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'Dreamin' ' hits all the blues bases

Mississippi-born blues artist Grady Champion tours behind his 2011 release, "Dreamin'," which plays to a variety of emotions and styles within the R&B and blues genres.

The bluesman will perform at 8 p.m. Saturday, July 2, at Roscoe's BBQ, 117 S. Main St., Phoenix.

His new album, released in May, comprises 10 original tracks featuring Champion on harp and vocals, backed by guitarist and vocalist Zac Harmon, bassist Buthel, vocalist and drummer Cedric Goodman, guitarist Gregg Wright, keyboardist Christopher Troy and vocalist Sue Ann Carwell.

"Dreamin' " varies from the laid-back ballad "Weight of the World" to the gospel-influenced "Laugh, Smile, Cry Sometimes" and the heartfelt tribute "Thank You for Giving Me the Blues." Champion also throws in a couple soulful, "cheating" numbers: "Guilty as Charged" and "Cross the Bridge," the classic story of infidelity and imminent discovery.

Last week, "Weight of the World" hit No. 1 on American Blues Network's top-20 countdown.

Throughout the album, Champion deftly manipulates his voice to the tone of the song. For example, his vocals assume a passionate and sensual quality in the title track, "Dreamin' " but, only a few songs later, thunder and roar to "Same Train."

Champion, the youngest of 28 children, first pursued a rapping career before he was deterred by the genre's traditionally violent and misogynistic lyrics.

He first picked up the harp at age 25 and, in 1998, broke onto the blues scene with his self-released album, "Goin' Back Home," followed by two more releases on Shanachie Records.

Champion quickly proved he was well-suited for the blues and, last year, bested more than 150 other blues bands to win the 2010 International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tenn.

Cover to his show at Roscoe's is $5. Call 541-512-1046 or see www.gradychampion.com.

In 2010, Champion bested more than 150 other blues bands to win the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tenn. - Photo by Brett Beckman