European Blues Challenge 2011 – The Bands
Meena was born in 1977 in a small catholic upper austrian village as the third child of a master electrician and his wife, a woman with a superior altruistic attitude towards life. As she was fifteen, Meena founded her first band in company with a young guitar player. After graduation Mee na wanted to improve the world and she went to Mozambique and worked there at a women´s refuge. Then she traveled through Europe and northern USA where she fell in love with Chicago, the city´s atmosphere, it´s people and music. Realizing that singing is her vocation she worked on stage with locals and musicians of international reputation as well, she played low paid and well played gigs. She met producers and managers, booking agents, co-producers, publishers and label bosses. And at the end, then Thomas Ruf entered the scene. So happened that a rough blues singer Meena with her guitar player Chris Fillmore flew to Jim Gaines in Memphis for recording their first official CD. The resulted brilliant album was titled “Try Me”. On stage comparisons with Janis Joplin are inevitable both vocally and in appearance, but the sound on the album is luckily more restraint.
HOWLIN’ BILL (BE)
Howlin’ Bill is a quartet which has been working hard more than ten years to achieve their musical goals. They mainly play original songs, and every now and then you can hear them play a well chosen cover. The Howlin’ Bill style is a mixture of blues, rock ‘n’ roll, boogie, swing, rock, rockabilly etc…. There is only one must: every song has to contain a very high hipshaking level. The band recorded in 2003 its first album “Cool it!” and it was very well received by the press. Everybody was asking for more and so, the second album “Strike” was released in 2006. In 2009 the band recorded a live album in the well known Ancienne Belgique Club in Brussels. Leader Howlin’ Bill entertains his audience with his deep voice and howlin’ blues harp, supported by his tight rhythm section, Uncle T on drums, and Waylon Waters on bass. Now, just add the unpredictable guitar licks and amazing guitar solos of star guitar player Little Jimmy, and you’ll get an idea about what you may expect from a Howlin’ Bill concert.
Bluecerne is an amateur band with professional skill and attitude. The Lucerne blues band has been together from 2000 onwards almost unchanged, which is reflected in their show. The band plays well together and it offers a mature and authentic sound with superbly arranged songs, let them be originals or covers the Bluecerne band always makes them their own. Their repertoire is varied, with a focus on Soul, Rhythm & Blues and Blues. Beautiful slow songs alternate with fast-tempo shuffles. Renato Cazzaniga is the front man with a great, soulful voice. Heinz “Moby” Arnold plays the piano, organ and harmonica. Roli Mosimann is very talented guitarist, Michi Bütiko plays bass and Pit Furrer sits behind the drums. The horn section is formed of Patrik Röösli on tenor sax and Beda Wenk on trumpet. Currently, their first CD is in preparation and will be released soon. There is no amateur blues band in Switzerland like Bluecerne if you believe in critics, and why don’t you?
RICHIE ARNDT & THE BLUENATICS (DE)
After ten years as a professional musician with the top 40 band Skydogs, Richie Arndt rediscovered in 1994 the musical passion of his youth: Blues and Blues/Rock. Together with drummer Frank Boestfleisch he founded the band “Richie Arndt & The Bluenatics”. In 2002 they were joined by bass guitarist Jens-Ulrich Handreka. Just like Richie himself, both musicians come from colourful musical backgrounds streching far beyond the Blues. Just like The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Cream, ZZ Top or Stevie Ray Vaughan to name but a few, and who all played as three-piece bands, Richie Arndt & The Bluenatics perform their unique compositions that way making the Blues-Rock genre lively and authentic. The band’s 5th album dedicated to Irish guitar legend Rory Gallagher titled “Rorymania” was released in June 2007 . Today, after two celebrated tours with guest guitarists Alex Conti, Gregor Hilden and Henrik Freischlader, Richie Arndt and his Bluenatics are considered one of the top acts of modern Blues and Roots Rock in Germany.
TIM LOTHAR (DK)
Six years ago, after 25 years behind his drum kit, Tim Lothar began cultivating singing and playing acoustic guitar to explore classic American Delta Blues. With an indisputable talent and great musical insight Tim began a whole new career as a solo performer, and very quickly issued his debut CD, “Cut To The Bone” in 2006. The CD really boosted things, and since then Tim has reaped experience and inspiration from his intense touring all over Europe. On his recent, second issue, “In It For The Ride”, Tim still explores the Mississippi Blues, but also contributes with his own strong compositions and deep, personal interpretations of the old blues classics. Tim has handed two Danish blues awards so far. Tim Lothar tours constantly, and have performed in thirteen countries so far, playing festivals and venues of various sizes.
THE SUITCASE BROTHERS (ES)
The Suitcase Brothers are a dynamic country blues duo formed by two brothers: Peter ‘Sleepy’ Puertas, guitar and vocals, and Victor Puertas, harmonica and vocals. Peter has a powerful and soulful voice, and a deep knowledge of fingerpicking guitar techniques, particularly the Pre-War and Piedmont Blues styles. Victor Puertas is a powerful harmonica player, who also plays the piano, Hammond organ and guitar. Nevertheless, harmonicas are his love at the first feel, and he plays them with deep emotion and sensibility. How can two brothers born in Barcelona, Spain, sound like two fellows from the deep south of the USA? Sure they have been listening to blues records all day long since they were young, and they have travelled and lived in the USA for a period of time. Victor lived in Washington DC, and Peter in Austin, TX. They learned their skills playing with some of the best musicians in the blues scene. The Suitcase Brothers released their first CD ‘Living with the Blues’ (2000), and also recorded the soundtrack of the film ‘El Bola’. Their second CD was titled ‘Walk On’ (2006) honoring the great song made by Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee. ‘Walk On’ is an imaginative and fresh, but classic, sounding recording that includes 12 tracks and two quicktime videos.
MICKE & LEFTY feat. CHEF (FI)
Micke Björklöf and Lefty Leppänen together with Mr. Chef Miikka Kivimäki are forming one of the most exciting acoustic blues and roots bands in European blues scene today. One of their strongest trademarks is their huge vocal capacity, powerful three-part harmonies as well as strong lead vocals sung by all band members. The band also stands out with their original material. It´s a rich mix of American roots music with influences from early delta and country blues, spiced up with some bluegrass, rock, jazz and Hawaiian flavours, with emphasis anyway on Blues! Through the years Micke & Lefty feat. Chef have stirred up audiences with their entertaining and energetic live shows wherever they play, from small club stages to big festival arenas in Finland and in several other European countries. Their collaboration started when Lefty joined the band Micke Björklöf & BlueStrip. This world-class slide guitar virtuoso Lefty is also known from his previous work with Keystone Cops. Micke & Lefty feat.Chef celebrated their 10th anniversary by releasing a new album “Up the Wall”. This is the fifth album where Björklöf and Leppänen are collaborating. The distinctive and authentic sound of the band is achieved by multiple instrumentation; Micke plays suitcase drums, harmonica and guitar, Lefty plays acoustic and national resophonic guitar and harmonica, and Chef plays acoustic and upright bass.
The group Awek from Toulouse have acquired a strength and maturity worthy of their peers on the other side of the Atlantic. Their musical style is an explosive cocktail, a melting pot of groove and feelings, mingling classicism and originality, passion and soberness, orthodoxy and personal impression. Awek play an authentic blues, echoing the juke joints and smoky bars of Jackson, Mississippi. But at the same time, a personal and multicoloured blues, light years away from dull facsimiles. Awek has released altogether seven albums in 16 years. Awek’s latest CD, “It’s Rollin'”, has been nominated by the French Blues Society to compete at the IBC in the category of “Best Self-produced CD.” Awek is also honored to have been selected to represent France when they perform at both the ICB in Memphis and the European Blues Challenge in Berlin. The band members are: Bernard Sellam on vocals and guitars, Joël Ferron on bass, Olivier Trebel on drums and Stéphane Bertolino on harmonica.
TOMISLAV GOLUBAN & LPFB (HR)
Tomislav “Little Pigeon” Goluban was born in Zabok where he still lives, in the heart of Croatian Zagorje. He began playing the harps to revive the legacy of country/delta blues expression. This came out of hours and hours of intense listening of legendary Sonny Terry records. Over the years, Goluban has sharpened his music expression into the unique county-blues blended with Croatian traditional music. So far, Tomislav Goluban has released four studio albums (Pigeon’s Flight, Mr. B., Zagorje blues and 200$ SUN Memphis Album), as well as two maxi-singles (Brzi vlak and Libertin Trilogy). The repertoire is based on rather «brave» remakes of country-blues, ragtime and gospel tunes, and their own interpretations of Zagorje music heritage. Everything is blended with the tones of numerous music styles and meridians. Tomislav’s band LPFB stands for Little Pigeon’s ForHill Blues and that derives from his nickname Little Pigeon which is a liberal translation of his last name to English. Players in the band are: Tomislav “Little Pigeon” Goluban on harps and vocals, Darko Aljinović “File” on (electric) piano, Tomi Novak on bass guitar, and Mihael Vlah on drums.
DAVIDE LIPARI / ONE MAN 100% BLUEZ (IT)
Davide Lipari is ONE MAN 100% BLUEZ. Born in Rome in 1981, he first became interested in the blues as a young teenager. Truly inspired by early recordings by Muddy Waters, Robert Petway, and John Lee Hooker, his passion for the blues led him to the east coast and the south of the United States, in 2005. It was there that Lipari wrote his own first blues songs. After returning home, a self-taught harmonica and guitar player incorporated vocals and began to busk on the bridges of Rome. His music drew the attention of club owners who in turn invited him to play in their clubs. Plugged into a guitar amplifier and equipping his left foot with a tambourine, the chunky chunk sound of One Man 100% Bluez was completed. In September 2009 Davide Lipari recorded his first live CD, “Live at Velletri Blues Festival.” His second CD “You, Me and Her” containing 12 original blues tracks was recorded between December 2009 and January 2010. Davide Lipari is now playing in clubs and festivals around his country and over Europe, and he is working on the new album, that will be out on December 2010; featuring Ruggero Solli on drums, and that makes the One Man 100% Bluez project a groovy and searching duo.
LATVIAN BLUES BAND (LV)
The Latvian Blues Band “Latvians” won the 2009 Baltic Blues Challenge in the category of bands, and thereafter played in the International Blues Challenge 2010 finals in Memphis, USA. The roots of the Latvian Blues Band goes back to 1997 when three young Latvians decided to start a band. First of all, they used to listen to the music of blues greats such as Elmore James, Robert Johnson, Howlin’ Wolf and Little Walter. As a result, they worked hard to reach their own style and had their first performances in Latvia and Lithuania. In 2000 they made their way to Canada, where they performed in several clubs and at festivals. Subsequently they toured half of Europe and the USA (including Chicago Blues Festival). To date they have played with a number of world-famous blues musicians together, including Bob Margolin, Carey Bell, Duke Robillard, Sugar Ray Norcia to name a few. In 2009 Latvian Blues Band released their first studio album “Unreal” featuring 10 original songs written by the band during last five years. The entire album was produced by Duke Robillard. The players in this “Latvians” band are Janis Bukovskis on guitar and vocals, Roland Saulietis on drums and backing vocals, Reinis Ozolins on bass and backing vocals, Artis Locmelis on sax, Nauris Strezs on trombone, Jonathan Racenajs on guitar.
KING MO (NL)
The King MO is probably the hottest blues band in Holland today. Touring since April 2009, all the members are veterans of the European festival circuit having played with their former bands at most major events. Lefty-guitarist ‘young’ Sjors Nederlof is undoubtedly the centre of attention in the band. His unique Fender sound leaves no one untouched, with no pedal board used, only his fingers. Singer Phil Bee is a seasoned performer, and with his previous band Phil Bee and the Buzztones he has played major festivals and venues, as well as recording two CDs with the band. Hammond organist Colly Franssen and bass player Jules van Bussel were also members of Phil Bee and the Buzztones. Colly has performed with a long list of musicians in many cases along with Jules. Drummer Henk Punter has earned his stripes playing and recording with many name artists. He is a blues drummer with heart and soul, responsible for King MO’s fat grooves. King MO’s music can best be described as soulful blues with a rock edge. Their first acclaimed album was “Live at La Bonbonnière”. April 2010 the band releases their second album “Sweet Devil”.
VIDAR BUSK (NO)
Vidar Busk is a Norwegian guitarist, singer, songwriter and record producer in the genres of blues and soul. He grew up in Langesund, but moved to the United States as a 15-year old to play in the band of the American blues artist Rock Bottom. He toured the USA for several years before he returned to Norway in 1990. He had eventually a permanent backing band and their debut album by Vidar Busk & His True Believers titled “Stompin Our Feet With Joy” was released in 1997. The album was well received in the blues community. After having released three albums of energetic and swing-based blues-rock backed by His True Believers, he changed his total style with their fourth album, “Venus Texas” in 2001. The music on the new album was much softer feel and soul while he experimented with other styles. On his following album, Love Buzz, he went even further on his flirtations with other music styles, and had, among other things, two rappers Eye-n-l and Profilen. His latest album, “Jookbox Charade” was released under the name “Vidar Busk & The Voo Doodz”. Vidar Busk has been touring extensively and he has played on most major festivals in Norway and on a number of festivals in Europe and the USA.
BOOGIE BOYS (PL)
The line up of The Boogie Boys is not quite conventional; two pianos and drums. In spite of their young age, pianists Bartek Szopiński, Michał Cholewiński and a drummer Szymon Szopiński ﬁt perfectly in with boogie style and can derive from heritage of indigenous bluesmen as well as from polish pop music. Boogie Boys are a superb combination of technique, passion, charisma and new ideas for tones of old polish tunes together with music that touches all people regardless of their age and musical taste. They ﬁrst met in Autumn 2002 in one of clubs in Poznań where they played old pianos till the very morning. Boogie Boys have played with and accompanied many of the greatest American blues players. They have visited most of European countries. In february 2009 they played on the International Blues Challenge finals in Memphis, USA. The band’s debut album was titled “Revelation”, and their latest album titled “Hey You!” was released in summer 2009.
EMIL & THE ECSTATICS (SE)
Stockholm based Emil & The Ecstatics are nowadays a well-known name on the European blues and roots scene. After countless festivals, clubs, and three full-length albums, the band has proved to be a force to reckon with. Apart from the many great album reviews, The Ecstatics put a great effort in what they do best – live shows. This have been confirmed by many Ecstatics’ audiences all over Europe. Their third album “Bit By Bit”, consists of a number of original tunes in the midlands of blues and soul music without being too conservative for that matter. Their previous also well received albums are titled “Legacy” and “Emil & The Ecstatics”. The front man Emil Arvidsson is a really fine and deep-voiced singer and a guitarist with a great tone. The other Ecstatics players are Johan Bendrik, master on Hammond organ and piano, Mats Hammarlöf on bass, and Marcus Rostedt on drums.
24PESOS is one of the fastest rising bands in the blues scene today. Emerging from the clubs and bars of London, 24PESOS burst on to the blues scene in 2008 with their raw and rootsy live shows and debut album “The Boogie Worm”. The band’s latest album “Busted Broken and Blue” showcases the evolution of the 24Pesos sound – 11 boot stompin’ originals drawing from influences as diverse as Ray Charles, The Meters, James Brown, Freddie King, Howlin Wolf, and the Roots. Featuring saw-tooth Dobro guitars, searing harmonicas, a funky old school rhythm section and a greasy Hammond B3, the album showcases an eclectic and infectious blend that is the unmistakable 24Pesos sound. The band features the blistering guitar, vocal and harmonica of Julian Burdock. As a sideman Julian has played with many great artists including Pee Wee Ellis and Jocelyn Brown. Silas Maitland holds down the low end on his 62 P-Bass – playing credits include Geno Washington and Imelda May. On greasy Hammond B3 is Moz Gamble, who has also played with many artists, including Paul McCartney. Behind the drum kit is the raw and funky feel of Mike Connolly … the Boogie Worm.