Monkton’s Mark Lavoie to play the blues at sea

MONKTON — In just a few weeks, Addison County musician Mark LaVoie will be heading to the tropics on a sold-out luxury cruise.
Sounds ritzy, but for LaVoie the trip will be a working vacation. The East Monkton harmonica player forms one part of a blues-roots duo with New York City-based blues singer Bill Sims Jr., and theirs will be one of nearly 30 groups to perform aboard the week-long Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise in the Caribbean.
Over the years, the duo has played at music festivals and in venues across the nation, and in 2010 released an album, “American Blues Roots Duo.” Last September, a national tour took them to Seattle and California, then back east to the Big Picture Theater in Vermont.
When he’s not on the road, LaVoie also plays local venues as a member of the duo Cooper and LaVoie, with Bob Recupero.
But LaVoie said the life of a career musician involves constant searching for new performance opportunities, and last year he set his sights on the Legendary Blues cruises, which run twice a year and draw blues fans, agents and big-name blues artists like Taj Mahal and Kenny Wayne Shepherd.
“Everyone who’s on that cruise is a world-class entertainer,” said LaVoie.
LaVoie said he was told the field was far too competitive for his combo to perform, but that didn’t deter him.
“It’s the passion (for music) that keeps you going,” he said.
After networking at festivals and on the web from his home in rural Vermont — “The Internet is a great thing,” he said — LaVoie found out in March that he and Sims had been invited to play on the blues cruise this January.
The duo will put on four performances throughout the week, and LaVoie will also be giving harmonica workshops.
But he’s most looking forward to jamming with all of the talent there. The jam session, LaVoie said, is the most natural way to make music for him.
“If I sit at a jam session, I’m just able to hear it and let go,” he said. “I don’t think about it — it just comes to me in the moment.”
So as the departure for the curies draws near, LaVoie isn’t rehearsing for his performances with Sims — the two have never rehearsed their music. But he is preparing mentally for the big trip.
“I’m starting to get a little nervous and excited,” said LaVoie. “It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Reporter Andrea Suozzo is at [email protected].

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