Sunday, June 12, 2016

The band Leland to pay tribute to Aurora's blues history during Blues on the Fox festival

Friday, June 17 | Gates Open: 6 p.m.


Saturday, June 18 | Gates Open: 2 p.m.



Although Chicago is known as the blues capital of the world, Aurora has also contributed significantly to the history of blues music.

In 1937 and 1938, Sonny Boy Williamson, Henry Townsend and other notable Bluebird artists made recordings at the Leland Hotel in downtown Aurora. 

In tribute to those sessions, Cornmeal and Magic Box guitarist Scott Tipping decided to re-record the songs with other area musicians.

Leland will perform at 3 p.m. June 18 as part of the two-day Blues on the Fox festival at RiverEdgePark, 360 N. Broadway St., Aurora alongside other acts like Marcia Ball, The Robert Cray Band, Larry McCray, Los Lobos and the Tedeschi Trucks Band. Tickets are available at www. 

I had the chance to talk to Tipping about the upcoming show.

Q - Great talking to you. Of course, Leland is named after the historic blues sessions that took place between 1937 and 1938 on the top floor of the Leland Hotel in Aurora. I've listened to some of the sessions, and besides the outstanding musicianship, there is so much life to the music. What attracted you to the music in the first place?

I first became attracted to it the first time I listened to Tampa Red. I loved the purity in his voice. 

Honestly, I had no idea where the music came from at that time, I was a teenager.  As the story was told to me, it became more and more fascinating to check out how much music had come from The Leland.

Q - So for people who come out to hear the band on June 18, what should they expect? Are you doing a faithful note by note rendition, or are you trying to put your own stamp on the songs?

We are not doing things note for note. I think all of us felt like that would do a disservice to this music.

But, we also aren't trying to make the songs something they are not. Our focus is bringing them to the electric world a bit, but more like old-school Chess records or something.  

Q - Who else is in your band and what do you think they bring to the table?

The band consists of myself, Matt Thompson on bass, Chuck Lacy on drums and Scott Stevenson on keyboards. We have a couple of great guest musicians that day - Dave Nelson on slide guitar and Rick Sherry on harp.

We also have some featured singers, Mick Ducker and Mae Koen.  I think the whole ensemble is going to bring a celebration to this music. We are taking it out to have a party.  

Q - You have been working on a Leland tribute project with Fox Valley Music Foundation Executive Director Steve Warrenfeltz. I know Robbie Fulks re-recorded "Texas Tommy," originally performed by Yank Rachell & Sonny Boy Williamson, for the tribute project. Who else is on the album and what is the status of the project?

Steve Warrenfeltz was the person who called me about producing the project. He is a huge fan of the music that came out of The Leland. He has been fantastic to work with in every step of the way.

Yes, Robbie cut a few tracks for us. We have some really great artists on the project: The Steepwater Band, Chicago Farmer, Nora O'Connor, Mae Koen and Mick Ducker.

Keep in mind, these are just the people who fronted tracks. We've also had enormous talent on the instrumentation side of things.

It's been an amazing experience. The status right now is, CDs are in hand and will be available at Blues On The Fox along with some other merchandise.

But the purpose of the project has always been to have it on vinyl.  The actual double LP will be ready in fall and we will have a very special full-on release party for The Leland Bluebird Sessions at that time. 

Q - What do you think of the lineup for Blues on the Fox? Are there any acts you are particularly excited to see?
The line-up consists of some of my favorite artists on the planet. I'm a huge Larry McCray fan.
I first heard Larry years and years ago opening for Buddy Guy. Lobos is my favorite band, end of story.
I've been fortunate to play some shows with them and think they are all fantastic people too. I've only seen Tedeschi Trucks band once at Eric Clapton's Crossroads Festival.
It was a short but brilliant set. I am super excited to get to see them again.
It's an absolutely amazing bill.  I am so damn proud to be a part of it.  

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