The Blues Society is devoted to its unsung heroes

Tad Robinson and Lou Pride sing Saturday in Rosedale

Scene: Clubs, Bars, Nightlife

February 10, 2005|By Annie Linskey | Annie Linskey,SUN STAFF

Baltimore has been singing the blues for years. And this year, the Baltimore Blues Society -- a major player in Charm City's blues scene -- celebrates its second decade.

"Our main mission is to bring in the touring bands that, for some reason, the clubs won't book," said Robert Sekinger, president of the society.

Blues stars Nick Curran, Sugar Ray and Carey Bell have all been through Baltimore in recent years.

If you haven't heard of these musicians, you're not alone. Blues doesn't have the widespread appeal of, say, Britney Spears. Only a handful of local DJs put it on the radio.

"Blues is not popular music, it never was, and it never will be," said Jay Sieleman, the director of the Blues Foundation, a national blues organization based in Memphis, Tenn.

But you will hear elements of blues in popular music. Everyone from rapper Chuck D to pop star John Mayer to country singer Vince Gill has been influenced by the low mournful lyrics and distinct guitar of the blues.

The lack of mainstream enthusiasm for the blues means that maintaining and supporting budding blues musicians has fallen mostly to local clubs and festivals. "The [blues] societies are, indeed, the backbone of this music," said Sieleman. There are more than 135 of these groups in the United States and a handful of other countries. Baltimore's society is among the largest and oldest.

The Baltimore Blues Society sponsors national and regional acts for half a dozen concerts here each year. Most are at the Rosedale American Legion Hall, but the society has booked acts at the Funk Box in Federal Hill and Towson's Recher Theatre. The next Rosedale show presents Tad Robinson and Lou Pride on Saturday.

All concerts are open to the public and are promoted mostly through word of mouth and the Blues Society's monthly newsletter, which goes out to 800 members. This has worked out, as many of the shows sell out, said Sekinger.

The Baltimore Blues Society also organizes shows for citywide events. It has a presence at Artscape and a booth at the Baltimore Book Festival. It also puts together an annual blues contest and pays for the winning band to attend an international competition in Memphis.

But, there are limits to a volunteer-driven scene, and for the most part musicians understand they "aren't going to get rich playing the blues," said Sieleman.

The next Baltimore Blues Society show will feature music by Tad Robinson and Lou Pride. It will be at 9 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are $25. The Rosedale American Legion Hall is at 1311 Seling Road in Rosedale. Call 410-744-2291 or visit www.mojoworkin.com.

For more club events, see Page 29.

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