Blues/Folk Beat: Lonnie Johnson, Indigo Girls, Taj Mahal …

Influential artist's recording is 30 years old; special series of shows planned for Indigo Girls.

A recording of the late Lonnie Johnson taped in a living room concert not long before his death at age 70 in 1970 is being released July 11 on the Blues Magnet label. The Unsung Blues Legend includes the songs "Careless Love," "Solitude" and "I’m Confessin'." In "Blues All Around Me," his 1996 "as told to" autobiography, B.B. King describes Johnson as a key influence, and as a musician he continues to listen to on a regular basis. Elvis Presley and Robert Johnson also described being inspired by Lonnie Johnson’s recordings. Besides his solo career, he also appeared at different times with Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington. …

Following their current tour, which runs into late July, the Indigo Girls will play four shows in August as an acoustic duo. They’ll take the stage at the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival in Walhalla, Mich., on Aug. 9, then play in Pittsburgh, Albany, N.Y., and Cleveland on Aug. 11, 12 and 13, respectively. They’ll also appear in the acoustic duo format on their subsequent Honor the Earth tour at the end of September. …

The House of Blues will cybercast from Milwaukee’s 13-stage Summerfest beginning June 29 and running through July 9. Among the acts appearing during the 11-day festival are Taj Mahal, C.J. Chenier, Blues Traveler, Susan Tedeschi, Brian Setzer and Ben Folds Five. …

Through his Ray Charles Robinson Foundation for Hearing Disorders, legendary pianist and singer Ray Charles has given $2 million to Ohio's Wilberforce University. Charles' generosity — the largest single gift the private, historically black university has ever received — will be used to aid students studying music, theater, dance and voice, and to provide visiting scholars, according to the Associated Press. ...

Singer/songwriter John Wesley

Harding's next album, The Confessions of St. Ace, will be released Aug. 29 by Mammoth Records, with whom he recently signed a contract. Among the guests on the album, recorded in Nashville, are Steve Earle and Jimmie Dale Gilmore. One of its 12 tracks, "I'm Wrong About Everything," was included on the "High Fidelity" soundtrack. Performing solo, Harding will open shows for Gilmore next month, then tour with a full band once the album's out. Harding also is reissuing Trad Arr Jones, a collection of 17th- to 19th-century British folk tunes arranged by folkie Nic Jones on Appleseed Recordings with four extra tunes he recorded recently with a side band, Minstrel in the Galleries, including Kurt Bloch from the Fastbacks. ...

Rickie Lee Jones' album of covers will be issued on the Artemis Records label in September. The album, whose working title is It's Like This, includes versions of Marvin Gaye's "Trouble Man," the Beatles' "For No One" and Traffic's "The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys," plus the "West Side Story" song "One Hand, One Heart" and a tune penned by Charlie Chaplin, "Smile." Jones has five shows scheduled in Canada from June 24–30 before traveling to Europe in mid-July for seven dates in Germany, followed by shows in France, Norway, Denmark and Sweden that will keep her busy into August. ...

An organization known as the Guacamole Fund has announced two benefit shows for early August in Southern California that will feature an unusually star-studded lineup. Linda Ronstadt, Emmylou Harris, Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, David Crosby, Graham Nash, David Lindley, Warren Zevon, Chris Hillman, Ry Cooder, Andy Fairweather Low and ex-Eagle Bernie Leadon will play in support of Friends of Fred Walecki. Instrument expert Fred Walecki, proprietor of Westwood Music, is facing high medical expenses after recently having had surgery for throat cancer. The shows will be held Aug. 8 and 9 at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. ...

Sets from Bishopstock 2000, a blues festival held in England during the Memorial Day weekend, will be webcast at Bishopstock.com over the course of the next month. Performers scheduled to appear in cyberspace from the Bishop's Court Palace Grounds include Deborah Coleman, Koko Taylor, Steve Earle, Taj Mahal, Magic Slim, Susan Tedeschi, Charlie Musselwhite, Shemekia Copeland, Corey Harris, John Hammond and Mavis Staples. ...

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). ...

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. ...

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. ...

— sonicnet.com staff report