Newton Shows Love For the Blues
Blues Under the Blue Roof takes over library
Published: Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2017 10:00 a.m.
Newton Daily News
By Justin Jagler
Armed with a collection of guitars, harmonicas and a wooden box under his feet for percussion, Aaron Earl Short kicked off 2017’s Blues Under the Blue Roof at the Newton Public Library Monday night.
The Des Moines-based musician played a mix of original songs and blues covers in front of a crowd of about 50 people. Empty chairs in the modestly-sized room were hard to come by, and Short kept the crowd engaged for the entire hour-long set.
Blues Under the Blue Roof was born from a partnership between the Newton Public Library Foundation and the South Skunk Blues Society. It features four unique concerts — one every Monday night in February. The events are free, and families are welcome.
“The idea is that we’re forming this partnership to bring the arts, culture, music to Newton in a way that’s very accessible to everyone,” public services librarian Becca Klein said. “We have a huge blues music scene that I don’t think people are necessarily aware of, and this really provides exposure for the artist, as well as invites the community to get involved.”
Short, who has more than 20 years of experience playing music, said he came about the blues the same way most white kids do — through his parents’ rock n’ roll and country records. He said he’s a songwriter and not a blues specialist, but he was drawn to the genre after picking up the harmonica and getting involved in open jams in his 20s.
Short took time in between songs for brief banter with the crowd on Monday.
VIDEOElvis fans parade at Australian festival honouring rock 'n' roll idol“I like these kinds of crowds — listening crowds,” he said. “I like to give the stories of (the songs) because I feel like it makes the songs more interesting if you know where I’m coming from.”
The songwriter dug into tracks about “true stories” that happened to him. He sang about working a terrible job in his past and about kids fighting after school at a church. Some of the topics were heavy, but Short kept the mood light and mixed in bits of humor.
South Skunk Blues Society President Elaine Mattingly introduced Short and welcomed a crowd that ranged from toddlers to senior citizens. Mattingly said Blues Under the Roof will show people the inviting nature of the blues.
“The thing about blues music is that it’s a welcoming music,” she said. “It is literally embedded in about every other genre out there. It’s no wonder that it resonates with folks on this kind of visceral level. The music is part of the fabric of Iowa, and Newton in particular has really embraced that genre.”
South Skunk Blues Society is a charitable organization made up of volunteers. The society, along with the Bowlful of Blues festival hosted every year in Newton, started in 1992.
“Blues music is well-loved in this area, and that has endured,” Mattingly said.
Blues Under the Blue Roof’s second installment is Feb. 13 and will feature the Stutterin’ Jimmy Duo. George and Gil Davis will take the reins on Feb. 20, and Tina and Brandon will have the spotlight on the final night Feb. 27.