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Ashland hills are alive with the blues

Lloyd Jones is lovin' the blues more than ever. "I hear it more than ever," says the Portland musician. "I listen to old stuff that I've known and think 'That's what that is.' "

Jones grew up during a time when blues artists Big Walter, Big Mama Thornton, George Smith and Charlie Musselwhite were still performing.

"It's a hand-me-down style of music," says Jones. "It occurs to me that if it isn't played, it won't continue to be in the culture."

Jones and his band, the Lloyd Jones Struggle, will headline the third annual Beacon Hill Blues Festival Sunday, July 10. The festival will begin at 1 p.m. with acoustic blues guitarist Pete Herzog. David Pinsky and his Rhythm Kings and Broadway Phil and the Shouters also are on the lineup.

The real treat will be the Struggle's funky grooves, with Warran Rand on alto sax, Rudy Draco on tenor sax, Dover Weinberg on keys, drummer Mark Griffith and bass player Denny Bixby.

"Warren used to play with the 'Ice Man' (Albert Collins) and Robert Cray," says Jones. "He's played with top-end jazz players all around this part of the country."

Draco has been with Jones since the Struggle formed in 1984; Weinberg also performed with Cray and the Paul deLay Band; Griffith is a newcomer to Portland — from Florida; and Bixby has been a first-call session player in Nashville, Tenn., for 18 years.

"It's a good vibe, and I'm enjoying it a lot," says Jones. "Music is people getting together to feel good."

Jones started recording with his band in '87 and has six full-length, professionally produced albums to his credit that are distributed nationally and worldwide. He's traveled around the world promoting his music, including a tour with B.B. King in 1989. In 2007, he was inducted into the Oregon Music Hall of Fame.

Jones says he is always excited about the next thing. He and his band have just finished a new album, titled "Doin' What It Takes." A release date hasn't been set.

"I'm writing more than ever and delighted about it," he says. "It's what keeps me going.

Jones writes primarily for the band. At the same time, he's released a solo, acoustic album titled "Highway Bound," on Seattle's Underworld Records.

"I started playing traditional stuff that I like on Monday nights at the Muddy Rudder," says Jones. "I play music by Elizabeth Cotton, Mississippi John Hurt. So I put together a collection of folk blues that features more of the Piedmont style of fingerpicking. It's got a softer edge than the stuff Muddy Waters, Robert Nighthawk, Bill Broonzy and other blues artists were playing in Chicago.

"There's a piece of history," says Jones. "When Eric Clapton played 'Key to the Highway,' people thought he wrote it last week. They were actually listening to an electrified version of Broonzy."

Tickets to the Beacon Hill Blues Festival cost $18 and are available at the gate and online at www.ashlandblues.org. Food and beverages will be available at the event.

The annual festival is sponsored by the Ashland Blues Society, a nonprofit organization and member of The Blues Foundation based in Memphis, Tenn. ABS hosts a blues jam twice a month at Roscoe's BBQ.

Lloyd Jones, above, and his band, the Lloyd Jones Struggle, headline the Beacon Hill Blues Festival this year. - www.lloydjonesmusic.com