Gig Seeker Pro


Portland, Oregon, United States | Established. Jan 01, 1979 | SELF

Portland, Oregon, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 1979
Band R&B Blues




"Gold Mine Self Produced"

Stevens Hess Band.. Vicki Stevens and Sonny Hess are a natural combination that really rings true with their first full-length CD, Gold Mine. The album contains seven original tracks penned by Sonny and Vicki, with two covers, and is a sensational follow-up to their earlier EP, Blues Alchemy. Both Sonny and Vicki are award-winning artists in their own right individually, as well as receiving the CBA’s Best New Act Muddy Award this past year for putting this outstanding outfit together. And though Sonny has worked with many of the Northwest’s finest vocalists, Vicki Stevens is by far the best match for her since the tragic loss of Paulette Davis in 1996. They go together just like the Louis Jordan song “Beans and Cornbread,” like strawberries and shortcake, like corn beef and cabbage, like red beans and rice . . . well, you get the picture. The disc opens with a song written by Sonny and the late Paulette Davis, titled “Bad Intentions.” Starting out with a deep bass line from Jim Hively and sultry saxophone from guest Fenix that leads into Vicki’s smooth vocals and Sonny offering a little biting guitar break midway through. It is the perfect song to lead off this fine disc. That’s followed by the title track, “Gold Mine,” where Vicki blows some mighty chunky harmonica while growling the vocals. On “Kiss And A hug,” Sonny brings out the guitar licks that’ll draw you right in. This song is one of two non-originals from the band and was written by Greg Carter. The other cover track is the Burt Bacharach classic, “Baby It’s You,” a completely unexpected number toward the end of the disc that is going to put a smile on your face. “Someone Like You” is a slow blues number again with Sonny shining brightly on guitar. “Saved” has a nice funky pace with more exceptional performances from everyone. Hively’s bass and Kelly Pierce really run the attack on this one, with yet more burning harp solos from Vicki. The song mixture takes on a variety of angles that are fun and often revealing of their own personal experiences, both ups and downs. Gold Mine is an enjoyable outing for a duet that just seems made to work with one another and hopefully it’s a partnership that will continue to release many more as time moves forward. Total Time: 42:16 Bad Intentions / Gold Mine / Kiss And A Hug / Saved / Someone Like You / Crazy / Blues In You / Baby It’s You / Blues Will Getcha
‹ 2014 Muddy Award Considerations – Northwest CDs - Greg Johnson Cascade Blues Association

"Hess/Stevens Band releases hot new CD, announces upcoming Christmas concert"

Get ready for an article full of information and good vibes! This reviewer was invited to the Kennedy School McMenamin’s (5736 NE 33rd, Portland, Ore.) for the release of blues legends Sonny Hess’ and Vicki Stevens’ new CD Goldmine, produced by Hess herself. The party was well-attended; it was Hess’ birthday and many cards floated her way, along with hugs and best wishes for more years of joy and blues ahead.

This celebration was also the platform for announcing the upcoming 16th Annual NW Women Rhythm and Blues Christmas Concert Gala. Slated to take place on Thursday, Dec. 11, at the German American Society, 5626 N.E. Alameda St., Portland, Ore. 97213, it starts at 6 p.m. and includes dancing, great live music, a silent auction, a holiday feast and a raffle. A second show was added Sunday, Dec. 14, 6 p.m., at The Spare Room, N.E. 42nd & Alberta. Tickets are $20 per person for the concert and there is a dinner package available that includes the concert for $37.50. For ticket info, go to: or phone: 503-319-1333.

This event benefits Kids for Cancer, The Candlelighters Organization and Musicians for the Cure. These fine, giving groups need your support in order to help those with so much more pain and need than most. Don’t forget why we celebrate Christmas and those who need help.

Some of the featured performers for this wonderful annual event are going to be many well-known women blues legends like : Sonny Hess and Vicki Stevens, Lisa Mann, LaRhonda Steele, Lady Kat, Ellen Whyte, Karen Lovely, Rae Gordon, Nayibe Rojas and last but never least, Kelly Pierce on the drums. Music thrills don’t come much better than what these gifted and giving performers are going to share with their audience this night. Be there or Christmas just won’t be the same!

This writer was honored to meet Hess and Stevens at the CD release party and finally hear and rejoice in their collaborated efforts. On hand to celebrate and to lend a hand in music was the amazing Lisa Mann on back up harmonies and bass (By the way, Mann has a new CD in the mix herself) and Fenix Sanders working his magic on the sax.

Many of the tunes in the sets played that night were from their new CD Goldmine, a bargain for $15 and available through Sonny Hess Productions. Every song is wonderful, but the title cut shows off the band’s funky rhythm; Hess wrote Blues In You, telling about Stevens’ awakening to the blues she was born to sing. Goldmine would make a perfect Christmas gift!

Blues lovers, do yourselves a favor and buy Goldmine; meet everyone on Dec. 11 and 14 for the 16th Annual Women Rhythm and Blues Christmas Concert Gala. Visit or phone 503-319-1333 for more info. Also see ad and Bandstand for performance schedule. - Positively Entertainment

"CD "All Aces" Review"

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Sonny Hess Band

Princeangel Records

Even though they may call her Sonny “Smokin’” Hess, that does not mean there are any smoking mirrors involved with her music. But there is plenty of magic. This is Sonny’s first release taking the lead position in front of the band for a complete project and she draws extensively from her life’s experiences. Be they ups or downs. It brings about a very personal and often quite emotional compilation of tunes. Just about every number is straight from Sonny’s own pen, showing complexity and a knack for some catchy and funky songwriting.

Of the twelve offerings, I would have to say my personal favorites include the Stax-like feel and nice opening saxophone from Kevin LaBaron on “Got-ta Win It” with Lisa Mann’s back-up vocals making it jump; the traditional blues sound and double entendres of “Freight Train”; and “I’m Not Leavin’ You” that sounds like a song from Heart in their heyday (“I’m not leavin’ you, I’m already gone”). “It’s All My Fault” showcases the match made in Heaven that Sonny has always had when paired with Lisa Mann. It’s a break-up song, stating that the thrill is gone, but “it’s not my fault that you’re blue, I just tried to love you the best I could.”

Perhaps the finest song on the disc is “Lie Myself.” It faces the hard reality of living with cancer and how to deal with it in your personal emotions. Sometimes having to lie to yourself just to get to sleep at night. “Lie Myself” is also the most heart-wrenching number on All Aces because of this very reason. “Want to feel something else / Be someone else / Someone take this pain away.” It just does not get any more open than that.

Sonny’s band is in prime form, with Jim Hively’s bass and Kelly Pierce’s drums laying down some great grooves, and Kevin LaBaron really lays out some funky sax work, all complimenting Sonny’s tasty guitar. Guest Jimi Lund also delivers nice guitar on the song “Fate” and the Freddie King classic “Pack It Up.”

Sonny Hess has had more than her share of trials and tribulations over the past few years. If the notion that you have to live the blues in order to play them holds true, then All Aces follows suit. No wild cards thrown into this mix. Sonny delivers a winning hand. Read ‘em and weep, All Aces, baby!

Total Time: 47:29

Pack It Up / No Fear / Leave Home / Better Be All She Needs / Got-ta Win It / Lie Myself / I’m Not Leavin’ You / Fate / Freight Train / It’s All My Fault / The Red Light Song / It’s All My Fault (explicit verse - BLues Notes

"...vibrant performance...."

Sonny Hess Band delivers vibrant performance at CD release party w/guest performers at Kennedy School

Brad D. Morley |
Stories |
Volume 36 Number 5

The Pacific Northwest is home to so many talented musicians; it seems at times folks here are a bit spoiled. It’s this same music culture that draws up-and-coming blues hopefuls to move to this great city. They hold hopes of joining ranks with their idols as well as peers, to perform in a vibrant blues music scene.

One such artist is Sonny Hess, a long-standing favorite among blues fans in Portland. Hess has rocked stages for decades, refining her sound and chops to become one of the cities favored artists. After she picked up the guitar at the young age of eight years old, Hess was already gigging as a teenager. Eventually playing with the late Paulette Davis, Hess honed her craft and learned the ropes to perform live and deliver a show to keep the fans coming back for more.

Hess was the first woman to be nominated for the Cascade Blues Association’s best lead guitar award and also for a Muddy Awards Lifetime Achievement Award. Opening shows for international acts such as Etta James, Junior Walker and Bobby Womak has put the Sonny Hess Band in front of 100s of 1000s of blues fans. Hess also produces the N.W. Women in Blues show, performing at the Waterfront Blues Festival for the last 15 years.

The Sonny Hess Band just released a new CD, entitled All Aces. With a great release party at The Kennedy School, Portland’s finest musicians were in attendance to show support and dance the night away.

Track one. Pack It Up, is a smooth blues tune, with a catchy hook reminiscent of classic Robert Cray. It’s a fun song and a great opener for the songs that follow.

The disc moves perfectly into a jazzy number titled No Fear and is a Hess original. This piece has a fantastic scratchy guitar track that runs through the song and lends a perfect background for saxophonist Kevin LaBaron. He lays down a solo that will cause discerning horn fans to repeat the song just to hear his chops. LaBaron is a terrific part of the band’s live show. He closed the CD release party by performing lead vocals on a song that had the entire dance floor packed.

Leave Home is the third track on the disc and it’s a perfect spot for a slow groove dance song. The placement of songs on a recording are as critical to a listener as they are in a live performance and this song’s placement shows the effort put into this release by producers Hess and Kevin Nettleingham.

Track four, Better Be All She Needs, cranks the tempo right back up. This song has a strong vocal hook and performance by Hess; once again that great rhythm guitar sound lays it down and brings in a superb sax performance.

Lie Myself is also a Hess original, with a smooth, smoky groove. This song is a standout on the disc and also allows room for some great bass work performed by Jim Hively. A great live performer, Hively is right at home sharing the stage with Hess and the band. He lives right where he should, in between the kick and the snare drum; all the while, he makes use of the opportunities to add his own special flavor to the brew made up by this band of true professionals.

Track seven, I’m Not Leaving You, has a strong and traditional blues hook. Also penned by Hess, this song has everything it needs to break this band into the majors, regardless of its placement on the disc. If Hess is looking for a radio single, this is it.

The collection also has some bonus tracks featuring friends of the band. Lisa Mann, who also performed at the CD release party, lays down bass tracks and adds some background vocals on tracks 10 through 12. In attendance at the release with Lisa Mann was her husband Alan Marckell, a very talented bass player as well, and a member of Kevin Selfe’s band.

Also sharing duties on the recording of track five, Got–Ta Win It are singers Jamie Pemberton Hess, Dan Hess, Sheryl Hess and V - Positively Entertainment

"Sonny Hess Band reaches high level of popularity through hard work, passion"

some comments from the article... This band puts on the finishing touches resulting in a big glorious wall of sound.....
Cover article please use link below to read full article... - Positively Entertainment

"Precision of seasoned players"

...the precision of seasoned players with the life experiences to write gut felt lyrics and music, revealing and edgy R&B influence. Guitar and sax play intricate harmonies while bass and drum are laying down a dynamic beat. Fans of the Sonny Hess Band are never shorted on an energetic, danceable & quality show. - RArcher, DISContent Blog

"Mojo Workin'"

Wow, girl, where'd you get those New Orleans chops? You've got the mojo workin' - Curtis Salgado - Curtis Salgado

"Musical fire and Passion...."

I have had the pleasure of working with Sonny Hess in the NW Women R&B Showcase for over a decade now. She is a true professional and her musical fire and passion cannot be denied. - Lisa Mann


Sonny Hess unleashes her prowess in every performance. Her guitar playing is heart bending, soul shaking and mind altering. - Ellen Whyte


Osmosis - when the subject is blueswoman Sonny Hess, the "apparently effortless absorption" of osmosis is wholly appropriate. A 46 year old lead guitarist today, Hess's early experience came in the 80's as part of a group called Koffee, which toured with the likes of rock group Quarterflash. - The Bulletin

"Show Stopper"

"NW Women Rhythm & Blues was a show stopper and a performance that won't be forgotten." - The Oregonian


In speaking of The Northwest Women Rhythm & Blues..... a great cast of musicians. This ensemble is just what the series needed as a full course experience. After listening to the first set, if the appetizer set the tone for the entree than this will be a tasy meal..... dig in! Experience a night that will stay with you wherever you my wander. - Festival Guide, Oregonian

"Sonny Hess - Power"

Sonny Hess; power to the biz; power to the women; power to the blues. That's in no particular order. Sonny Hess is one of the most well-rounded and grounded women in the blues. A prolific songwriter, her preferences in the music biz and as a CD producer on notable discs are broad. They range from personal compilations, some with the Northwest Women Rhythm & Blues and KMHD radio; About Damn Time with Paulette Davis; a tribute CD to the late Paulette Davis; Fate, her own all-original CD and one in the oven, soon to come, Still Smokin. A mentor to many over the years with emphasis on the women in blues. In her many years here in the Portland area, Hess has played most the venues and frequently at the Waterfront Blues festival. A mixture of blues with some funkiness, Hess' licks on her guitar neck were hot and the vocals with Hinchcliff's and Pierce's harmonies were right on mark. Sonny Hess gets you there, her performances are enthralling, to say the least. - Positively Entertainment

"Sonny Hess Power Band Smokes"

Since 1991, Sonny Hess has grown to become one of Portlands busiest blues-jazz staples and her Power Band does not disappoint. As a performer at Portland's Waterfront Blues Festival, a winner of Portland Music Associations Crystal Award for Outstanding R&B Act and coordinator of regional women's blues artists, Hess exemplifies the spirit of the Northwest's female blues performer. Hess, who has grown more confident and nonchalant in her performance role over time; she's sporting her well-loved, well-worn Paul Reed Smith guitar, expressing warm, clean blues tones, pushed right to the edge. Clearly they don't call her Sonny 'Smokin' Hess for nothing because this woman can play. When she takes the stage, you definitley feel like ordering another drink and sitting back for a while, because you're not going home until she takes you the rest of the way. She always delivers. - Positively Entertainment

"Northwest Women R&B Unites Top Player"

Sonny Hess Productions unites many of the regions top female players to produce a myriad of blues styles. Sonny Hess is the founder and currently driving force behind the NW Women R&B. The group has acquired a certain unity and grown on its own as it has developed over the years. The fluid lineup changes every show, as many as 27 women are involved, allowing for plenty of diversity and variety in performance styles and in song selections. Impressive resumes can be cited for all the members, with accomplishments too numerous to mention in total. - Positively Entertainment

"A Woman of Blues"

A "Woman in Blues" - Sonny hess - is someone who walks their talk. Sonny Hess performs with authenticity, whether she's playing for 15 people or 4,000 people, she enters fully "into the music". "I don't internalize compliments,"Hess states modestly. "I wish I could." Perhaps this characteristic is the fire that drives her artistically; maybe it is the trigger for her to enter so fully into the execution of the material. Sonny Hess was one of four nominees, the only female, for the Cascade Blues Association's "Muddy Award" for "Best Blues Electirc Guitar", quite an honor in a town full of outstanding Blues guitar players! - Blues Notes

"Good Energy"

Hess, lead guitarist, sings and pens many tunes. She sings with compassion and determination, her vocals direct and meaningful. She is a strong image, an attractive woman on a mission to express her own music in her own way. R&B is where she hears her beat; in the songs that she writes, she is right on. She is hot, sexy, soulful and one can see she puts her whole self ( body, mind, spirit) into her music. All her tunes on her set list are danceable and it is impossible not to get up and move and groove. She's a front person with personality, an original artist, a veteran of the Portland music scene. Hess shines. Hess' guitar playing is smooth and solid. She can accompany herself, then rip into a screaming solo effortlessly. She has an edgy, exciting sound that is passion driven. - Willamette Week


It's About Damn Time - 1995
A Tribute to Blues Diva, Paulette Davis
Playin' with My Friends - 1996
Proximity - 1998
Fate - 1999
Girls Night Out - 2001
Jane Doe - 2001
Sonny Hess Compliation - 2002
NW Women Rhythm & Blues "Live" - 2003
Battle of the Bald "Live" - 2007
NW Women R&B Christmas CD - Lit Up - 2007
"TIME" Sonny Hess Band w/Rae Gordon - 2008
Single "Takes Love" Sonny Hess & Lady Kat- 2010
All Aces CD - 2012

Blues Alchemy CD - 2013

Gold Mine 2014

Soul Barin' Blues 2017

Retrospective 2018

StrumBroads Smoke 2020



Sonny Hess, Northwest Blues Legend  guitarist, vocalist and songwriter, band leader. Picked up a guitar at the age of 8, by the time she was a teenager she was picking up gigs all over and played in Portland’s top bands at the time, The Koffee Band and Margo Tufo’s Blues Sisters. From there she met the show stopping, late great, Paulette Davis. This band won Portland’s music association Crystal award for outstanding R&B act of the year 1991. Paulette Davis gave Sonny the nickname ‘Sonny Smokin’ Hess’, they played together for four years and out of that came the CD “It’s About Damn Time”. After Paulette passed, Sonny continued their legacy as the Power Band always known for upbeat danceable R&B, a real energetic show. Sonny went on to be the first woman nominated in a male dominated field for Best Lead Guitar by the Cascade Blues Assoc, also holds a nomination for "Lifetime Acheivment Award" After the joining of Vicki Stevens, they went on to win Muddy Award Best New Blues Act 2013 by the Cascade Blues Assoc  She has played with, sung with and composed with many of the regions top artists, as well as opening for Etta James, Jr Walker and the All Stars, Average White Band and Bobby Womack. Sonny Hess is also widely known for her productions of the NW Women R&B Show, a specialty show she takes pride in producing. Her show has been seen by 100’s of 1,000’s over the past 20 years at the Safeway Waterfront Blues Festival. Sonny Hess, revered for her unflagging support of other artists in the local rhythm & blues community. She brings to the front of her stage-
True Blue-Low, rich, full bodied voice that carries the likes of Etta James, with a little of Wynonna's twang and the depth of Della Reese.

Mr. Kelly Pierce our drum/percussion man, is like a brother to Sonny as they have played together for over 20 years. He is in sync with her groove and knows how to anticipate her next move. Kelly is an emotional player with incredible dynamics.
Bass man, veteran player, Robert Ellison. It has been said that he has the best bass tone in the region, ask him, he’d say ‘aw, just the way I play, my attack.’ Roberts tone sends audiences running towards the dance floor and other bass players trying to emulate.

Band Members