Blues/Folk Beat: Amy Ray, Blues Foundation, Double Trouble ...

Indigo Girl working on solo project; contestants sought for Best Unsigned Blues Band title.

In a message posted on the Indigo Girls' Web site (indigogirls.com), Amy Ray reports that she's working on a solo project scheduled for a February release and that she and Emily Saliers will record two new acoustic songs for a retrospective album due in the fall. Their fall tour, Honor the Earth, will focus on opposition to the Nuclear Waste Transportation Act and the killing of buffalo near Yellowstone National Park, and supports Native environmentalists on a variety of issues. On their current tour, they'll appear with Michael Franti and Spearhead, Shannon Curfman, Kelly Hogan, Ruth Polenzani, Michelle Malone and lesbian punk trio the Butchies, who are working with Ray on her solo disc. ...

The Blues Foundation is soliciting contestants for its International Blues Challenge on its Web site, www.blues.org/ibc. Besides the title "Best Unsigned Blues Band," the contest, to be held in February, offers winners cash, studio time and gigs. There's also an Albert King Award for the most promising guitarist. Winners this year included New York's Dave Keyes Band, which sometimes works with singer David Johansen, and, for the King Award, Sam Cockrell and the Groove's Chris Forte. ... Double Trouble, the late Stevie Ray Vaughan's rhythm section of bassist Tommy Shannon and drummer Chris Layton, who recently backed guitarist Debbie Davies on her Tales From the Austin Motel album, will close out June touring Brazil behind Angolan-born guitarist Nuno Mindelis. They worked together on Mindelis' Texas Bound (Antone's/Eldorado) in 1995, and Blues on the Outside (Trama, 1999). ... At the just-completed Telluride Bluegrass Festival, blues women Susan Tedeschi and Bonnie Raitt provided one of the highlights, dueting on John Prine's "Angel From Montgomery" on Friday. ...

Artie Traum's Homespun tapes' latest VHS offering is "Bluegrass Jamming: A Guide for Newcomers and Closet Pickers." Banjo player Pete Wernick, fiddler Michael Kang, and Dobro player Sally van Meter are among the musicians leading viewers through standards such as "Salt Creek," "Soldier's Joy," "Handsome Molly" and "Blue Moon of Kentucky." The 105-minute tape comes with lyrics and chord charts. ...

Steve Earle is scheduled to perform on the sidewalk in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on June 30 as part of a fast and vigil advocating the abolition of the death penalty in the United States. Earle's performance is part of a four-day gathering of death-penalty opponents in Washington, D.C., from June 29–July 2, organized by the Abolitionist Action Committee. Earle has long been outspoken in his opposition to capital punishment. ...

Shawn Colvin recently competed in a triathlon — the Danskin Women's Triathlon, held in Austin, Texas, earlier this month — and finished fifth out of 196 women competing in the age 40–44 group. After years dedicated to performing and touring, the three-time Grammy winner settled in Austin recently to devote time to her new family, and had spent time weight lifting and running but only took on swimming in preparation for the Danskin event, her training partner, Austin-American Statesman reporter Lisa Lyman writes. ...

Billy Bragg and Wilco have released two albums of Woody Guthrie songs culled from lyrics uncovered in the Woody Guthrie archives, which are curated by the legendary folk singer's daughter Nora. Nonetheless, Bragg recently told the Canadian Web site Jam! Showbiz (www.canoe.ca/jammusic) that he's down for more. The two albums consist of 30 songs, but Bragg said that between him and Wilco, they've done another 15. "I haven't sat down and counted, but with the way things are with streaming and downloading, all of it will see the light of day," Bragg said. ...

Next from Ani DiFranco is the Swing Set EP, due July 11 on Righteous Babe. In addition to the song "Swing," the set includes covers of Bob Dylan's "Hurricane" and Phil Ochs' "When I'm Gone" (from the soundtrack to the upcoming "Steal This Movie"); a recent live version of the Woody Guthrie standard "Do, Re, Mi" on which she's joined by Gillian Welch, David Rawlings and Bo Ramsey; and a remix of "To the Teeth," the title song of DiFranco's current album. ...

As B.B. King opens his B.B. King Blues Club & Grill this week in New York, the legendary blues singer and guitar player will play two shows a night for four nights there, June 21–24. The club, situated on Times Square, will then play host to Little Richard the following two nights, and, within its first month, showcase Johnny Winter (June 29–30), Otis Rush (July 5), Elvin Bishop (July 6), Bobby "Blue" Bland (July 11), Eddy Clearwater (July 13) and Levon Helm (July 15). King has had a club on Beale Street in Memphis, Tenn., since 1991 and another in Universal City, Calif., since 1995, and is weighing plans for up to seven more, according to his publicist. ... Guitar.com is offering a 30-minute interview and guitar lesson with the blues master. ...

Director Wim Wenders, who worked with Ry Cooder on the Oscar-nominated "Buena Vista Social Club" project last year, has signed on to do one of six miniseries segments on the blues. Martin Scorsese is masterminding the project, and also reportedly has reached agreements with Michael Apted (''Stardust''), Charles Burnett (''The Annihilation of Fish'') and Marc Levin (''Slam''). Variety reports that the project is being funded by Microsoft mogul Paul Allen but that no broadcast deal has yet been agreed to. ...

The late Lightnin' Hopkins, Mance Lipscomb, Son House and Bukka White are all featured on two hour-long DVD releases from the Shanachie label. The two Masters of the Country Blues videos pair Hopkins and Lipscomb and House and White respectively, in enhanced recordings and film made in the '60s. ... Also on the DVD front, Homespun Tapes is offering an instructional video by former Howlin' Wolf sideman Hubert Sumlin. The Blues of Hubert Sumlin offers an hour-long lesson built around the songs "Smokestack Lightnin' " and "Going Down Slow," among others. ...

Earle and a host of artists from a variety of genres, including Richard Thompson, Aimee Mann and Michael Penn, Ben Folds Five, Sonic Youth and Patti Smith, will participate in the Digital Club Festival July 22–25. Thirty venues in more than two dozen cities, featuring more than 200 artists, are scheduled to participate in what's touted as the world's largest online-music event. The Digital Club Network will broadcast the sets live in streaming video; some will be rebroadcast.

— sonicnet.com staff report