Category: Featured Artists

2017 – Great Summer of KC Blues

Rollin’ through on electric grooves this summer from California was Orphan Jon and the Abandoned – partnered up with Johnny Main and The 44’s. Hitting Kansas City twice in their tour of the Midwest, I first encountered OJATA at BB’s Lawnside BBQ – and was caught a bit off-guard when this beatnik looking daddy-o strolled up from out in the audience to grab the mic where the band had already fired up their first number. Jon English commenced to jiving and crooning, swaying a backside and raising his eyebrows invitingly at the audience over a pair of dark glasses – while a slim and seasoned Bruce Krupnik coaxed an electric cigar box guitar into a string-bending blues whine.

It became clear that we were all there to witness Orphan Jon having a good time and we could either join in or not – it was gonna happen…and it did happen. Everybody got bitten by the groove and pretty soon the place was hoppin.

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Jon English introduced himself to the Kansas City audience at BB’s Lawnside BBQ June 02, 2017 while touring with the band Orphan Jon and the Abandoned and Johnny Main’s The 44’s. His interactions with band members are contagiously enthusiastic – but his vocals bring a hot new blues sound to the fore. ©2017 Peggy Stevinson Bair

Then, Jon English stepped back as guitarist Bruce Krupnik entered a zone and took everyone into it with him. Fortunately, I managed to gather myself enough to capture a goodly clip of it. Grab your favorite beverage, close your eyes and have a listen – I promise you, he’ll be gentle but you are gonna feel it:

That song, “Leave My Blues Alone,” is on the Abandoned No More CD coming out on Rip Cat Records after the first of the year (2018) – so you get a first taste of here. Thankfully, my unprepared backside got a second chance to video this number entirely and live when OJATA did a loop back around to KC on the tail end of their Midwest Tour and graced the Gospel Lounge at Knuckleheads a few days later. You want more than just a taste of this song? Well, here’s the 16 minute live version – with special guest Johnny Main injecting extra energy and mojo:

A lot more is coming here on Blues Insights about OJATA in the near future – as I truly believe in the amazing songwriting matchup of Jon English and Bruce Krupnik. But, yeah, even though the weather was balmy in the summer of 2017 – the Kansas City blues scene was hot, hot, hot.

Stay tuned (ha! get it?) for more as we will soon be discussing the upcoming CD:

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Samantha Clemons – at Knuckleheads Thursday, Aug. 31 – Carl Butler Lounge

Get tickets from etix

Most people who know me, know I’ve been a photographer and photojournalist my entire career…but back in 2009, thanks to a renewal of friendship with my childhood pal  Janet Jameson (Rock Paper Scissors), I started photographing musicians and venues and loving the vibrant Kansas City music scene.

After an evening of photographing one such performance at Record Bar, back in 2012, I was kicking back with Dennis White of RPS after their performance when a beautiful young black woman took the center of the stage – quietly, unimposing, alone – and with with her whole soul, cut into the dark silence with a voice and lyrics that felt like a gale wind had blown through the front door. (I fumbled around for my cellphone settings and just hit record and prayed that something would work that would do some tiny iota of justice to her).

In that moment, I gained a reverence for the audacity and internally-driven joy and love of music possessed by those who get up on stage following a popular act where most of the house has left – and, in front of a dozen or fewer people – pour their hearts out like the house is full (all the greats have a story like this to tell…)

 

So, that night, in that song, this is what she had to say:

you take away from me
everything i once had
and it’s so hard to see
while i’m looking back
but never once in my mind
did i think i could find
a heart like yours
so unwilling to fly

crafting lies is your game
that i’m soon up against
giving rise to a crime
and your feigned innocence
but time goes
and i know
that i was never alone
in this long line of those
awaiting your end

find a way to bring me
back to my senses
we’ve passed the point
of where we could comprehend this
i’m just another way
for you to lie to their face
when you say
that you’ll never surrender

you take away from me
everything i once had
and it’s so hard to see
without looking back
but never once in my mind
did i think i could find
a heart like yours
so unwilling to fly

find a way to bring me
back to my senses
we’ve passed the point
of where we could comprehend this
i’m just another way
for you to lie to their face
when you say
that you’ll never surrender

turning back tiime
to a place that i
lost my soul
along this road
stealing moments
a glimpse in slow motion
until it all fades to unfocused

find a way to bring me
back to my senses
we’ve passed the point
of where we could comprehend this
i’m just another way
for you to lie to their face
when you say
that you’ll never surrender

Shortly thereafter,  I learned more about her from her many youtube videos she had posted and in one set of videos was a project whereby she would write a song a day for 31 days. And she posted several of them, often within minutes of taking a few minutes to dream up the song. Her haunting lyrics seem to flow straight to her effortlessly as if some loose ethereal strand was left uncut when she entered this world.

The videos are rare glimpses into the raw, uncut version of the songwriter process – that rice paper thin plane of existence where artists go to channel with their muses…then come back to share with the rest of us mere mortals. In an age of digital control and the polished studio perfections, getting to see, hear and feel something real and authentic feels refreshing. And when up close in a live setting, for some it’s a theater vs. the movies experience.

Clemons has her own niche following and certainly she is not a pop genre artist but her fresh voice and pure lyrics will nonetheless carry the potential to spark open the emotions of those who hear her. This is what Clemons does best – by being herself and speaking from the heart, she helps all of us feel those connections.

Here and now, five years later, Clemons resides in Fort Worth but she hasn’t forgotten her Kansas City fan base (she attended K-State) and she brings a one night show this week at Knuckleheads.

Her promo includes the song Dirty Work, performed here:

Clemons is performing this Thursday, August 31, 2017 at 8 p.m. in the Carl Butler Lounge of Knuckleheads. Doors open at 7 p.m.

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Find tickets here – etix

 

 

 

 

 

Independent Blues Award Winner Mike Zito – Keeping It Real Makes Fan Just Like Him Even More

Australia native Leanne Trevena was just looking for an interesting evening of fun entertainment back in February, 2013 when she saw a write up about blues artist Mike Zito in her local paper, the Colorado Springs Independent.

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A transplant from Australia with her family to Colorado Springs, Leanne Trevena became a super fan of blues musician Mike Zito after hearing him play when he was with a previous incarnation of Royal Southern Brotherhood back in 2013 with Devon Allman.

So, she headed up with her husband, Simon, to check out a new venue she hadn’t tried before.

Zito was playing that night with the early incarnation of  Royal Southern Brotherhood (Devon Allman) at The Crystola Roadhouse,  just outside of town in Woodland, Co.

“It’s this little dive bar up on the highway,” Trevena said. (Our favorite kind of place, right?) “The write-up in the local paper was interesting, and it was a good chance to see the venue, as we had tickets to see another artist there in April.”

“I was standing there waiting for a friend and he [Zito] just walked right past me and went up on the stage and started playing,” she said. It’s one of the great things about experiencing live music at a small roadhouse is that the musicians are literally right there with you.

Trevena decided she liked the music and purchased the namesake Royal Southern Brotherhood CD at that concert – afterwards, doing some further research on the band.

That research led her to Mike Zito’s blog  A Bluesman in Recovery  and to attending another concert at Smokin’ Moes in Winter Park, Colorado the very next Tuesday.

“With more knowledge of the music, it was an even better night,” said Trevena. “I bought a [Royal Southern Brotherhood] t-shirt and promptly made my way around to the band members getting it signed. This lead to getting to chat with the band members and eventually with Mike himself.”

“He was very friendly and we talked about his blog and music. He was so real, so humble and so grateful for his fans and music followers,” she said.

The next time she saw Zito was later in 2013 on a two week road trip to New Orleans. Zito was playing a show at Chickie WahWah’s  and, out of just dumb luck, Trevena said, she found out Zito was playing while she and Simon were there to attend a jazz festival.  The couple went and Trevena said the crowd was sparse that night, but it didn’t matter.

“Mike Zito got up and he played like the house was full,” she said.

She got a chance to chat with Mike again that night in NOLA – about his blog and his music. She bought two more CDs that night – Greyhound and Pearl River, pointing out she was after a couple of favorite tracks:  One Step at a TimeGreyhound (title track)

That night, Zito mentioned a show that would be the following night at the same venue – so Trevena and her husband went back the next night – this time to an overflow crowd and a packed house.

A further conversation after the second night in NOLA led Trevena to follow Zito’s suggestion to check out a memorial in Beaumont, Texas where there was a tribute Blind Willie Johnson. The couple got to visit the memorial on their way back home to Colorado. (Zito covered Johnson’s song Let You Light Shine on Me on his Gone To Texas CD.)

Trevena was finally hooked on Zito and his music as she listened to more and more of his songs and heard his performances and visited Zito’s blog: A Bluesman in Recovery

“His music gets me through a lot of things,” Trevena said. “His blogs are interesting, informative and thought provoking. I love that I have been able to meet him and chat with him many times. I also love sharing his music with family and friends and enjoy being able to give people autographed CDs.”

Trevena said that she found Zito’s openness about his own life experiences a positive influence for her.

“I felt he was saying that he wasn’t perfect and wasn’t claiming to be,” she said. “We’ve all seen headlines of what addiction does to people and cost to society, but I think being able to speak to someone makes it more understandable. I’m not sure I had ever really met anyone that had suffered with addiction – it was a chance for me to learn something, perhaps get rid of ideas that had been planted in my brain by other parties…family, media, etc.”

Trevena said she had suffered depression before in her life, and that, “although the two are not the same, there is so much that Mike talks about with recovery that I can relate to. Mike’s life has obviously given him some very good stories to tell, and he has been able to use that in his music.”

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Mike Zito performed Friday, Aug. 11, 2017 at Knucklehead’s in Kansas City. Zito was the recipient the Independent Blues Awards best rock song for  ©2017 Peggy Stevinson Bair (check it out at Making a Scene ) Zito’s latest CD is Make Blues Not War

Zito performed recently at Knuckleheads in Kansas City, opening for Tab Benoit on the outdoor stage. After Zito’s performance, a small crowd gathered around to purchase CDs and t-shirts at the end of the stage. She waited quietly in line behind others there to have autographs signed and photos taken with Zito. Zito turned to the final two people waiting in line, nodded towards Trevena and said  “She’s a fan AND a friend.”

To Trevena, he smiled: “When you are a friend, you get to wait until everyone is finished to catch up.” And a busy conversation ensued in the remaining break before the next set.

Trevena came away from the encounter a bit breathless but with a wide, girlish smile.

“I felt honored that he would refer to me in that way,” Trevena said. “I think a big part of Mike Zito is that he can make people feel special just by being him. He doesn’t come across as arrogant or superior. I think he’s amazing and he seems to think the same of his fans.”

 

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Mike Zito fan  Trevena lives in Colorado Springs with her husband, Simon. Trevena travels the United States with her husband to catch performances of blues artist Mike Zito – and owns 10 of his 13 CDs. “He is the music love of my life,” said Trevena. (Submitted photo)