Music series showcases influence of blues

Musician Maxwell D. Russell performs at the Salt and Pepper Music Series Feb. 23 at the Mane Room. Russell was in the first performance of the series that showcases the influence of blues music.

by Theater and Music Beat Writer Hillary Taylor

The Department of Entertainment Industry wants community members to add a little salt and pepper to their musical palate March 23 and April 27.

The department is working in conjunction with the Muscle Shoals Music Association and the Alabama Folklife Association to host local blues artists for three shows.

The series focuses on the influence of blues in every genre of music, as well as the heritage of the genre in Florence.

“The kind of music that we’ll be presenting here and focusing on in this series is the roots of American music, including jazz, rock ‘n’ roll, hip-hop, rap and even country,” said Russell Gulley, board member of AFA and event organizer. “It’s a part of our multicultural heritage — black and white — which is why we chose ‘Salt & Pepper’ for the name of our series.”

Rock & Roll Hall of Fame member Sam Lay and the duo 2BLU will headline the March 23 show.

Tickets will be $10 in advance for adults, $5 for students and seniors over 65 and $15 at the door.

The first show took place Feb. 23 and featured Jock Webb Sr, Clarence “Bluesman” Davis and Maxwell D. Russell.

AFA and Muscles Shoals Music Association board member Dick Cooper said he hopes UNA students will come to hear about the history of blues music which has helped shape the area.

“It’s only appropriate that we try to impart this information about that style of music into younger audiences,” Cooper said. “We need to expose students to it, so hopefully they at least take pride in the fact that the blues has its roots here.”

The series will have educational components, allowing entertainment industry students to gain experience putting on shows, working with the soundboard and the engaging with professional artists before receiving free tickets to the show, Gulley said.

Jontavius Quon Willis, protégé of American blues musician Taj Mahal, will conduct a workshop before headlining the final show.

Senior Tanner Lynn said he is a fan of the blues and thinks it is a great way to introduce a younger generation to new music while supporting local artists.

“You can listen to a new style of music and be opened to a whole new world of music that you didn’t know you liked because you’d never been exposed to it, and live is the best way to hear it,” Lynn said.