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2015 Blast Furnace Blues Festival Line-up Announced

BlastFurnaceBluesFestLogoThe Blast Furnace Blues Festival is an up and coming annual spring festival located in Bethlehem, PA at the Steel Stacks near the old Bethlehem Steel factory that can be seen in the backdrop image of this website. It is a beautiful, easily accessible campus and a great place to see musicians on stage. The festival continues to highlight the treasure trove of talented Blues artists in the Lehigh Valley alongside tremendous national acts. I dare say you may enjoy Friday night’s lineup of local acts as much as, or more than, the national acts. I have seen all these bands live a few times and they are all worthy of your time and attention. Check them out and support local musicians as often as you can no matter where you are!

 

PRESS RELEASE:

Shemekia Copeland, Tommy Castro, Heritage Blues Orchestra & More Headline 2015 Blast Furnace Blues Festival Presented by Highmark Blue Shield
Event, set for March 27-29 in Bethlehem, Pa., will feature 20 national and local blues acts

BETHLEHEM, PA–Two-time GRAMMY nominee Shemekia Copeland, multiple Blues Music Award and B.B. King Entertainer of the Year winner Tommy Castro, the Heritage Blues Orchestra and John Németh & the Bo-Keys headline the 2015 Blast Furnace Blues Festival presented by Highmark Blue Shield March 27-29, 2015 at the ArtsQuest Center at SteelStacks in Bethlehem.  Three-day festival passes and single-day tickets for the event, which features 20-plus national and local blues artists, go on sale today, noon, at www.artsquest.org and 610-332-3378.

On March 28, Blast Furnace Blues welcomes the one and only Tommy Castro. A two-time winner of the coveted B.B. King Entertainer of the Year Award, Castro has captured numerous honors for his music and songwriting including first place in the blues category of the 2012 International Songwriting Competition for “Hard Believer.” He has been touring nationally since the 1980s, first with the Dynatones, and then with The Tommy Castro Band. During his career, Castro has shared the stage with some of the greats in the blues, including legends Albert King and B.B. King.

Following a set by Castro, the Blast Furnace Blues audience will enjoy a scorchin’ set by John Németh & The Bo-Keys. Since 2002, harmonicist and singer-songwriter John Németh has recorded seven albums, earning seven Blues Music Award nominations in 2012 and 2013 alone. At Blast Furnace Blues, he will be joined by Blues Music Award nominees The Bo-Keys, whose music has been featured in multiple films including the Academy Award winner “Hustle & Flow.” The two artists recently joined forces to record “Memphis Grease,” and Blast Furnace Blues offers the unique opportunity to see them perform together on the same stage.

Headlining the festival on March 29 is vocal powerhouse Shemekia Copeland. Since beginning her career at the age of 16, Copeland has released seven albums, which have been nominated for several blues awards. She has shared the stage with artists such as Mick Jagger, B.B. King and Eric Clapton, while also performing at the White House for President and Mrs. Obama.

Also taking the stage March 29 is the GRAMMY-nominated Heritage Blues Orchestra. Based in New York, this group seamlessly blends together blues, gospel, country and jazz to create fierce and inspiring music that’s internationally cherished. Its 2013 album “And Still I Rise” made it onto the Top Blues Albums chart, and individual members have enjoyed their own astonishing successes.  At Blast Furnace Blues, the audience will have the opportunity to experience this incredible nine-piece orchestra, which comes complete with a rippin’ horn section.

Other performers taking the stage during Blast Furnace Blues presented by Highmark Blue Shield include Texas-based blues guitarist Carolyn Wonderland, Curley Taylor and Zydeco Trouble, Eric Noden and Joe Filisko, Freddie King Reunion Band, and Shawn Holt & the Teardrops, led by the son of blues legend Magic Slim. The festival will kick off March 27 with a night of the blues by local favorites such as the Sarah Ayers Band, James Supra Blues Band, Friar’s Point and Dugan Thomas. On March 29, Blast Furnace Blues attendees can also enjoy a special Blues Brunch featuring music by local blues favorites The BC Combo. Tickets for the brunch, which are $35, are on sale now at www.artsquest.org and 610-332-3378

”Highmark Blue Shield is proud to once again sponsor the Blast Furnace Blues Festival, a wonderful musical event that draws blues-lovers far beyond the Lehigh Valley,” says Susan Hubley, director of community affairs at Highmark. “This year’s lineup of musicians looks as incredible as the setting at SteelStacks. We’re grateful for the opportunity to show our support for this showcase of blues talent.”

Looking for the ultimate experience at Blast Furnace Blues? The festival is offering three-day VIP Packages, which include admission to the entire festival, as well as a Sunday Blues Brunch ticket, meet & greets with select headliners, commemorative poster, valet parking and more. VIP Packages, which are available in limited quantities, are only $199.

BLAST FURNACE BLUES PRESENTED BY HIGHMARK BLUE SHIELD 2015 LINEUP

March 27

Musikfest Café presented by Yuengling

6:15 p.m.:                    Friar’s Point

6:45 p.m.:                    Dugan Thomas

8:30 p.m.:                    James Supra Blues Band

10:30 p.m.:                  Sarah Ayers Band

 

March 28

Musikfest Café presented by Yuengling

1:30 p.m.:                    Ed Anderson

3 p.m.:                         Curley Taylor & Zydeco Trouble

4:30 p.m.:                    Gaye Adegbalola

6 p.m.:                         Shawn Holt & the Teardrops

7:45 p.m.:                    Tommy Castro

9:30 p.m.:                    John Németh & the Bo-Keys

 

Fowler Blast Furnace Room Stage

2:15 p.m.:                    Shawn Holt & the Teardrops

3:45 p.m.:                    Eric Noden & Joe Filisko

5:30 p.m.:                    Ed Anderson

7 p.m.:                         Carolyn Wonderland

8:45 p.m.:                    Curley Taylor

 

March 29

Musikfest Cafe presented by Yuengling

11 a.m.:                       Blues Brunch with BC Combo (separate ticket required)

1:30 p.m.:                    Carolyn Wonderland

2:45 p.m.:                    Freddie King Reunion Band

4:15 p.m.:                    Chris O’Leary Band

6 p.m.:                         Shemekia Copeland

7:45 p.m.:                    Heritage Blues Orchestra

 

Fowler Blast Furnace Room Stage

1:15 p.m.:                    Mike Mettalia & Midnight Shift

3:15 p.m.:                    Maria Woodford Band

5 p.m.:                         Roddy Barnes

7 p.m.:                         Freddie King Reunion Band

 

For complete information, tickets and festival passes for Blast Furnace Blues presented by Highmark Blue Shield, please visit www.artsquest.org

Fresh Biscuits! Friday Fast Five CD Reviews – August 15, 2014

Welcome to the second installment of the Friday Fast Five! There seems to be a roadhouse theme that appeared as I was writing these reviews. Each artist featured would satisfy even the rowdiest of Hank Jr’s friends. They can all play sweet, soothing blues but it’s the barnburners that really set them free. If you’re looking for some good time, rough and tumble blues this weekend maybe one or all of these albums will kick it up a notch. As always, feel free to comment, argue, and tell me I’m way off base. Comment here, Facebook or Twitter.

JohnMayallASpecialLifeJohn Mayall

A Special Life

Forty Below Records

Released on May 13, 2014

Another John Mayall record? Is there really such a thing as just another Mayall record? Let’s find out. John Mayall has spent his life playing and singing the blues and it has certainly been A Special Life indeed. The Godfather of the British Blues has become a legend just for introducing the world to legends like Eric Clapton, Peter Green, Jack Bruce, Mick Taylor, Walter Trout, and several others. However, along the way he has amassed a catalog of roots and blues music almost unparalleled by other blues musicians. Mayall is a consummate musician and bandleader and seems to never begrudge his students when they outshine the teacher. He is a gentleman of the blues.

A Special Life is the gentleman’s new album and it bristles with excitement and energy. “Why Did You Go Last Night” kicks off the album in New Orleans style as CJ Chenier sits in for a rollicking romp through his father Clifton’s tune. “Speak Of The Devil” revisits Sonny Landreth’s tunes with tough lead guitars and Mayall’s robust but plaintive tenor. “That’s All Right” takes us to Chicago via London and “Big Town Playboy” is a strutting Texas roadhouse shuffle. Too my ears, “Floodin’ In California” is Mayall’s shining moment on A Special Life. On this Albert King tune, Mayall’s levee breaks and the tune is flooded with waves of agonized organ artistry. It’s beautiful and immensely moving. Mayall also plays some lead guitar on the tune and leaves the King Albert licks to Rocky Athas.

A Special Life is well-produced, crisp, effervescing record from an 80 year old musician. Let that sink in for a moment. He’s singing great, playing well, and still writing excellent tunes about his passions. Whether he’s singing, blowing harp, or rocking out on the guitar, he’s putting younger men to shame. There will be a time someday when there will be no more new music from John Mayall, so to answer my own question, no. There is no such thing as just another Mayall record and this one proves it. Enjoy it.

 

LeeDelray570-BluesLee Delray

570-Blues

Available at CDBaby

Released Spring 2013

570-Blues came across my desk last year and unfortunately I wasn’t able to place a review of it anywhere. We’re going to fix that right now. 570-Blues is a solid collection of modern electric blues. What does that mean? Is it generic blues? Far from it. Lee Delray mixes styles of his influences. You can’t really tell if he’s playing a B.B. King lick or an Albert Collins lick. Maybe it’s Luther Allison. Maybe you shouldn’t analyze it so much and just enjoy it. He’s a New York City white boy and he knows his way around the blues. He’s even been sanctified by the Chubb Fatha himself, Popa Chubby. “Don’t Tell me I Can’t Get The Blues” tells Lee’s tale of blues living and street-side schooling and displays a lot of the guitar chops he’s picked up along the way.

Lee Delray’s guitar playing is good; maybe too good. I hear him play and I just want to hear him cut loose and roughen the edges a little. Some of 570-Blues feels like Lee is holding back in his guitar playing. Maybe it’s the recording studio environment. To paraphrase John Lee Hooker, Lee you’ve got it in you and you gotta let it come out! Let that boy boogie! I had this feeling most of the way through 570-Blues and then came “No Time Blues” This was it. Lee’s playing on this one is incandescent and worth the wait. Lee rips it wide open and lets loose in a way the rest of the albums suggests he could but never did. How’s that for a convoluted sentence? My head was still spinning I guess. 570-Blues is a great jumping off point and promises a tremendous future for Lee Delray who has musical chops, good songs, and an expressive singing voice. Now let’s get out there and see him live!

 

RBStoneLoosenUpRB Stone

Loosen Up!

Middle Mountain Music

Released on June 18, 2013

RB Stone’s voice sounds like Johnny Van Zant. You can say what you want about modern Lynyrd Skynyrd and I’d probably agree with most of it but Johnny has a hell of a voice and so does RB Stone. It’s got warmth even when singing lyrics that come with a wink and a nod. He sounds like he having fun, but he wants you to have fun right along with him. His singing style and intonation perfectly match his roadhouse ready tunes. His guitar playing ain’t to shabby either. His songs are adeptly constructed. He matches his bemused lyrics with just the right riffs.

The album also benefits from the sturdy production of “Producer of the Blues Stars” Tom Hambridge. Hambridge is also a fine musician and writer, and he pays drums on Loosen Up! The tunes range from the poignant “God Heals You When You Cry” to the hard driving “I Ain’t Buying That Bull Today.” “Texas Drunk Tank Blues” is exactly what it says and has an appropriately rollin’ and tumblin’ beat. Album opener “High Horse” sets the tone for the whole of Loosen Up! with its Telecaster shuffle and smirking lyrics about cutting loose and having a good time for once in your pontificating life. Loosen up indeed.

RB Stone’s guitar playing is impressive and he’s equally adept on slide, punctuating the title track “Loosen Up” with appropriately greasy licks. RB unleashes the slide on a cigar box guitar too, which appears on “Harley Heart,” the breakneck album closer. This is fun, booze-drinkin’, pool-shootin’, dust-kickin’, duck-walkin’, house-rockin’ boogie on a Saturday night and Sunday’s comin’ much too soon music. Loosen Up! has also been floating around my desk and made it into my car a few months ago and I’ve been enjoying the Hell out of it since. Send all your speeding tickets to RB. They’re his fault.

 

Nighthawks444The Nighthawks

444

EllerSoul Records

Released on June 17, 2014

I’ve always thought of the Nighthawks as a Rock & Roll band. Hell, their first album 40 years ago was called Rock ‘n’ Roll. It comes as no surprise that 40 years on The Nighthawks are still out there beating the drum for early Chuck Berry and Elvis-style Rock & Roll. Sure they play the blues and sure they’ve backed up every Blues legend who ever rode through the Washington, DC metropolitan area, and sure they’ve spawned a pair of legends themselves in Mark Wenner and Jimmy Thackery, but at their heart is a Rock & Roll band. This is a good thing. It keeps moneymakers moving and grooving way until the break of dawn. 444 is a throwback to the early days of Rock & Roll. Please note I’m not saying “Rock.” We’re talking Rock & Roll: boogie that swings, bounces, bops, and pops. It’s Chuck Berry’s sped up blues and the Nighthawks know it inside out.

Thankfully The Nighthawks aren’t as rhythmically repetitive as Chuck became, and they cover a lot of ground, from the acoustic roots of Muddy Waters’ “Louisiana Blues” to The Du Droppers’ vocal workout “Walk That Walk.” The title track “444” is one of those classic “had the girl out to late” tunes that were popular in the era before profanity. It chugs along with the urgency of a young man being chased by her angry daddy. “Got A Lot Of Livin’” absolutely pops. Mark Wenner’s howling harp is all over the record. He has a rich, thick tone that never gets to the fingernails-on-chalkboard screeches employed by lesser mortals. The band’s line-up has been somewhat unstable over the years but Wenner has held it all together and still puts out excellent Nighthawks music. If you’ve got the blues and need a pick-me-up, grab your girl and keep her out late cuttin’ the rug to 444.

 

ChrisOLearyLiveAtBluesNowChris O’Leary Band

Live At Blues Now!

VizzTone Label Group

Released on August 12, 2014

Chris O’Leary is the former front man of Levon Helm’s Barnburners. The Chris O’Leary band was formed in 2007 around a tight group of road warriors. Chris’ years spent with the Barnburners, backing up an eclectic mix of musicians at Levon Helm’s New Orleans club, and touring the country afterward, turned him into a musical medium. He channels a multitude of blues & soul styles authoritatively. It’s hard to believe he grew up closer to Albany, New York than New Albany, Mississippi. The blues pours out of his fuzz-drenched, raspy harp and his band is right there with him at every twist and turn. After two successful and acclaimed studio albums, this red hot combo has unleashed a sizzling live album.

Live At Blues Now! has tunes from both studio albums and a grooving, bouncing version of Billy Boy Arnold’s “Wish You Would.” Chris sings some of it through the harp mic and his vocals take on a Howlin’ Wolf snarl. I was really excited to have a live version of “Tchoupitoulas” (that’s “Chop-ih-too-liss” to you and me). If “Tchoupitoulas” doesn’t get you moving you may be dead. Have someone take your pulse immediately. Administer mouth to mouth as desired. It should have you singing and dancing like you’re down at Tipitina’s with the second-line hot on your heels. The whole album, from the opener “Give It” to the closer “History” has incredible drumming. The beats are almost tribal, churning and chopping, like waves of the sea surging and receding, thrusting the band forward, reeling rocking in rhythmic ecstasy.

On “Trouble,” special guest guitarist Alex Schultz rides the rhythmic waves like a man who’s conquered the Pipeline. Chris O’Leary’s harp cuts through like a thrusting oar and keeps the band on course. The shimmering guitars of “Louisiana Woman” and lonesome harp conjure a hoodoo mist across the bayou and “Water’s Risin’” swings, rocks and reels. This is rock & roll blues at its best, combining gospel vocals, Chuck Berry rhythms, and dueling guitars into a spicy gumbo of American music which pretty much encapsulates the Chris O’Leary Band. This band is the real deal. Bring the band into your living room, car, or bayou back porch with Live At Blues Now!

If you are interested in these or any other Fresh Biscuits! click on our link to buy from Amazon or visit the artists pages linked in the reviews. As always, please support the artists!

Fresh Biscuits! New Releases For August 12, 2014

Last week was barren for new releases but there are several exciting new albums this week. Alexis P. Suter Band’s highly anticipated CD is out today. You can find our review of it here. There’s also a hot new live record from Chris O’Leary Band and an archival Louisiana Red release of a live show from Greece. This week boasts a bunch of releases from abroad, showing yet again the reach of pure honest music played by not-always-pure, mostly honest musicians! Blues truly is thriving outside the United States and you owe it to yourself to check out some International Blues.

PS: Paul Lamb’s website says his new CD came out June 16th. If that’s the case I’m sorry we missed it. It’s on the the list now and #thatsahotbiscuit !

Alexis P. Suter Band Love the Way You Roll

 

 

 

 

 

 


Chris O’Leary Band Live at Blues Now

ChrisOLearyLiveAtBluesNow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arsen Shomakhov Dynamic

ArsenShomakhovDynamic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Innes Sibun Lost In The Wilderness

InnesSibunLostInTheWilderness

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jay Willie Rumblin’ & Slidin’

JayWillieRumblinSlidin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Louisiana Red The Sky Is Crying

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Mick Abrahams Working in the Blues

MickAbrahamsWorkingInTheBluesKitchen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paul Lamb & The Kingsnakes Hole in the Wall

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Rob Tognoni Casino Placebo

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Smoky Babe Way Back in the Country Blues

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Nick Woodland Beacon

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