Smoky Mountain Blues Society previews 2018 concert lineup
Everyone gets the blues at one time or another. Indeed, the frustration and frailty of life in general can lead to a blue mood even on a moment’s notice.
Wait … this sounds much too dire. And, for that matter, it has nothing to do with the subject at hand. Let’s then turn our attention to … the blues – that of a musical variety. It makes for a far better topic than a discussion of changes to one’s mental state that lead those so affected to heavily indulge in alcoholic concoctions or mind-altering mayhem.
But again, that’s the blues – as in B.B. King, Albert King, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Buddy Guy and all those other uniquely American musicians who transformed a combination of pain and perseverance into an art form that’s emulated all over the world.
Ah, such grand designs. And no fake news besides. Therefore, credit the Smoky Mountain Blues Society for continuing to foster that hallowed genre and for bringing awareness to music lovers and novices alike throughout East Tennessee. A nonprofit organization, the society is dedicated to showcasing the region’s incredible musical heritage and to bringing new members and fellow enthusiasts into the fold to share a common love for all things bluesy.
That said, one of the society’s major missions is to organize and promote local music events that spotlight blues artists of both local and national repute. Not surprisingly, the organization is offering a full slate of concerts that promise to bring the best of the blues to those eager to indulge. The following is BLANK’s exclusive look at what the Smoky Mountain Blues Society has on tap for 2018.
2/28: Frank Bang, Barley’s Maryville
Frank “Bang” Blinkal, former guitarist for Buddy Guy’s band, was born and raised in Chicago, the birthplace of urban blues. He worked his way up through the ranks even after joining Guy, with whom he served for five years. Tickets for this special show will be priced at $10 for Blues Society members and nonmembers alike.
4/18: Walter Trout, Barley’s Maryville
A multiple-award-winning musician, Walter Trout has been plying his craft for the better part of the past 50 years. After getting his start in the New Jersey coast’s music scene in the late ‘60s/early ‘70s, he relocated to Los Angeles and made his name as a sideman for such notables as Percy Mayfield, Deacon Jones, John Lee Hooker and Joe Tex. In 1981, he became the guitarist for the band Canned Heat and was subsequently invited to join John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. Ever restless, he left the Bluesbreakers in 1989 and formed his own Walter Trout Band, which he’s helmed ever since. Ticket prices are yet to be determined.
Cruising for a Blues-ing
In May, the Blues Society initiates its annual series of Blues Cruises, popular events that welcome blues boosters aboard the Star of Knoxville riverboat for a three hour cruise down the Tennessee River. An opportunity for both music and mingling, the cruises offer live entertainment, a cash bar and on-board food options.
It’s worth noting that this isn’t the three-hour cruise inscribed in the annals of TV sitcom history. Don’t expect to see Gilligan or any of his imaginary cohorts. The only shipwrecks are those individuals who allow themselves to get overly inebriated while on board. The lineup for these events is as follows.
5/20: Devan Jones & The Uptown Stomp
Devan Jones founded his band The Uptown Stomp in early 2013. The original intention was to create a sound that he would later describe as “swangin’ blues, ragtime and jazz from the 1930s through the 1950s.” While their sound has continued to evolve, Devan Jones & The Uptown Stomp emulate a specific style of the ‘40s and ‘50s, as represented by such artists as Roy Brown, Wynonie Harris, Guitar Slim, Ray Charles, T-Bone Walker and B.B. King. The group’s ever expanding repertoire continues to draw from great American music such as vintage jazz, big band swing and Chicago blues.
6/24: Mighty Blue
East Tennessee’s representatives at the recent International Blues Challenge across the state in Memphis, Mighty Blue play old-school blues from Chicago, Memphis and Texas. Nevertheless, these local favorites also are adept at providing satisfying soul stomp replete with funky vibes, with some saucy swing and resilient rock ‘n‘ roll tossed in for good measure.
7/15: Mojo Tweed
Another local favorite, Mojo Tweed makes its mark with an emphatic combination of traditional blues standards and original compositions. The band boasts a reputation as one of the most popular live acts in the region – one reason why this particular cruise is likely to sell out quickly.
8/19: Left Foot Dave and the Magic Hats
Left Foot Dave and the Magic Hats were founded by frontman David Overall, a classically trained musician who performed for four seasons with the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra. Although his tastes veer across a broad variety of genres, the blues are his first love. The band’s performances tend to put an emphasis on emotion, resulting in a joyful display of exuberance and exhilaration.
9/16: Michael “Crawdaddy” Crawley
One of the foremost harp players in East Tennessee, Michael Crawley has been making music ever since he was a child. Now, 30 years after picking up his first harp, Crawley continues his musical journey. Having performed with a number of notable musicians both here and elsewhere, he’s opened up for the likes of B.B. King, Johnny Winter, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Blackfoot, Delbert McClinton, Marshall Tucker and Mac McAnally among the many. A onetime frontman for Jenna and Her Cool Friends, he’s since ventured out on his own, garnering an avid fan following in the process.
9/30: Albert Castiglia
Mentored by legendary blues musician Junior Wells, Castiglia toured with the iconic harp player for several years until Wells’ passing in 1998. He subsequently performed with Atlanta blues singer Sandra Hall while further pursuing his pedigree. However, Castiglia’s never been content with simply recycling the obvious, and his penchant for pushing the parameters of the genre and rocking relentlessly has given him a well-deserved reputation as a driven, dynamic instrumentalist/singer-songwriter.
We’ll keep you posted on this one …
Tickets for all shows are available through the Tennessee Riverboat Company’s website (http://tnriverboat.com/blues-cruises-2/) or by calling (865) 525-7827. Tickets are just $16 in advance and $20 at the door. Smoky Mountain Blues Society members enjoy a special discount, so consider joining if interested.
And finally … more blues news
Music lovers can look forward to some other annual events later in the year, as well. They are as follows.
8/9: Local competition for the International Blues Challenge
Local bands compete for the opportunity to represent East Tennessee at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis. The location for the throwdown is yet to be determined.
11/15: Sara Jordan Birthday Bash
One of the most anticipated events of the year, the annual Sara Jordan Birthday Bash celebrates the woman widely known as Knoxville’s queen of the blues. It also serves as a fundraiser for the Blues Foundation’s Hart Fund, with proceeds going to support musicians’ medical services.
TBD: Smoky Mountain Blues Society Holiday Extravaganza
OK, the word “extravaganza” implies that there’s a certain amount of spectacle involved. In truth, it’s a potluck party. Nevertheless, the music is spectacular, and the setting (the beautiful Royal Oaks Event Center in Maryville) does suggest a certain amount of glitz and glamour.
For more information about what the Smoky Mountain Blues Society has in store, please visit http://smokymountainblues.org.