Port Hadlock musician C.D. Woodbury and his band are heading to Memphis, Tennessee, for the 36th annual International Blues Challenge running from Tuesday, Jan. 28, through Saturday, Feb. …
Port Hadlock musician C.D. Woodbury and his band are heading to Memphis, Tennessee, for the 36th annual International Blues Challenge running from Tuesday, Jan. 28, through Saturday, Feb. 1.
Guitarist and vocalist Woodbury will be joined by his three bandmates — Don Montana on drums and vocals, Patrick McDanel on bass and vocals, and Mike Marinig on keys, horns and vocals — in representing the Washington Blues Society at the International Blues Challenge.
Woodbury explained that the Washington Blues Society is but one of more than 200 blues societies to be represented at the International Blues Challenge, from between one and two dozen countries around the world, and even the title “Washington Blues Society” obscures the full breadth of Woodbury’s competition, since the Washington Blues Society also includes Oregon, Idaho and Montana, as well as British Columbia and Alberta in Canada.
This year’s International Blues Challenge is also not Woodbury’s first, since the musician of 30 years has previously been a finalist in the event’s independent CD competition, and twice been a semi-finalist in the band competition, losing each time to the eventual grand prize winner of the contest as a whole.
Woodbury lavishes praise on both his former opponents, saying of musicians such as Kevin Sutton that “he’s so talented that he doesn’t even know how talented he is,” and expressed enthusiasm for the sounds of Blue Moon Marquee, a Canadian band competing in the solo/duo category of the International Blues Challenge, just as his own quartet is competing in the band category of the event.
“We were going to perform as ‘C.D. Woodbury and the …’ but we couldn’t think of a name for the rest of the band,” Woodbury said. “It’ll be like B.B. King or Buddy Guy, where everyone expects to see the band as well.”
As a relatively experienced hand at the International Blues Challenge by now, Woodbury believes he knows what it is that sets his band apart from any number of other aspirants.
“If you’re going to perform in Memphis, you’d better look sharp and bring a proper show with you, rather than just getting up on stage and playing your standard bar set, like a lot of performers think they can get away with,” Woodbury said. “That’ll get you about to the finals.”
While Woodbury is deeply committed to maintaining fidelity to the roots of blues, he also strives to infuse it with new elements, lest the genre suffer what he sees as the fate of classical music.
“Classical music isn’t really living music, because everyone is doing the same things with it,” Woodbury said. “New stuff has to be introduced. My own work draws from New Orleans sounds, modern jazz and pop, in addition to the roots and history of blues.”
Even if he and his bandmates walk away from the International Blues Challenge with another near-miss, Woodbury recognizes the value in performing on the Orpheum Theatre stage in Memphis, where no shortage of industry professionals will be watching in the audience.
And what is it that’s kept Woodbury performing for three decades, even before he became competitive in the International Blues Challenge?
“Insanity,” Woodbury laughed. “There’s nothing crazier than trying to sell organized noise. But even though I’ve gotten educated and explored other creative fields, from illustration to writing, I can’t imagine doing anything else.”
Woodbury’s imagination was recently tested when bouts of carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis took him out of commission for six months.
“I seriously started wondering if this was the end of the road,” Woodbury said. “But when my hands healed, I found myself playing better than I had in years. You don’t pick the music. it picks you. And live musical performance is one of the few fields where the work matters in the moment, and you get instant feedback.”
Check future editions of The Leader for updates on Woodbury’s progress at the International Blues Challenge.