POSTED ON SEPTEMBER 1, 2010:
Got the Blues?
Labor Day boosts the tunes with the sounds of Little Joe and the return of E.G. Kight
Blues Tunes. Little Joe McLerran brings his world-touring bluesy style repertoire back closer to home at VFW on Sunday, Sept. 5.
Although we all know that Tulsa has a deep tradition in blues, sometimes it's easy to overlook the talent we have in our own back yard.
After all, blues is such an essential ingredient on much of what we see and hear spring out of our local music scene, it can occasionally be taken for granted.
One of those artists who has been floating around the Tulsa blues scene for years and creating a stir outside of our city is Sapulpa native Little Joe McLerran.
Active locally for a few years now, the young guitar slinger has really seen his opportunities and profile rise after winning last year's International Blues Challenge in Memphis as a solo artist. After competing for four years in the band category, Little Joe decided to try it himself as a solo artist last year and not only progressed to the final round but emerged as the winner in his category.
As a result, the win has opened plenty of doors for him, allowing him to play at a variety of blues festivals, including spending a week in Italy for a blues festival earlier this year.
Perhaps more exciting, however, was the opportunity to tour the Persian Gulf for two months as part of "The Rhythm Road," a program that began as the Jazz Ambassadors in the 1950s but has since evolved and expanded to include a variety of genres as it showcases American music in foreign countries around the world.
As the only blues act in the program this year, Little Joe and his quartet, which includes bassist Robbie Mack, drummer Ron McRorie and harmonica player Dave Bernson, toured Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Oman, presenting traditional American blues to audiences that had never heard it before.
Although McLerran said that the tour was a bit of a culture shock, it was an amazing and exciting experience for him. This wasn't a USO tour, however, making it different than many tours through the Persian Gulf that some American artists are allowed to make. As such, it was a completely different experience and opportunity.
"Things can get crazy in a heartbeat over there, and the U.S. holds no standing in the courts over there, but I never really felt threatened," McLerran said. "Still, I was very careful about watching what I did and not doing anything that might cause a problem."
Still, the tour provided some amazing opportunities and shows, including one in particular. That performance was one in Rihaad, Saudi Arabia, where McLerran said he heard it was the first public concert in more than 100 years. The show was almost cancelled, but the Minister of the Interior let it go on at the last minute provided the audience was segregated, dividing the men and women on separate sides of the room.
Apparently, no one told the guards and security at the door, so the audience of 1,300 was integrated and McLerran saw an unbelievable response with all of them dancing together and reveling. Surely, it's an experience that the band will remember for years to come.
McLerran is back on U.S. soil and playing a pair of shows this weekend.
Friday night, McLerran will be appearing at the Dusk to Dawn Blues festival in Rentiesville, Okla. followed by a special show on Sunday evening, Sept. 5 at the Tulsa VFW. Sunday evening's show will not only include Little Joe McLerran and his band, but also J.P. Soars and the Red Hots, the 2009 International Blues Challenge winners in the band division.
Although the two acts are co-winners of last year's blues challenge and have played the same festivals, they have never before shared the stage to play a show together, making this weekend's show that much more special.
Although both were winners in their respective categories, it will be a diverse evening for blues fans as Soars and his band perform in a more delta blues and blues-rock manner, while Little Joe is known for playing a more traditional, East Coast based Piedmont style blues, which incorporates a more organic sound and ragtime influences.
In fact, Little Joe has recently been declared by some as the heir-apparent to the throne of traditional Piedmont blues since the passing of John Cephas in March 2009.
If you want a glimpse of what you might have missed in the past and a guitarist that has been turning heads across the country this year, you'll get your chance this weekend.
The show at the VFW on Sunday evening, Sept. 5, has a $10 cover to see both winners of the 2009 IBC performing together and doors open at 6:30pm for the 7pm show.
Back for More
Speaking of blues players, female blues guitarist E.G. Kight was at one-time a regular player on Tulsa's blues scene, having performed at clubs all around town and with local artists ranging from Debbie Campbell and Mark Bruner to Earl Clark, Shelby Eicher and Flash Terry among others.
Based out of East Dublin, Ga., Kight has continued to build a strong following since making herself a regular on Tulsa's local scene, scoring a handful of blues hits and even seeing her latest CD, It's Hot In Here, climb to the top of the roots/blues charts and score prime airplay on satellite radio with XM/Sirius.
Kight is back for the weekend, however, making a headline appearance at the Dusk to Dawn Blues Festival in Rentiesville Saturday, Sept. 4.
This is the 19th year for the festival, and it just continues to grow. Gates open at 5pm each evening during the weekend, and music continues until 5am, making it one heck of a weekend for hardcore blues fans.
Tickets are only $10 per night in advance or $15 at the gate, so make sure and check out dcminnerblues.com for more details if you're looking for your weekend long blues fix.
As Labor Day weekend arrives, many will be heading out of town for a final weekend at the lake to mark the end of summer. Even so, there are plenty of shows around town this weekend to keep you busy and as always, we've got a few of the highlights to point you in the right direction.
Thursday night sees River Spirit Casino continue to christen its new events center with Tanya Tucker in concert. Perhaps more exciting to Tulsa fans, however, is the return of Samantha Crain to Bob's for an intimate show with John Fullbright opening the show. This will be an amazing showcase of songwriting with a pair of great voices, so you don't want to miss it.
On the club side of things, Friday evening's shows include Philip Zoellner Band at The Colony, and RadioRadio playing a semi-acoustic show on the patio and Hunt Club to kick off the weekend.
The really impressive shows competing for your attention on Sept. 3, however, are the big ones at River Parks Amphitheater and BOK Center.
John Mayer makes his first arena appearance and states his case for why Rolling Stone included him as part of the next generation of guitar heroes with Owl City opening at BOK Center. Perhaps the bigger party, however, will be perennial favorites Ghostland Observatory with Sound Tribe Sector Nine at the Floating Amphitheater.
Ghostland always puts on a great show and is a Tulsa favorite, but STS9 threatens to steal the evening as it continues to evolve with a more organically based sound that is showcased on the band's latest, digital only release, Axe the Cables. No matter which show you attend, you can't go wrong.
Saturday, Sept. 4, is split between a pair of CD release parties. Algebra spreads his wings and shows a little diversity with the release of Scissortail at Soundpony with Guardant and The Harvard Meats opening for those who want to see this year's ABoT winner for Best Hip-Hop artist. Meanwhile, Motive For Movement releases its new indie-rock opus at the Marquee with And There Stand Empires, The Del Toros and All The Kings Men.
If you're looking for something a little more low-key, however, Jesse Aycock plays Arnie's and Steve Pryor will rock The Colony.
I've already mentioned Little Joe's showcase at the VFW on Sunday night, so don't overlook it if you're a blues fan, otherwise we look out into the week for the final highlights.
September looks to be a great month for shows at The Colony and one of the first premier gigs will be a show by These Mad Dogs of Glory (formerly Macon Greyson). It will be a great night of southern rock like you rarely see at a club this small, so don't forget to spend your Tuesday night at The Colony on Sept. 7.
Finally, the week wraps up with a busy Wednesday on Sept. 8 with The Black Crowes at Cain's Ballroom, The Ataris at The Marquee and The Uproar Festival (Disturbed, Avenged Sevenfold, Stone Sour and Hell Yeah) at BOK Center.
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