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Born To The Blues In The U.K., 26 Year Old Cherry Lee Mewis Is The Real Deal

by Ron Williams

Her dad had to be a Jerry Lee Lewis fan when Cherry was born. He also had to be thinking his daughter was destined for stardom! He named his girl ‘Cherry Lee Mewis’ and today, the just-turned-26 year old artist is a pretty big deal in her home country. She’s been performing before thousands for several years now. But last year, Cherry Lee made her U.S. debut when drummer Keith Shaddix (Amory) referred her talents to Howlin’ Wolf fest organizer Richard Ramsey. Cherry and her dad made the trek to Memphis and Beale Street and then on to the Howlin’ Wolf Festival in West Point. Shaddix and Ramsey organized an American band behind the British blues star that consisted of Grammy Award winning keyboardist Billy Earheart (of Fulton) and Muscle Shoals guitarist Kelvin Holly (Billy and Kelvin both play with the Grammy winning Amazing Rhythm Aces), Shaddix on drums, Mike Chain on bass and David Parker on guitar. Cherry’s U.S. debut was a hit at Wolf Fest! Cherry will be making another U.S. appearance in May, this time in Columbus at the Market Street Festival. The Friday night headliner will be Moonwalker (a Michael Jackson tribute band) on the Friday night main stage downtown. But this year will mark the beginning of a Riverside park, Riverwalk Saturday night blues concert (free to the public) beginning that evening at 6 p.m.. This will be after all of the days festivities downtown shut down at 5p.m. Popular Louisville fav Caleb Childs and the Old Memphis Kings will kick off the Saturday evening show at 6 p.m., followed by Cherry Lee Mewis & Friends at 8. The Riverwalk headliner will be James ‘Super Chikan’ Johnson, who’ll hit the stage around 9:30 that evening. Cherry’s website describes her rise to fame in her bio. From the website: ‘She’s a 5ft nothing 26-year old white girl from North Wales who has helped turn roots and blues music into a cool, swinging fusion that’s both classic and stylishly modern. It’s two years on from Cherry’s first blues effort, the critically acclaimed Little Girl Blue, which helped introduce a whole new audience to the dynamic sound of Cherry Lee Mewis, firmly securing Cherry’s place as one of the rising stars on the UK  scene today, taking her music from the tiny clubs of Bedford, to festivals in the UK and Europe, such as Italy’s Tropea Blues Festival, Shetland Blues Festival, The Barbican International Jazz & Blues Festival and Cambridge Rock Festival, naming just a few. The winter of 2008 saw Cherry finally pack her bags for good and leave her tiny village hometown in north Wales, to her adopted home of Bedford. “I’ve been making music here since I was 17, so it’s not totally alien to me, but moving permanently away from family and loved ones was and it left me facing totally new life experiences…” Cherry served her apprenticeship endlessly gigging in clubs and bars developing not only her powerful soulful voice, but her performance and style too. “The concept of expressing myself creatively from the age of 9 was something I was always intrigued and inspired to do… “Where as my mum would love Motown and retro soul records, my dad would be more into the rock ‘n’ roll and the psychedelic, really obscure 60’s stuff. He introduced me to Curved Air, Jeff Buckley, Vashti Bunyan and Janis Joplin.” It wasn’t until later on, that Cherry became immersed in blues. On her debut, Little Girl Blue, she along with long time musical collaborator, Max Milligan, re-arranged 14 early blues numbers, including songs by Memphis Minnie, Robert Johnson and Jelly Roll Morton, singing with raw power and emotion, hurt and pain. “Many of the oldest blues records contain gritty, realistic lyrics, no censored versions! I put my whole self into every single one of these tracks, I feel like I’m inside of them….” Her 2nd blues album, Southbound Train, released January 2010, is a heady mix of foot-stomping barnburners to bluesy slow-cooked rockers with a spoonful of jazzy shuffle, supported by a band of slick smokin’ musicians. Accompanying Max Milligan on acoustic guitar are, Nicky Slater (dobro), and Robbie Stewart-Mathews (upright stick bass & backing vox), her Blues Gems as she calls them; Cherry feels more drive behind her at the live shows. “They sure as hell fuel my fire!” she laughs. Like most great blues performers, Cherry is best experienced live and highlights of 2010 have included supporting Walter Trout, performing at the Howlin’ Wolf Memorial Festival in West Point, Mississippi, being special guest of Blind Mississippi Morris in the legendary BB King’s on the one and only Beale St, and supporting Mud Morganfield (Muddy Waters Jnr) on his UK tour. The great hobo bluesman himself, Seasick Steve says, “The only people who are going to keep the blues alive and kicking are the kids picking it up, these young bands out there – they got all the future.” “This is music I fall in love with on a daily basis!” concludes Cherry, “My music is all about a vibe and capturing that raw, stripped back sound that I love.”Cherry’s U.S. backing band will be Mike Chain on bass, Bobby Shannon on keys, sax and blues harp, Keith Shaddix on drums, Ben Ferrell on guitar. Ron Williams on backing vocals. Cherry will also bring her dobro player along from the U.K., Nick Slater. Longtime Columbus musician Robert Turner will also be sitting in on guitar and vocals. More info can be found on Cherry by visiting her website at http://www.cherryleemewis.com/home.html

 

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