DIGITAL BLUES NOMINATED IN 2013 BRITISH BLUES AWARDS
I am thrilled to learn that, for the third year running, Digital Blues has been nominated in the Independent Blues Broadcast category of the British Blues Awards. To say I am chuffed is putting it mildly and a big thank you goes out to all those who thought to nominate Digital Blues.
The full list of nominees is:
Ashwyn Smyth – Digital Blues
Dave Raven– Raven and Blues
Gary Grainger – The Blues Show
Martin Clarke – The Blues Session
Paul Stiles –UKBlues Today
Tim Aves – The Blues is Back
Congratulations go to all fellow nominees.
Voting starts on 8th May 2013 at www.britishbluesawards.com
EUROPEAN BLUES CHALLENGE 2013 – TOULOUSE
On 8th & 9th March 2013, I was fortunate enough to attend a great event in Toulouse,France featuring 19 very different blues acts from 19 different European countries.
What was this event I hear you ask? It was the European Blues Challenge, the third such annual event organised by the European Blues Union (who I hear you ask?)FranceBlues and theToulouseBlues Society. Still confused?
Well, the UK was represented by BabaJack and they went down an absolute storm but sadly, did not win. They did, however, get a number of European Festival and gig offers. I also understand that they covered the costs of their trip with CD sales!
Very popular winners were Veronica Sbergia and Red Wine Serenaders from Italy and two acts tied for second place. Chino and the Big Bet, a very good blues and swing trio from Barcelona and a lovely, rootsy acoustic trio from Romania, Soul Serenade, the youngest competitors.
What is so worrying to me is that probably the vast majority of you reading this will be wondering what is the European Blues Union? What is the European Blues Challenge?
This lack of awareness is probably the reason why, at 1st March 2013, there are just 3 active members of the EBU from the UK whilst there are 20 from France, 16 from Italy, 11 from Belgium, 7 each from Norway and Switzerland, 6 from Germany and even the USA has 2 members!
Founded in 2010, the main goals of the European Blues Union are:
■to promote blues in Europe;
■to promote the global significance and reputation of European blues and roots music across the world, and in particular in Europe;
■to encourage international exchanges and co-operation among the European blues festivals or other similar organisations;
■to set up educational programs and to promote blues in schools;
■to organize events, awards, etc.
With members in more than 28 European countries, an annual Assembly takes place alongside the European Blues Challenge and the EBU’s goal is to recruit large numbers of members throughout Europe who are interested in supporting and promoting the work of the EBU.
The Union’s ultimate goal is the establishment of a permanent office to handle the Union’s work professionally, to coordinate activities, take charge of communication and organize EBU events.
This year, the EBU supported Austrian artist Meena at the International Blues Challenge (IBC) in Memphis, an event which also saw entries from many other European countries including Holland and France whilst Spain’s Suitcase Brothers came second in the solo/duo category and Germany’s Michael van Merwyk and Bluesoul came second in the band category. Oh, and since you ask, there was no entrant in either category from the UK!
We must change this. We should not be happy to accept that the UK is not really active in the EBU, that the UK is not represented at the IBC.
If you care about this and want to do something, join the EBU and support those of us trying to change things. Visit the European Blues Union site at www.europeanbluesunion.com to find out more and to see how you can join. I am part of a group looking at how we can spread the word, raise awareness and populate the UK pages of the website.
The Independent Blues Broadcasters Association (IBBA) is looking to try to raise awareness of the EBU so support the members of the IBBA and tune in to their radio shows. For more details visit www.bluesbroadcasters.co.uk
Support the blues in the UK and help us to put the UK on the European Blues Union map!
DIGITAL BLUES LOOKS BACK AT 2012
And so 2012 is over and it is onward into the unknown that is 2013. Before closing the door completely though, I thought it might be fun to have a look back at what 2012 brought us. What I thought would be a brief wallow in nostalgia turned out to be a marathon such was the volume of great stuff that I got to hear and play during the year.
Before laying my neck on the block with a selection of my favourites, I thought it might be interesting to bore you with a few facts and figures about Digital Blues! With 3 hours of radio a week broadcast on two stations, one on each side of theAtlantic, that’s 156 hours in a year. That, in turn, converts into around 2000 tracks from at least 600 albums from just about every continent. And all this comes to you absolutely free!! I won’t mention the downloads which I have to say are really hard work for reasons set out on the Music Submissions page of this website.
A lot of music then but has it been good? Has 2012 been a stand-out year?
When looking back at the music received during the year, I found myself facing an ever growing pile of CDs which were ones I believed should be considered amongst the ‘choices’ for the year. I was then faced with choosing from all of those CDs a number which had really impressed. Another incredibly difficult task which took on Herculean proportions as time passed.
In the end, I came to the conclusion that, unless I was going to have a top fifty or similar, it was inevitable that some CDs/artists would not appear in my ‘list’. So apologies to those many, very fine acts whose names do not appear here and thank you to everyone whose music contributed to making 2012 not just the year of London 2012 and not just the Queen’s Jubilee but also one of the best years for blues based music that I can recall.
As you will have gathered, there have been quite a few albums which I have really enjoyed and, this year, perhaps more than ever, it has been about variety. I believe blues is an incredibly broad church; indeed there are those who accuse me of playing too much that ‘is not blues’ on Digital Blues. I am very much inPapa George’s camp – blues is a feeling – so the following list of great CDs that reached me this year may well upset the purists (am I bothered?) but I think it serves to demonstrate what wonderfully varied offerings saw the light of day in 2012.
Let’s start with Dutchman, Big Pete, and his debut Delta Groove CD, ‘Choice Cuts’ which definitely does what it says on the tin. With a load of great guests including fellow gob ironistas Kim Wilson, Paul Oscher and Al Blake as well as some wonderful harp playing from Pete, this is a smashing CD that, inexplicably, did not get the attention it should have.
The Dutch connection continues with a band that made the finals of the 2012 New Brunswick Battle of the Blues despite being accused of not being a blues band, Little Devils. Fronted by Yoka the diva (a Dutch lady with a great voice) the band play all original material with thoughtful and contemporary lyrics. Possibly my favourite track is their magnificent song about the now virtually extinctUKcoal mining industry, ‘Black Diamond’ from their CD ‘Diamonds & Poison’.
This is a song which (not just from a radio point of view), sits perfectly alongside the glorious title track of CanadianMatt Andersen’s very fine 2012 CD, ‘Coal Mining Blues’, a CD which showed the breadth and depth of Matt’s guitar playing, song writing and singing skills and was, in my humble opinion, his best yet. Both the songs, though very different in many ways, share thought provoking lyrics, haunting melodies and arrangements plus great vocals.
Great lyrics are the stock in trade of Clare Free, a talented guitar toting, bustier wearing singer/songwriter who departed the UK to live in Holland earlier this year but with her CD, ‘Dust and Bones’, definitely one of ‘the’ CDs of the year, produced a great collection of thought provoking original songs which were underpinned by her individual voice and fine guitar playing, none more so than the moving ‘Small Miracles’ which tells such a heart-warming but personal story.
Another British female who produced a 2012 highlight is Sandi Thom. Her August release, ‘Flesh & Blood’, served to enhance her reputation as a lady with the blues but not stuck in the blues and saw her building upon the foundations laid with her first ‘blues’ CD. It also featured a great duet with Buffy Sainte Marie on the latter’s ‘Big Ones Get Away’ as well as 11 other very varied tracks.
Likewise Dani Wilde whose Ruf Records release, ‘Juice Me Up’ saw her widening her musical horizons with funky soul tracks such as ‘Crazy World’, the topical ‘The Burning Truth’ whilst never forgetting her blues roots with songs such as ‘Mississippi Kisses’. There was also a lovely taste of Dani in acoustic mood with the bonus track, ‘I Will Be Waiting’.
Another ‘woman in blues’ who deserves a higher profile is the lady who was third in 2011’s USversion of The Voice. The striking Beverley McClellan’s CD, ‘Fear Nothing’ very much lives up to its title, offering some great original material alongside some fine covers, all demonstrating the power and range of her great voice. Sadly, Beverley had to cut short her tour ofEuropesupporting Steve Vai at the end of the year.
There have been two other newcomer women in blues this year who have created quite a stir, Jo Harman andKatie Bradley. Jo has a considerable musical pedigree along with a load of talent but has only recently turned her talents to the blues. The results are best described as stellar! With a live CD and well managed promotion, Jo has become the name on many people’s lips and has won many fans at every live gig as well as garnering loads of airplay. Her EP, ‘Worthy of Love’ released late in the year, together with a full studio CD in the offing, should see Jo banging very loudly on the door of the premier league in 2013. Her beautiful and touching song, ‘Old Man Moses’ was also one of the songs of the year for me.
Katie Bradley is an undiscovered gem! Her debut CD, ‘She’s Ready’, combines a very talented band with great vocals from Katie, whether she is putting her own mark on great covers or performing superb original material including possibly the song of the year, ‘I Hear the River’. Katie has also been very effective in marketing herself and her music. She could teach many other acts a great deal about promotion and raising ‘brand awareness’. Definitely someone to watch!
There have been some very enjoyable CDs from duos and trios playing acoustic style, stripped down music. FromAustraliaandIrelandcame Hat Fitz and Cara with a new CD recorded in Oz with Jeff Lang and featuring a glorious mix of Celtic instruments with stomping guitar and vocals. ‘Wiley Ways’ is a CD that should be in everyone’s collection and typifies the wonderful variety that is avalable.
Undoubtedly the stellar act of 2012 is the much in demand and unique Babajack for whom 2012 has been an amazing year, not least due to what is probably my CD of the year, the very varied and highly infectious ‘Rooster, an absolute cracker again bringing to the mix unusual instrumentation such as the cahon, African drums and Trevor’s wonderful winebox guitars. 2013 promises much for Babajack as they represent the UKin the European Blues Challenge in Franceon March 8th & 9th when they compete against 19 other acts from aroundEurope. They also have plans for a new CD during the year for which, I for one, cannot wait.
One of the totally below the radar outfits that came into Digital Blues’ world this year was the superb Heritage Blues Orchestra, an enigmatic collection of musicians whose CD, ‘And Still I Rise’ is a joy and a pleasure to listen to again and again, mixing gospel with blues with Americana and field hollers. And all covers breathing new life into old songs and giving them a bit of HBO magic! Why this CD did not do more I know not! Certainly appearances at events such as the Cognac Blues passions festival helped!
This year has seen Giles Robson & the Dirty Aces very much establishing themselves as an in demand act, even receiving airplay on a certain BBC Radio 2 breakfast show the day after being aired on Paul Jones’ Blues Show! This has been backed by extensive touring in the UK and Europe and I can tell you that their superb new CD due to be released in 2013 makes great listening and will, deservedly, only push their star even higher.
Big Boy Bloaterhas spent much of the last few years touring with Imelda May. However, the release of his second CD with the Limits, ‘The World Explained’, on the back of extensive touring has confirmed his position as one of the premier British blues shouters as well as being a fine songwriter with a great way with lyrics including the wonderful bump & grind of ‘She Gets Naked For A Living’.
Last but by no means least is Johnny Mastro & Mama’s Boys. Who, I hear you ask? Their recent CD, ‘Luke’s Dream’ is another gem which is regularly on my playlist and is packed with variety showcasing Mastro’s harmonica playing and vocals, none more so that the wonderfully moody ‘Thunder Roll’. And yet, inexplicably, this was a CD which was hardly seen on many playlists despite the quality tracks.
In the interests of keeping you reading (if you have got this far) I must call a halt! A list of 15 of my favourite CDs which, I hope, demonstrates what a great year 2012 has been. They are not in any order so there are no ‘number one’ or ‘best’ CDs. And no sight of 2012 releases from Ian Siegal & the Mississippi Mudbloods, Rabbitfoot, The Cadillac Kings, the Royal Southern Brotherhood, the Mannish Boys, Rachelle Plas, the 24th Street Wailers,Paddy Milner, Sofie Reed, the two Jock’s Juke Joint compilations – I could go on! And that was before the arrival of the CD from David Migden & the Dirty Words!
Choosing a favourite from amongst this galaxy is difficult but for me the song of 2012 is the aforementionedKatie Bradley original, ‘I Hear the River’, a song that gives me that spine tingle every time I hear it and features such lovely guitar from Katie’s co-writer, Dudley Ross. My act of the year is unquestionably Babajack who seem both surprised and modestly delighted by their own very much deserved success and rise in popularity and who seem destined for greater heights in 2013. Good luck at the EBC. I will be there, will you?.
DIGITAL BLUES LOGO
Huge thanks go to Dave ‘Werewolf’ Richardson for creating a shiny new logo for Digital Blues as above. Dave has captured the retro look I was aiming for and I would like to record my most sincere thanks to him for giving of his time and talent to Digital Blues. Thank you Dave.
BABAJACK TO REPRESENT UK AT THE EBC 2013
It has just been announced that the wonderful Babajack are to represent the UK at the 3rd European Blues Challenge which takes place in Toulouse, France in early March.
The winners of the Best Newcomer from the UK section of the Blues Matters! Writers’ Poll are nominated to enter the European Blues Challenge organised by the European Blues Union.
Last year Ben Poole did the UK proud in coming in 3rd out of 19 countries. On the back of this success, Ben has been booked to play at several prestigious European Blues festivals, gained a European promoter and a record deal with Ruf Records…….so not a bad result all round.
All this thanks to the Writers’ voting him the winner in last year’s Poll.
This year the very talented Lucy Zirins has been declared the winner of the best newcomer category in the Blues Matters! Writers’ Poll. Sadly she has decided that she cannot accept entry to the EBU Challenge as she is recording her album for release early in 2013 and all her efforts are directed to this as priority.
Lucy has agreed that the act achieving 2nd place should take the nomination and, therefore, the excellent BabaJack willl represent the UK in France on 8 & 9th March 2013.
BabaJack also won the Best Band category in the Poll and this success comes on top of Becky Tate’s success in the British Instrumentalist category of the 2012 British Blues Awards.
More details about the EBC can be found on the EBU’s website.
You can find the full results of the Writers’ Poll below.
BLUES MATTERS! WRITERS’ POLL 2012
BRITISH BLUES AWARDS 2012
The results in the British Blues Awards 2012 were announced on 9th September at the Newark Blues Festival abd you can see a full list of all the winners and runners up in all categories on the Awards website - www.britishbluesawards.com.
Thank you to everyone who voted, especially if you voted for Digital Blues and for our nomination in the Kevin Thorpe Original Song category, Guy Tortora’s wonderful, ‘Prodigal Song’.
Congratulations go to all involved, whether as winners, runnesr-up, nominees or on the organisation side.
DIGITAL BLUES WELCOMES STIX SANDERSON
I am delighted to welcome Essex musician, Stix Sanderson to Digital Blues where he will be reviewing CDs for publication on the website.
To introduce himself, Stix writes: ‘I’ve had a love for music from a very early age, thanks to my Dad introducing me to bands such as Deep Purple, Wishbone Ash and Whitesnake when I was a young kid in the mid to late 70′s. In fact the first live gig I attended was in 1980 at the age of 9 when my Dad took me to see Wishbone Ash at the Chelmsford Odeon.
So rock music was always my favourite genre, and I’ve never really followed’popular’music. Then I started discovering the Blues courtesy of Eric Clapton’s albums’24 Nights Live At The Albert Hall’and’From the Cradle’which led me to Robert Johnson, Muddy Walters, BB King, John Lee Hooker etc. Then it was Freddie King, Albert Collins, SRV, Gary Moore etc.
I think there’s some real quality Blues artists on the scene at the moment so with acts such as Joe Bonamassa, Simon McBride, Matt Schofield and Oli Brown, the future for the Blues is looking very positive!
In my late 20′s ‘I decided I wanted to play the drums, and since then I have played in 3 or 4 rock and blues bands in pubs and clubs around Essex, and a few further afield. I’m on a sabbatical at the moment but I fully intend getting back behind the kit in the next couple of years!
I used to regularly attend the Bottleneck Blues Club gigs in Kent, and saw some amazing acts such as The Lee Sankey Band (with a young Matt Schofield on guitar!),Geoff Achison and the Souldiggers (with the superb Sam Kellyon drums, and a genuinely nice guy too!), Taka Boom (Chaka Khan’s sister), Jim Crawford, the list goes on!
I listen to music on average 1-2 hours a day, and my i-Tunes music library takes up over 150gb! As well as many Blues acts, my library includes other favourites of mine such as Black Country Communion, The Answer, The Union, Led Zep, the Stones, Chickenfoot and Metallica!
I’m married (the band I was in in 2003 auditioned a female singer – she’s now my wife!), with 2 beautiful daughters (4 years old and 18 months old), live in Tiptree (nr Colchester,Essex) and work in the financial services industry. As well as music, my interests are Formula One and (dare I admit it!) West Ham.’
So, once again, welcome to the team Stix (there are two of us now!) and you can read his first review here.
33rd BLUES MUSIC AWARDS
RESULTS ANNOUNCED BY THE BLUES FOUNDATION
The Blues Foundation have published the results and recipients of the Blues Music Awards (BMAs) following the awards ceremony in Memphis on Thursday 10th May 2012.
The big winners are Tab Benoit and the Tedeschi-Trucks Band. Tab took home both three awards and Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks combined for five awards. Tab took top honours in Contemporary Male Artist and Album and B.B. King Entertainer of the Year. The Tedeschi Trucks Band took Band and Album of the Year Awards, while Susan is the top Contemporary Female Artist and Derek is the Gibson Guitarist of the Year winner. Both Ruthie Foster and Charlie Musselwhite garnered two Awards.
The complete list of 2012 Blues Music Award winners by category are:
Acoustic Album: Conversations in Blue – David Maxwell & Otis Spann
Acoustic Artist: Eric Bibb
Album: Revelator – Tedeschi Trucks Band
B.B. King Entertainer: Tab Benoit
Band: Tedeschi Trucks Band
Best New Artist Debut: Runaway – Samantha Fish
Contemporary Blues Album: Medicine – Tab Benoit
Contemporary Blues Female Artist: Susan Tedeschi
Contemporary Blues Male Artist: Tab Benoit
DVD: Live at Antone’s – Ruthie Foster (Blue Corn)
Gibson Guitar Award: Derek Trucks
Historical Album: Chess Records – Smokestack Lightning/The Complete Chess Masters 1951-1960 (Howlin’ Wolf)
Instrumentalist-Bass: Biscuit Miller
Instrumentalist-Drums: Chris Layton
Instrumentalist-Horn: Terry Hanck
Instrumentalist-Other: Sonny Rhodes, lap steel guitar
Koko Taylor Award (Traditional Blues Female): Ruthie Foster
Pinetop Perkins Piano Player: Marcia Ball
Rock Blues Album: Dust Bowl – Joe Bonamassa
Song: “The Lord is Waiting, the Devil is Too” – Johnny Sansone
Soul Blues Album: Show You a Good Time Bobby Rush
Soul Blues Male Artist: Curtis Salgado
Traditional Blues Album: Chicago Blues A Living History the (R)evolution Continues – Billy Boy Arnold, John Primer, Billy Branch, Lurrie Bell, Carlos Johnson
Traditional Blues Male Artist: Charlie Musselwhite
NEW BRUNSWICK BATTLE OF THE BLUES
CONGRATULATIONS TO THE WINNERS
The winners of the New Brunswick battle of the Blues where crowned at an excellent evening at the Garage, Highbury Corner, London on the 27th March, their prize being a trip to Fredericton in New Brunswick, Canada to play the Harvest Jazz & Blues Festival, probably the premier Canadian festival, in September.
The line-up for the final was Chris James (making his second consecutive appearance in the finals), Little Devils (winners of the New Crawdaddy Blues Club heat), Paint It Blue (a runner-up in last year’s heats and winners at Bristol this year), The Groove-A-Matics (featuring Johnny Whitehill), the winners at the Newcastle-upon-Tyne heat and winners of the popular vote, How Askew.
This was a really wonderfully varied line-up with something for everybody but there could only be one winner and very popular they were too. From Gateshead, the Groove-a-Matics featuring Johnny Whitehill, were declared the winners, a very popular choice.
The evening was rounded off with a great set from last year’s winners, 24 Pesos, who showcased tracks from their brand new CD, ‘When the Ship Goes Down’.