Oh man, you just got to love the blues. From this music based on things not being so good, seems to come good things, or at least most folks claim to feel better and act happier after hearing the blues. Funny how that works.
Springfield gets its fair share of good blues acts through town. Mainly because of the hard work and dedication supplied by members of the Illinois Central Blues Club, who we so rightfully lauded a few columns ago when the group celebrated 23 years as an organization. Every week the ICBC hosts the Blue Monday Jam at the Alamo starting around 8:30 featuring our finest area blues groups plus an array of national touring acts. This week’s band, Chris Bell and 100% Blues, hail from North Hollywood, Calif., and are in the midst of a Midwest tour in support of Real Bluesman, their latest CD.
Bell, known as a purveyor of Chicago-style electric blues, plays lead guitar and sings, as well as being chief songwriter of the quartet. Back in California he also moonlights as Jimi Hendrix performing with the Ultimate Jimi Hendrix Experience: Roomful of Mirrors, as the late, great musician and songwriter. Somewhat unusual in the world of blues, where any I-IV-V chord progression and a couplet or two sometimes passes for a song, Bell catches a good bit of praise for his songwriting prowess and specifically the lyrics. The band is a bit different as well, with a drummer and bass player per normal but featuring a keyboardist who plays the classic, Hammond B-3 organ. Musician readers may recognize that old beast for the incredible instrument it is and for those who have ever moved one, let’s all share in a group moan. But anytime there’s a real B-3 on stage instead of a modern, synthesized, digital keyboard, in my book that’s a treat.
In addition to the 20-something-year tradition of Blue Mondays, Springfield now has another weekly blues night. Bruce Clark, proprietor of Bourbon Street, a nightclub on the corner of 11th and South Grand (and the original home of Blue Mondays as Bruce’s Tavern), started Blue Sundays about five weeks ago. In the spirit of reclaiming and restoring the Southtown area, Clark revamped his building and this spring is opening a courtyard area attached to the north end of the establishment. He’s had a few jazz acts in house, but settled mostly on touring blues bands like Bill Lipken, Deak Harp and others. Coming this week on March 22 from 7 to 11 p.m., Clark booked Hadden Sayers, a native Texas bluesman now residing in Ohio, who travels with a standard blues trio of guitar, bass and drums.
Sayers spent his formative years in Texas, soaking up the immense Lone Star State blues scene, hanging with the likes of Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, Joe Ely, Omar and the Howlers, Eric Johnson, and many other players in the music-laden state. He worked for a time with the legendary BB King rhythm section, “Silent Partners” and went on the road with blues workhorse Lucky Peterson. In 1993 Sayers started his own group, toured constantly, released five recordings, and basically did the thing up right over the next 10 years. After an intense decade of music involvement he relocated to Columbus, Ohio and took a couple years off to write and rejuvenate. Now he’s back on the scene, touring all over to great acclaim with a new CD and a hot band. Here’s another tidbit for our musician readers: Sayers’ main guitar is a mostly stock, 1957 Fender Stratocaster, affectionately known as the Battleaxe.
Remember, you don’t have to have the blues to enjoy the music. Then again you may have the blues and not even know it. Better take the cure.