A Quick Chat with Virginia & the Slims

Virginia and the Slims is a high energy swing/jump blues band that makes music designed to get crowds out on the dance floor. I last checked in with the band way back in 2018; this time I spoke with longtime lead vocalist Joanna Boyd Best.

Now that we’re coming out of the pandemic period when live performances were restricted or stopped completely, the group has quickly returned to a busy schedule. What are some of the notable shows you’ve done of late?
Joanna Boyd Best: We’ve done two mini-tours. One was a run through Eastern North Carolina, with two dates in New Bern – one at Tap That! and another at The Wedding Barn – plus a show in Newport. And we traveled to Tennessee and Alabama; highlights of that tour included performances at Redbud Venue in Chattanooga and Monday Night Brewing in Birmingham.

The band’s repertoire is based upon jump blues, that postwar style of music that came out of big bands scaling down for economic reasons. Nearly 80 years later, what do you think explains the enduring appeal of jump blues and swing?
I think that anybody can relate to it because it’s the root of so many other genres. Our audience is primarily people in their 60s, but there are people in their 20s and 30s as well. Kansas City is where I started singing blues and related genres; that connects me personally to the music.

The band released an album, Busman’s Holiday in 2020. Do you include songs from that release in your live set alongside classics like “Kansas City”?
We sprinkle two or three of those songs in our set each night. Two that we always include are “Take Me to the Mardi Gras” and “Shine.”

Virginia and the Slims has a solid core group of players. Saxophonist/keyboardist James Kamp has been with the band from the beginning. Who else is in the group?
Howie Neal and Kim Eiring play guitar; James “Charlie” Rapp is our bassist, and John Barrett is on drums. We’re often joined by guest musicians including guitarists Wayne Kirby and Aiden Jensen, and Peter Salvucci on sax.

What’s coming up for the band?
Talks about releasing new music are just starting. James and I both write, so it’s just a matter of coming together and seeing what we’ve each got from the last coupe of years. And we want to do a video, too; that’s something we haven’t done before: make a mini-movie. It’s fun thinking creatively about that.
Meanwhile, we’ve started an annual “Kilt Night” at the Joint Next Door in Fairview, and we’ve been pleased to have cultivated a great swing dancer following at The Second Act.

The band is approaching its ten-year anniversary. You’ve been fronting the group for eight years. What’s the through-line that connects it all together?
The jump blues and swing genre, and the fact that I’m dedicated to keeping the band going. I’m committed to my alter ego, Virginia; she and I have an agreement!