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On this page: Catfish Keith, Dave Kelly, Alamo Leal, Lazy Lester, Big Joe Louis...

November 2004, October 2006     CATFISH KEITH

"Catfish Keith is hands-down one of the finest acoustic bluesmen in America." Mark E. Gallo, Blues Review

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Cutting-edge blues singer, songwriter and slide guitarist  utting-edge blues singer, songwriter and slide guitarist  RA Catfish Keith was born in East Chicago, Indiana on February 9th, 1962.  He first heard blues as a child while living in "The Harbor," a working-class, steel mill town, hearing Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, and Buddy Guy on the radio.  When he picked up the guitar as a teenager, he was inspired to pursue the deep delta blues after being converted by Son House.  Following high school in Davenport, Iowa, Catfish hit the road, embarking on a lifelong quest as a solo performer of American roots music.

His travels took him to the Caribbean, where in the Virgin Islands he crewed briefly on a sailboat, soaking up a wealth of island sounds.  Rhythms of Jazz, Calypso, Reggae and the music of Joseph Spence gave Catfish inspiration to reach new musical heights.  Though he grew up on the Mississippi River, Catfish earned his moniker from a West Indian lobster diving partner who, after seeing him swim, dubbed him "Catfish-Swimmin'-Around," and "Catfish-Steel-Guitar-Man."

In 1984, at age 22, Catfish recorded his first album (on Kicking Mule), Catfish Blues.  The all-solo debut established him as a new force in acoustic blues, reaching Number One on independent worldwide radio charts.  This enabled Catfish to play and tour continually, learning directly from legends such as Johnny Shines, David Honeyboy Edwards, Jesse Mae Hemphill and Henry Townsend.

Catfish and Penny Cahill married in 1988 and soon formed Fish Tail Records.  In 1991, Pepper in My Shoe! was released to tremendous acclaim, sparking international interest and extensive touring in the UK and Europe.  Embraced as a true blues star, The Guardian called Catfish "a solo revelation" who was "Breaking new ground for blues."  Headlining major festivals and concerts, Catfish was featured on the covers of Blues Life (Austria/Germany), Blueprint (UK), and Block (Netherlands).  In the US, Catfish tours from coast-to-coast and packs houses with his dynamic, foot-stomping stage show.  Feature articles and reviews in Blues Revue Quarterly, Acoustic Guitar, Living Blues, Blues Access and many others, testify to his love of, and dedication to carrying on his musical message to excited audiences the world over.

Pepper in My Shoe! was followed by Jitterbug Swing which was nominated for a W. C. Handy Award for "BEST ACOUSTIC BLUES ALBUM OF 1992."  Catfish was also honoured to perform at the Handy Awards show, where he appeared alongside Robert Cray, Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, Buddy Guy, Johnny Copeland, Delbert McClinton and others.  The British Blues Connection nominated Catfish for "BEST OVERSEAS ARTIST," calling him "The new slide king of the National steel guitar."

Cherry Ball was released in 1993, further exploring Catfish's string-twanging style for an ever-growing following of devoted fans.  James Jensen in Dirty Linen writes:  "Catfish will give you goose bumps and leave you howling for more!"  That same year a concert video by  Catfish Keith was produced for the American Blues video series, as Catfish continued to tour over 150 days a year.

Catfish Keith's fifth solo album, Fresh Catfish, was nominated for a W. C. Handy Award for "BEST ACOUSTIC BLUES ALBUM OF 1995."  This disc displays the drive and swing of a true blues performer on the vanguard of today's music scene.  

For more information about Catfish Keith check out the  website at www.catfishkeith.com 

 April 2003, June 2004, May 2008     DAVE KELLY

A solo acoustic set from a master of British blues. 

60's acoustic blues pioneer , Blues Band slide-guitar star RA, successful solo artist.....

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“Dave began his professional careers in 1966, following his sister Jo Ann Kelly playing folk clubs. He has developed his skills such that he is now generally acknowledged as the best blues slide guitarist the UK has produced as well as being an excellent blues vocalist. His experience in this field of music has won him acclaim from some of the greats, many of whom he has played and recorded with: Howlin Wolf, John Lee Hooker, Son House, Buddy Guy, Muddy Waters, to mention but a few.

In the late sixties he switched to electric guitar with the John Dummer Blues Band, returning to acoustic playing in the seventies and eventually becoming a founder member of the Blues Band in 1979 with Paul Jones, Tom McGuinness and Rob Townsend.

Dave Kelly is the joint lead singer in the Blues Band sharing the duties with Paul Jones. The Blues Band have been playing for more than 20 years with more than two thousand gigs and umpteen albums to their name. 2002 saw the release of two new CDs for The Blues Band.

Dave has, however, always maintained his musical identity outside of the Blues Band with various other projects. The mid eighties saw him touring regularly with his Dave Kelly Band, particularly in Europe and releasing four albums under that name.

In 1993 he released his first solo album for four years, the much-acclaimed When the Blues Come to Call. Dave brought out his latest solo album ‘Resting My Bones’- old favourites mixed with Dave’s newly penned, heart-felt songs.

Dave has been voted Best Acoustic Artist in the BBC polls 1992,1994,1996,1997 and 1998. He is an honorary patron of the London Guitar College with Hank Marvin.”

        July & Dec 2002, October 2005   ALAMO LEAL

"One of the most talented guitarists on the British scene" British Blues Connection

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Alamo has been part of the UK and European blues scene for 15 years, building a solid reputation with his live performances and respect from fellow musicians.

Brazilian born, Alamo was exposed to the blues at the age of twelve. He continues to explore the roots of the blues, listening to the rhythms he heard on the streets of Rio as a child and mixing them with early and contemporary folk music.

Alamo has played major festivals and clubs on a regular basis with his band, sharing the billing with the likes of Luther Allison, Clarence Gatemouth Brown, Larry Garner, Otis Grand and Buddy Guy.

February 2004      LAZY LESTER

See the Blues Matters Review

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Lazy Lester (a.k.a Leslie Johnson) has been called a "National Treasure," the "High Sheriff of Louisiana" and "a nut” and is a member of the Louisiana Hall of Fame. Lester's high-pitched harmonica and 'lazy' vocals are blues archetypes and he has been often imitated but never duplicated. As one of the key creators of the South Louisiana swamp blues sound in the 1950s, blues fans worldwide prize his early singles.

Swamp blues originated in the Baton Rouge area where musicians like Slim Harpo, Lightnin' Slim, Lonesome Sundown, and Lazy Lester developed a unique, rocking, Cajun-influenced blues style, captured after 1948 on Excello records recorded in Lake Charles, Louisiana. It appealed particularly to British rockers of the 1960s (the Rolling Stones covered Harpo's "I'm a King Bee," for instance, and the Kinks recorded Lazy Lester's first hit single "I'm a Lover Not a Fighter") and eventually contributed to the development of Zydeco.

Born in 1933 and raised outside of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Lester was initially influenced by Jimmy Reed and Little Walter. But his entree into playing professionally came when he met Excello star Lightnin' Slim while riding on a bus sometime in the mid-1950s. The two became close friends, with Slim taking Lester under his wing. Lester emerged on the blues scene playing harmonica with Lightnin' Slim, who would introduce Lester's solos with his trademark, "Play your harmonica, son."  Soon legendary Excello producer Jay Miller found that Lester was equally talented on guitar and drums, and he became a stalwart of Miller's session bands. Lester appeared on Miller-produced songs by Lightnin' Slim, Slim Harpo, Katie Webster, Lonesome Sundown and others. Lester's carefree personality prompted Miller to dub him "Lazy Lester."

His harmonica riffs were crisp and articulate, his vocals a bit 'mushmouthed.'  When Miller gave him a chance to record as a leader, Lester produced a series of swamp blues classics that were hits on Southern R&B radio.  His tunes have been covered time and time again. Apart from The Kinks, Anson Funderburgh cut Talk To You By Hand, the Fabulous Thunderbirds recorded Sugar Coated Love, and dozens of other bands have cut his tunes. 

When blues tastes changed in the 1960s, Lester's style of swamp blues became a bit old fashioned for younger R&B audiences.  From the mid-1960s to the mid-1980s Lester lived in obscurity, first in Louisiana and later relocating to Pontiac, Michigan to be closer to his friend Lightnin' Slim. In 1987 Lester emerged from musical retirement and toured England.  The Flyright label began an extensive reissue program of Lester's Excello recordings. A new album, Lazy Lester Rides Again was recorded by the English Blue Horizon label (later released in the U.S. on the Kingsnake label). In 1988 Lester recorded Harp and Soul for Alligator. The album featured Lester's harp-fuelled swamp blues and brought him to the largest audience of his career.

More recent albums for Antone's and Texas Music labels continued to showcase Lester's talents as an instrumentalist and performer. Lazy Lester continues to perform and record his light-hearted style of '50s Louisiana swamp blues in clubs and festivals.  

April  2004      BIG JOE LOUIS

"Joe's Blues capture the flavour of the windy city's Blues...an authentic flavour, and indeed, fervour...” Black Echoes

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Big Joe Louis was born in Jamaica, West Indies, and moved to the UK during the 1970s. His band The Blues Kings were formed 18 years ago and have taken their special kind of real down-home blues to venues the length and breadth of the UK and Ireland and with great success in virtually every country in Western Europe and Scandinavia.

British Blues Awards include: Best Male Vocalist in 1993, 1994 and nominations for Best Band 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998 Best Guitarist 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, and 1998 Best Male Vocalist 1995, 1996, 1997, and 1998

For more information about Big Joe Louis check out the  website at www.fridhammar.com/louis.html