2012 Chesapeake Bay Blues Festival
May 19 & 20, 2012
Sandy Point State Park
By Bob Putignano
On this week’s Blues Beat page, Bob Putignano reviews the Chesapeake Bay Blues Festival. Be sure to check out this week’s Photo Page to see some of Bob’s photographs from the festival.
It was another stellar lineup for the Chesapeake Bay Blues Festival. Saturday’s performances included the Chesapeake Bay Blues Band with local hero Tom Principato, the Honey Island Swamp Band, Janiva Magness, a Michael Burks tribute with Bernard Allison’s band and Lurrie Bell, Ruthie Foster, Big Head Todd, and the Tedeschi Trucks Band.
I arrived late for Saturday’s festivities and only got to see Tedeschi Trucks, who put on a solid set. This was the first time I had seen the husband and wife team and I really enjoyed hearing Trucks’ soloing over a very tight horn section and background singers. Tedeschi proved to be no slouch on guitar and rolled out dynamite guitar licks, but was no match (intensity wise) for Trucks. I walked away thinking that, as good as this unit was, I must say that I prefer seeing the Derek Trucks Band over the Tedeschi Trucks ensemble as the DTB band is more creative and daring, and is more apt to take more chances. I had similar feelings about the Tedeschi Trucks studio recording and the just-released double-disc set.
I arrived much earlier on Sunday and caught the end of Albert Cummings so-so performance; how many more blues-rock trios can one endure? Up next was the tiny dynamo Lydia Pense with her latest incarnation of Cold Blood, who was brought back to Chesapeake (they appeared last in 2009). Pense and her fine unit did not disappoint again leaving a lasting impressin on this writer. Cold Blood’s performance was all about funk and soul, but their opening number had the blues-oriented crowd mesmerized as they ripped through a killer version of “I Just Want To Make Love To You.” This was Cold Blood’s second east coast visit in about twenty-five years, which is a shame as Lydia and Cold Blood would be a welcome addition to festivals and clubs across the country. They are that good. The crowd never danced harder all weekend long. There was a long line of fans that had purchased the latest Cold Blood CD, Live Blood, on www.digmusic.com. Many told Pense that she was the main reason they had attended the festival. It was also cool to see how much vinyl Pense’s adoring fans brought along for her to autograph. Catch this band live, you won’t be disappointed. Also, check out their current recording which just burns! Kudos to the Cold Blood two-piece horn section that often sounded like a full-blown ensemble!
Philipp Fankhauser’s flight from Switzerland was late, so Shemekia Copeland came on earlier and took his time slot. By the way, Shemekia was also booked several times by this festival and is obviously a fan and booker’s favorite. Fortunately Fankhauser made it to the Bay Bridge in time to take Shemekia’s spot and really lit it up with his excellent guitar playing, strong and soulful vocals, and dynamite band. Fankhauser was the consummate professional throughout, tantalizing the crowd with his command of the stage. I have to hand it to this Euro-star who came out wearing an all-white suit and who summoned and sang songs by Bobby “Blue” Bland, Solomon Burke, and a man he considers one of his mentors, Johnny Copeland. Pretty ballsy, but right on. I was hopeful that during Fankhauer’s Copeland segment that Shemekia might join in, but that did not happen. Kudos to the Chesapeake booking team for bringing Fankhauser to the United States; not only was it a rare opportunity to see this fine band stateside, but they were that good, leaving a very memorable impression on yours truly. Unfortunately I don’t have similar kind sentiments about JJ Grey and Mofro, who performed sloppily and authors some of the lamest lyrics on the planet. Closing the show was Jonny Lang (who was also at Chesapeake in 2009), who blistered on his opening number and throughout the eve. When I saw him in 2009 here he would not allow any photographs, but this time he allowed the press to take photographs for one song… Jonny’s not my full cup of tea, but I found it interesting to see his youthful fans (especially the young ladies) thoroughly enjoying his set, a rarity for a blues performance.
Festival CEO and President Don Hooker is a true lover of blues music; he first organized the fest in 1998. It was an immediate hit bringing in more than 13,000 people to the park in two days. Since their maiden voyage this picturesque festival has become one of the biggest music festivals in the mid-Atlantic region. By the way: Hooker isn’t trying to make any personal monetary gain from the festival. Each year he donates all of the net profits to various charities. Over the years Hooker has raised nearly one million dollars, an amazing accomplishment. In summary, if you are looking to attend a great festival with a stellar lineup that is held at one of the most scenic venues around, and if you dig the outstanding local shellfish (Mike’s Crab House Restaurant [www.MikesCrabHouse.com] was outstanding. I even brought home seafood from them), keep checking out bayblues.org for 2013 updates.
Bob Putignano is a contributing editor at BluesWax, a contributing writer at Blues Revue, and the heart and soul of Sounds of Blue. www.SoundsofBlue.com
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