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Thursday, Jan. 6, 2011 09:39 am

If you don’t have the blues, get some

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R.J. Mischo performs at the Alamo Jan. 9 at 6 pm.

Once upon a time the blues as a music art form, considered a depraved and morose way of expression by many in the mainstream, didn’t receive the universal respect it now holds. Through the 20th century this traditionally African-American based style of musical lamentation became the foundation for a good percentage of our modern popular music including jazz, R & B, rock-n-roll, country and rock.

In the last 30 years a proliferation of blues clubs throughout the nation helped establish a solid basis for promoting and developing the various forms of this ubiquitous music, as nearly a universal American style as there can be. The blues appropriately transcend race, blending peoples in rhythm and binding them through an expression of troubles shared and common knowledge revealed. From the derogatory comments of authoritarian figures in the 50s it seemed black peoples’ blues music was to be the end of values as promulgated by the principled leaders of morality and decency. Somehow we survived the onslaught of shaking our booty and calling people cool cats to evolve into a better world through singing the blues.

Springfield contributed fairly to the popular growth of the blues through fostering an unbiased sharing of music by those crazy musician people and others unwilling to live life without music in it. Through all the political and racial divisive behavior our fair city fomented in years gone by, live music prevails as a bonding and healing element with blues music the leading contender for the peace prize.    

Most notably an organization known as the Illinois Central Blues Club brought together a diverse group through a love of the blues to instill a sense of community in our community. In 2011 the ICBC celebrates 25 years of officially being an arts organization with a concert on March 5 at the K of C Hall on Meadowbrook Road featuring locals the Mojo Cats and Chicago blues legend Magic Slim and the Teardrops. An incredible milestone in local arts history for sure, but the real story unfolds as the group continues to provide weekly jams and special concerts, brings music education into local schools, supports acts attending blues contests and generally keeps things happening around town through a concerted effort by concerned and caring individuals.

In January during the weekly show at the Alamo the ICBC typically features Springfield-based bands and 2011 is no exception with the Stone Cold Blues Band last week and Cabin Fever this Monday. Other acts include the Groove Daddies Jan. 17 and Texas Groove (with a farewell tribute to drummer Bob Simonson) on Jan. 24. The month concludes with the Sugar Prophets, a Champaign-based band that won our local selection process to represent the ICBC in Memphis for the International Blues Challenge. Solo/duo winners Brooke Thomas and Mike Burnett will also attend the contest as ICBC reps.

This Sun., Jan. 9, at 6 p.m. the organization hosts harmonica ace R.J. Mischo at the Alamo in a good example of how the group makes music happenings happen around town. The annual celebration of the life of Springfield resident and internationally acclaimed bluesman Eddie Snow takes place on March 7 with host Bill Evans leading the commemoration performance.

In related news Frank Parker’s Jambalaya Jam at the Brewhaus on Mondays, often a warmup for attendees of the Alamo jam, is down to one night per month for the time being. This Monday, Jan. 10, Frank is back from New Orleans so don’t miss it. Over at the Southtown Pub bands play the blues every Friday evening as well.

If you’ve got the blues come on out and pass those joys of misery around with others. If you don’t have them maybe you’d better come and get some to share in the wonderful world of the blues.

Contact Tom Irwin at tirwin@illinoistimes.com.

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