Finalists of the
27th Annual International Blues Challenge
By Don Wilcock
In spite of a crippling snow storm that affected the entire Midwest and east and shut down air travel from Chicago and other hubs, every single act scheduled to play the International Blues Challenge – almost 300 total – made it to Memphis in time to perform at the 27th International Blues Challenge from as far away as Croatia, Poland; Montreal; and, Boston.
For the first time the contest had both quarterfinals and semi-finals. As of Saturday morning, the acts that made it through both the quarter finals on Wednesday and Thursday and the finals on Friday and are scheduled to perform Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. (the bands) and 7 p.m. (solo/duo) are:
Band 1. Randy Oxford Band – South Sound Blues Association
Randy Oxford is the guest of the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise jam. This is the trombonist’s fifth IBC appearance. The band, including the exotic, erotic Jada Amy on vocals have a tight big band sound with originals featuring band members from all over the world.
2. Stevie J & the Blues Eruption – Central Mississippi Blues Society
Stevie J has toured with Bobby Rush and played with Denise LaSalle and the Five Blind Boys of Alabama. A twenty-year performing veteran, he won Male Blues Artist in the 2010 Jus’ The Blues Awards in Memphis.
3. Grand Marquis – Topeka Blues Society
With more than 1,400 performances from Seattle to Miami, this horn band plays tradtional blues ranging from Prohibition era Kansas City to 1950’s Memphis.
4. Rob Blaine’s Big Otis Blues – Windy City Blues Society
Rob Blaine is also in the Chicago R&B Kings and was the doorman at Rosa’s Lounge as recently as 2003.
5. Alex Wilson – Grafton Blues Association
With his uncle and brother in the band, Alex plays everything from Chicago blues to West Coast swing and Texas hard blues.
6. The Lionel Young Band – Colorado Blues Society
Young won the 2008 IBC in solo/duo division. His band has played Montreux Jazz Fest and the 1988 Olympics.
7. The Sugar Prophets – Illinois Central Blues Club
Known for their sweet sound and high energy, this band is fronted by singer/harmonica player Josh Spence.
8. The Mary Bridget Davies Group – Kansas City Blues Society
Fronted by Bridget Davies who has been compared to Janis Joplin and Etta James, this band includes drummer Joe Voye who has played off Broadway and in symphonies around the country.
1. Back Porch Stomp – Washington Blues Society
Nick Vigarino on slide guitar and vocals has toured thirteen countries and won fourteen music awards. Larry Dennis is on percussion.
2. Izzy & Chris – West Virginia Blues Society
Appalachian Blues Contest winners in 2010, these guys are making their second IBC appearance.
3. George Schroeter & Marc Breitfelder – Baltic Blues
Twenty-one year veterans, they won the German Blues Award in 2010.
4. The Juke Joint Devils – Massachusetts Blues Society
A new duo that was part of a quartet for many years.
5. “Sweet Taste” Kennedy – Canal Bank Shuffle
Former member of 1970s hit-making group The Chairmen of The Board, he returns for a second year having been nominated for a Juno, Maple Leaf and Independent Canadian Award. His album Shame The Devil is on Electro-Fi Records.
6. The Mighty Orq – Houston Blues Society
Sixteen years a performer, he has four albums and has won two Houston Press Music Awards for best guitarist.
7. Big Jim Adam & John Stilwagen – Colorado Blues Society
Making their second IBC appearance, Jim’s guitar can be heard on the 2010 PBS documentary, “For Love of Liberty.”
8. JT Blues – Billtown Blues Association
John “JT” Thompson is a native of Pennsylvania but has played around the country including the south with Lottsa Poppa.
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