Nelson Brill Goes to the Chicago Blues Festival

Real music lovers can find the melody in everything. From the park to the concert hall, our friend Nelson Brill is always on the hunt for great sound. In this blog, Nelson takes us to the oldest free blues festival in the world: The Chicago Blues Festival. Here, he gives us a detailed account of the outstanding performances made throughout the weekend by blues lions, old and young!


By Nelson Brill | August 5, 2022

The Chicago Blues Festival (“Festival”), the oldest free blues festival in the world, roared back to life this June 9-12th, presenting three days of performances held before thousands of blues fans gathered in Millennium Park in downtown Chicago. The non-stop blues action took place at the Festival’s three stages: the spacious outdoor “Jay Pritzker Stage” and lawn (“Pavilion”), the “Mississippi Juke Joint Stage” (“Juke Joint Stage”) and at the intimate “Rosa’s Lounge Stage” (hosted by Rosa’s Lounge legendary owner, Tony Mangiullo, who has presented blues and jazz acts at Rosa’s Lounge in Chicago for more than 38 years; Rosa’s Lounge Stage was nestled in the area of the Festival called “Blues Village” where several Chicago-based organizations, including Chicago Blues Revival [ a nonprofit supporting blues education and performances in the neighborhoods of Chicago) and the Mojo Museum ( working to transform Muddy Waters’ Chicago home into a future blues museum) were soliciting support. The Blues Village was located near the famous outdoor sculpture, “The Cloud Gate”, (nicknamed “The “Bean”) by British artist, Anish Kapoor, that sits at the heart of Millennium Park. A captivating vision of our “true America” was captured in strolling past the “The Bean” during the Festival. While the blues swept through the air, a constant flow of multi-racial, international and multi-generational people strolled (and danced!) in and around The Bean’s metallic surfaces, creating a beautiful vision of humanity intermingling naturally and collectively soaking-up the positive energy of the blues.

Bob Stroger and Billy Flynn – Roman Sobus photo

Every act at this year’s Festival mined its own special vein within the rich soil of Chicago blues, ever-evolving and moving forward. The Festival’s daily Tribute Shows held at the Pavilion were special treats. On Friday, June 10th, an all-star band paid tribute to legendary bassist, composer and singer, Bob Stroger, (91 years young). Stroger, tucked into a dapper bright blue suit, lead his tight band with glee, his irrepressible grin accompanying his rubbery bass lines and dusky vocals. Guitarist Billy Flynn, an alum of countless Chicago bands, fired-up crisp runs and snappy string bends on his electric guitar while a sly “One-Take” Will Shackford twirled his chords on his funky keyboard. Formidable drummer Kenny Smith held down all the dancing grooves with combustible force, his big cymbal splashes and tight snare keeping the radiant beat flowing forth.

With joyful swinging facility, Stroger and his band performed Chicago blues classics mixed with new tunes taken from Stroger’s dynamic new album, That’s My Name, (on the legendary Chicago label, Delmark Records []. On his new album, Stroger ranges afield with his spirited Brazilian band, The Headcutters, in a strutting celebration from Ma Rainey to Eddie Taylor. In addition to new tunes from this album, Stroger’s joyful set at the Festival also delivered classic Chicago blues numbers including as a fiery version of “Nothin’ But The Blues!” and a bold version of Robert Johnson’s nugget, “Sweet Home Chicago”, taken at a locomotive pace with Stroger twirling in circles with his bass in giddy celebration.

Cicero Blake – Marmoset Music

A second Tribute Show -held at the Pavilion on Saturday- was the “Chicago Soul Tribute” that featured a number of legendary Chicago blues singers backed by the swashbuckling Big Bad Blues Band, conducted by esteemed bluesman, Willie Henderson. One highlight from this rousing show was the appearance of Chicago’s elder statesman, Cicero Blake, singing with great charisma in his butterscotch-melting voice. Blake sang one of his famous tunes, “Dip My Dipper” (“I’d love to dip my dipper into someone else’s dipper!”) carousing his honeyed vocals in duet with the band’s trombone section, who added their romping low honks and soars to Blake’s sweet and sly vocals.

Peaches Staten – Roman Sobus photo

On Sunday, a final Tribute Show at the Pavillion featured another delectable treat: a celebration of Chicago’s great blues women artists in tribute to legendary performer, Mary Lane. Hosted by vivacious blues singer and entertainer, Lynne Jordan, the show ignited with a swinging all-women’s band playing a rollicking Memphis Minnie tune highlighted by Anne Harris’ fiery violin, a hot washboard solo by Peaches Staten and a burning slide guitar solo by the great Donna Herula.

Shirley Johnson – Roman Sobus photo

Vocalist extraordinaire Nora Jean Wallace, took to the stage in her flowing gown and belted out a sly blues ballad which, towards its conclusion, had Wallace shuffling wordless vocals in the deep recesses of her cheeks that created a soulful earthy edge to her powerful performance. The celebration continued with a bold Demetria Taylor (walloping a Koko Taylor-inspired “Stay Calm”) and an elegant Shirley Johnson, smoothly caressing a swinging version of “Take A Chance!” as the crowd sung and danced along to her glittering sway.

Lurrie Bell – Photo by Jack Vartoogian/Getty Images)

On its other stages, the Festival delivered astonishing treats from blues lions – old and young. One unforgettable highlight was the performance – on early Sunday morning at the Juke Joint Stage – by legendary Chicago bluesman, Lurrie Bell, accompanied by his two brothers – Jamie Bell on drums and Steve Bell on harp- accompanied by “Harry C” on bass.

Lurrie Bell- photo Kurt Swanson

From their first note of BB King’s “Everyday I Have The Blues”, Lurrie and his stellar band held the capacity audience transfixed. Lurrie played his electric guitar with effortless dazzle and soul. Its as f he pulled from the air, like an expert juggler, amazingly lithe and expressive twirls, runs and searing blasts on his guitar, instinctively knowing the placement of each note in his boogie blues or soulful blues ballad pacing. His fleshy touch on the chugging “Call Me On The Phone Sometime” was pungent and grooving, his husky vocals inhabiting his tunes with ease. The band ripped through heated versions of Muddy Waters and Junior Wells tunes with strident force with Lurrie scattering his alighting runs and propulsive bent strings in devilish glee. (At one point, he stung and hung onto a single high note for a full minute or more as it melted and swayed in the hot air). Steve Bell added his volcanic harp at every turn, utilizing his amazing circular breathing to expand and pound-down his bluster. At one point, he ventured into the crowd with his blasting harp, encouraged by the crowds surrounding him to search for the highest searing notes with raw tremulous power. In concluding their volcanic set, the band blasted away on a rocking version of “Sweet Home Chicago” and then tore up Jimmy Smith’s classic, “Got My Mojo Working!” with Lurrie a pell-mell frenzy on his glowing frets and his wiry brother, James, concussing the radiant boogie with his crisp hits of cymbals and dollops of huge bass drum.

Talking about great versions of “Got My Mojo Working”, I recommend a new CD release from the Muddy Waters legacy of recordings, Muddy Waters The Montreux Years [BMG]. Here’s a fabulous live recording that captures Waters and his stellar band at their raw rocking best. From the roguish “Nobody Knows Chicago Like I Do” to the fiery “Mojo Working” to a powerful “Same Thing”, this live nugget takes you into Waters and his great bands’ boogie and charms with tactile heat and a physical presence that begs for toe-tapping.

Billy Branch – Roman Sobus photo

Back at the Festival, Steve Bell’s blustering harp was not the only harp on fire. The legendary harp master, Billy Branch, recipient of a Living Legend Award by the storied Blues Foundation (], hit the Pavilion on Friday night with his Sons of Blues Band and rocked with a whiplash boogie focus. He presented some classic gems as well as tunes gleaned from his Roots and Branches – Songs of Little Walter album, a superb collection of powerhouse Chicago blues recorded on the legendary Chicago blues label, Alligator Records [].

His version of “Boom, Boom Out Go the Lights” – taken from Roots and Branches– was a thrill with Branch’s harp shimmering and shaking up to its highest squall (Branch using his great circular breathing and his fingers clasped around the very tip of his tiny harp to squeeze his highest climb) while his swanking keyboardist, Sumito Ariyoshi, brewed funky flourishes and colorful chord changes. Branch’s vocals were strong and confident, partnered buoyantly with his harp in its tender moments, (such as on the swaying ballad “Down In The Deep Blue Sea”), and in its seismic bursts on the blistering “Blues Shock”.

Rob Stone –

Another young lion on the harp was Chicago’s own Rob Stone, who was performing at Rosa’s Lounge Stage, along with Andrew Diehl on guitar, E.G. McDaniel on bass and Willy “the Touch’ Hayes on drums. With his tight-knit band in tow, Stone’s jump blues and swagger were a dancing wonder. He cradled his harp in a circular dance, bowing and raising, to work the fast and slurry groove. The band achieved a swinging irresistible attack that had the crowd dancing and shaking their limbs.

For more blues harp heaven, check out the fantastic recordings by harp master Bob Corritore, in particular, his 2018 CD, Don’t Let The Devil Ride, [Vizztone Group Records;] where Corritore is joined by a stellar group of musicians recorded in several studios over the years. The recording is suffused with the ambient heat of these recording sessions where brilliant musicianship is captured in its comradely give and take. For instance, take a listen to “The Glide”, (with Sugarray Rayford at the vocal helm and Junior Watson on the guitar), for a bolt of great roadhouse blues or check out Big Jon Atkinson’s expressive heated guitar on any number of other great tunes on this recording. All the vocalists on this record are sensational, digging deep with their individual vocal styles and expressive power into the narratives of each song. Carritore’s glittering harp sings and soars through out, laying down bright and gutsy soul in all his creative blues paths.

Ronnie Baker Brooks -Chicago Blues Guide

Finally, so many great guitarists, both young and seasoned, graced the stages of this year’s Festival. Guitarist extraordinaire Dexter Allen performed a searing display of guitar wizardry on Saturday at the Juke Joint Stage, hurling funky glory and vocal charisma (“Put Your Blues On Me!) and earth-shaking pulse (on his burning version of Albert King’s “Born Under A Bad Sign”). Rico McFarland and Ronnie Baker Brooks commanded the Pavilion with their assured tightly grooving bands, each player lightning quick in their guitar mastery. Both bands had the capacity audiences dancing in the aisles to their effortlessly spun melodies, rambunctious grooves and sway with their gutsy vocals – a perfect partner to their searing guitar creations.

Melody Angel – Chicago Blues Guide

And then there was the sensational performance given by the young Melody Angel, at the Pavilion late Saturday afternoon. This was the first time Angel had played before such a large audience and she was clearly inspired the moment she hit the stage. She played her electric guitar with an emblem of Jimi Hendrix blazed on its front and her version of “Hey Joe” was a volcanic treat. She strode to the sides of the stage; went down to her knees; plied her guitar with a wide grin and hurled each searing note into the air with total abandon and glee. On her version of Big Mama Thornton’s “Ball and Chain”, Angel pounced with gusto, her vocals strong and determined. Her band mates joined her perfectly with tight bass lines and cauldron drums with Angel’s mother contributed soulful backup vocals. Angel’s urgent “Dance With Me Baby!” and her dynamic version of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Spoonful” (“I’m doing it my way!”) were earthy and powerful statements, highlighting the staccato lightness of her rhythm guitar skill and her creative use of wah-wah pedals and electronic effects to augment the emotional punch of her music. In the capacity crowds’ roaring ovations, you could tell that this young talented artist had connected with her audience in a special way: a shared exuberant moment in the glory and healing power of the blues.

Melody Angel- Chicago Blues Guide

You can read more of Nelson’s concert reviews at

Hi-Fi+ Reviews the QNET Network Switch

We are excited to share our first review featuring our newly released QNET Network Switch. The results are in, and they confirm what we already knew: according to Hi-Fi+, “Nordost’s QNET is very much made of ‘The Right Stuff’”!

At the High End Show in Munich this past May, editor of Hi-Fi+, Alan Sircom, sat down for a QNET demo and was so blown away by its effects that he couldn’t help but write up a full review! Alan was able to try both the QNET alone, and with the QSOURCE as an upgrade, and was very impressed by both results, saying, “…the QNET on its own is a strong product in and of itself. I’d argue that even without the power supply, it is already in the top percentile audio-grade network switches. But as soon as you move from the plug-top power to the QSOURCE, there’s a jump to be had.” Alan praises the QNET for making his music more ‘believable’…more than any other network switch he has come upon, and states that it even caused him to rethink the order in which he recommends people upgrade their home network! 

“Thanks to Nordost QNET, network audio just took a leap forward in listenability.” – Alan Sircom, Hi-Fi+ 

You can now see Alan’s QNET article on the Reviews Page of the Nordost website. 

Or, read it in its entirety here: Nordost QNET Network Switch

Power Cord Reviews

We’ve received some fantastic reviews and awards over the years for our products. When we get new reviews, we do our best to make sure that everyone knows. We spread the word through social media, blogs, emails, and tell anyone willing to listen! However, once the press starts piling up, and new products start to get their time in the spotlight, these amazing reviews can tend to be forgotten.

While you always have access to these great reviews, thanks to the Reviews Page on the Nordost website, we want to make sure that if you are considering an upgrade, or just want to learn more about a specific product, you can do so easily. So… let’s start with power cords! 

This blog puts together some of our favorite power cord reviews, so that you can see all of these informative articles at once! 

Purple Flare: 

DAR Reviews the Nordost Purple Flare Power Cord

Cutting to the chase: the Nordost cable sounds better. It shines a light into music’s murkier corners exposing greater subtleties, most notably lengthening the tail of each piano note’s natural decay And yet, paradoxically, the additional intensity brought by the Nordost wire also sounded more relaxed. Joining the dots between amped up fervour and greater repose…” – Darko Audio  

Blue Heaven: 

Hi-Fi Choice Reviews the Blue Heaven Power Cord

The overall performance is clear and refined with a very low noise floor. The Blue Heaven is certainly a very good value-for-money, high-quality power cable option.” – Hi-Fi Choice  

NOVO Reviews the Blue Heaven Power Cord

“With the Nordost Blue Heaven power cord connected to the amplifier, I was immediately rewarded with a lower noise floor and an improved sonic experience…There’s no question that as far as cables go, power cables play a fundamental role in the performance of an audio system. Even an affordable cable like the Nordost Blue Heaven power cord can make a significant contribution to improving your music listening experience.” – NOVO

Red Dawn: 

Hi-Fi Choice Reviews the Red Dawn Power Cord

“This is certainly a high-quality power cable worthy of any top-end system.” – Hi-Fi Choice

Heimdall 2: 

Hi-Fi Choice Reviews the Heimdall 2 Power Cord

“With the Heimdall 2 in my valve preamp power supply … All the instrument images are perfect and the double- bass, which is taut and full, balances perfectly with the piano and drums.” – Hi-Fi Choice

Frey 2: 

Audiophilia Reviews Frey 2 Speaker Cables, Interconnects and Power Cords

“The Nordost cables get out of the way of the music and the environment in which it was recorded. The focus is in the quality playback and not the cables elbowing for top billing. As such, they have outstanding synergy.” – Audiophilia

Tyr 2:  

SoundStage! Ultra Reviews Tyr 2 Speaker Cables, Interconnects, and Power Cords

“There’s no question in my mind that the Norse 2 Tyr 2s sound superb. Inserting them in an already great-sounding system previously lashed up with their little brother Freys, I clearly heard consistent gains in all categories of sound.” – SoundStage! Ultra

 Valhalla 2: 

The Absolute Sound Reviews Valhalla 2 Interconnects, Speaker Cables, and Power Cords

“While the cumulative effect of having an all Nordost cable system is always the most pronounced, the effect of merely replacing one single power cable to your amplifier—for example—is something to be experienced.” – The Absolute Sound

Hifi Critic Reviews Valhalla 2 Interconnects, Speaker Cables, and Power Cords

“V2 power cabling saw timing and swing improved dramatically, bringing greater drive and dynamic realism. Stereo focus also improved, with layers now more secure and solid, and the whole system seemed to breathe more deeply, with heightened shading and colour.” – HiFi Critic

Odin 2

The Audio Beat Reviews Odin 2 Interconnects, Speaker Cables and Power Cords

“The Odin 2 power cord replaced a Valhalla 2, which I had ample experience with; the difference — again, with just one power cord — was, in my own words, ‘Astounding.'” – The Audio Beat

Questions and Answers: Power Cords

Since power cords are commonly known as the most important cables in an audio system, it’s no surprise that that we often get questions about them! We thought it would be helpful to put our “most asked” questions about power cords here so that you can find all of your answers in one place. Have any more power cord-related queries? Let us know! 

Q: How do power cords affect your sound system? 

A: Depending on how the specific power cords are constructed and what technologies they use, there can be several different sonic effects attributed to upgrades. However, in general, the biggest sonic differences tend to be registered as a change in dynamics (which sometimes disguises itself as a volume change), and in a distinction in imaging and soundstage. 

Q: Can power cords really make a difference after the miles that electricity travels in wires to get to my house?

A: While they are not audio-grade, the cables used to transfer electricity through the grid and to your home are actually a significant gauge. The “choke point” usually occurs in your home. Not only that, but it’s very important to try to minimize the effects of artifacts, EMI, and RFI that are introduced to electricity on its journey to your home and continue to be introduced from your home appliances.  

Q: Why should I upgrade the power cords supplied with components at purchase?

A: Manufacturers typically add in the power cords supplied with their components at the last minute. Oftentimes, this power cord is merely supplied as a means to an end, for as little cost as possible, so that the manufacturer can make the intended price-point of their product. As a result, little thought or effort goes into how it may affect the component. For proof of this, next time you are at a hifi show, pay attention to the cables being used in each manufacturer’s room. You will notice that when they want to make their product sound as good as possible, manufacturers opt out of using the power cords they themselves provide at point of purchase.

Q: In what order should you upgrade your power cords? 

A: The most important power cord in your system is the power cord feeding your distribution bar. This should be the first power cord you upgrade. Beyond that, while no two systems are the same (and there may be many variations), we suggest upgrading the rest of your system in the following order: pre-amp, power amp, DAC, phono stage, transports (based on usage).

Q:  I’d like to upgrade my cables. Ideally, I would like to stick to the same series of power cords throughout my entire system, but for budget reasons the upgrade will be a slow process. Can I wire my system with power cords from different ranges within the Nordost range? 

A: We completely understand why it might be hard to stick with your “ideal” cable throughout the system, so prioritizing does make sense. One of the reasons why we design our cables the way we do is so that they can easily be upgraded and mixed throughout your system without any drawbacks. All Nordost cables have the same design philosophy, so while products improve due to added conductors, gauges, and technologies as they progress up the lines, they all have the same sonic signature. This allows you to choose your cables according to your own personal needs and budget, and upgrade piece by piece as needed and when able. 

Q: What is the minimum recommended length for power cords?  

A: The minimum recommended length is 2 meters. 

Q: Is it worth upgrading the power cord that feeds a streamer in your home entertainment system? 

A: When we aren’t enjoying our music, many of us are spending a lot of our time streaming television and movies. For those of you that use an Apple TV media streamer, or any other streaming device powered by a figure 8 power cord, there is an easy, inexpensive upgrade that is sure to take your streaming to the next level! Nordost’s entry level Purple Flare Figure 8 Power Cord is the perfect solution for your Apple TV. The Purple Flare Power Cord is a high-speed, low-loss power cord that will allow your streamer to produce a picture worthy of your home entertainment system. 

For more information on upgrading your streamer with the Purple Flare Power Cord, read this review.

Q: Is it worth upgrading the power cord that feeds your subwoofer?

A: If the amplifier in your subwoofer isn’t as good as the amplifiers in your primary loudspeakers, it’s imperative to optimize its situation, in order to allow your subwoofer to succeed. This can easily be done by upgrading the power cord feeding the subwoofer. A really good power cord is essential to ensure that the built-in amplifier performs at its absolute best. With quality AC feeding your subwoofer, you will finally be able to enjoy those powerful, low frequency notes in your music, and not be stuck experiencing them as just a rumble.

Nordost Playlist – August 2022

Nordost products are designed to allow you to enjoy your favorite performances as they were intended to be heard. All of us here are passionate about great music, and want to share our passion with you. Each one of us has our own style… We listen to a wide variety of artists and genres but, in a way, we appreciate them all. We thought that we would share a few of the songs on our own personal playlists with you each month. Some may be classics, some may be brand new, some may not even be to your tastes, but we hope that there is something here for everyone.

Here are some of the songs that we will have on rotation this August.

You can now listen to our monthly playlist here:  TIDAL  | SPOTIFY  |  QOBUZ

  1. Everybody’s Gotta Live—Love—Reel To Reel
  2. If Only I Could—Blues Company—X-ray Blues  
  3. We Bad We Know—ZOI, Byfox—We Bad We Know
  4. Love and Happiness—Marc Broussard—S.O.S.: Save Our Soul
  5. Keith Don’t Go (2 Meter Session)—Nils Lofgren—Jan Douwe Kroeske presents: 2 Meter Sessions
  6. As Easy As Rolling Off A Log—James Taylor—American Standard
  7. I See A Darkness—Johnny Cash—American III: Solitary Man
  8. Black Hole Sun—Chris Cornell—Songbook
  9. Give Me Back My Man—The B-52’s—Wild Planet
  10. Chicago—Sufjan Stevens—Illinois