It’s been 46 years since the death of Jimi Hendrix, the guitar great regarded as one of the most iconic instrumentalists in the history of music for his groundbreaking experimentation with amplification and sound textures and incendiary performances like the 1969 Woodstock Festival that have become sacred in America’s cultural timeline. While many past and present artists have praised his indelible influence, listening to Hendrix became even more personal for blues guitarist Ana Popović.
EXPERIENCE HENDRIX TOUR When: 7:30 p.m., March 12 Where: Chicago Theatre, 175 N. State Tickets: $38-98 Info: ticketmaster.com
“Hendrix was my inspiration for a really long time, from my early days of playing,” she says, relaying her story of growing up in Belgrade, Serbia in the ‘80s when American blues and hard rock were largely unheard of in the din of European dance and pop music. “To me, he’s one of the most amazing artists of the last century, and not just for his guitar playing but also his stage presence and energy. When you listen to his solos they’re still unbeatable. Nobody plays the way he did.”
Popović hopes to capture some of that magic as one part of the lineup behind the annual Experience Hendrix tribute concert returning to the Chicago Theatre March 12, also featuring Buddy Guy, Zakk Wylde, Jonny Lang and Kenny Wayne Shepherd among 13 total guitarists. Popović is most notably the only woman on the bill.
“It’s an honor to represent the ladies. I’m so thankful and want to do it right for all the next women that are going to be there,” she says, arguing that more women should be called upon for guitar festivals. “There’s rarely any on them. I want to prove that any woman can put on her ‘A game’ and shred with the rest of the boys.”
While there’s still more progress to be made, the playing field has certainly become more aligned from Hendrix’s era when few women were in bands, let alone lead instrumentalists. “More female guitarists are taking charge, becoming band leaders and gaining respect from male colleagues and producers,” affirms Popović, a multi-nominee in the Blues Music Awards who was pleased to learn of St. Vincent’s new line of guitars she designed for women and publications like “She Shreds,” giving female guitarists and bassists a higher profile. Her hope is that more women guitar heroes come out of the mix to influence future generations the way Hendrix and fellow tour mate Buddy Guy did for her.
“He was the only artist I ever asked for a signature,” she says of Guy whom she saw perform in Belgrade when she was 13 years old. “I was so amazed with his show. His music has been playing in my home since I was a toddler.”
Popović has her father Milton to thank for the introduction. “He was a huge blues fan,” she says. “It was a regular thing in our home to listen to the Chicago greats and Texas and Delta blues, and we always had jam sessions.” Last year, Popović returned to that tradition by recording an album with Milton called “Blue Room.” It was released on Father’s Day and has become one of her biggest records to date.
Its follow-up will be released this May, a giant three-album package called “Trilogy,” which in no small part was inspired by her fans’ support after her tour van was stolen outside an Oak Forest hotel while on tour in our area last summer. “I wanted to give something big back to my fans. That was such a tough time for us, but our fans rallied on social media and helped us to be able to end the tour.”
“Trilogy” will offer three different albums of jazz, blues and rock, and funk and soul, respectively recorded in New Orleans, Nashville and her new home of Memphis with noted contributors including Bernard Purdie, Herlin Riley, Delfeayo Marsalis, Ivan Neville, George Porter Jr. and Joe Bonamassa.
“When you put them together they sound like they belong to one project and that was a big surprise to me. They just fit together,” she admits. “And think it was the right time in my career to showcase all these different sides to me.”
Selena Fragassi is a local freelance writer.
Posted at 1:00 p.m. March 8, 2016.