Larger than life blues figure Popa Chubby has a lot of reasons to feel lucky this year. 2014 marks the 25th anniversary of his emergence as a powerful force in the venerable New York blues scene with his very own band, and his own unique brand of hard hitting, face melting, blues rock n’ funky soul. And he’ll celebrate this major milestone the only way he knows how, with the release of a smokin’ hot studio album I’m Feelin’ Lucky – coming October 14 on Cleopatra Records – and a series of shows on the West Coast!
“It’s been 25 years and I’m still standing,” declares Popa Chubby, and considering the long and rugged road he’s had to travel, that in itself is a miracle. From his beginning in the late ‘70s as a “bad kid with an afro and a brand new Gibson Midnight Special guitar” to his stint as a punk rock sideman for Screaming Mad George and Richard Hell, among others, to signing a deal with Sony and releasing one of the top selling blues albums of 1994 (the phenomenal Booty And The Beast), Popa Chubby has seen it all and lived to tell about it on well over a dozen studio albums!
His newest effort I’m Feelin’ Lucky gave the veteran musician an opportunity to reflect on his extraordinary career and to work on new musical ideas and arrangements in a relaxed, low-pressure setting. Recording at his home studio in the Hudson Valley, Popa called on some of his closest associates to help bring this album to life, including drummer Chris Reddan, keyboardist Dave Keyes, and bassist Francesco Beccaro. In addition, two very special guests brought even more magic to the proceedings, vocalist Dana Fuchs, mostly known for her role in the 2007 Beatles musical Across The Universe, as well as one of the most revered blues players around today, Mike Zito of the Royal Southern Brotherhood.
I’m Feelin’ Lucky is Popa’s debut album for Cleopatra and contains some of his best and most deeply felt writing. “The Way It Is” is an “urban soul ballad,” he explains, “that’s about those times when you just sit there and you realize that you’re all messed up and there ain’t nothing you can do about it…that’s the blues right there.” The title track is a major slice of “badass funk” with heavy wah wah pedal guitar playing from Popa and “great New Orleans style lyrics.” “I’m A Pitbull (Nothin’ But Love)” may be the song closest to his heart: “I’m a big dog lover. I have a little pitbull and I love him dearly. They’re a very misunderstood breed. I work with people at a pitbull rescue who work with these dogs and train them to be service dogs for veterans coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s a beautiful thing. There is not a more loyal, devoted and emotionally intuitive dog.” It’s these very same qualities in Popa Chubby’s own gracious persona that have been drawing fans to his music for over 2 decades.
Fans will also delight in hearing that Popa Chubby’s Feelin’ Lucky Tour hits the West Coast later this year with a slew of shows starting in Las Vegas at the Big Blues Bender held in the Riviera Hotel & Casino. For complete tour information, visit www.popachubby.com and get lucky with Popa Chubby!
Wiggins & Franklin
Harmonica player, songwriter and music director Phil Wiggins is regularly ranked in the Living Blues Readers and Critic’s Polls as one of the top harmonica players in the traditional blues. He is only the third harmonica player to receive the lifetime honor of an NEA National Heritage Fellowship since the inception of the award. Today Phil is the only living player of the instrument to hold the prestigious honor commonly referred to as “Living Cultural Treasure.” Phil performed for 32 years with John Cephas in the internationally renowned country blues duo Cephas & Wiggins. They played Carnegie Hall, Royal Prince Albert Hall in London and the Sydney Opera House, as well as small venues worldwide, touring every continent except Antarctica. They recorded more than a dozen critically acclaimed albums, including on Flying Fish and Alligator Records, winning the prestigious W.C. Handy Blues Award in 1984 for Best Traditional Album of the Year; and, in 1987 as Entertainers of the Year. They performed at the White House with B.B. King. Phil Wiggins as well as Cephas & Wiggins have been featured in major music magazines, including on the cover of Living Blues, and in the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune and many more.
Piedmont guitar picker Rick Franklin, is a swift practitioner who carries on the D.C. acoustic blues tradition and has been a part of the D.C. blues scene for a long time. He is an Arlington, VA resident who regularly performs in the Washington, DC metropolitan area and he was an original member of the D.C. Blues Society. Franklin was greatly influenced by Arthur "Blind" Blake, Bo Carter, Mississippi John Hurt, Big Bill Broonzy, Georgia Tom Dorsey & Tampa Red. He has been actively playing the DC area since 1981 and regularly performs with other local musicians, including Phil Wiggins & Eleanor Ellis, Tom Mindte, Mike Baytop, Neil Harpe and others. In the true folk music tradition, chances are that you can catch him performing at a concert venue, or a local farmer’s market or a festival, in schools, and even in the local prison performing for appreciative albeit captive audiences.