Holly & Evan, Joe Lowry Compete in Blues Challenge in Memphis

Holly And Evan
Holly & Evan (photo by Andrzej Pilarczyk)

Story by Wanda Callagy
Photographs by Robin Murray, Andrzej Pilarczyk and Wanda Callagy

Holly & Evan, Joe Lowry & the Second Mile Blues Band and Tas Cru and his band Tortured Souls are on the road – all the way to Memphis…

The folks at the 29th annual International Blues Challenge will hear more than 200 blues acts – bands, duos and solo bluesmen and women – from around the globe throughout the week-long competition, and these talented Local 518 musicians will be part of it all.

This will be a first-time experience for both Holly & Evan and Joe Lowry. Selected and sponsored by the Capitol Region Blues Network, they’ve competed locally against other bands in the area and were chosen to represent the Capital Region’s blues scene. Friend and mentor Tas Cru has been attending the event for years, and on Tuesday (January 29) he’ll be hosting the opening night Rum Jam Boogie to help launch the week’s festivities.

Holly Taormina and Evan Conway were chosen to compete in the solo/duo category and were preparing their list of songs last week.

“Of course, there is a lot of nervous energy going into this,” said Conway. “But I am sure when we get up on that stage, we will get into the music, and it will be like another show. But we have the opportunity to see so many other venues and to immerse ourselves in the music. It is a thrill to be able to share our songs there.”

 Joe Lowry and The Second Mile Blues Band (photo by Robin Murray)
Joe Lowry & the Second Mile Blues Band (photo by Robin Murray)

Joe Lowry and members of the Second Mile Blues Band – Bacco the Bassman and drummer Gregory Nash – are ready to take in the atmosphere.

“We have worked hard and are proud of winning the competion to come here,” Lowry said. “I think it will be a great experience, there will be so much music around us. We have a lot of passion and energy, and I am looking forward to us being ourselves, sharing our originals there.”

Tortured Souls @ Keegan's Ale's in Kingston last fall
Tortured Souls @ Keegan Ales in Kingston last fall (photo by Wanda Callagy)

Tas Cru and bandmembers Sonny Rock, Steve Kirsty and Jeremy Walz will also be stopping at venues along the way, combining evening blues gigs with his Blues In Schools education program. The Blues Challenge organizers saw Cru’s efforts and added some school programs along the way. Though Cru has won awards in the past for his class time, he is modest about his dedication to both the blues and the lives he touches.

“Awards are nice, but there is a lot of work ahead to be done,” Crus said. “Those students give back a lot to me, too. I share the blues, the important basics of our culture. And now, in Memphis, too.”

  1. Steamer No. 10 Theatre says

    Holly & Evan will be back in the Capital Region with all that greasy Memphis goodness on Saturday, Feb. 23 at the Steamer No. 10 Theatre. For this show, they’ll be playing with a full band in a concert hall setting. Bring it!

    Congratulations and best of luck on Beale Street!

  2. Susan says

    FYI, Holly & Evan LOST during the competition at the Linda for the Quarter Finalist for the International Blues Challenge. For further edification, Ed Wool’s band placed second, to the WINNER, Joe Lowry and the Second Mile Blues Band.

    After realizing their loss, someone representing Holly & Evan requested Capital Region Blues Network if they, Holly & Evan, could go to Memphis as the Solo/Duo Catagory.

  3. wanda callagy says

    Comments are noted and I appreciate them. I attended the CRBN event at the Linda and enjoyed the music of Joe Lowry and The Second Mile Blues Band, Holly&Evan, Collette and the Mudcats, and the Ed Wool Band. They all played their hearts out and it was a true competion. Joe Lowry and the Second Mile Blues Band won the event that night. Wishing all the musicians a chance to go to Memphis a great time…please bring back many tales to tell.

  4. wanda callagy says

    this was my story, perhaps i should not comment…and keep as neutral….i have asked bob of the CRBN to clarify…though i was not talking about the contest…..note this goes with above comment awaiting moderation…i also see spelling errors. typing too fast.

  5. Ed Conway says

    Thanks Wanda for the nice article, but I am not sure of the point of Susan’s FYI. Nowhere in the article does it state anything other than Holly and Evan competed. They enjoyed the competition and enjoyed the music and commaraderie of all the competing musicians (in fact most of the musicians, including them, went across the street to Paulie’s and hung out for quite awhile after). They did not “after realizing their loss” contact the CRBN. While checking into the rules of the competition, they noticed that there was a Solo/Duo category and wondered how that selection process happened, since that is their primary configuration. Others, in the months after the competition, encouraged them to ask about representing the capital district, which they did, and the board approved them. They decided to go despite the fact there would be no monetary assistance from the CRBN; they consider it an honor to be there. While your comment suggests underhanded tactics or sore losers, I assure you, this was not the case.

  6. M.R. Poulopoulos says

    Best of luck!

  7. Pat K. says

    Is it really necessary to call anyone a loser? The comment seemed a little petty, in my opinion. I wasn’t there, but it sounds like Holly & Evan were still the top finishing competitors in the solo/duo category? If so, I don’t see the issue. I’d venture to guess that the reason the IBC has two separate categories is that they don’t intend for the two to compete against each other head-to-head. It was the CRBN’s call. If they gave Holly & Evan their blessing to go ahead and participate, that’s all that matters to me.

    I browsed through the IBC site quickly, and it seems many other regional affiliates sent two groups. Why wouldn’t you want the Capital Region to have as much representation as possible in such a great forum? We need to support each other. I wish them both the best of luck in the competition and continued success in the future. –PK

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