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Blast Furnace Blues Festival Coming This Weekend

Robert Randolph, Charlie Musselwhite, Coco Montoya & More Headline 2016 Blast Furnace Blues Festival at SteelStacks in Bethlehem

Festival, presented by Highmark Blue Shield, set for March 11-13

CharlieMusselwhiteBlastFurnaceBETHLEHEM, PARobert Randolph & the Family Band, GRAMMY winner Charlie Musselwhite, Johnny Winter’s All Star Band, Coco Montoya and the Royal Southern Brotherhood headline the fifth Blast Furnace Blues Festival presented by Highmark Blue Shield March 11-13, 2016 at the ArtsQuest Center at SteelStacks in Bethlehem. Three-day festival passes and single-day tickets for the event, which features 18 national and local blues artists are available at www.steelstacks.org and 610-332-3378.

On Sat., March 12, Blast Furnace Blues welcomes dynamic funk and soul group Robert Randolph & the Family Band. Named one of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time” by Rolling Stone, Robert Randolph and his band first gained national attention with the release of the album Live at the Wetlands in 2002. The group has performed at festivals ranging from Bonnaroo and Austin City Limits, to Gathering of the Vibes and the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, while Randolph’s guitar work has resulted in collaborations with icons such as Eric Clapton and Carlos Santana.

Prior to Robert Randolph’s set, guests will enjoy a scorchin’ performance by the Royal Southern Brotherhood featuring Cyril Neville of The Neville Brothers. Also performing is Coco Montoya, a former member of John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers who’s been called “the hottest southpaw in the blues” by Guitar One Magazine.

Headlining the festival on Sun., March 13, is the one and only Charlie Musselwhite. A Blues Hall of Famer and a 2013 GRAMMY winner for Get Up!, his collaboration with Ben Harper, Musselwhite has been recording and performing for more than five decades. During his career, the legendary harmonica player has recorded and shared the stage with a who’s who of the music world including blues legends like Muddy Waters and Howling Wolf, as well as Mick Jagger, INXS, Tom Waits and the Blind Boys of Alabama.

Earlier in the day, attendees will also enjoy a special tribute to Johnny Winter as the Johnny Winter All Star Band rocks the ArtsQuest Center. This high-energy ensemble features former Johnny Winter Band members Paul Nelson on guitar and James Montgomery on vocals, performing the music of the late blues-rock guitarist. Among the other artists who will take the stage March 13 is Janiva Magness, the 2009 Blues Foundation B.B. King Entertainer of the Year and 2015 Contemporary Female Artist of the Year.

”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.”

The 2016 Blast Furnace Blues Festival kicks off Fri., March 11, with an incredible night of music by some of the region’s top blues acts. Set to take the stage are Friar’s Point, Sarah Ayers Band and the Craig Thatcher Band. The festival will also offer a special blues brunch, with music by the BC Combo, March 13 at 11 a.m.

Looking for the ultimate experience at Blast Furnace Blues? The festival offers 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 LINEUP:
March 11
Musikfest Café presented by Yuengling
6:30 p.m. Friar’s Point
8:00 p.m. Sarah Ayers Band
9:45 p.m. Craig Thatcher Band

March 12
Musikfest Café presented by Yuengling
12:30 p.m. Ursula Ricks
1:45 p.m. Darrell Nulisch
3:15 p.m. James Armstrong
5:00 p.m. Coco Montoya
6:45 p.m. Royal Southern Brotherhood
8:30 p.m. Robert Randolph & the Family Band
Fowler Blast Furnace Room Stage
1:00 p.m. Maria Woodford Band
2:30 p.m. Toby Walker
4:15 p.m. Ursula Ricks
6:00 p.m. Darrell Nulisch
7:45 p.m. James Armstrong

March 13
Musikfest Café presented by Yuengling
11:00 a.m. The BC Combo
1:15 p.m. The Revelers
2:30 p.m. Janiva Magness
4:15 p.m. Johnny Winter All Star Band
6:00 p.m. Charlie Musselwhite
Fowler Blast Furnace Room Stage
12:30 p.m. Matt Anderson
2:00 p.m. James Supra
3:45 p.m. Matt Anderson
5:15 p.m. The Revelers

36th Blues Music Awards Announced

Another year for the Blues Music Awards is in the books. Elvin Bishop and Bobby Rush came out on top as big winners this year in Memphis. The even this year coincided with the opening of the long awaited Blues Hall of Fame. According to The Blues Foundation president Jay Sieleman, the foundation built the Blues Hall of Fame after raising nearly $3 million, finally providing a destination for fans and a location where blues legends are remembered for their contributions to America’s unique musical creation. The Blues Hall of Fame is located at 421 South Main St. in Memphis and is open 10a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is only $10 so get your Blues loving self to Memphis.

I see lots of my favorites on the list as winners but I still can’t figure out who voted for Joe Bonamassa over Ronnie Earl in the Guitarist category. Anyway, without further delay, the winners are…

B.B. King Entertainer Of The Year
Bobby Rush
Elvin Bishop
John Németh
Rick Estrin
Sugaray Rayford

Band Of The Year
Elvin Bishop Band
John Németh & the Bo-Keys
Rick Estrin & the Nightcats
Sugar Ray & the Bluetones
The Mannish Boys

Album Of The Year
Can’t Even Do Wrong Right – Elvin Bishop
Living Tear To Tear – Sugar Ray & the Bluetones
Memphis Grease – John Németh
Refuse to Lose – Jarekus Singleton
Wrapped Up and Ready – The Mannish Boys

Song Of The Year
“Can’t Even Do Wrong Right” written and performed by Elvin Bishop
“Another Murder in New Orleans” written by Carl Gustafson & Donald Markowitz, performed by Bobby Rush and Dr. John with Blinddog Smokin’
“Bad Luck Is My Name” written and performed by John Németh
“Let Me Breathe” written by Janiva Magness & Dave Darling, performed by Janiva Magness
“Things Could Be Worse” written by Ray Norcia, performed by Sugar Ray & the Bluetones

Contemporary Blues Album
BluesAmericana – Keb’ Mo’
Can’t Even Do Wrong Right – Elvin Bishop
Original – Janiva Magness
Refuse to Lose -Jarekus Singleton
Hornet’s Nest – Joe Louis Walker

Soul Blues Album
Memphis Grease – John Németh
Blues for My Father – Vaneese Thomas
Decisions – Bobby Rush with Blinddog Smokin’
In My Soul – The Robert Cray Band
Soul Brothers – Otis Clay & Johnny Rawls

Acoustic Album
Timeless – John Hammond

Hard Luck Child: A Tribute to Skip James – Rory Block
Jericho Road – Eric Bibb
Jigsaw Heart – Eden Brent
Son & Moon: A Tribute to Son House – John Mooney

Best New Artist Album
Don’t Call No Ambulance – Selwyn Birchwood
Chromaticism – Big Harp George
Heavy Water – Fo’ Reel
Making My Mark – Annika Chambers & the Houston All-Stars
One Heart Walkin‘ – Austin Walkin’ Cane

Traditional Blues Album
For Pops (A Tribute to Muddy Waters) – Mud Morganfield & Kim Wilson
Common Ground: Dave Alvin and Phil Alvin Play and Sing the Songs of Big Bill Broonzy – Dave Alvin and Phil Alvin
Livin’ it Up – Andy T-Nick Nixon Band
Living Tear To Tear – Sugar Ray & the Bluetones
The Hustle is Really On – Mark Hummel
Wrapped Up and Ready – The Mannish Boys

Rock Blues Album
Step Back – Johnny Winter
Goin’ Home – Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band
Time Ain’t Free – Nick Moss Band
heartsoulblood – Royal Southern Brotherhood
The Blues Came Callin’ – Walter Trout

Historical
Soul & Swagger: The Complete “5” Royales 1951-1967 – The “5” Royales (Rock Beat)
From His Head to His Heart to His Hands – Michael Bloomfield (Columbia/Legacy)
Live at the Avant Garde – Magic Sam (Delmark)
The Modern Music Sessions 1948-1951 – Pee Wee Crayton (Ace)
The Roots of it All-Acoustic Blues – Various Artists (Bear Family)

Acoustic Artist
John Hammond
Doug MacLeod
Eric Bibb
John Mooney
Rory Block

Contemporary Blues Female Artist
Janiva Magness
Beth Hart
Bettye LaVette
Marcia Ball
Shemekia Copeland

Traditional Blues Male Artist
Lurrie Bell
Billy Boy Arnold
John Primer
Sugar Ray Norcia
Sugaray Rayford

Koko Taylor Award
Ruthie Foster
Alexis P. Suter
Diunna Greenleaf
EG Kight
Trudy Lynn

Contemporary Blues Male Artist
Gary Clark, Jr.
Elvin Bishop
Jarekus Singleton
Joe Bonamassa
Joe Louis Walker

Soul Blues Male Artist
Bobby Rush
Curtis Salgado
John Németh
Johnny Rawls
Otis Clay

Soul Blues Female Artist
Sista Monica
Candi Staton
Missy Andersen
Sharon Jones
Vaneese Thomas

Pinetop Perkins Piano Player
Marcia Ball
Barrelhouse Chuck
Bruce Katz
David Maxwell
Eden Brent

Instrumentalist – Harmonica
Charlie Musselwhite
Kim Wilson
Mark Hummel
Rick Estrin
Sugar Ray Norcia

Instrumentalist – Guitar
Joe Bonamassa
Anson Funderburgh
Johnny Winter
Kid Andersen
Ronnie Earl

Instrumentalist – Drums
Jimi Bott
June Core
Kenny Smith
Tom Hambridge
Tony Braunagel

Instrumentalist – Horn
Deanna Bogart
Al Basile
Jimmy Carpenter
Sax Gordon
Terry Hanck

Instrumentalist – Bass
Lisa Mann
Bob Stroger
Michael “Mudcat” Ward
Patrick Rynn
Willie J. Campbell

 

Fresh Biscuits! Ronnie Earl – Good News CD Review

RonnieEarlGoodNewsCDCoverRonnie Earl

Good News

Stony Plain Records

Ronnie Earl & The Broadcasters new disc Good News, on Stony Plain Records, is out today. Ronnie Earl won Best Instrumentalist Guitar at the 2014 Blues Music Awards in Memphis on May 8, 2014 – pretty good for a guy who started playing guitar at the age of 20. His musical life was changed by Muddy Waters and eventually so was his name. Apparently Muddy could never remember Ronnie’s original surname “Horvath.” Ronnie changed his last name to “Earl” as a tribute to the great Earl Hooker. Ronnie Earl joined Roomful Of Blues in 1979, made a few solo albums in the 80’s and went solo full time with the Broadcasters in 1988. The band has changed lineups over the years, but the lineup on Good News, featuring Jimmy Mouradian on bass, Dave Limina on organ, and Lorne Entress on drums, has been playing together for over a decade and it shows.

Ronnie Earl & The Broadcasters recorded their eighth Stony Plain album, Good News, over December 20th & 21st, 2013 at Wellspring Studios in Acton, MA. They invited some friends to join including vocalist Diane Blue, Detroit guitarist Nicholas Tabarias, and guitarist Zach Zunis of the Janiva Magness band. Together, they turned out a soulful, spiritual, uplifting record, just as the title suggests. Good News starts off fast, rolling south on the tracks toward Mississippi. “I Met Her On That Train” recalls “Mystery Train” but mixes in a dash of Tennessee Two-stepping Folsom Prison boogie. Dave Limina digs deep, taking us to the clubs on Saturday and church on Sunday. Guests Zach Zunis takes the first guitar solo of the disc – a classy move by Mr. Earl – and keeps us moving southbound with some countrified licks. Nicholas Tabarias takes the second guitar solo; playing licks that would make Carl Perkins and Scotty Moore smile, and the inimitable Mr. Earl takes the third solo of the disc. All the solos add to the song, but Ronnie Earl’s exquisite touch on rhythm guitar makes the song. He plucks out a lone bass note followed by fast moving chorded riffs on the high strings that keep the tune moving like a steam train fireman stoking the coal.

The title Good News celebrates Sam Cooke’s album, Ain’t That Good News, released 50 years ago in 1964. After getting arrested down South in 1963, Cooke was inspired to write the song, “Change is Gonna Come.” Ronnie Earl & The Broadcasters also pay tribute by covering the song on Good News. They invited vocalist Diane Blue to put her stamp on the track and she sings it with power and conviction. As the song progresses and picks up energy, Mr. Earl punctuates Diane Blue’s pleas with aggressively strummed outbursts that capture the defiance of the civil rights movement and the urgency that comes from knowing you might have to bring on the change yourself. This is a powerful rendition of “Change Is Gonna Come” and is not to be missed.

On “Blues for Henry,” a song co-written with Hubert Sumlin, Mr. Earl leans into the bent notes and squeezes them for all they’re worth. He exercises perfect control without sounding like he’s trying. He wrenches your guts like your grandma died and makes you smile like you just found a puppy. He is precise even when he seems on the edge of becoming unglued. Listening to him play can be an exercise in frustration for guitar players because he is just that good. “In The Wee Hours” is another song full of Earlisms on guitar that will make you shake your head. Zach Zunis admirably sets up with master, playing a superb solo of his own but Mr. Earl now owns this Junior Wells classic. He captured in music the dreamy, transitory consciousness found in the wee hours as sleep beckons and the mind struggles to resist the call.

“Time To Remember” features delicate piano and captivating organ playing from Dave Limina. “Marje’s Melody” is a melancholy guitar workout with Nicholas Tabarias again sitting in and taking the second solo. “Puddin’ Pie” brings up the energy level with a strutting shuffle, as does the Gospel march of the title track “Good News.” The album closes with “Runnin’ In Peace” featuring words written by The band’s friend Ilana Katz Katz who was only 50 feet from the first Boston marathon bombing on April 15, 2013. Ilana and Ronnie Earl wrote the song together and Diane Blue again put her heart into the words as vocalist as she pleads for a higher power to save us from ourselves. Ronnie’s guitar has an edgier tone with a little more gain than usual and his torrid playing captures the heartbreak, confusion, and sorrow of the Boston Marathon bombing. It is beautiful music born of an ugly tragedy.

I’ve spent a lot of time with this disc since it came in the mail. It arrived the night before Mr. Earl’s scheduled performance at the Western Maryland Blues Festival. I waited for the three hour ride to check it out and I was only marginally disappointed. I’m not a big fan of female vocalists – it’s a character flaw, I know – and the albums featured vocalist is female. The Good News is that I’ve since gotten over it with this new disc. The amazing news was Mr. Earl’s Saturday evening performance. It was stunning, it was sublime; it was any superlative you can imagine. He is one with his instrument and coveys his heart and soul through his playing. He is pure inspiration. Since then, Good News has been played a dozen times or more. I’ve lost count. I hear the notes and see Mr. Earl in my mind’s eye, on stage, hands moving in tandem, face contorted by ecstatic conscription, kneeling in genuflection to the higher power of the music that seems to flow through him. I feel that joy and hear it all throughout Good News. Ronnie Earl & The Broadcasters has captured its spirit and presented it to you as the Good News you’ve been waiting for. Wait no longer. And if this band turns up anywhere within a day’s drive make sure you get there.

 

Ronnie Earl & The Broadcasters have some shows coming up this summer:

Sat June 28 Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Saratoga Springs, NY  1:20pm
Thur July 3 Payomet Performing Arts  Truro, MA  8:00pm
Sat July 26 PA Blues Festival  Palmerton, PA 6:15pm
Sat Aug 2 Jonathan’s  Ogunquit, ME 9:00pm
Fri Aug 15 Evanston Space Chicago, IL 8:00pm
Sat Sept 6 The Knickerbocker  Westerly, RI 8:00pm
Fri Sept 12 Natick Center for the Arts  Natick, MA  8:00pm
Fri Oct. 17 The Newton Theater Newton, NJ 8:00pm