The 43rd annual Blues Music Awards will take place in Memphis on Thursday, May 5, with a record number of nominations for artists from South Florida.
Among the most decorated is Boca Raton’s JP Soars, one of five artists in the running for the most prestigious award: BB King Entertainer of the Year. He is also up for Group of the Year as JP Soars & the Red Hots, and for Best Guitarist.
Of the 25 BMA categories, sponsored by the nonprofit Blues Foundation, artists from South Florida are nominated in five. Also among the nominees are Albert Castiglia of Wilton Manors for Best Blues-Rock Artist, and Fort Lauderdale singer Kat Riggins for Female Soul-Blues Artist of the Year.
Riggins’ most recent album is 2020’s powerful and social justice-infused “Cry Out”, the singer’s first release on an international tour for Gulf Coast Records.
Castiglia won the BMA for Best Blues-Rock Album with his Gulf Coast Records release “Masterpiece” in 2019, and is set to be a force at the 2023 BMAs with his new record, “I Got Love.” The album debuted in March to critical acclaim and reached No. 1 on Billboard’s Top American Blues Albums chart.
“I’ve been physically going to the awards since 2000 and we’ve never had so many [nominations]says Dar Lopez, a longtime observer of the South Florida blues scene and radio host. “He says we’re doing it well. We have a lot of talent here. »
This weekend also includes the 37th annual International Blues Challenge, a competition between bands and solo artists nominated by local blues organizations across the country. The South Florida Blues Society nominees are the Betty Padgett Band and guitarist-vocalist Joel DaSilva.
Many artists end up being nominated for a BMA after submitting a new album to the Blues Foundation for consideration. Soars had no new music to submit, so her nominations came out of the blue. He learned the news when friends started texting him.
“Man, it came as a complete and utter shock and surprise. I didn’t have a CD out, so it wasn’t even in my head,” Soars says, hours before the band’s flight to Memphis on Wednesday.
Soars says the nominations show perseverance, with the help of the pandemic.
“When other states were shut down, we were able to stay busy, work our butts off. That helped. Just be persistent. People were like, ‘Hey, these guys work hard,’ and someone did. noticed,” Soars says.
Not the merit of being good musicians?
“I’m proud to let the music speak for itself. But there are a lot of good musicians there, awesome the musicians. There is much more to do than be good. That’s what I realized,” he says.
Meanwhile, Soars is gearing up to record a new album, and he expects music for another new project with vocalist Annika Chambers and guitarist Paul DesLauriers to be released later this year on the VizzTone label.
Southern Hospitality, side project by Soars with Victor Wainwright and Damon Fowler (another BMA nominee), has a few festival dates planned and will be hitting the studio soon to record an album, he says.
Understanding why a tropical location like South Florida can produce a quality blues scene takes a history lesson, according to Lopez, host of longtime radio show, “The Sunday Blues With Dar” (currently on “a little break”, with program archives available on BlueAtHeart.com).
Many of the artists working today, she says, are the metaphorical children of iconic music promoter Don Cohen, who opened the legendary Musicians Exchange in 1976 and the South Florida Blues Festival in the club’s parking lot in 1987, with Buddy Guy as the headliner. Cohen died in 2007.
Beginning in the mid-1990s, Cohen’s Riverwalk Blues & Music Festival drew talent and tourists from around the country for three days of blues on the New River in downtown Fort Lauderdale. It was within this scene that Castiglia met Chicago blues great Junior Wells, later joining Wells’ band on the road.
“These tours have had such an impact on local musicians. That’s when our blues scene erupted,” Lopez says.
JP Soars & the Red Hots will perform next at 5 p.m. on Sunday, May 15 at Rudy’s ad21 S. J St., Lake Worth, and 7 p.m. on Saturday, May 21, at awesome cookie, 303 SE Mizner Blvd., Boca Raton. To visit JPSoars.com. Castiglia’s next local show will be at 7 p.m. on Saturday, May 14 at awesome cookie. To visit Facebook.com/albertcastigliaband. Riggins is on tour in Europe. To visit KatRiggins.com.
Staff writer Ben Crandell can be reached at [email protected].