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MONROE — This year’s Black History Month Blues Series, presented by the Monroe County Library System, is another chapter in a continuing story, according to Bill Reiser, Ellis Library and Reference Center manager, who directs the series.
“This is the 27th year for the series, and I've always said we're telling a story each year and we have recurrent characters,” he explained.
The series is sponsored by the library system with funding assistance from community sponsors and state arts grants.
The recurrent characters are such worthies as Ann Arbor harmonica virtuoso Peter “Madcat” Ruth and the Rev. Robert B. Jones, a Detroit blues artist who was at the first Black History Month celebration in 1988 and has returned every year.
Mr. Ruth returns with his group, the Madcat Midnight Blues Journey, and kicks off a month of free concerts at Ellis Library Feb. 4 at 7 p.m. The group includes guitarist Drew “Capt’n Midnight” Howard, bassist Mark Schrock, and drummer Mike Shimmin.
The Big Gig!, the concert month’s centerpiece, will be Feb. 22 at the Meijer Theater at Monroe County Community College, 1555 S. Raisinville Rd. Doors open at 6 p.m. No tickets are required, and general-admission seating will be first-come, first-served.
Mr. Jones will will be host and featured performer, joined by the Relatives, a Texas psychedelic gospel funk group, Grammy nominee the Heritage Blues Trio, and the Third Coast Kings.
All concerts start at 7 p.m. unless otherwise noted. The Rev. Jones also appears Feb. 11 at Dorsch Branch, 18 E. First St., at that time, where he will give a musical lecture exploring the traditions of song and the birth of the blues.
On Feb. 18, Dom Flemons, “the American Songster,” appears at Carleton Branch, 1444 Kent St.
On Feb. 20, Ida Faye and Scott Ballantine perform at Ida Branch, 3016 Lewis Ave. Their recent release, “Laying Down Our Blues,” will be available.
On Feb. 24, award-winning educator and performer Jim Gill gives a special family concert at Ellis Library, with a special 6:30 p.m. start.
The series concludes with Jerrod “Blind Boy” Paxton, who will play blues, ragtime, hokum, old-time, French reels, Appalachian music, and more, at 7 p.m. Feb. 25 at Bedford Branch Library.