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True Blue from Ellis Kell

Argus/Dispatch blues columnist


In recognition of The Blues ongoing impact on music and cultural history, both in America and around the world, the United States Congress has proclaimed the year 2003 as the "Year of the Blues". For more information, visit: on the web.


River Music Experience Membership Mission…

River Music Experience kicks off it’s membership mission with (what else but…) live music, Saturday, Jan. 24th at the Capitol Theatre in Davenport. The concert will feature the return of Shenandoah, the hit contemporary country band from down Muscle Shoals way – co-founded by and featuring Rock Island home-boy Jim Seales on lead guitar. Warming up the stage for Shenandoah will be Chicago houserockin’ blues guitarist Joanna Connor and her band, adding her signature slide, soulful voice and locked-up, funked-up rhythm section to the evening’s mix. Opening the concert will be the RME house jazz ensemble, Riverain, featuring Manny Lopez on trumpet, Neal Smith on sax, Terry Hanson on drums, Dave Cox on bass & Tewanta Yerington on keyboards.

Tickets for this inaugural RME membership event are $35 per person (general admission only), include the concert, along with an individual first year’s membership to RME. Advance tickets will gone on sale starting Jan. 5th at the Davenport One office, just across from RME’s home in the Redstone Building, on the corner of 2nd and Main, downtown Davenport. For more information phone 563-322-1706, or email us at: . Keep in mind… the River Music Experience is YOUR roots music heritage center, and depends in part on YOUR membership support. YOU can help open RME’s doors on June 11th, in celebration of our roots music heritage here in the Quad Cities area, and your support will also ensure that those doors remain open to visitors from all over the world.

New Blues Fer Youz…

B. B. KING “Reflections” – (MCA Records)

Rolling Stone describes The King of the Blues as “still a force of nature at seventy-seven,” and this new collection of ballads and standards shows beyond any shadow of doubt that “The King of the Blues” has aged like a fine wine. B. B. is joined by Doyle Bramhall II on guitar, and Abe Laboriel Jr. on drums. This is another great collectible for B. B. King fans, and aren’t we all? Favorite track off this CD: “I Want a Little Girl.”

THE HOLMES BROTHERS – “Simple Truths” – (Alligator Records)

The Holmes Brothers have graced our area with their presence more than once, and remain “the undisputed masters of blues-based American roots music,” as per the Chicago Tribune. Sherman Holmes, Wendell Holmes and Popsy Dixon deliver again with their signature blend of gospel, spiritual and roadhouse blues. Thirteen new tracks include a variety of the secular, the soulful, and the down home blues. The Holmes Brothers reinterpret Hank William’s classic "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" and make it their own, and in the same disk lay claim to Collective Soul's "Shine”.

THE BEATLES - “Let It Be…Naked” (Apple/Capitol)

I can just see John and George looking down and laughing at these tracks being re-packaged and dragged out again, in spite of whatever Paul and Ringo might say about it. The original “Let It Be” was released in January of 1970 after “Abbey Road,” even though it was actually recorded in 1969. The band had pretty much washed their hands of it and moved on to work on "Abbey Road" with George Martin, while Phil Spector went on to doctor up “Let It Be” for public consumption. The best thing about this new version is that the re-mastering did clean up the original tracks substantially. The bonus “Fly on the Wall” disk is simply twenty-one minutes of studio banter and fragments of tunes in progress. One of few magic moments is hearing John work out an early version of “Imagine” - which at the time was simply titled “John’s Piano Piece.” Sure, this is an interesting peek into the studio for devoted followers of the lads from Liverpool, but the original tracks and documentary film had really already done all that before. Even for this old Beatles fan, nothing new (or essential) was found in these re-mixed tracks.

KENNY NEAL & BILLY BRANCH – “Double Take” (Alligator Records)

From St. Louis Jimmy’s “Going Down Slow” and Little Walter’s “My Babe,” to Sonny Boy Williamson's “Don't Start Me To Talking” and Willie Dixon's “Mannish Boy, Kenny Neal and Billy Branch are locked up tight in down home acoustic blues. There just isn’t any more vital acoustic blues pairing out there today than these two fine bluesmen, and it’s only their first collaboration! Originals like “Stomp” and “Northern Man Blues” also show that these two can do it all on their own just as well, and are only payin’ homage to the greats with their passionate reprisals of blues classics..

I’m gettin’ awful hungry, and Mama’s got somethin’ real good cookin’ on the stove! Peace, love & blessings and a happy, healthy True Blue New Year to you all. Until we meet again at these crossroads…

Blues to ‘ya!

Local musician Ellis Kell writes about blues music both local and national in ‘True Blue’, running the first Sunday of each month in Entertainment. He is also on the staff of River Music Experience, a not-for-profit museum and center dedicated to preservation, education and celebration of American Roots music.

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