Question: If you wanted to become the premier American blues performer, and you are a Canadian, where would you go?
Answer: Austin, of course, a melting pot for singers, songwriters and musicians who created a new genre of blues, Texas blues.
Sue Foley wanted to be part of that melting pot. She is a Canadian blues guitarist and singer who moved to Austin to refine her craft and record her first release and now, 15 albums later, will perform Feb. 11 at The Charles Bender Performing Arts Center near Historic Downtown Humble.
“I was raised in a family of guitarists, learned to play when I was 13 and I didn’t just want to strum,” she told The Tribune. “I wanted to learn my craft.”
Foley was performing in Memphis when the late Clifford Antone saw her. Foley moved to Texas when she was 21, recording for Antone’s blues record label and performing in his iconic downtown Austin nightclub.
Foley may have been new to Texas blues, but she already was familiar with American-type blues even though she was born and raised in Ontario.
“Chicago isn’t that far from us and, in the ‘90s, there was a slew of Chicago blues acts that made their way to Canada,” she said.
Those blues performers inspired the young neophyte, encouraging her to move to Austin where “ … I basically was schooled in Texas blues.”
When Foley performs on the historical Bender stage, Lake Houston will be entertained by much more than a good guitarist and blues performer. She earned the Koko Taylor Award, the 2020 Top Traditional Blues Female of the Year from the Blues Music Foundation, the highest honor a blues performer can receive.
“It was such a surprise, and I am deeply honored, especially for a Canadian like me because there are so many good blues artists out there,” Foley said.
Foley’s talent brought another Texas icon to her show when she was performing in Los Angeles.
“I was so surprised to find out that Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top was in the audience,” she said. “He jumped up on stage. It was my first time to meet him and quite an honor to sing with him.”
As a special treat, Gibbons made a special appearance, along with another blues rock icon, Jimmie Vaughan, on her album, “The Ice Queen.”
Foley can’t promise that Billy Gibbons will once again jump on The Bender stage to perform with her Feb. 11, but she has spent the pandemic refining her craft and recording a new album, “Pinky’s Blues,” which she will feature prominently in her Bender performance.
“My Lake Houston audience can expect lots of guitar, high energy electric blues. I will feature my new music and, of course, my older music that the audience loves to hear,” she said. “You can expect some acoustic guitar, too.”
After a couple of years of pandemic living, Foley is thrilled to be back on the road again and about to perform on The Bender stage.
“When I am on the road, I just focus on the show because playing for people brings me a joy that just supersedes all those tough times when you are missing family and your own bed. I just love performing,” she said.
Foley is one of many iconic performers that Director Jennifer Wooden has lined up to perform at The Bender.
“The Bender is showcasing some of Houston’s finest and varied entertainment. We have a wide range of family-friendly events from classical ballet to good ol’ rock ‘n roll,” said Wooden. “Kilgore native Ally Venable brings her style of American blues and rock to The Bender July 9.”
To learn what is happening at The Bender or to buy tickets for the Feb. 11 Sue Foley Live concert or any of the other 2022 events, humblepac.com, or 281-446-4140.