Review and Photos by Bob Adamek – [email protected]
The 9th year of the Chesapeake Bay Blues Fest was held at Sandy Point State Park in Annapolis, MD on May 22nd and 23rd. The festival raises money for four charities in a beautiful setting right on the Chesapeake Bay. The talent featured at the festival has been consistently high and this year was a real treat for blues fans, featuring headliners Buddy Guy and Chuck Berry, with support from the Yardbirds, Jimmie Vaughan, Shemekia Copeland, Anders Osborne, Bonerama and many others. I was fortunate to be there on Sunday, May 23rd for a great day of music.
Anders Osborne and Bonerama gave the festival a New Orleans flavor in the early afternoon. Anders came firing out of the gate blasting a couple of long and intense instrumentals with an utterly filthy dirty tone on his black Stratocaster. Under a pleasant cloudy sky, Anders did a nice job of combining his split musical personality of pyrotechnical intense guitarist and well thought out singer songwriter. He played several songs from his recent release “American Patchwork” , including Acapulco and Standing With Angels, which was a moving and quiet song featuring Anders’ booming and impassioned voice. Anders’ trio included a couple of road warrior professionals in bassist Carl Dufrene and drummer on loan from Bonerama, Eric Bolivar. Eric’s insightful rhythms provided an ideal tribal pulse to Anders’ pounding grooves. They were joined by the Bonerama horns for their last number, a sit-in that really got the crowd’s attention.
Bonerama, straight from a tour of California, took the stage next showing off the ease and tightness that evolves in a band with their type of heavy tour schedule. They were fun and exuberant right from the start with their song Shake Your Rugalator. The harmonies have developed a real richness among the three trombone playing front men Mark Mullins, Craig Klein and Greg Hicks and the band has added depth with Hammond B3 organist Joe Ashlar. One of the highlights of the afternoon was when Bonerama, joined on stage by Anders Osborne, played Turn On Your Love Light just as the sun cracked through the thick cloud cover for the first time during the day. Anders traded high energy solos with Bonerama’s own guitarist, Bert Cotton, whipping the crowd to their feet, dancing and screaming. Anders Osborne stayed on stage for the band’s final number, a crushing version of Led Zeppelin’s When The Levee Breaks. I have seen Bonerama many times and they continue to perform at a very high level, always leaving the crowd buzzing.
The headliners on Sunday were Jimmie Vaughan and the Tilt-A-Whirl Band featuring Lou Ann Barton, followed by Chuck Berry. Jimmie Vaughan came out with a really well-born blues act, smooth and tight, creditably road worn. His band features the real deal, guys with many tattoos adorning everything down to their fingers like their second guitarist, Billy Pitman. They are not posers, they are serious bluesmen and know how to lay into a fat Texas blues groove with polished authority. After half a set of blues played and sung with complete command, Jimmy brought out the soulful blues voice of Lou Ann Barton, who went on to finish the set with exactly what the crowd came to hear.
Chuck Berry then took the stage with the reception befitting one of the very pioneers of Rock-n-Roll. He opened with Roll Over Beethoven, and played many of his signature songs like Maybellene, Johnny B. Goode and Nadine. The familiar double stops on his Gibson 355, that made his sound a signature, have slowed down, but his voice is still crystal clear, sounding more like a 30 year old than an 83 year old. He also still has the ability to entertain a crowd, hopping on one leg across the stage and inviting a dozen women up to dance with him. He played a couple of songs on piano with surprising dexterity, charming the crowd with his fun set.
The festival only features one stage but the time in between acts to strike and reset the stage was surprisingly brief, and not one act started as much as a minute late. A huge staff of volunteers helped everything run smooth and easy for the laid back crowd of blues fans. Everyone seemed happy and relaxed, just how a festival is supposed to make you feel. By all means, put this one on your list for next year, http://www.bayblues.org.
See more of Bob Adamek’s photos of the Chesapeake Bay Blues Festival 2010