Sitting down to write this on April 17, I am remembering Chris Gaffney, who passed away three years ago on this date. He died after a brief but valiant battle with inoperable liver cancer. Gaffney was one of the most formidable singers of country and soul in his generation. He was just beginning to get the recognition he deserved. Thankfully his music remains with us. Just look up Chris Gaffney on youtube to have a listen to this great singer. He was one of my musical heroes and he became a friend too. He was a member of the Zoo Bar family during his solo career and returned often both with Dave Alvin’s band and then with his own band, The Hacienda Brothers. The Hacienda Brothers was co-fronted by Gaffney and Dave Gonzalez of The Paladins fame. The Hacienda Brothers final release, Arizona Motel (Proper American), showcases the power and soul in Gaffney’s voice. I highly recommend the disc as a great introduction to Gaffney. Find out more about the life and music of Chris Gaffney at HaciendaBrothers.com or at DaveAlvin.net. Gaffney’s best friend Dave Alvin produced a tribute to Gaffney, The Man of Somebody’s Dreams (Yep Roc), in 2009, which you can sample at Alvin’s site. Gaffney’s great songwriting is celebrated through performances by many of his friends. Duarte & Zito Bring Guitar Power If you’re reading this on Wednesday, April 20, you can still catch incomparable blues-rock-funk-jazz guitarist Chris Duarte at Lincoln’s Zoo Bar, 6-9 p.m. On Thursday, April 21, Duarte plugs in at The 21st Saloon, 5:30-8:30 p.m. Meanwhile, The 21st Saloon presents a special Wednesday show on April 20, 5:30-8:30 p.m. with the guitar-driven blues of Mike Zito. Zito takes the stage at the Zoo Bar for a special early show on Thursday, April 21, 6-9 p.m. Marvelous Janiva Magness On Tuesday, April 26, remarkable vocalist Janiva Magness hits the Zoo Bar stage at 6 p.m. Soulful and sultry, Magness is a multiple winner in the national Blues Music Awards. She is nominated for five more this year. In 2009 she received the top honor, The B.B. King Entertainer of the Year Award. Her disc The Devil is an Angel, Too (Alligator) was named the number one blues disc of 2010 by Living Blues magazine. Blues Challenge Continues The Blues Society of Omaha’s first-ever Nebraska Blues Challenge continued with a second round in Lincoln on Sunday, April 17, at the Zoo Bar. The band receiving the highest scores from the judges in the second preliminary round was the Lil’ Slim Blues Band. Judges for the second round were musician Karen Earhart of Kearney, BluesEd founder Doug Backer of Omaha and Jeff Wagner from the Central Iowa Blues Society. The guest judges use the criteria and point system set up by the Blues Foundation’s International Blues Challenge. The Brad Cordle Band scored the highest points in the first round on Sunday, April 10. Judges were local musicians Matt Amandus, Seth Ondracek and Greg Jones, musician and part-owner of the Barley Street Tavern. The final preliminary round happens on Sunday, May 1, at The Waiting Room. Performing are the Luther James Band (2 p.m.), the Paul Scott Hoagbin Trio (3 p.m.), 112 North Duck (4 p.m.) and Elwin James & the Wayouts (5 p.m.). The finals for the Nebraska Blues Challenge are on Sunday, May 15, at the 21st Saloon at 5 p.m. Finalists from the three preliminary rounds will perform again, with the judges’ selection that night winning the chance to represent the Blues Society of Omaha in the International Blues Challenge in Memphis in February 2011. See OmahaBlues.com and Blues.org for details. Zoo Bar Highlights The Lil’ Slim Blues Band, featuring guitarist Shawn Holt, son of Magic Slim, is on deck at the Zoo for the Friday, April 22, 9 p.m. show. Coming up at the Zoo are Guitar Shorty on Wednesday, April 27, for the 6 p.m. show and The Bel Airs next weekend, Friday & Saturday, April 29 and 30. The 6 p.m. early show on Wednesday, May 4, is Too Slim & The Taildraggers. There’s an acoustic show with Kris Lager & Friends at 9 p.m. on Wednesday, May 4. 21st Saloon Blues I previously mentioned Mike Zito on Wednesday, April 20, and Chris Duarte on Thursday, April 21, at the 21st Saloon. The 5:30 p.m. blues shows continue with the high-powered roots music of Too Slim & The Taildraggers on Thursday, May 5, and the fiery guitar of Michael Burks on Thursday, May 12. Hot Notes One of the top soul-blues singers in the country, Curtis Salgado, performs at the Bourbon Theatre on Sunday, May 14. See ETix.com. Catch an archival interview I did with Salgado for Blues Access magazine in 2001 online at bluesaccess.com/No_44/salgado.html. The Sunday Roadhouse & One Percent Productions present Lucinda Williams at Slowdown on Monday, May 16. The Sunday Roadhouse series has founding BR5-49 member Chuck Mead at the Waiting Room on Sunday, May 8, at 5 p.m. See SundayRoadhouse.com for more info. Visit HoodooRootsBlues.blogspot.com for Hoodoo updates.