Tag: Blues Insights

John McEuen Brings “Roots Music” to Knuckleheads with Matt Cartsonis

If there’s a worthwhile storyteller musician, then John McEuen has earned the right to be called one of the best. In an evening that was as much about narrative recollections from a few of his thousands of interactions with the best in the music business, McEuen’s wit and comedic timing charmed his dedicated fans Saturday, January 13, at Knuckleheads.

Opening for McEuen for a few songs was country artist and Kansas City-based Sara Morgan with Carl Butler. A rising star in her own right, Morgan gave the audience a tasty-treat, sprinkled with narrative about her own roots in music. Singer-songwriter Morgan is signed with River Delta Records. Plain Jane, her second LP is set to release January 26.

Kansas City based Sara Morgan performed Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018 at Knuckleheads, opening for John McEuen on his Roots Music: Made in Brooklyn tour. ©2018 Peggy Stevinson Bair

 

After Ms. Morgan, McEuen ambled out to the stage accompanied by the affable and perfectly-matched partner in musical legacy, Matt Cartsonis.

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John McEuen and Matt Cartsonis performed Saturday, January 13, 2018 at Knuckleheads in Kansas City as part of McEuen’s Roots Music: Made in Brooklyn tour.

McEuen digressed with stories about his days with Nitty Gritty Dirt Band as well as stories about his buddy comedian (and fellow banjo player) Steve Martin. Rare nuggets, such as the story of how he came to work for singer Andy Williams, were met with appreciation from a crowd who also grew up listening to and watching The Andy Williams Show. It’s quite possible that there may be only a few people with whom John McEuen hasn’t worked in his 50-plus years as a professional musician.

Still as handsome as ever as a silver-haired, neatly-bearded 72-year-old, not only is his music versatility and mastery a part of his legacy – but as much so is his comedic expressions and the flash of a still-boyish ornery smile. Just because he’s a music sage doesn’t mean he had to take growing up all that seriously.

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John McEuen, on his Roots Music: Made in Brooklyn Tour, played January 13, 2018, at Kansas City’s Knuckleheads Saloon. ©2018 Peggy Stevinson Bair/Blues Insights

Kansas City’s own Riverrock percussionist Daniel Smith was invited to bring his washboard setup on stage to join McEuen and Cartsonis. Smith said he and McEuen have been friends for decades since they met in the 1970s. It was all about the love for music.

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John McEuen played a tune on his SmoothTalker guitar with his longtime friend, percussionist Dan Smith (of Kansas City’s band, Riverrock) on Saturday, January 13, 2018 at Knuckleheads in Kansas City. ©2018 Peggy Stevinson Bair/Blues Insights

McEuen’s recently released CD Roots Music: Made in Brooklyn is lushly populated with accompanying artists such that there is a long list on the front of the cover.  David Amram’s intro reads:

It is not often that  you have the opportunity to spend two twelve hour days recording and at the end of the day (which as become night time0 want to stay and do more. John McEuen’s album is an experience that all of us fortunate enough to participate in will cherish. Every musician played so beautifully – each take was a breathtaking experience.

The performances were all memorable, and we moved along so smoothly that there was not time to relish the experience until trying to remember each tune we did when we thought about it late at night after all was over. It provided us all with vitamins for the soul.

I know this recording will be an inspiration for all younger tiger-songwriteres, musicians, composers and listeners to realize that it is possible today to create work of lasting value that is always musical, soulful and enjoyable. ~ David Amram, Beacon, NY

McEuen, well-known for his banjo and fiddle playing, also brought with him a gorgeous custom Smooth Talker guitar that in and of itself is worth seeing in action. ©2018 Peggy Stevinson Bair/Blues Insights©2018 Peggy Stevinson Bair/Blues Insights
John McEuen bends the strings on his banjo Saturday, January 13, 2018, while playing at Knuckleheads in Kansas City. ©2018 Peggy Stevinson Bair/Blues Insights

There should be no hesitation for fans to jump on the chance to see McEuen’s tour in forward cities, which span the country from California to the Midwest, to Pennsylvania to Texas and Florida. The music, the narrative and the sheer happiness that comes from spending a couple of hours with this legendary artist are not only reminders of our youth but, for young artists, a reminder that their own musical legacies hold the promise to endure.

One more thing – be sure to reserve your copy of McEuen’s upcoming book. In the final manuscript stages at the moment, McEuen’s book The Life I’ve Picked: A Banjo Player’s Nitty Gritty Journey is set to release April 1, 2018. This volume is sure to be filled with a rich history of great anecdotes and uplifting stories.

And, just for the record, we all would have picked you, too, Mr. McEuen.

 

 

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Knuckleheads Saloon in Kansas City Nominated for Award: Cast Your Vote!

Just a quick note about you getting to vote in a contest that allows the music lovers to have a say in who are your favorite musicians and venues.

Kansas City’s Knuckleheads Saloon has been nominated for Venue of the Year in The 5th Annual Ameripolitan Awards Productions 2018  (Ameripolitan is a non-profit organization that supports classic-styled country music.)

If you want a chance to participate, cast your vote for your favorite performers and support your favorite venue, then here’s the list and here’s where to vote.

For what it’s worth, my pitch on this particular contest is that I grew up listening to old style country music (and a ton of other types of music) and I have a deep respect for the genre and its roots. To me, it’s as ingrained as the church hymns I also grew up singing.

I also believe that music is like a big web and all things are connected. If you pluck one strand, it effects all the others. I don’t know about you but, for me, I enjoy exploring the many facets of our music heritage.

Thankfully, Knuckleheads embraces a wide range of genres, so there’s always something that appeals to a variety of musical tastes. The main focus is to have safe, fun places to get out away from the house, the television set and the pressures of life and enjoy a few hours of live music.

Knuckleheads – and I’m sure the other nominees as well – have worked hard to keep live music reachable and fun for all of us. If there’s ever a chance to say “thank you,” it’s when nominations come along that invite music lovers to come together and voice their support. Again, here’s where to vote.

Samantha Fish Rings In 2018 at Knuckleheads in Hometown KC

©2018 Peggy Stevinson Bair/Blues Insights

Wrapping up a grueling but fruitful concert tour for 2017, Samantha Fish came home to Kansas City to put on her last show of the year, packing a Knuckleheads Garage crowd willing to drop $90 a ticket for the evening, which included complimentary champagne and a balloon drop at midnight.

The show also included access to two other acts: the crowd-pleasing Atlantic Express gushing the best of the 60’s top hits (“My Girl”; “Chain of Fools”; “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”) and The Belairs out of Columbia, MO, who can put a blues spin on any music genre.

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Delynia Brown with Atlantic Express Band sings “Chain of Fools” Sunday night as the band performed on Knuckleheads indoor main stage for the New Years Eve party. ©2017 Peggy Stevinson Bair/Blues Insights

It was a little tricky to move between simultaneous shows inside on Knuckleheads‘ main stage and the Garage but once I soaked up several irresistable performances by Atlantic Express, I moved over to the Garage to cozy up to some Belairs blues.

After watching the brothers for several songs, I made up my mind that there comes a time in your life where you appreciate a sharp-dressed man who can handle an axe.

Brothers Dick and Dave Pruitt – who took on a 90 minute set Sunday night for the Knuckleheads’ New Years Eve concert – played everything from slide guitar blues to Johnny Cash.

..and they did so with a style that showed off what 30-year career musicians learn only from gigging all over the country for three decades

“From Austin to Boston” sums up the range these brothers bring to the stage – with Dick’s on-point range of vocals and bass guitar coupled with brother Dave’s gleeful command of lovingly-seasoned instruments that have clearly been distressed the old-fashioned way: by years of beating millions of notes through them.

If it’s the brothers’ style to bring a nod-to-the-sixites, sharp-dressed man look, they do so with the cool and confidence of the Rat Pack. But it’s their command of blues notes which permeates their music and their songs – whether soul, country, southern blues or rock -that satisfied the blues-discerning fans at Knuckleheads this New Years Eve.

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Dave Pruitt performed with the Belairs Sunday, Dec. 31, 2017 for the New Year’s Eve event at Knuckleheads in Kansas City. ©2017 Peggy Stevinson Bair/Blues Insights
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Bluesmen, The Belairs, entertained a NYE crowd at Knuckleheads in Kansas City. ©2017 Peggy Stevinson Bair/Blues Insights.

Just before 11 p.m., Ms. Fish came out on stage in a mini-dress that look audaciously like it was coated in glittering mermaid scales (fish…mermaid scales…get it?). The dazzling dress was complimented by knee-hugging black boots which covered what has become famously-known as a pair of the best gams in the music business. Her gorgeous shock of oversize blonde curls above the winged eyeliner and capacious smile finished off the allure to her fans to join her down to the floor – closer to her – in front of the stage for the next two and a half hours.

But everyone who comes to see Samantha knows the essence of her gifts lie in her mastery of and fearless attacks on the strings. While we love her presentation, we love her songwriting and delivery even more.

The show seemed to be a perfect wrap up to one of Samantha Fish’s best years ever as her Chills and Fever album made the New York Times best pop albums of the year list (at #22, alongside such names as Jay-Z, Taylor Swift) just six months before Rolling Stone named Samantha Fish as one of the “10 New Country Artists You Need to Know” in its November, 2017 issue. Perhaps best of all – to her fans – was coming home to Kansas City to let her hometown crowd share in her triumph and ring in an even better 2018.

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Samantha Fish brought hometown fans a high energy show for NYE at Knuckleheads in Kansas City. ©2017 Peggy Stevinson Bair/Blues Insights
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Samantha Fish performing “Somebody’s Always Trying” for a New Year’s Eve show at Knuckleheads in Kansas City. ©2018 Peggy Stevinson Bair/Blues Insights

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Yonrico Scott quickly became a favorite with the NYE crowd as he brought his inate enthusiasm to the Knuckleheads performance with Samantha Fish. ©2017 Peggy Stevinson Bair/Blues Insights

 

Coyote Bill’s Blues Christmas at Westport Saloon

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.

The blues jam has been on Mondays since July but will go to Tuesday nights starting on February 27, 2018 at Westport Saloon. Here’s the upcoming full schedule of events at Westport Saloon.

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Koolaide played at the Westport Saloon during the Coyote Bill’s Monday Blues Jam, Dec. 25, 2017. ©2017 Peggy Stevinson Bair/Blues Insights
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John Paul Drum played Monday, Dec. 25, 2017 during the Coyote Bill Monday Blues Jam at Westport Saloon. ©2017 Peggy Stevinson Bair/Blues Insights
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Miss Bea, bassist with Koolaide Exact Change Band, played Monday, Dec. 25, 2017, during the Coyote Bill Monday Blues Jam at Westport Saloon. ©2017 Peggy Stevinson Bair/Blues Insights
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Bassist Russell Niccum played Dec. 25, 2017 during the Coyote Bill Monday Blues Jam at Westport Saloon. ©2017 Peggy Stevinson Bair/Blues Insights
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Rick Symmonds played keyboard Dec. 25, 2017 during the Coyote Bill Monday Blues Jam at Westport Saloon. ©2017 Peggy Stevinson Bair/Blues Insights

Mike Zito and Jeremiah Johnson Deliver a Red Bull Blues Show in Kansas City

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Mike Zito, left, performed with Terry Dry Dec. 9 on bass at Knuckleheads in Kansas City. ©2017 Peggy Stevinson Bair/Blues Insights

When Mike Zito puts on a concert, he only knows full throttle. When he came to Knuckleheads Dec. 9 with special guest Jeremiah Johnson Band, the energy couldn’t get any higher on a ride that lasted even longer. It felt like like doing shots of Red Bull.

With two bands each this good, either one could have packed a Knuckleheads stage house – each of them has before. Together, they sent Kansas City fans scrambling for tickets.

Zito showed off his star quality by goading an already hyped-up, on-their-feet crowd into staying for a pairing of both bands well-into a three-song encore. Sharing the stage with the already popular Johnson, was fine with Zito, who seems to thrive on choosing to play with the very best. After all, not only is Johnson an award-winner also but he brings Frank Bauer’s dipping, back-arching saxophone performance, the personable Benet Schaeffer on drums and seasoned bassist Tom Maloney keeping everybody on track.

And Zito’s band is one of the best anywhere with Terry Dry on bass and Matt Johnson on drums. Plus, they can all sing and are performers who carry an intuitive showmanship into Zito’s performances.

These two bands are clearly among the most audience-satisfying acts touring right now. They easily interact with and take charge of the audiences who clearly are pumped and energized by these performers. When Zito took his wireless guitar out into the audience, exposed as he was, the fans cleared the way and egged him on. Well, let me just show you Mike Zito untethered:

Wait. There’s more:

Are you listening Texas fans? Zito is coming your way in Port Arthur at Dylan’s with Scott McGill; Austin on Dec. 29 at Antone’s, then in Dallas, at The Kessler on Dec. 30 and a New Years Eve Party in Spring, TX at Dosey Doe.

After that, Zito is off to Germany for what looks to be a six-week tour which you can follow Mike Zito’s Event page.

In the Midwest and still want a taste of St. Louis blues?

Jeremiah Johnson Band is homing in on the St. Louis venues at Hammerstone’s on Dec. 21 and 28 and at Moonshine Blues Bar on Dec. 30th.

This is the fellas having a good time at Knuckleheads in Kansas City.

 

Mike Zito and Terry Dry performed Dec. 9 at Knuckleheads in Kansas City. ©2017 Peggy Stevinson Bair/Blues Insights.
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Jeremiah Johnson performed Dec. 9 at Knuckleheads in Kansas City. ©2017 Peggy Stevinson Bair/Blues Insights
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St. Louis-born bluesman Jeremiah Johnson performed Dec. 9 at Knuckleheads in Kansas City.
Mike Zito, left, performed with Terry Dry Dec. 9 on bass at Knuckleheads in Kansas City. ©2017 Peggy Stevinson Bair/Blues Insights
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Mike Zito and bassist Terry Dry brought plenty of enthusiasm to their Dec. 9 performance at Knuckleheads in Kansas City. ©2017 Peggy Stevinson Bair/Blues Insights.
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Jeremiah Johnson and saxophonist Frank Bauer performed Dec. 9 at Knuckleheads in Kansas City, ©2017 Peggy Stevinson Bair/Blues Insights
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Saxophonist Frank Bauer performed with the Jeremiah Johnson Band Dec. 9 at Knuckleheads in Kansas City. ©2017 Peggy Stevinson Bair/Blues Insights
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Matt Johnson performed with Mike Zito Dec. 9 at Knuckleheads in Kansas City. ©2017 Peggy Stevinson Bair/Blues Insights
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Bassist Tom Maloney performed Dec. 9 with the Jeremiah Johnson Band at Knuckleheads in Kansas City. ©2017 Peggy Stevinson Bair/Blues Insights
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Benet Schaeffer performed Dec. 9 with the Jeremiah Johnson Band at Knuckleheads in Kansas City. ©2017 Peggy Stevinson Bair/Blues Insights

Mike Zito and Jeremiah Johnson: KC Fans Just Hit the Blues Jackpot

JeremiahJohson ©2017 BluesInsights Peggy Steviinson Bair

At the sold out show for Jeremiah Johnson this past summer, nobody left the packed Gospel Lounge at Knuckleheads the entire performance as the St. Louis native blues home boy and his fiery saxophonist Frank Bauer, drummer Benet Schaeffer, and bassist Tom Maloney, solidified their hold on the Midwestern blues scene.

On another night this summer in the Knuckleheads venue, another St. Louis-born bluesman, Mike Zito similarly fired up a crowd on the outdoor stage opening for Tab Benoit – then, together with Tab Benoit. And, yes, (why do you even ask?) the crowd went wild.

But if putting both Johnson and Zito together on one ticket is winning a blues bash lottery, then you have a chance to cash in your prize this weekend:

Coming this Saturday, Dec. 9 is the Jeremiah Johnson Band and Mike Zito – yes – for one $15 ticket price at Knuckleheads.

Both performers were big winners at the Independent Blues Awards this year: Johnson for Best Independent Contemporary CD for “Blues Heart Attack” and Best Funk Song “Sun Shine Through” and Zito for Best Blues Rock Song: “Redbird”.

It’s about the music, yes, but it’s also about their incredible bands and both performers’ stage presence along with their incomparable abilities to lasso an audience not just with their talent but with their down-home genuineness. Okay, to boil it down: these guys actually really like their fans.

So, get out of the holiday doldrums, leave the world behind you and get transported inside the happy cocoon of Knuckleheads. Get your tickets via Knuckleheads directly as this is always the best ticket deal.

Here’s a visual taste of the shows from this summer:

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St. Louis bluesman Jeremiah Johnson brought his roadshow to Knuckleheads Friday, Aug. 4, 2017 in a sold out show in the Gospel Lounge.
Frank Bauer saxophonist Jeremiah Johnson ©2017 Blues Insights Peggy Stevinson Bair
Saxophonist Frank Bauer performed with Jeremiah Johnson Band Friday, Aug. 4, 2017 in the Gospel Lounge at Knuckleheads in Kansas City. ©2017 Peggy Stevinson Bair
Benet Shaeffer drummer Jeremiah Johnson ©2017 Blues Insights Peggy Stevinson Bair
Benet Shaeffer provided the beats for Jeremiah Johnson Band Friday, Aug. 4, 2017 during their performance in the Gospel Lounge at Knuckleheads in Kansas City. © 2017 Peggy Stevinson Bair
Tom Maloney bassist Jeremiah Johnson ©2017 Blues Insights Peggy Stevinson Bair
Tom Maloney, bassist with the Jeremiah Johnson Band, responds to crowd applause for his solo during a performance Aug. 4, 2017 at Knuckleheads’ Gospel Lounge in Kansas City. ©2017 Peggy Stevinson Bair
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Mike Zito performed Friday, Aug. 11, 2017 at Knuckleheads in Kansas City. Zito also joined Tab Benoit later in the evening for Benoit’s appearance on the same stage.
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Mike Zito performed Friday, Aug. 11, 2017 at Knuckleheads in Kansas City, opening for Tab Benoit. ©2017 Peggy Stevinson Bair

Zito’s “Make Blues Not War” CD is also available in “vinyl delicious”.

But, wait, there’s MORE: An autographed Christmas Bundle is also available on his online store – six CDs including “Superman” “Americas Most Wanted” “Live from the Top” and more.

Life is a Perpetual Luau: Patrick Recob – CD Release Party at Knucklehead’s Saloon

When the Universe conspires to push you into your purpose, you answer the call. It was when the venerable James Harman didn’t take no for an answer that pushed seasoned Kansas City bassist Patrick Recob to get up in front and sing at BB’s Lawnside BBQ one night.

“Nah, James, I ain’t gonna sing no songs.” Recob recalled telling Harman. But Harman wasn’t listening…he was already conspiring, as if an ESP moment had descended upon him – and the scene of Recob’s next career move had just unfolded in front of him. He insisted not only that Recob sing…but also start writing songs and come to California and make a record.

As Recob entertained a crowd at his Perpetual Luau CD release party Oct. 11, 2017 at Knuckleheads Saloon, he provided proof of his songwriting and entertainment chops with diversity that ranged from deep blues in “Dark Night of the Soul” to the love song “We Have Got It Going On.”

Let’s have a listen to how Patrick recalls the Harman encounter (he’s going to follow his story with “Frustration Blues”) from his CD Perpetual Luau:

When an artist writes from the heart, anything and everything can happen. When he pulled out “We Have Got It Going On” – a love song he wrote for his wife, Lisa – Recob rolls out that youthful love feeling, producing a catchy, foot-tapping retro beat reminiscent of the very early blues emergence later termed “Rock and Roll” – stuff that came out the 1950s Sun Records in Memphis with the likes of Kings of Rhythm and Elvis Presley.

Have a listen:

More to come about this artist as we interview him going forward about the distribution of this tasty collection of songs from heart of a true Kansas City bluesman bringing us the pleasure of Perpetual Luau.

Jeremiah Johnson – Missouri Bluesman with St. Louis Roots Makes New Fans In Kansas City.

Jeremiah Johnson and his band hit Kansas City last weekend in the Gospel Lounge at Knuckleheads. A sold out crowd stuck around throughout the evening to past the midnight hour swaying and dancing to Johnson’s beckoning guitar slides and saxophonist’s Frank Bauer’s tantalizing solos. Between sets, drummer Benet Schaeffer built new friendships by engaging in friendly banter with fans lining the outdoor patio just off the Gospel Lounge stage as everyone seemed to enjoy the perfectly balmy atmosphere of an unseasonably perfect Kansas City August night.

The easy-to-approach Johnson seems to have found one of those perfectly matched groups of musicians who not only match him musically but personality-wise as well. Every single one of them are great musicians in their own right with a confidence that requires no egotistical showboating but plenty of room to showcase their individuality. They share the limelight with seemingly mutual appreciation and affection for their individual talents in addition to that satisfying feeling of tight unison. For musicians, this may seem like par for the course but for audiences, the feeling is magic. 

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©2017 Peggy Stevinson-Bair   Jeremiah Johnson, shared center stage with saxophonist Frank Bauer at the Gospel Lounge Friday, Aug. 4, for a sold-out crowd at Knuckleheads.
Jeremiah Johnson Band 8-4-2017 at Knuckleheads Gospel Lounge.
©2017 Peggy Stevinson-Bair  Jeremiah Johnson on lead guitar/vocals with his band of extra-ordinary musicians Tom Maloney, left, bass, Frank Bauer, on sax and Benet Schaeffer, drums, entertained a sold-out crowd Aug. 4, 2017 in the Gospel Lounge at Knuckleheads.

 

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Day 3 of positive posts about my home state of Missouri: Knuckleheads Gospel Lounge in Kansas City, Mo. was the scene of birthday fun for Deborah Finnell Friday (Aug 4) as St. Louis, Mo. native Jeremiah Johnson and his band brought some homegrown blues to a sold out crowd. Finnell said she went with her friend Rebecca Nielson to kick off her birthday month celebration.
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#missouripeople #missouriplaces #heartkc

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Blues Insights: What’s hopping, Kansas City?

Kansas City’s blues scene has been sizzling nicely this summer with lots of great acts chilling out the local music venues.

Kansas City’s steadfast blues venue BB’s Lawnside BBQ has seen bassist Patrick Recob releasing a new CD, Perpetual Luau, this spring – and it’s been doing really well. Patrick could be seen accompanying several visiting acts, such as Adrianna Marie, The 44s and Orphan Jon and the Abandoned as these groups hit the Midwest for late spring/early summer tours.

Knucklehead’s was hopping several weekends including a great fundraiser for organ donation that brought in performances by Kansas City performers Danielle Nicole and Brandon Miller; Amanda Fish; The Santiago Brothers; and Chubby Carrier and the Bayou Swamp Band from Louisiana.

Marcus King, the 21-year-old phenomenon out of Mississippi, blew on stage July 1 and staked a claim for the millennial crowd as one of the most promising up-and-comers yet. Teresa James and the Rhythm Tramps opened for Marcus and Walter Trout wrapped up the evening with a solid blues veteran showdown.

Then there was Knuckleheads packed in to hear Robert Cray on July 11 and, out of Memphis, a young blues band with a new debut album by the same name: Southern Avenue, July 14.

I have picked up a couple of new song favorites this summer: One is “Don’t Give Up” from Southern Avenue. And the other is just getting pressed at press time and that’s from Bakersfield blues crooner Jon English of Orphan Jon and the Abandoned: “Leave My Blues Alone”