Sunday, October 01, 2017

North Louisiana Blues Festival

The four intrepid adventurers headed north out of Lafayette towards Monroe, stopping off for breakfast in Opelousas in Cajun country and the small former river boat town of Columbia. Monroe was a pleasant surprise, with a historic antiques quarter, where I bought some cheap 45s and a riverside bar where we had a couple of beers.
Our main destination was the North Louisiana Blues Festival in nearby Richwood which promised over a dozen fairly obscure blues and southern soul artists. Having eventually found the field it was being held in, we proved to be the only white people there until the unexpected arrival of Dave and Julie Thomas. The event was quite poorly attended and took a long time to really get going. A number of the artists sang to backing tracks, including a rapper called D-Whit, a female southen soul singer called Lady Trucker, Magic One, who had an excellent soulful voice, a younger singer, very popular with the middle aged ladies who were there, by the name of Rhomey, and a guy called Till 1, who stripped to the waist in the searing heat. The only act with proper instruments during the afternoon were the Sugar Ray Blues Band, who were quite good.
Things really took off with the arrival of Nathaniel Kimble, a young soul singer in the Mel Waiters mould, with two girl backing singers and a decent band. This was largely good time music with songs including You Make Me Happy, Clap Your Hands, I'm Wondering and I Got On My Dancing Shoes, but he also showed off his voice to good effects on classics like Tyrone Davis's Sure Wasn't Me and Bobby Womack's That's The Way I Feel About You. Next up was the 'Redbone Of The Saxophone' Sweet Angel, who I saw a couple of years at the King Biscuit Festival. Backed by three young girl singers, hers was a risque act (she said she believes in the 'power of the pussy') with plenty of sexual innuendo and excellent stage presence. Songs included Don't You Wish You Had A Girl Like Me, Jooking At The Hole In The Wall, Actions Speak Louder Than Words and My Toot Toot, before she picked up her sax for This Thrill Is Real and Purple Rain..
After a couple of well performed numbers by a guy called Blues Boy Bo, more raunchiness followed with the next act L J Echols, a tall young man with a voice well suited to southern soul. Much of his act was taken up with some amusing, if rather adult, audience participation. He invited four ladies onto the stage and members of the band performed faux sex acts on them while he took over their instruments. The audience clearly loved it, as did the ladies. Songs included Had To Tell Somebody, the bluesy Take It All and Peter Pumpkin Eater. All good fun, and the sort of act you would probably only get to see at a southern soul show. Finally it was the turn of Theodis Ealey, the Stand Up In It Man as he's known, who was limited to just 30 minutes as the show was over running. Dressed rather like a cowboy he's an excellent guitarist who was equally at home on soul numbers such as his hit, and blues such as Big Legged Woman. The by now very sparse crowd really enjoyed his act and I would loved to have seen more.
Overall, this was a day of two halves, with the four bands in the evening more than making up for some of the backing track artists earlier in the day. Southern soul is very much a black genre and fairly limited in its geographical range, but exciting and interesting. I love it.
Nick Cobban


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