Thursday, June 21, 2007

A rare acoustic gig.

Here are a couple of photos of a rare acoustic gig I played with guitarist Eric Madis on June 15th. The gig was in the cafeteria at the Fircrest facility located in Shoreline, just north of Seattle.

I haven't played with Eric for a long time, maybe eight years or so, I guess. He is a fine musician, fluent in all sorts of country and electric blues guitar styles, and a good singer to boot. He is probably the most physically fit musician I know - sheesh, he looks like he could bend steel in his bare hands!

Thanks for including me on this gig, Eric.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

In the Pocket with Mr. Solid

By John Lee

Steve Cheseborough

My band mate in the Crossroads Band and long time friend, Steve Bailey, and I recently put together a house concert starring the dynamic country blues guitar man, Steve Cheseborough. Mr. Cheseborough can nail the likes of Charlie Patton, Son House, Bo Carter, and Robert Johnson. He is an excellent interpreter of the country blues tradition. About thirty-five people attended the show in Steve Bailey's basement.

Steve Chesebrough called the setting authentic “juke joint.” I made red beans and rice, and Steve Bailey grilled chicken and made a green salad. Steve Chesebrough had done two workshops at Dusty Strings earlier that day, but still found time to make a mighty fine coleslaw. Malcomb Kennedy of the Washington Blues Society brought some very tasty pulled pork. Other folks brought food too. It was a great night of music, food and good times. We plan on doing more house concerts and parties. Stay tuned! It just might be the wave of the future.

If you ever get a chance to catch Steve Cheseborough, don’t pass it up. I know you’ll dig him. Mr. Chesebrough is also the author of the book “Blues Traveling- The Holy Sites Of Delta Blues.” This book is a must for the blues fan who is going to Memphis and the Mississippi Delta in search of the places in blues history and were the blues lives in the present.

The Black Keys - "The Big Come Up" CD

My friend Patrick at the Chocoloti CafĂ© in my neighborhood loaned me a CD by the Black Keys, a duo of electric guitar and drums, steeped in the blues tradition and alternative rock based in Akron , Ohio . There are thirteen tunes in all here, ten originals, three covers. The traditional “Leavin’ Trunk”, Junior Kimbrough’s "Do the Rump" and the Beatles' "She Said, She Said" are the cover tunes. I first heard The Black Keys (Dan Auerbach guitar and vocals, Patrick Carney drums) on the "Black Snake Moan" movie sound track. This CD has a cool mix of nasty sounding blues with a grunge feel to it. Almost a Lightnin' Hopkins meets Curt Cobain thing! I found out that this is the first (2002) of the band's six CD’s. I just heard a feature on The Black Keys on NPR Weekend. The piece said they have a cult following that includes Robert Plant and ZZ Top guitarist Billy Gibbons. I find these guys refreshing and hope that their music will help lead us into a funkier future. I dig The Black Keys, maybe you will too.

John Nemeth and Janiva Magness

This spring I caught both John Nemeth and Janiva Magness at The Highway 99 Blues Club on Seattle ’s waterfront.

John Nemeth is a first-rate blues harp player and a powerhouse vocalist. Mr. Nemeth was touring to promote his latest recording “Magic Touch”. A top-notch backing band, a great mix of original and classic blues, and some dynamite R&B thrown in for good measure added up to a very pleasurable evening. John Nemeth’s vocal style is very reminiscent of the Northwest’s own harp player/vocalist Mark Dufresne. Do yourself a favor and check out John Nemeth. I think you’ll be glad you did.

Janiva Magness was voted Best Contemporary Female Artist in both 2006 and 2007 by the Blues Foundation’s Blues Awards. Her latest CD “Do I Move You” was nominated for Best Contemporary Blues Album of the Year this year. Janiva Magness lives up to her billing as best female artist in every way. She is a powerful singer who commands the stage and can belt out a song with the very best. Her band is mighty fine too. Check her out. I think it will be worth your time.

Note: I didn’t get the names of any musicians on either show. I went as a fan and didn’t take my reporter notebook with me. I intend to do a better job in the future.


I recently was checking out some radio stations for some blues listening on the internet when I ran across WGLT-FM out of Normal , Illinois . I know - you're wondering where in the hell is Normal , Illinois. It is near Peoria. This NPR heavy station plays a lot of blues on the weekend. The cool thing is besides their regular programs they also have a 24/7 blues steam. I tune in from time to time and find it to be fairly comprehensive. They play a number of styles and era’s. Check it out if your looking for a new blues station that walks the walk.

I dig internet radio as you might know if you’re a regular reader of this space. I dig being able to listen to the likes of Beale Street Caravan, Blues Before Sunrise, and Southern Soul Radio.Com. This stuff is a groove. I wouldn’t like it much if I couldn’t listen to these shows and stations from time to time. But at this time internet radio is in danger!

The Copyright Royalty Board wants to raise royalties as much as 1200% in some cases going back as far as January 2006. Public radio stations couldn’t afford to stream their broadcasts over the internet. This is one of the ways alternative music gets exposure. It would be a crime if this kind of thing were allowed to happen. Stations already pay a fair fee to broadcast music. You can help! Contact and find out more and who to contact about stopping this power grab.

Quote of the month:

“I told a white fellow once, if you were black for one Saturday night and on Beale Street , never would you want to be white again.”- Rufus Thomas

Electric bassist John "Mr. Solid" Lee was born in Alaska and has been active in the Seattle blues scene for about 30 years. He currently plays with the Crossroads Band. Photo by Mike Coyote.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

There's a new Blue Monday jam in town.

Seattle guitarist John Stephan (left) and his band will be hosting a new Blue Monday jam session at the recently remodeled Mainstage Comedy and Music Club across the street from the Key Arena on lower Queen Anne hill. The Mainstage address is 315 First Avenue North, located between Thomas and Harrison streets. There is a full bar and menu, and showtime will be 7:30 PM.

Veteran Seattle blues fans will remember when this club was called Chicago's, and featured local and regional blues acts on the weekends. I won't be able to attend this show for the next couple of weeks, but, when I do, I will post a review here.

For more information, contact the club at 206-217-3700, or John Stephan at