International Blues Challenge

Last weekend I was fortunate enough to win the Solo / Duo competition held by the Cleveland Blues Society. As a result, I’ll be heading to Memphis in January for my 3rd International Blues Challenge.

If you’ve never been to the IBC, this event is like a 5 day blues festival. There are always so many great acts playing that it’s a bit of work to see everyone you want to, but it’s worth it.
Hope to see you there.

IBC

Dayton Blues Competition

When I’m playing an afternoon show, I always end up losing track of time. In this case my set was at 12:50, so I already knew I wasn’t going to have time to do everything that I wanted. Between voice workouts, practicing, trying to get comfortable with that last minute song, promotional posts, and forgetting to put on a belt like 6 times, I end up falling a bit behind.

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I really pushed this one to the last minute, and left around 12:00, about 10 minutes after it was recommended I get there. But, I still had to print out my set list for the judges. I don’t have a printer, so I decided I had time to make it to the UD campus (which is pretty close by). When I cruised into a loading zone space I figured I had 7 minutes go print the set list and get back to my car.

So I plugged my laptop in and after a few attempts at printing I remembered that I reformatted everything on my computer last week and hadn’t reinstalled the printer. The driver download was taking too long and I couldn’t find the CD for the printer (which I of course found in about 30 seconds on Monday). Had to go without it. Well, that didn’t matter because I didn’t see anyone else with a set list and no ever asked me for it anyway.

I got to Gilly’s with a solid 10 minutes to spare, I guess I’m lucky no one before me dropped out. By the time I tuned my guitars, the act before me was playing his last song.

At this point I just wiped the last hour out of my head. My goal was to have as much fun as possible playing my 15 minute set on one of my favorite stages in Dayton.

I started off with three original tunes, 99 Juke Joints, Sounds of the Highway, and The Next Place I Leave. Even though there’s no penalty for ending a set early, I still like to get at close to the 15 minute limit as possible because I think it makes the performance more exciting. I slammed the strings one last time to close Fred McDowell’s ‘Write Me a Few Lines’ with about 5 seconds to spare.

At this point there were 4 more acts left so it was time to once again forget about everything that just happened see what the other solo and duo blues artists in the Dayton area have been up to. Joe Augustin (Achilles Tenderloin) was one of the performers that followed me, I worked with him earlier this year when I produced his latest CD ‘Stronger Than Wine’.

And…

When it was all over, I ended up in second place, later I was told I was 1 point behind the winner.

Oh well, see you guys at the next one.

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Interview in Dayton Daily

Hey,

I did an interview with the Dayton Daily News about the Big Brews and Blues Fest last week, here’s the link. Also incase you wanted to see the entire uncut interview, I pasted that below.

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http://www.daytoncitypaper.com/craft-this/

 

Chris, please tell us a little about your musical influences; what inspired you to play traditional, Delta-style blues music?

I’ve always liked the sound of an acoustic slide guitar, even before I knew exactly how it was done, and definitely before I knew what traditional blues was. The first time I heard a real trad blues performance that really stitched everything together for me was in Buddy Guy’s Legends in Chicago. I think I was about 17 or 18, luckily it was a lunchtime set so I could get in (more like wander in because I had no idea what I was going to see or how much I would like it).

It was the first time I really saw someone fingerpick a guitar and use a slide. It was also the first time I heard the terms like Delta and Piedmont blues. After I saw that show I was determined to get my thumb (on the right hand) to work the way his did, playing the bass note or part of a chord where the rest of the fingers are left to play the melody.

Fruteland Jackson participates regularly in the Blues in the Schools (BITS) Program, where musicians travel to schools to teach and inspire young potential blues fans. I think I would call myself one of his wins in that respect, and I’ve always thought it was funny that it came out of his happy hour set, not a BITS presentation.

Without giving away too many surprises, do you have anything special planned for this unique performance?

Honestly, I think I’m going to do what I always do. I’ll take everything I have been able to learn about blues music and turn it into the best show I can, and maybe we can all get to know each other a little better along the way. Once I’m on the stage I’ll decide what particular instrumental decorations and guitar breaks are right for the moment (heh, if you can even call it deciding).

With all of the great craft beers offered during the event, which one are you most excited to try?

I’m more into the calmer tasting beers, so I think it would have to be either the Belgian Wit (Rivertown Brewing Co.) or the Bavarian Hefeweizen (Star City Brewing Co.).

If you could pair your music with one of the beers being offered, which would it be and why?

I would have to go with The Lesser Path India White (Blank Slate). My blues style isn’t the most common or the most popular one, but I’m hoping that I can inspire a few people that wander in that always liked the sound of a fingerpicked slide guitar.

 

Recording Projects

I spent this Easter weekend in the recording studio. Fortunately this blog format allows me to communicate with my fingers, as I don’t think my voice has the energy.

I’ve started working in the Street Sounds recording studio in Dayton, OH. It’s allowed to gain a lot of experience recording myself in addition to several local artists. I’ve been able to act as a recording engineer for artists like Susan Gardstrom and AJ Baker. Additionally, I’ve been producing an album for Kevin Milner.

I have found recording myself to be a very efficient way to practice. Once I’m happy with how I’m sounding on these new tunes, I’ll be recording the official album tracks later (hopefully not much later) where I can have a few recording engineers work with me to further shape the sound.

I have been releasing these demo tracks on a monthly basis to those who have signed up for my email list, so consider getting yourself on board with that if you’d like to hear some of these demos (email list signup is on the home page).

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As previously mentioned, one of the larger projects I’m working on at Street Sounds is Kevin Milner’s second full length album. We’ve been doing this for a few months now and tracking is nearly complete. He’s been working with many other musicians to put together a pretty cool project. I’ve heard him perform these songs many times, and I’m having a lot fun helping him put these in a physical format.

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Western PA Blues Competition

Last weekend I went to Pittsburgh for their annual blues competition, it’s been about 8 months since I played in Pittsburgh and I think 3 years since my last competition there. It was great to see some of my early supporters, as well as my some of my buddies in the other acts competing.

I ended up getting second place in both the solo/duo division and the overall guitar player ranking (among solos, duos and bands).

I’m glad I got the chance to play another set in Pittsburgh, hope I’ll be back soon.

Although, I’m still looking for a win in these regional competitions to make it back to the International Competition in Memphis. Next stop is the one in North Eastern Ohio on April 26.

See you later

–Chris

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NSAI Cincinnati / Dayton Chapter

Recently I started attending some meeting held by the Cincinnati / Dayton chapter of the Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI). I was previously unaware there was a local chapter, and I never expected it to be as active as it is ( here’s their website )

I know my writing has already improved as a result of these meetings, I would really recommend it to anyone that looking for ways to strengthen their songs.

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Pic from a recent songwriter round at the BRD House

International Radio

This week I wanted to let you know about a couple great international blues stations. The first one is from John and the Blues Underground Network.

You can listen to the podcast here.

 

The second one is in Croatia and is put together by Mladen Loncar.

Here’s his radio page.

 

Both of these guys do a great job showcasing independent blues music from around the world. I’ve found a couple artist that I really like listening to their stuff.

Heh, besides that…both of them happen to play my songs (thanks guys).

See you later.

–Chris

Guitar Workshop at Taffy’s Last Saturday

So I think the web site is starting to look a little better, I think I got all of the necessary information up there but you can just let me know if I overlooked something you want to see, hear, or know.

I gave my first workshop on acoustic guitar on Saturday at Taffy’s in Eaton, OH. I’ve never done something like this, but I think it ended up going really well. I ended up covering a bunch of different things like different chord voicings that might be found in traditional blues numbers. Then I did a little bit about the constant thumb bass (and thumb independence), and some common blues turnarounds and the chord progressions surrounding them.

So if anyone reading this is interested in learning how to play blues guitar, I would start by listening to your favorite guitarists a bunch of times. You’ll find that there is some little line in there that you really like, then just try and find what it is. Maybe use a program like Transcribe! to slow down the song a bit.

And if you can’t figure it out, send me a link to the song, I like to try and figure out stuff like that. Obviously there’s a little more to playing than this, but I think technique gets you to really listen to the classic blues players and you’re going to pick up things that have possible never been put to paper before.

In preparation for my workshop I came across this great video on lyric writing by Pat Pattison that I thought some musicians may find helpful. This thing is a bit long, but I would recommend watching it to any lyricist, or even vocalist interested in arranging songs (especially blues songs were there is a bit more freedom in the phrasing).

I’m always looking for these kinds of videos that could help me figure out a few things I never considered before, so if you know of a good one, post it in a reply. I’d love to see it.

Don’t forget about the show this Saturday at the BellHOP Café.

See you later.

–Chris

Summer Update

Sorry it’s been a while since my last update, I’ve pretty much been working on some new original songs. I think that I can say that I have 5 that are game ready, and another 2 that are getting close. Hopefully I can come up with a full set in the next couple months so I can start recording my next album in December or January. While I was in Memphis I was able to get an early take of one of these tunes done called La Strada. It’s available to listen to, or to download here.

Also, I have of couple of great shows coming up if you are in the area(s). More immediately, I’ll be playing a set and the Diamondback Tavern this Thursday (June 20th) in Ellicott City, MD (like half way between DC and Baltimore). This will be about a 50 minute showcase set.

Next month, I’ll be looking forward to playing the Michelob Dayton Blues Festival on Sunday July 21. My set will be at 1:00pm, but lots of great acts will be playing all day. Later that week (July 25) I’ll be heading to Pittsburgh to share a bill at the Pittsburgh Winery with Melinda, a great Pittsburgh blues-rock artist.

So hopefully I’ll see you around, and let me know what you think of that ‘La Strada’ thing.

See you later.

–Chris

Upcoming shows