Some performers are just mesmerizing to ‘watch. JP Soars is one of those.
He’s not a particularly tall man, or physically imposing. He isn’t flamboyant in his movements or his speech. But on stage, with his excellent drummer (Chris Peet) and bassist (Fredrick Cleveland), he consumes your attention. Playing that red guitar or one of the cigar box guitars he and his brother make, mixing vocals and instrumentals, and even occasionally hitting the bass drum using a foot pedal or shaking a rattle, he is in constant yet controlled motion. He gives brief introductions to the songs but keeps things moving along. The music is a wild mix of originals and covers, ranging from rockabilly to gypsy to blues and even surf and punk influences.
On this night, he had to replace a string, and while he replaced it, the Red Hots kept the audience fully engaged with what seemed to be an impromptu drum and bass jam.
For his part, Soars played a rousing version of “Caravan” with a little bit of “Sweet Georgia Brown” in the middle. He played his own “Missin’ Your Kissin'” and “Viper” as well as Johnny “Guitar” Watson’s “Gangster Of Love.”
The whole night was amazing. JP Soars and The Red Hots are fantastic entertainers who always deliver a solid show. Kudos to them and to Darwin’s Burgers and Blues for a wonderful evening!
It was a great way to spend a Saturday. The scene was Blind Willie’s, one of Atlanta’s best-known and most popular blues clubs.
Att 2 pm, Garrett Collins, the youngest performer at 18, and Bennie Mobley, the most mature, started things off by proving that age means little to the blues. Mobley is one of the best harmonica players around. Collins is an accomplished guitarist, and both can handle vocals. Mobley has a sly sense of humor and was definitely the best-dressed man there in his sharp blue suit and white shoes. Collins wore dark colors and a tie. He said Bennie made him and he will never wear one again but if he realizes how good it looked, he may change his mind.
After their excellent set, it was time for The Cazanovas to take the stage. I have been saying that they are the best band in Atlanta for 10 years now and with their current lineup, they’ve just gotten better. Maurice Nazarro on vocals’and harmonica and Danny Vinson on guitar make a great core, and Pte Maier on drums and Harold Patillo are a fantastic rhythm section. But it is the addition of Valerie Waters on keyboards that has added extra energy to the whole group. Every time that woman solos on keys I am as happy as I can possibly be. Together, the band played a mix of original tunes and upbeat classics and did two stellar sets.
Then came a group we did not know, The Clarksdale Regulators/ What a wonderful surprise! It was headed by Mick Kolassa,. We know Mick and consider him a friend. He has another group called The Taylor-Made Blues Band, and both groups include David Dunavent. But this group also includes Heather Crosse on vocals and bass & Lee Andrew Williams, Jr on drums. Mick formed this group to tour with when The Taylor-Made Band’s drummer and bassist are touring with Watermelon Slim.
Since David has a huge voice and Heather’s is smoky and a very welcome addition to this otherwise all-male gathering of musicians. They performed mostly original material. Mick did sing a “bluesified” Beatles song from the excellent album, “You can’t Do That,” which he recorded with Mark Telesca. The band also performed a stellar blues version of The Temptations’ “I Can’t Get Next To You.”
It was time, then, for the final act, my personal favorite band in any genre, The Jeff Jensen Band. I had strategically placed my husband and myself at a table right up front just to make sure I got hugs from Jeff Jensen, Bill Riffino and David Green, and I did. (They came to me, I didn’t have to trip them with my cane or anything. )It was like seeing family you really, really love and they put on a perfect first set.
Unfortunately, it was late and we had an hour’s ride home, so we had to leave after the first set.
Even so, the whole day was a dream. Blues Stotts is a yearly event honoring the memory of ABS founding member Larry Stotts. All profits go to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Mark your calendars now for next year!
Darwins Blues on the Block Festival got off to a great start on Friday with Poverty Level, The Way Back Band, and The Markey Blue Ric Latina Project. We missed Poverty Level because of work but thoroughly enjoyed The Way Back Band’s interpretations of hits from the past, announced in fabulous DJ style by drummer Tony Lee Williams. “Please, Mr. Postman” really did take me way back and had me dancing in my seat!
Then Markey Blue, Ric Latina, and the band hit the stage. We adore these guys and had already got to exchange enthusiastic greetings before the show. There was a good crowd and as always, they wowed everybody.
Saturday the weather was a nasty surprise. Suddenly it turned bitterly cold and rainy. Stephen”Bluesdude” Duncan bravely performed his set as scheduled at the outdoor stage, delivering his excellent acoustic Americana on banjo, ranging from Flatt and Scruggs to my favorite Dylan song, “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere,” to an audience of exactly three… me, my husband and our friend Kelli. Stephen deserves a commendation and we love him.
While outside. we picked up some delicious barbecue from oricuaSmokehouse, Then we trooped in and found other people huddled in the comfortable dryness. We had a drink to warm up while we listened to the Atlanta Blues Challenge Youth group, No Solution. These teenagers really know how to sing the blues. From that point on, every of Bean and Bear Studios, who was selling delicious boiled peanuts.
We were thrilled to see one of our favorite groups, Chickens and Pigs. We love Jeff Evans’ lyrics and laconic style. He and his bandmates always make me happy.
After a cute puppetry skit from Bean and Bear, it was time for my favorite local group, The Cazanovas, to take the stage. every time I have ever seen this group they have been excellent. Maurice Nazarro is one of my favorite harmonica players and vocalists and Danny Vinson is an amazing guitarist. The entire band is great, and adding Valerie Waters on keyboards has made them even more dynamic. They were joined by special guest Jeff Baker for several songs, which was a delight.
At this point, we had to leave and missed Mark Hummel’s Golden State Lone Star Revue.
Sunday was dry but terribly cold. My husband was exhausted and I can’t drive so we had to miss this year’s Atlanta Blues Challenge winners ThunderGypsy, The Blues Hearts, Wavetree and Andy T and Alabama Mike with Anson Funderburgh. My friend Barb, who was there all day, t9ld me that ThunderGypsy was great, with Heather Stratham really “belting it out.” Wavetree, she said, was excellent,” with a very diverse set from Buddy Guy to the Allman Brothers to Zappa. ” As for Andy T with Alabama Mike & Anson Funderburgh, she reports that they were “awesome. They played their hearts out and they all were so talented and so tight, a blues lover could not have asked for more.”
It’s a real shame more people let the weather keep them away, but those of us that were there for any part of it had a great time, with good friends, food and drink, and wonderful music!