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True Blue from Ellis Kell
Argus/Dispatch blues columnist


JANUARY 2001

A True Blue New Year to all our readers and friends on the web! Looks like we're in for an authentic, old-fashioned midwestern winter this time around. It was so cold when I loaded out of Blue Zoo Christmas at the RiverCenter a few weeks ago that my ol' guitar is still frozen in the key of C. Speakin' of the Blue Zoo event, our special thanks go out to The Unidynes, The Bluefins, my old comrades in the EKB, Shane Johnson's Blue Train, Anthony Gomes Band, River Cities Sound, The Mississippi Valley Blues Society, and our very gracious hosts from the RiverCenter/Adler Theatre. Thanks most of all to those Blues fans who braved the cold to attend. It was a great turnout, considering the severe weather, and things are in the works now for more shows in the future in the Great Hall.

We're gonna start the new year off right, with our dancin' shoes on, and the new self-titled Blue Band CD, "The Blue Band," on Hot Fudge Records. Blue Band front man and founder Bob Dorr says he believes this is their best collection yet, and we are more than inclined to agree. This release celebrates the 20th Anniversary of the Blue Band, and the new CD features the road-tested, high performance blend of houserockin' blues, funk, rhythm and boogie from Iowa's premier touring band. Newest member Bryce Janey was completely involved in this CD project, and his contributions to the band and this recording have played no small part in taking the Blue Band to the next level. This hot new CD, along with the entire Blue Band catalog, is available online now at www.theblueband.com .

With the rumor mill having churned for most of the last few months of 2000, I thought I'd try and get something direct from the engineers of Shane Johnson's Blue Train. It has been no big secret that the eve of the new year was the scheduled 'end of the line' for the train that took 1st place in the 1998 regional Iowa Blues Challenge. They returned to roll over 'em all in the 1999 Iowa Blues Challenge, high-balled on into Memphis to finish in the top eight at the International Blues Challenge, and finally pulled in to the station to deliver their second CD release, "Big Legged Women" - a fitting whistle-stop to a fabulous two-year run. It's been common knowledge in regional Blues circles for some time now that frontman/bass player John Resch and harmonica man Detroit Larry Davison would probably not be riding the new Blue Train into 2001.

But, according to Shane Johnson, Blue Train won't be side-tracked for too long. "I'd jump at any chance to play with these guys," confirming that there will be upcoming gigs with the present line-up into 2001, at least until the new band is up and running. "I plan to keep it going (with Scott Willman on drums), but I could never replace John or Larry. They both worked so hard on this thing, and are part of the foundation. Those guys are my bros." With regard to musical format, Johnson said, "We'll still keep on doing the traditional 'back porch thing, along with any new material. We're adding Spencer Zimmerman on bass, we're still trying to find the right vocalist, and we may also add a Hammond organ and a sax man." (Drummer Scott Willman, who will continue on with Johnson in the new Blue Train ensemble, was unavailable for comment at deadline for this writing.)

John Resch wore more engineers' hats in Blue Train than anyone, serving as front man, lead singer, bass player, band manager, agent and PR man - you name it. In his words, "I regret having to leave the band, but my family has to take first priority. It's really tough, because I know the potential of this group and what it is capable of. We may still be doing some gigs in the new year, at least until Shane has the new band all in place. I just want to thank all the great people who supported us along the way."

This musician (and author of True Blue) feels very fortunate to have performed with Blue Train's 'Detroit' Larry Davison off and on for the past ten years, and it's pretty obvious that the natural-born Blues harpman doesn 't look forward to watching the train leave the station. "We came a long way in a short time, and it was a lot of fun for me. I wish Shane and Scott the best of luck with their future projects, but I also wish there would have been a way that we could have kept something going." Davison added, with a laugh, "'Guess I'm just a harp-hitman for hire now."

Regardless of where the train heads from here, the original incarnation will not soon be forgotten. More about Blue Train can be found on the web at www.sjbluetrain.com . Fans of the Blue Train have been visibly bummed out, to say the least, at some of the group's more recent shows. Some of the train's faithful passengers have even been moved to the brink of tears. If you happen to miss seeing them before the train changes tracks, you'll probably never understand what the big deal was, or is. If you were ever a part of it all by being there to hear and see them perform, you already know exactly what we're talking about. Here's wishing that Blue Train be 'a long train runnin', and peace and blessings in 2001 to all of our readers and visitors to True Blue on the web.

Keep 'yer tongue off the pump handle, 'yer mittens dry and, until we meet again at this crossroads.

Blues to 'ya!

trueblue@qconline.com

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