For more than two decades, the Lowcountry Blues Bash has been one of the most prestigious blues and roots music festivals in the Southeast. A variety of acoustic and electric blues are on the roster again this year. The schedule features 59 acts in 26 local venues across the Charleston area.
Charleston musician Gary "Shrimp City Slim" Erwin (of the Lowcountry Blues Society) organizes the two-week series every year, booking a healthy mix of genres at a variety of clubs, restaurants, and community gathering spots. Erwin is an accomplished blues pianist and singer who regularly tours, records, and collaborates with blues and soul artists. He knows his stuff, and he often reaches out beyond standard blues genres to invite solo acts and groups who specialize in blues, gospel, old-school soul, funk, jazz, and Americana.
Many of this year's shows offer low ticket prices or free admission. Visiting artists from the heart of Texas, the Mississippi Delta, Atlanta, the Windy City, and the Carolina Piedmont will be on hand alongside some of the South Carolina's finest blues veterans and up-and-comers.
Listed here are five standout acts during the festival's first week. Looking ahead, week number two's schedule is loaded with fine performers and visiting acts, including Paul Geremia, Big Bill Morganfield, the Scissormen, Drink Small, Gail Storm, John Primer, Robert Lighthouse, Daddy Mack Blues Band, and local guitarist Sarah Cole, among others.
For more show and ticket information, check out bluesbash.com or call Erwin directly at (843) 762-9125. Visit City Paper's Music+Clubs section online at charlestoncitypaper.com for complete Lowcountry Blues Bash listings.
Lowcountry Blues Bash Picks: Week 1
Shrimp City Slim Band
When Gary Erwin isn't busy with the production duties for other Blues Bash shows this week, he'll be on the keys and mic at his own gigs. He and the Shrimp City Slim Band — John "Clam Chop" Etheridge and harmonica player Chuck "The Cat" Morris — play at the Brick House Kitchen on James Island on Wednesday evening. Erwin performs a solo set at the Southend Brewery on Thursday. The full band will have a busy schedule next week when they back up vocalists Wanda Johnson and Swamp Pop Shelly and guitarists John Primer and Joey Gilmore at several gigs around town. See shrimpcityslim.com for more. (Brick House Kitchen, Wed. Feb. 8, 7 p.m.; Southend Brewery, Thurs. Feb. 9, 6 p.m.)
North Carolina-based singer and finger-picking guitarist Mike "Lightnin'" Wells handles a mix of Piedmont and country blues in the spirit of the late Blind Boy Fuller. Wells switches from acoustic and resonator guitars to ukulele and harmonica. Expect some vintage ragtime, old-time, bluegrass, jazz, and gospel in the sets, too. Visit lightninwells.com for more. (Dunleavy's Pub, Fri. Feb. 10, 9 p.m.; Southend Brewery, Sat. Feb. 11, 9 p.m.; Il Cortile del Re, Sun. Feb. 12, 2 p.m.)
Maurice John Vaughn's Chicago Blues Revue
Based in Chicago, triple threat Maurice John Vaughn is a celebrated guitarist, saxophonist, keyboardist, and vocalist. He'll lead a full band comprised of B.J. Emery (trombone/vocals), drummer Donald Ray Johnson (of A Taste of Honey), bassist Murphy Doss, and featured vocalist Holle Thee Maxwell. Vaughn shared stages around town with Donald Ray Johnson during the 2009 Blues Bash. His latest Alligator Records release is titled In the Shadow of the City. Expect a funky blend of electric blues and R&B at the local shows this week. Visit myspace.com/mauricejohnvaughnbandrevue for more. (Blind Tiger, Fri. Feb. 10 and Sat. Feb. 11, 9 p.m.; IOP Rec Center, Sun. Feb. 12, 2 p.m.; Southend Brewery, Sun. Feb. 12, 8 p.m.)
Rich Del Grosso & Jonn Del Toro Richardson
The Houston-based blues/jazz/Americana duo of singer/mandolinist Rich Del Grosso and guitarist Jonn Del Toro Richardson stir plenty of spicy southeastern Texas flavor into their acoustic tunes. Their latest album, the bluegrass-tinged Time Slips on By, features some fiery guitar work and rich tones. Check out mandolinblues.com for more. (IOP Rec Center, Sun. Feb. 12, 2 p.m.; Circular Congregational Church, Sun. Feb. 12, 6 p.m.; Charleston Co. Library, Mon. Feb. 13, 12 p.m.; Mad River Bar & Grille, Mon. Feb. 13, 7 p.m.)
All-Star Blues Jam
One of the most popular Blues Bash events, this all-day showcase at the Home Team BBQ in West Ashley draws some of the most enthusiastic blues fans and musicians from the Charleston scene — especially the regulars from the Lowcountry Blues Club's weekly Wednesday night jams. This year's roster features Floria's Nouveaux Honkies, singer/guitarist Jeff Norwood, roots duo My Buddy Todd, singer/guitarist Tommy Thunderfoot, and other local guests on the bill. An invitation jam opens the show, and an outside stage will be set up in the back patio area. The venue hosts an "all-you-can-eat" oyster roast as well. Visit hometeambbq.com for more. (Fiery Ron's Home Team BBQ, Sun. Feb. 12, 12-6 p.m.)