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Wednesday, May 28, 2008 01:39 am

Taylorville’s got the blues

Christian County is the place to be on Saturday

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Soulard Blues Band headlines the BBQ, Blues & Cruise festival on Saturday, May 31.

Perhaps you’re wondering: What in the name of some Mississippi crossroads does the blues have to do with Taylorville, Ill., the quiet little seat of Christian County. The locals down there in charge of a first-time festival are doing it right by booking awesome blues acts to complement a national and local barbecue cook-off, classic-car show, and other events. The shindig, officially titled “BBQ, Blues & Cruise,” is sponsored by Taylorville Main Street, an organization similar to Downtown Springfield Inc. here in the capital city.
Of course we care about the barbecue, the cruise, and that other stuff, but let’s be blunt: Eating is important and so is transportation, but only in the sense that they allow us to function and get to wherever there is live music. There’s plenty of that at the festival, starting at noon with the Voodoo Blues Band, up from Hammerstone’s, a tavern in the famed Soulard district of St. Louis, where the six-piece group, replete with horns, has held a regular gig for more than 10 years. Founded by none other than the late, great Bennie Smith, the legendary St. Louis electric-blues guitarist, the hard-driving blues-shuffle band is a treasure trove of acclaimed musicians. Springfield blues lovers, especially members of the Illinois Central Blues Club, are surely familiar with the Kilborn Alley Blues Band, the next group on the festival stage. Nominated for Best Contemporary Blues Album in 2008 by the Blues Foundation, the most prestigious organization in the industry, this dynamic blues combo from Champaign-Urbana is finally garnering well-deserved credit on a national level. Kilborn Alley lost out to Tommy Castro, another blues artist familiar to Springfield fans, but the nomination alone is a phenomenal accomplishment. Here’s something for you local trivia buffs: Kilborn was the maiden name of lead vocalist/guitarist and founding member Andrew Duncanson’s mother, and she went to grade school in Taylorville. How about that for a local connection? Headlining the festival, at 7 p.m., is none other than the Soulard Blues Band, hailing from — you guessed it — St. Louis. Formed 30 years ago by bassist Art Dwyer (the only original member remaining), the group has played hundreds of venues and thousands of shows while having the finest musicians in the Gateway City travel through the band. It’s fair to say the SBB is a tradition in the Midwest for excellent blues music. While we’re on a blue note, here’s a quick heads-up for all you aspiring blues performers. The Illinois Central Blues Club hosts its second annual Blues Challenge on Saturday, Aug. 23, during the Old Capitol Blues & BBQ. A cash prize plus a spot at the 2009 International Blues Challenge awaits the winning entry. Sign up your group by calling 217-622-0340 or visiting www.icbluesclub.org.
Experience the 2008 BBQ, Blues & Cruise at the Christian County Fairgrounds, in Taylorville, 10 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturday, May 31. For more information, go to www.downtowntaylorville.com or call 217-824-3555.
Contact Tom Irwin at tirwin@illinoistimes.com
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