Blues competition narrowed to top three, winners advance

For 24 years the River City Ohio Blues Competition has been a gateway for regional blues singers, duos or groups to the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tenn.

This year’s winners were Chris Sutton of Huntington in first place; Sadie Johnson and Joey Crumbs of Marietta in second and Roadhouse Redeemed from Columbus in third place.

Since two of the top three were in different performance categories – solo/duo v. band – both Sutton and Roadhouse Redeemed will advance to the IBC competition in 2017 under the BJFMS’s sponsorship.

Peggy Bolen, treasurer of the Blues, Jazz and Folk Music Society, said this year’s competition featured 10 acts from West Virginia and Ohio, but only one act , Sadie Johnson and Joey Crumbs, hailed from Marietta.

Mary Ann Osborne, a member of the society, said the groups in the competition had to submit an demonstration recording in order to qualify for Saturday’s competition at the Lafayette Hotel in Marietta.

“From there the board reviews and whittles it down to the top acts,” she said. “They are scored on a rubric (to determine the quality of their music).”

Bolen said the cash prizes for the 2016 competition were $1,000 for first place, $500 for second and $300 for third. After the winner registers for the international competition in Memphis, they will receive an additional $500. This year, that also applies to third-place finisher Roadhouse Redeemed for its qualification for the international.

One member for a competing bands, Bill Harding of The Brother Short Band from Morgantown, had high praises for how the annual Marietta competition was handled.

“This competition is run very professionally, which is very nice,” he said. “They have a certain amount of time and they got the lights up there to let the artist know they are running out of time; it was a nice event.”

Susan Taylor, of Parkersburg, said she came to the competition Saturday because The Brother Short Band was playing.

“This is done well every time,” she said of the competition in Marietta.

Both Stephanie Space, of New Philadelphia, Ohio, and Pamela Watkins, of Dover, Ohio, said the annual River City Ohio Blues Competition is an attraction for them because of the variety of music.

“There is such a variation in the blues and they have it here,” Watkins said. “We love this area and the Lafayette Hotel is very nice. It’s just so conducive to blending people and everybody is so friendly.”

Watkins said Marietta has more to offer than the competition.

“You have the shopping, the antique places and the brewery and the river, it is so awesome to be on the river,” she said. “I love the pretzels from the Marietta Brewing Co.”

“What we do is we stay here and then we walk,” Space said.

Scott Walton is a member of Roadhouse Redeemed, which finished third in the group’s first time in the competition. He said the band liked its time in Marietta.

“I think it’s a cool little town,” he said. “It’s quaint and the old theater is really cool too. It’s very warm and welcoming.”

Walton said the band is new and they will be headlining the Violet Festival in Columbus.