On Friday October 28th I caught Jimi Schutte’s American Blues with special guest Stephen Hull.
On Sunday November 6th I was strolling down Brady Street and low and behold there was Steven Cohen sitting out in front of a shop playing harmonica with tracks backing, I listened to him perform “Walking by Myself”, “Honest I Do” and “Walking Through the Park”.
Later that same day I went to see Nick and Kate Moss with The Third Coast Blues Collective at The Tonic Tavern. Highlights included “Some Day”, “Mean Black Spider”, “Red Wagon”, and the show ending “Going Down Slow”. I was reminded just how awesome of a guitar player Kate Moss is. One of the truly great things about the Milwaukee Blues Scene is that most of the musicians are very friendly and helpful to each other and when they are not working they come out to support each other. In the house on this night were, Jim Liban, Madison Slim, John DeStefanis, Paul Stilin, Jim Schwarz, James Cosey, Cadillac Craig and drummer Patrick Seely - a recent Brew City transplant - who got behind the kit for a few tunes.
Friday November 18th was the date of The Annual Wisconsin Harmonica Festival. This is an excellent event that always has a fantastic line-up and SRO crowds. Kudos to event organizer Dave Miller and Jazz Unlimited. In the audience were Paul Stilin, Joe Loeffelholz, Johnny Mills, Bob –O Walesa, Blues Harp Jimmy Davis, Paul Martin, Glen Goebel and Jonny T-Bird.
Dave Miller opened the show with nice versions of “Born in Chicago” and “Shake Your Money Maker”. Next up was Sly Carr who looked every bit the Bluesman, dressed in a black fedora with a gold sparkle sports coat and black trousers. Carr’s style is very minimal, down home, gritty and raw. I heard a lot of folks say that he reminds them of Sonny Boy #2. He reminds me of Big John/One Arm John Wrencher. Highlights included “Help Me”, “Big Boss Man” and “Stranded in St. Louis”
Next up was Kenny “Bird Dog” Olufs. Kenny is a very solid harmonica player and vocalist. Highlights were the set opening “Walking Blues” and “She’s a Killer”, I had never seen Kenny and I must say I do want to hear more.
Big Al Dorn came out of the gates smoking on a truly thrilling set that Al dedicated to the late, great William Clarke. Big Al was backed by Bobby Sellers on drums, Dave Kasik on six string bass and Bill Stone on guitar.
They opened with “Let’s Have Some Fun” and then dipped right into “When I Get Drunk”, which featured some very cool T-Bone style guitar from Stone. They slowed things down for an awesome, intense version of “Lonesome in My Bedroom”. Big Al was in full command of the band and the stage. I have never seen him so confident, he blew the roof off of the joint! He ended his set with “Pawn Shop Boogie” and “Educated Fool”.
After a short pause, Steve Cohen, Bill Stone, Dave Kasik and Marc Wilson performed a LeRoy Airmaster reunion set. Kicking off with “Parchman Farm” followed by “Funky Woman”. The headliner was Benny Rickun with special guest Miss Brenda Taylor.
I had leave so I caught the rest of this great show via livestream. I had to get over to Mamie’s to catch Gervis Myles for his Mamie’s debut as a bandleader. Gervis’ band The Tillie Tops featured Robb Weiss on guitar, Jeff “H” Harrington on bass and Jasmine Mottley on drums. They did a nice job on “Woman Don’t Lie”, “I’ll Take You There”, “People Get Ready” and the Lee Gates tune “Too Many People in And Out of My House”.
On Saturday November 19th Rockin’ Johnny Burgin was in town for a show at Kochanski’s. Johnny had Steve Dougherty on drums and the super talented Marie Martens on bass, vocals and some wicked slide guitar. Johnny also brought along a couple of guests - exciting, young, up and coming Blues piano player Ben Levin and from Japan guitarist Takuto Asana. Asana did some excellent guitar work all night long. Milwaukee’s own Gervis Myles was also a special guest on this show.
Highlights of this excellent show were “Money Tree”, “Loan Me a Dime”, “Find My Woman”, “Blues Start Fallin’” and “Homework” (Rockin’ Johnny), “Blow Wind Blow Wind”, “Carry-Out or Delivery”, “Lonesome Whistle Blues” and “Take Your Time” (Ben Levin). Ben Levin is a very talented, nice young man. He writes good songs and is a hell of a player for his age. Like fine wine I’m sure he will age well. Levin reminded me a lot of Piano Willie and Barrelhouse Chuck the way he got down on the “deep end” of the piano. “Woman Don’t Lie” and “Things That I Used to Do” from Gervis Myles. Marie Martens tore it up on slide guitar on a couple of tunes. Bennie Rickun was in the house and he got up and blew some nice harp on a few songs also. Great show!
On Sunday November 20th The Incorruptibles held their 10th Anniversary party at the Story Hill Firehouse on Hawley Road. Very nice venue. It was a nice party, fun, dancing and raffles. The band played their usual mix of covers “Marie, Marie”, “Walking to My Baby”, and “Let’s Go” and originals, including some very nice originals that will be featured on their new CD out after the 1st of the year. Gervis Myles and Paul Stilin were in the house, Stilin sat in.
On Sunday December 4th Perry Weber and Bennie Rickun were at The Tonic Tavern with the Third Coast Blues Collective. Perry is always a good time and it was nice to see him in a different context than with The Jimmy’s. Highlights included “You Can’t Hurt Me Anymore” and “Dream” from the pen of Jim Liban, as well as “Got to Find My Baby”, Earl Kings “Let the Good Times Roll”, “Big Town Playboy” and “Hot Little Momma”. Benny did a great job all day long, blowing some nice gritty Chicago styled harmonica. In the house were Jim Liban, Madison Slim, Rev. Raven, Big Al Dorn and future Bluesman Little Jack Rickun.
On Saturday December 10th The Mighty Ms. Erica performed at Mamie’s Annual Christmas Party. Santa was there with his trusty elf passing out gift bags to everyone whether you were naughty or nice!
On Sunday December 11th I caught The Wilson Family Band at the Uptowner. Always a good time, always top-notch music. Alex tore it up on “Sweet Little Angel”, “All Your Love” and “Looking Good”. It’s always fun to hear Tom sing/ad-lib the lyrics to “Business Man” and “Too Many Bad Habits” indeed! Little Jimmy, Benny Rickun and Big Al Dorn all sat in with The Wilsons.
On Saturday December 17th I made my way to Anodyne to see The Jimmy’s. These guys are one of the most loved bands in the state of Wisconsin. They are known for their professionalism and their awesome collective talents. The Jimmy’s always deliver the goods, and this night was no different. My favorites included “Love Will Find a Way”, “I Wonder” and my new favorite that I did not catch the title of, but it was a hot, Latin tinged number that was a real hip shaking mover.
It’s been a fantastic year of wonderful, exciting music! Thank you to all the performers for sharing your talents with us. Thank you to all you music lovers for coming out to support live music and the wonderful people who perform it for us. I look forward to more great music in 2023, and I look forward to seeing ya’ll out & about in 2023.
- Jim Feeney