Joanna Connor  – “Best Of Me” CD Review

Joanna Connor – “Best Of Me” CD Review

Joanna Connor – “Best Of Me” CD Review


Best Of Me

Gulf Coast Records

Despite releases on several major labels earlier in her career, Joanna Connor never quite captured the attention of the wider blues audience. Acquiring two weekly gigs in several well-known Chicago clubs allowed her to stay close to home while raising her two children. Her 2021 release, 4801 South Indiana Avenue on Joe Bonammasa’s Keeping The Blues Alive Records, made it clear that her guitar work is as captivating as ever.

Her new album finds her on Gulf Coast Records, run by Mike Zito and Guy Hale. They wisely had Connor record with her band, giving the proceedings several extra layers of tightness that comes from deep familiarity with the ten originals and one cover. Her songwriting partner on most tracks is Shaun Gotti Calloway, who consistently lays down some deep grooves on his bass guitar. Jason J Roc Edwards is the other half of the crack rhythm section, adding taut accents with his expert stick work. Dan Souvigny handles the rhythm guitar duties, and plays keyboards on three tracks, while Curtis Moore Jr. plays a variety of keyboards throughout the project.

The opening declaration from Frank Pellegrino, of Kingston Mines fame, reminds listeners that Connor embodies funk, soul, and blues, with plenty of love in her heart. Once the band kicks in on “House Rules,” Connor immediately proves the accuracy of his assessment. The Grooveline Horns spice up the arrangement, with guest Eric Demmer contributing some hearty saxophone solos. “Pain And Pleasure” glides along with a soulful strut, giving Connor and guest Josh Smith space for a dynamic guitar dialogue. The title track wraps a sorrowful Connor vocal into a swirling musical landscape that forces listeners to feel every bit of her despair.

The horns return on “Two Of A Kind,” a funky rocker complete with one of Connor’s red-hot guitar soliloquies. The lone cover, the classic “Mercury Blues,” is a feature for Connor’s blazing slide guitar skills while the jaunty “Highway Child” finds her sharing the spotlight with Bonamassa for another guitar rave-up. Zito makes an appearance on guitar on “Shadow Lover,” as Connor pleads for some loving caresses.

The closer, “Shine On,” is a hard rocking tune with key contributions from Gary Hoey on guitar and Jason Ricci on harmonica. But it is the six-string magic from Connor that leaves a lasting impression, just as she does throughout this fine album that showcases her many talents in fine fashion.

– Mark Thompson     

Album review originally appeared in Blues Music Magazine

2023 Beach Bash…

2023 Beach Bash…

2023 Beach Bash…

2023 Beach Bash…

It’s that time of year again so dig out your swimsuit, sunglasses, and sun hat because your Suncoast Blues Society will be celebrating YOU, our loyal members, with our Annual Beach Bash on Sunday, August 27th from 1- 6:00 pm at the St Petersburg Lions Club Beach House.

Al Razz and the Rocking Blues Review will kick things off at 2pm, followed by our annual jam session. 

Bring your favorite dish to share. We will have some beverages available or BYOB if you prefer.  We are looking for donations of beer and wine – if you have a connection, please reach out to them or send us the info and we will gladly contact them.

You can renew your membership and receive 3 free CD’s – may as well bring a friend to join also.  We will be drawing the name of one lucky Blues fan that day for a guitar signed by many of your favorite Blues artists.

Looking forward to seeing everyone and definitely bring your dancin’ shoes!

P.S.  This is an Adults only event.







EG KIGHT “the Georgia Songbird” will be performing at the Palladium

EG KIGHT “the Georgia Songbird” will be performing at the Palladium

EG KIGHT “the Georgia Songbird” will be performing at the Palladium

EG KIGHT, popularly known as “the Georgia Songbird” will be performing at the Palladium, Side Door this Friday at 8pm. Tickets are going fast so don’t hesitate. If you are a member of SBS, you will receive a $5 discount on your tickets.

Staring death in the face twice, and living to tell about it, is her own blues story. Fighting her way back to the stage made the music sweeter and the thrill of performing for live audiences more meaningful. One of the first shows the trio did was the Suncoast Blues Festival, and those of you that were in the audience that day will remember EG singing her heart out, ignoring the pain, while still recuperating from a vicious attack by neighborhood dogs. She is a trooper and she and “the boys” always put on an amazing show!

If you are not able to attend our SBS event on Friday, you can catch EG Kight Trio at Cottonmouth on Sunday at 6pm. DO NOT MISS – her version of Hallelujah will bring tears of joy to your eyes!

With her rich vocals, captivating guitar style, and hefty catalog of well-crafted original songs, she entertains audiences with her own unique blend of “country flavored southern fried blues”.  CityBeat Cincinnati writes that Kight is “a cross between Bonnie Raitt’s bourbon stung growl and Phoebe Snow’s emotive warble”.

EG has received 18 various music industry nominations including nine for Female Artist of the Year, three for Song of the Year, and four for Album of the Year. She has worked with many musicians, including George Jones, Jerry Lee Lewis, Conway Twitty, Merle Haggard, Luther Allison, Hubert Sumlin, Pinetop Perkins, Taj Mahal, B.B. King, and Koko Taylor.


Suncoast Blues Society at Skipper’s Smokehouse to celebrate our 26th Anniversary

Suncoast Blues Society at Skipper’s Smokehouse to celebrate our 26th Anniversary

Suncoast Blues Society at Skipper’s Smokehouse to celebrate our 26th Anniversary

Join Suncoast Blues Society at Skipper’s Smokehouse to celebrate our 26th Anniversary with none other than Selwyn Birchwood and Damon Fowler on Friday, June 9, 2023 at 8:00pm

Although award-winning Florida musician Selwyn Birchwood is firmly rooted in the tradition, the young guitarist, lap steel player, songwriter and vocalist sets a course for the future of the blues with his visionary, original music. Birchwood, whose band features the pulsating interplay of his blistering guitar with Regi Oliver’s driving baritone sax, deploys a singular sound and style all his own. He calls it “Electric Swamp Funkin’ Blues,” an intoxicating mix of deep blues, blistering, psychedelic-tinged rock, booty-shaking funk and sweet Southern soul, played and sung with the fire-and-brimstone fervor of a revival tent preacher with a hellhound on his trail. Tastemaker Americana music magazine No Depression says, “Selwyn Birchwood reaches back in the blues tradition to launch something out of this world.”

On his new release, Exorcist (his fourth for Alligator and sixth overall), Birchwood delivers the most far-reaching, musically adventurous album of his career. Exorcist was recorded in Florida and produced by Grammy Award-winner Tom Hambridge, with each of the 13 vividly detailed songs written and arranged by Birchwood. The soul-baring tracks all hit with lasting rhymes and unexpected rhythms. Each twists its own tale, ranging from the love-gone-wrong Horns Below Her Halo to the love-gone-terrifying Exorcist to the ripped-from-the-headlines escapades of FLorida Man and Swim At Your Own Risk to the autobiographical Underdog. According to Blues Music Magazine, “Selwyn Birchwood heralds a fresh, exciting new direction in the blues. Toe-tapping, hip-shaking, joyful and inviting…expansive and focused, exploratory and time-honored, but always original.”

Live, Birchwood is a force of nature. His ability to win over an audience–any audience–is proven night after night on the bandstand. With his warm, magnetic personality, Birchwood is as down-to-earth as his music is thought-provoking and electrifying. With his band feeding off his energy, the 6’3″ musician roams the stage barefoot, ripping out memorable guitar licks with ease, his soulful, rocks-and-gravel vocals firing up his fans. When he sits down to play his lap steel, he takes the crowd to a whole other level, with the music exorcising any bad times and troubles.

Birchwood, his father from Tobago, his mother from the UK, was born in 1985 in Orlando, Florida. He first grabbed a guitar at age 13 and soon became proficient at mimicking what he heard on the radio. But the popular grunge rock, hip-hop and metal of the 1990s didn’t move him. And then he discovered Jimi Hendrix. “He was larger than life. What he did was mind-blowing.” As luck would have it, just as Birchwood was learning Hendrix’s guitar playing was steeped in blues, legendary bluesman Buddy Guy–a major influence on Hendrix–was scheduled to perform in Orlando. Birchwood was there, front and center. “I was floored,” he recalls. “I completely connected with the blues. I knew this was my path, and I had to make this music.” He dove deep, listening to icons including Albert King, Freddie King, Albert Collins, Muddy Waters, Lightnin’ Hopkins and of course, Buddy Guy. “The flood gates opened,” says Birchwood, “and at that point I started trying to absorb as much as I could.”

At 19, Birchwood met and connected with veteran blues guitarist Sonny Rhodes, who was instantly impressed by the enthusiastic young guitar slinger. Within one month’s time, Rhodes asked Birchwood to pack his bags and join him on the road. Rhodes took the young man under his wing, teaching him not only guitar and lap steel, but also how to conduct business, how to run a band, and how to reach an audience. “Sonny always said, ‘Play what’s in your heart.’ I’ve never lost sight of that,” says Birchwood.

Birchwood treasured his time with Rhodes but was adamant about completing his college studies. Rhodes, as a tribute to Birchwood’s drive and talent, made it clear to the young musician that he would hold the rhythm guitar spot in his band open for Selwyn whenever he was available. Birchwood–through hard work and scholarships–received his MBA from The University of Tampa. Combining the musical lessons learned from Rhodes and his business acumen, Birchwood created The Selwyn Birchwood Band in 2010, featuring seasoned, veteran musicians who had chosen to play with the new kid–a testament to Birchwood’s talent and leadership skills.

In 2011 the self-released, self-produced FL Boy helped the band land gigs outside of their Florida base, where they were already becoming local heroes. After winning the 2013 International Blues Challenge in Memphis (beating 150 other bands), Birchwood found doors swinging open. He took a giant step forward in 2014 with his Alligator Records debut album, Don’t Call No Ambulance. Rave reviews ran in publications from Rolling Stone to The Wall Street Journal, from The Chicago Tribune to The San Francisco Chronicle. The album won both the Living Blues Award and the Blues Music Award (BMA) for Best New Artist Debut. He followed in 2016 with fan-favorite Pick Your Poison and, in 2021, with the groundbreaking Living In A Burning House. He won the coveted BMA Song Of The Year Award for that album’s I’d Climb Mountains.

Now, with Exorcist, Selwyn Birchwood and his band are ready to get back on the road and deliver the new songs live to us while we celebrate, dance and eat Anniversary cake at Skipper’s On Friday, June 9th.

See you there!!



Avey Grouws Band  at the Cottonmouth Southern Soul Kitchen

Avey Grouws Band at the Cottonmouth Southern Soul Kitchen

Avey Grouws Band at the Cottonmouth Southern Soul Kitchen

Avey Grouws Band

Cottonmouth southern soul Kitchen, Bradenton

April 6, 2023


On their return to Bradenton, Avey Grouws Band demonstrated yet again why this under-the-radar band may not be so for much longer. A large and enthusiastic crowd of their loyal fans, and quite a few new faces,  were highly entertained by an eclectic and well executed evening of music at David Shiplett’s Cottonmouth southern soul Kitchen.

Led by lead singer and guitarist Jeni Holtan Grouws, and guitarist and vocalist Chris Avey, the band included touring professionals Calvin Johnson (Shaun Murphy, Anthony Gomes) on bass,  Leo Albertoni (Toronzo Cannon) on keys,  and Bryan West on drums.

The band’s blues foundation is evident in their songs, and their semi-final spot at the 2020 International Blues Challenge. Avey Grouws Band achieve a  #10 ranking for their 2020’s debut “Devil May Care” release. Following this was the band’s 2021 recording, Tell Tale Heart. Debuted at #7 on Billboard’s Blues chart. Engineered and produced by Grammy-Award  winner Casey Wasner, who described the music as “rock and roll blues soul.” An apt description for what the band delivered from the stage.

Playing from both recordings, the band also delivered wonderful versions of songs from other artists. On this night, the band’s version of John Prine’s “Angel From Montgomery” was expertly sung by Jeni and brought the crowd to their feet in a standing ovation. Yes, it does not get better anywhere in this “big ole goofy world.”

But the band also writes their own music and the quirkily fun Two Day’s Off follows the blues tradition of writing a song from a true story. Just as fun was Dig What You Do – a song that featured vocal harmonies from Jeni and Chris, as well as fine keyboard work from Leo. The lovely ballad There For Me had couples looking into each other’s eyes. Another ballad, Let’s Take It Slow, showed the quality of lyric writing and Jeni’s voice.

Blues run through the fun and energetic I’d Rather Be Drunk, and Chris blues licks complemented Beck and Call Girl. Jeni vocals shone on this song. The band released both songs on a 2018 EP titled “Road To Memphis”.

Chris Avey’s guitar work stands with the best in the business. This is clear during “Mariana.” Eponymously named for the Atlantic Ocean trench, the song is just as deep and wide. It was a marvelously delivered bit of guitar work from Chris. You know the type of guitar playing that when the song starts, you’re not paying attention to the guitar. But a few measures into the song your brain will say that something great is happening. Yes, it’s that type of guitar work. A roller coaster of emotions, with a deep blues-rock crescendo. Some have compared the playing on this song to Robin Trower, and I would not argue with that point.

Local guitarist Vincent Sims joined in the fun and performed Love Her With A Feeling.

The future is bright for Avey Grouws Band. In September they will be performing at Big Blues Bender in Las Vegas – a well-deserved honor. And plans are underway for a return visit to Bradenton in November. Follow the band and Suncoast Blues Society for more information – this show promises to be special.

  • Scott Morris


Suncoast Blues Society offer for discounted Tampa Bay Blues Festival has ended

Suncoast Blues Society offer for discounted Tampa Bay Blues Festival has ended

Suncoast Blues Society offer for discounted Tampa Bay Blues Festival has ended

The Suncoast Blues Society offer for discounted Tampa Bay Blues Festival tickets ended on Friday, March 24. 

If you are still looking for tickets for the Tampa Bay Blues Festival, please go directly to their website