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County blues musicians prepare to take on the world

From left, George Kalantzis, Lori Russo and John DeCola are three-fifths of the blues band Lori Russo and the Uppercuts. The band recently won an regional international blues competition in Pittsburgh and will be traveling to Nashville in January to take part in a larger international contest. Eric Freehling/Butler Eagle

They’re singing the blues, and they’re pretty happy about it.

Lori Russo and the Uppercuts, made up of predominately Butler County musicians, won the recent Blues Society of Western Pennsylvania 17th annual Blues Challenge and a chance to compete in the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tenn., in January.

The group is made up of Lori Russo of Butler, singer; George Kalantzi of Portersville, guitar; John DeCola of Slippery Rock, keyboards; Bob Insko of Apollo, bass; and Brendan Kennelty of Cranberry Township, drums.

While Kennelty just graduated from Slippery Rock University as a percussion major, Russo, Kalantzi, Insko and DeCola are veteran musicians.

“I met John when he was in a band with my brother (the late Tony Russo), who was a famous singer in Butler before he moved to Los Angeles,” said Russo.

“I started playing in rock ‘n’ roll bands when I was 15 years old,” she said.

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