The last competition rounds--to snag a slot at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis early next year-- are happening as we speak. For Southern California, acts who made it to the finals are playing a marathon show, Battle Of The Blues Bands, this Saturday at The Cellar in Long Beach.
Personally, I'm rooting for 805 South, who play the first set at 4 p.m. sharp. Think of them as the Riot Grrrls of the blues: Two ladies sharing lead vocal and songwriting duties, backed by classic instrumentalists on bass, drums, and lead guitar. Each chanteuse has her own sound and style. Rhythm guitarist Lisa Shea proffers a smooth alto that some describe as "female Jimi Hendrix," though she carries a tune much better than that guitar god. Candy Bailey, meanwhile, has a pretty-yet-edgy voice that reminds me of underground power-pop songstresses . Indeed, like Nina and Louise of Veruca Salt, Lisa and Candy are able to combine their different sounds and smoothly trade roles as frontwoman or backup singer.
My favorite tracks from their EP, Pay To Play: "Hey, Hey, Hey," which proves that blues can indeed be catchy; and "Leavin' Here," with a memorable guitar riff reminiscent of Mike Nesmith's on the crictically-acclaimed tune "Circle Sky."
I'd recommend 805 South to aficionados as well as those who, like an old friend once told me, think blues sounds too much like a guy needs to clear his throat for them to listen very long. So if you go to the Battle Of The Blues Bands, go early and check 'em out!