Tauranga's thriving blues scene

Music Plus
with Winston Watusi watusi@thesun.co.nz

The world can be strange. Even l'il ol' New Zealand sometimes surprises.

Who would have expected, for instance, Easter news to be dominated by tales of religious fanatics attacking rainbows. Colours can be so divisive.

Luckily no such animosity exists in the blues. Sure there are divisions - there's Chicago blues, and Texas blues and Mississippi blues, and more – but they can appear on stage together. A lucky escape, I guess, for “the devil's music”.

Tauranga is actually a city with a thriving blues scene.

Karen Clarke.

The three names recognised nationally are hi-energy modern bluesman Grant Haua, signed to a French blues label, traditionalist Mike Garner, and blues 'n' roots outfit Kokomo, but there is a wide and active engagement. Most prominent is the monthly Tauranga Blues Jam, which occurs at Tauranga Sports Fishing Club, Sulphur Point, second Wednesday monthly.

It's a well-attended night, and free to everyone, something between a jam and an open mic session, where bands contact organiser Simon Fenlon, of the band KAOS, for a slot. There is also a house band, Chill Factor. March saw many people playing, including Bill Ward, Lost Mountain Hillbilly Bandits, Dionne Stanbridge, Hypnotic Erra, Craig Norman, Band Of Robbers, and Tina Turley.

Tina Turley.

And around now I realise this column is going sideways. What should happen next: reviews of new albums by frequent blues visitors The Flaming Mudcats and aforementioned trad man Mike Garner. They both released new work just before Easter, Mike a particularly interesting collaboration with women singers.

But that has to wait – check this week's playlist for an advance listen – as at this point I really should mention Tina Turley.

Tina is a Canadian singer, coming to town in a couple of week's time, more country than blues, but definitely worth catching. She sings a mixture of her own songs and well-chosen country covers and has a band assembled from Hamilton musicians.

She's at the Entertainers Club, Sunday April 14, 5pm at the Citz Club on Cameron Rd, $20. Opening the night with definitely bluesy sounds is Karen Clarke Blues Woman. Yes, that's her name; she hails from Taranaki. Karen has a fine voice and good songs. She released a full album in 2022 and a further couple of singles since.

One other quick mention – Friday April 12 the Katikati Folk Club host singer/songwriter Rachel Dawick at the Arts Junction. Rachel should have a full column about her: she lives in London and is just launching a book and album, 'London Labour and the London Poor', recreating the voices and stories of nineteenth century London. Do check the KKFC website – this could be a really special night.

Rachel Dawick.

P.S. Update! Last Friday I got an email from Rod Taylor, director of Tauranga's Luxe Cinema, with the fantastic news that they have secured the 2024 NZ International Film Festival for Tauranga. Thanks to their huge efforts we can now enjoy the NZIFF in August. Kudos!

Listen to Winston's latest Playlist: