The International Blues Challenge 2010
If you didn’t make the International Blues Challenge you missed out. When the IBC began in 1985, it was a competition to find the world's greatest unsigned blues artists. Today IBC hosts winners of Blues societies from all over the world and gives away three top place winners to “Best Band,” “Best Solo/Duet,” and “Best Self-Produced CD”. What better place to host than the home of the Blues?
With over 200 bands and solo acts competing for cash, prizes, and industry recognition, winners Grady Champion from Canton, MS of the Mississippi Delta Blues Society of Indianola finished out on top as “Best Band”. Champion captured the crowd with his soulful voice, harmonica playing, and high-energy. They beat out other competitors from around the world- twelve different countries to be exact. To find out more about Grady Champion, visit the official site
of Grady Champion.
Matt Andersen, sponsored by Harvest Jazz and Blues from Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada, walked off with the award for "Best Solo/Duet.” Matt was born in Bairdsville, N.B., and got his start doing blues covers. He is now based in Halifax and writes his own original material. Andersen's recent CDs include Matt Andersen: Live from the Phoenix Theatre and Piggyback, by Matt Andersen & Mike Stevens. To find out more about Matt visit his website.
Artist Matt Kelly of “The Big Boy Little Band,” sponsored by the DC Blues Society, was awarded a blue custom Gibson guitar featuring The Blues Foundation logo in recognition as the event's top blues guitarist. With the philosophy, "It's not rock, it's not jazz, it's blues and playing blues is what we do.” Big Boy has opened for blues icons such as B.B. King, Koko Taylor and Junior Wells. For more information on Big Boy visit Big Boy Little Band on Myspace Music.
The award for "Best Self-Produced CD" happened to be a tie with the Laurie Morvan Band's Fire It Up! and The Informants for their Crime Scene Queen album. To find out more, visit lauriemorvan.com
or The Informants at theinformantsband.com.
I hung around B.B. King’s for most of the competition seeing that it is Memphis’s premier Blues spot. I ran into a band that, although they didn’t make it to the finals, stood out to me nonetheless. This band was none other than the Mandolin Brothers.
When the lead singer, Jimmy Ragazzon (pictured) , introduced the band, I could barely make out a word he said. Where were these people from? Well, turns out they came all the way from Milan, Italy. The most surprising part was that all of their lyrics were in clear English. I spoke with the lead singer Ragazzon- who also plays a mean harmonica, guitar, and rubboard- and he said that this is how they sing their songs in Italy too.
"We sing in English and we play basically american music but with the mandolin and the accordion. We try to put some kind of Italian flavor in it." Well, it tasted delicious to me..with a dash of Johnny cash’s prison drum beat, a slice of Bob Dylans vocals, and a splash of Blues Traveler front man, John Popper’s, harmonica playing. I told this to my friend as we sat and soaked in the soulful, yet vibrant tunes, and after the show I learned that Bob Dylan is indeed one of the band’s idols. Even more impressive, the band (who spoke broken English) knew more about Memphis and the blues than I - a born and bred resident - did.
The band’s collection of songs consisted of their original work along with revisited and tweaked cover songs that had a personal touch. Or, tocco unico if you will.
After speaking with the band for several hours, I left with a free CD and an invitation to Italy. Not bad for a Friday night in Memphis at B.B. King’s. To learn more about the Mandolin Brothers visit MandolinBrothersBand.com