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David Pinsky and Phil Newton at The Playwright

The duo competes in the 2014 International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tenn.
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Local musicians Phil Newton, left, and David Pinsky will represent the Rainy Day Blues Society at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tenn.Photo by Bob Pennell
 Posted: 2:00 AM November 14, 2013

Bluesmen David Pinsky and Phil Newton check one more thing off their bucket lists this January when the acoustic duo competes in the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tenn.

The musicians are board members for the Ashland Blues Society, which Pinsky founded in 2008, and have had parallel careers in the local blues scene with their respective bands — Pinsky's The Rhythm Kings and Newton's The Shouters.

Friends for many years, the duo's collaboration didn't officially begin until 2011 when a desperate Pinsky asked Newton to help him out with a gig at the Jackson County Fair.

If you go

Who: David Pinsky and Phil Newton

When: 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 15, and 8 p.m. Monday, Nov. 18

Where: The Playwright, 258 A St., and the Wild Goose Cafe and Bar, 2365 Ashland St., Ashland, respectively

Cover: Free

Call: 541-488-9128 or 541-488-4103

"It didn't just work out, it was fantastic," Pinsky says. "It was a blast. Ever since Phil and I have been playing together it has been, one, easy; two, fun; and three, a growing experience as we challenge each other to be better and live the blues together."

The pair decided to continue performing with the hopes of one day competing in the International Blues Challenge.

To do so, the duo would have to win a blues contest hosted by a Blues Foundation-affiliated blues society. Because of their prominent roles within Ashland Blues Society, Pinsky and Newton decided it wasn't appropriate to compete in the local competition, so they headed to Portland to compete in the Cascade Blues Society's Journey to Memphis competition. They didn't make the cut, unfortunately, but later Pinsky learned through Facebook that the Rainy Day Blues Society had not yet held its contest.

"So I called a week before and joined the blues society and called Phil and said, 'Let's go to Eugene,' " Pinsky says. "We won their contest, and now we're on our way to Memphis. It's a dream come true."

Pinsky and Newton will play two shows this weekend in Ashland: one at 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 15, at The Playwright, 258 A St., and a second at 8 p.m. Monday, Nov. 18, at the Wild Goose Cafe and Bar, 2365 Ashland St. Both shows are free to attend.

While Pinsky often plays harmonica with The Rhythm Kings, as a duo he lets Newton take the harp and, instead, plays his Epiphone Zephyr Blues Deluxe acoustic guitar, aka his "precious eBay find."

Together the two play traditional and original blues that "get down with the traditional style of Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Big Bill Broonzy, Little Walter, Willie Dixon and others," Pinsky says.

"It's that meld of acoustic and Chicago-style electric blues," he adds.

For more information, see Currently, the duo is trying to raise about $4,000 to cover the expenses of the upcoming trip and, so far, has raised about a quarter of that. To contribute, see

"We're going to do our show and play our rear ends off," Pinsky says. "I don't know if we'll win or even if we'll make it to the finals, but at least we made a dent in the blues world, and I have personally accomplished something I've always wanted to."

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