It was another fine day at the Horseman's Club in Sacramento. I got up early in the morning at hit Highway 5. Enroute, I picked up Don Yonder and the infamous Double G. Two hours later, we rolled up to the Horsemen's Club. After a short wait, we paid the admission fee securing our place in a day of fun and blues-related frolic.
The facility was set up quite nicely. The first four bands appeared outside. It was a really nice and sunny day in Sacramento. I felt sort of guilty enjoying the warm weather, when most of the country is freezing their asses in the middle of February. That lasted about 30 seconds.
Omar Shariff kicked off the show with some very nice solo piano work. He played a couple of tunes before turning the stage over to Johnny Rawls. I had never seen him before and my exposure to him was hearing his songs on the radio every once in a while. It didn't prepare me for his set. He's got a voice as smooth as velvet. He was a very fine bandleader and he put on a great performance. It was a perfect beginning to an excellent afternoon.
Next up was Earl Thomas. His set was a 1970's retro-experience which ended with a song out of the T-Rex songbook. He's a good singer, but I really didn't dig his material. It wasn't incredibly horrible, it just didn't move me.
James Cotton was up next! James Cotton is like the mailman. He always delivers and he put on an excellent set. Slam Allen provided some excellent vocal work on the first three tunes which were very reminiscent of a BB King show. Tom Holland contributed some great guitar work on several tunes, but the star of the show was James Cotton.
James Cotton is still one of the baddest harp players on the planet. He's got some of the deepest tone that I've ever heard. He is simply the baddest of the bad! This set was pure Chicago Blues and it reminded me of the shows he used to play in Chicago on Christmas Day at the old Wise Fools Pub.
When he kicked off "Got My Mojo Working," he brought a boy on stage that was probably around 12 or 13. He blew a couple of great soloes that opened several eyes. An older black man in the audience shouted out, "he's pretty good for a white boy!"
James picked up a microphone and said, "People are people. It didn't matter what color he is. He can play. People are people." He told a story about when he first played with Sonny Boy Williamson at the age of nine on KPFA in Helena, Arkansas. It was cool.
That was a tough act to follow, but Lucky Peterson did a great job. High intensity is a great way to describe him and his band which featured Rico McFarland. Rico played a couple of super high energy songs before calling Lucky Peterson up to the stage. Although, the sun was dropping in the sky, he increased the temperature outside by several degrees.
During one song, he jumped off the stage and climbed on top of a chair while never missing a note during a fantastic guitar solo. He was joined by Rick Estrin, Kenny Neal and James Cotton for a tune. Omar Shariff came onstage to add a couple of verses to a great Jimmy Reed medley.
This set could have easiy finished the day with everyone leaving extremely happy, but the festivities weren't over. The music moved indoors with Joe Louis Walker and the San Francisco Fillmore Blues Revue with Bobbie Webb, Frankie Lee and Fillmore Slim.
One thing that you have to say about all four of these guys is that they are great; they are old school practitioners of the Blues and they really know how to work a crowd. Each of them delivered as expected delivering some amazing entertainment.
Joe Louis Walker delivered a fine set. He was joined by Kenny Neal for a couple of tunes. The highlight of this set had to be Frankie Lee. He's an incredibly soulful singer. He writes some great songs and he is an amazing showman that is always dressed for success with a perfect amount of bling.
Not to be outdone was Fillmore Slim who was decked out from head to toe in a wild purple suit that fit his image. He sang a couple of tunes before asking Rick Estrin to join the band on stage. They did a couple of tunes from his CD entitled, "The Game" before it was quitting time.
The high of the day far surpassed the drudgery of the two hour drive back home. I walked into the house at a little past 11:00pm. It was a great day. The good news is the Sacramento Heritage Festival folks are doing this again in April.