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INTRODUCING

CONTEMPORARY WOMAN OF BLUES

AMELIA ROSE WALSH

of Blue Spectrum

Amelia Rose Walsh is a twenty-three-year-old professional keyboardist, composer, and vocalist who resides in Grandview Heights, Ohio.  She grew up in a home filled with music such as Eric Clapton, Carlos Santana, Robert Cray, and unique blues artists such as Buckwheat Zydeco.

At an early age, Amelia showed an interest in the keyboards that her family had around the house. By the time she was six, she was signed up for piano lessons and soon showed and aptitude for quickly absorbing and applying what she learned. Piano lessons continued for another eight years.

By seventh grade, Amelia was composing and performing her own music and was invited to join the Grandview Heights High School Jazz Ensemble. When she was old enough her mother started taking her to open mic nights and blues jam sessions around Columbus, OH. At open jam sessions at what used to be Sun Studios on Alum Creek Drive in Columbus, Amelia learned to play with other musicians. It was here that Amelia was invited to join Blue Spectrum a blues and r&b band lead by lead guitar player Zayne Harshaw. Other members of the band include “Uncle Al” Jefferson as bassist and singer, saxophonist Clifford Marsh aka “Saxual Chocolate”.

Amelia and equally phenomenal lead guitarist of Blue Spectrum, Zayne Harshaw, perfectly complement each other. Their musical chemistry is serendipitous and captivating.

Amelia’s interpretation of Little Wing, by Jimi Hendrix, was a pleasant surprise and blew me away. In this recording, she is performing with Blue Spectrum. Harshaw comes in later.

The second song is a cover, performed by Blue Spectrum, of a Grover Washington song, Mr. Magic.

“Where I Ought to Be” is an original written and composed by Amelia Rose.

One of Amelia’s favorite places to perform is the Dolphin Lounge at 345 Agler Rd in Gahanna, OH. Every Monday night they have what has become known as the longest blues jam in history. This was originated by blues guitarist and native to Gahanna Rick Boales about thirty-seven years ago. Amelia encourages anyone who is there that recognizes her to come up and introduce yourself.

Blue Spectrum has performed nationwide, but most recently at the Last Call Music Bar and Grill in Dublin, OH. A list of local venues where they have performed is extensive and includes Miami University, Larry B’s in Westerville, OH, Papa Boo’s on Buckeye Lake, and Creekside Blues Festival in Gahanna, OH.

The following is Amelia’s mesmerizing interpretation of “I Put a Spell on You”.

The contact name and number for booking Blue Spectrum is Gene Harshaw (614)-323-4053

Contact Amelia Rose amelia@missameliarose.com or at (614)-804-3485 and (614)-316-4708

Amelia is truly an amazing woman of contemporary blues. She credits much of her success to her mother Cynthia Grove Walsh.

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Jackie Venson

In a world shrouded in clouds of uncertainty, Jackie Venson is a welcomed breath of fresh air. Jackie started playing guitar only nine years ago. Her mastery of the instrument and smooth vocals combine to create a sound that is all her own.

Venson’s love of music began at an early age. She credits her father, a professional musician, as one of her main influences in music. She struggled with piano lessons as a child, but later fell in love with the guitar, when she saw a performance at her alma mater Burklee School of Music. Although she was disappointed in what the school had to offer she graduated in 2011 with a degree in music.

Jackie Venson mentions Buddy Guy, Sade, and Alicia Keys as her main influences, but in this live recording of ” Always Free,” she channels Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughn with seamless ease.

It is no surprise that Jackie Venson was born and raised in Austin Texas. Like many other talented musicians from Austin, Jackie was able to cultivate her skills in an environment and culture rich in musical talent, which the town is known for.

The acoustic version of “Always Free”, really exemplifies her her skills as a vocalist as well as a musician,

Jackie Venson has released three studio albums, “The Light in Me”, in 2014, “Jackie Venson Live”, in 2016, and ” Live at Strange Brew”, in 2016 and a host of other extended plays and singles. Some of her best work can be heard on YouTube daily as she performs live, from home, as many have been doing since the pandemic started earlier this year.

Jackie’s music has been described as a blend of blues, rock, and pop, but images of George Benson popped into my head when I first heard her play. I would describe her music as more blues, rock, and jazz. Her smooth voice lends itself, without a doubt, to jazz. interpretation.

“Lost in Time”, and ” Don’t Lie to Me”, with their reggae, beat, would please Bob Marley.

Jackie Venson is a strong contender in the world of contemporary women of blues. Jackie’s style is honest, smooth, and unique. Her talent has already attracted a huge following and has been embraced worldwide. You can hear a daily live performance from Jackie on YouTube and experience her lighthearted humor and personality.

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Larkin Poe

Larkin Poe is the name of a band headed by sisters, Rebecca Lovell and Megan Lovell, from Atlanta, GA. They have been playing a potpourri of music since 2005. They were raised in a family that was passionate about music with their father an avid classic rock fan and their mother being a fan of classical music. At the early ages of three and four, Rebecca and Megan were enrolled in classical violin lessons. By the time they heard bluegrass they had already acquired fundamental knowledge of music. They were impressed with bluegrass and they decided to embrace the indigenous music of their home. Rebecca, Megan, and older sister Jessica formed a bluegrass band called The Lovell Sisters. As The Lovell Sisters, they toured for four years and made an appearance on Garrison Keeler’s radio show on NPR The Prairie Home Companion, and most notably they performed on the famous stage of The Grand Ole Opry.

Although they were performing primarily as a bluegrass band The Lovell Sister would often bust out with a Hendrix or even Led Zeppelin song.

The girls disbanded in 2009 when they formed their current band, Larkin Poe. Rebecca is a talented guitarist and not bad on the mandolin. Megan is the lap steel savant of the band and maintains a driven force that exemplifies the sound of Larken Poe.

Their albums thus far are Kin 2014, Reskinned 2016, Peach 2017, Venom and Faith 2018, and soon to come Self Made Man which is due out 6/2020. Larkin Poe was voted Best Discovery if Glastenbury 2014 by the UK’s Observer. Their album Venom and Faith was number one on the Billboard blues album chart and was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Blues Album.

https://youtu.be/IlYKXbkdCCg

The girls toured extensively with Elvis Costello, who definitely had them under his wing and no doubt helped launch their career. Costello even turned down a spot on The Conan O’Brien Show and suggested he book Larkin Poe. Although they give credit where credit is due, Rebecca and Megan, in an interview with Damien Burford, state that they are proud of their hard work and perseverance. At the young ages of 25 and 26, they are still inspired by other musicians.

Rebecca and Megan established a YouTube presence and accumulated a large following. Being contemporary women they prefer not to be labeled or feel restricted to one genre. Megan’s mesmerizing muse guided lap steel playing and the girl’s bluesy voices make it difficult to not categorize them as quintessential blues artists. Their music is rife with Allman Brother, Jimmy Page, Hendrix, and Credence influences as well as Rebecca’s favorite Jeff Buckley. They have recently familiarized themselves with the earlier greats. Both agree that they learn something new every day and credit a lot of their experience and knowledge to Elvis Costello, whose wisdom and experience he kindly shared on tour.

Larkin Poe has established a strong presence in the blues circuit and will most likely be considered legendary performers for decades to come. I am still trying to remove the heavy proverbial rock that I have been living under, as I have just recently discovered the music of Larkin Poe and now I can’t get enough.

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLIljkTiOJ8P_s8UJeHwfVOzjAnKB-26ca

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Debbie Davies

Debbie Davies is one of the most interesting and talented of all the women of contemporary blues. She is one of the first women from the ’60s, to pick up an electric guitar and learn to jam with the best. Although blues legends like Memphis Minnie and Rosetta Tharpe, had paved the way for female blues guitarists and singers, women who played electric guitar in the ’60s were scarce. Most female musicians of the era, preferred or perhaps felt limited to acoustic guitars, but this, even in retrospect, seems inadvertent. Having grown up in a family of eclectic musical taste, and in a decade when music was transforming and becoming a major influence in society, Debbie’s blues education came somewhat osmotically. She loved listening to her father’s Ray Charles albums and became partial to blues. When she was later introduced to the music of Eric Clapton and John Mayall, her mind was made up. She picked up the electric guitar and never looked back.

Debbie Davies grew up in Los Angeles, a Mecca for musicians of the ’60s. She was surrounded by the music of the era like Cream, Led Zeppelin, and The Doors. She honed her skills by playing with various bands in the San Francisco Bay Area but returned to her hometown to join a band formed by John Mayall’s wife called Maggie Mayall and the Cadillacs, an all-female band. She also played with Fingers Taylor and the Ladyfinger Revue, who opened for Jimmy Buffet during his 1991 tour. Her hard work paid off when she was recruited by the legendary Albert Collins to go on your with his band, the Icebreakers.

Collin’s being experienced on the road was well known and loved at all the truck stops and diners they stopped at between gigs. They often arrived at gigs just shortly before it was time to go on. A set playlist was not his forte and Debbie soon learned to pick up on cues as to which song they were doing next. She describes the Icebreakers as one of the most powerful bands she ever played with.

In 1993 Debbie Davis debuted her first solo release called Picture This on Blind Pig records. Following that was Blues Blast, an energetic collaboration which also featured two other legendary guitarists Tab Benoit, Coco Montoya, and renowned harmonica player Charlie Musselwhite. In 2009 she recorded Holdin’ Court, an entirely instrumental album. In 2012 she recorded an album of all original songs called After the Fall and another all-original album in 2015 called Love Spin.

In 1997 and 2010 Debbie Davis was nominated for and won an award for Best Female Blues Artist. John Mayall has been quoted saying, “I believe my reputation backs up my ability to recognize exceptional blues guitarists. Such a one us Debbie Davies.” Coco Montoya was quoted saying, ” She knows what the blues are all about and you can hear it in the passion of her playing.” It is no doubt that Debbie Davies is highly respected and talented in the blues world and truly ranks highly among the best.

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Sue Foley

I discovered Sue Foley’s music while I was researching the late great Deborah Coleman. Sue Foley, Roxanne Potvin, and Deborah Coleman formed the Thrillseekers and recorded an album together in 1995 called, “Takin’ a Stand.” In 2007 they recorded another album together called “Timebomb” the title song of the album. This song is an instrumental and features the work of each artist individually and a rich mixture of their combined talent. Within the story of each artist there resides the story of another. One leads to the next, but all roads seem to lead to Austin.

Sue Foley grew up in Ottawa Ontario. She learned to play guitar at the age of thirteen and by the age of 16 had already formed the Sue Foley Band and was touring Canada. By the time she was twenty one she had made her way to Austin, where she recorded for Antone’s blues label and nightclub. Her first release was “Young Girl Blues”, in 1997. She recorded numerous times as featured guest and holds claim to more than 10 solo albums.

Sue Foley’s most recent accomplishment is her album “Ice Queen”, a title which she attributes to her roots in Canada. Featured guests on the album include Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, Jimmie Vaughan of the Fabulous Thunderbirds, and Charlie Sexton.

Sue Foley plays like she’s on fire on “Ice Queen.” With powerful finesse she starts the song out Fabulous Thunderbirds style and then cleverly incorporates melodic patterns reminiscent of Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan.

” They call me the Ice Queen, ’cause I’m cool and detached,” Foley explains in her song. Not only is she a skilled performer, but also competes with the best when it comes to song writing.

Sue Foley has won and been nominated for a myriad of awards. For “Ice Queen”alone, she has to her credit, a Juno Award nomination for Blues Album of the year 2019, Maple Blues Award winner for Guitarist of the Year, Blues Music Award nominee for Song of the Year, and the 2019 Koko Taylor Award for Traditional Blues Female.

Sue Foley is, no doubt, an asset to the world of blues. She has earned her place among the queens of blues in Austin. Although proud of her Canadian roots Foley has a sound that, in the best of all ways, screams Texas!

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Ruthie Foster News: Ruthie Foster (@_RuthieFoster_)

Just received the following notification:

Check out Ruthie Foster on Twitter. Ruthie’s “Big Band- Live at The Paramount” album will be out on 5/15! 1st song Phenomenal Woman is out now. Pre-order/Pre-save: https://t.co/6kiWcmOc7O https://twitter.com/_RuthieFoster_?s=20

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Ruthie Foster

Ruthie Foster is another blues legend from Austin. In Austin’s ‘Notes in Time’, she fondly discusses her ties to Austin. Once she moved there she noticed the warmth, friendliness, and kindness of the music community that thrives there. Friends invite friends to play music together and provide encouragement and support for each other. Charity fundraising concerts are common in Austin and often the musicians physically help out when tragedy from natural disasters or hardships strike. It’s no wonder that so many are drawn there.

Ruthie Foster grew up in Gauze, a small town in Texas. She was raised by a single mom, who was a strict disciplinarian. Ruthie’s knowledge of music grew from her church choir days. Her first solo performance was at 14 in the church choir. She absorbed and grew to appreciate any and all kinds of music, gospel, folk, rock, jazz, and blues. This mixture of influences can be heard in the music she plays and writes. One unexpected song that I found by Ruthie Foster is on a video, where she plays her very own version of Black Sabbath’s “War Hogs”. With her bluesy voice accompanied by dobro, she transforms this song into something really special.

After highschool, Ruthie Foster moved to Waco to attend community college, where she studied audio engineering. After forming a blues band and playing numerous bars in Texas, she felt she needed to see the world and broaden her experiences and joined the Navy. Her strict upbringing prepared her for whatever the Navy dished out. While in the Navy her love of music persisted and she even began singing with a Navy band.

Ruthie Foster is well established in the blues world. She has a long list of awards, and accomplishments, which include three Grammy Blues Music Awards and three for best female vocalist. She has traveled and performed all over the world including Cuba. Ruthie Foster has shared the stage with other blues legends such as her good friend Carolyn Wonderland and Bonnie Raitt and collaborated on her latest album, ‘Joy Comes Back’, with the phenomenal Susan Tedeschi Trucks and her husband Derrick. One of my favorite Ruthie Foster songs is an original she wrote and performed at the Kitchener Blues Festival in a video from 2014, “Up Above My Head (I Hear Music in the Air)” . Listen as she effortlessly but skillfully blends gospel, blues, jazz and soul.

Ruthie Foster has also been awarded by the Living Blues Awards, Best Live Performer. Like her friend, Carolyn Wonderland, her charitable work cannot go without mention. After the coastal flood devastated such a vast stretch of the Texas Coastal community, Ruthie Foster participated in a benefit concert with Bonnie Raitt, Willie Nelson, Paul Simon, and James Taylor.

Another original by Ruthie Foster is called “Runaway Soul”, from her album ‘Runaway Soul’. Her she performs at the Songwriters Festival in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida 2018.

Ruthie Foster has recorded numerous albums. Her most recent ‘Joy Comes Back’, was recorded in 2017, ‘The Truth According to Ruthie Foster’, and ‘The Phenomenal Ruthie Foster’, and ‘Heal Yourself’, are among others. She has had a long-standing relationship with and records under the Blue Corn Music label.

Ruthie Foster is truly one of a kind, and holds a well founded place among the legendary female blues artists.

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Carolyn Wonderland

It’s easy to put the women that I write about, on such a high pedestal, that they seem super human. I know I am describing most successful musicians when I say that no one works harder and perseveres more. They work months on end, touring the world, away from their families. Often their schedules are such that even eating at a restaurant, in a foreign country, is out of the question, let alone exploring or acting like a tourist for a day. Even to get where they are in life, they have spent hours alone practicing and fine tuning their skills, until they found their voice, their sound, that made them stand out above the rest. Perhaps, once on stage they forget all their concerns and release them in the music they play. Taking all this in, it sometimes makes it difficult to even begin to feel worthy enough to write about them. I feel this way more for some than others. That is why it took me so long to write my next post, on one of my favorites, Carolyn Wonderland.

One of the first songs I heard her play was “The Wind Cries Mary”, by Jimi Hendrix. I am a faithful Hendrix fan, so when someone attempts one of his songs, my ears perk up like a curious dog. Not everyone can play a Hendrix song and really pull it off, with the exception of Stevie Ray Vaughn, Robert Randolph, or female rock phenom Orianthi. Carolyn Wonderland’s version of “The Wind Cries Mary”, which she plays on electric mandolin, tops my list of favorites.

Carolyn Wonderland can channel Janis Joplin, Stevie Ray Vaughn, and Hendrix all in one song and still make it sound originally hers.

Bonnie Raitt pairs up with Carolyn Wonderland’s version of the old Blind Willie Johnson song “Ain’t Nobody’s Fault But Mine”.

This performance is part of a film called “Road to Austin”.

In an NPR interview Carolyn Wonderland talks about how she grew up in Houston. She never wanted to be a singer but learned how to play every instrument she could get her hands on. Among the instruments she plays are guitar, mandolin, lap steel, ukelele, trumpet, and piano. Austin, the blues Mecca, beckoned. There, after some coaxing she began to sing, and once she did, lucky for us, she never stopped.

Recently, Carolyn Wonderland collaborated with John Mayall, on an album called “Nobody Told Me”. Like a lot of blues performers, she and John Mayall have a large following in Europe and Australia. Tour dates have been posted with performances throughout the United States, New Zealand, and Australia, till the end of Spring. More tour dates for later in the year will be announced.

As if being a multi talented performer wasn’t enough, there is so much more to Carolyn Wonderland. When she isn’t touring she is busy performing with the Golden Crown Harmonizers, raising money for food banks, homeless shelters, and for the legalization of marijuana in Austin. She is also a board member for an assisted living facility for aging musicians, some of whom helped transform our music to what it is today. Carolyn Wonderland’s sweet personality shines through in interviews. Her practical and down to earth approach to life make her seem like someone you could know in your neighborhood. On one NPR interview she advised those new to the music industry to “Be realistic, live cheap, share. This business is brutal, to weed out those who are not in it for life”. Sounds like good words to live by musician or not.

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Joanne Shaw Taylor

“Sven Mandel / CC-BY-SA-4.0”

Joanne Shaw Taylor was born in England. Her father played guitar and harmonica. Her brother played guitar, later lost interest, and passed the guitar down to Joanne. As a child she asked for private lessons and studied guitar at school. After you hear her music, you will not be surprised to know she was trained as a classical guitarist. Stevie Ray Vaughn, sparked her interest in blues. She loved the freedom of expression it offered. Her dad nurtured her interest in blues by steering her in the right direction and by 16 she recorded her first album, White Sugar, in 2009. Joanne Shaw Taylor, is a regular at bluesfests throughout the country. She has shared the stage with blues greats such as Warren Haynes, Marcus King, Susan Tedeschi, Derrick Trucks. She is an amazing and successful woman in the world of blues. Her tour to promote her latest album, Reckless Heart,begins in March.

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Janis Joplin

One cannot discuss contemporary women of Blues without including Janis Joplin. Janis Joplin is and always will be a significant cultural icon of the sixties and contemporary blues. Amidst the Vietnam war, the civil Rights movement, the peace movement, and women’s liberation, the winds of change swept across our country and delivered a package wrapped in paisley and pink boas, namely Janis Joplin. The popularity and use of mind expanding drugs had ushered in a rush of creativity which encompassed all genres of art. To think outside the box was the norm. Music became more than just about love or unrequited love. It was about a unifying love of humanity and was the most powerful mode of communication of the era. Spiritual growth and mindfulness came naturally and were not reduced to an app on a cell phone timed to go off at a certain time. Abuse of capitalism and right wing ideology began to smother the flame of hope that the sixties offered,but the embers were still burning through mid seventies. There were other iconic singers and musicians representative of that era, but of all the women,no one took the world by storm like Janis Joplin.

Janis Joplin’s iconoclastic bohemian style further perpetuated a look that was already emerging in society. Contemporary as well as avant garde merged in her style and in the world in which she lived. Appreciation for the nostalgic was evident in her appearance and performances.

“Summertime”, a Gershwin song originally written for the 1935 opera “Porgy and Bess”, although a jazz tune is oftentimes a favorite of blues performers. Janis Joplin’s rendition of this song is passionate and hauntingly mesmerizing. Her delivery is strong and forcefully exemplifies her range and improvisational talent.

Another one of my favorites is “Ball and Chain”, a blues tune written and originally recorded by Willa Mae “Big Mama” Thornton. “Big Mama”, was the first to record “Hound Dog.” Janis Joplin definitely takes this song to a different level, defining it as her own.

Another Janis Joplin song which is a must listen is “Piece of My Heart”. This song was originally recorded by Erma Franklin in 67 and is equally as satisfying, but Joplin made the song a hit in 68.

Today Janis Joplin is best know for her song “Mercedes Benz” and “Me and Bobby McGee.” “Mercedes Benz”, was written by Joplin and two popular beat poets Michael McClure and Bob Neuwirth. The song is a satirical statement about our materialistic society and is sung a capella by Joplin on her “Pearl”, album, which she recorded with her band, Big Brother and the Holding Company 1970.

Janis Joplin may have owned a Mercedes Benz at some point, but she truly owned a 1964 Porsche, which she had custom painted. Here it sits on display at the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio. The car sold at Sothebys auction for 1.76 million in 2015.

“Me and Bobby McGee”, was written by Kris Kristofferson and launched his career to stardom at a time when he was ready to pack it up and leave Nashville. The version I’ve included is just her sweet whimsical voice and guitar.

Janis Joplin was found deceased by her friend, Peggy Caserta, at the Landmark Hotel of Hollywood on 10/4/70. It is said that she died of a drug overdose. Dearly loved by millions, Janis Joplin’s spirit remains strong through her Fan’s memories and her music.