CHICAGO: Via Laporte Blues Fest

Posted on 8/19/2009 by Monica Yasher

My week is filled with Music. Previous readers of my posts know what a great time can be had at one particular venue; the “Cool River Draughthouse and Eatery.” I can hear music literally 24/7, but sometimes I just have to cool my jets. Thursday night is one night that I really look forward to. You will always find me hanging at that club. It is a great place not only to play, but to pick up new story ideas. A journalist/musician would have to be pretty stupid not to take advantage of the networking capabilities available in that venue. I have listened to some great artist’s and have made some lifelong friendships there. The owner Mike and I have become close friends and we share info about different acts and venues. I might add that Mike and I are “Blues Fanatics” plain and simple. We have closed a couple of west side clubs these past few months. I shared with him Kelly Richie.

I woke up Saturday morning and checked my Facebook page. I use Facebook to help monitor the music scene and also use it for story ideas. Lately I have been looking at women guitar slingers. Kelly Richie is one such artist. I have been trying to check out her act for a couple of months. Saturday there was a message telling me that she would be performing in Laporte, Indiana. Laporte is 100 miles from my house. Kelly Richie was to perform at 6pm

I packed my notebook, camera, folding deck chair and off I went. An hour and a half later I was there. The fest was held in Fox Memorial park on the shores of I think Fish trap lake. It is truly a beautiful setting. The park has a natural bowl shape that affords everyone a very nice view. The promoter of the fest was SDY Promotions and the main mover and shaker was Shane. I did not get his last name, but he is to be commended for the wonderful job he did putting the fest together. The sound was handled by Audio One* from Laporte (219-561-1169) with Tommy spinning the dials. Shane made a great choose in choosing Tommy and his company. They know what to do and they do it very well. The sound I heard from the audience side was crisp and clean. I extend Kudos to Tommy and Audio One.

Kelly kicked off at the exact time. I sat there pen in hand ready for a great show and it was not great, but rather indescribable. I was stunned. Kelly Richie is in the top ten of not only women guitar slingers, but men slingers as well. Wait a minute make that the top five. Yours truly considers her to be the top guitar slinger I have ever seen or heard period. I’m sure I’ll get comments about that, but hey that’s my opinion.

An attempt to put into words what I saw and heard is futile, because the written word can not accurately describe my experience, but the written word is the only media I have to convey to you what transpired.

I have finally found my guitar hero and it is Kelly. I had seen Stevie Ray Vaughn in a banquet hall prior to his hit record “Pride and Joy”. He was a brand new upcoming guitarist at that time. He was backing up Albert Collins in an eighty seat venue. The feeling I got watching Stevie came back to me watching Kelly. When you see an artist that is destined for stardom you just know. I was awestruck and folks I am pretty jaded when it comes to guitar players’ young or old. With the arrival of the computer age anyone can learn to play guitar, but few of them can ever expect to approach the Guitar wizardry that Kelly does.

Jimmy Hendrix’s version of “Hey Joe”, has been beaten to death by so many artist’s that I personally am tired of it. Kelly you changed my outlook entirely. Your approach was extraordinary. During your performance the audience rushed the stage. Could it be a coincident that the first day of Woodstock took place forty years ago to the day of your performance? I looked up in the sky and saw a cloud formation that looked like Jimmy, strat in hand playing along. He strummed that strat while mouthing the words “You go girl”. I am not saying that Kelly copied the song, but rather far from it, she owned it and happily shared ownership with us. The first thirty seconds set the tracks for the musical train journey. The next ten minutes took yours truly and all those in attendance on a psychedelic ride. Jimmy was the initial conductor, but Kelly was the engineer. She took that song originally first recorded by the Los Angeles group “The Leaves” in 1965 and stood it on its head. I am going on record here when I say Kelly is a Guitar Goddess. The fluidity of her guitar playing was haunting and like a true artist, exquisite. Sometimes magical things happen on stage and this performance was one of those moments.

Kelly’s vocals are very reminiscent of a Cincinnatian. That is not a bad thing, but rather a wonderful one. Her voice is spot on and a true delight to hear. She can sing very sultry in one moment and then in the next blues out right from the gut.

In composing this post I utilized not only her live performance at the blues fest, but also information from her electronic press kit. Her songwriting ability is top notch. I love the John Lee Hooker style opening riff in “My Baby’s Gone Crazy”. “The Longest Yard” is pure artistry at its best. It is a haunting instrumental that reminds me of some of the great instrumental songs that precede hers. Kelly almost bought me to tears with this song. I will not try to pigeon hole it comparing it to a song that has been performed before. It is way beyond that. “Tears Like Rain” is an example of the blues on steroids. Kelly plays the blues like some of the great sixties super rock groups. You know the ones that had the private jets and the backstage extravagant buffets that almost bankrupted the music industry. Her vocals on “Tears Like Rain” are extremely bluesy and her guitar, utilizing octaves, is thrilling. The sound she achieves with that Stratocaster and deluxe reverb amp is truly amazing. Her lead guitar riffs are mind-blowing and awe-inspiring. I had a bottle of water in hand and just as I was trying to take a sip she broke out into a lead solo that dropped my jaw. I could not take a drink, because I was totally focused on her.

Her band includes Jimmy V on bass and Bryan Meyers on Drums. They are great sidemen who throw it down and play in the pocket. They are a solid foundation for Kelly’s virtuosity. They have just enough flash that the audience knows they are there, but they do not steal the spotlight like so many others try to. Kelly and her group complement each other and that is the way it should be. Jimmy on bass is a well seasoned bass man that has been with Kelly for four years. Bryan is the newest member of the troupe having only been with her for four months. You wouldn’t know it given the way he holds the groove. They are both outstanding musicians in their own right. I have always said that the whole sound starts with the kick drum and Byran knows how to kick it.

Kelly has broken or may I say tore down the gender wall of guitar players. She ended her performance by flashing the peace sign. Pretty cool considering that she is the “Warrior Princess of the blues.”

Look out Buddy and Eric there is a new kid on the block and she is kicking butt and taking names.

I will be back at Kelly’s performance again and again and again. I think I’m turning into a groupie. Oh what the H—E-- double hockey sticks for Kelly, I am one. After this performance I stopped in at The Cool River Club and told Mike all about it.

One closing thought, an artist that knows where the zone is, and realizes that the path to greatness has to happen in that zone will go right to the top. Kelly owns the zone.


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American Blues News Staff

What makes American Blues News unique is our coverage across America. Here is our lineup:

Mon: Memphis Correspondent - Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms
Nighthawk is our resident globetrotter and man behind the scenes, as he tours with the Reba Russell Band.

Tues: New York Correspondent - J. Blake
Blake is the American Blues News review and interview guru. You may catch him out and about in NY playing the blues.

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