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Admittedly, I just wanted to use as many acronyms as possible in the title. Anyhow, on Saturday, April 30, we had the good fortune to take a ride to Canton, Ohio, for the Northeast Ohio Blues Association's Blues Challenge, where four acoustic blues solo acts, one acoustic blues duo, and four blues bands competed to represent the region at next year's International Blues Challenge in Memphis. Larry Hauner and Guy Pernetti took us to school--Old School, that is--for the flawless representation of what I think of as the trinity of traditional blues; a man, his guitar (or harp), and his heart, not necessarily in that order; sounds of deceptively simple perfection. Christopher Soulsby and BC Hudson & Sonny Leach treated us to more of the same but up the road a piece, tempo-wise, and then there was Chris Yakopcic with a little bit--or a lot, as it were--of both, for the win! The bands that competed were the JJ Vicars Band, whose uniquely incomparable and damn near aggressive style drives the rockin' blues directly into your ears, the BHF Blues Band and the Fat Lil' Andy Blues bands, who brought their rockin' good time blues from the southern Ohio and the Akron/Canton areas, respectively, and local favorite Nate Lupi who brought his band and his A-game for the win. Many thanks to the NEOBA for five hours of fantastic musicianship, friendly faces, both familiar and otherwise, traditional and rockin' blues, and for sending two deserving acts that will compete in the International Blues Challenge in Memphis next year.

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