Dorothy Hill was recognized by the Blues Society on March 18, 2006 for her contribution as a journalist

A Festival of Blues and Soul at Sunday Blues and Jazz Club

Clarence Carter and Johnny Rawls headlined an extravaganza on a recent Sunday. Opening acts included Bobby Webb, saxophonist and vocalist, and Layce Baker and the Black Diamond Blues Band.

Johnny Rawls stole the show early with his Southern soul revue. Rawls delivered vocals that related to the tried and true themes of lust and love, good and gone-bad. His charisma is extraordinary, and on this occasion he was right at home heating up the audience to a fever pitch with rapid-fire guitar styling and smooth soul vocal delivery. The dancers filled the floor, and Rawls interacted with the dancers exhorting them to "do it" as some of them did!

 Johnny Rawls

 Clarence Carter

 The star of the evening, Clarence Carter, exemplified the essence of earthy soul on vocals and guitar. Carter, blind from birth, gave a unique twist to gospel-preaching with his deep baritone vocals which focused on cheating love. As a five-time loser in the marriage game, he was speaking from personal experience! On "Too Weak to Fight," Carter's lascivious delivery was full of humor. "Take It All Off" from his new CD was an upbeat tune with an absurd lyrical content ("take off that wig, girl"). On "Patches," Carter's poignant expression was testimony to his meager beginnings in Alabama and how his father's influence kept him focused. Introducing the seductive "Slip Away" with some trash-talking, his blues-ballad rendering was superb. Carter's vocal techniques on "Strokin" are legendary, and his extended version of this tune was penetrated with explicit lyrics. On this day, Clarence Carter embodied the spirit of deep-rooted soul with anguish and passion in a standout performance.

 The Sunday Blues and Jazz Club continues to showcase major headliners in special shows, and Bobby "Blue" Bland is scheduled to return to the club for Mother's Day which should be a must-see event for all blues lovers.

 Phil Berkowitz at Biscuits and Blues



 Inspired by Louis Jordan, Phil Berkowitz (photo at left) recently released a well-received CD, "Louis' Blues," and his show at Biscuits and Blues focused on that genre of jump blues. His excellent supporting band consisted of Randy Hayes on drums, Michael McCurdy on bass, Marvin Greene on guitar, and Curtis Long on piano.

Opening up with "Let the Good Times Roll," Berkowitz displayed a clean vocal style with exuberant expression. The tune "Is You Is or Is You Ain't My Baby" was a delightful jump blues romp with Hayes displaying exquisite support with his brush work on the drums. A highlight was a slowly groovy rendition of "Blue Light Boogie" which featured Berkowitz expounding the melody on harmonica. Closing out the first set, Berkowitz stretched out on well-executed harmonica riffs on a spirited rendition of "Caldonia." This was a captivating evening of jump blues by Berkowitz who has carved out a niche which fits him well.

 Daniel Castro at Eli's


 An enthusiastic audience greeted Daniel Castro (photo at right) and his band on a recent Friday night at Eli's Mile High club in Oakland. Guitarist/vocalist Castro is one of the hardest working bluesmen in the Bay Area, and although he can rock with the best on this evening he stuck to his blues roots.

He opened up with "Rock Me Baby" with a fierce guitar expression. On "Crosscut Saw" keyboardist Mike Emerson blew the lid off with his nuanced phrasing. Castro's slow deep blues rendering of the B. B. King tune "Sweet Little Angel" was delightful. The power and intensity of the music had the dancers on the floor all night long and lifted our spirits on a cold dreary evening.


 There Is a Jam Going On



Billy Pigrum

 A well-kept secret is happening at the Silver Shelter at 6716 San Pablo Avenue near Ashby in Berkeley every Sunday evening around 6:00 P.M. with Billy and the Thrillers. Although the place is always packed, most blues enthusiasts have not yet discovered this gem. It is an old-fashioned jukejoint-type jam featuring well-seasoned players. There is usually a substantial dinner served, and a generous tip pays for it all. Billy Pigrum, the M.C. and sometime guitar player, keeps a smooth flow of performing musicians, and his discreet banter creates a warm ambience.

 On my first visit, Geno Landry (photo at right) was putting out some magnificent circular breathing on soprano saxophone on the funky tune "Get Yourself Together." Longtime Oakland blues fixture Proud Mary was soulful on drums and raspy vocals doing "Don't Let the Green Grass Fool You." Vocalist Margie Turner (photo below) delivered a dynamite upbeat version of "Cry Me a River."



Gene Landry

   Al Tisdale holds down the keyboard on a regular basis, and Wild Billy Pruit is usually there on bass along with Niklas Nordstrom on guitar. Kenneth Winters (photo at left), who plays keyboards for the Brummels Band, frequently sits in as does Ms. TNT, aka Irene Washington.

 The flamboyant vocalist Little Junior Crudup (photo at right) shows up on a regular basis donning his cape and flashy outfit as he did on a recent evening doing original material which revealed uncommon talent for interesting lyrics (he just released a self-produced CD which is a good offering of original material).

Recently, one of my favorites, the mesmerizing lap steel guitarist Freddie Roulette, sat on the sidelines, moaning and squealing with his unique sounds. On one night, Alabama Mike did an awesome vocal take on "For Your Precious Love."


 You never know who will show up, but can be assured of a good time and some splendid musicians on the scene.


 With spring and summer, blues festivals will be springing up across the country, and the San Francisco Bay Area boasts some of the best. The Black Diamond Blues Festival in Pittsburg, California, on May 27 and 28 is a welcome return since funding has always been an issue.
 The Monterey Bay Blues Festival is one of the finest festivals in the country and is scheduled for June 23, 24, and 25 this year.
 The Russian River Blues Festival is scheduled for the prior weekend, June 16, 17, and 18.
 The Hayward Russell City Blues Festival held at the City Center Plaza in Hayward is another of the must-do events and will be held on July 8 and 9. All of these events are fan-friendly and are an affordable way to take in some of the best local and national blues acts.
 And the greatest blues gathering of them all, the Arkansas Blues and Heritage Festival (formerly known as the King Biscuit Blues Festival), will be held in Helena, Arkansas, on October 5 through 7. Look for me on the front row!

 By Dorothy L. Hill

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