(Monroe, MI) – Since 1988, when Detroiter Robert Jones brought the blues, “the roots of all American music,” to the Navarre Branch, the Monroe County Library System’s annual Black History Month Blues Series has thrilled tens of thousands of music lovers of all ages with free entertaining, educational concerts performed by local, regional, national and international blues and roots music artists. Legends like Willie Dixon, Pinetop Perkins and Robert Jr. Lockwood have been joined by legends-in-the-making like Saffire-The Uppity Blues Women, Billy Branch and Victor Wainwright.
Saturday February 25, 2017 it’s The Big Gig! Monroe County’s 30th Annual Black History Month Blues Concert, a once-in-a-lifetime event to be held at Meyer Theater, Monroe County Community College (1555 S. Raisinville Rd. Monroe, Michigan). Early start time: 6:30 pm sharp.
An all-star lineup of your Blues Series favorites mark 30 years of the Black History Month Blues Series. Host Rev. Robert B. Jones will kick off the show starring mandolin master Rich Delgrosso, harmonica virtuoso Phil Wiggins, multi-instrumentalists Andra Faye and Scott Ballantine, guitarist Samuel James, pianist Arthur Migliazza and vocalist Sister Bernice Jones. Guitarists Bob Margolin, JW-Jones and Toronzo Cannon, Detroit’s Queen of the Blues, Thornetta Davis, and cowpunk pioneer Jason Ringenberg. Expect plenty of duets and collaborations, maybe a surprise or two along the way, and an unforgettable all-star finale.
The Big Gig! is an extremely popular event–no tickets are required, but seating is general admission, first-come, first-served, and limited to theater capacity. Doors will open at 5:30 pm.
Other shows leading up to The Big Gig! Are Tuesday, February 14, “An Evening with Jerron “Blind Boy” Paxton at the Dorsch Memorial Branch Library (18 E. First Street, Monroe, Michigan) at 7pm. “Easily the most talented young acoustic bluesman to come along in many, many years” said Living Blues about Jerron “Blind Boy” Paxton. This young musician, who’ll be making his Blues Series return after an unforgettable 2014 debut, sings and plays banjo, guitar, piano, fiddle, harmonica, Cajun accordion, and the bones. Paxton has an eerie ability to transform traditional jazz, blues, folk, and country into the here and now, and make it real. In addition, he mesmerizes audiences with his humor and storytelling. Paxton’s sound is influenced by the likes of Fats Waller and “Blind” Lemon Jefferson.
Tuesday February 21 it’s Daryl Davis in concert with very special guest George Bedard at the Carleton Branch Library (1444 Kent Street, Carleton, Michigan) at 7pm. The Blues Series is proud to have featured two of the blues world’s finest pianists, Pinetop Perkins and Johnnie Johnson. Those men have gone on to rock that great juke joint in the sky, but their legacy lives on in Daryl Davis, the artist both men called a “godson.” Born in Chicago, Davis served as Chuck Berry’s longtime sideman, and has also played with Bo Diddley, Percy Sledge and The Platters. A composer, guitarist and vocalist, Davis is also an actor (HBO’s The Wire) and author. For this 2017 Ann Rabson Concert, named in honor of another legendary pianist and late, great friend of the Blues Series, Davis will be joined by his very special guest, Ann Arbor guitarist, George Bedard.
Thursday February 23rd it an Evening with Samuel James at the Ida Branch Library (3016 Lewis Avenue, Ida, Michigan) at 7pm. With a voice of grit and gravel, Samuel James sings with an authenticity lost in time. A modern guitar master, James’ skill has a depth and range that seems impossible for a man with only two hands. An award-winning songwriter, one of the world’s most innovative guitar players, and a Moth-featured storyteller, a Samuel James live performance is part songwriting has been compared to Leonard Cohen’s, and his virtuosity on the guitar to that of Jimi Hendrix.
Blues 2017 concludes on Tuesday, February 28th with the return of Guy Davis at the Bedford Branch Library (8575 Jackman Road, Temperance, Michigan) at 7pm. Guy is a blues musician, first and foremost, but also a true multi-hyphenate: author, music teacher and a film, television and Broadway actor. His deft acoustic playing style, his well-traveled voice and his literate, yet highly accessible songwriting have all been showcased on the Conan and Letterman shows, A Prairie Home Companion and Mountain Stage radio programs and on a string of acclaimed albums, including the recent Kokomo Kidd. Davis is reluctant to define himself simply as a bluesman. As he puts it, “I call myself a blues musician, and to me the blues is a broad title. I include some ragtime, I make a nod to New Orleans, and a nod to the fife and drum players. And I always include things that make you want to dance.” This is Guy’s first Blues Series visit since 2006.
With awards from the Public and Michigan Library Associations, the Rhythm & Blues Foundation and The Blues Foundation’s 2009 Keeping the Blues Alive Award for Education (the blues world’s most prestigious honor available to non-musicians), the series is now the state’s longest running annual blues celebration.