Greeley Tribune: Greeley Blues Jam to feature veteran Walter Trout, energetic act Samantha Fish, others

If you ever wondered about the authenticity of the Greeley Blues Jam, all you have to do is check out this year’s headliner.

Walter Trout’s not only played in the bands of John Lee Hooker and Joe Tex, he suffered from cirrhosis of the liver in 2013, almost died and eventually got a transplant thanks to donations from his fans. His 2015 album, Battle Scars, chronicles his battle with liver failure and drinking.

“If there’s anyone who’s led the life of the blues,” said Al Bricker, who helps organize the Blues Jam with his wife, Pam, executive director of the Downtown Development Authority, “it’s him.”

Trout headlines a group that includes Samantha Fish, Honey Island Swamp Band, Lil’ Ed and the Blues Imperials, Guy Forsyth and Southern Avenue, in addition to local bands such as The Burroughs. Josh Hoyer and the Soul Colossal will headline the kick-off show the night before the June 10 Jam. The Blues Jam announced the acts Friday evening during a concert in downtown Greeley.

Trout’s story is perfect for the blues, but it’s also a feel-good story. It’s one of a guy who’s come about as close as you can to dying and become a touring, energetic older guy making his living from music, Bricker said. When he played at the Blues Jam in 2008, he was a burly, big guy, well over 200 pounds. When he was battling cirrhosis, he was a skeleton, Bricker said, in pictures on Facebook.

“He must have been within a week or two of expiring,” he said.

The Brickers saw him a year ago, however, and he played with energy and sounded great. He’s just a little thinner now.

Fish might be the opposite of Trout. She’s young, 27, and bounces around the stage — she’ll probably literally kick off her shoes by the end of her set — but she isn’t a gimmick. The Brickers tried to sign her for years.

“She’s killer,” Bricker said. “She’s got a LOT of fire to her playing.”

There are many other feel-good stories to this year’s festival. Honey Island, for instance, were a bunch of New Orleans musicians who were in San Francisco together after Hurricane Katrina. They hadn’t played together but started jamming and began to play once a week in Hooker’s blues clubs. Now they’re in one of the premier spots in the Blues Jam, probably third from the end.

“Every time we’d listen to them, we’d say to each other, ‘They would be great,’” Bricker said of Honey Island. “They filled out the last spot for us. We just booked them this week.”

Booking Hoyer for the Friday night headliner was important. The Blues Jam wanted to bring a fairly big name for that show, one of the biggest Friday Fests of the year in downtown Greeley.

“He’s very intense,” Bricker said. “He’s a real musician.”

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