So during the first week in February the Blues clubs up and down Beale Street were alive with bands representing Blues Societies from around the world. As over 100 bands and 80 solo/duo acts participated in the 27th International Blues Challenge hosted by The Blues Foundation Now for the first 26 years of the Challenges existence I never heard of it (big surprise there), but I had heard of some of the IBC alumni like Tommy Castro and Susan Tedesci. This last year though I’ve listened and written about even more alumni like Eden Brent. the late Sean Costello, Albert Cummings, Delta Moon, Jason Ricci, Albert Castiglia, The Ty Curtis Band and most recently The Laurie Morvan Band! The Challenge was held over four days for the first time this year, with two days of quarter finals, one day of semi-finals and then the finals at the famous Orpheum Theater.
The winner of the band competition this year was The Lionel Young Band and it’s the first time in the history of the Challenge that a former winner in the Solo/duo category has returned with a band and won! Second place went to The Mary Bridget Davies Group and Rob Blaine finished third. Blaine also won the award for best guitarist. The other finalists in the band category include: The Randy Oxford Band, Stevie J & The Blues Eruption, Grand Marquis, Alex Wilson and The Sugar Prophets.
In the Solo/Duo category the winners Georg Schroter & Marc Breitfelder are from Germany. See it really is an international competition! Harrison Kennedy was the runner up. Other finalists in the category were: Back Porch Stomp, Izzy & Chris, The Juke Joint Devils, The Mighty Orq, Big Jim Adams & John Stilwagen and JTBlues.
If you Google International Blues Challenge 2011 winners or results you can read more about the event and things like which Blues Societies the finalist were representing.
Well, before and after the Challenge, I’ve been listening to some of the bands. Before the Challenge, I listened to The Mighty Orq from Houston, Texas and his album To The Bone. It’s a really good album with some mighty fine guitar and I can’t help but think that he gave Rob Blaine some stiff competition! Rob Blaine’s Big Otis Blues is an album that I’ve been listening to a lot over the last week and it’s easy to see how he could win the award for the best guitarist. Today I listened to Sugar & Spice from the winners of the Solo/duo category Georg Shroter and Marc Beitfelder and it was a good listen some really good piano and harp! At first the album didn’t catch me but the more I listened the more I could see how they won! I also listened to The Sugar Prophets and their self-titled album more good stuff and finally JT Blues and his album Chase Away the Blues. JTBlues is JT John I. Thompson and is a flat out great piano player and is a fixture in and around State College, PA. I’ve really enjoyed this album and all the others. I will try to write more complete reviews of all the albums after a few more listens. But right now I’ll say thanks Blues Foundation for what must have been a great week in Memphis and some great new music!
Here’s The Lionel Young Band from the quarterfinals winners of the band category…..
and Georg Shroeter and Marc Breitfelder – Solo/Duo Winners..