Blue Star Connection benefit featuring many past and future Mando Blues guests review.

Posted: May 3, 2012 by mandoblues in Uncategorized

(This article also appeared in the Nashville Blues Society’s newsletter)

Blue Star Connection Shines in Nashville

Blue Star Connection collects and distributes used and new instruments for sick children across the country.  The Mayor of Nashville declared March 1st, 2012 Blue Star Day in honor of Blue Star Connection and their commitment to children in need.  The same day, a benefit concert was held at 3rd & Lindsley, starring Jimmy Hall, Jack Pearson, The Bart Walker Band, Ashley Cleveland, Mike Farris, Reese Wynans, Zac Harmon, Tracy Nelson and several others.  The show was organized and backed by Gina Hughes of the Galaxie Agency and sponsored by the Nashville Blues Society and Delaney Guitars.

This was my first outing following knee surgery.  I called my old college roommate and told him to come out.  This collection of artists included several of my favorites.  I knew it would be a fun night but was not aware of how awesome it would be. 

The evening kicked off for me with an interview with John Catt, the man behind Blue Star Connection.  This project started back in 2005 while Mr. Catt was involved with another benefit and he ran into a seventeen year old cancer patient.  When he asked him about his playing, he admitted that he only had a beat up old acoustic.  John asked him if he would like an electric guitar and immediately saw the twinkle in his eye.  John asked him what color he would want. “Sky Blue” was the answer.  A week later someone donated a sky blue Ibanez electric guitar for the young man – and the seeds for Blue Star were born.  Since then John and Blue Star have provided guitars, bass guitars, harmonicas, violins, keyboards, flutes and drum kits to more than 60 kids in the program.  They have also supplied instruments to many Children’s hospitals, bringing praise from music therapists across the country.

Mr. Peter Burger, our host for the evening, kicked things off in grand fashion with an act I had never seen.  Recent Nashville transplants (via St. Louis), Jake Austin & City Limits brought an upbeat and energetic start to the evening’s festivities with their brand of crowd-pleasing, Pop/Blues songs.  Front man Jake and band broke no boundaries this night but still delivered a solid, well-rehearsed show augmented by Zach Ingle’s lap steel and a killer horn section that included Jules Calderera on sax and Cory Distefano on trumpet .

Next to the stage was The Bart Walker Band.  I have been high on this band ever since their award winning performances at the 2012 International Blues Challenge in Memphis.  Tonight’s performance was solid as always if not quite as energetic as the shows in Memphis a month earlier.  Walker has a knack for playing with the dynamics of a show.  Bart at one point mesmerized the audience with whale sounds from his guitar and then rose up along with keyboard virtuoso Reese Wynans (of SRV & Double Trouble fame) into a southern rock crescendo worthy of a concert hall ten times the size of 3rd and Lindsley. 

The Bart Walker Band stayed on stage and welcomed several artists to come sing with them. Former Mother Earth front woman, Tracy Nelson, Bob Seger and Little Feat veteran Shaun Murphy and one of my top favorites Mr. Mike Farris all joined the BWB band for a few songs each.  Nashville favorite Jimmy Hall took the stage and delivered a killer set of music including his signature song from the Wet Willie days, “Keep on Smiling”.

Ashley Cleveland was next to hit the stage.  Her mix of Gospel and Blues was a perfect match for Jack Pearson’s (of Allman Brothers fame) tasty guitar picking.  By this time my college roommate is trying to pick his jaw up off the floor.  He has seen great musicians before but the one, two, three, four and more punches that were being delivered this night were really something special.

As ye knee started to sing to me, reminding me that I was likely out and about before my doc would like me to be, it was time for the Patrons of the show to do their thing.  Mike Delaney presented a beautiful “Sonoita”Electric guitar to the cause and the corresponding silent auction featured a great mix of art and items for folks to bid on and increase the take for this worthy cause.

Unfortunately, this reporter had to throw in the towel before the sets from 12 year old Sophia Dion, (who raised $1,000 in ticket sales for the show) Jack Pearson, Kate Moss, Samantha Fish and Zac Harmon among others.  But if the earlier performances were any indication, there was no lack of spectacular performances that we left behind.  Bravo to John Catt, Gina Hughes, Nashville Blues Society, Delaney Guitars, 3rd and Lindsley and all of the artists for a fantastic night of music…all to support a great cause.

Whitness/Mando BluesImage

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