NEPA Scene Staff

Successful ‘Winter Blues Guitarmageddon’ at Scranton Cultural Center leads to live CD release

Successful ‘Winter Blues Guitarmageddon’ at Scranton Cultural Center leads to live CD release
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From a press release:

Hundreds of blues lovers from all over the region gathered at the Scranton Cultural Center at the Masonic Temple in February to shake off their “winter blues” and warm up at an evening of live music dubbed the Soul Shakers Winter Blues Guitarmageddon, featuring some of the finest blues performers in Northeastern Pennsylvania. The event was recorded and songs have been carefully selected for inclusion on a CD produced locally by Blues Broker Records that is set for release on Sunday, July 10.

“I knew that the music the night of ‘Guitarmageddon’ was amazing, but the quality and sound of the recording is so good and will help us reach a larger audience,” said Deborah Moran Peterson, executive director of the Scranton Cultural Center. “I am so thrilled that this CD will be our very first blues recording.”

Proceeds from CD sales will not only benefit the Scranton Cultural Center, but also serve as a commemorative item for future events. CDs will be available for purchase at the SCC, at CD release parties, and online at The first release party is scheduled for July 10 at Arlo’s Tavern (10340 Rt. 171, Union Dale).

The Soul Shakers Rhythm Section is comprised of Sharon O’Connell on drums, Bill Coleman on bass, and Eric Brody on keyboards. The talented group provided the musical backdrop for the all-star lineup of performers from NEPA. Included on the CD are Phyllis Hopkins and Bob McCartney; Doug Hubert and his son Eamonn, a 7-year-old guitar prodigy; Clarence Spady; Peter Florance; and Teddy Young.

Plans for next year’s Winter Blues Guitarmageddon are well underway.

‘Winter Blues Guitarmageddon’ CD track listing:

1. “I’m a Woman” (Taylor, McDaniel) 5:19
Phyllis Hopkins – Guitar; Bob McCartney – Blues Harp/Vocals
2. “Five Long Years” (B.B. King) 6:01
Phyllis Hopkins – Guitar/Vocals; Bob McCartney – Blues Harp
3. “Mary Had a Little Lamb” (B. Guy) 2:17
Doug Hubert – Guitar; Eamonn Hubert – Guitar/Vocals
4. “Before You Accuse Me” (Trad) 3:15
Doug Hubert – Guitar/Vocals; Eamonn Hubert – Guitar/Vocals
5. “Love in Vain” (R. Johnson) 7:01
Clarence Spady – Guitar/Vocals; Bob O’Connell – Keyboards; Jon Ventre – Bass
6. “Going to the River” (Fats Domino) 5:21
Clarence Spady – Guitar/Vocals; Bob O’Connell – Keyboards, Jon Ventre – Bass
7. “Born in Chicago” (N. Gravenites) 3:56
Peter Florance – Guitar/Vocals
8. “Come on Rock Little Girl” (S. Thompson, O. Smothers) 4:41
Peter Florance – Guitar/Vocals
9. “It Feels Like Rain” (Hiatt) 7:01
Teddy Young – Guitar/Vocals
10. “Everyday I Have the Blues” (Chatman, M. Slim) 9:42
Teddy Young – Guitar/Vocals

From straight-ahead blues to ripping funk to R&B, The Soul Shakers Rhythm Section has backed up some of the best in NEPA. Formed in 2014, they provide the rhythm sections for various artists and are on call for studio work and live when needed by area musicians.

Sharon O’Connell is a Scranton native who currently resides in West Pittston. She and Bill Coleman have performed with a number of bands throughout their careers. They were the rhythm section for the New Orleans style funk band Mojomo and The Joe Kopicki Band and now with guitarist Matt Bennick. Eric Brody played with various bands in New Jersey. New Jersey natives Coleman and Brody never met until Brody sat in during a show a few years ago and they discovered that they actually lived near each other in Jersey but traveled in different circles.

The Soul Shakers also run a monthly blues jam at Arlo’s Tavern near Uniondale on the second Sunday of each month. Those events attract musicians from New York State to Allentown and have been described as the best blues jam in all of NEPA in terms of attendance and participation.

Phyllis Hopkins has become a regional blues favorite with her band, the Phyllis Hopkins Electric Trio. She has shared the stage with blues greats such as Sonny Rhodes, Shemekia Copeland, Debbie Davies, Toni Washington, and Ronnie Earl and has released three CDs. Vocalist/harp player Bob McCartney is a longtime member of the local blues scene, having played with Hopkins, Sidetracked, and Funk n Gumbo. His latest project, the Dalton 45’s with guitarist CJ Rosencrance, will release their debut EP this spring.

Eamonn Hubert is a 7-year-old prodigy from upstate New York who started playing guitar seriously about two years ago. He and his father Doug Hubert have been playing rock, blues, folk, and Irish music around the Southern Tier of New York and NEPA since August 2014. Eamonn first performed publicly at age 6 and is the youngest musician to ever take the stage at Binghamton’s Blues on the Bridge Festival, playing Stevie Ray Vaughn guitar leads with the almost the same ease and intensity as some more seasoned players.

In the style of Jimmy Reed, Queens, New York native Peter Florance grew up working in New York City studios and playing guitar in a number of bands there in the ’70s and ’80s in the New York music scene. He has performed guitar duties with blues artists Aron Burton (Albert King’s band), Hound Dog Jones, Little Sammy Davis, Michael Burks, Slam Allen, and many more. Florance now lives in NEPA and fronts his own band, The New Kings.

Matt Bennick’s guitar style has been compared to guitar greats Robben Ford and Larry Carlton. He incorporates elements of funk, jazz, and soul, always adding the blues influence. He developed his unique style by blending it all together into something of his own. Bennick has performed up and down the East Coast, from New York to Florida, continuing to hone his craft as a songwriter and
performer. He fronted Matt Bennick and the Blues Mine and won Guitar Center Scranton‘s King of the Blues Award in 2009.

Teddy Young is one of the hottest and most musically adventurous musicians in NEPA. His forays into improvisation are legendary to his fans. Given the nickname “Young Gun” when he was approximately 16 years old due to his guitar prowess, Young’s name is well-known in the regional blues circuit, and he has toured with his band, The Aces, playing clubs and festivals throughout the United States and Canada. Young is currently working on an album of original material and will be heading to the studio this year.

Described as “the future of the blues” by Bill Dahl of the Chicago Tribune circa 1996, Clarence Spady’s riveting sound has become more distinguishable now than ever before. He plays with a depth and sensitivity that can’t be taught, effortlessly combining blues, jazz, funk, Latin, and rock into his own unique style. His moving guitar play, rough street-edged vocals, songwriting, and live improvisations are demonstrated with every performance.

Born Clarence Sloan Spady on July 1, 1961 in Paterson, New Jersey, he has been performing professionally since the age of 5, ever since his Aunt Bea found him playing “High Heeled Sneakers” on his father’s guitar while backstage at his Uncle Fletchey’s R&B band’s show at a local Elks Club.

Winning numerous awards over the years and appearing on “The Artie Lange Show” in 2013, Spady continues to amaze his audiences at blues clubs and festivals all over Northeastern and Central Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, and the England States. He is one of those artists that can actually move people, bringing out raw emotions as he connects with listeners of all ages.

Photo by Mike Lehman