Tag Archives: Colorado Blues Society

I am whatever you say I am… or not

Yup, felt moved to quote Eminem as it would seem that another blues challenge prelim has come and gone and I find I am staring down the same barrel while singing the same old tune but let me rephrase it a bit because the truth is, “I am whatever I say I am, if I wasn’t then why would I write this.” 😀

So the day of the show I woke up with hope in my heart, a spring in my step and no voice. That is right I lost my voice the day of the show. So I implemented every home remedy I could think of and for the most part I coughed my brains out and kept my mouth shut for the whole day, a huge challenge for me. When it was time to roll out, the ol’ vocal chords were rough, really rough but as ready as they could be.

The other bands and solo acts were amazing, I was able to get a few dances in before we were to go on and go on we did! After an amazingly heart felt and personal introduction from Kyle; we played our hearts out, nailing every note, the audience’s energy was immeasurable. It was great, we brought Emma to the stage to sing, for the first and questionably the only time that night the audience went and stayed silent. When she was done, over half that room was on their feet the room going from silent to a roar. This hadn’t and didn’t happen again during the rest of show.

While the other bands played I drank, danced and conversed with the who’s who of the local blues scene. Some of these people aware of our history in regards to this event went as far to joke about how our luck and the comments we usually receive from the judges would make for a good blues song. I couldn’t help but laugh and point out that I have already written that tune. The song To Whom it may concern, on our first album was written solely as an observation about the Colorado Blues Society’s International Blues Challenge and the short end of the stick we keep getting year to year. True to form the judges came back and (minus one judge who really liked us) told us that ThreeShots was not blues, or more specifically, not blues enough.

Nice tunes (I like them) but not strictly blues.

Very polished and good arrangements. Balanced sound. Good use of varied dynamics. Each instrument – well isolated. Not enough blues.

You sound better every year. Keep up the good work!

Better every year…keep it up! More rock than blues – ok, but not for a blues competition.

So I began to reflect on our song selection follow along…

We started with Sean Costello’s  Hard Luck Woman: pretty sure this song doesn’t warrant justification as it was written and performed by Sean freak’in Costello!

We followed that up with our original Ol’ Scratch: This song has two sections. The A section is a I, IV, V7: a 12 bar, straight, undeniable blues progression with a melodic arrangement comparable with Jimi Hendrix’s cover of Killing Floor. Killing Floor is an old school blues standard originally by Howlin’ Wolf. Hendrix’s cover clings unflinchingly to the blues roots from which the song came; he was just faster and more aggressive. The B section is also a I, IV, V7 and a 12 bar, very reminiscent of Crossroads by Cream. A song that they spun on its head by comparison to the original but their version is still touted unquestionably  as blues due not only to its oh so very blues chordal arrangement but the rhythm as well. Which brings be to the rhythmic elements of our song. The A section of our song uses a text book Chicago blues shuffle and the B section use a traditional Texas blues shuffle. I won’t go into what the differences are but feel free to look them up. Last element but not least to cover would be the solos. This song has separate guitar, piano and harp solos all using minor pentatonic scales adding a flat 5th, known as the blues scale. Throw in some lyrics about going to the crossroads to make a deal with the Devil on top of the mound of rhythmic, tonal and chordal blues elements and you have blues.

Our next song was Married to the Blues by Shemekia Copeland. This song actually deviates from the traditional blues motif but every aspect of it is without a doubt blues, just listen to it.

We closed out our show with an original tune New Orleans Queen, this song might, and I use that word lightly, might have a hint of rock to it but when it is all boiled down easily falls into the New Orleans/Cajun/Southern Blues. All in all, over all, the fast majority our set was unquestionably blues. I rest my case.

Every year we think we do well and every year we think we have a shot of going to finals then but don’t. A few years back we were slotted in a prelim round with easily one of the area’s biggest baddest players: Bad Brad and the Fat Cats and it was that year that we knew we weren’t going to finals… and that is the only year we did. I am not saying for one second that the bands that progressed this year weren’t great. What I am saying is that we shouldn’t have been down voted for the reasons that the judges gave. Here is the point, the genre that is blues is massive and I get it, not every judge is going to like Jump Blues, Delta Blues, Texas Blues, Piedmont Blues, or Boogie-woogies, ect… but they are still blues none the less. I honestly believe that if some of the most notable names in the genre, that we have come to admire and specifically the ones that lean on the rock vein a little like we do, if they were to take part in this event they would be knocked out in the first round.

Over all thoughts on the IBC: it’s a lot of fun and I love getting to see our brothers and sisters in music do what they do and we will continue to enter but we will also be looking into the other blues societies for a chance at Memphis. Maybe we can find people willing to take a chance on something a little outside the box, cause if not I believe that the genre is destined to never grow and really that leaves us playing the same stuff we have been for the last 60 years.

Thanks Wolf Bytes for the footage 🙂

ThreeShots is a blues band

As another Colorado Blues Society’s (CBS) International Blues Challenge (IBC) preliminary round comes and goes leaving us in its wake it’s time to reflect. I want to say congratulations to the bands that made it to the finals. All of the bands that played that day were top notch. As ThreeShots puts another IBC to rest we can’t help but look back at this and previous years with a slightly precarious, frustrating and confusing expression. (I have no idea what that would actually look like)
ThreeShots is a blues band, period.

Do we play the same ol’ canned blues that came about 60 years ago? Nope. That doesn’t mean we are not blues. The genre that is blues is massive, due largely to that fact that blues has influenced so many genres. Just like all forms of music though blues has evolved and grown over the years.

Without getting too technical blues is traditionally made up a 12 bar progression based off of the I, IV, and V chords, utilizing the blue notes (flatted 3rd and 7th notes), paired with a walking bassline and call and response lyrics.

This is where it started; it has evolved into so much more than that. Elvis (rock and roll), Muddy Waters (Chicago blues), Robert Johnson (delta blues), T-Bone Walker (jump blues), John Lee Hooker (boogie-woogie blues), Stevie Ray Vaughan (Texas blues), Cream, Lonnie Mack (Rock-blues) just to name a few, all of these and many more subgenres are notably different but they are all blues.

ThreeShots is no different, we have taken the music beyond where we found it and still hold to the conventions that would, to the discerning ear, still classify us as blues. Our selection of cover songs and originals bounce in and out of several sub genres all of which fall under blues.

Some like Chicago blues, some like Texas blues, Swamp blues, or maybe jump blues. There are so many different subgenres of blues it is hard to count. ThreeShots falls well within the definitions of electric blues, blues-rock, and Roadhouse R&B.

Yet without fail as if looking for a reason to vote us down, we get ‘feed back’ stating that we are not a blues band. So the musician in me can’t help but look to the theory behind what makes blues definitively blues. Traditionally, as I mentioned above most blues consist of a I, IV, V progression, usually in a 12 bar format. Rhythmically blues is clichély a shuffle and lyrically it is standard to have a call and response sort of a thing. I would argue that if you have a song that consists of all of these elements you would be hard pressed not to have a blues song on your hands. With that being said, it only makes sense to expand the genre and not just play the same ol’ things that we have heard for the last 60 years. ThreeShots has done our part to expand the genre. Several other notable bands have done the same. I really do believe that aside from their noted fame that Hamilton Loomis and Samatha Fish would be bitch slapped and told they aren’t blues based off of what I have seen year after year. Yet they are at the forefront of the genre respectively. Yes they both play standard/traditional blues from time to time but for the most part they are by no means conventional blues.

Some like us, love us, and some can’t stand us. That doesn’t change what we are: good. This year we had a ballot of straight 6s. This year was also hands down the tightest performance in all aspects that our show has been. While in the past I remember seeing straight 10’s (Thanks Dan King). Without fail we get judges at this competition who from their position of superior knowledge, or so I am assuming this is why they were made judges. Surely they aren’t just blues enthusiasts, or weekend players but I could be wrong. This judging pool of blues aficionados can’t help but think we are not a blues band and find that it is their duty to inform us that we are actually a rock and roll band. Even if that were the case (which it is not) and we were to lose points in the ‘blues content’ section, surely the instrumental, vocal talent, stage presence, and originality section should grant us enough points to carry us forward.

Also, if I am correct all the judges ballots are used to figure out the winner, which means if one judge doesn’t like your act, you are out of the competition. It would seem to me that the lowest and the highest scores should be tossed out and the remaining scores be averaged. This would remove positive and negative outliers.