Weekend of the blues

June 03, 2004|by

Hagerstown will host top-notch blues musicians and thousands of blues fans during the ninth annual Western Maryland Blues Fest from Friday, June 4, through Sunday, June 6.

Friday's "Lotta Blues Show," which kicks off at 4 p.m. at the city's central parking lot off North Potomac Street downtown, will feature the music of the Hagerstown-based Rhythm Kings, guitarist Tom Principato of Washington, D.C., and the Washington, D.C.-based Mary Ann Redmond Band.

Saturday's traditional street festival will move this year from its former location on downtown Hagerstown's Public Square to the central lot - a relocation event organizers said will allow for easier setup and create less disruption to traffic and downtown merchants. The parking lot also offers more space than the Public Square area, city spokeswoman Karen Giffin said.


Saturday's main event will boast two stages so spectators can enjoy nearly continuous blues music from eight different performers from 11:30 a.m. to about 7:30 p.m. In addition to music, the festival will feature all kinds of food and beverages and lots of activities for children - including a harmonica workshop - in the Kids Jam Too! area.

Blues radio broadcast personality Larry Banks again will serve as the festival's master of ceremonies, and about 150 volunteers will work to keep the event running smoothly, Giffin said.

Sunday's free Family Blues Picnic starts at noon at Hagers-town's City Park. In addition to band shell performances, musician Ernie Hawkins will present a lecture and performance workshop at the nearby Washington County Museum of Fine Arts. The museum also will host local blues group Ronnie Ray & the Coolers for a lakeside show starting at 1:30 p.m.

The musical lineup includes:

Robben Ford Band

Lifelong blues fan Robben Ford has performed with a diverse group of musicians, including Jimmy Witherspoon, Joni Mitchell, Tom Scott & The L.A. Express, Little Feat, Brownie McGhee, Charlie Musselwhite, George Harrison and Miles Davis. Guitarist and vocalist Ford has worked as front man or instrumentalist for more than 30 different recordings, and is now touring in support of his newest release, "Keep On Running."

Paul Rishell and Annie Raines

The blues duo of Paul Rishell and Annie Raines serve up old-time country blues with a resophonic guitar and a harmonica. Rishell got bitten by the blues in the 1960s and has been an outspoken advocate of the genre ever since. He's jammed with Howlin' Wolf and Brownie McGhee, toured with Bonnie Raitt and written music that's been heard on television shows such as "Friends" and "Biography." Rishell and Raines - a former Susan Tedeschi bandmate who plays harmonica, mandolin and piano - connected in the early 1990s. The pair have performed on "A Prairie Home Companion" and as part of John Sebastian's J-Band on "Late Night With Conan O'Brien." The duo's first CD together, "I Want You To Know," garnered six Handy Award nominations, and their second CD, "Moving To The Country," earned Rishell and Raines the 2000 Handy Award for best acoustic blues album.

Handy Awards are handed out by The Blues Foundation, a nonprofit organization founded in 1980 with a goal to preserve blues history, celebrate blues excellence and support blues education.


The Nakota Sioux family - siblings Mato Nanji on guitar and vocals, Pte Nanji on bass and Wanbdi Nanji on drums, and cousin Horse on percussion - that forms the blues-infused rock band Indigenous has appeared with Bob Dylan, Dave Matthews, Bonnie Raitt, Carlos Santana and as part of the B.B. King Blues Tour. The group also has performed on such network television shows as "The Late Show With Conan O'Brien" and PBS' "Austin City Limits." The group's scorching guitar solos have been compared to those of Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan. The Nanjis, who were raised on the Yankton Indian Reservation in South Dakota, are now touring in support of their new, self-titled album.

Mighty Sam McClain

Nominated for two Handy Awards this year, best soul/blues album and best soul blues male artist, Louisiana native Mighty Sam McClain has credited his strong faith and love of the blues with carrying him through tough times to emerge as one of the genre's brightest stars. McClain left home at 13 to escape an abusive stepfather, following local rhythm and blues guitarist "Little Melvin" Underwood - first as his valet and then as a lead vocalist. McClain went on to tour with the Neville Brothers in Japan. He's been nominated for Handy Awards every year since his first release - 1993's "Give It Up To Love" - and has earned such recognition as Germany's Talking Blues Award for best blues entertainer, Trophee's France Blues Award for best international performer and the 1993 Boston Music Award for best blues album and blues act. The latest release by the New Hampshire resident and his seven-piece band is "One More Bridge To Cross."

Ernie Hawkins

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