Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Lil Ed and Shemekia Copeland Headline 24th Pennsylvania Blues Festival

Shemekia Copeland
The Pennsylvania Blues Festival approaches quickly. The following has appeared in the May-June Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 360) that can be downloaded at jazz-blues.com.

Celebrating 24 years of Blues in the Poconos, the Pennsylvania Blues Festival takes place at Split Rock Resort, Friday July 24 through Sunday July 26. It moves to Split Rock in Lake Harmony, Pennsylvania after 4 years at the Blue Mountain Resort. The new location is close to the original Festival location on Big Boulder Mountain. "The Blues Lovers Blues Festival," as it calls itself will be headlined by Shemekia Copeland on Saturday the 25th and Lil Ed and the Blues Imperials. There will be zydeco from Dwayne Dopsie and the Zydeco Hell-raisers as well as gospel from the Highway QCs,and such notable performers as Walter 'Wolfman' Washington; John Nemeth and Alvin 'Youngblood' Hart.

Friday night, June 24, the Festival opens with an Indoor Showcase with Mikey Junior's Blues Review, featuring the fine harmonica player and vocalist. It takes place inside the Galleria at Split Rock.

Monster Mike Welch and Sugar Ray
Saturday June 25, the Festival Main Stage opens with Dwayne Dopsie and the Zydeco Hell-raisers. One of the sons of zydeco legend Rockin' Dopsie. Dwayne Dopsie's hard-driving and rocking music is also heavily influenced by Clifton Chenier and similarly he is marvelous blues singer and player as well as traditional zydeco artist who will also do a Hendrix-influenced rendition of "Hey Joe." Besides opening the main stage he will close the Tent Stage that night. Alligator Recording Artist Selwyn Birchwood, winner of the International Blues Challenge a couple years back, brings his exuberant blues with his tight band, solid vocals and guitar, including lap steel (he was mentored by Sonny Rhodes). Severn Records artist Sugar Ray & The BlueTones follows and the group led by Ray Norcia has been laying down Chicago styled blues for nearly 40 years (This writer saw them in 1978 in New York backing J.B. Hutto. Norcia a marvelous singer (reminiscent of Junior Parker and he had a stint fronting Roomful of Blues) and fine harpist is backed by Monster Mike Welch on guitar; Anthony Geraci on keyboards, Michael 'Mudcat' Ward on bass, and Neil Gouvin on drums. New Orleans Icon, Walter 'Wolfman' Washington and the Roadmasters is up next on the Main Stage bring there mix of blues, soul and funk. Closing the Main stage will be Shemekia Copeland who recently resigned with Alligator Records bring her tight band and her powerful vocals on a mix of blues and blues-rooted material that underscores why she has been named Koko taylor's successor as "Queen of The Blues."

Walter 'Wolfman' Washington

In addition to the Main Stage, others acts will be presented in the Tent Stage. Electro-Fi Recording Artist Harmonica Shah & Carlton Washington will open the tent stage and play a second set later. Also in the tent performing two sets is John Mooney. Mooney mixes Delta Blues with the New orleans second-line. Growing up in Rochester NY, Mooney was mentored by legendary Son House and his most recent recording is a tribute to the Delta Blues Icon. Dwayne Dopsie closes out the tent Stage after Mooney's second set. Later Saturday evening, Bobby Kyle will lead a Tribute to Johnny Copeland in the Galleria Governor's Ballroom.

Blues on Sunday July 26 starts with a Blues Brunch in the Governor's Ballroom featuring Slam Allen, a dynamic singer and guitarist who spent several years fronting James Cotton's Band. Sunday on the Main Stage opens with the legendary gospel group, The Highway QCs. This Gospel Quartet was sort of the junior Soul Stirrers and members years ago included Sam Cooke, Johnny Taylor and Low Rawls. Up next on the main stage is Vanesse Thomas, who is the terrific blues and rhythm singing daughter of Rufus Thomas. Victor Wainright and the Wild Roots brings this rocking keyboard wizard to the main stage and he is followed by the terrific soul-blues Blues Music Award winning vocalist John Nemeth. Closing the Main stage will be Alligator recording artists, Lil Ed & the Blues Imperials, who will bring their exuberant house rocking slide-guitar blues.

Lil Ed Williams
Sunday, the Tent Stage will have performances from Alvin 'Youngblood' Hart, The Peterson Brothers and Mikey Junior. Alvin 'Youngblood' Hart emerged over two decades ago laying down traditional Delta and Texas blues which has expanded to include a wide range of material, making him a 21st Century songster in the manner of a Leadbelly. He has been called a musical love child of Howlin' Wolf and Link Wray. The Peterson Brothers are youthful blues prodigies that show that blues can still inspire youth and have shared stages with Pinetop Perkins, Willie Smith, Michael Burks and Marcia Ball. their website notes they are recording a debut album. Hart and they will play two sets before Mikey Junior closes the Tent Stage.

Once again, the festival sports a superb line-up of blues. Split Rock offers lodging as well as serves as the Festival site. there are a number of other accommodations available near the Festival site. Information on tickets and lodging can be accessed at the Festival's website, http://www.pennsylvaniabluesfestival.com/.  (all photos by and © Ron Weinstock).

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