The weather is starting to warm up and so is the blues concert season. There is a variety of old and new artists coming to town. Going back to the 60s, there is Kim Simmonds and Savoy Brown. Some of the newer, younger artists include Selwyn Birchwood, Shemekia Copeland and Joanne Shaw Taylor. Then of course there is the annual Chicago Blues Festival June 10-12. There you find a little bit of everything.
Beginning on March 31st, Shemekia Copeland will be at Space in Evanston Ill. The small intimate setting will allow the new queen of the blues to been seen up close and personal. The capacity of this venue is only 250. Koko Taylor’s daughter Cookie ceremoniously turned over the crown to Shemekia at the 2011 Chicago Blues Festival. In 2015, Shemekia released her latest CD titled Outskirts of Love. It reached number 6 on the Billboard Top Blues Albums chart. It’s already her 8th release.
On April 16 there are two great choices. Selwyn Birchwood will be returning to the area after celebrating his birthday at Beer Geeks in Highland, Ind. on March 8th. This time he’ll be at Buddy Guy’s Legends. Selwyn is still riding the success of his most recent release Don’t Call No Ambulance on Alligator Records. He is a hot young guitarist who just reached the age of 31. A special treat is when he pulls out the lap steel guitar.
Also on April 16 is Tommy Castro playing at Fitzgerald’s in Berwyn, Ill. Tommy is a San Jose, Calif. based guitarist who has a rocking guitar with a very soulful voice. If one can’t make it to this show, Tommy will also be performing at the Chicago Blues Festival in June. Tommy has recently released his fourth Alligator Records recording titled Method to My Madness. Prior to signing with Alligator, Castro recorded for Blind Pig Records. Method is his 17th album.
The following weekend at Fitzgerald’s, an all-star blues lineup comes to town featuring Charlie Baty. Charlie is the former leader of Little Charlie and the Nightcats. Along with Charlie will be guitarist Anson Funderburgh and harp player Mark Hummel. The tour is called the Golden State Lone star Review. It features musicians from both California and Texas.
The very next night in Chicago, Kim Simmonds and Savoy Brown grace the stage of Reggie’s. This Englishman has been dedicated to the blues since the 1960s. Kim has been the one constant in all the reincarnations of this band. Three of the most famous alumni of Savoy Brown are Lonesome Dave Peverett, Roger Earl and Tony Stevens. They left Savoy to form the band Foghat. Other notable alumni include Bill Bruford of Yes fame, Paul Raymond of UFO and Andy Pyle of the Kinks, Blodwyn Pig and Wishbone Ash. The Devil To Pay is their latest offering. It was released in Sep. 2015.
The Fabulous Thunderbirds take the stage at SPACE in Evanston Ill. on May 22. They’re most famous for hits such as “Wrap It Up”, “Tuff Enuff” and “Powerful Stuff”. In the beginning, they were known as the band that Stevie Ray Vaughn’s brother was in. Clearly today they are known as harp great Kim Wilson’s band.
British guitarist Joanne Shaw Taylor will be appearing at Reggie’s in Chicago on May 26. She’s a throwback to the days when most rock groups were influenced by the blues. Think of groups like Ten Years After, Rory Gallagher and Humble Pie. This girl can bring it on guitar. Her vocals aren’t bad either. She was discovered by The Eurythmics guitarist Dave Stewart. She has four studio CDs so far and one outstanding live recording, Songs From the Road. This writer highly recommends this disc.
Other notable shows coming to the area include California guitarist James Armstrong at Beer Geeks in Highland, Ind. on May 10. Big Dog Mercer will be playing at Pokro Brewing in Griffith, Ind. on April 30. Big Dog can be seen regularly around Chicagoland including Shaw’s Crab House in Chicago and St. John Malt Brothers in St. John, Ind. This is a special show because it’s Pokro’s first live blues offering with hopefully more to follow.