The Linda Hosts Capital Region Blues Network’s Blues Challenge

The Amy Ryan Band
The Amy Ryan Band

By Wanda Callagy

Love the blues? At 7pm on Saturday (June 24) the Capital Region Blues Network is hosting its fifth annual Blues Challenge at The Linda in Albany.

Four bands – the Amy Ryan Band, Misty Blues, Sly Fox & the Hustlers and Wyld Blu – will perform, competing for the chance to represent CRBN in Memphis at the Blues Foundation’s International Blues Competition in January.

Prizes for Saturday’s battle of the blues bands include $1500 cash and support from CRBN with a fundraiser and other opportunities to play to help finance the trip. The winner will be determined by a voting process which is weighted evenly between the balloting of the audience and the voting of CRBN’s panel of judges.

Later in the year, CRBN will host another competition in the solo/duo blues category.

Here’s more about the four competing bands:

One major thing that may set the band apart is that they work on their original material, recognizing the blues, but bringing in the influences from each musician – jazz, acoustic blues and other genres – which blend for a unique sound. The band has been to Memphis before, and two members, Richard Green and Amy Ryan, also attended last year as a duo. The band has hosted several jams and is involved with the CRBN aside from their gigs and practice.

“We learned so much from the Memphis experience because you are so immersed in the blues. I see and hear it in Richard’s guitar playing, and he picks it up in my singing and writing,” said Ryan. “It is a week where the blues are all around you, and we seek that experience again. It becomes like a tapestry, all of the influences there.”

Richard Green stated that if he were to go to Memphis again he would like to visit the Delta area and take in more of richness and history of the blues. “I think we would be a good representation for the Capital Region in Memphis, and as mentioned by Amy, we bring all that back with us,” he said.

Members include Amy Ryan, Richard Green, Steve Dietemann, Al Bauman and Ed Stein.

Misty Blues
Misty Blues

Paying homage to the early pioneers of the genre is a priority for this band. “Even though our band has blossomed and grown from our beginnings, we never want to lose sight of the roots of the music of the ’20s and ’30s – Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey…” said Gina Coleman. “We have great musicianship and when we learned last year there would be an opportunity to challenge as a band (last year two members competed in the duo category), we wanted to participate as that is our ‘true pocket’.”

The band has a full schedule ahead, and they have had the intention of going to Memphis as soon as the opportunity works out. Joining and being part of CRBN assists the band with some community exposure and a chance to have folks hear their original music.. They will be touring in Alabama and New Orleans after August.

Members include Gina Coleman, Jason Webster, Bill Patriquin, Jeff Dudziak, Ben Kohn, Rob Tatter and Aaron Dean.

Sly Fox & the Hustlers
Sly Fox & the Hustlers

A modern twist and high energy live show is what this band offers to the competition. “We really want to go to Memphis, and would actually try to set up a tour around the challenge,” said Sly Fox. “We would love to support CRBN, and it would be an honor to represent the Capital District there.

“It is important to me to ‘pass on the torch,’ so to speak, as there is a whole new crop of blues players coming up, preserving the art form.”

Fox admits that he has always been a Robert Johnson fan and would also enjoy seeing some of the history. “A big part of this for me is the networking. As part of CRBN, I would love to encourage exchanges or opportunities to bring bands up here, as we take music down there, he added. “There’s so much history.”

Members include Sly Fox, Dylan Storm, Drew Costa and Sean Ireland.

Wyld Blu
Wyld Blu

Adding originals which offer a variety of tastes in the material coming from the R&B side, adding some red-dirt funk, being unafraid to explore and add different styles is what gives this band a sound that gels well.

“We starting thinking about this last year, and we are encouraged by others that our band would do well in Memphis,” said Alana Wyld. “The opportunity to network would give us such an opportunity to expand. It also would be quite an honor to represent the CRBN. On behalf of all four great bands, I encourage people to come to the event, because their participation is 50% of the voting process. We need you there!”

Members include Alana Wyld, Lance Holmquist, Will Smith, Keith Holmquist and Rick Surrano.

WHAT: The Capital Region Blues Network’s Blues Challenge
WHO: The Amy Ryan Band, Misty Blues, Sly Fox & the Hustlers, Wyld Blu
WHERE: The Linda, Albany
WHEN: 7pm Saturday (June 24)

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