January is brimming with some great, straight-up blues. The month kicks off with Memphis harmonica master Brandon Santini, Thursday, Jan. 5, 6-9 p.m., at The 21st Saloon. Bluesman John Primer is well-known to local audiences for his many years as the late Magic Slim’s sideman. Primer has been fronting his own band for a number of years now and brings his blistering Chicago blues guitar style to Lincoln’s Zoo Bar Wednesday, Jan. 11, and plugs in at The 21st Saloon Thursday, Jan. 12. Both shows 6-9 p.m.

Blues siren Gina Sicilia hits The 21st Saloon Saturday, Jan. 14, 8-11 p.m. She’s touring in support of her late-2016 release, Sunset Avenue (Blue Élan Records), that has scored big with critics and fans. She also plays Lincoln’s Zoo Bar Tuesday, Jan. 10, 6-9 p.m. and is up at Fremont’s Corner Bar Friday, Jan. 13, 6 p.m. See ginasicilia.com.

Seth Walker’s Blues & Americana

January marks the long-overdue return of Seth Walker to the metro. His 2016 disc, Gotta Get Back, was produced by Jano Rix of the Wood Brothers. Now based in New Orleans, Walker’s CD debuted at Number Six on the Billboard Blues Chart. Elmore magazine notes, “While the album is more varied than most of his catalog, the soulful, bluesy, R&B influence prevails as always.” The Austin American-Statesman says, “This young man is pure talent, a masterful blues guitarist, a singer with some swing in his voice and a writer whose [songs] sound less composed than unleashed.” Check him out at sethwalker.com and get hip to Walker’s great guitar playing, songwriting and vocals at The 21st Saloon Thursday, Jan. 19, 6-9 p.m.

Shawn Holt & The Teardrops

The rest of the month shapes up with highlights including two local dates by Shawn Holt & The Teardrops. Holt, son of Magic Slim and a longtime Lincoln resident, has relocated to the Kansas City area. From there he continues to front the latest version of The Teardrops, the traditional Chicago blues band made popular by his father. Holt plays The 21st Saloon

See shawnholtandtheteardrops.com.

Tas Cru Debut

New York state’s Tas Cru makes what I believe is his area debut. Downbeat magazine writes, “His songs are blues poetry – crafted with rare verbal flair and his ability to cast a memorable hook is magical!” Living Blues magazine says, “The vivacity and sheer joy with which Cru plays is intoxicating!” Cru’s fall 2016 release Simmered & Stewed (VizzTone), hit the Living Blues charts and “BB King’s Bluesville” on Sirius XM Radio. See tascru.com. Cru plays Fremont’s Corner Bar Wednesday, Jan. 25, 5 p.m. and has the 6-9 p.m. slot at The 21st Saloon Thursday, Jan. 26.

Kris Lager CD Release

Local road warriors the Kris Lager Band brings a new CD to the table with Rise & Shine. Their local CD release show is Saturday, Jan 7, 9:30 p.m. at The Reverb Lounge in Benson. Tickets are available at reverblounge.com. The 16-track, feel-good, blues-rock-soul disc is a largely home-grown affair with most of the tracks produced by Lager and Jeremiah Weir at Studio Blue in La Vista. After this gig the band hits the road for a couple of months. See krislagerband.com.

Memphis Bound

Lincoln’s Tim Budig Band is this year’s band selected by a judged-competition to represent the Blues Society of Omaha in the 2017 International Blues Challenge. The event, sponsored by the Blues Foundation in Memphis, brings together several hundred blues bands and solo-duo acts from around the world to play for several thousand fans and compete before industry leaders to take home the IBC first place recognition.

Last year, Omaha’s Hector Anchondo Band made it all the way through the competition to be one of the final eight bands, a prestigious accomplishment. The BSO and The 21st Saloon host a send-off party for the Tim Budig Band Friday, Jan. 27, 9 p.m. at The 21st Saloon. The IBCs happen Wednesday, Feb. 1, through Saturday, Feb. 4, in Memphis. BluesEd band Us & Them will be featured as part of the annual Youth Showcase that features young blues musicians. See blues.org  for more information.

Hot Notes

Perennial dance-floor-filling favorites The Bel Airs heat things up at The 21st Saloon Saturday, Jan. 28, 8-11 p.m. The band is also on tap at Lincoln’s Zoo Bar Friday, Jan. 20 (5 p.m.), and Saturday, Jan. 21 (6 p.m.).  

Turnpike Troubadours perform Thursday, Jan. 26, at The Waiting Room. Roots-rockers Drive By Truckers are up at Lincoln’s Bourbon Theatre Saturday, Jan. 28.

Popular blues-rockers Indigenous are up for two local shows. Guitarist Mato Nanji and his band plug in Saturday, Feb. 4, 6-9 p.m., at the Zoo Bar and play The Waiting Room Sunday, Feb. 5, 7 p.m.

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