Broken Arrow Review of Waterfront Blues Festival

2 Sep

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Broken Arrow was the only music magazine that I was still working with and it just went on Sabbatical for a year, so the last article that I wrote for it probably won’t get published. Therefore, I will publish it on my blog and here it is Courtesy of Broken Arrow.

The Portland, Oregon Waterfront Blues Festival took place for the 27th year over the July 4th weekend on the West Coast of the U.S.A.. The festival featured over 100 different acts, that raised over 1 million dollars for the Oregon Food Bank. It’s the largest blues festival West of the Mississippi and it lasted for 4 days beginning on Thursday, July 3 and ending on Sunday, July 6, 2014. The festival features acoustic blues, electric blues, gospel, R&B, funk, Zydeco, and a variety of headline acts that may not be in the blues genre, but whose output consists of the blues both in content and influence.

When Dylan made the public transition of folk, from acoustic to electric at the Newport Folk festival in 1965, he was backed up by the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, one of the first American Babyboomer blues bands to hit the scene. The Newport festival regularly featured some of the seminal blues artists that established the genre like Sleepy John Estes, Skip James and Mississippi John Hurt, right alongside Dylan, Joan Baez and Pete Seeger.

When electric folk rock hit the airwaves it exploded in a dozen different directions with the Byrds and Buffalo Springfield spearheading a couple of them that later morphed into Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, along with Poco and a solo Neil Young. Like Jimi Hendrix, Young came from an R&B background with a folk influence, especially through Dylan’s mid 60’s output. Blues is one of the oldest genres of American pop musicSo it is seemed logical to check out the biggest Blues Festival West of the Mississippi and enjoy some of the acts that had evolved out of the same influences.

Los Lonely Boys and Los Lobos played on Wednesday night both separately and together creating a total guitar assault on everyone attending the festival. Los Lonely Boys is a family band made up of 3 siblings, that includes Henry Garza lead guitarist extraordinaire as well as lead singer, Jojo Garza on bass and Ringo Garza on drums. They learned their chops by playing with their dad as his backup band, for the same reason that Pops Staple formed his children into the Staple Singers. Both had problems with undependable band members so they replaced them with their own children. The last band of the first night that closed the festival that night was Los Lobos. As usual they were tight and hot, although David Hidalgo was absent because of surgery for a hernia, so Cesar Rosas and Louie Perez recruited Henry Garza to fill in for the absence for much of the set.

The artists from the other days of the festival were comprised of everyone from Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen to Maceo Parker and Charlie Musselwhite. One of the big treats as well as the biggest disappointment came on Sunday, when Joan Osborne and Boz Skaggs played. The disappointment came from Greg Almanns cancellation because of a medical condition. The afternoon was ablaze with everything from Louisiana Zydeco to Gospel from the deep South in the form of the Holmes Brothers, who began their set with β€œAmazing Grace.” After they performed a few songs alone, co-headliner, Joan Osborne came out in a flaming red dress and wowed the crowd with her amazing voice, as she became part of the band, whose last album she produced, as well as performing her own material with them backing her. One of the highlights of the set was when Osborne sang β€œOne of Us,” her 1996 Billboard top 10 hit, with only a keyboardist accompanying her.

Since I was covering the festival for Broken Arrow, I looked for a connection with Neil Young through every artist that I saw. I figured that someone would eventually do a blues or R&B version of β€œKeep On Rockin’ In the Free World” or β€œDown By The River,” but it never happened. By the time that Boz Skaggs took the stage early Sunday evening, I gave up hope, when suddenly I saw an apparition standing before me that told me not to loose heart. Boz Skaggs did all his radio hits from β€œLido” to β€œBrother Can You Lend Me A Dime,” but I kept seeing Neil Young performing them. Sure it was an optical illusion that was exacerbated by my desire, but what about the photos that I was taking. The final straw came when Boz put on a Panama hat to shade his sunglass covered eyes from the blinding sun setting in the West sky directly in front of the stage. Skaggs looked like Young on the poster for Jonathan Demme’s documentary β€œHeart of Gold.” Maybe next year Peter Damman, the festival music coordinator will invite Neil to perform as the Sunday night headliner.

http://www.waterfrontbluesfest.com/
http://nyas.org.uk/
http://nyas.org.uk/brokenarrowhome.htm
http://nyas.org.uk/brokenarrowcovers.htm

What If God Was One Of Us?

16 Jul

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β€œWhat If God Was One Of Us?” was a top 40 radio hit in 1996 and catapulted Joan Osborne into the position of being one of Americas top female vocalists. It was a time when female vocalists were making as big an impact on the music charts as their male counterparts. Artists like Tracy Chapman, Sheryl Crow Sarah McLachlan brought the feminine side of transcendence back into the musical mix like it was when folk and rock touched through the music of Bob Dylan and the Byrds. Back then artists like Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell and Carole King represented the feminine mystique.

So when β€œOne of Us” hit the charts against all odds, because of its religious content and message, it drew attention like the siren’s did Odyseus. Eric Bazillian of the 1980’s new wave band the Hooters wrote the song to capture the heart of a girl, who later became his wife. The story reminded me of how Randy Stonehill wrote β€œKing of Hearts” as a result of failing to write a love song directed to the girl of his dreams and later changed the direction to the almighty diety that most people call God, The Wholly Other or the unspeakable glory known in the Bible as the Tetragrammaton. Bazillian and another former Hooter, Rob Hyman discovered Osborne singing in a bar and decided to record her, so they put together a band that they performed in and recorded an album that they primarily wrote the songs for. The album showcased Osborne’s incredible vocal range that established her as one of the best female vocalist’s in the country, if not the world.

Osborne is a blues singer, but at the same time she has an expanded perspective on music that delves into a spiritual dimension as deep as gospel, but from an Eastern perspective. Even before she caused a theological firestorm, when β€œOne of Us” became a top 40 hit and she got 5 Grammy nominations, she was a student of Sufi devotional music, called qawwali. Sufism is Islamic in origin, resulting from 11th century Persians immigrating to the region that became known as Pakistan, but was then India. It is mystical and introspective in nature and the purpose of the music is to achieve transcendence beyond sexuality. That was back in 1996, when β€œOne of Us” was still a top 40 radio hit.

So now fast forward 18 years and Osborne isn’t backed up by her bar band that accompanied her for her Relish tour, but the Holmes Brothers a black gospel group that she helped produce albums for as well as appearing on them and vice versa. The Holmes Brothers took the stage and performed β€œAmazing Grace” as their opening number and then did 2 others before Osborne joined them. Once she hit the stage and opened her mouth, the heavens opened and she covered everything from the Grateful Dead to Ike and Tina Turner, with as much passion and transcendence as Ustad Fateh Ali Khan.

http://www.joanosborne.com/

Utube videos of “One of Us”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mc_QQIPQ2e8

kickstarter Qawwali Sufi project: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1458900925/sufi-qawwali-a-documentary-by-fanna-fi-allah

Los Lonely Boys

6 Jul

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Once again I am going to change the concept of this blog as it evolves just like my life did. Everything takes on a life of its own if you let it, or should I say, if you choose to walk down all the paths that open up to you after you knock on their portals for entry. My path took me from rock & roll to only Christian music and then as the heathen rock & rollers became born again back to rock & roll again. So why not present reports of secular concerts and events on this blog as well as Christian ones.

This past weekend I have been covering the Waterfront Blues Festival in Portland, Oregon and as we all know, the blues has its roots in gospel. In the early days of the 20th century many blues artists were ministers and sang gospel for the Lord on Sunday after singing blues for the devil on Saturday night. One of the first groups that I saw perform at the festival were one of the headliners, Los Lonely Boys. The band is made up of Henry Garza lead guitar, Jojo Garza bass and Ringo Garza drums. They rocked the house down with their powerful set and later performed with Los Lobos during the latter’s set.

The band is from Texas and was their fathers backup band from childhood into their teens. They’ve won a Grammy and had a hit record on the charts called β€œHeaven,” off their first album. To find out more about them, check out their website at: http://loslonelyboys.com/ For information about the Waterfront Blues Festival, go to: http://www.waterfrontbluesfest.com/ .

Carolyn Arends

11 Jun

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The first time that I saw Carolyn Arrends was in 1996 when I was covering a Jefferson Starship concert in Portland, Oregon at the

Aladdin theater for a Deadhead publication called Duprees Diamond News. She was the opening act and I knew nothing about her, but

as soon as she began to perform I sensed something different about her music. By the lyrical content of the songs and the musical

presentation I concluded that she was a Christian and talked to her briefly during intermission before Jefferson Starship came on. My

suspicions were confirmed and I became a fan. Since that time she’s released 10 albums and written 3 books. At this time she is

working on a new project on Kickstarter to raise money to produce a Christmas album. Her official website is at :

http://carolynarends.com/about/#sthash.wcV3DbRl.dpuf

and her kickstarter page is at:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1650435293/new-carolyn-arends-christmas-record?ref=email

Johnny Clegg

6 May

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Last Thursday I went to the Aladdin theater up in Portland to see the Johnny Clegg Band. It was the first time that I’ve seen a South African rock star. Johnny’s son Jesse opened the show with an acoustic set as I began to take photographs.

I was originally just going to go to the concert with my friend Joe for enjoyment. However, a week before the concert I contacted Johnny Clegg’s publicist to request a photo pass and a ticket for a writer friend, which turned it into a working concert instead of just enjoyment.

I stood at the foot of the stage and shot images for the 1st 3 songs, like usual, but then, because of my photo pass I got in the building before the crowd and picked the best seats in the balcony. The Aladdin only holds a little over 700 people, so every seat is a good seat, but the front row, center stage in the balcony is the best. It gives an unobstructed view of the stage for photographs at exactly the right descending angle.

I talked to half a dozen people while we were waiting for the show to begin. Some of them were originally from South Africa. Everyone that I talked toΒ  had been to Johnny Clegg concerts before, reaching back into the late 1980’s when he first came to the United States. The age of the crowd ranged from the mid 30’s to senior citizens.

Jesse Clegg came on promptly at 8:00 P.M. and talked to the crowd in between songs about how he normally played electric guitar with a full band, but was doing a stripped down acoustic version for his first American tour. After a 30 minute set of excellent renditions of his Platinum album recordings he concluded his set.

After a brief period to reset the stage, the Johnny Clegg Band took the stage as Johnny sang and danced through a 90 minute set. He talked about his beginnings during apartheid and the danger involved in even attending a concert with police surveillance and arrests common place. Clegg is an anthropologist with an interest in the way that traditional primitive music blends with modern sounds and instruments.

Becky Garrison wrote an article about the concert for The Examiner.com at http://www.examiner.com/article/john-clegg-brings-down-the-house-portland-oregon that uses 20 of my images from the show for a slideshow.

John Sinclair

29 Apr

If you don’t know who John Sinclair is, you should. This is an interview that I did with him a while back. http://johnsinclair.us/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=123:bob-gersztyn-portland-or&catid=77&Itemid=113Β 

Taxi Guru

24 Apr

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Taxi Guru, a new taxi cab website that just published one of my taxi cab articles. Their other siteΒ taxi fare finder published one of my articles last year. They are all based on my blog at the transcendent taxi cab.

http://www.taxiguru.com/Β 

http://www.taxiguru.com/cabbie-with-a-camera/Β 

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