9 Reasons To Attend The Golden Gate Blues Society’s International Blues Competition Solo/Duo Round


Oakland. My former home. The Oakland of a long-gone Navy. The Oakland of Ken Stabler. The Oakland of Eli’s.

To misquote that English bluesman (for that is, in so many ways, what I think he really is) Billy Bragg, “I don’t want to change the world, I’m just looking for a new Oakland…”

I and you and we will find a new Oakland Thursday night. A blues Oakland. A solo Oakland. A duo Oakland.

(To find out more details about this event, please click here. You’ll be taken to a Facebook Events Page)

We will be the Oakland of Your Place Too and Flint’s. And we will be the Oakland of The Terrace Room.

What follows are 9 Reasons you should be in this Oakland/that Oakland Thursday night. These 9 reasons are an aggregation of what was once 7 reasons, then appended with an 8th, and now modified to include a 9th.

*Historical Note: The James Brown chord is a 9th.

Read on, and dig.

(and if you’re already familiar with reasons 1-8, then get on to the end of this post and dig Number 9. Number 9. Number 9. Number 9…)

Because, what is blues? Blues is not some chump in a designer suit in front of a wall of amps playing “tributes” to a huge crowd of $100 ticket holders in a theater. Blues is a person, and people. Blues is raw. Blues is an instrument with a sound, in hands with a feel, below a voice with a power. It is not whispered. It is music for all generations, played where there is food and drink and diapers and bottles and laughing and talking and dancing and silence and nothingness and just being present. It is not the cry of an oppressed people any more than it is formulaic entertainment. It is American Haiku with a thumb pick. It is slightly dangerous and very funny and a bit about fucking but also the strange intelligence of old people and the smell of swamps and the in-the-momentness of monks. This is REASON ONE to attend this event. Because you will hear boots stomp to the raw sound of American Mojo Haiku Swamp Songs.

Coyote Slim. Because of all the above. Because he’s the real deal. Because he plays farmers’ markets, and is grateful about it. Because he cares about his clothes because he respects his opportunities. Because his bio says he’s an arborist. Because he understands how to sing, and why it’s important. Because you should listen to Coyote Slim. Because he has R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Because when he plays and sings, the sound is alive. This is REASON TWO why you should attend this event.

John Maxwell. Because his latest album has him playing “Let The Mermaids Flirt With Me.” Which is one of the greatest not-as-well-known performances Mississippi John Hurt ever recorded. Because he plays a slide guitar version of “St. James Infirmary.” Because CD Baby says he’s recommended if you like Leon Redbone. This is REASON THREE why you should attend this event.

John Maxwell | Blues for Evangeline

Chicken & Dumpling. Because they’re called Chicken & Dumpling. This is REASON FOUR why you should attend this event.

Country Pete McGill. Because Holy Crap, check him out:

And THAT … is REASON FIVE to attend this event.

Preacher Boy. Yours truly. I’m writing this, so I can’t say anything about myself, but I’m a reason to come all the same. So I am REASON SIX to attend this event.


A reviewer once wrote of one of my albums that I sung every word as if I were about to expire. I was very proud of that review. I still try to sing that way, and some day, I’ll be right. Your life is a choice, too. Every moment of it. Is your past impacting your present right now? It is. So the past is here right now. And of course the present is here right now. And is what you’re doing right now going to impact the future? Of course it is. So the future is here too. Which means now really is the only moment. So I sing that way. And on the evening of September 10th, it will be your only moment, and you can do with that what you will, but I hope you choose to attend this event, because that will illustrate and exemplify what you care about. That you care about realness. That you care about hearing skin on brass. Boot on floor. That you care about the actual sound of a throat framing the word “down.” That you know all soulful people wear groovy shoes. It will show that you’re a Blues Monk Haiku Zen Blues Master with big mojo. And you want to be that don’t you? Because you want to be close enough to reach out and touch the musician, but you won’t, because you won’t need to.

THAT … is REASON SEVEN to attend this event.



Due largely to when and where I was born, I haven’t had too many flesh-and-blood musical teachers. My Grandpa certainly, from whom I received my Nationals. But that’s very nearly it. Certainly I’ve had friends, peers, fellow musicians that I’ve learned uncountable amounts from, but I like to think/hope those are give-and-take relationships.

By and large, my teachers have been recordings and books. Vinyl releases from Vanguard, Takoma, Arhoolie. Books by Samuel Charters, David Evans, Stefan Grossman. And of course, the music. This has been my true teacher. The music of Bukka White, Sleepy John Estes, Charley Patton, Son House, Blind Willie Johnson, Robert Pete Williams, and so, so, so many more.

There is one exception to the above, however. There is one teacher, one flesh-and-blood teacher, at whose knee I have genuinely studied. His name is Big Bones.

I’ve told the tale too many times to merit repeating here, but suffice it to say Big Bones looms large in my life. I played with him for the first time on a street corner in Berkeley, some 25 years ago. We’ve gone years in silence since, intermingled with long, strange, beautiful and hard hours, days, weeks, months on the road together. We’ve driven to Arkansas, flown to Amsterdam, sailed to Ireland.

Here is he and I together, from The Kitchen Set:


What I have learned from Big Bones is immeasurable. What you will experience in the presence of he and his music is inexpressible. Big Bones. He is REASON EIGHT to attend  The Golden Gate Blues Society’s International Blues Competition Solo/Duo Round.

Through the strange machinations of fate, I am not scheduled to play WITH Big Bones that night. Rather, I am scheduled to compete AGAINST him. This is of course ridiculous. I could sooner eat dinosaur marrow w/ mole sauce than compete with Bones.

The event is of course not a competition of any kind, really. It is a celebration of a raw, urgent, vital music. A music that lives fully within the boundaries of Big Bones.

Please CLICK HERE to attend this event.


Finally, REASON NINE: You.

You are the reason to attend this event. Because you DO want to change the world, and you ARE looking for a new Oakland.

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