Bluesville’s guitarist Sandy Blair has come up with a unique way to do market research for his band’s albums. He goes right to the top, sending his albums to Alligator Records president and founder Bruce Iglauer. That’s not so unusual, but the fact that Iglauer responds is. “He’s very open-minded,” Blair says. “He’s the only person I’ve ever seen who actually listens to each track and comments and gives his input.” The input helped Chapel Hill-based Bluesville–Blair, J.D. Eliason, Tim Richardson and Gary “Big Leg Hambone” Nowicki–end up as semifinalists at the 20th International Blues Challenge in Memphis in January. They won the right to go to Memphis by winning last year’s blues challenge held by the Blues Society of the Lower Cape Fear.

The band, Blair says, plays “rockin’ blues.” When he does covers, he’s partial to the Texas blues but that doesn’t mean Stevie Ray Vaughan.

“I was listening to the older guys,” Blair says. “Albert King, Albert Collins, T-Bone Walker, ZuZu Bollin–he had that big horn sound.” He also has an affinity for Chicago blues but describes his original music as “Piedmontish,” listing Blind Boy Fuller, Brownie McGhee and Sonny Terry and Guitar Gabriel as favorites.

Blair said he was suprised Iglauer responded at all.

“I was kind of shocked the first time he responded,” Blair says. “And the second time. The thing of it is, when you send it in, it could take him awhile. Last CD, took him six, seven months, but he always responds. I’m just patient,” the guitarist says. “I figure he’s a busy man.”

Bluesville play Raleigh’s Sunday in the Park Concert Series on Sunday, Aug. 15 in Fletcher Park on Washington Street across from Broughton High School at 6 p.m. Admission is free.