The 2014 Cascade Blues Association Muddy Awards were held on Wednesday, November 5th at The Melody Ballroom to a huge crowd of blues supporters for what has traditionally been one of the biggest single-night events within the local blues community every year. The awards were presented in twenty-two categories as voted on by the CBA membership, selecting their favorite acts, events, venues and recordings from the last year. And we also paid tribute to those musicians we lost this past year, Jim Miller, Janice Scroggins, Linda Hornbuckle, Mel Solomon and James Williams.

The big winner this year was without doubt Lisa Mann, who walked away with three of the awards she was nominated for: Contemporary Blues Act with her band Lisa Mann & Her Really Good Band, Bass and Northwest Recording for her album Move On. Both Curtis Salgado (R&B Act and Performance of the Year) and Kevin Selfe (Traditional Blues Band with Kevin Selfe & The Tornadoes and Electric Guitar) received two awards each. Kevin Selfe was also inducted into the Muddy Award Hall of Fame after taking home the Electric Guitar award three consecutive years.

The Cascade Blues Association also presents two of their highest honors each year with the Back What You Believe In Muddy Award and the Lifetime Achievement. The Back What You Believe In is presented to those individuals who have contributed above expectations in a non-performing position. This year the award was presented to Soul Sisters Productions, the team of Tracy Turner-Pain and Susan Mills, for their devotion in raising funds for musicians in need of assistance through a series of benefit showcases. This award is not selected by the membership and is the only one decided by the CBA Board of Directors. The Lifetime Achievement is chosen by the membership, though, and this was an extremely difficult year as two of the nominees were much beloved and both had passed away, whereas the third is not only revered locally, but recognized world-wide as one of the best performers at his instrument. The members decided to honor the late Janice Scroggins, one of the most influential musicians in Portland history, not only as a blues artist, as she easily worked in any genre presented, but also as a music educator.

Of course, it would not be a celebration of the blues without music, and we had three fantastic segments of performances to make the night truly special. The Rae Gordon Band, the CBA’s Journey To Memphis band winners, kicked things off with style as Rae’s vocal talents were soaring. Midway through the night, we took a short acoustic interlude with a set by the Journey To Memphis solo/duo winners David Pinsky & Phil Newton, always an entertaining pair who display such camaraderie and happiness every time they take a stage.

Every year we select an individual to put together the closing set of music with an all-star grouping. This year that was keyboardist Dave Fleschner who grouped together one of the most sensational showcases ever seen at a Muddy Awards celebration. Not only did he gather a terrific core of musicians, it also led you through a historical background of the different genres within the blues itself. First up was the duo of Alan Hager and Mary Flower on acoustic guitars, soon joined by Brandy Hutchinson on snare, Doug Bundy on clarinet and Fleschner on keys. That was followed by a more traditional electric blues set with Vyasa Dodson on guitar, Jim Wallace on harmonica, Tyler Smith on bass, Jimi Bott on drums and a duo keyboard teaming of Fleschner and Steve Kerin. Karen Lovely next took command of the stage with her vocal dynamics, with a fiery Doug Rowell on guitar, Russ Kleiner drums, Sam Howard bass and Brad Ulrich on sax to go along with Fleschner and Kerin remaining on keys. Then things really started to mix as Arietta Ward, LaRhonda Steele and MaryEtta Callier offered an acappella gospel delivered straight from the heart, then joined by keyboardists Mark Steele and Brian Harris, drummer Brian Foxworth, Randy Monroe on bass, Dave Iual, Ben Rice and Peter Dammann on guitars, Peter Moss on sax. Closing the night, Andy Stokes brought the room to its feet, backed by the same band and delivering a stunning soulful presentation that you just hated to see it come to an end, even though we had gone at least a half hour beyond the time frame we expected.

Thanks to all the musicians who performed, The Melody Ballroom and their staff for allowing us to once again use their facilities, all those who gave award presentations, JBL Sound for putting together the best sound ever at a Muddy Awards (that really is a tough room folks), Cedar House Media for donating the programs and nominee certificates, Big Screen Presentations for the AV equipment, Affordable Trophies, the CBA Board of Directors for a lot of preparation and hard work, and to all our members for making this night amazing. Let’s do it again next year!