2 I :1
Lets It Burn with passion, integrity & spirit
singing with soul The Scorch Sisters Damon Fowler Grady Champion
These Kids Are Alright
letterfrom the editor the Delta fold. I am honored to be a part of the region that influenced all types of music from bluegrass to heavy metal. While my loyalty clearly lies with the delta, The Music Initiative delves into the many facets that encompass THE BLUES. So, this February, many cities around the country/ world celebrate the blues and we join them. Click through the pages and spend some time with Grammy-nominated Best Contemporary Blues Album artist Ruthie Foster (Cover Artist). Talk about a life…from small town songstress to armed forces band leader to blues darling.
The Blues. Wow, this label encompasses a slew of varying interpretations for music fans, from context to genre to chord progressions. But, two elements remain consistent whether you follow the Boogie Woogie, Country or the Piedmont version: the call/ answer format and the undeniable fact that this music demands an emotional response from its listener. Most people find comfort within a certain "blues" abode. For me, the Delta style blues feels like coming home. A harmonica and a slide guitar say it all. It is nostalgic and engaging; it is filled with humor and lessons. It is magnetic, energetic and also sobering. The songs–my friends. The stories– my journeys. The voices and the music– my guides. I say a special thanks to Charlie Patton, Robert Johnson, and Elmore James. I praise Janis Joplin for bringing a female voice to
For me, nothing goes better with the blues than some good dancing. And nothing makes dancing better than a tutu. Check out Siobhan (Artistic Rhythms) and the tutu she designed exclusively for The Music Initiative inspired by the blues. If the dancing hasn't warmed you up, then enter to win the (blue, yes it really is blue) USB Heated Blanket (Gadgets & Giveaways). Your desk and computer never seemed more inviting. Settle in, let the music engulf you. Take some time to rhyme with Mr. Bobby Blue Bland. Try a call and answer of your own. You may be surprised.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
on the cover:
RUTHIE FOSTER Damon Fowler PAGE14-21 PAGE 40-41
The Scorch Sisters PAGE 52-53 Grady Champion PAGE 62-63
10-11 12-13 24-25 28-29 30-31 32-33
Eclectic Events: TMI staff hosts weekly artists gatherings
Vinyl Roots: The birth of the blues.
Reel Music: Make it a movie night with The Kids Are All Right
A-Side/B-Side: Get your iPod ready for our staffcompiled playlists, inspired by this month’s blues issue Coast to Coast: Denver: Bare Knuckle Blues Band Austin: NAKIA New Orleans: Cha Wa Charleston: The Barefoot Gypsies
Emerging Artist: T. Champagne reminisces the smokey, sweat-box blues.
Soundbites: Our readers across the States pick their favorite blues musician.
3-Day Pass: Chicago Blues Festival
Noteworthy Contributions: Blue Star Connection: Brightening children’s hospitals, one instrument at a time.
Artistic Rhythms: Siobhan Murphy retulls the fashionista’s closet one tutu at a time.
Ode to the Web: TMI pays homage to bluesandsoul.com and oldsoulmusic.tumblr.com
Gadgets & Giveaways USB Heated Blanket
The Monthly Spin: Our staff reviews 15 classic and new-age blues albums.
Campus FM & BS2 Big Stadiums, Big Sounds
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Hey TMI Staff!
Angie Heather Kyle Thomas
What comes to mind when you hear the word “blues”?
The Music Initiative is a monthly, online magazine produced by a group of music enthusiasts yearning to broaden and expand each reader’s music experience. We believe in the power of music to change a mood and enhance a moment; as well as facilitate change and link the past with the present. This is our community– seeped in passion, creativity, and cultural awareness. Within the pages of each issue, we will bring you history, interviews, gadgets, CD reviews, art, new music outlets around the nation, and so much more. Among other exciting music related features, The Music Initiative features fans talking about music. TMI aims to uncover hidden gems found in up-and-coming bands, and also covers nationally recognized musicians and events.
Devil’s Music T
he birth of blues music will always be a mystery woven with the many different theories of how it all began. What we do know about blues is that since its inception, the genre has been ever changing and evolving. In fact, “the blues” does not exist as a linear genre on its own. There are multiple styles of blues music such as Memphis Blues, Chicago Blues, Piedmont Blues and Mississippi Delta Blues to name a few. Each of these styles has its own distinct sound that comes from distinct roots. The latter of these styles is widely accepted as the most influential. The Mississippi Delta Blues, more commonly known as “Delta Blues” is as much about a style of music as it is about a geographic location. In addition to being an agricultural promise land, the region is adversely well known for its roots in slavery, racism and extreme poverty. And, to no surprise, these conditions continue to “inspire” bluesmen in the region. In fact, the state of Mississippi has produced more famous blues artists than all of the other southern states combined.
Much like the poverty-stricken inhabitants of the Delta region, blues music begins meagerly. Most musicians are unable to afford formal instruments and use homemade instruments instead. Over time, the cigar box guitar gives way to the standard guitar, while African American sharecroppers begin to transform the work songs and field hollers from their earlier days as slaves. At first, group songs similar to those from the fields easily transition into the church, which provides the same group setting. As time goes by, musicians start to express their new found freedom musically. The call and response songs from the fields and church turn into emotion-filled solo acts between a singer and the guitar.
The Delta blues style cuts its teeth by the turn of the century. Intense, earthy singing and hypnotic slide guitar playing (usually with a knife or bottle neck) soon become the calling card of the delta blues. The advent of the resonating guitar, sometimes known as a “Dobro” provides the Delta blues with a sound like no other. Needless to say, the Delta starts to produce some stars in the 1920s and 1930s. Charlie Patton is the first of these Delta stars. He possesses the stereotypical scratchy voice and is a master of the guitar. Known for working a crowd to near frenzy by drumming on the guitar, he plays between his legs and behind his back and head (I wonder where Jimi got his
dies, he records 29 songs during two sessions in Texas in 1936 and 1937. Johnson dies in 1938. His talents, however, are not squandered locally. Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf are the benefactors of lessons learned from Charlie Patton, Son House and Robert Johnson. In 1947 Muddy Waters holds a recording session for Chess Records in Chicago and exposes the rest of the country, and ultimately the world, to the Delta blues. With the electrification of the guitar, Chicago blues is born and the music world will never be the same; especially when the British get their hands on it. What starts out being described as “Devil’s music” ends up being the base for virtually all of today’s popular music. I don’t know about
“With the electrification of the
guitar, Chicago blues is born…”
influence…). Patton’s style will influence stars such as Son House, Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and John Lee Hooker.
Patton may have set the ball in motion, but Son House and Robert Johnson elevated delta blues…eventually. Neither enjoyed the commercial success of their mentor until the blues revival in the 1960s. Son House is a gifted singer with a gospel background and, like most Delta bluesmen, a master of the slide guitar. His only downfall ends up being signed by a failing record label and the Great Depression. Robert Johnson is an intriguing, tragic story to say the least. Married by eighteen, Johnson is already known for his harmonica abilities but is not a guitar player by any means. Upon the death of his young wife and baby, Johnson disappears for a period of time and returns as a master of the guitar unseen by the likes of his skilled contemporaries. It is widely believed that Johnson made a deal with the Devil trading his soul for fame and fortune as a bluesman. This fame happens, but not until after Johnson’s untimely demise at just 27 years old. Before he
you all, but I think I will be making a trip to the “Crossroads” in Clarksdale, MS to get my guitar tuned. -JH
Gospel/ Blues/ Folk/ Soul ooze from the pores of Ruthie Foster. A recent Blues Music Award winner and Grammy Award nominee, Ruthie shares with us how music has carried her through life and how blues has influenced her.
Ruthie Foster Where did the journey begin? I grew up in the Brazos Valley area of Texas with a lot of church music you could call it. Singing in church with my cousins and aunts and uncles who pretty much made up the choir. It’s quite intimidating. I would take the songs of Dorothy Norwood and Andrae Crouch, transcribe them to guitar, perform as a teenager to different churches as a guest soloist. I wanted to actually study music at a school, but I knew that was going to be a little far-fetched for someone growing up in a small town. Black and not having a lot of money. But, I talked my mom into applying for a loan so I could go to community college in Waco to study commercial music. I had a great voice teacher who helped me take the rawness of singing and guide it to the professional level.
Didn’t you quit music for a point to join the U.S. Armed Service? I had gotten to a point where I had been inundated with music and I needed to take a break. So, I walked over to this recruiting station right by a Luby’s cafeteria in Waco. I walked into the Air Force office and they told me it would be a six month wait, so I went into the Navy office next door. This recruiting petty officer had his feet propped up on the desk and I thought “Oh yes, this is the place for me right here. These guys are easy going.” So, I talked to them about what I wanted to do and what I didn’t want to do (which was music). They said they needed people to work with their hands welding. I knew
I was young and smart and could figure that out. So, I signed up and got shipped off to Orlando, FL six weeks later, and eventually shipped over to San Diego to work on SH2 Helicopters which tracked submarines. I also ran the store, experienced sunny California, and really got to see a bunch of different cultures which was huge for me. But eventually, I got to the point where I needed to get back into music so I bought a little guitar and I would sit and play my guitar in the store, as long as my company commander didn’t see me.
Did your commander ever find out about the music? Well, there was a Christmas party and they had a makeshift band. I walked in late and I heard them say they needed a singer. So, I walked across the room and let them know I sing a little bit. They were going to do this Jimi Hendrix “Lighthouse Over Yonder.” So, we did that and a couple more blues tunes. My company commander called me into the kitchen and says, “Petty Officer Foster why are you here? And why aren’t you in the Navy band? You show up in my office tomorrow and we’re gonna talk. If I can get you an audition with the San Diego Navy band, would you be interested in that?” He got me an audition and I aced it, but I didn’t know I aced it because these guys take forever to let you know you pass anything. It’s the military way. It takes weeks and weeks to find out anything because of the chain of command. But, a couple of months later I get a letter that says, “Welcome to the Navy band. You will be shipped to Norfolk, VA as of this particular day. Please have your affairs in order.”
How long were you in the Navy band? Close to three and a half years. We had to go to school for six months in Virginia to learn the military way of playing music. I was then shipped to Charleston, played throughout the Southeast, played a couple of Mardi Gras’, traveled Iceland and Puerto Rico. I played in both the military and the recruiting bands, as well as in the big band.
What lesson have you carried with you from that experience that has translated throughout your career? I learned a lot about how to travel. That part was tough. I had to learn to travel with seven guys and not lose my mind. I was the only woman. It was about discipline. You have to translate that from school to real world. I learned a respect in the chain of command and how to get things done and how to really listen to your band leader. You run into all these different personalities and so you have to deal with each one of them very differently, but still treat your band as a unit with respect.
What is your strength as a band leader? Strength is learning how to delegate. I have a great tour leader and great management team. It’s about delegating and learning how to not micro-manage. You pick the right people and you don’t have to.
Clearly you are not in the Navy now. What happened next? I actually got married and moved to New Jersey to work with Atlantic Records for three years. And it was rough. It definitely took its toll on us. It’s hard on a new relationship.
Were you performing regularly or doing more writing at that time? I used the time to really hone in on my songwriting skills. I performed solo in places like The Bitter End and The Speakeasy. This is where Bob Dylan and Odetta cut their teeth. It was freezing in the winter because the owner would refuse to turn on the heat and you would have to play in your coat and hat.
How was it working with a major label so early in your career? It was a real learning experience and a lot of folks wouldn’t walk away with as much as I did. You feel like you are signing your life away. I had a great lawyer and a great mom who gave me great advice before going up there which was keep your cards close. I followed that and walked away without owing anyone anything.
spirits. beautiful “They have ”
Was it hard to walk away? No, I had grown homesick, my mother wasn’t feeling well and I was really needing to be close to my family. In fact, the day I left I remember packing up my little Nissan truck, my sea bag from the Navy, my guitars and my amplifier…everything I could fit into the bed. Crazy thing is, I had just gotten an apartment with the producer for Anita Baker. The week things were starting to happen for me, I decided to pack and leave for Texas. But, I needed to come home.
What was the biggest change from New York to the Texas lifestyle? The pace. In New York everything is so fast paced, the way you walk, the way you talk, the way you deal. Coming to Texas and learning how to slow down was huge. I actually stopped along the southeast coast on my way back to hang out with some friends. I remember waiting on a cup of coffee that seemed to be taking forever. I was just about to lose it and my friends laughed at me. It was time to slow down.
So, did you immediately hit the music circuit when you got back to Texas? Actually, I got a day job at a television station KBTX in College Station, TX. I worked as an audio tech and camera person for free. I worked the A.M. shift, the midday shift, the 5 o’clock news and the 10 o’clock news until I finally got a position. I would then play at night at Sweet Eugene’s or Third Floor Cantina. I was also watching my mom who was in a nursing home. You do what you have to do.
So, this month you have a new album dropping right? Yes, Let It Burn.
Several songs from the album feature The Blind Boys of Alabama. What was the experience like working with them? They are a hoot. I had the opportunity to tour with them in Canada. These guys bring it to a completely different level of singing. I didn’t know that about them until I got on stage with them the first time for a rehearsal and man, they let it all fly. I thought I was singing, but when I get on stage to sing with these guys I have to bring it, and then bring even more. They have beautiful spirits.
What are your top picks on Let It Burn?
Who came up with the concept for Let It Burn?
I wrote “Remember Me” when I was on a Bo Diddly tour and spent a lot of time in my green room waiting to go out to play. It was one of those tours where an act goes on and they bring you up for a tune and then you go back to your room and stand around and then wait for the next act and then Bo wants you for the end of his set. So, I ended up writing that song in between while I was waiting. I am real proud of that. And I also like what happened with “Ring of Fire.” That arrangement is just different. I have been sitting on this for quite some time and it found a home with this collection of songs. It takes the Carter-Cash love relationship to a deeper place and it, to me, is one of the most beautiful love stories of all time. I hope the arrangement that I did takes it beyond the way everyone is used to hearing it.
Credit must go to my producer, John Chelew. We shot songs back and forth via email for months. He gave me what he felt needed to happen with my music right now. The up-tempo gospel songstress is part of my mantra, but this brings out a more sultry side.
Was this your first time working together? Yes. I had never met him. We talked on the phone and got closer together in music. I just loved and respected his taste and how he goes back into that 60s sound. Fabulous political tunes. I didn’t want to go too political, but I loved that sound.
Your sound has been described as a mix of gospel, folk and the blues. How has blues influenced your music? I think blues is intertwined in a little bit of everything. Certainly, everything I do is because of blues, and even further back than that gospel. For me, blues is the root. I never thought of myself as a blues singer, but I have 2 BMA’s that tell me I am. Because to me it’s all about what feels good and saying what I want to say.
folks. I think it’s more about where black people will go to see the blues. They don’t want to go to these big festivals because they can see/hear the blues on the east side of Waco and not have to pay the festival prices and wait for people to move out of their way. They want to hear down home blues, they want to hear Chicago blues where they can feel the brothers and sisters are going to be there too. That’s just my take on it.
Great blues influence? Why do you think blues music is tied with the word sad or downtrodden? I think it gets a bad wrap for being kind of downtrodden to people who don’t know about it. There are so many different types, styles and origins of blues once you get into it. Ask anyone who goes to the Legendary Rhythm and Blues cruise and they will tell you this. There is so much blues on that boat and it rocks a fool 24/7. I have noticed that it is more of a white audience as well. You don’t see a black audience coming out to see it as often, especially at the festival.
“For me is the root.” Why do you think that is? Well I know black audiences do, because that’s how I started hearing about it by going out to this little bitty club in Waco, TX that not many people wanted to go to because you don’t want to park your car in certain places. There was this old soul/blues singer just tearing the place apart and it was just full of black
Ella Fitzgerald, who has the craft of the way she sings. It is such an instrument. I have this rule about Ella. If she is playing on my iPod, I do not want to be spoken to and I don’t interrupt her. I make sure the song is completely done before I walk out of the room. It’s a respect thing. It is a very reverent thing for me. Many years ago my husband and I were living in New York. We finally got this apartment, but we hadn’t gotten our electricity or anything turned on, and we were
Favorite art/artist? I love what I love when I am standing in front of it. If anything, I love really great photos, black and white ones, especially the one of Johnny Cash where it is just him and he is standing alone with his guitar case. And it just has Cash written across it and says everything it needs to say about him. Black and white just brings out the realness.
walking around after my visit with Atlantic. We passed by Radio City Music Hall where tickets were on sale for Ella Fitzgerald. We looked at each other, and looked in our pockets. We knew we didn’t have electricity, but to have this chance to hear Ella Fitzgerald, we decided we could do without electricity. So, we bought those tickets, had a wonderful time, went back to a dark house, lit some candles, had no refrigerator (we used snow to keep milk and butter cold in between the back door and the screen), but we were so happy for that experience. It’s what you do for the love of music.
Quote? There have been many that I have tried to keep. I was reading Thich Nhat Hahn, a Buddhist Monk. It was beautiful and he said “Be yourself, be beautiful.”
Any other legends you want to meet and have a conversation with?
Are you political?
The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo. You’ve got this woman who is kicking butt.
Most amenable greeting or salutation? Namaste.
Joan Baez for sure…there’s someone who was involved in so many things politically, spiritually. And I know she has a lot more to say.
No, not at all. But when I have something to say, I will say it. I was involved in a film about the Freedom Riders where we got to go around and talk to people about Civil Rights and an uprising. It was interesting and emotional. So for me, issues like these create such an uprising of emotion into me, I don’t know how to put this into words.
Does it take you awhile to digest an experience into a song? It takes me a long while. But I can also be very ahead of myself as well. meaning that I can come to a song that I have written maybe 4, 5, 6 years ago that had no relevance to my life, but it does now. And that is always really interesting, but I guess that’s the proof of ebb and flow and that everything is always changing when it comes to life.
Have you ever written a jingle? Umm yeah, it never went anywhere, but it was for Hurricane Harry’s. Hmm, let me remember! It was a boot scootin’ diddy for a country western dance club. “Have a boot scooting time while you’re moving to your favorite song. Boots and jeans all night long. Hurricane Harry’s. Come on everybody’s stepping out at Harry’s tonight… yeaaa.”
Nice, any desires to add jingle writing to your repertoire? I would love to do that! Quick, easy gratification.
Do you like to dance? I do. And now I love to dance with my 6-month old, she loves to dance.
Are you teaching her any moves? I kind of like to stand in one spot and just pop it. [Laughing] you know I don’t want to shake anything loose. I just stand, pop and snap it. Keep it right at home.
What’s your favorite thing about a 6-month old? I love my morning time with her. And she is smiley. I love my morning time with my baby girl.
Gospel / Blues/ Folk/ Soul Queen Ruthie Foster’s appreciation for blues and love for music has brightened her life and continues to give it meaning. Check out her latest album Let It Burn, out now! -BF
Champagne Even though his music doesn’t reflect the sounds of the blues, T. Champagne’s clear understanding of where it all comes from allows his abilities as a musician and songwriter to blossom. The focus is not about the specific type of music that’s made. It’s how the music is made that matters.
As a musician, what does the blues to mean you? To me, the blues is the foundation of modern rock ‘n’ roll. The blues is where it all started. People like Robert Johnson were pouring their hearts and souls into the microphone. It started this movement where other forms of music began to open up more to emotion and feeling. The blues is about someone’s sad, rainy day, but it’s perceived as such a beautiful thing.
box. To me, that’s what a blues club is about. It’s not the ornaments on the wall. It’s about the heart and soul that’s poured through the walls. A lot of those places are disappearing. I don’t think there are many blues bars quite like that left in Austin. It’s kind of sad because I want to go to a dive. I want to go to a hole in the wall and listen to straight blues. But because of people like Stevie Ray Vaughn clearing a path, so many other styles have come about in Austin. Just like blues was the foundation for music years ago, it’s been the same way there.
In regards to emotion and feeling, how has the blues influenced you as a songwriter?
In terms of preference as a listener, is there any certain style of blues that you like best?
Where you’re coming from is a depressed state. That’s why it’s called the blues. If I’m ever feeling like that while writing a song, I try to do the best I can to spin it in a positive, more cheerful manner compared to the blues. Even though I love and respect the blues, I try to not write songs in that sentiment. Instead, no matter how down and out I am on my luck, I want to do everything I can to write a song using that emotion to flip it in a more optimistic approach.
I like the dirty, Deep South blues. Sweating on stage. Raspy voices. Cigarette smoke enveloping the air. That’s what I like. That’s what reminds me of the blues.
You grew up in Texas where the blues has a strong rooted history. Tell us a little about the scene there. Austin definitely had a strong blues presence years ago. Antone’s, a prominent blues based venue, is still one of the best clubs in Austin. But then you have such places like the Longbranch Inn. That place didn’t have any air conditioning. It had those big, old gymnasium type fans going. It was a sweat-
Why do you think it’s important to educate people about the blues? Any guitarist or bassist has to have the basic blues scale as a foundation for what they learn. There’s a lot of simplicity to the blues that you can complicate. What I mean by that is the chords don’t vary that much, unlike rock ‘n’ roll which is very open. The blues is somewhat standardized, but it’s all about what you paint on top of it. Any musician needs to learn how to do something in a simple manner, yet be able to construct a wonderful piece of artwork from it. It’s not about all the bells, whistles and flair that you add to it. Keeping it simple, but being able to make it unique in it’s own way. There are so many blues songs that have been covered over the years, but everyone has their own take on it. It’s not what you start with. It’s what you end with.
who is your fav
Andres Liviola: NYC "Blues aspect of Grateful Dead"
Ned Durrett, Mike De Kozlowski, Jerry ThompSon: (Spartanburg, SC, Irmo, SC & Philadelphia, PA) "Ray Charles"
April Smith: Brooklyn, NY "Robert Johnson" Matt Rowe: Richmond, VA "Eric Clapton"
orite blues musician?
Griffin Blackwelder: Chapin, SC "Stevie Ray Vaughn"
Amanda Collins: Columbia, SC "Susan Tedeschi" Natalie Bracy Tenney: Battle Creek, MI "Jeff Beck"
Blake Zahnd: Charlotte, NC "Robert Johnson"
Becca Weekes: Greenville, SC "B.B King"
Tessa Taylor: Wilmington, DE "David Bromberg"
Jake Durham: James Island, SC "Derek Trucks"
Kentrell Searles: Charleston, SC "I got the blues, Kraft Macaroni and Cheese"
Nick Alls: Hobro, Denmark "Stevie Ray Vaughn"
David Hodge: Austin, TX "Muddy Waters"
Matt Apted: Charleston, SC "Stevie Ray Vaughn"
Rock Amick: Charleston, SC "Big Mama Thorton"
Peace, Love & Tutus The talented and lovely Siobhan Murphy is a true fashionista. Her tutus are elegant creations that you can wear on the dance floor and off; or perhaps even hang one above your mantel. Be sure to check out her masterpieces at www.retulledtutus.com. Happy tutuing!
What about fashion interests you? I’d say more than fashion, it’s style that interests me. People have an endless variety of ways to adorn themselves and I think the choices made are fascinating. I love observing people and seeing how everyone interprets fashion in their own creative way. I’m still surprised to see the different ways women rock a tutu. You’d think that because it’s a very specific item of clothing, there’d be limitations for how it can be worn, but the truth is that each person imbues theirs with their own particular energy. When did you decide to design your tutus? I created my first piece for the window display of a boutique I was working in on King Street for a “Sex and the City” event. The lead character of the show, Carrie, had an iconic tank top and white tutu look and the manager couldn’t track down an adult tutu. I offered to whip one up the day before the event so at the last minute, I walked to one of two fabric stores on King Street only to find it closed. With only 5 minutes to spare before the other shop ten blocks away closed, I heard the voice of my friend and rickshaw pilot Joseph behind me shouting, “Hey! Need a ride?” I’ve never been that lucky with a ride before or since and it couldn’t have worked out better. I stayed up all night, cranked out a big white tutu, and the rest is history! I had so much fun making that first piece and received such a positive response. Seeing people’s reactions and realizing I wasn’t alone in my tutu obsession gave me the motivation to pursue it more seriously.
Did fashion or tutuing come first? Were you involved with ballet while growing up or did you become inspired later on in your life? Fashion definitely came first. My parents once told me that my 2nd birthday wish was to try on shoes. My 25th is coming up and that still sounds like a pretty solid birthday to me! I did practice ballet recreationally in college but was never a serious dancer. Growing up, I was always envious of my girlfriends who danced, their poise and grace. As a bit of a klutz, I think the dance envy is what has created such a fascination with the tutu.
What’s the process with your designs? The first thing I do is brainstorm. If I’m given a theme or character to create for, I try to categorize all the characteristics I associate with that particular thing; the colors, mood, texture or objects. Once I get that sorted out, I find a way to turn those things into a tutu! It’s funny though, and I’m sure most designers can relate, I often get started on a design and once the ball gets rolling and ideas start flowing, I end up with something other than I expected at the beginning of the process. I think of a commission I recently received for a tooth fairy tutu. Halfway through the piece I realized, “Wait a minute—fairy! She needs a tiara, a wand! Just a tutu won’t do!” Next thing I knew I was in my kitchen heating up toothbrushes and molding them into in a set of fairy accessories. Essentially, I just try to let my imagination take over and have fun with it! Who is your biggest fashion influence? First and foremost, Alexander McQueen. I love his contemporary gothic style and the haunted beauty of his designs. He was so creative in his transformation of materials and the theatrics of his runway shows. He took the runway show from simple showcase to provocative performance art, incorporating holograms, even robots, into his shows. His fearlessness in pursuing his vision, even though different, is inspiring to see as a designer. It gives me confidence that it’s okay to forge a different path, what’s important is staying true to my perspective as a designer.
Does music inspire your creations? If so, what kind? Well, its probably no surprise that there’s a lot of Gaga going on there. I love her raunchy weirdness and I think her fearlessness is inspiring. Musically, her songs hit that chord inside me that makes me just want to tear up the dance floor like an extra in Fame. It’s perfect tutu music because when you wear one, you pretty much just get fresh and boogie. When I’m feeling Parisian, I’ll put on some Serge Gainsbourg and get a little 60s psychedelic but I also love some bluesy rock like the Black Keys. Do you have a favorite blues artist? It would have to be Billie Holiday. The resonance and emotion contained in her voice and in her songs is something special and you can’t help but be moved by her melodies. The tutu I created for The Music Initiative was made with her in mind. The music-score gardenias are a shout out to the classic flowered-do Billie always rocked. -LE
Do you think that music and fashion go hand and hand? Why? Always. I think both give people what they crave most, endless varieties of self-expression. Both speak to people’s creative nature, that desire to interpret our moods and fantasies into a tangible form that we can share with others. ReTulled Tutus by Siobhan 91 Broad St. (4th Floor) Charleston, SC 29401 “music-score gardenia in blue” has been donated by the artist to the TMI charity art auction to benefit Carolina Studios. Carolina Studios is an after-school and summer program providing students with a safe environment that fosters creative, educational, and career-focused initiatives through music technology and media arts. Mark Bryan, lead guitarist and founding member of Hootie and the Blowfish, serves as the Chairman of the Board.
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So, how’s the scene in Florida treating you? Is there a lot of love for the blues there? I think it’s good. West and East Coast alike. Good thing about Florida is that it is a tourist state so there are gigs to play and if guys are willing to work, there is work to be had. And people love the blues.
On a break while touring in Key West, trying to decide between Mahi or Steak for dinner, blues guitarist Damon Fowler dishes.
Gospel/ Blues/ Folk/ Soul
How do you feelfrom aboutthe being ooze pores classified as a blues artist?
Ruthie Foster. A recent
I don’t really mind, but that’s just me. But the idiom of blues stretches in so many directions. To winner, some Grammy award people blues means Little Walter and Muddy Waters. To others, someone else. I shares wouldn’t consider Lynyrd Ruthie with us Skynyrd a blues band, but they clearly have blues influences. I think we are how music has carried more like them…a southern rock band that is blues influenced.life and how her through
blues has influenced her.
For you, who are you listening to that you consider traditional blues?
That’s hard. I like a lot of the Delta Stuff. I like the Piedmont stuff…Robert Johnson, Charlie Patton. Every era has had great blues. Look at Otis Rush, he knocks it out. There are certain eras of Buddy Guy where he was just cold-blooded.
You recently played the Legendary Rhythm and Blues cruise? I was a special guest. It was fun, I got to sit in and jam with a bunch of different people.
What do you think encompasses the “spirit” of the blues? For me the blues are filled with innuendo, no one ever comes right out and says fully what they mean.
It’s real tongue and cheek, kind of vaudeville-esque type stories. When I go to a blues show it makes me happy, even like sad, old country songs. They kind of make me happy. I think it just intrigues me.
Your most recent album Devil On His Way is receiving high praises. Any track from that album surprise you?
So, you have a love for country as well?
I really had a good time doing that record. “Happy Hour” was a joke. It wasn’t supposed to be on the album. But we had a great time recording that. “After the Rain” was a lot of fun with a different dynamic than what we have done before.
Willie Nelson. I love Willie Nelson, as you can hear our music has a country influence to it.
Do you remember the first song you ever played? The first song I ever got through on the acoustic guitar was “Green Grass and High Tides” by The Outlaws.
Do you ever find yourself strumming those chords, kind of like a safety blanket? Absolutely, and it’s a cool tune.
You play the slide, lap and the dobro. Which one are you favoring these days? I like them all. It depends on where we play. We have been playing a lot of acoustic lately, so I have really been enjoying the dobro.
Working on anything new right now ? I have got some new songs that I have been working on and will probably play them tonight. And we are playing out. And I have a new project that I am working on that I am really excited about.
What’s that? It’s called Southern Hospitality. And it has JP Soars who plays on the record with me, Victor Wainwright plays piano, Chuck my bass player and Chris P. plays drums. We are going to do a record next year and it is more of bluesy band. We played a festival (Red, White & Blues Fest) for July 4th and people asked us to play their pre-Blues Cruise party. So, our booking agent decided to make a little tour of it. We then got the SW Florida Blues Fest and the Heritage Fest and now we are booking like crazy.
Any new albums on the horizon? I have one more record to do with Blind Pig. I am trying to stay fertile in my writing.
Sum up life with fans on the road. Organic, human-made, a little different every night. Connection with people; they feel it, you feel it.
You can check out blues guitarist Damon Fowler on tour now. Visit http://damonfowler.com for details! -BF
Soulive Terminal 5 NYC - free download or stream from archive.org Soulive consists of brothers Neal and Alan Evans along with guitarist Eric Krasno. Over the past decade, Soulive’s jazzy, bluesy, soulful music has consumed audiences. This show from Terminal 5 in NYC features this powerful trio, along with many guests. On to the show…Cue “Dig”. Its slow-teasing intro accelerates gradually and explodes, eventually smoothing out into a groovy piece. “Steppin” invokes a marching beat keeping time with the guitar singing gracefully as Krasno gently moves up and down the fret board. To get a taste of their more soulful side, give “Hat Trick” a listen. With the addition of horns, the musicians’ playing field broadens to fill every space in the room with harmonious melodies and danceable grooves. -CC Robert Randolf and the Family Band The National in Richmond, VA - free download or stream from archive.org A pedal steel guitar swoops in like it has owned the room for hours as Robert Randolf and The Family Band takes the stage. Randolf, smiling in front and bouncing around in his seat, starts the night with “Travelin Shoes,” a track off their new album We Walk This Road. A little gospel, blues and soul can be heard from this show at The National on 11-11-11. “Back To The Wall” features a heavy bass section with each instruments’ emotion as high as the vocals. The energy peaks as Randolf’s guitar howls in freedom. A personal favorite, “Ain’t Nothing Wrong With That” not only possesses a great message, but also a raw, dirty groove that Randolf highlights with his pedal steel. With intense passion for their soulful music, The Family Band guarantees a smile on everyone’s face who attends their show! -CC Eric Clapton and Wynton Marsalis Play the Blues: Live from Jazz Multi-Grammy winners Eric Clapton and Wynton Marsalis collaborate for their 2011 performance Play the Blues: Live from Jazz at the Lincoln Center. Smooth tracks from Clapton’s archives blend perfectly with Marsalis’ upbeat jazz to create a truly memorable experience. “Ice Cream,” “Kidman Blues” and “Joliet Bound” feature classic New Orleans style rhythms, with hints of Clapton’s guitar riffs. One of the most recognizable songs is “Layla,” which has been stripped down and beautifully accompanied by Marsalis and his band. The final song, “Corrine, Corrina” featuring Taj Mahal, has the perfect balance of traditional New Orleans flare with a raspy blues tone. One of the best aspects of the performance is the ease and comfort to which they blend their individual styles together. Theatrics aren’t needed or desired, only an intimate performance of two great artists. -JT
Tab Benoit Medicine Medicine is Tab Benoit’s seventh solo release through Telarc international records and soars high above any of his past material. Several of the songs on the album feature Swedish born blues guitarist Anders Osborne and his contribution to the album flows perfectly along with Tab’s lead. Osborne even recorded with legendary B.B. King’s famous “Lucille” Gibson guitar. Recording at the Dockside Studio located on the Vermillion Bayou in the heart of Cajun country, this album feels authentic. The album kicks off strong with the title track “Medicine,” and sounding reminiscent of Jimi Hendrix’s blues style era and then slows right down with “Sunrise,” a typical relaxing blues ballad for on-the-water listening. “Next to Me” is another shining upbeat track sure to get anyone’s toes tapping, featuring strong backing guitar melodies and soloing. Guest musicians on the album include an all-star Louisiana line-up including Ivan Neville on keys and Michael Doucet on the fiddle. -ZS
Carolyn Wonderland Peace Meal A little bit of pain, love, soul and alcohol equals my definition of good music, and I got plenty of it in Peace Meal. Wonderland’s inspirational stories and good tunes gave me gospel, rock ‘n’ roll and soul in one album. My obsession with the electric guitar and the keyboard didn’t take me away from the relatable lyrics and her fiery vocals. I was uplifted with one song and knocked back down with the next. With a powerful cover of Janis Joplin’s “What Good Can Drinkin’ Do” and a sassy rendition of Bob Dylan’s “Meet Me in the Morning,” Wonderland gives fans a treat soaked in blues and soul. Her ability to belt out the blues could put any R&B artist to shame. Peace Meal is the perfect recipe for giving one the strength to take a shot of whiskey and conquer the world. But if that’s too much, just close your eyes and let Ms. Wonderland work her magic. -AA
Tom Waits Bad As Me Upon the first listening of Bad As Me, it is immediately apparent that Waits, like many artists at mid-age and ripe with experience of travels and playing, has managed to compress all the variations of styles he has put forth previously. While this cohesion is never necessarily an automatic positive, it’s the precision and tight structuring of the songs and complete lack of filler on the album that portrays this as a near perfectly executed work. Right from the get-go, “Chicago,” a title that rings thoughts of bustle, confirms this intuition. Feelings of totality and bedlam isn’t kept contained solely as an opener but runs rampant on tracks like “Satisfied” and “Get Lost”. Between the busyness of these songs is a litany of somber ballads exhibiting his scratchy croon in all its glory in “Last Leaf” and “New Years Eve.” On Waits’ first all-new material LP in seven years, he invites a plethora of guest musicians; among them, Keith Richards, Les Claypool and The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Flea. -ZS
Escort Escort Shake, shake, shake! Shake your booty! You might as well start taking orders now if you plan to put Escort’s first full length record on for a spin around the ole’ table. Straight out of a scene from Studio 54, NYC’s hottest disco troupe delivers an extravaganza of eleven tracks best heard under a sparkling array of rotating lights. Sing along with vocalist Joy Dragland through a melody of fiery horns on the group’s newest hit, “Caméleon Chameleon.” Dance the night away to the buzzworthy, shoulder-shuffling groove of “Cocaine Blues.” Journey through the discotheque cosmos of “Starlight” on a spaceship fueled by the vibrant pacing of synthesizers and strings. Get taken under by a deep swell of bass and tribal beats on the wildly entertaining wave of “Karawane.” Whatever you do, expect an album that achieves everything it sets out to do… keep the beat alive! -KC
Kurt Vile Smoke Ring For My Halo After listening to Kurt Vile’s fourth studio album, Smoke Ring For My Halo, it is apparent he is a tortured soul. Straight out of Philadelphia, this 21st century blues man portrays our generation’s sentiments on potent self-disdain, complete societal apathy and a general lack of attaining complete happiness. The powerful pickin’ guitar ballads juxtaposition with Vile’s cynical lyricism meld together to form an ambient dream-rock equilibrium, inspiring enough for any songwriter and Vile & The Violators enthusiast. Smoke Ring For My Halo is Vile’s mature and moody masterpiece; perfectly produced with quintessential atmospheric presence. Obvious influences…Springsteen and Dylan. However the album comes across sounding more like a mash-up of Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore and Deerhunter. Chosen for American Songwriter’s Top 50 albums of 2011, Smoke Ring For My Halo showcases Vile's true talent. Check out “Runner Ups,” “Baby’s Arms” and the title track for the complete Kurt Vile experience. -LE
Mayer Hawthorne How Do You Do Don’t let the cover of this album fool you; while he may be a white boy (made to look extra nerdy with Buddy Holly style glasses), Mayer is a white boy with some serious soul. Raised just outside of Detroit in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Mayer grew up admiring the likes of the Detroit Motown sound and cites Barry White and Isaac Hayes as influences. The opening track, “Get to Know You,” sounds just like you’d expect; slow and sexy with lyrics sensual as anything you’re likely to find in the genre. “Can’t Stop” features a contribution from Snoop Dogg, whose rap fits surprisingly well into the mix. “The Walk” has to be one of the catchiest songs of 2011 with its infectiously groovy horns in sync with a simple drum beat; it sounds reminiscent of Al Green’s hit “Let’s Stay Together”. How Do You Do is a seamless blend of modern pop and Motown soul that feels funky fresh to the last track. -ZS
The Black Keys El Camino The Black Keys are back with their most anticipated album to date, El Camino. Auerbach and Carney team up with producer Dangermouse for the second time since Attack and Release and pulling out all the stops, they stay true to their garagey blues-rock roots, but this time the album explodes with soulful glitz and glam. Fans can expect familiar distorted vocals, rowdy riffs, amped up blues guitar tones and head shaking, body-moving beats from The Clash inspired drums. Repetitive handclaps and chanting “oohs” are an unexpected appreciation that keeps the momentum alive in El Camino’s entirety. Lyrical themes of love loss, loneliness and feeling dead and gone amidst flashy, jukebox organ solos and guitar chords that cut like laser lights at the disco prove that new wave blues-rock has solidified its place in our musical world. This is an album you can dance to, share emotions with and never want to stop listening to. Check out “Gold on the Ceiling,” “Little Black Submarines” and “Money Maker” to help you get through your day. -LE
Warren Haynes Man In Motion Founding Government Mule member Warren Haynes has done it again with his second full length studio LP in 18 years, Man In Motion. While different from Gov’t Mule in that it is less heavy musically it is “soul heavy” and much more bluesy sounding. The songs are longer than most modern blues music with 5 songs clocking in around 7+ minutes, giving the music more free reign for solos. This is exhibited brilliantly in the spontaneous “Sick of My Shadow,” which has a funk groove backing a dueling sax and guitar solo. The uplifting soulful ballad “Your Wildest Dreams” features an excellent saxophone solo by Ron Holloway, breaking up the steady beat and dirge of Warren’s raspy vocals. New listeners of Haynes should check out the track “Hattiesburg Hustle,” the closest song to a single on the album and one that is sure to hook in fans of the blues or anyone just looking for a little soul in their playlist. -ZS
Al Basile The Goods Anointed a Renaissance man by many, singer, songwriter, poet and grand cornet player Al Basile sure has been around the block in the blues music scene. As a sideman on numerous albums, nominee for a Blues Music Award as best horn player and producing all of his own work, it is no wonder why Basile's 8th studio album, The Goods, is a diamond of it's own. Duke Robillard and The Blind Boys of Alabama make a stunning appearance on the album, with Robillard’s mildly distorted guitar tones and The Blind Boys’ stellar backup vocals. You can't get enough of the blues driven sound that encompasses songs "The Price (I Got To Pay)” and "Along Come The Kid". The upbeat score of the tenor and baritone sax blanket the swing-like drums in a manner that would make a deaf dog turn its head. Basile's musical resume makes a blues fan’s jaw drop, but The Goods will make jaws hit the floor. -DV
Justice Audio, Video, Disco Audio, Video, Disco. I hear, I see, I learn. I hear Frenchmen Xavier de Rosnay and Gaspard Augé, collectively known as the dance rock duo Justice, abandon all preconceptions and expectations for their sophomore album. Bridging the four year gap between Cross and Audio, Video, Disco with its familiar attitude evoking tone, “Horsepower” puts the pedal to the metal like a high speed car chase opening an action film. I see Justice dressed in clashing fashion of black leather jackets, glittery headbands and acid washed jeans as they meld simplistically polished electronic sounds with technically influenced progressive rock on songs like “Civilization,” ”Canon” and “On ‘n’ On.” From the wailing rhythms of “Helix” to the harmonious conclusion of the title track, this album distinguishes itself completely, yet maintains the same endearing outlook as its predecessor. I learn that through an intent, complete listen, Audio, Video, Disco comes into full fruition as the Justice style and sound continues to evolve. -KC
Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band How I Go It’s no wonder why the self-taught blues guitarist Kenny Wayne Shepherd has maintained commercial success throughout his 16 year career. With three platinum records under his belt and topping charts around the globe, Shepherd has gained extraordinary notoriety amongst blues musicians. With his 6th studio album How I Go, the Stevie Ray Vaughn influenced sound shakes the shell that surrounds the summer released collection. Rockin’ distorted guitar riffs along with upbeat hi-hats and snares in songs "Never Look Back" and "Come On Over" send you back in time to ZZ top and Muddy Waters. "Butterfly," the 15th song off of the Special Edition version sounds like Angus Young’s guitar being stricken by one of Zeus’ lightning rods then thrown into a southern Tim McGraw tornado. One can only imagine what goes though a mind like Shepherd's; with How I Go you will be imagining no more. -DV
Keb Mo’ The Reflection There’s a reason the Grammy’s nominated Keb Mo’s latest album, The Reflection, for Best Blues Album this year – the album is packed with soul, funk, heartache and happiness. The Reflection looks back on Kevin Moore’s journey in becoming Keb Mo’, the man fans have come to love for his tight and concise compositions and his soothing baritone voice. The album kicks off with “Whole Enchilada.” Underlined with a contagious groove and slinky guitar, the song takes a holistic approach to life. Keb Mo’ brilliantly infuses traditional and contemporary blues with jazz and old school R&B. This combination of genres rears itself in “Crush on You,” which features R&B songstress India Arie. The Reflection is Keb Mo’s first release on his own label after departing ways with Sony. It’s been four years since his last record, and boy, are we glad to have him back. -TJW
Staff-selected tracks from the Monthly Spin
1. Eric Clapton and Wynton Marsalis - “Layla” 2. Escort - “Karawane” 3. Justice - “Horsepower” 4. Carolyn Wonderland - “Dust My Broom” 5. Keb Mo’ - “The Whole Enchilada” 6. The Black Keys - “Gold on the Ceiling” 7. Kurt Vile - “Baby’s Arms” 8. Soulive - “Dig” 9. Robert Randolph and the Family Band “Ain’t Nothing Wrong With That” 10. Tom Waits - “Chicago” 11. Mayer Hawthorne - “The Hawk” 12. Tab Benoit - “Sunrise” 13. Warren Haynes - “Your Wildest Dreams” 14. Al Basile - “Don’t Sleep on Santa” 15. Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band - “Come on Over”
Love. Life. Laughter.
The Music Initiative sits down with The Scorch Sisters’ Francesca Capasso (vocals) and Alicia Morgan (keyboards) to find out what makes this Los Angeles based blues rock trio really click.
You all seem to have had a favorable amount of individual success throughout your music careers. What brought the three of you together to form The Scorch Sisters? AM: We had played together in other bands for a long time, but we felt like this was the right time to just do us. Even though we all have individual things going on, we’ve formed a sisterhood together. We’ve been through divorce, death and cancer, but even through it all, we’ve always been there for each other. We thought it was a real good time to bring all our talents together to play blues music, which is about life, love and tragedy. And the name of the band, where did that come from? AM: Well, it sort of popped into my head one day. It just seemed to really fit. We’ve got two components to the name. Francesca is a ferocious blues singer, and we put on a strong, fiery show. I guess you could say that’s where the “scorch” comes from. As for “sisters,” that comes from the relationships that we’ve developed together. FC: At one point, we had an all-blues and soul band called Some Like It Hot. I also had my own band called Francesca and the Flames. We had to keep with the theme of being something fiery. You’re an all-female blues band playing a style of music that is often associated with formidable male talent. What’s your response to that? FC: I’m so blessed to be working with these awesome female musicians. We know we can hang with the big boys. I’ve watched things change, though. The music scene is dominated by a lot of women. It wasn’t like that when we first started out. The time is right for what we’re doing.
AM: It doesn’t have to be an anomaly. When I was coming up, there were so few female musicians. If there was one, they usually tended to be the focus of the band. We feel that we’re all strong enough together that it doesn’t have to be like that. Any motivation behind that to want to succeed even more? FC: This is for us. We know where we stand with each other. It’s not like we’re going to have one weak link that we’ll have to pull along. We know what to expect from each other. We all bring something really big to the table. Referring to your song “Think About Elvis,” which one of you is in love with The King? AM: Me! When you’re from the South, you’ve got to have love for The King. I actually own the Velvet Elvis that’s sung about in the song. I bought it at a flea market in Sanford, FL.
Describe your performance in three words. AM: Ferocious. FC:
Passionate. Soulful. In. Your. Face.
That song definitely had me laughing. On a more serious note… Francesca, how has your experience as a breast cancer survivor positively and negatively impacted you as a musician and songwriter? FC: I’ve always been a very passionate singer and written emotional songs. Obviously, the negative part of cancer is that it beats you down. I’ve had seven surgeries in four years. Thankfully, I’m cancer-free now. I’m definitely lucky to be alive! You’re definitely not the same person after something like that, but I had to look somewhere for some sort of power. I realized that I had control in over how I chose to deal with it. Now, I use that same mentality with any adversity that comes up in my life. I think I sing even more passionately now than I used to years ago. I feel like the intensity level for my performance has really been kicked up a notch or two.
We are missing your third member Kimberly. Think she would have anything to add? AM: Even if Kimberly were here, she wouldn’t be saying anything. FC: We’re the two loud mouths. She’s a shredder, though. We’ve known her for years, but she still blows me away every time I hear her play guitar. Any plans for your first full-length album? FC: We’ve got a few tracks here and there. We’re doing a lot of writing at the moment. In the past, we each brought our own songs to the band. Now, we’re collaborating together much more than we used to. We’re really excited about bringing some big names onboard for the album. We want it to be the best it can be!
We know you ladies will keep the fires burning bright throughout the year, and we look forward to your continued growth and success. -KC
Alicia McCracken Morgan
Yea, Alabama! Drown 'em Tide! Every 'Bama man's behind you
National C Alabama C 21 ALABAMA FINAL SCORES Sat, Sept 3 Sat, Sep 10 Thu, Sep 17 Sat, Sep 24 Sat, Oct 1 Sat, Oct 8 Sat, Oct 15 Sat, Oct 22 Sat, Nov 5 Sat, Nov 12 Sat, Nov 19 Fri, Nov 26
Kent State at (23) Penn State North Texas (14) Arkansas at (12) Florida Vanderbilt at Mississippi Tennessee (1) LSU at Mississippi State Georgia Southern at Auburn
W 48-7 W 27-11 W 41-0 W 38-14 W 38-10 W 34-0 W 52-7 W 37-6 L 6-9 W 24-7 W 45-21 W 42-14
2011 CAMPUS FM
“Tigers! Fight! Fight! Fight!”
Champions Crimson Tide 1-0 LSU FINAL SCORES Sat, Sept 3 Sat, Sep 10 Thu, Sep 15 Sat, Sep 24 Sat, Oct 1 Sat, Oct 8 Sat, Oct 15 Sat, Oct 22 Sat, Nov 5 Sat, Nov 12 Sat, Nov 19 Fri, Nov 25 Sat, Dec 3
(3) Oregon Northwestern State at (25) Mississippi State at (16) West Virginia Kentucky (17) Florida at Tennessee (19) Auburn at (2) Alabama Western Kentucky at Mississippi (3) Arkansas (12) Georgia
W W W W W W W W W W W W W
40-27 49-3 19-6 47-21 35-7 41-11 38-7 45-10 9-6 42-9 52-3 41-17 42-10
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MADE IN SOUTH CAROLINA
Grady Champion Born and raised in Canton, Mississippi, Grady Champion’s enthusiasm for singing and playing the blues runs as thick as his unmistakable accent. With such a unique family and musical upbringing, Grady’s upbeat personality and inner drive are bringing blues back to the masses.
You probably get this a lot, but I’ve got to know...being the youngest of 28 children, what was it like growing up in your family? My oldest brother that’s living right now is 86 years old. I’m 42. My daddy was 71 when I was born, and my mom was 28. We didn’t all grow up in the same house because most of my siblings were older than my mom. I went up to New York this past Thanksgiving to visit my 84 year old brother. There’s a lot of knowledge that comes from having brothers that old, especially with my dad dying when I was only three months old.
What’s Christmas like with a family that size? Christmas is always great! My oldest brother would always help my momma out with that since my daddy had passed. It’s interesting because I didn’t realize he was my brother since he was so much older. It didn’t click with me until I grew up. But it’s nice to have such a large family!
“The Mississippi Bluesman”
How did growing up in Mississippi influence you as a musician, particularly in the realm of blues? When I was young I used to rap. I got into singing the blues when I was about 23. But just being raised up around it, it was always in my soul, ya know what I’m sayin’? The type of blues I do now sort of appeals to all age groups. I think we’re kind of creating something called neo-blues, sort of like neo-soul. It’s a new form of the blues.
You won the International Blues Challenge in 2010. Explain what that is and how you came to be the winner of such a prestigious award. There are usually about 150 bands from all around the world that gather in Memphis, TN every year around the end of January to the first of February. It’s like a big old blues party that lasts for four days. You compete in different rounds, and at the end of the day, we were the last band standing!
How has your past experience as a rapper impacted your music nowadays?
What’s 2012 looking like for Grady Champion?
It prepared me as a writer. Writing lyrics, writing rhymes, etc.
It’s looking real good. We’ve got a few tours set up so far. We’re going to the West Coast and Canada. I’ll come back home for a few days after that, and then I’ll be flying to Europe. I’ll be in Paris and Switzerland for about 18 days. Ya know, just working!
Any particular rappers you looked up to when you were younger? I used to like N.W.A., Luther Campbell, 2 Live Crew, MC Lyte, LL Cool J and Run DMC. They all influenced me.
So after your rap career ended, when and what made you decide to start playing the harmonica? When I was 25 years old. I didn’t play any instruments up until that point. I was only singing when I first got into the blues. I saw all these guys playing instruments, and I wanted to learn to play one too. So, I decided to pick up the harmonica. Even now, I play guitar and harmonica on stage.
The harmonica definitely adds a unique groove to the music. What’s your favorite thing about playing it? Man, I just love it! It gives the music a different element among all the other instruments, especially when you have a unique style like I do. It ain’t like a lot of other harmonica players you may hear. I just play what I feel.
When you’re up on stage, it looks like you have what appears to be a utility belt full of harmonicas. How many do you use during a live show? Twelve. I use twelve harmonicas because I sing in so many different keys. And, if somebody else comes up on stage to sing
Keep on working, Grady! Keep on working! -KC
C C 2
Coast to Coast
Our staff writers set out on a mus discovering the nationâ€™s hottest l
sical roadtrip, local bands.
Denver Bare knuckle blues band Venue: The Pec
Located in the heart of downtown at 20th and Market Street lays the last little dive bar that could. A historical landmark nestled in the remaining moments of Denver’s musical Skid Row. Opening in 1933 after the repeal of prohibition, El Chapultepec, or The Pec, is Denver’s answer to the New York City jazz club. All the greats have played there, including Miles Davis, Chet Baker, Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald. The Pec seems fitting for a perfectly chilled December evening to sit at the bar and warm up to the fiery and sultry musical stylings of the Bare Knuckle Blues Band. This five piece blues rock ‘n’ roll act conjures up some sort of spirit when seen live. Loretta Erikson (vocals) kills it on stage. Her vocal presence alone can make an entire bar filled with patrons drop all musings, ramblings and billiard playing to rest their eyes and ears on the Denver blues queen. The Bare Knuckle Blues Band’s set consisted of a stimulating mash up of soulful blues ballads and edgy 70s inspired blues-rock, reminiscent of a time where Janis Joplin and B. B. King reigned supreme. Guitarist Mike Fyles was exceptional
and kept the crowd grooving to songs “Little By Little,” a sax and guitar heavy ditty and “You Don’t Love Me,” a slinky number that set the mood for the night. I was especially blown away by BBKB’s rendition of John Prine’s “Angel from Montgomery;” a complete transformation from the singersongwriter’s realm into something much deeper. Belting out the last note to the all-encompassing rhythm of the Bare Knuckle boys, Loretta’s voice carried me away to a warm place where there are no problems, just blues.
Venue: Skinny’s Ballroom It is true that winters in Austin are fairly mild, but on those few nights that the temperatures drop, I highly suggest looking for a Nakia show to warm your soul. His straight up Southern-style blues voice wraps around you and engulfs you in a blanket of warm, sweet sound. This was the feeling when he recently played a show at an “off the beaten path” venue in downtown Austin called Skinny’s Ballroom. I had heard about this local musician (a top eight finalist on NBC’s The Voice), but without watching the show, was a bit skeptical. I needed to see what all the hype was about. Nakia does not have the image of a typical pop star with his burly physique and bushy beard. However, his talent and gentle personality shine on the stage. “Playing the
Cards” epitomizes true blues and “All Over You,” my personal favorite of his originals, was so sexy and rhythmic that it will make anyone want to shimmy up next to their sweetheart. “Outta My Head” has an intriguing beat and catchy guitar riffs. Not only did I enjoy Nakia’s original music, but also his version of Cee Lo’s “Forget You.” This made him a television favorite, and immediately I saw why he experienced huge success on the show. Not many people can perform that song and give Cee Lo a run for his money. With all the popular success, Nakia remains true to his unique style and has described himself as a “soulful pop” singer. Check out his straight up southern style blues on his first full length album Water to Wine.
Cha Wa Venue: Tipitina’s
Having been to Tippitina’s once already (considered by many the #1 music venue in New Orleans) and familiarizing myself with the environment, I felt more at ease upon my return. All I know is I’m slated to watch a blues band named Cha Wa play and I’m anxious as usual in a crowd of people I don’t know. I always experience flashbacks of concert horrors; the excruciating agony of being pummeled into a mosh pit at age 12 during whatever popular metal act came to my town and the excitement of picketing drones warning against the entry that insured my supposed damnation. Nope, I was here for something much different and surely in for an enigmatic treat. “Cha Wa,” in a native Indian dialect when translated into English means “We’re comin’ for ya!” and if you happen to be near the infamous street corner of Second and Dryades during Mardi Gras, you’re sure to hear their chanting of this phrase from afar.
Having been enlightened by this bit of information my mind took a shape of fear which quickly subsided to a hypnotic state as the band began to play. I was becoming mesmerized by the music that droned forth effortlessly like a collective astral projection of sounds from these gifted musicians; Colin Lake on lap steel, Bill Richards on bass, August Jepson on congas and Joe Gelini on drums. I hadn’t heard anything quite like their style but the overall embodiment and musical framework felt familiarly like that of my favorite group Swans in their ability to create a “wall of sound” that crushed everything in its path; rather than crushing, it more or less confounded onlookers, some standing like perplexed wax figures, myself included. While this comparison is off a bit being that Cha Wa plays blues and funk-based music, when fronted by Mardi Gras Indian singer Eric “Yedi” Boudreaux whose gospel style cries are accompanied by Indian chants instead of standardized narrative lyrics in songs, it gifted the music an unusual spiritual presence that I’ve received from very few bands live. Having been searching for something more progressive or just plain different in the blues genre, Cha Wa provided what I was looking for.
Charleston the blackfoot gypsies Venue: Village Tavern
As the weather began to somewhat resemble winter along the South Carolina coast, the Blackfoot Gypsies brought their raw infusion of rock ‘n’ roll and blues to town, warming the crowd’s blood faster than a stout drink of straight Jack Daniels whiskey ever could. Coming from the country hills of Nashville, TN, Matthew Paige, who slays the guitar and microphone with a zealous twang, and Zack Murphy, the unrelenting carrier of rhythms behind this two-headed beast, have no use for flashy lights or theatrics to put on an outrageously energetic show. Simplicity works best for these two scholars of the past. Armed with only the essentials of guitar, amp, drums and mic, the two took to the homey confines of the Village Tavern’s stage with a clear mission to entertain attendees with witty fun through the sounds and form of good old-fashioned Southern bluesy rock. Sounding directly from the backwoods of an undisclosed moonshine distillery somewhere in central Tennessee, the opening lick of “Coming Through the Pines” invoked raised fists and
swigged shots in honor of those influential to the Blackfoot Gypsies, such as Jimi Hendrix, MC5 and The White Stripes. At this point, if you didn’t like the loud, fierce tenacity bombarding the room like musical mortars, you better had gotten out before “Statesboro Blues” caused a shock-wave so powerful that it stopped you dead in your tracks. Zack, with the fervor of Paul Bunyan hammering away at 200 feet tall trees, beat his drums dumb while flinging his locks back and forth like a wild caveman throughout the entirety of the show. Matthew’s country
roots panache, accompanied with his unusually enhancing voice that sounds like it’s projected through a tin can, kept eyes and ears focused on his gritty guitar work for songs like “Mr. Pumpernickel” and “The Day is Real.” Look out folks! The Blackfoot Gypsies are coming, and they’re bringing soul, fire and delight to the way music needs to be played.