Hello again everyone, man what a week or so. Starting out at a fabulous pre-cruise party put on by the South Florida Blues Society featuring super bands and great party vibes just setting us up for the seven days at sea. WHOA !
I am not gonna get complex or deep here, since I need to be in Memphis tomorrow (Tuesday) afternoon. I am forced by time to be somewhat compact in my offerings. So here goes some highlights for me……
In no particular order . . .
Betteye LaVette’s set in the big auditorium (Showroom at Sea) freakin’ stunning. One could hear a pin drop as she interpreted many different songs in her own fascinating way. The arrangements were fantastic (by Al Hill) and guitar work by Brett Lucas was timely, effective and stunning. No there was no dancing. One had to listen and confront this special artist on a level many are not used to. Her version of The Who’s ‘Reign O’er Me’ was killer.
Chris Cain – every show, every song, every note was wrenched from his soul. He is so joyful, his guitar playing so good. There is a touch of B.B. King in his voice, others said it was Albert – his fingers recalled Freddy King - so the vote is in- - the Three Kings of the Blues were present in his form this cruise. His band is excellent, featuring long time bassist Steve Evans and Greg Rahn on keys, not to forget Mick Mestek on drums just filled it out.
Drums were the big one on this cruise. Featuring such legendary pocket rockets as Chris Layton (KWS), Tony Braunagel (playing with Phantom Blues Band & Coco Montoya band), Harold Brown (Lowrider band), Dave Kida (Rod Piazza), Rick Carter (Latimore). Paired with talented young guns such as Adam Gust (Cafe R&B), Patrick Seals (Nick Moss), Taya Perry (Homemade Jamz Blues Band) Byron Cage (Tommy Castro) and Ronnie Smith (Joe Louis Walker) plus every other mutha drummer on the boat – it was truly an educational good time. They topped it off with a drum showcase wherein they explained drumming from a historic point of view and then added different beats and time signatures to show us what goes on back there. Thank you all very much.
Dion DiMucci offered songs from his latest release ‘Tank Full of Blues’ and shared the stage with Debbie Davies which was a highlight for many of us. Dion is most gracious with his time and his songs still ring of truth and reflect a lifelong journey with the blues do check his blues releases out.
Joe Louis Walker was on the ship with a slightly new configuration – using Keith Crossan and Tom Poole on horns and his daughter Lena and Sari Posner on vocals had an energy level unmatched as they debuted his new release on Alligator Records ‘Hellfire’.
Not just electric out on the water, there was some grounding of the current with Bill Sims, Jr & Mark LaVoie who gave us acoustic blues at it’s best, a man with his guitar and a man and his harp – simply said it was beautiful. Plus Bill’s version of ‘Catfish Blues’ will go down in history as one of the dirtiest ones ever – with Shemekia Copeland in the audience laughing at the punch line - – Jook Joint Alert !
Last years IBC winners, Georg Schroeter & Marc Breitfelder brought the Blues from Germany to us in intimate settings that showcased their immense talents and a unique fashion sense.
International blues were well represented as Switzerland’s Philipp Fankhauser joined the cruise as a relative unknown and left with rave reviews and sold out CD sales. Surprise hit of the ship.
One man, his guitar and his voice – Matt Andersen ’nuff said.
Mississippi was holding down the US side of the plate with Super Chikan and the Fighting Cocks making it all good for everyone as they worked their way thru good old down home stories and tasty music. Supe was also the commemorative artist for this cruise and had special hand made guitars for all to see.
Tupelo, MS gave us The Homemade Jamz Blues Band featuring Ryan, Kyle and Taya all under twenty years of age playing and entertaining the crowds both indoors and out. These young artists have been at it for quite awhile and they are improving and adding more and more to their repertoire every time we see them. Plus they did an event for Blues In The Schools on St. Croix that was like a Beatles concert complete with screaming girls and dancing in the aisles. Great job !
Chicagos’ Nick Moss and the Flip Tops were just plain out great. Featuring Nick on guitar and Michael Ledbetter on vocals and guitars they were tighter than a mosquitoes tweeter and just as funky. Michael is an exceptional vocalist and Nick does a great job featuring him – thank you Nick. As an added treat they brought along legendary Jimmy Johnson who was full of spirit and great tunes that he shared with us all.
The power of soul was represented by Latimore who was in fine voice and gets the lyric of the week which will go unprinted here but damn it was a funny reference to feminine hygiene and cheating and how one helps reveal the other ! HAH Cafe R&B, featuring Roach on vocals and gymnastics were hi-energy straight ahead rockin’/funky blues, stunning visually and sweet sounding they are a band to see. Let’s not overlook The Lowrider Band – as great as ever these ‘old guys’ keep the spirit and love alive with every song and engage the audiance like no other.
Two other ladies who held sway were Shemekia Copeland and her fine band who’s set in the Queens Lounge was intimate and powerful. Sans mic, Ms. Copeland belted out some of the old time religion to the enthralled crowd ending in a standing ovation. PHEW.
The other lady was more visceral, Ms. Shaukura S’Aida and her band teased, challenged, invoked and satisfied the crowd with powerful singing and scorching guitar work from Donna Grantis – their music was like a full contact drill in footbal – pads and all – just hitting hard and take no prisoners approach that was stunning to be part of.
The Phantom Blues Band were showcased with their new release ‘Inside Out’ and then backed the legendary Taj Mahal as they have often done. Slick, concise and straight up blues was their trademark wherever they played. On the beach Kenny Neal and the family just made it the perfect spot to be in if only we could hold onto that moment just a little longer. A versatile performer. Kenny played guitar, harp, and lap steel while grinding out his vocals over a rhythm section that juiced up island time just a tad.
Coco Montoya on the last night of the cruise just put it all out there for us to see and hear. While not the flashiest guitar player he wastes no notes and makes every one of them ring true down to the soul. This may have been his best show that I have seen of recent years.
The West Coast Swing of Rod Piazza and band had them dancing in the pool – with water in it !
The final act of the Tommy Castro band as we know it had the last notes on the ship. An outdoors venue with the moon watching and the winds carrying the sounds of new musical directions to the distant shores it was a bittersweet affair. With Keith, Tom, Tony and Scot headed elsewhere they all for that one moment reminded us of what they had and were capable of doing, and we will see or hear no more….
and that ends my story…….
for over 750 photos of the cruise got to:
see ya in Memphis.
Until next time,
Love, Peace & Chicken Grease
photos: Leslie K.Joseph