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Published: November 13th 2016
You feel certain that you have had a great experience when you are sitting at the airport on the way home and you’re still smiling. In this case, smiling and talking with Super Chikan, a bluesman from Clarksdale, Mississippi and at this point, a man who enjoys conversation. He is busy telling you about his 2 year-old grandson with a smile on his face and a twinkle in his eye.
This was the third Blues Cruise in 18 months and it is perhaps time to take a break from them for a while. Cruises are not the greatest travel experiences, but the ability to see such world-class musicians in one location over a short period of time was too irresistible to pass up. These cruises are intense, amazing and wonderful but we have more of the world to see.
In the beginning, there was no intention of taking this October 2016 cruise, but when they published the line up and MJ saw that Tinsley Ellis was going to be on the ship, minutes later reservations were made. What a week… an intense week of music…and don’t tell anyone but MJ became a Tinsley Ellis stalker. It’s relatively easy as
you see the musicians quite often on board. In this case, MJ was always happy to pass Tinsley in the dining room or on deck. He was quite gracious and accommodating for conversation and pictures. She truly is a fan. We find it really hard to believe that this was Tinsley's first Legendary Blues Cruise. We find it hard to believe that a musician of his talent would not have been invited before this. We hope he comes back....that would entice us to take another trip.
Tinsley Ellis and Super Chikan played the pre-cruise party at the Hilton in San Juan. They set the vibe for the entire week and now for the rest of her life MJ can tell people that they played at her 60th
birthday party!... and she will. I can hear her chanting Tinsley, Tinsley, Tinsley!
Actually, almost every musician was very friendly and seemed genuinely grateful when complimented on their musical abilities. The blues come in many forms and genres, as do the musicians who play this most American form of music.
The sponsors of the blues cruise do a great job of including blues musicians from all
genders and genres.
It seems on each Blues cruises we’ve taken there have been a couple of performers that really put on fantastic performances. For us the January 2015 trip was Popa Chubby and Mr. Sipp, the January 2016 trip was Mr. Sipp and Toronzo Cannon and this one was Tinsley Ellis and Albert Castiglia….
We are happy we saw Taj Mahal in Napa Valley in 2012 as the three times we’ve seen him on these cruises he seemed past his prime. He is a legend so it is good that they support the old school music but we would not miss him if he were not on future cruises.
It was good to travel with our good friends Art and Deb again. We weren’t sure how this was going to turn out because Art is not much of a music fan and even though we were certain Deb would have a great time we weren’t sure how they would hold up under a full week of da blues. Our fears were for not…..Deb had a fantastic time and purchased several CDs from the artist to get her started on her blues education. By day three Art
Vanessa Collier & Nancy Wright
Amazing sound coming out of those horns.
was relaxed and tapping his foot to the music. The blues is hard to resist and we feel good about broadening their education.
The first night in Puerto Rico we met Steve, Pete and Jeff. Three long-time friends on a guy’s trip. We’ve become fast friends and hope to see them again soon. They are “live wires” and enjoyed all the musical venues. These guys were so much fun and as much as they were enjoying the boys trip you could tell how much they were missing their wives. We are sending them copies of our photos from the trip and hope to see them again very soon.
We will say we missed having Mr. Sipp and Tab Benoit on the ship but we were very excited to be exposed to new groups and musicians.
One of our favorite parts of these cruises are the Pro Jams and the ProAm Jams. We love watching people who have never played together just get up and jam. It is amazing to watch and stunning performances always evolve. Our new friend Steve is an accomplished drummer and we were able to see him perform several times. He was having a
Wow! Member of Super Chikan's band
blast! This next section is going to be a quick glance of all the musicians on this particular trip. Likely only the real blues fans will want to read this portion. However, if you are attempting to broaden your music education please stick with us….. the artists/groups are in alphabetical order.
Albert Castiglia - High energy in your face Chicago Blues. Wow, what a great group. We’ve become real fans! He really charms the audience and everyone is on the same page with him.
Ana Popovic – A grand stage presence, both looks and talent. She filled the pool deck until all hours of the night.
Ben Hunter & Joe Seamons – These two are from Washington state and just won the 2016 International Blues Challenge for Solo/Duo performances. Unique, historical blues. They were all the buzz on the ship.
Buddy Guy – One of the last of the master bluesmen. He knocked our socks off. What a great performance.
Chubby Carrier & the Zydeco Experience – We are really beginning to like Zydeco. Everybody wants to go to a “Chubby Party.” His concerts had the place jumping.
Dave & a fan of Little Ed
Little Ed & the Blues Imperials
Davies – Wow! Used to play with Albert Collins. She is fantastic.
Diunna Greenleaf- An amazing singer with a tight band. Her vocals are amazing.
John Hammond – Old school acoustic blues. Please check him out.Litt
Johnny Rawls – Old school blues and charm. We weren’t sure what to expect but he can bond with the audience and get them moving. Everybody danced when Johnny played. He knows how to excite the audience.
Little Ed and the Blues Imperials - Down home Chicago Blues and very lively. He wears a fez or a captains hat and many of his fans did the same. He is friendly and talks with everyone on the ship. Great band.
Keb Mo was back on the ship for this trip and we realized that he must not have been feeling that well when we saw him on the ship in January 2015 as this time he was far more charming and personable during his performances. His is extremely talented and his music feels like a comfortable sweater.
Kenny Neal and the Neal Family Band – Kenny is a good show. He has 6 or 7 family members in the
group. We will be honest and say his sisters Charlene & Darlene can’t sing but do a great job of shaking their booty. He should just have them dance and not sing. His nephew is an amazing guitar player and both of his children are extremely talented. Kenny used to played bass for Buddy Guy. Kenny’s father was a harmonica player with Buddy Guy back in the day.
Legendary Rhythm & Blues Revue and Tommy Castro and the Painkillers– Tommy has his own band and is also the Cruise band. You can always count on him for a quality show and is always bringing members of other groups to play with him. The shows are great.
Los Lobos – What a disappointment—that is all we can say. They didn’t play well together. They sang out of tune and weren’t synched together in their playing. We missed their first performance and had heard that many people walked out….we admit that after 4 songs we did the same. We headed to the pool deck to listen to Buddy Guy and then Ana Popovic later. Our time was better spent on the pool deck. Truly a disappointment.
Quinn Sullivan- Young
Longs legs that don't stop
prodigy that Buddy Guy has been working with for 7 years. This kid is only 17 and has a lot going on. At this point he is a good technical blues guitar player but needs some life experiences and a couple of broken hearts to become a good guitarists….in our opinion.
Roomful of Blues – Horns, horns and more horns. Really excellent.
Selwyn Birchwood – This summer we went to the Fort Smith, Arkansas Blues Festival to see Mr. Sipp and Selwyn played right after him. He’s really got a good group that has some funk thrown in as well.
Southern Hospitality – Victor Wainwright is an amazing, personable and charming keyboard player. He’s pulled together an amazing group of musicians and what they produced is magic. We forgot to buy one of their discs, so we’ll have to down load some very soon.
Super Chikan & the Fighting Cocks – we mentioned Super Chikan earlier. Old school and amazing.
Taj Mahal & the Phamtom Blues Band- A legend, excellent musician but past his prime for performing.
Tinsley Ellis - MJ cannot say enough! Go out and buy all of his CDs
and you won’t regret it. Caught him in 1994 at Summerfest in Milwaukee and have been fans since that time. MJ happened to run into him almost every day on the ship and could not have been happier. She told him about seeing him in Milwaukee and he told her he remembered that concert because after it was over they had to make a long drive to Buffalo.
Dave passed him a note at the autograph signing stated that his wife was a big fan and admirer and they he needn’t worry…..she is not a stalker. Tinsley laughed and said he’d like to keep the note and he might use it on his FB page. It was great to realize that one of the main reasons for being on the ship was Tinsley and he didn’t disappoint!
Tom Hambridge & the Rattlesnackes – Lively blues band and he is well known for his song writing.
Trampled Under Foot- Daniell Nicole is young, vibrant, beautiful and has really developed her talent over the past couple of years. She kept the pool deck dancing for hours. Great group. Great Pro Jam sessions. Piano Bar:
Tinsley Ellis's bass player
Rev. Billy C. Wertz – Each cruise opens us up to someone we’ve never heard of and Rev Billy had us laughing until tears came. Great on the keyboards and has plenty of stories to tell. Turns out he plays not far from us in Florida so we are certain to see him again.
Victon Wainwright- The best…..you need to see him live. Special Guest: Vanessa Collier, Lee Oskar, Nick Moss
- they sat is with various groups and added a lot to each performance. A quick note on our port stops:
Puerto Rico – We only had two nights in Puerto Rico so we only took time to explore the shops and streets of Old San Juan. A colorful town with friendly people who were happy to discuss the U.S. upcoming elections. This topic is something we were trying to avoid on this trip as we were sick of all the rhetoric. Years ago we’d been in the San Juan airport but never left the building so technically we’d never been to San Juan.
Guateloupe -- Again, we decided not to take a tour of the island.
We walked the local market and shops near the ship and made a couple of minor purchases. We enjoying exploring the grocery store and having a beer at an open-air café. We were sitting at a table next to famous bluesman Buddy Guy. These trips always afford you and opportunity to spend time with and talk to world-class musicians. Buddy was very humorous and engaging.
Barbados – MJ has been to Barbados 4 times before and Dave twice. On March 26, 1994 we were married barefoot on a beach in Barbados. If you scroll to the back page of the photos in this blog you will see a couple of our wedding photos.
We hired a driver to take us to the neighborhood where we used to stay and where we got married. We walked barefoot on our beach and a tear came to our eye. So many memories of friends and family who took the time to join us in Barbados for our special day back in 1994. Art and Deb, the friends on this trip with us were at our wedding. Actually Art was our wedding photographer. From the hotel beach where we got
Tinsley in Dominica
He is so personable
married we walked down the street checking out all the changes in the neighborhood. The apartments we used to stay in are now condos and we were unable to get in to take a look. We sat at the Yellow Bird and enjoyed a couple of beers and talked of times past. We laughed and enjoyed our good friends Art and Deb.
Grenada- We had done research before this trip and again decided that we’ve been to so many Caribbean Islands over the years that we would stay close by the town and explore. Please remember we are staying up late listening to music and sleep is fleeting so a quiet stroll through a port town is appealing and our priority over a full day excursion. Guess we are beginning to show our age.
Dominica - We didn’t get off the ship. In 1996 we spent two weeks on this amazing islands canoeing, hiking to the waterfall and scuba diving. We have wonderful memories of this island and decided to leave them intact. We enjoyed an afternoon at the pool and in the hot tub. It was a very relaxing day. Final comments are regarding the ship.
The first two Blues Cruises we went on were on Holland America’s Nieu Amsterdam and it was a great ship for the musicians. We are foodies and the food was amazing. We were surprised that each meal was amazing and we never thought we needed to spend the money for the upscale restaurants on offer. The music venues were good—especially the pool deck and the Crow’s Nest.
This trip was on the Celebrity Summit and we didn’t think it compared to the Holland American line. The food was consistently disappointing. They would run out of coffee in the morning (not completely) but we had to go searching for a pot that was full, they would run out of silverware from time to time and a couple of meals were served cold. The prices for alcohol on this ship were much higher than on the Holland American line. Although with that said the beer selection was better and we would not have minded paying the higher prices for quality beer ($11 for 1 bottle of Dogfish Head) if the food had been equal quality. The food was drastically different so the
alcohol seemed more of an issue. $25 corkage fee if you brought a bottle of wine rather than $15 on Holland American. We decided we were not interested in paying for the upscale restaurants because the dining room was disappointing and we feared it would not be much better.
The indoor venues were newer and larger so that was nice but we missed the set up on the pool deck on the Holland American line.
Links to our past Blues Cruise blogs:
January 2015 Blues Cruisin' with The Dancing Duo So you think you don't want to go on a cruise? Ah, blues!
January 2016 Blues…”from mouth to hand and man to man”. Sugar Blue
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