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The devil you play!

Gray Sky Blues Music Festival promises to be a good time

The Swiss will host a full schedule of blues Saturday, April 9. Photo credit: Gary Grape

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In Clarksdale, Mississipi in 1929, Robert Johnson struck a bargain with the devil on a dark, dusty crossroads: In exchange for musical talent, Robert agreed to ... Well, the devil only traffics in one type of currency.

That's how Robert Johnson became the "King of the Delta Blues." He also spent the last of his 27 years fearing Old Scratch coming to collect, sharing his dread in songs like "Hellhound on my Trail."

That story is likely apocryphal; but Gary Grape, director of Events for the Tacoma Events Commission counters with a chuckle that, "You don't play the blues without selling your soul to one thing or another."

Fair enough. For this year's Gray Sky Blues Music Festival, I've rated a song by each band on the roster for its "bluesiness" and speculated on the likelihood of a Faustian bargain.

Artist: The Linda Myers Band
Song:
"Coffee Blues"
Bluesiness:
When Starbucks is out of soymilk.
Likelihood of diabolical dealmaking:
85%

Artist: Little Bill and the Bluenotes
Song:
"I Love an Angel"
Bluesiness:
How I felt when Victoria's Secret Angel Adriana Lima got married.
Likelihood of leasin' with Lucifer:
92%

Artist: The Rafael Tranquilino Band
Song:
"Mr. Taxman"
Bluesiness:
How we'll ALL be feeling on the 15th.
Likelihood of barterin' with Beelzebub:
83%

Artist: Generation Danger
Song:
"Creep"
Bluesiness:
Listening to any Radiohead album.
Likelihood of a contract with the corruptor:
90%

Artist: The Cody Rentas Band
Song:
"Black Magic Woman"
Bluesiness:
Finding out there's no Santa(na).
Likelihood of an accord with Apollyon:
95%

Artist: Maia Santell and House Blend (with special guest Jumpin' Josh Violette)
Song:
"Fine Brown Frame"
Bluesiness:
Getting rid of my first car with the fine brown (rusty) frame. (Boo! Hiss! - ed.)
Likelihood of infernal investing:
93%

Artist: Amber Sweeney
Song:
"Hit & Run"
Bluesiness:
Hitting the deer that necessitated me getting rid of the aforementioned car with the fine brown frame.
Likelihood of mephistopholesian merchantry:
97%

Artist: Lightnin' Willie and the Poorboys
Song:
"20 Flight Rock"
Bluesiness:
The elevator' s broken and you have to take the stairs.
Likelihood of stocktradin' with Ol' Splitfoot:
98% (Try to get this song out of your head. Just try!)

Artist: Memphis All-Star Jam Band (Neal Fallen, Doug Skoog, Jeff Hayes, Steve Blood, Preston Miller, Les White)
Song:
This group consists of members of the South Sound Blues Association joining to form an exclusive supergroup for this year's festival. Each of these artists performed in the International Blues Challenge on Beale Street.
Bluesiness:
When I have to hack lines I like out of my articles to fit my space limit.
Likelihood of a pact with Perdition:
110% (With names like Neal Fallen and Steve Blood, I half expect Robert Johnson's unquiet ghost to show up on backup guitar.)

I'm not sure if Robert Johnson or any other blues musicians really owe their talent to a deal with the devil, but then again, I'm not sure any of these acts need the extra help.  You can make the final judgment for yourself.

Gray Sky Blues Music Festival, Saturday, April 9, noon, multiple downtown Tacoma locations, www.tacomaevents.com/schedule-blues-festival.html

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