Sunday, April 13, 2014

21st Tinner Hill Blues Festival -June 13-June 15

Teeny Tucker and Robert Hughes at 2009 DC Blues Festival.
Falls Church, Virginia hosts a weekend of Blues, Brew and BBQ with the 21st Tinner Hill Blues Festival which runs Friday June 13th through Sunday June 15. The Festival, which is a tribute to the late Northern Virginia Blues Legend John Jackson, will feature the blues talents of Shemekia Copeland, Teeny Tucker, Mississippi Heat and Ursula Ricks as well as area favorites Tom Principato and Cathy Ponton King. The Tinner Hill Blues Festival is produced by The Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation which celebrates the legacy of the first rural Virginia NAACP chapter that was founded in 1915, which they will be celebrating the centennial in January 2015.

Friday, June 13th the Festival opens with Shemekia Copeland at The State Theatre, 222 N. 33 1/3” on Telarc which Howard Reich of The Chicago Tribune called “a gripping, stripped-to-basics release that reaffirms her position as one of the great hopes for the art form.”
Shemekia Copeland at 2009 Pocono Blues Festival
Washington Street in Falls Church. Shemekia Copeland is the daughter of Texas legend Johnny Clyde Copeland and began singing with her father while a teenager. After her father passed away, she started performing on her own and signed with the Alligator label with whom she had several award winning recordings before signing with her current label Telarc. Shemekia is a two-time Grammy nominee, multiple Handy Award-Blues Music Award honoree, winner of several Living Blues Critics and Readers Awards for Outstanding Female Blues Vocalist as well as DownBeat Award Winner for Rising Star Blues Artist. At the 2011 Chicago Blues Festival, In addition, the city of Chicago, state of Illinois, and Joyce “Cookie” Threatt, daughter of Koko Taylor, surprised Shemekia onstage with her mother’s tiara, and crowned her “The new Queen of the Blues” at the Chicago Blues Festival. Her most recent album is “

Opening for Shemekia will be Sol Roots. Sol Roots is a fine guitarist (actually multi-instrumentalist and singer that creates a blend of energetic rock, raw blues, reggae, and funk, all delivered with deep soul. Sol, who regularly plays at such venues as The Hamilton Live and JVs, has toured with many roots, funk, and blues legends around the world as a part of Music Maker Revue (and accompanied Beverly Watkins and Albert White at the 2013 Tinner Hill Blues Festival).

Saturday, June 13, the Festival moves to Cherry Hill Park on Park Avenue in Falls Church. In the morning, there will be acoustic blues played at the weekly Farmer’s Market held in the Falls Church City Hall Parking lot. There will be other events held including a panel discussion TBA before the main program begins at Cherry Hill Park.

This year’s Saturday line-up is headlined by Teeny Tucker. Teeny is the daughter of Tommy Tucker, best known for one of the great blues standards, High Heel Sneakers. Teeny has developed into a singer of great power and nuance whose performances include her salutes to some of the great blues women of the past and choice originals. Her powerful singing will conjure up memories of such legends as Lavern Baker, Big Mama Thornton and Koko Taylor. In fact, her rendition of Koko’s Voodoo Woman opens her new album Voodoo To Do You. Teeny’s band is led by an outstanding guitarist Robert Hughes, who in addition to being a terrific musician and collaborator with teeny, is an outstanding photographer who was recently named Ohio Professional Photographer of the Year. About her album Keep The Blues Alive, I wrote that the album “will certainly build Teeny’s audience. There is some exceptional material on this and Teeny is fabulous.”

Mississippi Heat is a band that is led by harmonica player Pierre Lacocque who also contributes most of the new material. Mississippi Heat has always been a band that has focused on an ensemble sound and supporting its singers and for over two decades been playing strong Chicago blues. Lacocque himself plays in the Little Walter tradition. The band has a marvelous vocalist, Inetta Visor who has been with the group since 2001. Her powerful, Etta James-like voice on Footprints On The Ceiling, Glad You're Mine, and One Eye Open are always highlights of the performances. Other members of the band include guitarist Michael Dotson, bassist Brian Quinn and crummy Kenny “Beedy Eyes’ Smith. Kenny Smith, like Shemekia Copeland and Teeny Tucker, is a child of a legendary blues artist, in this car the long-time drummer with Muddy Waters, Willie ‘Big Eyes’ Smith. Of the Mississippi Heat’s last Delmark recording Delta Bound, I wrote “One continues to get impressed by Mississippi Heat. Pierre Lacocque continues to write interesting and varied new blues songs which are rooted in the blues and not blues-rock. Match the material with the tight backing, strong solos and excellent vocals and he continues to bring us after 20 years first-rate and fresh-sounding, new blues.”

Baltimore’s Ursula Ricks has been a presence on the Baltimore and Washington blues scenes for a couple decades, Ursula Ricks certainly sounds poised to break out to the National music scene and her recent recording My Street (Severn Records) displays another singer of considerable maturity. She is a powerful singer, whose smoky and husky vocals are outstanding. Her controlled, unforced delivery stands out in a manner akin to Nina Simone. She never bellows, screams or sounds constipated. Rather she evokes classic sixties soul recordings by the like of Carol Fran or Betty Everett. About My Street, I wrote “The songs and her vocals ring with conviction and the backing is excellent on a superb recording that will hopefully enable Ms. Ricks to receive the recognition and rewards her talent and music deserves.” I am not the only person to notice this as she will be appearing at the Pennsylvania Blues Festival as well.
Tom Principato

Other performers on Saturday include Baatin, Tom Principato and Cathy Ponton King. Tom Principato is one of the most celebrated, blues and roots performers in the Washington DC area. An able singer, he is a fabulous guitarist rooted in blues but who incorporates rockabilly, swing jazz and country boogie into an irresistible sound. One of the few guitarists who could spar with the late Danny Gatton, Principato always puts on some energetic performances. watching him perform, one will understand why he is in demand in Europe. Of a recent recording A Part of Me, I wrote that it “is a typically strong album by Tom Principato with a varied collection of material, superbly and imaginatively performed and sung straight from Tom’s heart.” Cathy Ponton King is another local favorite who brings plenty of warmth with her heartfelt vocals and guitar playing. She always has a terrific band and you never know whether saxophonist Ron Holloway or pianist Daryl Davis might show up to play with her this day.

I will be updating this blog post with more information as it becomes available on the Festival including the Sunday, June 15th, Blues Brunch. For more information on this year’s festival, check out

All photos in this blog entry © Ron Weinstock. Here is a video of Ursula Rick.

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