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Thursday, March 4, 2010 04:38 am

Guitar town news and blues

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Just when you thought it was safe to stay at home, look at the long list of hopped-up happenings this week. Then next weekend everyone goes green for the St. Patrick’s Day festivities and the celebration of all things Celtic. It seems the wicked are not the only ones getting no rest.

Long a source for talented six-string slingers, Springfield celebrates its area guitarists with a special concert at the Trading Post Saloon on Sunday, March 7, from 2 to 5 in the afternoon. Organized by Mark Estill of the band Texas Toast, the three-hour electric guitar extravaganza features pairings of local guitarists doing what they do best, wailing away on the almighty axe. Estill established the event three years ago as a way for local guitarists to just hang out, “because most of us guitar players got gigs on Saturday nights and never get to see each other.”

The event keeps getting bigger each year, showcasing a variety of different pickers in varying styles. Former participants include local luminaries like Sam Crain, Jaigh Lowder, Tom Woolsey and Bill Evans each performing a particular style of personal music. This year’s scheduled players are Estill, Tim Wallis, Andon Davis, Josh Hutchison, Joe Cooke, Roy Mathy, Michael Webb, Gary Becker, Gwen Harris, Allan Harris, Dave Lumsden, Frank Huston and Mike Smarjesse. The guitarists pair off and play approximately 20- minute sets with “the A-Team” of Bob Young on drums and Mark LeVault on bass as the house band.  This is a great opportunity to catch something wonderful, different and really, really good on the Springfield music scene.

And speaking of terrific guitar players, The Station announced the addition of virtuoso Howard Freitag as the newest member of this volatile and versatile band in transition. Last fall another master musician, bassist Jeff Cunningham, came on board to join in the Station’s mix of funky fusion and pop jams. Now with Freitag adding his immense talent and years of experience into the mix along with founding members drummer/percussionist Dave Carter and vocalist/guitarist/saxophonist Dave Littrell, the band appears to be unstoppable on the way to bigger and better things. Already a well-respected name on the jam band circuit with a successful touring schedule in place, The Station stands poised to rise to another level in the industry. Whatever happens, incredible jamming and dynamic playing is a given. Check out the first Springfield appearance of the new lineup Saturday night, March 6, starting around 10 at Bar None.

The Illinois Central Blues Club celebrates 24 years of keeping the blues alive and well in central Illinois with a concert Saturday night at the Knights of Columbus Hall near Meadowbrook and Iles featuring Robert Sampson and Eric “Guitar” Davis and the Troublemakers, this year’s International Blues Challenge representatives from the ICBC. The group is such an integral part of our cultural community, it’s hard to imagine a world without a Blue Monday Jam at the Alamo, Blues in the Schools, the International Blues Challenge contest, and the various concerts sponsored and supported throughout the year, both indoor and outdoor.

The organization is living proof that concerned and caring people with differences can agree to disagree for the good of all to make something powerful and important work. Congratulations to the ICBC for keeping a commitment to cultural well being going and for doing the hard work necessary to remain a vital and essential organization. It’s good to remember how these ideas become reality and how the threads of a group like the ICBC reach out into the world affecting musicians and listeners all around the country through bookings and participation. Three cheers for the Illinois Central Blues Club. Make that three beers while you’re at it.

Have fun with it all.

Contact Tom Irwin at tirwin@illinoistimes.com

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