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Shaw's blues jam
Sunday, Feb 5, was the first time I ever tuned into the Grammys. And it was pretty spectacular.
Although I am clearly more interested in experiencing local live music, the live-on-TV award ceremony provided some great performances.
I was joined by a couple pals who are a lot more up on current music and artists than I; they supplied the names and import of numerous musicians I knew nothing about or were able to quickly Google background on them.
In preparation for the show I downloaded the complete list of Grammy Award nominees and was blown away by the number of categories – 92!
Some of these categories seemed a bit farfetched or just plain inappropriate for music awards (“Album Notes,” “Recording Package,” “Audio book, Narration and Storytelling Recording,” “Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media,” etc.).
I seem to recall a scathing comment made by Bob Dylan about this proliferation of categories, deeming the awards meaningless.
Out of the 92 categories only 12 awards were announced during the broadcast, though it seems there was at least one additional special Grammy awarded – the “Dr. Dre Global Music Award.”
The number of categories aside, the show was quite entertaining with musical numbers that were of interest (in contrast to the musical numbers I’ve endured during the Academy Awards ceremony, which I have watched religiously for decades now).
The first performance was by Bad Bunny, a Puerto Rican artist who received the Grammy for Un Verano Sin Ti in the Música Urbana Album category. That got the show off to a good start.
The second performance, by Brandi Carlile, didn’t do a lot for me. But was I ever thrilled when the tribute to Motown and Berry Gordy and Smokey Robinson was unveiled.
Stevie Wonder performed a medley of his hits and he looked and sounded great, enhanced by the singing and choreography of backup singers. With other artists joining in, such as Chris Stapleton, the production was like a mini concert. I loved it!
Harry Styles, whom I’ve never heard of before, seemed to be the big winner, taking the Album of the Year AND Pop Vocal Album Grammys for Harry’s House. He was featured giving a performance of his song “As You Are,” which epitomized the inclusive nature of the Grammys, evidently new this year. Maybe I will check him out further.
Beyoncé, who was hyped prior to the show, received the Grammy for “Break My Soul” in the Dance/Electronic Recording category. It was announced that she had already won three Grammys in other categories, though which ones weren’t specified.
What I was most surprised by was how much I enjoyed the 50 years of Hip Hop production, with several folks I knew of but haven’t followed: Queen Latifah, Black Thorp, LL Kool Jay and Ice T. The one that impressed me most was the “world’s fastest rapper,” Busta Rhymes.
According to Wikipedia, “He has received 12 Grammy Award nominations for his work, making him one of the most-nominated artists without winning.” I thought he was incredible to watch and hear.
But for me, the most gratifying award given was to one of my all-time favorite performers, Bonnie Raitt, who received the Song of the Year Grammy for her own composition, “Just Like That.”
Her inspiration for the song was how the donated heart of a young man who lost his life extended the life of another. It told of how the recipient tracked down the bereaved mother to thank her and the grace it gave her.
In a New Yorker radio interview with Raitt I heard a few days before the ceremony, she told how he had the mother lay her head on his breast to listen to its beat. If you listen to the song on the Internet, I dare you to get through it without tearing up.
I was particularly moved by her acceptance speech, in which she said she hadn’t written many songs and, in composing this one, she took inspiration from the late John Prine.
My take-away from my first viewing of the Grammys is that I will not miss future shows if I can help it!
The following evening, Monday, Feb. 6, I made my way to Shaw’s Bar and Grill in Northeast Minneapolis for an evening of good ol’ blues music.
You may remember that I wrote about the Blues Saloon in St. Paul (formerly Wilebski’s) back in October after I attended one of its Tuesday Blues and Dance Jams.
“Captain” Al Kirk, the organizer of that reoccurring gig, is responsible for this similar jam at Shaw’s on Monday evenings, where various musicians sign up to join the backup band for a tune or two.
At first the venue appeared to be a small unpretentious neighborhood corner bar serving a cohort of regulars, but the décor spoke of something more.
The walls were covered with all manner of blues and rock and roll memorabilia, including a poster from the original 1969 Woodstock Music Festival.
The band was already warming up when I arrived, a little after 7 pm. Al was on electric guitar, as was Jason Medeiros; Michael Carney was on drums and Eric Meyer (from the Casey Clark band) was sitting in for the regular electric bass player.
The first tunes I heard were somewhat subdued, but it didn’t take long for the energy to get ramped up as musicians began arriving and signing up for their turns on stage, drummers being the first.
“What Kind of Life,” “I Want You So Bad,” “You Got To Help Me” were among the first numbers.
A slow blues piece was in the mix before the music got rowdy with “Shake Your Hips” and “Why Do You Love Me Like You Do?”
After almost two hours of searing nonstop music, the group finally took a short break. Then, in the second set, trumpet and sax players along with a couple of keyboardists broadened the sounds, including some hot New Orleans stuff.
Then more great music was made when a young Black vocalist, Destiny Scrubb, joined the group with a distinctive wail that reached both high and low notes.
Wish I knew the titles of the songs she performed, but it didn’t stop me from being greatly impressed.
Not to be outdone, another female vocalist, Megan Treinan, took her turn on stage to belt out several Bonnie Raitt hits, among them an exuberant “Love Me Like a Man.” I was in seventh heaven.
As the night waned, Captain Al came back on stage to close out the final set that had the blues morphing into some slow sexy numbers, some Motown and a bit of cool jazz too.
All in all, a wonderful evening of fabulous music; definitely worth the trip down from Duluth.
And if that wasn’t enough to write about in this week’s column, I took in a performance by Boss Mama and The Jebberhooch at Duluth Cider on Wednesday, Feb. 8.
Colleen Myhre is Boss Mama, who is the lead vocalist and plays acoustic guitar; the Mahon brothers, Jacob and Owen, back her up on electric guitar and drums, respectively, along with Jeff Gilbertson on standup bass and vocals.
On this evening The Jebberhooch was joined by Caleb Anderson on keyboards. Both Gilbertson and Anderson are members, with Myhre, of the Holy Hootenanners band of Matowah.
What an outstanding performance of many of her original tunes – indeed, several attendees agreed that the group had reached an even higher level of musicianship than usual in this show.
The first song was the high-test “Don’t Forget About the Lord,” one of several gospel tunes played that evening.
Another very bluesy if humorous song, “Old Worn Out Rooster,” was written with the Mahon bros. and featured Jacob Mahon “unleashing his clucking chicken finger pickin’” (as one fan put it). “Cold Coffee” and her most recent composition, “Charlotte’s Café” were thrilling to hear with full-throated, on-key close harmonies that created a wall of sound that filled the venue.
A Grateful Dead cover, “Know You Rider” and the Staple’s tune “Somebody Was a Watchin’ Over Me,” were wonderful. Other originals performed with great gusto were “Slip Away,” “Hallway Watcher” (about a ghost) and “Come To Mama.” Dylan covers were interspersed on the playlist, including “Maggie’s Farm” and a killer rendition of “Gotta Serve Somebody.”
Throughout the evening, Owen maintained a driving yet varied beat that made one want to dance, while Jacob had fun with the foot pedals to create “wah-wah” and saxophone sounds. The interplay between him and Anderson’s keyboard licks was virtuoso.
Add in Gilbertson’s bass and the sound was complete and rich. The audience was most appreciative, calling for an encore, we got two songs – a little techno pop number as well as Boss Mama’s wailing “The King.”
After this latest outing, I am more convinced than ever that we have some top-notch musicians right here in the Twin Ports/Northland. I urge folks to get out to hear and support our local talent.