Monday, June 18, 2018

This year's Blues on the Fox festival at RiverEdge Park in Aurora provides lasting memories


By ERIC SCHELKOPF

With Chicago being the blues capital of the world, it only makes sense that a Chicago musician would rule the day during the second day of the 22nd annual Blues on the Fox festival at RiverEdge Park in Aurora.

The sweltering heat on June 16 did not slow down Cannon, who also is a bus driver for the Chicago Transit Authority. He works just as hard on stage and probably won over many new fan that day.

His electrifying guitar playing was on full display during the song "John The Conquer Root," and was just another example of why his presence on the blues scene – both locally and worldwide – continues to grow.



But his storytelling skills are just as strong as his guitar playing. He used those skills to draw the audience in, and make them feel they were part of his show as well.



Slide guitar master Sonny Landreth also put on an impressive set. At the same time, he showed that sometimes less is more, such as on the haunting song "A World Away."





But for those who wanted some fireworks, he was happy to provide them, such as he did in covering the Elmore James song, "It Hurts Me Too."



At age 77, Aaron Neville is still an incredible force on stage and his vocals remain in fine form. It is not an exaggeration to say that Neville has a voice of an angel.



He ran through the hits and then some, delivering a tender version of "Tell It Like It Is," a song that remains vibrant and fresh years after Neville first recorded it in 1966.



Another high point of his set was a moving version of Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come."


 

In closing his set, he drew upon his New Orleans roots and presented a rousing version of  "You Never Can Tell (C'est La Vie)." 


                                     

This year's Blues on the Fox festival provided many lasting memories. Let's hope the festival will keep on providing memories well into the future.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Best Contemporary Female Blues Artist Samantha Fish to perform at Blues on the Fox festival in Aurora



By ERIC SCHELKOPF

Samantha Fish's presence has only grown since she last played the Blues on the Fox festival in Aurora in 2014.

In May, she was named the Best Contemporary Female Blues Artist at the Blues Foundation's 39th annual Blues Music awards. Fish will return to the Blues on the Fox festival this weekend when she takes the stage at 7 p.m. Friday, followed by Grammy-nominated artist Elle King at 9 p.m.

The festival will take place Friday and Saturday at RiverEdge Park, 360 N. Broadway (Route 25), Aurora. Gates open at 2 p.m. for the second day of Blues on the Fox on June 16. Fourteen-year-old blues guitar prodigy Brandon "Taz" Niederauer will perform at 3 p.m., followed by Chicago blues musician Toronzo Cannon at 5 p.m., slide guitarist Sonny Landreth at 7 p.m. and the legendary Aaron Neville at 9 p.m.

Tickets cost $30 each per day. Children 12 and younger are admitted free to Blues on the Fox, but must be accompanied by an adult 18 or older.


For tickets and information, visit RiverEdgeAurora.com, call the RiverEdge box office at 630-896-6666, or stop by in person at RiverEdge's satellite box office, the Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena Blvd., Aurora, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

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


Q – Are you looking forward to coming back to the festival? Did you have a good time the last time?

I definitely did. It was a huge festival back in 2014 and I know it's only getting bigger.

Q – And you're opening for Elle King. Are you a fan of hers?

Oh, yeah. I like her. We just did a show at the Denver Day of Rock. She was the headliner on that, too.

I actually got to catch her set for the first time. She's a great talent.

Q – It's already been a big year for you. You were named the Best Contemporary Female Blues Artist in May at the Blues Foundation's 39th annual Blues Music awards. What did it mean to you to receive the award and what did you think of the other nominees in the category, including Chicago's own Shemekia Copeland?

Well, first of all, she's amazing. I was nominated for that same award with her a couple of years ago, and she took it that year.

I've always been a big fan of hers. She's always really deserving of those kinds of accolades, because she carries the blues forward. She's really amazing.


To be honest, I didn't expect it. I really didn't expect it. And it is nice just to be nominated. 

I know that is like a total cliche thing to say, but at the same time, we did put out two albums in 2017 and it was like, thank God. We've been working so hard, and it felt really good just to be recognized for that kind of hard work.

It was just like a little pat on the back and motivation that you're on the right path.

Q – And obviously a lot of people do think you are on the right path. This is your second Blues Music award. I know you received the award for Best New Artist debut in 2012. How do you think your music has grown since then?
 
It's obviously changed a lot. From "Runaway" to now, that artist back then is unrecognizable to where I am now.

I've grown a lot. My style has evolved. I think it's become more diverse and expansive. I think the records have gotten better, not just performance wise. The songs themselves are better.


There's more of a fluid thought process behind each record. It's less about random songs and stuff, which is kind of where I was at earlier on. There's just more of a concept.

I just feel like more of a well-rounded artist than I did back then.

Q – Your music does roam through a lot of genres. In November, "Rolling Stone" magazine named you one of the "10 new country acts you need to know." How does it feel to be called a country artist? Do you see yourself as a country artist, blues artist or something else?
  
I don't know, man. The whole genre thing is a little bit mind-boggling. 
  
My favorite kind of music is stuff that sort of pushes the boundaries of genres, and you don't know exactly what to call it. If you look back at the history of music, all the most legendary acts do that, put out something that was defining and new and innovative.
 
I don't mind not being put in a box, because it kind of pushes me forward to try and find my own sound and not try to make a record that's too stylized and something that's already been done.
 
I just follow my own muse.

Q – Who are your biggest musical inspirations and how have they influenced your music? How much did your sister Amanda influence you in wanting to become a musician?
 
We kind of found the profession independently of each other, but when I was growing up, she was one of the first singers I heard. She was so passionate about it when we were little kids.
 
Anytime my parents would leave, Amanda would run into her room and start singing. It was kind of like a secret that only I knew about for some reason.
 
 
I always thought it was cool. It was like a secret passion that she had. I think eventually, she would go up in her room and start singing, and I would hang out in my room and start singing.
 
It probably did have a lot of influence on me growing up. Her voice is powerful. She's really into blues and rock and roll. She goes out and delivers.
 
Q – A story on you ran under the headline, “Samantha Fish is breaking up the boys club of blues singers.” Has that been a goal of yours? Do you see yourself inspiring other women to get involved in blues music?
 
I think that anytime that you are a female and you do something to get some recognition, it's like there's some kind of threat to the boys club or something. I think it's wonderful, because I have women who come up at shows and they tell me that it is great to see a female up there.
 
Even now, it's not typical. The music industry is really hard to break through as a female. I think it's like that with a lot of industries.
 
It's nice to see young kids and little girls say, "Oh, man, I've never seen a girl play guitar like that." Hopefully there will be more kick-ass little girls coming up playing guitar, or playing whatever, just working and being bad asses in their own right.
 

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Bus driving blues musician Toronzo Cannon to perform at Blues on the Fox festival in Aurora

Photo by Dragan Tasic

By ERIC SCHELKOPF
 
By day, Toronzo Cannon is a bus driver for the Chicago Transit Authority.

By night, Cannon is an acclaimed blues artist with fans all over the world. His 2016 debut on Chicago-based Alligator Records, "The Chicago Way," is a nod to his Chicago roots.

Cannon will perform as part of the Blues on the Fox festival, which will take place June 15 and 16 at RiverEdge Park, 360 N. Broadway, Aurora.

Gates open at 6 p.m. At 7 p.m., blues guitarist Samantha Fish will take the stage, followed by Grammy nominated artist Elle King at 9 p.m. 

Gates open at 2 p.m. for the second day of Blues on the Fox on June 16. Fourteen-year-old blues guitar prodigy Brandon “Taz” Niederauer will perform at 3 p.m., followed by Cannon at 5 p.m., slide guitarist Sonny Landreth at 7 p.m. and the legendary Aaron Neville at 9 p.m.

Tickets are $30 each per day. Children 12 and younger are admitted free to Blues on the Fox, but must be accompanied by an adult 18 or older. For tickets and information, visit RiverEdgeAurora.com, call the RiverEdge box office at 630-896-6666, or stop by in person at RiverEdge's satellite box office, the Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena Blvd., Aurora, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Mondays through Saturdays.

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


Q – Of course, you are going to be playing at Blues on the Fox. This will be your first time at Blues on the Fox, right? 

It is, yes. I can't wait to do it. I've heard of it, I just never thought I would be playing in it, you know what I mean.

I always thought I would be booking myself. But then when I got with Alligator Records, things started opening up.

Q – That's true. The spotlight's really been on you in the past few years, maybe because you've got an interesting back story, the fact that you're a bus driver and a musician. Are you surprised that so many people want to know more about you? 

Yeah. I've always tried to just kind of separate the two. My music is my outlet and my bus driving job is to sustain a living, with benefits and the whole thing, making money for the family.



And all of a sudden, it became a story, like Chicago blues man drives a Chicago bus, you know, that kind of thing.

Q – Do you ever see a time where you give up being a bus driver? 

No, I'm too close to retirement right now. I don't want to live a lie or a dream where it's like, oh, this is going to sustain me and my family for the rest of my life.

There's no health benefits in the blues. I've been driving a bus for 25 years. And I'd never thought I'd do music on this scale, actually.

I just figured it would be a nice little second income. I just thought it would be cool to have people enjoying my music.

I drive in some of the worst neighborhoods in Chicago. And I see things, and I'm talked to in a certain way.

Q – I guess it kind of keeps it real. You are not living the music star life. 

I think so. I get up at 3:30 a.m., and I get off in the late afternoon. So we're talking 16 hour days.

And I still have to write music. You need to do what you need to do in order to do what you want to do.

I don't do it for any extra pats on the back, like I'm doing something sensational. It's just that's how much I want to play this music. 

Q – Being a bus driver probably provides you with a lot of inspiration for songwriting, right?

 Actually, the song "Pain Around Me," which is on my Alligator debut "The Chicago Way," is kind of like a tune I wrote directly on one of my routes. Most of my songs I created while I was working.

I work 10 hours a day and I carry a little pad of paper with me in my pocket and if I see something or if I feel something, I write it down and try to elaborate on it later at home, put some music to it.

Q – Besides providing fodder for your songs, what do you like about being a bus driver? 

It pays the bills. It's a job that you can raise a family on. It's a real job, it's a career.

Any job that you do for an extended period of time is a career.

Q – I understand you bought your first guitar at age 22. What drew you to the blues in the first place? 

Well, I'm a child of the '70s and '80s. I grew up around the blues. My grandparents raised me.

The blues wasn't a genre to me, it was kind of just like my grandparents' music. When I started playing guitar, I wanted to play reggae.'

I joined a reggae band and I played with them for a couple of years. And then I started going around to jams.

Everywhere in Chicago, you had blues jams. When I would go these jams, I would hear songs that were played in my house when I was a kid. It was a full circle moment.

The one famous club that was close to my house as a kid was called Theresa's Lounge. I was too young to go there, I was like 10 years old, but my uncles used to go there.

I grew up around it, but I didn't know it was blues music until I got older.

Q – I know that from 1996 to 2002, you were a sideman to musicians like Tommy McCracken, Wayne Baker Brooks and Joanna Connor. What did you learn from them? 

I learned about stage presence and and how to run a show. I started older, so I didn't come in with this intention of, "I'm going to be a star."

I came in with a work ethic of this is this person's gig, and I'm going to treat it with respect. I'm going to learn the music, I'm going to show up on time and I'm going to dress appropriately.

I think that's what got me jobs, because I took it seriously. When I got on stage, I had fun, but I took their music seriously and their direction seriously, with no push back or talking back to the band leader.

I think that by me coming into this music when I was older, it gave me a different perspective of it. I wasn't 15 or 16 years old saying I was going to be a blues star. 

I was working a regular job, and playing blues was my side hustle. Kind of how it was originally. Muddy Waters and all those guys had jobs, they were driving trucks and forklifts and all that stuff, and the music was like a side hustle for them.

Q – Your star started rising when you took the stage at Chicago Blues Fest in 2015 as a headliner. How did you feel stepping on to that stage and playing in front of all those people?

That was cool. It was great man, just to see that many people.

And they are hanging on my every word. It was pretty cool, man. It was humbling.


I'm always humbled that people remember my songs. I'm like, wow, I thought up that song on the bus.

It's very cool, you know.


Sunday, June 3, 2018

Anderlik, Otto & Church to present genre-defying music at Water Street Studios' Blues & Roots on Water Street Festival


By ERIC SCHELKOPF

Chicago native Rob Anderlik had a musical change of heart after discovering bluegrass music and the dobro.

He decided to give up the electric guitar and set out to be a slide guitarist. Anderlik and his fellow bandmates in Anderlik, Otto & Church will perform June 9 at Water Street Studios, 160 S. Water St., Batavia, as part of the 2018 Blues & Roots on Water Street Festival, presented by Water Street Studios, The Fox Valley Music Foundation, Batavia Main Street and Kiss the Sky record store. 

Anderlik, Otto & Church is one of several bands that will perform at the festival. The full schedule is as follows:


The Roots Lounge
7 p.m. Anderlik, Otto & Church
8:45 p.m. Beth Lee & The Breakups
10:30 p.m. Devil in a Woodpile
 

The Blues Stage
8 p.m. Dave Specter
9:45 p.m. The Cash Box Kings

Doors open at 6 p.m. Advance tickets are $25 each, available at  eventbrite.com

Anderlik, Otto & Church is comprised of Anderlik on dobro, lap slide and acoustic guitars and vocals, Pat Otto on mandolin, mandola, guitar, banjo and vocals and Mike Church on guitar and vocals.

The trio formed in 2015. I had a chance to talk to Anderlik about the upcoming show.
 
Q – Is this the first time you've played at the festival? 

Well, we've played at Kiss the Sky many times in the past. But this is our first time playing the festival.

And we're really excited about that. Kiss the Sky owner Steve Warrenfeltz from our perspective is one of the coolest cats in the Chicagoland area and the best friend that musicians, in these parts, have ever had.

His influence on the music scene and his love for music is something that is really a gift to musicians and music lovers of all kinds in the Chicagoland area.

Q – How did you get together? 

We met at a bluegrass festival and we started playing together. It just kind of clicked, and then we kind of stayed in touch and started doing some gigs together and discovered that it was easy to play together.

I think one of the things that happens for musicians is that it's one thing be a good player, but it's another thing to have good chemistry. Just because you're a good player doesn't mean you are going to have good chemistry with other players.

Both things are important. For the three of us, it was easy to play together, easy in the sense that I feel we have good chemistry together and the way we approached things.

Q – Why do you think you have good chemistry? Is it because you have similar backgrounds? 
Yes and no. None of us grew up listening to bluegrass music. I got into it later on in life, after college.
I think it's because we all bring something different to the table. We all play different instruments for one. Everybody brings sort of a little something different to the mix.

Part of it is the material we play, we have a way of sort of making it sound like our own arrangements. We're not trying to copy anybody note for note, and make it sound just like somebody else.

We have a pretty wide ranging repertoire that ranges from rock music to blues to some swing tunes, certainly a lot of bluegrass stuff that's in there. And it all winds up going through this filter, which is just your own personality. 

Q – You were talking about your songs. You have original songs and then you do covers. I guess some people might wonder why you decided to cover Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall." That doesn't seem like a song for a bluegrass band.

Here you're assuming that we're a bluegrass band. We can be, we play those instruments, but none of us really inspire to be pigeonholed into one genre. 

And let me tell you, that's not the greatest marketing decision in the world, because it makes it harder for a booking agent to put a label on you, which is what they typically want to do. What's the quickest, easiest label to put on us? We're Chicago BluesGrass, I would say.

Doing "Another Brick in the Wall" came after playing all day long at a festival. And then we were like, "We've played a bunch of bluegrass music, what else do we got?"

Mike came up with that. He just through it out there, and it just evolved. 

We rarely rehearse and we rarely use a set list. We do orchestrate things, but we try to leave open space to where we have no more idea about what's going to happen next than the audience does.

We try to leave open sections for spontaneity to occur. There is a jam component to what we do.

Q – I know you studied with esteemed musicians like Jerry Douglas, Sally Van Meter and Andy Hall. What did you get studying and working with those people?

Well, I think the main thing that I learned is that when you watch a master musician play, you're looking at the results, but you don't see all of the work that went into getting to where they're at. So what you learn, or at least what I learned is that I could try for a million years, but I'm never, ever going to make my instrument sound like any of those people.
 
A lot of what happens when you play with good musicians is you play better. So for the three of us (myself, Mike and Pat), it's easy to play together and I think we have a high degree of respect for each other. And what we are able to do as the three of us is not something that any of us could do on our own.

Q – What drew you to want to be a slide guitar player? 
My first inspiration was Duane Allman. I didn't even know he was playing slide. I just loved the way it sounded.

And then I saw Jerry Douglas play. Once I saw him and David Lindley, I was no longer interested in playing electric guitar.

There's nothing wrong with electric guitar. It's awesome. There's a ton of great players around. Scott Tipping is certainly one of the better players around Chicago.

But it just didn't speak to me. Slide guitar just spoke to me. It was what I wanted to do.

Q – I know that you taught at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago for 10 years. What made you want to do that and what were some of the things that you tried to get across to your students?

I was playing in the lobby and Jimmy Tomasello, who was the guitar program director, heard me playing and he said, "Hey, do you want to teach here?" And I said, OK.

And so I started teaching. I was there for 10 years, and I taught dozens and dozens of people to play.
I think the main thing that I tried to get across to people was that once you get a little bit of technique under your belt, you have to go out and play with other musicians. That's the way you learn.

You don't learn from reading a book. Learning to play an instrument is like learning to speak a foreign language.

And you don't learn to speak a foreign language by reading a book. You learn to speak a foreign language by immersing yourself in that language, whether it is somebody you are talking to on a regular basis or spending a year or two in the country.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Chicago jazz band Nia Quintet releases new album, will play at Chicago Botanic Garden



By ERIC SCHELKOPF

Chicago band Nia Quintet  has won praises for the creativity and originality it has brought to the jazz scene.

The band recently released its third recording, "Music by Scott Anderson," the first since Jon Dietemyer and Paul Mutzabaugh joined the band. Nia Quintet will perform from 6 to 8 p.m. June 12 at the Chicago Botanic Garden, 1000 Lake Cook Road, Glencoe.

I had the chance to interview band leader Scott Anderson, who plays trumpet and flugelhorn, about the new CD.


Q – Great talking to you. I know this is the first album the band has released since Jon and Paul joined the group. What do you think they have brought to the table and how do you think the band's sound has evolved since they joined Nia Quintet?  

Hello and thank you for the question. I would say the most important things that both Paul and Jon have brought to the group is the understanding of the overall direction the group is headed.

https://soundcloud.com/nia-quintet/sets/music-by-scott-anderson-new-cd
 


Paul has told me and numerous others that to play my music, “You have to have pop sensibilities with jazz headroom.” I believe that kind of translates into both his and Jon’s ability to play not only straight ahead jazz, but to embrace the qualities in my music, which are not always cut and dry jazz tunes.
 


They do a wonderful job of spontaneous orchestration during performances and have developed a type of communication with each of us in the band that allows us to grow as individual players and as a band as a whole. They are really quite amazing musicians and friends.

Q – You spent more than two years in the mixing studio after recording the tracks. What were you looking to add to the tracks and did you accomplish your goals?

I would say yes, we did accomplish my goals and were able to take the music in the direction I was hearing in my head more clearly on this CD than any of the other albums. I was looking to add effects and “sound-scaping” ideas to the tracks that added a depth to the recording that would be subtle and appropriate for the project.

We added auxiliary percussion and even recorded a gong under water to get a sweeping effect we used on some of the tunes. I was thinking somewhat “old school” when it came to trying to create effects for the CD and wanted to try and do it with instruments, coins, microphones, etc and not rely totally on digital pro-tool patches to achieve the desired effect.

I have huge respect for Paul and his ears, know-how and for helping me get this done. The engineer on the CD, Brian Schwab, played a huge role in overseeing our ideas as well, so a huge thanks to him!

Q – What made you want to move to Chicago and what do you think of the music scene here? How do you see the Nia Quintet fitting into the Chicago music scene?

I had some trying times towards the end of my college career and lost my entire family. The impetus for moving to Chicago was my relationship with the saxophonist in the quintet, Dan Nicholson.

He and I have known each other for 32 years and he was the closest thing to family I had left. He and I had dreamed of putting a band together when we were kids in high school and moving to Chicago was the next step for me.



With the move and through Dan’s help, I was able to form the band about a year after I arrived in Chicago and the rest is history, so to speak. I think the music scene in Chicago is thriving more
than it has in years and I am glad to be part of such a wonderful community. 


There are times I feel like Chicago is the smallest large city I have ever lived in, but then things will happen that remind me of how beautiful the city is and what a thriving musical community there is here.

Q – You have worked with the likes of Buddy Guy and other notable musicians. What do you get out of an experience like that?

I would say that being in a city like Chicago and having the opportunities to perform with some of the famous people I have played with, from R Kelly to Latimore and many others has allowed me to draw from many genres of music and from many types of wonderful musicians who don’t have just a “jazz” take on performing and music in general. 




It’s always amazing to me where you can draw inspiration from. For example, the track "Asian Dominoes" on this new record is inspired by performing with musicians at a Southside gospel church gig I did for years.
 


I was able to pull tons of inspiration from that setting and many other here in the city.

Q – Where do you see the band going from here?

My hope is to be performing and promoting the new CD over the course of the next year. Likewise, this summer, [I will] start on the next project for the band.

I have decided to record the music of Wes Anderson films and orchestrate it for not only the quintet but plan on adding strings, multiple horns and percussion to bring that music to life. I can’t go into detail about all of it yet, let’s just say you’re gonna love it!

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Paramount Theatre hits the right notes in stirring version of "Once"

Photo by Liz Lauren





By ERIC SCHELKOPF 

Once again, the Paramount Theatre hits all the right notes with its production of "Once," which runs through June 3.

For those not familiar with the story, "Once," a modern-day musical set on the streets of Dublin, tells the story of a street musician and a Czech immigrant during an eventful week as they write, rehearse and record songs that reveal their unique love story. 

"Once" is based on the Oscar-winning 2007 movie, which took home the Oscar for Best Original Song for “Falling Slowly.” The movie stars real-life musicians Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova.


The Paramount Theatre sets the mood before the curtain even rises. Patrons can stroll on stage to purchase beverages at a Irish bar, and a jam session among the musicians on stage before the show helps to get the audience in the mood for the production.

Sparks start flying early between Barry DeBois, who plays the character Guy, and Tiffany Topol, who plays Girl. DeBois and Topol shine in their roles and clearly understand the emotional baggage that both Guy and Girl are carrying.

They also earn high marks for the emotions they pour into the songs, written by Hansard and Irglova. 

The production is blessed by a spectacular cast of actors and musicians, including Jon Patrick Penick, who offers a hilarious take as Billy, a piano store owner. Kudos also go to director Jim Corti, who brings a sense of intimacy to the production, in turn allowing audience members to become part of the story as it is unfolding on stage.

The Paramount Theatre is located at 23 E. Galena Blvd. in downtown Aurora. For tickets, go to ParamountAurora.com or call 630-896-6666.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Edward David Anderson to perform at Kiss The Sky in Batavia as part of Record Store Day



By ERIC SCHELKOPF 

On his forthcoming album, Edward David Anderson gets back to being part of a band.

The former St. Charles resident, who has called Bloomington home for the past 15 years, will perform at 8 p.m. April 21 at Kiss The Sky record store, 180 First St., Batavia, as part of Record Store Day.

I had the chance to talk to Anderson about his new album, "Chasing Butterflies," set for release in October. The album was produced by well-known Jimmy Nutt, who has worked with the likes of Percy Sledge, Drive-By Truckers and Jason Isbell.

"Chasing Butterflies" was recorded at The NuttHouse Recording Studio in Sheffield, Alabama.


Q – Jimmy Nutt has a pretty impressive resume. How was it working with him? 

It was great. He was really laid back. He has a lot of good musical ideas. 

He was fortunate enough to work under Rick Hall, who just passed away, the engineer at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. Jimmy worked with Rick for more than a decade, I believe.



I knew from the first conversation that I had with him on the phone that he would be somebody that I would work well with. He's a collaborator. He's definitely open to everybody's ideas. 

It was the first time I did a record where everybody played together, like a band style, since being in Backyard Tire Fire. The other couple of records were kind of pieced together.


I sang everything live and they're all basically live vocal takes from playing and singing with the guys. It has that kind of live feel to it, I think.

It felt like it was a pretty easy record to make, all things considered. Everybody really showed up ready to do their job. It was a very fun experience.

Q – What kind of goals did you have for the album and do you think you achieved them?

I think so. I wanted to play with dudes together in the same room. That's what I wanted to do. I wanted to actually have a band together. 

Everybody was very focused and ready to go. 

Q – It does seem like authentic music is back in the spotlight, with the advent of roots music a few years back.

I agree. I feel like people kind of have that radar for what's coming from the right place, and what's not, or at least some people do. 


Q – So will you be playing some of these new songs at Kiss The Sky?

I definitely will be a lot of songs from the new one that I just recorded. It will be a mixture of old, new and really new, which is usually the case for me. I always get excited when I write a new batch of songs and play them long before I record them.

Q – How do you think your music has evolved over the years?

With this batch of tunes that I just wrote in the last few weeks, I've stripped it down. I'm trying to really trim the fat, if you will.

I'm just trying to really make sure that every word that's in there needs to be there.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Guitarist Anthony Gomes to bring energetic show April 14 to Brauerhouse in Lombard


 By ERIC SCHELKOPF
 
Those who spent any time at Chord on Blues in St. Charles knows the electricity Anthony Gomes creates on stage.

Gomes was a regular at the club, which closed several years ago. So it should come as no surprise that in November 2017, Gomes won Best Musician (Performance) at the 37th Annual European Blues Awards. And he was named  "One of the Top Ten Guitarists in the World" by Music Taster's Choice.

People can see and hear for themselves when the Toronto born musician at 9 p.m. April 14 at Brauerhouse, 1000 N. Rohlwing Road, Lombard. Tickets are $15 in advance, $20 at the door, available at ticketfly.com.

I had the chance to talk to Gomes about his career and the upcoming show.


Q – As far as what people should expect from the show, are you going to play from all 11 of your albums?

Yeah. Of course, we're supporting our latest release, "Electric Field Holler." We'll do that, and then a couple new songs. We're working on a new album, and sort of testing them out.

Q – You've gotten a lot of attention lately. Music Taster's Choice named you "One of the Top Ten Guitarists in the World." What do you say about something like that?

That was quite the honor, for them to say that. First of all, it's nice to be acknowledged. And there's so many wonderful players out there. 

It's really hard to judge what the best is. But to be acknowledged is certainly an honor. And it's something to be proud of, to be recognized for your craft.


We'll take it anyway we can get it. 

Q – Of course, you were also named Best Musician (Performance) at the 37th Annual European Blues Awards. What do you try to do in your live shows?

Well, we're trying to move people. We're trying to move people emotionally and make them feel good, make them feel alive, make them feel happy, make them feel sad, and at the end of the day, feel uplifted that they came to a show.


I think that a good concert is almost like a sacred experience. It's a musical event, and it channels you and it takes you someplace else.

It's more than a collection of favorite songs being presented. It's a moving, interactive experience, an exchange of energy and ideas through music.

Q – What about those people who are videotaping the entire concert using their cell phone? Is that distracting? 

No, not for me. They just make us work harder. You're going to put your cell phone down, and say, "Damn, I forgot to record." 

 Q – You released "Electric Field Holler" in 2015. It seems like there should be a story behind the name of the album.

Yeah, well, field holler is the origins of the blues. The blues grew out of field hollers, songs that people were singing while working in the fields.


And a lot of times they were a way to deal with the harsh conditions. To me, that's the beginning of the blues. 

It's another way of saying blues. It's my way of saying blues rock, or electric blues, or taking those field hollers and bringing them into the future, with electric instruments.

To me, it all deals with the blues, the past, the present and the future.

Q – You are a blues history scholar. Do you believe it's important for people to be educated on the roots behind blues music and do you try to do that through your music?

I understood Jimi Hendrix a lot more when I understood about B.B. King and Robert Johnson. He made a lot more sense to me, just because I could trace the music. So yeah, it's pretty important.

If it wasn't for all the ancestors of music, I wouldn't be playing the music that I'm playing. When I'm playing, I'm playing on the souls and arms and backs of all these great people that came before me. And when I'm gone, people will continue to do so.

Q – Morgan Freeman joked that you were "not bad for a white guy." Where did he see you?

In Clarksdale, Mississippi. He owns a club called Ground Zero, a blues club. And he would go there and hang out.

He is such a wonderful person and a very kind man. It was a pleasure to meet him.

Q – You've shared the stage with the likes of B.B. King and Buddy Guy. What have you learned from being on the stage with them?

It's a master class, just being in their presence. You're in awe. You are sitting there with your heroes.

They're your superheroes. B.B. King was my superman. And there I am, standing next to him. And it's like so surreal.

Q – And it seems like a project that's very near and dear to you is your Music Is the Medicine Foundation, which you started in 2010. Have you seen the foundation do a lot of good over the years?

Yeah, you know, we started out very humbly, and now we've grown to do some amazing things. In the beginning, we presented some instruments and instruction.

We had this one gentleman who had post traumatic stress disorder. And he couldn't speak for years. And he got a guitar, and in these lessons, he started to speak again, because music was a gateway to open up communication.


And the most recent thing we're doing is we're working with a choir made up of mentally ill patients in Montreal at Montreal General Hospital. And we have now raised enough money to supply them in a recording studio, a fully functioning recording studio in this hospital so this choir can make albums.

We've done some really cool things to spearhead music therapy and using music as a healer.

Q – Because you do believe that music can heal.

Absolutely. Every night we play, I see people that are reacting, crying or smiling or laughing.

Music can change the temperature in the room. Music is such a powerful, moving force. 

Sometimes, as an artist, you get so caught up in the art and how many records are you selling and your chart position that you forget there is a much bigger thing attached to the music.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Vinyl records, live music to be featured at CHIRP Record Fair & Other Delights


By ERIC SCHELKOPF

Whether you are a record collector or just want to hear some music, the 16th annual CHIRP Record Fair & Other Delights will offer something for everyone.

The event will be held from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. April 14 at Plumbers Hall, 1340 W. Washington Blvd., Chicago. Tickets start at $8, and are available at www.eventbrite.com.

Avery R. Young, James Swanberg, Graham Nelson, Bob Gerics and Earth Program will perform at the event. I had the chance to talk to Shawn Campbell, general manager/founder of Chicago Independent Radio Project, or CHIRP, about the upcoming record fair and the radio industry.


Q – This is CHIRP's first record fair since the station went from being internet-only radio to coming to the airwaves last October. How has it being going?


Great. We've gotten a really nice response. People are excited about it, and people are definitely discovering the station that way. 

Q – Are you concentrating mainly on local musicians? 

Not mainly. We certainly have a focus on local musicians, but it's not the only thing that we do. We definitely plays local artists every single hour of the day. 

Q – The radio industry is an ever changing industry. Is that a good thing that the radio industry is changing, because maybe now people are willing to give another station a chance instead of just tuning into a radio station they usually listen to?

Obviously it is a really strange time for the radio business. And I think that what we're seeing is kind of two things – We're seeing commercial radio have a lot of struggles. It's losing a lot of listeners.

But I think that commercial radio is responsible for some of that themselves for being really unadventurous and really kind of betraying its commitment to localism, which is radio's huge strength, the fact that it's a local medium.

At the same time, community stations and public stations, like CHIRP, have a real opportunity to reach people who really do care about that sort of connection. We're talking about things that are happening in their community, we're talking about shows that we go to that perhaps they might be interested in going to.

We're talking about artists that we're discovering here in Chicago. And I think that there is a real hunger for that connection at a time when every thing in the world is available at your fingertips.

I think that's something that CHIRP does really well. Our DJs are really passionate music fans. They're always excited about the music that they're finding, and they love to share those things with listeners.

Our audience is made up of people who really do love music, and are looking to explore in a way that they're not finding in commercial radio.

Q – You've been involved in the local music scene for a while, and founded CHIRP in 2007. This is CHIRP's 16th year of its record fair. What's new this year? What should people expect this year? 

Well, we have more dealer tables than ever before. I think we were at 112 tables the last time I checked.

We will have two levels of dealers. And we've got some live music performances going on downstairs. We've got DJs on the main stage. 


We have a little something for everyone. We call it the CHIRP Record Fair & Other Delights, so we always like to have some things going on that are interesting to people who might be there with a partner who is more enthusiastic about record collecting than they are.

We provide the live music, and we've got some dancers this year, I understand. 

Q – How many people usually attend the event? 

Usually between 1,000 and 1,200 people. We always hope for more people, and certainly hope that the word continues to get out.

We obviously know that we have a lot of people that are serious collectors and people who love to buy vinyl, but we also always hope that people come out who are just involved in the music scene in Chicago and think this is a cool event and want to see what's going on.

Q – So does the station have any goals for the year? 

We worked for 10 years to get the broadcast up and running. We're still feeling real good and excited about the fact that we got that done, and I think that we just want to continue to reach more people and let them know that we exist.

We know that there are a lot of people who are not even aware of the station. We aren't like the big stations that have tens of thousands of dollars for an advertising budget. We can't buy billboards on the Kennedy or anything like that.

We're aware that some people just never listen to the radio online. We spent about 10 years as an online  only station, and now we definitely want to get the word out to people that they can listen to us on 107.1 FM on the north side of Chicago.