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True Blue from Ellis Kell
Argus/Dispatch blues columnist



March 2000

Mississippi Valley Blues...

Gene Autry penned and recorded a tune back in the 1930's entitled "Mississippi Valley Blues," and the refrain goes something like this' "Mississippi Valley, I'm longin' for you, my poor heart is breakin', I'm sad and I'm blue...just to see your waters gleamin', of you each night I'm dreamin'...got the Mississippi Valley Blues..." Just the other day, during a conversation with a musical road warrior I both admire and respect, I heard the following sentiment regarding 'making it in the music business.' "You just can't make it here in music, without leaving the area...it just won't happen if you don't go to the bigger markets and music scenes like Nashville,
L.A., New York, etc." It was a very familiar sentiment, and for the most part, the truth - at least in the years gone by. However, the times they are a changin'. Today, fueled by the power of the Internet, the ever increasing number of quality local, regional, and homegrown studios, and most of all by the outstanding crop of local and regional talent here in the Mississippi Valley, I believe our day has come.

Globally, the rightful ownership of the music, along with its distribution and marketing, is being returned to the composers and artists via the web and all it makes possible. Musicians no longer have to kiss the rings of the big execs, only to have their demo tapes thrown onto the 'back stac' with thousands of others, or even worse, in the circular file. And, best of all, its happening big-time right here in River City. Billy Pieffer, of Lynn Allen fame, is doing it up proud in his Davenport studio...a host of friends and fellow pickers, pounders and pluckers are nailin' it down good at Brass Sail in Moline...Scott Stuhlir has produced top-shelf recordings for Noble Spirit and others...Rob Cimmerusti at the helm of Reeltrax...Rob 'Robbie M' Muskeyvalley servin' up smooth R&B and soulful sounds at R.A.M.....Shane Johnson's Blue Train, Blue Fins' leader Todd Vermeulen, Jason and Cobalt Blue, Bob Dorr, Molly Nova & The Blue Band, Patrick Hazell, Bo Ramsey and a host of others have been doing just fine for some time now - composing, crafting, producing and performing great original music. Much of it all inspired, written, recorded and produced - you got it - right here in River City.

I have to agree 110% with blues society volunteer Glenn Cotabish, when he states the talent here is as good as it is anywhere, an observation he made after traveling to Memphis for the recent International Blues Challenge finals. I think it was one of the chain gang prisoners in the film 'Cool Hand Luke' who said, "Don't look back, 'cause somethin' may be gainin' on 'ya..." Them big city boys just better look out now! While it's undeniably healthy to get out of town, reach new audiences and hone your chops and changes on the road – don't think for a minute that you can't make it without packin' up the geetars in the 'ol VW micro-bus, and headin' out for Music City. 'Cause it just aint necessarily so - not no mo'...

As the fans and patrons of the arts, you all just need to make sure you get out and do your part to support the many fine local and regional musicians who keep on keepin' on, pourin' their hearts and souls out nightly in the music. Remember...each one of you in the audience plays as important a part as anyone in the band. And, while its true we can always use a few more new showrooms, clubs and venues on the local live music scene, there are still plenty out there to support now.

Recommended releases, comin' at 'ya...

1."Cuttin' In," Sean Costello (Landslide Records/LDCD 1025) No nonsense, hard drivin' stuff from a bold new young-blue-blood on the scene. Power vocals and chops, serious swing, and classic blues served up pipin' hot. Get 'ya self some soon!
2."Book of the Seven Seals," The Pattersonaires (Highwater/HMG 6514) Stellar Gospel performances, originally released in 1984, including four of the most honorable Reverend W. Herbert Brewster's powerful Gospel compositions. This collection remains a mainstay on the Memphis Gospel airwaves to this day. Pure, sweet praise in song.

It sounds like things are really poppin' over at the Mississippi Valley Blues Society office, with the invitations for Blues Challenge 2000 issued, and preparation for this year's blues festival in full swing. For more on the blues society, its mission and history, and upcoming events, visit www.mvbs.org on the web. We also encourage you to contact them at (319) 32-BLUES, for more information on how you can help keep the Blues alive as a member and/or volunteer.

All these chores bein? done for a time, I'm headin' for the house. Until we meet again at this crossroads...

Blues to 'ya!


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