Sunday, July 9, 2006

Sunday @ The Hayward/Russell City Blues Festival

I was dead ass tired from the previous two days. Wait. Stop. Rewind. I had been on vacation all week long. I was dead tired from running around all week long. I had some errands to run before making it to the Festival. I had all of the best intentions, but I was dead tired and I was running late.

I arrived at about 2:30pm expecting to see JC Smith with Ella Pennewell and Joanna Connor. When I arrived, the Caravan Of All Stars were backing Ella Pennewell. She's a great singer. She ended up doing a longer and very nice set. I was sort of disappointed, but it was a very enjoyable set.

Next up was Linda Shell with KC Kelsey Hill and the Caravan Of All Stars. This was an excellent set. Linda Shell can really sing and Kelsey Hill helped to direct the band. Linda Shell was very impressive.

She was following by Café R&B featuring a knock out singer named Roach. Her band ripped through a number of high energy tunes and some really slow tunes which could be described as sexy.

Next up was Kenny Neal & Billy Branch. They performed several great acoustic numbers from their award winning CD, Double Take including: (the St Louis Jimmy classic) Going Down Slow, The Son I Never Knew (which is an extremely powerful song) and (the song that launched the recording career of Little Walter) I Just Keep Loving Her. These two guys work really well together. This was a very intimate and powerful set for an audience of several hundred. It was amazing stuff.

Billy Branch really demonstrated again that he is a true harmonica innovator, rather than an imitator. The guy has amazing tone and phrasing that can only be compared to the true masters. Someone in the audience called him the Charlie Parker of the harmonica.

Kenny Neal did another song with the band, before calling Billy Branch and Carl Weathersby to the stage for the final song of the set.

Last up was EC Scott. She had a full band with a three piece horn section. She delivered a great set. It had been a long day. After the conclusion of her set, I ran a friend back to the hotel and headed home. It had been a fabulous weekend.

Saturday, July 8, 2006

Saturday Night @ The Bistro

I went home and showered before returning to the Bistro. I was expecting Ronnie Stewart and the Caravan Of All Stars. Dalhart Johnson was on the stage along with a drummer and a guitar player that I had never seen before. The music was raw, earthy and very powerful. It had a very deep Southern sound to it. The place was packed with festival attendees.

The band took a break and Don Yonders walked in with his equipment. He said that Ronnie Stewart had asked him to play with the band. He asked me, if I wanted to join them. I said sure expecting to play a couple of songs.

Three hours later, the music came to an end and I was still up there. It was fun, but the heat of the day was starting to catch up with me. I looked over at Dalhart Johnson. He looked exhausted. He had been playing from about noon until 1:00am with a few breaks. He's a hardcore guy and he was booked to play the following day, too.

The guitar player and the guy doing the majority of the singing was KC Kelsey Hill. He was performing at the festival the following day with Linda Shell. He's a nice guy and he has a real unique sound that is straight out out of the South. He looked fairly young. I was shocked to find out he was performing in almost 40 years ago.

Saturday @ The Hayward/Russell City Blues Festival

Saturday morning, I was dragging from being out the previous night. The plan was to make it for the opening act of the Hayward/Russell City Blues Festival. I was running late. I thought I was going to miss the first couple of sets. Somehow, I found a place front and center. I still managed to make it for the last couple of numbers by a fabulous Gospel group called Endurance. They were followed by Wingnut Adams.

The Caravan Of All Stars. played the first of several sets. These guys are very hardcore. Everyone was looking sharp and dressed in black suits as the temperature climbed above 100 degrees. A couple people had passed out from the heat, when Pork Pie Phillips stepped on the stage. He sang a couple of his fantastic original tunes. Next up was the 71 year old Teddy "Bluesmaster" Watson. Unfazed by the heat, he sang most of his set in the grass in front of the stage while interacting with the audience.

The next act was the San Francisco Fillmore Review featuring: Fillmore Slim, Bobbie Webb & Curtis Lawson. At this point, the heat was starting to get to me so I walked around the festival area while soaking up the sounds. I stopped in to take a few pictures.

"(Editor's Note: Photos will come later.)"

It was a great set that was kicked off by a nice version of Honky Tonk by Bobbie Webb. Curtis Lawson came out decked in red sequins from head to toe. He was wearing a cool red hat and a cape that were covered in sequins. He sang a couple of great songs, before Fillmore Slim stepped on the stage. He was a ball of human energy. He ripped through several songs including a really nice version of "The Things I Used To Do." He's got an amazing amount of energy of style for a guy in his early 70's.

After a very short break, the Caravan Of All Stars returned to the stage being joined by a trio of excellent blues singers including Wylie Trass, Wille G and Hollywood Jenkins. I snapped a few photos. It was too damn hot. At this point, I was starting to seek a shady area.

Next up was the Russell City Memorial Blues Band which consisted of: Gino Landers, "Big Bob" Deance, Bobbie Webb, Dalhart Johnson and Carl Green. Also joining this group was the great Craig Horton. This set was somewhat abbreviated, but great.

Carl Weathersby was up next. He was backed by the Caravan Of All Stars. At this point, the crowd got up on their feet and dancing. They moved in toward the stage. He raised the bar high delivering a very high intensity set featuring some excellent vocal work. At one point, the band almost stopped playing while he bent the twisted and bent the strings of his guitar with a high degree of fierocity. It was an excellent set.

The final set of the day was delivered by the fabulous Bobby Rush. Bobby arrived really early. He walked around the audience and talked to people. He's a real down to Earth guy and he put on a show that really demonstrates why he has been won the Living Blues Award for Best Live Performer. He mixed some tunes off of his latest CD, "Night Fishin'" with some of his older classic material. Bobby Rush is a song stylist, a prolific songwriter, an excellent performer and and a legend in American Music. He's also a true bluesman.

Friday, July 7, 2006

Carl Weathersby @ The Bistro

This past weekend was downright scan'lous. Friday night, I was planning on taking my lovely wife to the Mojo Lounge. Carl Weathersby was on the bill with Linda Shell. Due to a variety of circumstances, he was unable to make it. We were bummed out. Seeing Carl do his stuff in a club like the Mojo Lounge is about as close to a Midwest roadhouse as one will find west of the Mississippi River.

For some strange reason, I decided to check my e-mail at around 8:45. I had an e-mail from a friend of mine. Carl was in Hayward. I called him and he said he was heading down to The Bistro to hang out with the Caravan of All Stars. Before, I split I called Don Yonder and Barrelhouse Solly to let them know what was going on and I was out the door.

The scene at The Bistro was pretty quiet. Ronnie Stewart was leading a four piece band. After a few numbers, they invited Carl up to play a few songs. He started off with "I'll Play The Blues For You" followed by the not often heard, "Travelin' Man." Things got really quiet and he put on an amazing display of dynamics and tension during a haunting version of "Blues At Sunrise".

After returning from a short break, he started off the second set with "Don't Let The Green Grass Fool You." He strapped on a guitar and cranked up the tempo by launching into "Please Love Me." There weren't a lot of people in The Bistro, but he put on one helluva show. It was very intimate and personal.

He took a break and was following by "Willie G." He kept the audience moving with a couple of great R&B tunes before the evening was over.