Shreddin’ the blues at Guilt & Co. live radio broadcast


It was a lot of fun doing a live broadcast as part of our Sunday night show at Guilt & Company in Vancouver, BC.  I love the buzz in the room with a full house of folks who really want to hear live music.  It was awesome to have the host and manager of the club, Tonye Aganaba, describe me as a woman who shreds the blues. And we did shred that night with lots of slide guitar and rocking original blues.

Prior to the show, Tonye asked me some questions about how I feel about being categorized as a “female guitarist” rather than just being known as a guitarist . As someone who plays in a lot of events that showcase women who play the blues, I’ve given that a lot of thought. I don’t think women should be segregated into to a separate category. I think that a guitarist should be judged on the merits of their playing.

It’s great to shine a spotlight on women who play the blues. Women should be given more opportunity to participate in festivals and other bigger shows and not limited to women’s events, or the token female player. When I taught at girl’s rock camp I was blown away by some of the young women that seriously want to play and are getting really good. It’s been a slow process, but I think things are evolving in a positive way.

What’s so cool about cover songs?

I played a show recently as part of Chicks With Picks, a benefit for the Vancouver based Positive Women’s Network, in which a variety of solo acts and bands played songs festival style.  There was some really great talent at this event and equally good original material, but I noticed very clearly how much stronger the audience response was to the cover material – songs they recognized or could sing along with from Fleetwood Mac’s Songbird and Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah to a rousing rendition of High School Confidential.

As a songwriter, there’s nothing like hearing my songs on the radio or performing them for a live audience and seeing folks enjoying the music. But I can understand from the perspective of club owners and some booking folks their general lack of enthusiasm for original material. I know the cringe-worthy feelings that arise when a performer announces they’re going to play an original song and it truly sucks or simply doesn’t resonate with the audience. It seems that whether original songs are strong or not at some point audiences want to hear something they know. I’ve been struggling with the realization that after two albums of original material, it’s time to add more cover material into the mix. It’s been a good run playing primarily originals and while I will continue to write, my focus for now will be on bringing in more covers. The Rolling Stones had a lot of their early success with covers like Howlin’ Wolf’s Little Red Rooster. John Hammond Jr. features several songs by Tom Waits (one of my favorite songwriters) on his release, Wicked Grin. And even Joe Bonamassa’s recent CD of cover songs (2014) Different Shades of Blues features a Jimi Hendrix song. I know in the blues world songs like Sweet Home Chicago, Stormy Monday and Born Under a Bad Sign are always going to be popular with folks, but there’s room for other versions of some great songs. Sharing the stage with a woman named Avi and hearing her scaled down acoustic version of Michael Jackson’s Beat It was very cool. If the Stones, John Hammond and even Joe Bonamassa can do it, I guess I can too.

Moving into fall

After a summer on the west coast that was possibly the driest and hottest in a century, we are finally heading back to our familiar rain showers, misty mornings and fields of green. With that, our shows and concerts move from outdoor venues and festivals to the warmth of an indoor circuit.

I’ll be spending the fall and winter seasons playing shows from Vancouver’s Guilt & Company with my trio to a solo performance at Chicks with Picks at Vancouver’s Fairview. Then I’ll be heading back to Washington with a trio performance at the iconic, Conway Muse where diverse acts like Eric Bibb, Duffy Bishop, and the Fabulous Roofshakers have recently performed. I’ll also be participating in upcoming Blues to Do women’s shows in Seattle.

Happy fall everyone and stay tuned for more postings.

Women who play the blues

While playing at a recent festival, I asked the audience members to come up with the name of five female lead guitarists (without cheating by looking on phones and other devices). I offered my newest CD free to the first person who came to the merch table after the set with the names. It’s not surprising that many people can’t name more than a few players in any genre – Bonnie Raitt tops the list as well as a few well- known rhythm players like Joan Jett. I had a man approach me sheepishly and ask if Elizabeth Cotton counted and I said “of course, she was a trailblazer.” He beamed as he walked away without providing any other names. As a lead guitarist I have been inspired by many of my favorite players like Debbie Davies, Joanna Connor, slide guitarists Ellen McIllwaine, & Bonnie Raitt, rocker Carrie Brownstein and jazz great Emily Remler. I’m also encouraged by some of the newer batch of players like Orianthi and Samantha Fish.

So what’s my motivation for asking audiences about women who play the lead guitar? Well it’s a great way to meet people who come to see me play, but more importantly it’s a way for me to encourage folks to notice that there are a lot of women guitar players who deserve to be heard and known. I hope I can inspire and challenge people to think about the blues as more than female vocalists supported by the boys in the band. Here’s to the women who can really play the blues!



This year’s Northwest Folklife Festival is all about beats, rhythms and the traditional roots of the music we enjoy today. I’m thrilled to be a part of the 44th Annual Festival as a blues performer and have been inspired by the artists who paved the way for contemporary blues artists, especially the women. From the guitar stylings of sister Rosetta Thorpe and Memphis Minnie to the slide playing of Bonnie Raitt and Debbie Davies, there are plenty of women who’ve led the way for the next generation of female blues musicians. I’ll be playing a featured set as part of the Lady Sings the Blues Showcase on Friday May 22nd at 4:45pm. C’mon out and enjoy the Festival.

Musings on Mother’s Day and Lovestruck Blues

It was one year ago, the day before Mother’s Day that I released my original blues CD, Lovestruck Blues and performed my songs at a club in Vancouver, BC. The evening was delightful with a full house including friends, family and talented musicians who’d been a part of my project and who joined in the performance. But the most poignant moment of the show came when we dimmed the lights and my daughter, Michelle and I sang together on my ballad, Without You.

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Jill Newman & daughter Michelle

It had been a great experience recording with Michelle. I’m not sure if I was inspired by Levon Helm and daughter Amy or perhaps the Judd’s, but there’s something really special about recording and singing as mother and daughter, no matter how divergent the styles. We were never a typical family; performing together in musical theatre shows with my daughter acting and singing and me playing guitar while dressed in black so the audience wouldn’t be distracted by the band. We often found ourselves driving home from shows way too late on school nights. And it wasn’t unusual in our household for me to be rocking out on Kurt Cobain riffs or Led Zeppelin, while my daughter, as a young child, belted out the newest show tunes and told me to turn it down.

Michelle recently graduated with an opera degree, while I continue to write and play my roots infused blues. It seemed fitting that we  recorded together and sang the new tunes in front of an audience filled with family and friends. As Mother’s Day approaches I am reminded of that special CD release performance and of how proud I am of my daughter and the recording we made together.

Happy Mother’s Day to all!

International Women’s Month


As part her month long International Women’s Day celebrations, Marlee Walker of Blues To Do will be featuring female musicians and I’ve been invited back to the Feedback Lounge in Seattle with my blues trio on March 24th.

Ladies Play the Blues:

At the Ladies Play the Blues event on Feb. 24th at Seattle’s Feedback Lounge I had the pleasure of sharing the stage with Beth Wulff on keys, Melanie Owen (Groovetramps) on bass, Kim Wrede on drums with a special guest appearance from Portland based vocalist, Lucy Hammond.


Reflections on the New Year

I’ve been having a great time since the release of my CD Lovestruck Blues, playing gigs from Seattle to Vancouver with some very memorable shows and notable reviews along the way. I look forward to returning to some of my favorite venues like the Conway Muse in Conway, WA which has a magical vibe –a former dairy barn with high ceilings, rich wooden walls and a warm sound that fills the room. The Muse is all about original music and it has some of the best touring blues and roots acts in the Pacific Northwest.

This year also brought me opportunities for musical collaboration – as the guitarist with some fabulous women of the blues at Marlee Walker’s Pink & Blues show in Seattle. I’ll be returning there in the spring for the Women of the Blues shows and also for a televised show with my trio. At the Madison Avenue Pub (Ladies First III) I shared the stage with some very talented women including Mary McPage, Lori Hardman, Cindy Lang and Sheri Roberts Greims. I’m returning in February as a featured guitarist with Paul and Willow, the fine team behind the Unbound Sound Production.

From festival shows to the Dakota Creek Winery and the International Art Festival in Peace Arch Park to the Kulshan Brewery, Madison Avenue Pub, Cottage Bistro, Porter’s Coffeehouse and one of my favorite Vancouver venues, Guilt & Company, it’s been a music filled year and I’m grateful to have the opportunity to do what I love to do, play music for anyone who’s willing to listen. Here’s to a 2015 filled with adventure, collaboration with friends old and new and playing the blues.

Church of the Blues




Tuesday, December 16th, 2014 

The COTB is proud to present Jill Newman

at the Songwriter Showcase