Cultivating the blues tradition in Central Iowa

The concertgoer does not need to venture out of central Iowa to hear great blues music. Anyone from the experienced blues connoisseur to the casual listener would be completely floored by what they could have experienced last weekend at the Iowa Blues Championship hosted by the Central Iowa Blues Society.

The contest featured artists from across the state that competed for a spot in the state championship this summer. Each of the bands was judged based on several criteria that included originality, blues content, instrumental and vocal talent, interpretation of cover songs and overall presence. The bands were competing for a cash prize and the opportunity to compete at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tenn.

The bands chosen for the championship were Trouble No More, the Bob Pace Band featuring Steve E. George, Bella Soul Blues Revolution featuring Tina Haase Findlay, Stoney Ground and the Steady Rollin’ Blues Band.

Each of the five performing bands showcased its versatility by playing a variety of repertoire that included both blues standards and original tunes. Although they were all playing within the same genre, each band brought a distinct and unique sound to the competition.

They artfully incorporated styles that ranged from soul and spiritual music to funk and hard rock. Of course, the idiomatic boogie woogie and Delta Blues influences were heard as well. Such subtle references to diverse styles are unique to contemporary blues and suggest an interesting antithesis because, after all, the blues influenced American popular musical styles greatly.

The championship opened with the band Trouble No More, a Delta Blues band from Ames. Trouble No More allied itself with the Delta tradition more closely than the other bands because of its predominant use of the slide guitar and harmonica as lead instruments.

“It’s really cool to be a part of Central Iowa Blues Society. They do a lot about preserving the blues, and its just great to be a part of it,” said Greg Bruna, bass guitarist of Trouble No More.

Bands like these are essential to the survival of local and regional exposure to the music that exists below the radar of mainstream listeners.

Not all of the groups present played Texas blues with organ and over-driven guitars, or the Delta style with the harmonicas and slide guitar. However, they did embrace the subtle nuances of the blues.

Bella Soul Blues Revolution featuring Tina Haase Findlay took the stage and introduced an artistry that incorporated rarely seen dramatic vocal and instrumental interaction into its original compositions.

The Blues Challenge provided an atmosphere of kinship among the performers.

“Just seeing everyone is great,” said Findlay, lead vocalist of Bella Soul Blues Revolution. “To be in a room with everyone is like a big family reunion.”

The Steady Rollin’ Blues Band was ultimately chosen as the winner of the contest.  It will receive $500, eight hours of studio time with Junior’s Motel and will perform at the International Blues Challenge.

The band will also be presented with numerous performing opportunities that include the Mississippi Valley Blues Festival in Davenport and BBQ’Loo and Blues Too in Waterloo 2011.

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