Song - Artist - Album
The Joke - High Tide - Sea Shanties/High Tide
Last Thursday night the Connecticut Blues Challenge officially kicked off at Black-Eyed Sally’s in Hartford. Each and every year the Connecticut Blues Society puts on one hell of a showcase of blues bands from all over Connecticut. Last week was no exception with 5 bands tearing up the stage in an amazing display of blues; and then there was the jam. Between the judges and bands playing there were some seriously heavy hitters laying it all out for one of the most intense and satisfying jams I’ve heard in a long time. It was clear that there is both a lot of blues talent and a lot of genuine love for the music here in Connecticut.
This year 33 bands will be playing in the Connecticut Blues Challenge at Black-Eyed Sally’s over six nights (May 6, 13, 20, 27, June 10 and 24). Each band is scored based on criteria set by the Blues Foundation. Every night the band with the highest score is awarded a spot in the finals, set to take place September 11 at the Hannon Hatch VFW in West Hartford. For the past three years WHUS has broadcast the event live. Last week Eran Troy Danner (stay tuned for his appearance on the Transfer Station later this summer) took the night earning a spot in the finals in September. Eran has been to the finals several times and is always a crowd pleaser. Some high points from last week’s set included a great version of Honey Hush, which included a nice nod to the iceman (Albert Collins) in Eran’s guitar solo/vocal interplay, a new tune called Lucky Day to be included on an upcoming CD, and finally a nice version of Mess Around. But there was no messin’ around from this kid as Eran Troy Danner tore the roof off separating himself from tons of great blues all 5 bands laid down.
I do need to tip my hat to all the bands who dropped some great performances and really made for an excellent evening. The Kris Heaton Band got things rocking with a solid set of rockin’ blues. The band has a great female vocalist that can wail with the best of ‘em. She was the highlight of their very solid set. Next, former CT Blues Challenge Champions, Washboard Slim and the Bluelights, took the stage. This jug band features great junkyard percussion (and yes I use that term as a compliment), powerful vocals from Cynthia, and bass parts performed on a gutbucket and authentic jugs. But never mind all that. What came through in the performance was incredible musicianship and a fun playful energy. The mood was well established by the time they finished the opener, a great version of I Let My Daddy Do That complete with a sultry slow tempo intro. Eran Troy Danner played next, followed by the Steve Polezonis Trio. The trio created a really nice laid back vibe in their set that included a really nice version of Little Walter’s Boom, Boom Out Goes the Light. Finally, the Delta Lane Blues Band brought the night home with a nice tight blues show band kind of thing. As many of you know I’m a sucker for the Blues Brothers; so the front man sporting a black hat who was clearly channeling Jake Blues along with great interaction with vocalist “Little Jack” made me happy.
As if this weren’t enough, everyone who stuck around until the end was treated to an amazing jam. River City Slim played harp (with incredible intensity), Eran Troy Danner and Greg McCullough played guitar (with some very nice dueling solos), Billy Bileca played bass, and Nick Longo on drums. MC Tom Retano belted out a few numbers before Cynthia Fabian from Washboard Slim & the Bluelights joined in for a few songs. It was the perfect way to cap off a great night of blues and the un-official start to the Blues Season.
The challenge continues tomorrow (May 13) at Black-Eyed Sally’s and I’m especially excited for the Mojomatics (making a rare trip up from southwest CT) set and speaking with Mary Lou Sullivan who just put out a biography of Johnny Winter called Raisin’ Cain. I am looking forward to cacthin’ y’all out there. So remember to get out and catch the blues, before the blues catch you.