Arizona Blues Showdown Crowns Paul Cruize Blues Crew Band and Juke Joint

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While the winners gain the right to represent Arizona at the IBC, they don't get any funding. Leaders of both bands estimate the trip with gas, room and board will run about $3,000, so they will be having performance fundraisers to pay their own way.

Paul Cruize, guitarist and lead singer, is both excited and surprised about his band winning. "Everything happened so fast. It was a whirlwind. I didn't expect to win because we had never won a contest before; we were confident that we had the goods, but you just don't know if everything is going to connect," he says. "There were so many good groups, and we just didn't know what was going to happen."

This three-piece -- which includes Royce Murray on organ and Tim Robinson on drums -- has been together only a couple of months, but all three musicians are veterans.

For the competition, they performed four songs: "Loving on Borrowed Time" by Bobby Bland; a blues version of "Ode to Billy Joe" that had the audience laughing; "Spittin' Game" by Anthony David; and an original tune called "Mumbo Jumbo."

"Winning validates us as a legitimate contender in the blues world," Cruize said. "It means we have something to say and it gives us a chance to say it.

Leon J was equally proud and excited about Juke Joint winning the duo/solo category.

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