By Will Harris
Welcome once again to this month’s instalment of Nothin’ But The Blues, Midlands Rocks’ regular blues news roundup.
It’s with great sadness that I open this month’s piece with news of the death of blues and R&B legend Bobby “Blue” Bland, who passed away on 23rd June at the grand old age of 83. Sometimes known as the “Lion of the Blues”, the Tennessee-born singer ranked alongside Sam Cooke and Ray Charles as one of the most successful performers to combine gospel and R&B. Our thoughts are with his family and friends, and thankfully he will live on through his music and influence. Watch the video below for a super-cool performance by Bobby of ‘It’s My Own Fault’ alongside B.B. King (song begins at 1:31).
There’s plenty lining up on the gig front in the Midlands at the moment, most notably the sensational Gloucester Rhythm & Blues Festival from 29th July to 4th August. Featuring seven days of blues and roots (not to mention real ale and cider), this entirely free event has a lineup including the Gloucester’s own acoustic rootsman Damon T (who releases his debut album, Stand My Ground, this month), young blues guitarist Jay Tamkin and Funke and the Two Tone Baby (whose impressive debut album, Battles, we reviewed back in May).
Those looking to strut their stuff and cut some serious shapes might want to make it down to The Robin 2 in Bilston on 2nd July as swamp-soul, blues-funk Florida gang JJ Grey & Mofro appear there to promote their latest album (which is superb, by the way), with a brilliant surf-tinged support in Big Boy Bloater & The Limits. Also at The Robin 2 this month, blues-rock axeman/songwriter Aynsley Lister launches his new album on the first date of his tour on 5th July (official album release date 8th July).
Other shows to keep an eye out for include the fantastic Steve Roux and the Brass Knuckle Blues Band at the Jericho Tavern in Oxford on 1st July, British blues revivalists Doctor’s Orders at The Tower of Song, Cotteridge on 11th July and the West Midland’s own Slowburner at The Brewhouse in Dudley on 12th July. Check out the video of them below playing back in 2009, and don’t be put off by the singer’s hair-do — the vocals are excellent.
Newly released is the latest four-track EP from the Tom Gee Band, Better Things To Do. Continuing their brand of soul-heavy music as well as put out some more traditional style blues, it’s already reached number two in the iTunes blues chart and is well worth a listen. Watch the video below to see Mr Gee perform a stripped-down acoustic version of the title track.
This month also sees an avalanche of stuff come down on 8th and 9th July: smoky-voiced acoustic bluesman Pete Alderton releases his fifth effort, Roadside Preaching, Texas’ Omar Dykes will put out his tribute to Howlin’ Wolf, Runnin’ With The Wolf, and Kansas City’s astounding Trampled Under Foot drop their sophomore full-length, Badlands. Their singer, Danielle Schnebelen, has one of the best voices in blues this century in my opinion, and you can both hear it and find out what went into the making of Badlands in the video below.
Elsewhere in the world of new releases, the south-east’s Fran McGillivray Band have just brought out their new record Some Luck, featuring yet more soulful Americana and country blues from the roots veteran, while Shrewsbury’s young gravel-voiced rising star Blues Boy Dan Owen has released a new EP.
Those looking to expand their classic collections also have something to look forward to, with JSP releasing a four-disc box set, Lightnin’ Hopkins: The Acoustic Years 1958-60 on 8th July, and Music On Vinyl re-releasing John Lee Hooker’s 1972 album, Never Get Out Of These Blues Alive, on 180gram vinyl on the same day.
To end on a more serious yet heart-warming note, blues musicians from across the country are currently pitching together to help raise awareness for a good cause. JoJo Burgess, best known as the charismatic frontman of Colchester’s Hokie Joint, has recently launched the Help Roxi Walk appeal through Facebook on behalf of his young daughter Roxanne, who’s been diagnosed with spastic-diplegia cerebral-palsy in her legs. Since learning of Roxi’s disability the family have discovered a revolutionary treatment known as SDR, which is a treatment that cuts select nerves and releases the spasticity (tightness) in the legs, making movement much easier. JoJo and family are hoping to raise £50,000 by Roxi’s 3rd birthday (8th August 2014) to allow Roxi to go for treatment at St. Louis Children’s Hospital – the world-leaders in this surgery. The appeal has already received support from notable UK blues artists including Dave Arcari, Dale Storr, Ian Siegal, Todd Sharpville, Clare Free, Tim Aves, Lucy Zirins and Giles Robinson.
If you’d like to make a donation, visit www.helproxiwalk.co.uk