Finally, after one of the wettest Springs on record, the Trempealeau Hotel came up with a picture perfect day for their thirteenth Annual Blues Bash on the banks of the beautiful Mississippi River.
Hotel owner, Jim Jenkins, is one of the biggest supporters of the blues in the upper Midwest. Jenkins continues to show that support, year after year, with his flawless production of his annual Blues Bash.
This years show featured three of the top blues groups in the market. Billy "Big Daddy" Cade and The Blues Masters from La Crosse, WI., Rene'e Austin, from Minneapolis, and The Chicago Rhythm & Blues Kings.
The Blues Bash opened with "Big Daddy" Cade. No questions asked, Cade is one of the most charismatic performers you will see anywhere.
He has recently moved back to Wisconsin from Las Vegas where he spent a number of years at Legends portraying B.B. King.
Cade is a dead ringer in the look, style, and voice, with an unbelievable guitar delivery with his salute to the "King" of the Blues.
The Blues Masters are one of the tightest bands in Wisconsin. These guys are loaded with talent.
They include: Dave Armstrong on bass, "Jukebox" Eddie Vaspa on keyboards, Bob Ogren on sax, the rotation of Jason Aspeslet and Bill "The Hawk" Tourville on drums, and ex-alum of Ike and Tine Turner, Bobby Blue Bland, & Gladys Knight & The Pips on Hammond B3, James "Hurricane" Hackney.
Cade opened the show with a blazing set of Chicago and Memphis styled blues. He is a superb singer and a consummate showman.
For Cade's last set, he recreated a "Night with B.B. King" Tribute. Cade's respectful presentation was so close to the real thing, that it gave you chills.
He told us he is going back into the studio in June to work on an all new CD to be released by late Summer. Can't wait to hear this effort.
He is starting to make it into the Midwest market at festivals, casinos, etc. If you get a chance to see him and the Blues Masters, or his B.B. King Tribute show, you don't want to miss it!
Next up is Minnesota's new blues Diva, Rene'e Austin.
The Minnesota music scene has been aware of this young lady's over the top talent for a number of years.
Now that she has signed on with Blind Pig Records, the rest of the nation will soon find out why most of the people in the blues industry feel, she will be the "next big break out" artist in blues. She has a legitimate chance to cross over to the mainstream music world as well.
The Trempealeau show was one of her last before she goes into the studio to work on the yet untitled Blind Big release with producer, Kevin Bowe.
Her band, that has been in place with Rene=e for a number of years, was as tight as I=ve ever heard them. It included Tim Wick-keyboards, Chris Johnson-bass, Mark Bohn-drums, and newest member, Kevin Anderson-lead.
Austin has really grown as an entertainer. She has always had incredible stage presence, but she has crafted her vocals to be one of the finest singers out there today. While she has always possessed a magnificent range, it=s her power and control with her voice that is so impressive.
Her show was dominated by originals from her last CD and her new forthcoming release. Many of the new tracks for the Blind Pig CD were tested at the Blues Bash with exciting responses from the close to 1000 in attendance. They included: AFull Moon@ ALucky Charm@, ASnake@, and ABitter Water@.
By the end of her two 75 minute sets, she had the crowd begging for more with a strong presentation of AProud Mary@ being offered up as an encore.
The Chicago & Rhythm & Blues Kings were a great choice to close the show. With their hot horn section driving the band, it was two incredible hours of R&B, soul, blues, and even a little gospel mixed in.
The band has been rather quiet this past year as they reformed and re-tooled with some new members joining band. They are now led by the legendary blues sax man and producer, Gene ADaddy G@ Barge.
As many might be aware, the Kings were the off-shoot of one of Chi-Town=s most famous blues and soul bands of the 70's, Big Twist & The Mellow Fellows.
The line-up that was brought to Trempealeau, was like a reincarnation of the Mellow Fellows with founding members back in the line-up. They included: Terry Ogolin- Sax, Don Tenuto-trumpet, "Sweet" Lou Palmer-drums, Dave Mick-guitar, and Bob Halaj on bass. The band was fronted by former Mellow Fellows sax player and record producer, ADaddy G@, Gene Barge. It was a power packed line-up.
Since I last saw them, their overall sound has gotten funkier with the addition of Palmer on drums. The rhythm section of Palmer and Halaj is a tight as it comes.
Most of the material they did was from their last CD release, The Chicago Rhythm & Blues Kings on Blind Pig Records. (Blind Pig #BPCD 5058) Great originals as "Street Musician", "Love Is A Five Letter Word", and "Help Wanted". With these originals and many of their other past releases mixed in with some classic covers, their show was hot, entertaining, and very skillfully presented.
If anyone has thought, "Where Are The Chicago R & B Kings?", they've not gone anywhere, just re-tooled, and back bigger and better than ever.
As I've said over the years in TCBN, the Trempealeau Blues Bash is one of the best ways to get the Summer Blues Festival season underway. It is well paced, well produced, and features top level entertainment. It's a real winner!
The show that "Big Daddy" Cade gave was one of the biggest surprises of the day. He is going to be a real force on the Midwest music scene.
Rene'e Austin has become the consummate pro. We can't wait to hear her first outing on Blind Pig. It should be a big seller nationally.
The Chicago R & B Kings, while having been quiet in recent months, appear to be back. Bigger, funkier, and proving why they earned the title of the "Chicago Rhythm & Blues Kings". Well deserved.
It was good to see Tom Radai from the Wisconsin Blues Society in attendance.
Rumors of new blues fests starting up in La Crosse and Black River Falls, Wisconsin, and Winona, Mn. were great to hear for those that love the blues.
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