Squaw Valley’s exciting 2020 Bluesdays 13-week lineup

Clare Foster / Tahoe Onstage
Thirteen bands will rock The Village in Squaw Valley at the 12th annual Bluesdays.

Ready for the great blues news? World class, good-time music continues for a 12th year this summer in The Village at Squaw Valley.

“We are excited to bring another great and free Bluesdays concert series to The Village at Squaw Valley, one that might possibly top last year! said Caroline Ross, the executive director of the Squaw Valley Neighbourhood Company.

“With a nice mix of longtime favorites, the return of Vanessa Collier and exciting newcomers to the series like Mike Zito, Nick Moss and Selwyn Birchwood, there isn’t a Tuesday you should miss!”

Blues purists will revel in the 13-week lineup, which includes British Blues Hall of Fame inductee Matt Schofield. The free shows are on Tuesdays and start at 6 p.m.

Chuck Dunn and the Blues Monsters have opened every Bluesdays season.
Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage

June 16 – Blues Monsters

It’s the biggest show of the year for Tahoe’s most enduring blues band, the Blues Monsters, who will be decked out in their most fancy bandstand duds.

Formed 29 years ago, the band is Chuck Dunn on guitar (and patent leather shoes), Barry Slayton on slide guitar, Thomas Barnes on bass, Michael Overhauser on drums and Terry “The Secret Weapon” Ogg on keyboard.

Keeping with tradition, there will be numerous featured local guests who will sit in.

Nick Moss
The Nick Moss Band featuring Dennis Gruenling.

June 23 – Nick Moss Band featuring Dennis Gruenling 

Expect Chicago blues along with a mountain of Memphis hardware when Nick Moss Band featuring Dennis Gruenling visits The Village at Squaw Valley. 

A year ago, Moss won the Blues Music Award for Traditional Blues Male Artist and Gruenling took home the trophy for Instrumentalist: Harmonica. In May, the fellas will be back in Memphis with nominations for Band of the Year, Traditional Blues Album of the Year (“Lucky Guy’), Song of the year (“Lucky Guy”) and Instrumentalist: Harmonica.

A bandstand pro since he was a teenager, Moss, 50, has a direct connection to the great Chicago bluesmen. He played bass for Buddy Scott, who had a rack of singles with Scotty and the Rib Tips in the late 1960s. Later, Moss played with West Side’s Jimmy “Fast Fingers” Dawkins.

Moss was in Willie “Big Eyes” Smith’s band when the bandleader and former Muddy Waters’ drummer suggested he switch to guitar. In 2006, Moss broke out on his own and started Nick Moss and the Flip Tops. Gruenling joined forces with Moss in October 2016, the same time the Chicago Cubs won the World Series.

Roy Rogers & The Delta Rhythm Kings (Kevin Hayes, drums and Steve Ermann, bass).
Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage

June 30 – Roy Rogers and The Delta Rhythm Kings 

Roy Rogers, the fastest gun in the West, revealed his secret weapon last year: “I’ve been a coffee drinker my whole life,” he said.

Along with dozens of solo and collaborative albums, the merch table now includes Roy Rogers Rock Slide Roast. Onstage, Rogers percolates with the Rhythm Kings: drummer Kevin Hayes, who spent many years in Robert Cray’s band, and bassist Steve Ehrmann, who has played with all-time greats Lightnin’ Hopkins and John Lee Hooker. Rogers produced two Grammy winning records for Hooker.

“Steve is responsible for me playing with Hooker,” Rogers said. “It’s all his fault.”

Rogers, 69, is apt to collaborate with other musicians. His most recent project is Stringshot, a Latin-jazz blended trio with Brazilian guitarist Badi Assad and violin and stringed harp player Carlos Reyes. His best-known collaboration was with harmonica great Norton Buffalo.

Rogers not only produced two records for Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, he’s also a connection to Jack Nicholson. Rogers played on the soundtrack for “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.” Any fan of slide guitar would have to be crazy to miss this Bluesday show.

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The sun hits The Village at Squaw Valley’s horizon during Chris Cain’s show in 2014.
Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage

July 7 – Chris Cain 

This encore just might last forever. Chris Cain has played more Bluesdays shows than anyone else.

A South Bay resident, Cain has a huge fan base, which includes every blues guitarist. “I think he should be known way more than he is now,” said L.A. artist Dennis Jones. “He should be a household name just like Albert (King) and the rest of those guys. He’s magic, a true blues player.”

Cain is studied in jazz and can also play piano, bass, clarinet and saxophone. He sings baritone with a voice compared to that of B.B. King’s.

Alastair Greene onstage at Bluesdays in 2018.
Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage

July 14 – Alastair Greene Band

Squaw Valley is keeping Bluesdays Greene. 

“Rad!” Alastair Greene exclaimed when he learned he would play here for a third-straight year. “I am very excited to come up, this time with my band.”

In 2018, Greene shared the stage with fellow Southern Californian Debbie Davies. Last year, Greene was a member of Sugaray Rayford’s diverse band, taking a solo on Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb,” stirring the emotions of the audience.

“Alastair, first and foremost, is a guitar player,” Davies said. “His favorite genre is blues-rock and, like me, he also was really into (Eric) Clapton and the guys I was into. As far as overall guitar, he plays rings around me. But that’s exciting. That’s really fun.”

Greene mostly plays a Les Paul guitar when he is with his trio. But he has a Stratocaster for certain songs.

“The original reason I went with a Les Paul is I didn’t want to get pigeonholed into the Stevie Ray Vaughan thing,” Greene said. “In the 1990s, so many guys were playing Stratocasters and trying to jump on that Stevie Ray.”

Count Danielle Nicole as an Alastair Green fan. Greene and Danielle Nicole shared the Crystal Bay Casino stage last winter.

“I’m not a fan of people who play a bunch of notes just for the sake of playing a bunch of notes,” Danielle Nicole said. “Alastair’s not one of those cats. He actually plays with meaning and feeling and that goes a long way for me.”

Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage
Vanessa Collier blows through the Bluesdays crowd in 2019.
Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage photos

July 21 – Vanessa Collier 

When her piano instructor smacked her fingers with a ruler, Vanessa Collier learned the lesson of a lifetime: find a new instrument and get a new teacher.

Chris Vadala, the saxophonist for Chuck Mangione, introduced Collier to the horn with the music of Cannonball Adderley.

“I studied with Chris for seven years and, man, he took me down every path,” Collier said. “He taught me jazz and funk and R&B. He taught me the James Brown stuff and he guided me into a lot of different directions. At the same time, we were studying classical saxophone repertoire, like playing with an orchestra and with a full-on ensemble. I got a broad view of it and I came to love every aspect of the instrument.”

After taking just four years to complete a five-year degree at Berklee College of Music, Collier hit the road with blues great Joe Louis Walker. After a year and a half on the road, Walker told Collier she was ready to lead her own band.

A Maryland native, Collier is thin and she looks younger than her 29 years. Then her visceral playing style and charisma captures the audience.

The Bluesdays crowd didn’t know who Collier was last summer when she came to Squaw Valley for the first time. Now they will never forget her.

Collier’s 2019 performance seemed to set the tone for a spectacular summer of music in the mountains. Arrive early for this one, folks.

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Lenny Bradford leans into the music with Joe Louis Walker.
Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage

July 28 – Joe Louis Walker 

The Blues Hall of Fame in Memphis displays the likeness of a litany of legends who are no longer living. One of those busts, however, is of Joe Louis Walker, who is still very much alive and fighting for the blues.

Walker appreciates his fellow inductees and wants to emulate Muddy Waters’ philosophy about supporting other players. “Every night we play, we try to do an homage to what I like to call the originators,” Walker said.

Walker has been prolific in the studio since his recording career began in 1986. Since 2002, he’s released 13 albums, which vary in styles that range from electric Chicago blues, acoustic, rock, gospel and Christian blues.

Walker, Rick Estrin and JoJo Russo are nominated for a 2020 Blues Music Award for Song of the Year for “Resentment File.”

Mike Zito makes a beeline to Bluesdays.

Aug. 4 – Mike Zito 

This artist does everything from A to Zito.

Mike Zito is set to release his 16th album this year, “Rock ‘N’ Roll: A Tribute to Chuck Berry,” and he’s giving fans an early listen to the songs on a monthlong European tour from Berlin to Belgium. Like Chuck Berry, Zito is from St. Louis.

When he last appeared in the Lake Tahoe region in 2011, when he opened for the Voice of the Wetlands Allstars. He later was co-founder of the supergroup, Royal Southern Brotherhood, which included Cyril Neville, Devon Allman, Charlie Wooton and Yonrico Scott.

He’s produced records for Samantha Fish, Albert Castiglia, Jeremiah Johnson and Ally Venable and written songs recorded by Devon Allman, Kara Grainger and Cyril Neville

Zito is the co-founder of Gulf Coast Records, the workingman’s blues label.

Trudy Lynn’s limo will soon travel to Tahoe.

Aug. 11- Trudy Lynn 

This one stands out. Houston’s Trudy Lynn is a 72-year-old blues and soul singer in the style of Etta James and Koko Taylor. Appropriately, she is nominated for a Blues Music Award for the Koko Taylor Traditional Blues Female Artist.

Her career started in the mid-1960s, playing with Albert Collins and her recording career began in 1989 with the album, “Trudy Sings the Blues.” She’s since put out 11 more including 2018’s “Blues Keep Knockin.’ “

Lynn is a lifelong resident of Texas, where some voters had to wait seven hours to cast ballot in the primary election.

“If you don’t vote, you have no say,” she posted on Facebook. “Wake up people. If you stand in line for a chicken sandwich, stand in line to vote. You can do it.”

Matt Schofield will cross the pond to arrive at Squaw Valley.

Aug. 18 – Matt Schofield 

Here’s a one-man British invasion of Squaw Valley.

Matt Schofield, 42, is ranked by Guitar & Bass Magazine’s top 10 British Blues Guitarists of all time, along with players such as Peter Green and Eric Clapton.

Schofield’s jazzy style has been compared to Robben Ford’s. He plays in a trio, with a drummer and organ player.

He was British Blues Awards Guitarist of the Year in 2010, 2011 and 2012, which garnered him an induction into the British Blues Hall of Fame.

“I remain a music lover first and foremost,” he said on his website. “The recognition I’ve received from both fans and peers is humbling and inspiring, and those ‘pinch me’ moments where I found myself trading licks with heroes like Robben Ford and Buddy Guy are still the biggest thrill.”

Tahoe Onstage
Terry Hanck is a saxophone superstar.
Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage

Aug. 25 – Terry Hanck 

An all-time Bluesdays favorite, saxophonist Terry Hanck returns after a one-year hiatus.

A multiple Blues Music Award winner for Instrument: Saxophone, Hanck last year released a critically acclaimed album, “I Still Get Excited,” produced by Kid Andersen, the guitarist he recruited out of Norway.

Hanck’s blues-based sound is flavored with early rock and roll — when the saxophone, and not guitar, was the featured instrument. A Chicago native, Hanck was inspired at a 1962 B.B. King concert. He moved to California in the late ’60s to surf and play music. He was a member of the Elvin Bishop Band during Bishop’s most commercially successful period from 1977-87.

“I went from playing in a club with three people who didn’t care, to all of a sudden doing the same thing at the Oakland Coliseum for a Day on the Green with 55,000 screaming people who loved it.”

Tahoe Onstage
Rick Estrin and guitarist Kid Andersen entertain the Bluesdays crowd in 2017.
Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage

Sept. 1 – Rick Estrin and the Nightcats 

Has there ever been a cooler cat than Rick Estrin?

The pompadoured showman has a flair for turning a phrase. He’s the greatest harp player since Sonny Boy Williamson.

Rick Estrin and the Nightcats’ sound can be called jump blues, appropriate because drummer Derrick “D’Mar” Martin is one of the two best jumpers in music. Maybe D’Mar and country rocker Lukas Nelson can hold a pay-per-view high jump contest to determine who is the greatest.

And speaking of great, guitarist Kid Andersen, who runs Greaseland Studios in San Jose, is one of the most coveted producers in the land.

“Kid knows how to get his point across in such a way to make a person comfortable and understand immediately, which is a hard thing to do in the studio,” said Nick Moss, who is included in the 2020 Bluesdays lineup.

“I don’t know if people know how talented he is. Many people have seen him play guitar It makes you want to burn your instrument after you see him. But he can also play bass as well as any bass player out there. He can play keyboards as if he’s been playing keyboards his whole life. He can sit on a drum set and play drums as well as most drummers I know. Plus, Kid is a goofball like me. We get along.”

Keyboardist Lorenzo Farrell has been a Nightcat since 2003. He’s played with Wee Willie Waker, Elvin Bishop and Terry Hanck, studied religion in Delhi, India, and has a philosophy degree from UC Berkeley.

While the collective IQ of this band is as high as it gets, the hijinks are what makes the show a blast.

Tahoe Onstage
Tampa’s Selwyn Birchwood had his Tahoe debut at Crystal Bay Casino in 2017.
Michael Smyth / Tahoe Onstage

Sept. 8 – Selwyn Birchwood 

When Alligator Records’ Bruce Iglauer first heard about Selwyn Birchwood, he said, “Wow, what a cool name!” After he saw him win the International Blues Challenge, he signed him to his label.

The lanky slide guitar player with a gravelly voice from Tampa, Florida, will play Bluesdays for the first time. He was mentored by Sonny Rhodes and was influenced by the greats: Muddy Waters, Freddie King and Buddy Guy. He has two highly acclaimed albums on Alligator that get plenty of radio airtime, “Pick Your Poison” and “Don’t Call No Ambulance.” His band is solid with Regi Oliver on horns, Donald “Huff” Wright on bass and Courtney “Big Love” Girlie on drums.

“I think he’s great such a fresh face in the blues,” veteran bluesman Tinsley Ellis said. ”Every time I do an interview, I mention him as one of the people who is keeping the blues flame burning. And I am very excited about the new album he’s working on now.”

Selwyn Birchwood will be a thrilling show to close out the 12th Bluesdays season.

ABOUT Tim Parsons

Tim Parsons
Tim Parsons is the editor of Tahoe Onstage who first moved to Lake Tahoe in 1992. Before starting Tahoe Onstage in 2013, he worked for 29 years at newspapers, including the Tahoe Daily Tribune, Eureka Times-Standard and Contra Costa Times. He was the recipient of the 2011 Keeping the Blues Alive award for Journalism.

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