Nutty Irishman Hosts Benefit Show for LI Artists Traveling to International Blues Challenge in Memphis

A handful of Long Islanders will do their part to keep the blues alive when they take part in the International Blues Challenge in Memphis in May.

Red Eye, a jump blues band, and Rob Europe, a blues-influenced singer-songwriter, won the Long Island Blues Societyof the competition in September to decide which local artists will represent the island in The Blues Foundation37th annual event.

Tony Davenport, secretary of the Long Island Blue Society, said the group sends representatives out every year. In 2020, Brooklyn-based Felix Slim took second place in the solo/duo category at the international event.

Competitors’ expenses aren’t covered, Davenport explained, so the blues society holds fundraisers every year to make sure its artists can afford travel and accommodations.

This year, the society has booked a benefit show at the The Mad Irishman in Farmingdale on Sunday April 10 from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Besides Red Eye and Rob Europe, The Pamela Betti Band, which represented Long Island in Memphis in January 2020; The Johnny Mac Band, two-time winners of the Long Island Chapter; and Thorogood Jenkins are starring.

On the way to Memphis

For Northport-based Red Eye, the trip to the International Blues Challenge is not just a chance to compete, but an opportunity to get their music out there. They released their first album, “Cool Blues”, in February 2021.

“It’s fantastic, it’s an honour,” Red Eye frontman Paul Curcio said of the competition. “It means a lot because the competition on Long Island is really fierce, and we’re so excited to have the opportunity to carry on the blues tradition.”

This year’s event is the second European foray into the competition. He traveled to Memphis for the International Blues Challenge in 2017, the same year he released his debut album “The Fear.”

“What I’ve always found most enjoyable is the camaraderie you feel, accompanying other travellers,” Europe said. “It’s not you out there alone, drifting through strange crowds. You can go there with kindred spirits so to speak.

Many shades of blue

Red Eye and Europe have their 25-minute sets locked for competition.

Curcio said his band delves into a wide palette of blues in an effort to build on the lore to drive it forward.

“There are really a lot of different types of blues,” he said. “We do traditional Chicago blues, we do jump blues, we have jazzy blues songs like ‘The Story of Billy.’

Europe said his setlist consists of a months-old song he wrote during an “existential crisis” when the International Blues Challenge was pushed back from last winter to May. He plans to release them next month via a new album he will call “Saddle River”.

As for what inspires European writing, it is a universal emotion that surely inspired the ancestors of the musical tradition a century ago.

“Everyone has ups and downs from where they are, so feeling down is a very universal thing,” Europe said. “Channeling your negative emotions into something positive and constructive is probably the best way to deal with them.”

Feature photo: Courtesy of Red-eye/Facebook.

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