Mississippi-born, St. Louis Bluesman and former club owner, Big George Brock died Friday morning at his home after an extended illness. He was just a month shy of his 88th birthday.

Big George Brock Photo from the artist’s Facebook

Born on May 16th, 1932 in Grenada, Mississippi, Brock was a man of many parts. He went from cotton picker to boxer (once winning a bout against Sonny Liston), then blues artist and club owner, carving out his own legend after moving to St. Louis from Mississippi in the early 1950s. His first opened Club Caravan in 1952, where he was not only the owner, but bouncer and entertainer as well. Brock’s band, The Houserockers, shared the Club Caravan stage with artists including Albert King, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Jimmy Reed, and Ike & Tina Turner. When a shooting took the life of Brock’s wife in 1970, he closed the club doors. He eventually opened at new Club Caravan at Delmar Boulevard and Taylor Avenue, but closed those doors as well in the late 80s.

Learning harmonica as a child, Brock played it with such force that the sound could shake the room. His booming baritone voice left no doubt there was a bluesman in the room. In the early 1960s, he turned down a record deal with Chess Records. Although they promised him a tour bus and live show proceeds, they refused to pay him royalties.

Brock was known for his colorful, tailored suits and dramatic entrances, often appearing from the basement steps, or the back of a club. He always gave the crowd more than they expected, playing extended sets of blues music as he knew it. “I wanna show people the blues ain’t dead,” he once said.

He was nominated for a Blues Music Award in the category of Best Comeback Album in 2005 for Club Caravan on the Cat Head Delta Blues & Folk Art label. His follow-up on Cathead, Round Two, garnered Brock 3 more nominations the following year. He was also featured in Hard Times, a documentary film on his life in 2006.

George Brock was the patriarch of the St. Louis blues scene. He attended the opening of the National Blues Museum (where one of his suits is on display), played regularly around town including at his own 87th birthday at the Ambassador last year, and was a mentor for other St. Louis artists including blues guitar ace Marquise Knox and 2019 International Blues Challenge champ Ms. Hy-C.

The post St. Louis Blues Legend Big George Brock Dead at 87 appeared first on American Blues Scene.

The passing of John Prine on April 7th sparked several of his contemporaries, friends and fans to take to social media with their thoughts and remembrances of one of America’s greatest songwriters. We’ve included a few of them here.

John Prine - John Prine Album Cover

The first came to me from country singer/songwriter Heidi Newfield, formerly of the group Trick Pony, whose new album The Barfly Sessions, is due out August 28th.

“My first ever live concert at the esteemed ‘mother church’  The Ryman Auditorium was John Prine…and I sat there like a school kid waiting for the spring break bell, I was so excited…he did all his greatest hits, but at that time (around 1995)…he was especially pushing his newest body of work, Lost Dogs and Mixed Blessings.

I believe I had a spiritual awakening when I heard him and his full band do ‘Lake Marie’ for the first time, in THAT venue. I mean, my soul shook. Funny thing is, I still feel that way EVERY time I hear it now, long after….just like I do when I hear ‘Ain’t Hurtin Nobody,’ ‘All the Way with You,’ ‘We Are the Lonely,’  ‘I Love you So Much It Hurts,’ and ‘This Love is Real’. There’s not a weak song on the whole damn record, but then….that was John. He was one of those lyrical untouchables, but every word, every single word, reached out and touched you. He was the epitome of real. All those great songs, all those great records, such a lovely man…such a gentle soul. Good God!!!

We cried in our kitchen tonight when we found out he’d passed away. Matt and I both realized we’d only met him once each, but both experiences equally important enough to remember for life. John remembered your name. He made such tender-hearted eye contact,  he shook your hand and made you feel like you were long lost family. He wasn’t a show-boater or a grand-stander and he didn’t seem like he had much use for those that were.

He wrote simple songs with fairly simple chords about real life things, but NOBODY could do em like he could. You could tell he had a mind that was deep as the deepest well and that’s why writing simple songs is so complex. It’s flat out hard to say the smayer daname ol’ thing and make it sound new, fresh, genuine, and poetic. John Prine was one of my all time favorite poets. The world will be one less honorable and talented man going forward. One less legend. Selfishly, I’d just wished I’d have gotten to sit and share lunch with him at his favorite meat and three where we met once, and visit a spell….or sing a duet with him….and watch him do his thing from a few feet away, I’ll always be a little extra sad about that. I wish love and support to his wife Fiona and his family during this confusing time in our universe. Bless you all. 

One of the all time favorite quotes from the movie Daddy and Them was a line John so perfectly and timely delivered:

‘Don’t never let it be too late…’

John Prine, you were right on time, and you touched the hearts of every set of ears that got to hear you. Until we meet again, I look forward to that lunch.”

Peter Holsapple (of the dB’s and R.E.M.) had this to say:

“My world, the world of songwriters and guitar pickers, is reeling from the death of John Prine yesterday. We labor at our craft in hopes we can attain some vague approximation of the easy genius of his songs.

John Lennon said the artist’s role is as ‘a reflection of us all,’ and no one did that with as much facility as Prine, in my opinion. From Mr. Peabody’s coal train to a poster of an old rodeo to hammering nails in planks to hair so unnaturally curled, any listener could relate to his characters and his takes on love and life. There was a plain generality to it, but it was filled with so many tiny bejeweled details that addressed the specific as well. And oh, the emotion from that road-worn beat-up voice. The real thing in every respect.

We are left with a catalog of his songs, a phalanx of his albums and minds full of memories to assuage this loss as best we can. It’s so vast, yet I think we all hoped for even more from John, had his life not been cut short.

We will have to learn to be satisfied with what we have and to revel in all of it.

We hoped for a miracle that did not come for John; and when it didn’t happen, he accidentally became someone in one of his own songs.”

Rock/Folk/Blues artist Peter Himmelman (who is about to release a new album, Press On) shared:

“In the summer of 1973, days after I’d seen my first rock concert (Grand Funk Railroad), Steve Leder, my friend and band mate, took me downstairs to his teen lair and played me John Prine’s ‘Dear Abby.’ ‘Whaddya think,’ he asked. ‘Country’ I thought. ‘I hate country.’ Steve picked up the needle and played the song again. And once more after that. I started to hear something in those lyrics; John Prine was speaking to me. He was wry, he made me smile, he was doing something different. It wasn’t Grand Funk. It wasn’t Alice Cooper or The Rolling Stones either. With just his acoustic guitar and a ragged voice it became clear that you didn’t need stacks of Marshall amps to blow people away. You needed only to mine the minutiae of living and take careful notes to make people feel the weight of their humanity.” 

Americana artist James McMurtry, (His song “Choctaw Bingo” is possibly the closest thing I’ve ever heard to a John Prine song) who was once in a “supergroup” called Buzzin’ Cousins with Prine, John Mellencamp, Joe Ely, and Dwight Yoakam, shared a personal moment:

“More than once, I saw Prine get so tickled with himself he couldn’t keep his teeth in his mouth, the grin would overtake him, but he’d keep talking anyway. I remember him pointing at the TV screen one night in the early nineties. The news was showing clips of the crowd at a folk festival that had taken place that afternoon and the people looked like they were trying to re-create Woodstock, headbands, tie dye, the usual. Prine said, ‘Look at them out there trying to be hippies. There’s not a cavity in that whole crowd. I never met a hippie chick didn’t have a mouth full of rotten teeth.’ John Prine was a realist.”

Our final remembrance comes from blues/folk/gospel great Ruthie Foster whose achievements include induction in the Texas Music Hall of Fame, 3 GRAMMY nominations, and 9 Blues Music Awards (7 of which were the Koko Taylor Award for Traditional Blues Female Artist of the Year):

“John Prine was one of the most introspective songwriters of our time.

I was introduced to John Prine’s songs while on Navy leave in a small club in Charleston, SC many years ago. Songs like ‘Dear Abbey’ and ‘Sam Stone’ drew me in as a fan of great lyrics. But ‘Hello In There’ and ‘Angel From Montgomery’ stole my heart and became my favorites.

John Prine not only inspired me to be a songwriter, but to want to be a better songwriter. I’m still working on that…

Rest In Peace John.”

Heidi Newfield

Peter Holsapple

Peter Himmelman

James McMurtry

Ruthie Foster

The post Artists Share Their Memories of John Prine appeared first on American Blues Scene.

Album release management, PR, and graphics & merchandise developer New Outlaw is offering a weekly Virtual Gig Guide for performances in the UK. They encourage all artists to let them know of online events so that they may be included in this weekly guide.

This week’s offerings include:

Saturday, 11 April – Sugarman Sam 20:30 (UK Time) via both the Sugarman Sam Facebook page and the Basingstoke Blues Club Facebook group.

Sugarman Sam Photo: Ken Jackson

Sunday, 12 April – Isolation Music Festival 3 13:00-18:00 (UK Time)

 

Sunday, 12 April – Redfish Lockdown –  20:00 (UK Time) (with more planned for 19 April and 26 April)

Sunday, 12 April – Dan Burnett – 18:30 (UK Time) (with more planned for all Sundays for the foreseeable future)

New Outlaw

*Feature image Tony Cole Photography

The post This Week’s UK Virtual Gig Guide From New Outlaw appeared first on American Blues Scene.

When Larry Campbell, the GRAMMY-winning producer and longtime collaborator of Levon Helm, says he wants to collaborate – you listen. Just ask Roger Street Friedman, the award-winning, NY-based singer-songwriter, whose “autobiographical, cinematic, blunt, and honest” songwriting has been compared to James Taylor, Randy Newman, and Jackson Browne (The Aquarian). With the release of Rise, the songwriter’s third studio album produced by Campbell, Friedman has crafted nothing less than a true expression – a statement of purpose that resonates as a career milestone – thanks in part to a partnership with Campbell that far exceeded Friedman’s expectations.

Recorded at his home studio in Sea Cliff, NY, Rise features the type of honest, vulnerable songwriting that has won Friedman praise everywhere from USA Today to No Depression – reflective vignettes recalling the singer-songwriter tradition of Marc Cohn and Robbie Robertson, set to a blend of folk-rock, progressive Americana, and soulful R&B. Co-written with a number of Nashville based songwriters, the album’s 12 tracks feature stories so vivid that we feel genuinely inside their characters — whether it’s the Vietnam veteran “takin’ fire from Uncle Sam” upon his return, or the housewife questioning her life in “Over and Over.” There’s an honesty, immediacy, and urgency to Friedman’s singing throughout the album, while the song arrangements are fat-free blends of Americana genre-splicing, from the twang of “Last Train to Babylon” to the rocking punch of “Outcasts of Love,” the Celtic anthemics of the title track and the Jimmy Buffett ebullience of “Tough Crowd.”

When Roger Street Friedman afforded us the opportunity to premiere 3 live videos from the upcoming release, we jumped at it. Originally, these premieres were to be accompanied by “tour diaries” from Friedman. We all know that with touring on hold, that couldn’t be possible. Instead, he’s offering “diaries” about his current experience as it relates to his music and album release.

My last tour from Nashville up to NYC was happening at the beginning of March while the Coronavirus crisis was just coming into the public consciousness. At each date there were still some people shaking hands, although most were beginning to do the elbow bump. Social distancing was not yet in full force, so most of the conversations were within the usual 1-2 feet of personal space! I wasn’t too concerned because the number of reported infections down south was still pretty low, and the gigs were not being cancelled yet, so all was good and the shows at the beginning of the tour were well attended. On the road I was being very careful, opening doors with my sleeve instead of touching surfaces, incessantly washing my hands at the rest areas, and hand sanitizing when I got back into the car. It wasn’t until the second week of the tour, when authorities started to talk about cancelling large gatherings, that I noticed the attendance dwindling, and by the end of the second week that a show was cancelled and it became apparent that live shows were going to be cancelled for at least two weeks… which as we now know, has turned into more like at least 6 months. It will probably be longer, until things start to get back to “normal”. All of our April shows are cancelled, including the record release show on my birthday at “My Father’s Place” that featured special guests Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams! I was really looking forward to that one for my local friends and fans and am incredibly sad that we can’t have that special album release celebration. We are currently looking at rescheduling in the summer but it’s anybody’s guess if shows will be happening by then.

My family and I were aware early on that this was a dangerous virus that would spread exponentially if the country didn’t get on board to stay at home and help “stop the spread.” So we’ve been home, with our two young children, for the last 3 weeks, hunkered down, home schooling, and watching the news with growing horror while the number of cases, and deaths, seem to be exploding, while trying to establish some form of a “normal” routine. It is an emotional roller coaster for all of us… The kids are doing well, although there are frequent, stir-crazy-driven melt-downs. My wife is scared and sad and I’ve gone through the full spectrum, from anger at the slow governmental response and the people who are seemingly oblivious to how serious this situation is (Florida’s beaches come to mind), to sadness for our country and the world as the magnitude of what, and who, we will lose becomes apparent. Our music community has already been impacted dramatically, Jackson Browne reportedly has a mild case while, legendary songwriter John Prine was in critical condition and legendary sideman and producer Larry Campbell, who produced my new album ‘Rise,’ was sick for weeks. We also lost Alan Merrill who wrote “I love Rock And Roll.” He died alone at the hospital while waiting for the test results to come back. In just the past few days we’ve lost Ellis Marsalis, Adam Schlesinger, and Bucky Pizzarelli.

I had very little energy for music for the first few weeks, with trying to balance family time, self-care, and figuring out our financial situation, but in the last few days I have found myself in my studio with new music emerging… I can only hope that this catastrophic and cataclysmic event will lead to us coming together as a country, and a world, to create a better future. That is the message of the new album… That we will “Rise” above our petty differences and make choices that lead to peace instead of war, and to environmental sustainability instead of human induced environmental degradation and climate catastrophe. I hope everyone is safe and sound when we get to the other side of this crisis.

Recorded on February 10th in preparation for going out on tour in March, my band – consisting of Jim Toscano (drums and percussion), Matt Schneider (Bass and Vocals) and Steve Uh (Fiddle, Keyboards, Harmonium and Vocals) and I – performed a show/live rehearsal at The Woodshed, a local music school and venue in our home town of Sea Cliff, New York. “Carry Me” is about trying to maintain the connection to home even when you’re far away and features the tasty fiddle chops of Steve Uh.

“Carry Me,” the first single from the forthcoming album Rise out April 24, via Rock Ridge Music, performed live at The Woodshed in Sea Cliff, NY.

Roger Street Friedman

*Feature image photo credit: Drew Reynolds

Each time I write a review of Eliza Neals‘ music, I herald it as her best work yet. That’s because each new project she shares with us IS her best work yet. Washed up on golden grotto beaches in times of rage, is Black Crow Moan. Released digitally today, April 6, via E-H Records, Black Crow Moan will be available in physical form on April 15.

 

The Detroit Diva brings her A-game on Black Crow Moan. She also brings a small army of seasoned and extremely talented musicians to join in. Her special guests on this record are Blues Hall of Famer Joe Louis Walker, and rock guitar virtuoso Derek St. Holmes (Ted Nugent) who also wrote songs for Koko Taylor and Ivan Neville, to name a few. Other artist contributions include Howard Glazer on guitar, Mike Puwal (Kenny Wayne Shepherd, ICP) on guitar and bass, Lenny Bradford (Bo Diddley) on bass, tambourine and backing vocals, Jason Kott (Robert Randolph), John Abraham and Chuck Bartels (Sturgill Simpson) on bass. Bruce Bears (Duke Robillard), and Jim Alfredson (Janiva Magness) add some extra lift on Hammond B3. John Medeiros Jr., Skeeto Valdez (King Konga), Demarcus Sumpter, Jeffrey “Shakey” Fowlkes (Too Slim and the Taildraggers), and Brian Clune keep the clock on drums. Motor City songstress Kymberli Wright (Straight Ahead), and Eliza’s sister Valerie Taylor add soaring backing vocals.

Let’s get to the music. It all kicks off with “Don’t Judge the Blues.” This foot-stomping, hand-clapping attention-getter is Saturday night fish fry meets Sunday morning tent revival. Neals’ gritty, powerful vocals come out strong, accompanied by ass-kicking resonator slide guitar. At one point she sings through a green bullet mic, adding that vintage touch. “Why You Ooglin’ Me?” switches the tempo to a mighty Chicago style slow grind. We catch on quickly that Eliza’s songwriting skills have matured as much as her delivery. All the songs on Black Crow Moan were written (or co-written) by Neals save one, and we’ll discuss that later.

“The Devil Don’t Love You,” co-written by and featuring Joe Louis Walker, is a swanky, funky cautionary tale. It’s an old blues story told in modern, jazzy form, with Walker’s gritty vocals and killer guitar adding that new blues touch. The first moaning we hear on Black Crow Moan comes on “I Can Fly.” A blues-rock ballad of epic proportions, Glazer’s guitar takes second fiddle only to Neals’ lofty voice with Wright and Taylor kicking it up 12 notches. “River is Rising,” comes in with Glazer’s spot-on guitar adding to the haunting lyrics and Eliza’s riveting vocal delivery.

The title track is a soulful, self-examining, call-and-response once again with JLW. The lyrics give us the feeling that Neals had insight to the current state of the world. The isolation, and loneliness and desperation it causes are laid bare. “The solo feeling everyone has right now is like solitary confinement,” she told me. “I think we will connect. We’re all naked in some way.”

It’s not all about the ballads though. On “Run Sugar Run,” Neals piano starts off a song that is pure American rock and roll. It’s Bruce Springsteen meets Billy Joel jamming in a Detroit bar with Puwal sitting in on guitar. The dark story line gives way to good advice from one woman to another. You’ll get it when you hear it.

Derek St. Holmes makes his first appearance on “Never Stray.” A promising love ballad, St. Holmes adds nice, crunchy lead runs. Neals puts a short leash on her usually powerhouse vocal delivery, showing us a softer side. St. Holmes also adds awesome guitar to the only cover song on the album, the Big Mama Thornton classic, “Ball and Chain.” Neals delivers this her own way. Slower and more deliberate than Thornton’s original, but without the primal screams of Janis Joplin’s famous cover. That’s not to say Neals doesn’t deliver. She does, in spades, tearing our hearts out along the way. Singing like a woman possessed, she throws so much of herself into this blues standard that one may think she wrote it herself. I’m not crying. You’re crying. Bravissimo!

The final track is a guilty pleasure for me. My friend, and former producer/bandmate Shawn Ames wrote a song several years ago called “There’s a Party in My Pants,” that was a crowd favorite at live shows. Neals does something very similar here with “Hey, Take Your Pants Off.” This is a fun shuffle for fun’s sake and is sure to pack any dance floor. It’s the perfect palate cleanser and leaves us the way it should – wanting more.

Black Crow Moan is Eliza Neals’ crowning achievement to date. She took some advice from fellow blues artists, brought in some top flight hired guns, created an album of almost entirely original music, and is making it available at a time we need it most. “This album is going to be more sentimental – a lot of stuff coming from way, way back,” Neals said in a recent interview with Gary Schwind. “I think it’s more heartfelt. More like a confessional. That’s different.”

If Black Crow Moan is a confessional, then bless me Father, for I want to sin again.

Black Crow Moan is available digitally today on Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon, and Google Play. You can order a signed copy of the CD now, and it will ship mid-April from HERE.

You can also attend the Black Crow Moan Facebook Album Release Party at 7 PM (EDT) tonight.

Eliza Neals

*Feature image HJ

Born in Boston as William Homans III to a blueblood family, Watermelon Slim was destined to be a blues man. The 70-year-old singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist has 14 albums to his credit, dating back to 1973’s Merry Airbrakes. He’s received over 20 Blues Music Award nominations (including 2 this year for Album of the Year and Traditional Blues Album for Church of the Blues). He’s also had previous wins for Album of the Year and Band of the Year. Now he comes to us the way we love to hear him, LIVE, at 2 different clubs in Oklahoma (his home since the late 70s) with Traveling Man.

Slim got his first dose of the blues at age 5 when the family maid would sing him John Lee Hooker songs at their home in Asheville, North Carolina and has held a myriad of jobs that helped development his blues man lifestyle. He is a vehemently anti-war Vietnam veteran and has held jobs as a forklift driver, funeral officiator, watermelon farmer, small-time criminal, newspaper reporter, saw miller, and truck driver. Dissimilarly, Slim also holds two college degrees.

But it’s the stripped-down, classic blues with slide guitar and harmonica, that has made him an icon in the blues music world. Traveling Man puts us front-row center to his live performances with just him, his guitar and harmonica — the way his Delta influence Mississippi John Hurt would want it.

In fact, he performs spot-on covers of Hurt’s “61 Highway Blues,” and “Frisco Line” on Disc 1, recorded live at The Blue Door in Oklahoma City. His other cover songs on this disc include Cat Iron’s “Jimmy Bell” and a requested performance of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Smokestack Lightnin’,” which Slim flawlessly segues into Muddy Waters’ “Two Trains Running” for a nearly 12-minute performance.

Slim’s originals on this disc lean toward music he wrote in his truck-driving days. Kicking off with “Blues Freightliner,” he goes into “Truck Driving Songs Never Go Out of Style,” “Scalemaster Blues,” and the self-exploring “300 Miles.” There’s an ode to his label, “Northern Blues,” and the amazing “Last Blues,” but our personal favorite track is the closer, “Holler #4.”

Disc number 2 was recorded live at The Depot in Norman, Oklahoma. All the songs on this disc were written or co-written by Slim, with the exception of the traditional “John Henry.” It is on this disc, with these songs, that Homans hits high gear. It all begins with the funky “Let it Be in Memphis.” Slim’s raw vocals go from a Delta cry to Johnny Cash-esque bass at the drop of a dime.

With nary a trucker song, Slim goes from the Western flavored “Into the Sunset,” to the swanky “Archetypal Blues,” sandwiching the foot-stomping “John Henry” in between. The mournful “Oklahoma Blues” goes into a story about the Crossroads in Mississippi and his co-written “Devil’s Cadillac.” Truly Delta blues at some of its finest from an Oklahoma performer.

The closer on Disc 2 is the 6-minute “Dark Genius.” An interestingly inky political song, the lyrics have John F Kennedy, Anwar Sadat, and Slim himself all drinking from the same dark genius trough.

“This double CD is a snapshot of the real me, straight no chaser,” Slim says. “I hope y’all enjoy it as much as (co-producer) Chris Hardwick and I enjoyed making it.”

A master storyteller, Watermelon Slim enhances his performance with yarns of the past and tales of his own life. If ever there were a modern album that appeases the gods of blues purists, Traveling Man is it.

Watermelon Slim

*Feature image: Lisa Mac

Album release management, PR, and graphics & merchandise developer New Outlaw is offering a weekly Virtual Gig Guide for performances in the UK. They encourage all artists to let them know of online events so that they may be included in this weekly guide.

This week’s offerings include:

Saturday, 4 April – Lockdown Festival 3 13:30-23:00 (UK Time) Includes performances from Starlite Campbell Band, Dani Wilde, and many more.

Saturday, 4 April – Clare Free – Live From the Living Room 21:30 (UK Time)

 

Sunday, 5 April – Isolation Music Festival 2 13:00-18:00 (UK Time)

Sunday, 5 April – Dan Burnett 18:30 (UK time) (with more planned for all Sundays for the foreseeable future)

Sunday, 5 April – Redfish Lockdown featuring of course, Redfish 20:00 (UK Time) (with more planned for 12th April, 19th April and 26th April)

To have your UK performance added to this weekly list contact clare@outlaw-pr.co.uk

New Outlaw

In response to the overwhelming COVID-19 situation, it became immediately apparent to blues fan Karen Gottheimer that help was needed for Blues Artists who are losing income as a result of cancelled concerts worldwide. Many artists lack the technology at home to go live. Her solution? The creation of a virtual “venue” bringing “live” performances by the blues artists we all love directly to us, and more importantly, allowing us to interact with and tip these artists for their performances. She enlisted the help of engineer/producer/webmaster Crafton Barnes and Can’t Stop the Blues was born.

Can’t Stop the Blues Photo: Marilyn Stringer

They immediately set up a Facebook page, Facebook group, and website (links available below) to bring this plan to fruition. At breakneck speed CSTB was born.

Can’t Stop the Blues allows blues fans and artists to interact in the most intimate way possible. Shows from the artists’ homes are uploaded and broadcast into our homes along with pre-show and post-show “meet & greets” live in real time, in the comment stream. Fans can interact with the artists and each other throughout the broadcast, and virtually “love” and “applaud” the performances in real time.

“Right now this is the closest people can come to reaching out and holding hands,” says Gottheimer. “We’re working to capture a big enough audience so we can give all blues musicians a chance to play a show and hopefully at least earn enough to eat right now. If you can’t see it live, we’re the next best thing.”

Initially started as a way to help blues musicians make a living during this crisis, this has rapidly become something much bigger. “In this time of isolation, the artists need to feel a connection to their fans, and the fans need to feel a connection to the artists and each other,” she continued. “We are providing everyone with a platform to do just that, and the response has been overwhelming.”

Karen Gottheimer

Gottheimer is a blues fan. She’s attended the Legendary Blues Cruises, the Big Blues Bender, and several other festivals. “It’s always been my absolute outlet for entertainment,” she tells us. “I had tickets to the Tampa Bay Blues Festival and when I found out that was cancelled, at first I was disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to see all my friends. Then it dawned on me, oh my gosh, all these musicians rely on their tours to eat. Even the top blues musicians in the world don’t make that much. So I just started thinking, what can we do to help? I’ve never done anything like this before, and I have no idea what I’m doing, but let’s just start putting it together and see if we can help.”

Her first bit of help came in the form of Crafton Barnes. “Karen and I have a mutual friend, Judy Eliyas, who has worked with me for years on the Eric Gales team,” Barnes says. “Judy heard Karen’s idea and reached out to me to see if I could assist in any way. And at first I wasn’t even sure how artists would be doing these things on their own, or even if they WOULD be, so I was hesitant at first to jump right in. But I’ve known Judy for a few years now and when Judy recommends somebody you know they are solid. So I contacted Karen and gave her a list of things that I’ve been doing for Eric Gales’ live streams for years. Basically that was it. I said to her that I felt that every artist should have these tools already but that I also understood that many of them do NOT and the ones who were hurting the most due to cancelled shows were those very artists. BLUES ARTISTS, specifically.”

Gottheimer describes her first meeting with Barnes as instantaneous synchronicity. “It was the two key pieces of the puzzle that came together,” she says. “Hand in hand we have created this monster. He’s so excited to be part of this and has so many ideas. He’s been a magician. Everything from right before showtime thunderstorms coming through making the power flicker at his broadcast studio, to being able to pull a hundred thousand rabbits out of his hat.”

Karen convinced me that if we could set up a sort of a ‘Broadcasting Triage’ for getting these Blues artists up and LIVE right NOW and work out all the bugs as we go, then we could determine all the other barriers that artists have faced over the years,” Barnes continued. “Things like P.R.O. management, the BMI, ASCAP and SESAC requirements, the royalties, in other words what artists are owed yet somehow get forced to pay themselves when they live stream. I told Karen these are the organizations that monitor jukeboxes, bars, even coffee houses for public performance royalties and what we would be doing constitutes a public performance.”

For me, working with Eric Gales, this has always been taken care of because Eric has his requirements agreed to with his label and management personally,” Barnes said. “And all we’ve ever broadcast are strictly his live performances, never his actual album tracks. We reached out to BMI, ASCAP etc. and we determined if we follow these rules regarding public performances then we were set to fire up LIVE that minute with live music recordings only. I contacted Eric and got his permission to use our technology for Can’t Stop The Blues and we went LIVE for the first time for 120 hours straight as we worked out the initial bugs in our first broadcast. We set up the Group, Page and Website along the way while we endurance tested the live feed on multiple platforms.”

Can’t Stop the Blues is a 100% not for profit (title pending) organization that enables blues artists to connect with fans who have the passion for the Blues. “While tips to the artists are needed and requested, everyone is welcome regardless of their ability to help financially,” Gottheimer says. “Their love and support of the artists and the blues community alone are a huge contribution. All donations go directly to the artist. CSTB thanks everyone for their passion to help, donate and contribute and be a part of gathering with the blues artists we all love.”

How does the “tipping” work? The artists record a show, and upload that to Can’t Stop the Blues. Then, when the show is broadcast, fans are afforded the opportunity to “tip” the artist in real time using various pay sites. Tipping from a Venmo or PayPal account directly to the artist is free. For tipping from a credit card, CSTB suggests Bravo Pay, as the least expensive option, but CSTB wants us to know that whatever is easiest for fans to use is what they want us to use.

Crafton Barnes Photo: Janet Yates Raper

“I like to think of it as ‘Virtual busking,” Barnes tells us. “That tradition started with the blues and we don’t want it to ever stop. This technology we are using is out there. Has been since 2006 onward. What we are really doing now is getting this content TO the FANS. We’ve re-purposed a set up usually only available to venues such as the Iridium, for instance, and we are handing this tech one on one to each artist as we go, so that they themselves can continue to get tips, donations and sell their merch, for years and years to come. Once this current distancing is over, these artists will be prepared more than ever and these Blues Fans will all know how this works in terms of tipping and donations.”

“All of these shows are available to watch at any time in the video archives on the page,” Gottheimer adds. “People are using our live shows as a ‘social event’ as well. In the comments section you can see when your friends pop in, so you can greet them. From the time we ‘open the doors’ (approximately 30 minutes before showtime), through the show itself, we’re getting a couple thousand comments per show.”

“Also, be aware that we have a fourth redundant back up of all this. And that is on the website called ‘Audio Only’,” Barnes adds. “It is the CSTB Radio Station. And if all else fails on the internet, you can listen to the audio at CD quality with little bandwidth! We are in the process of registering with TuneIn in the Blues category, but the audio only feed embedded on the website has been running for years, as the Eric Gales radio station, and now it is fully dedicated to CSTB and expanding soon to all blues artists who want to be in rotation during those times that live video is not being streamed. It’s our own 24/7 Live Feed!”

There are others onboard with Can’t Stop the Blues as far as making it run. “We have some key volunteers who have jumped in to help,” Gottheimer informs us. “Daryl Hawkins has, from the beginning, helped us to develop the basic infrastructure for the page and the group, and refine it as we go. He also handles all the event posting, and coordination behind the scenes, in addition to acting as a personal host in our broadcasts.

“Our most recent volunteer is Judy Eliyas who is handling some of the social media postings, hosting on the broadcast comment stream, and most importantly handling all of the artists reaching out to us, getting them on the list and helping them prepare for their upcoming shows as we expand our format and capabilities.”

“Our goal, within the coming weeks, is to expand to a virtual ‘festival’ format, with multiple ‘stages’, so that all blues artists making a living with music have a chance to play to our audience,” Gottheimer adds. “Big changes are coming soon, and we appreciate everyone’s patience with our growing pains during this time.”

Artists to date who have performed on CSTB include Mike Zito, Albert Castiglia, Nick Schnebelen, Mitch Woods, JP Soars, Popa Chubby, Nick Moss, Victor Wainright, Annika Chambers, Eliza Neals, Dawn Tyler Watson, Bob Margolin, Kevin Burt, Alastair Greene, Jonn Del Toro Richardson, Lisa Mann, and Diana Rein.

Upcoming shows include Gracie Curran AND Albert Castiglia’s CD Release Party, both tonight (Friday April 3rd); Eric Johanson AND Gary Hoey (Saturday April 4th); and Terry Hanck & Friends (Sunday April 5th), with many more artists currently recording their shows as fast as possible, so they can be added to the schedule in the coming days.

Artists wishing to perform a show on Cant’ Stop the Blues can contact Karen Gottheimer or Judy Eliyas at booking@cantstoptheblues.com. For technical details visit: cantstoptheblues.com/information

Can’t Stop the Blues Facebook Page

Can’t Stop the Blues Facebook Group

Can’t Stop the Blues Discussion Group

Can’t Stop the Blues Website

*Feature image © Marilyn Stringer

Philadelphia’s Jefferson Berry and the Urban Acoustic Coalition is a folk rock band with a coalition of three to seven musicians playing dynamic, danceable songs about the city, the good love/bad love, and these strange times.

The band is anchored by the virtuosity of Bud Burroughs, Dave Brown and Marky B. Berkowitz. While appealing to both jam band and folk audiences, the band is driven by the bass and drums cadre of Uncle Mike and David Rapoport. Complementing all this with a variety of guitar styles, Berry’s songwriting brings a contemporary point of view to a unique wing of Philadelphia’s local music scene.

From the drunk on the town to the cop on the take, there’s an interesting tale in the songs of Jefferson Berry. Highlights from Double Deadbolt Logic (which has a street date of May 15, 2020) include album opener, “At The Festival” – a mandolin and acoustic guitar tune born at 3 AM at the Falcon Ridge, Philly or Kerrville Folk Festivals. All Philadelphians will relate to “Get To The Shore,” a summer love song opening with “just out of town on the bridge, you fell asleep. In the glow of the console, I’m driving us to the beach. We’re not alone on this mission, it’s Friday night, everyone’s going fishing, wishing for nothing more, but to get to the shore.”

Then there is “Ghosts of California,” written about running away from one’s former home and the guilty return.

“I was working at a rock station, KMEL San Francisco, in the early eighties,” Berry told us of “Ghosts of California.” “I did nightclub promotions for them and it got pretty crazy at times. As we go back through our past, some things we’d all like a do-over on.”

Of the video, Berry shared, “We shot the band at Will and Emily Drinker’s folks’ house after a last minute cancellation by a no-name studio. Out on the west coast to handle some family business, Bill Emberly’s crew and I went to the ruins of Candlestick Park, the Castro District and downtown San Francisco for some B-Roll. Will put it all together. Every minute of the process was a blast. Can you tell I was having fun?”

He continues, “All three of our albums feature the best blues harmonica player in Philly—Marky B! Ghosts is just one of many songs that he’s key to the UAC sound”

Songwriter, guitarist and historian Berry is an original member of the PFS Musicians’ Co-op, has played the Philadelphia Folk Festival several times and can be seen at many Philadelphia Folksong Society events. When he’s not making music, he’s a government and economics teacher for the Excel Academy South – one of the Camelot Schools run for the Philadelphia School District. Interestingly, one of his students was Symere Woods, better known as  Grammy nominated rapper Lil Uzi Vert.

Jefferson Berry

*Feature image courtesy of Mixtape Media

Ellis Marsalis Jr., jazz pianist, teacher and patriarch of one of New Orleans’ great musical families died on April 1st after being hospitalized with symptoms of COVID-19. He had been tested and was awaiting results.

Ellis Marsalis

A statement on his Facebook page read: “It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Marsalis Family Patriarch, Ellis Marsalis, Jr. There will be a private family funeral with a public memorial to be announced at a future time. The family wished to thank everyone both in the New Orleans community and around the world who have reached out to express their condolences. In accordance with Ellis’s wishes in lieu of flowers and cards please make donations to the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music in memory of Ellis Marsalis, Jr. to support the ongoing efforts to bring music and cultural activities to the children of New Orleans.”

Marsalis was born in New Orleans on November 14th, 1934. played saxophone during high school but switched to piano while studying classical music at Dillard University, graduating in 1955. He later attended graduate School at Loyola University.

In the 1950s and 1960s he worked with artists including Ed Blackwell, Cannonball Adderley, Nat Adderley, and Al Hirt. During the 1970s, he taught at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, and his students included Terence Blanchard, and Harry Connick Jr.

Ellis influenced the careers of countless musicians, as well as his four musician sons: Wynton (trumpeter and artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York), Branford (saxophonist who led Jay Leno’s band on The Tonight Show), Delfeayo (trombonist, record producer and performer) and drummer Jason. Two other sons, Ellis III, a photographer-poet, and Mboya, did not follow their father into music.

Marsalis released 20 albums beginning with Syndrome in 1985. He also recorded with his sons, Irvin Mayfield, Kermit Ruffins, Dave Young, Nat Adderly, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Irma Thomas, and many others.

Marsalis and his sons were group recipients of the 2011 NEA Jazz Masters Award, and Ellis himself was inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame in 2018.

New Orleans Mayor Latoya Cantrell issued a statement yesterday which read in part, “He was the prototype of what we mean when we talk about New Orleans jazz. He was a teacher, a father, and an icon — and words aren’t sufficient to describe the art, the joy and the wonder he showed the world. This loss cuts us deeply.”

Marsalis’ son Wynton too to Instagram to say, “He went out the way he lived: embracing reality.”

*Feature image Nu Jazz Entertainment