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TRUE BLUE from Ellis Kell
SEPTEMBER 1999

BACK HOME FROM THE PILGRIMAGE…

Its truly a wonderful thing to visit the far away lands of your dreams, especially when those places far exceed your expectations of beauty and inspiration, but it feels oh-so-good to finally touch down again in the good old U.S.A.! After returning from the Emerald Island and Land of the Scots, the ol’ Red, White and Blues never looked (or sounded) so good, and I just couldn’t wait to look in the mailbox for ‘new Blues fer youz’. Before we get into the new true blue releases, here’s a whirlwind tour of some of the music and many new friends we found abroad, just as promised.

In Dublin’s famed Temple Bar area you can find just about all the genres of contemporary music, but blues and jazz are very popular, just as they are throughout Britain and continental Europe. The International Blues Band is one of the best known bands in the Dublin Blues circuit, having performed on shows with B. B. King and others, and was performing that Friday evening at The International Bar. The International Blues Band has a web site of their own at: indigo.ie/~cbrady/blues/blueband.htm. Caroline Brady is a prominent figure and promoter on the local Blues music scene there, and has an great web guide to Blues bands of Dublin located at: indigo.ie/~cbrady/blues/bands.htm. There are literally hundreds of fine shops, boutiques, restaurants, and music clubs in Dublin, including U2’ s own elite nightclub, "The Kitchen." For more on Dublin’s oldest precinct and cultural center, Temple Bar, visit www.temple-bar.ie/ on the web.

Just forty minutes to the northwest of Dublin City sits the quiet little Irish Heritage Town of Kells, County Meath, home of St. Columba’s Church and the famous four high crosses of Kells (note: there is no direct relation or connection between the place name and the author’s name - the actual Gaelic name of the town is ‘Ceannanus,’ meaning ‘head fort’). Wife Kristi and I put in at Mary Reilly’s cozy "Owl’s Rest B&B" for two nights on the Navan Road from Dublin (see www.surfers-paradise.com/gateway/accom/owlsrest.htm for more on this fine B&B, and for more on the area of Kells visit John Leyden’s (of Headfort School) ‘Kells On Line’ pages on the web at: homepage.tinet.ie/~kellsnet/. Armed with umpteen maps, brochures and powered by Mary Reilly’s killer 'full Irish breakfast', we toured the area and eventually came to rest at the Blackwater Pub for some spirits and libations. The featured solo artist of the evening (whose name I regretfully have misplaced) surprised us with a versatile repertoire of modern country hits, as well as Beatles to Buffet, before tossing in a few ‘trad’ tunes, such as "The Old Brigade." That particular song, with its strong sentiments of Irish pride, really set the place to jumping. After introductions at break time, yours truly was invited to sit in and did a few tunes to a very warm and gracious response. Any good American Blues would have done the trick, I’m sure. Music once more proved to be the universal language, as smiling Irish eyes gave birth to new friendships at the Blackwater Pub.

After an evening’s stop-over in Belfast, we ferried across on the Seacat ferry to Troon, Scotland, and then via ScotRail train up through Glasgow to Oban on the west coast. From there a short ride on the local islands' Calmac ferry took us across to Craignure, on the Isle of Mull. Here we met our Celtic jeweler friends, Guy Weston and his father Ralph, whose gold and silversmith shop is located on the grounds of Craignure’s famed Torosay Castle (see www.zy.net/mull/members/torosay.html). In the evening we had supper, spirits, and sat in for a session of Blues and good houserockin’ jams at host Billy MacGregor’s Craignure Inn. The session featured resident guitarists John Cartwright and Steve Scott, along with yours truly on the loaner guitar. Again, the spirit of the Blues broke through any and all communication barriers, and a great time was had by all. From the honeymooners from Ohio, to Guy Weston’s own sweet Lucy from Capetown, as well as the island regulars, the Blues were the common denominator of heart and soul at the Craignure Inn that evening.

For one of the most comprehensive web sites on Ireland heritage and travel information, you will certainly want to visit the Local Ireland pages at: www.local.ie/. Highlights for travel in Northern Ireland can be found on the Northern Ireland Tourist Board’s site at: www.ni-tourism.com/index.asp, and should most definitely be included in your Irish travel plans; the northern coast, Glens of Antrim and Londonderry regions are absolutely gorgeous, and Belfast offers a vibrant nightlife and entertainment scene. For a complete web guide to travel in Scotland, visit www.travelbritain.com/scotland on the web. Travel across country and the islands is easily done via train and ferry, but we also highly recommend renting your own car to best see and experience the countryside.

On the sacred island of Iona, at Sunday services, the Abbey rang with the gospel strains and inspirational lessons of a world-class peace community dedicated to "‘rebuilding of the common life', bringing together work and worship, prayer and politics, the sacred and the secular." For more on this very special community located on Saint Columba’s ‘gem in the sea’ off The Isle of Mull's southwestern tip, visit their site at: www.iona.org.uk. From Temple Bar to Belfast, Memphis to Chicago, and Sedona to Iona - there is one constant: good music is just plain good music, whatever corner of the world you happen to be in.

(Special thanks to Carolyn Oak of Blackhawk World Travel for her assistance in securing travel arrangements to Ireland and Scotland.)

New Blues Fer Youz’…

"The Lost Tapes," Muddy Waters (Blind Pig Records)
Its the ‘full-grown’ bluesman, in his prime, live on tour in 1971. Features favorites such as ‘Honey Bee,’ ‘Hoochie Coochie Man,’ ‘Walkin’ Through the Park,’ along with enhanced CD-ROM features including an impromptu interview from the backseat of Water’s car, and a video performance of the classic ‘Long Distance Call. ’ Get this one today, even if you have to pawn something to do it! A true blue gem!

"In A Grand Style," Charles Brown (Bullseye Blues & Jazz)
The elegant blues piano of the late master, Charles Brown - there will never be another like him. The rich blues piano stylings of this stellar performer will live on, only improving with age like a fine wine. Smooth as silk…and dripping with soul.

"Kid Ramos," (self-titled) (Evidence Music)
This is the knock-down, drag-out guitar that cuts through the heart of the Fabulous Thunderbirds current lineup. This album features fellow T-Bird Kim Wilson on harp and vocals, along with James Harman, Cesar Rosas, Willie Chambers, Lynwood Slim and Janiva Magness. Straight up blues’n boogie from a true Texas troubadour. Definitely not for the faint of heart!

Further On Up the Road…

BENT RIVER BREWING JAM FOR MDA
Sunday, September 5th from noon 'til midnight. 6 live bands, including THE BLUEFINS, THE AMIGOS, SOUL SESSION, CHUNKSTER, INSECLUSION, plus others to be announced. 1413 - 5th Avenue, downtown Moline, Illinois. $2.00 admission/donation, kids 12 & under free. Bring your lawn chairs. Food and beverage vendors, and lots of fun things in the works. All the proceeds to benefit MDA Labor Day Weekend fundraiser. For more information contact Mike Ortiz at (309)764-7257.

The House of Blues Lone Star Tour will ride into the MARK of the Quad Cities on Wednesday, November 17th, featuring C. J. Chenier & The Red Hot Louisiana Band, Clarence Gatemouth Brown, and The Fabulous Thunderbirds. Advance ticket information was still unavailable at press-time, but stay tuned to this location for more as it becomes available. For more on House of Blues, please visit www.hob.com on the web. With our feet planted firmly back on the home turf, and until we meet again at this crossroads…

Blues to ‘ya!


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