The Blues

Marcia Ball

“Fifty years have passed in a flash,” says Texas-born, Louisiana-raised pianist, songwriter and vocalist Marcia Ball of her long and storied career. Ball, the 2018 Texas State Musician Of The Year, has won worldwide fame and countless fans for her ability to ignite a full-scale roadhouse rhythm and blues party every time she takes the stage. Her rollicking Texas boogies, swampy New Orleans ballads and groove-laden Gulf Coast blues have made her a one-of-a-kind favorite with music lovers all over the world. With each new release, her reputation as a profoundly soulful singer, a boundlessly talented pianist and a courageous, inventive songwriter continues to grow. Her love of the road has led to years of soul-satisfying performances at festivals, concert halls and clubs. The New York Times says, “Marcia Ball plays two-fisted New Orleans barrelhouse piano and sings in a husky, knowing voice about all the trouble men and women can get into on the way to a good time.” The Houston Chronicle says simply, “She’s as perfect as an artist can be.”

Mike Zito

He may be one of the most lauded artists in the contemporary blues arena today, and rightfully so, but for Mike Zito, the thing that counts the most is maintaining his honesty, authenticity and integrity. Those are the qualities that have steered Zito’s career since the beginning and continue to define every effort he’s offered since.

​“I have nothing to hide; it seems my honesty is what people relate to most,” he once told Vintage Guitar magazine. “Anders (Osborne) told me early on, ‘If you don’t believe what you’re singing, you’ll never be a good singer.’ I try not to write fluff; I try to make every word count.”

​That point became convincingly clear with his last record 2018’s First Class Life, a collection of songs that detailed his journey from addiction to sobriety and the subsequent success he achieved through his award-winning body of work. A multiple award winner and nominee, Zito has built his career on an ability to tap into tradition while maintaining contemporary credence all at the same time.

Deanna Bogart

When it comes to Deanna Bogart, everyone wants to claim her as their own — her hometown, her fans, her fellow musicians and even her instruments. She’s that good–and that good-natured.

Born in Detroit, Deanna spent her early years in Phoenix and New York City, climbing on any available piano bench to plunk and play with preternatural panache.  Around the age of six,  she was “gently removed” from the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music for playing piano by ear instead of learning to read music. While in middle school, Deanna yearned to play the saxophone. Typical of those times though, she was told, “Girls play the clarinet, not the sax.” Thankfully for us all, that tide has changed.

Today, Deanna Bogart is an award-winning multi-instrumentalist and multifaceted musician whose fans value the diversity of her genre-free zone.  As a bandleader/singer/songwriter/producer/pianist/sax player, Deanna combines the best of boogie-woogie, contemporary blues, country and jazz into a splendid blend she calls “blusion.”

Deanna’s fusion of blusion — spontaneous, sophisticated, fearless and fun — has garnered her three consecutive Blues Music Awards’ Horn Instrumentalist of the Year for 2008, 2009 and 2010 and an endorsement contract with Rico Reeds. She has won, at last count, more than 20 Wammies, the music awards for the hotly contested Washington, D.C. region.

Recognized for her dazzling keyboards, soulful saxophone, smoky vocals and cut-above songwriting, Deanna easily wins the hearts of fans on land and at sea on chartered cruises.  She is a featured player in the Legendary Rhythm and Blues Revue, jamming with Tommy Castro, Magic Dick (founding member of the J. Geils Band), as well as prominent guitar slingers. Deanna remembers well her early years as a budding musician and is an avid educator and mentor, sharing her insight and wisdom with students of all ages.

Hot Tuna/Jorma Kaukonen & Jack Casady

Hot Tuna is an American blues band formed in 1969 by former Jefferson Airplane members Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady. Although it has always been a fluid aggregation, with musicians coming and going over the years, the band’s name has essentially become a metonym for Kaukonen and Casady’s ongoing collaboration. Wikipedia

Don’t miss Hesitation Blues -circa 1970

Tab Benoit

One of the most impressive guitarists to emerge from the rich Bayous of Southern Louisiana in recent years, Tab Benoit’s guitar tone can be recognized before his Otis-Redding-ish voice resonates from the speakers. He doesn’t rely on any effects and his set up is simple. It consists of a guitar, cord, and Category 5 Amplifier. The effects that you hear come from his fingers.

Chris Smither

William Christopher Smither is an American folk/blues singer, guitarist, and songwriter. His music draws deeply from the blues, American folk music, and modern poets and philosophers. Wikipedia

Billy Price

2016 Blues Music Award Winner Billy Price first attracted national attention during his three-year association with guitarist Roy Buchanan. Price is the vocalist on two of Buchanan’s LPs, That’s What I’m Here For and Live Stock. Since then, with the Keystone Rhythm Band, the Billy Price Band, and solo projects, Billy Price has recorded and released a total of 16 albums, CDs, and DVDs.

In April 2016, he was officially recognized and inducted as a Pittsburgh Rock ’n Roll Legend at an award ceremony.Price’s album This Time for Real, with the late Chicago soul singer Otis Clay, received a 2016 Blues Music Award in the category of Best Soul Blues Album of 2015. It has been nominated for a 2019 Blues Music Award in the category of Best Soul Blues Album of 2018.

The Pittsburgh-based Billy Price Band consists of Dave Dodd (drums), Tom Valentine (bass), Lenny Smith (guitar), Jim Britton (keyboards), Eric Spaulding (sax), and Joe Herndon (trumpet).

The Billy Price Charm City Rhythm Band, based in Billy’s new hometown of Baltimore, MD, consists of El Torro Gamble (drums), Greg Haughey (bass), Pete Kanaras (guitar), Tam Sullivan (keyboards), Dan Gutwein (sax), and Vince McCool (trumpet).

His latest album, Dog Eat Dog, debuted at number 9 in the Billboard Blues Album Chart the week of August 17, 2019.

Albert Castiglia

“It may be a bit premature to crown Albert Castiglia America’s newest King of the Blues, but there’s little doubt that he at least deserves the title of heir apparent.” — Miami New Times

As most artists will attest, the most unexpected circumstance can spark artistic inspiration. That’s a fact that hasn’t been lost on singer, songwriter and guitarist extraordinaire Albert Castiglia. With his latest album, the aptly named Masterpiece, he celebrates an unforeseen triumph — a connection with a daughter he never knew he had. The result is a work that’s both personal and provocative all at the same time.

Castiglia calls this the most meaningful album he’s ever made. “My daughter finding me and opening up my world to an additional family, including two grandchildren, brought out the deepest material I’ve ever created,” he notes, “along with my wife, they were my muses.” Indeed, songs such as “Keep On Swinging”, “Masterpiece” and “Bring on the Rain” address the unexpected emotions that infused his psyche with the discovery of a family he never knew.

Taj Mahal

R.I.P. Gregg Allman

In September 2014, some 50 years after moving to Los Angeles to form the band Rising Sons with fellow blues musician Ry Cooder and Jessie Lee Kincaid, Taj Mahal hightailed it to Nashville to receive an honor he called “one of the most powerful and wonderful things that could ever happen in my life.” Celebrating decades of recording and touring that have nearly singlehandedly reshaped the definition and scope of the blues via the infusion of exotic sounds from the Caribbean, Africa and South Pacific, the two-time Grammy winning singer, songwriter, film composer, guitarist and multi-instrumentalist was feted with the Lifetime Achievement for Performance Award at the 13th Annual Americana Honors and Awards.

John Cleary

Jon Cleary’s love and affinity for New Orleans music goes back to the rural British village of Cranbrook, Kent, where he was raised in a musical family.  Cleary’s maternal grandparents performed in London in the 1940s, under the respective stage names Sweet Dolly Daydream and Frank Neville, The Little Fellow With The Educated Feet  – she as a singer, and he as a crooner and tap dancer.  

As a teen Cleary grew increasingly interested in funk-infused music and discovered that three such songs that he particularly admired – LaBelle’s “Lady Marmalade,” Robert Palmer’s version of “Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley,” and Frankie Miller’s rendition of “Brickyard Blues”  – were attributed to Allen Toussaint as either the songwriter, the producer, or both. Cleary’s knowledge of Toussaint’s work expanded significantly when his uncle returned home to the U.K., after a two-year sojourn in New Orleans, with a copy of a Toussaint LP and two suitcases full of New Orleans R&B 45s.

In 1981 Cleary flew to New Orleans for an initial pilgrimage and took a cab straight from the airport to the Maple Leaf Bar, a storied venue which then featured such great blues-rooted eclectic pianists as Roosevelt Sykes and James Booker.  Cleary first worked at the Maple Leaf as a painter, but soon graduated to playing piano there – even though his first instrument was the guitar, which he still plays and has recently reintroduced into his live performances. 

As word of Cleary’s burgeoning talent began to spread around town, he was hired by such New Orleans R&B legends as Snooks Eaglin, Earl “Trick Bag” King, Johnny Adams, and Jessie “Ooh Poo Pah Doo” Hill, while also gaining the respect of the great Crescent City pianists Dr. John and the late Allen Toussaint. Years later, in 2012, Cleary recorded a critically acclaimed album of all-Toussaint songs entitled Occapella.
Today, Cleary’s work pays obvious homage to the classic Crescent City keyboard repertoire created by such icons as Jelly Roll Morton, Fats Domino, Professor Longhair, Art Neville, Dr. John, and James Booker – while also using it as a launching pad for a style that incorporates such other diverse influences as ’70s soul and R&B, gospel music, funk, Afro-Caribbean and Afro-Cuban rhythms, and much more.

Deciding to stay in New Orleans, Cleary recorded his first album of nine, to date, in 1989.  His ever-elevating profile led to global touring work in the bands of Taj Mahal, John Scofield, Dr. John, and Bonnie Raitt.  Cleary has led his own group, the Absolute Monster Gentlemen, for over two decades now, but he still collaborates frequently with these old friends.  At the 2018 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, for instance, Cleary performed alongside Raitt in a heartfelt tribute to Fats Domino.


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