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Wilbert's restarts its label with a Blue Lunch album.

Dolorean frontman Al James, in a reflective mood, at - the Beachland March 1. - WALTER  NOVAK
  • Walter Novak
  • Dolorean frontman Al James, in a reflective mood, at the Beachland March 1.
Wilbert's returned to Cleveland last May after a four-year hiatus. Now the downtown blues club's eponymous label is back, too.

Wilbert's Records pressed CDs of top local artists from 1993-'99; it returns this spring with an LP from the Cleveland jump-swing combo Blue Lunch.

"It's a calling card for the band, and it became a marketing thing for the club," says Wilbert's owner Michael Miller, who in past years has handed out Wilbert's CDs at the annual South by Southwest music conference in Austin.

The label's previous incarnation issued nine albums by acts including Blue Lunch and Wallace Coleman. Joe Bell Live at Wilbert's sold nearly 3,000 copies, according to Miller. New records will be available through local stores and chains, including Best Buy.

Blue Lunch's fourth album, its third for Wilbert's, may take its name from one of 17 R&B-flavored tracks in post-production: "Cleveland, Ohio Blues."

"There's a million songs about Chicago, so I wanted to write a song about Cleveland," says Bob Frank, who writes, plays guitar, and sings in the eight-piece group. "Not a civic booster -- 'We've got the Rock Hall, we've got the Browns,' that kind of bullshit. I wanted to write a song about a guy that lives here and loves it no matter what -- the crappy weather, all of that."

· Guitar manufacturer Ernie Ball is now accepting entries for the eighth annual Ernie Ball Battle of the Bands. Winners play the Ernie Ball Local Heroes Mobile Stage at the Cleveland stop of the Vans Warped Tour on Friday, July 23.

Fans can vote for their favorite bands online beginning June 25. Groups can register at http://battle. All bands registered by April 16 will be eligible to win rock gear from various sponsors.

Last year, Clevo bands playing the side stage included throwback-crossover thrashers Victory Flag, the ska-punk Skanktronics, and punk-popsters Narcoleptics X 5.

· Modern rockers Tantric and Shinedown will perform unplugged sets at the Strongsville HMV (1201 Southpark Center in the South Park Mall) at 4 p.m. on Friday, March 5. WMMS-FM 100.7 will broadcast the show live. Admission is free, and both bands will meet fans and sign autographs afterward.

· After a recent round of brawls and other chronic issues, the Cuyahoga Falls Boot Scoot'n Saloon has closed for good. The venue hosted some of the areas few teen and country nights.

· Downtown jazz hot spot 2527 will host the CD release party for Tri-Cs seventh annual Jazzfest compilation CD, The Art of LiPuma, Thursday, March 4. Doors open at 7:30 p.m., and the first 25 people through the doors get a free copy of the disc, which features Diana Krall, George Benson, Horace Silver, and others. John Morton will provide live entertainment.

· Ripper Watch: Iced Earth, the internationally popular traditional-metal band featuring Northeast Ohios Tim Ripper Owens, will be a special guest on this weeks Headbangers' Ball on MTV, Saturday, March 6, at 10 p.m.

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