Magazine 33′s article on The Bush League’s summer trip!


We were so happy the Chandler was able to work it out to come to Memphis and document our time on Beale Street and well as in the studio in mid-June!  Here is the article that he wrote for Magazine 33!




The Bush League in Memphis

By Photojournalist and Field Events Coordinator: Chandler Moulton   Tue, Aug 28, 2012


This was an amazing road trip for Richmond’s own The Bush League. Not only did they play in Memphis at the International Blues Challenge, but they took the opportunity to work with the student of a master to record their upcoming CD! Magazine33 Photojournalist Chandler Moulton accompanies the group on their journey.



All over the world, around this time of year, groups and solo performers are competing to represent blues societies at the International Blues Challenge (IBC) sponsored by the Blues Foundation and held yearly on Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee.  While competing in Memphis does not guarantee a group will be discovered and become superstars the competition can provided a leg up. Watermelon Slim, Susan Tedeschi, Tommy Castro, and Super Chikan, to name just a few have all performed at the IBC.
This year’s IBC competition saw 119 bands and 86 solo/duo acts filling the clubs up and down Beale Street for the quarter-finals and semi-finals from Wednesday to Friday night with the finals at the Orpheum Theater on Saturday.  This year, The Bush League,  representing the Natchel Blues Network from the Hampton Roads area advanced to the semi-finals and caught the eye of Vinny Marini.  This led to the group being interviewed on Marini’s “Music On The Couch:  Musicians You Should Know” internet radio live podcast; The Bush League also garnered an appearance at the Hard Rock Cafe in Memphis and the 40th Bentonia Blues Festival in Bentonia, Mississippi.  The festival is hosted by Mr. Jimmy “Duck” Holmes – one of the oldest players in the country blues tradition, and proprietor of the Blue Front Cafe (part of the Mississippi Blues Trail) which his parents opened in 1948.  The Bush League shared the stage with the likes of Lightnin’ Malcolm, Roosevelt Roberts Jr., and Super Chikan and the Fighting Cocks, and front man John Jason Cecil serving as the festival’s Master of Ceremonies.

But that’s not all!  The Bush League’s appearance at the 2012 IBC resulted in other exciting occurences for the group:  Young Avenue Sound Engineer Ari Morris ran sound in the club as the Bush League played during the first round of the IBC.  Morris approached Bush League bassist Royce Folks after the set and told him that he wanted to record the group.  Kenya Watkins, The Bush League’s manager told me:  “[I]t just kinda fell in our laps as we were looking to record here [Richmond] but once we found out who Ari had worked with, including [the late] Jim  Dickinson, we knew he was the right guy for this project.”

For those not familiar with Jim Dickinson, he is credited with recording what has been called the last great record on the Sun Label, “Cadillac Man”, “My Babe” by the Jesters, playing piano and singing lead on both sides, even though he was not an actual member of the group.  Dickinson also played on Aretha Franklin’s Spirit in the Dark album, The Rolling Stones track “Wild Horses”, and Bob Dylan’s album Time out of Mind.  Dickinson produced Big Star’s (perhaps the most influential band you’ve never heard of) Third, as well as co-produced Alex Chilton’s Like Flies on Sherbert.  Other artists that Dickinson produced include Mojo Nixon, Jason and The Nashville Scorchers, The Replacements.  His sons Luther and Cody make up two-thirds of the North Mississippi Allstars.  So, Morris’ education at the University of Memphis has been augmented with lessons from one the masters.

Joining The Bush League both at the Hard Rock Cafe and in studio for a few songs was Jeremy Powell, keyboardist with Beale Street stalwarts Vince Johnson and The Plantation Allstars. Memphis musician (Ghost Town Blues Band) and producer (Daddy Mack Orr Band) Matt Isbell told me that Jeremy had only been playing for a few years and was growing as a keyboardist and performer.
The Bush League’s upcoming CD was recorded in one day, in an open studio (except for Cecil, who was stuck in a small dark isolation booth for his vocals), and except for one song (four takes), the tracks were laid down in two or three takes (one cut was laid down in one take) with a bare minimum of punching.  Fans of the blues and especially fans of Richmond blues should be on the look out for this disc.  Having lived in Memphis for three years prior to my return to Richmond at the end of 2011, I jumped at the chance to accompany The Bush League to Memphis.  While I didn’t accompany the group to Bentonia, (friends and Todd Snider kept me in Memphis) hopefully, the photographs from Hard Rock and Young Avenue Sound do justice to what was a great experience for the group in the city that is considered the home of the blues and the birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll:  Memphis, Tennessee.


Magazine 33 article on The Bush League’s ‘Blues In The Bottom’!


On December 17, 2011, The Bush League brought their second installment of ‘Blues In The Bottom‘ to The Canal Club in Richmond, VA.  Magazine 33 came out and reported on the event.  If you missed the first two ‘Blues In The Bottom’ events, be sure to keep an eye out for the next one coming soon!



Blues in the Bottom

By Correspondent: Sarah Freiseis   Sat, Jan 07, 2012

Local artists stake their claim in the International Blues Challenge. Photos by Chandler Moulton.


Big ups to our local musicians putting this fine city on the music map.  Richmonders are shouting out and showing up when it comes to live and local.  Supporting local acts is easy when you genuinely enjoy what you are hearing, seeing, and above all, experiencing.

The Blues in the Bottom event at The Canal Club was a fundraiser to help two acts – The Bush League (Richmond) and Rooster Foot (Virginia Beach) – get to the 2012 International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tennessee.  The competition is in its twenty-eighth year and will be held January 31 – February 4 in the Beale Street entertainment district.  The Bush League will participate in the group category and Rooster Foot will perform as a duo in the upcoming IBC.  The groups were eligible to move on because of a win in a regional competition; both, in this instance, from the one hosted by the Natchel Blues Network, which has been promoting the blues as a 501c3 non-profit organization since 1984 in the Hampton Roads area.

Beyond the IBC bound, the lineup for Blues in the Bottom also featured the Mike Lucci Band and Pigfoot Riot who got the night started off right, each bringing a unique energy to the stage through vivacious female vocalists.  The Richmond-based Mike Lucci Band is a self-proclaimed Chicago style variety of the genre with added emphasis on rockin’ rhythm and blues (and even known to throw in some rumba) that features Mike Lucci on the bass.  Pigfoot Riot is comprised of members of the River City Blues Society, a six-person ensemble with a raw edge that gets the audience movin’ off the bat.

Next came Rooster Foot, aka the Stainback duo.  Singer, songwriter, and guitarist Seth was joined by his father Keith to complete the sound.  “I grew up around music.  I’ve been playing since I was a kid,” said Seth.  “I moved out to Norfolk about three years ago – I’m a welder, I moved out there to work – and my dad moved out like two years after me because he just liked it there, and I started playing music again.  Someone said, ‘Hey, you need to enter this competition, it will help you out,’ so I did, and I got my dad to come with me ’cause he plays percussion.  I was filling out the form, and we needed a band name, so I put down Rooster Foot.”  He said there isn’t a particular process for him in writing and creating music.  “Words hit me, or a melody will hit me, sometimes I’ll write a song in ten minutes, and sometimes pieces of it will lay around for months.  It’s always different, but all my life anything that has to do with music has never been something contrived.  It’s always just been in me, it definitely comes from my heart, I can say that, it comes from my heart and soul.”  He went on to say he is currently working on an album due out in or around February.  “Recording over at Soul Haven Studios in Virginia Beach, so we’re about three quarters of the way done, so hopefully it’ll be out soon.”

Headliners the Bush League have often referred to their sound as FuB&RR, standing for Funk, Blues & Rock and Roll.  Guitarist Shane Porch (aka Chicago Slim) said, “I think our sound is different because it’s not textbook, it’s projecting the feelings inside of you, we are ourselves in the music, and I think that’s what we have to bring to the table.”  Royce Folks (bass) added, “We play off of each other, it’s all organic, and we play off the crowds also.  Even if we played the same setlist, it would be different every time.”  The band took a moment before going on stage to talk to Magazine33 about that night’s event as well as the upcoming Memphis competition.  Folks explained that the Blues in the Bottom event was the second of its kind, “We’re just trying to get more blues acts, and to have more blues related things here in the area.  This time we’re using it as a fundraiser to get down to the International Blues Challenge.”  Vocalist JohnJason “Sleepy Eyed Jay” Cecil, who also happens to be co-founder of the band (the other being Folks), said they have had the opportunity to attend this esteemed event before.  “There has been some iteration of this band going to the International Blues Challenge for three years in a row.  Shane and myself went first as a solo/duo category winner, and then the band won at the Sedalia Blues Festival, and now we just won again for the Natchel Blues Network, so what it’s become now is … a whole lot of fun.”  He said because acts come from all over the globe, it has almost become like a homecoming of sorts, “because we’ve made friends now, it’s like, ‘See you in Memphis.’”

The band has released two self-produced live albums since forming in early 2007.  Porch said, “I think the next move after Memphis is probably going to be towards a full-length studio album.”  Gwen “Platinum Plaque” Frederick played drums on their latest album which included songs “Mexico”, “Gotta Women”, and “Don’t Touch My Liquor” they also played at the 2011 International Blues Challenge.  On the night of the Blues in the Bottom event, the guys were joined on stage by double duty drummer Rod Hyner of Pigfoot Riot.  In terms of live music, Porch added, “Simply put, our songs have a framework, and we play with that framework every night, but as long as we get from point A topoint B, and we know the general path to get there, we make it, and that’s how we do our music.  It works … and people like it.”  When asked about the future of the blues, JohnJason said, “The blues isn’t going anywhere.  People have their interpretations or perceptions of what it is, but the fact of the matter is, blues as a genre of music is just as varied as any other sort of music, and since blues is the progenitor of all American music, it just stands to reason it won’t going away.  We’re not going to let it go anywhere.”

It is incredible that in just a matter of weeks these guys will be playing the clubs of Beale Street, an infamous stretch of town where so many music greats have graced.  In addition to evenings filled with playing music, the days will provide seminars and workshops, closing by paying homage to the blues community with the Keeping the Blues Alive (KBA) awards ceremony.  Rooster Foot and the Bush League will participate in a “Battle of the Bands” style competition for a panel of judges, and not that they need it, but we wish them luck and look forward to hearing more about their incredible adventure.