Naught shall keep the blues from its appointed rounds, apparently, so even though this past Monday was Christmas, it was still Coyote Bill’s Monday night Open Blues Jam at Westport Saloon. Plenty of local KC talent braved the 21 degree weather to show out and warm up a dedicated crowd of holiday revelers.
Among the musicians who came out were Koolaide and Miss Bea of Koolaide Exact Change Band – their first time at Westport Saloon – bringing good tidings of great vibes accompanied by John Paul Drum on harmonica. Will Hawkins stepped in on drums and Rick Symmonds on keys.
Blues Jam host William “Bill” Bartelt has had a version of Coyote Bill band for the past 10 years, he said, and has hosted the Coyote Bill Blues Jam at Westport Saloon for the past four years. The current lineup of Coyote Bill includes Bill, Patricio “Pato” Lazen, who joined the band about a year ago, and Kris Schnebelen, who joined in October, 2017, on drums.
Westport Saloon is a cozy, friendly place boasting “live, independent roots music” in the heart of Kansas City’s Westport. There’s a decent size dance floor, two bars and lots of live music variety.
I didn’t know what to think this past summer when this little pint-size pixie sidled up to the microphone on the stage one Wednesday night during the 2017 Levee Summer Blues Jam. Jam nights are pretty laid back…Newman, casually bespeckled – but even so, nothing could obscure those big eyes underneath. I thought right then, in fact, that she was reminiscent of one of Margaret Keane’s paintings – waif-like and barefooted. I squinted a bit wondering what this gal was doing in a blues jam.
But, then…something about how she wore that big ol’ bass like a comfortable accessory and how, with a smile and flick of her locks, the fellas around her took que and struck in. I quickly surmised I’d better pay attention: she wasn’t there to follow.
She was there to LEAD.
Sure ’nuff, after her step up to the mic, out came a big woman voice that boomed a whole lotta blues outta seemingly nowhere.
Yeah. Fool me once. Never again. Welcome to my first experience of Heather Newman.
I got a chance to catch up with her after her set and found her very down-home friendly. From Omaha originally, Newman has made Kansas City home recently but, clearly, she has that Midwestern approachability. I promised to catch her one of her professional appearances in the future and as luck would have it, the next time I got to connect with her was at Knuckleheads with her own band, The Heather Newman Band.
After waiting around for her to greet her fans before the show, Ms. Newman said she was excited because she had written a new song the day before and run the band through the new tune in less than a day to try it out this very next night. To understand this level of ability, one first has to know that, even though she is only 23 years old, she’s been performing since she was 10, so in Heather Newman years, she’s a seasoned pro.
With the debut of “Burn Me Alive”, it’s easy to see how she taken her raw talents to bolder levels.
With Lee’s Summit’s Keith Ladd on guitar, classically trained Ryan Matthew on keys and Cole Dillingham (formerly with Amanda Fish band) on drums, Newman is clearly comfortable as a leader of the band (more like keeper of the band’s happiness.) Coaxing her guys through songs with smiles and attention, she never misses a beat while doing what it takes to make sure the sounds are on track. Talent builds talent and begets talent so Newman surrounding herself with such a worthy crew has clearly served to put her at the helm of a great sound at an opportune time in her career – and theirs.
I thought I’d coast into this fall by bringing you a retrospective of some of this summer’s sizzling events in the Kansas City Blues scene. A beautiful summer for weather in ol’ KC town, there were plenty of balmy evenings to enjoy a great lineup of blues concerts.
First up, Kansas City’s own Danielle Nicole Schnebelen, perfunctorily known as Danielle Nicole.
Danielle Nicole holds a powerful blues presence as evidenced by her vocals-only performance Tuesday (July 11, 2017) at Knuckleheads where she wow’d an overflow crowd in opening for The Robert Cray Band. Kansas City loves Danielle Nicole and it’s easy to see why – not only is she a riveting guitarist, her vocals hit every note with an emotional barb that hooks her fans into feeling the core message of the lyrics. Plus, she’s beautiful. There’s that.
Danielle Nicole is well-paired with the handsome and talented Brandon Miller who can go toe-to-toe with Danielle in a frenzied instrumental duel – or back up her vocals with harmony on solo acoustic. His smile and good mood contagiously amps up the on-stage vibe between the two, making them one of Kansas City’s great blues combos.
Hey all you Kansas City music lovers – check out Kansas City’s one and only The Levee on Wednesdays (Yes, that includes TONIGHT) for Blues Jams hosted by Sean McDonnell and Brandon Miller.
It’s The Levee – since 1965, Kansas City’s hot spot for great music.
Here’s a taste of a jam session from July 12, 2017, compliments of Blues Insights:
Come out and listen, dance, groove – have a good time supporting The Levee and all these great musicians. In this video: Sean McDonnell, vocals and guitar, Brandon Miller, drums, Michael LeFever, sax, Carl Cherrito congas, Dylan Reiter on bass and Kyle Hayden on guitar, far right.
There’s plenty of time to come on out between 8 and midnight. See you there!