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SUNDAY June 11, 2023 - Chicago Blues Festival 2023

Chicago Blues Festival Program Guide

By Aaron Cohen and David Whiteis

Los Lobos photo by Piero F. Giunti

Jay Pritzker - Schedule

2:30-3:45pm - The Anthony Paule Soul Orchestra featuring Terrie Odabi The Anthony Paule Soul Orchestra takes listeners back in a time when muscular R&B bands featured the muscular arrangements that matched their strong singers. California-based guitarist Paule has never limited himself to just one corner of the blues as he has shown his finesse in everything from the venerable Mississippi Delta sound to vintage big band jump. He formed the Soul Orchestra initially to back the late vocalist Wee Willie Walker for the 2017 album, After A While. The orchestra’s 2021 recording with Walker, Not In My Lifetime, won Living Blues’ prestigious critics’ poll for best new southern soul recording. Singer Terrie Odabi is the ideal match for Paule’s versatility. A dynamic blues shouter, she also had opera training when she was a child soprano. But her musical explorations are boundless as she has also embraced spirituals, jazz and contemporary R&B. Her 2014 album, Evolution Of The Blues, features her title track, which also reflects her deep interest in mixing the music with cultural and social activism. [AC]

4-5:15pm - Stephen Hull See the listing for Friday, 12:30 PM, Rosa’s Lounge Stage

5:30-6:15pm - Sheryl Youngblood The multi-talented singer Sheryl Youngblood knows that greatness is never achieved through standing in one spot as she has delved into myriad idioms and instruments. As she was growing up in Joliet, Ill., her initial experiences were singing in the Mt. Zion Baptist Church choir, as well as becoming proficient as a keyboardist and drummer. Turning secular, she played drums behind bluesman Roy Hytower before forming the groups Ultimately Blessed and funk show band SAYYES!. Youngblood then stepped forward as the face of The Sheryl Youngblood Blues Band with uproarious shows at such clubs as Blue Chicago as well as her albums Stranger In My Bed from 2011 and Live At The House Of Blues three years later. Along with her success as a performer, Youngblood is also a certified audio technician and videographer. [AC]

6:30-7:30pm - Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials Guitarist “Lil” Ed Williams was mentored by his uncle, the late J.B. Hutto, a slide master who himself had been a disciple of the legendary Elmore James. Williams grew up on the West Side and got his musical start in rough-hewn West Side urban jukes before signing with Chicago’s Alligator label and releasing his debut, Roughhousin’, in 1985. Since then, he and his Blues Imperials have brought their brand of high-octane blues exuberance, fueled by Ed’s searing slide work and tempered by the occasional soul-baring ballad, to audiences throughout the country and around the world. Known for exemplifying “Genuine Houserockin’ Music” (as Alligator’s motto puts it), their shows hark back to the days when the blues was the soundtrack to a no-holds-barred Saturday Night party at the local juke, an opportunity for working-class men and women to unwind after a hard week. “They call me a party band,” Ed has proclaimed, and the party is still on. [DW]

7:45-9pm - Los Lobos

As this year marks the 50th anniversary of Los Lobos’ emergence, the band continues to expand its musical vistas including with its premiere performance at the Chicago Blues Festival. For this set, the pride of East Los Angeles will collaborate onstage with some of this city’s top blues musicians. But since this band has always been immersed in roots music, the meeting comes as no surprise. Consisting of guitarist/drummer Louie Perez, saxophonist Steve Berlin, guitarist Cesar Rosas, bassist Conrad Lozano and vocalist/guitarist David Hidalgo, the group has blended Mexican and Tejano folk—son jarocho and norteño—with punk, soul and rockabilly. Los Lobos brought all of these sounds together along with socially conscious lyrics and electronic experiments for its 1992 album Kiko, which has sold more than 2 million copies. The group’s 2021 LP Native Sons is a tribute to the band’s early Chicano rock ’n’ roll influences. That year, the National Endowment for the Arts also named Los Lobos National Heritage Fellows for its dedication to preserving Mexican American folkloric traditions. [AC]

Visit Mississippi Juke Joint Stage (South Promenade)

12-1pm - Duwayne Burnside Duwayne Burnside’s father was the late R.L, Burnside, one of the avatars (along with his close friend Junior Kimbrough) of the droning, propulsive style associated with the Northern Mississippi hill country which is sometimes called “trance blues.” Tutored by both men, Duwayne began playing with Kimbrough and his band at a young age, becoming adept at purveying the sound that lured aficionados from around the world to Kimbrough’s juke in Chulahoma, Mississippi, near Holly Springs, before it burned down in 2000. But he also expanded his musical horizon, traveling to Memphis to soak in some of the more urbane blues and soul-blues on offer there. In the 1990s he hooked up with the North Mississippi All-Stars, with whom he recorded and toured extensively for several years; today he and his band deliver a bracing mix of the unmitigated juke-joint rawness he absorbed from his father and Kinbrough along with melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic ideas drawn from contemporary blues, soul-blues, and R&B. [DW]

1:15-2:15pm - Terry “Harmonica” Bean Terry “Harmonica” Bean, born into a sharecropping family in Pontotoc, Mississippi in 1961, grew up immersed in music. His father, Eddie Bean, was a guitarist who hosted house parties that often featured local blues players; enthralled, young Terry soon picked up both the guitar and the harmonica and began to sit in. For quite a few years, though, music was mostly a hobby; only in the late 1980s did he begin to actually perform on a regular basis. He released his debut solo recording, Here I Am Baby, in 2001. His vintage-sounding Southern blues are augmented and updated by his harmonica work, which shows the influence of such postwar Chicago stylists as Little Walter and his contemporaries, as well as others like James Cotton and Carey Bell, who came along in their wake. Bean has said he likes nothing better than to see “people hearing the blues played like they used to hear it,” shot through with his trademark passion and emotional urgency. [DW]

2:30-3:30pm - Zac Harmon Growing up in Jackson, Miss., as the son of a piano-playing mother and harmonica-playing father, singer/guitarist Zac Harmon, had no shortage of musical influences at his fingertips. As he moved to Los Angeles in the early 1980s, he took that music with him and his own sound seems to reflect it all with a soulful smoothness that he blends with a deep grittiness. He also draws from experiences writing for a host of artists ranging from R&B singer Evelyn “Champaign” King to reggae band Black Uhuru. Harmon delved deeper into his Mississippi roots for the acclaimed 2019 album Mississippi BBQ. His stinging lead guitar lines are a sharp contrast to his laid-back funky grooves. On other original tracks as “Deal With The Devil” from his 2021 LP Long As I Got My Guitar, Harmon brings a contemporary spin to the traditional blues sound and lyrical tropes (this recording also earned Harmon The Blues Foundation award for Soul Blues Album of the Year). [AC]

3:45-4:45pm - O.B. Buchana Vocalist O.B. Buchana is one of the leading lights on the thriving but still mostly regional southern soul-blues circuit. Born in Mound Bayou, Mississippi and raised in Clarksdale, Buchana got his start singing gospel. He began recording secular music in the early 1990s, but his career really took off after he signed with the Memphis-based Ecko label and released Shake What You Got in 2004, initiating a mutually profitable relationship with the company that’s still going strong. His voice is thick and gritty, and he usually favors the kind of bouncy, good-timey paeans to all-night juking and slyly subversive odes to creative lovemaking that have come to largely define the genre. Nonetheless, as shown on outings like “My Baby,” his 2021 duet with Nellie Travis, he’s also capable of smoldering deep-soul passion, keeping him grounded in what admirers of the style continue to extol as “grown folks’ music” and marking him as a true soul man. [DW]

Rosa’s Lounge (North Promenade)

12:30-1:20pm - Wendy and DB with Blues Friends For the blues to continue thriving, the music needs to be handed down to a younger generation and singer/songwriters Wendy and DB have made their mission to bring the music to today’s children. The group’s 2022 Grammy nominated Into The Little Blue House album is a collaboration with Chicago-based blues artists (such as harmonica player Billy Branch and drummer Kenny “Beedy Eyed” Smith) to deliver upbeat blues-based songs with optimistic messages that families can enjoy together. Wendy (Wendy Morgan) focused on writing and singing children’s music after a lengthy career in pop and acting. Her musical partner, Darryl “DB” Boggs, served as a band teacher and choir director in Chicago schools for more than 40 years while also working as a full-time musician. Along with performing, Wendy and DB have also raised funds for nonprofit organizations and 10% of the proceeds of Into The Little Blue House are being donated to the Pinetop Perkins Foundation. [AC]

1:35-2:25pm - The Ivy Ford Band An exuberant singer and incredibly versatile musician, Ivy Ford has been an irrepressible force since she was growing up in Waukegan, Ill. Self taught on guitar, bass, piano, drums and saxophone she joined her first band, The Real Deal, at 13. Six years later, in 2012, she dove into the blues and formed what would become Ivy Ford and the Cadillacs. Ford then found a mentor in J.B. Ritchie and opening slots for such legends as Buddy Guy. Her original compositions comprise her 2019 album Harvesting My Roots, which is a self assessment of the family background that brought her to music. The follow up, Club 27, is an homage to her musical heroes who died in their late 20s. [AC]

2:40-3:30pm - The Bear Williams Band Bassist/vocalist Bear Williams was a first-call session man in Los Angeles for over 25 years – usually working under his given name, Larry Kimpel – before he decided to take the plunge and remake himself as a front-line blues man. His credits from those days include collaborations, both in the studio and in live performance, with such stellar figures as Anita Baker, the Staple Singers, George Duke, and Frankie Beverly & Maze (he has appeared on upwards of 400 albums and CDs). A recipient of the 2012 BET Lifetime Achievement Award, Williams now fronts a band equally proficient in roots-rich 12-bar Chicago blues, roadhouse-rocking exuberance, and funk-propelled dancefloor workouts; the sophisticated chordal and harmonic colorings he mastered during his years of pop and R&B session work bring unique textures and flavorings to his playing, and his vocals, although street-tough and bluesy, are likewise leavened with a worldly knowingness that invoke the feel of an after-hours uptown show lounge. [DW]

3:45-4:45pm - Gerald McClendon With a silvery voice and ineffable charm, Gerald McClendon revives the sound of classic soul every time he steps on stage. A lifelong Chicagoan, he grew up absorbing the music of Sam Cooke, Curtis Mayfield and Smokey Robinson while also delving into blues, country and jazz standards. His 1999 debut album, Choose Love, features his mellow contemporary R&B compositions. But he also adds his own twists to the classics, including his “Guitars Of Spain” project that brings flamenco touches to songs by Otis Redding. McClendon’s sublime 2021 album Let’s Have A Party takes a sunny and mellow approach to the blues with of gospel vocal refrains and funk beats mixing up the proceedings. He is a regular performer at such venues as Chicago’s Untitled and Berwyn’s Fitzgerald’s. [AC]

5-6pm - Melvin Taylor & The Slack Band

Jackson, Miss., native Melvin Taylor, a great-nephew of the pioneering guitarist Sister Rosetta Tharpe, moved to Chicago with his family when he was a child. He was something of a fretboard prodigy, developing a unique style that blended single-string leads, fingerpicking, and slide into a personalized sound that invoked the postwar masters while taking their ideas into bold new directions. In 1980 he joined the Legendary Blues Band, Muddy Waters’ former outfit, on a European tour; since then he’s recorded multiple albums and CDs and maintained an active touring and performing schedule on his own. His playing melds blues sensibility with concepts borrowed from jazz and progressive rock; his chording often invokes Wes Montgomery, and his mercurial leads pay homage to both Jimi Hendrix and John Coltrane’s “sheets of sound” technique, in which a soloist creates entire scalar improvisations within each chord. A longtime mainstay at Rosa’s, he now gets the opportunity to share his gifts with the Chicago Blues Festival audience as a headliner for the first time. [DW]

6:15-7:30 pm - Last Call with WDCB Radio and Morry Sochat and the Special 20s

As a dedicated music historian as much as he’s an exciting singer/harmonica player, Morry Sochat embraces blues in all its varieties—from the electric 12-bar guitar sounds that still pack this city’s venues to the jump and swing arrangements that got club goers dancing decades ago. Originally from Texas, Sochat moved to Chicago in 1990 and after studying harmonica with Joe Filsko and working with The Shakes, he started the Special 20s in 2005. Along with its self titled debut in 2005, their album Swingin’ Shufflin’ Smokin’ brought together the West Coast classic R&B inflections of Louis Jordan with the refrains of such Chicago heroes as Little Walter through Sochat’s original tunes. A more recent track, “Meet Me In Chicago” from Eatin’ Dirt in 2010, features the relaxed, rolling piano blues of this city’s hometown hero, Nat King Cole. [AC]


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