Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Chicago Blues Festival: 365 Days a Year

Since 1984, the Chicago Blues Festival has been a landmark event among blues lovers as the largest free blues festival in existence.
But many would argue that Chicago is a constant blues festival. I saw what those folks were talking about a couple of weekends ago when I headed out to the Windy City.
My favorite hang-out by far was Kingston Mines. Located on the North Side, the club has two stages, meaning that two bands can play one right after the other, with no breaks in the music. The club also has a special late night liquor license, allowing it to stay open to 4 a.m. on weekdays and 5 a.m. on Saturday. In Chicago, clubs with an ordinary license can remain open only until 2 a.m. on weeknights and 3 a.m. on Saturdays(I know all of you folks who live in Chicago know all this; this is for folks like me who don't).
While at Kingston Mines I caught a performance by Joanna Connor, a blues guitarist who has been part of the city’s music scene since arriving there from Massachusetts in the mid-80’s. Connor, who has recorded for Blind Pig Records and has shared the stage with Buddy Guy and saxophonist A.C. Reed, started off with this acoustic set:

She later joined her band for a set that included this very electric version of “Dr. Feelgood:”

I then had a chance for a few words with her:

Next up, Carl Weathersby, a former Army veteran and prison guard known for—in addition to his own work—his collaborations with Albert King and harmonica player Billy Branch. Here is Mr. Weathersby playing the blues. Make no mistake, he has formidable skill on guitar:

Mr. Weatherby wanted to talk, and when I thought we had run out of things to talk about, he proved me wrong. We kind of had two separate conversations after someone interrupted us. Here is the first part, where he talks about the Chicago Blues scene, among other things:

He then talked about his relatives, some of them prominent in the music scene. Aside from the interesting things he said about music, check out the way he handled this fellow who interrupted the interview and became belligerent with him while asking about an address:

Kingston Mines is down the street and about a block away from another nightclub called B.L.U.E.S., where guitarist Lurrie Bell was giving a show:

I have always wondered how Lurrie Bell can play like he does with all he's been through. Bell lost Susan Greenberg, his companion and the mother of his child, in January 2007. A few months later, He lost his father, renouned harmonica player Carey Bell. He also suffers from schizophrenia. I asked him about all of this in a quick conversation I had with him:

Well, hope you enjoyed this trip as much as I did....

Next Edition: Songs sent in by readers.

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