Friday, October 5, 2012

Bridging the Blues

We talked a little bit at the end of last week's post about the ongoing Bridging The Blues project, a 12-day wall-to-wall bluesarama that encompasses four separate festivals, blues-related arts and crafts and exhibitions, and countless musical performances in numerous delta towns throughout Mississippi, Arkansas, and Tennessee.  Hopefully, this ambitious project will become an annual event and will allow even more people from all over the world to find out more about this fascinating music and culture.

The centerpiece of the project is this weekend's King Biscuit Blues Festival, which is held each October in Helena, Arkansas.  This three-day event is one of the biggest blues festivals in the country, with humble beginnings in the mid-80's, as an attempt to revitalize the then-decaying downtown Helena area.  It has since expanded to a five-stage festival that attracts hundreds of thousands of blues fans every year, along with some of the best and brightest artists that the blues has to offer.  This year is no exception, with three outstanding headliners - Bobby Rush (Thursday), Taj Mahal (Friday) and Bonnie Raitt (Saturday) - set to rock the house.

However, a lot of blues folks will be avoiding the hustle and bustle of the main stages to catch some of the talent playing on other stages.  If they do, they will be experiencing music from artists like Kenny Neal, Jumpin Johnny Sansone, Cyril Neville, and Wayne Toups and ZyDeCajun (Thursday), Bernie Pearl, Ruthie Foster, The Wampus Cats, Anson Funderburgh and the Rockets (with Kim Wilson), Paul Thorn, Vasti Jackson, Carl Weathersby, and Billy Branch and the Sons of Blues (Friday), and Davis Coen, Lonnie Shields, Samantha Fish, David Berntson, Kenny Smith, Bob Margolin, Ann Rabson, Reverend John Wilkins, Reba Russell, Fruteland Jackson, Randall Bramblett, the Cate Brothers, Big George Brock, Roy Rogers, EB Davis, James Cotton, and Eddie "The Chief" Clearwater (Saturday).  Now, can't beat that action with a stick.  That's more blues in one place at one time than many people experience in a lifetime.

For the daily King Biscuit line-up, you can visit the festival website.  For other related shows in the area over the next few weeks, visit Cat Head's live music calendar page.

Unfortunately, I won't be able to attend, but will be there in spirit.  Hopefully, we can get a first person account from some fan lucky enough to attend, but in the meantime, as a public service to those of you who also won't be able to attend, the least I can do is provide you with some stellar tunes from previous King Biscuit Blues Festivals to at least put you in the mood.   Never say that I'm not looking out for all of you the best way that I can.

Here's a general overview of the Festival, filmed by somebody during last year's sort of give you a feel for what will be going on this weekend.

Carl Weathersby will be appearing at this year's festival.  Weathersby has battled back from some health issues in recent years and it's great to have his powerful, Albert King-influenced guitar work front and center again.

Smokin' Joe Kubek and B'nois King are a dynamic pair of guitarists who specialize in rugged Texas blues and soul.  While they're not listed as appearing this year, they have just released a great acoustic CD on Delta Groove Records that is worth a listen.  This clip is from a couple of years ago at the Biscuit.

A band that will be appearing this year is the acoustic duo, Tyrannosaurus Chicken.  This pair makes some mighty good music and have a growing fan base in the delta region.

Here's delta bluesman/ace mechanic Johnny Billington, playing the blues standard "Stormy Monday." For years, Billington has spent his spare time teaching local kids how to play the blues at Johnny Billington's Blues Academy. He had seen that most of the kids in his neighborhood didn't have a place to go or things to do for fun, so he did it part to give them an opportunity to learn something and also to help keep them out of trouble.  Billington's been doing this for over twenty years.

Finally, here's an amazing tune from Mississippi's own Dexter Allen, from last year's festival.  The guy playing drums at the end of the clip is Derrick "D'Mar" Martin from D'Mar & Gill.

As you can see, there's any and all sorts of blues being played this weekend in the delta.  If you're able to get down here even for a day, it's definitely worth your time.  While you're here, make plans to enjoy the remaining festivals that will be coming up, including the Cat Head Mini Blues Festival at Clarksdale in front of the Cat Head store on Sunday, the 7th, from 9:00 am until, followed by the Pinetop Perkins Homecoming in Hopson that same day in the afternoon.

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