By Robert Reid
The Chicago-based, blues legend joins Otis Taylor, BeauSoleil, Rick Derringer and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Percy Sledge, among others, at the annual blues bash which unfolds across downtown Kitchener Aug 7-10.
Guy, who has maintained strong ties with Canada over the years, also is this year’s Mel Brown Award recipient.
Festival artistic director Claude Cloutier acknowledged Guy as “one of the last of the great blues artists to emerge after the Second World War.”
“There’s B.B. King and there’s Buddy Guy,” he asserted.
“The award recognizes all the work he has done over the years in the blues genre.”
The multiple Grammy winner is no stranger to Kitchener, having performed at Lulu’s Roadhouse, Pop the Gator and Centre in the Square on numerous occasions.
He endeared himself with local blues fans in 2006 when he invited Brown on stage during a Centre in the Square concert.
This year’s lineup was announced Friday at a Launch Party at the Walper Hotel, featuring popular Canadian blues musician Jack De Keyzer and local blues hotshots Jon Knight and Matt Weidinger.
Guy headlines the festival’s paid-admission, Kick-off Concert on Aug. 7 at the Clock Tower stage, in Victoria Park.
The opening acts include Kitchener-bred, Juno-winner Steve Strongman and Quinn Sullivan, a young American blues prodigy Guy has taken under his wing.
The festival’s paid-admission, Closing Concert on Aug. 10 at the Downtown Tent stage, in Victoria Park, features festival returnee Taylor and his band, along with Michael Doucet and BeauSoleil.
“Otis is more than a 12-bar, blues artist. His music transcends genres and cross-pollinates with Cajun music,” Cloutier observed.
He described BeauSoleil as “the granddaddy of Cajun music.”
The festival has always prided itself in showcasing Canada’s premium blues artists and acts influenced by the blues. But this year marks a new level of tribute.
Hamilton-based, roots-music, Renaissance artist Tom Wilson will perform with a trio of popular and influential bands he founded or co-founded including Junkhouse, Blackie and the Rodeo Kings and LeE HARVeY OsMOND.
Musical sidekicks Colin Linden and Stephen Fearing will join Wilson, along with an assortment of other musicians making up Junkhouse and LeE HARVeY OsMOND.
Cloutier recognizes that Wilson is not a pure blues artist. But his creative mandate has always extended beyond the blues in a narrow sense.
“Some blues festivals follow a strict formula, others range all over the map. My focus is keeping the festival fresh and interesting without straying too far from the blues,” Cloutier said. “I’ve always had an affinity to roots music.”
Cloutier expects Wilson “at some point” to be celebrated as “a Canadian music icon.”
“This is a good time to pay homage with a musical retrospective.”
Derringer’s lengthy music career was launched in 1965 when The McCoys’ released the chart-topping Hang on Sloopy. He went on the play with the Winter brothers, Johnny and Edgar. He made guest appearances on albums by Alice Cooper, Richie Havens, Todd Rundgren and Steely Dan, among others, and produced Canadian musical lampooner Weird Al Yankovic.
If Sledge had recorded just one song, When a Man Loves a Woman would have assured him a place in rock and roll history. But his tear-stained, gospel-tinged songs brought Southern soul into the mainstream of pop music.