Open Book Coffeehouse presents Michelle Willson

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The Open Book Coffeehouse continues its ninth consecutive season of showcasing live, acoustic music on Saturday, February 21, at 7:30 p.m. with Michelle Willson and the Evil Gal Mini-Orchestra. The coffeehouse is located at the Canton Public Library at 786 Washington Street. Doors open at 6:45 p.m. and the music starts at 7:30. Admission is $12 for adults and $6 for students of any age.

'Evil Gal' Michelle Willson

‘Evil Gal’ Michelle Willson

A gifted swing and jump blues vocalist and a Boston area native, Willson began singing as a teenager as the lead in a number of bands. As a solo performer, she organized a well-received tribute to her singing idols Dinah Washington, Etta James and Ruth Brown, then started the band Evil Gal. Again working solo in 1994, Willson issued her debut LP, Evil Gal Blues.

Known to blues lovers around the world as “Evil Gal” and acknowledged by aficionados of jazz and blues as a passionate and gifted performer, bandleader and songwriter, Willson has had a remarkable career. She has been nominated for the W.C. Handy Award for best blues vocalist and has toured internationally.

She has released a total of four albums, and her latest, Fortune Cookie (2014) — recorded live at Scullers Jazz Club in Cambridge — has garnered rave reviews from coast to coast. A writer for the respected Allmusic.com once put it this way: “Her singing is like a strong cup of Joe — it beelines to the gut and jolts the system.” Willson is a force of nature — an emotional ball of talent that inspires with her original songs but also takes you on a journey.

Willson will be backed up by Shinichi Otsu on keyboards and Scott Shetler on sax, clarinet and mandolin.

Otsu has been a keyboardist and a musical director for Greg Piccolo (saxophonist for Jimmy Vaughn and Roomful of Blues) since 1999. He has worked for the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical Rent and “Talent Show” with Tommy Tune. He has also performed with Sam Butera’s Wildest, Marty Allen, Jay Geils, Duke Robillard, Ronnie Earl, and Sugar Ray Norcia. He has opened for Dr. John, Robert Cray, Al Martino, Roberta Flack, John Scofield, and the Sun Ra Arkestra.

Shetler has played, written, arranged, recorded, and produced music for decades. He played on and did the horn arrangements for Willson’s four albums for Rounder Records, including Wake Up Call (Boston Music Awards’ Best Blues Album 2002). He also co-wrote and recorded “Three Aces Club” with Harry “Piano Man” Van Walls for Willson’s album Evil Gal Blues, as well as Mighty Sam McClain’s Gospel anthem “Show Me the Way,” which won the International Songwriting Competition (Gospel category) in 2009. In 2008, he recorded with Jon Bon Jovi for the compilation album Give US Your Poor.

“This is the kind of guy who has paid his dues in triple,” wrote Saxophone Journal’s Tim Price of Shetler. “He deserves your ears and world class attention as a tenor saxophonist … a very satisfying anthology of a brilliant and versatile performer who straddles the fine line between blues and jazz to perfection.”

Enjoy the relaxing, warm atmosphere of friendly people, good music, hot coffee, and homebaked goodies. The Open Book Coffeehouse is located in the Community Room of the Canton Public Library and is made possible by the Friends of the Library. Parking is to the left when facing the library from Washington Street. Enter by the “Special Events” door to the left of the columns, midway into the parking area.

For more information, visit library.canton.ma.us, send an email to openbookcoffeehouse@verizon.net, find the coffeehouse on Facebook, or call 781-828-6606.

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