AUBURN-He’s known as “The Prince of the Blues,” and for good reason. Chris Beard, son of legendary blues guitarist Joe Beard, is among the leaders of a new generation poised to take blues music into the next century. Now this gifted guitarist, vocalist and songwriter is bringing his talents to central Maine.
Beard will perform at 7 p.m. Sunday, May 28, at the Midnight Blues Club and Restaurant. Beard is touring in support of his latest album, “Live Wire,” released in May of 2005 on the Northern Blues label. Tickets are $12 and may be reserved by calling the club.
Born Aug. 29, 1957, in Rochester, N.Y., Beard grew up surrounded by blues players and the music itself. There were many great artists passing through his house as they came to town to do shows with Joe and his band. Buddy Guy and Matt Murphy are just two of the many ace guitarists Beard remembers from those early days.
Once he picked up the guitar at age 5, there was no looking back for Beard. The first song he could play was “Green Onions,” which is appropriate given the fact a funky mix of blues and instrumental panache characterizes his style of play today. At age 15, Beard was working steadily with an established R & B band, now known as national recording artists, CAMEO. The band invited him to go out on the road, yet he had to finish school.
After years of working as a sideman in local bands and with his father, Beard took the big step of fronting his own group. He set out to establish himself as a serious modern blues artist. With song-writing influences like blues greats Luther Allison, Albert King, Buddy Guy and Johnny Watson, Beard has carved out an identity for himself as a talented writer.
In June of 1998, Beard released his debut solo album, “Barwalkin’,” which earned him a nomination for Best New Blues Artist at the W.C. Handy Awards. In 1999 he won the Muddy Waters Award from Blues Beat Magazine as their choice for new artist of the year.
Beard’s warm, soulful voice was ideally suited to his material. All of the original songs for his album were written in the blues tradition, but with a nice, new contemporary edge. Producing this debut CD for Beard was nationally known recording artist Johnny Rawls, a soul-blues star and former O.V. Wright bandleader. Rawls brought sweet southern soul to the project.
His next album, “Born To Play The Blues,” was released in 2001 and showcased his own feeling for the blues. Beard’s powerful and passionate vocals, punctuated by his talent for strong, clean guitar lines produce a sound which is emotionally charged an impeccably played.
“Live Wire” is Beard’s third album and further solidifies his position among today’s finest contemporary blues players. A compilation of two live performances in Grand Rapids, MI, and Chicago, IL, the album contains new songs and bonus studio tracks. Beard is backed by a top-notch band, whose players also get a good workout, like keyboardist Alan Murphy on “It’s About Time.”
The Midnight Blues Club and Restaurant is at 34 Court Street. For more information, log on to www.3clubs.com.