Washington feeds off crowd, belts out blues

June 02, 2002|by ANDREA ROWLAND

Blues vocalist Toni Lynn Washington took the stage to rock the crowd Saturday at the Western Maryland Blues Fest.

"This is a crowd that likes to rock," Washington said prior to her 3 p.m. performance on the Washington Street stage.

She planned to feed off the crowd's energy when she began belting out such classic blues tunes as "Unchain My Heart," Washington said.

The festive atmosphere drew her and her Boston-based band back to Blues Fest again this year, she said.

"We really enjoy being here," Washington said. "It's an honor to be invited back."

Several Blues Fest patrons said the opportunity to hear the four-time W.C. Handy Award nominee - Washington was nominated for the coveted Soul/Blues Female Artist of the Year award again in 2002 - was an honor for them.


"She's a real blues hero - a wonderful performer," said Charlie Frank of Baltimore.

Frank danced and played an imaginary keyboard on the gate separating the audience from the stage during the Toni Lynn Washington Band's rhythm and blues performance.

"That woman can sing. It sounds like the words come straight from her heart," said Amanda Wentworth of Chambersburg, Pa.

Washington relishes making music that "tells a good story," she said.

"That's what blues does. It's the most exciting type of music to me and I've been through a lot of eras," Washington said.

She has sung gospel, jazz, Top 40 and R&B music from New Orleans to Hollywood and beyond since she began her musical career nearly four decades ago, Washington said. The various types of music in her background have shaped the style she describes as "R&B with a new treatment."

Washington sticks mainly to "glad blues" with a jazzy touch, but has been known to sing more solemn blues music because of the touching lyrics, she said.

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