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Sunday School

The Mike Bloomfield tribute isn't the only attraction May 25 at the Blues Festival. Sunday's lineup also includes fiery blues guitarists and is the closest we're likely to get to an Antone's reunion.

Jimmie Vaughan

He's got plenty of vintage chops--and not the karate kind, either. We're talking about the raw, Chicago-style licks that smack you upside the head like a drunken mannish boy. With his flashy classic cars, slicked-back hair and vintage sound, you'd think that Jimmie was born in a roadhouse with guitar in hand, but it wasn't until he was laid up with a football injury at 13 that Jimmie finally picked up an ax. Rumor has it that he hasn't put it down since, but think about it--how would he shower? At any rate, in 1975 Jimmie joined forces with Kim Wilson and singer Lou Ann Barton to form the Fabulous Thunderbirds, who became the house band at the legendary Antone's Blues Club. Vaughan and contemporaries like Angela Strehli opened up for blues greats Freddie King and Muddy Waters, soaking up their genius like a couple of chamois on an old T-Bird.

The older brother of Austin blues/rock guitar god Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimmie has managed to develop a singular sound in a genre full of technically amazing yet stylistically apish imitators. On his latest Grammy-winning album, Do You Get The Blues, Vaughan settles into a bluesy but decidedly soulful groove, subtly updating that gritty Chicago-style blues of the '50s with a contemporary R&B feel.

Mike Connor


Ray Charles: The Santa Cruz Blues Festival headliner on Saturday is Ray Charles.

Ex-Ray Specs: The Santa Cruz Blues Festival's Saturday roster.

Lovin' Bloomfield: Chris Cain and his brother Patrick's band--The Ford Blues Band--pay tribute to the late Michael Bloomfield.


Coco Montoya

It's been a quirky musical evolution for Coco Montoya. A formidable blues guitarist whose performance history includes a 10-year stint with John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers, Montoya got his start in the music scene as a drummer. That was back in the mid-1970s, when Albert Collins called Montoya up from the minors to lay down the rhythms for his touring band. Montoya stayed with Collins for five years, learning guitar from the legendary blues master in the band's off-hours and then going on to play with Mayall in a role held previously by such people as Eric Clapton and Mick Taylor. Since 1993, Montoya has toured his own band, releasing three critically acclaimed albums and pulling down four W.C. Handy Award nominations. A natural-born entertainer, Montoya gives off nonstop energy and all-out emotion when he plays. His show is usually full of surprises--the time at Moe's, for example, when Montoya first startled and then delighted the crowd by hopping off the stage and playing his way across the dance floor.

Barbara McKenna

Tinsley Ellis

Tinsley Ellis

If this guy ever goes tripping into the desert to find his Native American spirit animal, he'll undoubtedly find a Tasmanian Devil waiting to greet him--geographical considerations be damned! Born in Atlanta and raised in Florida, Ellis was weaned on the sounds of John Mayall, Fleetwood Mac, the Rolling Stones and B.B. King. Most often compared to the fiery guitar legend Stevie Ray Vaughan, Ellis is known for his always-full-throttle, balls-to-the-wall, peddle-to-the-metal, all-systems-go, nonstop-rocking approach to guitar playing. Although lesser known by blues fans in general, Ellis' technical skills have earned him plenty of credence amongst guitar aficionados.

Mike Connor

Angela Strehli

When Club Antone opened in Austin, Texas, in 1975, Jimmie and Stevie Ray Vaughan, Kim Wilson, Lou Ann Barton and Angela Strehli found a home. Surrounded by country & western clubs and vilified by blues purists as white imitators, Angela and crew proved tough and soulful. Although she's released only four albums, Angela has appeared on numerous productions with well-known artists, most notably with Stevie Ray Vaughan on Live at Carnegie Hall (1997) and the award-winning Dreams Come True (1990) with Lou Ann Barton and Marcia Ball. Her husband Bob Brown bought and restored Rancho Nicasio, a historic roadhouse in Marin County. Here, as reigning queen, she recorded The Angela Strehli House Band, Live From Rancho Nicasio (2001). This Lubbock, Texas, singer, who helped keep the blues alive through the drought of the '80s, has made her home there. In a recent interview she spoke of her love for the Ranch and describes neighbor Elvin Bishop helping her out with the landscaping. With Jimmie Vaughan and Lou Ann Barton also playing on Sunday this may be the nearest we'll come to a Club Antone reunion.

Meribeth Malone

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From the May 14-21, 2003 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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