Interview with Erja Lyytinen: The Blues Queen: Video, Photos

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Interview with Finnish blues singer/guitarist Erja Lyytinen: voted #2 on Total Guitar’s “10 World’s Best Guitarists Now” poll.

How has the Blues and Rock Counterculture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

By being able to travel around the world and meeting lot´s of different people from different cultures I´ve learned so many things and seen so many things that I wouldn´t have seen unless if I was a traveling musician. I have learned, there´s blues lovers everywhere where you go and it seems to be a unique group of people who value music that has been actually played by musicians on stage, with sincere, honest lyrics and with huge emotional output. Also, the fact that musician lifestyle is so different compared to an ordinary day life, changes your way of looking at things. Nothing is ever regular, except that everything is always irregular. Plans are always changing, and things moving forward. There´s no dull moment in this business!

Where does your creative drive come from? What was the hardest part of writing “Blues Queen” book?

I have been always very enthusiastic about music and playing, ever since I was a kid. I can still remember the feeling what I felt when I sang on top of my Father´s guitar playing at the age of four (4). Music moved me, it made me happy, and brought out feelings. So later in life I really wanted to become a professional musician so therefore I soke into various different music schools and learned so much I could from music in overall. Nowadays I run my own record company and play normally hundred shows per year around the world, and I enjoy performing live more than ever! But I also enjoy that time, when I can just create music, and dig deeper to songs. Music is my occupation and a hobby, and I feel very privileged that I can do what I do.

When writing “The Blues Queen”, hardest thing was to get into ugliest feelings, to open up and tell people about the hard times. But then again, it´s good to tell that success doesn´t come without sacrifices. I have recorded several albums, written a book, and we recently also put out Erja Lyytinen Songbooks (VOL1 and VOL2) and nowadays I also have my own tea brand. So, I really like being creative in other ways as well and this also keeps my mind fresh.

Are there any memories from ‘Lockdown Live 2020’ (on line event) which you’d like to share with us?

It sure was very exciting to play with my band after two months of a break in May 2020. We were all so full of energy and joy – not knowing how long this corona situation would last. While recording “Lockdown Live”, this was our first proper stream gig with multiple cameras, so everything, the whole production, the situation, was new for all of us. We were simply just happy to be able to do some work at least! We had a meet & greet session with the fans in the end of the live stream, and it was really lovely to answer to people´s questions. I didn´t see my fans, but I could “feel” them.

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

I miss the interaction between the audience and the band. I love the fact that every gig is different and how audience reacts, really has a huge impact also how you are on stage. Although I always do my best, whether I am performing for 20 people or 20.000 people, and if it´s a private gig, a gig in a jail (yes, done few of these!) or a sitting audience in a concert hall. My hopes are that the vaccine really works for the people and we can get back doing what we really love. My fears are that the music industry will suffer even more if this situation won´t get any better. And the less unfortunate people will suffer even more. We will see the effect of corona after few years in childcare and mental services I am afraid.

I really do hope that we can play and travel freely in 2022. I can´t wait to travel to Australia, where we supposed to play last year. I can only imagine the happiness we all feel, when we can finally meet our fans and friends around the globe, and can hug each other without a fear of getting an ugly virus.

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

I would improve the compensation regarding digital services and using of music and art freely online. The overall feeling nowadays feels like that music should be free for consumers, although just making a one proper music video for Youtube with multiple cameras requires a lot of resources. I do use Youtube and Spotify myself too and my latest albums and some of the stream gigs are there for free for everyone. But then we also have some music videos on Vimeo for a purchase as well.

What does to be a female artist in a Man’s World as James Brown says? What is the status of women in music?

Women´s status in the music business has gotten a lot better nowadays. Majority of the new guitar buyers is females, all the social media channels are full of women and girls playing guitar, bass, drums, all of these instruments, that men used to only play. I think it is fantastic! Music shouldn’t be judged by one´s sex, but by the quality of it.

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the music paths?

Always be kind, try inspiring others, and don´t be afraid to share. Don´t try pleasing others, but just follow your own instincts. And most of all, be true to yourself, in the end we have to only responsible for yourself, and you are the one you have to live with for the rest of your life, with every decision you make.

What is the impact of music on the socio-cultural implications? How do you want it to affect the people?

Music really crosses all the boundaries. Music is a language, that everyone can learn and when you speak the same “language”, you can share emotions. It´s amazing to get to play for example in India, and encouraging young women by saying, that I am a guitarist, and a Mother and entrepreneur and travelling around the world all the time, doing my dream job. That everything in life can be possible.

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?

I would travel fifty years ahead. Just to have a look how all is then and what kind of future my kids would have. And what kind of music we would listen. I am pretty sure that people will always listen to Led Zeppelin, Hendrix and other “organic” music, and enjoy music performed live, let´s at least hope so!

Interview by Michael Limnios / Photos by Hertta Hynninen & Iiro Laitinen

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Interview with Lisa Mann: My musical philosophy is to give yourself freedom … Video, Photos

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Interview with powerhouse bassist and front woman Lisa Mann: mastering everything from rock to rhythm and blues.

How has the Blues and Counterculture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

First, let me thank you for the opportunity to answer these questions! Blues is a music born in the American south, created by the black community, however it has become a source of pride to all of America. When I travel to the EU or UK and see how popular blues music is after so many decades, it warms my heart. It just goes to show how music is a universal language that can be enjoyed by all people, and how it can help cultures reach out to each other across the world.

How do you describe your sound, music philosophy and songbook? Where does your creative drive come from?

I like to describe what I do as “Tough Girl Blues.” It was a fan that gave me that phrase- she had a playlist of blues female artists with that name, and she told me she had put my songs in it. I’ve had some hard times, and I have made decisions both bad and good. I have also seen friends take difficult turns in their lives, and written songs about them. So lyrically, I like to write about real life. Musically, I love to draw from many influences, from straight ahead blues to blues-rock, rhythm & blues and soul music, country and Americana, and even hard rock and metal! My musical philosophy is to give yourself freedom as a songwriter to play whatever you hear in your head and heart. I don’t know where that drive comes from, but it is definitely there. I would be very unhappy if I didn’t follow that drive!

Which meetings have been the most important experiences? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?

I have had the opportunity to meet and work with many amazing musicians. The best meetings are on stage. I’ve been able to jam with Candi Staton, Bob Margolin, Janiva Magness, Bobby Rush, John Nemeth, the late Frank Bey, Sugaray Rayford, and so many more. Sugaray Rayford is a friend, my husband plays bass in his band. He and his musical director Drake Shining have given me some wonderful advice over the past few years. Also, John Nemeth gave me some great advice at a large festival many years ago. I was working on a new CD and we ran into each other over breakfast. I asked him if he had any advice for an emerging artist, and he said to me, “Make the best possible CD you can.” And that hit me right in the heart- that was exactly what I wanted to do. I just want to put my heart and soul into the music and create songs that will touch people.

What do you miss most nowadays from the blues of past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

I am very sad to see so many of the classic blues artists pass away, so what I miss most is the people. I have seen Etta James, Koko Taylor and BB King perform, and have worked with many of our local Oregon talents like Paul DeLay, Linda Hornbuckle, and Janice Scroggins. It is very hard to see them grow old, or get sick, and pass away. But my hopes for the future are the people who studied the great blues masters, especially young artists like Ben Rice, Larkin Poe, and Christone “Kingfish” Ingram. My fears are that it will continue to be more difficult for talented young artists to make a living in blues music, and they will turn away from it.

What touched (emotionally) you from the late great Sister Rosetta Tharpe? Are there any memories from “Old Girl” album’s sessions which you’d like to share with us?

I didn’t know much about Sister Rosetta Tharpe until she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I have a dear friend who puts together a women’s blues review, she suggested we do a tribute to Rosetta Tharpe. All the women involved, including myself, did a lot more research on her in the process, and now we are all huge fans of her music! She was such a spirited and fiery performer. She really let the spirit move her, and that is very inspiring. It is also inspiring that she mastered her instrument, and became very proficient at playing guitar. Especially since it wasn’t something women were supposed to do at the time. Recording her song “That’s All” was a special session at Primal Studio in Portland Oregon. Guitarist Jason Thomas, drummer Dave Melyan, and I recorded that song live, in one take. I usually like to multi-track songs. I had intended to track the music live and then come back and sing vocals again on top, but the engineer Kevin Hahn suggested we keep the original vocals. I messed up a few words, and didn’t sing some parts the way I wanted to, but it was spirited and lively, in the way Rosetta herself performed. So, we kept it as a live take, without mixing it down too much. It is very raw, but we were “in the moment” so it worked.

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the music paths?

When I was a young musician, I often had a hard time sticking up for myself. Sometimes young female artists get taken advantage of. Working with my friend Sonny Hess, and other women who have been in the business for a long time, helped me learn to stick up for myself, and also to stick up for my band. As a bandleader, you have to make so many important decisions. It takes time and experience, and often failure, to learn how to properly manage a band.

What is the impact of Blues on the socio-cultural implications? How do you want it to affect people?

I really want people to appreciate the fact that Blues music came from the African-American community, especially now. And I want white blues musicians to stand up for the black artists out there, many of whom are suffering, or their loved ones are suffering. When I was in the International Blues Challenge many years ago, I was competing against Lionel Young in the finals, who won the entire challenge. Before his winning performance, he had been briefly arrested by police in Memphis Tennessee because he was running down the street so he wouldn’t be late. He was arrested for running while black! It took a white fan to vouch for him in order for the police officer to let him go. All because he was running, because he was late! White blues artists and fans need to say that Black Lives Matter, not just because we benefit from their artistic contribution, but because it is the moral thing to do.

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?

That’s a hard question! I think it would be amazing to go back in time and attend one of the historic music festivals, like Woodstock, or Wattstax, or Monterey Pop. Or to see BB King Live at the Regal!

Interview by Michael Limnios

Photos by Miri Stebivka & Kelly Ralph

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Interview with Chantel McGregor: The Blues came first … Video

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Interview with UK guitarist Chantel McGregor – the Blues came first, but rock and pop was always waiting on the corner.

How has the Blues and Rock Counterculture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

Interestingly, there isn’t particularly a blues and rock counterculture in the UK any more. I’ve known people in the past who’ve had the different lifestyles, ideas and cultural references, and generally not wanting the traditional way of life, but over here, if you’re not going to fit in with tradition, the labels don’t want to know. If you’re doing it yourself, you’ve no alternative but to fit in, the circuit is relatively small so it’s either do it that way or don’t do it!

How do you describe Chantel McGregor sound and songbook? What characterize your live performances?

I think my style and sound crosses many genres. When I was younger (aged 12-16), I used to go to jam sessions most nights of the week, so I cut my teeth on improvisation, psychedelic rock, blues, country etc; basically, anything anyone threw at me. I think its so important to learn and listen to all different styles. It’s easy to just say ‘I play blues’ and close yourself off to everything else, but I think to be a well rounded musician, you have to consider every style and genre. I really enjoy playing rock, I’ve always been interested in rock bands, even as I child, I used to play along to Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden CD’s. I think my style has always been rock. I think I was labelled blues at the start of my career as the two genres are often so closely related through guitar solos and a lot of rock has its roots in blues. I honestly think and have always said that there are two different genres of music, good and bad, and both of those categories are down to the individual and are all subjective. I’m so lucky with my fans, in that they appreciate what I’m trying to do with my music, they enjoy the fact that I experiment and try different styles, like for instance I sometimes do some acoustic solo shows, which are totally different to the band shows, but people enjoy them equally. I think the band shows are known for being quite exciting and every show being different. I like to do different songs each night as we have quite a few fans who will come to many of the shows, so I like to keep things fresh for them each night. There’s also quite a lot of improvisation in the show, I like to push things with the band, so that keeps things exciting.

How started the thought of Lady Gaga’s “STUPID LOVE!”? What was the hardest part of “Blues Meets Pop”?

Lady Gaga is such an innovative and creative songwriter and performer, and the thing with a great song is that you can listen to it and imagine different versions of it. “Stupid Love” was one that just cried out to me and said “listen, I can be changed, I can be anything you want!”, so the “Blues Meets Pop” was easy!

Which meetings have been the most important experiences? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?

Ooh, a good question! A few years ago, John Courage, who used to be Fleetwood Mac’s tour manager started coming to my gigs and we became friends. I was lucky enough to go with him and meet Fleetwood Mac a couple of times and it wasn’t what they said or any advice that was important, it was how they were, natural, friendly, and nice people. I think that’s the best advice, be that and be yourself.

Do you consider the Blues a specific music genre and artistic movement or do you think it’s a state of mind?

In the UK there’s a tendency to categorize music into genres but personally I think there are only two, good and bad, and even that’s subjective! I don’t see a reason why a song that originates in one genre can’t move to another and it’ll either work or it won’t, so to that extent genres are a state of mind.

What would you say characterizes Cleopatra Records’ philosophy in comparison to other labels?

It’s got to be their willingness to look at all genres and base their output on their confidence in their artists. With “Stupid Love” it was a case of “here you are, see what you can do with this!”

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in music paths?

Be humble, you never know who you are talking to and everyone deserves respect. The other thing is to be yourself, there are enough egos around without adding to them!

Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

I think the most recent fabulous memory was playing to a fair few thousand people at Ramblin Man Fair in the UK in July. It was a whirlwind few days, I was on holiday with my family and I flew home to play the festival, drove about 600 miles in 3 days and had a couple of hours sleep, it was the most exhausting 3 days of my life, but the gig was so worth it. It was just such a wonderful day, the crowd were amazing and the gig was so much fun. On a surreal note, someone wandering across to you and saying “hello, I’m Eric” isn’t something that happens every day!

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

I don’t think there’s anything necessarily missing in music at the moment that was there in the past, I think as a listener, there’s so much amazing music out there, you maybe have to look a bit harder for it nowadays than years ago, but the music is out there. I think the only thing that’s changed is the music industry, how things are marketed and how people find out about new artists. I think it’s an interesting time for music, with the whole DIY approach, it’s so easy to get your music out there without being reliant on major labels, although it’s harder to get it heard because there are so many artists out there also self-releasing, and without a major label and their contacts and money behind you, you’re restricted by self-financed budgets.

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

This is probably something more specific to the UK, in that being a relatively small land mass, we have national radio. The problem that creates is that everything becomes corporate, so independent artistes can’t break through into the playlists, even the BBC is playlisted, I’ve been told that the DJ’s have one song per program of their own choice! It would be nice to have a culture of radio that is based on the music not how it’s promoted. Having said that, radio is getting less important, but it’s still one of the main ways that people hear their music, and why the festivals are headlined by heritage bands. The knock on effect of this is that there’s no room for new music to be heard or seen, the festivals are busy because they’re an occasion, but below arena level, the live music scene is dying. That needs to change otherwise we’ll be watching and listening to holograms, which I am told is coming soon!

Interview by Michael Limnios / Photos by Howard Rankin

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Interview with Evelyn Rubio: Crossing Blues & Soul Borders: Video, Photos

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Interview with Mexican versatile saxophonist Evelyn Rubio: Crossing Blues & Soul Borders.

How has the Blues, Soul and Rock counterculture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

Well in my native Mexico, Blues and soul are really in our counterculture, Rock is a little more mainstream. But when I’ve performed around Mexico, the US. and Europe I’ve found that people are people and they just want to groove a little and go somewhere else emotionally and simple enjoy this art form.

How do you describe your songbook and sound? What touched (emotionally) you from the Saxophone?

I would describe my songbook as being on the brighter side of the blues. Sometimes I give the boys a break and then of course sometimes I gotta let them have it. I’ve been told my vocal color belongs with the ballads but I feel too much energy now, maybe later but on my new album I have a ” jazzy” song where my vocals follow the saxophone almost note for note and it covers a good part of my range. I’ve always been a singer and started to play guitar but my mentor and great friend Alfonso Miranda put a saxophone in my hand and I never put it down. It just felt natural, like an extension of my voice.

How has your Mexican heritage influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

I travel with an open mind and everywhere I go I try not to compare just to appreciate the differences and of course enjoying every little sip of the experience.

What characterize your new album “Crossing Borders” music philosophy in comparison to other previous albums?

In “Crossing Borders,” I allowed myself to explore into other genres like country and jazz. This album has more personal thoughts about life like the song “I Don’t Understand.” We know the world is full of bad things, injustice, abuse, people and animal suffering, etc. but still it doesn’t mean that we have to accept it .

Are there any memories from “Crossing Borders” studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

Beginning in Houston I went in the studio with all-star rock musicians, Al Staehely and Mark Andes from the super band SPIRIT and the wonderful Kenny Cordray – what a session! When we were recording “Border Town” the first two takes were ok but it wasn’t the sound that I wanted , something was missing so I mentioned to Kenny Cordray (lead guitar) that I wanted “mystery” and he got it, he changed the whole song with the sound of his guitar.

What touched (emotionally) you from “Besame Mucho”? What are the lines that connect: Afro-American and Latin music?

Most people of age can relate to a passionate kiss. “Besame Mucho que tengo miedo perderte despues;” which translate into English – “Kiss me a lot cause I’m afraid of losing you.” I have related to this myself, and that’s one of the reasons that it became a classical standard. A lot of the Caribbean music came from African influences and made their way into Latin America. “Besame Mucho” is a bolero song and bolero music was originated in Cuba.

Which acquaintances have been the most important experiences? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?

Definitely my friend and music mentor Alfonso Miranda who was my saxophone teacher and he encouraged me to became a musician and songwriter. Once here in the USA Al Staehely (music attorney and member of the rock band Spirit) has been a very important part of my career. He gave me the opportunity to play with The Staehely Brothers Band and he introduced me to Calvin Owens (BB King’s band leader for 12 years, trumpet composer and producer) who signed me on his label for 5 years ,5 albums. I recorded the album “HOMBRES” in two versions one in English and one in Spanish and it topped the Billboard Charts at #1 Latin Pop album Album, #6 Blues Album and #3 Top Latin Album…

And believe it or not after Calvin Owens passed away I began playing with B.B. King’s last band leader Mr. James Boogaloo Bolden who was B.B.’s band leader for 30 years and I recorded an album with him “No News jus’ the Blues” and lately, I’ve finished an album that included most of the Phantom Blues Band members that I hope to release after the first of the year along with the video “Border Town”. I’m also putting a band together with my Producer Mr. Larry Fulcher who is also a (Grammy Award Winner with Taj Mahal) on bass, Grammy Award winner David de la Garza (La Mafia) on keys, two times Grammy Nominated guitarist Corey Stood and Al Jarreau’s guitar player for the last 10 years John Calderon. About the best advice I would say “Believe in Yourself” and “Enjoy the ride, even the bumps”.

Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

Well there are too many but just to mention one, I would never forget when I got the chance to open for BB King and there was a big crowd backstage of friends and family and everybody wanted to spend some time with the King. Unexpectedly, I found myself sharing some experiences with B.B. about Calvin Owens, and he ended the conversation so graciously asking me for a kiss and of course I was so happy to give it to him. It was fun last year singing backgrounds for David Lee Roth, pure energy!

What moment changed your life the most? What´s been the highlights in your life and career so far?

Moving from Mexico City to Playa del Carmen and beginning as a full time blues vocalist/sax player and buying a little house; that was a very exciting moment for a young Evelyn. After 6 years with a hot blues rock band “Chivo Azul,” I was introduced to Al Staehely who set up an audition with Calvin Owens (a BB King Band leader) and was offered a 5 year 5 album record deal.

Do you consider the “Blues Rock” a specific music genre and artistic movement or do you think it’s a state of mind?

It’s my opinion that great artists like John Mayall, Eric Clapton, Gary Moore, Stevie Ray Vaughan and now among others Joe Bonamassa and Gary Clark Jr. are all Blues Rock performers. I attended a Bonamassa concert in Houston a couple of years ago and he did not play one single blues song. I don’t think anyone really wants to stay in one box. As a state of mind, did I mention Carlos Santana? I’m a lucky lady and I thank you for this opportunity to express myself.

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

The originality and the lack of fear to try different things. I wish I could have that experience that people between 60-70 years old talk about, like they say when they listened for the first time to Jimmy Hendrix, Beatles, Led Zeppelin, etc… they were in awww what’s that?, never heard something like this before!! I miss the real live music in concerts, everything it’s about computer and I worry for the new generations that can grow up thinking this is the only way to go. My hope is to sell out major stadiums around the world and my fear is technology will continue to divide us rather than bring us together.

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your paths in music circuits?

First of all, don’t compare yourself with nobody else, everybody has their own voice. Be nice with everyone and respect your brother and sisters and that respect will come back to you. I come to appreciate the difficulty of the blues musicians and their legacy of slavery and discrimination and how they prevail in some of the most horrible circumstances.

What does to be a female artist in a “Man’s World” as James Brown says? What is the status of women in music?

Some women can pack a stadium and debut at #1 just like a man can, but it’s a fact that not as many rises to that level. I’m going to do my best to add one more sister to the matrix and give it my everything. I have to be strong and remember those that came before me. You know that the Houston Rodeo Show featured 19 artist this last year, four of those were women so as you can see there is more work to be done.

Interview by Michael Limnios

Photos by Monika Watkins

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Interview with Jim Gustin and Truth Jones: The Truth of Blues: Video, Photos

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Interview with Jim Gustin and Truth Jones, firmly establish themselves in the southern California blues scene and share some of the wisdom they have gained on the journey.

How has the Blues and Rock Counterculture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

Jim: I think that art and artists reflect the culture. I’m not sure how much the blues culture has affected me, other than after the IBCs, where it is clear what a small community it is, and that it really is a sort of family. I am so glad to be part of it.

Truth: Blues and Rock music has opened doors into many different environments and ideas that I may not have been able to explore otherwise. It has helped me to see beyond my own circumstances and environment. I think it has helped me understand the world and people in an unfiltered light.

How do you describe band’s sound, music philosophy and songbook? Where does your creative drive come from?

Jim: We have a big band, 6 people with varying influences, each member adds their unique ingredient to the collective soup that is our music. We try to write songs that tell a story, that are fun and that reflect us as people.

Truth: The band’s sound is predominantly blues, but includes influences from rock, soul, and gospel. Before we were a blues band, we performed as a classic rock band, and Jim and I both sang together in church. We both are song writers and we grew tired of playing other artists music. The blues allowed us to tell our own stories. The music we put on albums now comes from the heart and soul of who we are.

Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

Jim: We opened for Three Dog Night for three shows at three different venues around LA. These people had never heard of us. We were not even listed on the bill. We played our set, and the people loved us! It was so incredibly encouraging and gave us some validation that we were on the right path.

Truth: There are so many performances and sessions that bring back wonderful memories, but without a doubt, my favorite gig was opening for Three Dog Night. Being accepted by an audience who had never heard of us and were only there to see the big named act, was an amazing thrill.

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

Jim: I miss being paid well for gigs. I used to make $125-$150 a night, now gigs that pay even $250 for the whole band are getting tough to find. It makes it almost impossible to go on the road and share our music with people outside our area. People do not pay for music any more, I still spend $50 or so a month buying music, most people, particularly young people, don’t spend that in a year. It is my hope that at some point people will appreciate people playing real instruments, again.

Truth: In most of society, music is no longer a focus in entertainment. It has been reduced to background noise. People don’t sit and LISTEN to albums. It has caused the elimination of great artists. I want to hear an amazing guitar solo, or a soulful piano or sax solo, and my soul need to hear harmonies. I want lyrics that feed me. If music is just background noise, we lose what makes it great. It loses its ability to move and inspire us.

Make an account of the case of the blues in California. What touched (emotionally) you from the local circuits?

Jim: Our local blues scene here in SoCal, is not unlike what I have encountered elsewhere.We have been blessed to have people give us advice, send gigs our way and do whatever they can to help us. People like Kelly Zirbes and Perry Robertson, Joey Delgado, Tommy Marsh, Deb and Ric Ryder and Teresa James and Terry Wilson. I am overwhelmed at how supportive others have been to us.

Truth: It is the blues family in Southern California that make SoCal blues great.  The musicians here are always willing to participate in charity events. They help promote each other’s gigs, the help fellow musicians get gigs and they give practical advice and encouragement.  We very much owe a debt of gratitude to the wonderful musicians who have helped us.

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in music paths?

Jim: You have to play music because you love playing music. You cannot be true to yourself and your art, if you do it for any other reason. If you do it for fame or money or any other reason other than it’s in you and it needs to come out, you begin to compromise what is in you. I really feel for those musicians who are trying to make a living by playing music, especially in today’s world. I thank God for my day job. Money is not the driving force behind what I do. I can play whatever, whenever and wherever I feel like playing.  It would not be that way if it was my primary source of income.

What does to be a female artist in a Man’s World as James Brown says? What is the status of women in music?

Truth: I have found the women of blues to be a very caring and nurturing group.  They are incredible musicians with plenty to say, and I see more and more women are being included in events. Would I like equal opportunity for both men and women?  Of course, but I’m personally not looking to change the world. If I can touch a couple of hearts for the better, then I’ve achieved my goals.

What is the impact of music on the socio-cultural implications? How do you want it to affect people?

Jim: Music and all art reflect the culture. It is my hope that our music makes people feel like they are not alone, that others have experienced the same challenges that they have faced and are facing and overcame them. We want to be encouraging and provide some hope for people and at the least provide a distraction from life’s struggles for a couple hours.

Truth: Music is and will always be part of our culture. I want people to think, and to feel, and have hope when they hear our music. I want them to know that we are all the same, and we are more alike than our differences.

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?

Jim: I wish, I could go back and make the decision 20 years earlier to be a full time blues artist. While I appreciate the time, I spent playing rock and country, as it helped to shape me into the artist I am, I wish I had made the choice sooner.  I was messing around playing cover gigs for over 20 years, when I could have been making my own music during a time when the music industry was healthier.

Truth: This is a hard question, because the genre that I love the most really had no place in its inception for a white girl from California singing the blues.  Understandably so. I would have loved to have seen the great women in blues of the past like Billie Holiday, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Memphis Minnie, Big Mama Thornton and the list goes on. One day would not allow me enough time. I’m honored to humbly continue in their very impressive footsteps.

Interview by Michael Limnios

Photos by Moses Sparks

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Interview with Hurricane Ruth: Good Life’s Soundtrack: Video, Photos

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Interview with powerhouse vocalist Hurricane Ruth: new album “GOOD LIFE” will be released on APRIL 17, deeply rooted in traditional blues, but make no mistake, she can rock the house.

How has the Blues, Country and Rock Counterculture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

They’ve been the soundtrack to my life. They’ve had a profound impact on who I am. I’ve always been a rebel.

How do you describe Hurricane Ruth sound, music philosophy and songbook? Where does your creative drive come from?

The music I write and perform is a combination of the music I grew up listening to: blues, honky tonk, outlaw, rock, soul/funk, jazz, Dixieland, and big band. I cut my musical teeth on all of these genres. Each one impacted me both creatively, as a songwriter, and stylistically, as a performer. I prefer to crossover many musical boundaries. My creative drive comes from stories/comments from family, friends, and society. It also comes from rhythms and melodies that I hear. Something will resonate with me or sparks in my mind and I have to immediately write it down or sing it into my phone.

Are there any memories from “Good Life” studio sessions which you’d like to share? What touched (emotionally) you?

Recording the song, Good Life, was very difficult for me. The song is based on a conversation I had with my mother about a year before she passed away. I asked her many deep and pointed questions about her life, what she would have done differently, and if she feared her “judgment day”. During the first pass of recording my vocals, I started thinking about my mom and her passing. I was overcome with emotion. Needless to say, I had to take a break and regroup emotionally before I continued recording my vocal.

Which acquaintances have been the most important experiences? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?

I’ve been very blessed to have met some incredible people at my shows. They have become my friends. I’ve received great advice from many different sources. There are a couple of gems that stay with me. My mom told me to, “Fight for your dreams and do what you love.” My dad, who was a fantastic drummer and musician, told me, “Every time you step on a stage, give it your absolute best. Never take it for granted.” Willie Dixon told me, “Hurricane Ruth! That name fits you. Never get rid of it. It’ll serve you well.”

What do you miss most nowadays from the blues of past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

I miss the rawness and simplicity of the blues of the past. No trendy labels or boxes(blues rock, country blues, soul blues, gospel blues, etc.) to try and explain what it was. It was simply, the blues. My hope is that it will continue to evolve and grow.

What does to be a female artist in a “Man’s World” as James Brown says? What is the status of women in Blues?

It is the 21st century, right? It’s unfortunate that we still have to discuss this subject, and yet; here we are. Yes, women still have to elbow their way in for a seat at the music table. Yes, women still hear this comment from festival talent buyers, “Thanks for your interest, but I already have my one female act. I’ll keep you in mind for next year.” Yes, women’s music still is played less frequently on radio stations. Yes, there are still fewer female talent buyers, female owned booking agencies, and female owned management agencies.

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in music paths?

There will always be people who don’t like you or your music. Persevere through the criticism and harsh critique. Diligently practice your craft. Be true to yourself.

What is the impact of American Roots music on the socio-cultural implications? How do you want it to affect people?

Without American Roots music, there would be no blues music. The blues has given birth to many different genres. It all comes from the same DNA, the same lineage. We are all the same, in that sense.

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?

I would love to time travel back to 1967 to the Monterey Pop Festival. I would love to seeJanis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and Otis Redding perform. I would also like to time travel back to 1965 Chicago, IL to hear Big Mama Thornton, John Lee Hooker, Willie Dixon, Buddy Guy, and Muddy Waters in one big jam session. I’d love to sit down at a big table with them, have a couple of drinks, and just listen to them talk.

Interview by Michael Limnios

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Interview with Sass Jordan: Rebel Moon Blues: Video, Photos

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Interview with Canadian vocalist Sass Jordan: a pioneer of powerful, gritty female-fronted rock and blues performer released her album “Rebel Moon Blues”.

How has the Blues and Rock Counterculture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

I would say that those things gave me a outlet to express myself, and to know that I am not alone – and an opportunity to make others feel less alone. Music is a very healing thing, and it crosses all kinds of barriers, be they cultural or geographical.

How do you describe your sound and songbook? What characterize new album’s music philosophy?

I don’t describe my sound … I let other people do that! I have no idea, really. I just sound like me, to me. The new album’s musical philosophy is to interpret the love and joy that I want to transmit, and have a fantastic time doing it!

Which meetings have been the most important experiences? Are there any memories from gigs and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

I think one of the most important meetings in my life recently is getting to work with David Bowie’s piano player, Mike Garson, who is like a mentor to me on many levels. Also, working with some of my childhood idols, like Joe Cocker, and Steve Miller.

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

I don’t really miss anything – I think music is timeless in a lot of cases. The most important thing to me in music is the energy and intention of the people playing it.

Make an account of the case of Rock n’ Blues in Canada. Which is the most interesting period in local scene?

I’m not sure that there was any one period in particular. There are always interesting things going on, you just have to find them. Also, I don’t necessarily see music as having geographical borders.

What touched (emotionally) you from Janis’ music and life? What does to be a female artist in a Man’s World as James Brown says? What is the status of women in music?

Interestingly enough, I was never really a fan of Janis Joplin – but after I did the show of her life, I gained a huge respect and admiration for what she was dealing with, and her emotional intensity. Being a female in rock music has never been particularly easy, because it is not something that has ever been hugely popular on a large scale. I think the more aggressive nature of rock has always been more acceptable as a man, although that is changing now.  Women have a far greater presence and status now than they ever did before.

What is the impact of Blues and Rock music and culture on the racial, political and socio-cultural implications?

That is difficult for me to say, as I can’t say if it was the influence of the music, or if it was the other way around. People have always used art forms as a way to comment on the culture of the day, and music is an excellent way to do it.

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?

WOW – cool question!!! But SO HARD to choose! I think I would love to go to the future, say the year 3000, and see what is going on musically in that time frame!!

Interview by Michael Limnios

Photos by Gernot Mangold & Derek Sharp

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CD review: Rhoda Scott – Movin’Blues 2020: Video, CD cover

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The eldest daughter of an American pastor, Rhoda Scott was immersed in the atmosphere of gospels throughout her childhood.

Passionate about the Hammond organ, The Barefoot Lady was quickly fascinated by jazz and its bluesy swing: “I first knew religious music and then jazz”. She has around fifty records to her credit.

Arrived in France in 1968, she played for many years in duet with a drummer. This was followed by Daniel Humair, Franco Manzecchi and Félix Simtaine. In 2009, she recorded Soul Sisters with singer La Velle and, in 2011, Rock my boat, with David Linx and André Ceccarelli. Recently, it was with her Lady Quartet that she played, recording We free Queens (nod to We free kings by Roland Kirk), with Sophie Alour (ts), Lise Cat Berro (as) and Anne Paceo (dm).

For Movin’Blues, she returns to her old loves: the duo with drums. She is here accompanied by Thomas Derouisseau, young drummer who we discovered in Liège for the West Side Story Medley project.

Here she chooses an eclectic repertoire: the spiritual Let my people go (Go down Moses), Caravan by Juan Tizol, Come Sunday by Duke Ellington, Honeysuckle Rose by Fats Waller and Watch what happens by Michel Legrand, without forgetting one or the other references to the blues: Movin’Blues, Blue Law, Blues at Pinthière.

We find all the magic of the Hammond organ, its bluesy swing, its low notes played with the feet: “I sing with my instrument: it breathes in me.”

A nice cover but a small gap: the list of titles does not specify the names of the composers.

Born in the United States, Rhoda Scott, the eldest daughter of a traveling pastor, grew up, she recalls, in the atmosphere of the small black churches with the accents of gospels and spirituals. In France, she also held the organ for forty years in her parish of Perche: “I sing with my instrument. He breathes in me. I’m faithful to it I first knew religious music and then jazz “, “God can encompass all styles of music” she says. Passionate about Bach’s works, she has established herself as the ambassador of the Hammond organ popularized by artists like Jimmy Smith. Mastery, energy and thick timbres, Rhoda Scott remains the living myth of the Hammond organ. Encircled by two monumental Leslie cabins and B3 controllers, she hops with a smile to groove his keyboards by ensuring a swing “bluesy”, airy and hard-hitting … With fifty records to his credit, concerts at the Olympia and in the most prestigious festivals, Rhoda Scott returns with his new “Movin ‘Blues” to his first love the drum organ duo that made his success and his trademark. The Barefoot Lady is back!

The Barefoot Lady is back! After a first album success with the Rhoda Scott Lady Quartet “We free queens” and more than 100 dates of concerts around the world, the adventure continues. Far from being sparse and reserved for initiates, her music is rich, dense, groovy, like Rhoda Scott’s generosity. As a tightrope walker, she gives the Hammond organ its full dimension, respecting the great tradition of jazz and blues in a special duet with drums that has been her hallmark all along her career. Her audience will enjoy this homecoming.

01. Blue Law (4:12)
02. Movin’Blues (5:16)
03. Come Sunday (5:13)
04. Blues at the Pinthière (5:43)
05. Caravan (5:51)
06. Dans ma vie (3:53)
07. Honeysuckle Rose (4:42)
08. Watch What Happens (5:37)
09. I’m Looking for a Miracle (6:55)
10. Let My People Go (6:35)
11. Prière (5:24)
12. Yes Indeed (3:44)
13. Fais comme l’oiseau (3:35)
14. In a Sentimental Mood (4:54)

Rhoda Scott, organ Hammond B3
Thomas Derouineau, drums

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Interview with Katy Hobgood Ray: The Dream Of Music: Video, Photos

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Interview with Blues/Roots musician and writer, Katy Hobgood Ray: The softer side to the music that comes up from the Delta.

How has the Southern Roots music influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

Growing up, you never realize that your own personal culture is unique and special, until you go away for a while and start missing it. I took for granted how music was so much a part of my everyday life in Louisiana. My mom, the church pianist, was always practicing hymns and standards in the living room. Dad was a sax player in the town band, and he’d warm up on jazz licks. And family reunions always featured several generations of relatives gathered around a campfire, singing old folk and country songs under the stars. It wasn’t until I was grown that I realized how special that musical camaraderie within my family was. I fiercely appreciate it now. All those songs are imprinted on me—and I carry that music with me wherever I go. Because of music, I will always know who I am and where I come from.

How do you describe your songbook and sound? Where does your creative drive come from?

I think my sound is country/folk, because I tend to try to write melodies to accommodate my lyrics, rather than the other way around. I tend to use fairly basic chords structures with minimal changes. My creative drive comes from a compulsion to express my emotions. I use music to express joy, and to process trauma, and to heal myself. I would write music even if no one ever heard it, because it is in the process of writing a song that I can release my grief, anger, and confusion. And through singing a song I can lift up my heart to shout out my passion, joy, and relief. I also rather enjoy making up little ditties about mundane life. Like while brushing my kid’s unruly mop of hair, I sing: “Don’t brush the ears. Don’t brush the ears. Don’t brush the ears, and there will be no tears.” Music makes it better.

What do you learn about yourself from making children’s music? What is the hardest part and how do you want it to affect?

Making songs for children has been a joy, and it got me out of my own head as a songwriter. As a young girl I wrote songs about unrequited love and breakups—mostly relationship stuff. Writing for children, I started observing life around me—colorful street scenes and New Orleans characters such as the Roman Candy man and Mr. Okra—and I’ve realized how much I like writing songs about these external things. I have discovered that I much prefer performing these kinds of songs before an audience, more than I do all the deeply personal songs. I can’t help but be sincere, so if I am singing a song about a broken heart, you can bet I went through it with some cruel fellow. But I can sincerely sing about how much I like snoballs and sunny days, too! I hope that other people find joy in my children’s music. I hope it lifts people’s spirits.

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

I miss the wonderful intricate melodies and clever lyrics of the Great American Songbook, the era when Dorothy Fields, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, and so forth were writing. What a terrific era of popular music, songwriting and craft! I wonder if people are writing that way today, but we just don’t hear it on the radio?

What touched (emotionally) you from the NOLA blues scene? What characterize the sound of Louisiana’s blues scene?

New Orleans is a city that is full of music. Of all kinds. Music pours out of the doorways, drifts out of balcony windows, floats along the river banks, tumbles down the stoop steps. It could be a lone guitar player in an alcove, a gospel choir at the neighborhood church, a marching band from the high school down the block, a piano teacher next door, an electric blues band at the corner bar, a calliope on the riverboat, the bells of the Catholic cathedral, the praline man calling as he sells his candy from his bicycle cart. No matter. The music calls to me and fills me with such emotion, that I feel constantly alive and my senses are excited by being a part of the city.

What touched (emotionally) you from Leadbelly? Why Leadbelly’s music legacy matter important today?

When I was growing up, we would sing Lead Belly’s songs in school or around the campfire, or I would hear them on the radio… “Midnight Special,” “Irene Goodnight,” “In the Pines,” “Black Betty,” “Cotton Fields,” and so on. I NEVER knew they were written by Lead Belly, or that these songs were even written by someone from north Louisiana. He wasn’t celebrated or known by most people. Imagine my surprise when years later, in Minnesota of all places, while in college, I learned about Lead Belly and learned that all these songs were by someone from my area of the country. His contribution to the canon of American music is huge! I feel proud to be from the same place. When I returned back home from college, I connected with a group of Shreveport musicians who were working to bring some attention to Lead Belly from the city. They had gotten a statue of him erected along Texas Street, right by the public library, in 1994. Now, we do what we can best do to honor him: we sing his songs. Every year in October, we meet at his grave and honor his legacy with music. Sometimes a lot of people come out to join us, and sometimes it’s just a few of us. We are now doing this over 25 years! How special! It is like a family reunion… we all bond through the music of Lead Belly. Huddie Ledbetter through his music is still bringing people together.

What is the impact of Blues music and culture to the racial, political, and socio-cultural implications?

This is a big question. Blues music reflects the feelings of the people who create it, and the feelings and conditions and situations shared by other people of the same culture. Making blues music and listening to it is a way for people to process the challenges they face. Whether it’s a tragedy inflicted by man or nature, whether it’s an injustice political or romantic, whether it’s world weariness or isolation or boredom or rage or grief or lust, blues music can wrap it up and express it. Within the words and the strains of music, there are all the emotions a human being feels, complex and layered and complicated, yet put forth in a framework of 12 bars and three chords. Blues music is real. People who appreciate blues music — people who really connect with it—are dealing with it. You hear a lot these days about passive music consumption, but if you’re really moved by the blues, you’re being an active listener. You’re feeling it. You’re dealing with these very real feelings caused by real life. Blues music is important.

What does to be a female artist in a “Man’s World” as James Brown says? What is the status of women in music?

Well, just sticking to the facts. In 2019 Northwestern University released a study showing how underrepresented women are in the music industry. Out of nearly 5,000 record labels in the study’s data set, only one third have ever signed at least one female artist. Another study by the University of Southern California that compiled data from 2012-2018 showed that the gender ratio of male producers to female music producers is 47 to 1. It also showed that of the 899 individuals who have been nominated for the last six Grammy ceremonies, 90.7 percent were men and 9.3 percent were women. So, I guess it’s pretty hard to be a woman trying to “make it” in music, commercially speaking.

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?

It would be fantastic to go back in time to the Jazz Age, and hear the scandalous new sounds of “jass” music that was deemed a menace to society. I would specifically choose to go back to the 1920s, to meet my great-great uncle Snoozer Quinn, who was a pioneer of jazz guitar, in the earliest part of his career. He played with the Paul Whiteman Orchestra, jammed with Louis Armstrong and Bix Beiderbecke, recorded in Memphis at the Peabody Hotel with Mart Britt, recorded solo guitar in 1928 for Victor records, played country music with Jimmie Davis, and was sought after by Bing Crosby and Les Paul! I have so many questions I want to ask him. I have so many mysteries I want to solve.

What kind of banjo did you play? Four string or five string? How does one play violin with a bell attached to it? How did you learn to play guitar? Who were your childhood influences? Were you listening to the black jazz bands that traveled up to Bogalusa from New Orleans, like Buddy Petit’s Jazz Band? Were you listening to Delta blues guitar players? Did you ever hear Robert Johnson in person? How about Big Bill Broonzy? How did you tune? How did your unique sound all come together? What was it like traveling in tent shows? WHERE ARE YOUR MISSING VICTOR RECORDINGS?

I would LOVE to hear Snoozer play in person. Supposedly he was so good he could play three parts on guitar at once—bass, melody, and rhythm. And he could do it all while shaking your hand. And he played with Peck Kelley, too, another mysterious musician. So many greats I could check out if I went back in time! Here is my website about Snoozer.com.

Interview by Michael Limnios

Photos by Sally Asher

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Interview with Rae Gordon: Blues and Soul Experiences: Video, Photos

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Interview with Oregon-based singer/songwriter Rae Gordon: serves up a potent stew of gritty blues and heartfelt soul – soaring vocals with searing guitar counterpoint, high-energy horns and a hard-driving rhythm section with the power of a freight train.

How has Blues and Soul music influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

I love how music can make strangers into friends. Music brings people together from different generations and backgrounds and can be a relationship healer. I’ve seen for myself that people can connect with each other on a deeper level using music as a conduit. I have always loved the lyrics of blues and soul songs; they offer some of the deepest and moving words that evoke real feelings in the listener. Recognizing yourself in a song can help you feel not so alone anymore.  When I’m onstage singing one of my original songs and I see someone in the audience singing along to it, maybe thinking, “Yeah, me too” – there’s nothing as sweet as that!

How do you describe your sound and songbook? Where does your creative drive come from?

The sound of our band is always swaying back and forth between blues and soul, often creating a potent mix of the two. We try to be fun, danceable, emotional, gritty – but always focusing on a strong groove and attitude. For the songs on our new CD, “Wrong Kind Of Love,” we wanted to deliver a lot of different styles, the same way we do in a live performance. So, we put a lowdown barroom blues on there, a funk tune, a soulful ballad, a slide-drenched uptempo song – the whole range.

My drive to create comes out of my life experiences and having something to say about what I’ve been through. I used to feel like I needed to prove something, but more and more now I realize that I have just as much to say as anybody else, and that my stories are worth telling. So, I try to tell them, and with the songs on “Wrong Kind Of Love” we tried to maybe go deeper and more thoughtful than we had on previous albums.

Are there any memories from gigs, jams, opening acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

In 2017, our band found ourselves on the stage of the historic Orpheum Theatre in Memphis during the International Blues Challenge finals. We’d spent three days watching incredible performances by acts from all over the world in both intimate and big venues on and around the renowned Beale Street. We made new friends, became new fans and experienced the wonderful camaraderie of a community that knows no borders. It was a surreal experience, and placing 3rd is a memory that I will cherish forever – not just because I got to perform in front of an international crowd, but also because I got to experience it with some of the best bandmates I have ever worked with.

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of music?

I hear from local musicians who started in the profession way earlier than I did that they once could make a really good living. They owned homes, had families and were full-time musicians. These days, though, most people say that you can’t do only music and still survive; you have to supplement it with other work. A bass player friend of mine calls it the “crazy musician quilt” – odd jobs patched together so that you can afford to do your music. It would be great if local musicians could make ends meet solely by playing music. I’m grateful for my own “crazy musician quilt” to be able to do this as my main living, but I hope that in the future there will be more opportunities to do solely music and survive.

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

I really wish that music got as much emphasis in our schools as math and language do. When I was in elementary school, music class really grabbed my attention and I enjoyed it so much, but then the school decided to discontinue the music program and I was so disappointed. As a result, I ended up embracing music much later in life. I know that there are a lot of passionate people working hard to bring music back into the schools, and I’m grateful for the kids who do get to discover the magic of music earlier on.

What does it mean to be a female artist in a “Man’s World,” as James Brown says? What is the status of women in music?

Well, women are frequently at a disadvantage compared to men, and the music industry is no exception. There are unfortunate stereotypes about female singers and players, it’s tougher for women to get signed, festivals often don’t book many female artists, things like that. But in the blues world, we’re lucky to have advocates who help showcase women in blues locally, nationally and internationally. I became a board member of the National Women in Blues organization last year. I was so inspired by Portland musician and club owner Sonny Hess and her work to support and showcase Oregon women in blues that when the opportunity came from Michele Seidman at the national level, I took it!  Don’t forget, we also have had tough, courageous icons like Etta James, Koko Taylor, Big Mama Thornton and so many others who really blazed trails and showed us how to get it done. So, I’m inspired by their success, and then I look at younger artists like Annika Chambers, Shemekia Copeland, Lisa Mann, Samantha Fish, Terrie Odabi, so many others I admire – and I feel like things are just getting better and better for us all. I’m proud to be part of that trend. It may have been a “Man’s World,” but “it wouldn’t be nothing, nothing without a woman or a girl!”

How would you describe the state of the blues in Oregon? What characterize the sound of the local scene?

The Portland, Oregon blues scene has an amazing variety of players, people who are great at traditional blues, contemporary, soul music, R&B, funk – they’re all here. Our blues community has such a solid reputation that we see a lot of top-notch players relocating here from out of state to be part of the scene. Any night of the week you can find a good music act to dance to at multiple venues in the Portland metro area; and if you need inspiration, the professional blues dancers of our community can often be found on the dance floors of small and large venues.  But most importantly, our blues community is made up of good-hearted people who welcomed me when I first moved here and helped me find my musical footing in the Northwest. When I travel out of state, I frequently meet musicians who tell me the great things they’ve heard about the Portland blues scene. Maybe it’s something in the rain?

What are some of the most important you have learned from your experiences in your musical paths?

The biggest lesson that I learned in my musical path is that I don’t walk it alone. I wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing and living my dreams without people who took the time from their own experiences to share with me and help me learn and grow. And I’m always learning.

What is the impact of Blues and Soul music and culture on racial, political and socio-cultural situations?

Commenting on something like this can take you into pretty sensitive territory, but I would just say this: People are feeling a lot of strong emotions these days, and there’s a lot of division and very negative commentary over current events. We tried to touch on this a bit with the song “Get Right With The World” on our new CD; it talks about the importance of taking action over the things that matter to you instead of only talking about them. There’s an emphasis on acting NOW and coming to terms with the world: “Reach out a hand to those who can use it; live your life before you lose it.” I go back to what I said earlier about how music can be a healing force, and a way for people to come together over a common love for what moves and inspires them. That’s what we’re trying to do as musicians.

Let’s take a trip with a time machine – where would you really want to go for a whole day, and why?

There is a video out there of Janis Joplin singing “Ball and Chain” at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967.  It’s a gut-wrenching, emotional roller coaster of a performance that you can see and sense from her head down to her toes. It was a pure example of everybody in on it, from the audience to stage, one big ride everyone is on together. I wish I had been born early enough to be there. But Janis’ performance isn’t why I want to be there. It’s Mama Cass Elliot sitting in the audience with her mouth wide open, unable to contain her amazement. Look it up and check it out. I would love to board that time machine and hang with Cass.  How cool to experience the moment when a musical legend become an über-fan!

Interview by Michael Limnios

Photos by Alex McDougall

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Interview with Janiva Magness: Truth, Hope and Protest: Photos, Live full concert video 2019

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Interview with Grammy nominated artist Janiva Magness: new album “Change in the Weather: Janiva Magness Sings John Fogerty” is at the nexus of re-invention and tradition. “We are strong and solid as women in the Blues. I find many very talented women coming thru the ranks and find this very hopeful.”

With her new Change in the Weather: Janiva Magness Sings John Fogerty (2019), the Grammy®-nominated artist is at the nexus of re-invention and tradition. The album, released by Blue Élan Records, reframes 12 songs curated from the Creedence Clearwater Revival leader’s catalog in Magness’ soaring, soul-centered style. It also places her within the lineage of classic singers who have made albums devoted to exploring the work of a single writer within the Great American Songbook – a process that has yielded such historic recordings as Sarah Vaughan Sings George Gershwin and Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Cole Porter Songbook. A seven-time Blues Music Award winner, Magness has more than earned her right to sing the blues. Her life story comes straight out of a blues song. As she recounts in her soon-to-be-published memoir, she was born in Detroit, and among the fondest memories of her childhood were the sounds of her father’s blues and country record collection. Childhood was short lived for Magness, however; as an adolescent she lost both parents to suicide. She spent the next several years bouncing around the foster care system, a traumatic experience that inspired her adult advocacy involvement with a variety of foster care programs. As a young woman, her life was seemingly spiraling out of control. She was saved one night in Minneapolis when, underage, she snuck into a show by bluesman Otis Rush. She started down the path of a music career, working as a recording engineer before being coaxed out in front of a microphone as a backup singer and finally forming her own group in Arizona.

He has become her key songwriting foil and is the primary architect of the album’s gorgeous textural sound, which blends acoustic and electric instruments, flourishes of Latin percussion, horns and an enlightened approach to the studio to create perfect settings for her vocal prowess. And there’s more than range and craft to Magness’ voice. Her singing rings with sincerity. Since launching her career with 1992’s More Than Live, she has grown to become an accomplished storyteller and diviner of the heart, allowing songs like the title track, “Doorway” and “Say You Will” to reveal life’s potent truths. Magness explores her own turbulent youth, her rise to stardom and more in her just-finished, yet-untitled memoir—a book that took three years to write and has already inspired an in-the-works musical. Today Janiva Magness is one of the most beloved figures in the Americana, blues and roots music world. She’s reached a larger and more diverse audience with each succeeding album and developed a reputation as a live entertainer that’s made her a staple of the international festival circuit.

How has the Blues and Rock Counterculture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

The Blues culture has had a deep and profound influence on my world simply because it is the music of the common man and woman. The working man and woman. The culture of the music itself has helped me understand in a deeply personal way that I am not alone in my struggle to survive and ultimately thrive against the odds.

Rock has had considerably less of an influence on me personally although I was exposed at a young age to the Rolling Stones, The Beatles, and some earlier rock bands like Led Zepplin. It is important to recognize of course these bands were greatly influenced by earlier blues music and musicians. Strangely for a young girl at age 14 years old I was far more interested Blues than any other music. That turned out to be great fortune in my case. Lucky me!

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your paths in music circuits?

To stay true to the music one must be true to themselves. Otherwise there is no connection between the music and audience. It becomes meaningless without that connection. And also, that persistence is critical. Keep pushing! Stay connected to the audience through the music!

How do you describe Janiva Magness sound and songbook? What characterize your music philosophy?

Blues, Memphis and Detroit Funkified Soul grooves and beautiful ballads. Tell the truth. Bring yourself to the music. The music is the vehicle, the job is connection.

What were the reasons that you started the Americana, Blues and Roots music researches and experiments?                                   Photo by Margaret Malandruccolo

Primarily as a way of spreading my wings creatively I suppose.  I was not thinking of it as an experiment as much as a stretching, creatively. And incorporating the latter musical influences which also encompass soul and funk as well as folk music. Then of course the writing began to come thru, and I believe the writing of new material, new songs is very important to the continuation of the music. I also believe it is very important to note that the “words” are simply that. Words that are used to define and quantify a craft. To quantify art so people can yes, find it possibly more accessible to the masses. However it can also be very confining and ultimately can do damage or even choke the music itself if we are not careful with how much importance we place on these “genre labels”. At the end of the day – at least to me the job is about connection. The vehicle is the music and I am grateful to be a part of the exchange with audiences. I consider it a blessing to be a musician – on most days.

What were the reasons that you started John Fogerty and CCR’s music researches and experiments?

I had covered a John Fogerty song – As Long As I Can See The Light only Grammy nominated album titled Love Wins Again and it was super fun to sing and reminded me of what a great writer Fogerty is. And doing a covers release gave me the mental bandwidth to also focus on finishing my Memoir – Weeds Like Us. Voila! Twins!

What would you say characterizes Fogerty’s songs in comparison to other American songwriters?

He has a great simplicity that is inherent in many of the greatest songwriters. Plus he straddles the Mason-Dixon line really well. Blues/Americana greasy flavors across the board. I love that stuff!

Why do you think that John Forgety and CCR music continues to generate such a devoted following?

Because he is just a stone great writer/artist! Because he was and still is writing about things that matter to regular working-class people. He seems to be unafraid to speak the truth in his writing and we need the truth more than ever before in times like these!

What touched (emotionally) you from Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, George Gershwin, and Cole Porter?

Personally, my favorite Ella Fitzgerald material is her earliest where she was doing very LITTLE vocal-ease. SO pure and simple and deeply moving. Gershwin and Porter are great writers and often write about the basic human experience in some very lush musical landscapes. It’s lovely!

“To stay true to the music one must be true to themselves. Otherwise there is no connection between the music and audience. It becomes meaningless without that connection. And also, that persistence is critical. Keep pushing! Stay connected to the audience through the music!”

Do you consider the Blues a specific music genre and artistic movement or do you think it’s a state of mind?

Well I think it is all of those things. The music business has quantified it as a genre, but those genre titles change over time. Originally the music business called bliss Folk music! Then rhythm & blues, now Blues. I do think to authentically write or perform Blues music one has to have or at least had the state of mind at one point in their lives.

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your paths in music circuits?

To stay true to the music one must be true to themselves. Otherwise there is no connection between the music and audience. It becomes meaningless without that connection. And also, that persistence is critical. Keep pushing! Stay connected to the audience through the music!

How has the Foster Care Alumni influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

Tremendously. It is impossible to articulate all of this to you but I can say that without the right placement in the Foster Care system I would have surely not have survived myself or the world.  As far as I am concerned I have the debt that cannot be repaid. So, my obligation and honor are to pay it forward as best I can. Our families are not always born of blood.

How important is the activism in your life and music? What is your dream and nightmare?

Very important on both fronts. My dream is to work less and earn more. My dream is for time to garden and a place to do that. A home that no one can force me to leave. Time with my husband a house pets. Peaceful nights and days. Time to do all the yoga I please!

My nightmare is a world in conflict that never ends. My nightmare is others suffering and being unable to help. My nightmare is not being able to take care of myself and suffering.

“Very important on both fronts. My dream is to work less and earn more. My dream is for time to garden and a place to do that. A home that no one can force me to leave. Time with my husband a house pets. Peaceful nights and days. Time to do all the yoga I please! (Photo by Margaret Malandruccolo)

What´s been the highlights in your life and career so far?

SO many it is difficult to count. Meeting Koko Taylor and her embracing me as an artist and friend. Taking a huge risk to begin to write songs and then stepping out onto a stage and seeing the audience mouth the words to my songs as I sing them! Being acknowledged by the Blues Foundation and given accolades for my work thru them including B.B. King Entertainer of the Year award given to me by B.B. King himself. Traveling so many places in the world to play my music including Mumbai India this year! I am STILL waiting to be asked to come to Greece and perform… Being nominated in the 2017 Grammy Awards for Best Contemporary Blues Album for Love Wins Again. Because I take my work so personally, this is priceless stuff to me.

What has made you laugh and what touched (emotionally) you from Otis Rush, BB King, and Koko Taylor?

All three had such raw passion for their craft and during performance. Otis had unbridled intensity to his playing. Energy that was truly wild to me. BB King had an ease and sophistication that compared to none. Koko was intense and joyful and very funny.

How do you describe your 2018 album “Love Is An Army” songbook and sound? Are there any memories from studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

It is a collection of original songs that we hope encourage and inspire others to stand and speak their truth. To stand up for other people in need. The world is in much trouble these days and the only way to get through these troubling times that I know of is to do that TOGETHER. We have greater power than we imagine and there is great strength in numbers. Wonderful feeling overall that there was a great synergy happening while we were recording it. This was true of not just the musicians but also the engineers and all there. It was a lovely time.

What does “Love” mean to you?

The taproot of the soul. the place we connect with each other internally and the reason for life is to manifest this in all its many ways. Through connection, through art, through being of service to another in need.

“It is one of the greatest modern musical art forms that introduced African American early cultures to the wider world and therefore has resonated beyond time – therefore influenced all modern musical genres from that point moving forward.” (Photo: Janiva Magness & B.B. King)

Which acquaintances have been the most important experiences? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?

Certainly Otis Rush, BB King, Koko Taylor and Carrie – my final Foster Mother. Keep trying. Never give up. No prisoners taken.

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

I miss the majority of musicians really respecting their craft and the history of the music. I would love to see more of that and less popular TALENT shows that focus on fame and more focus on the CRAFT of being a musician. I hope to continue to make records and play live, to more people as long as I am wanted. My fears of course are for some reason having to stop playing music which would leave me heartbroken.

What are the lines that connect the legacy of Blues with Soul and continue to Roots and Rock music?

Blues is a great America art form that was originating from field hollers of slaves and gospel music. That music then developed into a variation of styles moving forward. However all of this is tap rooted in the survival of peoples that came thru great struggle and hardship. THIS to me is why Blues in its many forms is so universal in its message and connection to the masses of the world. That became much more commercial when it was electrified and then performed by a white audience (Rock and Roll).

Why do you think that the American Roots music continues to generate such a devoted following?

That to me is very simple. American Roots music – as a broader umbrella of a category is the largest growing category of music today.  This is music that is focused largly on the songs (the stories) of other people, played on real instruments by real musicians. This is an experience that I believe we all crave whether we realize this or not. Because music is such a powerful medium. It speaks to the place where there are no words. I have always needed that kind of dialogue, like millions of other people. People want to hear songs with depth and meaning. Something personal to them to relate to and help carry us thru the day, week or month. American Roots music encompasses the elements of folk, blues, soul, bluegrass and early country music allowing for these kind of experiences.

“The Blues culture has had a deep and profound influence on my world simply because it is the music of the common man and woman. The working man and woman.”

What do you learn about yourself from the blues music and culture? What does the blues mean to you?

I have learned that Blues music knows no boundaries of race, religion or finance and that it will take all who embrace it as a healing force. It is home and it has held me for many years for which I am eternally grateful.

How do you describe your previous BLUE AGAIN (2017) EP sound and songbook? What characterize album’s philosophy?

This is a return to my taproot in sound and song selections. It is raw and right. My Producer Dave Darling and I, for some time now have talked about making a recording that represents a return to the taproot for me as an artist. The opportunity came this year and so we jumped on it. To make a very potent and to the point recording of some of my personal favorite traditional style Blues songs by some of my favorite artists. Then we thought we should add a few guests for fun so I asked Kid Ramos, Sugaray Rayford and TJ Norton to help us out. I think it worked out very well – yes?

What has made you laugh and what touched (emotionally) you from BLUE AGAIN studio sessions?

Laughing lately has been difficult. The world is in such troubling times. I have had to resort to cartoons and The Muppetts. Silly things and videos of animals that are fun to watch which helps lighten my mind for a moment or two. The sessions for Blue Again were very “live” and in that way where we played the songs a few times and hit the RED button to record and voila! The music was largely made. I am grateful for my band  – Gaary Davenport on Bass, Zach Zunis and Garrett Deloian on Guitars and Matt Tecu on Drums – all who play on the record and my Producer Dave Darling of course as well as the help from our dear friend Arlan Schierbaum on Hammond organ and various piano and Wurlitzer type instruments. Then as I already mentioned the special guests. It was a fantastic and very live experience and I am moved by how quickly it came together and the joy in playing the music itself.

What moment changed your life the most?

Hahaha! I wish it was a simple as one moment. There have been a series of miracles. True miracles in my life that have changed my heart and mind for the better. Countless gifts that have brought me to the place I am in now which is mostly joy and peacefulness. Music is certainly one of those!

“I have learned that Blues music knows no boundaries of race, religion or finance and that it will take all who embrace it as a healing force.” (Photo: Janiva & The Blues Connection, 1980)

What does to be a female artist in a “Man World” as James Brown says? What is the status of women in Blues?

Work twice as hard, be twice as smart and do not take other people’s problems personally (their sexism) is not MY problem, even though they may try to make it so. We are strong and solid as women in the Blues. I find many very talented women coming thru the ranks and find this very hopeful.

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

That music would be reinstated into ALL early schooling programs as a requirement.

What is the impact of Blues and Soul music and culture to the racial, political and socio-cultural implications?

It is one of the greatest modern musical art forms that introduced African American early cultures to the wider world and therefore has resonated beyond time – therefore influenced all modern musical genres from that point moving forward.

What is the biggest revolution which can be realized today? What do you think the major changes will be in near or far future of the world?

We all need music more than ever before. These are very troubling times every where in the world. My hope is that we are able to rise up and overcome these issues we are all so concerned with for our lives and the future of children and grand childrens lives. The environment and the world economy. The quality of living we can access, healthcare, many many things we need to join together and rise up to help each other and fight the corporate greed that is a sickness in this world we live in. I believe we can do this, but we must join together in cause.

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?

Greece. For several months please!! With my husband and on tour for some of that time. Truly Greece is one of the two places I long to be before my end of life. I have great hope for this.

Interview by Michael Limnios

Photos by Paul Moore

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Interview with Angel Forrest: Blues will take over for the empty music: Video, Photos

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Interview with Canadian energic vocalist Angel Forrest: stays true to her country and blues roots.

How has the Blues and Rock counterculture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

I have always been a 60’s child … born to late. I have much older siblings and have been raised listening to blues and late 60’s and 70’s music.  The influences from that time run deep. I time when expressing yourself fully was a good thing. I have always made music that is real to me at that moment in my life…whether it be blues, rock, country…or folk or in another language even. I am not one to kneel to pressure of any kind. So, my decision making is not always informed with what is expected of me. And that goes not only in music but life period.

How do you describe your songbook and sound? Where does your creative drive come from?

I have a varied songbook… Blues is the way I express myself … because it’s freeing and spiritual almost to me. No matter the style of record I make there is always that thread of blues through it all. Life is an incredible canvas of influences…

Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

After 32 years on the road and 11 albums …you can be sure there are stories…but the same one repeats its self…and that is making music with friends and it taking us to a level of bliss fulness not found anywhere else….

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

The music I am exposed to today … I find lacks depth and heart. Like most of what’s going in in the world … I fear the loss of human connection. Hopefully the Blues will take over for the empty music we are feed on commercial radio. People are hungry to feel and be moved.

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

Digital … computer music! Return to making music with old school instruments … reel to reel … experience live music!!

What touched (emotionally) you from the local Canadian blues scene? What characterize the sound of?

Canadian Blues has a very international sound…I love this blues society for it’s diverse sound and the true camaraderie of the players … very supportive and respectful of each other.

What does to be a female artist in a “Man’s World” as James Brown says? What is the status of women in music?

I don’t see nor feel a difference … we all kick ass!

What is the impact of Blues music to the socio-cultural implications? What is the legacy of Janis Joplin’s music?

I have always believed that the ones who make the decisions of who hears what and where … are frightened of music that stirs people up emotionally. Meanwhile those that don’t buy into the pop culture are working very hard to keep blues music alive … and slowly but surely a younger generation of listeners is getting a taste of this freedom music … we just have to help nurture the next generation.

Janis sang from her guts … her heart … she felt every note and sent it off to the listener to absorb. People are never forgotten when you have been touched emotionally by them.

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?

Woodstock 1969 … The last day when all the electric acts played … I am so influenced by the artists and their music … I would love to experience all the magic that day possessed!

Interview by Michael Limnios

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