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Hump Day! Risque Tunes For Your Midweek Blues 4/8/15

This week’s Hump Day installment is a throwback to last Wednesday which was April Fools Day. I was sick as a dog last week and in the midst of fighting a fever so I didn’t get to post it.

Anyway, we’re exploring all the fools in the land of Blues. Since it was Muddy Waters’ 102nd birthday recently and his son Mud Morganfield, along with Kim Wilson, made a great tribute record called For Pops, we have their version of “Still A Fool.” There may be two trains runnin’ but this fool doesn’t know which way to go. Is he cheating? Is she steppin’ out? We may never know, but I’m betting on both. Maybe they’re the two trains running in opposite directions from each other.

Next we have Son Seals. Every guy in the bar knows his woman is anything but faithful. Poor Son has been fooled and fooled again.eventually she’ll shoot him in the face. Too soon? Another Chicago blues man is being played the fool in Linsey Alexander’s “Too Old To Be A New Fool.” Chicago must be full of fickle women. All these fools are in Chicago getting the runaround from woman after woman. Even our last entry, from Mr. Buddy Guy, is a Chicago Blues legend but maybe he’s wising up and doing some fooling of his own. Who’s been foolin’ you baby?

So, as April fools us here in the Northeast into thinking it’s still winter, hopefully some April Fools Blues will warm you up, wherever you are. Don’t get fooled while you’re foolin’ around on Hump Day.

Mud Morganfield & Kim Wilson Still A Fool

Son Seals I Think You’re Fooling Me
https://youtu.be/l1NSj8sbPrg

Linsey Alexander Too Old To Be A New Fool

Buddy Guy Who’s Been Foolin’ You

Hump Day! Risque Tunes For Your Midweek Blues 11/5/14

BluesBiscuitsHumpdayHump Day baby! Hump that bump! Bump that Booty. It’s Booty time, booty time across the USA! Like that classic Blues band the Spin Doctors once said “Gotta love it, it’s my duty, she got a big fat funky booty.” Tongue in cheek right? Right!

I don’t know how or why but this week is Booty week. Let’s blame Linsey Alexander who just put out a new disc called Come Back Baby (reviewed here) and he has a tune called “Booty Call” that’s catchy, naughty, and bawdy. The blues men have a long history of loving a big woman with a big back side. From Leadbelly’s “Big Fat Woman Blues” to Big Joe Turner’s “TV Mama” – the one with the big wide screen – the blues loves a booty. Whether they’re calling it, bumping it, humping it or just looking at up close and personal, they love it.

Freddie King was a fan of the shakin’ booty, and as you’ll see in the Bobby Rush video, so is he! There’s plenty of gratuitous booty shakin’ when Bobby Rush is on stage with Mizz Lowe and the other dancers. Watching Mizz Lowe work it might not be safe for work so keep it on the down low.

Last, we have Son Seals. Poor Son was so depressed by the skinny women in the big city he declared he was “Goin’ Home” where women got meat on their bones – and a big fat ass (we added that part but he was thinking it!). Somebody shoot thang! Happy Hump Day friends. Enjoy!

 

Linsey Alexander Booty Call

http://vimeo.com/105465132

Freddie King Shake Your Booty (Live)

Bobby Rush I Ain’t Studdin’ You (Live)

Son Seals Goin’ Home

 

 

Fresh Biscuits! Friday Fast Five CD Reviews – September 5, 2014

It’s that time again Biscuiteers. Friday means CD reviews and today we have a Tale Of Two Winters – two recent Johnny Winter release battling it out for the soul of his legacy. Beyond that epic struggle, we have a brand new release from Linsey Alexander and two auspicious debut releases. 

LinseyAlexanderComeBackBabyLinsey Alexander

Come Back Baby

Delmark

Released August 19, 2014

Come Back Baby is the new album from Linsey Alexander on Delmark. Linsey is one of the leading artists performing Chicago Blues today. This album cover captures the nostalgic look of past Blues records but the music inside takes us to Chicago’s North Side clubs last weekend. “Booze And Blues” is lowdown and gritty with Linsey’s live guitar tone prominent in the mix. On some of Linsey’s recordings, his guitar tone is smoothed out and loses the elusive ‘it’ quality. Here Linsey has kept his sound intact and he rips it up in this funky club style workout. “I Got A Woman” is a slow burning tune that also highlights Linsey’s wonderful tone and deep Blues roots. His bends say everything you need to know, and the rest of his licks are exactly what you want to know. His vocal delivery is impassioned, burning with desire. He’s dazzling her with his finger work on the fret board and you just know he’s taking her downtown tonight.

On Come Back Baby, Linsey demonstrates his range and skill with deep Blues cuts, strutting shuffles, and funky uptown boogies like “Booty Call.” They don’t call him the Hoochie Man for nothing. He has an eye for the ladies and he’s not ashamed to let them know. Saxophonist Chris Neal dazzles on this one as does Linsey. His guitar riffs are blues club mating calls and according to the song, they’re drawing responses all around town. “Things Done Changed” is a poignant look at the changes in racial strife over the years since Linsey was a young man getting served food out back instead of inside a restaurant. He couldn’t sit where he wanted on the bus, or use just any public restroom. By singing about the positives in his life now, he seems to be making the point that others can be successful by embracing the changes and working toward more.

Come Back Baby closes with “Goin’ Out Walkin’” wherein Linsey proclaims, near the end of the tune and album, “I ain’t got no time to waste.” At 70 years old, he certainly feels the truth of that statement. However, Linsey wrote all but two songs on his new album, his voice sounds strong, and his guitar playing is authoritative and sharp. Come Back Baby is the best Linsey Alexander record I’ve heard. I haven’t heard them all, but of the four I have, this is the best. There have been other high points, but I finally feel the energy, fun and dynamics of his live sets have been captured on disc. The horns are unobtrusive and don’t water down the songs. The keyboards don’t smooth out the rough edges of the core quartet and Billy Branch guesting on three tracks makes it a jam. If you want to hear today’s Chicago blues played by a master of the form, Linsey Alexander’s Come Back Baby is the place to start.

 

HeresNikkiHillNikki Hill

Here’s Nikki Hill

Deep Fryed Records

Released April 2014

I never would have heard of Nikki Hill if not for my love of her husband Matt’s records and live shows. When I heard he was giving up his career as a bandleader and joining her band full time I was dubious. Then I checked out some videos on line and got a sense of her talents. Fast forward to the arrival of Here’s Nikki Hill, the new album from the Hill’s own label Deep Fryed Records. Nikki and Matt Hill are hosting a rock and soul revival. The songs hit hard and fast, with most clocking in around three minutes. Those three minutes pack a lot of punch, like their early Rock & Roll and Blues predecessors. The songs harken back to the days of Chess, Sun Records, and Stax. Nikki Hill’s voice is powerful, energizing every tune and Matt Hill fuels the fire with his incandescent rhythm guitar and lead work. The rhythm section, Ed Strohsahl on bass and Joe Meyer on drums, plays simple and perfectly effective back up. In the Nikki Hill Band, less is more and these guys back up the boss in style.

“Ask Yourself” kicks off the record by throwing down the gauntlet to her suitor. In essence, he better ask himself if he can handle a strong woman. “Ask Yourself” sets the tone for the rest of the album. Nikki Hill is very much the focus of the record, as she should be. The songs are stripped down, uncluttered, and keep your attention on Nikki’s voice. “I’ve Got A Man” gets the boogie going Mississippi Hill Country style. Matt Hill’s guitar tone is lean, clean, and mean as he leads the band through the hypnotic groove. In “Right On The Brink,” Nikki Hill sounds menacing and dangerous. ”I Know” is an authoritative cover of the great Barbara George track.

“Strapped To The Beat” is a swinging R&B tune and features a completely different band. Felix Reyes is on guitar, Ted Beranis on bass, Kenny Smith on drums, and Steve Eisen on saxophone. They cook up a rocking good track and Nikki Hill’s timeless voice makes the whole thing sound new yet nostalgic. The whole disc has a retro feel but it has an authenticity that elevates it above mere imitation. Everything about Nikki Hill is convincing, from her stage attire to her voice. She is the genuine article and Here’s Nikki Hill will make you a believer.

 

TheReverendShawnAmosTellsItThe Reverend Shawn Amos

The Reverend Shawn Amos Tells It

Put Together

Released April 22, 2014

Shawn Amos was an A&R executive at Rhino Entertainment and vice president of A&R at Shout! Factory, where he produced and recorded multiple Grammy-nominated projects. He is founder and CEO of the digital content studio Freshwire, and is considered an “up and comer” by Forbes magazine. He’s the son of Wally “Famous” Amos and he plays a mean harp. The Rev is joined on his first outing, The Reverend Shawn Amos Tells It, by his “gut bucket power trio” – Don Medina on drums, Chris Roberts on guitar and Ed Terrio on bass. They are occasionally joined by Anthony Marinelli on Hammond B-3 and vocalists Gia Ciambotti and Kim Yarbrough. The band makes a mission statement with “Hoodoo Man Blues.” They conjure the spirits of the past as Amos channels Junior Wells and the gut bucket power trio earns its nickname. On “(The Girl Is) Heavy” Gia Ciambotti and Kim Yarbrough add a touch of gospel soul to a song clearly about sinning.

“I’m The Face” is a full blown Chicago Blues treatment of an early High Numbers B-side. You might know The High Numbers as The Who. The Reverend Shawn Amos and his band give this tune the Maximum R&B for which it was destined. This is my favorite track on the EP. “Something Inside Of Me” is a low down and lonesome take on the Elmore James tune. At five minutes, it is the longest track of the set and gives everyone room to shine. Chris Roberts shimmering guitar ripples through the tune like waves loneliness. Amos gives his vocals everything he has and the anguish is palpable. “Good Morning Little School Girl” is a tried and true blues classic and it’s a little creepy. It has an awesome riff that draws people in, but damn, it is a lecherous sexualization of children and I pretty much wish people would stop covering it.

The EP closes with an Amos original called “Sometimes I Wonder.” It’s a slow R&B ballad that harkens back to Otis Redding. The Rev belts it out and brings it down real low. He puts his heart and soul into the song and it’s clear this captain of industry may have found his true calling. The Reverend Shawn Amos Tells It has only six songs, clocks in around 21 minutes and shames almost every popular record pressed in 2014. This is organic music played with love, skill, and dedication and it’s out there right now waiting for you to discover it.

 

JohnnyWinterStepBackJohnny Winter

Step Back

Megaforce

Released September, 2, 2014

Step Back is the new record from Johnny Winter, who passed away this past July. Like his previous record, 2011’s Roots, this one is all covers and features a myriad of guests. Fortunately no pop stars showed up and it doesn’t devolve into Santana territory but it still doesn’t quite ring true as a Johnny Winter album. Johnny’s rhythm guitar is noticeably absent as is his signature guitar tone which has been a mainstay since the early 80’s. You know the one; it sounds a little thick and chorusy, and it’s all high-end from having the bass and mids dialed down on his Music Man 410 combo. On Step Back, much like on Roots, you’re hard-pressed to pick out what’s Johnny and what isn’t, which is probably why each track lists who solos when. On some tracks the guests are obvious but only because guys like Billy Gibbons and Brian Setzer came in with their signature tones intact.

Johnny Winter was pushing 70 when he made this record. He had a lifetime of health and personal issues. Compared to other active musicians at or around 70, like Buddy Guy, Linsey Alexander, Bobby Rush, Warner Williams, Bob Dylan, Stephen Stills, Dr. John, and others, Johnny was frail and feeling his age more than his peers. Still, when he sat down and played that guitar he was impressive. Maybe this was the best record he could make in his state of health. If you follow the credits, you can tell Johnny still had the chops even if his diminished tone is obscuring his identity. His voice is surprisingly strong, but sometimes he sounds disinterested in the material which makes me wonder who chose some of the songs.

There are some moments of brilliance on Step Back. “Who Do You Love?” is reinvented as a rockabilly tune with snarling slide guitars and bouncing roadhouse piano from Mike DiMeo. “Who Do you Love?” is a true step forward in every way and stands out far above most others on Step Back. Elmore James’ tune “Can’t Hold Out (Talk To Me Baby)” gets a rave-up featuring Johnny’s molten slide and guest Ben Harper ripping it up on a lap steel. There’s a lot of energy in this tune it kicks up a lot of dust in its wake. “Long Tall Sally” actually has Johnny playing rhythm guitar and it is immediately obvious. I knew before I looked at the notes because Johnny Winter had an inner rhythm all his own. It was his western swing rock and roll rhythm and blues heart beat coming through his hands and out in his music. It is a terrible loss for this album to have Johnny relegated only to solos and fills. Leslie West guests on this one and the two continue their streak of exciting collaborations. Check out Johnny sitting in on “Busted, Disgusted Or Dead” from Leslie’s excellent new disc Still Climbing.

My favorite track on Step Back is Son House’s “Death Letter.” The only performer on the track is Johnny Winter, playing slide on a steel guitar and belting out an emotional vocal take. This is the record he should have made. Ditch the guests and the band and Step Back in time to the dawn of the blues Johnny loved so much. Instead, we get a tepid foray back into guest-o-rama and it comes up short. Step Back does little to advance Johnny’s legacy. Maybe the guests like Eric Clapton, Joe Perry and Joe Bonamassa will entice people to check this out, but they won’t be getting music representative of Johnny’s stellar career. Hopefully they will look further.

 

JohnnyWinterLiveBootlegSeries11Johnny Winter

Live Bootleg Series Volume 11

Friday Music

Released July 29, 2014

One of the best things manager Paul Nelson did for Johnny Winter’s legacy was to start the Live Bootleg Series. Now at Volume 11, the series remains a treasure trove of unreleased live recordings, but for archivists it is an absolute nightmare. The liner notes provide no dates or locations, and much of the time no band members are listed. For instance, on Volume 11, the only musician listed is Johnny Winter on vocals and guitar, even though all the tracks are full band performances. But then there’s the music. Oh, the music. If you want to explore Johnny Winter’s musical legacy, forget about star-studded pabulum and dig into the Bootleg Series.

Volume 11 spends a lot of time exploring Johnny’s fascination with Muddy Waters. Johnny performs blistering versions of two Muddy classics – “Long Distance Call” and “She Moves Me.” Before “Rollin’ And Tumblin’” Johnny mentions that he’s done it twice and Muddy’s done it a couple times. The archivist in me knows I have that intro on tape somewhere. I’ll eventually find it. This track sounds like it was recorded with a larger group of musicians than his usual trio, but even in a trio Johnny and the band would raise a ruckus. “Rollin’ And Tumblin’” is a Johnny Winter slide guitar tour de force that will leave you exhausted and in need of a smoke. It’s no wonder it closes the disc; nothing could follow it.

There are several other stunning moments that will remind you of the power and intensity that was once Johnny Winter. Around 1:28 into “Boot Hill” all Hell breaks loose as Johnny blasts open the cemetery gates and unleashes the screamin’ demons. It’s spine-tingling, head-shaking, finger-aching blues as only Johnny could play. The source tape for this performance is a little rough, but so is singing about sending someone out on “Boot Hill.” You’ll get over it once you hear it. Another hair-raising, eye-glazing, happy-facing moment comes around 6:28 in “She Moves Me” as Johnny’s solo kicks into even higher gear with a flurry of notes flying so fast you can’t even hear them all the first time.

Every track on Live Bootleg Series Volume 11 is a keeper. The recordings are archival and not necessarily professionally done. Most sound like they came from soundboard recordings or FM transmissions. This is a bootleg series after all. One curiosity is the existence of track one, “Opening.” It is just ten seconds of crowd noise and utterly pointless. Otherwise, musically, this is a near perfect glimpse of Johnny Winter in his prime. The Live Bootleg Series is must-own music for any serious Johnny Winter fans and would provide many lessons to budding guitar players everywhere. Go out and get it!

 

 

 

 

Fresh Biscuits! New Releases For August 19, 2014

It’s fresh biscuit time again. There’s a movement afoot to change the release day to a worldwide Friday schedule. What’s with the Tuesday release schedule in the United States? Why not Monday? It’s the first day of the business week. But retailers don’t want to have to set up new displays on a Sunday night after a busy weekend sales day. So there’s a buffer zone of a day. But Friday works too for new releases because Thursday is traditionally a slower day in retail and gives everyone plenty of time to get the new stuff out. In the height of the CD era, having time for displays was a big concern. There were tons of releases every week, sale signs to set up, and promotional materials to display. Recently the labels don’t send out much promotional material. CDs don’t move like they used to, and in the digital age, titles released abroad on Friday are on the internet by Friday night slowing sales when Tuesday comes around here in the USA. I think Friday is a good idea. What do you think? If you want to read the article on Billboard click here or the link above.

Release day is still Tuesday for now, and today we have a slew of interesting new releases from a varied array of blues and roots music artists. Elvin Bishop is back on Alligator Records with a houserockin’ new disc, Mud Morganfield and Kim Wilson have their tribute to Mud’s dad McKinley – read our review here – and one of my favorite modern Chicago bluesmen Linsey Alexander has a new disc out on Delmark. I can’t wait to hear that one.

 

Ruthie Foster

Ruthie Foster Promise Of A Brand New Day

Mud & Kim

Mud Morganfield and Kim Wilson For Pops (A Tribute To Muddy Waters)

Elvin Bishop

Elvin Bishop Can’t Even Do Wrong Right

Sugar Ray

Sugar Ray & The Bluetones Living Tear To Tear

Linsey Alexander

Linsey Alexander Come Back Baby

J. Blake

J. Blake When You Coming Home?

Silvertones

The Silvertones Silvertone Avenue

Professor Longhair

Professor Longhair Let’s Go to New Orleans: The Sansu Sessions

Michael Cloeren Interview – Pennsylvania Blues Festival

PABluesFestBoardThe Pocono Blues Festival had been a Pennsylvania tradition for 19 years, bringing the best of blues music to the Pocono Mountains and fans from around the globe. In November 2010, it looked like the tradition might be over. Michael Cloeren, the founder and producer of the festival was called into a meeting with the president of Peak Resorts and was told the company was going in a different direction and that the resorts were no longer going to do any summer or fall events. However, Michael did not want to see the tradition of the festival and what he calls a “family reunion” fade gently away.

By the end of 2010, Michael Cloeren met with the administrators at Blue Mountain. Fortunately, their general manager, Jim Daley, had attended Pocono Blues Festival and was familiar with the clientele, acts, vendors, and perhaps most importantly, the popularity. The name Pocono Blues Festival could no longer be used and from the ashes of the Pocono Blues Festival a new festival was born. Michael says Blue Mountain is “a wonderful facility; very user friendly, closer to more people and fully embraced by the staff.” Blue Mountain is indeed closer to the fans, seated 45 minutes south of the original site, it’s closer to Allentown, Bethlehem, Easton, and Philadelphia which are the core markets for Blues in the Poconos. Plus Blue Mountain is ideal for a festival since it has all the perfect facilities like parking, real restrooms, a natural amphitheater, and camping on site, which the other facility did not. Camping has had an unexpected but very welcome effect on the musical adventures too, “Camping on site is extremely popular and is a direct positive result how the nightly Jams have taken off since year #1 (2011).” You never know who is going to take the stage and it’s easier to stay up late to take it all in if you’re not driving.

Lil' Ed At PA Blues Fest
Lil’ Ed At PA Blues Fest

In just a few short years, Pennsylvania Blues Festival has taken the torch of nineteen years of blues history in the Poconos and run with it, regaining the status of its legendary predecessor. Much of the success is owed to Michael Cloeren and his sterling reputation and track record. According to Michael, “changing locations takes time to get on people’s radar.” He adds, “I feel this year will be very special.” Michael recently told us the transition from Pocono Blues Festival to Pennsylvania Blues Festival has been “a great experience – I feel that the event is growing in momentum and we continue to educate new customers in a positive way.” That positive way is reflected in the lineup of acts Michael brings to the festival, “I feel I program a lineup different than just about anyone in the USA. My programming work for 23 years speaks for itself.” It does indeed. You may see some familiar faces at Pennsylvania Blues Festival but you’re in for a few surprises too. Michael says he likes to schedule “1/3 blues icons, 1/3 strong festival circuit names and 1/3 acts that most people never have seen before.” Michael has a knack for getting acts out of their comfort zone too and gets some amazing performances on the smaller stages. He tells us, “I know every act that I have ever booked (since 1992 around 400 acts) and through experience I know how and where to slot them. That stuff comes easy to me.”

LinseyAlexanderPABluesFestIt may come easy to Michael since he’s been a blues fan and champion of the art form for many years. Michael told us he first met the blues on “March 30,1975 at the age of 18. I went to the Philadelphia Spectrum to see Eric Clapton and the opening act was Muddy Waters. Muddy’s show that night changed my life and I have been a blues addict ever since.” When Michael introduces bands on stage you can hear the love and admiration in his voice. You also get the notion sometimes that he knows he’s about share a secret with you and he can’t wait. Every year you have to get there early because Michael will be sharing some of the Blues best kept secrets all day long. One of my personal favorites was Linsey Alexander’s tent stage performance a few years ago. I had never heard Linsey before and had to go back for his second set later in the day. Linsey outdid just about everyone and it was revelation. You’re going to find the heart of the blues beating under the tent and you’ll get some lasting memories of special performances like the Lonnie, Ronnie and Wayne Baker Brooks performing an acoustic set. The love between father and sons was tangible as was their respect for each other and the good time they had playing together like they would in the living room at home.

LonnieBrooksPABluesFestOver the years Michael had several memorable moments of his own including James Peterson starting his set in 1996 from the chairlift, Eddy Clearwater starting his set in 1998 on a white stallion horse in full headdress, Shemekia Copeland entering the stage in 2002 on a Harley Davidson Motorcycle, and booking Lowell Fulson in 1996, which was his last east coast appearance. His other personal highlights include Ruth Brown in 2005, Luther Allison in 1995, and Otis Rush in 1998. Michael says his initial vision was “a blues festival in a mountain setting” and it has blossomed into a remarkable event hosting music legends every year. Michael says attendees should expect “a weekend of World Class Music, a wonderful facility and a staff that welcomes them with open arms.” He continues “I would suggest that people should attend this and other like-minded events with an open mind and they possibly could have a life changing moment like the one that happened to me on March 30th, 1975 at The Philadelphia Spectrum.”

Michael Cloeren is directly and indirectly involved in several like-minded events including The Philadelphia Folk Festival which he says is “The longest continuous music festival in the USA and Canada at 53 years. It offers eight stages of music, fifty thousand music guests from all over the world, and 2500 volunteers.” If Michael is involved, you can be sure the music with be exceptional and the environment will be fan friendly. A few years ago, at the time of the first Pennsylvania Blues Festival, I spoke to Michael Cloeren and he shared his approach to the booking the artists and it gives great insight to his process and what you’re going to see and hear at his events. “I program differently than a lot of festivals out there. I try to get to the core of the subject matter. To me, the core is the artists that live it, breathe it, and die it. With all respect to classic rock artists who have been in it for 30 years and just discovered the blues or put out a blues record, that’s not what I’m looking for. That’s not what I do. Obviously, the headliners are important, and they’re great acts, but it’s not always about the headliners. It’s about the entire bill. After years of experience, the guests know to get there early because some of the best sets are early in the afternoon. They may not have heard the act before but they know from history that I’ll never book a bad band. And that’s what’s great about this music, as you know, you think you’ve heard or seen a lot and then there’s a band that blows you away that you’ve never seen before. What I try to do is mix them between contemporary and traditional blues, New Orleans music, Sacred Steel, gospel, acoustic, and electric; I try to give the audience the full spectrum of blues music.”

Pennsylvania Blues Festival is taking place July 25-27, 2014. There is an amazing array of talent lined up for the event so make plans to visit the Pocono Mountains for some red hot summer blues. For ticket information and festival information please visit the website. We hope to see you there.

Our thanks go to Michael Cloeren for taking the time from his hectic schedule to answer our questions.

Blues Biscuits will be live tweeting from the festival so be sure to follow us on Twitter @BluesBiscuits and look for #PABluesFest and remember, #thatsahotbiscuit !

Here’s the line-up:

Friday, July 25th 2014 – Friday Night Jam

8pm to Midnight in the Adventure Center – doors open at 7pm.
Cover charge at the door is $10 & Jam Buffet is $8 (food optional).

PA Blues Fest Showcase with The BC COMBO featuring Bev Conklin, Slam Allen, Mikey Junior, Joe Mac & Lonnie Shields – sponsored by WDIY 88.1 fm, Lehigh Valley’s Community NPR Station!

Saturday July 26th 2014 – Gates open at 12pm

MAIN TENT STAGE

1pm to 2:15pm – Tad Robinson
2:45pm to 4pm – Shawn Holt & The Teardrops
4:30pm to 5:45pm – Barbara Carr
6:15pm to 7:30pm – Ronnie Earl & The Broadcasters
8pm to 9:30pm – The James Cotton Blues Band

ADVENTURE CENTER STAGE

1:30pm to 2:30pm – Rip Lee Pryor
3pm to 4pm – The Ursula Ricks Band
4:15pm to 5:15pm – Meet The PA Blues Fest Artists!
5:30pm to 6:30pm – Rip Lee Pryor
7pm to 8pm – The Ursula Ricks Band

Saturday Night Jam in the Adventure Center

9:30pm to 1:30am – doors open at 8:30pm.
Cover charge at the door is $10 & Jam Buffett is $8 (food optional).

PA Blues Fest Showcase with Dave Weld & The Imperial Flames sponsored by WDIY 88.1 fm, Lehigh Valley’s Community NPR Station!

Sunday July 27th 2014 – Gates open at 11am

MAIN TENT STAGE

1pm to 2pm – The Como Mamas
2:30 to 3:30pm – The Jarekus Singleton Band
4pm to 5:15pm – Chris Cain Band
5:45pm to 7pm – The Heritage Blues Quintet
7:30pm to 9pm – CJ Chenier & The Red Hot Louisiana Band

SUNDAY VIP BRUNCH

11am to 1pm – NON-VIP ticket price $30 includes Brunch! (included in VIP Package!)
VIP Sunday Brunch with The Murali Coryell Band with Special Guest – Dave Keyes!

ADVENTURE CENTER STAGE

1:30pm to 2:30pm – A Little Bit Of Blues with Warner Williams, Jay Summerour & Eric Selby
3pm to 4pm – Super Chikan (solo)
4:30pm to 5:30pm – A Little Bit Of Blues
6pm to 7pm – Super Chikan (solo)
7:30pm to 9pm – The Jarekus Singleton Band

 

 

Throwback Thursday – Richard Briggs Interview 2012

Next Friday, July 11, 2014, the Briggs Farm Blues Festival will kick off its 17th annual event with a stellar lineup of national and local acts, great food, and an eclectic array of vendors. In 2012 I had the opportunity to chat with festival organizer Richard Briggs on the occasion of the festival’s 15th Anniversary.

Briggs2014WebBanner

Let’s fire up the Wayback machine for a short trip in time to 2012 and Richard Briggs…

 

Briggs Farm is a 350 acre family-run farm nestled in the small, rural Pennsylvania town of Nescopeck and one weekend every July since 1998 it has been home to blues musicians and fans from around the world as they gather for the Briggs Farm Blues Festival. 2012 marks the 15th anniversary of the Briggs Farm Blues Festival which has hosted dozens of artists from legends like David “Honeyboy” Edwards, Big Jack Johnson, Eddie Shaw, Louisiana Red and Johnny Rawls to local favorites Clarence Spady and upstarts like Vandelay Industries. The festival features acts on the Main Stage and the Porch stage which is literally a back porch set up under a tent and the spot where Honeyboy Edwards sat telling stories about his time with Robert Johnson, Harper instructed the crowd on the finer points of didgeridoo playing, and festival favorite and BBQ Pit Master Lonnie Shields perennially lights up the night with his electrifying performances. For the 15th anniversary, the folks at Briggs Farm have put together another all-star lineup including Sam Lay on the Back Porch, Friday headliner Eddy “The Chief” Clearwater, Saturday headliner Bernard Allison, plus Moreland & Arbuckle, Rory Block, The Butterfield Blues Band, Linsey Alexander, Alexis P. Suter Band, and many others. The festival takes place on July 6 and 7, 2012 and is sure to be a hot weekend of blues.

Alexis P. Suter makes sure Jimmy plays it right for you.
Alexis P. Suter makes sure Jimmy plays it right for you.

The Briggs Farm Blues Festival is the brainchild of Richard Briggs, blues and roots music fan and former TV producer. We caught up with Richard recently to take a look back at 15 years of Blues and family fun down on the farm. Richard Briggs’ experience as a producer gave him a different perspective when he attended festivals as a fan, “I like to go to other festivals, not just to see musicians but to see how it’s produced. I produced TV shows for PBS station WVIA and I was there for 22 years. I started this project here on the family farm while I was still doing TV, so I come from that background and I really enjoy putting on a show.” The idea for the festival came to him at the Philadelphia Folk Festival, “I always thought I could do better. I was at the Philly Folk Festival thinking ‘I could do this.’ Everything was ready and I just had to put it together. It took a few years to get it together and convince people that it wasn’t outrageous. It took a lot of convincing at first. The township was concerned and wanted to make sure it wouldn’t be a bad situation for the community and neighbors. We’ve had a gradual growth in attendance over the 15 years so it wasn’t like a horde of crazy people coming in to town. Traffic problems never occurred, parking wasn’t an issue. It’s really become a good thing for the community. In addition to the local business people who are involved, there are families who come to visit relatives and go to the blues festival. People come from Texas, Canada, California, all over. ”

Terry "Harmonica" Bean brings Hill Country Blues to Briggs Farm
Terry “Harmonica” Bean brings Hill Country Blues to Briggs Farm

Richard was confident he and the festival could succeed but he’s not afraid to admit he over-reached a bit that first year. “I had planned to do three festivals,” he said with a laugh. “But I learned my lesson. People still say to me ‘why don’t you do a jam band or a country festival?’ – but they’re crazy! It’s a lot to put together, but that first year I had a folk festival also and there was another one I cancelled. But the blues people were just really nice. They were comfortable and it was well enough attended that I really didn’t lose any money. Now, we get a lot of people coming back and they bring more people and whole families and groups of friends. It’s a comfortable place for people.” Comfort isn’t usually something you often expect at a festival, but the laid back atmosphere and farm fresh food at Briggs Farm is a big part of the comfort factor. Their willingness to allow coolers and outside food and drinks also helps, and you can’t beat camping at Briggs Farm, especially if it rains. “It was initially a one day event and the next year we had really bad weather. In fact the second year attendance was less because of the weather so we decided to do two days. We already had everything set up so we thought if one day is rainy and one day isn’t then it’s not a loss if people only come one day. Then we had some people who wanted to camp so we started letting them stay overnight. So camping turned out to be the best idea because people camping don’t care if it rains and it makes it very easy for people to come a long way. They don’t have to find a hotel and don’t have to drive if they’ve had a few drinks. It’s a lot of fun to have people stay overnight.”

Briggs Farm crowd 2011

Camping tickets are a hot commodity and have greatly helped the Briggs Farm maintain its reasonable prices, which is important to Richard and the folks at Briggs Farm. They view their festival as a family event and want as many people to enjoy the music as possible. “If we have to increase the price we agonize over it. We’d rather have more people come than raise the prices and have less people. We have the space so we want people to come have a good time. We don’t want it to be an expensive event. I think our prices are good and we’re going to keep them there. We’re making it at this price. We didn’t start out to make a bucket of money and be done. We want a yearly event that we all love to do and have it be financially stable, which it is. We like the bands we’re able to afford at this point. We’ve been able to grow our audience and we can pull from a larger pool of artists now because we can pay more. Now our second stage is becoming as well booked as our big stage.”

Lonnie Shields makes sure you get the good stuff.
Lonnie Shields makes sure you get the good stuff.

Another integral part of this successful festival is the food, which is overseen by none other than Lonnie Shields who is not only a blues maestro but also a barbecue master who offered his services to a frustrated Richard Briggs. “One of the early years, Lonnie headlined on a Friday night and that’s when I met him. He’s one of those guys that’s always talking barbecue and we continued to talk over the years and we’ve had him back a few times. Eventually he offered it to me. Originally we were making the food ourselves, and then we had vendors in and I was not happy. Then again we had vendors the next year and I still wasn’t happy. Lonnie was there and he wanted to help out. We made the smokers and cookers to Lonnie’s specifications. We buy 500 to 600 pounds of pork and he comes up and starts cooking on Wednesday night.” Richard continues, “Making the food is something we always wanted to do ourselves and with Lonnie’s help it’s going well. We’re adding some new things in the style of home cooked Delta-style food. We definitely want something home cooked instead of from a cart or a truck and Lonnie loves doing it. Now he brings his sister Pearly Mae up from Helena, Arkansas to help him out. They have a little family reunion. He has other family within reach and they all come to the festival and stay over.

EliCookOnTheBackPorch
Eli Cook channels Son House on the Back Porch Stage

Lonnie also knows all the musicians coming in and he often goes and plays with them on the main stage after his set on the Porch Stage. He entertains all the volunteers too. He has plenty of stories! I was concerned that at some point he might not be able to do it so I asked him about it and he said I’d have to tell him not to come, and that’s not going to happen.”

A Bluesman's work is never done.
A Bluesman’s work is never done.

Over the course of 15 years there have been some great memories made for fans and musicians a like but a few stick out in Richard Briggs’ memory, “We always try to get some older guys for the Porch Stage so that can be really close to the audience and relate some of the history. This year we have Sam Lay and in 2010 we had Louisiana Red – a lot of those guys are leaving us, but Red was here. We had a lot of rain that Saturday night and I remember him sitting in the green room tent backstage waiting to go on and water is coming in under the tent – it was raining pretty hard – but he wanted to go on. He’s saying ‘If there’s any way we can go on, we want to play.’ So I told him as soon as the sound guy gives me the go ahead we’ll get you out there. It was real late and the rain stopped so Red went on and then it started to rain again but he kept going! He played until around two in the morning. His wife wanted him off stage because it was really late but he wasn’t pausing between songs long enough for us to comfortably get in there to get him off stage. It was quite an experience.” He continues, “One year, Eddie Kirkland, who was about 80 years old, drove up in the beat-up old 80’s station wagon, popped the hood and started working on it. I looked in and it was held together by wire and duct tape! (laughs) It’s just been great to meet all those guys.”

Luckily, everyone attending Briggs Farm Blues Festival also gets the chance to meet the performers, usually at the merchandise table after their sets but many stick around for some of Lonnie’s pulled pork or some fresh sweet corn cooked to perfection, and can be found chatting with fans and fellow musicians all day long. The interaction between musicians and fans, the relaxed atmosphere, the volunteers, the fresh food, and great music makes Briggs Farm Blues Festival a true family destination that is affordable and enjoyable. There is a tangible sense of community that permeates the festival, putting smiles on faces even before the music starts and Richard Briggs is particularly proud of it, “I want people to get that as soon as they drive in and I want them to be wowed by it and get that excitement.”