Minneapolis’ swing and New Orleans-style blues band Davina & The Vagabonds is back at The 21st Saloon next Thursday, Jan 10, 5:30-8:30 p.m. They also gig at Lincoln’s Zoo Bar Wednesday, Jan. 9, 6-9 p.m. Their keyboard and horn-driven sound is big fun and pure musicianship. Davina Sowers’ soulful, soaring vocalizing and retro, glamour-girl va-va-voom give the band a unique sound and sparkling energy.

Elmore magazine rightly calls Sowers “a modern day, female version of Louis Armstrong.” Critics compare her vocals to everyone from Etta James and Billie Holiday to Amy Winehouse.

More 21st Saloon

The 21st Saloon kicks off the New Year with Oklahoma’s Scott Keeton Band Thursday, Jan. 3. Keeton mixes roots, blues and rock for a good-time show. Acoustic bluesman Stephen Monroe plays Sunday, Jan. 6, 6 p.m.

Lincoln’s Zoo Bar

The Zoo has shows coming up including a double-dose of cool roots music on Friday, Jan. 4, with Mezcal Brothers playing 5-7 p.m. followed by the Scott Keeton Band after 9 p.m. Hoodoo favorite Davina & The Vagabonds takes the stage Wednesday, Jan. 9, 6-9 p.m. Another Hoodoo favorite, Hadden Sayers plugs in the following Wednesday, Jan. 16, 6-9 p.m. Check zoobar.com for the full Zoo schedule.

International Blues Challenge

Levi William plays next Sunday, Jan. 13, 6 p.m., at The 21st in a send-off party for the band’s trip to represent the Blues Society of Omaha in the 29th Annual International Blues Challenge  (IBC) in Memphis, Tenn. The International Blues Challenge is hosted by the national Blues Foundation. William and his band were selected in the Blues Society of Omaha’s Nebraska Blues Challenge in the spring of 2012 to go to the 2013 IBC, which happens in Memphis Jan. 29-Feb. 2, 2013. 

Participating in the IBCs is a step up for artists looking to move to the national touring circuit, exposing them to blues labels, promoters and booking agents. Previous notable competitors in the International Blues Challenge include Tommy Castro, the late Michael Burks, Susan Tedeschi, the late Sean Costello, Trampled Under Foot, J.P. Soars, Karen Lovely, Fiona Boyes, Eden Brent, Shakura S’Aida, Stacy Mitchhart and Davina & the Vagabonds. See blues.org/ibc for details on the International Blues Challenge.

The Blues Society of Omaha launched its competition Jan. 1, 2013, to select its band for the 2014 IBCs. See NebraskaBluesChallenge.blogspot.com for details, rules and the official entry form. (Full disclosure: I am on the board of the Blues Society of Omaha.)

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