Winners compete locally two categories – solo/duo, and band – to win the right to advance to the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tennessee and to represent their affiliate blues society to the Blues Foundation. PBPS has added a Youth Challenge 2 years ago to support new, young Musicians under the age of 21. Raising funds will help defray the costs that come out of the artist’s own pockets.
The 2017 International Blues Challenge (IBC) will be held from January 31st to February 4th, 2017 in Memphis, TN. The International Showcase will open the event on January 31 with competition rounds on February 1-3 in 22 venues located along historic Beale Street. The world’s largest gathering of Blues acts compete for cash, prizes, and industry recognition at the competition. The Blues Foundation and its Affiliated Organizations search for the best new Blues Bands and Solo/Duo Blues Act ready to take their act to the international stage.
Piedmont Blues Preservation Society (PBPS) a 501 (c3) organization, is an all-volunteer non-profit organization working to support, promote, and grow blues music in the greater Piedmont region of North Carolina. PBPS has been an affiliate of the Blues Foundation since 1985.
For more information or to donate online, please go to http://piedmontblues.org/
Following is an excerpt from a story I wrote about Williams’ first trip to Memphis in 2016:
International Blues Competition First Stop for North Carolina Guitarist
Seth Williams has gone from playing the blues on Market Street in Madison, North Carolina, to the famed Beale Street in Memphis.
Welcome to the home of the blues.
“I think he did really well,” says T.L Lineberry, operations director for the Carolina Blues Festival. “He’s young and has a lot of talent.”
Williams, 17, took part in the 32nd International Blues Challenge, held Jan. 26-30. The Blues Challenge Youth Showcase gave young musicians from around the world the chance to compete for cash, prizes and industry recognition. Williams earned the spot by winning the youth competition in October at the Blind Tiger in Greensboro, North Carolina.
“My friend Terry VunCannon — he’s with the band Lawyers, Guns and Money — encouraged me to try out for the competition, and I won that and that was my ticket to go to Memphis,” said Williams, a native of Reidsville, North Carolina.
“To be able to play on the stages that some of the greatest music legends of all time have played on was an honor and an experience I will never forget. I met some of the best people you could ever meet and saw firsthand the talent people have … amazing. I learned I need to step up my game. I want to especially thank The Piedmont Blues Preservation Society for seeing something in me and allowing me to represent them at the 2016 International Blues Challenge.“
VunCannon, who plays guitar and lap steel, says, “I am very proud of this young man. We are already hearing from friends in Memphis that Seth Williams ‘killed it’ in the IBC Youth Showcase. He represents the new generation of blues music, North Carolina, and the PBPS … and gives hope that the blues will be alive for a long time to come.”
Williams will open the Carolina Blues Festival, the longest-running blues festival in the Southeastern United States, on Saturday, May 21, in Greensboro’s Barber Park for its 30th anniversary. Artists include 2015 Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame inductee Elvin Bishop with Bob Margolin, Samantha Fish and, returning from his recent stint at the National Folk Festival, Marquise Knox. The Dangerous Gentlemen and Blind Dog Gatewood are on the bill as well, Lineberry said.
“This is the first year we offered a blues challenge for youth (younger than 21) and he was selected to meet the Piedmont Blues Preservation Society challenge. Seth’s dedication and commitment to his music made him a good choice. We opened up the competition to youth because part of our mission is to preserve the blues.”
Williams has played guitar for about four years; he’s been singing about two.
He’s gotten really good, really fast.
“He is such a humble musician,” VunCannon says. “What you see is what you get. I get the feeling that with a player like Seth, the blues will be around for a long time. He and other young players like him are the future of the blues.”
A musical fixture at The Mad Bean in Madison — a coffee house turned restaurant turned concert venue — since it opened a year ago, Williams and Madi Heath form the duo dubbed Chrysocolla, which plays original Americana, blues and ’60s and ’70s rock — with a little bluegrass thrown in.
“Madi and I play ’60s and ’70s stuff, and blues fits right with what we do,” William explains. “But my passion is blues.”