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Local guitarist, partner reach semi-finals at Memphis blues competition

Singer/songwriter Tony Cuchetti (left) and Cottage Grove blues guitarist Joey Flip performed at last month's International Blues Competition in Memphis, Tenn. Submitted photo

COTTAGE GROVE — Blues guitarist Joe Filipovich of Cottage Grove made the semifinals at last month’s International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tenn.

He and singer/guitarist Tony Cuchetti represented the Minnesota Blues Society at the competition.

The annual blues brawl gathers bands and solo artists from across the country — and some from farther away. Filipovich said there were musicians from Croatia and South Korea.

To qualify for the trip, Filipovich and Cuchetti won the Minnesota Blues Society competition, the Road to Memphis Challenge, in April 2018. They earned the high score in the solo/duo category. The Dee Miller Band won in the full band category.

The International Blues Challenge ran Jan. 22-26 in the bars and clubs of the legendary Beale Street, which served as the proving ground for blues artists W.C. Handy and B.B. King.

“Everybody that goes down there, they love it because of all the networking,” Filipovich said. “I think there’s around 200 blues societies from around the whole world … There’s bars up and down Beale Street. There’s all these acts playing back to back for two days straight … All the musicians down there were just amazing. I think there were 80 people from Minnesota who came down.”

Filipovich, a 2003 graduate of Park High School, performs and records as Joey Flip. He conducts blues workshops at local high schools and gives free harmonica lessons to kids at the annual Strawberry Fest in Cottage Grove.

He and Cuchetti recorded a new CD, “Tin Can Tunes,” which features six original songs as well as covers of such classics as “Down Home Girl.” The CD’s title refers to the custom vintage oil can guitar played by Filipovich. He builds and sells them through his company Hayburner Guitars www.hayburnerguitars.com.

“Since we won the Road to Memphis competition, we thought we should probably get a CD together,” Filipovich said. “We thought it would be cool.”

The CD includes a blues version of “Amazing Grace” by Filipovich and Brazilian harmonica player Indiara Sfair.

“Tin Can Tunes” is available for download at store.cdbaby.com/cd/tonycuchetti1.

He and Cuchetti have been playing together for two years.

“He does almost 300 shows a year,” Filipovich said. “I do about 200 shows a year. We try to get together once a month to do a show together.”

William Loeffler

William Loeffler is a playwright and journalist from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He worked 15 years writing features for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He has also written travel stories based on his trips to all seven continents. He and his wife, Michelle, ran the Boston Marathon in 2009. 

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