Review: Low Down Dirty Blues

By Michelle Marx, guest blogger

The October 18 opening night performance for Low Down Dirty Blues at the Lone Tree Arts Center was a spirited evening full of blues music both joyful and heartbreaking.

The stage is Big Mama’s club. The show is over and the musicians are hanging out afterwards. Three musicians are playing a piano, a bass, and a guitar and then Big Mama makes her grand entrance. Big Mama, performed by Tony-Award nominee Felicia Fields, is captivating and immediately engages the crowd. She wants to know if you’re ready to have a good time, and you should be.

The show is essentially an impromptu blues jam session including tunes from Muddy Waters, Ma Rainey, Sophie Tucker, Howlin’ Wolf, and Pearl Bailey.  While the show is predominately music, the song choices tell a story. There are brief narratives, short comments really, that tell the history of and the story of the people playing the blues. It’s the subtle reference to the Delta blues as opposed to the Chicago blues or the comment about scrubbing floors during the day to play at night or the humorous banter between musicians to make a point.  The combination of song lyrics and remarks create a snapshot of the lives at the center of the blues, touching upon heartache and difficulty, discrimination and social injustice, and obstacles faced trying to get their music heard.

With just five people on stage and only three of them singing and sharing stories, Fields, Chic Street Man, and Shake Anderson have to carry the show. And they do so flawlessly. All are talented singers and musicians who have performed the show together before. Despite the sadness in some of the songs, one is quite gut-wrenching, the musicians are having a good time. And so will you. It’s hard not to have fun when the performers are having fun. The singers do a fabulous job engaging with the audience. You can’t get out of there without clapping along and possibly even singing along, too.

Director Randal Myler (Muscle Shoals: I’ll Take You There and Tony Award-nominated Best Musical It Ain’t Nothin’ But the Blues) and musical director Dan Wheetman make a successful return to the LTAC with Low Down Dirty Blues. The show continues through Sunday, October 27 with evening and matinee performances.

Tickets and more information are available at:  www.lonetreeartscenter.org/lowdowndirtyblues

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