Wednesday, October 21, 2009


Travelled over to Houston's Big Easy Club Social and Pleasure Club last Sunday to support my buddy, Sonny Boy Terry (SBT) in his quest to represent Houston in Memphis at the International Blues Challenge (IBC)at the end of January. Each year, blues societies around the world select an unsigned blues artist to represent them at this premier event. Actually they choose a band and also a solo/duo act to send to the challenge. Each society schedules a series of competitions to narrow the field down to the best of the blues bunch. The past two weekends were set aside for two different groups of bands to sling it at the judges and blues enthusiasts. Two bands from seven in each group were selected to proceed. I'd toss out some of the parameters that the judges must adhere to here, but I'd probably muck it up, so go over to the IBC site or to the Houston Blues Society's and read 'em yourself. By the time I put in my appearance at The Big Easy, a band calling themselves the Blues Mafia and another named Bourbon Street had won their prelims the weekend before and were tap to head to Dan Electro's Guitar Bar for the finals (set for 2:30 pm, October 25).

So, the SBT band needed to beat out five other bands to be chosen as one of the two additional finalists. I'll just say (in my biased opinion) that it was no contest. They were simply the best blues band of the bunch--case closed. His band could easily call themselves a blues mafia. They came out dressed to the nines in dark suits with names like Sonny Boy and JZ and JD and Lenny from Pittsburgh. They followed five of the bands (selected by drawing lots), so I they knew what they faced by the time they hit the stage. TC and the Cannonballs followed them, and Sonny Boy's group knew that group of veterans. Not to diss any of the bands, because I enjoyed them all, and they all had something to offer. Brown and Swerve's vocalist sang strong covers of soul type blues, The Snake Charmers' tight red dressed female vocalist did the hoochie mama thang, The Clay Melton Band slung out Stevie Ray Vaughan/Hendrix style of fiery notes, TC and the Cannonballs torched the stage with a loud roadhouse rumble, and Jack Edery and Ultra Suede and the Texas Bluzecats added variety to the blues mix. BUT--Sonny Boy Terry's band just exists on a higher musical plateau that none of the other bands have reached yet, and I think they proved that very well. JZ chose the tastiest guitar notes of the evening to lay on the crowd, and no one plays drums better than JD, and Lenny stayed steady, drove the rhythm, and remained unflappable even as his bass amp crapped out on him. Sonny Boy chose three originals and a cover (which I guarantee no one else on the planet has covered) by the late Ashton Savoy. Let's just say that he boys nailed it, and the judges must have thought so also.

I figured that the well seasoned band, TC and the Cannonballs would join Sonny Boy as the other finalist, but the young pups took the other spot. I don't know how young members of the trio, The Clay Melton Band, are, but they do kick up a fuss with guitar fed through a Marshall stack by the Clay man. I know they pumped the crowd into a frenzy.

So, Sonny Boy will meet up with the young gun again and they'll match blues riffs with the Blues Mafia and Bourbon Street for a little Sunday afternoon showdown. Anyway--I'm pulling for SBT.


Marie Angell said...

Thanks for coming out to the 2nd session of the Houston Blues Society's round of the IBC. (I'm the "hoochie mama" of The Snake Charmers although I hope I'm a little something more than that.)

I agree that Sonny Boy's win was well deserved; I've never seen SBT in such fine form.

Not so sure I agree that it was a total runaway though--all the bands had something interesting to offer and I would not have wanted to be judging the competition.

It'll be an interesting face-off on Sunday at the finals at Dan Electro's, though, that's for sure.

Ricky Bush said...

Hey Marie--

Really, I enjoyed all the bands. I didn't mean "hoochie mama" as an insult--just in reference to the lyrics of one of your songs, and as a blues woman, and in the same context as Muddy's "hoochie man" persona. I enjoyed the Snake Charmers set and, yeah, you are bit more than that.

Sonny Boy's a dear friend. I went to support his band, thus the biased slant of the post. You're right. The bands all had their strong suits and they all presented a substantial challenge. Sunday will be another throw down to face down--but I'm pulling for my buddy all the way. I do want to see him represent Houston, because to me he is Houston blues. Anyway--

Sonny Boy Terry said...

All I can add is this IBC deal has been lots of fun and I am usually. I've know many of the performers for years. I've also met lots of cool people involved in this year's competition. I'm normally extremely cynical about these sort of things that go on locally but me and the band are having a blast. Win, lose or draw, the organizers have made progress solidifying the regional IBCs as it evolves into a professional competition.