Sonny Hess & Power Band -
Photo by Jamie R. Pemberton
by Jim Klahr
Sonny Hess; power to the biz; power to the women; power to the blues.
That’s in no particular order.
Sonny Hess is one of the most well-rounded and grounded women in the
blues. A native of Boise, Idaho, and replanted in the Pacific Northwest
at the beginning of the ‘80s, Hess still touches most every aspect
that the PDX blues scene covers.
A prolific songwriter, her preference in the music biz and CD producer
on such notable discs ranging from personal compilations, some with
the Northwest Women in Blues and KMHD radio; About Damn Time with Paulette
Davis; a tribute CD to the late Paulette Davis; Faith, her own all-original
CD and one in the oven, soon to come, Still Smokin.
A mentor to many over the years with emphasis on the women in blues,
Hess runs her own booking agency. Contact and specific information
can be found at her website www.sonnyhess.com. She can also be found
most Thursday nights at the Trails End in Oregon City, playing and
hosting a showcase for different women usually just getting their feet
wet in the Portland blues market.
In her many years here in the Portland area, Hess has played most the
venues and in some capacity every Waterfront Blues Festival. Most recently,
she played at The Country Inn in Tualatin. A cozy but medium sized
lounge, the C.I. served up a very good dinner at prices that are not
nearly as damaging to the wallet as the gas pumps these days. The bar
has multiple TVs, gaming, a pool table and a circular fireplace, friendly
and helpful employees and neighborly patrons spanning all ages.
Hess touts the rest of her band; Kelly Pierce her drummer, just passing
the mile-marathon-stone of keeping the beat for 14 years, a real 'hands
on' percussionist. Leah Hinchcliff, on bass and vocals, was sitting
in for Jim Hively, who is Hess’ regular bassist; and vocalist
The band started with a warm up instrument tune, showing everyone’s
excellent musicianship and warming up their individual parts, much
like a runner before a jog. They went directly into some wind sprints,
laying out a couple of Hess’ new originals, Live Your Life
for Yourself and Find the Time. These are tunes destined for the digital
domain of Hess’ next CD Still Smokin. A mixture of blues with
some funkiness, Hess’ licks on her guitar neck were hot and the
vocals with Hinchcliff’s and Pierce’s harmonies were right
on the mark.
Then came Lady Kat. New to the stage in the present form of reality,
but if you're one of those that believe in reincarnation, Lady Kat
has been here for many years. Her first appearance on a stage anywhere,
anytime, she says was at last year’s Waterfront Blues Festival
and she only started singing regularly with Hess last October. She
rotates on one of the Thursdays at the Trail’s End and can also
be seen with the NW Women in Blues on occasion.
Hess already had the crowd’s total attention, but, like when
Jim Carey lassoed the moon and brought it closer to earth in Bruce
Almighty, Lady Kat’s soulful renditions of Pride and
a unique version of I Just Want to Make Love to You drew the patrons’ complete
attention to the stage.
They finished up the set with an original that Hess had collaborated
with Paulette Davis, Any Woman’s Blues. Again, it was enthralling,
to say the least.
Sonny Hess gets you there, Lady Kat pulls you in. (See Bandstand for upcoming dates.)