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Thursday, Jan. 25, 2018 12:03 am

There goes January

Robert “Lefty Preacher” Sampson plays the Walnut Street Winery in Rochester, on Friday, Jan. 26, from 8 to 11pm.


I think I blinked and missed it, as we are now in the last week of January 2018. Maybe we can blame the fancy flight of time on our ever-happening live music scene that doesn’t quit.

It’s the last Thursday of the month, and that means its time for Americana Night at the Curve Inn, and that brings award-winning trio The Deep Hollow (Dave Littrell, Elizabeth Eckert and Micah Walk) along with troubadour deluxe Ben Bedford to the Ric Major-designed sound stage at the Curve. TDH are deep into recording a new album while continuing to become a tighter-knit performing unit, if that’s possible. Ben proceeds to promote his latest release, The Pilot and the Flying Machine, a live, studio recording done in the Douglas Avenue United Methodist Church sanctuary. Both acts are truly original and deserve much credit for doing the hard and important work of seriously writing songs, recording and promoting albums, and touring to be heard outside our community. Ben also plays at Danenberger Family Vineyards this Sunday afternoon, and TDH recently recorded a live session for “State & Water” on WTVP in Peoria that you can visit online.

On Friday, at the Walnut Street Winery in Rochester, come give a hero’s welcome to bluesman extraordinaire Robert Sampson as he plays his first gig back after attending the world-renowned International Blues Challenge in Memphis. Going as Robert “Lefty Preacher” Sampson to the IBC as a representative from our Illinois Central Blues Club in the solo/duo category, Robert again reached the finals as one of only eight contestants out of the many sent by the 120-plus clubs that participate in the event.

If you think about it, it’s quite a big deal just to get selected to represent a blues society or club at the prestigious event, now in its 34th year. At our contest alone, held during the Old Capitol Blues & BBQ in August, there were several musicians vying for the honor. Multiply that by the 120-some other blues organizations from all over the world and you can see that just getting selected to go is an amazing feat. And it’s even better to be picked to make it to the semifinals while you’re participating and performing in front of the audiences and judges in Memphis. But landing in the “finals” as a possible winner of the whole shebang is an incredible achievement reached only by a privileged few. And even though Robert has never won the whole thing, he has made it to the finals several times, a more fantastic accomplishment in the bigger picture than going once and winning it all, in my humble opinion. So thank you, Robert, from all of us, for sharing your tremendous talents with the world and putting central Illinois front and center on the blues map.

Speaking of blues, check out the new kid in town on Saturday when Chris Camp and his Blues Ambassadors hang out at Lime Street Cafe for an evening of blues and more blues. Chris, known as The Whip Guy in his day job, turns out to be a handsomely dressed frontman, a superb interpreter of the blues, and a devilishly sweet harmonica player. He’s also assembled a crack band of local music veterans to support this endeavor, making for a double-down package of good stuff in the almighty real world.

Out in Riverton on Saturday night, The Backroom Lounge welcomes traveling Texas singer-songwriters Tom McElvain and Joe Austin. Do yourself a favor and go to the Backroom Lounge’s Facebook page and check out this venue and these guys, plus all the other fantastic Americana musicians coming up out there soon.

See you in February.

Contact Tom Irwin at

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