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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.


TRUE BLUE From Ellis Kell

It’s been colder than a well-digger’s behind this winter, but we’ve got some blues news on the horizon that should heat up the coldest nights. We’ve also got some hot new blues tracks, guaranteed to warm your heart and soul and ease your troubled mind.


(The following information is courtesy of

“Applications are ready for bands for the next all Iowa Blues Bands Challenge, and submissions must be postmarked on or before March 1, 2004. Call Kristy Adams (563) 349-0594 for applications or more information.

We are hoping to have two or three area stops for preliminary rounds: Des Moines, Davenport, and Fort Dodge. The Mississippi Valley Blues Society will send two bands to Des Moines for the Finals in May 2004. Des Moines will have two or three preliminary rounds, with one band advancing from each round to the semi finals and Fort Dodge’s advancing band rounding out the semi finals in Des Moines as the fourth band. This format, of course, depends on the number of bands involved. So it is subject to change some, as it did last year.

This year’s Finals prize packages again includes cash, studio time, gift certificates with the first place band advancing to the International Blues Challenge in Memphis and paid gigs at the Mississippi Valley Blues Festival and River Rockin’ RibFest, both in Davenport, Iowa.

Get those bands ready for the Challenge—Memphis is just ahead. Many of us will be escorting the 2003 Iowa Blues Challenge winners to Memphis as you read this at the end of January 2004. Magic Mike and the Blue Side will be representing Iowa, letting folks know we do know the Blues in Iowa. It is a weekend not to miss. Look for more details on the 2004 Challenge in next month’s BluesNews and see inside for more info on the weekend in Memphis.”


An appreciative audience of several hundred supporters joined us at the gorgeous old Capitol Theatre on Saturday, Jan. 24th, for a great night of music to kick off our membership ‘mission’ for River Music Experience. The evening would not have been possible without the gracious support of our sponsors and contributors, but the River Music Experience volunteer staff made it all run like clockwork. Whether you helped us out at the box office, the membership table, the beverage counter, or pitched in on the stage and security crews – we greatly appreciate your time and efforts, and we thank you all for being there. River Music Experience will all come together because of the people who believe in the experience and support it – whether that be through their financial support or by a contribution of their time. For more information, don’t forget to visit on the web, where you can sign up for our mailing list. Find out how you can ‘experience the roots of rhythm’, by becoming a part of River Music Experience.


“TiSHAMiNGo” – (self-titled debut CD on Innerstate Records) Named after the place where you could “get paid for singing into a can” in the movie “O Brother, Where Art Thou?,” this four-piece power house band is going to make a lasting impression on anyone who is lucky enough to pick up this new disk. Soulful southern flavor, and funky Delta blues and boogie roots come together in a rockin’ blues stew fit for a king. The band features Cameron Williams on vocals, Jess Franklin on guitar and vocals, Stephen Spivey on bass and backing vocals, and Richard Procter on drums. Actually hailing from Athens, Ga., this hot new band also currently features Jason Fuller on keyboards. Hot-rockin’ boogie and blues – the best kind! For more information on this great new band, visit on the web.

“Whiskey Store Live,” Tab Benoit & Jimmy Thackery (Telarc) The dynamic blues duo of Benoit & Thackery deliver a live performance of their highly successful studio CD, “Whiskey Store,” from 2002. Favorite cut is still the duo’s jumpin’ version of Bob Dylan’s “Leopord-Skin Pill-box Hat.” When these two guitarslingers team up, you better get outa’ Dodge! Shots for the house – the Whiskey Store is open for business! For more on this and other fine Telarc releases, visit on the web.


On March 9th, M. C. Records is due to release Robert Lockwood Jr.’s first domestic recording since 2000. Recorded live in Phoenix at The Rhythm Room in 2003, “The Legend Live” will feature the legendary Lockwood on his famous 12-string guitar. Widely known as the only living person to have learned guitar from Robert Johnson, Lockwood was also a featured session guitarist for Chess Records, and appeared regularly on King Biscuit Time with Sonny Boy Williamson II. The new disk will deliver some never-before recorded by Lockwood, as well as some never recorded solo. This is one the true blue aficionado will not want to miss, and you can find out more about this release and Robert Lockwood Jr.’s upcoming tour at .

Delbert McClinton will come rollin’ back into town on March 26th, for one show only at the fabulous ol’ Col Ballroom in Davenport. Don’t miss this chance to see Texas’ own pride and joy of roadhouse rockin’ rhythm and blues. Tickets are on sale now at the Col Ballroom box office and all Ticketmaster locations. This concert is brought to you by River Music Experience and Music Circuit Presentations.

I’ve run on for way too long, and can’t be tarryin’ here no more. Peace, love & blessings to all and, until we meet again at this 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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