Monday, July 16, 2018

Ivas John Returns To The Kenlake Hot August Blues Festival

No doubt, if there was a show stealer at last year's Hot August Blues Festival at Kenlake State Park in Aurora, Kentucky, it was Ivas John. John returns this year, by popular demand, on Saturday, August 25th.

If in the soul of a true artist, lay the marriage of opposites, then an exemplary artist does Ivas John make. A throwback and an innovator. A musician with local roots and worldly chops. A purist who can play the dirtiest blues. Ivas John is a musician’s musician. He has a style of effortless authenticity that is both a breath of fresh air and a link to days of yore, imbued with the same sense of timelessness as the shores of the Mississippi River he now calls home.

Ivas John’s story is as unique as his music. Born as a first generation Lithuanian American into a music-loving Chicago home, his earliest influences came from European folk dancing, melodies hammered out on the family piano, and playing trumpet in the school band. His working class father was a truck driver by day, and by night appeared in productions for the local opera company and was a regular fixture on the vibrant folk and blues scene in late 60’s Chicago. Long before picking up the guitar, taking to the country, and becoming the public figure Ivas John, his musical future was being shaped, at least in part, by the living room record player.

And in another way, by a deep appreciation for history, language, and tradition instilled by immigrant parents. In his teens, Ivas got hooked on blues guitar and began making forays to the inner city clubs to get a fix. By means of jamming along with the available record collections, and the sporadic tutelage of his older brother, he learned to play.

In the early years of his career, John was known exclusively for playing the electric blues with finesse, and a maturity beyond his years. While away at Southern Illinois University, he earned a place in the local music scene, and began backing blues luminaries three times his age with his in demand guitar work. It was there he connected with renowned blues singer Big Larry, a consummate entertainer and brother to Big Twist of the famous Alligator records Mellow Fellows band. These years of precious experience gave Ivas a real taste of the working musician’s life…in all its glory and hardship. Being both young and hungry, nothing could’ve been better at the time. Playing every weekend and taking classes during the days, his insatiable quest for music took him through the halls of early jazz, swing, ragtime, country blues, and slide guitar. As his understanding of music blossomed, so did the desire to put his own band together. With the music community on his side, Ivas developed a voice tucked away since childhood folk singing and put together an experienced band that over the last decade has grown into one of the regions busiest and most beloved roots music acts. A new side of himself emerged writing, arranging, and performing original music and the transition from college student to full time working musician was seamless.

The early years of the Ivas John Band were productive ones. Well over 1000 shows and four albums between 2007 and 2012 helped build his name and connect the dots to new markets, including a residency and long standing relationship with the legendary St. Louis club BBs Jazz, Blues & Soups. As his star kept rising and audiences kept coming back for more, the musical evolution continued as well. With the shifting of his musical mind came the urge to collaborate and record with other excellent regional players and also indulge creative curiosities in the banjo, lap steel, and harmonica. During this time Ivas moved from the woods to the river. In historic Cape Girardeau, MO the roll of the Mississippi towed him under the influence of past masters in folk and country music. Ivas studied the world of Woody Guthrie, Jimmie Rodgers, Doc Watson, The Delmore Brothers, and Balladeers like Tom Paxton and Gordon Lightfoot.

Ivas’ most recent project, Good Days A Comin, put him on the map in the world of acoustic music. Coming together over a shared vision of what pure folk and country blues music should sound like, Ivas and producers Gary and Noah Gordon made it their business to assemble an A team of supporting acoustic musicians and get things in motion. Since the release, which Billboard magazine called a “Slam Dunk!”, the album went to the top of the pile for roots music DJ’s and received a great deal of critical acclaim.

The Kenlake Hot August Blues Festival is set for Thursday through Saturday, August 23-25 at Kenlake State Park in Aurora, Kentucky. Discount tickets are available at KenlakeBlues.com.

Charities which will benefit from this year's Hot August Blues Festival include The Shriners, who will be operating festival shuttles with all tips and proceeds going to the Shriners' Childrens' Hospitals, and the Knights of Columbus.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Microwave Dave and The Nukes Will Heat Up Kenlake Hot August Blues

Twenty years of performances in the U.S and Europe and six albums-with more on the way-have helped Microwave Dave & The Nukes establish a wide multinational audience. Venues vary from French soccer stadiums to Bike Week in Daytona Beach, from blues cruises on the Big Red Boat to neighborhood saloons, but the thousands of shows delivered by the band all reflect one core element: the heritage blues music enjoys as a lifter of spirits. As Microwave Dave puts it: "Blues is America's first-and still best-self-help program." Microwave Dave brings his unique slide guitar skills to Kenlake's Hot August Blues Festival, Saturday, August 25th at Kenlake State Park, near Aurora, Kentucky.

While major-label stars gauge success by sales figures and chart positions, the predominate barometer for traditional blues artists is simpler: repeat bookings. Microwave Dave & The Nukes' annual itinerary features music festivals and holiday engagements that have billed the act for fifteen consecutive years; motorcycle events for more than a dozen; and a considerable list of major hotels, international deep water fishing tournaments, schools and social organizations that re-acquire the group's services year after year. Indeed, it is such continuous work that led the Alabama Blues Society to present the band it's Blues Achievement Award in 2001, "for accomplishments in performing, writing and preserving blues music."

Formed in 1989, Microwave Dave & the Nukes' blues apprenticeship included a three-year stint as Jerry 'Boogie' McCain's back-up band, interspersed with shows backing Bo Diddley both of whose styles are integral flavors in the band's recipe. Microwave Dave produced Gotta Get A Cadillac as a cassette release in 1991; the album was re-released and promoted world-wide on compact disc by Australia's Full Moon Records in 1999.

Producer Johnny Sandlin, legendary in his work with the Allman Brothers Band, Delbert McClinton, and Widespread Panic among others, recorded the group's next release, Goodnight, Dear, for Ice House (BluesWorks) Records. The 1995 release propelled the band to Europe when their cover of Bo Diddley's "Road Runner" became a soccer stadium smash in Paris and subsequently a solid dance hit across America. Goodnight, Dear was re-released in Europe as Nothin' But The Blues on the Dixie Frog label. Two other selections from the album appeared in the film soundtrack of The Poor & Hungry, which has enjoyed broadcast on the Independent Film Channel, but "Road Runner" has remained the top seller and most-leased record in the Icehouse catalog to date.

Johnny Sandlin returned to produce 2000's Wouldn't Lay My Guitar Down for Duck Tape Records, on which Microwave Dave fronted an all-star band of veteran players from the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, The Amazing Rhythm Aces, Cowboy, and Little Richard's band. The title cut and a swampy cover of Roosevelt Syke's "Don't Care Blues" became staples on XM Satellite Radio's 'Bluesville' channel, and "Hat" was later covered by Little Milton.

Atomic Electric was released on the Distant Farmer label in 2003. Producer/engineer Tom Gallaher returned to the band's own players and, utilizing vintage analog methodology and gear, garnered the best critical responses for the band's music to date and Atomic Electric found a home on many blues program playlists. The album scored well at Canada's REAL BLUES Awards, gathering wins in the 2003 Southern blues releases and Southern blues band categories, and naming Microwave Dave "2003 Southern Blues Guitarist Of The Year/Modern." "Trail Of Tears", the LoweBow instrumental composed by Dave for the album, received a nomination in the "Best Other Instrument" category from Nashville's Music City Blues Society in the fall of 2004.

American Peasant is Microwave Dave's fifth cd, a live recording documenting the groundbreaking solo electric blues style Dave has developed utilizing real-time loop accompaniment. The Distant Farmer release, also produced by Tom Gallaher, received excellent notices internationally and is the premier release showcasing live looping in the traditional blues idiom.

An invitation to perform live on Public Radio International's "Whad'ya Know? With Michael Feldman" in November 2006 brought the band high praise from the broadcast's 1.5 million listeners on XM Satellite Radio and National Public Radio stations nationwide, adding power to the launch of the Nukes' long-awaited live album, Down South Nukin', also produced by Johnny Sandlin for Rockin' Camel Records.

MICROWAVE DAVE (Dave Gallaher) was born in Chicago, raised in Texas and has lived most of his life in the Deep South. His first performances were in the children's choir at First Presbyterian Church in Amarillo, Texas, and he heard his first blues songs there on late-night radio. After moving to Dallas, then Houston, Dave took up ukulele, followed by his father's old Stella guitar when the uke broke. After a few accordion lessons, he began studying trumpet in the 7th grade, continuing on several brass instruments in school while picking guitar at home and listening to the all-night blues dj's on KYOK. During his sophomore year in high school, he was switched from French horn into the drum section for football season, and began playing a drumkit as well, landing a job in the Houston Oilers' dixieland band, called the Supersonic Philharmonic during the AFL's inaugural season.
When Dave's family relocated to Atlanta, his exposure to soul music and r&b began to supplement his blues and dixie background, and a Fender bass got him jobs in several area bands. After high school graduation (during which he produced and participated in a Beatles act), he enrolled as a journalism major at Georgia State College and formed the Majestics to play horn-driven r&b, and the band worked the college circuit initially before finding employment at Atlanta's top chitlin circuit venue, the Royal Peacock. There, the Majestics backed Carla Thomas, William Bell, The Tams, Billy Stewart and appeared with a young Aretha Franklin and began to secure occasional session work. However, before the band could hit full stride, the Viet Nam draft began pulling members, and soon Dave was in the Air Force as an intelligence specialist and on his way to Saigon.

During his tour in Viet Nam, Dave found solace in a GI soul band called the Rotations, with members coming and going as their tours completed. During this period, he made the decision to become a full-time musician after the service, and following his reassignment to Langley AFB, Virginia (where he played at rough backwoods jukes in a band called the Empacts), he mustered out and enrolled as an arranging and composition major at Berklee College Of Music in Boston with guitar as his instrument.

In Boston, Dave joined the Cameron Company and moved to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida for a twelve-year run. Eventually renamed Cameron, the band recorded three albums and played 300+ dates a year, including many concert appearances with name attractions of the period. During this period, Dave met and studied blues guitar with Johnny Shines in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. The last Cameron recordings, accomplished in Muscle Shoals, Alabama under producer Barry Beckett, fostered connections that led Dave into the Thrasher Brothers, a Grammy-winning gospel group that was courting mainstream country audiences. During three years of Nashville-based touring, Dave began to long for music that was closer to his blues/r&b foundation, and he moved to Huntsville, Alabama in the mid 1980s and took up woodworking, and the Nukes were formed in 1989. Concurrently, an opportunity to produce a local blues radio program began Microwave Dave's sideline as a dj and host. His programs were nominated for a WC Handy award in 1995. Around 1993, Dave began playing regular weeknight solo blues performances in Huntsville when the Nukes were not on tour. Both radio and solo work are ongoing.

RICK GODFREY plays bass, neck-rack harmonica and sings backup vocals in the band. A Huntsville native, Rick worked for twenty years as a visual artist in stained glass and woodworks in his own shops. His lifelong desire perform music was first exercised when he was drafted to play bass in a 7th grade talent show, and he took up acoustic guitar during high school, writing songs and occasionally performing in public. Dave began working for Rick in 1987 and the band was born during lunch-hour jams in the woodshop, Rick returning to the bass. When the group suddenly found itself booked on a public radio fundraiser, his on-the-job training in professional musicianship began in front of audiences hungry for blues. Since no formal instruction was involved, Rick developed a unique thumb-and-fingers style that is conceptually his own. This style was further individualized by his altering the tuning on his Fender Telecaster bass to match the lower four strings of a five-stringed instrument, and the deeper tones add to the large sonic footprint of the Nukes. Rick continues to write songs, some of which are in the band's recordings and live playlists, and his domestic and overseas performances have continued without missing a single gig since the band was launched. Recently, Rick has begun a series of acoustic guitar solo performances in the Tennessee Valley on the band's nights off, featuring an entire repertoire of his original compositions.

James was born into a musical family in Decatur, Alabama, and his first performances were at home jam sessions, where he played snare drum from age 4 onward. His eighth birthday got him his first drum kit, but by 10 he was learning to play bass and guitar as well on a diet of classic rockers such as Buddy Holly and His Crickets, Creedence Clearwater Revival and Dire Straits. This experience allowed him to secure his first professional performances at the young age of 15, working local dances, parties and VFW clubs with more experienced musicians.

Two years later, James recorded demos featuring his singing and a twelve-string guitar for the purpose of working solo gigs. While he was successful in landing his first solo at the Kaffeeklatsch in Huntsville in 1999, little work availability in this mode at that moment influenced him to accept slots in larger local acts on guitar and bass that eventually appeared at area festivals and provided James experience with larger audiences, and these associations led to his becoming the 'house drummer' at Sunday blues jams and Monday open mics. It was at the Kaffeeklatsch Sunday night blues jam that Microwave Dave first encountered James' drumming, and he was invited to join the Nukes on the spot. His work has garnered him consistent praise from long-time Nukes devotees who are happily surprised to see a young man play the blues so well. Despite the Nukes' schedule, James was able to record in Muscle Shoals a self-titled album of his original material that was released in 2007. James performed all the instrument and vocal tracks on the release, which received international airplay on XM Satellite Radio's XM43-Indie/College Rock channel.

The Kenlake Hot August Blues Festival is set for Thursday through Saturday, August 23-25 at Kenlake State Park in Aurora, Kentucky. Discount tickets are available at KenlakeBlues.com.

Charities which will benefit from this year's Hot August Blues Festival include The Shriners, who will be operating festival shuttles with all tips and proceeds going to the Shriners' Childrens' Hospitals, and the Knights of Columbus.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Soul Dog Brings The Memphis Sound to The Hot August Blues Festival

Soul Dog recalls the heydays of Memphis Music and 60s and 70s Soul, such as Sam & Dave, The Temptations, Al Green, Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, James Brown and others. They'll bring their trip down Soul Music's memory lane to the Hot August Blues Festival Saturday, August 25th, at Kenlake State Park at Aurora, Kentucky.

Soul Dog has been together for 8 years, but the origins of the band started 40 years ago in Russell, KY. That’s when songwriter and lead guitarist David Booth began teaching his then teenaged brother-in-law Kevin Qualls how to play guitar. Some of the songs in Soul Dog’s repertoire are songs that were part of those early music lessons. Soul Dog has had various band members in the past 8 years, but David and Kevin have been constant members.

David Booth has been musically active his entire life. While in college at the University of Kentucky, David played Lexington venues with his band, “The Tungsten Trio.” Kevin’s sister was the vocalist. David has produced three albums of original music. “Worker In The Harvest” and “The Light Album” are soulful praise and worship CD’s. “Loose Ends,” his first album, consists of secular originals that reveal many of David’s musical influences, many of which are now covered in Soul Dog set lists. His CD’s are available on iTunes and CD Baby.

Kevin Qualls turned his attention to bass guitar in 2010 after complications for a surgery resulted in nerve damage to his left hand. In an effort to regain better use of his hand he tried playing guitar, but switched to bass because he could better feel the larger strings. It worked. David and Kevin began playing music together again. Other musicians joined along the way.

Vocalist Ron Coleman joined Soul Dog in 2014. Ron is a classically trained vocalist with an impressive range. He can sing everything from Italian opera to James Brown. In the 70’s, Ron sang with soul bands in Philadelphia.

Saxophonist Chuck Haney joined the band in 2013. Chuck adds a touch of jazz to the band’s sound. Drummer David Frensley has played with many bands in western Kentucky for decades. He was Soul Dog’s original drummer in the early days of band rehearsal, but work travel kept him from performing with the band until two years ago. David has experience in many genres of music and is proving especially adept at soul.

Soul Dog has continued for several years for simple reasons. They play music they love, it is recreational rather than vocational with their principal ambition to just have fun playing music. Their Facebook page is called, “PaducahSoulDog.” They are listed under the same name on Reverbnation, where several recordings are available.

The Kenlake Hot August Blues Festival is set for Thursday through Saturday, August 23-25 at Kenlake State Park in Aurora, Kentucky. Discount tickets are available at KenlakeBlues.com.

Charities which will benefit from this year's Hot August Blues Festival include The Shriners, who will be operating festival shuttles with all tips and proceeds going to the Shriners' Childrens' Hospitals, and the Knights of Columbus.