Nothin' But Trouble, a local blues band, recently won the Baltimore Blues Competition, earning them a spot at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis.
A definition of the genre of music known as "the blues," would probably include the specific chord progressions that make its music recognizable. It might also include a list of the greats, the men who made the music famous, from BB King to Stevie Ray Vaughn. Or, it might also include a note on the lyrics and the stories that blues music often seems to tell.
But, for one local band, a simple definition of "the blues" just doesn't do it justice. That's because the guys of Nothin' But Trouble think it's something that you have to feel, something you have to hear in order to really get it.
"It just kind of hits you in the gut," said vocalist and guitar player Joey Fulkerson. "When you hear a guy that's wrenching his guts out in a song, either in the lyrics or in the playing, it's just a deeper connection."
Fulkerson and his bandmates — Chris McAfee, Bruce Benson and Greg Haughey — are hoping that their deep connection to the music they play will propel them to the top when they perform at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tenn. next weekend.
"We live it and breathe it and we just hope the crowds can see that," Fulkerson said.
The band's journey to the IBC started six years ago when the guys all started playing together as a unit. Haughey and Fulkerson have actually been playing together for more than 15 years. During that time, when Fulkerson was not working with other musicians, he would also sit in on McAfee's band and the chemistry between the two just naturally blossomed. Haughey joined the fold a couple of years ago and the band just gelled.
However, a band does not just sign up to play at the Memphis competition. First, blues societies from all over the world hold their own contests. Those winners then go on to represent the societies, their fans and their communities in bars and venues on Beale Street, a street in Memphis famous for both amazing barbecue and amazing music.
This will actually be Nothin' But Trouble's third trip to Memphis and the second time the band represents the Baltimore Blues Society.
Several years ago, the band actually attended IBC as a representative of the Blues Society of Western Pennsylvania. Haughey is originally from Pennsylvania and while surfing the Internet one night, he came across the organization's
website, which noted bands were still being sought for its competition. The guys submitted their music and were accepted into the contest almost immediately.
"The night before that one, we played a gig in Rehoboth, got in the car and drove straight there," Fulkerson said. "When we got there, the only person we knew was Greg's brother. But we killed it. The place went crazy."
Their win was not without some controversy, though, as the local favorites were none too pleased to see out-of-towners take their spot.
"The society guys told them, 'If you're going to go to Memphis, this is what you're going to go up against,'" Fulkerson said. "But, since then, we're all friends and it all worked out."
As usual, the competition will be fierce and the guys will face more than 100 other bands in their category. The competition also has a category for solos and duos that features about 60 more musicians. However, Fulkerson thinks he and his bandmates bring something unique to the stage.
"We've tried to analyze it and think strategically but you just have to go and do the best of what you do," Fulkerson said.
Unlike other bands, Nothin' But Trouble does a lot more harmonies with the four voices it has to work with.
"When you see these other bands, they might have one guy, the front guy, who sings. But, nobody else sings," Fulkerson said. "We have a little more variety, which gives us a little more of a complicated and sophisticated sound."
McAfee and Fulkerson also plan to entertain the crowds and judges with a little friendly onstage guitar rivalry. It's a tried-and-true technique for them. One that Baltimore Blues Society Vice President/Treasurer Allen Burke said will absolutely work.
"They have an energy on stage that's just so much fun to watch," Burke said. "Personally, when I watch music, I like stuff that makes me feel good and makes me want to move. Their music never fails to do that."
Before the band hits the road for Memphis, though, the guys will play one more show locally at the Touchdown Restaurant & Sports Bar, part send-off, part fundraiser. For $5, fans of local music and blues can come together to hear for themselves the sound that Nothin' But Trouble will be taking to Memphis.
"We're going to put on a good show Saturday night and really give people a taste of what we'll be doing in Memphis," Fulkerson said. "Any support would be just great."
WHAT Nothin' But Trouble send-off party and fundraiser
WHERE Touchdown Restaurant & Sports Bar, 1666 S. Dupont Highway, Dover
WHEN 9 p.m. to 1 a.m., Saturday
INFO (302) 674-0975