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2017 International Blues Challenge

Photo from Spike Stephan

This was the 33rd year of the International Blues Challenge hosted by the Blues Foundation. Over 350 acts representing the finest from blues societies all over the world converged on Beale Street with a thousand fans and insiders to battle it out for top prize of Best Blues Band and Best Solo/Duo act.

Representing the Minnesota Blues Society was the Mark Cameron Band in the Band division and Mike Munson & Mikkel Beckmen in the Solo/Duo competition.

Colin Campbell & the Shackletons traveled down to perform an under-21 Showcase Friday afternoon and joined spontaneous jams during the evenings.

The Mark Cameron Band was scheduled to play the first two evenings at the Hard Rock Café venue on Beale. They had 9:00 and 5:30 pm slots respectively and talented competition from around the country and Canada vied for points. Reviews were impressive and encouraging but at the end of the quarterfinals our musicians did not advance to the next stage.

Mike Munson & Mikkel Beckmen got Silky O’Sullivan’s as their two night touchpoint and wowed the judges with unique rhythms, outstanding musicianship and bluesy stylings. Their competition was equally stiff but they impressed everyone and moved on to the semifinals Friday night. With renewed energy and showmanship Mike and Mikkel entertained at the People’s scene to a loud and supportive cast of Minnesota blues fans and friends. However, solo one-man band acts seemed to be the popular flavor this year at the IBC and our representatives were on the short end of the stick after the tallying was done.

After 4 days of showcases, quarterfinals and semifinals the top 16 acts (8 each in the band and the solo/duo category) bring it to the historic Orpheum Theater for a juried showdown.

Top Band was Dawn Tyler Watson from The Montreal Blues Society.

Winner in the Solo/Duo category went to Al Hill from Nashville.

The Mark Cameron Band, Mike Munson & Mikkel Beckmen and Colin Campbell & the Shackletons represented the Minnesota Blues Society with friendliness, professionalism and inexhaustible energy. We are very proud of their efforts and talents.

For the past several years a contingent of Minnesota blues fans have prolonged the mid-winter escape by heading down to the Mecca of the Blues, the Crossroads in Clarksdale, Mississippi. It is a short drive from Memphis and we reserve the Shack-up Inn for an evening of music, food and relaxation. This year we had the fortunate luck of booking Vince Johnson and the Plantation All-stars, a band that represented the Memphis Blues Society during the IBC and which advanced to the Finals competition on Saturday. They performed with the confidence of a well-seasoned group and had everyone’s attention. Local guitar-slinger Dylan Salfer joined them for a set and drew high praise from the leaders. Dylan showed them that we have top-tier talent up north as well.

Now we’re already plotting and planning for the 2017 Road to Memphis events. Be sure to catch these April dates and come out to support our fantastic musicians. The IBC experience is unique and career-changing. Anyone who has wandered Beale Street during this raucous week will testify to its character. Plan now to attend the 34th International Blues Challenge on January 16-20, 2018 on historic Beale Street and add another day to join the Minnesota Party in Clarksdale, MS on Sunday.

- Richard Schaefer


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On The Rocks CD

Joyann Parker & Sweet Tea
- On The Rocks
Top 2016 "Best Self-Produced CD" Competition

A panel of seventeen judges selected Joyann Parker & Sweet Tea's On The Rocks CD from a field of eight entries in this year's "Best Self-Produced CD Competition" to represent Minnesota at the 2017 International Blues Challenge in Memphis, TN. In his review for Reflections in Blue, Bill Wilson wrote: “From hard-driving, house-rockin’ blues to funk and a level of sexy, sassy R&B that is reminiscent of the likes of Etta James, Ann Wilson and Shemekia Copeland, this band has all their bases covered…”

Sweet Tea was chosen representive band for Minnesota at the International Blues Challenge in 2016.

This was the most heavily contested and closest competition that I have seen since I started overseeing the selection process in 2008. The eight CDs entered into this year's competition (in the order in which they were submitted) were:

I would urge you to check out all of these fine CDs. The outstanding quality of this year's field of entries is testimony to the extraordinary musical talent that we are blessed with here in Minnesota.

We are now accepting CDs for next year's "Best Self-Produced CD" competition from now until September 30, 2017. — Jake Jacobson


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page last updated: Sunday, February 26, 2017

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