This February, Portland's Robbie Laws Band will represent the Pacific Northwest at the 2012 International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tenn.

This February, Portland's Robbie Laws Band will represent the Pacific Northwest at the 2012 International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tenn.

Guitarist Robbie Laws is a seasoned bluesman, having garnered the "Best Blues Act in 2010" award from the Washington Blues Society, the 2011 "Outstanding Achievement in Blues" award from the Portland Music Association, as well as 21 Cascade Blues Association Muddy Awards, including nine for "Best Electric Guitarist."

Laws along with vocalist Karen Lovely, drummer Billy Rock and bassist John Hauschild will play a blues medley at 9:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 20, at Alex's Plaza Restaurant, 35 N. Main St., Ashland.

The foursome will highlight blues standards by the greats, including T-Bone Walker, Muddy Waters, Jimmy Reed, B.B. King and Howlin' Wolf.

"Blues has always been my thing," Laws says. "I've played all styles of music, Top 40, jazz. I was once in a 16-piece Mexican folk band with horns and percussion ... I also was playing in a Celtic-rock band for a while where we would take traditional Irish songs and play them really fast like Yngwie Malmsteen playing Irish fiddle tunes ... but the blues feels like home to me."

Laws calls blues the Rosetta stone of music, saying the genre is the emotional content for other genres.

"Jazz without blues is like bread without yeast, it can't rise," says Laws, quoting Carmen McRae.

Laws' band — bassist Ben Laing, Chris Alexander on B3 organ and Randy Herbert on drums — plays straight-up blues and is putting together its debut album, which has temporarily been titled "That Woman's Keepin' House with the Devil." The original album, due out this spring, will cover all the faces of blues, including Chicago blues, jazz blues, back-porch blues and rootsy, funky, swamp blues.

"It's a varied collection of blues — a fuse of the blues," Laws says.

Although the CD is his first with this project, Laws has released five other albums, including two with The Urban All-Stars ("Midnight Rain" and "Takin' the Night Train"), two solo albums ("Deep Ellum Blues" and "River City Blues") and one live album, "Live in Seattle at The Triple Door."

Although he's been playing for 26 years, Laws didn't buy his first guitar until he was in his early 20s.

"I had a girlfriend who had a brother who had a guitar lying around, and I would go over there and pick it up," he says.

Laws later studied music at Mount Hood Community College and has been teaching and playing ever since.

The cover to his show at Alex's is $5. Call 541-482-8818 or see www.robbielawsmusic.com.