The blues may well be an anachronistic pursuit as far as the consumption of mainstream contemporary music is concerned; however, blues music is also the bedrock upon which much of that music is built. Yamba’s Fiona Boyes has still got the blues … and she’s got it bad; so bad, in fact, that she is recognised as being among the world’s best purveyors of the art form.
Boyes has been named as one of five shortlisted nominees – in the ‘Acoustic Artist’ and ‘Acoustic Album of the Year’ categories – at the 38th USA Blues Music Awards, to be held in May at the Cook Convention Center, overlooking the Mississippi River in downtown Memphis, USA.
A Blues Music Magazine review rates Boyes as being “simply a great player and gutsy singer who has released one of the finest acoustic albums [Professin’ The Blues] in the past year”.
The magazine’s editor rates Boyes’ album in his top 10 for 2016, among artists such as David Bromberg, Bonnie Raitt, Mick Fleetwood Blues Band and Seasick Steve.
Boyes, who has been living in Yamba for the past year, is an old hand on the international blues scene, having toured relentlessly and released 15 albums, many of which have either been nominated for or won awards and topped various charts – at the time of writing she was #2 on US-based www.rootsmusicreport.com’s acoustic blues chart.
For her part, Boyes says she is “thrilled” to be among the nominees. “It’s very prestigious to be nominated – it means being invited to the best blues party of the year because the awards are attended by the who’s who of the blues scene.
“Most of the nominees will be there, they all frock up and there will be performances from nominees, too.”
At previous award ceremonies – Boyes was nominated in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2016 – she witnessed performances by Coco Taylor, “the first Lady of Chicago Blues” and BB King. “A lot or record people and the press etcetera will be there,” she says.
“It’s a huge glittering affair; I feel like Cinderella and I’ve been invited to the ball – to get two nominations is incredible.”
Boyes says the odds of winning are not high, unless you’re an American, because the voting is done much like as happens with the Grammy Awards – 100 industry experts come up with the shortlist and the Blues Foundation’s members vote for their favourites among the nominees.
So, she says, the accolade rests with being among the nominees; “it’s the critical success as judged by the industry pros”, that humbles her.
Her record is unusual, too: it is an ‘audiophile’ recording, released through the Grammy Award-winning Reference Recordings, which was recorded at Skywalker Ranch in California – these types of recordings are generally of classical and jazz – live to stereo, with no added effects or instruments after the initial performance.
Professin’ The Blues has also been rated at #7 of 10 in USA Audiophilia Magazine and is one of only two non-classical records in the list.
A footnote from the media release for her nomination invites punters to join the Blues Foundation (US$50): “We’re asking Australian blues fans to get behind her nomination and vote for her. [Go] to Fiona’s website for details on how to join the Blues Foundation and you can also receive a free download of Fiona’s CD, Blues in My Heart, the recording that brought her to international attention when she won the 2003 International Blues Challenge in Memphis, as well as multiple Australian awards.”