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Blues, photo art, tornado relief to highlight CD release


Jan Swoope



New blues music -- and a pinch of voodoo -- will be in the air Friday night as Big Joe Shelton and the Black Prairie Blues Ambassadors team up with the Columbus Arts Council for a CD release show and print exhibit in the gallery of the Rosenzweig Arts Center at 501 Main St. in Columbus. The event will also lend a helping hand to the Smithville tornado relief effort.  


Since Shelton''s new album, "The Older I Get, the Better I Was," dropped earlier this month, three tracks had already broken into the Top 25 on XM Radio''s B.B. King Bluesville rotation as of May 13. 


Overall, Shelton says, the collection of 10 original songs has a more traditional blues feel than some of his prior work. One piece in particular carries reminders of an oft-missed collaborator, Ean Evans. 




Lasting influence 


"''Psychoanalyst Voodoo Queen,'' about a New Orleans radio personality, is a song left from the last record project I did with Ean," Shelton said, referring to the late Lynyrd Skynyrd bassist, who lived in Columbus and lost a battle to cancer in 2009. Shelton''s previous disc, "Black Prairie Blues," was produced by Evans. 


"I didn''t have him to bounce things off of this time ... but the whole project came together after I pursued adding horns at Valley State for the track I''d already done with Ean," the musician explained. "Valley State" is the B.B. King Recording Studio at Mississippi Valley State in Itta Bena. Success on the "Voodoo" track led to the larger album being recorded there over the course of a year.  


"It''s interesting how it worked out. In a way, he (Ean) was still guiding me in the music ... me pursuing those horns led to this," credited Shelton. 


He praised Valley State. "It''s a first class facility, and everyone was really gracious and generous with their time and creativity; it was a great experience." 


Along with Big Joe on vocals and harmonica, the band Friday will feature Ben Ferrell on guitar, Bob Damm at the drums, Ed Swan on bass, and Bobby Shannon on keyboards and horn.  


An exhibit of about 25 digitally enhanced photographic prints Shelton has taken throughout years of blues festivals and travel will be on display during the release party and dance. 




Smithville needs 


After tornadoes bored through the Southeast, devastating communities in neighboring Monroe County April 27, Shelton and the Arts Council were moved to find a way to help. Donations to the relief effort will be collected Friday. Those attending are urged to bring an item from a list of current needs shared by volunteers assisting United Way of Greater Monroe County. 


As families in Smithville and Wren continue to deal with the aftermath, at the top of the list are fans, coffeemakers, toasters, crock pots, irons/ironing boards and lamps. New items are preferable, but clean items in good, working condition could be also used.  


Also needed, tools and ladders, Gatorade, non-perishable foods and Wal-Mart gift cards. Monetary donations should be made out to the United Way of Greater Monroe County. 


Doors Friday open at 6 p.m. for a reception with light refreshments. The band goes on at 7 p.m. Admission is $5. Adult beverages and soft drinks will be available for purchase. 


Shelton''s CD will be available Friday ($15), or visit or online music sites such as


Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.


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