Karen Lovely performed in late August at Herb Alpert's Vibrato in Los Angeles. She and her band came in second at the 2010 International Blues Challenge. - Photo by Tony Gieske

Blues award winners at Roscoe's

"So much has happened since we came in second at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis it would make your head spin," says Ashland blues vocalist Karen Lovely, whose band won second place in the best band category in January at the IBC.

The Karen Lovely Band will perform at 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 30, at Roscoe's BBQ, 117 S. Main St., Phoenix. The IBC's 2010 first place winner for best band will perform the following night at Roscoe's.

The Grady Champion Band, featuring a blues singer and harmonica player from Canton, Miss., bested about 150 blues bands at The Blues Foundation's annual competition.

Lovely and her band are back in the Rogue Valley after a trip to Ontario, Canada, where they performed two shows at the Canal Bank Shuffle Blues Festival held just outside of Toronto.

In late August, the band played at trumpeter and bandleader Herb Alpert's Vibrato Grill Jazz "… etc. in Bel Air, Calif.

"It was our Los Angeles debut," Lovely says. "Bill Withers was in the crowd. That was exciting. And we received an amazing review from Don Heckman."

Heckman writes about music and beyond for the Los Angeles Times, Jazz Times and elsewhere. His blog, The International Review of Music, is at www.irom.wordpress.com.

"He's interviewed everybody who is somebody in jazz and rock, including Janis Joplin," Lovely says.

Lovely also was featured in an article by Frank John Hadley for Downbeat magazine, with the story showing up in the print and online editions.

"We also won Blues Revue's band contest in October," Lovely says. The magazine's readers choose the winner by voting for their favorite CDs, which have been reviewed in the publication. Lovely's 2010 CD "Still the Rain" was up against new recordings by Keb' Mo', the Derek Trucks Band, Bettye LaVette and other artists. The Blues Revue win will give the Karen Lovely Band a full-page color ad in its next issue.

Lovely and her band took two Muddy Awards last year, and they've been nominated for four this year.

"The awards and nominations represent the quality of the CD and of the band's live performances," Lovely says. The band has undergone a new lineup since March and now features Leonard Griffie on electric guitar and Michael Vannice on sax, piano and organ, alongside drummer Teri Coté and bassist Bob DeChiro.

"But the support from local fans and the community mean the most to us," Lovely says. "When we opened a show for Taj Mahal in July at Britt, the audience was singing along with us. It was incredible."

Champion and his band have toured constantly since their win at the IBC.

The 41-year-old blues artist started singing in church when he was 8 and picked up the harmonica when he was 25. He broke onto the traditional blues scene with his self-released album, "Goin' Back Home," in 1998, followed by two more releases on Shanachie Records.

Champion's career also has been on the upswing since his victory in the IBC. The competition has spurred his latest release, "Back in Mississippi: Live at the 930 Blues Cafe," on Earwig Records. The album is up for a Grammy nomination for best traditional blues album of the year.

On Friday, Oct. 29, at Roscoe's, look for funky blues and rock by Smoky Red, featuring keyboard player Jim Quinby, vocalist Marcella Ruikis, guitarist Brent Norton, bassist Jay Jorgensen and drummer Kevin McKern. Smoky Red will present one of Ruikis' hand-painted silk scarves to whoever's wearing the most creative Halloween costume. Cover for the shows at Roscoe's is $3 for Smoky Red, $5 for the Karen Lovely Band and $10 for Grady Champion. Roscoe's will host a costume contest on Sunday, with a $50 gift certificate going to the best costume. Call 541-512-1046 for information.

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