Springing the Blues 2016

Festival Takes- Springing the Blues, Jacksonville Beach, FL April 1-3, 2016

Samantha Fish

Saturday night headliner Samantha Fish

Blues fans across the South know that the first weekend in April brings the nation’s only free oceanfront blues festival to Northeast Florida. STB has managed to cobble together a fine lineup of talented bands every year to the perpetually blighted end of Beach Boulevard, where the ocean breezes caress the food vendors and kitsch hawkers within earshot of both the Main Stage and the smaller inland Blues Lounge. This year’s fest brought expanded VIP seating up front, a return of the perpetually headlining Lee Boys, and an adjusted artist schedule that had bands on both stages starting and finishing simultaneously. The latter brought much grousing from the hardcore attendees, who bemoaned the lost opportunity to check out artists in both venues, and the pleasures of constant music from one stage or the other. With three days of music, some sampling is usually required, and our intrepid reporter weighs in with some highlights from this year:

Friday night

Opening night brought a strong lineup including area standout Toots Lorraine and Traffic and STB first timers Sean Chambers Band. Toots plays jazz and blues standards to great effect, and her voice holds up well in both the large and small stage settings.

Toots Lorraine and Traffic

Toots Lorraine and Traffic

Blues rock was next on the menu, with the Sean Chambers Band blowing up the Lounge stage with their mix of originals ” Full Moon on Main Street”, ” You Gotta Help ” and          ” Here and Now”, along with genre standards like Willie Mitchell’s ” Come to Papa ” and a rather obscure Alvin Lee ( yes, he of Ten Years After and the incredible ” Coming Home” in the Woodstock movie) track ” Choo Choo Mama”.

Sean Chambers Band

Sean Chambers Band

For many fans, Friday night belonged to festival favorite Selwyn Birchwood, the guitar whiz tasked with opening the fest from the Lounge stage. By the time his set was over, many fans followed him to the Main Stage, where he held the crowd with a tight set of originals ” Hoodoo Stew ” and ” Pick Your Poison “. His lap slide playing was especially tasty, and he left the stage to enthusiastic applause. We caught up to Selwyn later at the merch tent, where he was checking the inventory of CDs, shirts, and glasses.

Selwyn Birchwood

Selwyn Birchwood checking inventory at the merch tent.( Photo by AussieGirl )

Which brought to mind the best way to support the artists: buy your CDs at the show and send the money directly to the artist. Many times when CDs are pressed the artist is given a number of complimentary discs to sell or distribute, and these are usually what’s seen at the merch tent. Don’t put that big box store between the artist and your purchase!

Saturday afternoon/evening

After a thunderous morning storm the clouds cleared over Jax Beach, making way for sunshine over the crowd during sets from Kim Reteguiz and the Black Cat Bones, the Parker Urban Band, and Eryn Shewell, who delivered a great cover of Lowell Fulson’s blues chestnut ” Little By Little”.

Eryn Shewell

Eryn Shewell onstage and on the big screen

The VIP section in front of the Main Stage was still not jammed by late afternoon, but a blistering set from Toronzo Cannon pulled fans from the food and ” arts ” ( we’ll use that term loosely here) plaza to their folding chairs in VIP and their blankets and canvas chairs for the hoi polloi in back. True to form, the hard rocking Samantha Fish served up a rock-flavored set of arena-friendly blues tunes, including selections from her 2015 release  ” Wild Heart “. The Kansas City star showed why the Blues Foundation has nominated her for their 2016 Best Contemporary Female award.We hope she wins!

But for Saturday night, the best action was at the small Lounge Stage, where the Corbitt Clampitt Experience appeared at 6:40, just as the sun was setting on the Fest. They were shortly joined onstage by comrade John Parker Urban, and the twin-lead guitar lineup quickly jolted the crowd with a tight set that at times reminded older fans of the halcyon days of the Marshall Tucker Band. Although Urban was initially buried in the mix, the sound booth made adjustments and the band pushed through on numbers like Pinetop Sparks’ ( notably covered by BB King ) ” Every Day I Have the Blues “.

Corbitt Clampitt with Parker Urban

Corbitt Clampitt with John Parker Urban

The band’s rousing finale of Dave Mason ( no, Joe Cocker didn’t write it, though his version is the best known)’s ” Feeling Alright ” brought two terrific singers to the packed stage ( come on guys, introduce them! ) and the crowd to its feet. The band has a strong local following and the rocking ensemble feel to the rolling tune had fans loudly singing and dancing along.

Corbitt Clampitt Experience with John Parker Urban

Corbitt Clampitt Experience with John Parker Urban and ladies

Had the fest ended there for the night, few would have complained. But despite the tough act to follow, national blues fest veteran Mr. Sipp ( a nod to his Mississippi roots) skipped onstage in his red lowtop Converse Chuck Taylors to cap the evening with his engaging presence and professional delivery of rocking blues, notably his own ” I Hit the Jackpot “.

Mr. Sipp

Mr. Sipp

Mr. Sipp and red Chuck Taylors

Mr. Sipp and red Chuck Taylors

 

Sunday afternoon

Perhaps the loveliest day of the Spring graced the fest on Sunday, and the locals came by bikes, skateboards, and sandals to the oceanfront venue to close things down. The fest was headlined again by the popular Lee Boys  a funk and gospel band based out of Miami. The band plays in the Sacred Steel tradition that arose out of the House of God Church. Having seen them several times, we opted for the Lounge stage, where  we were treated to a fine set from Jarekus Singleton, highlighted by a great version of William Bell and Booker T. Jones’ R and B classic ” Born Under A Bad Sign “, popularized by Albert King and Cream.

Jarekus Sigleton

Jarekus Sigleton ( photo by AussieGirl )

But this fine set was merely a warm-up for many fans’ Main Event of the fest, an appearance by local hero Conrad Oberg, who rose from Jacksonville arts magnet Douglas Anderson School of the Arts to become an international blues figure, with over 4 million worldwide YouTube views.

Conrad Oberg waiting during Jarekus Simpson set

Conrad Oberg waiting during Jarekus Simpson set

Born profoundly prematurely and blind at a pound and a half, Conrad overcame huge obstacles to learn keyboards from age two until given his first guitar at age ten. Five years later he played the Hendrix-style National Anthem at the Woodstock Reunion! His appearance at STB continues his touring in support of his 2013 release ” Spoonful “.

Conrad Oberg

Conrad Oberg ( photo by AussieGirl )

Conrad’s set featured many tunes from the ” Spoonful ” CD, including Willie Dixon’s title cut ( famously covered by Cream on ” Wheels of Fire” ) and Dixon’s ” I Just Wanna Make Love to You” ( the Foghat version is well known to classic rock fans ). Conrad started slowly, seemingly warming to the crowd, before tearing it up on ” Mojo Mofo “, Doug Sahm’s ” She’s About A Mover “, and Robert Johnson’s ” If I Had Possession Over Judgment Day “. During extended solos, he would drift into well-known riffs from similar tunes, tossing P.F. Sloan and Steve Barri’s ” Secret Agent Man ” into the Ventures’               ” Pipeline “, and Led Zep’s ” Heartbreaker ” into the White Stripes’ ” Seven Nations “. Wisely choosing familiar rock-influenced blues tunes for the mostly pre-Millennial crowd, Oberg seemingly peaked with scorching versions of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s ” Texas Flood” and the Allmans’ ” Whipping Post ” . But the finale was another surprise: a reprise of Huddie ” Lead Belly ” Ledbetter’s ” Black Betty “, hewed closely to the 1977 rock version by Ram Jam.

Conrad Oberg onstage

Conrad Oberg rocks ” Black Betty “

While not what anyone would consider ” blues “, the covers of these rock standards showed their somewhat obscured blues roots, verifying McKinley Morganfield’s conclusion that ” the blues done had a baby, and they named the baby Rock and Roll “. Call it what you want ( as Junior Wells says ), Springing the Blues delivered again.

 

Many thanks to our roving correspondent Nanker Phledge for this report !

” Sunshine of Your Blues “- Florida Blues and Music Fest

Festival takes– Florida Blues and Music Festival, Sarasota Fairgrounds, Sarasota, FL 10/26/13

Samantha Fish rocks Sarasota!

Samantha Fish rocks Sarasota!

” In Sarasota as a child my grandparents lived next door.. to the surviving Wallendas and their amazing wild stories..” – Patterson Hood, DBT: ” The Flying Wallendas “

” Way, way down in Florida.. where the sun shine damn near ev’ry day ..” – Muddy Waters

John Ringling built this town on circus money, and despite its snooty side, the place still digs a good live show, with musical Wallendas walking the wire without a net. Blues fans from all over the Southeast, some of whom were freshly off the Legendary Blues Cruise just like Samantha Fish, packed the Fairgrounds for a gorgeous Gulf Coast day of sunshine, craft beers, and outstanding local and national blues acts. While most were drawn by the well-known Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band, organizers and promoters were well served by showcasing local notables in the opening act, and revealing breaking stars in the run-up to KWSB’s rousing finale.

Local veterans Big T and the Tornadoes welcomed the early arrivals with an upbeat set of blues rock, with an alternating cast of local female blues singers. This produced some interesting tandems, and gave needed exposure to artists who rarely see an audience of several thousand blues fans.

Kenny Wayne Shepherd - Sarasota, FL 10/26/13

Kenny Wayne Shepherd – Sarasota, FL 10/26/13

The Fairgrounds were filling up when Samantha Fish began tuning and sound checking, and fans quickly hustled to their spots to catch this rising blues star from Kansas City. First noticed in the Girls With Guitars project with Cassie Taylor and Dani Wilde, Samantha has managed to grow gracefully, wisely choosing veteran blues man Mike Zito to produce her new CD, Black Wind Howlin’. Her Sarasota set included several cuts from this fine release, including ” Go To Hell “, ” Sucker Born “, ” Foolin’ Me ” , and a searing version of the title track. Perhaps playing to the crowd of aging boomers, Samantha closed with the Black Sabbath classic ” War Pigs “, released years before Ms. Fish was born. A credible version, passionately rendered, brought the Thurston Howell-ites to their feet and a huge grin from Samantha as she confidently strode offstage in triumph. Having seen Grace Potter close a show at Red Rocks this summer with the same 40-year-old cover, it begs the question? Who turned these nice girls onto Black Sabbath?

Honestly, sweetheart, there's a time delay on the shutter and she turned around and...

Honestly, sweetheart, there’s a time delay on the shutter and she turned around and…

The old show biz saw speaks of the ” tough act to follow” , and after Samantha, it was tough to get worked up over Big Chubby and the later Rick Estrin and the Nightcats, and one would hopefully be forgiven for taking their sets as an opportunity to sample the local craft IPAs and great barbecue. And in fairness to those fine artists, the distractions of the local scenery may have lead even your faithful correspondent to miss their well-received  sets, although there may have been some slow grinding on the dance field  to Chubby’s surprisingly effective cover of ” Hallelujah “. And since we’re begging questions, what is it about Leonard Cohen that makes women melt?

Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band

Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band

When he hit the national scene years ago, at about the same time as Jonny Lang, Chris Duarte, and some other Next Big Things, Kenny Wayne Shepherd was thought to be the most talented guitarist of the bunch, but not a compelling vocalist. Problem solved! KSW hooked up with singer Noah Hunt in 1998 and the rest, as they say, is history. Kenny’s affinity and confidence in Noah is evident onstage, and with a stellar band of Chris Layton on drums, Tony Franklin on bass, and Riley Osbourn on keys, Kenny is free to simply shred, which he did, to the crowd’s delight. A thoroughly professional and tight set was capped by early favorite ” Blue On Black “, with the chorus sung by many longtime fans. Kenny then announced that this was the point where most bands would ” go offstage and act like they’re not coming back” for an encore, but decried this practice as depriving fans of time to hear the band, stating that they’d just stay onstage and play as long as time permitted. Hoorah! And tear it up they did, closing with a phenomenal version of Hendrix’s  ” Voodoo Child ” from the seminal Electric Ladyland album, which is still the acid test of  any electric blues guitarist’s chops. Kenny effortlessly delivered the finest version of this chestnut I’ve heard since Stevie Ray Vaughan some thirty years ago, whipping the aging crowd ( many of whom were rockin’ Hendrix t-shirts ) into last-gasp frenzy.

Samantha and band suffer fools gladly in the merch tent after their set.

Samantha and band suffer fools gladly in the merch tent after their set.

The seemingly ubiquitous Mr. Phledge would like to thank his Probation Officer for permitting him to attend this event.

“Can You Stand the Heat?” – Ana Popovich

Concert reviews: Ana Popovich at Mojo’s Kitchen, Jax Beach, FL 5/15/2013

The comely Ms. P graced the First Coast with a short-notice stopover on her way North from wildly received shows at the Nawlins Jazzfest and Tampa. Despite no publicity, the Mojo’s Kitchen gig was packed with Blues cogniscenti and leering old men – with new contributor Teri Jo and addled correspondent Nanker Phledge leading the respective categories – Editors

Teri Jo’s take:

photo(21)

Ana Popovich onstage at Mojo’s Kitchen, Jax Beach, FL 5/15/13

Refugees from the Legendary Blues Cruise and grizzled blues aficionados gathered at Mojo Kitchen in Jacksonville Beach to worship at the altar of hit blues rocker Ana Popovic.  Popovic, who hails from Serbia, but now lives in Memphis, channelled Duane Allman, Peggy Lee and Stevie Ray Vaughan in the tiny venue.  Taking the stage in a killer red mini-dress and stiletto heels, Popovic blew the crowd away.

Popovic, who learned to appreciate the blues from her record-collecting father, was just off the stages  at Tropical Heatwave in Tampa, and at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival when she dropped in to burn up the strings at Mojo Kitchen.  Popovic played tunes from her new album, Can You Stand the Heat, which was recorded in Memphis, as well as numbers from her previous album Unconditional (you should check out the album cover).

Teri Jo

Nanker’s take:

Ana Popovic

” Why do men go crazy when a woman wears her dress so tight? “–  Muddy Waters- ( Andrew/McKeag)- ” The Same Thing”
Photo by compared2what

” It’s a man’s world she’s in “, noted compared2what, as we sat with veteran observers Wild Billy, Earl B., and Teri Jo, ” there aren’t many women doing this”. The short list includes Bonnie Raitt, Susan Tedeschi, Joanne Shaw Taylor, and newcomers like Samantha Fish, Cassie Taylor ( okay, she’s a bassist, but she’s out front), and 16-year-old Colorado prodigy Micheala Rae, all taking on the heavy mantle of Blues Guitar God(dess) with no clear model for survival, much less success, save the Little Redheaded Girl who made John Hiatt a Grammy-winning songwriter and put his own girls through college, to hear him tell it. Yet as Ana strode confidently onstage, grabbed her axe, and approached the mike, nobody was really concerned about gender, ethnicity, or age, but the simple  query: Can she play?

Yousa, yousa, yousa!

IMAG0960

Now, that’s an Object of Obsession!

Most of Ana’s material from the new CD, including ” Can You Stand the Heat?” and            ” Object of Obsession” , leaned toward R and B , with some jazzy flavor, but she truly shined on blues classics, especially Albert King’s ” Can’t You See What You’re Doing To Me ?”.  Her time working with her ” slide guitar idol ” ( per her site ) Sonny Landreth has paid off handsomely, and no surprise; mere proximity to Landreth would improve slide playing through osmosis. Mutters of ” she looks like Duane Allman up there” and ” it’s like Stevie Ray came back pretty ” were overblown, and I swallowed a ” Child, please!”, but Ana is a serious talent on guitar, and a very competent vocalist. Springsteen once said that Southside Johnny was a guy he could listen to all night long.  Ana’s voice is similarly agreeable and compelling, without blowing you out of your seat or spanning octaves. While the tight combo lineup, including bassist John Williams and drummer Tony Coleman, gave Ana a chance to shine for the many who’d never seen her, she would be a treat with her 9-piece Mo’ Better Love band that backed her at Jazzfest and will be jumping in on the European leg of her current tour.

And the recent Memphian made many fans by obliging nearly the entire house’s autograph, CD signing, and photo op requests during the break between sets, which became more intervention than intermission. With the Sandman beating me to School Night death, no choice but to blow her a kiss ( damn, she missed it!) and head back to the Unit. Harry, keep your eyes peeled for Ana; she’s worth checking out!

That would be me – Nanker