Gender and the Blues

I often get asked if it is any different playing in an all women’s blues band and then with a bunch of men. And my answer is yes…..and no. My trio work has mostly been with guys while I’ve played in a variety of all women bands from original blues to an all women Led Zeppelin tribute band.

My recent women’s blues show at Everett’s Madison Avenue Pub was a great example of a group of exceptional women singers, players and songwriters all taking turns in the spotlight and supporting each other to shine on stage. Are guys supportive of women players on stage? – That depends on the guys.

I’ve recently been playing in a blues trio with guys who really listen and are supportive of me and it makes all the difference, but it’s not always been that way in other bands. As a guitarist in rock bands, I’ve had to stomp on every pedal in my arsenal just to be heard, or to have a turn to solo. And while working as lead guitarist for hire in bands, I’d still be placed center stage as the “girl singer”. When guys find out that I can really play, some have gotten really competitive with me or have been unwelcoming. Others have become my mentors and friends.

The women’s bands I’ve been in have involved lots of collaborative decision making, indecisiveness, hurt feelings at times and seemingly endless discussions about clothing. I do think it’s easier for men to just throw on a relatively clean shirt, jeans and boots and there’s more pressure on women not only to play well, but to look good too. With guys, discussions tend to be around sports or whatever new gear (toys) they’ve acquired. I’ve found there’s less discussion and chatting and more just getting down to business – a plug in and play attitude. As for feelings, I think guys are just quieter when their feelings get hurt.

There’s no doubt that playing in all women bands is different than playing with guys, but it’s not necessarily better or even about gender. It’s about making music with other players who know their stuff, and also have the right attitude.

After all these years playing music, I’ve come to the conclusion that the finest players regardless of their gender, tend to have the least ego and are the most welcoming to other musicians. The best players have nothing to prove by aggressively competing with others or overplaying to gain attention. They’re simply working as hard as they can to make the music sound as good as possible and to connect deeply with an audience.

Chicks with Picks Xmiss

chicks-with-picksSaturday December 10th at the Fairview

898 West Broadway
Vancouver, BC

Doors open at 8pm

Annual Benefit for PWN www.pwn.bc.ca – Admission/Suggested Donation: $10 with non perishable food and/or bath items.

Women rockin’ the blues at Ebey Island Freedom Fest

I didn’t know what to expect for my first time playing at Ebey Island Freedom Fest as part of the all women blues show.Ebey Island Fest I thought it was a backyard party with a small stage and a few folks gathered round a campfire or barbecue grill. To my surprise it turned out to be a huge regional four-day music festival, with 40 of the finest bands in the Everett and Seattle area all converging at Jim McLaughlin and Donna Marie McMillin’s property out at Ebey Island.  This event feels like a modern-day Woodstock of the Pacific Northwest with a  huge stage, professional lighting and sound, and an enthusiastic and peaceful crowd decked out in everything from biker leathers to tie dye t-shirts.

During our set, I played lead guitar and sang along with several top local female vocalists, Mary McPage, Mary Ellen Lykins, Sherri Roberts Greimes, Marilyn Beebe. Lissa Ramaglia was there on bass and vocals while Darlene Jones helimg_3308d down the back beat on drums. It was a rockin’ set with a screaming crowd who were clearly enjoying seeing the women kick ass on some blues tunes.  The highlight for me, was when we slowed things down during a rendition of Angel From Montgomery. We invited other female vocalists from the audience to join us – Michelle Taylor and Polly O’Keary stepped up.

The Ebey Island Freedom Fest runs over the Labor Day weekend and although it’s been the area’s best-kept secret for the past seven years, I think word has finally gotten out.

Highway 99 Blues Club Show

It’s always entertaining playing with WA International Blues Challenge winner, Kevin Sutton, and our August show at the Highway 99 Blues Club in Seattle didn’t disappoint. We opened the show for national touring act, Danielle Nicole in front of a full house. Farko Dosumov played some really impressive percussive/bass solos and owner Steve Sarkowsky held down the backbeat on drums. The highlight of our show was kicking off Kevin’s song Washington Blues with a ripping slide solo on my Danelectro as Kevin reminded me to “play too loud.” It was a memorable night and great to share a show with another female instrumentalist, singer and songwriter.

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H2O August 20th

Jill Newman and her blues trio play songs from Jill’s most recent CD, Lovestruck Blues with Jeff Naylor, upright and electric bass and Carl Martin, drums.  Show starts at 7:30pm. No cover.

Jill Newman Poster printready-3

H2O