After three preliminary rounds, the finalists for the 2013 Mississippi Valley Blues Challenge have been determined. Congratulations to the Chris Avey Band, Serious Business, and the Rock Island Rollers for advancing to the finals, which will be held on Friday, July 5 on the bandshell at LeClaire Park during the Mississippi Valley Blues Festival.
Chris Avey, former lead guitarist and backing vocalist for blues icon Big Pete Pearson, leads the Chris Avey Band into the Mississippi Valley Blues Challenge finals. Chris fuels the band with his stinging guitar attack and fiery vocals. Since striking out on his own with his band, he has released two CDs.—the critically acclaimed Devil in my Bed and Preacherman. Chris's vocals and guitar are reminiscent of a younger, more fiery Coco Montoya, mixed with a dash of Tab Benoit. Blues Blast Magazine says "Blues with intensity and emotion. More energy than a power plant." The rhythm section consist of QC music scene veterans Dave Abdo on bass and Wes Weeber on drums.
In the Spring of 2012, Quad Cities blues band Serious Business took to the stage and won the Iowa Blues Challenge preliminary round at The Muddy Waters, Bettendorf, IA, with performance styles in rockin' boogie, and soulful blues. This year, drummer Eladio Pena and founder and lead guitarist John Pena decided to create a new lineup that would give Serious Business a whole new sound before entering into the Mississippi Valley Blues Challenge. After John Pena recruited longtime friend and singer Willie "The Mac" McNeil on vocals, and his son John Pena the 2nd on bass guitar, Serious Business has since created a sound featuring a combination of high energy original material and cover tunes. Keeping it real with blues as the core of their live performances, people will also hear a combination of rock, jazz fusion, funk, soul, and R&B flavors.
The Rock Island Rollers, winners of the 2012 Iowa Blues Challenge, are vying to get another crack at competing at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis. Soulful and funky, their sound will go straight to your gut and move your spirit. Since their founding in January of 2012, the band has quickly become known as one of the best in the Midwest. After their success in the 2012 Iowa Blues Challenge, they've begun work on their first record to be released in June of 2013.
Pulling no punches, their music is true and original. That is what drives this blues train. The Rock Island Rollers have one simple philosophy: LET THE MUSIC SPEAK FOR ITSELF!
The Rock Island Rollers consist of Jeff Banks on vocals and guitar, Heath Alan—sax and vocals, Justin Appel on keyboards and vocals, Kip Heaberlin on bass, and George McCutchen on drums.
The winner of the Mississippi Valley Blues Challenge finals will perform again on the bandshell stage at the Mississippi Valley Blues Festival on Saturday, July 6 at 5:00 p.m. They will also earn the right to represent the Mississippi Valley Blues Society at the 30th Annual International Blues Challenge in January 2014 in Memphis, TN.