Regardless of weather, performers praise event

June 01, 2003|By GREGORY T. SIMMONS

Although the Western Maryland Blues Fest was cut short by rain Saturday afternoon, some of the performers in town for the festival praised the event, the music it featured and the fans who support it.

"The blues are thriving, to the point where people will even sit in the rain," said Maria Muldaur, who finished her set in the rain just before the threat of dangerous weather conditions forced an early end to the event.

"The fans seem very genuine. You know they weren't there because of some passing fad ... and it poured more and more," she said.


"People risked getting pneumonia to come see you. That says something."

Muldaur said the crowd she saw Saturday, and crowds she's seen everywhere from "juke-box joints" to large venues, show that blues music speaks to a wide audience.

"It's a very bluesy world - write that down."

Citing the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, corporate disasters, a poor economy and what she called a war for oil, Muldaur said, "That's what makes it a bluesy world."

But that keeps her going, she said.

"Where there's a good gig, and they're going to have people that want to hear what I'm singing, I'm there," she said.

Clarence Fountain and Ricky McKinnie, two of the six members of the Blind Boys of Alabama, were in a nondescript minivan waiting to hear if they would perform in the rain.

"I think it's a nice event - if we can get it in," said Fountain, in his deep, raspy Grammy award-winning voice. "Last year was fabulous ... and the food is extraordinary."

The group provided a rousing finale to last year's Sunday blues concert in City Park.

In a brief conversation about their group's roots, the congressionally proclaimed "Year of the Blues" and the future of the blues, Fountain and McKinnie said they were ready to keep going after 60 years of singing gospel music and blues around the world.

"People like good music," McKinnie said. "We have learned to touch people in general, young people as well as old."

"From last year until today, we've come a long ways," Fountain said.

Just recently the group performed in England with rocker Peter Gabriel, and they may play soon with rocker Tom Petty, Fountain said.

For Saturday's performance, Fountain said they were ready to play in the weather, but it was up to the organizers.

"We think that if you come, if you like sitting in the rain, we like singing," Fountain said. "We adapt to whatever comes and we adapt to all situations."

"We love the people of Hagerstown," McKinnie said. "So we've been here and we'll be back again."

"And the barbecue is good," Fountain said.

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