MUSIC PREVIEW: No bad blues

Shemekia Copeland GigCity EdmontonOne of the great things about the blues is that it can be played by musicians who’ve never met or who don’t even know the same songs. One of the bad things about the blues is that it can be played by musicians who’ve never met or who don’t even know the same songs.

That’s because lot of blues is based on the simplest of chord progressions: 12-bar blues. For musicians keeping score at home, that’s four bars of E, two bars of A, then back home to the E for two bars, then up to the climactic B for a bar, then a bar of A, a bar of E again, and then one last bar of B for the dramatic turn-around and then you do it all over again. Again and again and again – this time with solos.

It’s not the form, it’s the content therein that makes good blues.

The fact that any band of strangers can pound out a 12-bar blues song results in a particularly high amount of bad blues. It’s everywhere. Bad blues can regularly be witnessed in several area establishments that run blues jams with bands of strangers, spreading the scourge of bad blues. It has been proven that non-blues people exposed to bad blues from lack of any other blues at all can get turned off by bad blues and may then think all blues is bad. Its gritty cultural stigma doesn’t help. Blues gets associated with alcohol, sleazy juke joints, women and/or men doing each other wrong, and guys in leather vests – topics for blues songs.

Which brings us to the Edmonton Blues Festival – which doesn’t have a “no bad blues” money-back guarantee, but if it did, no one would make a claim. This is real good blues. From Shemekia Copeland on Friday to the Paul James Band on Saturday to the stone cold fer-real Louisiana bluesman Lil’ Jimmy Reed along with Savoy Brown on Sunday – and all the other true blues artists performing in Hawrelak Park this weekend – this festival represents the finest example of the blues. One needs only to hear a moment of these hand-picked professional bluesmen and blueswomen to understand they’re the real deal. Trade secret: It’s the drummer and bassist playing together for years that really makes a difference – something one rarely hears at a bad blues jam.

Full weekend passes are $119 and available online or at the gate starting at 2:30 pm Friday.

Friday 19

Souljah Fyah – This local reggae soul band has been spreading its positive Caribbean mojo around Canada for 15 years, accumulating awards, a Juno nomination and devoted fanbase. Tonight sees the CD release party for their fourth album, The Long Walk (parts of it recorded in Jamaica), at the Needle Vinyl Tavern. 9 pm, $15 advance

Idolatry – And now for something completely different is an album release show from this Edmonton black metal band, for its new recording Visions from the Throne of Eyes. Mercury Room, with Bestir, Krepitus and Hunted by Ravens, 8 pm, $8 advance

Saturday 20

Benjamin Williams – This kid, who has showmanship to go with songwriting chops, has been busking steadily since he emerged as the winner of a “Spruce Grove Idol” competition a couple of years back, at the age of 14. Now he’s ready to release his debut CD – ‘tis the season? – at Cha Island Tea Co., 10332 81 Ave. 8 pm

Greenspan and Borys – Fun fact: Drum & Bass as a live performance genre does not actually contain live drums and bass on stage – they’re usually pre-recorded – but it certainly doesn’t matter to D&B fans. This night at the Needle is no exception, with Jeremy Greenspan (from Junior Boys) and local electronic music guru Borys making the Canadian debut for their new live techno collaboration – boasting more synths on stage than the venue has ever seen. Lots of DJ guests on tap, too. 9 pm, $15 advance

Tuesday 23

Zakk Wylde – Weeee, wow, weeeee-wah! Littleitalylittleitaly, root-nay-root-nay-root-nay, bucketoballs, widdlywiddley-WEEEE! It’s hard to convey in text the distinctive guitar style of this veteran electric axesmith, king of the whammy bar, but you know if when you hear it. High status indeed in a world of guitar players. “Played with Ozzy” is as much a cap-feather in metal circles as “Played with Miles Davis” is in jazz. But here’s a surprise! Zakk has since mellowed on new work, touring now to support his largely acoustic new solo album, Book of Shadows II. Ranch Roadhouse, with Otherwise, and Jared James Nichols, 7 pm, $43.50 advance