About the Blues
By Liz Lottmann
We are back from the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, and everything went exceedingly well for our Blues Challenge winners. The Blues Foundation was very fortunate to have our board members and Ozark Blues Society volunteers, Sandy McCann, Roy McCann, Jurgen Lottmann and Greg Mayfield, who, at their own expense, went to Memphis to run the Youth Showcase and helped me manage one of the venues.
As for our NWA artists who competed, well! After their first night’s competition performance at the famous Old Daisy Theatre, Oreo Blue caused major buzz on Beale Street. I mean, I couldn’t walk down the street amongst the thousands of attendees, without someone stopping me to ask about Oreo Blue, and that they were making a point to see them again the next night. You have to remember that there were about 145 acts competing in more than 15 venues, so that is a major level of commitment for someone to intentionally see a band twice at IBC.
After the second night of competition, Oreo Blue was in a dead heat with the judges between Oreo and one other band. Although the top-scoring band barely squeaked by to the finals, Oreo Blue was all about big hearts and blues business, and took maximum advantage of being in Memphis with other blues-world movers and shakers.
They told me they met record execs, publicists, club and festival bookers, and picked up some gigs. Having Oreo Blue represent OBS and the entire Northwest Arkansas area was a true honor. It certainly deeply enhanced OBS’s efforts to be considered one of the heavyweight blues societies in the national and international scenes.
Isayah Warford and Kory Montgomery were also in a close-case scenario for scoring in their solo/duo competition venue. Although the judges were excited about their set on both Thursday and Friday nights, another act squeaked by them for the finals. Kory was invited to jam with Michael Burks and other nationally recognized blues artists at the Saturday night jam at the Rum Boogie. Isayah and Kory both worked very hard making new contacts for their careers during the four-day event and are both going to find ways to get back to IBC next year.
Our Youth Showcase artist, Nathan Aronowitz, had a field day at IBC. His showcase performance had people like Bruce Iglauer of Alligator Records watching with their mouths open, clapping and shouting at his skill and command of the stage.
Nathan is what’s called a “triple threat” — he plays keyboard, guitar and harp throughout his show. I took Nathan and his family to Helena the day before his showcase to meet the legendary Sunshine Sonny Payne and to appear live on Sonny’s King Biscuit Time broadcast. To see the look on Sonny’s face when Nathan starting playing his harp was a delight. After the show, Sonny, the longest broadcasting blues radio host in the world (more than 40 years), told Nathan he could only think of one harp player who, at Nathan’s age, might have had the skill, tone and interpretive abilities that Nathan has and that’s James Cotton.
Ozark Blues Society has a lot of projects in the hopper for the spring and summer. Your support of our efforts is greatly appreciated by our board, while we support the blues art form and our community benefits.
Liz Lottman is president of the Ozark Blues Society.