Despite many planned thrills, a chill passes over season's music festival
Published: January 2, 2013
Pasman: As host of the WCSX Motor City Blues Project, and working with blues musicians for a quarter-century here in Detroit, I can tell you that blues music, both locally and nationally, is coming out of a down cycle and growing again in some very exciting ways. There are tons of very young bands coming at the blues and R&B from some very different angles. You also have some blues-oriented bands finally getting some major action on the pop charts, like the Alabama Shakes, the Tedeschi Trucks Band and the Black Keys.
Is Detroit still a blues hotspot?
Gross: Absolutely, Detroit is a blues hotspot. Blues is the key root in rock 'n' roll. You just have to know where to find it and recognize it. Detroit is the world leader in most forms of music, still to this day. John Lee Hooker is gone, but that boogie groove will stand the test of time for eternity.
Spangler: Was Detroit ever a blues hot spot? We contributed John Lee Hooker, Little Sonny, Baby Boy Warren, Bobo Jenkins, Eddie Burns, Alberta Adams and Johnnie Bassett. Only Hooker became a blues superstar. Little Sonny was maybe second. Detroiters always loved the blues, and it enjoyed a big comeback in the late '80s and into the '90s, while Stevie Ray, the T-Birds and Robert Cray were heard on classic rock radio across the nation. Detroit's black blues-loving population helped make modern day blues anthems like "Hey, Hey, the Blues Is Alright," "Stoop Down Baby" and "Downhome Blues" into real hits. Detroiters supported the blues. BB King has returned here over and over again, throughout his career, and for good reason."
Pasman: No question from the talent perspective: some of today's best players are still made in Detroit: Thornetta, McCarty, Bobby Murray, Brothers Groove, Motor City Josh, Laith Al Saadi, Alberta Adams, the Sun Messengers, and on and on. Now, we could use some more venues, and that seems to be on the upswing, as club owners and promoters are figuring out, once again, that there ain't nothin' like a hot live blues band. DJs and karaoke gets real old, real fast.
What can we expect from your set?
Gross: Rev. Robert Jones is a virtuoso player who can bring the prewar Son House, Robert Johnson style to life. I sorta play like an auto worker from Flint. It will be a blast.
Spangler: Our set will feature some strong singing from vocalist Laura Rain, by now a solid professional. She favors the soul side of the blues and does it well. Our guitarist toured all over the world with Janiva Magness, probably the top female blues singer in the world today, and he's also toured internationally with rockabilly icon Robert Gordon. George is at the top of his game playing real blues guitar without rock histrionics. Google my name if you don't know my résumé. Real soulful blues played by real veterans.
Pasman: A super-session is different than most groups in that it is an ever revolving, evolving group of singers and musicians that get together, without rehearsal, and jam live on stage. No rehearsals, no holds barred. We pick a tune, a key and groove, and off we go. That's the way this kinda music should be played. As there were some late changes made to the talent lineup, due to Andre's illness, I got a late call, so I'm still assembling this super-session. It will include my right-hand man, Jimmy Pickles Nicholls, the Mighty Gherkin of the Blues, on harp and vocals.
The AntiFreeze Blues Festival takes place Jan 4-5, at the Magic Bag, 22920 Woodward Ave., Ferndale;
Brett Callwood writes City Slang for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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