J.P. Reali, guitar in tow, is taking an important, possibly career-changing, trip to Memphis, Tenn., this week. This local blues musician will represent the D.C. Blues Society as their Solo/Duo Competition entrant at the International Blues Challenge taking place from Tuesday to Feb. 9 in Memphis, Tenn.
Ask him about his particular blues style on solo guitar. He is always ready to discuss it.
"I really play what's considered to be pre-World War II blues. This is acoustic, but the term implies a style that was happening before the electric revolution of blues music in Chicago," said Reali, a veteran of the D.C. music scene for 25 years. "The two most popular styles of this acoustic music are the Delta Blues, which come from the Mississippi Delta region and the Piedmont Blues from the Carolinas and Georgia."
While he loves playing both styles, he says that his strength, and most of his music, is in Piedmont Blues tradition. This sound is characterized as having been highly influenced by ragtime music and can be considered a type of "country blues," with its up-tempo guitar beat. Reali notes that this style, with is emphasis on picking, was popular with black audiences during the Depression and well into the 1940s. The style was adapted in part by the folk singers of the 1950s and 1960s, whose records he found in his parent's attic.
Reali, who says he is "committed to keeping this music alive by using current topics that people can relate to today," will perform original music during his performance time. He has written nine of the songs on his independently produced solo album that he titled, "Bottle of Blooze." The local entertainment magazine, On Tap said of the album that it "... relies on simplicity and feel," and further refers to Reali's acoustic guitar picking as "crystal clear and at times mesmerizing."
Recently nominated for two Washington Area Music Association awards, Reali is a member of that association. He also belongs to the Piedmont Blues Preservation Society and the D.C. Blues Society, the organization that is sending him to the IBC, the nation's biggest and most respected showcase for blues musicians to present themselves on the national stage. Now in its 27th year, the challenge is rigorous. Last year 110 bands and 80 solo/duo acts filled the clubs up and down Beale Street and easily the same number or more will do so again next week. The finals take place in Memphis' Orpheum Theatre.
Win, place, show or none of the above, Reali is sure of one thing.
"I'll never stop playing [the music.] I love it too much; it gives me too much happiness," he said