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Rusty Wright Blues Band: I Ain't From Mississippi

By Published: October 8, 2008
AAJ: How far did you get in the competitions?

RW: We performed Thursday and Friday nights at the New Daisy Theater on Beale Street. We got standing ovations on both nights. I'll admit, we were a little confused and disappointed at the outcome, at our venue. When we finally got our score sheets two months after the IBC we found out that one judge had given us very low scores that were way out of line with the other scores given. The other five judges gave us 8's, 9's and 10's but the sixth judge gave us 3's and 4's. We never did find out why. He was also the only judge who didn't bother to include comments on the score sheet. It's all water under the bridge now.

LLW: From the start I warned everyone in the band repeatedly that we should not get our hopes up about the competition, that having one judge who was a blues "purist" would probably put us out of the running, score-wise. And that's exactly what happened. It's extremely difficult for someone to be completely objective when asked to judge something as subjective as music. Also, the question of what is and is not blues can be a pretty explosive topic—everyone who spends any time at all surfing blues music forums on the internet learns that pretty quickly.

We have a very high-energy, fairly aggressive live sound that is blues-based, but other influences sneak in there also. We make no apologies for that. There are a lot of roads you can take to get to the blues and everyone's journey is different. Our sound is a fair reflection of who we are, musically.

All in all, we were satisfied with our performances in Memphis. We put forth the best effort we were capable of. We didn't make the finals but darn near everyone who was anyone in the blues world was at the New Daisy for our set on Friday night. That tells us we were doing something right that weekend. Heck, one Illinois couple who heard us at the International Blues Challenge drove across three states last weekend to come hear us at the Kalamazoo Blues Festival. And those are the people we pour our souls out to on stage.

AAJ: What did you take away from this experience?

RW: The "vibe" on Beale is absolutely one of a kind. The networking and the general camaraderie among the musicians was amazing. We made connections and opened a lot of doors that will help with our continued success. And no matter what happens, I get to say I got a standing ovation on Beale Street. It was a very productive trip for us.

LLW: Thanks to the IBC we have some exciting new opportunities percolating and we have a much tighter act than we did a year ago. The caliber of music and musicianship at the IBC is phenomenal. It was great to experience that. We came away with a pretty good sense of how our act measures up to some of the top touring acts in blues.

AAJ: Since returning, where have you performed?

RW: Just before the trip to Memphis, we performed with Alberta Adams and Charlie Musselwhite at the Antifreeze Festival in Detroit. Shortly after the IBC we put on our own Cool Blues and Brews concert and brought The Alligators (from Detroit) and the Blue Hawaiians (from Flint) in to perform with us. That show drew more than 500 people.

In April 2007 we opened for Leslie West and Mountain, and in May we went to Ontario to perform for the Canada South Blues Society. In June 2007 our schedule really kicked into high gear, starting with The Jackson Blues Festival, Detroit Festival of the Arts and Flint Art Fair, the Oxford Hot Blues and BBQ Festival, and some annual community festivals. We were in Nashville, Tennessee over the 4th of July weekend performing at a club called the Bourbon Street Blues and Boogie, then we headed back to Michigan for a string of outdoor concerts including the Kalamazoo Blues Festival. Other blues festivals we have booked this summer include the "I Chews The Blues" Festival (in Davison) on August 4th and the Marquette Blues Festival on September 2nd.

We're starting to focus on confirming concert dates for the winter months and into 2008, and we have a verbal commitment for the 2009 St. Johns Blues Festival in the Virgin Islands. That one came about through the IBC, as did the recent shows in Nashville. There are some very cool concerts we are in the process of negotiating but can't really talk about yet because they're still tentative.

AAJ: Your first CD has received a lot of acclaim. Did you expect this first time out the gate?

RW: I am very proud of the music and I thought it would get people's attention if we could get reviewers to give it a fair listen. We're an indie label with limited resources but overall, I think we accomplished a lot with this first CD.

AAJ: You have also received airplay worldwide. Where can we expect to hear your music?

Rusty: France, Finland, Poland, Germany, Argentina, Italy, Belgium, New Zealand, Australia, and a few others I can't remember. Laurie would know.

LLW: You forgot Argentina and Canada, the Netherlands, Norway, ... and the United States. We've gotten a lot of support from public radio stations, and from podcasters and webcasters all over the world.

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