Blues Family Reunites

Mar 27, 2021 | Blues Concert, Suncoast Blues Society

Blues Family Reunites

The 2021 Blues Bash at the Ranch was a true celebration. It was hard to tell who was more excited to be there, the bands for having a stage or the blues fans for finally hearing some live music. Here are the highlights.

The Dottie Kelly Band started the weekend off with a BANG!  Her all-star band included legendary lead guitarist Daryll Rains, Robert Carter on bass, and Maurice Dukes on drums. Dottie’s energy was contagious, and we were off to a great start.

Everyone agreed that Doug Deming & The Jewel Tones have never sounded better. Zac Pomerleau on drums is really reaching “the zone” with his harmonica skills.  And who can put words to what Andrew Gohman is doing to his upright bass. Screaming!!

Next came RB Stone, with Steve Arvey on bass.  RB showed his best “Trans Genre” form.  RB has a very engaging stage presence and tells some great stories.

The best part of Friday night might have been the jam when Dottie Kelly and Steve Arvey went toe to toe and Zac came out from behind the drum kit and just wailed on his harp. We also got a preview of Gabe Stillman.

We would like to thank Spike Stephens for organizing a fireside jam featuring Tas Cru and RB Stone around a glowing fire pit on a chilly evening.  It’s the kind of thing that makes this event truly memorable. Thank you Tas and RB for your warmth also.

On Saturday Brad Vickers and his Vestapolitans entertained us with some great tunes from Elmore James, several from Tampa Red and even Fats Domino! Brad’s great band included Jim Davis on saxophone and clarinet, Bill Rankin on drums, and Marsha Peters on bass and vocals.

Tas Cru and his band deserved to be headliners. His band included Tom Craig working as a sideman, Chris Alexander on keyboard, Sonny Rock on drums, and our very own Bill Hubbard with a stellar bass line.  Local phenom Trey Wanvig even got a brief cameo on guitar.  Stay tuned for more news from your Suncoast Blues Society about Trey.

Dustin Arbuckle and The Damnations put on an energetic crowd pleasing set that had the front stage dance floor packed. This Wichita, Kansas-based band plays a “cross-genre eclectic” mix of music, and they are exceptionally good within this format. Led by Dustin’s voice and skilled harmonica play the band fit very well at this event. Brandon Hudspeth’s guitar playing was among the best heard at this festival.  The crowd surely enjoyed the performance as the band left the stage to a rousing ovation. Having enjoyed Dustin’s music since his days in Moreland & Arbuckle it was a pleasure once again to hear Dustin’s voice and harmonica playing, and now a fan of Brandon’s guitar work.

Tom Craig Band’s set confirmed he wasn’t just a sideman.  His great original tunes included one entitled “Captain Funk” that local photographer Jim Hartzell immediately claimed for his new theme song!  Once again there was Bill Hubbard looking hip holding down that low end, Sonny Rock on drums, and “Detroit” Mike Hepner adding sweet riffs from the keyboards.  Great blues by Tom Craig Band!

Joel DaSilva Band came over from the east coast of Florida and put on a smoking hot set of music. This intense set included creative sounds from blues, rock, and international sounds traced from Joel’s Brazilian roots. A bit of blues, a bit of rockabilly, and some heavy metal smashed together to create an interesting mix of music.

Gabe Stillman Band hit the stage at 8pm and did not disappoint. The noticeably slimmer version of Gabe pitched nothing but love to the audience.  Some of his vocals and lyrics remind one of an early Johnny Lang.  Scorching guitar riffs from this Gibson Guitar Award winner at the International Blues Challenge prevailed. However, this writer would like to thank Gabe for that one slow song.

Eliza Neals performance was electrifying.  Having “Detroit” Mike Hepner on B3 freed Eliza up to do her thing on stage, and she did her thing.  Love that smile. No one was more excited to be back on a stage with a live audience and it showed. Eliza worked it.  Probably one of her best performances ever.

On Sunday Deb Ryder came all the way from California to showcase her blues style. It was great to hear Deb again inserting a little humor into the blues. The crowd favorite was “New Mechanic (Patrick’s Blues)”.  Local keyboard wizard “Professor” Michael Hensley contributed keyboard to this set. Love your groove Deb.

Harper and Midwest Kind added their unique sound to the festivities. Harper is famous for his didgeridoo, but many don’t realize how talented he is on the harmonica.

The James Armstrong Band was a perfect final act with some “True Blues.”  Here came the smooth guitar licks sounding like they were coming from some smoke-filled backroom down the alley. Great finish for a very memorable weekend.

Many thanks to Paul and Jean Benjamin and Greg and Roseanne Herndon.  Also Red the maintenance man.  Thanks also to our local photographers “Captain” Jim Hartzell and Rick Lewis for documenting the event with their high-quality photos. We love y’all!


(Pictures courtesy of Jim Hartzell and Rick Lewis)