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Reverend Raven and the Chain Smokin' Altar Boys on Milwaukee's Blues Renaissance


The Milwaukee area has a rich musical history whose earliest contributors helped unify emerging immigrant communities using polka and waltz. In the late 20th Century, the sound of Milwaukee music was often characterized using the punk garage band stylings of the Violent Femmes or the heartland rock of the BoDeans. But when you think of the blues, Milwaukee may not be the first city that comes to mind. One local band thinks that's about to change.

Milwaukee-based blues band, Reverend Raven and the Chain Smokin' Altar Boys, believes the genre is undergoing a renaissance here in the city. "There's more places to play again," says lead vocalist, Reverend Raven. "There are a lot of younger bands all of a sudden."

The band credits artists like Stevie Ray Vaughan with propelling the blues' characteristic sounds back into popular music. Vaughan's style of alternative blues music is not without controversy, however, and the band admits there's no shortage of complaints when artists tinker with the genre. 

"Sometimes the blues purists will complain about stuff like that, but at the same time it really does help the people that are out there playing that genre, because when it gets more popular, more people will stick around or go out to hear a blues band," says harmonica player, "Barefoot" Jimmy Schwarz.

Reverend Raven and the Chain Smokin' Altar Boys were featured at this year's Bastille Days celebration. The band has a full schedule of shows all over Wisconsin and the Midwest in coming weeks. 

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