Saturday, November 7, 2009

Just call me Carnack The Magnificent - Boston Blues Challenge Round II

Having sat through the first round of the Boston Blues Challenge last sunday and having fallen right on my face trying to predict the winners, I figured it would be an interesting exercise to take a stab at predicting the winners for tomorrow night’s show.

Before I proceed, please let me reiterate my picks for last Sunday were wrong. 100% across the board wrong. I am also not a judge, so my preconceived notions are my own and will not be influencing anyone. I would just like to document the attempts as after sitting through last week’s show, I am more comfortable about thinking like one of the judges.

The acts featured tomorrow are Geezer, Alley Blues, the Mike Crandall Band, 2120 S. Michigan Ave. featuring Sweet Willie D, and Sit Down Baby! The show starts at 8:15 and runs to about 11PM. You can either check out this show and contribute to a great cause, keeping the blues alive in Massachusetts, or come across town to see Kent Burnside at Harper’s Ferry.

In their own words off of their website ( “Geezer is a hard-rocking blues and R&B band. We pay homage to the living and dead giants - including Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Jimi Hendrix, and others - and we write our own tunes inspired by them. With two (sometimes three) guitars, electric bass, harp, keys and drums, we produce a driving, danceable sound that's a throwback to an earlier era, yet thoroughly up-to-date - after all, the blues never goes out of fashion. With the addition of the LakeView Horns, the sound is big, beautiful, and authentic. Having lived and played through many musical eras, we are today's answer to the question: "What has eighteen legs and still sits?" We have over 300 years experience playing for indiscriminate audiences and we've shared the stage with such acts as Kim Wilson, Sugar Ray Norcia, Roomful of Blues, Southside Johnny, and Brian Auger. We were even semifinalists in the Boston Blues Society's Blues Challenge. We stick to rockin' electric blues because that's what we do best. And at our age, we can't afford to waste time on anything but the best. Plus we've all lived the blues - teenagers, mortgages, IPOs in the tank.... Despite suggestions to the contrary, we ignore the clock and calendar and just keep crankin' out great music.”

Next up for the night is the Alley Blues Band. In their own words on their site (; “Emitting soul-shaking vocals over earth moving grooves, the neo-soul/retro R&B outfit Alley Blues is a female fronted funk machine. Carrying the echoes of the vintage blues masters through the vibe of the new breed, Alley Blues summons an aura of "the Old Soul" immersed in gritty, captivating vocals. Invoking the essence of Aretha Franklin, mingled with Janis Joplin, in lock step with today's grooving diva's, Amy Winhouse, Joss Stone, Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, Me'Shell N'degeocello, backed by the rich, earthy grooves of the Dap Kings, the Meters, and the Roots... you have Alley Blues. In 2008, they were selected as Finalists for the Boston Blues Challenge. The band brings a refreshing blend of groove based Funk, Soul and R&B to the Northeast Music Scene. Featuring Alley Stoetzel's powerful, vibrant vocals and alluring stage presence, backed by Eric Vincent's tasteful, ear-pleasing guitar riffs. Louis Ochoa's infectious; fat, funky grooves hold down the low end on bass. Rounding out the rhythm foundation is Justin Oliver's solid, core-shaking pocket on drums. The band has been touring extensively throughout the New England region.”

On 3rd tomorrow night is the Mike Crandall Band. Via their Myspace site the Mike Crandall Band is a powerful original band that plays traditional blues, uptempo jumps and swings. Crandall is a gritty vocalist and master of the diatonic and chromatic harp. His diatonic tone is reminiscent of Sugar Ray Norcia; his lush chromatic tone is influenced by William Clarke. Rick Harrington is equally adept at scorching leads and a mean slide guitar. Guitarist Ricky “King” Russell played with John Lee Hooker, Eddie Clearwater, Kim Wilson, and Susan Tedeschi. Bassist Ed Parnigoni played with Roomful of Blues and Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson. Danny Banks, a phenomenal 14 year old drummer, played on David Letterman, who called him “a young prodigy” and invited him back for another appearance. Discography: Black Rain, the band’s debut CD in 2004, drew a rave review Blues Revue magazine: “great tone all around, “ “harp is thick and creamy without being brash,” “righteous vintage (guitar) sounds.” “The talent level is evident from the opening one-two punch.” Tracks from the CD received heavy rotation on non-profit college radio stations throughout New England, and cuts have also been played on Sunday Night Blues with Beef Stew on The Rock 106.9 WCCC in Hartford, Connecticut. Set List: The band’s set is always different; they never go on stage with a set list. The band plays three sets – the first set is 90 minutes, the other two are 45 minutes each. The Mike Crandall Band’s repertoire is 75 percent original material. Their cover songs include hard driving harmonica tunes by Little Walter, Magic Sam, Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters. The band’s original tunes include “Jump Blues,” “Black Rain,” “I’m On My Way,” “Howlin’ At The Wolf,” “Don’t Let Me Down,” “Listen to Me,” “So Many Times,” and “Out Alone.”

The fourth act is a hybrid act, Sweet Willie D with 2120 South Michigan Avenue. Due to a lack of website and promotions, I will have to take a stab on this one. Sweet Willie D sings a Texas Jump style while 2120 South Michigan Ave feature a Chicago Blues sound. It could be an interesting combination.

The final act of the night is Sit Down Baby! Per their website

( “They’re something to behold live….. They fear no challenge” Motif Magazine, March 2009 issue. Sit Down Baby! is redefining the world of Juke Joint music. It’s Delta music on Steroids. It’s an archaic gut-bucket riot taken into the 21st century. Sit Down Baby! travels pre-war from Mississippi to Memphis, Texarkana to Chicago and back to New Orleans. From trance to dance, Sit Down Baby plays jump, blazz, grinding delta and reeling train-time bar-b-q boogie. David Roscoe Tippett (guitar and vocals), Mark Milloff (guitar, slide guitar and vocals), Richard LaGuardia (drums), and Harry Milloff (bass) bring their shared musical experience together to create Sit Down Baby! This band is the real deal, the authentic experience. Sit Down Baby! is a runaway train spiraling the mountain of the Southern Blues Tradition.

I encourage everyone out there reading to see each act live to form their own opinions, however I am predicting the two bands advancing to the finals will be Alley Blues and 2120 South Michigan Ave Featuring Sweet Willie D.

Let's see if I can handicap this competition correctly, good luck to all participants.

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