Chenango Blues Festival Just the Best One Day Festival Around !

Well here I sit, recovered from another exhilarating Blues festival in Norwich, NY. In it’s 19th year of all volunteer festival sponsorship Eric Larsen & crew shows what can be accomplished when activism and dedication take to the front.

Starting in 2003 with headliners Anson Funderberg and Sam Meyers, thru 2003 featuring Shemekia Copeland, Guy Davis, and Little Charlie & The Nightcats up to the present day with Doug MacLeod, John Hammond, Ana Popovic, and NMAS Duo, the Chenango Blues Festival consistently puts out great shows, and always has the Friday of festival weekend free for the community. THANK YOU !

My top five (OK I’m gonna try this again): No I won’t, everyone was so damn good…..

#1: Ana Popovic

Just a strong performance. Ana and band ripped her way through the set as if they were possessed. the temperature of the infield stage and area went up several degrees as she hit the stage with such a jolt that the crowd looked like they were not quite ready for what she was bringing. A dear lady who is talented and kind and proving her worth as a blues lady !


#1: James Cotton Band
What ! I must be crazy. Well I did see them two weeks ago in Delaware, so. But again they are so professional, dynamic, and thrilling to watch. Each of these guys could front a band of their own (and some have and still do). Mr. Cotton was very much right on again, harp playing beyond what anyone could expect, he rightly holds on to the title of Superharp. I cannot say enough about how good the band is.

#1: Mississippi Heat

Goodness gracious, what a wall of sound and energy from this Chi-town based International collection of artists. Mr. Pierre Lacoque (harp) and Ms. Inetta Visor are as good a duo as one can find. Yikes they blew away the crowd Friday night – for free !


#1: Tas Cru
A shout out to one of the most interesting songwriters around. With his full band he charmed the audience  and proved he is more than just a clever songwriter, he is a true bluesman. Great free show on Friday with a full band and sweet toned ladies on vocals!

#1: Honey Island Swamp Band

Funky, Louisiana swamp boogie music is this bands specialty, and they do it damn well.  Their appeal crosses over from generation to generation, with guitar driven grooves and some of the funkiest rhythm from drums, bass, and keys you got a gumbo of good times. People, check them out.


#1: Gina Sicilia
A dynamic up and coming singer song-writer, Ms. Sicilia has grown immensely in her chosen field over the last few years. Her releases capture the passion and soul of her live performances as well as any out there. Joined by Dave Gross, who plays anything ever made, and is also a fine producer, and the best travelling rhythm pocket (Tom Papadatos on drums and Scot Hornick on bass).

#1: John Hammond

Mr. Hammond was electric, no not in the plugged in sense, but in the field of energy way. His guitar playing, singing and harmonica work wowed the crowd, who screamed for an encore. His stories behind the songs were wonderful insights into this legend and his travels on the Blues Highway. Goodness, he was just grand.

#1 North Mississippi All-Star Duo
Brothers Luther and Cody Dickinson brought the music of the North Mississippi to the hills of Central New York State. It was visceral, intriguing, and were fun to see. Young folks flocked in to see them, and by doing so, either knowingly or unknowingly, are now exposed to the Blues and will be lifelong fans. Great to see these two young men do their thing. They closed out the show and left us all excited for next year’s 20th anniversary.

#1: James ‘Super Chikan’ Johnson I have seen Supe many times before, but not as a solo act. He was wonderful. His ability to turn the tent stage into his front porch with stories, tales, anecdotes and just good sippie-seekan-saw music was a treat for everyone, plus his hand made guitars are true American folk art.

#1: Doug MacLeod

Doug played three times (at least) that weekend. Once for the Veterans, once for the community at the Library, and once in the tent stage. there were many folks who saw all three and they never tired of his story telling, songwriting skills and musical ability to make a venue small and intimate. His message of hope and the positive life-affirming val;ue of the Blues was well received by everyone there. His genuine love and beliefs seamlessly float from him to the audience and we all leave remembering to pack our sense of humor first thing in the morning. If I have to pick a true #1 it would be Mr. MacLeod (as would many others). Thank you, ‘Dub-las’

A special shout out to Suspicious Hats, the one local band. They opened up the tent stage on Saturday. Comprised of Todd Rutan, Tim Andrews Nick Andrews and Nate Collins brought a relaxed congenial vibe to us all.

We have a good selection of photos (145 or so) from this fest, to see them go to:

Until next time,
Love, Peace & Chicken Grease
© 2011
photos: Courtesy of Leslie K. Joseph

Bluestock: Marrying the Amazing Vibe of Woodstock with the Incredible Energy of the Bluescruise.

Blues411 had just a spot in time to chat with Mr. Steve Simon who is partnering up with Radio Woodstock to bring us the summer’s main event Bluestock. Featuring Buddy Guy, The Robert Cray Band, Elvin Bishop, Tommy Castro & The Legendary Rhythm & Blues Revue, Shemeika Copeland and many, many more.
Steve, along with his brother Jeff who bring the hottest blues to the coolest places, are veteran concert/festival promoters who have brought the Blues to our troops in the war-torn Middle East (Bluzapalooza) to the sun baked shores of St. John’s USVI.
How did the road to Bluestock start? Where will it lead ? Steve graciously shared some valuable minutes in the week leading up to the event to answer some questions and to promise on delivering the festival of the year.

B411: Steve thanks so much for giving us some time. Bluestock and the lead up has been as hot as the summer across the nation, and now it is self-immolating. How did this start, what was the seed that started Bluestock?

SS: The seed that started it was visiting my friends in Woodstock a year and a half ago. Having not been up there since the days of the Woodstock Festival, and just being totally enamored with the vibe of the area plus the natural beauty of the area – it just screams creativity. It’s an area where new friends feel like old friends instantaneously.
My friends there are all into music and most of them into the Blues, I was so smitten by the experience up there that I thought this would be a great place to have a blues festival. Then this word ‘Bluestock’ exploded in my mind. One thing led to another and we started talking about it and dreaming about it and this led to my friends asking if I knew the people at Radio Woodstock? They put on a big music festival at Hunter Mountain every June, so next day I am meeting with Gary Chetkof and his senior staff in the Radio Woodstock offices, when lo and behold it was love at first sight. We are all cut from the same cloth, we’re all about music, we’re all about fun, and we are all over age hippies that will never grow up.
In the course of it all Gary shared with me that for the last six/seven years he has produced Mountain Jam one time a year, which is a mega-festival at Hunter Mountain. They were thinking of piggy-backing off the infrastructure and knowledge by creating another festival and they were thinking of the Blues. I am the one-stop shopping for Blues Central – it was a marriage made in heaven – so by the end of the day will be happening next week is exactly what I envisioned. To marry the amazing vibe of Woodstock with the incredible energy of the Bluescruise. Bluestock is real !

B411: It certainly is, the level of expectation is over the top, but I must say if anyone can do this you can. With your experience in Bluzapalooza and other ventures, I’d say you are uniquely qualified to weave this technicolor dreamcoat out of the Bluescruise and Woodstock.

SS: My contribution to the wonderful, wacky world of blues is to take the blues where it hasn’t been before. I have been blessed with the opportunity to do things like Bluzapalooza and go to countries where American Blues artists have not been seen before, and to entertain out troops, embassy staff – it’s so cool and we are having a lot of fun.

B411: So how many are we expecting ?

SS: We really don’t know. I can tell you that advance tickets sales are through the roof, way beyond what we expected. But having been in this business as long as I have I can tell you that there is a good two to three year gestation period to get to that critical mass of sustainability. We are prepared to subsidize Bluestock till it reaches sustainability. We are presenting a world class event to our friends and we know that it will sustain itself in thirty six months. We are already putting together the list for next year,we have the venue reserved for next year.

B411: Looking slightly more in to the future, would you consider doing regional Bluestocks ?

SS: Yes we would. We can see a West Coast Bluestock, but we are not going to look at it till after next week. But we have been having a dialogue about and have location lists and venues, so sometime in the fall a group of us will take a trip out West and visit a few locations and see if it makes real sense for us. Yeah, we are very much interested in keeping the blues alive and expanding the Bluestock brand.

B411: That’s gonna make a lot of people very happy ! Anything else you wish to share with us?

SS: Can I just offer this up for everyone:
The outpouring of love from all over the world has been beyond anything I have ever envisioned. I cannot begin to tell you how much emotional, spiritual support I’ve received in my endeavors to keep the Blues alive, it’s my Vitamin C so I have a lot of thanks to give.

For more info on Bluestock:
on Steve Simon Presents:


Until next time,
Love, Peace & Chicken Grease
© 2011

19th Annual Chenango Blues Fest: August 19-20, 2011

Now in it’s 19th year, The Chenango Blues Fest has repeatedly presented it’s attendees with the higest quality Blues performers available. In 2010 it gave us John Nemeth, E.G. Kight Watermelon Slim & Marica Ball. Back in 2007 Janiva Magness, Rod Piazza & The Mighty Flyers and Eric Lindell.  Ok so go back to 1997 Koko Taylor & CoCo Momtoya….folks it doesn’t get much better than this.
With Friday a free night for the community and music fans, and Saturday featuring two stages all for the ridiculous price of $20 advance and $25 at the door (I suggest paying $25, they can use the extra $5) it is by far one of the best values around.
Not only do they offer this festival, they provide 5 free community concerts in the all too short summer season.
So if you are on the East Side of town, say from Hunter Mountain area, Albany, Peeksill, Buffalo, Rome, to Toronto, New Hampsire, Vermont and the like, get yerself down to what has been aptly monikered ‘the best one day festival, anywhere’.

19th Annual Chenango Blues Fest: August 19-20, 2011, By Blues Fans For Blues Fans  

Bands for Friday
August 19, 2011
Guernsey Library

6:00 – 7:00 pm
Doug MacLeod

Chenango County Fairgrounds – Tent Stage

7:15 – 8:15 pm
Tas Cru
8:30 – 10:00 pm
Mississippi Heat

Bands for Saturday
August 20, 2011

Chenango County Fairgrounds – Infield Stage

12:00 – 1:00 pm
Gina Sicilia
1:40 – 2:50 pm
Honey Island Swamp Band
3:50 – 5:00 pm
Ana Popovic
6:10 – 7:30 pm
James Cotton
8:40 – 10:10
North Mississippi Allstar Duo
featuring Luther Dickinson & Cody Dickinson

Saturday August 20, 2011
Chenango County Fairgrounds – Acoustic Stage

1:00 – 1:40 pm
Suspicious Hats
2:50 – 3:50 pm
Doug MacLeod
5:00 – 6:10 pm
Super Chikan
7:30 – 8:40 pm
John Hammond

Until next time,
Love, Peace & Chicken Grease
© 2011

CD Reviews: Old and New Together – or Picks to Click Display Current and Future of the Blues

1. “Dreamin’” – Grady Champion – GSM Music Group
2. “Show You A Good Time” – Bobby Rush – Deep Rush Records

This intrigued me when I first saw it listed, the juxtaposition of new kid on the block, Grady Champion, and veteran Bluesman, Bobby Rush, Bobby Rush (so nice ya gots ta say it twice).
Mr. Rush has long been the king of Southern Soul, the Chitlin’ circuit, Booty thumpin Blues – call it what you will – and young Mr. Champion is a current IBC winner and is gaining popularity in leaps and bounds. His concerts and shows are group experiences that have the wimmen dancing and the men looking to wring his little neck. A woman’s best friend and a mans best enemy as they say. This is a path paved and laid (ahem) by Mr. Rush and to see them atop the BB Kings Bluesville Picks to Click just sent a smile to my face.

Grady Champion: Dreamin’ (GSM Music Group, LLC)

Grady Champion is an up and coming star – he won the 2010 International Blues Challenge for Blues Band category and has wowed audiences on land sea, and from seeing his acrobatic gyrations, her wows them in the air too !

Dreamin’ features 10 original cuts which blaze a wide path both musically and thematically. Opening with ‘My Rooster Is King’ we hit upon an oft’ used metaphor in the Blues world – the rooster – and this one comes out of the corner snorting, bragging and primping for all the barnyard to see, leaving no doubt as to the veracity of the statement. The title cut ‘Dreamin’ ‘ has an R&B feel that is lit up by fine guitar work from Mr. James Harmon (who also produced the release) as Mr. Champion and Ms. Sue Ann Carwell treat us to sensually exchanged vocals that end as a fade out cos it’s too hot to stop.

Mr. Champion incorporates a wide variety of influences on this release. It is very refreshing to hear the young guns bring into the house some pulsing rhythm grooves which are featured in ‘Guilty As Charged’. To me these additions are vital to keeping the Blues alive, and appealing to a younger, more urban audience. ‘Make That Monkey Jump’ returns us to the carnal side of the Blues, a fun dance number that encourages the ladies to “do what you do and shake your rump, and make that monkey jump”. Not to turn his back on traditional gospel based arrangements on ‘Laugh, Smile, Cry Sometimes’ Mr. Champion displays a feel for Sonny Boy II styled harp treatments that are thick as red-eyed gravy. Speaking of gravy Mr. Harmon does some way cool chicken pickin’ behind Grady. This is an outstanding track and while it is somewhat traditional it stands out for me because of the overall feel it provides the listener. Hearing ‘Walk With Me, Baby’ with Mr. Harmon’s talking lead vocals and Mr. Champion’s reed bending riffs seems to give a nod to Slim Harpo’s ‘Scratch My Back’.

What Dreamin’ gives us is a sample of a harp playin’, strutting male figure that through self anointing has proclaimed himself the king of the barnyard. This is a modern take on age old Blues themes, and he pulls it off with such aplomb that no other creature in the barnyard can deny it, they can only play second fiddle to his priapic perambulations.

Bobby Rush: Show You A Good Time
(Deep Rush Records)

We now turn our collective sights in the direction of the King of the Chitlin’ circuit, Mr. Bobby Rush. His latest release ‘Show You A Good Time’ is a promise that I am sure he has kept every time he made it !

Starting with the title track to ‘Sniffer’ and straight through each cut this is a super release. I love ‘Sniffer‘ a funny song about the two kind of sniffers in the world one’s that say they do and the ones that say they don’t. Set to a rock-steady back beat he rolls through the litany of Blues artists and people who are all sniffers – throw in some ‘huff huff’ style hound dawg sniffin’ – it just cracks me up.

‘Playin’ Me Crazy’ is a whip-snapping, funked-up homage to the classic ‘Cabbage Head’ song – yet updated to make it Bobby’s own. One gotta love that Prince-styled funky guitar that plays on and on in the background.

The eternal cheating syndrome is exposed here, set to a groovy beat and funky drum/percussion by Paul Brown. A familiar feel with synthesizers and groove laden bass work by a trip of qualified bass-masters. Mr. Rush hits all the bases from ‘In My Dippins’ where he has discovered someone eating cookies outta his cookie jar, to the superb bonus track, ‘Jody Didn’t Take Your Woman’ dealing with the propinquity of ‘Jody’ (the name of the one who takes care of your woman when you don’t) and how it is really your fault cause you running around town with your pants unzipped and what that gets ya. Overall this is a fabulous release, which I believe will garner many nominations in the upcoming year, so get on this bandwagon now while you can.

This pairing on Picks to Click was very pleasing and encouraging. It was great to see young Grady make his mark at the top with his original work, and to also see Mr. Rush show strong on this chart because sometimes the greasy chitlin’s are overlooked by many Blues fans. It also portended the that the future of the Blues is in pretty good hands, with both old and young artists releasing such sterling stuff.
Remember you can see the updated weekly B.B. King’s Bluesville Picks to Click here ,

Until next time,
Love, Peace & Chicken Grease
© 2011