The blues is no stranger to Ann Arbor. The inverse is also true. In fact our town is in the history books as the host of some of the most important blues events ever, including the Ann Arbor Blues & Jazz Festivals of the early 1970’s and between 1992 and 2006. In addition to the notoriety the festivals brought, many downtown and campus clubs and coffee houses featured blues, roots and jazz acts regularly through the decades. Included are the Blind Pig, Rick’s Café, Canterbury House, The Chance, Mr. Flood’s Party, Del Rio, Bird of Paradise,… so what happened? It would take more than the space I’ve been allotted here to delve into that part of our cultural transformation. Let’s just say that if you’re a fan of the blues and/or live music today, go out and support it. That is the only assurance that it will continue. You’ll be glad you did.
The Ark, the only still-participating club of that glorious era, celebrates Cinco De Mayo with a performance by folk and blues legend Josh White Jr. on the 5th. His father’s pioneering efforts in the realm of folk blues with a political edge, set the stage for Josh Jr.’s sojourn into the performing arts and social activism. He wears many hats and fulfills the responsibilities those roles command, as do his compelling and sincere performances. He has met many great historical movers and shakers of our culture and has the stories to that go with those meetings. All this blends into his genuine down-home style with which he plays folk and blues music. Marcia Ball rolls into town with her entourage of musical and cultural gumbo, Louisiana style, on the 26th. Not only is she on tour to promote her 12th CD, release, Roadside Attractions, but she is channeling her energies to help preserve the New Orleans heritage which is still struggling in the aftermath of the 2005 Hurricane Katrina disaster. Aside from her knock-out show featuring blues, boogie, and ballads, she is one of the touring ambassadors for the relief of New Orleans musicians. She might even swap some tried and true ‘Nawlins food recipes with the audience.
Guy Hollerin’s Local Blues & Brews Pub in the Holiday Inn near UM’s campus will help put spring in your step with their spacious music room and dance floor.
Guitarist Bobby Murray helps celebrate the 5th with swingin’ jump blues and urban blues. Murray’s straight-ahead approach to the blues was honed from two decades of leading the Etta James band. His uncomplicated guitar style is a favorite among true blues fans.
From the center of Michigan comes the rhythm & blues of Root Doctor on the 12th. Vocalist and founding member, Freddie Cunningham is the soul of the band writing and arranging an award winning blend of blues, R&B, and soulful dance tunes. He always maintains and directs a top-notch group of musicians that set the mood for a real blues party.
Harper and His Midwest Kind return on the 19th. Harper’s love of American roots music and world rhythms move him to create funky R&B based grooves overlaid with wailing harmonica riffs and an occasional solo on the aboriginal didgeridoo. His observance of a troubled world is utilized to express sensible survival themes in his original line up of songs.
The club will be closed in observance of Memorial Day weekend.
The new “Live” club, formerly Live at PJ’s, has re-instated Happy Hour every Friday from 6 to 9pm, featuring a host of local bands, and a huge dance floor with no cover. Fubar stirs it up with popular soul, country and rock favorites and originals on the 4th. Drivin’ Sideways draws deep from the well of country music and popular rock covers on the 11th. The Breakers deliver a major dose of classic rock on the 18th. The Vibratrons shake it for you with contemporary sounding vintage rock on the 25th.
Catch guitar wizard Laith al-Saadi every Monday at Woodruff’s in Depot Town Ypsialnti for some great classic rock and blues covers as well as originals. Dave Boutette hosts an energetic acoustic open mic night there on Tuesdays.
The Tap Room In Ypsilanti hosts an open-mic jam with the Martindales every Thursday.