The blues were alive and kicking in northern Illinois with some great educational programs and a show featuring Michael Hawkeye Herman, Dave Weld and Jeff Taylor.
The Crossroads Blues Society hosted these artists for four Blues in the Schools (BITS) programs, and an evening house concert Wednesday, Sept. 27. More than 1,400 students were exposed to the roots of American music, courtesy of BITS.
Hawkeye Herman is a renowned blues educator who spends several months a year in education programs. His knowledge of the blues is only surpassed by his talent. He is a superb singer, guitar player and songwriter. His newest CD, Its All Blues to Me, was released last year to outstanding reviews. The energy Hawkeye puts into school programs is amazing. He sings, plays and talks to the students, and gets them involved in all facets of the program. He even shows the kids how rap is not really new (it came from the old African verbal grillo song/oral history form).
Dave Weld is a well-known and immensely talented electric guitar wizard. Schooled by the legendary J.B. Hutto, Dave has been performing around the country and world for many years. Jeff Taylor is the very talented drummer and also the occasional frontman for Daves band, The Imperial Flames. They have a new CD that will be out soon, which the blues world is looking forward to hearing. Dave and Jeff put on a great show for kids, getting them up and involved while showing them how the blues has evolved using various instruments and their voices. Jeff even sings the bass part of the songs in a manner similar to the old juke joint days of the blues. Dave regularly testifies out within the crowd with his guitar and vocals.
Hawkeye performed at two Rockford schools; the students and faculty at Gregory Elementary School were treated to a great morning program while those at Eisenhower Middle School spent the afternoon with Herman. Dave and Jeff spent the morning at Meridian Middle School in Stillman Valley, and then did an afternoon session at Monroe Center Elementary School. Everyone who attended these programs learned a lot and got an outstanding introduction to the blues. Hawkeye, Dave and Jeff were very much in touch with the students and drove home the idea that the blues is a vibrant artform that all of American music has been derived from.
That night, the Crossroads group, along with Charlottes Web for the Performing Arts, put on a traditional house party concert at Crossroads President Mark Thompsons home in Rockton. In the early tradition of the Mississippi Delta blues, artists would get together at someones home and put on a show. This updated house party featured Herman in the first set, Weld and Taylor in the second set, and then a third set with all the artists really getting into it. They had never met, let alone practiced together, but the common language of the blues allowed them to perform together as if they had been touring together for years.
The Crossroads Blues Society is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization whose purpose is to provide music education programs via BITS at no cost to area schools. Info: www.crossroadsbluesosciety.com.
Piano blues artist Barrelhouse Chuck Goering and guitar player Eric Noden will be in the area Nov. 1 for four school programs and an evening show.
From the Oct. 11-17, 2006, issue