Brian Kramer discusses the Swedish Blues Challenge.

I was asked by Bert Deivert, mandolin ace and fellow US expat to accompany him for the Swedish Blues Challenge 2019, and I was sceptical and not even sure we would be considered, but somehow we got in and made the grade as one of the three finalists for this leg of the event.

We have both been living in Sweden for a long, long time and have garnered a bit of a reputation on the scene and Bert thought it would be a good idea if for nothing else but to show or remind a wider audience what we do and to hear and see our passion for the Blues and playing for people.

Handled and arranged by the Malmoe Copenhagen Blues Connexion, who have been successfully running the Blues Tent at the Malmö Festival every year, they did a wonderful job presenting this event and making all the artists feel accommodated and welcome.

Held at the Malmö Live Concert House it was an intimate environment with a few hundred people sitting cosily around tables and fixated on each finalist.

No, Bert and I did not win to go on to compete in the next part of this ongoing contest to be held in Amsterdam 2020, leading up to the European Blues Challenge, nor did we have any illusions that we would actually win. However, being part of this event was a great privilege, meeting some of the other artists, finding ourselves in a slightly different focus, and once again helping to spread the Blues along and keep it fresh and in the present.

Bert an I split the set up, preparing a mix of traditional and original material, a sample of what we felt was our best work. We have been playing together a long time, touring, recording and to be plain; just good friends that have always found it so easy to connect and read each other musically. All this was apparent from the moment we kicked off the first number and you could honestly hear a pin drop it was so quiet and the crowd was so focused.

Steve Grahn, a prominent Blues picker in Malmö wrote “You guys were the absolute highlight, the heroes of the evening! I can’t understand the jury!”.

We were just happy to do what we do and this was surely an enjoyable situation for an artist to feel appreciated.

The other two acts; George Meggs, a harp player/singer with his band, and Ore Island Penitentiary Band, both local to Malmö and very worthy – gave great performances.

But there has to be a winner and halfway through the first tune from Ore Island, Bert and I simultaneously looked at each other and knew these were the winners, with their penchant for strong theatrics and imagery as well as excellent musicianship.

One unexpected surprise and delight was a guest solo performance from Alain Apaloo from Togo, West Africa. Just beautiful, fixating, hypnotic, deep grooves emanated from him with utter ease! He wisely stated from the stage; “We are all winners here tonight. You know why? Because we all get to go home with something”

Well, there you have it folks; Swedish Blues Challenge 2019!
We leave you with a little audience filmed clip of one of the songs Bert and I performed, my own tune; The Provider.

Article by Brian Kramer