Fiona Boyes’ new record, Professin’ The Blues, occupied the number 1 slot on the October and November Australian Blues And Roots Airplay Charts (December’s not over yet) – come Boxing day the newish to Yamba resident makes her hometown debut at Mal’s Blues Bar.
“I’ve been based in Yamba for a year now, and I’ve really fallen in love with the place,” she says.
So who is Fiona Boyes? Without listing her achievements over the past 25 years of playing and singing the blues, here’s a hint: in May 2016, she was a final five nominee in the USA Blues Music Awards for the ‘Koko Taylor Award: Traditional Female Blues Artist of the Year’.
“Just like an old blues song I’ve done a lot of rambling,” she says. “Over the past 13 years, in two different countries, I’ve called 11 places ‘home’. Spending time on the road is a big part of my life. In recent years I’ve spent more time in Europe, but this year the focus has been back on America.”
Professin’ The Blues was recorded at the Skywalker Ranch, California, which just happens to be where George Lucas’s Star Wars sound track was recorded. CNET’s ‘Audiophiliac’, Steve Guttenberg, rates it highly, writing, “[Boyes’] blues feel fresh, not retreads of old licks; this music comes straight from her heart. Oh, and the sound is fantastic; Professin’ The Blues is easily the best blues recording I’ve heard in a long, long time.”
On Boxing Day, Boyes and her Melbourne-based rhythm section, Mark Grunden (Dilli All Stars, Bad Boys Batucada) on drums/percussion and Dean Addison (My Friend the Chocolate Cake) on bass, will be warming up for their show at the Woodford Folk Festival.
“These guys are great players, good mates – and they love the surf – so they are really happy to be coming up to visit,” she says. “I am really looking forward to playing a gig on my new home turf.”
Mal Eastick first saw and heard Boyes when they performed (separately) at The Melbourne Blues Festival in 1992. “Fiona left a strong impression as lead vocalist/guitarist in the all-girl blues band, The Mojos,” he says. “Fiona developed into a great solo performer, who in turn represented Melbourne in the solo/duo category at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis in 2003, becoming the first woman to win this international performance competition.
“I’ve held Fiona in the highest regard all these years, even more so after entering that same Memphis competition myself, representing NSW in the band category in 2014.”
For her part, Boyes says she “went straight down to meet” Eastick at his blues bar. “The blues scene in Australia is very fraternal – people often know who’s around in the scene. I didn’t know Mal personally, as he’s out of Sydney and I’m Melbourne, but his reputation preceded him, so it was a natural thing to go say, ‘g’day’.
“It’s great to have the opportunity to play with Mal because we play very differently. It’s a chance to bounce off each other and really stretch out – it’s gonna be a tag-team grudge match blues guitar showdown.”