A benefit concert for Bay Area bluesman Johnny Harper and Paul Geremia will be help on January 28, 2015 at the Freight & Salvage in Berkeley, California.
Among the artists playing the benefit are fold-blues legend Maria Muldaur, former Asleep At The Wheel singer Chris O’Connell, and singer Barbara Dane,
Johnny Harper is a superb guitarist, bandleader, singer and songwriter. Paul Geremia is a highly respected acoustic blues performer, finger-style guitarist, and songwriter, with ten solo albums to his credit. Both men have recently suffered serious health issues.
Why a benefit? Many of you do not know that I’ve been dealing with a very tough health situation this past fall. I was hospitalized from early September to mid-November. The reason was a blood-clotting problem called a pulmonary embolism. This is very, very serious; the doctors were very doubtful that I would survive it. But survive it I did. Then there was a long period of recovery from the trauma; a lot of physical therapy was needed to help me get my strength back. I’m home now, and feel pretty good in most respects. I am getting around well, am doing physical therapy exercises daily and taking care of myself. I am playing guitar well again, and am starting to teach some of my guitar students. But there are other respects in which I’m still in the recovery phase. Also, of course, I lost months of work, months of income, and have unpaid medical bills which are not entirely covered by my health insurance.
So some friends in the musical community – spearheaded by the tireless organizer and great fiddler/ singer Suzy Thompson – have put together this wonderful Acoustic Blues Festival night at Freight and Salvage, as a benefit for me and also for Paul Geremia, a distinguished acoustic blues artist of many years’ standing, who has also suffered difficult and costly health setbacks recently.
The Freight is of course the West Coast’s premier folk music venue, and now holds 400 in its very comfortable downtown Berkeley location.
I’ll say more about the stellar lineup of performers in a moment. But the main message is, this will be a wonderful night of music with lots of terrific artists playing. And also – well, both Paul and I have played many benefit shows over the years, for friends in need and for causes we believe in. This time around, we will sure be grateful for whatever support you can give us.
AMONG THE PERFORMERS YOU’LL BE HEARING:
Maria Muldaur, a true star of Americana music, has been knocking listeners out since her early days with the Jim Kweskin Jug Band back in the 1960s. She has recorded 30 albums under her own name, starting off with her self-titled first record which made her famous for the hit “Midnight at the Oasis.” Her albums and performances cover a vast range of American roots music styles – uptown urban blues, down home country blues, jazz and swing, gospel, New Orleans R&B, and more. She remains a sultry, vivacious singer and a powerful performer. In 2004 I played a brief tour as her lead guitarist, filling in for her regular guy. See much more on her albums and upcoming performances at www.mariamuldaur.com.
Barbara Dane is an American music legend, still a very powerful, moving, and creative singer at age 87! She’s a great performer of blues, folk music, and traditional jazz, and sings in various international idioms as well. She’s recorded in all these styles since the 1950s. She has worked with jazz giants Louis Armstrong, Earl Hines, and Jack Teagarden; blues masters Muddy Waters, Lightning Hopkins, and Memphis Slim; folk music legends Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger; and countless other important artists. Her lifelong commitment to peace and social justice still informs her song choices and the causes for which she performs. I have been lucky enough to work many shows with her, as accompanist and occasional band director, for the last 15 years. Details on her many recordings at www.barbaradane.net.
Chris O’Connell, famous for her 15-year stint as the original lead singer in Asleep at the Wheel, recently relocated to the Bay Area and released a fine new album. Steve James, veteran blues singer and fine finger-picking guitarist, has worked with John Sebastian, Cindy Cashdollar, Alvin Youngblood Hart, James McMurtry, Bo Diddley, Maria Muldaur, and many more. Catfish Keith specializes in the traditional “bottleneck”slide style played on the metal-bodied resonator guitar.
Several long-time Bay Area musical friends of mine are also featured. I’ve played informally with all these artists for many years. Eric and Suzy Thompson are well-known for playing old-time music, bluegrass, Cajun music, Greek music, and lots of traditional blues. Suzy’s powerful vocals and fine fiddling, and Eric’s fleet-fingered guitar and mandolin work, add life to every style they turn their hands to. Suzy has also written some fine songs. I produced an early CD of theirs, Adam and Eve Had the Blues on Arhoolie. Marc Silber’s long life story in music includes a stint in the early ’60s Greenwich Village folk scene. He is well known as a guitar dealer, but should be better known as the superb musician he is. His finger-style guitar playing and his deep, authentic feel for traditional blues are wonderful; his singing is captivating and soulful. Will Scarlett is a true virtuoso of the harmonica, seemingly able to jump in any song, in any style, in any key, at the drop of a chord change! He’s performed and recorded with many fine artists – Brownie McGhee, Jerry Garcia, Hot Tuna, Old and In the Way, David Bromberg, and Clifton Chenier, to name a few.
Paul Geremia, not expected to perform on this occasion, is the other beneficiary of this special concert; he’s been struggling with difficult health problems for the last year.
Those of us who really love the blues know that it’s music to celebrate life joyfully by – and also, music that can really help us, can be there for us to lean on, when we’re having hard times.
Come celebrate with us, come hear the blues in many styles and variations, on January 28th! Tell your friends! I hope to see you there.