Mar 29, 2018
by Robert Feuer
The Apple Blossom Festival returns for its sixth year at Sebastopol’s Ives Park on April 22 at 1 p.m. Once again produced by Sonoma County’s blues guru, Bill Bowker, the lineup is a spectacular collection of Bay Area artists, some making a big splash nationally.
Headliner, Oakland’s Terrie Odabi, identifies herself as a “blues and soul woman.” She received nominations at the 2017 Blues Music Awards (the BMA’s are the blues world’s top honors) as Best Soul Blues Female Artist and for Best Emerging Artist Album. Her 2016 release, “My Blue Soul,” largely self-written, made Living Blues Magazine’s Top 50 Blues Albums list for 2016. A highlight of that release is “Gentrification Blues,” a song about the effects on cultural norms as neighborhood populations change.
Odabi will be backed by the seven-piece Anthony Paule Soul Orchestra, nominated this year for the BMA’s Best Soul Band Award. Paule has been a leading Bay Area guitarist for many years, touring and recording with such as Boz Skaggs, Charlie Musselwhite, Maria Muldaur, and Norton Buffalo, as well as his own bands.
Alabama Mike, born in Alabama in 1964, is also on the bill. A military hitch brought him to the Bay Area at age 19, where he later began his live musical career in 1999 in the clubs of Oakland and Richmond. He now lives in San Leandro.
Mike returns to this event for his second consecutive year. He was nominated for a BMA as Best Traditional Male Blues Artist in 2011. His 2014 release with his acoustic band, the Hound Kings, got a BMA nomination for Best Traditional Blues Male Artist.
Mike refers to Lightnin’ Hopkins as his main influence, especially Hopkins’ storytelling, the thing that first attracted Mike to the blues. Mike’s latest release, “Upset the Status Quo,” also made the Living Blues Top 50 of 2016, and includes contemporary social commentary, he says, “Getting things moving forward, not boxing oneself in.”
Th opening act is a Sonoma County band, the Aces, fronted by lead guitarist Derek Irving, who describes the band’s music as “low-fi electric blues.” Irving’s career, prior to the Aces, included gigs with Charlie Musselwhite, Doyle Bramhall II, Mark Hummel, Terry Hanck, and Mitch Woods. As a member of Woods’ band he backed up classic artists Johnny Adams andEarl King in the early ‘90s.
In 1995, Irving says he began working out with Aces harp player Skye O’Banion, before adding rhythm guitar and drums, but no bass, to form the Aces in ’98. In 2010, the band won the Northbay “Best Blues Band” award, shortly before breaking up. They returned to the stage last year.
A quote from a reviewer defines their music as “energetic leftfield punk/blues combining a heavy-duty growler of a singer with a guitarist who jabs and slashes like a cornered serial killer, and a wailing siren of a harmonica, which says that the cops are coming, but not to rescue you.”
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