Saturday, March 12, 2011

1st Pennsylvania Blues Festival Celebrates 20 Years of Blues in the Poconos

Kenny Neal, one of the featured performers at the Pennsylvania Blues Festival
Shemekia Copeland
It was a shock when the word came out that the Big Boulder Ski Resort would no longer be holding the annual Pocono Blues Festival after 19 years. The Pocono Blues Festival had established itself as the signature blues festival in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic with a commitment to bring the finest real deal blues, mixing in major names like Luther Allison, Shemekia Copeland, Mavis Staples, Ruth Brown, Taj Mahal with legends who rarely toured like Jimmy McCracklin, Jimmy Johnson and Jody Williams. A change in policy at the resort ended what was an annual tradition that attracted blues fans from all over the United States and countries around the world.

Michael Cloeren, and the others involved in the Pocono Blues Festival have found a new location to carry out the tradition of bringing the best blues to the Poconos with the
1st Pennsylvania Blues Festival at the Blue Mountain Ski Area in Palmerton, Pennsylvania, not far from Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton, Pennsylvania. The Festival is Saturday and Sunday, July 30 and 31 and the line-up is as strong as any blues festival anywhere on an outdoor stage and a tent stage. This first Pennsylvania Blues Festival celebrates 20 Years of Blues in the Poconos.

Performers that have been announced for the festival include Shemekia Copeland, Magic Slim and the Teardrops, Lil’ Ed and the Blues Imperials, Bettye Lavette, Kenny Neal, Cyril Neville, Shakura S’Alda, John Nemeth, The Lee Boys, Big Daddy Charles Stallings, Samuel James, Otis Clay, Linsey Alexander and Steve Guyger & Billy Flynn. Its quite a line-up of some of the best known blues performers and some lesser known ones. There is a mix from traditional Chicago styled blues of Magic Slim, Lil’ Ed and Steve Guyger & Billy Flynn, the deep soul of Bettye Lavette & Otis Clay, the sacred steel of The Lee Boys, the swamp blues of Kenny Neal, and the personal blues interpretations of Samuel James and Charles Neville. Shemekia Copeland is always a favorite but this writer is also looking forward to seeing Shakura S’Alda, another formidable female blues talent. Then a chance to see at another festival Baltimore’s Bog Daddy Stallings get exposure leading a jam after hours on Saturday night as well as two sets on Sunday with his down home back porch blues that is mixed with Louis Jordan, Albert King and James Brown.

For more information on the festival, check out the Festival website,, for the line-up and more information including directions. I have my hotel reservations already and I know folks from as far away as San Francisco and the Pacific Northwest that have there plans for this as well. Incidentally, Mike has produced the Vermont Blues Festival at Mount Snow, usually in later August, but apparently this will now be the Vermont Blues and Roots Festival and will take place on July 22-24, the weekend before the Pennsylvania Blues Festival. I will have more on this festival when more information is available.

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