, we have many committees and positions that we could an use your skills for. We’d like to explore new avenues in the way of merchandise and fundraising, education and possibly even doing some of the musician visits into long-term care facilities and assisted living centers as Jim Miller had taken on with Golden Harvest. Please contact us if you’d like to get involved. We will also welcome new ideas, but remember we need to raise funds in order to achieve these goals. Are you savvy on ways of bringing in advertising revenues for the BluesNotes or working as a form of a street team going to venues and pushing memberships? Are you able to travel to represent the CBA selling merchandise at regional festivals and other events? We cannot simply survive on membership dues and ticket raffles at meetings (though they certainly do help us immensely), so believe me we are open to your visions on how to make the CBA continue in being a successful and stable organization. Get in touch with us and help support the local blues community. We really are a fun group to work with. Give us a try.

ramblings201306BNGreg Johnson / CBA President

This month I thought I would do something different with this column. I was contacted once again this year by Eric Steiner, the President of the Washington Blues Society, and asked if I could give them a top ten list for blues recordings of 2013. Always a difficult decision because there are so many that always stand out. But I did break it down to the ten that I believe I kept coming back to over and over again throughout the year and still play consistently. There are a lot that could’ve or maybe should’ve been included, but then again it is supposed to be my personal choices. So I thought I’d share them with you, too. Please note that not all of these are in any specific order, with the exception of the top two.

For me the one style that stood out more than any other this past year was soul blues. My list was topped off by two soul albums and another made the cut as well, though a fourth had its share of soul, too. My top two picks of the year were Otis Clay’s Truth Is (Putting Love Back Into The Music) and Johnny Rawls’ Remembering O.V. How can you possibly go wrong with Blues Hall of Fame inductee Otis Clay? The man simply has one of the smoothest voices on the planet and the music here is so remindful of what made you fall in love with soul music to begin with. As for Johnny Rawls, this tribute recording to his former employer and mentor O.V. Wright is something I cannot get enough of. It always seems to get picked up whenever I’m grabbing something to play in the car. And oh yeah, Otis Clay is on this one, too. The original track with Johnny and Otis “Blaze of Glory” that closes the disc would also be included in any list I made up of best songs of the year as well.

Local artists in the Northwest put out some fantastic music this past year, but I am sorry to say that only one of them made my list. This was tough, there were so many choices I could have placed on the list both regionally and internationally. I kept asking why it can’t be a top twenty-five, but I knew that would not make any difference either. I’d still be leaving something out. But my choice for Northwest album went to Kevin Selfe’s Long Walk Home. I had a copy of this for nearly nine months before it was actually released by Delta Groove, so it saw a ton of play time with me and it still garners that going close to two years now. Kevin at his best with songwriting and playing, backed by phenomenal musicians. Is there any doubt as to why he received so many Muddy Awards in November?

A couple acoustic recordings placed here, too. Doug MacLeod is always a perennial favorite with whatever he does and there was no exception with There’s A Time. His storytelling is exceptional and it comes across on disc just as well as it does live. And for sounding as if you’re listening to somebody live, Little G Weevil’s Moving brings it home. I had been impressed with his previous band recording and then seeing him take the solo competition at the International Blues Challenge gave him more attention in my mind. When Moving came out, I was completely sold.

Speaking of acts that I became aware of through the IBC, Mr. Sipp blew my mind with his performances in my venue and at the finals this past year. He can sound like BB King or Little Milton and his stage show was highly electrifying. He captured that mood perfectly on his recording It’s My Guitar. Also from past IBC exposure I first met JP Soars and had my introduction to Victor Wainwright. Along with Damon Fowler they make up the backbone of Southern Hospitality, one of the most exciting live acts around. I enjoyed their mix of modern Southern rock and blues on their debut album Easy Livin’ with each taking the forefront on the selections. Though I met him before he competed in the IBC (in fact when he did he was in my venue), Brandon Santini’s This Time Another Year was a pleasing surprise. Brandon has been a long time close friend so I knew he could perform the blues exceptionally, but this one surpassed everything I could’ve imagined and then some. Great harp playing, singing and songwriting with former Portland bluesman Jeff Jensen holding down the guitar.

As I said to open this column, soul music played a big part of my listening this past year and the newest CD on this list would be Dave Keller’s Soul Changes. Recording in Memphis with the cast that helped back people like Al Green, Otis Clay, Ann Peebles and others brought his songs to life. The second half of the album done in Brooklyn had updated takes on some soul classics. This man’s voice is going places as seen by his nomination for a Blues Music Award for soul-blues just announced. The final disc on my top ten is Mighty Mike Schermer’s Be Somebody. He can also bring on soulful vocals, but it is his guitar work and songwriting that really stand out to me. This is really a feel good disc for me and it always makes me smile whenever I play it.

But again, I need to stress that there were so many great recordings over the past year. Being limited to just ten is hard. I thought about listing others that I felt could’ve easily made this list, but I did not want to possibly omit anybody else. I recommend that you give these ten albums a listen if you have not heard them already. And let me know who you thought were your selections if you’d like. I always find what other people enjoy to be interesting as well. Here’s to 2014. I know there will be many greats coming out this year, too.