Happy 3rd Birthday to Blues411

WOW, we have made it through our ‘terrible twos’ how cool is that. It is pretty amazing to me how well received Blues411 is throughout the blues framily.

Some of our highlights this past year were our 17 interviews, including Anne Harris  in January and Earl Thomas in August, two fantastic artists who gave us a deep look into their lives and music. Philipp Fankhauser, whom I caught up with in June at the Chesapeake Bay Blues Festival and Koko Taylor’s former guitarist, Shun Kikuta the ‘shogun of the Blues‘, from the other side of the ocean keeping the Blues alive all over the world.

Keeping the Blues alive is just one of the things we seek to do, keeping it thriving is even better. Interviews with up and coming young artists as Trent Romens, Samantha Fish and JP Soars go a long way to proving that the Blues indeed are all right, and thriving with some super youngsters adding vitality and life into its bloodstream.

There were the Blues411 Jimi Awards that seemed to be precursor of other awards that followed. Featuring awards to BMA winners Johnny Sansone (headed back into studio with Anders Osborne), Bobby Rush (new release out real soon) and others who were nominated for BMAs also. Good calls by us, and we try to go beyond the conventional wisdom’s line of thinking with our nominees and will continue to do so.

As we left the Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise in January (we managed to do both January and October last year) I headed to Memphis for my first IBC event. What an exciting time that was. Being able to see hundreds of the up and coming Blues artists all within walking distance on legendary Beale Street was a thrill. Of course the streets were painted with the ubiquitous Blues411 buttons which we gave out to all who would take them. But Memphis was the spot that some dirtbag hacked into the site and it got shutdown. Ah the best  of times, the worst  of time (someone said that before didn’t they)? But we got home and adjusted, fixed, cleaned, spayed and neutered the site and it came back stronger than ever. We added new photo software to make it easier to view our snaps from Leslie K. Joseph ‘the eyes of Blues411’ as aptly named by Vinny Marini of Music on the Couch which I am honored to be a guest reporter the first Monday of each month.

We had a travelling guest blogger, Ms. Kirsten Thien as she embarked on her ‘C 2 Shining C Tourand reported from around the USA including photos and videos of their adventures.  Another guest blogger was Mr. Don Wilcox who provided us a splendid in depth two part interview with Dion DiMucci. Thank you both and come back around any time!

We are currently averaging over 6 thousand unique visits a month and 1,397,419 average hits for this calendar year. Those are some serious numbers, and I wish to thank each and every one of you for the success. We have come a long way from the 1,320 visitors we had back in September 2010. With those numbers we have started to add Tier1 Supporters, these kind folks have signed up to support the Blues411 mission and by being advertisers allow us to continue on unrestrained. I wish to thank each of them publicly and you can see who they are on the right hand side bar on every page of our site.

We have lots in store for this new year, hopefully keeping everyone engaged and positive. We have adopted a new tag line for the site “Where Blues Thrives”.  To us it says more about what we need to do as a community – more than keeping it alive, which to me sounds like life support. Thriving is what we want to be as a community and genre, and together we can accomplish this. Let’s be that shiny object that attracts attention everywhere we go, the whispered about BLAMF genre that in one song spreads the words and attitudes handed down by the foremothers and forefathers, and in the next song tells of unrequited love or love so strong  that makes a person scream that they can’t quit ya. Let the Blues be open and accepting, let the Blues be strong and forward thinking, and maybe just maybe not take ourselves so seriously all the time.

Big thanks to everyone of you you have allowed us to live the dream. Special thanks always goes out to Mr. Bill Wax of SiriusXM Bluesville, Roger Nabor of The LRBC, and Ms. Janiva Magness for their role in developing our dream.

Until next time,
Love, Peace & Chicken Grease
©Blues411.com 2012
photos: Leslie K. Joseph
Where Blues Thrives 


Paging Thunderclap Newman – Please Report to 2012 Immediately

There’s ‘Something In The Air” do you remember that song? Musta been 1969-70, Pete Townsend had put together this band and this song was all over the alternative radio back then. I have always dug it, and it is on my mind “repeat button” usually for a week or so. If ya listen closely you can even hear Townsend doing harmonies – Pete is such an underrated vocalist – very cool song. Just so you can dig on it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VK_6TU1T7V8

Now what does this have to do with anything even remotely scurrying through my brain, well let’s take a little trip, take a little trip, take a little trip with me (thank you Lowrider Band). Well see, here we are a quarter of the way into the year 2012 – yeh the end of the Mayan calendar – and after all the preemptive media hype concerning the end of the world scenarios we are still here. Yes we are but things have started to change.

I first started noticing a subtle undercurrent last October or so, there was a palpable vibe going around in certain circles, some of whom I inhabit occasionally. Some of the artists that I have spoken with felt it also. As Tommy Castro said about writing songs “there are songs floating around out there…you have to keep your antenna up or it will pass you by”.  Now in this case I think many folks had their antennae raised because there definitely was this feeling of a new dawn and possibly a new day to come.

As Americans we seem somewhat entrenched into finites – like the aforementioned hype about the end of the world. Well it’s not the end, or just the start of a new beginning? It has it’s place in history contained in everything from Tarot (the feared Death Card), to Christians celebrating Easter and the re-birth of Christ, to plain old Spring wherein we see a renewal of flora and fauna – so in that context why would the Mayan calendar ending be anything but the start of something new (or in the air).

Maybe it is the true breaking of a new dawn for a new day. Are we going from chrysalis to butterfly? Now the pessimists and some political factions may think hell is just around the corner – and it may very well be for them – but with that end is a new beginning for the rest of us. Yet as Tommy Castro said we have to have our antennas set in the receive mode. Oh yeh, ask Tommy about change. Of course nothing will happen easily, there are still some bumps in the road, some issues to be dealt with, but nothing of any good comes easily. Ask any musician who is an ‘overnight success’ after twenty years of working bar gigs.

Look around – just peek at the Blues music scene. There is positive movement toward establishing a Blues Hall of Fame, you will hear more about this as we go further into the year and beyond. But musically also there is a spring that is no longer silent. There are a great number of young folks playing the Blues around the word. They have found it to be the voice of life and are embracing it after years of being driven by by the sound of corporate prostitutional music. They see the light and the music. Check out Trent Romens, Andy Poxson, and Bear Hutchinson among others. All over Europe and Asia there are more and more bands playing Blues and American roots music with the fervor that once swept thru England in the sixties (a movement that gave us the Stones, Yardbirds, The Animals and Mayall). Some of these younger bands are the Johnny Riegar Band out of Germany and The Bleu Rascals from the Philippines. While some of the European established acts that are getting great play here in the states are Philip Fankhauser from Switzerland, Pristine Band from Norway, J.W. Jones from Canada and more fine artists around the world playing the Blues.

I believe we are about to enter into an amazing creative period in the world which will effect the fortunes for all of us who have our ear to the ground and are receptive to the changes going on around us. As Too Slim and the Taildraggers’ said, “Free Your Mind” well just do it (not in the Nike sense) – let go of the negative, be open to the possibility of the positive changes that are around you. There are roads to be taken, lessons to be learned and songs to be sung, and together we can make it a joyful noise that will raise the roof and spirit level for all of us. There is definitely something in the air and time has come today (thank you Mr Lester Chambers).

Until next time,
Love, Peace & Chicken Grease
©Blues411.com 2012
photos: courtesy of open source photos.

Interview: Trent Romens: Young Man’s Blues

I met Trent in quite an inauspicious way. While at the New Daisy theater in Memphis a young, very attractive lady was handing out postcards about an artist who I had heard of thru Blind Raccoon, I mentioned that I enjoyed his music and she said “…well tell him, this is Trent” I was totally unprepared  – before me stood a very young man, polite, proper and quite genuine in his approach to conversation and able to converse on a wide range of topics.
After some minutes I felt like I had met someone from my past – an old soul of sorts. Throughout that weekend we often spent time together chatting, poking fun at each other and generally having a kindred experience. Let me introduce you to this 20 year old blues-man from Edina, Minnesota. He is bold, passionate and with just enough audacity to make me truly like him as an artist and as a person. Trent Romens……

B411: First off I have to tell you, I truly believe that ‘you get it’. There is a certain aura to you and the way you handle yourself in public and on stage is beyond your years and speaks volumes about you.
Trent Romens: Thank you, I appreciate that. It’s very cool that you feel that way.

B411: Let’s touch on something that is very current and very cool, you are opening for Jimmy Vaughn. Tell me something about that and how it came to be.
TR: Well yeh it really is, it’s in Rochester, MN at the Whiskey Bones March 23, 8:00PM– I am really excited about it. To be able to open for someone of that stature is just enormous, hopefully I will be able to meet him and talk to him some. That’s a pretty cool step in the process for me. My manager talked to the venue after hearing that Jimmy was coming in and she jumped on it.

B411: If I can flash back to my first statement to you about ‘getting it‘. I have called you, and heard others also say that you seem to be ‘an old soul’. How do you feel about something like that. Does it get old, or is it a pressure situation for you?

I’ll tell you what, it’s better than people telling me I’m going to be famous. That stuff just gets in your head.

B411: How do you feel about that, how would you explain that and what does it mean to you?
TR: I’ve listened to a lot of older music, and I think it has had that type of effect upon me, hence my soul is old. While some of the newer music I really don’t like it that much. Most of my generation really digs that music, I don’t. I personally think it’s a cool thing to have said about me.

B411: So what did you listen to as a younger person? You have been playing the Blues for a long time but prior to that.
TR: When I was really young I just didn’t get the Blues. Nor did I get some of the music I get and am into today, like the Grateful Dead. I liked the Backstreet Boys, Aaron Carter, pop stuff, I wanted to just get up and dance. I was a victim of the record labels back then.
I started to get into classic rock and Blues and some Jazz – this was in Middle School – and that’s when I started playing guitar. Since then this is the music I listen to and I really enjoy it. Take Derek Trucks, he’s an old soul right there. He has modernized the genre, he does his thing and it sounded so cool and awesome that it showed me that this music is really great and to look at where it came from and where it is now. In a way it made the music legitimate to me.

B411: That’s pretty good thinking on your part. I must confess that I re-visited your release ‘Aware’ after meeting you – I heard a mix of subtle sounds from various artists such as the Allman Brothers, Derek Trucks, Derek and the Dominoes etc. It is not a strict style or, as we often hear, a seventeen year old white boy playing SRV. It is your sound.
TR: I am kind of a genre whore, that’s what I like to call it.

B411: That’s a good one, can I use that? See I believe that roots and influences are different. Influences can change as to what you are into at the moment, or if you suddenly get hipped to a band or sound that you dig….Roots on the other hand are the foundation or core of what you as an artist is.
TR: I dig these questions, people don’t often think of the differences between these two important things.
So let’s start with the roots first. I grew up with two brothers and one older sister, the brothers are two years younger than me. It was in a great neighborhood, and had a very loving family. Very supportive with us kids, which made it easier for me to dive into other types of music. I didn’t need to listen to angry music because I didn’t have that in me. I also feel that I have a good head on my shoulders,it’s on pretty straight. Those are my roots.
Now influences, Derek Trucks is a huge influence on me. He was the bridge, he made me want to be good, as good as him. I wanted to do that. I studied him constantly – listened to his music, and the music of people he covered, I literally ate him up. I wanted to be able to play like him.
It sort of went like this – I wanted to play guitar, well what does that mean? I wanted to play this song or this riff, I like it, it’s cool, I then wanted to be able to do that – to solo like that ….I kept having more fun, to this day I am still learning and having fun along the way. Wanting to learn new things with my craft, so finding certain players and music helps make that happen.

B411: Speaking of learning, are you still taking lessons, practicing do you consider playing out practice and learning enough?
TR: It’s a little bit of both, this is stuff I am learning even now. For guitar it used to be I’d learn a scale and notes and hear an artist so I would try to recreate that sound or riffs. Then once you understand the riffs you can start to put your own spin on it. You learn to play and then decide to play this way – or that way and go from there.
There’s also a technical/exercise side to it. To play certain riffs, to play them fast or to be able to move your fingers to those places your fingers have to be strong and master executing those riffs. I am still learning, to this day, to think about the technical side to guitar playing. Mostly the shredder style like Eric Johnson stuff. But it shows how practice is essential.
We also have just listening to music and playing with a band. Vocal exercises are important too, I usually try to do thirty minutes of vocal exercises a day. There are all sorts of levels and the deeper you get into it the deeper and more stuff opens up to learn. Tell me more about it, since it sticks out in my mind.

B411: Your release “Aware”, on New Folk Records, is an exciting combination of Blues styles, but one stood out for me – ‘Hey Now’. Very deep stuff, personal, up to date almost out of the sixties a spot on topical song with Bob Marley rhythm, with an anthem-like chorus. Tell me more about it, since it sticks out in my mind.
TR: That was just a sitting down with an acoustic guitar kind of song. I was sitting there and played a G-chord and started going off that, the melody came along and the words were ‘hey now’ for some reason. Yeh, it had that Marley feel and it was such a harmony based song – especially when the chorus comes in.
Bob Marley is such a huge vocal influence on me. I was always a guitar player who didn’t sing. But I wanted to do a CD and I need to sing on it, so I have been singing for two years on stage now. It is a very comfortable style of singing, and his songs and stories were so powerful.

B411: We finally got to meet in Memphis at the International Blues Challenge. I had a blast, how was the whole experience for you?
TR: It was great ! I loved playing with different musicians, in different venues, with different people around. I don’t get a lot of that in Minneapolis. I play where I can but usually with people I know, and even with people I know in the crowd, or even a venue I know. It was a whole different world for me.
It was so cool to play before people who didn’t know me, but loved Blues music – to play with musicians who I had no idea of who they were, nor did they know me. It was a treat for me to see people really enjoy what we all did.

B411: With all the music I saw I still did not see everyone, but I did catch some of the Youth Showcase and jams during the week. They were just fab !
TR: That was great. All those jams playing with the younger kids – there are so many talented musicians out there. These folks made me want to go home and practice even harder. But to also come back next year, and did I mention how cool the people in the audience were, they made it so easy to just play and share the music, the whole Blues community were amazing.

B411: Trent, it has been a pleasure to meet you, and thank you for taking the time to speak with us. I know I will see you again on the Blues Highway and the sooner the better.

To learn more about this rising young blues artist visit his web site at:

Until next time,
Love, Peace & Chicken Grease
©Blues411.com 2012
photos: Blues411


The 411 in 15: Walking in Memphis

apologies to Mark Cohn . . . .
So after one day of laundry and re-grouping, it’s off to Memphis for the International Blues Challenge.
With over 250 bands from around the world competing for the top slots in two categories, this event truly turns Memphis into Blues Mecca.
Uneventful flights down but did enjoy the company of Don Montana, drummer from The C.D. Woodbury Band out of Seattle area, was his first visit and he was looking forward to the networking opportunities as well as jamming into the hours of weeeee while here.

After sharing a cab downtown, we parted and I got my self together and headed down to Beale to see the FedEx International Showcase. This featured around 16 bands from all over the world ranging from South Africa, the Philippines, Spain – pick a nation and they most likely had a band representing them. Exciting stuff, it is always interesting to hear other countries artists take on the Blues. We had hard rocking, fiery lead singing by Heidi Kristine Solheim of the band Pristine (Norway), to the tuba bottomed Big Daddy Wilson Duo from Germany and all stops in between. – very exciting !

While at the New Daisy Theater was great to meet some new friends who are fans of here and re-acquaint with old friends. Roomful of Blues was there and was great to finally meet Phil Pemberton the lead singer for them – they are one hard working band folks. Got to meet several competitors a super musician and gentleman Willie J. Laws representing the Massachusetts Blues Society – a pretty good cook too ! Also made friends with young Trent Romens the nineteen blues-rock guitar player who seemed very comfortable and courteous as he worked the crowd. I look forward to hearing him throw down on the guitar and chatting with him some more. He and other youngin’s are the future of the blues  folks.

Everywhere I looked there seemed to be Canadian Bluesfolks, from the stunningly talented Dawn Tyler Watson & Paul Deslauriers, to the booty shaking 24th Street Wailers – heck they even have a showcase sponsored by the Ottawa & Montreal Blues Societies scheduled with goodie bags and stuff, eh!  Had a great talk with Kirby Sewell of the eponymous band about music and the ever existing delineations of genres (my favorite topic).

So as if that was not enough, Tas Cru hosted a big jam at Rum Boogie late 0r shall I say early into the morning hours. Always a great jam host, there were way to many great folks jamming down to go mention but it was a super event and the music was over the top. But if you felt the need to ramble Brando Santini was holding court just a few doors away – and that’s a good thing !

Overall it was a great first night here in Memphis, super weather, friendly people and absolutely great music. Hope to keep y’all informed and updated. Remember to check us out on Twitter ‘blues411dotcom’ is our handle (old CB slang LOL) for updates and tweets, and on FaceBook.

Here is a link to some photos from last night to enjoy….

Until next time,
Love, Peace & Chicken Grease
©Blues411.com 2012
photos: Blues411