Friday, July 25, 2008

Reflections on the 2008 North Atlantic Blues Festival

More photos from the 2008 North Atlantic Blues Festival can be found on Whittling Fog on flickr.

In addition to the photo collage above (where a couple of those mirror shots were even intentional!) I've got a few reflections on the 2008 North Atlantic Blues Festival.

My experience at this year's festival was excellent (it usually is as this is a great festival)!

Saturday provided plenty of performances to soothe any guitar freak with Lil' Dave Thompson (Mississippi), Andrew "Jr. Boy" Jones (Dallas, Texas - who served some time in Freddie King's backing band, played with Katie Webster, Charlie Musselwhite, has backed many other fine blues performers and has led his own band for the last decade or so), Lurrie Bell (Chicago - Carey Bell's son - he's backed, and released an album with, his dad, spent time in Koko Taylor's band, has several of his own albums and has a personal history worthy of a good blues song or two or three) and Walter Trout (New Jersey - he's performed or recorded with Pee Wee Crayton, Finis Tasby, Percy Mayfield, John Lee Hooker, Big Mama Thornton and been a member of Canned Heat and John Mayall's Bluesbreakers. He's also had a solo career since 1989.)

Saturday also saw Sugar Blue (Harmonica - Harlem, New York) and Ruthie Foster (acoustic guitar- Austin, Texas) perform. Two of the highlights of the weekend, for me, were Sugar Blue's rendition of Sonny Boy Williamson's anti-war song "Another Man Done Gone" and Ruthie's rendition of the traditional tune "Death Came a Knockin' (Travelin' Shoes)". Ruthie's entire set, though, was a highlight. She just seems to completely occupy whatever space she plays, whether it's a cozy theater in front of 200 people or the big stage in Rockland in front of 8,000. Ruthie's performed quite often in Maine over the past four years. We've managed to see her twice in smaller rooms - once at the Neighborhood House in Northeast Harbor for an Austin/Acadia connection show and once in Unity at the Unity Centre for the Performing Arts, so WE knew we were in for a treat!

As Paul Benjamin told me on Saturday, Sunday's performers would have a little something for just about anyone's taste in blues.

The morning started with soulful singer Chick Rodgers (Chicago - she has a new album out on Koko Taylor's label), followed by an effervescent Wayne Baker Brooks (guitar - Chicago - son of Lonnie Brooks and brother of Ronnie Baker Brooks), the sultry/soulful, funky blues and R&B of Janiva Magness (Originally from Detroit - another performer with a personal history worthy of many blues songs), the West Coast Swing (and many other styles he's absorbed in a 40+ year career) of Rod Piazza and the Mighty Flyers, and Elvin Bishop (formerly of The Paul Butterfield Blues Band - one of those 60's bands that inspired so many people to pick up a guitar or harmonica) put the FUN in funky to cap things off. It's hard to pick a highlight from Sunday because everybody was good and very different from the previous performer. If pressed, I might have to say that Bishop's more bluesy, lightly funky treatment of "Fooled Around and Fell in Love" worked really well for me.

I should also mention that Roger "Hurricane" Wilson played in between sets both Saturday and Sunday. His vast repertoire lent itself well to playing between sets beside the stage and probably getting more total performance time than any one of the main stage acts. I've always like Roger's recorded version of the Reverend Gary Davis song "Death Don't Have No Mercy". His live rendition of the song was another highlight of the weekend.
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