EBU at Santa Maria Blues Festival In Azores Islands

Board member Lucie Kalabova travelled to Santa Maria Island in Azores. She enjoyed an amazing festival as well as promoting the EBU there. Now she wants to share her impressions about her time there.

Each festival has a certain appeal, charm and quality, for both the artistic part, the energy, stories and memories it creates and for things it ignites and makes grow from there. Santa Maria Island is a very unique place in the middle of the Atlantic ocean and it’s Santa Maria Blues festival is a very unique event, for many reasons. Here’s to mention a few from this year’s, which was the 16th edition, held on a gorgeous site on the island’s shore on July 18, 19, 20.

Santa Maria Blues was three nights of stellar skies and blues by some of the greatest artists of the day. The festival was kicked off on Thursday night by Delta Blues Riders, a Portugese band who also represented Portugal earlier this year at the European Blues Challenge, which was organized by the same SMB crew and held at Ponta Delgada, Açores. The second part of the night’s line-up belonged to Kyla Brox Quartet, this year’s winner of the European Blues Challenge and this lady with her band owned the stage and the crowd completely with their world class performance.

The second night started with an excellent set by a legendary, four times Blues Music Award winner, Joe Louis Walker. Looking back at his more than half a century long music career he says “I’d like to be known for my life long belief and faith in music and in blues. Sometimes I learned more from the failures than I did from success. That made me stronger and made me desire adventure. It helped me to find and develop my style.” Joe Louis Walker left the stage to a huge applause and was followed by non the less great set and big bang by Shaggy dogs, a band from France who brought and entertained the crowd with a very much fun mix of blues and rock’n’roll.

The final night of Santa Maria Blues opened with a set from Gwyn Ashton, a british musician, who’s played in 32 countries around the world and who also opened for Joe Louis Walker’s concert in Prague, Czech Republic, last year. It is Gwyn, who says in one of his strongest songs “the road is my religion” and his set was a great, intimate one man show and had the audience’s full attention rightfully. The following was a Houston Texas native, Annika Chambers with her great band, including her Canadian fiancée Paul DesLauriers on guitar. She was just beaming and the Texas thing she brought was amazing, high energy, upbeat and sassy sound that got everybody up and dancing, she had a strong connection with the crowd and brought us all together just the way great music can. The last but not least was no one less than the true legend, the “blues boss”, Mr.Kenny Wayne with his boogie-woogie piano and his excellent band. That was all about love and passion for music, much fun and great energy brough about by this piano master and such a brilliant way to close the festival.

Apart from all the great live music, each night was complemented by excellent dj sets, to keep the crowd together and on our feet till the sunrise. During the day there is much to see and explore around the site of the festival, to swim in the ocean at one of the island’s beautiful sand beaches or in the seaside pools, to enjoy some great views and just soak up all the timeless beauty, calm and peacefulness of the island.

Much appreciation and respect to the organizers, to the whole Santa Maria Blues crew, who do an outstanding job, taking care of all the logistics and people who come to the festival. This year’s total of visitors in the three days was 6.388, which basically doubles the population of the island. Most of the crowd comes from the biggest island of Açores, Sao Miguel and the rest of the islands, from the Portugese mainland as well as other European countries and from the United States as well. The festival visitors are offered some delicious local food, traditional Santa Maria soups, meat or vegetable stews, traditional Portugese sandwiches bifanas, salads, home made deserts offered by the residents or the famous Santa Maria melons. There are numerous bars and drink stalls on and around the site. The accomodation on the island is limited, so early booking is adviced, there are comfortable hotels available, private cottages for rent or a nice camping site near the festival grounds. All together this makes for a great and truly unique experience, those who have been, return, and for those who have not been yet, Santa Maria Blues is something not to be missed in the future. Obrigada, Santa Maria Blues. Long live the blues!

Young French bass player Charlotte Gutteridge at Little Steven’s Blues School

Young French bass player Charlotte Gutteridge flew to Oslo to reach Notodden to attend Little Steven’s Blues School, thanks to a partnership between France Blues, the European Blues Union and Notodden Blues Festival. She wanted to send us her first comments:

“I’m in a band with three Polish, a singer, a guitarist and a harmonica player, and two Norwegians, another guitarist and a drummer. Our group is called Barbara And The Strangers. Before the workshop, we were asked to work 10 tunes. Among these 10, we chose one to make a cover at our own sauce. It’s Hoochie Coochie Man by Muddy Waters!

We also wrote a tune in a funky James Brown’ style, we added a little gospel at the end. The title? “Funky Vibe”, and we are the first group to record in the Juke Joint Studio, guided by the wonderful Banana, Little Steven & The Disciples of Soul’s musician!

We have already learned many things, the importance of each instrument and the importance of singing, the different ways of playing the Blues, the evolution of Blues over the years … And we learned how to write a piece of Blues.

In the beginning, I did not feel up to it because the musicians present here have a lot of talent. But little by little, I show what I can do and the teachers gave me skills. I think they’re happy to see that I can play what they ask me on the first try.

I am really happy to be here and to participate in this extraordinary school!.


An article from one of the students at Pinetop Perkins Foundation workshop

Will Hemy, one of the students granted this year by the EBU at Pinetop Perkins Foundation workshop in Clarksdale, has sent us a short article about his experience there:

In June 2019 I spent three days in Clarksdale, Mississippi at the Pinetop Perkins Foundation camp. This was made possible by the generosity of the scholarship provided to me by the European Blues Union that subsidized my stay at the Shack Up Inn, the cost of the workshop and contributed towards my travel. Again, I would like to extend my gratitude for this.

Clarksdale is, for any blues fan, an experience itself. There was a surreal element to being in the place I’d heard repeated so many times in so many songs, and in the place where the greats such as Son House and Robert Johnson (to name a few) had cut their teeth. The Shack Up Inn only added to this, although, whilst the times have changed, the same blues-soaked atmosphere still remained.

The first night upon arrival was the first jam session and general ‘get-to-know’. Thus, from the first few hours in the camp it was straight into playing music. This, I thought, aptly set the tone for the rest of the camp. Essentially, total blues immersion; intensive but also a fantastic experience. The camp really was a musical environment where everyone was on the same foot. No-one was trying to compete, people were supportive of all skill levels and everyone was really easy to get along with. This sentiment remained throughout the entire experience and was (and importantly, is) a valuable and central aspect of the Pinetop Perkins Foundation workshop.

The next three/two days consisted of two three hour workshops in the morning and evening, and culminated in a jam session in the commissary every night. The amount I learned in three days was amazing, and it never felt laborious. The tuition really was stellar, and covered a wide array of styles and techniques of blues guitar. Fiona Boyes took us through a vast array of material, from Delta blues and the fingerpicking to the hill country trance style grooves, 8-bar blues through to a rumba. Not only was this what to play, but also different ways the blues could be played – something Fiona really opened my eyes to, and also as an ‘antidote’ to elements in blues that can easily stagnate. A highlight was the slide playing, which was a central focus of our group. Fiona brought out her cigar box guitars, all with different strings and tunings for us to try out some slide stuff on, which really gave me insight into the different approaches to my slide playing.

This was punctuated by lessons and visits from other musicians. Bob Margolin regularly stopped by to impart some cool wisdoms or stories from the upper echelons of blues music. On top of this, his advice on how to play notes and how different approaches to the small things that could easily pass your mind provided more depth to approaching the guitar. Anson Funderburgh stopped in on the last workshop and gave us a Texas blues powerhouse lesson and approaches to soloing, as well as a having a chat about guitars and the music industry. The interns, Jaymes and Radka took the class when Fiona was supervising other group, and added to the teaching. In both cases, they really knew their stuff and continued to uphold the high standards at the camp. To all, I would like to extend my thanks for sitting down and spending time with us and imparting valuable knowledge.

The capstone was the final showcase at Ground Zero Blues Club. This gave everyone a chance to consolidate (in front of a live audience) what they’d learned. Based on what I learned, I went onto the stage feeling confident enough to play lead slide guitar despite never having done it before. It was in this that I realised how much I’d really learned in such a short space of time. Leaving the final showcase, for the most part, everyone said their goodbyes. I came away feeling part of an international blues community and with many new friends that I’d met only three days ago, some of whom I saw again in Memphis and Tulsa.

I hope this article has provided some insight into the Pinetop Perkins Foundation workshop, and the fantastic experience it can provide. Again, I’d like to thank the EBU and all who made this trip a possibility for me

The EBU at Thrill Blues Festival in Croatia

It’s always a pleasure to share Blues with our Croatian Friends and the 3rd Thrill Blues Festival was the perfect opportunity to spend a few days in Dalmatia, in the small city of Trilj. 
After a first day dedicated to Blues in The Schools, Blues photo exhibition, book promotion and jam sessions, 11 bands were playing in the Trilj Park, near the Cetina River, in front of a great audience.
The program was dedicated to local, regional and national bands but also to Europan Blues with an act form Italy, Lorenzo Piccone & Ismaila Mbaye, and a French headliner, Manu Lanvin & The Devil Blues. James Perri, a soulman from Chicago living in Zagreb and Harrison Kennedy were also playing their Blues in front of a huge audience.
Thrill Blues Festival gave its best to keep the Blues alive in a place where you can enjoy the way of live, discover historical sites, make horse rides and rafting… A perfect opportunity to combine Blues and good times!

EBU France at the Pinetop Perkins Workshop

On June 10 in the early hours of the day, the representatives of European Blues Union, France Blues and Toulouse Blues Society flew to Memphis and Clarksdale to accompany the young Evan Guenebault (18 years) who participated at the Pinetop Perkins Foundation Workshop with great artists like Bob Margolin, Bob Stroger, Fiona Boyes, Phil Wiggins, Anthony Geraci, Anson Funderburgh, etc.
This 4-day professionalization workshop was a real success and our young participant, supported by the European Blues Union, received an exceptional welcome from his teachers with the public praise of Bob Margolin, which is not nothing, but also and above all invitations to perform for off-stage jams during which he could play alongside Heather Crosse and Lee Williams, Anthony Geraci, Fiona Boyes, Ike Turner Jr., etc. If we add the 4 jams scheduled as part of his internship, Evan played 7 times in no less than three major clubs Clarksdale (Hopson Commissary, Ground Zero and Hambone) and has been able to be appreciated by the best in the profession but also by a public of connoisseurs.
We will highlight that Evan Guenebault was one of five participants in this workshop not to be from the United States since there were in this edition 2019 three young English students, a young Japanese student and the French representative. We took advantage of this trip to the USA to present to Evan some important places of blues culture (culture that he already had mastered before his departure) and some personalities like Jay Sieleman and Barbara Newman (former and current CEO of the Blues Foundation), Tim Sampson and Robert Terrell (communication officers at Stax Academy and BB King Museum), etc. Evan’s clairvoyance, his dynamism and his kindness have each time been applauded!
We will also point out that, like many other French artists before him (Bernard Sellam, Mister Mat, Damien Cornelis, Cisco Herzhaft, Bad Mules, etc.), Evan was invited to play at the Peace Baptist Church before an audience who was literally surprised by his performance, some of them even went so far as to compare him to BB King, and there was enough to think about the vibrato and the emotion that was there that day in his game!
This trip was also an opportunity to strengthen already very strong links with our American contacts with whom we have a real weight today because they know us, we appreciate and wish more and more to work with us. We continue to strengthen the place of European blues on the world stage and the benefits can only be positive. Also note that we have further consolidated the contact with Pat Morgan of Blue Mountain Artists who is a member of the European Blues Union and which should offer us new opportunities for collaboration in the months to come.
A small teaser drawn from the various videos that were made on the spot should be available quickly … Evan will testify of his experience and his teachers will not fail to mention the quality of his game and his great musical abilities. It should be noted that besides an article of “La Dépêche du Midi” published the day of our departure and a second article to be published in the coming days, we had the nice surprise to receive during our stay in the USA a letter addressed to the promising Evan Guenebaut via the address of Toulouse Blues Society, letter signed by the hand of the mayor of Toulouse whose attention was attracted by the article of press!
This first French participation in the Pinetop Perkins Foundation Workshop has kept all its promises and has allowed a young musician in the process of professionalization to enrich his Curriculum Vitae and especially to create an international address book with already promises of future collaborations. A very positive balance, therefore, for an operation that we hope to renew in the years to come!

Finnish Blues Challenge 2019

The Finnish national Blues Challenge, jointly organized by the Finnish Blues Society and the Puistoblues Festival, took place on Friday 28 June. The 16 Finnish EBU Active Members had first selected the four finalists out of 15 bands who had originally come forward to enter the competition. Five invited judges, all proficient experts in music, then made the final selection: The winning band, Lumberjacks, will represent Finland at the 10th anniversary European Blues Challenge, EBC-2020, in Zaanstad next April. The band’s main tour-de-forces are strong vocals and hefty Blues content of their music. The EBU Vice-president, Pertti Nurmi, and Finland’s national contact, Aimo Ollikainen, were in charge of counting the votes and taking care that the EBC rules were followed.

(Photo by EBU Active Member, Juha Seila)


Little Steven In Milano

We had the chance to meet Mr Van Zandt, aka Little Steven, for his concert in Milano at The Alcatraz, with his band, The Disciples Of Soul on June 13th and, thanks to Jeremy Tufano of Renegade Nation, discuss briefly with him some aspects related to the Little Steven Blues School that will be held in Notodden at the end of July.

His wise suggestions related to expand the educational projects to othe european festivals will be soon discussed with the Board and we will work on it as from 2020. We are happy that Mr Van Zandt, also with his project teachrock is promoting the musical culture all around the world, as his live exìhibitions clearly demonstrate!