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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.



The Mississippi Valley Blues Society is very proud (and rightly so) of it's newest educational mega-project. Months and months of hard work by the MVBS Education Committee have given birth to an excellent blues anthology, "Up the Mississippi -A Journey of the Blues" (127 pages), which will no doubt serve as a great primer for students of the blues new and old. The book features chapters by educators, historians, and performers, including Dr. Richard Raichelson, Sally Stevens, Bob Koester, and many other authors. Long-time blues society work-horse Dr. Karen McFarland penned the introduction, poetry by Dr. Sterling Plumpp is featured, along with a brief history of the Mississippi Valley Blues Society. An accompanying CD includes an audio introduction from the Quad Cities' own son-of-the-blues Hawkeye Herman entitled "Understanding the Blues," the legendary Sleepy John Estes doing "Up and Down", a classic version of "Sweet Home Chicago" as recorded by Magic Sam, along with historic tracks by Little Walter, Junior Wells, Otis Spann, Billy Branch and more.

The anthology will be furnished by MVBS gratis to all area High School and College teachers involved in Humanities, Literature, Art, and Music courses as well as the school librarians. The book will also be available in all area libraries as reference material. According to the blues society web site, "this is the biggest education project ever attempted by the MVBS, and was made possible by support from Illinois Humanities, Humanities Iowa, the Illinois Arts Council, the Iowa Arts Council, the Riverboat Development Authority, and the Scott County Regional Authority." Dr. Eunice Boardman served as Editor of the anthology.

Readers may order new copies of "Up The Mississippi - A Journey of the Blues" by calling MVBS World Headquarters at (563) 322-5837, or by sending and email request to MVBS office hours are 10:00 a.m. - 5:30 p.m. Mon., Wed., Fri., and 11:15 a.m. -5:30 p.m. Tues. and Thurs. The cost is $15.00 for the anthology and accompanying CD, and shipping is $3.00 per order. Our hats are off to MVBS for a stellar effort!


In February, as part of the celebration of Black History Month, the MVBS Education Committee also welcomes Chicago blues and boogie-woogie pianist Erwin Helfer, along with Donald Meade - jazz and blues historian. Artist-in-residency dates for Helfer and Meade are February 10th to February 15th, featuring a special evening performance for the public at the Davenport Museum of Art on Thurs., February 13, beginning at 7:00 p.m. Erwin Helfer and Donald Meade's appearance will accent the museum's current "American Experience" art exhibition For more information on artist-in-residency programs, and other MVBS educational projects, visit on the web.


True Blue congrats and kudos to Jimmy and Deb Bankhead, for bringing a great new (and much needed) blues bistro to the Quad-Cities. The new venue opened Sat., Jan. 18, and featured music by John Resch and Detroit Blues. The new blues, brews and bar-b-q establishment is housed in the old Freight House on River Drive in Davenport, right across the tracks from LeClaire Park - home of the blues festival. Location, location, location - as they say. Jimmy B'z promises to be rockin' the rafters during this year's Blues Fest (and every weekend) at the old freight house! For more on Jimmy B'z, including their mega-menu, visit their web site at:


Records will release The Best of M.C. Records 1996-2002 on Feb. 25th, a collection which includes over an hour of great blues tracks from the M. C. Records catalog. Artists featured on this compilation include R.L. Burnside, Odetta, Big Jack Johnson, Kim Wilson, Odetta, Joanna Connor, Maria Muldaur and Tracy Nelson. Looking back, M.C. Records President Mark Carpentieri says, "I've had the pleasure to record some of my musical heroes and participate in some outstanding recordings. So far itıs been a great ride and with your support we can keep it going." This fine blues compilation definitely deserves your support, and is highly recommended for your blues collection. For more on M. C. Records' catalog and artists, visit on the web.


Don Baker's new release, "Almost Illegal," is the blues album that almost wasn't. Originally recorded in Dublin in 1989, Don and accompanying musicians had no idea midway through their sessions that the studio had gone bankrupt. While recording rhythm tracks with Brian Downey (Thin Lizzy) and John Kearns (Stockton's Wing), officials came in and starting removing equipment from the studio. Needless to say, this came as an unwelcome surprise to Don Baker and company, who had already paid for a three weeks studio time to complete the project. Kevin Finnerty, a friend of Baker's, came to his aid and booked session time at another studio. This 'new' collection includes very strong early stuff from Don Baker, with help from Brian Downey, Keith Donald, John Kearns, Gerry Simpson, John Carroll, Anto Brennan, Mick Doyle, Randall Rainwater and Dick Fagan. Strong covers of Willie Dixon's "Hoochie Coochie Man" and Big Bill Broonzy's "Louise," are weaved flawlessly into the tracks along with Baker originals such as "Used Shoe Blues," the title track "Almost Illegal," and Baker's locomotive blues-harp on "Don's Train". Originally engineered by Ian Bryan and Phillip Begley, the tracks were digitally re-mastered in 2002 for release on CD, and showcases a fine first studio effort from the stellar Irish harmonica master and blues-breaker. For more on Don Baker, visit his web site at .


That should be plenty for you all to chew on for a while, so I'm givin' it up baby and I'm down the road. Get on your long handles, get out of the cabin, and get yourself some live music to warm your heart and soul. I guarantee it will do you no harm. Peace, love and blessings to all and, until we meet again at this crossroads.

Blues to 'ya!

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