Outer City Blues Festival
On Saturday, April 16, Beale Street NW hosted The Outer City Blues
Festival. The day-long festival showcased some of the area’s
newest and hottest blues acts.
Many volunteers worked to produce the show as a benefit for KMHD Public
Radio 89.1 FM. The Mt. Hood Community College-based station proudly
provides the community with Jazz, Blues & NPR News. Visit their
website at www.kmhd.org for a comprehensive listing of music events
in the Portland area.
Beale Street NW is a new blues venue located at 10721 N.E. Sandy Blvd.
The club opened its doors on New Years Eve and has served blues and
awesome barbecue to Portland’s eastside audiences nightly since
The Original Viper Band opened the show with a raw, funky set. Fronted
by The Original Snakeboy, his gritty vocals and magnetic stage persona
captivated the audience from the first note.
The core of the Viper Band consists of New Orleans raised slide guitarist
Snakeboy and drummer Cory Burden, of Blubinos fame; these two held
court on stage that afternoon. Burden’s gorgeous wood-veneered
drum kit and Snakeboy’s pristine steel guitar make the band as
easy to look at as they are to listen to. This has got to be the rootsiest
duo to ever hit this town. They wowed the crowd with their versions
of traditional blues tunes delivered with a decidedly urban accent.
Snakeboy is a master on the National Steel resonator-style guitar and
Burden is one of the most well-respected blues drummers around.
The Original Snakeboy was the first place winner at the National Slide
Guitar Fest in Gray, Tenn. in September of 2000. Check out this fascinating
artist at http://www.theoriginalsnakeboy.com or get to one of the band’s
shows. They are definitely worth a look and listen.
Up next, KMHD Blues Palace DJ Tom Addis introduced the Rick Welter
Band. New to the city, Welter heads a solid three-piece unit that put
the mood into a swingin’ groove with an energetic set. The band
delivers soulful rockin’ blues with stinging leads from Welter.
Listen closely and you will hear both Texas and Chicago flavored roots
and maybe even a little rockabilly influence at times.
Bassist Jim Solberg, long of Lloyd Jones’ fame, covered vocals
on some of the tunes and was seriously testifyin’ on his five-string
bass solos. The tune You Were Wrong was a highlight featuring a guitar
lead reminiscent of Albert “The Icepick” Collins and a
killer bass solo provided by Solberg. The Rick Welter Band is a name
The Ward Stroud Band took the stage next. The band was a 2004 Muddy
Award nominee for “Best New Act.” Stroud was mentored by
blues guitar monster Robbie Laws and he wielded one helluva good-looking
guitar for this show. The group plays entirely through old tube amps
that provide an authentic sound and they dished out a satisfying set
of traditional straight-on blues.
The band consisted of versatile musician Ward Stroud on guitar; gunslinger
extraordinaire Jeff Barnes on guitar; Jeff Earl on bass; Portland mainstay
Drawback Slim on drums and a harp player unknown to this writer. Barnes
contributed some fine Fender guitar work ala Stevie Ray Vaughan that
was mighty tasty.
The high point came when the incomparable vocalist Mel Solomon took
to the stage to sit-in. Solomon is one of the city’s most respected
bluesmen and was the 2001 Muddy Award recipient for best male vocalist.
He grew up in Louisiana and his roots are in the traditional rural
sounds of gospel and spirituals. His appearance was the icing on the
cake for the Ward Stroud Band’s appearance.
Time constraints meant this writer and guest retired early from the
scene, which was already a standing-room-only affair by 6 p.m. The
rest of the line-up included Ben Rice and Youth of Blues, King Juju
and the Beats, Joe McMurrian, Hudson Rocket Band with special guest
Sonny James and Tom Horn and Triple Threat. A good time was had by
all, and the proceeds were donated to a good cause.