DarielB – Flying Under the Radar

Retro Blues: They’re What’s New

Posted in Live Performance Previews/Reviews by darielb on July 9, 2012

Headline act Li’l Ronnie & the Grand Dukes will be at the Soapbox Saturday night.

Cape Fear Blues Festival • Friday, July 27 – Sunday, July 29

Sometimes, to be on the leading edge of the blues, you gotta look back. Case in point: this year’s Cape Fear Blues Festival. The headliner for the annual event is EllerSoul recording artist Li’l Ronnie & the Grand Dukes. This group mixes up elements of 50s R&B, soul, vintage rock & roll and jazz into a unique blend of American roots music.

It’s retro, baby, and it’s fun.

In fact, this whole Festival, which takes place July 27 – 29 at multiple venues is going to be a blast.

Friday, July 27. The fun starts Friday evening at 5:30 with Sweet Sue Savia entertaining on the riverboat dock (Water St. at Dock St.), as folks are waiting to board the Henrietta III for the 2012 Blues Cruise along the Cape Fear River.

Savia, like so many musicians, has a great story to tell. She says she woke up at age 51 and realized that she’d hate to come upon her death one day without at least trying to fulfill her life’s dream: performing on stage. So she took a leap of faith and jumped into a successful career of singing, songwriting and playing guitar (actually just about any acoustic instrument, but the guitar is her main axe).

How cool is that? And we haven’t even left the dock yet.

FYI, boarding begins at 6:30 p.m. and the boat leaves promptly at 7:30 p.m.

Onboard the Henrietta III, there will be three bands on three decks with three cash bars, along with heavy appetizers and a gorgeous sunset on the Cape Fear.

Here’s the Cruise lineup:

On the main deck will be Elliott & the Untouchables. This will be a super show, I promise you. Elliott New is a master of retro blues, whether he’s playing jump blues or slide – and he’ll do plenty of both. The whole band is topnotch, in fact. The horn section is classic old school. Like to dance? You’ll be in boogie heaven!

Up on the second deck, aka the party deck, we’ve got the Dynamic Therm-o-Tones. The ultra-popular Wilmington band is known for their blues-driven R&B. They’re the dance band of dance bands.

Randy McQuay will be playing the third deck, or atrium as it’s called. This versatile and exciting performer won the 2011 Cape Fear Blues Challenge in the solo category. If you’ve never seen him, this is a great introduction.

Festival organizer and head honcho for the Cape Fear Blues Society Lan Nichols told me, “Randy McQuay is an International Blues Challenge finalist and winner of the Lee Oskar Top Harmonica Player Award.  By himself, he’s reason enough to ride the Cape Fear Blues Cruise.”

But, happily, the two-hour Cruise gives you plenty of time to get to all three acts, which is a good thing, because you’ll kick yourself if you miss any one of them. Advance tickets for the 2012 Blues Cruise are $49 each and can be purchased online now at http://www.capefearblues.org/cruise.html or call 910-350-8822 for more information.

Over at the Rusty Nail (1310 South 5th Street),one of my favorite Wilmington haunts,  the post-cruise party starts about 9 p.m. with  Lawyers, Guns & Money, a great R&B-infused blues band out of Greensboro, N.C. These guys were semi-finalists at IBC last year and winners of the Cape Fear Blues Challenge. It’ll be a fun night that lasts late into the night.

Saturday, July 28. The annual (and free) blues workshop features guitarist Elliott new. According to Nichols, “Untouchables band leader Elliott New will amaze everyone at the Blues Workshop at Finkelstein Music, 11 a.m. on Saturday (6 S. Front St.).  Elliott sports a cigar box guitar, tons of talent, and a sense of humor.  One hell of a Bluesman!” Consider yourself warned.

At 1 p.m., E-Train and the Rusted Rails roar into town with a stop under the tent at the Rusty Nail. This exciting band, with a great mix of rockabilly, swing and blues, was voted best band by the Triangle Blues Society in 2011 and the Cape Fear Blues Society in 2010, sending them to Memphis to compete at IBC both years. Don’t miss the train this time around.

For the headline show, we move over to the Soapbox Laundro-Lounge (255 N. Front Street) for Li’l Ronnie & the Grand Dukes. Nichols was thrilled to sign them for the Festival. He says, “L’il Ronnie & The Grand Dukes have been a favorite of blues, beach and boogie crowds for years, and Ronnie has a new lineup that’s as sharp as a tack.  Anyone who comes down to the Soapbox in Wilmington on July 28 is in for show-stopping performance.  And the club is in the heart of downtown Wilmington – a great location.” Tickets are $10 in advance (www.etix.com) and $12 at the door. Show time is 8 p.m.

Back at the Rusty Nail again, music starts at 9 p.m. and goes until about 1 a.m. with local faves, the Chickenhead Blues Band.  Frontman Rick Tobey says, “I was born in a south Louisiana chicken coop with a bottle neck on my little finger and a guitar in my hand. Been playin’ dem Chickenhead Blues ever since I could crawl, from the Mississippi Delta to the North Carolina Piedmont, from the Cape Fear River Basin to the Smokey Mountains.”

I know I’ve used that quote before, but it’s all you need to know about Chickenhead Blues. Love, love, love this band.

Sunday, July 29. The finale to the Cape Fear Blues Festival is an all-day blues jam under the tent at the Rusty Nail. Music starts at noon and it’s all free to the public. Be sure to bring a lawn chair or blanket, but no coolers please. Food and drink will be available for sale all day. Musicians, to reserve your performance time slot, call 910-383-1247.

Plan on staying until the end, because not only is it an afternoon of blues, blues and more blues, but the Finklestein Music Guitar Giveaway is at 6 p.m. Some lucky sumbitch is going home with a Gretsch guitar. Raffle tickets for the Giveaway are $1 each and available at Finklestein Music and the Rusty Nail. Proceeds go to support the various programs of the Cape Fear Blues Society.

In case you’re still in party mode, at 7 p.m. it moves indoors with saxophonist Benny Hill’s Sunday night jazz and blues jam at the Rusty Nail.

I love me some Cape Fear blues. Hope to see you there!

Port City Gets a Groove On

Posted in Interviews, Live Performance Previews/Reviews by darielb on July 11, 2011


Being a fine old southern city, Wilmington, N.C. is steeped in tradition, and one of its favorites is the upcoming Cape Fear Blues Festival set for July 29 – 31.

Three days of blues in the Port City will include live concerts, a blues workshop, an all-day blues jam, a guitar raffle and the always popular Blues Cruise aboard Wilmington’s Henrietta III.

Nashville's Rickey Godfrey (Photo Mary Anne McLaurin)

Headlining the main deck on the Friday night Cruise will be Nashville guitarist Rickey Godfrey and his band.

“Rickey is a consummate entertainer,” said Cape Fear Blues Society president Lan Nichols in a telephone interview. “He’s a master on guitar … and has a really emotional voice. Rickey reads his audience and knows exactly what to give.”

Godfrey, who has been blind since birth, has been nominated for both guitarist and keyboard player of the year by the Music City Blues Society. He’s touring now as a featured guitarist with the Cee Cee James Band, so this is a rare opportunity to see the Rickey Godfrey Blues Band.
Above the main deck, fans will be treated to the retro blues of Wilmington’s own wildly popular Ten Dollar Thrill. Up in the atrium will be acoustic storyteller Tampa Blue.

Cruisers will be noshing on heavy appetizers provided by Angie’s of Chris’s Restaurant and no doubt enjoying the three different cash bars.

Get to the Blues Cruise a little early so you can enjoy Rick Tobey on the dock before you board.

The boat departs promptly at 7:30 p.m., but be sure to get there early enough to enjoy blues veteran Rick Tobey singing his unique brand of Chickenhead blues on the dock before boarding.

The Henrietta III will return to dock by around 9:30, and you’ll want to head right over to  the Port City’s favorite blues saloon, the Rusty Nail, where The Treblemakers will be rockin’ the room with their electric blues/classic surf sounds!
Presented by the Cape Fear Blues Society, the Festival has a reputation for bringing top talent to town while it also showcases the best in local and regional blues artists.

According to Nichols, this year is no exception. Saturday begins with a free

Guitarist Eric Manning is presenting this year's blues workshop.

blues workshop conducted by Raleigh-based guitarist Eric Manning and sponsored by longtime Festival supporter Finkelstein Music. Following the workshop will be a performance, also free, by Manning’s band, E-Train & the Rusted Rails, at The Cellar in downtown Wilmington.

The Festival’s Saturday headliner is Studebaker John & the Hawks (The name refers to a Studebaker Hawk, a car he still owns).

“John is a triple threat,” said Nichols. “He plays great guitar, harmonica and has an excellent voice, too. He’s got a lot of old-school Chicago in his sound, but can rock out, too.”

Born in Chicago as John Grimaldi, he started playing harmonica at about seven years old, and was greatly influenced by Chicago’s famed Maxwell Street. He learned guitar after watching a single electrified slide guitar performance of Hound Dog Taylor and the Houserockers.

Studebaker John & the Hawks headline the Saturday night concert at the Rusty Nail. YAY!

Currently on tour through the U.S. and Canada, Studebaker John talked by phone about his newest CD, Studebaker John’s Maxwell Street Kings’ That’s the Way You Do (Delmark 2010). The 15-track recording is essentially a tribute to all the musicians who performed on Maxwell Street.

“It was a labor of love for me. I started thinking about it years ago, when I was on a bigger blues label, but they didn’t think it was commercial.

“Then last year, I was working at St. George Records, playing a session for Delta Slim, and these two musicians – Rick Kreher on guitar and Steve Cushing on drums – were there and I thought that maybe we could do it.

“The three of us were able to conjure up a sound.

“I wanted it to be a tribute, but still original.  It’s the same line-up as Hound Dog Taylor: two guitars, drum, and harmonica … I’ve always been a fan of Less Is More.”

His Rusty Nail show on Saturday night will include tunes from the new CD as well as the full band sound of Studebaker John & the Hawks.  Don’t miss this one!

Opening for Studebaker John, by the way, is local acoustic fave, Spider Mike Bochey, so get there early.

The Sunday blues jam starts at noon, and this is always a great event. There are a lot of great players in Wilmington, and they come out of the woodwork for this event, so get ready to be entertained. Bring a lawn chair, but leave your coolers home. There will be plenty of food and drink for sale.

The Jam ends at 6 p.m. with the Finkelstein Music Guitar Giveaway—a Gretsch Electromatic Pro Jet guitar ($850 value). Raffle tickets cost $1 each with proceeds supporting the projects and programs of the Cape Fear Blues Society.

Raffle tickets are available at Finkelstein Music and The Rusty Nail.

For more information about the Cape Fear Blues Festival visit http://www.capefearblues.org or call 910-350-8822.
©Dariel Bendin.

Festival Schedule
Friday, July 29
5:30 p.m. Live blues on the dock. (Water St. at Dock St.) Blues soloist Rick Tobey will  treat you to the blues,  Chickenhead style, as you wait to board.
7 p.m. Boarding begins.
7:30 p.m.  Blues Cruise on the Henrietta III! Headliner Rickey Godfrey brings his gritty, soulful blues to the main deck. Wilmington’s own Ten Dollar Bill will be rockin’ the party deck. Storyteller Tampa Blue will be in the atrium. Tickets are $49 (www.wilmingtontickets.com). Or call 910-350-8822.
9 p.m. Post-Cruise Party featuring The Treblemakers at the Rusty Nail, 1310 S. 5th Ave. (910-251-1888).
Saturday, July 30
11 a.m. Blues workshop sponsored by Finkelstein Music: blues guitarist/vocalist/ songwriter Eric Manning followed by an outdoor set of  jump blues and rockabilly from Manning’s band E-Train & the Rusted Rail at The Cellar, 35 N. Front St. Free.
8 p.m. Festival concert. Headliner Studebaker John & the Hawks. A night of electric blues from a Chicago legend. Opening act Spider Mike Bochey, at the Rusty Nail, 1310 S. 5th Ave. (910-251-1888). Tickets $8 advance/$10 at the door.(www.capefearblues.org or http://www.wilmingtontickets.com)
Sunday, July 31
Noon – 6 p.m. All-day blues jam under the tent at the Rusty Nail. Free.
6 p.m. Guitar raffle announced. Note: you don’t have to be on hand to win! Raffle tickets are $1 each or six for $5. A steal!