The 20th annual Lowcountry Blues Bash kicked off last week with over 50 artists on the schedule set to play at a variety of venues across town. Tickets are available for shows at the venues. Presented by Erwin Music and the Lowcountry Blues Society, it continues daily through Tues. Feb. 16. Many shows are free of charge, and admission prices at other events range between $3 and $15.
The second week of Blues Bash action features a great variety of players and styles. Local cats like Wanda Johnson, Jeff Norwood, Juke Joint Johnny, Bad Drew Baldwin, Cotton Blue, Davis Coen, Robert Paige, and Tommy Thunderfoot are slated for performances at clubs and restaurants. A handful of talented visiting artists are on hand as well, including Mississippi guitarist Lil' Dave Thompson, Swedish blues man Robert Lighthouse, electric picker Damon Fowler, and the bubbly combo King Bees, among many others. Listed below are some of the highlights for the second half of the festival.
For more details and ticket information, visit bluesbash.com.
- Delta Highway
Memphis and the blues are nearly synonymous. For Delta Highway, that's a reputation to uphold. They've got what it takes. Lyrics about the devil, bottleneck guitar solos, and a bass player nicknamed "Slim." Brandon Santini takes care of vocals and harmonica. His harp technique improved, learning from the likes of legends Paul Butterfield and Junior Wells. Their version of the blues combines tradition with progress. They've conquered the infamous Beale Street scene at the downtown Memphis boulevard of blues. Now they're set to spread the gospel of blues to a new generation of listeners, even playing dates in Italy. Young or old, the tunes of Delta Highway will get your hips shaking. (Fiery Ron's Home Team BBQ, Sat. Feb. 13 at 10 p.m.; Fiery Ron's Home Team BBQ—SI, Sun. Feb. 14 at 10 p.m.) —Brian Sewell
- Mac Arnold & Plate Full O' Blues
Mac Arnold & Plateful O' Blues
Veteran blues singer and guitarist Mac Arnold has replaced the Daddy Mack Blues Band (due to scheduling conflicts) on the Blues Bash schedule for two shows this week. Based in Pelzer, S.C., Arnold, spent years in Chicago playing with James Brown, the Muddy Waters Band, Otis Spann, and John Lee Hooker. A move to L.A. hooked him up with Otis Redding, Bill Withers, Redd Foxx, and B.B. King. His Plateful O' Blues — guitarist Austin Brashier, harmonica player/keyboardist Max Hightower, bassist Dan Keylon, and drummer Mike Whitt — plays a mix of funk, soul, and electric blues. Watch out for his gas can guitar, y'all. (A Dough Re Mi Pizzeria, Fri. Feb. 12, 8 p.m.; The Blind Tiger, Sat. Feb. 13, 7:30 p.m.) —T. Ballard Lesemann
- Col. Bruce Hampton (ret.)
Col Bruce Hampton Blues Trio
Forever on the search for musical truth, eccentric guitarist, "chazoid" player, poet, and all-around hilarious bandleader Col. Bruce Hampton (ret.) is known among fans for his oddball songcrafting and on-stage antics. Over the course of the last 30 years or so, the Georgia native led various forms of musical mayhem via the Hampton Grease Band, the Aquarium Rescue Unit, the Fiji Mariners, the Codetakers, and The Quark Alliance. He returns to Home Team BBQ, backed by a trio during the Blues Bash on Sullivan's. (Fiery Ron's Home Team BBQ, Sullivan's Island, Tues. Feb. 16 at 10 p.m.) —TBL
- Jimbo Mathus
Jimbo Mathus & The Tri-State Coalition
Animated, rough around the edges, and full of hot licks, guitarist/singer James "Jimbo" Mathus is fondly remembered as one of the dapper players in N.C. "retro/swing" act Squirrel Nut Zippers. He's also a sincere enthusiast for traditional Mississippi/Delta blues music. Mathus' latest and bluesy band includes Matt Pierce, Justin Showah, Austin Marshall, Eric Carlton, "and other characters around the tri-state area." The band's latest, Jimmy the Kid, is a collection of "inner-planetary, honky-tonk music" from Hill Country Records. If it seems odd for a Zipper to dive so deeply in to Mississipi blues, Mathus couldn't care less. "Grew up in Mississippi like a good boy should," he sings on the title track. "Nobody thought he'd turn out much good." (The Pour House, Sat. Feb. 13 at 9 p.m.) —TBL
- Carol Friedman
- Shemekia Copeland
When Shemekia Copeland sings, it's easy to understand why she's been called the "Queen of the Blues." The Chicago-based singer pours out her soul over a slide guitar, and her voice quickly takes over. Copeland was bred for soulful music. The daughter of Texas bluesman Johnny Copeland, she started pursuing a career in singing at 16. While she's proud to be a blues singer, she refuses to let a label define her. Much of her music is the acoustic-based folk or gospel you'd imagine to hear on a dilapidated front porch somewhere on the bayou. Keeping the music simple only serves to highlight her vocals. Copeland's most recent collection, Never Going Back, shows her as a leading contemporary blues artist. With her natural hybrid of gospel and roots styles, Copeland will never be just another voice in the crowd. This event is billed as The Charleston Blues Festival. Organized by international concert promoter Steve Simon (the CEO of Steve Simon Presents), the concert also features Miss.-based singer/guitarist Zac Harmon, the harp-playing "Prince of Beale Street" Billy Gibson, and local band Dan Wright & The New Beat — recent winners of the Lowcountry Blues Challenge. (Charleston Music Hall, Sat. Feb. 13 at 8 p.m.) —BS
- Beverly "Guitar" Watkins
Beverly "Guitar" Watkins
Georgia native Beverly "Guitar" Watkins — a regular act at the annual Blues Bash and Spoleto events, and around the Carolina blues scene — got her start in the late 1950s gigging with Atlanta legend Piano Red and his bands the Meter-tones and the Houserockers. The band changed a bit through the years, morphing into Piano Red & the Interns, Dr. Feelgood & The Interns, Dr. Feelgood, and The Interns & The Nurse. Piano Red's band carried on in some form, with Watkins on rhythm guitar, touring internationally into the '70s. Her lengthy musical career has bounced along ever since. 2007 saw the release of Don't Mess with Miss Watkins (she currently has a gospel record in the works, too). Blues Bash organizer Gary Erwin calls her "everyone's favorite rockin;' blues mama ... a true American original." (A Dough Re Mi, Mon. Feb. 15 at 7 p.m.; MUSC Harper Student Center, Tues. Feb. 16 12 p.m.; Lowcountry Senior Center, Tues. Feb. 16 at 6 p.m.) —TBL
- Michel Verlinden
- Bryan Lee
Bryan Lee & The Blues Power Band
Blind since the age of eight, New Orleans blues guitarist Bryan Lee is nicknamed "Braille Blues Daddy." He gravitated toward blues because of the music's feeling. Moving to Chicago, he didn't know that at the time it was hard for a white man to play the blues and be accepted for it. Despite his ability, Lee was somewhat marginalized, but he never gave up. Now, years later, when Lee plays Chicago, it's standing room only. He's a Bourbon Street fixture, his guitar echoing through French Quarter alleys. But since Katrina hit, Lee's taken to the road. Like his heroes, Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf, Lee's music is the deep blues — the kind that can't be bottled up. He growls and writes love songs to his guitar. And for all he's faced, he sees his disability only as a gift. "I don't have any physical distractions," he says. "Eyesight or insight, that's an easy choice." (Mad River Bar & Grille, Wed. Feb. 10 at 7 p.m.; A Dough Re Mi, Thurs. Feb. 11 at 8 p.m.) —BS