No Novice In The Blues
With the release of her debut US album, ‘Lucky 13’ Aussie blueswoman Fiona Boyes has come full circle. Nominated for ‘Contemporary Blues Album of the Year’ in the 2007 Blues Music Awards, the world’s premier blues awards, Fiona is the first Australian blues artist to be so honored. Described by noted critic, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Grammy Awards adviser Jeff Tamarkin as, ‘one of the most sizzling blues albums - by anyone - in years’ ‘Lucky 13’ has propelled Fiona Boyes into the international spotlight.
Fiona is no novice in the blues world. A 20 year veteran as an acoustic and electric performer, with 8 albums prior to ‘Lucky 13’, she has won Australian industry and popular acclaim with Blues Artist of the Year, Album of the Year, Vocalist of the Year, and Song of the Year awards for her last 4 albums, and this year took out 3 trophies at the inaugural Australia/New Zealand Bluestar Awards, including the coveted Industry Choice Album of the Year Award for best international release CD.
Not surprisingly some critics consider Fiona a musical anomaly: a fair haired, hard pickin’, down-home blueswoman who just happens to have lived all her life Down Under in Australia, light years from the Mississippi Delta or Chicago’s South Side. As one critic observed, Fiona understands blues music as deeply as if she had been raised on Dockery’s Plantation. When Fiona performed for legendary bluesman Pinetop Perkins at his induction into the Blues Hall of Fame, he said "I ain’t heard a woman finger-pick a guitar like that since Memphis Minnie … she’s the best gal guitar player I’ve heard in more than 35 years."
In January 2003 Fiona arrived on Beale Street in Memphis, an epicenter of American blues. Representing the Melbourne Blues Appreciation Society, she competed against the best unsigned blues artists from around the world in the Blues Foundation’s International Blues Challenge, the world’s premier showcase for emerging blues talent. And she won. Fiona became the first Australian and the first woman ever to win this prestigious event. She returned to the U.S. in May that same year to showcase at the W. C. Handy Awards, the Blues Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, the Chicago Blues Festival, New York Rhythm and Blues Festival, and Portland’s Waterfront Blues Festival. She also played 75 dates in 15 states on a 90 day tour, appearing on stages with some of the greats in the blues.
With her impressive talents, stage presence, and amiable personality, Fiona soon wowed American blues performers and audiences alike. Fiona has since teamed up with artists such as Hubert Sumlin, who toured Australia with Fiona and her band the Fortune Tellers, Steady Rollin’ Bob Margolin, who appears on her last 2 albums and has also toured Australia with her, Kaz Kazanoff, and Alvin ‘Youngblood’ Hart. In 2005 she was guest artist on the Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise, playing electric guitar nightly with players such as Taj Mahal, Little Charlie & the Nightcats, Tommy Castro, Kenny Neal, and Little Ed & the Blues Imperials, as well as showcasing her skills as an acoustic blues fingerpicker.
Fiona’s achievements quickly brought her to the attention of record labels, bookers, and agents in the US. After careful consideration and reflection she signed a deal with Memphis label, Yellow Dog Records, to record her debut US album. Fiona went into the studio in Austin, TX early in ‘06, with friends and guests Bob Margolin, Marcia Ball, the Texas Horns, and Joel Guzman, along with Derek O’Brien, Larry Fulcher, and Frosty Smith, and recorded ‘Lucky 13’. With Kaz Kazanoff producing and Stuart Sullivan at the desk she recorded 10 originals and 3 classic covers. The album was released in July and it has received rave reviews, ranking on top of major blues charts, including #1 on XM Satellite radio and House of Blues commercial radio, and now has earned Fiona a 2007 Blues Music Award nomination for Best Contemporary Blues Album, the first time a debut album has been nominated in the 29 year history of the awards.
With these growing opportunities Fiona and her husband Steve Clarke have relocated to Florida, USA from their home in Melbourne, Australia. Steve has established a US base for his company, Blue Empress Artists, and is working with musicians, agents, bookers, record labels, media, and corporate sponsors, providing a personalized consultancy at all levels of the music business.
Recently Fiona was staying with Hubert Sumlin at his home in Wisconsin. Since Hubert toured with Fiona in Australia they have become great friends and musical collaborators. Fiona was jamming with Hubert in his basement when Hubert said "Let me show you a riff that Wolf taught me. He learned it from Charley Patton."
It's this sense of history and continuity that Fiona Boyes seeks to embrace as a musician, performer, and songwriter, and capture on her recordings. It's the sense of history, the hours spent studying the past so as to nuance the classic forms in the present, the opportunity and privilege to play and learn from the living legends.
As Fiona herself says, "As an album, ‘Lucky 13’ is diverse, but I think the material stands together as a kind of wonderful American musical road trip incorporating some of the traditions and roots that I love and deeply admire. Hope I get a chance to play some of this stuff somewhere near you soon!"
Fiona's Category 5 Amps include a Tracy (custom version of Andrew) Head and 2 x 10, 2 x 12 extension cab, and Mariah 1 x 12 combo.
Fiona Boyes website
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