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Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2008 12:37 pm

Sampson and the Swedish singer

Rising blues star and Scandinavian folk singer among area headliners

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Untitled Document Remember those music competitions held last year by the Illinois Central Blues Club? The club sponsored one for bands during the Blues & BBQs downtown festival and a later one at the Alamo for solo acts and duos. The winners represented our community at the Blues Foundation’s 24th annual International Blues Challenge, in Memphis, Tenn., during the first of February. Robert Sampson, a multitalented blues singer and instrumentalist who captured the top solo/duo spot for the ICBC, finished as one of six finalists at the Blues Challenge, which is quite an accomplishment. Sampson, a Jacksonville resident, performs regularly at area venues, including wildly popular showings at the Hill Prairie Winery, near Oakford. His performances are enthusiastic, to say the least, with spirited vocals and animated piano, guitar, and harmonica playing, often punctuated with handsprings, uninhibited dancing, and other exciting physical feats. It’s nearly impossible to avoid Sampson’s invitation to join him in clapping, shouting, and singing, with the emotion of the music moment pulling in all within listening distance. Making it to the finals at the Blues Challenge represents the almost automatic opening of a door to blues bookings and business. Many people can play music, but few ever make it to the point of delivering consistent and worthwhile public performances at a professional level. We will watch with anticipation as Sampson reaps the rewards of his fortunate placing, and we send him hearty congratulations on a job well done. On Sunday, Feb. 24, the ICBC sponsors a Blues in the Schools program featuring Sampson as a special guest. The free show, 1-3 p.m., is hosted by the band Pleasure Chest at the Michael J. Howlett Building auditorium (south side of the Capitol complex). Titled “The History of the Blues,” it traces the genre from its rural Deep South origins through the urban Northern movement to today’s universal acceptance as an American art form. Please enter the building through the rear/north doors. • When local singer/songwriter Ben Bedford went on his Scandinavian tour last year, the lucky fellow met some wonderful players. One of those musicians, Eva Hillered, pays a visit to Springfield next week, with performances 9-10 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 24, at the Brewhaus; noon-1 p.m. Monday, Feb. 25, at the Trout Lily Café; and 7-9 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 28, at All About Wine. During her 20-years-and-counting career, Hillered has released several albums, some in her native tongue and the latest in English, in her homeland of Sweden, garnering comparisons to Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez, and Emmylou Harris along the way. Hillered returns to Sweden on Saturday, March 1; Bedford joins her there for another visit in mid-March.
• Calling all performers: Music in Communities and Education needs you! Any and all musicians and bands interested in playing the Old Capitol Farmers’ Market in 2008 should send promo materials to MICE at P.O. Box 9833, Springfield, IL 62791 or e-mail information to Lisa@musicincommunitieseducation.org by Feb. 29.
Contact Tom Irwin at tirwin@illinoistimes.com.
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