From the MAMA website:
8 p.m. Saturday, February 13, 2010
Otherlands Coffee Bar
641 S. Cooper
On February 13th, Memphians will have the opportunity to witness a rare convergence of stars in the blues firmament—a supernova of sorts: Andy Cohen, Eleanor Ellis, and William Lee Ellis will occupy the same stage for an extraordinary evening of music-making featuring country blues, old time, and gospel music as exemplified in their 1993 collaboration Preachin’ in That Wilderness.
Cohen, Ellis, and Ellis have absorbed a plethora of musical influences to land squarely in the vibrant vicinity of country blues, in particular that of the acoustic guitar style known as the Piedmont blues, promulgated by musicians such as Blind Boy Fuller, the Reverend Gary Davis, Archie Edwards, and Cephas and Wiggins. Their performances pay homage to those who went before them, those who continue to keep this tradition alive, the masters at whose feet they learned this music.
Andy Cohen certainly needs no introduction to MAMA audiences certainly need no introduction to Andy Cohen, a man who hasn’t met a stringed instrument he couldn’t charm music from in a memorable fashion. Cohen grew up in a house with a piano and Dixieland jazz records. The Folk Music Revival of the nineteen sixties exposed him to the recordings of Jim Kweskin and Big Bill Broonzy as a teenager, and at 16 he saw the Reverend Gary Davis. He has never since looked back. Ever since, Andy has been playing and promulgating that music, and in the process he has become an authority on, among other topics, the guitar styles of the Reverend Davis.
The venerable U.K. publication Folkroots calls Eleanor Ellis (no relation to Bill, except musically) “an unsung heroine of the American acoustic country blues scene.” She was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, and grew up in Amite, guaranteeing her exposure to a veritable gumbo of musical traditions. R&B recordings on the radio first piqued her musical interest and prompted a request to her parents for a guitar. Back in New Orleans, she teamed up with budding mandolin player Hazel Schlueter, and from there joined the full-fledged bluegrass group the Green Valley Cut-Ups, where she was persuaded to take up the double bass. A move to Maryland exposed her to the Piedmont blues, and she has since established herself as a performer, archivist, and historian of this venerable style. Writing of her CD release Comin’ a Time, in the Blues Art Journal, Larry Benicewicz observed, “As to whether or not Eleanor wants to come out of the shadows and share the spotlight of local luminaries, she may not have a choice, since her brand new CD is just that remarkable to officially put her on the map.”
William Lee Ellis (Bill to his friends and many fans) is another performer who needs no introduction to Memphis audiences and whose musical pedigree is impeccable. He is the godson and namesake of Bill Monroe and the son of Tony Ellis, banjo picker and fiddler extraordinaire in Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys. Learning bluegrass from that genre’s luminaries as a boy and accompanying his father, Bill inevitably struck out on his own, earning a degree in classical guitar performance in college. Then, Andy Cohen introduced Bill to the playing of the Reverend Gary Davis, and Bill succumbed to that music’s potent spell. Blues Bites called God’s Tattoos, his most recent recording, a “stunning piece of American music,” “an exceptional release.
None of these talented musicians has been content merely to transmit a tradition. As much as they revere their forbears, they are too creative not to inject their own ideas into this music, paradoxically remaining truer to the living, breathing tradition in the process. Don’t miss this rare opportunity to hear Andy Cohen, Eleanor Ellis, and William Lee Ellis conjure up a country blues whirlwind on February 13th.
Tickets are $10, available at Otherlands and Davis-Kidd Booksellers.