Ottawa’s own Blues band, Wicked Grin, winners of the Ottawa Blues Society Road To Memphis Competition in 2013, will be representing our city in the International Blues Challenge 2014, being held in Memphis, Tennessee from January 21-25. The IBC, now in its 30th year, is the world’s largest gathering of Blues musicians, competing for cash, prizes, and industry recognition. Organized by The Blues Foundation and its affiliated organizations, the annual competition is a search for the best Blues band, and the best solo/duo Blues act.
Last year, 125 bands, and 80 solo/duo acts entered, setting Beale Street abuzz with a host of some of the best Blues talent in the world. There are at least as many competing at the grand event this year, which kicks off with a preliminary “Meet and Greet” on Tuesday, January 21st, followed by quarter-finals Wednesday and Thursday, semi-finals on Friday, and the big finale with the winners chosen Saturday, January 25th. The fundraising efforts of the Ottawa Blues Society have helped to raise the dollars needed to send our talented competitors to Memphis.
I was fortunate enough to catch Wicked Grin at the Atomic Rooster, early this past Sunday night, as they played their final gig here at home before the big pilgrimage to Memphis. This popular Bank Street live entertainment venue, was packed with patrons, friends, fans, and supporters, enjoying the infectious grooves of this hard driving, no-nonsense, in-your-face Blues band.
Upon entering, I was immediately hit by a wall of sound, emanating from the collective efforts of the 4 talented performers in this band called Wicked Grin, who have been rockin’ steady for the past 10 years, and show they’ve loved every minute of it. They now have two CD’s under their belt, with their newest, entitled, “Shame On Me” (available at CD Baby and iTunes). Out of the eleven tracks on the CD, nine are original, and one in particular, “The Sister Who Will”, is currently receiving some well-deserved airplay. Track #11, “Heaven”, hits a very personal note with Murray Kingsley, in that it was based on his reflections of the Boston bombings last year. The Ottawa Citizen chose it as one of the top local songs of 2013.
On their official home web page, they describe themselves as “Blues With Bite” …and I can see why! Let’s start with the searing, bottom-ended, raw, downright dirty, and unrelenting guitar stylings of Murray Kingsley, combined with his rough-edged, traditional Blues, and Gospel-like vocals. Add to that, the steady, powerful, and very rhythmic grooves of bassist, Leigh-Anne Stanton, as well as the perfectly blended, heavy, driving force on the skins by drummer, Liam Melville. Finally, peppered throughout every song, some of the most jaw-dropping harp you’ll ever hear, by Marc Seguin. Here is a recipe for a kickin’ Blues band that will prove to be one tough contender! Ottawa sends off the members of Wicked Grin with wishes of good luck and safe travels!