- Robert Reid, Record staff
- Mon Apr 02 2012
WATERLOO REGION — The TD Kitchener Blues Festival will retain its title as the largest, free blues festival in Canada on the strength of its 2012 lineup.
The 12th annual blues bash, held across downtown Kitchener from Aug. 9 to Aug. 12, once again features some of the best in local, national and international blues.
One of America’s most distinctive roots-rock bands for three decades, Los Lobos has never changed personnel. While best known for its popular 1987 hit La Bamba, that cinematic cover doesn’t convey the East LA band’s eclectic talents spanning rock, Tex-Mex, country, folk, R&B, blues and traditional Spanish and Mexican music. From their debut recording, their musical authenticity has remained paramount as they have found new ways of refining and redefining their highly original sound.
Since leaving the Saskatchewan prairies, Colin James has became one of Canada’s most popular blues artists. Whether solo acoustic, urban electric or big band, blues remains the common theme in James’ music lexicon. Over two decades, James has released 12 albums including his latest, Rooftops and Satellites. His music has been recorded by the likes of Maria Muldaur (a former blues festival headliner) and Lucinda Williams. A superb guitarist, he’s known as a musician’s musician.
Bobby “Blue” Bland
Bobby Bland earned his superstar status without aid of a guitar, harmonica or any other instruments. All Bland possessed was his magnificent voice, a powerful blend of R&B, soul and gospel. A founding member of the Beale Streeters, the legendary Memphis aggregation that included B.B. King, Bland has influenced a legion of up-and-coming Southern blues artists.
A beacon of late 20th century blues, Taj Mahal played a significant role in revitalizing and preserving traditional acoustic blues. Not content to remain confined to that realm, Mahal broadened his approach, taking a musicologist’s interest in folk and roots traditions from around the world including reggae, Caribbean folk, jazz, gospel, R&B, zydeco, various West African styles, Latin and Hawaiian. While exploring these different genres, he never strayed far from his own country blues roots.
Self-taught guitarist Robben Ford has enjoyed a varied career. After accompanying Charlie Musselwhite, he played with Jimmy Witherspoon, the L.A. Express with Tom Scott, George Harrison and Joni Mitchell before becoming a member of the Yellowjackets. Ford toured with Miles Davis on two occasions in the mid-1980s, but really came into his own as a solo artist in the early 1990s when he returned to his roots — the blues.
Ray Manzarek/Roy Rogers Band
Rock and Roll Hall of Famer and Doors co-founder Ray Manzarek teamed up with slide guitar ace Roy Rogers to form a new, hard-driving, blues-rock ensemble. Separately, Manzarek still performs with Robbie Krieger in an ongoing odyssey of The Doors’ music. Rogers has toured with his band The Delta Rhythm Kings for three decades and has been nominated for eight Grammy Awards as a songwriter, producer and performer.
Mitch Ryder and The Detroit Wheels
The voice behind Devil with the Blue Dress and Good Golly Miss Molly, Mitch Ryder holds a respected place in blues-rock history as a high-octane, turbo-charged performer influenced by Little Richard and James Brown and as the predecessor of such Motor City rockers as Iggy Pop, Ted Nugent and Bob Seger.
2012 Grammy finalist Marcia Ball is a blues diva who can raise roofs and tear down walls with her intelligent and deeply emotional brand of southern boogie, roadhouse blues and heartfelt ballads. Over three decades, Ball has earned a loyal following all over the world, a testament to accomplished piano playing and passionate, playful vocals that fuse New Orleans and Gulf Coast R&B with Austin’s poetic songwriting tradition.
Joe Louis Walker
San Francisco’s Fillmore District is celebrated as the birthplace of psychedelic rock. But it was also a hotbed of modern electric blues, where one of the genre’s top musical trailblazers, Joe Louis Walker, was born and raised. The award-winning guitarist, vocalist and songwriter has been releasing groundbreaking music since the mid-1980s. His fusion of blues, rock, gospel, jazz and country tears down walls between genres should have never existed in the first place.
Harry Manx spent years fusing Eastern musical traditions with the blues, switching between conventional guitars, harmonica and banjo and Mohan veena, 20-string guitar/sitar hybrid. Over the last decade, Manx has released 11 albums, garnering a bag of awards including seven Maple Blues awards, six Juno nominations and Canadian Folk Award in 2005 for Best Solo Artist.
Cafe R & B
Hailing from Los Angeles, Cafe R&B features ferocious female vocalist Roach, blazing lead guitarist Byl Carruthers and keyboardist Harry Cohen. They have a large cult following in the U.S. and Europe, which includes Kitchener after making an auspicious debut at the blues festival last year.
Smokin’ Joe Kubek & Bnois King
Smokin’ Joe Kubek met Bnois King at a Dallas jam session. The two guitarists became fast friends and melded their divergent styles — Kubek is a fierce picker and slider and King is a jazz-inflected strummer — into one of the most potent guitar combinations in the America.
Ray Bonneville is a widely travelled blues troubadour. Born in Canada and raised in the U.S., the International Blues Challenge winner has been everywhere. No place, however, has been more influential than New Orleans which exerts a powerful influence on his blues-soaked roots music.
Until the arrival of Ellis Hooks on the blues and soul scenes with his signature blend of R&B, blues and Southern gospel, it seemed the great stories defining this music had already been written by the legends, whether Otis Redding, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf or Sam Cooke. While reminiscent of these greats, Hooks’ voice remains his own. He might well be the artist who brings these historic traditions back into the musical dialogue of the 21st century.
Perennial blues festival favourites Delta Moon will be playing the Main Stage for the first time this year, on the heels of their seventh release Black Cat. With a live show second-to-none, the dual slide guitars of Delta Moon take listeners deep into the heart of Dixie where sinuous Mississippi blues meets the gritty backwoods twang of Appalachia.
Acknowledged as Canada’s top jump/swing blues band, The Twisters have added a rootsy blend of reggae, R&B and gospel to a gourmet feast of early Chicago shuffles, Texas grinders, West Coast jump and funky swamp-soaked Louisiana rhythms. The four-piece outfit has released five albums including Come Out Swinging.
Curly Bridges & Julian Fauth
Curley Bridges’ career began in the 1940s with the original Motley Crew. Along with Motley Crew alumnus King Herbert and Frank Pelly, Bridges formed The Rounders, which mainly toured northern Ontario. He played in a succession of bands until 1981 when he concentrated on solo gigs, delighting audiences with a mix of jump, jive and down-and-dirty blues.
Kitchener-Waterloo’s Fauth has become a regular session player for Electro-Fi. However, his own releases show an artist with an almost avant-garde approach to the blues. His highly individualistic style recognizes and appreciates tradition, while using it as a blank canvas on which to paint his own interpretations.
Toronto’s Treasa Levasseur is no wilting wallflower. Calling her latest recording Broad, she exhibits a fiercely independent and ferocious intelligence that refuses surrender to controversial subject material. Whether examining personal relationships or forces that tear families and society apart, she’s unflinchingly honest and emotionally indomitable.
Too Slim & the Taildraggers
Tim “Too Slim” Langford and the Taildraggers have created an eclectic style of blues-rock that has become a genre all its own. Langford’s evolving musical direction cannot be put in any single box or category. The eclectic nature of the band allows Too Slim and the Taildraggers to appeal to a range of music tastes.
The Pappy Johns Band
The Canadian Aboriginal blues outfit The Pappy Johns Band consists of longtime friends and brothers of the blues who deliver as tight and soulful a sound as any band. The core players include Oren Doxtator, Murray Porter and Don Powless, who have been playing together for three decades.
Other acts appearing at the blues festival include Miss Angel & The Homewreckers, Douglas Watson’s R&B Revue, Ian Taylor Band, James Anthony Band, Chuckee & The Crawdaddies, Lumberjack, Harp Dog Brown and Graham Guest, Carlos Del Junco & The Blues Mongrels, Cheryl Lescom, Colin White, Pat Temple, Paul Oscher, Tom Gray, Shane Murphy, Conor Gains Band, Ken Whiteley’s Gospel Revue, David Rotundo Band, Alan Gerber Band, John Finley & The Sanctified Blues Allstars and The Haret, along with Youth Legacy winner Brendan Stephens.