By Charlie Anderson
Some critics argue that blues music is dying. Yes, they say, Robert Johnson was good, as were Leadbelly, Son House, Muddy and B.B. So were Clapton, Janis, and Stevie Ray. But, they say, their time has passed and the blues are on their way out. They say.
“That’s the stupidest shit I’ve ever heard.” Florida artist J.J. Grey of J.J. Grey and Mofro disagrees. “Blues isn’t a fad. It’s been around for a long time and it sure isn’t going away anytime soon.”
The influence of blues music is widespread throughout the entirety of the music community, representing the evolution that it has taken since the days of the Mississippi Delta Blues.
“People have been saying that for decades, that the blues is dying out, but if you consider that from the early 1920s, the blues has been a mainstay of popular music and will outlast any other form, with the exception of classical music,” adds British Blues pioneer John Mayall in an email to Scene. “Even though it may appear to be simple, it has so much to connect us all.”
Early next month, John Mayall will share the bill with J.J. Grey and Mofro at a celebration of the blues during the 9th Annual Greeley Blues Jam. The two day festival runs from the afternoon of Friday, June 7, to 11 p.m. on Saturday, June 8. Thirteen venues in downtown Greeley will host live, no cover blues during the festival, including performances on the 9th Street Plaza. On Saturday, the Island Grove Arena, home to the annual Greeley Stampede, will host non-stop blues from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., including a harmonica workshop put on by the Colorado Blues Society with the purpose of teaching kids and parents of the importance of the blues as an art form.
“We’re going to be putting down around 45,000 square feet of bluegrass sod at the Island Grove Arena, so people can kick off their shoes and dance, or enjoy the shade in the stands,” says festival creator and member of the organizing committee Al Bricker. “We’re expecting around 4,000 people downtown and a similar number at the arena.”
Bricker started the festival in 2005 after numerous trips to New Orleans’ Annual Jazz Festival.
“It’s such a great atmosphere there and it’s always a great time. I kept talking to my buddies here about starting one of our own, and finally one of them told me to either do it or shut up about it,” says Bricker. “It’s not quite New Orleans, but we still have a good time.”
Just like New Orleans, however, many of the artists on the festival bill bring in a unique sound in addition to their bluesy touches. Harper & Midwest Kind, for example, find a way to incorporate the didgeridoo into their harmonic-strong music, while Lil’ Brian & the Zydeco Travelers transplant Louisiana zydeco into their West Coast funk sound.
“We like playing shows with good vibes and good energy,” says J.J. Grey. “We’ve never had a problem with that in Colorado. It’s going to be a really good time.”
For more information on the Greeley Blues Jam, check out greeleybluesjam.wordpress.com.