Michael Cloeren with an able assist by Virginia Buckley and staff, managed the festival with outbursts of rain, thunder, lightning and even a rainbow to throw down one of the baddest festivals to date this year. Featuring The Brooks Family Dynasty, Joe Louis Walker, Wallace Coleman, Lurrie Bell & Billy Branch man o’ man i can just go on but . . .
Some interesting things happened:
Dawn Tyler Watson & Paul Deslauriers barely made it in. Their plane was delayed and the hit Newark airport only to be stranded. But thanks to Gussie (Formula one driving school graduate-well not really) they hit the NJ Turnpike and made it there by 3:00AM – but their clothes and gear did not. An early (well later) morning foray to the local music shop snagged Paul a student guitar that he tied a string around and played that mutha till it cried out in surrender and became one with his talents. Paul & Dawn Tyler Watson put on such a great show that people were lining up in the rain for their return to the acoustic stage later in the day.
Earl Thomas and The Blues Ambassadors played their sold out regularly scheduled Saturday night gig at Biscuits & Blues in San Francisco and then took the red eye to the East Coast for their first ever appearance on this side of the Mississippi. They went away leaving hordes of old and new fans yelling for more as they thrilled everyone with a seventy five minute set of Soul tinged R&B that transcends categories and genres.
Another rarely seen visitor to the East (and US it seems) was Eugene Hideaway Bridges. Bringing his Texas-styled combination of Blues, Jazz, Roots and Gospel Eugene won the hearts of many of those in attendance with superb vocals accompanied by some righteous guitar work.
While on the gospel and righteous path/stream here, Sun day morning we were all called to the Blue Mountain for some old tiem religion with Naomi Shelton & The Gospel Queens. Hailing from Brooklyn, NY this band has been thrilling crowds in the NY Metro area for years. Their soul and gospel infused set was just the perfect touch to get us all moving and positive until the heavens opened up in response to their soulful sound.
Originally Michael K. Burks was slated to appear, but his untimely death created a void that no one could fill. In his place Otis Taylor & Band played with a passion and delivery that seemed downright otherworldly. Ms. Anne Harris fiddled and bowed in a seemingly trance-like state, while Otis weaved his contra-synched music and vocals into a musical pastiche that amazed even the most veteran fans of Otis. There was a moment when Otis, Anne and guitarist Shawn Starsky took to the runway in front and co-mingled their sounds that seemed to reach right to the heavens in honor to their fallen comrade and brother in the Blues.
There was so much more than even I, can you believe it, can write about. So let’s all mark this festival down s a MUST DO for next year. Michael has been doing one helluva job on this for over 20 years and to me that deserves strong support which means showing up and buying artists CD’s, beer, food and anything else to keep these types of events happening. It’s not good enough to ‘keep the Blues alive – that’s sounding like a respirator type thing – we need to keep the Blues thriving and vital.
Until next time,
Love, Peace & Chicken Grease
photos: Leslie K. Joseph, Blues411