The last time they shared the stage, Chris Cain hugged Buddy Emmer and said, “Playing with you feels like Christmas.”
Cain, Emmer and several more tight-knit, talented blues players will gather on June 15 for an event that indeed will feel like a holiday, the Carson Valley Music, Food & Brew Fest in TJ’s Corral at the Carson Valley Inn.
Emmer’s band, which features powerhouse singer Kim Emmer, will serve as stage hosts for a good, old-fashioned blues revue.
After a few songs, the Buddy Emmer Blues Band will be joined one at a time by saxophonist Nancy Wright, guitarist Mighty Mike Schermer and guitarist Chris Cain.
Wright knows Schermer and Cain well.
“I love playing with those guys,” she told Tahoe Onstage. “I’ve worked with Mike for more than 10 years, primarily as one of the ‘sidemen’ in his band. He’s also a guest on my ‘Play Date’ CD, and every now and then when he is in the Bay Area, he’s been the guitar player in my band and he’s killer. A lot of times bandleaders don’t make good sidemen, but Mike can do either excellently.
“More recently, the past five or six years, I’ve been playing with Chris. I love Chris. It’s like Pavlov’s dog. If I hear his guitar or his voice, I start drooling. He’s a musician’s musician. I don’t know how to describe what he channels but it just flows.”
The show opens at 4 p.m. with a set by the region’s longest-running blues band, the Blues Monsters. Formed in 1991, the rockin’ quartet features dual guitarists Chuck Dunn and Barry Slayton along with the rhythm section of Tom Barnes and Michael Overhauser. For the big gigs such as this one, the Blues monsters are accompanied by Terry “The Secret Weapon” Ogg, a South Lake Tahoe resident who plays keyboards.
Texas has produced the greatest gunslinger blues guitarists of all time, such as Albert Collins, Freddie King, Johnny Winter and Stevie Ray Vaughan. Emmer is from the Lone Star State as well, but the Silver State can certainly claim him. He’s lived in Reno for several years and his band has a longtime residency on Tuesday nights at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe.
But Emmer cut his teeth in Texas and his style has a ZZ Top flavor. During the CVI show, he might share the story about his backstage guitar lesson with ZZ Top’s bearded hero Billy Gibbons.
In contrast, Mighty Mike Schermer is a native of Northern California who now lives in Austin, Texas, where he is the guitarist for boogie-woogie piano player Marcia Ball. Schermer and his siblings share their family’s vacation home in Truckee. He’s a versatile player and was a sideman for years with Elvin Bishop. When he’s in Northern California, he occasionally plays in a blues supergroup, The Guitarsonists, with Cain and Daniel Castro.
Wright is a classically trained multi-instrumentalist, primarily the bassoon. While attending college in Wisconsin, she was asked to join a theater production of “Cabaret.” She’d never played saxophone but learned quickly. Early for a rehearsal one day, she ran into some “hippie buddies” who were jamming some blues on acoustic guitar. Reluctantly, she joined in. She was a natural.
“By listening to my brother’s Johnny and Edgar Winter 8-Track tapes, I must have had the blues mode in my brain without even knowing it,” she said. “(I found out that) I could improvise, and from there eventually got hooked into the blues and strayed off the classical path entirely.”
Cain was trained in jazz and has played professionally since he was a teenager. He has recorded 12 blues albums since 1987. He has a crisp guitar tone and a baritone voice that draws comparisons to B.B. King.
As Wright said, musicians tend to appreciate Cain more than does the press. Cain, 62, has as much talent as any of his contemporaries.
A story goes that a music critic wrote that Cain tries to sound like he’s an African-American. Miffed, Cain said, “Well, my dad was black.”
The Carson Valley Music, Food & Brew Fest is the kickoff to the weekend’s eighth annual Mike Tice Charity Weekend. There will be a raffle for sports memorabilia and all proceeds with go to the Boys and Girls Club of Western Nevada, Carson City Branch.
- Carson Valley Music, Food & Brew Fest
When: 4 to 10 p.m. Friday, June 15
Where: TJ’s Corral, Carson Valley Inn, Minden
Music: Buddy Emmer Blues Band, Chris Cain, Nancy Wright, Mighty Mike Schermer, Blues Monsters
Admission: $25 includes beer tumbler