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Moods: Featuring Guitar Blues: Blues-Rock Rock: Classic Rock Rock: Country-Rock Blues: Electric Blues

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CANADA - Québec Canada CANADA - other

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Cliff Stevens

"Blues guitar heaven, raspy, poignant vocals and compelling songwriting a la Eric Clapton & John Mayer"

After spending years as a sideman playing with different groups – for crowds of 14000 at the Montreal International Jazz Festival, 1400 at the Medley Club in Montreal, or 14 drunks in Moose Jaw, Canadian blues guitarist Cliff Stevens decided to go solo. While in Paris in 1997 he wrote three tunes that set him on his course. Two of them - Said The Wrong Thing and Crying My Heart Out - were released that year on Preservation Records' Preservation Blues Review to critical acclaim.

Playing guitar professionally for more than 30 years, Cliff Stevens' two original influences were the British and American blues rock guitarists of the day, Eric Clapton and Johnny Winter. In 1968, Stevens saw Cream in Montreal. "Clapton just jammed all night long and I was blown away. I then saw Johnny Winter And four times in 1970 and memorized every lick I could". Stevens says that when he was thirteen "all we did was jam slow blues all day...that's how I Iearned to play" - at the legendary 'coffee house' in Montreal - known as a breeding ground for Canadian guitarists (Frank Marino, Ricardo Formosa, Bobby Cohen, Jimmy James) as well as the place to get "any drug was a pretty loose place" according to Stevens. It was about this time that he acquired his 1961 Gibson SG Les Paul that he still uses today, mostly for slide guitar.

Through the 70's and 80's Stevens did stints with various groups travelling across Canada and working non-stop six nights a week in bands playing the basic rock of the day. "It was a living but I always missed my first love - the blues". He ended up in Toronto in 1980, worked for a year with Ray Materick, who had a good regional following. They recorded the album Bring On The Light in 1981..."the solo on 'Might Take Some Muscle' is still one of my favorites - kind of like early Clapton. I wish I could get my hands on a copy" Stevens says. By then, however, the six-night weeks year after year had begun to take their toll - the drinking, drugging, being on the road and Stevens decided to take a break. From 1982 to 1985 he drove taxi and withdrew from the business only playing sporadically . "I was burned out, I badly needed a break" he explains. He went back to university and got a Masters degree in music and education. "I really got into jazz for awhile but I kept getting calls for blues gigs and had no real opportunity to master the jazz language".

Stevens then jumped head first back into the blues, discovered blues guitarists Albert King, Albert Collins and Otis Rush and started writing tunes in the genre. He worked with powerhouse soul singer Bobby Lee for four years before deciding to go solo. Although often compared to Eric Clapton both in his playing and singing, Stevens is no Clapton clone. While there similarities (in fact, he heads a Clapton tribute group, Slowhand he claims the blues as his first love, while acknowledging a powerful pop influence in his writing. This pop and roots combination creates a roots crossover style that satisfies both novice and ardent blues fan.

Blues guitarist Cliff Stevens truly has - a heartful of blues!