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Jarekus Singleton gave me a bear hug after his show Saturday night at Carnahan Hall in Lafayette and I felt it all the way down to my bones.

I was ready for it, though, because for two hours Jarekus had been roughing me and the rest of the audience up with frenetic blues and squeezing our hearts with gorgeously sad ballads.

Jarekus never meant to be a bluesman. Growing up in Mississippi, he wanted to be a basketball star. And, in fact, he became one. He even scored NBA tryouts with the Pacers and the Cavaliers, as he details in “Keep Pushin’,” an autobiographical blues rocker. Then he got hurt.

We’re the beneficiaries.

I closed my eyes Saturday night when Jarekus played his ballad “Crime Scene” and, for a moment, I thought I was listening to blues great Johnny Copeland 30 years ago. Jarekus’ guitar licks and his vocals floated effortlessly … like a Michael Jordan jumpshot viewed in slow motion.

Then, just as the audience members relaxed, Jarekus slapped them with some nasty funk with a song such as “Hero.” The crowd rolled with it and hit the dance floor. Hard.

In fact, he delighted the crowd all night. I don’t know if he’ll ever be a big music star, but he certainly has the skills. Besides, you’re a middle-aged dude in the NBA when you hit 30. In the blues game, you’re just a pup with your whole career in front of you.

Thanks, Jarekus. Keep chasing the dream.

Friends of Bob, a local music cooperative, also deserves a lot of thanks for booking Jarekus and his band. And if you live in the Lafayette area, pick up your tickets for Pokey LaFarge on Nov. 21. It’s going to be another great Friends of Bob show.

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Shadwick Wilde and Quiet Hollers at People’s Brewing

by Carl Abernathy on September 11, 2014

There aren’t many folks who can hear their own voices when they look in the mirror. I’ll bet Shadwick Wilde can.

When Wilde, the lead singer and guitarist of the Louisville alt-country band Quiet Hollers, starts a song his eyes roll back a bit, creating a far-away look. His vocals echo the mood, dripping with melancholy, longing. But when the other members of Quiet Hollers pick up the tempo, Wilde’s eyes start to bulge. He looks a bit like a crazy man. He sounds like it, too. I don’t know of many singers who go from zero to 60 so quickly.

Tuesday at People’s Brewing Co. in Lafayette, Ind, Wilde and his pals demonstrated once again that they’re one of the most talented alt-country bands in America.

Their songs, filled with both angst and hope, chronicle the lives and loves of everyday folks about as well as any I’ve heard. Every listener in the bar seemed to identify with the lyrics.

Watch Wilde sing and you’ll see a man with the most expressive eyes you’ve ever seen. Listen and you’ll feel as if you’re looking in a mirror.

(Below are a few photos from Quiet Hollers’ show at People’s Brewing Co. Click on the pix to enlarge.)

Shadwick Wilde (Click to enlarge)
Shadwick Wilde (Click to enlarge)

Shadwick Wilde (Click to enlarge)
Shadwick Wilde (Click to enlarge)

Shadwick Wilde
Shadwick Wilde (Click to enlarge)

Ryan Scott (Click to enlarge)
Bassist Ryan Scott (Click to enlarge)

Ryan Scott (Click to enlarge)
Ryan Scott (Click to enlarge)

Drummer Nick Goldring (Click to enlarge)
Drummer Nick Goldring (Click to enlarge)

Nick Goldring (Click to enlarge)
Nick Goldring (Click to enlarge)

Aaron West (Click to enlarge)
Aaron West (Click to enlarge)

Shadwick Wilde (Click to enlarge)
Shadwick Wilde (Click to enlarge)

Shadwick takes a selfie of himself and the audience at People's Brewing (Click to enlarge)
Shadwick takes a selfie of himself and the
audience at People’s Brewing
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Uptown Jazz & Blues Fest (Click to enlarge)
Uptown Jazz & Blues Fest (Click to enlarge)
Organizers of the 2014 Uptown Jazz and Blues Festival in Lafayette delayed the shows for a half hour until the worst of a storm had passed. And man did it rain.

Porky's (Click to enlarge)
Porky’s (Click to enlarge)

The rain continued sporadically for much of the evening, but it wasn’t too bad. The down side is the crowd was the smallest I’ve seen at the festival. The upside is there weren’t lines to get a barbecue rib tip sandwich at the Porky’s Barbecue stand. Mmm.

Jarrard Harris Band (Click to enlarge)
Jarrard Harris Quartet (Click to enlarge)

Saxophonist Jarrard Harris and his band rocked the Uptown Jazz and Blues Fest with their classic jazz when they played in Lafayette six years ago. This year, there weren’t enough folks in the audience to rock. Harris and his band (James Austin Jr. keyboards; Junius Paul; and Phil Fornett, drums) matched the weather with moody, bluesy riffs. But they also cut through the rain, offering an energetic performance that brightened the few brave souls in the crowd. Harris and his pals didn’t even let the fact that the music from the blues band from another stage get them down. They just played louder and better.

I’d be delighted if the Uptown Jazz and Blues Festival organizers brought Harris to Lafayette every year. He’s terrific.

Indianapolis Jazz orchestra (Click to enlarge)
Indianapolis Jazz Orchestra (Click to enlarge)

The crowds started to grow a little by the time the Indianapolis Jazz Orchestra took the stage. Audience were rewarded with a nice mix of tunes ranging from Basie to Sinatra.

Lao Tizer (Click to enlarge)
Lao Tizer (Click to enlarge)

Karen Briggs (Click to enlarge)
Karen Briggs (Click to enlarge)

Raul Pineda (Click to enlarge)
Raul Pineda (Click to enlarge)

I was bit skeptical when I saw that the Jazz and Blues Festival folks had booked Tizer, a fusion jazz band. Too often, fusion seems gimmicky to me. Count me as a Tizer convert, though.

Lao Tizer and his band meld jazz and world music with a bit of rock and wow everyone who listens. Especially Karen Briggs, the “Lady in Red.” She’s amazing on her violin.

Percy Wiggins (Click to enlarge)
Percy Wiggins (Click to enlarge)

Archie Turner (Click to enlarge)
Archie Turner (Click to enlarge)

Howard Grimes (Click to enlarge)
Howard Grimes (Click to enlarge)

Kirk Smothers (Click to enlarge)
Kirk Smothers (Click to enlarge)

For months I’d been looking forward to hearing The Bo-Keys, guardians of the classic Memphis soul sound. Then I learned of the death of one of the group’s founders — Charles “Skip” Pitts, the guitarist who funked his way through both Isaac Hayes’ “Shaft” and The Isley Brothers’ “It’s Your Thing.”

It’s hard to stay down, though, when listening to The Bo-Keys. Vocalist Percy Wiggins, drummer Howard Grimes and keyboard man Archie “Hubby” Turner are all veterans of countless class soul tracks from Stax, Hi Records and Atco. And the younger guys, especially the horn section, wake up the memories of Memphis in the ’60s.

A couple of my students caught the Bo-Keys’ set Saturday night. I’m sure they’ll be listening to Bo-Keys records for a long time. And if my students are smart (and I know that they are), they’ll start digging up classic soul that features Wiggins, Grimes, Turner and Pitts.

The crowd this year was small, but the music was great. I’m glad I braved the elements, but if it’s raining next year, I’m bringing a poncho.

Shiny Penny at Mosey Down Main Street in Lafayette

August 10, 2014

I’d never seen Shiny Penny before I went on Saturday to Mosey Down Main Street, a regular showcase for musicians from Lafayette, Ind., and the surrounding area. The Kokomo-based band surprised me and ignited the crowd. Their high-energy rock and pop is infectious. They’re talented, energetic and charismatic. These young guys could make it big. […]

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Matthew Sweet concert at City Winery in Chicago

July 26, 2014

Matthew Sweet didn’t interact with the audience much Friday night at the City Winery in Chicago. He spoke only a couple of times (other than when he was pitching his Kickstarter campaign for a new album and bronze cat figurines). He didn’t open his eyes but a few times, either (he said the lights hurt […]

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Taste of Tippecanoe, 2014

June 21, 2014

I’m bummed. Local officials postponed the Taste of Tippecanoe just a couple songs into Jennie DeVoe’s set because of a big storm headed our way. I don’t blame them. You don’t mess with public safety. But damn. The Indianapolis-based singer, who delivers blues and a bit of country with a sweet rasp, was making tons […]

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Mahsa Vahdat and Mighty Sam McClain: ‘Scent of Reunion: Love Duets Across Civilizations’

June 17, 2014

Soul and bluesman Mighty Sam McClain’s voice floats. Iranian singer Mahsa Vahdat’s voice soars. Together, their tunes — rooted in the sounds of traditional R&B and traditional Persian music — are almost other-worldy in their beauty. I’m partial to “Scent of Reunion: Love Duets Across Civilizations,” but everything they’ve recorded is worth acquiring.

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2014 Chicago Blues Festival photos

June 16, 2014

I made it to the Chicago Blues Festival only on Saturday this year. Work intervened Friday and I wanted to beat the storm home Sunday. I’m not complaining. I heard a bunch of great blueswomen. I also took my friend Diana to her first blues fest and the weather was almost perfect. We started the […]

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Sam Morrow: ‘Ephemeral’

May 30, 2014

John Steinbeck would love Sam Morrow. The young musician, still in his early 20s, writes about addiction, love and heartache with a photographer’s eye for detail. His musical tales are nuanced and tragic, vivid and hopeful. Morrow knows the subject matter intimately; he’s been drinking since his early teens, and a few years ago his […]

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Cahl’s Jukebox, 5-29-14

May 29, 2014

Thursday morning blues: 1) Percy Strother: “Love is Growing Cold” 2) Jimmy Witherspoon: “Early Morning Blues” 3) Jimmy Rushing: “Blues in the Dark” 4) Eddie Boyd: “What Makes These Things Happen to Me” 5) Otis Spann: “Trouble in Mind” 6) Michael Burks: “Salty Tears” 7) Calvin Leavy: “Brought You to the City” 8) Preston Shannon: […]

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Chicago Blues Festival preview: Diamond Jim Greene

May 27, 2014

Diamond Jim Green coaxed a variety of sounds, a lifetime of emotions, out of the guitars he used on his 2012 release, “Surrounded.” On the opening track, “Shake ‘em on Down,” Greene’s guitar riffs are as jaunty as his vocals and the horns. Greene and his guitar sound as if they’re creeping down an old […]

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