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True Blue from Ellis Kell
Argus/Dispatch blues columnist


"When I woke up this mornin', couldn't see to find my shoes, Wasn't nothin' on my TV, and no channels left to choose, I was cold as a well digger's bottom, I got the Y2K Blues..."

(A 'Traditional Blues' by 'West End' Curly Junior)

Have mercy! Don't nobody seem to know which-a-way this Y2K business is headin', but we are just around the corner from that big digital rollover that's the biggest thing since Michael Jackson's hair caught fire. Whether we'll be watchin' the fireworks in LeClaire Park, or stumblin' around in the dark is yet to be seen. I don't guess we'll know 'til we get there, so make sure you've got your Y2K shelves stocked with plenty of fresh blues and houserockin' music to get you through. Don't forget to make sure that you've got plenty of extra batteries for the boom-box, just in case...well, you know...

On behalf of those fortunate few who came and enjoyed the House of Blues Lonestar Tour on November 17th, I would like to thank the folks at the MARK for bringing the show in. Although the house was a long ways from being even close to full, the true-blue few who showed were treated to a top-shelf evening of zydeco, blues, Texas swing, and all around great houserockin' from C. J. Chenier, Gatemouth Brown, and the Fabulous Thunderbirds. Special thanks go out to Griggs Music, Fender Musical Instruments and the House of Blues in Chicago for donating those fabulous prizes for the Blues in the Schools raffle. 'Lucky Dan' Gano of Rock Island picked up the shiny new Fender Lonestar Stratocaster, and Dr. Karen McFarland of Davenport walked away with the Getaway Weekend for 2 to House of Blues in Chicago. Those who know anything about the Mississippi Valley Blues Festival know how appropriate it is that Dr. McFarland should win the HoB trip; no one has ever done more to bring the annual festival to LeClaire Park year after year than she has. Congrats to Lucky Dan and Dr. McFarland, and thanks to everyone who supported the Blues in the Schools cause by entering the drawing.

Shane Johnson's Blue Train is woodsheddin' quite a bit these days, getting ready for the big run to Memphis in January, where they'll compete in the International Blues Competition. Best of luck to Shane and the Blue Train boys from True Blue. For more information on how you can be a part of Blue Train's run to Memphis, visit their web site at:

The Quad Cities own finger-pickin' sensation Mike "Wally" Wallace is back with a new collection of holiday favorites, just in time for Christmas. Wally's new Yuletide album features sweet, hand-picked versions of the best of the standards, including "Jolly Old St. Nick," "The Christmas Song," "The Little Drummer Boy," "Silent Night," "Blue Christmas," with a total of 22 selections in all. This new collection is available now at Wallace Music, Teske's and the Wise Owl in Moline, and Handy True Value in Rock Island. Great guitar sounds to warm a Christmas mornin'!

For the Blues fan on your Christmas list, you'll most definitely want to track down these new Blues CD's at your favorite music outlet:

"Ready to Cheat," Liz Mandville Greeson ( Earwig Music Company) Ms. Liz is back and better than ever on this hot new batch of steamin' and grindin' blues. Nobody lays it down as sultry as this lady, and cuts like "Just Getting Ready to Cheat," "Great Big Man," "Belly Rubbin," and "Chi-Town" will testify to that. The Chicago Fire Horns add to the flames on this collection, as do Bruce Thompson and the Black Roses on background vocals. This Lady of the Blues will warm you on the coldest winter nights. Hot, hot!

"Earwig Music - 20th Anniversary Sampler," (Earwig Music Company) Since cutting their teeth on The Jelly Roll Kings release "Rockin' the Juke Joint Down" in 1979, the Earwig label has produced a wealth of historically significant Blues artists and band combination projects unique to this label. With something from virtually every Earwig artist, you'll find elder statesmen such as Big Jack Johnson, Frank Frost, Sunnyland Slim, Little Brother Montgomery, and H-Bomb Ferguson. Of course the CD includes more recent features from the Earwig stable, such as Lil Ed and Dave Weld, Liz Mandville Greeson and Johnny Drummer. This is a prime Blues primer with something tasty for everyone - required listening.

"Deep South Blues," Various Artists (Highwater/HMG) This is a true blue treasure chest of Tennessee-Mississippi blues, featuring tracks by R. L. Burnside, Jessie Mae Hemphill, Junior Kimbrough, Hammie Nixon, Hezekiah and the Houserockers and more. Real deal Blues you can use.

"Baton Rouge," Larry Garner (Evidence Music) I just couldn't hardly wait to tell you about this new one, folks! Larry Garner has one of those sounds that just plain grabs you, slaps you up side the head, and makes you pay attention. With the honorable Mr. Larry McCray joining him on guitar and vocal chores, Larry Garner lays down fresh, vital new Blues, punctuated by the 'Legendary White Trash Horns' (Steve Howard & Jon Smith). We really like this one, and we hope to hear much more from Mr. Garner soon!

Time and space, space and share some of yours, and I'll share some of mine. No matter what happens when the lights go down at midnight on December 31st, just remember that we are still all in this together. That's what the Blues is and does - keeps it all in the family, and you know we aint nothing more than one big 'ol family. A True Blue Christmas to everyone, and God's blessings in the new year.

Our thanks in advance for helping keep the Blues alive, and until we meet again at this crossroads...

Blues to ' ya

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