Sunday, September 30, 2018

Blues in Bogalusa

Bogalusa is a small town in the north east corner of Louisiana dominated by a huge paper mill. It hasn't got a lot to recommend it (although i found a few records in a flea market) but its annual Blues and Heritage Festival, now in it seventh year, has put it on the map. Located in a pleasant park outside town it's a laid back affair. And the first act, Big Daddy O and his band, shared that laid back vibe. He's been around
quite a few years playing mostly roadhouses and has a low key approach which was gently pleasing. Numbers included Baby What You Want Me To Do, the rocking Get Over It, The Sporting Life and Rock Me Baby, all performed well. A decent start to the evening. Next up was Kenny Neal, playing on home turf and demonstrating why he's still doing well after more than 30 years in the business. He's a solid blues man with a lot of showmanship, including the obligatory audience walk. He was high octane much of the time on what he called his gutbucket numbers but changed his pace for numbers like Funny How Time Slips Away and Honest I Do. Plain Old Common Sense, from his recent Bloodline slbum, was a tribute to his grandma and B B King and other numbers included Sweet Little Angel, The Things I Used To Do and a sing along Since I Met You Baby. He finished with some zydeco with Toot Toot and When The Saints. A highly enjoyable 90 minute set by a class act. Final act on day one was Sonny Landreth, a brilliant guitarist but one who strays onto heavy rock at times. This time he started with a short acoustic set which was a delight. His slide skills were well exhibited on Sneaking Behind Your Back, a big Bill Broonzy number and Creole Angel, a great song. After a pause he returned for his main set, beginning with a Robert Johnson song (not sure which) and It Hurts Me Too. Then it was on to the heavy rock sound with loud guitar so after a couple of numbers we called it a day.
Day two started with Fessaround, a tribute to Professor Longhair  who came from Bogalusa. Pianist Tom Worrell played some Fess favourites and there were all too short contributions from Al 'Carnival Time' Johnson and Marilyn Barbarin who briefly sang Wang Dang Doodle before she was dragged off as the set was over running. Shame these great veterans didn't get more time. Other acts during the afternoon were local singer Crispin Schoeder, who had a bit of a folky/country tinge, and Chris LeBlanc, who did a hard rocking set including Living In The USA, Born On The Bayou and Rock This Town. There was some Slim Harpo as well and some soul with That's How Strong My Love Is and Love and Happiness. Despite the awful finale, Star Spangled Banner, this was a good set.
With such a sparse crowd it was hard to whip up an audience response, but the next act, Vasti Jackson, did his best. Formerly Johnnie Taylor's musical director he's a good guitarist with a lot of energy as a couple of extended crowd walks testified. Sometimes a little heavy with his guitar playing he was best on his more soulful stuff, such as Last Two Dollars and Dangerous Curves and his soft reggae segment with Stir It Up. Enjoyable but a shame the crowd was so small. He was followed on stage by sheer class in the form of Ruthie Foster , a singer songwriter who is equally at home on blues, folk and gospel. She has a purity of voice which also has real soul in it and more often than not a message. Beginning with Brand New Day her set included Singing The Blues (inspired by Bobby Bland), The Devil (a Staples song), I'm A Woman, the beautiful My Kind Of Loving, a great slow version of Johnny Cash's Ring Of Fire, and gospel in the form of Travelling Shoes and her final number I Want To Be Ready. A classy set and highly enjoyable.
What can you say about the headline act Bobby Rush? He's coming up 85 but is ageless, never looking any different, failing to give pleasure or, it has to be said, changing his act. Accompanied on stage by two lady dancers, including the delightful Miss Lowe, he gave us all his old favourites: She's Fine, jokes about his big fat woman with oversized knickers, the Old Hen Young Hen routine, Garbageman, Hoochie Coochie Man, Michael Jackson and Elvis, Night Fishing and Porcupine Meat. With his huge smile Bobby gets away with being non PC and is genuinely funny, a relic from another era who deserves to be venerated. Long may he last.


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