Well. You wouldn't expect it. I didn't expect it. Last night there was a polished international blues player whoopin' it up at the dark, skanky little pub in my neighborhood known as the Bear Paw. And to top it all off, it was FREE! When we first came in, she was taking a break, and the four of us nabbed a table with a view of the stage. We'd had a pre-show party at my house, so we didn't care how long it took the cocktail waitress to come our way.
Fiona came back on, and I was surprised at first that she is young, and blonde, and speaks with an Australian accent. She is from Melbourne. For the second set she picked up the very blonde acoustic guitar and proceeded to play as if she were a three piece band. She picks with her fingers. She stomped and hit the drum for percussive sounds, and worked the heavy strings hard to replace a bass player, and did pretty damn well. She's good. Her hands were all over the guitar without a hesitation or a look, and her voice is low, growling, but strong like that of a proper blueswoman. She can really belt it out. I liked her.
In the third and final set she picked up the baby blue electric guitar, and a broadshouldered man from the bar came brought a stool and an electric bass. By the way that he held it, I guess he's used to a string bass. He sat on his high stool with the guitar in his lap, but kept the neck nearly vertical and sometimes rested his cheek on it. He was good too. His fingers crawled methodically as he broke down the basic blues into some complicated lines....Jim Miller was his name. My friend R said "he's living every note". There was some prattle about him being new, but he looked like a blue veteran to me.
Here you can hear Fiona sing Smokestack Lightning---she's the growly one.
I would not have known about this show but for a woman who is in my rowing class. We started talking because she has run a lot of rivers. It turns out that she has a Second Life, and has recently begun fixing up a virtual island that she bought with an online friend. She puts a lot of time and energy into her second life, and does not recommend it unless you have time on your hands. On her island she plays an Atlanta Blues channel, and on that channel there was an announcement that Fiona Boyes was playing at the Bear Paw. The lines between virtual reality and regular life continue to blur....
This morning I am slightly headachy, and there was a little pile of my clothes on the floor that I would burn except I need them. They still allow people to smoke in the Bear Paw. I thought there is a law against people smoking in Portland bars and restaurants, but it doesn't seem to apply at the Bear Paw.
SHE'S AN AWARD WINNER
Text below from here
With the release of her debut US album, ‘Lucky 13’ Aussie blueswoman Fiona Boyes has come full circle. Nominated for ‘Contemporary Blues Album of the Year’ in the 2007 Blues Music Awards, the world’s premier blues awards, Fiona is the first Australian blues artist to be so honored. Described by noted critic, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Grammy Awards adviser Jeff Tamarkin as, ‘one of the most sizzling blues albums - by anyone - in years’ ‘Lucky 13’ has propelled Fiona Boyes into the international spotlight. Not surprisingly some critics consider Fiona a musical anomaly: a fair haired, hard pickin’, down-home blueswoman who just happens to have lived all her life Down Under in Australia, light years from the Mississippi Delta or Chicago’s South Side. As one critic observed, Fiona understands blues music as deeply as if she had been raised on Dockery’s Plantation. When Fiona performed for legendary bluesman Pinetop Perkins at his induction into the Blues Hall of Fame, he said ‘I ain’t heard a woman finger-pick a guitar like that since Memphis Minnie … she’s the best gal guitar player I’ve heard in more than 35 years’ . Fiona arrived in January 2003 on Beale Street in Memphis, an epicenter of American blues, representing Melbourne Blues Appreciation Society. She competed against the best emerging blues talent from around the world in the Blues Foundation’s International Blues Challenge, the world’s premier showcase for emerging blues talent. And she won. Fiona became the first Australian and the first woman ever to win this prestigious event. She returned to the U.S. in May that same year to showcase at the W. C. Handy Awards, the Blues Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, the Chicago Blues Festival, New York Rhythm and Blues Festival, and Portland’s Waterfront Blues Festival.