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The annual International Blues Challenge (IBC) happens Jan. 24-28 in Memphis. The event is organized by The Blues Foundation and showcases music from around the country and the world on stages in over 20 clubs on historic Beale Street. The finals are at Memphis’ Orpheum Theatre, and Omaha’s Héctor Anchondo is a past big winner. In 2020 he won the Solo/Duo category and also took home the Memphis Cigar Box Guitar Award for best guitarist in the Solo/Duo competition.

This year, the two acts representing the Blues Society of Omaha (BSO) were chosen by judges from an open competition at the end of October. Local winners In the Pocket featuring Nebraska Jr. from Lincoln and Steve Lovett from Omaha will represent the BSO in the IBC. Two sendoff events showcase these local talents and help raise funds for their travel to Memphis. The Omaha IBC sendoff party is Friday, Jan. 6, 5:30-8:30 p.m., at The B. Bar. The Lincoln IBC sendoff show is Friday, Jan. 13, 5-8 p.m., at Lincoln’s Zoo Bar. For details, visit the events calendar at omahablues.com. Find out more about The Blues Foundation at blues.org.

The BSO continues to produce weekly shows bringing national talent to local venues. The January schedule looks like this, with all shows 6-9 p.m. unless otherwise noted. Kansas City’s guitar-driven Brandon Miller Band plugs in at Philly Sports Bar and Grill on Thursday, Jan. 5. Thursday, Jan. 12 features the old-school, rockin’ blues of Hurricane Ruth at The Strut. An established artist, Ruth was given her nickname by Willie Dixon. Her 2022 recording, “Live at 3rd and Lindsley” was a 2022 nominee for Best Live Blues Album in the Blues Blast Music Awards. See hurricaneruth.com.

Guitarist Jeremiah Johnson and his band play Stocks n Bonds on Thursday, Jan. 19. Johnson’s latest release, “Hi-Fi Drive By” (Ruf Records) is his sixth album to debut in the Top 10 on the Billboard Blues Chart. He was a 2022 Blues Music Award Nominee for best Blues Rock album with his last release “Unemployed Highly Annoyed” and was a featured artist in November 2021 on the popular Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise. The Jan. 19 show is also a BSO membership appreciation event – a current membership card gets you in for $5. Those becoming members at the door will also receive the discounted admission. Admission for non-members is $20. Find details on this promotion and all the BSO shows at facebook.com/bluessocietyofomaha plus a curated list of many local shows at omahablues.com.

Thursday, Jan. 26, features Scott Ellison Band at Philly Sports Bar and Grill. In the 1980s, guitarist Ellison was a session player for bands from The Box Tops and The Shirelles to Gary “U.S.” Bonds and Peaches & Herb before launching his career as a bandleader. His music has been featured in TV and films. His 13th and latest CD, “There’s Something About the Night,” has had a popular reception, including landing at No. 3 on the Roots Music Report. Living Blues magazine said of the release, “His mastery of styles and tone is on abundant display.”

Friday, Jan. 27, at The B. Bar, the BSO co-promotes a 5:30 show with local favorites Sailing in Soup and special guest Joey Gulizia. The B. Bar offers a weekly show on Fridays at 5:30 p.m.

Hot Notes
Omaha Performing Arts presents the Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio on Friday, Jan. 13, 7:30 p.m., at the Holland Music Club (formerly the 1200 Club) at the Holland. This is a don’t-miss show. I caught this powerhouse trio at the Zoo Bar in October and they are amazing – I can’t top what one reviewer aptly wrote, calling the music an “intoxicating cocktail” with “a big helping of the 1960s organ jazz stylings of Jimmy Smith and Baby Face Willette; a pinch of the snappy soul strut of Booker T. & The MGs and The Meters; and sprinkles of Motown, Stax Records, blues, and cosmic Jimi Hendrix-style guitar.”  See o-pa.org.

Lincoln’s Zoo Bar has music at least five nights a week, often with early and late shows. Catch the latest bookings at zoobar.com and facebook.com/zoobarblues. Highlights from the January calendar include the Grammy-nominated Danielle Nicole Band on Saturday, Jan. 15, 5 p.m. And a noteworthy appearance from the Hot Club of Cowtown on Wednesday, Jan. 18, 6 p.m. The show is part of the “Celebrating Elvis” tour focused on Elvis’ early Sun Studio recordings. The band teams for these shows with Tyler Hilton, who played Elvis in the 2005 movie “Walk the Line.”

Omaha’s The Jewell also hosts jazz, blues and other roots music several nights a week in a beautiful club with top-of-the-line acoustics. Keep up with the schedule at jewellomaha.com/shows. Meanwhile, Buck’s in Venice continues to offer national country-roots bookings worth your attention. See bucksbarandgrill.com.

blues guitarist Jeremiah Johnson
Top 10 Billboard-charting Jeremiah Johnson plugs in at Stocks n Bonds at 6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 19. Credit: Dawn Wilcox

Subscribe to The Reader Newsletter

Our awesome email newsletter briefing tells you everything you need to know about what’s going on in Omaha. Delivered to your inbox every day at 11:00am.

Become a Supporting Member

Subscribe to thereader.com and become a supporting member to keep locally owned news alive. We need to pay writers, so you can read even more. We won’t waste your time, our news will focus, as it always has, on the stories other media miss and a cultural community — from arts to foods to local independent business — that defines us. Please support your locally-owned news media by becoming a member today.

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