Oregon's reputation as a hotbed for blues musicians brings to mind Robert Cray, Curtis Salgado, Lloyd Jones and Duffy Bishop, among others. The Rogue Valley can take its place among music-savvy cities Port-land and Eugene with Northwest favorites Karen Lovely, David Pinsky, "Broadway" Phil Newton and dozens of others.
Blues vocalist and songwriter Lovely — a second-place winner at the 2010 International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tenn. — got her start singing in Ashland clubs and now resides in Portland.
What: Beacon Hill Blues Festival
When: 1:30 to 7 p.m. Saturday, June 29
Where: 188 Beacon Hill Lane, off Old Siskiyou Highway south of Ashland
Blues singer, songwriter and guitarist Kevin Selfe moved to Portland from Roanoke, Va., in 2007 to surround himself with a higher caliber of blues musicians.
"Oregon is very well-known for its blues scene," Selfe says. "Salgado, Jones, Bishop — all of those artists are known outside of Portland."
Selfe and The Tornadoes, featuring bass player Allen Markel and drummer John Shultz, and Lovely, backed up by guitarist Leonard Griffie, drummer G.T. Albright, bassist Tyler Smith and keyboard player Pat McDougall, will headline Saturday, June 29, at the fifth annual Beacon Hill Blues Festival in Ashland.
Festival organizers have showcased Oregon blues bands since its 2009 inception, starting out with local players and growing to include Portland-based bands. This year's show will include Pinsky and Newton, joined by the Rogue Valley Blues All-Stars — bassist Gary Davis, drummer David Matthieu, guitarist Brent Norton, keyboard player Gary Halliburton and saxophone player Roger Volz — along with the indispensable harmonica blowoff with Mark Howard, Bruce Dunn, Pinsky and Newton competing.
Call it a triple, or quadruple, hit of the blues, if you'd like.
The show runs from 1:30 to 7 p.m. at 188 Beacon Hill Lane, off Old Siskiyou Highway in the hills south of Ashland. See www.ashlandblues.org for directions. Tickets cost $22 and may be purchased at Music Coop or Hot Stuff Espresso in Ashland, Gypsy Trader in Phoenix or at the gate.
A talented songwriter, Selfe's original music presents clever takes on diverse blues styles. His new CD, "Long Walk Home," mixes Delta, Chicago, West Coast and jump blues.
"That's also my approach to live performances," he says. "Everything that I do is blues, but I really like changing it up."
That musical diversity — along with Selfe's spine-tingling guitar licks — are standouts on "Long Walk Home," released in February on the Delta Groove Music label.
The songs "Moving Day Blues" and "Walking Funny" are straight-ahead West Coast blues. The guitar style on "Last Crossroad" is a mix of Delta and the hill-country blues of Mississippi, and "Midnight Creeper" has a swamp groove.
"I picked that influence up listening to the bluegrass players in Virginia," Selfe says. "And I had a specific idea for 'Too Much Voodoo.' I was trying to create a contemporary, atmospheric groove that would compare to someone like Cray.
"Someone told me early on that the best way to write authentic blues is to write about the things you know," he says. "That's what I try to do with my music."
"Long Walk Home" is Selfe's first recording for a major label.
"I'm really proud of the way this one turned out," he says. "Delta Groove threw lots of guest artists onto the album: Mitch Kashmar on vocals and harmonica, pianist Gene Taylor (The Fabulous Thunderbirds) and Doug James (Roomful of Blues)."
The album also features Markel and drummer Jimi Bott, who plays for Selfe when he's not touring with The Mannish Boys.
Drummer Shultz has worked with Selfe on and off since The Tornadoes formed in 2005. He joined the group on the 2009 independent release "Playing the Game." An independent debut, "Selfe-Contained," was released in 2006.
"Johnny and Jimi are both amazing drummers and bring their own feel to what I do," Selfe says.
"Long Walk Home" made it to No. 6 on Living Blues' online radio chart.
"We were somewhere in between Buddy Guy and Robben Ford," Selfe says.
Selfe and The Tornadoes — and Lovely and her Prohibition Orchestra — will perform Friday, July 5, on the Oregonian Front Porch Stage at Portland's Waterfront Blues Festival, one of the largest outdoor blues fests in the country.
Selfe and The Tornadoes won the Cascade Blues Association's Muddy Awards for Traditional Blues Act of the Year in 2012, 2011 and 2010. The band won a Muddy for Contemporary Blues Act of the Year in 2009. It was inducted into the CBA Hall of Fame in 2012.