Media Life: Queen of the Blues to bring sizzle to Auburn barbecue

Koko Taylor, Coco Montoya stir tasty blues brew; Krates make A-List; "Sounds" astounds
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Koko Taylor, the reigning Queen of the Blues, is signed to top the bill at this summer’s BBQ & Blues Festival in Auburn. Taylor, who’s currently coming off performances in the Netherlands and will be a Friday headliner at next month’s prestigious Chicago Blues Festival, will perform at the Placer SPCA fundraiser on July 12. Taylor is a 72-year-old blues-singing dynamo who started performing in Chicago blues venues during the late 1950s. Recording in 1965 with legendary Chess Records, Taylor honey-throated growl found the perfect vehicle in Willie Dixon’s “Wang Dang Doodle.” The song reached No. 4 on the R&B chart, sold a million or so copies and established Taylor as a new blues queen, following in the tradition of Memphis Minnie and Bessie Smith. In the blues realm, she has dominated, picking up 25 W.C. Handy Awards for her recordings and performances, including entertainer of the year – more than any other artist. Taylor has also been a Grammy winner, picking up an award in 1985 for best traditional blues album. Her 2007 “Old School” CD was nominated this year for best traditional blues album. The July 12 Gold Country Fairgrounds fest will get a double shot of “cocoa,” with fiery guitarist Coco Montoya providing a soul-driven lead-in to the Queen of Blues’ nighttime set. Montoya toured with guitar legend Albert Collins in the early 1970s as a drummer and slowly gravitated to guitar under his tutelage and encouragement. Montoya’s stinging fretwork found him on the road for 10 years with John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. By the mid-1990s, he was ready to go out on his own as a frontman and he’s been blowing audiences away since then, averaging more than 200 tour dates a year at clubs theaters and major festivals. KRATES ON A-LIST Auburn power trio The Krates has made the KCRA 3 A-List, topping the Sactown TV station’s online poll for best local band. Messieurs Skyler Leftridge, on drums and vocals, Jared Schuster, bass and vocals, and lead guitarist/singer Brian Altizer were given the nod over more experienced bands in an overall A-List competition that attracted more than 120,000 votes in 120 categories. None of the members of The Krates is over the age of 16, with the youngest – drummer Leftridge – still a pre-teen. Auburn also came out on top in the best men’s shoe store and best cheap eats-breakfast slots – Mickey’s Boots in Downtown Auburn and Old Town’s Awful Annie's. The win for Awful Annie’s was a repeat. Farther afield, Paul the Barber in Newcastle has built up enough of loyal following to be voted best barber. Newcastle is also home to the A-List leader in the best teahouse category, with that community’s An Afternoon to Remember Tea Parlor picking up the honor. Foresthill is also represented in the poll. The Forest House Lodge topped the field as the best venues for weddings. SOUNDS ASTOUNDS Filmed with a handful of Auburn area actors and produced by Grass Valley’s Ryan Humphreys, the low-budget indie science-fiction comedy “Sounds” has picked up an armful of awards from Houston’s WorldFest International Film Festival. The film was entered in the festival last month and won gold awards in science fiction and high-definition/new technology categories while scoring a silver award in the low-budget division. Media Life and Gus Thomson can be reached at