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Dueling Blues at Memorial Bash

Put together by the River City Blues Society, the bash also includes local blues rockers the Phifer Marshall Band, acoustic trio Sheryl Warner and the Southside Homewreckers, and jump and postwar blues devotees Li'l Ronnie and the Grand Dukes, for whom Olive used to play.

Paul Geremia is a musician's musician, an extremely accomplished fingerpicking guitarist with a wealth of material to pick from. He has a naturally flowing rhythmic sense, an appealing voice, a sensitive and tasteful delivery, and he's technically spot-on.

From his home in Rhode Island, Geremia balks at naming just a few influences and instead lists some of those he's met, such as Howlin' Wolf.

"I met Howlin' Wolf around '66 or '67," he says. "I invited him and his band to come to my place after their gig, and I was very surprised that they all showed up about one in the morning. He was very friendly, a paternal kind of guy, and he liked to give advice."

About what, pray tell?

"About how to drink … and he also showed me some stuff on guitar he'd learned from Charlie Patton." Geremia learned the D-minor guitar tuning from Skip James himself one winter night in Harvard Square, and he was also inspired by Mississippi John Hurt at a workshop in '62 or '63.

Costello's "big three" are very different. Reached on the road after a gig in Cleveland, Costello shows he has "big ears" with the influences he names: "Muddy Waters overall for electric blues band," he says. "Al Green for the soul, and Bob Dylan — I'm a huge Bob Dylan fan."

Costello and Geremia have at least one thing in common. Asked when he had his "blues epiphany," Costello recalls the moment quickly: "I was 12 when it happened. It was when I first heard Howlin' Wolf with Hubert Sumlin on guitar — that hit me hard, and I said that's what I want to do."

Catch their sets, and you'll find they both play from the heart, producing music that has captured each of their souls. In the blues world, there's plenty of room for that, no matter how different they may appear. — Andy Garrigue

Third Annual Bobby Olive Memorial Blues Bash takes place Sept. 25 at the Boulders from 1 to 7 p.m. Tickets are $12 in advance at Plan 9 or and $15 at the gate. Tickets for ages 6-12 cost $5.

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