Splish, Splash It’s the Beach Bash

Splish, Splash It’s the Beach Bash

Splish, Splash It’s the Beach Bash

That’s right—we have scheduled our annual Beach Bash on Sunday August 29th from 2—6 PM.  We will be celebrating at our usual haunt, the Lions Club Beach House located at 9300 W Gulf Blvd, Treasure Island.  Dooner’s band—Big D and the Dirty Deal will provide the opening entertainment followed by a jam session until 6 PM.

We won’t be doing our normal open buffet spread but we will be cooking “Blues Dogs” and offering chips. You are welcome to bring your own picnic baskets.

This is the first event the Suncoast Blues Society has planned in over a year. And we are optimistic that we can make this a safe event where we can get back to what we do best, celebrate the music with friends.

 

Damon Fowler- “Alafia Moon” CD Review

Damon Fowler- “Alafia Moon” CD Review

Damon Fowler- “Alafia Moon” CD Review

Damon Fowler – “Alafia Moon”
Landslide Records
Review by Lafayette Reid 


Damon Fowler’s
 latest CD release “Alafia Moon” should secure Damon’s position as Florida’s favorite native son Blues musician. Damon has been touring and opening for George Thorogood for the last few years and with new management by Brett Steele keeping his momentum going his notoriety has been expanding nationally and beyond.

The backbone of Damon’s band has been steady Chuck Riley on bass and the Justin Headley on drums. These three are tight, but throw in St Pete native TC Carr on Harmonica, Mike Kach on keys, Betty Fox helping on vocals and some additional percussion by Josh Nelms and real magic starts to happen. All songs were written by Damon except “The Guitar” by Guy Clark and Verlon Thomson“ Hip to Your Trip” a nice jumpy little number was co-authored by Damon and Jim Suhler from Texas who is George Thorogood’s lead guitarist when touring.

“Leave it Alone “ is an ominous tune about the perils of a touring artist and the temptations they face. This well written song features TC Carr who gets to show off his skills on the harmonica.

Hitting close to home “Alafia Moon” the title track speaks to our current situation. Damon writes about “walking around in circles” at home not knowing which way to go, just needing to get out and see some moonlight on a peaceful Florida river. Amen Brother! Heal your soul.

Damon’s fans know he can paint some pretty clear pictures with his catchy lyrics.  “Wanda” displays these skills. If by the end of this funky little tune you don’t have a clear picture of Wanda in your mind, then you haven’t been listening.

“Make the Best of Your Time” might get stuck in your head. Author’s intention??

There are lot of “ups and downs” in life, especially for touring artists. “I’ve Been Low” speaks of this and looks for some balance.

“Alafia Moon” was expertly recorded and engineered by George Harris at Creative World Recording in Largo Florida and mastered by Alex McCollough at True East Mastering.  A truly enjoyable piece of work.

 

“You Ain’t Unlucky” An interview with Veronica Lewis

“You Ain’t Unlucky” An interview with Veronica Lewis

“You Ain’t Unlucky” An interview with Veronica Lewis

 

“You Ain’t Unlucky”

An interview with Veronica Lewis

by Monte Adkison, the “Blues Stalker”

 

As the title tracks lyrics suggest, a positive spin can be embraced by anything that life throws at you. That is certainly evident in the recent success of 17-year-old pianist/songwriter Veronica Lewis with her debut release. In the midst of the lockdowns and restrictions of a global pandemic that has halted or derailed many musician’s careers, her climb in the blues/root’s music charts brings a welcome ray of sunshine and hope for the future.

Her past awards include Blues Artist of the Year 2020 by the Boston Music Awards, Best Young Artist by the New England Hall of Fame 2020, and winner of the 2020 Boston Blues Challenge. Veronica’s talent and passion for vintage boogie-woogie piano is being delivered by her trio of piano, drums, and saxophone. After the recent success of her first release, get ready to hear more from this young talent as she tours to expand her fan base. Be sure to bring your dancing shoes!

BS: Veronica, can you tell us how and when your attraction to the piano began? 

VL: “It started from hearing early recordings of Katie Webster, Jerry Lee Lewis, Henry Gray, and others. Even when I was 5 or 6 years old, I loved listening to every genre of music. But I was immediately drawn to blues, boogie-woogie, New Orleans piano, and roots rock and roll.  It is such fun music to listen to, and I wanted to try and play it myself. 

When I started playing piano at six years old, I learned some bass lines and the 1,4,5 progression, and I was totally hooked. I’m self-taught and learned by listening and improvising. I didn’t learn to play using sheet music, just by ear. When I was 12, I did get some sight-reading lessons for a few months, which was pretty cool. But I can see how learning the traditional way can really slow you down from discovering the joy of improvisation. That is why the Blues tradition and progression are so important to me. It may have a defined structure, but focusing on writing songs in the 12-bar blues, allowed me to be more confident and free in my playing.” 

BS: Tell us specifically about “Margaret.” 

VL: “Margaret is the first and only piano I have ever had. When I was six, we rescued a 115-year-old piano from a neighbor’s barn. The name “Margaret” was engraved on the front of the piano, and even though we don’t know who ‘Margaret’ is, the name stuck. I learned to play on Margaret, and most of my songs are written on her. In fact, on my brand-new album, “You Ain’t Unlucky,” two tracks were recorded on Margaret. My sound engineer, Ben Rogers, came to my house, and we recorded a few songs on the piano, and it is so special to have that as a part of my debut album.” 

BS: Your name is often mentioned in reviews to the style of Marcia Ball, Katie Webster, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Victor Wainwright. Have you delved into the works of Pete Johnson, Meade Lux Lewis, and Albert Ammons? 

VL: “Absolutely! I love Pete Johnson, Meade Lux Lewis, and Albert Ammons. I really love to listen and appreciate the different baselines that the great blues piano players use. I also really respect their distinct melodic riffs they create in the right hand.” 

BS: What is it about boogie-woogie that appeals to you? 

VL: “When I first started playing boogie-woogie, I was around six years old. The first thing that drew me towards this music was how upbeat and exciting it was to hear. As I started teaching myself to play, it became even more fun to write my own blues, boogie-woogie songs. So, initially, I was drawn to the energy and feel of the music, and as I have progressed as an artist (and brought who I am into the style), I have been able to grow with it.”

BS: Have you ever participated in any of the Pinetop Perkins Foundation’s piano workshops or master classes in Clarksdale?

 

VL: “Yes! When I was 12 years old, I was awarded the David Maxwell scholarship, and I got the chance to go to Hopson’s Plantation in Clarksdale and be a part of a piano workshop for a few days. In fact, at the end of the week, my classmates and I got the chance to perform at Morgan Freeman’s blues club, Ground Zero. That trip, and being able to play with all the incredible musicians, helped inspire a few of the tracks on the album.” 

BS: Your debut release “You Ain’t Unlucky” is self-produced. What were the biggest challenges that you faced in this effort?

 VL: “I think the biggest challenge in self-producing this album was deciding when the songs were ready to be released. As an artist, it’s easy to be your own biggest critic, and deciding when the songs were done was definitely a challenge. I had a very clear vision for what I wanted each song to sound like and how the arrangements should be laid down. But knowing when the songs were complete, and then releasing them, was an important part of growing as a recording artist.  I think of this album as a stakeholder in the ground for this early part of my musical journey. I am really proud of the music we were able to create, and I’m just so excited that everyone gets to hear this new music.” 

BS: Social media has even become more important to musicians during the current pandemic. How do you use it? Do you think the quality of some of the live streaming attempts has helped or hurt the industry? 

VL: “The only way to stay connected during this time is through technology and social media. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube have been a few platforms that I use frequently. I use these platforms to share music and post virtual performances. Without live shows, I knew I had to be able to create Live Stream performances to share with everyone virtually. It was a big undertaking when I was learning how to record the video and audio of my band performing (in our rehearsal space). However, I am very grateful to have learned these new skills, and I am even more grateful for all the support I have received even in this crazy year. That is what keeps me motivated, and I know I will continue to keep pushing forward.”

 

BS: You are currently a graduating senior with a chart busting debut release. What are your plans for the upcoming year assuming that things begin to improve for travel and work?

 VL: “I plan to keep creating music, recording, and to be ready to play live music again in the near future. Of course, safety is the top priority, and I am waiting until it’s safe for everyone in the audience, and my band, to hit the road. I hope we can start playing live shows soon, but in the meantime, I will continue to stay connected with everyone online with virtual performances and releases.  As far as touring goes, I’m very excited and honored to announce I will be working with Rick Booth and his team at Intrepid Artists International for booking.”

BS: What kind of music is in your current playlist? Who are you listening to? 

VL: “I listen to so many different genres of music, and it varies between older artists and more contemporary musicians. Right now, I’ve been listening to a lot of Ray Charles, Katie Webster, Doctor John, Little Richard, and all of the classic roots and blues players. But I still love and appreciate modern artists and listen to artists like Freddie Mercury and Avril Lavigne too.” 

BS: Many vocalists trace their training to church choirs and gospel groups. When did you discover your talent for vocals and how did you develop such a voice with such confidence?

VL: “I started singing when I was 12, and honestly, at first, I didn’t know how to sing correctly.  However, about a year ago, I started working with a classically trained opera singer. I began to understand the proper techniques, and I was able to unlock my voice. Also, I learned about the physiological aspect of singing, and this connected my head to my voice. That was an enormous breakthrough and one of the most important parts of gaining confidence as a singer.” 

BS: Introduce us to your band and how it came about. 

VL: “On the album, you will hear the trio sound: piano, drums, and saxophone. Mike Walsh, Chris Anzalone, and Ben Rogers are the drummers on the album. And Don Davis and Joel Edinberg are the saxophone players. Mike Walsh and Don Davis have been the main players in my trio since 2019. They were my first band. We met in June 2019 and played our first show together in August 2019, so this is still pretty new. But fate was on our side and brought us together for sure on this project.  Working with such talented Drummers and Saxophonists created a tight, full sound that helped bring my songs to another level. It was a real honor to work with all the musicians on the album.” 

BS: How does your songwriting happen? Do you have scraps of paper with potential lyrics tucked all over the place as ideas pop into your head? 

VL: “Every song starts with a visual image or a story in my mind. Usually, I will write the lyrics first for the song and then decide how I want the music to sound. Understanding what I want the song to be about allows me to determine how I want the piano and music to represent that message. And, I can definitely have scraps of paper with potential song ideas all over the place or recorded on my phone if I am away from a keyboard.” 

Best of luck, Veronica. I know you are eager to tour to promote your music and I know fans are eager to see you perform live. Here’s to a successful year!

 

 

Cottonmouth Southern Soul Kitchen Grand Opening

Cottonmouth Southern Soul Kitchen Grand Opening

Cottonmouth Southern Soul Kitchen Grand Opening

 

Cottonmouth Southern Soul Kitchen Grand Opening

Two SBS board members had the pleasure of attending the “Grand Opening” of Dave Shiplets’ new southern cuisine restaurant Cottonmouth Southern Soul Kitchen, located in the Village of the Arts in Bradenton.

For entertainment in the backyard listening room was none other than Biscuit Miller. Biscuit sounded terrific and was full of Biscuit energy clowning and dancing all night long. He was backed for the evening by members of Lauren Mitchell’s band—“Professor” Michael Hensley on B-3, Vincent Sims on lead guitar, and drummer James Varnado.

Bradenton’s new mayor the honorable Gene Brown was in attendance and heard Lauren Mitchell sing a few tunes with Biscuit.  It’s always good to have a mayor that’s a blues fan. Biscuit really got the sold-out crowd engaged and even had some ladies up on the stage to dance with him. Great fun

If you haven’t been to this new venue you need to check out the schedule and make plans to visit. Thanks to Dave Shiplet for what he has created, lets support his efforts. Thanks also to Annie Russini for having the vision of the Village of the Arts many years ago. Blues music was always a part of it.

 

 

Blues Family Reunites

Blues Family Reunites

Blues Family Reunites

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)

 

Tom Craig – “Good Man Gone Bad” CD Review

Tom Craig – “Good Man Gone Bad” CD Review

Tom Craig – “Good Man Gone Bad” CD Review

Tom Craig
Good Man Gone Bad
By Scott Morris

’Good Man Gone Bad’ is just out and about to make a big splash in the blues world.” Tas Cru

 

Pennsylvania blues man Tom Craig hits the mark with his second recording “Good Man Gone Bad”.

Produced by harmonica ace Mikey Junior and mixed at Fat Rabbit Studios by Dave Gross, this set of tunes follows Tom’s first recording with Soul Patch. “Get Ready for Me “. Comparatively speaking “Good Man” documents Tom’s growth as a musician all while presenting an enjoyable collection of 13 songs that cover most blues styles. But it’s Tom’s writing, and co-writing with Mikey Junior, along with the soulful delivery that rang true for me.

Beginning with the first cut “I’m Working Too Hard” Tom sets a lyrical theme for the recording that hops from one side of a relationship to another. Accompanied by a driving beat Tom professes to be “I’m working too hard for your love”. Many probably have felt similar, but wisely, for the health of their specific relationship kept their own council. Tom’s words might have you saying to yourself “I feel you brother”!

I really enjoy the next track “What A Man’s Gotta Do”. The guitar work accentuates the beat and the harmonica by Mikey Junior lends a nice touch throughout the song, specifically as the song fades out. Performed live this song has people up and dancing.

The title track (You Made A) “Good Man Gone Bad” appears third on the recording and Tom’s soulful voice resonates in this song. This bluesy ballad bespeaks of making “the worst of a good situation”, leading the listener to speculate on the destructive nature of succumbing to temptation. Tom’s vocals are spot on and clearly Tom is at home base with these types of blues ballads.

Harmonica sets the tone on another ballad “It’s All My Fault”, another one of Tom’s fine ballads. The band lends just the right touch with a beat that fits the lyrics. Tom’s guitar solo is perfectly measured.

“Sheepdog”. Well truth be told on first listen I was not quite sure how I felt. But on repeated listens; yes, Tom has crafted a winner! This rocking blues song is a fan favorite during performance, especially memorable was the version performed during Blues Bash at the Ranch with Gabe Stillman lending a hand on slide guitar. This song grew on me. On a recording where my ear preferred the soulful ballads, this is more than an add-in change of pace. “Sheepdog” is a fine song and deserves presence within Tom’s performance set list.

Slowing down, Tom showcases his vocals on “When You Love A Bluesman”.  Perhaps this is when Tom is at his best. His soulful blues vocals and smart lyrics fronting a tight band, and in this song the harmonica rings true. Tom chips in with tasty blues licks on his guitar. The groove captured me right away. Most enjoyable.

“Treat Your Daddy Nice” has a familiar blues beat, and the lyrics make this song work. Once again, this hard-working bluesman asks “baby” to “treat daddy nice” because after all,” I’m the one that makes you feel all right”.

“My Turn to Cry” finishes off the recording with a soulful, saxophone backed ballad. Once again demonstrating that Tom knows how to deliver a song that places “Soul in My Blues”.  Close your eyes and picture slow dances late at night. The symmetry on the recording of the hard-working hero from the first song now practicing patience on the last song is a subtlety that I enjoyed. And the delivery lets the listener speculate on the cause of the tears.

On a personal note, it’s been a pleasure to see Tom perform and grow musically over these past few months. Wintering in Florida Tom put together a tight band that delivered an enjoyable show experience. Secondly, Tom switched roles from front man to sideman while touring with Tas Cru, sometimes on the same day. Tom is putting in the work, to fine success. This is an up-and-coming bluesman to keep an eye on.

Tom has a clear vision of what he wants to achieve as a musician. I intend to “keep my eyes wide open” to see where Tom’s musical journey takes him; I suspect that after a few listens to “Good Man Gone Bad” you will choose to do the same.

“Good Man Gone Bad” is due to be released on April 20, 2021. The recording is presently available for pre-order. For more information visit Tom Craig Band’s website.