WIB Live: Jane Lee Hooker

High Spirits

Jane Lee Hooker live @ Spirit of 66

Verviers, Belgium

Words: Vincent Abbate / Photos: Dirk Schumacher

Is there a more thrilling experience in the blues right now than Jane Lee Hooker?

Honestly, I’d be hard-pressed to think of one.

Jane Lee Hooker is like a ride on the world’s fastest rollercoaster. Five gals from New York City who run on pure adrenaline. They take decades-old classics like “Shake For Me” and “Mean Town Blues” and “Mannish Boy” and make you feel like you’ve never heard them before.

And they don’t care about sticking to any one thing. They are blues and they are punk and they are southern and they are straight-up rock and roll. Just two albums into their recording career – last year’s Spiritus following on the heels of the 2016 debut No B! – these five troublemakers from NYC have already established themselves as a force to be reckoned with.

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WIB Live Slideshow: Blues Caravan 2018

Blues Caravan 2018

w/ Mike Zito, Bernard Allison & Vanja Sky

@ Harmonie, Bonn, Germany

Photos: Marcella auf der Heide

The 13th edition of Ruf Records’ annual Blues Caravan packs serious firepower. The pair of blues vets who are the tour’s main draw, Mike Zito and Bernard Allison, brought the pain at their January performance in Bonn, Germany – Zito displaying an uncanny ability to create tension and beauty through his deftly exceuted guitar licks, the ever-dependable Allison delivering the punch on familiar tunes including “Life Is A Bitch” and “Rocket 88.” Yet newcomer Vanja Sky was no slouch herself. The young lady from Zagreb displayed an easy, natural and appealing stage presence during her evening-opening set, showing off surprisingly rugged pipes and confident vocal phrasing. With drummer Mario Dawson and bassist Roger Inniss holding down the rhythm throughout, honestly, what could go wrong?

Our two-minute slideshow features photos from the show in Bonn and a cut from Vanja Sky’s debut album Bad Penny featuring Zito and Allison on vocals and guitar.

WIB Live: Josh Smith

Lemonade

Josh Smith live @ Yard Club, Cologne, Germany

Words & photos: Vincent Abbate

Some days you go to a concert. Other days, you really need to hear the blues.

This particular mid-November tick on the calendar put me through the wringer. It began with an unwanted call from my auto mechanic (“Your car’s not ready”) and found me filing a formal complaint and request for reimbursement at the local train station eight harrowing hours later. It was a traveler’s worst nightmare, like something out of Planes, Trains and Automobiles, and though I didn’t flip out like Steve Martin at the car rental counter, my insides were churning.

When evening arrived, I wasn’t where I was supposed to be. I should have been 150 kilometers away in the Dutch city of Eindhoven, taking care of important business. Instead, I was moping around at home. It felt as though life had handed me a whole sack full of lemons. There really was nothing left to do but lug that sack out to one of my favorite haunts, the Yard Club, hoping to turn them into lemonade.

That’s where the blues comes in.

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WIB Live: Jonny Lang

Old, New, Borrowed & Blue

Jonny Lang live @ Gloria, Cologne, Germany

Words & photos: Vincent Abbate

The next time I hear someone knock Jonny Lang for being not gritty or gutty or bluesy enough, I am going to whack him upside the head.

But maybe it would be smarter to send them to the nearest Jonny Lang concert, where the evidence will surely speak for itself – as it did on this colossally beautiful October evening in Cologne.

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WIB Live: Ash Grunwald

Puttin’ the Hammer Down

Ash Grunwald live @ topos, Leverkusen, Germany

Words: Vincent Abbate / Photos: Udo Udelhoven, Gerwin Jakobowski

There’s not much hollering and moaning in the blues anymore.

We’ve got singers, the good and the great, and not a few vocally challenged guitarists. But can anyone rattle the window panes with his voice? That’s what happened when the incomparable Son House took his otherworldly field holler indoors to the coffee houses a half-century ago. And when, even further back, Robert Johnson moaned his “Me And The Devil Blues,” well … you could practically see ol’ Satan close his claws around the doomed minstrel’s shoulder.

Ash Grunwald has got the holler down.

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