by Rhetta Akamatsu
Photos by Takesi Ken Akamatsu
As usual, Hard Rock Cafe’s Velvet Underground room was packed for the Atlanta Blues Challenge, where musicians competed to represent Atlanta at The International Blues Challenge in Memphis in January. Aside from one People’s Choice Award, chosen by ballot by the people, the winners are chosen by a jury of music professionals. The winners receive cash prizes to help them pay their way to Memphis. It is a great way to see and hear some of Atlanta’s best blues musicians.
This year there were only two groups vying for Youth Group, a chance to showcase their talent in a non-competitive category in Memphis, While The Occasionals showed a lot of promise,t No Solution, practically professionals after winning the spot the last three years, won again. This group shines so brightly that probably the only way to lose will be for them to stop competing or age out of the category.
In the Solo/Duo category, there was only one competitor, Kathie Holmes, but she is a triple-threat talent, playing keyboards, flute and singing both original songs and covers., She will be a worthy representative for Atlanta in the competition.
The real showdown began with the band competition. There were nine bands competing this year, and any one of them could make us proud. It made me happy that more than half of the bands had female vocalists. I love strong blues women! The competition was tough, but as soon as Rae and The Royal Peacocks hit the stage, you could feel the audience perk up. Rae (Rebekah Ellis) is a powerful singer and with long-time Atlanta favorite Danny Vinson on guitar, Harold Patillo on bass, Art McNaughton on drums and Valerie Waters providing perfect keyboard accompaniment, they were electrifying. It was no surprise that they won both the People’s Choice and the Band Challenge
Congratulations to every competitor for giving us a full day of entertainment!
Thanks to Richard L’Hommedieu, our publisher, every act will get a studio-quality Multi Track recording and an HD Video of their performance as a thank you. As well, each winning act gets all the studio time they need, at his recording studio “Midnight Circus Productions“, to record a CD to take to Memphis with them,
What a day! Memphis, just wait until you see and hear what Atlanta has for you in 2019!