Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Navasota Blues Festival 2011-Recap

Well, I certainly got my blues fix during the month of July. I was still dripping from the blues from the Texas Harmonica Festival when the saturation continued at the Navasota Blues Festival this past weekend. Since I was only able to make it to Saturday extravaganza, these pix and tidbits come from the Saturday event. My plan was to have this all posted by yesterday, but this danged blogger service sometimes just won't cooperate with picture downloads sometimes. Michael Birnbaum, who has excellent instructionals on playing Mance Lipscomb's style of guitar, told me that Friday's show was a great one and went very well. He opened Friday's festivities with he and his daughter doing Mance's stuff. My loss. Birnbaum also kicked off Saturday with a guitar tutorial in the morning, prior to the showcase acts.

Sweet Mama Cotton got the day off on the right foot and got the crowd into the spirit of the day with a solo set. Accompanying herself on keyboards, she ran through her sassy woman blues with her big and powerful vocals. In the solo setting I got a better feel for her musicianship on her axe than when she's backed by a full course band. The sweet mama can really get the notes rolling on that keyboard. The crowd's always a bit on the light side 1:30 in the afternoon, but those that showed up were an enthusiastic bunch and they gave Sweet Mama plenty of blues love. http://www.sweetmamacotton.com/

Sweet Mama Cotton lays it on down
Bernie Pearl spun tales about his personal relationship with Mance Lipscomb, including a story about spending Christmas 1973 in Navasota with the Texas Songster and his wife. He mentioned that back then he played what he called "Right Hand Blues", because he always sat on the right hand side of Mance, Lightnin', or Mississippi Fred McDowell in order to watch how they fingered the fret board. Matter of fact his newest CD is entitled Right Hand Blues. He learned his lessons well, running through Mance tunes such as, "Blues In A Bottle", "Night Time Ain't the Right Time", some of Lighntin' Hopkins repertoire, and after breaking out the National steel guitar and slide; some McDowell and Son House. He really did shake 'em on down on McDowell's "Shake 'Em On Down". He packed a bass player with him this year in the body of Michael Barry, who helped fill out the stage sound. He even gave the bass player some, by allowing a few thumping solos to take place. Great couple of guys, playing the music that has been in their souls for a long time, and they travelled from California to do it. http://www.berniepearl.com/

Bernie and Michael saddled up their ponies and ride

Bernie Pearl breaks out the National steel and slides the blues
David Egan and Twenty Years of Trouble hit the stage with his booming voice filling the room and his fingers moving lickety split across his keyboard. He mixed in quite a few of his originals along with substantial covers of tunes like "Scratch My Back", "That's My Soul", and "Messaround". He tends to add a humorous, real life take on the blues to the songs that he has penned, or co-penned with his good-time buddy, Buddy Flett. Loved it when he sang about the need to get his butt out of Mississippi. He mashed up straight ahead blues with old time rock n roll, rhythm and blues, and soulful soul. http://www.davidegan.net/

David Egan scratches the back of his keyboard
A pause for the cause, which is awarding scholarships in Mance Lipscomb's name to hard working students from Navasota High School, had Mance's sons Jimmy Lipscomb and John Lockett passing out certificates and congratulating recipients; previous and current.

Mance's sons congratulate scholarship recipients

Perennial fest favorite, Rob Roy Parnell took over the bandstand with his skin tight band to blast through his roadhouse rumble, swamp ballads, and pure Texas blues. Accompanying his smooth as molasses vocals with his ripping blues harmonica tone, he picked up where Egan's high energy set left off and gave it his own boost or two. I put Rob Roy on the same pedestal as Delbert McClinton. Both are Texas treasures and mine similar musical territory. The dance floor stayed mighty lively as he swung through songs from his CD releases and covers from the likes of Ray Price. He had the crowd on its feat with his solo harmonica breakdown that segued into a tough and nails Texas shuffle about boogie woogying all night long.  http://www.robroyparnell.com/
Just had to include a shot of Rob Roy's Customized Masco amplifier and speaker cabinets with a 12 and 10 inch speaker in each--heck of a tone monster.

Rob Roy blowing heavy through that Masco rig

Hard to say enough about Texas Johnny Brown and his Quality Blues Band. The man's a legend and proved that his chops are solidly intact, both vocally and instrumentally, as they were back in the '50s and '60s when he led the bands of Bobby Bland and B.B. King, and when Duke/Peacock records hired him as a studio guitarist. He had the crowd rocking, swinging, and swooning throughout his set. He pulled classic blues, R&B, and soul from his vast repertoire. It did not take long for the multitude to realize that they were in the midst of blues royalty; honest to goodness blues royalty. While his bass player restrung a string, he nailed solo renditions of Lightnin' Hopkins "Short Hair Woman", Bill Broozy's "Key To The Highway", John Lee Hooker's "Crawling Kingsnake", and a snappy "Rock Me Baby". By the time he stepped off the stage and began prowling the venue aisles, picking and grinning all the while, he had the crowd in the palm of his hand. An African-American Corvette organization from Houston got the dance floor moving and grooving with their concise, precision line-dancing, that added to the party atmosphere that Texas Johnny Brown got going.  http://www.txjohnnybrown.com/

Texas Johnny Brown picked immaculate blues notes for "real"
Texas Johnny took his guitar to the dance floor and wowed 'em

Having just witnessed the highly talented Texas Johnny Boy's band at the Texas Harmonica Festival a few weeks before, I knew that he'd bring it. I also felt that Texas Johnny Brown would be a hard act to follow. Texas Johnny Boy managed meeting the challenge extremely well with the "BIG" band that he brought to the festival. This was an old school, horn driven blues band that he rounded up to blow the roof off of the Grimes County Expo Center. Having headlined the festival last year, Texas Johnny Boy decided to up the ante, so to speak, this go 'round and treat the audience to the type of blues reviews that have been lost to time. With a horn section fueled by Eric Demmer's sax and Andre Hayword's trombone and adding ringers like guitarist Hash Brown and keyboardist Christian Dozzler to his working band, they took the downhome lowdown blues uptown more than a few times. Kicking off his set with his fat tone harp, Johnny Boy took Willie Dixon's "I Just Want To Make Love To You" out of Chicago and jacked it up with a swinging rhythm. He slicked up Slim Harpo a bit also. Guitarist Dave Haley's slide kept an Elmore James' tune rooted, but Johnny Boy did put the song into a tux. His strong vocals were as fat toned as his harp all night. He knows how to put a song across. The band swung with the power of a B-52 and the crowd swung with it. Great way to cap off a day of the blues. http://www.texasjohnnyboy.com/

Texas Johnny Boy's Blues Revue gettin' her done
Texas Johnny Boy and Hash Brown blowing the Mojo
Yep. The blues chased a rabbit and swirled all 'round my head by the time I woke up Sunday morning. The Navasota Blues Festival volunteers get a hats off and salute from me for putting together a fine show for blues fans and they might have even gained more than a few converts that showed up at their doors. Their hearts are in the right place. I had no idea the a statue of Mance Lipscomb had finally been built and then dedicated during the weekend. All I have to say is..."Ain't it about time". These Navasota folks know just how important the old sharecropper's music was to the world.

Now, given the time and inclination, I would have mentioned all the fine musicians that shared the bandstand with their bosses, but I just tend to get way too caught up in the music to get that done very well any longer. Just let me say that the degree of professionalism was unparalleled by the musicians that graced the stage at the festival. 'Nuff for now.


Texas Johnny Boy said...

Thanks for all of your kind words. Plus, a HUGE thanks to all of the people in Navasota for having this festival and for giving all of us musicians an opportunity to work and do what we love doing. It is an honor to be a part of the Navasota Blues Festival.
Texas Johnny Boy

Ricky Bush said...

The kind words were deserved.

Anonymous said...

Thank-you in advance! This is one of the best blogs Ive ever read. I was not expecting that I’d get so much out of reading your write up!
buy windows 7 ultimate