"Thee Art of Steele": A Blues Tribute to Art Steele

Wednesday Folk Traditions at the Porter-Phelps-Huntington Museum opens its 36th season on June 7, 2017 with “The Art of Steele,” A Blues Tribute in Memory Art Steele. A local blues musician and sound engineer, Art Steele’s contributions to the Museum’s Wednesday Folk Traditions series spanned three decades as both our sound man and as a performer with his Art Steele Blues Band performances. This concert in Art’s memory is a tribute to his invaluable presence at the museum throughout the years. The performance will feature powerhouse vocalist Evelyn Harris, who will be joined by Billy Arnold, John Cabán, and Dave Picchi. This and all other performances are held Wednesday evenings at 6:30 pm in the Sunken Garden at the Porter-Phelps-Huntington Museum, 130 River Drive, Route 47, Hadley, MA 01035. General admission is $12 and $2 for children 16 and under. Picnickers are welcome on the museum grounds beginning at 5:00 pm. The Museum and its grounds are a smoke free site.

Art Steele played the blues, quintessential American music, as a soloist and with The Art Steele Blues Band. In Art’s words, “When we play we want to sweep people into our framework, paint a picture in their head and a feeling in their heart.” For Art, the guitar was a means of communication for which words did not suffice. Evelyn Harris, formerly of Sweet Honey in the Rock, describes Steele’s music as “hot and heavy, thunderous and stormy, with lightning flashes from verse to verse.” Steele’s Delta/Chicago Blues crossover style of playing came through on his guitar of choice, a 1937 hollow-body Epiphone.

This evening of blues will recreate “the ART of STEELE's” stellar repertoire of classic blues spanning the first half of the twentieth century and other gems.  Conceived by Evelyn Harris, the ensemble will be performing a set including: “Corinna”, originally written by Blind Lemon Jefferson in 1926; “Wang Dang Doodle”, a classic blues tune originally by Howlin’ Wolf, famously reimagined by the Grateful Dead; B.B. King’s “Every Day I Have The Blues; “Directly from My Heart to You”, a blues tune in the Chicago Electric style, written by Fenton Robinson in 1974; “House of the Rising Sun”, a traditional New Orleans folk-song; and Harris’ a capella version of “I’ll Fly Away”, a timeless gospel hymn dating back to 1929 with lyrics credited to Albert E. Brumley.

Steele had also been a sound engineer with his company, Audio Promedia, since the 1970s, where he used his passion for music to make the sounds of others come to life onstage. In addition, Art traveled the world with Sweet Honey in the Rock as their house engineer for over 40 years. Art’s passing is a huge loss to the region’s music venues and especially to Wednesday Folk Traditions where he served as the support and technical backbone to the series for over thirty years.

More Information about Art Steele can be found here.


Evelyn Harris’ vocal talents are many, most notably having been showcased during her time as a member of the critically-acclaimed all-woman, African-American a cappella ensemble, “Sweet Honey In The Rock.” Following her 18-year stint in that group, Evelyn’s skills as a composer earned her a Grammy award nomination in 1988. She has since continued her career as a solo musician, playing various venues throughout the Pioneer Valley and fine-tuning her craft. Musical influences evident in Evelyn’s performance include jazz, pop, rock ‘n’ roll, blues, and gospel, her diverse palette a testament to the long musical journey she has traveled over the last 47 years. Harris has helped others share in the gift of music as well, having served as the Director of the Ku’umba Women’s Choir through the Northampton Community Music Center since 2014. Billy Arnold played drums for the Art Steele Blues Band, and has been a frequent supporter and performer throughout Wednesday Folk Traditions’ history. John Cabán earned his B.A. in guitar performance from Middlebury College and is presently teaching guitar at Westfield State University. David Picchi has been teaching and performing bass in the Pioneer Valley since 2001. Picchi is primarily a jazz musician, having led the UMass Jazz in July Summer Music Program for several years.

More Information about Evelyn Harris can be found here.

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