Dedicated to the passion, promotion and education of the Blues; Live, Virtual, International. For all blues fans, DJ's, musicians, promoters, educators, and 501(C)3's who appreciate eclectic, discriminating, genuine, fresh and often random articles.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Cruisin' For Some Bluesin'

What happens when you cross a Chicago Winter with a serious case of wander lust?

You email Leanne at and ask if there are any last minute cancellations for this weekend. Even the most spontaneous of us, might just need an extra day, or 60 to get a passport. But, it is a darn good cure for the Winter Blues, and as I gazed over the fall cruise, I saw I could spend the week with not only Kenny Wayne Sheppard and those Baker Brooks Fellas, which truly is my idea of heaven, but you also get to see Buckwheat Zydeco, Susan Tedeschi, Elvin Bishop, Tommy Castro, Rod Piazza, Fiona Boyes, and the IBC winner from Memphis the first weekend in February. And, Cabo San Lucas. Did I book it? You will just have to see in October!

Then, I thought anywhere South, and soon would do. Remembering The Blues Foundation and their "Battle of The Blues," or more formally known as, The IBC (International Blues Challenge) was set to occur I had to look them up as I recalled Beale Street, my first bowl of grits, greens, and something with pork innards. Mmm...I love Memphis. This year, there is exciting news! They will also have a youth showcase encouraging and ensuring another generation of Blues Lovers out there! Looking to contribute? Email Joe Whitmer, the Event Producer, for volunteer opportunities. Be sure to include your phone number. I was all set to email him, and glanced at my wretched calendar. Unfortunately, I am in Wisconsin that weekend, enjoying Celtic Music! Slainte!

I resigned myself to staying local, and glanced over who was playing where and when. I am already yearning for the Chicago Blues Fest experience. I liked the crowd size of the very first one, yes I was there, but you know, they just get better and better. And this year is looking like no exception. And, it is free! To, all my blues loving friends in Second Life, I dare you, bring your non-pixel selves out to the Windy City and catch some authentic Chicago Blues!

If I am not going to travel, I at least want virtual blues and a CHICAGO BLUES RADIO STATION! I have been a long time Atlanta Blues Society radio listener, and finding replacements is a task. Here are a couple suggestions for those of you who need your blues fix to function.

Songs I heard and liked today -
Kenny Neal - "Let Life Flow"

Bryan Lee - "Don't Bite the Hand That Feeds You"

Delbert McClinton - "The Part I Like Best"

Tab Benoit - "Don't Make No Sense"

My "New Find of the Day" hails from Finland! No, seriously. Go to their page. Really, I insist. They made my bookmarks AND friends list.

And on that note, it is a good time, to love the blues. Obama likes his Wang Dang Doodle. My Harmonica playing friend in England has the finest Scratchy collection of anyone I know. I am blown away by the fact Blues truly is an international and inter-generational genre, coming from its roots in Southern Black Slavery. Fortunately, similar to American Politics, both have successfully transcended barriers.

Skin Deep, Blues Lovers!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Discovering "Painkiller"

There is magic in his fingers, and I clearly can feel it, followed by wit, and playfulness in his lyrics "A Good Fool is Hard to Find."

I wonder how I could have missed a talented Blues man who knows what to do with a guitar with over a decade of impressiveness? Feeling much like a Catholic School Girl, allowed to study Zen, or (something secular and seductive) for the first time, I am in total infatuation with this style that mixes My Sweet Home Chicago and West Coast Blues with a little Rockin' Soul. And, bonus, the voice is pure heat.

How did I find him? Dreaming about Crusin' with Blues artists, listening to some Ronnie Baker Brooks and checking out Blind Pig Records web site. I am not normally a big Contemporary Blues fan, growing up between Chicago and East Saint Louis, I love Chicago Blues and the St. Louis Cardinals, and rarely notice anything outside of my first loves. But along came this man from San Francisco.

Before I knew it, I was listening to "Painkiller" mp3's, watching videos on You Tube, and finally, entered TOMMY CASTRO into Google search. That's when I knew, it wouldn't be long before he made my Valentine's Day wish list. Er, his CD, I mean. Although, there is just something about a Blues Player, ah well, another post perhaps. Let's talk about MUSIC.

"Painkiller" is his newest release, and won a Blues Music Award, "Contemporary Blues Album of the Year" 2008. It is not Tommy's first mention of fame, in my google finds, he has been making news since 1996. I felt a little BB in him, but his style is all his own. And I know, there will be some discretionary spending, even in times like these, on Mr. Tommy Castro and his talented band. (Oh yes, HOT SAX warning!)

For my Second Life Blues Loving Friends who will be in Las Vegas over Valentines Day weekend, heads up! So will Tommy! I know who I would want to see that weekend! And for my Second Life DJ Friends, you can expect more requests, check out Painkiller, it will play well for you! (And if it doesn't, I will buy the CD from you!)

For now I am back to chair dancing to those awesome mp3's and cyber researching more about this Contemporary Blues Artist. Look out KWS, my newest crush is older AND not blond!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Experiencing Buddy Guy @ Legends

Last night, I watched Buddy Guy perform live at his club Legends, in Chicago. Hard to believe that club is now twenty years old. Pulling into the snow covered parking lot, I glanced over the backside of a building that could best described as both beloved and dinghy, or more to the point, authentic. ( If you want glitz and neon and “shows,” go to Vegas. If you want to experience authentic Chicago Blues, come to Chicago. That’s my feeling.

Entering the dark club about 5 PM for a 9 PM show, I took note of something a friend of mine in Second Life had said, regarding a resemblance of a blues club in SL, Toby’s and the RL, Legends. (but no booths or Walking through, we somehow managed to miss the last two chairs. That is significant, (because at $40 a ticket, a bargain, in my opinion,) I begrudgingly resigned myself to standing the entire night leaning against a ledge. Besides, how hard could it be to eat the Chicken Andouille Jambalaya standing in heels for hours?

A couple beers, some nice conversation, and people had started wandering in over the next couple of hours. Ordering some of that soul food, and a little Jose Cuervo to go with it, I was in heaven. The food? Fantastic! Jambalaya so authentic, I got a spice induced hot flash, and in Chicago in the Winter, that’s not all that bad a thing. The night sped by, thanks to the help of a great waitress. Whatever she makes, it’s not enough. Fast, efficient, helpful, and she even, was kind enough to ask people if chairs were taken for us. The guitars behind the bar, told their own story, as my eyes alighted upon a certain polka dot one. The mural near the restrooms also caught my eye. Ten years ago, it would have been filled with smoke, fortunately that was not the case.

The crowd thickened, and there was little room for plates of food, or drinks. Most ate standing up, holding their plates precariously. (You eat gumbo standing and you will feel accomplished too! )

Why is it in crowded places, people who feel the need to move about in a hurry, think its perfectly acceptable to put their hands on your shoulders, give you a little massage as they move you over, or, the most startling, put their hands on your hips and move you! My personal space was invaded by total strangers more times than I could count, and Jose was not helping. One man started to reach under the ledge for the coat hook, and brushed my skirt, to hang his jacket beneath where I was leaning! I know, the look I gave him, must have surely sent a clear message, because he backed off and went to the other side of the room. Now don’t get me wrong, I am moderately friendly and social, but my purse was on that hook! And, I don’t need a lot of personal space, but my posterior is off limits, unless I know you!

Both preceding acts were fantastic. An old school acoustical duo (Eddie Taylor, Jr.?) played from 430 to 6. The pair set the perfect mood for a night of Blues. I felt like I could be sitting on a porch, listening to some of the keepers of the genre, relaxing. (By that time, sitting was a reoccurring thought.)

The opening act, Big James and the Chicago Playboys ( is a band to pay attention to. They recently toured with Buddy, signed with Blind Pig Records, have a new CD coming out this spring and a bit of trivia, won an award at the Jazz Festival in Vienne, France. Pretty good for a bunch of Southsiders! When they took the stage, it became apparent; we were in for a treat. They had the ability to connect with an audience, make Blues entertaining, incorporated humor, delivered on the music quality, and put a little funk into the Blues! My Second Life DJ friends and Blues Club owners should definitely take note of them, because their vibrant energy would translate into Virtual Reality well! You can be sure, I will actually join their fan club, and look for them again. I believe they are scheduled locally for Valentine’s Weekend, The Chicago Blues Fest weekend and The Blues on the Fox in June. Go see them. You won’t be disappointed. And listen for the “Leave Your Coat On” song! James and band, proved the Blues, could indeed, bring a smile to your face with some dam good keyboard, sax and trombone playing as well.

As the anticipation grew, waiting for Buddy to take the stage, the crowd settled into a position in which everyone in our general area could see. And, then it happened. Our little group of newly intimate strangers, attracted friends, and a jockeying of position started to occur. Suddenly the pair of late arriving young twenty something’s, both exceptionally tall, (6’6” and 6’2”) were standing in front of the 5’4” thirty something’s who shared a ledge with us. The couple who were well into their 50’s, on our other side, had no chance at all of seeing. Even asking politely for people to move back or over a few inches, as they were now blocking the vision that most of us had stood there for 3 hours to see, was met with indifferent shrugs or apologetic grimaces.

If you have never experienced BG live, you simply must. But go early and get a good table. Seriously. Every show is different, and the man is a true performer and artist. A living legend. Buddy’s comments are priceless, ranging from funny, pointed, sincere, to admonishing. He was fantastic, everything you thought him to be, and more. When he sings, he looks straight at you that glimmer in his eye. Even for the 5, what I assumed to be cognac’s he knocked back, the man went around the club several times, and he did a thigh shake that would make Tina Turner envious. I want his work out routine! He did some old favorites, he did several off of Skin Deep, and I have to say, when he said he felt good tonight, and was going to keep playing, no one thought of work the following day, or plane flights, or anything else. You know, when you are in the presence of greatness, time stops. Two things particularly struck me. The first was Buddy brought a young man, well really a boy, up on stage to play guitar with him. The boy had to be somewhere between 10 and 13. He was adorable with a tie around his hat for a brim, but when he started playing Buddy’s guitar, I think many jaws dropped in the house. Buddy asked the Father more than once, “Why in the F didn’t you bring him around sooner?,” and he was dead serious. The boy, was good. Better than good. It was innate talent. And I saw the future of the Blues, in that moment.

The next surprise was, Buddy left the stage at the end, and called up Ronnie Baker Brooks, once voted Best New Blues Artist, Best New Chicago Blues Artist, and Best Chicago Debut Blues CD with “Golddigger” (ten years ago) and not to mention the son of the great Lonnie Baker Brooks, to come finish the set, as singer and guitar player, so he could do autographs. Now, one might think that it would be a let down, but it was far from it. Ronnie played well with Buddy’s band. “Born in Chicago” never fails to light the blues flame in fans. It’s not his Daddy’s blues, but his own. Looking at his schedule, it makes me want to spend Valentine’s Day with him!

So, as the night came to an end, and I watched Ronnie and Buddy’s keyboard player communicate non-verbally, I had to smile. You have to admire a man, who so obviously shares his stage, and encourages younger talents. It is not the mark of a great musician; it is the mark of a superb human being.

BG got it right, on his new CD, Skin Deep. Which of course, I got autographed. It was all I could do, standing inches from him, to keep from making a blathering idiot of myself, but I managed a sincere, “Thank you,” which was for much more than the autograph. It was for what he has done for Chicago Blues, education about the Blues, encouraging the next generation of Blues artists, and, the simple fact, his music speaks to my heart. As the lyrics go, “He can make an old woman, young, And he is the one and only, the one man I won’t forget,” at least when it comes to the Blues!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

The No More Resolutions, Revolution!

Every year, I start off January with my Franklin Planner, PDA, and any other strategic planning tools I can dig up, in effort to develop and organize goals and objectives based on my values, and then plan and prioritize the resulting action steps and time lines. It is always, a work a Project Manager would be proud of. By March, or certainly April, I feel like an utter failure.

So, in my determination to live in the positive, I have no resolutions this year! YAY! I am free of that traditional enigma. If, I allow myself to have an overall commitment to self development and the priorities in my life, then my days are filled with things that add value to my well being and those I care about, resulting in a feeling of positive accomplishments instead of failure!

Does that mean I still need my planner? Of course! Every month, week and day will include “A NEW CATEGORY,” in addition to - mundane chores, deadlines, kid’s activities, appointments, volunteer activities, commitments, social engagements, and general responsibilities of life that must be addressed. This approach of incorporating a new category vs. resolutions on a regular basis will likely start out as a discipline, which in time; hopefully will result in natural positive changes and behaviors, experiencing that distinct difference between “existing” and “living.”

That is the next step in my continual effort to play Humpty Dumpty with myself. In the past year, I have at least found most of the pieces, and begun to glue them back, but there is still work to do. Somewhere, in the past decade, key pieces were lost, shattered and damaged beyond repair. (Hence my love of Blues songs, like SoulShine or with “Broken” themes) For the first time, in years, I have permission, to make myself a priority, to recognize, acknowledge, and even work to fulfill my own needs, and to believe “I am worth it.” It is a paradigm change, (to borrow an old Change Management term from the 90’s) to understand it is not selfish, to recognize one must replenish the well, to be able to go on giving out water, to those that thirst deeply.

So, this year, I am going to do things, differently.

I will focus on 7 general positive practices: Be a consistent supportive, involved, attuned parent. Be on top of the IEP’s and 504’s (

Improve my writing, consistently writing 500 words a day 5-7 days a week, and eventually returning to competition and publication.

Return to my innate nature as an optimistic, continual learner.

Nurture spirit, mind, body and soul. Promote and model healthy lifestyle habits. Review My Quadrants of Living, in order to make effective changes and move on. ( ( (

Re-establish personal boundaries, including avoiding people and activities that do not add value to my life, or worse, are emotionally or mentally destructive. I will only invest in people, projects, activities, and groups who value my relationship with them, and I will only invest at a 50/50 level, not at 110% and 10% ratio.

I will continue to explore VR, the Metaverse ( primarliy in Second Life by; acquiring new skills, programs, and tools, as I discover my inner geek; participating actively in the Writer’s community, teaching building to those who wish to learn, and enjoying Live Music Performances and select DJ’s on a limited basis. I will devote my time and talents to people, activities, and groups that give a return on my investment.

I will no longer allow myself in a virtual world, to be taken for granted, to be amusing arm candy, or be someone else's emotional punching bag, for their issues. Inconsiderate virtual friends, won’t be in my world/s. (

Lastly, I will never again, make someone/something a priority in life, who/which is incapable of reciprocity. Life, in all its forms, is worth sharing with people, just not all people.

Those are my draft priorities for 2009. How does that translate to My Franklin Planner entries for actionable steps in January?

Get a new book/DVD from the library on - gasp - Photoshop, Tai Chi, Reiki, conversational German, writing a better short story, discovering the art of Bonsai or whatever strikes my fancy at the moment and falls under the category of self improvement. (Done)

Meet a friend at the Y, work out, and enjoy the sauna. Take the yoga class. Plant something.. (Partially done)

Travel and explore some place new. Do that weekend/daytrip away. (Planned/paid/ and scheduled!)

Dance, for the love of it, feeling my Celtic roots. (Feeling my unused muscles is more like it!)

Continue exploring a spiritual path, even if it is not, the path of my past. (To do, research)

Make a difference to someone, everyday, in my family, community, or online. (ongoing)

Allow myself to be at peace, to let go of grief, guilt, anger and pain exploring meditation, genealogy, and the relationship of genetics to health. (it is an ongoing process)

Have a glass of good wine & take a long, luxurious bubble bath. (Completed, to be repeated at least weekly!)

Make sleep a priority, and awake ready to write. (Still working on the first part)

Register for that 24 hour short story contest on January 24th. (Done!)

May the year 2009, be the year of change and hope, not only for our nation, but for all of us.

What about you? Do you do resolutions?