Eric Gales grew up in a musical family with four brothers, two of them who learned to play the guitar upside down and left handed in the same fashion that Eric does. Eric released his first record at Age 16 for Elektra records to an amazing response from the media and music fans around the globe. Guitar World Magazine’s Reader’s Poll named Eric as “Best New Talent,” in 1991. After recording a second record for Elektra, all three brothers teamed up for The Gales Bros. “Left Hand Brand” which was recorded for the House of Blues label in 1996.
Through the years, it would not be unusual to look out in the audience and see artists like Carlos Santana, Eric Johnson, B. B. King, and Eric Clapton, looking on with interest as Eric took his guitar and worked crowd after crowd into a frenzy.
The new millennium presented fresh opportunities for Eric. He was signed to a deal with Nightbird Records which was affiliated with the Hendrix family and distributed through MCA/Universal. Under this deal, Eric recorded the critically acclaimed record “That’s What I Am” in 2001 and hit the road, mesmerizing fans around the world with his uncanny connection to his guitar.
In 2006 Eric recorded the CD “Crystal Vision” for Shrapnel Records and set the stage for his Blues Bureau Division follow-up, “The Psychedelic Underground”. In 2010 Eric released the critically successful album "Relentless" following it up with the equally powerful album “Transformation”. In 2014 a spiritually renewed Eric Gales released “Good For Sumthin’”. Released by Cleopatra Records and produced by Raphael Saadiq. His follow up project was the Double Live CD/DVD “A Night on the Sunset Strip” in 2016. From there Eric signed with Mascot Label Group in 2017. He has released two albums on this label, 2018’s “Middle of the Road” and 2019’s “The Bookends” both deeply personal and introspective works.
As both an African-American left-handed guitarist of extraordinary ability and an expressive vocalist, it is natural for people to compare Eric to Hendrix. But Eric has developed a unique hybrid blues/rock sound that also draws upon influences as diverse as Albert King and Frank Gambale. A unique amalgam of styles, Eric Gales stands head and shoulders among other guitarists in his genre.
It’s no wonder why he is the guitarists’ favourite guitarist, counting fans in the likes of Carlos Santana, Dave Navarro (Jane’s Addiction, Red Hot Chili Peppers), Mark Tremonti (Alter Bridge), Joe Bonamassa, Tony Rombola (Godsmack) and Tosin Abasi (Animals as Leaders).
“One of the best, if not the best guitar player in the world” Joe Bonamassa
“He is absolutely incredible” Carlos Santana
“How Eric Gales isn’t the hugest name in rock guitar is a total mystery” Dave Navarro
“This guy could be the best player on Earth” Mark Tremonti
“I feel the most free I’ve ever been in life, even more so than when I was a kid…you gotta help yourself man, once you can help yourself you can genuinely help someone else.” Eric Gales
Founding member, lead singer, and bass player of internationally acclaimed Blues/Rock band Trampled Under Foot, Danielle Nicole Schnebelen stepped out on her own in 2015 with her debut album “Wolf Den.” In 2018, Nicole returned with a follow-up release via Concord Records entitled “Cry No More,” garnering a 2019 Grammy Nomination for Contemporary Blues Album and 2 Blues Music Awards for Bassist and Female Contemporary Artist among a slew of Blues Blast Music Awards and 3 Independent Blues Awards.
Nicole's “distinctive, inventive bass work”—which resulted in her becoming the first woman to win the Blues Foundation's 2014 Blues Music Award for Best Instrumentalist - Bass—“is the product of years of intensive roadwork; and although her voice draws comparisons to artists such as Susan Tedeschi, Bonnie Raitt, and Etta James, it is only the feeling in which she will invoke those memories. Nicole’s show, style, and tone are all her own and can only be experienced.”
By Nicole’s side is her founding guitarist Brandon Miller of Kansas City and drummer Cameron Tyler currently hailing from Las Vegas.
UPDATE: We are sad to announce that Joanne Shaw Taylor has canceled all US tour dates. We're grateful and proud to announce Danielle Nicole will be performing in this time slot.
Six albums in, Joanne Shaw Taylor has nothing to prove, but plenty to say. Reckless Heart, the follow-up to 2016’s Top 20 hit Wild, finds the British blues musician in glorious form and a mischievous mood, one minute bearing her claws with catty lyrics, the next deliriously in love.
In several senses, it’s an album of firsts -the first made in Joanne’s adopted home town of Detroit, the first produced by her close friend Al Sutton (Greta Van Fleet,Kid Rock), the first largely recorded live and the first tofeature an unplugged solo performance and, by chance, a passing train.
But it’s also an album thatpulls the past in to the present. The good-time grooves of vintage, Britishblues-rock are given a modern makeover, while Joanne’s most powerful, yet intimate vocals to date take their cue from the gritty soul greats (Aretha, Tina, Mavis Staples) she grew up on.
“I’ve never had so much fun making an album,” says Joanne. “I feel like I’ve reached a stage where I can stop worrying what people think. The older Iget, the more comfortable I am with being open and honest. If I’m pissed off, I’ll say it. If I want to be flirty, I will.”
Born in the Black Country and discovered aged 16 by Eurythmics’ co-founder Dave Stewart, Joanne has spent a decade releasing increasingly successful albums and touring the world. Along the way, she has won over fans from Joe Bonamassa to Stevie Wonder to Annie Lennox.
A decade ago, Joanne moved to Detroit as her career in the States was developing. On her first day there, she met the veteran producer Al Sutton and the pair instantly became friends. Ever since, they’ve talked of working together but due to conflicting schedules, not until Reckless Heart did it happen.
“Al’s always said that he wanted to make more of a live album with me,” says Joanne. “Why? Because that’s how he likes me, as a raw, aggressive guitarist.”
The pair started work this summer at Al’s fabulously-named Rust Belt Studios, a mere five miles from Joanne’s Detroit home. For the first time making an album, every night she slept in her own bed.
No guitar pedals were used in the making of Reckless Heart. It was straight in to amps for a simple, raw sound that encouraged Joanne to be ever more open in her songwriting. The loose, late ‘60s recordings of Jeff Beck and RodStewart became touchstones. Ditto the soul singers that Joanne discovered as a child courtesy of her mum.
“A big difference with Reckless Heart is that I’m revealing more of my soul influences,” says Joanne. “I’m a blues guitarist, but I’ve always considered myself a soul singer.
“My mum was a dancer and a huge fan of Northern Soul and Motown. Growing up, I listened to lots of blues guitarists –all of them men. When I decided to sing as well as play, I knew I’d never sound like them, so it was Aretha and Tina I turned to.”
Reckless Heart is a record drenched in emotion, the rawness of its sound mirrored in its lyrics. It’s both a break-up and a make-up album –in other words, a snapshot of a typical tempestuous relationship.
“It was interesting to write from both perspectives. The album was written in two parts –when we’d fallen out and when we got back together. What I thought was a break-up turned out to be a tiff.
Among Restless Heart’s most memorable lyrics is the opening line to the album’s searing title track -‘I couldn’t love you any less than I do now’. For weeks, Joanne had just that line, having hit a writing block following a tour with Foreigner. The rest came after listening to Rag’n’Bone Man’s early EPs.
“I love his big, husky voice and he inspired me to make the song quite gospel-y, with choir-like backing vocals. I wrote all of it on acoustic guitar, literally shouting the lyrics. I was angry and desperate. I wanted to capture that feeling of needing to scream to get your message across.”
The fierce Bad Love and rollicking opener In The Mood, complete with Faces-style piano, were written during the split. The gorgeous, acoustic guitar-led Break My Heart Anyway and the spectacular soul ballad I’m Only Lonely were penned once her anger had subsided. The groovy The Best Thing came after seeing Chris Stapleton in concert.
“I’d just been dumped,” recalls Joanne. “My friends took me to see Chris Stapleton to cheer me up. I didn’t know much about him, but I loved the show. It got me thinking that I’ve never made mid-tempo soul and I should.
“In an Uber on the way home, I started singing the hook of what became The Best Thing and recording it on my phone. I’d had a few drinks by then, obviously. At home, I finished the verses and put them to a riff I’dalready written. By the morning, it was done.”
The rest of the album finds Joanne back in love, or just having fun. All My Love is pure Tina Turner, while album closer Jake’s Boogie is an unplugged, imperfect gem, recorded entirely live.
“It’s just me anda guitar, totally bare, which I’ve never done before,” says Joanne. “I’d had a few drinks before that one too. It’s not perfect but it’s passionate. I love that you can almost hear the studio. Oh, and a train. Al’s studio is next to train tracks and if you listen closely, you can hear a train passing.”
Bar that track, Reckless Heart features some of Detroit’s best session musicians –among them former players for Aretha Franklin.
“This is easily my most soulful album and that’s definitely to do with getting older –listen to me, I’m only 33! Also, quitting smoking, which I did last year and has changed my voice. The better a singer I am, the more capable I am of doing different styles of songs.
“I love soul and rock as much as I do blues. I enjoy singing ballads as much as soloing. I don’t always have to imagine I’m Eddie Van Halen on Michael Jackson’s Beat it, as I did as a kid. Now I sing to get my emotions out. Basically, it’s cheap therapy.”
Singer-songwriter, guitarist, activist, and actress Melody Angel is truly gifted. Her unique mix of blues and rock n roll may remind you of one of her biggest influences, Jimi Hendrix, and still, she has a look and sounds all her own. Her new full-length album SHE BLACK is an honest account of what it feels like to be a black woman in America today. With songs like She Black, Freedom, Invisible Girl, and Give the Power To The People. Angel’s songwriting prowess is only matched by the high-energy live performances that she’s given around the world, from the Chicago Blues Festival stage to the Byron Bay Blues Fest in Australia. Quite simply, Melody Angel is the real thing, and Melody Angel is her real name. Born to do it!
“A remarkable, contemporary bluesman...a powerhouse young guitarist and soulful vocalist. A major player...highly recommended” –Rolling Stone “Rising blues star Selwyn Birchwood is the real deal. Birchwood puts his own fresh spin on the blues, taking the tradition and making it into something new.” –Guitar World
“A skilled, energetic and original artist...His songwriting is observant, clever and pointed. His voice is smooth; his singing on target. His guitar fluency generates new licks and rhythmic surprises. Expectations have been high for Mr. Birchwood—and he lives up to them.” –Wall Street Journal
“With my music,” says groundbreaking young blues visionary Selwyn Birchwood, “I tell my stories in my own way, with my own voice. You won’t ever hear me on stage telling someone else’s stories. Muddy Waters, B.B. King and John Lee Hooker all told their own stories. That’s what I’m doing.” The young guitar and lap steel player calls his original music “electric swamp funkin’ blues,” defined by raw and soulful musicianship played with fire-and-brimstone fervor. His soulful vocals draw his audience deep inside his unforgettable tales of love, passion, pain and pleasure. Living Blues says, “Selwyn Birchwood is a master storyteller—both lyrically and musically. He’s an impressive, hard-crunching, modern blues guitarist. His fretwork is high-energy, raw and vivid...knife-edged leads and roadhouse-rattling grooves. He is graced with a depth and maturity that would be impressive in a grizzled veteran, let alone a fresh-faced young man.”
No other band on the current blues scene is built quite like Birchwood’s. In addition to Selwyn’s electrifying guitar and lap-steel playing, the other featured instrument is Regi Oliver’s baritone sax. The group is rounded out by bass, drums and newly added keyboards. “With the keyboards,” Birchwood says, “it’s like we’re a whole new band with a bigger footprint—I can really stretch out on guitar while still featuring the baritone.” With his band feeding off his energy, the 6’3” musician with his trademark Afro roams the stage (often barefoot), ripping out memorable guitar licks with ease, his soulful, rocks-and-gravel vocals firing up the crowd, making them feel as if they were in his living room. 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 vital.
Now, with two previous Alligator Records releases and countless performances under his belt, Birchwood is riding high. Wanting to capture the power of the larger band, Birchwood brought in Tom Hambridge (Buddy Guy, Christone “Kingfish” Ingram, Susan Tedeschi) to produce his new album, Living In A Burning House. Recorded in Birchwood’s home state of Florida, the album features 13 songs written and arranged by Birchwood. From the rocking opener I’d Climb Mountains to the sweet soul of She’s A Dime and One More Time to the hair-raising Revelation, Living In A Burning House features some of the most striking and original writing on today’s blues scene. Birchwood’s voice and vision are clear, his sound is edgy and compelling, and his stories are memorable and timeless.
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 he quickly grew bored. And then he heard Jimi Hendrix. “He was larger than life. What he did was mind-blowing. When I realized Hendrix was influenced by the blues, I found my path,” he says. By 17, he was deep into the blues, listening to Albert King, Freddie King, Albert Collins, Muddy Waters, Lightnin’ Hopkins and especially Buddy Guy. As luck would have it, just as Birchwood was discovering Guy, the blues master had a concert scheduled in Orlando. Birchwood was there, front and center. “I was floored,” he recalls. “I completely connected with the blues. I knew I had to make this music.”
At 19, Selwyn met and connected with 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 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 choosing to play with the new kid—a testament to his 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 becoming local heroes. After winning the 2013 International Blues Challenge in Memphis (beating 150 other bands), Birchwood found doors swinging open. He emerged 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 for Best New Artist Debut. He followed in 2016 with Pick Your Poison. DownBeat said, “There’s a deep-seated power about Birchwood’s singing and six string/lap steel guitar work...and there’s an unmistakable emotion and honesty linking him to forebears like Muddy Waters. Thoughtful, persuasive and rugged.”
The Selwyn Birchwood Band tours virtually non-stop. They have performed at The Chicago Blues Festival, Portland’s Waterfront Blues Festival, The Mississippi Valley Blues Festival, The Tampa Bay Blues Festival, The North Atlantic Blues Festival, The King Biscuit Blues Festival as well as on The Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise and Joe Bonamassa’s Keeping The Blues Alive At Sea. Internationally, they have appeared at The Great British Rhythm & Blues Festival, Jazz a Vienne in France, the Rawa Blues Festival in Poland, the Moulin Blues Festival in the Netherlands, the Ottawa Blues Festival and the Montreal Jazz Festival in Canada, the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland, as well as playing concerts in Spain, Norway, the Czech Republic, Ireland, Belgium and Mexico. “I write and sing what I know,” says Birchwood, whose musical innovations are as expansive as his influences are deep. With Living In A Burning House, Selwyn Birchwood is looking forward to winning over thousands of new fans. “They say everything is better when it’s made with love,” says Birchwood. “That’s how we play our music and that’s how we made the new album. I want my audience to say, ‘I know exactly what that feels like,’ when a song hits them. Because that’s when it stops just being music and starts being medicine. After all, we are all stricken with the condition of being human.”
Experience the Blues through the heart and soul of Wisconsin native, Stephen Hull, self taught blues artist who’s been playing since age 14. Dubbed a young B.B. and Albert King.
2019 Grammy Nominee SOUTHERN AVENUE is a boundary-breaking Memphis combo that carries the Southern soul legacy into the 21st century and beyond. Fueled by their powerful chemistry and electrifying live show, this fiery five-piece has performed in over fifteen countries and wowed audiences at festivals such as Bonnaroo, Firefly, Electric Forest, Beale Street Music Festival and Lockn’. Relix calls them “a deeply soulful Memphis blues band that’s turning the scene on its head,” and No Depression commented that it's "easy to imagine Southern Avenue as a house band in their native Memphis or Muscle Shoals in the glory days of the '60s, sent back to the future to save us from inauthenticity and our collective hurt.
"What makes it Southern Avenue," according to lead singer Tierinii Jackson, "is that when we come together, the music we make together is music we could never come up with individually. It's really rewarding to have so many influences in the band, and that we can find the balance between them."
"I'm proud that we don't sound like anyone else,” asserts guitarist Ori Naftaly. "I've waited all my life to be in a band like this, and it's amazing to me that I get to play with these people every night."
Southern Avenue was just nominated for the 2021 Blues Music Award for “Band of the Year,” and is hard at work on a new album. Recorded at Memphis Magnetic and produced by multi-Grammy winning Producer, Steve Berlin (Los Lobos, Susan Tedeschi), the new LP will be released worldwide on Renew Records/BMG in August 2021.
“Deep, contemporary Chicago blues…razor-sharp guitar and compelling, forceful singing” — The Chicago Tribune
“Cannon is at the front rank of Chicago bluesmen. He creates wide-screen modern arrangements for wry, thoughtful songs, molding an ensemble sound that’s both tempestuous and scrupulously controlled.” –MOJO
Chicago bluesman Toronzo Cannon defies all expectations. The blistering guitarist, soulful vocalist, singular songwriter and city bus driver fuses his muscular, rock-inspired blues guitar playing with his original, keenly detailed slice-of-life songs, blazing his own blues trail. With the 2016 release of his Alligator Records debut, The Chicago Way, Cannon burst onto the international stage as one the most electrifying bluesmen to emerge from Chicago in decades. His live performances unfailingly earn him heaps of critical praise and hordes of wildly enthusiastic fans. Cannon has played major cities all over the U.S., Canada, and Europe. He recently performed for the first time in Japan, delighting and surprising audiences with one unforgettable gig after another. Now, with the release of The Preacher, The Politician Or The Pimp, Cannon builds upon the foundation he’s laid, creating and defining his vision of contemporary blues.
The Preacher, The Politician Or The Pimp features twelve Cannon originals, ranging from the burning social commentary of the title track to the wryly told, up-to-the-minute truths of Insurance to the trademark Cannon humor of Stop Me When I’m Lying and Ordinary Woman. He gets serious on the haunting The First 24, the Martin Luther King-inspired The Silence Of My Friends and on the moving final track, I’m Not Scared. Cannon’s blazing guitar and soul-baring vocals are front and center. His songwriting is inspired by his deep Chicago roots, the wisdom of his grandparents and his years of observing the public while driving a bus. His songs tell timeless stories of common experiences in uncommon ways.
“It’s not about the solos,” Cannon says, “It’s about the songs. People get used to everyday life, so it’s easy to miss the things around them. I write about those things. I know the problems of Chicago, the hardship, ’cause we’re always a scapegoat. But I choose to love and respect the city because of the Chicago blues giants that came here from down south. I’m proud to be standing on the shoulders of every great Chicago blues musician who came before me.”
Toronzo Cannon was born in the Windy City on February 14, 1968, and grew up in the shadows of the notoriously tough Robert Taylor Homes. Theresa’s Lounge, one of the city’s most famous South Side blues clubs, was nearby. As a child, Cannon would stand on the sidewalk outside the door, soaking up the live blues pouring out while trying to sneak a glance inside at larger-than-life bluesmen like Junior Wells and Buddy Guy. He also heard plenty of blues growing up in his grandfather’s home, and listened to soul, R&B and contemporary rock on the radio.
Cannon bought his first guitar at age 22, and his natural talent enabled him to quickly master the instrument. Although his initial focus was reggae, he found himself increasingly drawn to the blues. “It was dormant in me. But when I started playing the blues, I found my voice and the blues came pouring out.” He absorbed sounds, styles and licks from Buddy Guy, Albert Collins, Hound Dog Taylor, B.B. King, Albert King, Freddie King, Jimi Hendrix, J.B. Hutto, Lil’ Ed and others. Although influenced by many, Cannon’s biting, stinging guitar sound is all his own.
Cannon began his rise in the intensely competitive proving ground of the local club scene, where only the best musicians reach the top. Iconic blues artists from Muddy Waters to Howlin’ Wolf to Koko Taylor to Hound Dog Taylor to Luther Allison all paid their dues in the Chicago blues bars before making their mark on the world. The same holds true today, as newcomers look to living legends like Buddy Guy, Jimmy Johnson and Lil’ Ed Williams for inspiration in taking their music from Chicago to fans across the globe.
From 1996 through 2002, Cannon played as a sideman for Tommy McCracken, Wayne Baker Brooks, L.V. Banks and Joanna Connor. But he was determined to prove himself. In 2001, while continuing to work as a hired-gun guitarist, he formed his own band, The Cannonball Express. By 2003, he was working exclusively as a band leader. Cannon’s first three albums—2007’s My Woman (self-released), 2011’s Leaving Mood (Delmark) and 2013’s Blues Music Award-nominated John The Conqueror Root (Delmark)—document his rise from promising up-and-comer to star-in-the-making.
Almost immediately upon the release of The Chicago Way, Chicago media helped launch Cannon toward blues stardom. He was the subject of multiple newspaper and magazine feature stories and appeared on every local television station. National and international media soon took notice. CNN filmed Cannon leading a tour of Chicago blues clubs and then broadcast the piece around the world. England’s MOJO magazine declared The Chicago Way the #1 Blues Album Of 2016, as did the readers of Living Blues magazine in their annual poll. The album and Cannon were also nominated for four Blues Music Awards (the Grammy of the blues) in 2017. And the world champion Chicago Cubs invited Cannon to throw out the ceremonial first pitch of the September 13, 2017 game. All the attention only makes Cannon more focused. “I feel like I’ve become an ambassador for Chicago blues. People expect a lot from me,” he says. “But it’s good, because I’m forced to keep upping my game.”
Cannon has played the Chicago Blues Festival on ten separate occasions, initially as a sideman, then as a special guest, a sidestage band leader and finally as a main stage headliner. When he’s home, he drives a Chicago Transit Authority bus by day and performs by night. Using every vacation day and day off and working four ten-hour shifts a week, Cannon arranges his schedule to gig out of town as much as possible. It isn’t easy, but, like all of the Chicago greats who have come before him, blues is his calling. Blues Music Magazine declares, “His guitar playing has all the fire and spontaneity of the Chicago legends he carries; his songwriting is a timely and original look at the world he sees by day on a bus and in blues clubs by night, and his assertive voice is the perfect vehicle to deliver the message.”
Now, with The Preacher, The Politician Or The Pimp, Toronzo Cannon delivers his messages loud and clear. Between his searing chops, soul-satisfying vocals and vibrant and distinctive original songs, Cannon has grown from being a local attraction to become a world-renowned torch bearer for the blues. PBS Television’s Chicago Tonight sums it up like this: “Cannon is just your typical CTA bus driver who moonlights as a sought-after Chicago blues musician. As a guitarist, singer and songwriter, he drives the sound of Chicago blues from the city to blues clubs and festivals around the world.”
Every generation or so, a young bluesman bursts onto the scene and sends a jolt through the blues community. Jontavious Willis may just have that effect on people. The 24-year-old multi-instrumentalist was nominated for a GRAMMY in 2020 thanks to his latest album, Spectacular Class. Through original lyrics written by Willis himself, the gifted musician delivers a timeless album that features dynamic vocals and all types of blues: Delta, Piedmont, Texas, and Gospel. His stand-out fingerpicking, flat-picking, and slide prowess are also on display.
GRAMMY award-winning artists Taj Mahal and Keb’ Mo’ played an active role in producing Spectacular Class with Taj Mahal credited as Executive Producer and Keb' Mo' as the Producer. In addition to its digital release, the album will also be available on CD and vinyl.
Hailing from Greenville, Georgia, Willis grew up singing Gospel music at the Mount Pilgrim Baptist Church with his grandfather. Since an early age, he had the talent and passion for the music and the ability to sharpen his skills fast. At the age of 14, he came across a YouTube video of Muddy Waters playing “Hoochie Coochie Man” and was instantly hooked on the blues.
He got his much-needed break from the living legend Taj Mahal, who described him as the “Wonderboy” and “the Wunderkind.” In 2015, Mahal asked Willis to play on stage with him. That appearance resulted in a roaring response from the audience and led Willis to bigger stages and broader opportunities, including an opening slot at select shows along the TajMo tour, featuring his musical mentors Taj Mahal and Keb’ Mo’.
Many fans of Willis regard him as an old soul. His style of playing the instruments and his voice touches the very roots of country blues. He brings back the true soul of the music. A newspaper headline once called him a “70-year-old bluesman in a 20-year-old body.”
Spectacular Class is the follow-up release to his debut album, Blue Metamorphosis, which was released in 2016 and garnered him rave reviews from such notable magazines as Living Blues and Blues & Rhythm. In 2018, the album earned recognition by the Blues Foundation through their International Blues Challenge, where he was honored with the Best Self-Produced CD Award.
John Primer has undisputedly helped build the sound and style of Chicago blues as we know it today. The echos of tradition bellowing from the birthplaces he played such as: Maxwell Street, Theresa's, Checkerboard and Rosa's Lounges, pulse from every chord in his fingers today. John Primer is a Chicago Blues Living Legend.
Growing up on Mississippi sharecropper land in 1945, inspired by his family’s hard work and field songs daily, deep devotion to spirituals on Sundays, and blues on Saturdays! John dreamed of one day playing with the Legendary Muddy Waters!
Moving to Chicago in 1963, he started on that path of becoming a great bluesman, getting his first steady gig at the legendary Maxwell Street in Chicago on Sunday's and at the famous Theresa’s Lounge seven nights a week for seven years! John was taught by the founding fathers of the blues! Starting out with his own band the Maintainers with Pat Rushing on Maxwell Street, he then moved on to play with the legendary Sammy Lawhorn and Junior Wells at Theresa's Lounge. He worked hard and impressed Willie Dixon enough to go on tour with him and his Chicago Blues All-Stars Band. At this point he was known and John's dream finally came true in 1981 when he got to play with his idol, Muddy Waters! Muddy called for him to lead his band and changed his life forever. After Muddy’s untimely death, he joined up with Magic Slim & The Teardrops for the next 14 years, traveling all over the world.
John paid his dues and in 1995 he began leading his own band, The Real Deal Blues Band. He has been recorded more than 87 albums with 17 albums in his own name. He has written and produced more than 55 songs on more than 6 record labels including his own, Blues House Productions. Earning 2 Grammy Award nominations, given 2 Lifetime Achievement Awards, inducted into the Chicago Blues Hall of Fame, awarded the "Muddy Award" for being a traditional blues icon, winning a Blues Music Award, Blues Blast Awards and countless other awards, John Primer is a legendary Chicago Blues Icon!
Blues Fest 2021 will be held on Friday and Saturday, September 17-18, at the historic LeClaire Park in Davenport, Iowa.
Tickets can be purchased in advance at MVBS.org or at the gate on September 17th and 18th. Attendees 14 and younger get in FREE with an adult!
For the past 35-plus years, the Mississippi Valley Blues Society has continued to bring both national and regional Blues legends and rising stars to the Blues Fest.
This year's Blues Festival will be at the historic LeClaire Park. A 400-acre public park located along the Mississippi River in downtown Davenport. Situated between Centennial Park on the west and River Heritage Park.
400 Beiderbecke Dr, Davenport, IA
Voted "Best Casino" in the region, The Isle of Capri is also Iowa’s largest hotel, with over 500 rooms. It is nestled right on the banks of the Mississippi River, and its well-appointed rooms and excellent restaurants make this a terrific deal.
The base rate is $99 per night and includes a $15 free casino play, a free drink at Lone Wolf bar, and a 10% discount at Keller's American Grill, voted to have the best steaks in the Quad Cities.
We want every fan to feel safe at the festival. Specific questions regarding safety, security, medical, and any others can be directed to the MVBS.org contact form. If you have an immediate need while on-site seek out any festival staffer, police, or security personnel.
MVBS seeks to present a welcoming summer festival and community. As a festival guest, you have an active role in creating an enjoyable and accepting environment for your fellow attendees, including speaking out when you see unacceptable behavior. MVBS has a zero-tolerance policy for harassment or discrimination of any kind.
We have taken enhanced health and safety measures for you, our artists and staff. You must follow all posted instructions while attending Blues Fest.
Dr. V’s BlueSkool is an interactive workshop where you can learn the history of blues, listen to blues, and play the blues. It is open to all ages on Saturday, September 18th. Kids 14 and under get into BlueSkool and Blues Fest FREE!
Hal Reed is a former resident of the Quad Cities and a member of the Iowa Blues Hall of fame, now living in Mississippi. Hal Reed delivers a show based primarily on the influence of his Delta blues upbringing. He will take us on a short trip through the blues, from the drums of West Africa to today’s contemporary and urban blues. From the chanting of slavery to the field hollers of the delta. From juke joints to blues clubs of the city.
David Berntson is an educator and musician based in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He is a recipient of Blues Foundation’s “Keeping the Blues Alive in Education Award.” Are you ready to learn something new? Get set because, in a very short time, you’ll be playing the harmonica. You will receive your very own Hohner harmonica and an instruction book that will have you playing your way to big fun in no time at all. All you need to bring is a teachable attitude, an open mind, and a willingness to have a good time.
Ben Schwind is the Education Coordinator at the River Music Experience. He grew up in the Quad Cities been coming to the RME since its infancy, participating and later teaching at the Winter Blues and Kidsock camps. He will do a version of the River Currents Tour they do at RME. A brief history of the blues and its impact on American music while giving an introduction to standard blues forms and styles.
In addition to the phenomenal acts on the historic bandshell stage, the Mississippi Valley Blues Society is proud to present what has come to be known as the Pedigo-Jones Stage. Named after long time volunteers Steve Pedigo and Jimmie Jones, this is where we feature both local and regional talent.
This year’s lineup is made up of bands that are all based in Iowa. We’ve got a couple of brand new bands and a couple of long time classics, including Bob Dorr, who played our very first festival. See you there!
So maybe you heard that Bob's Iowa Rock & Roll Hall of Fame band, The Blue Band, went on an indefinite hiatus starting the middle of January 2018. Well, you heard right! Although they have not totally ruled out a few reunion shows, nothing is planned and no offers have been received.
Although The Blue Band stopped, the monthly bills have not! The Blue 2 (Bob Dorr and Jeff Petersen, the last two original Blue Banders) still needs to make a living playing music! Please consider all of Bob and Jeff’s other current bands for town celebrations, neighborhood gatherings, corporate functions, casino stages, wineries, garage/deck parties, and bars/nightspots.
The Blue 2: Both members are twice inducted into the Iowa Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and individually inducted into the Iowa Blues Hall of Fame. They both sing while Jeff Petersen plays guitar and Bob Dorr plays drums and harmonica. The song list comes from 40 years of playing music together and includes blues, rockabilly, americana, and even a country song! And hey, maybe even an old song or three from The Blue Band if we’re lucky! Bob and Jeff will bring saxophone and bass player Nolan Schroeder along to make the three piece unit, Blue 2+1.
The Tanya English Band has been playing women’s empowerment Blues to their eastern Iowa audience for over 9 years, and they started when Dr. Tanya English heeded the call to unleash her inner Blues singer. 27 years ago, Tanya had a profound experience at the tent stage with the Blind Boys of Alabama after the stillbirth of her son, where she “felt waves of love and healing surrounding me”. From there she continued to study and then practice healing. In 2012, Tanya made her singing debut opening for her mentor and friend, Miss Gloria Hardiman. Tanya’s husband, Uncle Ed English, is a renowned local bass player and veteran of the eastern Iowa Blues scene and a steadfast supporter of her healing work. They have witnessed so many healings at an array of venues and at her clinic. Together they began Healing with The Blues!™, and continue to share the music of many amazing Blues musicians in their area to bring the healing power of the Blues to the fans!
“Blues is a healer. It healed me. It can heal you too.” John Lee Hooker
Johnny Burgin earned his name as the Worldwide West Side Guitar Man by performing up to 250 shows each year in Europe, Japan, and coast-to-coast in the US. Johnny grew up in Mississippi and went to University of Chicago at 18, and then ended up attending a "Blues University". He met a college radio station DJ who took him to see the Howlin' Wolf-style singer, Tail Dragger, on Chicago’s West Side. Tail Dragger took Johnny under his wing and gave him his first professional gigs. From there, Johnny learned quickly and went on to tour or gig with Blues legends including Pinetop Perkins, Sam Lay, and Billy Boy Arnold. He's been praised by the Cascade Blues Association for his "stunning guitar playing - the pure Chicago styled sound".
Johnny has played on dozens of recordings as a sideman and as a leader; he has released ten albums on Delmark Records and Vizztone Label Group. His most recent effort, Johnny Burgin Live, features special guests Charlie Musselwhite, Nancy Wright, and Rae Gordon, and debuted at #3 on the Living Blues’ Radio Report. No Border Blues: Japan came from Johnny’s many tours and long relationships in Japan, and is the first American compilation of the underground Japanese blues scene. Vintage Guitar stated “Stellar fretwork, gloriously loose, earthy and immediate Chicago blues”. Johnny and Stephanie Tice host the No Border Blues podcast, which is the only Blues podcast focused exclusively on international Blues artists. In 2017, he was nominated for a Best Traditional Blues CD - Blues Music Award (BMA) for Howlin' at Greaseland, an album tributed to Howlin' Wolf.
Josh “Slim” Kain, guitarist, singer, songwriter and frontman, has played with almost every Quad City area blues artist at one time or another. With his new band, QC Slim, Kain is stepping into the spotlight by bringing his rocking blues to guitar hungry blues lovers everywhere.
Bassist John Tobin and drummer Todd Vipond, keep a tight groove, allowing Slim the power to go where he wants to without missing a beat. Together they are the solid back bone that Slim was in need of.
22 year old guitar phenom Matt Fuller started playing in local bars at the age of 7 with his grandfather, John Pena, in his band, The Pena Brothers. The band also included Matt’s uncles, Lyle and Joe Pena. Matt played in the River Music Experience’s Winter Blues All Stars in 2013 and 2014, and the Pinetop Perkins camp. He joined the Quad City band Smooth Groove in 2016, and continues to play with them on a regular basis. Matt has shared the stage with blues luminaries Larry McCray, Anthony Gomes, Chris Cain, and more. He cites his main influences as his grandfather, John Pena, his uncle, Joe Pena, Jimi Hendrix, Freddie King, Albert King, Albert Collins, Johnny Winter, and Larry McCray.
Matt is joined by Bob Huether, bringing more than 50 years experience on the drums. Handling the vocals is singer, songwriter, Lyvewyre recording artist, Tyrone Phillips. And Smooth Groove bassist, vocalist Dewey Lacefield rounds out the lineup for the Matt Fuller Band.
Need more soul in your life? Looking for an excuse to dance your worries away? Tired of wearing poopy pants? If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, talk to your friends about Piso’s Cure. This musical elixir was created at Arlington Sound Lab in Davenport, Iowa, and will be available to you for the very first time here at the 2021 Blues Fest.
This excellent band’s ‘recipe’ includes: Two parts Frankie Fontagne: QC Blues & Soul powerhouse, bringing rousing lead vocals and a bass that is so ‘in-the-pocket’ that you’ll come out with a handful of change! One part Chrissy Strickland Boyer: Stunning vocalist and harmonizer who’s constantly elevating the QC music scene through her work at the River Music Experience (RME) and many other projects. Equal parts Jacob Palmer and Logan McDaniel: Two musical wizards on keys and guitar (respectively) that have been playing together for over a decade. Human jukeboxes and chemistry personified for sure! One part John Sorensen: The drummer and the glue who brings a cheesy grin and amazing beats that are so danceable you may ‘wanna slap your mama’!
Instructions: Mix all ingredients on the stage and hit the floor!
* Side effects include sweating, smiling, camaraderie, nostalgia, and fun. Dance as directed.