Spencer Bohren Commemorates a Birthday!

Yeh, that was my thought ! Spencer doing a birthday party – WOW, this is either gonna be really good or really weird. Well, upon realizing that it was a birthday celebration for Hank Williams, I knew it would be of the really good variety. Mr. Bohren being one of the very best interpreters of Hanks music and a sterling musician songwriter in his own right.

Sometimes we all need to step out of our comfort zone, not only as artists but as audience members, and while Spencer is well within my ‘comfort zone’, Hank Williams is a stretch that required extra stretching to get to, I mean it was a stretch to get to considering the subject matter. But when we go just beyond our grasp to try a little harder, dig a little deeper we – more likely than not – are rewarded tenfold with a special kind of joy.

A beautiful late summer afternoon across Western New York encouraged us to take the two-hour drive to Springville, NY. Home of Glenn ‘Pop’ Warner, the man who played such a critical role in shaping modern day football (and coached Jim Thorpe) and Dr. Ralph Waite, the man who pioneered ‘Anti-Dolor’ (no pain) anesthetic, a cocaine based preparation that swept the world. One other notable was ‘Grandpa’ Harold Olmsted, the Harvard educated landscape designer who in 1966 was named Man of the Year by the Harvard Club of Buffalo. But it is also home to the Springville Center For The Arts, which was what we had locked into our GPS device.

It’s always an adventure of sorts to go see music somewhere totally different – and the Springville Center was certainly that. A re-purposed church, it was quaint, comfy and very welcoming. Since we were coming ‘all the way from’ Rochester we were, ahh one would say, standouts. Well we weren’t locals for sure. But greeted warmly we chatted and found our seats in the front row, cameras, buttons, and curiosity well placed and within reach.

A dear lady was seated next to us that we had semi-met while waiting for the doors to open. The mutual experience of a stray troubadour playing music for the waiting crowd offered us a common ground. She definitively knew Spencer and wife, Marilyn. But she also knew Lionel Young and Dexter Payne (saxophonist/harp player from Lionel Young Band) so we had some fun conversing about them and the Bluestock experience where we saw Lionel and band play. Hmm, kinda close knit here or a migration of Spencer fans or maybe just the small world thing, but there was something going on.

On with the show . . .

Out comes Spencer in black cowboy shirt, smiling and he starts us off with ‘Lovesick Blues’ complete with plaintive yodeling and then proceeds to spin yarns both historical and of personal nature about the ‘Hillbilly Shakespeare’ aka Hank Williams. Deftly incorporating stories, songs and amuse-tunings (as the guitar was being obstreperous about staying in tune) Mr. Bohren painted a wonderful portrait of Hank as a man and as an artist.

Two songs which stood out for their sheer power and passion were ‘Lonesome Whistle’. The story line of the song goes “They took me off the Georgia Main, locked me to a ball and chain…”. The Georgia Main is the name of a train, short for Georgia Mainline and serves as the launching point for this tale of morality. Penned by Hank about a young man who had made a few unfortunate choices. Probably not unlike Hank himself. The other was a lap steel treatment of ‘I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry’ which produced many a teary eye in the crowd because of it’s sheer strength to create a painting of despair and loss that touches us all at a certain level.

My favorite story was about his late night pilgrimage to Hanks’ graveside accompanied by just his guitar (and a good nights worth of imbibing inside him) sitting and playing only to have the world light up around him and the local sheriff advising him, in an anything but kindly manner, that he was just gonna have to go back to the jail house seeing as how he was under arrest. Well the young Spencer, being just this side of drunk, made a plea about how he had loved Hank’s music and that this moment was special – to which the sheriff replied that he too loved and knew Hank, and Hank’s mom, but if Spencer really was such a big fan of Hank could he sing Jambalaya? Spencer did just that, and was good enough at it to change the sherrifs tune and be escorted back to the hotel he was staying (minus the stop over at the jailhouse) and was free to pursue his passion for Hank come morning and hopefully a tad more sober.

Spencer then led us in a sing-along of ‘Jambalaya’ complete with three verses and multiple choruses, ending his first set.

Mr. Bohren re-appeared for his second set to share with us to some of his original songs. Spencer had certailnly not run out of stories! Tales of the flooding and imminent disaster from Katrina, stories of him playing the 96th birthday party for legendary St. Louis bluesman, Henry Townsend – hmm, my 60th is coming up in 2012 (hint hint)! These combined with songs from his latest release ‘Blackwater Music’ which is currently charting well on Blues & Roots radio in all forms. This release seems very special to him as he had the opportunity to record with his son, Andre. He seemed to glow when referring to Andre’s prowess in the studio and his overall creativity that he showed while working together. One song that Spencer did stood out for me – it was a love song ‘Your Home Is In My Heart’ and it told of what it takes to keep love alive over the years, and how we can let it slip away but if we really want it we can get it back. Powerful stuff, and a testament to love’s enduring power.

Shortly after Spencer brought out his teenage niece Ms. Emma Tyme who treated us, along with Uncle Spencer, a wonderful original tune titled ‘Trigonometry‘. Ms. Emma possesses such a sweet voice and her guitar playing was a perfect adjunct to her singing. It was quite refreshing to hear some young talent without pedals, synthesizers etc.

If I might return the family affair feeling that I mentioned earlier, During the Hank Williams tribute portion of the show, Spencer spoke briefly about playing with a young lady from the area, Ms. Judy Roderick, back in the day They had covered, unbeknownst to him, a Hank Williams song called ‘Live In Love’, and Judys’ sister was here in the audience – sitting right next to me. As Spencer sang the song Ms. Emily cried tears of joy and it was apparent that almost everyone in the crowd knew her and the back story that I had just been made aware of. As I said sometimes we need to take ourselves out of the comfort zone, to be put face to face with the unknowns – there are rewards out there to still be had, windmills to do battle with, dreams to be realized or new dreams to conjure up. Ms. Emily is also related to the late Mr. Harold Olmsted, and Dexter Payne had formed a band with Judy Roderick before joining forces with Lionel Young – and here we were all here thrown together via Spencer’s show in Springville, NY.

Go figure……

For more photos from Spencer’s show:
http://blues411.com/gallery/index.php?album=spencer-bohren-springville-ny

for more info on these artists:
Mr. Spencer Bohren http://www.spencerbohren.com/
Mr. Hank Williams http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hank_Williams
Mr. Henry Townsend http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Townsend_(musician)
Ms. Judy Roderick http://judyroderick.com/

Until next time,
Love, Peace & Chicken Grease
chefjimi
©Blues411.com 2011
photos: Courtesy of Leslie K. Joseph

Free Download of Greg Nagy’s BMA Nominated Release & Review of Newest One

Here’s a treat from a fantastic artist and killer band —- The Greg Nagy Band  —- he has graciously shared this with us at Blues411 so please take advantage of it.
O.K. it’s go time… send an email with the subject heading “FREE CD” to gjnagy@gmail.com
and he will send you a safe and secure link to yousendit.com where you can download the entire 2010 BMA Nominated Disc “Walk That Fine Thin Line” for FREE! These are high resolution MP3s. Enjoy!

And while you are enjoying free fruit, ya might want to tap into his newest release which was reviewed back in June. Currently it is charting very well on B.B. King’s Bluesville Sirius/XM 70. A fine follow up release well worth adding to your collection, and it’s a way of saying thanks to Greg and Band for all their hard work. You will not be disappointed.

(re-posted from June 3, 2011 reviews)

Greg Nagy: Fell Toward None (Big O/Vizztone)
http://www.gregnagy.com/

From the first funky strains of, Freddie King’s classic, ‘Pack It Up‘ Mr. Nagy sets the stage for this release and never backs away from taking us on 11 groove laden tracks. Greg has been around for a spell, getting acclaim while with the mid-west band Root Doctor, and on his own for the past few years. His prior effort was nominated for a BMA Best New Artist Award in 2009. So from a good stock he has put together a serious soul stew review for us to partake in.

Some of the finer cuts are the selections he co-wrote with former Root Doctor (now keyboard player for Janiva Magness Band) Jim Alfredson. ‘Wishing Well‘ an upbeat, tempo shifting shuffle that features a nasty retro wah-wah guitar that restates that pedals position in the R&B family. ‘For A Broken Heart‘ is a minor key blues that delves in to what exists inside a broken relationship and trying to find a way to either get out or get it right.

I’ll Know I’m Ready’ has an interesting feel to it with the drums echoing the loneliness that exists inside the words of the song as the writer gets into the car and proclaims he is ready to forget about the love gone bad but tussles with the overbearing sadness of facing the fact of it. Mr. Alfredson provides some beautiful key board work on this cut reinforcing the emptiness of the situation.

A shout out to the ‘Facebook Mama’ complete with a poke at ‘pokings’ and references to status updates and never having too many friends. It is a modern take on the traditional double entendre songs about meat men, dentists, and switchboard operators slightly bawdy but all in good taste.

The title track ‘Fell Toward None’ has a swamp blues feel that has migrated to the North – Flint, Michigan – to his home town. It is an expose of what many of the Rust belt towns and cities are experiencing these days and is a tale told with great feeling, thank you Greg a super, super song.

What we have with Fell Toward None is a more confident Greg, both in his guitar playing but also in his vocal deliveries. What is interesting is that Mr. Nagy has taken the time to get to know and absorb all the facets of the music he plays, the Rhythm and the Blues, and in doing so offers us up a tasty, educated palate of musical dishes for us to enjoy – and come back for seconds.

Until next time,
Love, Peace & Chicken Grease
chefjimi
©Blues411.com 2011

Bluestock – Blues Nirvana With A Dickensian Twist

Well it’s over, Bluestock that is. The much publicized 3 Days of Peace, Love and the Blues to be held August 26, 27, 28, 2011 is in the books. What a story it turned out to be.

No one quite knew what to expect, but what we got was a true mix of Blues Fest, Woodstock revisited, Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise, and disaster area all in one. That’s not a bad thing, mind you it’s just the hand we got dealt.  Scheduled to be held over three days on Hunter Mountain, a Central New York State ski area, it was to be a gathering of the tribes at one spectacular event, combining all the good from each faction and making it’s mark on the history of festivals and become one of the largest of it’s kind. It succeded in ways unimaginable by anyone who was there or that I had talked to.

What I will offfer here for your approval is a story of what went on, pre, during and post. Combined with personal experiences, and group experiences since sometimes they were inseparable.

With people arriving from all over the US and the world, we set out Thursday mid morning hoping to arrive at our shared condo around 4 or 5 o’clock. Well first part of trip was cool, nice weather till we turned South and headed down thru the Cobleskill area  – the rain picked up, roads were closed and detours were in place because of bridge construction/repairs. We wound up coming in the back way on a one and a half lane road in the rain (not storm rain – just normal Central NY mid afternoon summer rain – which can be heavy at times). Well, I was freaking since I had no bloody idea of where we were - even tho’ we had a GPS system – I didn’t believe it since we were hearing banjos and bad teenage summer  horror movie music. My partner, Leslie, was driving and reassured this city boy we were fine. As we headed by the Gilboa dam, there was a moment that she might have sided with me, since that main road was closed and we were being diverted down a steep hill. Yet we made it, arriving at Hunter Mountain and meeting up with friends who all had arrived before us (we were the closest, and should have heeded this subtle, but firm warning on what was to come).

That night had a feel of pre-LRBC cruise night. People showing up, gathering in a common area, joining each other at tables, rooms and common areas of the lodging. All excited about what was to come, each planning on what they would be scoping out, acts they were looking forward to, and acts that they thought would be surprise bands. We strolled around the grounds to get the feel for the lay out, vantage points and other tactical preparation that often accompanies festival gatherings. Interesting set up, with two stages side by side allowing attendees to shuffle to the left – shuffle to the right to see the bands in action. It worked really well, and did not create overcrowding or insurmountable congestion either. A nice thought for some other larger festivals to consider. Later that night the cruiser faction kicked in with dinner at the Hotel dining room, and cruiser ‘framily‘ making their arrivals seen and heard in the usual fellowship of the Blues method – a great time to see and hang with lots of folks whom we have come to know and love over the years.

Friday broke upon us gently with a soft mist floating over the area, it burned off by 10:00AM, and left us with a comfortable shroud of clouds to get our chores and ‘whatevers’ accomplished before the 5:00PM kick off. Establishing a beach head with good vantage points was pretty easy and folks were set up and ready to rock the mountains as never before. People were still arriving when Steve Simon introduced the Lionel Young Band and they kicked it off in such grand style that they made many new fans based on their performance. Part R&B revue, part amalgam of new and old style Blues and one hundred percent kick ass they ushered in a joy and spirit that stayed with us all for the entire event.

As Bob Margolin & Matt Hill hit the stage and kept the spirits burning bright (to be joined by the aforementioned Lionel Young) there was serious conferencing and logistical planning in the staff trailers due to the oncoming approach of Hurricane Irene. It’s path seemed to be headed straight for us – not a good thing at all. By middle of the nights’ performance the brain trust of Bluestock had wisely put together a plan that would bring us the most acts possible in the shortest amount of time allowable with the least amount of danger to us all.

Sunday would be canceled, Saturday would start at Noon with Robert Cray Band opening the day. Buddy Guy would follow and then we would all move inside to the Hunter Mountain Ski Lodge & Hall. It would be tight but if we keep our collective heads in the right place we would be partying till the break of day and enjoying it.

As the crew and pit bosses scrambled to get things in place the show went on featuring just spanking performances by everyone, no exclusions. From Trombone Shorty to Tab Benoit & the Gator Hat Crew (LOL) to Elvin Bishop having Donna Placco join him on stage for guitar lessons, the attendees were exposed to a wide variety of Blues that we don’t often get to see, a great mix indeed.

Friday ended with Mitch Woods and the Rocket 88 Revue featuring Billy Gibson, Dave Fields, Pete ‘Hop’ Hopkinson and a cast of jamming artists bringing us to a joyful end of day one. A great few numbers by Shakura S’Aida, Johnny Sansone and Mitch Woods with enough sexual tension that Ms. S’Aida looked up from her efforts with Mitch to ask, who all these people were in her bedroom ! Great work, perfect timing and sultry enough for any, and every one there.

Damn, Saturday morning rolled around pretty quickly. A noon start is stretching it for a lot of us folks ! But with the star power scheduled we all got there and the weather cooperated till the end of Buddy’s set in which he brought out young guitarist Quinn Sullivan to show us that the Blues is alive and well with the younger generation. Moving inside the hall with two stages in adjoining rooms, sort of like Chicago’s Kingston Mines on steroids, every single act gave it their very best. It was wood shedding without the bad parts. As for the rain, it was so-so, raining hard enough that we were glad NOT to be outside but it wasn’t overpowering or effecting us in any real way. Well that lasted till Sunday when the heavens opened up, but more on that later.

With the non-food vendors set-up inside also (nice touch for them), and the bar offering food to go it ran really well. With Michael Cloeren, Tony Colter, Steve Simon and others manning the stage announcements the shows criss-crossed the stages till later in the night when confronted with a rural curfew they had to double up some acts to get it all in. This really wasn’t a problem, though it did make it sometimes difficult to swing back and forth between acts. It seemed to take a bit away from the full effect of the sets involved, but hell no complaint here, just an observation. Energy that was electric emanating from the stage as Ronnie Baker Brooks brought some of that Chicago Blues to us all, and Curtis Salgado’s Big Band grabbed us by the hearts and made us breath just a little bit heavier for his effort.

The last two acts were the Port City Prophets up from Charleston, SC a hard driving power trio who, though they may have not been well-known, certainly left the audience knowing who they were when they left. The other act was Alexis P. Suter Band from Brooklyn and metro NY. Having to play without two members of the band due to the Irene, they came out swinging and captivated the, at times, overly stimulated crowd, leaving everyone worn out and frayed but with just enough thread to left to enjoy the final session of Club 88. Mitch Woods closed up shop on time and got everyone headed back to where they came from, thus ending the ‘official’ Bluestock Festival.

I cannot say enough about Steve and crew for managing a very fluid situation and accomplishing what they set out to do. Nothing was ignored, safety first, music for everyone, and goodness abounding. Another thing is that this day was so similar to the LRBC cruises with music going on all day, and the excitement and anticipation that emanated from the crowd equalled the fevered pitch that we experience on the boats of the bluescruise. And no ports !

Sunday brought about the ‘unofficial’ festival. With attendees and artists alike situated in various hotels in the area we should have been able to gather and party during the day. Well Hurricane Irene took care of that. Mitch Woods, Billy Gibson and others were stranded in a flooded Tannersville, but still managed to put on a show along with Moreland & Arbuckle and a few other hearty souls to the enjoyment of all in that part of town. Ahh, Main street in Tannersville was flooded, and no power did not stop them.

Meanwhile at the Kaatskill Mountain Lodge, where we were based was desperately trying to keep power supplied – and by mid afternoon we managed to put on a small revue featuring Kirsten Thien, Erik Boyd, Kit Holiday, Pat Pepin and other adventurous musicians to keep the spirit alive and well. Then the lights went out, and while some hung downstairs others went to their rooms. We hit up the restaurant who had limited food, and got some grub, and partied back in the room with friends. All the while the storm raged. When we did have power we would watch the local news and weather channel to see what was up with Irene, and she was stuck between the mountain ranges and we were getting upwards of fifteen inches of rain. Bridges washed out, as did evacuation roads and later we learned that the NY State Thruway was more of a waterway than auto way. UGH ! The hotel did a great job of digging berms and diverting the rising water level to keep it from totally washing out the roads, but they could only do so much. Also they offered up cookies and good stuff from the fridges that were going to be without power for a good long time, thanks y’all.

Monday was clear, a bit chilly but showed hopeful for getting out of Dodge. But the bridge across the stream turned river just below was closed and with power lines down it was going to be dicey at best getting off the mountain. Fortunately the front desk was very helpful keeping us up to date on options and we set off to try a semi-closed road where power lines were down, but with no power and none expected it seemed to be the thing to do. A two-lane road now a one and a quarter path with a straight drop off the end was where we headed. Time consuming but eventually successful we made it down and to the NY State Thruway in Saugerties and headed North toward Albany hoping to scoot west and be home.

Well who knew that the Mohawk River was going to crest at 2PM on Monday, and was already flowing over the thruway ? So as we and a few other hearty Bluestockers hit the rest area, we waited it out hoping that they would open the westward passage – ahh not gonna happen. All the ancillary roads were also closed to traffic, so we headed back to Albany to a hotel to eat, sleep and shower and try again. Several funny asides here, as we hit the hotel the front desk guy had a Bluestock band on his wrist so we asked if he was there and yes he was with his mom ! He saw Wendy and I on stage Saturday night when we spoke of the newly created Framily between Bluestockers and Bluescrusiers and his mom even snagged a few Blues411 buttons – who knew.

The other was Leslie’s niece Kali hailing from New Hampshire was camping in Niagara Falls and stopped by our house to visit, but since we were not there she called/texted us and said they were headed to Albany to stay in our hotel since they needed to get back to NH the next day. Well here’s to the intrepidity of this younger generation, they made it thru the ‘closed’ roads and we hung out had a quick visit and breakfast and then they headed toward Vermont and eventually made it back to New Hampshire – cool !

So after the ‘kids’ departed we struck out to re-create their path westward, and made it through to the Thruway just near Syracuse where we finally made it back to Rochester. We went thru some of the devasted areas, and could see the high-water marks on trees and houses (the ones that were still standing) and then we saw this scene of cows just lazing as if nothing had happened.  Oh, did I mention that Wendy Schumer was with us, she was scheduled to fly out of Boston back to Portland but the path of the storm (when last seen) was headed directly there, so she changed to fly out of Rochester – all we had to do was to get West which was supposed to be easy – WRONG ! So Wendy got to visit and spend the night as we ate along the bubbling and historic Erie Canal, and we got her to her flights and she eventually made it home.

So if I can reference Dickens – it was the best of times, it was the worst  of times. The festival ran smoothly and to a person was successful and enjoyable. Hurricane Irene did a job on the area though, and residents suffered from her treacherous rains and floods. They are still fighting against it, with more rains this week their lives seems to be double cursed. But I know that these hearty folks will prevail as best as they can.

There are several sites that are offering opportunities to help out area residents get their lives back in some order, on facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/Support4CatskillMtns?sk=wall

 

 

on the web: http://catskillmountainrelief.blogspot.com/?spref=fb

 

 

 

 

 

 

and concert: http://www.greenecountybenefitconcert.org/Event_Info.html

 

Until next time,
Love, Peace & Chicken Grease
chefjimi
©Blues411.com 2011
photos: Courtesy of Leslie K. Joseph, Kathleen Blandini

 

One Year Anniversary – Thank You One And All

It is just over a year ago that Blues411 came into this ethereal world of Internet sites. Man, it has been more than I ever expected. The actual date of first going live was September 7, 2010.

After writing at various sites, pubs and self published blogs, I decided to take this newly found passion to the next level, and put myself out there with a concerted effort and to try and establish a presence in the field.  Not being sure where to begin we toyed with the naming of the site. Not too cutesy, not to personal, and not too staid. I found that Blues411 was available and it seemed to fit rather nicely with what I had intended to provide – a place for Blues information – a good sign !

I was in the very early stages of development when Ms. Janiva Magness heard of my efforts and suggested that I write about Ms. Robin Rogers, who was terminally ill at the time. Well when the ‘hot line’ phone rings you best answer it and get to doing as asked. Thank you Janiva, you supported me in the effort to provide a look at Robin through the eyes and hearts of friends, fellow artists, and those close to her. Thank you also to Tony & Robin Rogers who approved of this venture and to those of you who assisted me by giving the gift of your time. This was actually the second piece to appear the first was a discussion about what are the Blues. Since that was self-penned, I consider the Robin Rogers piece my first actual ‘story’ since I had to speak with people and do the ‘cub reporter’ thing to get it done.

The next big event was interviewing Mr. George Thorogood, what a charmer! We had a blast talking, as you can tell by reading the interview, and we shared many tasty bits that made it so special to me and hopefully to all of you.  After that Ms. Karen Lovely allowed us to talk to her (at that point she had just released her second CD,  ‘Still The Rain’ and it was climbing the charts, we spoke about the road to success and how one measures it. We ended the conversation with a proclamation that she would be nominated for a Blues Music Award, which she did, by golly ! Congrats Karen and thank you for your friendship. The same occured when Vincent Hayes (Vincent Hayes Project) stopped by to chat and I was so thrilled with his ‘Reclamation’ release that I told him I smelled a BMA nomination, and that happened also, great work Vincent – all nominees are winners !

One of the most influential events was my first Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise in 2008. That set me off into the Blues Framily (Friends + Family combined) and events around the October 2010 cruise dominated my writings for that month.  In December we began the inaugural ‘Blues411 Awards’, a friendly shout out to all the artists who worked so hard during the year giving us music to enjoy – our way of saying thanks (look for again it this December).  A special shout out to Roger Nabor and all my cruiser friends from the LRBC for their support and special way of looking at things.

Without boring you with a blow-by-blow of what occurred, let me just say it has been a tremendous first year. The reception and responses I have received has been waaaay beyond anything I had ever thought possible. Artists, fans, friends, strangers (just friends I haven’t met yet) have lifted me to my own little Blues heaven. I thank each and every one of you.  Thanks to the artists for taking the time to share with us their thoughts, feelings and insights. Thanks to Bill Wax and Sirius/XM Bluesville  70 for the Picks to Click listings each week (and to Tony Colter for promoting it on air). This has become a wonderful addition to the site where artists and fans can keep up with the latest discs spinning on B.B. King’s Bluesville. Thanks to Mark Pucci, of Mark Pucci Media for believing in this site and providing us with new releases for review. To Betsie Brown of Blind Raccoon, and the many other promoters, record labels, independants and artists for including Blues411 in the distribution channel as well.

I can go on ad nauseum, but you know that if I have not mentioned you personally I have and still do thank you for your inclusion into this world.  One last big assed Blues thank you to my wife, best friend and partner in crime, Leslie Joseph for allowing me to pursue this dream and being so supportive of me. Oh yeh her photography skills are such an important part of this site. Like they say a picture is worth a thousand words – or in my case two thousand (thanks Lucky) !

Looking forward to more interviews, reports, reviews and goodness knows what else, see ya’ll after the knee scope (9/6) and if I’m straight enough I’ll give ya a shout out on Facebook where I can be found updating and posting just about all the time.
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Blues411/106980716027973

 

Until next time,
Love, Peace & Chicken Grease
chefjimi
©Blues411.com 2011
photos: Courtesy of Leslie K. Joseph

PS:  thanks to Polly’s in Memphis for the Love, Peace & Chicken Grease !