Since first launching as the Blues Amateur Talent Contest in 1984, The Blues Foundation’s annual International Blues Challenge in Memphis has removed itself from its former “amateur” status in a big way.
In addition to several days of seminars, workshops and showcases, more than 200 up-and-coming acts will compete in this year’s IBC, which takes place Jan. 31 through Feb. 4, flooding the clubs and bars of Beale Street with talent from across the country and across the globe.
The 2017 IBC’s three categories for this year—Band, Solo/Duo and Youth—will feature plenty of performers that emphasize the “international” portion of its name. These include representatives of La Asociacion Musical Blues Hondarribia in Spain, the Baltic Blues Society from Germany, the Calgary Blues Music Association from Canada, the Croatian Blues Forces, the Swiss Blues Society, the UK Blues Federation and the Melbourne Blues Appreciation Society from Australia.
However, the birthplace of blues music will also have a more than a few hats in the ring. Several of Mississippi’s best names in modern blues music will be taking on all challengers in the IBC, some of which may be familiar to local lovers of live music.
Fred T & the Band will be representing our own Jackson-based blues entity, the Central Mississippi Blues Society. Both Keith Johnson & Big Muddy and Sam Joyner will perform for our neighbors with the Vicksburg Blues Society, which had Mr. Sipp and Eddie Cotton win for the Band category in 2014 and 2015, respectively.
A few hours north of Jackson, there’s the Mississippi Delta Blues Society of Indianola, which also has two artists entered for this year, Wes Lee and The Good Paper of the Reverend Robert Mortimer. Grady Champion won the Band category for the MDBSI in 2010, and Eden Brent won for Solo/Duo in 2006.
The International Blues Challenge quarterfinal rounds take place at 4:30 p.m., Feb. 1-3, at various Beale Street music venues. The final round is at noon, Saturday, Feb. 4, at the Orpheum Theatre (203 S. Main St., Memphis). For more information or to purchase tickets, visit The Blues Foundation’s website.