John Saint Holiday was a new name for me, but his band of all-stars, thrown together for the occasion, provided some of the best blues I’ve ever heard on Beale Street. Judging from what I read online, he is an actor and writer in addition to being a musician, and he is from Batesville, Mississippi, which has probably produced quite a few great bluesmen. His drummer, at least for tonight, was an old acquaintance of mine, Cedric Keel, who provided a rock-steady foundation. Altogether an inspiring evening of blues at the Rum Boogie Cafe.
Coinciding with the International Blues Challenge, the Rum Boogie Cafe on Beale Street sponsored a Memphis Blues Showcase on Saturday, featuring an afternoon and evening line-up of local blues talent, including a new blues power trio called Blooz Emergency, featuring musicians who are also a part of Paul Taylor’s band Merrymobile. Their set was an interesting mix of traditional blues and roots rock, including a cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “Castles Made of Sand”.
Winter can slow things down in downtown Memphis, as it gets really cold here in January and February. February, however, brings the International Blues Challenge, a week of competition amongst young blues artists that takes over downtown Memphis for the first week of the month. Saturday, February 2, 2013 was the final day of this year’s IBC, and blues artists from all over the world assembled at the Orpheum theatre on Main Street for the final day of competition. IBC attendees also roamed all over Beale Street and downtown, and the week sadly represents one of the few times of the year when authentic blues can be heard on Beale Street.