About the Blues Series
Since 1988, when Detroiter Robert Jones brought the blues, “the roots of all American music,” to a corner of our Navarre Branch, the Monroe County Library System’s annual Black History Month Blues Series has thrilled music lovers of all ages with free concerts by local, regional and national blues and roots music artists. With awards from the Public and Michigan Library Associations, the Rhythm & Blues Foundation and the 2009 Blues Foundation Keeping the Blues Alive Award, the series is now the state’s longest running annual blues celebration.
The 29th annual Black History Month Blues Series begins February 2, 2016.
There’s no better cure for the winter blues than Monroe County’s annual Black History Month Blues Series. All events in the 2016 Blues Series begin at 7:00 pm and are free and open to the public.
Tuesday, February 2, 2016
Blues 2016 begins with a rare intimate, acoustic concert by the legendary Sugar Blue, a Grammy winner whose astonishing technical mastery of the harmonica has been called him both the Jimi Hendrix and the Charlie Parker of the instrument. Known for his unique, melodically fluid style, instantly recognizable for its soaring trills, flamboyant flourishes and swooping glissandos, Sugar Blue inspired Rolling Stone to identify him as “one of the foremost harmonica players of our time” and the Rolling Stones to use his unmistakable sound on three of their albums—that’s Sugar Blue providing the timeless riff on their tune “Miss You.”
Ellis Library & Reference Center, 3700 S. Custer Rd. Monroe, Michigan
Tuesday, February 9, 2016
“Tuesdays are Bluesdays” continues with the Monroe debut of Larry McCray, the Arkansas-born, Michigan-based singer, guitarist, bandleader, songwriter and heir apparent to a lineage that includes personal heroes and influences like B.B. King, Freddie King and Albert King, all of whom McCray’s met and performed with. Twenty-five award-winning years, eight albums and thousands of live shows around the world have blended Larry’s reverence for the roots of the blues with his own unique, soulful spin. Detroit’s Queen of the Blues (and Monroe Blues Series favorite) Thornetta Davis will join her friend Larry for a few tunes at this special concert.
Dorsch Memorial Branch Library, 18 E. First Street Monroe, Michigan
Tuesday, February 16, 2016
Only one performer could be called “the cosmic American love child of Howlin’ Wolf and Link Wray,” and that’s Alvin “Youngblood” Hart, about to make his Monroe debut. Since the release of his 1996 debut recording, Hart’s relayed his eclectic musical message around the world and earned praise from everyone from Bob Dylan to British guitar gods Eric Clapton and Mick Taylor. Born in Oakland, California, Hart’s interest in the roots of the blues began on childhood trips to Mississippi. Time spent in Chicago steeped him in the city’s electric blues scene, and his stellar career continues to merge both acoustic and electric music. A Grammy Award for his contribution to Beautiful Dreamer: The Songs of Stephen Foster, work in the films Black Snake Moan and The Great Debaters, and a tour of Mississippi high schools as part of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz are but a few highlights from the career of a true “musician’s musician.”
Carleton Branch Library, 1444 Kent Street, Carleton, Michigan
Tuesday, February 23, 2016
Savannah-born, high-octane pianist Victor Wainwright had quite a 2015: he’s been nominated for the B.B. King Blues Entertainer of the Year, Band of the Year (with his group, the WildRoots) and Pinetop Perkins Piano Player of the Year Blues Music Awards, his Boom Town album hit #5 on the charts, and a 30-second clip from a November concert has been viewed over 1,000,000 times on social media. Living Blues said “Wainwright serves as an electrifying guide to a good time--spinning tales, telling his listeners how to beat the blues, and meticulously conjuring raw soul and energy out of his acoustic piano.” With a sharp sense of humor and a knack for storytelling, Victor was an easy choice to perform our 2016 Ann Rabson Concert, named in honor of the late, great friend of the Blues Series.
Bedford Branch Library, 8575 Jackman Road, Temperance, Michigan
Thursday, February 25, 2016
Guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Toronzo Cannon has become one of Chicago’s most recognized and most popular bluesmen through the sheer force of his music, his soul, his songs, his charisma, and, maybe most impressively, his passion. He’s played the Chicago Blues Festival nine times, including last year’s breakthrough headlining slot, and his new release, The Chicago Way, is out on the city’s famed Alligator Records. Bruce Iglauer, Alligator’s founder, says Toronzo’s music “comes right from the heart of the city.” Opening for Toronzo in Ida will be Dundee’s own Bubba Wilson, a 2015 finalist in the Detroit Blues Society’s International Blues Challenge competition.
Ida Branch Library, 3016 Lewis Avenue, Ida, Michigan
Saturday, February 27, 2016
Monroe County’s annual month-long celebration of Black History Month and the blues, “the roots of all American music,” climaxes with another free concert starring an only-in-Monroe lineup of blues and roots music greats.
The Campbell Brothers light up stages around the world with “the growling, wailing, shouting, singing and swinging voice of the steel guitar, played as you have never heard it played before,” and for The Big Gig! 2016 they’ll be joined by the legendary, Grammy-nominated folk, soul and blues vocalist Maria Muldaur, best known for her 1974 mega-hit “Midnight at the Oasis.” Making his Monroe debut is Davy Knowles, one of the blues world’s most highly acclaimed up-and-coming guitarists, who’s won over fans from Peter Frampton and Joe Satriani to Lollapalooza and Bonnaroo festivalgoers. Hosting and opening the show will be Detroiter Rev. Robert B. Jones, who began Monroe’s blues tradition in 1988 and has returned each year since.
The Big Gig! is an extremely popular event--no tickets are required, but seating is general admission, first-come, first-served, and limited to theater capacity. Doors will open at 6:00 pm.
Thanks to Our Sponsors
Monroe County’s 29th Annual Black History Month Blues Series is presented by the Monroe County Library System and the 2016 Blues Coalition of community co-sponsors: Monroe County Community College, DTE Energy Foundation, Friends of Bedford, Friends of Carleton, Friends of the Dorsch Memorial Branch Library, Friends of Ellis, Friends of Ida, and the Detroit Blues Society. This activity is supported by the Michigan Council for Arts & Cultural Affairs and the National Endowment of the Arts.
Past Blues Series Events
Enjoy video from the 2015 Big Gig! starring Billy Branch and the Sons of Blues, John Hammond and Rev. Robert B. Jones