Monday, October 13, 2014

Blues and more blues

After two days of hot and humid weather, the third day at the King Biscuit Festival in Helena was much cooler, quite chilly in fact. Somehow the music seemed to cool off too, with little in the way of genuine excitement. That's not to say that there were no quality acts, and a couple of legends, in the form of harmonica blues star James Cotton, and steel guitar player Sonny Rhodes. Sonny had to be helped to the stage but sounded fine on numbers such as Why Do You Treat Me So Cold and I Go The River.
Another class act was the Kenny 'Beady Eyes' Smith band, which included Bob Stroger, Bob Margolin and Omar Coleman. Bob Stroger was particularly effective on You're Sweet. Another venerable bluesman on stage was 81 year old Big George Brock while the newer generation was represented by David Kimbrough Jr. I was impressed by the soulful voice of Nick Nixon, playing with the Andy T Band, who was excellent on the couple of numbers that I caught, including Have You Seen My Monkey.
Back in Clarksdale, the real excitement of the day came at the Ground Zero blues club where James 'Super Chikan' Johnson was playing with his all female band. The place really rocked with an all action set covering all the bases through blues to rock and roll, with the keyboard player hammering the keys with all her might. Surprise guest was the Queen of Beale Street Ruby Wilson. Now using a walking frame she looks as glamorous as ever and her voice is still true and powerful.
Sunday in Clarksdale saw what has become a traditional street festival with some good blues singers performing, including the excellent Robert 'Bilbo' Walker, who mixed some Chuck Berry alongside traditional blues. Also performing was Leo 'Bud' Welch, who I saw a month or so ago in London. Suddenly a star at the age of 82, his drummer Dixie Street told me that enough money has now been raised to make a film of his life, covering his missed opportunities, work as a logger in rural Mississippi and sudden success late in life. In the afternoon there was more blues on show at Hopsons Plantation, featuring several acts from the King Biscuit, such as Bob Margolin, and a few new ones, including the Cedric Burnside Project and Kenny Brown. A relaxing end to an intense weekend of blues.


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