Friends of the Blues at the River Bend in Kankakee by Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms and Down on Main by Brian Laprade

Posted on 7/12/2010 by Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms

(Memphis, Tennessee) This week we take a trip north to Illinois to reconnect with our dear friends in Kankakee, Illinois. The Friends of the Blues have sponsored great musical events in this part of the world for many years and we are fortunate to know James "Sky Dobro" Walker and D'Arcy "Shuffleshoes" Ballinger who have brought us into the area many times to play for these wonderful blues fans. This night was no exception, a clear and pretty July 3rd, the day before the 4th when we traveled down the highway to Davenport, Iowa, to play the Mississippi Valley Blues Festival. More on that event next Monday.

D'Arcy "Shuffleshoes" Ballinger and Josh Roberts

**Friends of the Blues Radio Show is hosted by lifelong local blues aficionados D’Arcy Ballinger and James Walker. The show is named after a loose knit group of local Blues fans and the two helped create in 2006. D’Arcy “Shuffleshoes” Ballinger of rural St. Anne has been involved with the local blues scene since the mid 1980s. As a member of the Blues Foundation and a member of the Blues Music Awards Nominating Committee, “Shuffleshoes’” blues run deep. James “Sky Dobro” Walker of Watseka was listening to blues music before he knew it was “Blues.” The Friends of Blues Radio Show is named after a local Blues fan club the two helped create in 2006. Thursday at 7 p.m. and an extended 4 hour broadcast Saturday at 8 p.m.

Here's a link to their show:

The load in at the River Bend Bar and Lounge

River Bend patrons enjoy the deck poised right above the Kankakee River

Blues fans pile in for the show.

Here's a shower stage side if you are coming in from the river to the club, heehee!

The band went out for a fun boat ride all afternoon, toured the river and enjoyed the scenery.

Frank Lloyd Wright house on the Kankakee River
(photo by Wayne Russell)

The author remained at the Holiday Inn express in Bourbonais to write some articles for the American Blues News, but I got to go on the tour last year thanks to our many friends. Thanks to Mr. Walk of the Holiday Inn Express for supporting the Friends of the Blues and providing us with such lovely accommodations. It's a lovely clean hotel and I highly recommend it if you are in the area. I would recommend it without reservation, but you might take that the wrong ahead and get a room. You will be glad you did.

After dining we settled in to a night of new blues, many songs from the new CD, "8." D'Arcy and James have kindly been playing us on their cool weekly radio show along with loads of other great blues music. I get his play lists every week and you could not ask for a more entertaining lineup of great music. these guys know music and know how to pick the good stuff for their listeners.

Josh Roberts resembles Cousin It on slide guitar...Josh's slide playing is pure awesome.

Doug and Amanda McMinn both made the trip this week and we had lots of laughs while riding for many hours in the car. Blues fans were assembled inside the pavilion and all across the lawn outside. Before the night was over, the band was joined by my old friend, the legendary T-Bird Huck, who sang "She Caught the Katy" and played some cool harp. It was great to see T-Bird and have a chance to visit and play a bit. He is a great talent and a very entertaining human being. T-Bird, like myself, never had too much fun.

T-Bird Huck and the author.

T-Bird and Reba Russell discuss whiskey, an expert discussion

Many thanks to all our friends in Illinois who made the night such a great success and such a tremendously fun time. The Reba Russell Band loves you all and we look forward to coming back to visit as soon as possible.

Tupelo's Down on Main Summer Concert by Brian Laprade

(Tupelo, Mississippi) First of three Down on Main Summer Concert Series was opened by John Paul Keith & the One Four Fives, special guests The Partlow Drummers, and headlining, Hill Country Revue.

This was my first time to see John Paul Keith & the One Four Fives. Hopefully it will not be the last. They hail from Memphis, TN, and you can definitely tell that the city has influenced them. Sticking mainly to songs from their album Spills and Thrills, such as "Lookin’ for a Thrill" and "Pure Cane Sugar," they played a good mix of upbeat music their whole set. Listening to them and enjoying the excellent guitar work of John Paul while the bassist and drummer kept everything in time, I was impressed with their very well written lyrics and music. The sound was very reminiscent of Buddy Holly and as a confirmation to my supposition, they closed out the set with "Come On, Let’s Go."

Before Hill Country Revue took the stage, a local favorite, the Partlow Drummers came marching in and had everybody on their feet moving to the rhythm. Led by Gary Harper as drum major for over twenty years, this group of talented youth includes both drummers and dancers. If the wonderful beat doesn’t move you then watching the dancers will make you move. If you ever are in the Tupelo area and have a chance to hear the Partlow Drummers, make an effort to go.

Hill Country Review

Hill Country Revue hit the stage hard and didn’t let up for their two hour set. They have just made it back to the states from a tour of Italy. This was one of their first shows back home and you could tell they were proud to be here. I saw them perform the last weekend in June(25th and 26th) at the North Mississippi Hill Country Picnic and thought that they put on a heck of a show there, but probably because they just made it back home, they blew the doors off in Tupelo.

Hill Country Review
(photo by Jay Moore)

Great weather and a great crowd made for a good time downtown. Kids were
playing in the dancing waters of the fountain in front of City Hall or playing in the play ground next to it and grown up kids were dancing, moving and hearing some great music. These concerts provide a wonderful family atmosphere to bring any age along(Hill Country Revue kept their songs and comments age appropriate). If you have never heard Hill Country Revue, either on CD or live, please check them out.

Cody Dickinson started off playing keyboards. Cody is son of the late James Dickinson. Cody is a seminal north Mississippi musician, awesome song writer, brother of multi-instrumentalist Luther Dickinson, who like Cody, is a member of North Mississippi All Stars. Luther also plays with the Black Crowes.

Cody Dickinson, Chris Chew, Luther Dickinson
North Mississippi All Stars
(photo from facebook)

Throughout the show Cody played guitar, drums, and washboard. The rest of the band was comprised of Kirk Smithhart on guitar, Ed “Hot”Cleveland on bass, new drummer Dave Mason, and "Dixie" Dan Coburn on lead vocal. The highlight of the night occurred when Kirk and Cody played guitars together, either dueling or playing in sync. It was just phenomenal. The audience was mesmerized by the washboard and all the sounds that Cody can get out of it by using various pedals as he did with electric guitar, providing a myriad of truly unique sounds.

Luther Dickinson
(photo by Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms)

They started out with a slower paced version of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Same Ole
Blues Again” and then played a few songs from their first album Make a Move and also a few songs from their forthcoming album Zebra Ranch which is named after James Dickinson’s home and recording studio. Check out these two articles, replete with lots of photographs, by Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms about the Reba Russell Band recording their latest CD at the Zebra Ranch:

Inside the Zebra Ranch, a magical place
(photo by Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms)

There was a good mix of upbeat and slower songs to keep the audience moving. They ended their set but the crowd wanted one more song, so they came back onstage and performed a great version of Don Nix' “Going Down” which was reminiscent of the great Freddy King version.

While the last note was echoing over downtown Tupelo, the MC came onstage and
wished us all a safe trip home and invited us back for the next two Down On Main concerts. On Thursday, Aug. 12th, 6:30pm, The Infamous Stringdusters and Sanders Bohlke will appear.

On Thursday, September 9th, 6:30pm, The Dirty Dozen Brass Band and Moon Taxi will appear. I plan on being at both and hope to see you there.

© Brian Laprade, 2010
© Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms, 2010

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.

Wed: National Correspondent - Monica Yasher
Monica is our executive director and artist interview specialist. You can catch Monica singing the blues around Pittsburgh or working on some country music songs in Nashville.

Thurs: Washington, DC Correspondent - Virginiabluesman
Geraldo offers inteviews and reviews. You may have seen him at an Ana Popovic concert or conversed with him on her websites, as he offers administrative support with her music.

Fri: Northeast Photographer - Nelson Onofre
Nelson offers a Friday column of blues photography and pictorial support for the interviews covered by the team.

Jim Stick in Colorado
Jim will be focusing on the Blues Festivals in the beautiful state of Colorado, and the artists that live and visit there.

Maureen Elizabeth, our resident art correspondent, will be focusing on blues art as she explores the creation of CD covers, or speaking with artists who also have a love of creating pictorial art in addition to their music! She may also feature some of her good friends in the Pittsburgh area. In her love of art, you may find Maureen's photography accompanying writer's articles on our pages. Maureen is also our marketing director.

Pittsburgh correspondent and photographer, CR Bennett, will share the Pittsburgh scene with all of you. You may also see CR's pictures accompanying other writer's articles.

We head to the big state of Texas! Abby Owen, our Texas correspondent.

Another big area to cover, the West Coast with Casey Reagan, Casey will feature many artists and events on this ocean's shores.

Lastly, we have our roving blues entertainment writer,
Chef Jimi.

And of course, we will surprise you sometimes!

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