Discovery: Heritage Blues Orchestra

Due to the format of the show, I am constantly scouring the internet for music that I can bring to my listeners. Often times, I consider myself ahead of the curve, discovering bands and artists that I excitedly incorporate into show playlists – but there are times when music slips through the cracks. Case in point, the Heritage Blues Orchestra…

Courtesy Raisin Music

HBO, as they’re nicknamed, appeared on a lot of “Best of 2012” lists thanks to their incredible album And Still I Rise. What’s so incomprehensible is that this is the band’s debut record. You look at the names of the songwriters who are covered on …Rise and you see names including Son House, McKinley Morganfield and Huddie Ledbetter. This immediately leads you to believe the album you’re getting ready to listen to is going to be filled with gutbucket acoustic Blues, slide guitar and a back porch flavor. This is an even more grown-up Blues, though, incorporating multi-layered arrangements and second line influences evoking the rich spirit of New Orleans Jazz and traditional African American music sounds behind whichever of the many talented vocalists is singing lead.

The group is fronted by a trio of performers – Junior Mack, Bill Sims, Jr. and his daughter Chaney Sims – the three of which alternate on who handles lead vocals depending on the song. Other core members of the group include drummer/percussionist Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith (son of Willie “Big Eyes” Smith,) horn player Bruno Wilhelm, and harmonica player Vincent Bucher. The band is larger at times, though, often featuring an additional horn section.

And Still I Rise is nominated for a Grammy Award in the category of Best Blues Album, as well as two Blues Music Awards, for Best Album and Best Traditional Album. The album is available everywhere in a variety of formats. Click Here to hear samples of every song on the album.
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