At Shove Memorial Chapel this past Sunday, Otis Taylor introduced Alvin Youngblood Hart as one of the greatest bluesmen alive today — an accolade that could just as easily apply to himself.
The two musicians were among the surprise guests at Sunday's ambitious J-AM Celebration: A Musical Gathering for John-Alex Mason, a benefit to help continue the late bluesman's efforts to educate local students about the music that had meant so much to him.
According to KRCC operations manager Jeff Bieri, Sunday's show, along with its after-party at Venue 515, raised almost $3,000 on behalf of the John-Alex Mason Scholarship Fund. (You can still donate c/o the Colorado Springs School, 21 Broadmoor Ave., Colorado Springs, CO 80906.)
In addition to contributing soulful slide-guitar solos to Taylor's set, Hart also performed with Valerie June, who appeared with him the previous night at Marmalade at Smokebrush. Afterward, the dreadlocked Memphis musician went out front to watch, still clutching the mandolin-sized banjo built for her by Tennessee luthier Tommy George. "This is my baby," she told me, holding it up proudly.
Other memorable moments I managed to catch included John-Alex's talented niece Annabelle Mason performing "Fishing Blues," a song her uncle would play for her when she was little. The Haunted Windchimes, meanwhile, offered up a set that culminated in "Lordy Lordy," an Inaiah Lujan-penned song with a sing-along chorus it was easy to imagine John-Alex joining in on.
Meanwhile, Tyler O'Malley from the Windchimes' management team tells me the group already has a new album in the can, and will be playing a CD release show at the Fine Arts Center on April 6. The group will also take off next week for a tour that includes a half-dozen California dates, followed by a three-night run at Alaska's Sitka Performing Arts Center. And while O'Malley says he has no way of knowing how big a factor the band's Prairie Home Companion appearance is when he's booking gigs, he's pretty sure it doesn't hurt.
Also this past weekend, I paid a rare Friday night visit to the heart of Tejon Street — sorry, cover bands aren't my thing — to hear a couple sets by the Three Suspects at the Thirsty Parrot. The venue has been home to the ongoing collaboration by DJ Manyacal, bassist Charlie Milo and drummer Chris Combs since its debut there on New Year's Eve.
As a work in progress, the pairing of a club DJ with a funk rhythm section has a lot of promise, but the soundman really needs to place the live instruments higher in the mix. Likewise, DJ Manyacal could also vary the dynamics more, especially when spinning pop fare like LMFAO's "Party Rock Anthem," Foster the People's "Pumped Up Kicks" and two Michael Jackson songs (often the last refuge of a desperate deejay). With more adventurous source material, the Three Suspects could definitely be a project worth investigating.
Looking ahead, the Meadowgrass Festival has added two more acts to its Memorial Day Weekend lineup. On Saturday, Big Daddy Love will be among the openers for previously announced headliner Son Volt, while the legendary Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks will take the top slot on Sunday.
And finally, look for Jake Loggins to come out of retirement this month — well, at least for one gig. A leading light on the local music scene until he decided to quit performing back in October, the still-20-something Indy Music Award winner will be at Stargazers this Friday. So get out there and welcome him back.