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Original Music

The 2015 Big Bend Blues Bash opened with a bang Friday evening, but don’t worry there’s a full slate of great music on tap for Saturday beginning at 1 p.m.

The Dirt Poor Troubadours.

The Dirt Poor Troubadours.

Local favorites, The Dirt Poor Troubadours opened the Friday evening festivities with a great set of Americana-country-outlaw original tunes. The four piece band from the Meigs County area welcomed the good sized early crowd with easily identifiable songs about about work, relationships and having a good time in gritty, but beautiful, southeastern Ohio. In an interesting twist, part way through the set, lead singer/guitarist Ben Davis Jr. slipped off his trusty Gibson acoustic and slipped on Jacob Dunn’s bass for several songs while Dunn introduced the fans to a couple of his original songs. As always, Dustin Nash held down the lead guitar tasks with strong but tasteful riffs in true wailin’ country style. Brad Jones provided the solid back-beat on the drums.

 

Blitzkrieg.

Blitzkrieg.

Classic rockers and area favorites, Blitzkrieg, were on the stage next. For years guitarist Lyle Moon and his brother bassist Phil Moon have been a big part of the Meigs Co. live music scene. And this line up, with Ed Sisson on guitar and Rob Heady on drums, has truly honed a powerful classic rock sound for an awesome 29 years. Blitzkreig energized the crowd with party ready heavy guitar parts and great four part vocals. As you can see the weather and the rock were both perfect!

 

 

Red Stone Souls.

Red Stone Souls.

Detroit rockers Red Stone Souls were up next. “We met Jackie Welker about 5 years ago and Pomeroy has become our home away from home,” guitarist/vocalist Ian Kirwan declared early into their set. The band brought their A-game delivering a dose of “dirty Detroit blues” in the vein of Zeppelin meets Jack White. Drummer Travis Erikson and bassist Kevin Bernard laid a bombastic groove while guitarist Beau Felix and Kirwan handled the supersonic leads. You can catch Red Stone Souls closing out the weekend party at the Grill tonight!

 

Up next, not your average band from Nashville or anywhere for that matter, Simo! Power three piece may be the understatement of the century when searching for an apt description. Barefoot and harboring one of the kindest spirits in the universe, guitarist/vocalist JD Simo literally brought the entire crowd to it’s feet with his trademark guitar expertise. A vintage Marshall amp head or two, a vintage wah pedal and a beautiful vintage sunburst Les Paul were all the tools necessary for Simo to unleash his sonic joy upon the crowd. Drummer Adam Abrashoff, stationed behind a handsome kit of Ludwig emerald green metal flake drums, provided the unbridled power and the clockwork precision necessary to complement Simo’s guitar melee. Bassist Elad Shapiro rounded out the trio’s sound with powerfully clean and sometimes dirty bass lines. A stunning performance of what most closely resembled the late Joe Cocker’s version of “With a Little Help From My Friends” had fans in music euphoria!

Simo.

Simo.

 

Closing out the first evening of the Bash was not going to be an easy job, but make no mistake, The Chris Duarte Group were 100% ready for the task! Currently based out of Atlanta, Duarte has enjoyed success since cutting his teeth in the red-hot Texas blues rock scene of the 80’s. And as a veteran guitar player of international acclaim, Duarte unleashed a repertoire of 30+ years of guitar creativity on the the Blues Bash crowd. Blues … and jazz … and metal … and soul … and funk … even a little rap groove all churned together, like the tail-waters of a powerful Ohio River barge, into a melting pot of powerful songs. Duarte was a mad genius as he worked a myriad of guitar pedals which expanded the sonic horizons to levels rarely heard. Holding this trio together was drummer John McKnight playing some of the most dynamic and intricate drum lines of the evening. Guest bassist Yoshi Oagasahara, as you might surmise from Japan, rounded out this outstanding trio with a solid pulse and groove that literally had folks dancing on the asphalt unlike often seen!

The Chris Duarte Group.

The Chris Duarte Group.

A huge thanks to Larry Wright as well, Larry Wright Signature Drums is supplying the beautiful set of handmade custom drums which many of the artists will use during the Blues Bash!

Today’s line up features a ton of great music. Do not miss this!

Saturday, July 25, MAIN STAGE

  • 1:00pm         The Azztones
  • 2:00pm        Chaz Humley & the Effects
  • 3:30pm        Blue Z Band
  • 5:00pm        Noah Wotherspoon Band
  • 6:30pm        Johnny Rawls
  • 8:00pm       The Kinsey Report
  • 10:00pm     Eric Gales Trio

Red Stone Souls will rock the Court Street Grill tonight as well!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

bbbb2015It’s tough enough finding really great and inspiring music these days, and when one does finally discover some seriously good live music it’s even more fun when it comes from what would seem like an unlikely place.

On July 24th and 25th, Pomeroy, OH becomes the music capital of Ohio and the Midwest, as the small Ohio River town welcomes fans for the 15th Annual Big Bend Blues Bash.

The two-day festival gets it’s name from the curvature of the Ohio River has it snakes its way through the region. As for the origin of the rest of the name just look to the organizers, the Pomeroy Blues and Jazz Society. They’re the local group that does a great job of bringing music of all genres to this quaint Ohio town.

Over the years, the festival has grown from a heavy dose of the blues to one which is still deeply rooted in the blues, but also presents music of other genres which has been deeply influenced by the blues. Throw in a few local bands and one has a truly diverse and entertaining lineup of music!

In its early years, the festival was a one-day event, but several years ago organizers decided to expand the musical horizons of the event and offer what has become a more rock and roll flavored Friday evening.

Instead of having a paragraph about each performer, please read the short descriptive phrases and trust that they’re all fun and talented! Here’s the start times and a short description.

The crowd enjoys the beautiful Blues Bash weather and music!

The crowd enjoys the beautiful Blues Bash weather and music!

Friday, July 24, MAIN STAGE

  • 5:00pm     Dirt Poor Troubadours (twang n’ roll energy from some great young local musicians)
  • 6:00pm     Blitzkrieg (blues meet classic rocker jams from longtime area musicians and good guys)
  • 7:00pm     Red Stone Souls (big, fuzzy, high energy guitar grooves from Detroit rockers)
  • 8:00pm     SIMO (incendiary psychedelic blues rock from the nicest bunch of guys)
  • 10:00pm    Chris Duarte Group (remarkable red hot Texas blues with a touch of Hendrix soul)

 

The Simo Band rocks the Saturday evening Blues Bash crowd!

The Simo Band rocks the Saturday evening Blues Bash crowd!

 

Saturday, July 25, MAIN STAGE

  • 1:00pm        Azztones (bluesy, funky rockin’ soul with a twist)
  • 2:00pm        Chaz Humley & the Effects (PBJ amateur blues comp winners from St. Albans)
  • 3:30pm        Blue Z Band (local fun loving classic rockers with a streak of the blues)
  • 5:00pm        Noah Wotherspoon Band (straight ahead guitar blues power trio from Dayton)
  • 6:30pm        Johnny Rawls (smooth southern blues and soul to get your groove on to)
  • 8:00pm       Kinsey Report (legendary Chicago style blues grooves from Gary, IN)
  • 10:00pm     Eric Gales Trio (Prodigal talent. BB, Albert King, Jimi. Universal blues rock power)

And just up the street at the Court Street Grill, the Noah Wotherspoon Band will be performing on July 24th at 10pm and the Red Stone Souls will close the weekend out on July 25th at 10pm.

Admission is only $25 per person for a weekend pass! Admission for Friday is only $15 and $20 for Saturday only. Kids 12 and under are admitted free. The event is held rain or shine but the weather is looking like a beautiful forecast. There are no refunds. Fans should bring a camp chair or blanket.

Coolers are welcome, but no alcoholic beverages please. Event sponsors will be on hand to provide beer, wine and some of the Blues Bear’s legendary frozen drinks. There’s also always plenty of good food to be had from various festival vendors!

Call 740-992-6524 or 1-800-MEIGS-CO for more information or visit www.pomeroyblues.org for more info.

 

 

 

wocarcant poster 85x11Sometimes everything just seems to fall into place; sometimes it seems even almost too good! And that’s the case as the Mid Ohio Valley Americana Music Tribute Series presents “Roots on the Ohio” on Friday evening.

The show will be held next to the river at the Ohio Valley Rowing Club (OVRC) located at 2201 Keever St. in Parkersburg and feature Tommy Womack, Adam and Chris Carroll and Chris Canterbury. The gates open at 6 p.m. and music will begin at 7 p.m.

“We were planning a show with Adam and Chris Carroll, which perform as two solo acts and just happen to be husband and wife,” music coordinator Jeff Fox said, ”they had played a show for us last year and asked to stop by next time they toured our part of the country. The Tyler, TX residents were on the book when Tommy Womack contacted us,” Fox said.

Tommy Womack

Tommy Womack

Tommy Womack has played several shows benefitting the Parkersburg office of the Children’s Home Society of WV,so he was a welcome addition to the bill. Womack is from East Nashville and is well known in the Americana music circles. He is currently performing a series of reunion shows with his 80’s era alt-rock band, Government Cheese. “But on Friday, we’ll get Tommy one on one, with an acoustic guitar and delivering his original songs with all the intensity and uniqueness for which he is renowned,” Fox said.

Even as Womack has been busy strapping on a Telecaster for his shows with Government Cheese, he is still deeply connected to bare roots of Americana music. He’s played with other great roots players such as Will Kimbrough, Lisa Oliver-Gray and other buzz-worthy East Nashville artists. But it’s his way of looking at life coupled with honesty, heart and the wit that he pours into his songs that have helped Womack earn the unofficial title “Nashville’s best loved musical eccentric.”

Adam Carroll

Adam Carroll

Adam Carroll has been noted as a great influence to great songwriters like Slaid Cleaves and Hayes Carll; his gift of turning everyday common experiences into a twisted and often humorous way of looking at life have drawn Carroll accolades from the seven releases in his repertoire.

“Chris Carroll is a Canadian born songwriter, and Adam’s wife, and will bring a great contrast to our male dominated line up,” Fox said. Her music helps to exemplify the different genres that melt together to form Americana music, add to that a Natalie Merchant-esque voice and you have some very appealing songs, many from her latest release 2014’s “Trouble & Time.”

The show was set, or was it? “I received a text message from one of our

Chris Carroll

Chris Carroll

other great contributors from East Nashville, Kevin Gordon, and he was hoping to find a show for fellow musician and East Nashville resident, Chris Canterbury” Fox said, “Kevin’s been great to work with over the years, so it was easy to do him a favor, plus we inadvertently ended up with a really great little Americana music festival,” Fox added.

Even though this is his first trip to Parkersburg, Canterbury has played in Morgantown. “Although I’ve only played once in West Virginia, I’ve sold quite a few records and downloads in the state. You people seem to dig good music. That’s really refreshing,” Canterbury said.

Chris Canterbury

Chris Canterbury

So how does playing an unknown town and venue affect a musician? “I’d be lying if I said it’s not a little intimidating, but once I start playing and singing, it seems to all kind of fall into place. I don’t talk a lot on stage, as in crowd banter, but actually I tend to open up a little more in uncharted territory. It’s an honor to be on the same bill as these guys…really humbling…but it’s also a little push to give a little more,” Canterbury said.

Admission for the show is a recommended donation of $10 for adults, $5 for current college students and youngsters through high school students are admitted free with parent, but no music fan is turned away due to a financial situation.

“The folks at the OVRC continue to be great to work with and we love doing something a little different by presenting music along this scenic stretch of river,” Fox said, “We invite folks to bring a camp chair, blanket, food and beverages and enjoy some great music.” With temperatures dropping into the low 60’s, a bonfire is also possible and folks have enjoyed roasting a marshmallow or two during past shows.

For more info visit and like the “Mid Ohio Valley Americana Music Tribute Series” page on Facebook or call 304-485-0650.

Jeff Plankenhorn plays his namesake electric slide guitar known as "The Plank".

Jeff Plankenhorn plays his namesake electric slide guitar known as “The Plank”.

Any band needs a great front person singing, strumming and sharing a witty story or two. But often times their success is only as good as those surrounding him or her onstage. On Thursday, January 22nd the Mid-Ohio Valley Americana Music Tribute Series is proud to present a musician who wears those hats and a few more, Austin, TX based singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer Jeff Plankenhorn.

Plankenhorn can be found touring with Texas songwriting greats like Joe Ely, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Slaid Cleaves and others; his instrumental versatility and originality is in high demand. But other times, he can be found playing with one of the three Austin bands with which he collaborates or hitting the road as a solo act as he is doing in early 2015.

“We’re excited that Jeff Plankenhorn found time to make a stop in our little city, he truly is very talented and very busy musician,” said Children’s Home Society of WV CEO Steve Tuck. The show will be held at The Worthington Ballroom (3414 Roseland Ave., Parkersburg, WV 26104) and begin at 8 p.m. “The show will benefit the Parkersburg office of the Children’s Home Society of WV,” Tuck said.

Plankenhorn got his musical start as a member of the church choir in his boyhood home state of Ohio. His older brother passed down a guitar and the young “Plank”, as he is affectionately known, became engrossed at learning all he could about stringed instruments. After high school, Plank headed to the University of Michigan where he performed regularly throughout Ann Arbor. He eventually headed to Nashville before landing in his current hometown of Austin.

Along the way, Plank immersed himself in various musical genres at each stop. Gospel, Motown soul, funk, bluegrass, country, blues and hard

Plankenhorn is a talented instrumentalist who skills are in demand by the likes of Joe Ely, Ray Wylie Hubbard and other prolific Texas songwriters.

Plankenhorn is a talented instrumentalist who skills are in demand by the likes of Joe Ely, Ray Wylie Hubbard and other prolific Texas songwriters.

rock music have influenced Plank and allowed him to create a very unique and identifiable sound played on a variety of instruments, including his own custom built electric slide guitar, known as “The Plank”.

Chris Keesey can be found fronting the SE Ohio "The Band Keesey" and also playing solo shows throughout the region.

Chris Keesey can be found fronting the SE Ohio “The Band Keesey” and also playing solo shows throughout the region.

Chris Keesey will open the show at 8 p.m. The Athens, OH based singer/songwriter will be performing songs from his new EP “Dyin’ Town”. “Keesey draws inspiration from the greats of classic country and Americana and uses it to write very identifiable songs about life in our little neck of Appalachia,” music coordinator Jeff Fox said, “and I look for this show with Jeff and Chris to be a really  energetic and dynamic show!”

Tickets are available at the door on the night of the show. A donation of $10 is recommended, however fans are never turned away due to financial reasons. “While this is a charitable event, we also know that some folks may be experiencing tough times, and we don’t want to turn music lovers away. We’re happy with any amount one can afford to give,” Fox said, “and we want everyone to get a chance to enjoy the national and regional talent that we’ve luckily been able to present at our shows.”

carroll copyMusic often finds its story-line in the realm of relationships and within its twists and turns. But for husband and wife, Adam and Chris Carroll, music is a way of life. On Friday October 24th, the Carroll’s will bring their brand of Texas flavored Americana music to the Worthington Ballroom at 3414 Roseland Avenue in Parkersburg, WV.  The event is part of the Mid-Ohio Valley Americana Music Tribute Series and will benefit the Children’s Home Society of WV – Parkersburg Office.

“The core of what I do is songwriting; it’s the one thing I’m passionate about. It’s the most fulfilling and challenging job I can imagine,” Carroll said. This passion for songwriting led Carroll to a partnership with Grammy award-winner Lloyd Maines. Maines has produced Carroll’s albums throughout his career, working hard to capture the Carroll’s excellent songwriting skills. And the critics and fans have taken notice.

Adam Carroll

Adam Carroll

Carroll is often compared to the legendary folk songwriters like John Prine, Bob Dylan, and more recently Todd Snider but as with those artists, Carroll’s most impressive comparison may well be the comparisons with fellow Texan, the late Townes Van Zandt. Carroll is currently touring in support of his most recent album, “Let It Choose You.”

Joining Adam will be his wife, Chris, also an acclaimed songwriter. Born in St. Catherines, Ontario, Chris found her love of music and performance in the 4th grade choir. From there she was hooked and explored a wide range of musical genres. Her songs exhibit touches of Americana, blues, r&b, jazz and country music. Chris will be performing songs from her first full length album, “Trouble and Time.”

Chris Carroll

Chris Carroll

Tickets are available the evening of the show. The doors will open at 7:00 p.m. with music starting around 8:00 p.m. A $10 donation is recommended but folks are welcome to contribute whatever they can afford. For more information, one can contact 304-485-0650 during the day. More info is also available at “Mid Ohio Valley Americana Music Tribute Series” on Facebook.

 

Mark Stuart returns to Parkerburg once again helping to raise funds for the Parkersburg office of the Children's Home Society of WV.s

Mark Stuart returns to Parkersburg once again helping to raise funds for the Parkersburg office of the Children’s Home Society of WV.

In music, miles matter. Stories from the road often change into songs for future audiences … and Mark Stuart has plenty of both under his hat. Tonight, Friday September 12th, Stuart will bring his 30+ years of performing his unique brand of roots music Ohio Valley Rowing Club located at 2201 Keever St. in Parkersburg, WV. Jimmy Clinton and Hank Poole are sharing the bill as well. The event is part of the Mid-Ohio Valley Americana Music Tribute Series and will benefit two local non-profit organizations, the Children’s Home Society of WV – Parkersburg Office and the Ohio Valley Rowing Club.

Stuart returns to once again help out with our charitable cause. He and wife, Stacey Earle, have performed several times at the coffeehouse series which were held in the old offices of the Children’s Home Society. Since the age of 15, Stuart has been playing roots music, an all-American blend of rock, folk, country and blues. He’s a talented multi-instrumentalist who has fronted various bands over the years but has also stepped away from the spotlight to perform as part of the touring band for the likes of Steve Earle, Joan Baez, Freddy Fender, Steve Forbert and others. Possibly his sweetest gig has been with his wife and the 2000+ shows they have performed worldwide. Stuart has been on the road for much of the past year wowing audiences with guitar wizardry, great original songs and some tribute songs to old bandmates … and of course some entertaining stories of life on the road.

 

Jimmy Clinton will provide a great set of his original songs sure to include some of your favorites!

Jimmy Clinton will provide a great set of his original songs sure to include some of your favorites!

Jimmy Clinton is no stranger to Parkersburg area music fans and he’s a veteran of several decades of live music as well. The songwriter/guitarist has entertained throughout region with The Larries in the 1980’s, Jimmy Clinton and The Mean Red Spiders in the 1990’s, as a solo or duo acoustic act with Todd Burge in the 2000’s and The Jimmy Clinton Band in the 2010’s. No matter what the format, Clinton offers up soulful originals born from the blues of the 50’s, the folk of the 60’s and the rock of the 70’s & 80’s!

 

While our first two performers have many, many miles and shows under their belts, nine-year old Hank Poole is relatively new to the music scene. But don’t let this newcomer fool you. Poole respects the heritage of great music and delivers it through his spirited tribute to the King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley. Hank recently won First Place in the Junior Division competition at the world’s largest Elvis Festival held in Collingwood, Ontario. The young performer has also performed at Graceland and in Tupelo, MS as part of Elvis Week.

Nine year old Hank Poole will bring his musical enthusiasm with a set of music in tribute to Elvis Presley!

Nine year old Hank Poole will bring his musical enthusiasm with a set of music in tribute to Elvis Presley!

The show is held on the banks of the scenic Ohio River. Music fans are welcome to bring their favorite beverage and food, but no glass please. A lawn chair or blanket is also recommended. The gates will open at 6:30 p.m. with music starting around 7 p.m. A $10 donation is recommended but folks are welcome to contribute whatever they can afford. In case of rain the show will be moved inside the boathouse. For more information, one can contact 304-485-0650 during the day. More info is also available at “Mid Ohio Valley Americana Music Tribute Series” on Facebook.

big_bend14As the summer temperatures increase so do the number of outdoor musical events in the Mid-Ohio Valley and nearby areas. One can find festivals at college campuses, remote mountaintop farms and even in minor league stadiums … all of which are extremely entertaining. But one of the the best kept bargains of great original music can be found this weekend in the river village of Pomeroy, Ohio.

 

This weekend, Friday July 25th and Saturday July 26th, will mark the 14th anniversary of the Big Bend Blues Bash. The festival is the result of the hard work of the Pomeroy Blues and Jazz Society (www.pomeroyblues.org) and Pomeroy area businesses and supportive citizens. The Bash has undergone a metamorphosis over those 14 years … And while the weekend is still rooted in the blues, all types of original music genres are represented by the excellent lineup of performers.

 

The Bash has a great setting overlooking the “big bend” in the Ohio River from its perch next to Main St. The stage, sound and lighting are all of excellent quality and music fans can chose to set up their camp chairs at varying distances depending on their tastes in volume. Traditionally, over half a dozen food vendors attend the event offering unique food and beverages. Plus downtown Pomeroy businesses also welcome the music lovers.

 

Now for lovers of live, original music, this show is truly a no-brainer. It’s an easy and scenic 40 minute drive from Parkersburg (US 50 to OH 7 South), has a lineup packed full truly interesting and talented bands and is one of the best bargains in music festival pricing you’ll find all summer long. Only $15 for Friday evening, $20 for a full day of music on Saturday … Or the intelligent package deal of $25 for the entire weekend!

 

As mentioned before this festival has grown over the years. Once a single day event rigidly adhering to the blues genre … the organizers listened to feedback and met the demand of the audience. Essentially folks wanted a little more variety and more music is always a good thing. Hence the evolution into a two day festival.Generally Friday night is seen as more of the “work-week-is-done time to blow of some steam” night.Maybe a little more aggressive, a little more rock and roll, a little crazier … and this year will not be and exception. OK … Saturday will be just as raucous of hootenanny … but folks shouldn’t forgo Friday evening!

 

At 6 pm area classic rockers Blitzkrieg will rock their many local fans. Then get ready for an uptempo dose of The Beatles provided by The Lennon Orchestra (7 pm) which hails from the Athens & Columbus area. Next up … blues fans this is your cue … Michael Locke and the Repeat Offenders (8 pm) return to Pomeroy with some Stratocaster fueled blues. Rip Lee Pryor (9 pm) is up next with some smokin’ Chicago style blues that harp fans will surely enjoy. Closing out the Friday night show at 10 pm will be everybody’s favorite simians … The Gas House Gorillas from NYC! The Gorillas are hauling a truckload of swagger and attitude, blues & swing & soul & rock n’ roll back to Pomeroy And this is just Friday’s lineup … whew!

 

Saturday’s lineup highlights some great southeastern Ohio musicians throughout the afternoon and kicks off at high noon with local alt-country rockers, Ben Davis Jr. and the Dirt Poor Troubadours. The Meigs county favorites have been working on some new tunes for a Bash debut!  At 1 pm the .32-20 Band from Charleston, WV will provide a dose of some classic blues ala Waters, Wolf and Reed … but faithfully amp it up to today’s modern blues sound! Sonic diversity hits the main stage at 2 pm as Ecco Mecca returns to the Bash with an intoxicating blend of electronica with dashes of jazz, soul and groove. Bash alumni, The Magic Mama Band, bring the blues, soul, funk and high powered vocals to the main stage at 3pm … expect a great local following and plenty of newly won over fans! At 4 pm another local fave, the Blue Z Band keeps the afternoon rolling with a great mix of blues, classic rock and all songs perfect for fun in the sun. At 5 pm the Bash will switch gears with a wonderful set of Appalachian Americana from the hills of Kentucky with Sasha Colette. Next up are old friends and blues competition winners of the Pomeroy Blues and Jazz Society, Chaz Humley and the Effects from South Charleston. Chaz and the gang are right in the pocket with a solid blues groove they rode to Memphis!

 

At 7 pm the segue begins to more national talent as guitar slinger Howard Glazer and the EL-34’s take the main stage. The award winning Detroit guitarist may offer up some Diddley-style, some classic shuffles, some all out rock … but be ready for the fiery slide guitar work that has wowed  fans around the world! At 8 pm Simo returns to one of their fave places to play. If you’ve caught them at the Grill, then you know this is red hot, straight ahead blues rock from a couple decades back, but folks it’s all fresh and new … no wonder Bonamassa calls JD Simo one of his favorite guitar players out there today! At 9:30 pm the Devon Allman Band will jam! Sure he’s got a famous father, but this is all Devon. The group is touring in support of their recent album “Turquoise”. Allman strikes out with a solid southern blues rock groove full of soul and storytelling that only a child of rock and roll could retell!

 

The party doesn’t stop once the Bash winds down each night either! The Court Street Grill will be jamming on Friday night with the Red Stone Souls from Detroit and on Saturday night get ready to see the strings played off a Stratocaster with the Noah Wotherspoon Band. Both shows start 10 pm-ish! See ya’ there!

It’s been a long, tough winter for area residents and if ya’ haven’t had a touch of the blues during these frigid months you’re one of the lucky ones. But a few things happen every March, the daylight gets a little longer, the air gets a little warmer and one of the year’s premiere music events occurs. And this Friday night and Saturday there’s no better place to shake those winter blues than at the Hotel Lafayette in Marietta, OH.

The Blues, Jazz and Folk Music Society (www.bjfm.org) will once again present one of the year’s most anticipated music events … the 23rd Annual River City Blues Festival. This year’s festival will have a special significance by honoring the late, longtime BJFM President “Cobbler John” Bolen. Bolen was a driving force for several decades, dedicated to bringing unique, authentic and wonderful roots music to the Mid-Ohio Valley. He will be greatly missed but he’ll also be expecting an all out house-rocking celebration of music from the fans!

The Tee Dee Young Band

The Tee Dee Young Band

This year’s festival will certainly follow that great music tradition! Throw away your misconceptions of blues music being a solemn presentation, it is far from it. In fact, it is often the most ass shakin’, party startin’ music to be found. A perfect soundtrack for a spring thaw! The festival is actually so filled with great music it is divided into three events … a Friday night show, a Saturday matinee and a Saturday night finale.

The fun kicks off Friday evening as 2014 BJFM River City Blues Competition winners, The Tee Dee Young Band (www.teedeeyoung.com), take the stage. Young fronts a super tight five piece band from Louisville featuring drums, bass, keyboards, saxophone and guitar, a band more than capable of powerfully presenting a wide range of feel good blues tunes. Young will be representing the BJFM at the 2015 International Blues Competition in Memphis, TN next January … come out and see why! “Young’s playing and singing are authentic to the genre but oblivious to current industry trends. His guitar is a weapon, wielded with total authority, assailing the listener with his sheer virtuosity!” – Tee Dee Young bio page.

Chris O' Leary

Chris O’ Leary

Most blues musicians have a family tree that touches back through some very famous blues families and players, but every now and then that lineage runs into some roots rock and roll. Chris O’ Leary (www.thechrisolearyband.com) is one of those unique individuals who has bridged several genres. O’ Leary spent six years touring the world as the leader of the late Levon Helm’s band, The Barnburners, laying down harp and vocals. But now O’ Leary is busy fronting his namesake band and will be headlining on Friday night. The band brings together six talented musicians who have experience excelling in several different musical genres but on Friday night get ready for some harp fueled Chicago-style power blues! “O’Leary … is a more than capa­ble singer and Chicago-style har­mon­ica styl­ist; the proof comes in the shuf­fles and jump num­bers he han­dles with suave assur­ance on his debut record­ing. It’s really the slow tempo of Blues is a Woman that draws out his best singing, rem­i­nis­cent of Jimmy With­er­spoon. His Hud­son Valley-based cohorts stir up the all-original mate­r­ial with­out fal­ter­ing. Young gui­tarist Chris Vitarello mer­its notice for his tech­ni­cal pow­ers and imag­i­na­tion, his reach extend­ing to rock­a­billy and swing­ing jazz.“
– Frank-John Hadley, Down­beat Magazine

Schools That Rock directed by Mark Doebrich

Schools That Rock directed by Mark Doebrich

Day two of the festival kicks off Saturday morning at 11:30 a.m. BJFM volunteer and local musician Mark Doebrich leads area music students in the “Schools That Rock” performance. Elementary, middle and high school age students comprise the group which gives the young, aspiring musicians a chance to not only learn the history of blues and rock and roll, but also chance to perform it live onstage! This performance is free for all to enjoy.

The Hoodoo Men

The Hoodoo Men

At 1:30 p.m. the Saturday matinee revs up for an afternoon of impromptu blues history. The Hoodoo Men open the show with their Deep South raw and gritty blues sound. Heavy on the Mississippi juke joint sound, the duo of Bill Steber and Sammy Baker rely on a variety of instruments to create a retro mid-1900’s blues vibe … the early howlin’ days of pickups and amplifiers and the new sounds that came with the electricity … but even still, the electric jug is a truly one of a kind party starter! “Cheap-ass vintage Teisco guitars, p90 pickups, over-driven tube amps, groovin’ drum shuffles, dirty concrete floors, butt-shakin’ hoarse-hollerin’ flask-drinkin’ 3am still bumpin’ yes ma’am blues music.” – The Hoodoo Men.

Blind Boy Paxton

Blind Boy Paxton

At 3:00 p.m., Jerron “Blind Boy” Paxton takes the stage and the blues history lesson continues. Paxton takes elements of ragtime, old time mountain music, early blues and more, melding them together in a glorious presentation which will make the audience forget they’re listening to a young man in his mid-20’s. Paxton uses guitar, banjo, fiddle, vocals and a contagious joy to present what has been called “the next generation of the acoustic blues” by Living Blues magazine. “He’s witty, fast rhyming, poetic, fun, exciting, wonderfully skilled as a musician and a fine singer, he is the continuation of a proud tradition, literally and figuratively. It’s hard to tell at times when Jerron Paxton, a consummate entertainer,  is putting on an act, when he takes his act to real life and when life starts and the act ends.” – www.thecountryblues.com

Thornetta Davis

Thornetta Davis

Rounding out the afternoon show at 4:30 p.m. will be Detroit-born blues empress Thornetta Davis (www.thornettadavis.com). Davis rose to acclaim playing in rhythm and blues bands in the Detroit area. But she has also provided backing vocals for some of Detroit’s biggest rock performers like Bob Seger and Kid Rock. But Davis has been infusing the blues into her soulful sounds since the 80’s and has had her songs featured in commercials, movies and even the HBO hit groundbreaking series The Sopranos! Heavy on the soul, her rhythm and blues background with a touch of rock and roll … Davis always provides a great spirited performance! “Thornetta Davis can sing R&B, soul, rock & alternative, but it is the blues Thornetta deals with in this her first live CD.  Covered Live is a musical snapshot of the usual high-energy show at the Music Menu Cafe in downtown Detroit.  This is lady T’s gift to her many fans, a slice of a live performance with all the favorites like Black Drawers, Muddy Water, & Damn Your Eyes.  After over twenty Motor City Music Awards, there is no doubt Thornetta stands today as Detroit’s most loved and respected female vocalist.  No one can match the smooth power of her voice or her over all soul.” – RJ Spangler for Big City Blues Magazine.

Long Tall Deb

Long Tall Deb

After a break for dinner from around 6 p.m. until 8 p.m., the Saturday night finale begins.  Long Tall Deb (www.longtalldeb.com) takes the stage at 8 p.m. with her band The Werewolves of Alabama. Long Tall Deb is a BJFM favorite, helping with blues competition judging, rocking last years Red, White & Blues festival and forming a strong musical friendship with the MOV! Deb is joined by Colin John on guitar; once described by Guitar Player magazine as “what Jimi Hendrix might have sounded like if he abandoned the rat race, moved to Hawaii, taken up surfing and let the sun and waves bestow their laid-back high.” John Popovich brings his experience on the keys while Melvin Powe and Jan Roll hold down the solid rhythm section on bass and drums. The Werewolves bring the groove to the dance floor while Deb’s powerful yet smooth vocals share the passion to one’s heart! When I heard Long Tall Deb’s recordings, it was easy to know we hoped she’d choose the VizzTone Label Group for her CD. “When I shared the bandstand with her, and watched her perform, I was very impressed with her as a singer and entertainer as well. Her power is friendly and soulful and I recommend her to you enthusiastically!”  – Bob Margolin

The Victor Wainwright Band

The Victor Wainwright Band

Closing out the festival will be The Victor Wainwright Band (www.victorwainwright.com). Wainwright is a high energy keyboardist that slams out some mean honky-tonk while moving booties with some hard core boogie. Wainwright’s live performances have been called “beautiful madness.” Wainwright is joined by a true young gun of the Memphis blues scene, Nick Black who provides the incendiary guitar work. And with drummer Billy Dean and bassist Will Hanlon holding down the beat and thump, Wainwright is free to focus 100% on ensuring the crowd gets down to the sound! One of the greatest qualities a band can have is road experience and the Victor Wainwright Band regularly plays over 300 shows a year. It’s no wonder they’ve received high acclaim from industry stalwarts like Billboard, Blues Beat, BMA, Living Blues, House of Blues Radio, Sirius/XM and others.  But this band doesn’t just collect awards, they electrify fans with their frolicking, good time sounds! “Wainwright serves as an electrifying guide to a good time-spinning tales, telling his listeners how to beat the blues, and meticulously conjuring raw soul and energy out of his acoustic piano.He displays a sharp sense of humor and a knack for storytelling…. Every track is brilliant.” – Living Blues Magazine

If one is not a member of the BJFM, it is highly recommended to join and support this wonderful, non-profit musical organization. The yearly dues are only $15 and are easily recouped by the reduced ticket prices that members receive at events throughout the year. For example, a weekend pass for the blues festival is only $50 for members, $70 for non-members. Also if a member can only attend one or two shows of the festival, the costs still works out the same $15 for Friday night, $15 for the Saturday matinee and $20 for Saturday night! Non-member individual show pricing is $25 Friday night, $25 Saturday matinee and $30 Saturday night … yes it pays to be a member. And memberships are available the night of the show, so one can start saving instantly!

I can’t recall the exact date or time when I first met “Cobbler” John Bolen but I can pretty accurately detail the circumstances. I’m quite sure there was live music being played, music which was the work of John and his fellow Blues, Jazz & Folk Music Society (www.bjfm.org) volunteers. And I’m sure his loving and caring wife, Peggy, was not far from his side. For years he served as the president of the BJFMS and with the help of the organization’s dedicated volunteers helped to present some of the finest and most diverse music the Mid-Ohio Valley has ever had the opportunity to enjoy.  I know I was enjoying that music in the early 1990’s when I first met the Cobbler.

2012 River City Blues Competition winner Tee Dee Young chats with BJFMS President Cobbler John!

2012 River City Blues Competition winner Tee Dee Young chats with BJFMS President Cobbler John!

 

Like many folks, I enjoyed the lineups of truly important and legendary blues artists and John’s love of live music. But I also respected his profession, years spent as a craftsman in the lower level of the Dime Bank building in Marietta. He was an artist working an age old trade, breathing life back into a pair of well-worn shoes. He possessed a skilled gift which is sorely missing in much of today’s digital and throwaway world, hence the nickname … The Cobbler.

 

But it was the John’s personal love of music that will leave an impact on so many folk’s lives. I often reminisce about all the great blues artists that he and the BJFMS brought to our area. Thankfully the organization had a large following of dedicated music lovers who would travel hundreds of miles to attend an event in the Mid-Ohio Valley and that dedication allowed the River Cities Blues Festival and Competitions to grow over the past few decades. Sometimes John and I discussed the challenges of getting local folks engaged with the same level of enthusiasm that the visitors brought to the events. Some shared ideas and some scratching our heads … tempered with a cold beer or two and a “we’ll get ‘em next time” attitude. Always realizing how important all the fans were whether from near or far.

 

The Cobbler and his team also worked diligently to provide Celtic, Cajun, Americana and other roots based forms of music to area music fans. I can fondly remember sweating it out on the Hotel Lafayette parquet dance floor while the John wore out a spoon on a washboard on a hot August night during the Swamp Stomp several years back! And another time I had the pleasure of helping with an Appalachian flavored night of acoustic roots music, which gave folks a special opportunity to see John’s life long love of folk music and his fine playing skills. John always worked tirelessly to give the fans his very best.

 

John Bolen onstage in 2012. Thanking the crowd and the bands. A true lover of live music.

John Bolen onstage in 2012. Thanking the crowd and the bands. A true lover of live music.

I have been BJFMS member for many years and specifically had the honor helping to judge five of the River Cities Blues Competitions over the years. This year I recently helped to emcee the event and provide some stagehand help for the competing bands. John was too ill to attend, but while I was helping out I could only think of how I could help the fans enjoy the show more, spark their excitement up another level and get them to feel the joy of the music like the Cobbler always did.

 

We are certainly all saddened by John’s passing and send our condolences to his family. Certainly many deserved thoughts and prayers will be flowing over the next few days but we must also find a way to rejoice in the music he cared so much about. Forgive me if I’m a little off base but somehow I envision a befitting grand farewell … a New Orleans style jazz funeral … somber with respect early and full of spirited music at the end as a celebration of the Cobbler.

 

Realistically, I think it as my personal duty to step up and help to continue the Cobbler’s legacy of music, and hopefully some other music lovers will come forward to help keep alive the fun,  the joy, the importance of the music he loved. It may just be the best tribute of all for our late friend, Cobbler John Bolen. And if I’m smiling, I’ll be listening to that swinging brass section in my head and remembering many good times.

The C&S Railroad boarded in Huntington, WV and headed north to Marietta on Friday night. They didn’t load their boxcars full of lighting fast pseudo blues guitar riffs but instead hauled a dose of blues history north to the River City. As the opener for the Blues, Jazz and Folk Music Society’s 22nd Annual River City Blues Competition the band helped to acclimate music fans to the many styles and nuances which make up the blues.

C&S Railroad kick off the 22nd Annual River City Blues Competition at the opening party Friday eve!

C&S Railroad kick off the 22nd Annual River City Blues Competition at the opening party Friday eve!

Vocalist/guitarist Chris Sutton took the audience on a blues journey that rubbed shoulders with folk, jammed with some southern rock, picked it with the sound of an Appalachian hollow and brought it all together with a smooth, soulful sound. It was a wonderful way to kick off the two day music event.

With the hardy fans in attendance in the mood, the Sean Carney Band from Columbus, OH took the stage. The trio brought their signature electric sound to the Hotel Lafayette Ballroom and filled the dance floor. Carney certainly displayed the bravado which netted him and his band 1st place at the 2007 International Blues Challenge and the Albert King Best Guitarist award that same year.

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The Sean Carney Band filled the Lafayette Ballroom with scorching guitar work and dancing fans!

Carney and his band provided the up-tempo driving blues sound that helped the crowd melt of the winter chill and shake it dry on the dance floor. But fans were in for an added bonus, as Carney had assembled an “Ohio All Star Blues Line Up” which also featured past RCBC winner Roy Fuller and the young and talented Micah Kesselring.

Kesselring displayed his slide guitar chops on his trusty ’59 Gold Top Reissue, while Fuller bust out his ‘60’s Silvertone and revved up the audience with a dose of Elmore James and Hound Dog Taylor. For the few folks not wanting to dance, it just wasn’t a fair fight … this blues revue brought the lowdown boogie and it all feet on the floor!

As the festivities closed for the eve at the hotel, many blues fans crossed the street and made the short walk down Front St. to the Over The Moon Pizzeria for a late night blues jam.

Chris Sutton performs at the late night blues jam...each night at Over the Moon Pizzeria and Lounge.

Chris Sutton performs at the late night blues jam…each night at Over the Moon Pizzeria and Lounge.

If you didn’t make it out Friday night, not to worry, the band competition kicks off at 11:30 am on Saturday morning. Thirteen bands, a full day of music and an absolutely great way to spend a chilly Saturday!

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