Southern Hospitality press photo  Dubbed by some critics as an upcoming “Southern blues-rock super group,” Southern Hospitality is breathing new life into revered music idioms for the next generation and have been compared to acts like The Allman Brothers, Marshall Tucker Band and Little Feat. Big time accolades without doubt, but when you have a core group that’s made up of lap steel guitarist Damon Fowler, guitarist extraordinaire JP Soars and the 2013 Blues Music Award winning keyboard wizard Victor Wainwright, sparks are sure to fly every time they hit a stage.  They share much love for the songs of the South. The hot jazz and funk of New Orleans, classic country, gospel, soul, and blues that became rock ‘n’ roll in Memphis and went global by way of a trucker named Elvis. The band is currently touring in support of their debut album Easy Livin’, produced by Tab Benoit who has said, “Damon, Victor and JP are the future of roots music.”

Southern Hospitality will be making their first ever performance in Portland at Duff’s Garage (1635 SE 7th) on Friday, September 6th for a 9:00 pm show.  Admission is $15.00 and Cascade Blues Association members can receive a $1.00 discount by showing their current cards at the door for this co-sponsored event. Guaranteed to be one of the biggest shows of the year and certain to be packed. Don’t miss out!

Southern Hospitality CD coverEasy Livin’
Blind Pig Records

There have been many attempts over the years to put together “super groups” of multiple talented artists. Sometimes they work and other times not. Southern Hospitality were three good friends who were performing at an event with their own individual bands when they happened to be placed on stage with one another and really dug what they heard. Damon Fowler, J.P. Soars and Victor Wainwright liked it so much that they decided to do some tour dates with each other and to release a recording. That recording, titled Easy Livin’ is an outstanding collection that proves these guys should be playing together. And though it may not be in their own individual styles necessarily that you’d hear each of them at their own shows, it is a fantastic blend of all things that are good in Southern music.

Fowler and Soars each offer monstrous guitar work and Wainwright just might be the finest piano playing bluesman going these days (as recently noted by his being named the Pinetop Perkins Piano Player of the Year at the Blues Music Awards). Filling out the band are bass player Chuck Riley from Damon Fowler’s band and drummer Chris Peet from J.P. Soars outfit. Fowler works quite a bit on the disc on lap-slide guitar which delivers some really fine flavor to the mix.

The song selections are reminiscent of great Southern artists ranging from The Allman Brothers to Jerry Lee Lewis to Little Feat to Paul Thorn. It encompasses R&B, soul, gospel, country and jazz all within its own blues takes. The guitar playing on Willie Bobo’s “Fried Neck Bones and Home Fries” is inspiring with Wainwright laying down killer organ passages. Other tracks catching my attention are “Long Way Home” that captures J.P. Soars at his finest on slide with his vocals which are nearly Howlin’ Wolf-like, the frivolity of the western swing piece “Mile After Mile” that sounds very much like a tune you’d expect from Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks with a fun little whistle thrown in during each chorus that’ll have you smiling, Wainwright’s boogie intensity alongside Fowler’s lap-slide and Soars’ quick guitar pace on “Don’t Boogie Woogie” is sheer enjoyment, and the closing beauty of the trio on “Sky Is What I Breathe” accompanied by a lone guitar, it reminds me somewhat of Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks’ song “Back Where I Started” with its ability to set emotions loose in its pureness.

While Southern Hospitality is a collection of outstanding blues artists in their own right, they have discovered a powerful arrangement here as a collaboration. This is one super group that I would love to hear more from. Easy Livin’ is a modern Southern classic. Not a blues classic, not a rock classic . . . just a classic all-around recording no matter what form of music you prefer. Thumbs up for a stellar disc!


Total Time: 60:40

Southern Livin’ / Long Way Home / Kind Lies & Whiskey / Mile After Mile / Certified Lover / Fried Neck Bones And Home Fries / Shoestring Budget / Don’t Feel Like Going There Today / Come Back Home / Powered For The Mountain / Don’t Boogie Woogie / Sky Is What I Breathe

Ramblings on My Mind by Greg Johnson - CBA PresidentI’d be lying to you if I said that I didn’t enjoy my recent trip to Memphis to assist with The Blues Foundation once again at the Blues Music Awards. I arrived Wednesday morning around 9:00 am and Deputy Director (and one of my closest friends) Joe Whitmer had me working as soon as I stepped foot through the office door. And it didn’t end until the awards show ended late Thursday night (or should I say Friday morning). But I loved every minute.

My main role at the Blues Music Awards the past three years has been working as a stage manager with Paul Averwater. Paul is one of the best in the MidSouth and always in demand. We spent all day Thursday doing line-checks with the performers and then returned less than an hour-and-a-half later to run the stage for the show for the next six-to-seven hours. It is my job to make sure that all the artists are ready to go on stage well in advance and have them in place so when one act ends, the other starts immediately. Kind of like the way the Waterfront Blues Festival runs the two main stages in the bowl, alternating back and forth. But this is one large stage divided into two parts, and I am running back and forth to opposite sides, changing acts every ten minutes. Always great sets delivered by the showcased acts. If I had to pick and choose my favorites this year I would have to top it off with Victor Wainwright’s extraordinary solo piano that brought the entire audience to a hush to listen closely. The Heritage Blues Orchestra was sensational, even more so when they had Eric Bibb sit in for a number. Joe Louis Walker has always been a favorite and having him trade guitar licks with Murali Coryell was superb. As was Mud Morganfield backed by one of the tightest Chicago all stars bands running. Curtis Salgado burned the house down with his soulful set. As did John Nemeth. And Royal Southern Brotherhood was the perfect act to close the night leaving the audience wanting more after a terrific cover of The Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” had them on their feet.

 Aside from the Blues Music Awards, I was fortunate to catch many fantastic artists that I do not get a chance to see too often like Greg Nagy, Gina Sicilia, Diunna Greenleaf, JW-Jones, EG Kight, Lisa Biales, Paula Harris, Dennis Gruenling, John Primer and more. Of course there are long-time friends I always try to catch up with like Jeff Jensen, Brandon Santini and Eric Hughes.

 But the best times are always those spent with close friends, not necessarily at a show. Being able to hang out with Henry Gavaldon . . . these are the people who make memories special. Big thanks to Joe, Sara, Jay Sielman, Priscilla Hernandez and Cindi James for making me feel as part of The Blues Foundation family. Cannot wait to head back again.

 But back to home, and the first matter of business is the Journey To Memphis competition. We have another strong line-up this year, so we hope to see you come out to the Trails End the first full weekend of June to help us select our next International Blues Challenge representatives and to raise some funds to help them get back to Tennessee. This is always one of the most fun events that the CBA holds, so hope to see many of you there. The summer just does not start right until the Journey To Memphis begins.

 Alas, as I did last month with the passing of my good friend, drummer Pete Muir, it is my unfortunate position to let you know that we lost another friend and musician right at the BluesNotes deadline arrived. Most people may remember Henry Gavaldon as the longtime bassist with Boogie Bone and those who knew him will forever remark what a kind, wonderful person he truly was. Henry passed following complications from surgery. Godspeed Henry. It surely is only the best who seem to be taken away from us way too soon. Sending my deepest condolences and best thoughts to Henry’s family and friends.