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Posted: September 02, 2009

Robert Cray brings the blues to ‘Taste of Colorado’

Plus Marty Jones celebrates his band's new disc and his favorite brand of beer

Mike Cote

A 'TASTE OF COLORADO' INCLUDES A TASTE OF THE BLUES

The only thing better than live music -- free, live music. This weekend’s four-day Taste of Colorado offers a lineup that transcends the usual oldies circuit by including one of the blues’ finest plus a retro swing band.

Yes, you have the latest incarnations of Grand Funk Railroad, Foghat and Poco, but the bill also features performances by the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies and Robert Cray, acts both armed with new albums to promote.

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For my money -- oh, yeah, it's free -- I’ll be making a special trip to Civic Center Park on Saturday to see the Robert Cray Band's 7:30 p.m. set. Best known for his 1986 Strong Persuader album – which landed him on the cover of Rolling Stone – Cray has continued making great music ever since. The latest lineup of his band reunites him with original bass player Richard Cousins and former Taj Mahal drummer Tony Braunagel. Longtime keyboard player Jim Pugh remains a constant. Cray’s latest disc, This Time, was just released last week.

The Cherry Poppin' Daddies, best known for their hit "Zoot Suit Riot" perform at 1:30 on Saturday. The band has two albums, including a collection of ska versions of their songs plus a few four new cuts, set for release Sept. 29.

OSKAR BLUES PITCHMAN CELEBRATES HIS BAND'S NEW CD

Marty Jones is always up to something. Sometimes he's acting as PR guru for the Oskar Blues brand of beers. Sometimes he's making music. Sometimes he's doing both at the same time.

On Thursday, Jones and his band, the Great Unknowns, will be performing songs from their new five-song CD, Drink and Song at Falling Rock Taphouse, 1919 Blake St. It's part of "Thirst Thursday," a monthly event held the first Thursday each month that is sponsored by, who else, Oskar Blues Brewery. Dave Chichura, head brewer for Oskar Blues, will play the first set of music, joined by another music-making brewer or two from the Lyons-based brewery.

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"The special beer for the night will be a unique keg of Dale's Pale Ale that's been wet-hopped with a blend of fresh Cascade and Chinook hops grown at CSU's experimental hop farm," Jones said in an announcement he sent out about the night's festivities. He and his band will be busy in the weeks ahead promoting their new disc, including a gig Sept. 11 at the D-Note in Arvada.

FROM THE MUSIC BOX:

ELVIS PRESLEY From Elvis in Memphis: Legacy Edition (RCA/Legacy)

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Elvis Presley's late-period recorded legacy is pretty spotty, but in in 1969 he recorded in his hometown of Memphis for the first time since leaving Sun Records in 1955. Buoyed by his successful TV special comeback the year before, Presley once again sounded inspired as he cut Mac Davis' "In the Ghetto," John Hartford's "Gentle on my Mind" and Percy Mayfield's "Stranger in My Own Hometown." The sessions produced two albums, From Elvis in Memphis and Elvis Back in Memphis plus several singles, most notably "Suspicious Minds." All are collected here in this two-disc collection that shows the King taking one of his last stabs at greatness.

VARIOUS ARTISTS Boy Meets Girl (Stax)

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After Stax Records severed its ties with Atlantic Records in 1968 -- and lost the rights to its entire back catalog -- the soul and R&B label needed new material in a hurry to survive. A plan to quickly release 27 albums and 30 singles included a new collection of duets by its current roster of artists. Boy Meets Girl compiles the best of the lot. Stax had only modest chart success as it glutted the market with new singles so most of this material won't be overly familiar. Thus, it's like discovering a forgotten trove of classic soul featuring various combinations of William Bell, Mavis Staples, Johnny Taylor, Eddie Floyd, Carla Thomas and some other late-period Stax acts. Highlights include Staples and Floyd's version of "Piece of My Heart," the song most closely associated with Janis Joplin. It got a more subtle reading from Staples and Floyd.

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Mike Cote is the former editor of ColoradoBiz. E-mail him at mcote@cobizmag.com.

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