Friday, August 5, 2011

Navasota Blues Fest

Since it's August, it must mean that the Navasota Blues Fest will be rolling around. Not that it's always been in August, but has been for the past several years and does always provide a respite from the Texas heat with some mighty fine blues. The fest began, and still is, a tribute to hometown legend, Mance Lipscomb. I've got a bit of history with the fest going all the way back to the first one, when I wrote several of the musician bios for the program for a couple of years and blew my harmonica at several of them. Watched plenty of fine performances and gained some good friends over the years. The event this year will run from Thursday, August 11 through Saturday August 13 at the cavernous Grimes County Expo Center. Before I get too ahead of myself and if you don't care to read through this post go to: You'll know as much as I know about this year's event. Well, maybe not as much as I know, but pretty much. Click on the band links for even mo' knowledge for yo' brain.

Some old hands and some new bands will be slinging and bringing it again, beginning with the appetizer being served up by the Navasota BluesCapital Revue featuring a slew of talent from the from the area. This event is sponsored by Navasota Blues Alley and will be held at the historic Miller Theater, which has limited seating so call 936 830-3331 for details. I do hear that Joe Tex Jr will be in performance, so that should be a treat.

The first course will be served up Friday night. Friday nights have always kicked off the festival with what they used to call a "dance". The Blues Brothers Tribute Act have filled the opening bill for a few years now and after parking their blues police cruizer in front of the building, they'll commence their humorous take on these humorous blues men. Tubie and the Touchtones follow with set of blues, tinged with a bit of rock.

Don Kessee headlines Friday night with his blues from the "Old School", because he's in that class with B.B. King, Bobby "Blue" Bland, T-Bone Walker, etc, etc...His band is always as tight as a snake skin and he puts a song across vocally just as well as the aforementioned masters. Bonafide blues will be on tap.

The main course, of course, is the Saturday blues whomping from 1:30 pm until midnight. Carb up the night before and come early to stay late. If you don't, they have plenty of food available. Michael Birnbaum will actually start the proceedings with a guitar clinic, demonstrating Mance's technique. I had the pleasure of playing a set with Michael a few years ago at one of the Friday night dances, and the man knows his book of Mance.

Sweet Mama Cotton will open up the showcase at 1:30 with blues belted out in the tradition of Sippy Wallace and Bessie Smith. As one of the fest veterans, she know how to kick start the crowd with her big, booming voice refusing to allow anyone to remain glued to their folding chairs. She always brings a finely tuned group of muscians to the show from her homebase in Houston.
One of the highlights for me was the first time I saw Bernie Pearl at the festival. I'd long had a CD of his stuff that he recorded with Harmonica Fats from some years back, but nothing prepared me for just how deep this man could play the blues. At the time, I had no idea at the time that he'd sat elbow to elbow with Lightnin' Hopkins, Mance Lipscomb, and Fred McDowell back in the day at his brother's legendary Ash Grove Club in LA. The club was these guys home away from home when they were in California. Bernie pulled out all the stops that day and slayed me with his mastery of blues guitar. He'll do it again, for sure, on August 13.

David Egan & Twenty Four Years of Trouble returns to the fest again this year to lay down his high energy show, marked by mighty fine singing and great musicians. His forte is the song, because he's been covered by a who's who in the blues over the years.

Rob Roy Parnell is one of those previous mentioned friends that I've made over the years. He is a Texas bluesman and that can be hard to define, because that style mixes the swamp of Louisiana, with big city grooves, and West Texas swing. He's got a voice that's big as Texas too and blows the hell out of a harmonica. The roadhouse rumble will start with his set.

Texas Johnny Brown was a member of Amos Milburn's band when they backed him on his recordings in 1949. He led the bands of Bobby "Blue" Bland and Junior Parker and played the part of studio musician for Duke/Peacock Records, and he wrote the classic "Two Steps From The Blues". I thought that I'd throw those tidbits out throwing around the well-worn phrases, "Authentic" and "Real Deal", but if anyone fits the bill, then it sure the heck is he. The price of admission is worth seeing Texas Johnny Brown and His Quality Blues band put that authenticity and real deal blues to work. Heck of a great guy, too.

Just witnessed what Texas Johnny Boy (yeah, Johnny Boy, not Brown) can do with a blues harp in his mouth last weekend at the Texas Harmonica Festival and I guarantee that he can get it going, both vocally and instrumentally. Plus, on this gig he just might break on the flute. Flute? In blues? Trust me, you'll have to see it too believe how well he can make it work. Not saying that he will mind you, because he's bringing in a blue review conglomerate that will also feature DFW stars, Brian "Hash Brown" Calway and Christian "Vienna Slim" Dozzler. I've seen both those boys blow harp, so maybe they'll just all throw it down together, even though guitar and keyboard (respectively) seem to be their main axe choices. It'll be an old fashion blues review completed by the horn section made up by Eric Demmer (sax, Gatemouth Brown alum), Andre Hayward (trombone, Duke Ellington, Wynton Marsailles). They hit the stage at 9 pm and take it to the midnight hours, to they ain't no telling what's gonna take place while they're doing it.

There it is. Sounds like some good sounds to me and a mighty cool place to be when the temperature is still 90 degrees at ten o'clock in the evening time. 'Nuff said.

No comments: