Blues News #715

Blues News #715

On June 9 in 1902, Skip James was born near Bentonia, Mississippi.

He’s one of the real blues legends, noted as a singer-songwriter, pianist, and especially guitar. His guitar playing is noted for its dark, minor-key sound, played in an open D-minor tuning with an intricate finger-picking technique.

He worked on road construction and levee-building crews in Mississippi in the early 1920s and wrote what is perhaps his earliest song, “Illinois Blues”, about his experiences as a labourer.

The Great Depression struck just as James’s recordings were hitting the market. Sales were poor as a result, and he gave up performing the blues to become the choir director in his father’s church. James was later an ordained minister in Baptist and Methodist churches, but the extent of his involvement in religious activities is unknown.

For the next thirty years, James recorded nothing and performed sporadically. He was virtually unknown to listeners until about 1960 when some blues enthusiasts found him in a Mississippi hospital. After that James recorded for Takoma Records, Melodeon Records, and Vanguard Records and performed at various engagements until his death in 1969. You can find his recordings on YouTube and on Vanguard and Yazoo.

Ballarat has finally joined the festival circuit with their first Ballarat Blues Festival on June 1st and 2nd with free music and ticketed shows.

They’re putting on an exceptional show featuring some the country’s most celebrated blues performers: Lloyd Spiegel Duo, Geoff Achison and the Soul Diggers (25th anniversary tour), The McNaMarr Project Band and an All-Star Jam featuring Geoff Achison, Lloyd Spiegel, Andrea Marr, John McNamara, Jesse Vallach, Bill Barber and more.

As part of the Ballarat Blues Festival’s free entertainment, there will be Songwriters in the Round featuring award-winning songwriters, Lloyd Spiegel, Geoff Achison, John McNamara and Bill Barber. This will feature some exciting acoustic jamming! Not one to miss.

The free entertainment will conclude at 6pm in time for people enjoy some food before making their way to the ticketed shows. The Saturday ticketed show at George Hotel Lounge from 7pm is the “Big Blues Party” featuring the Lloyd Spiegel Duo, Geoff Achison and the Soul Diggers, The McNaMarr Project Band and a huge all-star Jam.

Here’s a gig you should go to if you’re up Melbourne way. Sarah Carroll and Shannon Bourne are performing together at St Kilda’s Ember Lounge on June 14.

Sarah is, of course, from the Bellarine and well-known for her songwriting, as well as performing, especially with the ukulele. She has performed solo and with many groups – The Junes, Cartridge Family – and is regular at Tamworth and other festivals.

The tale of Shannon Bourne is an interesting and evolving story. Free-thinking guitarist, singer-songwriter, producer, session musician, tutor, and mentor. For quite a few years he was Chris Wilson’s personal guitarist and was one of the Spidermen on that 2000 CD of the same name.

Together they perform and bring to the stage a true understanding of great songs and virtuosic musicianship. Should be a great gig!

Written by Dr John Lamp