Manchester, New Hampshire, United States
|Genres||Chicago blues, electric blues, country blues, rockabilly, folk, country|
|Guitarist, harmonicist, singer, songwriter|
|Instruments||Guitar, piano, lap steel, resonator guitar, harmonica, vocals|
|Labels||Blue Bella Records (with Kilborn Alley Blues Band), independent|
|Gerry Hundt, Nick Moss, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, John Primer, Bob Corritore, Eric Paslay|
Joe Asselin (born Manchester, New Hampshire, United States) is a Chicago blues and electric blues musician based out of Champaign, Illinois. He has appeared on five releases with the Blues Music Award-nominated Kilborn Alley Blues Band, with three of them being produced by fellow blues musician Nick Moss at his Blue Bella Records label. He was also a part of the International Blues Challenge finalist group the Sugar Prophets from 2011-2013. More recently he has worked with several other Champaign-based local blues, rock, and country bands and released his own solo acoustic album Blue Genes in 2016.
Asselin originally learned how to play keyboards and harmonica when he was eight years old. While living in Litchfield, New Hampshire, he supposedly picked up the harmonica after stealing one out of his older brother Mark's glove box in his car. Music was a large part of his early family life. His brother Mark worked for the alternative band Cold as their guitar tech throughout the 1990s and also plays guitar.
Before moving to Illinois, Asselin played with the short-lived American Folk Project as the singer, harmonica player, and acoustic guitar player. After turning 22, Asselin came to Illinois in search of playing blues music. He connected with the Kilborn Alley Blues Band in Champaign in 1998 and began playing shows around the area. By 2001, the band would secure its first recording session, a live session at Urbana's WEFT radio station. In 2003, after some major regional success, Kilborn Alley would put together their first release proper, the eponymous Kilborn Alley Blues Band on local label PeeDee Records. The band's version of Johnny "Guitar" Watson's "Too Tired" single would find its way to local blues jukeboxes as far north as Chicago. The album and the band's few gigs into some small South and West Side Chicago clubs brought them to the attention of Nick Moss. Prior to the release of the band's first major record, Asselin was nearly killed in a rear-end accident by a semi truck on Interstate 57 outside of Champaign. He would go on to make a full recovery and resume playing with Kilborn Alley in 2006.
Moss produced the band's 2006 Blues Music Award-nominated release Put It in the Alley on his Blue Bella label. Asselin contributed 12 songwriting credits and harmonica to all the tracks. Asselin was also a part of the band's 2007 BMA-nominated follow-up Tear Chicago Down, in which he once again contributed songwriting and harmonica efforts. By 2010, Asselin began taking on a lesser role in the band but still appeared as the featured harmonica player on the second-to-last release on Blue Bella for Moss, entitled Better Off Now. By the end of 2010, Asselin had left the band permanently to pursue full-time a small business in landscaping.
By early 2011, Asselin found himself playing the occasional small acoustic shows around Champaign and Urbana, Illinois. He had long been acquainted with fellow local harmonica player and vocalist Josh Spence. Spence had begun putting together a project that was more of a mixture of blues, rock, and jam band music. Spence's guitarist for the project was moving out of state, and Asselin was asked to join as a guitar player. Asselin joined the band and immediately found success again both locally and regionally. In January 2011, shortly after Asselin joined, the band released their eponymous debut to regional and blues radio fanfare. Mixed by Larry Nix at Ardent Studios, the album was a blend of blues, rock, and rhythm & blues. Asselin contributed songwriting and arrangement credits on all twelve of the album's tracks. The record found itself in the top 20 of the Roots Music Report Contemporary Blues Chart and peaked at #21 on the Living Blues Magazine Radio Charts. The notoriety also got them on the slate to compete at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tennessee. At the challenge, the band placed in the Top 8 at the finals on the third day of competition, which earned them invitations to play at many blues festivals around the country.
Due to illnesses and scheduling conflicts within the band, Asselin would eventually be working solo again after 2013. Local musical relationships again helped Asselin find a home as a guitarist, vocalist and lyricist with a new project with fellow guitarist and vocalist Noah Williams. With some small regional success, Asselin and his new band mates in William Marsala returned to Memphis to compete in the International Blues Challenge in 2016. Asselin, through the help of a GoFundMe campaign, also put together the funds to record his solo self-released acoustic debut Blue Genes. He continues to perform regularly around central Illinois in various groups as well as solo. Recently, Asselin has begun working with country artist John David Daily and opened for Eric Paslay. Asselin looks to release a new single in the late spring 2018.
(with Kilborn Alley Blues Band)
(with The Sugar Prophets)