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On this page: Papa George, Paul Geremia, Dana Gillespie, Stefan Grossman, Bob Hall, Chris Jagger, Steve James, Wizz Jones...

August  2004       PAUL GEREMIA

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For over thirty years, Paul Geremia has survived solely by the fruit of his musical labours. Having abandoned all other means of support in 1966, he has been travelling far and wide ever since, performing in every capacity from street singing to club and concert bookings, throughout the U.S.A., Canada and Europe.

In the years since, Geremia has built a reputation as a first rate bluesman, songwriter, a "scholar" of early jazz and blues, and one of the best country blues fingerpickers ever  one of the best country blues fingerpickers ever  RA with his tools - six and twelve-string guitars, harmonica, piano and a husky soulful voice - and with an innate sense of the humour as well as the drama of the music, he keeps traditional blues fresh and alive with his performances.

Combining his interpretation of the earlier music of people like Blind Lemon Jefferson, Robert Johnson, Blind Willie McTell, Scrapper Blackwell and Blind Blake, with his original compositions, he has created a style which is very much his own and which has received accolades in the U.S.A. and Europe, too numerous to mention.

Geremia's background isn't typical for a bluesman. He is a third generation Italian-American who, as he laughingly puts it, "was born in the Providence River Delta". Growing up in a family that moved across the country and back numerous times weaned his appetite for music, history and travel, which served him well later on.

During the sixties, Paul noticed that the music he had enjoyed playing on harmonica (his first instrument) was now referred to as "Folk Music" and was enjoying popularity. During his short time in agriculture college, he was mostly occupied with learning guitar and hitch-hiking to where the music was. He soon left college and hit the road permanently. He found paying gigs in coffee houses and "basket houses" in cities and at college campuses and made occasional forays South and West in search of the music he loved and what gigs he could find.

During these years, Geremia crossed paths with people whose influences were beneficial to his development and understanding of the tradition. He worked as opening act for some of the early blues "legends" thereby gaining an immeasurable depth of knowledge from people like Babe Stovall, Yank Rachel, Son House, Skip James, Howlin' Wolf, and many others, especially Pink Anderson whose career he helped revitalize.

Geremia has recorded ten solo albums, and has appeared on numerous anthologies and compilation discs. His superb recordings have made him a critical favourite and place him firmly among the legends who inspired and influenced him over the past three decades.

For more information about Paul Geremia check out the  website at www.fisheads.net/geremia

     PAPA GEORGE

October 2002, July 2003, March 2005

  

Papa George RA is one of London's leading live blues guitarists and vocalists. For over 26 years he has been writing, performing and touring in the UK, Scandinavia, Europe, USA and Colombia.

"If you like your Boogie Rock played hard and raw with powerful vocals and masterful blues guitar, look no further than Papa George. This superb three-piece Blues and R&B outfit deliver an electrifying set with a vitality and passion few can match." The Papa George Band has gained a wide reputation as a solid and vibrant trio which pumps out original songs in a truly classic style. The band also covers Peter Green, Johnny Winter, Stevie Ray Vaughan and other blues legends. The live Papa George Band CD, "Nite With You" was recorded in 1996, with Pete Rees on bass and Paul Foss on drums. Currently working with Papa is bass player, Pete Stroud. Drummers include Sam Kelly, Geoff Dunn and Darby Todd.

Papa's long-established duo combinations show another side. These special partnerships deliver a first-class blend of blues styles, peppered with hints of shared life experiences. Partner duo artists include Micky Moody, Steve Simpson, Ian Hunt, and Pete Stroud, each partnership producing their own distinctive sounds.

Digging back into the roots of blues, Papa George has added National Steel guitars (bottleneck/slide) to his repertoire, setting contemporary lyrics to an earthier, older blues sound. His solo acoustic album, "Being Free…ain't no crime", is a fine example of how one man and one guitar can communicate so much in so many different ways. This album was released in December 2000. "Runaway Boogie", a track from the CD was issued on the "Blueprint 2000" compilation CD.

For more information about Papa George check out the  website at www.papageorge.co.uk

May 2005, May 2007       DANA GILLESPIE

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“I believe the blues should be sung by an older person because it's about emotions and experience. I couldn't do justice to it when I was younger because my voice didn't have the edge it needed to convey the emotion, nor did I have the first hand experience to sing about blue themes convincingly."

 

After 40 years in music and with over 50 albums  - Dana Gillespie is well qualified to sing the blues. She has a career that combined radio, theatre, film and sport (she was once British junior water-skiing champion) with music.  She has been in the public eye since recording her first album at the age of 15. Her music has evolved from folk in the 60s through 70s Bowie-esque, glam-rock to the raunchy in-your-face blues she performs today.

She  has been dedicated to the blues from an early age: "I discovered the blues when I went to the American Folk Blues Festival in 1962 and also to see the Yardbirds at the Marquee Club. I was in my early teens and hadn't heard anything like it before - blues wasn't easily available in the UK back then"

 

Bessie Smith especially inspired her because of her combination of sly, funny and bawdy lyrics. "Blues was my first musical love because  it’s earthy, spiritual and honest.” In 1964 she recorded for PYE, with Donovan on guitar and became a regular on the folk circuit.  Bob Dylan who was an old friend of Dana from the 60s, showed interest in her music in 1997 and invited her to support him on his UK tour, which included a sell-out show at Wembley.


While her career in music was simmering away, she became better known for her appearances in London's West End theatres, in shows such as the first run of Jesus Christ Superstar (playing Mary Magdalene), The Who's "Tommy" (playing the Acid Queen) and the rock Othello, "Catch My Soul". She also appeared with Dudley Moore in the film version of "The Hound Of The Baskervilles" and starred in Ken Russell's film “Mahler.”   

 

Then followed a 2 year stint in America, recording and touring as well as hosting a blues radio show in New York.  Since then Dana has hosted a regular blues programme on radio in Austria - “Globe Trotting with Gillespie.” Dana went on to join Ace Records releasing numerous blues albums featuring collections of songs - some with a humorous risqué twist.  Her most recent release STAYING POWER, displays an empathy with the blues which can be traced back to her first exposure to the art form in the early 1960s.

In 2002 Dana was invited to take her band - The London Blues Band - on the first major tour by a western band of India.   Astonishingly she filled stadiums from Mumbai to Calcutta - audiences adored her - once again she demonstrated her infallible ability to take her music to a seemingly unlikely audience.   Without doubt her songwriting skills are a major asset.  Bob Dylan has said how much he likes her songs - her self-penned catalogue is phenomenal and sets her apart as a truly unique talent.

 

Since that first tour of the country - India has  played a major part in Dana's life, she’s even recorded 3 albums in Sanskrit.  Her touring schedule is consistently packed, taking her to many of  the European blues festivals. In recognition of her talent, she was voted 'Top British Female Blues Vocalist' by the British Blues Connection and Blueprint Magazine and has subsequently been elevated into their Hall Of Fame.

For over a decade, each January, Dana has run the extraordinary Mustique Blues Festival with fellow founder/organiser Basil Charles.  What began as a small event has grown in popularity as Mustique has developed into a major tourist destination and  playground for the wealthy - attracting blues musicians from around the world.  Monies collected pay for scholarships for children's education in the neighbouring island of St. Vincent. Dana maintains that the event will continue to be free, raising money through the sale of the annual Mustique Blues Festival album. 

Dana Gillespie is a remarkable woman - she’s a British Blues diva who deserves a wider UK audience.  These days she’s not only playing with her own London Blues Band but also gigging with fellow band member - Dino Baptiste - a young, energetic, great piano player and vocalist. They certainly make a dynamic acoustic duo !

 

For more information about Dana Gillespie check out the  website at http://www.dana-gillespie.com/

October 2006       STEFAN GROSSMAN

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Guitarist, educator and historian Stefan Grossman was a student of acoustic blues and gospel singer/guitarist Rev. Gary Davis. Beginning when he was 15, Grossman studied with Davis on weekends, spending eight to ten hours at his house in Harlem, absorbing all he could. After studying with Davis for eight years in high school and college, he learned and studied with other country blues guitarists: Mississippi John Hurt, Son House, Skip James, Mance Lipscomb and Fred McDowell. Other early influences for Grossman included Elizabeth Cotten, Sam McGee, Willie Brown and Charley Patton.

In the early 1960s, Grossman formed The Even Dozen Jug Band and worked with the political rock band The Fugs before moving to Great Britain. In 1968, he co-founded Kicking Mule Records with Ed Denson, a label that showcased idiosyncratic acoustic blues and folk guitar styles. The co-founders dissolved their partnership in the mid-1980s, but Kicking Mule's catalogue was purchased by Fantasy Records. Some of the vinyl sides have seen the light of day on compact disc.

From 1967 to the early 1980s, Grossman lived in Great Britain, where he carved a reputation on the European blues and folk festival circuit, playing with acoustic guitarists like John Renbourn and John Fahey.

His solo discography goes all the back to 1966, when he recorded How to Play Blues Guitar for Elektra Records. Since the early 1980s, when Grossman began a long relationship with Shanachie Records of Newton, NJ, he has toured infrequently, but recorded extensively. Recent albums include Northern Skies, Southern Blues (1997), as well as Love, Devils and the Blues (1992) Guitar Landscapes (1990) and Shining Shadows (1988) for the same label. Grossman's sessionography includes recordings with the Even Dozen Jug Band (which also included John Sebastian, Maria Muldaur and David Grisman), as well as albums by Paul Simon, John Fahey, Charlie Musselwhite and Happy Traum. He also helped Shanachie launch their Guitar Artistry imprint series, which showcases such artists as himself, John Renbourn and Happy Traum.

Based in northwest New Jersey, Grossman concentrates his efforts these days on running his instructional video business, Vestapol Videos. His videos feature guitarists from Merle Travis and Chet Atkins to Dave Van Ronk and Brownie McGhee. He remains one of the world's foremost authorities on acoustic blues guitar.  Richard Skelly, All Music Guide

For more information about Stefan Grossman check out the  website at  http://guitarworkshopuk.com/

November 2003         BOB HALL

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  'Music for your heart, hands and feet poignant blues to tug the heart strings; stomping boogies to set the feet tapping.'

From the North Sea Jazz Festival to the San Francisco Blues Festival, BOB HALL has taken his unique brand of blues and boogie woogie all over the world for more than forty years. 

Born in London in 1942 into a musical family, his powerful left hand gave him a natural aptitude for boogie woogie, and by his early teens he was leading his first band.  The popularity of rhythm’n’blues in the 1960s first brought him to public attention, and gave him an unrivalled opportunity to play and study with many of the giants of blues and boogie.

A list of Bob’s musical colleagues reads like a who’s who of British Blues; he partnered the late Alexis Korner over many years and performed regularly with the great bottleneck bluesman Dave Kelly and his sadly missed sister, Jo Ann Kelly.

He was a founder member of several seminal British blues bands including The Groundhogs, Tramp, The Sunflower Blues Band and The De Luxe Blues Band and still found time to work and record with legendary artists such as Peter Green, Danny Kirwan and Mick Fleetwood, of the super-group Fleetwood Mac.  Bob was also a long serving member of the highly influential British blues band Savoy Brown, which had chart success in the USA. He is still a guest with the finest British blues ensemble The Blues Band, featuring Paul Jones, Dave Kelly and Tom McGuinness.

Over the ensuing years Bob’s own boogie woogie big band, which later became Rocket 88, included Hal Singer, Don Weller and Dick Morrissey among many leading jazzmen, together with Charlie Watts and Ian Stewart of the Rolling Stones, Alexis Korner, and Jack Bruce from Cream.

“Bob has worked with the best simply because he is one of the best.” Jazz Life Journal

Away from the blues-rock field, Bob developed his confident grasp of the tradition and his authentic style by working as a sideman accompanying such blues originals as John Lee Hooker, Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter, Jimmy Witherspoon, Chuck Berry, Homesick James, Lightnin’ Slim, Lowell Fulsom, Charlie Musselwhite, Snooky Prior, J B Hutto, Lazy Lester, Baby Boy Warren, Eddie Burns, Eddie Taylor, Big John Wrencher, Mickey Baker, Eddie Clearwater and many, many more.

In all Bob has recorded over a hundred albums, with some of the world’s greatest blues artists.   A very high proportion of these are still in catalogue.   His solo albums include two classic boogie woogie piano collections and many others featuring his wry, down-home vocals and original compositions.  

As an acknowledged authority on blues and boogie woogie piano, Bob has contributed to a number of magazines and books and is the sleeve-note writer for Yazoo Records piano blues series.  He is currently working on the piano sections of The Routledge Encyclopaedia of the Blues.

For the past seven years Bob has toured with his partner Hilary Blythe, a scintillating blues and gospel singer who also plays rock-steady bass guitar. Together they have visited continental Europe, North America and Australasia, as well as keeping up a punishing schedule of UK concert dates.

For more information about Bob Hall check out the  website at www.boogie.demon.co.uk   

February 2006         CHRIS JAGGER

Mick may have been born first, but this has not prevented Chris from forging his own way within the field of music. Always acutely tuned in to things musical, Chris has been singing and playing from an early age, turned on by many of the same influences as Mick.

However, Chris branched out and spent 6 months studying singing in the foothills of the Himalayas with the local pundit. On his return he extended his vocal skills with a spell in the theatre. In the 1970's Chris made two records for Billy Gaff and David Geffen and these albums have now achieved cult status. In the 1980s Chris worked as a lyricist with Franck Langolf and contributed to two Stones albums (Dirty Work and Steel Wheels).

It was with the release of the album 'Atcha' in 1994 that Chris established his musical identity and plotted a course that he is still pursuing. That course combines CJ's interest in Zydeco, Cajun and Country with the underlying strands of R'n'B, Rock and World music. Constant touring has enabled Chris to hone his skills as frontman and vocalist. In his band he also plays guitar and washboard.

In 1996 Chris recorded an acoustic album with long term associates Ben Waters and Charlie Hart and there followed the current album 'Channel Fever' with full line-up.

Chris still has current acoustic projects and in 2002 toured the UK with fiddle player Robin Mckidd playing clubs and theatres.

Recently Chris, Charlie Hart and Ben Waters appeared on BBC Radio 3 'the Andy Kershaw show' and Radio 4's Ned Sherrin arts programme 'Loose Ends.'

For more information about Chris Jagger  check out the  website at  chris jagger   

September 2003, Nov 2007      STEVE JAMES

September 2006      STEVE JAMES & DEL RAY

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"Steve James has established himself as one of the very best acoustic artists on the current folk and blues scene. He's a formidable fingerpicker and a convincing singer RA... possessed with a cyclonic energy that fuels his live performances. -Folk Roots (U.K.)

STEVE JAMES was born in New York on 15 July 1950. Steve’s early exposure to blues/folk was through his father, a record collector and amateur guitarist. Self taught on guitar from age 12. Graduated from high school and worked outside music and for guitar-builder Michael Gurian.

He relocated to East Tennessee in early '70s. Influenced by the areas’ musicians including Sam McGee. Resided In Memphis 1975-77. Worked outside music, hosted radio show (WEVL), performed solo and as accompanist for Furry Lewis, Lum Guffin, others. Relocated to Texas in 1977. Played solo and led small combo (incl. Saxophonist Clifford Scott and drummer Bobby Irwin), also as support for Bo Diddley, John Hammond, Bill Monroe, Willie Dixon, John Lee Hooker, Dave Van Ronk, John Fahey, many others. Appeared at area clubs, concerts and festivals. Recorded regularly after 1988 (Antone's/Discovery, Burnside, Shanachie, Telarc, others) and toured internationally, principally as a soloist. Presently resides in Austin, Texas and augments performing activities with writing, teaching and fishing. 

Steve James is a well-known name among devotees of contemporary acoustic folk and blues; this notoriety is based on numerous critically acclaimed recordings, a tireless international tour schedule and a sheaf of published work including articles, instruction books and videos. His instrumental versatility (on guitar, slide guitar, mandolin, guitar-banjo) also makes him a favorite at music camps and workshop programs. He's been interviewed for features in Acoustic Guitar, Guitar Player, Blues Revue and Folk Roots (to name a few), and has been heard on "A Prairie Home Companion", The House Of Blues Network and many other syndicated programs worldwide.

In the studio, his solo efforts have been enriched by musical contributions from fellow travellers Bob Brozman, Bad Livers, Alvin Youngblood Hart, Cindy Cashdollar, Gary Primich, Ruthie Foster, and his frequent duet partner Del Rey. In turn, Steve has recorded with a diverse crew including Maria Muldaur, James McMurtry, Jesse 'Babyface' Thomas and Kevin Russell of the Gourds. He's played live with a slate of blues/roots luminaries including John Hammond, Bo Diddley, Buddy Guy and Howard Armstrong. Artists from new-folk phenomenon Ana Egge to folk/blues godfather Dave Van Ronk have covered his original songs. Steve has also appeared on numerous compilation albums, including a recent Grammy-nominated tribute to Mississippi Fred McDowell and an homage to Charley Patton to which he contributed both music and liner notes.

A noted traveller, Steve James has toured extensively, playing at festivals, concerts and clubs throughout the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Ireland and the U.K., continental Europe, Australia and Brazil and China.

From Recent Reviews...

."(He) has more than just chops. 'Stack Lee's Blues' shows him to be a songwriter of the first order...There is something real unfeigned and vital in the hands and throat of a master like James." -Austin Chronicle

"The technique goes arm in arm with the heart. Steve is great!" -Buscadero (Italy)

"James creates a wonderfully diverse collection of acoustic blues and roots music, showing off his plentiful playing skills as well as some out-a-sight songwriting...will keep you interest level high."    -Scene Roots&Blues (Canada)

"Steve James has been one of the most interesting and innovative guitarists on the folk and country blues scene for a long time...He has a rare gift for using traditional forms with complete naturalness."             -Sing Out!

"One of the high priests of Austin's blues shamans." -David Oberman, host of Folkways on KUT-fm

"Steve James heartened the afternoon crowd with his erudite, whimsical acoustic blues performed on National guitar. He's a wonderful musical technician, and his between song anecdotes are almost as entertaining as his music...a rapturously received set!"
   - Blues Revue Magazine   

A true Americana hero...James' intensity and focus always reminds me of James Coburn's character in "The Magnificent Seven". If he's the best, against whom does he compete? Against himself.                                    -Third Coast Magazine

Del Rey started playing classical guitar when she was four. As a teenager, she met bluesman Sam Chatmon who inspired her to become a blues queen. Her guitar playing combines country blues, stride piano, classic jazz and hillbilly boogie through the sensibility of an autodidact trailer-park aesthete. Her live show is full of complex guitar grooves and sly humour.

Del Rey plays concerts world wide and also presents a concert/lecture on women musicians called Women in American Music. She collaborates and tours frequently with Austin guitarist Steve James and she plays ukulele with Ukeshack and The Yes Yes Boys. Since 2004 she has been collaborating with Maria Muldaur on tributes to Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Johnny Cash, and she is featured on Ms. Muldaur's latest cd Sweet Lovin' Old Soul. Del Rey also writes about music for various publications, including Acoustic Guitar.

Del Rey has recorded four solo albums, When The Levee Breaks (Hobemian 2006)X-Rey Guitar (Hobemian 2000), Hot Sauce (Hobemian 1995) and Boogie Mysterioso (Hobemian 1993). In 2003 she released a collection of performances Del Rey:Live.

With The Yes Yes Boys she has recorded Why Say No? (Hobemian 2002) and with Steve James, Tonight (Hobemian 2004) and Twins (Hobemian 2002). With Del Rey and the Blues Gators she recorded Chartreuse (Hobemian 1991) and Cafe Society (Kicking Mule 1985).

Check out Steve's new CD 'Fast Texas' on the Burnside label

For more information about Steve James  check out the  website at www.stevejames.com   

      WIZZ JONES

Sept 2003, July 2004, Sept 2005, June 2007

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Wizz began his musical career leading a country and skiffle band called "The Wranglers" in his home town of Croydon, Surrey in 1958. He had been inspired to take up the acoustic guitar a year or so before this after hearing such guitar luminaries as Big Bill Broonzy, Rambling Jack Elliot and Muddy Waters playing at a club in London organized by Cyril Davies and Alexis Korner (The Roundhouse in Wardour Street). Having learned most of his blues licks from Long John Baldry and Davy Graham whilst playing in the coffee bars of Soho, Wizz followed the time-honoured trail - busking throughout Europe with many different musicians including at one time a budding young blues-man named Rod Stewart!

On returning to Britain in 1963, Wizz formed a bluegrass duo with banjo-picker Pete Stanley, a partnership which was to last for four years during which time Wizz and Pete recorded a single and an LP for EMI and enjoyed great popularity on the booming Folk Club and College circuit of the 1960's.

Wizz and Pete went their separate ways at the end of 1967 and Wizz returned to solo work, collaborating with songwriter Alan Tunbridge (an artist friend from the Soho days) and occasionally with guitarist Peter Berryman. He enjoyed considerable success throughout the 70's in Europe and Scandinavia both as a touring soloist and together with Sandy in the group "Lazy Farmer"

However back in England and several albums later - in spite of being often mentioned as an important early influence by artists such as Eric Clapton, John Renbourn and Ralph McTell, Wizz retained a certain "musician's musician" reputation, only occasionally playing club gigs and the odd festival spot sometimes with his son Simeon on Saxophone, Flute and Harmonica. Then as a result of the interest shown in his album "The Grapes Of Life" released by Run River Records in 1988, a feature in Folk Roots magazine (October 1990), and appearances at several major festivals with Simeon in 91 and 92 - Wizz began to enjoy a bit of a come-back!

1993 saw the release of two CDs - "The Village Thing Tapes" on the German label Wundertute featuring selected tracks from three Wizz Jones albums from the seventies and "Late Nights and Long Days" on the Fellside label featuring Wizz and Simeon Jones. Simeon still does the occasional gig with Wizz but mostly works on the rock scene while Wizz continues to tour on the acoustic folk and blues circuit.

Wizz also has two tracks featured on the Demon CD "Acoustic Routes" taken from the BBC TV documentary on Bert Jansch.

In 1995 Wizz recorded a CD for the American label Scenscof which features all aspects of his repertoire including the title song "Dazzling Stranger" (written by Alan Tunbridge, a firm favourite for many years and often requested at gigs).