Monroe County blues series features new, familiar facesWritten by Sarah Ottney | Managing Editor | firstname.lastname@example.org
All four Tuesdays in February plus a bonus Saturday blowout will find Monroe County hopping with rhythm, blues and boogie-woogie beats.
The 24th annual Black History Month Blues Series, presented by the Monroe County Library System and other area organizations, will feature new faces as well as familiar ones, said library Circulation Coordinator Bill Reiser, event coordinator for the Blues Series.
“We’ve always liked to think of this project as storytelling,” Reiser said. “We are telling this unlikely and unique story of Monroe, Michigan, becoming this sort of small-scale capital of the blues each year, at least for a month. Using that approach, we have recurring characters helping us tell the story with their music. We get new acts each year, but we like to salt familiar faces into the mix.”
The series will kick off Feb. 1 with a 7 p.m. performance by New York City-based blues and boogie-woogie piano master Arthur Migliazza at the Carleton Branch Library, 1444 Kent St., in Carleton, Mich.
“It feels like he’s been here before because a number of the great blues and boogie-woogie piano players have been talking about him for years and telling me ‘You have to get this kid,’” Reiser said. “He was a prodigy, I think it’s safe to say, and all these older artists kind of took him under their wing and he’s incorporated all the lessons they taught him yet still does his own thing. We’re real excited to move him from the wish list to the guest list.”
Blues Series regular Rev. Robert B. Jones will share the stage with his friend Ben Wiley Payton of Jackson, Miss., at 7 p.m. Feb. 8, at Dorsch Memorial Library, 18 E. First St., Monroe.
“He’s bringing a little bit of the Delta up for us and that’s going to be a night of two outstanding acoustic musicians trading songs and stories for a real down-home, intimate feel,” Reiser said.
School kids will rock out to Mr. Seley and the Troublemakers at Bluesapalooza, Monroe County’s largest annual children’s music extravaganza, during two shows Feb. 15 at the Monroe County Community College’s Meyer Theater, 1555 S. Raisinville, Monroe. Tom Seley is an elementary school teacher in Birmingham, Mich. For show times and availability, call (734) 241-5277.
Later that night, The Starlight Six, a super-group of Michigan young acoustic folk/blues/roots musicians, will perform at 7 p.m. at Meyer Theater. Members are friends Seth Bernard, Dominic, Josh and Rachael Davis, May Erlewine and Mike Shimmin.
“You just get this great mix of voices and song styles and the camaraderie between the musicians is pretty infectious,” Reiser said. “They’re having a good time playing together and it just rubs off on the audience.”
The Macpodz, an Ann Arbor quintet comprised of a bass, trumpet, percussion, keyboard and drums, will perform at 7 p.m. Feb. 22 at the Bedford Library, 8575 Jackman Rd., Temperance.
The month-long series builds to a crescendo with “The Big Gig,” opened by the Rev. Robert B. Jones, followed by New York City-based string band The Ebony Hillbillies and headlined by The Holmes Brothers. The show starts at 7 p.m. Feb. 26, at Monroe County Community College’s Meyer Theater.
The Holmes Brothers, who last played the Blues Series in 1992, “easily blends Saturday night’s roadhouse rock with the gospel fervor and harmonies of Sunday morning’s church service,” according to its website. The trio has shared the stage and recording studio with the likes of Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Merle Haggard and others.
“The people on stage will be having as much fun as the people out front,” Reiser said. “That’s what we strive for through the whole project. Just a big old Saturday night blowout. There’s no catch. You just show up, have a great time, enjoy the music, enjoy the company and then come back the next week. And it’s free — you can’t beat the price.”
For more information, visit www.monroe.lib.mi.us/blues.htm or contact the library at (734) 241-5770, Ext. 225.