Bill Blue, a great Blues singer, songwriter and guitarist, started his show talking about how he was working in Boston in the 70’s, looking for gigs and got hooked up with a band that was created to tour with an up-and-coming female vocalist ~ according to Bill, one day he was picking tomatoes and the next day touring with Bonnie Raitt and BB King! He played with many great Blues musicians and then came down to the Keys in 1982 to chill out from touring and spent the next 30 years writing and playing his exceptional music here.
For Saturday’s show, A Farewell to the Arms, he gathered some of his favorite musicians together to play with him to commemorate the closing performance at The Studios of Key West historic Armory location.
There were 6 great musicians in addition to Bill, plus three backup singers. The stage was overflowing and exploded with fabulous sound right from the first song. Bill is a great story teller and his introductions to each song were engaging and insightful. Some of the members of the band recently recorded a new album with Bill, others were Key West locals. They were totally in synch with each other and gave each other plenty of time for solos to show off their great talent and then blended back into a united sound that rocked the hall. The venue was small and we had perfect seats to see all the band interaction which gave the evening an intimate feeling. Bill and the band walked around freely during the break and it was easy to speak to them and thank them for the great music.
The Studios of Key West is an artist’s workspace with a small performance hall for concerts, lectures, plays and dance; galleries for exhibitions, a sculpture garden and, most importantly, artist in residence studios where 35 artists are sponsored throughout the year to practice their craft and create art.
In addition to their personal work while in residence, they also may lead classes in their area of expertise. Things are relatively slow in the summer months, but there is a jam packed schedule throughout most of the year that is extensive in scope and breadth of subject matter (from funky and fun like Feathered Maskmaking in time for Fantasy Fest or Zombie Bike Decorating for the Annual Zombie Bike Ride – to the significant and serious like Pulitzer prize winner Ayad Akhtar’s lecture on the gap between East and West and the fevered logic of extremism or a Photography exhibit by Alexandra Dietz titled Changing Tides in Key West, a 5 month photographic tour of the island’s distinct subcultures and one-of-a-kind characters that inhabit this island – as well as more expected offerings in writing, painting, photography and unleashing creativity). I wanted to sign up for almost everything!
Bill’s new album released in October of 2013 is called Mojolation. Per the Classics du jour website, “Mojolation…is chock full of energy; raw, edgy guitars and funky horns power Bill’s unique blues growl. It’s music that’s at once fresh, yet captures the authentic spirit of old blues recordings. After thirty years as the elder statesman of music in Key West, Bill Blue crashes back into the international blues music scene with Mojolation, a record that is punchy, powerful, upbeat and exciting.” This perfectly captures the feeling of Saturday’s performance.
One of my favorite songs of the evening, Hunker Down, is about a hurricane that Bill and his family lived through. They stayed at their house thinking the hurricane would pass by far away and when they realized it was coming right at them it was too late to leave. Bill’s teenage daughter was especially upset by the howling wind and torrential rain so he decided they should write a song, right then and there, to keep their minds busy – Pretty Wild! (and a great song). I hope we get to see Bill again before we’re off to the Outer Banks in mid August.
For more info on Bill and to hear his music visit the Classics du jour website.