Friday, April 12, 2013

John Hammond Headlines Tinner Hill Blues Festival Opening Night Concert

The Tinner Hill Blues Festival returns to the City of Falls Church, Virginia the weekend of Friday July 7 through Sunday July 9. Produced by the Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation, this is the 20th year the Foundation has produced a music festival and the seventh year the Festival has been devoted to the blues. The Blues Festival is held in honor of the memory of Piedmont Blues Legend John Jackson who was a friend of the Foundation and performed at a number of events produced by the Foundation. Jackson's last performance was in fact at a New Year's Eve concert produced by the Foundation as part of Falls Church's annual New Year's Eve Celebration.

The 2013 Festival will feature a mix of free and ticketed events. This is the first of several blog entries that I will be posting to promote this year's Tinner Hill Blues Festival which looks like it arguably has the best line-up of 2013 Washington DC area blues festivals devoted to real deal blues as opposed to blues festivals that include a heavy dose of blues-rock and rock headliners.  It opens eight weeks from when this is posted with the major event on Friday night being a concert at the State Theatre in Falls Church. This Friday night concert will feature John Hammond Jr, and also Phil Wiggins and the Chesapeake Sheiks. Roy Bookbinder, who will be performing on Saturday afternoon, is a special guest and will be joining his friend John Hammond this evening.

John Hammond has performing primarily acoustic blues for nearly five decades. When I first saw him perform in the late sixties, I was in college. Hammond has been playing mostly in the Delta tradition  and has recorded numerous acclaimed albums. While the recordings of Robert Johnson have been a definite source of inspiration, he was also directly influenced by such Mississippi blues masters as Big Joe Williams and John Lee Hooker for his driving rhythmic approach to his music. The above video of John Hammond was from the 2006 Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise which I was on.

Phil Wiggins, a Washington native, is one of the true masters of blues harmonica and is known for his long partnership with the late John Cephas with whom he made numerous recordings and toured the world. Since John Cephas' passing, Phil continues to play and teach. He currently works with Corey Harris or Rick Franklin. At the Tinner Hill festival he will be bringing the Chesapeake Sheiks, some of his local friends that he frequently plays with. It will be a treat to have Phil in the spotlight as he is certainly one of our local treasures. Above is a video of Phil with Rick Franklin.

Roy Bookbinder is among a number of disciples of the legendary Reverend Gary Davis and a brilliant guitarist in that tradition as well as storyteller and master of finger-style guitar with a broad repertoire that includes songs of past blues masters like Little Hat Jones, Blind Blake, Pink Anderson as well as Reverend Gary Davis. I first saw Roy in the seventies when he played to a small audience at the University of Buffalo and one of the songs he performed was Delia, which I recall he said was one of the songs he learned from Rev. Davis. The above video is of him performing that song.

It should a fantastic concert of acoustic blues and get folks ready for a terrific weekend.  I will update this post when tickets are available for purchase, but one can get more information by going to

I should point out that I am on the Festival Committee, but I joined the Committee after the line-up was announced. I repeat that I would be hard-pressed to name a Washington DC area festival whose line-up was as strong as this one.

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