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!

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Tix Now On Sale For Cape Fear Blues Festival July 29 – 31

Posted in Live Performance Previews/Reviews by darielb on June 15, 2011

This summer marks year 16 for the Cape Fear Blues Festival, and once again, I can’t wait!

According to Lan Nichols from Cape Fear Blues Society, they’ve moved away from the big outdoor concert on Saturday to a few different venues. And who doesn’t want to support the blues clubs, after all?

They don’t have all the details worked out yet, so I’m jumping the gun a little bit here, but I wanted to give you plenty of time to get yo tix! This weekend is going bring together Chicago blues, swamp funk, soul blues, electric blues and acoustic blues with some surf rock(?) mixed in to keep us on our toes. Go figure.

Here’s the schedule as it stands now. Friday night, July 29, is the ever popular Cape Fear Blues Cruise, of course. Henrietta III, Wilmington’s largest riverboat, was originally built for dinner cruises and later enlarged to be a casino boat. There are three decks; the lower two have dining and dancing. The upper deck has an enclosed atrium as well as the open deck portion. There will be three different bands playing.

Rickey Godfrey’s blues quartet headlines the Friday night Blues Cruise (Photo © Demian Riley)

My buddy Rickey Godfrey  and his blues quartet will be tearing it up on the main deck of Henrietta III. If you’ve never experienced this Telecaster-wielding, growling, gravelly-throated soulman, you’re in for a treat.

He released a new CD last year, Nasty Man, and let me tell you what just a few folks in the know are saying about it:

“… Nasty Man, a 12-track whoop-up that comes out of the chute kickin’ like a wild bull on Red Bull. From the grungy “I Want Me a Nasty Woman” to the first single from the album, “Don’t Get Your Honey Where You Get Your Money,” this is a fiery, guitar driven and gritty masterpiece. It’s electric blues the way God intended them to be played. Lord have mercy, Miss Percy. Rickey Godfrey has done got nasty on us, and it sounds so good.”

– Michael Buffalo Smith, Universal Music Tribe

“Hard sung vocals, wonderfully amusing lyrics and scorching guitar all make this one a winner.”

– Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro/ Blues Editor at Mary 4 Music

Rickey’s unique brand of hot rockin’ blues and hip-shakin’ soul will keep you boogeying all night long. Yah!

Playing the party deck will be Wilmington faves, Ten Dollar Thrill. These guys are a blast! They’re into everything from  Chicago blues to West Coast swing to rockabilly and good ole rock & roll.

This band gets rave reviews wherever and whenever they play. Check ‘em out on the Henrietta III. I promise you, it’ll be a party!

If you’re into acoustic blues and finger pickin’, don’t miss Tampa Blue on the upper deck.

It’s hard to describe this music in just a few words. In fact, someone asked this Alabama picker what kind of blues he played, and his answer was “Traditional, acoustic, Delta, slide, Piedmont, finger-style, Southern rural, pre-war, country, pre-electric with a touch of spirituals, hollers, rags and American finger-style guitar seasoning.”

Blues fans love the historical fabric of his music along with the storytelling and anecdotes that this southern gem brings to the stage.

Before you even set foot on the Henrietta III, Rick Tobey from the Chickenhead Blues Band will be entertaining on the dock. This well-respected musician won the 2009 Cape Fear Blues Society Solo Blues  Challenge and then the 2010 Triangle Blues Society Solo Blues Challenge. About himself Rick 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.”

The Treblemakers bring their classic blues/surf rock mix to the Post Cruise Blues Party on Friday night.

Afterward, head to the Post Cruise Blues Party, where the Treblemakers

are the headline act at the Port City’s hottest little juke joint – the Rusty Nail. If you’re not from these parts, you may not know these guys yet, but this five-piece blues band slash surf rock group rocks the room. Party hearty!

Saturday, July 30, begins with the downtown blues workshop sponsored by Finkelstein Music. Blues guitarist Eric Manning will share his knowledge and stories of life on the road and then deliver a kick-butt set at The Cellar with his band, E-Train & the Rusted Nails. This will be a performance for anyone calling himself – or herself– a blues fan.

The main act on Saturday – we’re back at the Rusty Nail again – is a top talent and considered to be one of the most creative ensembles in Blues music today – Studebaker John & the Hawks. Wow!

Saturday’s headliner Studebaker John & the Hawks. (Photo © Linas Abukauskas, Lithuania)

Chicago bluesman Studebaker John (aka John Grimaldi) plays both guitar and harp. He has been recording albums, touring the U.S. and Europe since the seventies. On his latest CD, Studebaker John’s Maxwell Street Kings (Delmark 2010) he pays homage to the early days of Chicago street blues.

I can’t say enough good things about Studebaker John, and it seems I’m not alone:

“It’s rare to hear a blues artist perform three sets of irresistible originals, and it’s even rarer for that artist to stay ‘in the zone’ from first song to last.”

– Thomas J. Cullen, III (Blues Revue magazine)

“John captures the raw energy and grit of the classic blues musicians but pumped up to a rocking energy level. He has a deep understanding of the blues tradition that comes from hanging with the classic Chicago bluesmen, but he’s created his own sound and style from these roots.”

– Bruce Iglauer (Alligator Records)

The opening act for this show is Two of a Kind.

Come Sunday July 31,, and we’re here once again at the Rusty Nail for the All-Day Blues Jam. ‘Bring a lawn chair because this will be outdoors under the tent. You’ll find some of the area’s finest blues musicians come out for this free event.

At day’s end, some lucky duck will win a Gretsch Electromatic Pro Jet guitar ($850 value). Tickets are just $1 each and the proceeds help support the projects and programs of the Cape Fear Blues Society.  The giveaway takes place after 6 p.m. and it’s sponsored by Finkelstein Music.

You can find all the information you need about tickets, times and locations at the Cape Fear Blues Festival website.

The site will continue to be updated as more Festival information becomes available.

CD Pick: ‘Nasty Man’ by Rickey Godfrey

Posted in CD Picks by darielb on November 21, 2010

I’ve been following Rickey Godfrey’s music for quite some time now – since I first heard his soulful rendition of Dan Penn’s “Smoke Filled Room,” which is on his Once In a Lifetime Love CD (2006).  With this new recording, Rickey brings the same raw vocals to the table, but with a focus on the blues. Nasty Man (Serenity Hill 2010)is a self-produced CD and Rickey took the opportunity to showcase his considerable talents: songwriting, vocals, guitar and keyboard.

This CD is just plain fun, more fun, in fact, than it is “nasty.”  I’m hard pressed to choose a favorite tune, but there are a few that stand out for me. The opener, “I Want Me a Nasty Woman,” co-written with Richard Fleming, is classic Godfrey: sharp, edgy lyrics and gutsy vocals punctuated by masterful guitar stylings. Guitar buffs will love the ending. And, by the way, that’s Shaun Murphy from Little Feat AND Bob Seger’s Silver Bullet Band singing backup with Rickey.

“Don’t Argue In the Kitchen” is kind of jazzy, a fast-paced cautionary tale, funny as all getout. Flo and Joe go out to a club, drink a little too much, some chick starts flirting with Joe, and by the time the couple get home again, Flo is still all riled up and pops him over the head with an assortment of cooking paraphernalia. Dangerous place, that kitchen!

Rickey Godfrey at the Rusty Nail, Wilmington, N.C. Nov. 12, 2010

Johnny Jones” is a little bit of a departure. It’s full of sadness at the Oct. 2009 passing of Godfrey’s friend – and Nashville’s guitar legend – Johnny Jones.  After moving from Chicago to Nashville in the early 60s, Jones was working as a studio musician, when R&B icon Ted Jarrett took him under his wing and actually taught him how to read music. He began working at a club called the New Era Club. During this time, a young Jimi Hendrix used to sit in with him, anxious to absorb Jones’ lowdown blues sound. There was said to be a guitar face-off between the two at some point, and if you can find an old copy of The Tennessean (one of the 2003 issues), you can read about it for yourself. Not surprisingly, Rickey’s guitar solos pay homage to the guitar giant, including some of Jones’ own blues guitar licks.

“Let’s Get Busy,” track ten on Nasty Man (co-written with Doug Jones), is a sexy dance tune and it features N.Y. soul singer Angel Rissoff along with Rickey on lead vocals. Their voices are exciting and energetic. They combine with Godfrey’s keyboard and guitar solos plus an unexpected saxophone riff by former Delbert McClinton player Don Wise to deliver a tune that blows me away every time I hear it.

I’m a live music junkie, and I love that one of the resounding themes of this recording is its unrelenting energy. But, even with everything going on – gusty vocals, searing guitar, solid rhythm, flashy keyboards –the players never drown each other out.  Nasty Man is a strong Gotta Have.

Godfrey plays all guitar and keyboard parts. Other players include: drums – George Perelli (Michael McDonald, Larry Gatlin), Michael Grando and Tez Sherrard (Edwin McCain); bass Franklin Wilkie (Marshall Tucker Band), Doug Seibert; saxophone – Don Wise (Delbert McClinton); synthetic horns – Rickey Godfrey; background vocals – Shaun Murphy (Little Feat, Silver Bullet Band),  Ronnie Godfrey (Marshall Tucker Band, Virgil), Kim Morrison, Angel Rissoff (Little Isidore & the Inquisitors, Kenny Vance & the Planotones).


Cape Fear Blues Fest Line-Up

Posted in Live Performance Previews/Reviews by darielb on May 5, 2009
Elliott & the Untouchables - Columbia, S.C. group.

Elliott & the Untouchables - Columbia, S.C. group.

Blues Society Announces ‘Carolina-Grown’ Line-Up For July Festival

The annual Cape Fear Blues Festival, number 14 this year, is set for July 24 – 26 in Wilmington, N.C. Events will include the Friday night blues cruise on the Henrietta III; a post-cruise blues party at The Rusty Nail; a daytime concert at Greenfield Lake Amphitheater; a sundown concert in downtown Wilmington at Water Street, the popular blues workshop held at Finkelstein Music; Saturday night shows at 16 Taps and The Rusty Nail; and the always popular all-day blues jam under the tent at the Rusty Nail on Sunday.

A dozen blues acts from the two Carolinas will be rockin’, wailin’ and whisperin’ the blues throughout the weekend. Elliott and the Untouchables from Columbia, S.C. will take the helm for the Cruise Friday evening. Be ready for a hot set of swingin’ blues and some mighty strong vocals. Front man Elliott New will also be conducting the workshop at Finkelstein’s Saturday morning. The Charlotte, N.C.-based Contagious Blues Band will be rockin’ during the sundown concert. They’ll take you from traditional to modern blues in a Memphis minute. No wonder they were named the Beale Street Blues Kings in 2008.

Also performing will be duo winners of the Cape Fear Blues Challenge, ETrain & the East Coast Acoustic Armada, and band winners, Ten Dollar Thrill. Festival goers will also be treated to the R&B stylings of the five-piece Dynamic Therm-O-Tones. In 2004, this Wilmington group took the Cape Fear Blues Challenge by storm and then took their show to the International Blues Challenge in Memphis. Also on the roster is Tommy B & the Stingers, another southeastern North Carolina group, who, by the way, have been named Beat Magazine’s No. 1 Blues Band three years in a row AND Best Blues Band in the Wilmington area, also three years in a row. If you haven’t seen this rhythmic blues and boogie band yet, it’s time you did!

Add to all this Wilmington’s Spider Mike Bochey, Rick Tobey & the Chickenhead Blues Band, the jazzy guitar of El Jaye Johnson, the Cape Fear Blues Band, the Cape Fear Blues All Stars and the uber-electrified Gypsy Fire. Whether you like your blues rockin’, stompin’, gravelly, smooth, sexy, raw or raucus … you’ll find it at the Port City’s weekend of blues. According to organizer Lan Nichols, the Cape Fear Blues Society is working closely with all of these venues to ensure continuity and a successful staging of each event. Some of the event show times and dates haven’t been finalized yet.

Check www.capefearblues.org for ticket availability, prices and other details. If you’re a blues lover, plan on spending the last weekend in July in Wilmington, N.C. There’s nothin’ like Port City Blues to chase the blues away.

This post is being published in the May 7 – 21, 2009 issue of Coast magazine and Alternatives NewsMagazine, Beach Newz column, p. 24.