With 5 Grammy Awards, 15 nominations, millions of record sales worldwide, and thousands of sold out performances, rock blues icon Robert Cray is considered “one of the greatest guitarists of his generation.” Rolling Stone Magazine in their April 2011 issue credits Cray with reinventing the blues with his “distinct razor sharp guitar playing” that “introduced a new generation of mainstream rock fans to the language and form of the blues” with the release of his Strong Persuader album in 1986.
Since then, Cray has gone on to record sixteen Billboard charting studio albums and has written or performed with everyone from Eric Clapton to Stevie Ray Vaughan, from Bonnie Raitt to John Lee Hooker. Inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2011 at the age of 57, he is one of the youngest living legends to receive the prestigious honor. And while he can look back over an astonishing four-decade career punctuated by his trademark sound and distinct playing style, Robert Cray is too busy moving forward on an amazing journey that has him releasing his seventeenth studio album IN MY SOUL on April 1, 2014 and embarking on yet another world tour with the Robert Cray Band.
The Robert Cray Band, formed in 1974, started out as a four piece touring band featuring Cray on lead vocals and guitar and his friend Richard Cousins on bass. In 1976 after two years of touring and in the first of many pinch-yourself moments, was invited to be the house band for Albert Collins; a stellar musical apprenticeship and schoolboy fantasy that lasted over 18 months.
Today the band includes Cray (vocals/guitar), original bandmate and longtime childhood friend Richard Cousins on bass. Richard played with The Robert Cray Band from 1979-1991 and rejoined the band in 2007. Les Falconer, who Cray has known and admired through the years and joined in early 2013 on drums; and Dover Weinberg who played with the band from 1974-1979, back on piano/keyboards
Born in Lubbock (hometown of such other musical notables as Buddy Holly and Joe Ely), McClinton came of age in the Fort Worth joints. He first appeared on a hit record in 1962, when his distinctive harmonica playing graced Bruce Channel’s No. 1 single “Hey Baby” (which inspired the harp work of a young John Lennon). He backed such blues legends as Jimmy Reed and Sonny Boy Williamson, and honed his chops in local acts like the Ron-Dels, the Straightjackets, and Bobby Crown and the Kapers. In the early ‘70s, McClinton and keyboardist-vocalist Glen Clark relocated to Los Angeles, where they cut a pair of prophetic roots-rock albums as Delbert & Glen.
Beginning in 1975, McClinton recorded a series of brawny LPs for ABC, Capricorn, and Capitol that seamlessly melded blues, R&B, and country into a uniquely soulful blend. At the latter label in 1980, McClinton scored the top 10 hit “Giving It Up For Your Love,” which pushed the accompanying album The Jealous Kind into the national top 40.
After spending the late ‘80s and ‘90s cutting consistently powerful albums for Alligator, Curb, Mercury, and MCA, McClinton arrived at New West in 2001 with the wildly received Nothing Personal, which won him his first solo Grammy, for best contemporary blues album followed by Room to Breathe in 2002.
“I’m an acquired taste in that my kind of music’s not for little kids,” Texas singersongwriter Delbert McClinton says. “It’s adult rock ‘n’ roll. I write from the sensibility of the people I knew growing up, and I grew up with all the heathens, the people who went too far before they changed and tried to make something out of their lives. There are a lot of beautiful colors and sad stories and much-deserved joy in that.”
Blues Tent Stage Artists
Blind Boys of Alabama
The Blind Boys of Alabama first sang together at the Alabama Institute for the Negro Blind in Talladega in the late 1930s. Touring throughout the South during the Jim Crow era of the 1940s and 1950s, the Blind Boys persevered and even flourished thanks to their unique sound, which blended the close harmonies of early jubilee gospel with the more fervent improvisations of hard gospel. During the 1960s, they sang at benefits for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and provided a soundtrack to the Civil Rights movement, which adopted both the Christian message and the dignity of old gospel songs. During the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s, gospel groups that had originated in the church began recording secular music, yet the Blind Boys of Alabama stuck to their calling.
In 2001, they released Spirit of the Century on Peter Gabriel’s RealWorld label, mixing traditional church tunes with songs by Tom Waits and the Rolling Stones, and winning their first Grammy Award. The next year they backed Gabriel on his album Up and joined him on a world tour, although a bigger break may have come when David Simon chose their cover of Waits’ “Way Down in the Hole” as the theme song for the first season of The Wire. The HBO series remains critically regarded as the greatest television show ever aired. Subsequent Grammy-winning albums have found them working with Robert Randolph & the Family Band (2002’s Higher Ground), a plethora of special guests including Waits and Mavis Staples (2003’s Go Tell It On The Mountain), Ben Harper (2004’s There Will Be a Light), and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band (2007’s Down in New Orleans).
Nearly seventy-five years after they hit their first notes together, the Blind Boys of Alabama are exceptional not only in their longevity, but also in the breadth of their catalog and their relevance to contemporary roots music. Since 2000, they’ve won five Grammys and four Gospel Music Awards, and have delivered their spiritual message to countless listeners.
Even into their 70s and 80s, age and fading health have not decreased the Blind Boys’ talent or their commitment to their craft. “We sing from the heart, and what comes from the heart reaches the heart,” says Carter. “If you have any feeling in you, you will feel the Blind Boys.”
Born in Toronto, Canada to a Portuguese father and a French-Canadian mother, Gomes began playing guitar in his early teens and was drawn to the blues sounds of B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix. While he honed his skills in the blues bars at night, Gomes earned a master’s degree from the University of Toronto focusing on the racial evolution of blues music. He relocated to Chicago in the late '90s to learn from the blues masters. During his brief stint as a sideman for Magic Slim and the Teardrops, Gomes put together his own group and won the first annual Buddy Guy’s Legends “Best Unsigned Blues Band” competition in 1998. Later that year, Gomes released his debut CD, Blues in Technicolor, which introduced him as a guitar-slinger loaded with impressive firepower.
On 2002's Unity, he accomplished the album's title with a heavy mix of styles leading Bandit Blues Radio to name it one of the Top 30 Essential Blues CDs of all time. Gomes was elevated to the top of the blues field just one year later when BluesWax Magazine named him “Artist of the Year,” an award he would claim for several years in a row due to his endless commitment and touring. Music Is the Medicine (2006) peaked at number fourCareer Highlights on the Billboard Top Blues Albums chart, only to be outdone by LIVE (2008) debuting at number one. Last year, Gomes received critical acclaim for his release of Up 2 Zero. The album claimed “Best Blues CD of 2012” (A1 Blues.com) and “Best Blues Rock CD of 2012” (Blues Underground Network). Art Tipaldi, Editor of Blues Revue, declared Gomes “at the forefront of modern blues.” Anthony recently climbed to the number one position on Reverbnation’s Global Blues Chart.
Instead of following up with more of the same, Gomes boldly steps back to deliver an acoustic recording showcasing his vocals, songwriting, and acoustic guitar work. “Musically, most people try to look ahead for inspiration, seeking out the latest cutting edge soundscape. I seem to go in the opposite direction. In awakening the sounds of Muddy Waters or Robert Johnson, I hear the future of the blues tradition. This time, we went way back.
With Matthew’s mature vocals, range of guitar sounds, and band rocking as tight as ever with solid arrangements, his first CD, "If I Don't Got You" received high marks in the International Blues Competition. “If I Don’t Got You” is one of NPR’s “5 Songs Public Radio Can’t Stop Playing” in their Heavy Rotation. “Blinded By the Darkness” won in the best blues song of the International Songwriting Competition.His second CD “Electric Religion” is already receiving popular and critical acclaim both in the US, Canada, Europe and Australia. Matthew Curry is a 2013 inductee into the prestigious Brotherhood of the Guitar sponsored by Guitar Center, Ernie Ball, and Fender Guitars and he was featured in the UK’s widely-read Blues Matters. Matthew was also one of five international finalists in Ampeg’s “Straight-Up Tone” competition. In 2012 "High Water Everywhere" was featured on the House of Blues Radio Hour Emerging Artists.
Matthew’s touring band now includes drummer Tim Kramp, bassist Tim Brickner, and Mike Nellas on keyboards. Former members (Jeff Paxton, Greg Neville) of The Fury continue to write music together. Matthew has played with the greats since the start - jamming regularly with Tommy Castro, Bernard Allison, Bryan Lee, and Ronnie Baker Brooks.
Matthew has played major festivals such as the Mississippi Valley Blues Festival, the Chicago Blues Festival, the King Biscuit Blues Festival, and the Ride Festival in Telluride, CO. Matthew Curry will be playing the BluesFest Byron Bay and to open for Robben Ford in Australia. Matthew has opened for Foreigner, and will be touring with the Steve Miller Band across Canada, and through-out the United States with Peter Frampton and The Doobie Brothers.
After graduating from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a degree in Electrical Engineering she took a job in aerospace and moved to Los Angeles, joining a rock & roll cover band as a rhythm guitarist and vocalist. She soon quit her engineering job, never to return, and joined a road band as its lead guitarist/vocalist, doing Top 40 covers.
The next step was to begin recording her own music. Her first album was Out Of The Woods in 1997, and the band was called Backroad Shack in those days. Second, in 2004, came Find My Way Home. Her third CD, Cures What Ails Ya, was released in March of 2007.
In February of 2008, the band advanced to the finals of the International Blues Challenge held in Memphis, TN. Their CD Cures What Ails Ya also made it into the finals (top 5) of the Blues Foundation’s Best Self-Produced CD competition.
For her fourth CD, Laurie co-produced with Steve Savage (Elvin Bishop, Robert Cray). In 2009, Fire It Up! was released. A classy, blues statement which shows Laurie’s continued growth as a songwriter, producer and guitarist. It won the Blues Foundation Award for Best Self-Produced CD at the International Blues Challenge. The band was honored by the House of Blues Radio Hour when You Don‘t Know About Me was selected as the Blues Breaker Song of the Week.
A prolific writer with a seemingly unending source of inspired material, Laurie penned 11 new songs for her fifth CD, Breathe Deep, released June 12, 2011. Laurie took the reins of producer, this time co-producing with bandmate and record label partner, Lisa Grubbs.
Laurie is a powerful, inviting and charismatic performer, whose personal, in between song banter alternates between inspirational and flat out hilarious. The band’s touring schedule continues to expand, with growing invitations to perform at festivals and special events all across the USA and into Canada.
Rockin' Billy and the Rhythm Riot
Rockin' Billy and the Rhythm Riot came together in 1989. Bass player Kevin Hein and frontman Rockin' Billy came up with the idea along with drummer Pat Klise.
The band played at the very first Illinois Blues Festival the first year they put the band together. This year Rockin' Billy and the Rhythm Riot return to the 26th Annual Budweiser Illinois Blues Festival. Along with guitarist Alan Wright and saxman Nervous Neal Smith the band is coming back to play their rousing versions of blues that they were known for during their five year tenure of playing clubs and events throughout the midwest, the south and other parts of the country.
The band members are completely excited and are coming in from all over the country...California, Nevada, Arizona, Florida and Iowa, to perform an unforgettable show at this years performance. This will be a show you won't want to miss!
AJ Ghent Band
The AJ Ghent Band is an American band that spans the genres of southern rock, blues, soul and funk music– fusing together what front man (lap steel guitarist) AJ Ghent calls "Southern Soul."
When AJ takes his band to the stage, there is charm, charisma and a sound that is nothing short of innovative, electrifying, precise yet sensual, and heart-captivating. Often referred to by fans as Prince and James Browns' musical love child, AJ and his singing guitar are guaranteed to catapult the band straight to the top of the music world.
With no reservations and mentor Zac Brown to help write the recipe, this band is ready to serve greatness on the silver platter. Shall we dine?
Sena Ehrhardt is unquestionably one of the freshest and most dynamic emerging young voices on the blues scene today. Once the lights come on, her commanding stage presence and gritty, soulfully emotional vocal prowess capture the audience, belying her demure appearance. The buzz about Sena has gone nationwide as word has gotten out about her incendiary performances at clubs and festivals across the Midwest and beyond, as well as the uniformly enthusiastic response to her brilliant Blind Pig debut recording, Leave The Light On- voted 2012′s Blues Blast Magazine’s “Best New Artist Debut Release” award winner. Additionally, Sena was a nominee for the Blues Foundation’s 2012 “Best New Artist Debut” Blues Music Award, Blues 411′s award for “Best New Artist Debut Recording” and the 2012 “Sean Costello Rising Star Award” by Blues Blast Magazine.
In 2013 for her second recording, Sena teamed up with one of the foremost producers in the worlds of rock and blues (Santana, Luther Allison, Stevie Ray Vaughan, etc.), multi-Grammy Award winner Jim Gaines. The result of their collaboration is a groove-rich exploration of the blues in all its moods. All In truly delivers on the promise of Leave The Light On and places Ehrhardt among the very best and most versatile of current blues vocalists. Throughout, Sena’s performances are fresh and incisive, delivered in a style that moves effortlessly from sultry to declarative to passionately forceful.
All In received nominations for the Blues 411 2013 Contemporary Release of the Year and 2013 Blues Blast Music Award for Song of the Year for the song penned by Ehrhardt, ‘Dreamin’ or Dyin’. All In marks Sena’s ascendance to blues elite status, is included in Living Blues Magazine’s top Blues Albums of 2013 and is one of the most acclaimed blues releases of the year.
2013 also marks the addition of young blues-rock guitarist and vocalist, Cole Allen, to the band who brings forth a contemporary and fresh dynamic to live performances as well as upcoming recordings in 2014 and beyond!
T & C
T & C consists of Tom Beck and Chris Stevens. Tom and Chris have been playing together since 1976 and they plan on continuing to work together for many years to come. With in the last year they have decided to refocused their efforts away form amplified instruments and back to their acoustic guitar music roots. They play a well-balanced combination of classic well-known tunes and original songs. They live to play for an audience and make sure every performance is a crowd pleaser.
Born in the corn and birthed in the blues. Cobalt Canopy brings long running roots to their show. These folks don’t play music. They ARE music.
Cobalt Canopy cooks whether they’re playing original observations or the cover of a classic. And the stew they brew brings forth the fresh and flourish of artistic expression. From the cover of Freddie King’s classic Hideaway, the desperate Desperado of the Eagles—performed as an instrumental, a Cobalt Canopy show keeps the audience clamoring for more and more and more.
Formed in 2002 by guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Chris Stevens and Bob Roling—drums/vocals, the two immediately were joined by Ron Roling—vocals/ guitar and Dave Martin—bass/vocals.
COBALT CANOPY has rolled ‘em and bowled ‘em over at various venues including: opening the 30th Anniversary show by the acclaimed HEAD EAST on 9-11-2004 in Pekin, Illinois on the Riverfront; the intimate dinner and a show at the Rhythm Kitchen Music Café on the Peoria, Illinois Riverfront (numerous shows); the Miller Lite Illinois Blues Festival-Main stage, LIVE at the FIVE SPOT BLUES show at the Contemporary Art Center on the Peoria Riverfront; the 2004 Jim Thome Benefit for Childrens’ Hospital in Peoria, Illinois; the Frost Yer Buns and Ham n’ Jam Blues Explosion for the Crusaders For Kids charity; Headline act, Main Stage, Taste of Peoria; the Budweiser Grand Nationals Weekend 2005 on the Peoria Riverfront CEFCU Stage; the Canopy Club, theater at the University of Illinois; Pekin Summerfest 2004; Po-Boy’s on Bourbon street; and many others.
Justin Robbins Band
The Justin Robbins Band is made up of 3 very seasoned musicians. The rhythm section is; Brian "Tigg" Vicarey on drums and Diamond Dave Martin on bass and vocal. Justin Robbins is the guitarist, lo, singer and songwriter for the band and although he is the main character they come together to form a great trio. Playing mostly all original music they'll rock you socks off and then slow you down for a nice dance with the ladies. hailing from the Peoria area they are rockin' the local scene and are ready to go to the next level making their big debut at the Illinois Blues Fest.
The Smokers Blues Band
Hailing from the Peoria area, The Smokers Blues Band have established themselves as a Blues and Soul jam band with a fresh twist. Founders Dan Galletti and Winston Dunbar sought to establish a “player’s band” wherein each member could share the spotlight, having the opportunity to dig deep into their musical souls with intensity and passion. Their blues influences are wide and varied, from traditional to modern including Delta, Chicago, Jump, Blue-Eyed Soul, and Latin thus nurturing the eclectic nature of their style. In every case, the Smokers strive to blend creative improvisation pouring intense energy into every performance. They are currently working on their debut album scheduled for release in summer of 2014.With over one hundred years of collective performing experience, each member of the Smokers possesses a character that when blended together, creates a unique synergy of sound
Chris embraces the challenge of both crafting and covering songs with a focus on melody blended with the flair of skilled musicianship. Chris co-founded the successful California-based Blues-Rock trio. Liar's Dice. He co-wrote, played the guitars, and sang on the self-titled album. The album contained the song "Don't Change the Answer" which climbed to #2 of KYSM-FM in San Antonio, Texas. The song also reached #4 on WWVU-FM in Charleston, West Virginia. Two other songs on the album, a Blues-Rock cover of the Ides of March "Vehicle" and another original song "Like-A-Roller" both climbed to #5 on WERG-FM in Erie, Pennsylvania. Years of playing "cover songs" and learning the signature licks of Eric Clapton, Freddie King, Carlos Santana, Duane Allman, Buddy Guy, and many others helped Chris bring a passionate improvisational style of lead guitar and vocals to the studio and live performance stage.
Charlie Hayes, a consummate guitarist and vocalist has been a figure on the local music scene for more than four decades.
Charlie's acoustic blues demonstrates a mastery of blues with a repertoire ranging from classic sounds of Robert Johnson to contemporary picking of Keb' Mo'. Charlie, a Peoria native, has been a member of the Even Steven Band, a mainstay in the Galesburg and Peoria area, since 1974. A guitar teacher whose many students are now contributing to live music in many locales, he teaches full time at Cherry St. Guitar in Galesburg. Hundreds of musicians have benefited from Charlie's open mic; which is currently in its twenty second year.
Charlie's newest project features his five string banjo playing while he plays bass pedals with his feet with Podunk Posse, a band that gives Classic, Pop, Folk, Rock, and Country a "Newgrass" feel. Charlie's solo acoustic blues CD, "Barnyard Blue," will be available this summe
'Detroit' Larry Davison
'Detroit' Larry Davison hails from Rock Island, Illinois, and started refining his chops on the harmonica in the late 1970's, originally learning licks on everything from standard folk songs, TV shows, cartoons, Christmas favorites, as well as any and all of the blues harp players he could find to listen to and study stylistically. he remains extremely dedicated to refining his musical skills, and has never stopped learning from the original masters of the blues harp.
'Detroit' Larry has also performed as a member of the Ellis Kell Band from 1992-present, opening shows for many national acts such as B.B. King, Willie Nelson, Charlie Musselwhite, Robert Cray, Delbert McClinton, Tower of Power, Jimmy Rodgers, Little Feat, Shannon Curfman, John Lee Hooker, Jr., Savory Brown, and Edgar and Johnny Winter.
He has also performed with EKB as a backing musician for rock and roll icon Bo Diddley, and was featured with EKB on The House of Blues Radio Hour and the Red Rooster Lounge - both nationally-syndicated radio shows.
'Detroit' Larry was also a member of Shane Johnson's Blue Train - 1999 Iowa Blues Challenge winners - performing at the 1999 Mississippi Valley Blues Festival, proceeded to the International Blues Challenge finals, and recorded two CD's. SJ's Blue Train opened shows for Koko Taylor, Buddy Guy, Son Seals, and Duke Tumatoe. With John Resch & The Detroit Blues, he was a 2002 Iowa Blues Challenge winner and also performed at the MV Blues Festival that year, With Juke Joint Sinners, he won the 2006 Iowa Blues Challenge, and performed again that year at the MV Blues Festival. In 2007, 'Detroit' Larry won 2nd. In 2009, as a member of the Avey Brothers, he was again an Iowa Blues Challenge winner and IBC finalist, performed yet again at the MV Blues Festival, and recorded a CD with that group.
As soon as you hear Brian playing harmonica, you’ll realize he was born to play it! Proud of his reputation as a consummate sideman for over 30 years, Brian has developed a unique style and approach. His harmonica playing is melodic, joyful, soulful, and searing. For him no melody is sacred, as he captivates the audience like Pied Piper himself. Brian has played with hundreds of great musicians, from local Piedmont style players like David Berchtold, to Grammy award winning blues artists like Koko Taylor. But what he loves to do the most is share his passion and knowledge about the harmonica. So come to the Blues Tent and get tips, tricks, and licks for “Blues You Can Use"!