The Lowcountry Blues Bash: Week 1
This year's Blues Bash lineup features a grand variety of acts who've lived, loved, performed, and survived. Some are from down the street; some are from across the globe. Listed below are some of the highlights and critical "picks of the week" for the first half of the festival:
Eric Lindell: Inspired by New Orleans
San Francisco-born singer/guitarist Eric Lindell seems capable of handling any tune, any riff, any time. Drawing from a deep well of soul, rock, and blues influences, he considers himself an "old soul from California reinventing New Orleans R&B." His recent Alligator debut album reflects some of the gritty Crescent City style that inspired him in his recently-adopted home of New Orleans from jamming with members of War, Galactic, and the Marsalis and Neville families. (The Pour House, Thurs. Feb. 8, 9 p.m.)
Chick Willis: Atlanta's "Stoop-Down Man"
Chick Willis, 72, is best known as "The Stoop-Down Man." A veteran of the Southern blues and R&B circuit since the 1960s, he hails from north Georgia and leads a full nine-piece band through a mix of saucy country/city blues and boogie and raucous humor (he did spend a bit of time on the road with Rudy Ray Moore). Inspired and influenced by Sam "Lightning" Hopkins, Guitar Slim, T-Bone Walker, and Little Milton, Chick is, as Shrimp City Slim puts it, one of "the genre's most enduring showmen." (Charleston Co. Library noon-1 p.m., Cumberlands, Fri. Feb. 9, 9 p.m.)
Bonerama: Powered by a Battery of Trombones!
Led by a clever five-piece trombone section -- Craig Klein, Mark Mullins, Matt Perrine, Brian O'Neil, and Steve Suter -- along with guest guitarist Bert Cotton and drummer Eric Bolivar, jazzy New Orleans funk/rock/blues act Bonerama put on a brassy show, to say the least. Together for nine years, the troupe pull from a wild mix of influences and deliver high-energy renditions of all sorts of unpredictably funky jive. Their performances at their hometown's annual Jazz Fest have caused a stir. Last September, they recorded several live shows at New Orleans club Tipitina's; the album's due in early spring. (The Pour House, Fri. Feb. 9, 9 p.m.)
Drink Small: The Unstoppable Doctor
Affectionately known as "The Blues Doctor" and "The Real Deal," this veteran Carolina singer and guitarist has been belting out the blues since his early days with the Spiritualaires and the Vee Jay label in the '50s. Drink Small plays a Yamaha hollow-body six-string named Geraldine, wears killer threads, and sings about love, loss, mischief, and heartache. His latest is a live collection titled Blues Doctor: Live & Outrageous ("Charleston Women Blues" is a winner). (IOP Rec. Center, Sat. Feb. 10, 5 p.m.; Sticky Fingers in Mt. Pleasant, Sat. Feb. 10, 9 p.m.).
Mighty Lester: Brassy "Little Big Band"
It's the band name, not an actual blues cat. The N.C.-based blues/swing ensemble have been laying down the boogie, soul, and grooves for five years. They say their horn section have been "blowin' some of the biggest, fattest, hottest sounds you'll ever hear wailin' from a tenor, a bari, and a trumpet." Good-time music, for sure. (Cumberland's, Sat. Feb. 10, 9 p.m; Circular Congregational Curch,Feb. 11, 6 p.m.)
Big Bill Morganfield: Muddy Waters' Guitar-Slingin' Son
Raised in Florida and based in Atlanta, singer/guitarist "Big Bill" Morganfield (the son of McKinley Morganfield, better known as the legendary Muddy Waters) has blues in his blood. In fact, his recent album is titled Blues In The Blood. "A few years after Daddy died, I bought myself a guitar and started playing a bit," he says. "In my mind, I said I want to do a tribute to him. But it was years before I got a chance to do anything. I kind of locked myself away for about six years and taught myself." He soon established himself playing in Atlanta with Lonnie Mack, earned bachelor's degrees in English from Tuskegee University and Communications from Auburn University, seriously studied composition, casually dabbled in performance, and eventually recorded a debut recording, in 1999, titled Rising Son. (Fiery Ron's Home Team BBQ, Sat. Feb. 10, 9 p.m.)
Seward "Harmonica" Shah: Detroit's Down-Home Dude
Shrimp City Slim calls this Detroit harp player's style "crusty down-home blues harp a la Sonny Boy and the Walters." Growing up in Texas and Michigan, he learned his craft through years of playing with many of the classic bluesmen of Detroit -- Bobo Jenkins, Eddie Kirkland, the Butler Twins, Willie D. Warren, and Uncle Jesse White. Shah's trademark gravelly vocals and wild harp lines are usually accompanied with electric guitar accompaniment. His latest album, Listen At Me Good (Electro-Fi) follows 2000's acclaimed Motor City Mojo (Blue Suit). (IOP Rec. Center, Sun. Feb. 11, 2 p.m.; Charleston Co. Library, Mon. Feb. 12 , noon; Mimi's Creekside Cafe, Tues. Feb. 13, 6 p.m.)