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Blues Guitar Shootout - Sinnissippi Park Music Shell 7/9/05 DVD

Review by Gary Hill

Fans of the blues from outside the Illinois area may not have heard of the musicians featured on this disc, but they really should find out about them. The concert captured in this video was an outdoor show recorded in Rockford, Illinois and features some of the hottest blues men from the Rockford area - and they are all worthy of national (and even international) attention. These guys got together for one day and performed the music they loved as only they can. They played in various combinations and at the end as one group - and they were hot!

For those who haven't heard of these musicians, a word of introduction is in order. First up is Steve Ditzell. Ditzell sings and plays scorching blues guitar that combines both the old school blues sound and the more rock oriented made popular by Stevie Ray Vaughn and his followers. The man has a musical pedigree that makes those connections seem obvious. He cut his teeth playing with blues great Koko Taylor. If that wasn't enough among the old school blues icons whose bands have included Ditzell are Buddy Guy, Junior Wells, Etta James and Albert Collins. The man plays a mean blues guitar and his vocals are right up there with the best of them. Even if he were the only musician featured on this collection that would say a lot, but his compatriots are just as impressive.

Dan Voll is without question one of the best guitarists in Rockford. There are those who will tell you that he is the best. He is certainly one of the most versatile having played in blues outfits, rock bands, jazz groups. His own band, Dan Voll and Combo Loco play an intriguing blend of classic rock, blues and Latin music. The man can sing and he can also make his guitar sing. He is a legend around Rockford, Illinois and should well be known elsewhere, too.

Next on the list is Pistol Pete. He has won numerous awards in his career including Asti Spumanti Urban Talent Search (1993) and First Place Winner of the Midwest Division of the Jimi Hendrix Electric Guitar Competition (1996). He has appeared on Show Time at The Apollo and has played such renowned festivals as Chicago Blues Festival and Jimi Hendrix Electric Guitar Festival in Seattle and was a finalist in the Albert King International Blues Competition in Memphis. As all of that might tell you, the man can play!

Bob Levis is another bluesman who was on the bill of the show. Levis played in Otis Rush's band for more than six years and also played with Lonnie Brooks including performances on two Grammy nominated albums. Needless to say, this is another guy who can pull the blues from his guitar in wonderful ways.

The rhythm section for the show was composed of Rich Gordon on bass guitar (Rich has been working with his band The Basement Blues Band since 1983 and also has been a regular feature on the Rockford radio scene as a DJ for even more years than that) and Link Leary on drums (who has recorded with Ernie "Sugar Lips" Brown).

The show consisted of three sets, all three of which included Gordon and Leary. For the first set Ditzell and Levis held the stage. The second set showcased Pistol Pete and Dan Voll. For the final set all the bluesmen were on the stage at once. The group smoked their way through blues classics and put on a spectacular show that will surely please even the most hard to impress blues fans.

The sound and video are both pretty darn good, although there are one or two glitches in my copy. The only real complaint about this set is the interface. The main menu consists of computer interface looking buttons for each set that just don't look very good. The next track button doesn't necessarily take you to the next song, but instead usually lands you somewhere in the middle of a song. All that said, though, this is a spectacular one of a kind show, and worth watching one set at a time - who needs to fast forward past the tracks anyway. This is a great showcase for some exceptionally talented modern blues men. If you love the blues, you owe it to yourself to pick this one up. For more information or to order check out as they are the independent company responsible for making this DVD available. The proceeds from the sale of this DVD are being split 50/50 between Crossroads Blues Society (a Rockford area group that supports the blues) and Charlotte's Web for the Performing Arts (a Rockford area group that works to promote performance arts), with the generosity of all musicians involved.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2005 Year Book Volume 3 at

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