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Chicago Blues Festival 2010

Otis Taylor, James Cotton, Guitar Shorty among stars performing

By

David Honeyboy Edwards

David Honeyboy Edwards

Photo by Vince Bucci, courtesy Getty Images

Chicago's Grant Park will be filled with every kind of blues music when the 27th annual Chicago Blues Festival is held from Friday, June 11 through Sunday, June 13, 2010. Sponsored by the Mayor's Office of Special Events along with various commercial supporters, the Chicago Blues Festival is the largest free admission blues festival in the world. This year's event has been scaled back a little due to the economy, cutting a day off the traditional schedule, but the festival will still feature more than 60 performances on 6 stages over the weekend.

Chicago Blues Festival 2010

Festival promoters may only have three days for this year's event, but they've packed it with four days worth of entertainment value. The party kicks off early on Friday, which features a performance by legendary Chicago blues guitarist Jimmy Dawkins, accompanied by singer Taildragger. Trance-blues originator Otis Taylor will perform with his band in support of his new album, Clovis People, and blues harp wizard James Cotton will headline Friday night with special guest Matt "Guitar" Murphy.

By lunchtime on Saturday it all starts up again, and festival-goers can enjoy music from artists like harp master Sugar Blue, who is still touring behind his excellent 2009 album Threshold. Delta blues legend David "Honeyboy" Edwards will appear this year, and is always worth watching, as is bawdy and notorious R&B performer Andre Williams. Texas blues guitarist Sonny Rhodes headlines Saturday night, the gritty singer one of the few bluesmen to play a lap-steel guitar in the creation of his original material.

Sunday is the last day of the festival, but there's no shortage of star power to bring out the fans. Blues-rock guitarist Guitar Shorty, fresh off the release of his acclaimed Alligator Records album Bare Knuckle, will bring down the house late Sunday afternoon, while earlier in the day you can experience the great Hill Country-inspired blues sound of the Homemade Jamz Band, the Perry siblings truly something to experience. Folk-funk originator Bobby Rush brings his unique spin on blues music to the festival, the award-winning artist never anything less than entertaining.

Tributes & Discussions

One of the annual draws of the festival is the various tributes, discussions, and other participatory events that occur over the weekend. Friday will include a Blues in the Schools performance featuring Eric Noden, Katherine Davis and the Stone Academy Blues Students. Young blues harp aspirants can take a lesson on the instrument from Joe Filisko.

A performance by alumni of Howlin' Wolf's bands, featuring Eddie Shaw and the Wolf Gang with Jody Williams, Sam Lay, Henry Gray, Abb Locke, Corky Siegel, and special guest Hubert Sumlin, promises to bring down the house.

Hot on the heels of a well-deserved Grammy™ nomination, the gang behind the Chicago Blues: A Living History album will perform on Saturday, an esteemed and talented line-up that includes harp players Billy Boy Arnold and Billy Branch; guitarists John Primer and Lurrie Bell; and a special guest, guitarist Carlos Johnson.

Chicago Blues Reunion

One of the highlights of this year's festival will be the Chicago Blues Reunion, an all-star "supergroup" of seasoned blues and blues-rock veterans. Taking the stage on Sunday night, the Chicago Blues Reunion line-up includes singer, songwriter, and guitarist Nick Gravenites; guitarist Harvey Mandel (ex-Canned Heat); Barry Goldberg; Corky Siegel (of the legendary Siegel-Schwall Band), with special guests Charlie Musselwhite and Sam Lay.

The festival will also feature a number of other blues, soul, and R&B performers, including:

  • Quintus McCormick
  • Ramblin' Jack Elliott
  • Dexter Allen
  • Nora Jean
  • T.K. Soul
  • Zora Young
  • Café R&B
  • Grady Champion
  • Bobby Dexter Blues Band
  • Jimmy "Duck" Holmes & Terry Bean
  • Dave Weld & the Imperial Flames

A Tradition of Excellence

The Chicago Blues Festival launched in 1984, less than a year after the legendary bluesman Muddy Waters' death, and the inaugural festival paid tribute to the blues icon. The 1984 festival took place on a single stage and attracted 165,000 music lovers over the three-day event. Over the years, the festival has grown to the point where the 2007 event, held over four days, featured six stages and brought in over 800,000 attendees.

Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble, Etta James, Lonnie Brooks, Otis Rush, Chuck Berry, Albert King, John Lee Hooker, the Neville Brothers, Buddy Guy, Bobby "Blue" Bland, Taj Mahal, and Hubert Sumlin are among the hundreds of artists that have performed at the Chicago Blues Festival throughout the event's storied history.

Check with the Chicago Blues Festival website for performance schedules and other information about the event.

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