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Ana Popovic

Unconditional: Slide-guitar heroine Ana Popovic.
Sjoerd de Wit
Unconditional: Slide-guitar heroine Ana Popovic.

If there's one place that loves the blues more than Houston (and, okay, Chicago), it's Europe. Back when there was still a Yugoslavia, Belgrade native Ana Popovic became enchanted by the music, picking up the guitar in grammar school and playing festivals in Greece and Hungary by the time she finished college. While studying at The Conservatory in Utrecht, The Netherlands, Popovic and her band became fixtures on the Dutch and German club circuit, and eventually caught the attention of bluesmen such as Bernard Allison, who took her on tour and appeared on her 2001 debut 'Hush'!. Nominated for a W.C. Handy Blues Award for Best Newcomer in 2003 — the only European ever tapped for such an honor — Popovic has since been invited onstage by the late Solomon Burke and Buddy Guy. Her latest album, last month's Unconditional, is full of down-and-dirty slide licks reminiscent of Guitar Shorty or Elmore James, and was recorded in New Orleans with Crescent City pros including her hero Sonny Landreth and keyboard genius Jon Cleary. As they'd tell you themselves, she's the real deal.

 
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