Blues hounds, get ready to howl. It’s almost time for the 2012 Lowcountry Blues Bash, now in its twenty-second year. This ten-day celebration of America’s oldest music form is being held in and around Charleston, S.C. from Wednesday, Feb. 8 through Tuesday, Feb. 21.
According organizer Gary Erwin aka Shrimp City Slim, this year’s Bash promises us “insanely eclectic programming.” Not just eclectic, insanely eclectic. Wow! At last count, there will be some 59 blues acts putting on 100 different shows and 25 different venues.
Gary filled me in on a little history about what has become a hugely popular blues club crawl, “Our first year, 1991, was one venue only with four acts. It was my decision in 1992 to take the Blues Bash out into the clubs and other venues around town. This was, in part, a response to complaints I had received from various venues, when I was writing for the Post & Courier [Charleston's daily], that the City never involved privately-operated small entertainment businesses during its several annual events. My reasoning was that, if we involve all these clubs and other venues in the Blues Bash, perhaps it would lead them to book blues on a more regular basis.”
For blues fans, it’s an opportunity to experience first hand, performers and musicians from not just the Carolinas, but also Chicago, Detroit, New York, Florida, the Mississippi hill country and then some.
For the most part, the shows are low-dough, as Gary calls them, $10 or less. And a good number are completely free.
Maurice John Vaughn’s show is going to be killer. The Chicago giant (sax/guitar/keyboards/vocals) has some special guests on the bill with him: trombonist B.J. Emery, Grammy winner Donald Ray Johnson, Holle Thee Maxwell (Remember “Only When You’re Lonely,” (1965)?
Nick Moss & the Flip Flops are going to be one of the most exciting shows of the whole festival. With the release of Privileged (Blue Bella Records/2010), Moss used his traditional roots blues background as a jumping off point to explore new waters. The result is searing blues-infused rock that ignites the atmosphere and the audience.
Also packing a big Chicago punch, from the Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon bands and Magic Slim & the Teardrops is guitarist John Primer. As the title of his Atlantic Recording says, he’s “The Real Deal.”
Eddie Shaw & the Wolf Gang. Gary Erwin reminds us that “. . . this is one of the last great Chicago blues bands. Eddie Shaw, Howlin’ Wolf’s bandleader, has kept the group together since Wolf’s passing in 1975.” This is a no-brainer.
From Fort Lauderdale, Joey Gilmore brings old school stylings and soulful vocals to the stage. I’ve never seen him before, so you can bet I’ll catch one of his shows.
A new twist for 2012 is the Take You Downtown Blues Series at the Mad River Bar & Grille, a great old brick church that’s a pub now. All shows are $10, cash only and seating is first come, first served. Shows include Bobby Radcliff, Rich DelGrosso & Jonn Del Toro Richardson; Eddie Shaw & the Wolf Gang; Shrimp City Slim & Swamp Pop Shelly; Jarekus Singleton Mississippi Blues Band; John Primer & Shrimp City Slim; Robert Lighthouse and the Blues Buckets; and Daddy Mack Blues Band.
My Gotta Go Picks
The headliners notwithstanding, here are my Gotta Go picks:
• J Edwards Band. Love this guy. He’s representing Lowcountry Blues Society at the International Blues Challenge (IBC) in Memphis.
• Sarah Cole & the Hawkes. I saw Sarah at a Women in Blues Festival in Wilmington, N.C. Who says girls can’t play guitar?
• Rickey Godfrey. Another act you have to catch live. Blind from birth, he burns up the keyboard and his Telecaster.
• Gail Storm. A true interpretor of classic blues and jazz, with a little boogie piano thrown in, just for fun.
• Juke Joint Johnny. The lowcountry’s own harmonica wizard. And Drew ain’t bad either!
• Scissormen. Over the top and outta the box! Raw and rockin’. Don’t miss these guys.
To really know which acts will get your mojo working, you want the complete schedule in front of you. So, for venues, times and acts, download your own flyer.
I didn’t make any New Year’s resolutions. I never do. But I just heard one that I can support wholeheartedly.
More live music in 2012!
So for this piece, I’ll be focusing on my own local stomping grounds, from the port city of Wilmington in North Carolina and North Myrtle Beach on down to Pawleys Island in South Carolina. There’s a lot coming up, so check the websites for even more shows.
I can’t talk about local live music without mentioning Mid-Winter S.O.S. in the Ocean Drive section of North Myrtle Beach. It’s just begun and runs through Sunday, Jan. 15. The S.O.S. lounges (Fat Harold’s, Duck’s, Spanish Galleon, O.D. Beach Club, O.D. Café and O.D. Arcade) feature deejays for the dancers, but a few will have live music, too. They all require S.O.S. cards for entry. Cost is $35, but you get a lot of band for your buck.
Fat Harold’s will be packed with shaggers day and night. Don’t miss lunch with Lulu. She’s one of the best cooks around and you can tell anyone I said so! Thursday, Jan. 12, it’s Craig Woolard Band. This’ll be crowded, but worth an elbow to the ribs. There’s a reason he’s taken home CBMA Male Vocalist of the Year award nine times. On Friday, Jan. 13, it’s Coastline time with Jim Quick at 1 p.m. Nashville songwriter and producer Gary Nicholson says, “Jim Quick sings read deal country-soul from the heart. He’s combined all the ingredients of his influences to cook up a tasty stew that keeps you coming back for more.” Sea-Cruz takes the stage at 1 p.m. on Jan. 14. Sax, keyboards and top-notch vocals make this trio a powerhouse. Closing out Mid-Winter, the always popular bluesy Castaways will be at the Fat Man’s on Sunday, Jan. 15 starting at 4 p.m.
2001 Nightclub is really three venues in one: Club Touch, Starlight Room and Next Level, which is where the live bands play. Show time is 9:30 p.m. You can see Jim Quick & Coastline, Jan. 12; Craig Woolard Band, Jan. 13 and on Jan. 14, the Magnificents, known for their powerful vocals. Cover charge is $10, $5 with S.O.S. card.
If you haven’t been to Boom Boom’s yet, check it out. The large deck overlooks the Waterway and brand new chef, Ronnie Stevens, is getting rave reviews. Tommy Black Band (beach and blues) is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Jan. 14. On Jan. 21, Fat Jack Band brings their brand of soul funk to the beach. Rick Strickland Band, playing all-original tunes, is set for Jan. 28. With Rick’s impressive four-octave range and female vocalist Lesa Hudson, this group has built a huge following throughout the Carolinas.
Hip Pocket Band is also coming to town. Equal parts fun and talent, they’ll be at Duck’s on Jan. 21. Love these guys!
Over at the Boathouse , we switch gears a little bit. Through Feb. 23, they’re hosting Coyote Country Fridays with cohost Coyote 106.5 FM. They’ll be featuring local and regional country artists. Sure to be a blast.
Kono Lounge in Myrtle Beach is another hip, loungy kind of night club. Nathan Stallings with Bono Productions has been bringing some terrific acts in. This coming Friday, Jan. 13, get set for Michael “Pops” Stallings, one of the area’s top blues guitarists. On Feb. 3, The Sharks featuring blues mama Jaynie Trudell will be front and center. Feb. 17 will be the long-awaited reunion show for the Kerry Michaels Band, the must-see blues band on the Grand Strand during the 1990s. The show will feature original members Kerry Michaels (vocals), Michael “Pops” Stallings (lead guitar); Bryant Bowles (drums); Mike Stevens (bass) and James “Uncle Grub” Thornberg (keyboards).
Mama Rue’s in Pawleys Island , hands-down my favorite place for blues on the Strand, has a full line up for us. Friday, Jan. 13, she’s bringing in Juke Joint Johnny and Bad Drew Baldwin. If you’ve never seen Johnny on harp, you’ve never experienced blues harmonica. On Jan. 20, Pastor, Pastor is bringing their unusual blues act back to Mama Rue’s. Guitarist Jeff Liberty, whose style has been described as “fuel-injected blues that lights a fire under your seat,” performs Jan. 28. On Feb. 3, My Buddy Todd aka Todd Roth will perform his last show at Mama Rue’s before moving his life and career to Austin, Texas. Definitely one to see. Feb. 17 will be a big night, too. N.C. bluesman Matt Walsh is the featured act, another one not to miss. No cover charge and the best Jamaican food this side of Nassau! Tell Chef Eric I said hey! Then get you some jerk pork (and a Howlin’ Wolf from Marrue at the bar). You’ll be hooked on the food, the friends and the music!
Another of my favorite blues joints is the Rusty Nail , home to the Cape Fear Blues Society weekly jams. On Jan. 14, the Nail will host a Pave the Road to Memphis fundraiser for Randy McQuay and Lawyers Guns & Money, winners of the Cape Fear Blues Challenge who will represent the blues society at the IBC in Memphis later this month. Both acts will perform. YEAH!
I can’t write about live music along the Grand Strand without talking about the nonprofit South By Southeast Music Feasts at the historic Myrtle Beach Train Depot. They bring in nationally known acts that often don’t come to this area otherwise. Tickets are $20 for annual series supporters and $25 for nonmembers. The Barefoot Movement, a group of musicians blending Southern-style bluegrass improv with modern acoustic jazz and rock influences, is scheduled for Feb. 18. Randall Bramblett Band is set for March 10. They meld rock, blues, jazz and soul with razor-sharp songwriting to produce a sound unlike anyone else. It doesn’t get any better than this.
Chuck Leavell (Rolling Stones, Allman Brothers) says, “Randall is in my opinion the most gifted & talented southern singer-songwriter musicians of the past several decades.”
Every one of these shows is worth your time and money. Hope to see you live music junkies out and about!