Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise #19
October 27 – November 3, 2012
By Art Tipaldi
Photo by Joseph A. Rosen
What happens on the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise only happens on the LRBC. Luther Dickinson of the North Mississippi Allstars was stranded on the mainland by Superstorm Sandy. He joined the ship on Wednesday in Barbados. So when the Allstars were scheduled to perform Tuesday, musicians from every musical corner of the ship came to the aid of brother Cody Dickinson and Lightnin’ Malcolm. First Washboard Jo came to the stage to add to the down-home rhythmic start. But the fireworks soon exploded. Susan Tedeschi joined Malcolm for the rest of the set. As Susan called off songs, Victor Wainwright sat at the piano. The now North Mississippi quartet played New Orleans funk and Chicago electric. When they added an Elvis Presley tune, Wayne Baker Brooks joined the ensemble on guitar and Carolina Chocolate Drops‘ Dom Flemons added his acoustic harmonica. When the music took on a voodoo vibe, Flemons’ put a set of bones (real ones!) to create the spooky aura. For the finale, the entire CCD trio, Flemmons, Hubby Jenkins (banjo), and Leyla McCalla (cello) completed the down-home feel. And this was only one of many performances that happens only on the LRBC.
The real challenge becomes, do you watch a full 90-minute show and miss the other simultaneous performances or do you run from show to show watching two songs here and three songs there, hoping to catch a magical pairing. This is a place where the music grows from day one. The week is shaped by the musical ideas of musicians who can relax from the grind of day-after-day touring. It is shaped by the fans who demand that each performance be unique to that moment. Some say there is a defining moment of each day; others that there is one for each show.
So Taj Mahal and Bobby Rush joined Ronnie Baker Brooks at the late-night jam; Lil’ Ed and the aforementioned Ronnie Baker Brooks held court for hours in one of the nightly jams; and the Returnee Party featured an all-blues women Revue. Deanna Bogart, Susan Tedeschi, Sista Monica, Danielle Schnebelen, Ruthie Foster, Tanya Richardson, Samantha Brooks, Ana Popovic, and Samantha Fish made this THE most talked about ship party.
The most popular show from the first three nights was the energetic Tedeschi Trucks Band. Eleven musicians came together for two of the most popular shows. How good is this band? This was the first gig for bassist Dave Monsey and sax player Bryan Lopes. Lopes told me they never rehearsed. When the band came on stage and opened their first show with “Wah Wah,” massive horns, double drummers, and Derek’s signature slide was just one of a night full of highlights. They closed their first night with Susan’s wonderful reading of “Angel From Montgomery” and then a full-blown gospel duet with Susan and Mark River on “Sweet Inspiration.” Their next night was even better. As Lopes said, “The first night me and Dave were feeling it out, but on the second night we were more relaxed.” And the second show showed it. That night they opened with “Everybody’s Talking” and ended with a rousing slow boil of “Wade In The Water.”
Here is a collection of other highlights during the week. Joe Plummer’s play Nothing But The Blues features Earl Thomas and Big Llou. When Thomas and guitarist Eddie Angel performed a duo acoustic show however, the cast from the play surprised Thomas and joined him onstage for an impromptu sing-along. On Halloween, we were treated to Lil’ Ed’s afternoon beach party in Barbados. When we returned to the boat, the show choices were the Carolina Chocolate Drops, Trampled Under Foot, or Shane Dwight with Bekka Bramlett. And that only the before-dinner music on one night. For the diehards, every night the music never stops until sunrise. Many bleary-eyed cruisers in elevators at seven a.m. are not going to breakfast, they are going to bed after a night of musical magic. The great part about the LRBC is that you never know what’s gonna happen where.
I have to say that the most impressive aspect of this inaugural October Caribbean cruise was the spirit of the cruisers. With so many virgin cruisers (1,100+) the mingle factor is off the charts. At every meal, fans from around the world are seated, conversations begin, and friendships are sparked. The same happens in elevators or on shore excursions. One virgin cruiser said, “Why did I wait so long to do this? The most common statement has been, “I’ll never go on a regular cruise again.” I asked one of the crew, “What do other cruises do after dinner?”She replied, “They go to bed.”
Dom Flemons from the Carolina Chocolate Drops told it best: “The cruise was a wonderful time in every imaginable way. You have a good time and then it jumps up into something you can’t believe. I’ve been there since day two. It’s day four with two days left and I can’t even wait for the next adventures.”
Recommendation: Book early! For more information about the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise go to their site at www.bluescruise.com.
Art Tipaldi is the editor in chief of Blues Revue.
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