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12:30-1:45pm Nate Manos Band with Alica “Ya Yah” Townsend

Chicago soulful blues singer Nate Manos made a name for himself collaborating with such greats as Sheryl Youngblood and Omar Coleman but his own group is becoming an energetic musical force. Regularly performing at such venues as Rosa’s and Kingston Mines, he moves easily from traditional blues to smooth R&B. The combination with singer Alicia “Ya Yah” Townsend is especially dynamic. She has been performing her own blend of classic blues and contemporary soul for more than 25 years and is also a dedicated community activist when she is away from musical stages. Townsend released her album Just Me on Bandcamp in 2010 and continues to present her music to audiences worldwide. (AC)

2:00-3:15pm Joey J. Saye Trio

Joey J.  Saye, a child of Liberian immigrants born in Naperville in 1983, received his first guitar from his father when he was about 11, but by his own admission he’d been enamored of the instrument almost literally since he’d been able to hear—he has remembered “being in diapers, playing a toy guitar.”  His first musical love was rock & roll, but in his early teens he began to investigate his father’s CD collection, where he discovered the music of blues immortals such as Memphis Minnie and Muddy Waters. An encounter with live blues at downtown Naperville club further motivated him, and a few years later he discovered Rosa’s Lounge, where he established a residency accompanying such respected veterans as Mary Lane and Willie Buck. He eventually began headlining his own shows, and since then he’s built a reputation as one of our city’s promising younger blues artists; he has also expanded his activities to include out-of-town gigs and overseas appearances. Saye’s guitar work—fleet-fingered and seasoned with elements of jazz and classic pop in the manner of Robert Jr. Lockwood, one of his idols—is a savory combination of passion, precision, and invention. (DW)

3:30-4:45pm Omar Coleman Westside Soul

The blues was not necessarily the “mainstream” music of choice on Chicago’s West Side when Omar Coleman was growing up there in the 1990s, but there was still plenty of it in the air, and Coleman absorbed it with gusto. He purchased his first harmonica at a downtown music store while on break from his job as a barber, and he began to study recordings by postwar masters like Junior Wells and iconoclastic modernists such as Sugar Blue. He honed his chops in jam sessions, and after forming his own band in the early 2000s, he hit the local circuit. Within a decade or so he was an international blues celebrity. In 2015, Coleman released his debut for Delmark, Born & Raised; he’s been with the label ever since. In the spirit of singer Sharon Lewis’s maxim that “it’s all blues if it comes from the heart,” he incorporates elements of funk, soul, and R&B in his playing, even as he remains true to the ancestral spirits who first inspired him, carrying the torch of Chicago blues—living, evolving, blazing new trails—everywhere he goes, whether in his recordings or his live performances.  (DW)

5:00-6:15pm Melody Angel

Fresh off a nationwide tour, Melody Angel continues to fire up Chicago’s blues scene with her Prince/Hendrix-inspired fretboard attack, clarion-strong vocals, and uncompromising (and uncompromised) lyric vision. Celebrating life and demanding social justice with equal fervor, Angel carries on the legacy of such visionary musical spokeswomen as Nina Simone, Abbey Lincoln, and Sistah Souljah, bringing a life-toughened, hip-hop influenced sensibility to the searing Chicago blues style that she has embraced, updated, and made her own. (Another of her idols was the late Otis Rush, whom she knew as a family relative.) Her latest self-released CD, Indie Blues Girl, is, characteristically, both a celebration of survival and an affirmation of identity and independence. Her guitar work, as incendiary as it is, emphasizes precision and dexterity without sacrificing either the emotional intensity or the spiritual/psychic militance that lie at the heart of both blues and rock & roll, and which remain essential to  her musical identity. In Angel’s blues, as in life, victories are hard-won. Hers is a music that dares to stare down life—its travails, injustices, and inequities—and then dance defiantly in its face. (DW)

6:30-7:45pm Last Call with WDCB Radio and Stephen Hull

One of the great young voices of blues, Wisconsin’s Stephen Hull and started playing around his native Racine about 10 years ago when he was just 15. But the lyricism and flow he brings to his guitar playing and singing prove that his is already a mature artist with a wide open musical palette. Fronting The Stephen Hull Experience since 2018, he’s seeped in old school blues but does not shy away from tastefully blending in rock, jazz and funk in his solos. He’s also as focused on tunes themselves, with a repertoire of more than 250 songs. This year he received the Jus’ Blues King of the Blues Award for his dedication to preserving the traditional blues heritage. He was also named best guitarist at the 2024 Blues Foundation’s International Blues Challenge while the Experience took second place in the band division. (AC)


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