Saturday, June 30, 2018

A Review: Ben Rice Blues Band





By steven masone





    I first saw Ben Rice with Karen Lovely at Mac's in Eugene, Oregon. I had booked Karen (by recommendation as consultant to festival)  at the Isleton Cajun Blues Festival opening for Elvin Bishop in second to the last Festival produced by Isleton Chamber of Commerfce. I hadn't seen Karen since 2014, so had to do an update review on her new CD's. After hearing Ben, I had to do a review on his CD also. "Live At the Purple Fox Loft" has 18 songs...where do I start? From his version of Ida Mae, traditional blues tune to Somewhere Over the Rainbow instrumental, his commitment to authentic blues roots, and pushing the envelope to show his modern versions of west coast blues with rock, funk, and soul, he is just what the doctor ordered to keep the blues relevant... making new fans, keeping the blues alive. His rendition of Key to the Highway was one of my favorites, but they were all good! You can sample the tunes on Amazon and pay 99 cents each or buy the CD getting all 18 at only 50 cents each.The CD is out of the box and innovative, while the live performance and Ben's banter with the audience about the songs, gives the listener a snapshot of Ben's affable personality and down to earth persona. 


Ben Rice and the Illamatics were the Cascade Blues Association’s representatives at the 2014 International Blues Challenge in Memphis TN, where they placed as one of the top nine finalists out of 250 acts from around the world. Along with their music is an exhilarating stage show featuring, cigar box guitars, resonators, and lots of crowd interaction. Ben Rice has already been established as a virtuosic guitar player with a soulful voice. His inventive twists on blues are creating a buzz up and down the West coast.''?

 Winning the 2013 Male Vocalist and Traditional Act of the Year from the Cascade Blues Association as well as Performance and Acoustic Guitar of the Year from the West Side Blues Society. Ben’s CD, “Pour Me Some Whiskey” is comprised of all original songs, is being hailed as one of the best CD releases from the Northwest. Although Rice is young, he has a lot of experience. 
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Playing alongside some of the top musicians in the National Blues Scene. First picking up his fathers nylon stringed guitar at six years old, playing in school jazz band, and symphonic band during his high school years, he now has almost 18 years of playing experience. At this young age he's received numerous awards, prestigious nominations, and earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Music from the University of Oregon in 2011. In a musical world saturated with young guitarists, his reputation is building. Not as a “hot rod guitar player” but as a good band leader, great songwriter, engaging performer, soul inspiring singer, and a guitar player that can do it all, “Of course he does, it’s Ben, he can do everything"

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Ben is one of the best guitarists I have seen in a long while and can't wait to see where his next level of success is going to take him. Looking forward to reviewing his past projects as well as future.
See his facebook page here https://www.facebook.com/benriceband/

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Northwest Calapooia Blues Jam







                  Image result for calapooia brewing


 By Steven Masone


I have been on the hunt for good blues jam sessions in southern and central Oregon for a while now. I found a Sunday afternoon jam at the Calapooia Brewing Company in Albany, Oregon. Most blues aficionados around the country think of Chicago, New Orleans, Texas blues and the SF Bay area as the talent pools for blues musicians. However, those in the know, the northwest, especially Oregon, has always been a proving ground for great blues artists to thrive and develop their craft because of the acceptance by music lovers from all genre's of the northwest music scene. 
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The venue at the brewing company is family friendly till 8pm with great food and ambiance. The Jam leader goes by 'Froggy'...and sings a real swampy delta blues style, and plays a great harmonica and steel guitar. 

As I listened to their first set, right away it was evident these were mostly authentic bluesmen. In other jams I've attended, most players are firstly classic rock players and as one would imagine gets very loud. Here, it is all blues and all good! I sat in with them on the second set and my amp went haywire and was offered to use a custom Kroker tube amp by Jerry Kroker of Salem.. which I fell in love with.


https://www.facebook.com/Kroker-Amps-529410793831890/
 But the audience was better than most jam session audiences also. Partly, because they are spoiled by the great talent that obviously shows up on these Sunday sessions that start at 4pm every Sunday, and you could tell they were like family. Other core members of the house band with Froggy are Dennis Monroe (guitar and vocals), Bill Lewey (harp), Ron Rochi (drums) and Brian Egan (bass). Well worth the drive if you are far or close by. I hope to try the fare on the menu as well and will update that experience. Bring the kids, friends and family for a unique blues. good food, and musical Sunday afternoon! 
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Location

Calapooia Brewing Company
140 Hill St. NE
Albany, Oregon 97321
Map

Get in touch

541.928.1931

Hours

Sunday - Wednesday:
Pub: 11:30am-9pmhttps://www.facebook.com/Kroker-Amps-529410793831890/No automatic alt text available.
Thursday:https://www.facebook.com/Kroker-Amps-529410793831890/
Pub: 11:30am-11pm
Friday & Saturday:
Pub: 11:30am-12am
No minors after 8pm

Monday, April 23, 2018

DOWN RANGE~ A Music Festival ~ Celebrating Veterans


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Sacramento, Calif. -- Down Range Music Festival, a one-day event benefiting the Sacramento Chapter of Guitars For Vets, is debuting on May 19, 2018 at The Park at The Murieta Inn and Spa. The all-day event, produced by Blue Gaucho Project, will be a multi-genre event and feature a number of successful performers. All proceeds from the event will be donated to the Sacramento Chapter of Guitars For Vets, a nonprofit empowering veterans through music. 






Thousands of our war Veterans are afflicted with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). In fact, more soldiers have committed suicide since the Vietnam War than have died in actual battle. But many are finding hope in an unlikely place: behind the wood and strings of an acoustic guitar. The healing power of music helps soldiers cope. That’s why we provide veterans with guitars and a forum to learn how to play. But we can't do it without your help. 

GUITARS FOR VETS HAS FULFILLED OVER 30,000 LESSONS AND DISTRIBUTED OVER 3,000 GUITARS FREE TO MILITARY VETERANS.

Pete Anderson & Friends
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For further info see https://www.facebook.com/BlueGaucho/

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/down-range-a-music-festival-celebrating-veterans-tickets-42684839504?aff=es2
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Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Shulkin Out At VA!

President Donald Trump is firing Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin and replacing him with the White House doctor Ronny Jackson. (March 28) AP
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WASHINGTON – Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin is being replaced, President Trump tweeted Wednesday, ending weeks of speculation and uncertainty about his fate.  
Trump said he is nominating Navy Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson, official physician for the president and his predecessor, Barack Obama, to be the next VA secretary. 
"I am thankful for Dr. David Shulkin's service to our country and to our great VETERANS!" the president tweeted.
He said Robert Wilkie, an undersecretary at the Pentagon, will take over the agency as acting secretary.  
Shulkin had been locked for months in a power struggle with a group of Trump political appointees among his senior staff. 
Shulkin had pledged the VA would not be privatized on his watch but would provide veterans expanded opportunities to get private sector care. The Trump appointees want a more comprehensive overhaul and to give veterans more access to VA-funded care in the private sector.  
Trump had praised the Cabinet secretary several weeks ago for doing a “great” and “incredible” job leading the charge to fulfill his pledges to improve the VA.
Shulkin himself provided the critical opening that led to his downfall. After touting Trump's campaign pledges to increase accountability at the VA, he balked at the results of an investigation released last month that found he and his staff committed ethics violations in planning and taking a European trip last year.
He blasted the VA inspector general’s findings that he improperly accepted Wimbledon tickets and airfare for his wife during the 10-day junket. He refused to accept the determination that his chief of staff misled ethics officials to get clearance for his wife's airfare, suggesting that her email had been hacked. Shulkin later expressed regret and repaid the cost of the tickets and airfare. He also complained that the appointees were targeting and undermining him.
His response left many lawmakers, veterans groups and others who might have come to his defense in a tough spot, and they remained largely silent for days after the investigation report's release Feb. 14. By the time they did speak out, it may have been too late.
Two days after the report's release, the White House unilaterally installed a new VA chief of staff, Peter O’Rourke, who was a member of Trump’s transition team and an ally of the Trump appointees. VA spokesman Curt Cashour said “additional personnel accountability actions” were possible.
The White House never removed that cloud over Shulkin's future. Spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said that Trump supported the work Shulkin did as secretary but that the situation was "under review." 
Shulkin made it roughly 13 months in Trump's Cabinet. He was appointed by Obama as undersecretary for health at the VA in July 2015.
During his tenure, he directed increased transparency efforts, including a new website revealing wait times for VA care and quality comparisons to the private sector. Shulkin upped accountability efforts, swiftly removing hospital directors when problems with care were revealed, including in Manchester, N.H., and Washington. He set up a data-tracking center at headquarters in an effort to intervene before problems became crises.
He fulfilled some of Trump's campaign promises on veterans' issues, overseeing the creation of a 24-hour White House hotline for veteran complaints and an Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Office, which drew praise for its early efforts.
Shulkin ordered the rewriting of decades-old policies on hiring and reporting poor medical care providers to authorities after USA TODAY revealed massive lapses in hiring guidelines and in reporting substandard practitioners to state licensing boards and a national database created to stop them from crossing state lines to escape their pasts and potentially harm other patients. 
Shulkin had been working with Congress to pass landmark legislation that would expand — if moderately — veterans' access to private sector care, and the measure was poised to pass the Senate before the power struggle between Shulkin and Trump appointees erupted into public view.
He ordered plans for the largest restructuring of the VA in more than 20 years after the VA inspector general uncovered failures at the Washington VA medical center that had festered for years under VA officials at local, regional and national levels who knew about them but didn't fix them.
The fate of the legislation and reorganization after Shulkin’s departure is uncertain.
The chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., said he thinks Shulkin did a "fantastic job, and I hate to see him go.
"That said, I respect President Trump’s decision, support the president’s agenda and remain willing to work with anyone committed to doing the right thing on behalf of our nation’s veterans," Roe said. “I am in the process of reaching out to Dr. Jackson, and I look forward to building a strong relationship with him also.”

Sunday, March 25, 2018




 Wolfdog Winter
a short story
                                          By Steven Masone


The morning sun peeked bravely over the eastern peaks with an almost steely resolve to shine in spite of the cruel biting cold. The old man with the white wolf dog set about getting over to Trapper Clyde’s place to get his help in going after that fool chechaquo that took off for his friends camp after they told him not to try it by himself in this freeze. His own dog was anxiously looking up at him...she barked a short, half growling, rebuke. “It’s alright girl, we're gonna take the sled and round up Clyde’s team to head off this darn fool fore he kills himself and that dog a his, I like the dog more …” muttered the Old  Man to his dog. He affectionately tried to scratch the nape of her neck, but the retreating blood in his fingers made it more like a poke than anything else. He went to pick up his snow shoes, but his exposed fingers were already too numb. He had to clumsily put his gloves on and beat them together until he felt a tingling in them again, then he grabbed up the shoes and put them in his backpack. The morning light was not accompanied by any warmth. He knew if he didn't talk that yahoo out of going by himself and coming back with them, by twilight, it could be seventy degrees below zero. He reasoned it was fifty below .
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 He could see Clyde’s chimney smoke by now and continued on the well worn path between the two places. Clyde had been living here over sixteen years and was one of the best trappers and wilderness men he had ever known. Clyde used to be a Mountie. The path took him right up to Clyde’s barn. He wiped the ice crystals from his eyebrows so his eyelids could keep working his tear ducts keeping their fluid from freezing. “I knowd dat was you ya old coot!” yelled Clyde, as he came around the side of his only out-building.  Clyde's dog team set off to barking wildly. “Smelled ya ten minutes ago,” he joked. “Hows that possible, when my nose is so froze I can’t feel my whiskers no mo?” said the old man. The two got all the gear they needed and hooked the team up to the sled after the old man quickly told Clyde the pressing need to head off the chechaquo. “Mush! Mush!” Clyde shouted and with the white wolf dog in the lead, they bolted into the freezing snow packed trail that would take them up an old logging trail,  hopefully catching up with a fool and his poor dog. The two old timers usually wouldn't suffer a fool for long, but the dog was a different matter. Dogs in the Yukon were more than man’s best friend. They were partners in business...the business of staying alive. At the summit, Clyde stopped the team and gave the old man his spyglass. The old man began scanning the valley trail across the chasm between them, and saw him. “I don’t believe it!” he said incredulously,” He’s built a fire under a tree whats full up a snow!” “Too far to yell to him, and can’t fire the rifle...might start an avalanche and kill us all!” The old man lamented.
We’ll take turns under the blankets and drivin the team every so oft and we be ok,” Clyde said. The old man shouted suddenly “Holy smoke and fire! It all fell on him just like I knowd it would” he said as he could see the fire and the chechaquo buried by the snow that cascaded from the top of the tree branches one layer at a time, bringing down the next with it, one after the other. “You get in the sled and cover up”  Clyde called out, “if we don’t get him in an hour or so he might be dead!” “Mush! Mush!” shouted Clyde. The sound of the sled dogs barking and their pained howls as the sled raced downhill made Clyde think of the time he was chasing the payroll robbers through the Klondike. He caught up to them them near Glenora. What was left of them that is. He shot all three of them.


Image result for painting Yukon stage holdupHe had to shoot them all in the back as they were shooting at him from their sleds over the sixty mile chase.Two died before they got them to the doctor in Glenora and the other was unconscious for two days from blood loss. He was hung soon after that...  “Watch out Clyde! The old man screamed in a terrified voice, snapping Clyde back into the present. “The bridge is out!” “Hold em back hold em back!” “Tarnation!” yelled Clyde as he reigned in the team, barely keeping the sled from going over the gorge where the bridge had recently collapsed under an apparent rockslide.  “Well, looks like that chechaquo is a dead man unless them boys from his camp is on the way after him, no way we can get to him now”  Clyde jumped from the rear of the sled and began bringing the team around in a u-turn . “We gotta rest the dogs, lets get em in a huddle over here by these rocks” Cyde urged. Both old timers worked feverishly to gather wood to build a fire that would allow them to stay alive while they rested. There was plenty wood to take back with them too.The sun was setting and neither of these two old timers had ever seen it get this cold. Clyde took rations of dog food and began melting snow in a pot taken from the sled’s saddlebags...and took care of the dogs. All of them circled around the roaring fire they made from the broken wood off the old bridge that had been splintered and smashed by the rockslide. The old man drank some of the broth Clyde heated up and warmed up some of the frozen jerky he could now chew. They each took turns getting shut eye while the other watched the fire. That’s why they told the chechaquo he needed a partner in this fifty below cold snap. The warmth of the angry fire began to allow him to close his eyes for a moment, exhausted, soon the old man was asleep and dreaming. He dreamt some usual disjointed dreams of his old Navy life and some familiar banjo music changed his dream to a time sailing into San Francisco from Anchorage, sounds and smells of the shore leave from many ports melted together until his dream turned into his old nightmare. He dreamed again of him being lost out in a blizzard back in 1988.
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It was his first winter also when he was a chechaquo, a newcomer, novice to the cruel and unrelenting violence that these frozen badlands will put on a man... to the brink of madness and or death. Only took one mistake or wrong decision. He had dug into the snow, remembering  his military training in Alaska of cold weather survival tactics, escaping the cutting wind and freezing cold. Digging shelter in the snow was all he could do. He dug and used his axe and rifle butt to hollow a nice deep place for himself. Luckily he was dressed properly, free from the blizzards pounding assault against him, he curled up into a ball and soon fell asleep. He was awakened by her warmth as much as any noise she made when she found safety also in his snowy den. She was on her haunches, ice blue wolf eyes staring right into his. But there was no bared teeth, no growl, no apparent fear on her part either. She just sat there and panted, looking at him with an almost quizzical expression. He thought she was part of a dream, and fell back asleep. When he awoke, they were cuddled together, he and the white wolf dog have been together ever since. Her howl woke him from this present dream as he saw Clyde getting his rifle and finding a defensive position behind the sled.. “Wolves!” Clyde warned, at least one so far as I kin tell.” The howl from a few hundred yards out and woke the rest of the team and chaos ensued, until Clyde calmed them all down. The old man got up and looked into the darkness as the white wolf dog was at his side wagging her tail excitedly. “Ain't no wolf” the old man said, “tis a wolf dog” “betcha it’s the chechaquo’s dog!” Just as he said it, out of the shadows came the grey coated wolf dog. He went right to the fire and the white wolf dog followed sniffing at his heels and wagging her tail happily as the two had first met back at Sulphur Creek. The two dogs settled and curled up together. The Old man threw a chunk of thawed meat to the grey and the dog ate it hungrily. It was when the old man came back a few minutes later with an arm full of wood for the fire, did the grey wolf dog look intently into the old man’s eyes,  just as the she-dog did so many years ago. The old man smiled at his new friend. In the distance the mournful wail of a wild wolf was heard as the fire offered it’s sacrifice of crackling sparks upward, into the icy cold night sky.Image result for black 7 white painting freezing winter  campfire