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True Blue from Ellis Kell
Argus/Dispatch blues columnist



February 2000

It's so cold out this morning that I might as well be trying to carve this column out of stone. I feel like the ol' Iceman, Albert Collins, tryin' to start that old Cadillac in the dead of the Chicago winter. SJ's Blue Train sure picked an ideal time to head south to Memphis for the blues competition. Blue Train finished up in Memphis in the top eight finalists at the 2000 International Blues Competition. Dave Keyes Band (New York Blues Society) placed first in the competition, Sam Cockrell and the Groove (Fox Valley Blues Society) came in second, and Rab McCullough Blues Band of Belfast (Ireland Blues Society) placed third in the international competition. Congratulations to Shane and Blue Train for giving it their all on Beale Street, and representing us as ambassadors of the Mississippi Valley and Central Iowa Blues community. Ya's done us all proud! For more on the competition, The Blues Foundation, and their annual Handy Awards, visit www.blues.org on the web.

Hot Fudge in the Winter Time...

Ol' Bob Dorr, of Blue Band and KUNI radio fame, also stays busier than bee with his Hot Fudge Music label, and we just missed the holiday deadline for his latest package of brand new releases. First off, we have the new Iowa Blues Compilation (#6), which includes a wide variety of blues, roots, soul and R&B selections. The CD features SJ's Blue Train, Erick Hovey Band, Effie Burt & The Blues Revue, Patrick Hazell & The Mother Blues Band, Rob Lumbard, BillyLee Janey, B. F. Burt & The Instigators, Fingers, The Blue Band and more. We strongly recommend you add #6 to your collection, along with the other 5 fine, homegrown Iowa Blues Compilations.

BillyLee Janey's newest collection on Hot Fudge is appropriately titled "Mankiller." BillyLee is most definitely one of my favorite guitar stylists from the midwest, and has that mean tone most players search a lifetime for. Bob Dorr guests on harp on "Can't Stop Rockin' the Blues," and Sam Salomone (Hammond B-3 and piano), Dan 'DJ' Johnson (guitar), and Robin Messer (drums) lay it down thick and juicy as a plate of Memphis ribs. Alligator Records President Bruce Iglauer's head was turned by this one, and he describes BillyLee's performance as "exciting guitar playing and passionate vocals." Blues Revue notes that BillyLee's "guitar tone is tremendous." But let's don't just talk about it – go get some fer yourself!

Even though I know BillyLee is righteously proud of his guitar tone, son Bryce Janey has to be the True Blue pride and joy of the Janey family. Bryce's newest Hot Fudge CD also cuts to the quick with no nonsense blues 'n boogie, born out of the Janey tradition. (It must be something in the water up there 'round Cedar Falls.) Bryce is also now a full-time member of The Blue Band, and this new CD showcases his own fine vocal work and smolderin' Stratocaster. Pa BillyLee Janey guests on guitar, Tom Giblin handles the keys, Dan 'DJ' Johnson is back on bass, and Steve Hays nails down the groove on drums.

We encourage you to support Hot Fudge Music, as one the last True Blue independent record labels in the midwest. For a current online catalog and order form, visit www.theblueband.com, or e-mail Bob and the folks at Hot Fudge Music with your questions at hotfudge@cfu-cybernet.net.

Alligators Release(d) in Chicago!

Chicago's Alligator Records celebrates its first release of 2000 with "Suspicion," from guitar wizard Coco Montoya. Honorary adopted 'son' and protégé of blues legend Albert Collins, Coca Montoya's years as a drummer and eventual rhythm guitarist with 'The Iceman' tempered him well with technique and soul. Touring later with master bluesbreaker John Mayall didn't hurt Montoya's education any either. He has the fire and the emotion, but most of all the control and finesse of a True Bluesman. Alligator's Bruce Iglauer says "this is really the record I imagined when I signed the artist." Out of the four CD's from Montoya to date, this new one is by far the hottest collection. The CD was produced by Jim Gaines, veteran producer for Santana, and late blues-masters Stevie Ray Vaughan and Luther Allison. Living Blues Magazine says its "hearfelt singing and a merciless guitar," and the Atlanta Journal describes Montoya as "a monster lead guitarist." We agree – this is most definitely essential blues for your collection.

"Live Your Love," (Club de Musique – Italy) Jono Manson

This new collection from Jono Manson reels and rocks, serenades the soul, and cuts to the heart of the matter. Strong new compositions like "Joe Sawyer," "Written In Stone," "Alibi," "She Don't Matter Anymore," and the title cut "Live Your Love" each take on their own life. This is tough stuff from a stellar songwriter and performer who makes every note and phrase count. I first crossed paths with Jono Manson here in the Quad Cities a few years ago, when he performed at RIBCO. He was touring then to promote his "One Horse Town" release, and his drummer was rendered virtually immobile with a lower back problem. We scrambled to help find Jono a substitute, and old bandmate Jim Stroehle stepped in at the last minute to help salvage the show. Jono Manson is considered one of the kingpins of the New York roots rock scene of the 1980's, the scene that nurtured such artists as Blues Traveler, Spin Doctors, Joan Osborne, Mumbo Gumbo, The Blue Chieftains, and The Surreal McCoys to name a few. More than a few of these artists have cited Manson as an strong influence on their music in those early years. Manson's group "High Plains Drifter" featured Jono's longtime NYC buddies John Popper, the late Bobby Sheehan, and Chan Kinchla of Blues Traveler and later Eric Shenkman, formerly of Spin Doctors, among others. This musical partnership led to the release of "Jono Manson Band, Almost Home" on A&M Records in late 1995. The album also features Craig Dreyer on sax and Warren Haynes (of Gov't Mule) on slide guitar.

In 1998, Manson recorded "Little Big Man" for Paradigm records, and also has a growing number of Motion Picture and Television credits to his name. These
include his work with Kevin Costner for the film "The Postman" (in which Jono also appears), The Farrely Brothers' "Kingpin" and others. Jono has also self-produced a number of critically acclaimed projects such as "One Horse Town" which has now been released in Italy on Club de Musique records. The album features a combination of players from his various associations as well as guest appearances by the likes of John Popper, Nicky Hopkins and members of the James Brown horns.

The new Jono Manson CD "Live Your Love," is currently being released only through the Italian label Club de Musique, but can be ordered here in the U.S. directly from the artist. For more on Jono Manson, visit his Italian label's web site at www.clubdemusique.com, or write Jono Manson, P.O. Box 158, Tesuque, New Mexico, 87574. You can also e-mail Jono Manson at mansonjono@hotmail.com . (Photo of Jono Manson by David Alfaya.)

With that for ya' to chew on, and plenty of hot and spicy new blues to warm your heart and soul, I'm checkin' out of here for now. I'm almost clean outa' firewood, and leanin' strongly towards throwin' this here computer in the stove to keep warm. You all stay warm and cozy with these new blues, and until we meet again at this crossroads...

Blues to 'ya!


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