Blues hounds, get ready to howl. It’s almost time for the 2012 Lowcountry Blues Bash, now in its twenty-second year. This ten-day celebration of America’s oldest music form is being held in and around Charleston, S.C. from Wednesday, Feb. 8 through Tuesday, Feb. 21.
According organizer Gary Erwin aka Shrimp City Slim, this year’s Bash promises us “insanely eclectic programming.” Not just eclectic, insanely eclectic. Wow! At last count, there will be some 59 blues acts putting on 100 different shows and 25 different venues.
Gary filled me in on a little history about what has become a hugely popular blues club crawl, “Our first year, 1991, was one venue only with four acts. It was my decision in 1992 to take the Blues Bash out into the clubs and other venues around town. This was, in part, a response to complaints I had received from various venues, when I was writing for the Post & Courier [Charleston's daily], that the City never involved privately-operated small entertainment businesses during its several annual events. My reasoning was that, if we involve all these clubs and other venues in the Blues Bash, perhaps it would lead them to book blues on a more regular basis.”
For blues fans, it’s an opportunity to experience first hand, performers and musicians from not just the Carolinas, but also Chicago, Detroit, New York, Florida, the Mississippi hill country and then some.
For the most part, the shows are low-dough, as Gary calls them, $10 or less. And a good number are completely free.
Maurice John Vaughn’s show is going to be killer. The Chicago giant (sax/guitar/keyboards/vocals) has some special guests on the bill with him: trombonist B.J. Emery, Grammy winner Donald Ray Johnson, Holle Thee Maxwell (Remember “Only When You’re Lonely,” (1965)?
Nick Moss & the Flip Flops are going to be one of the most exciting shows of the whole festival. With the release of Privileged (Blue Bella Records/2010), Moss used his traditional roots blues background as a jumping off point to explore new waters. The result is searing blues-infused rock that ignites the atmosphere and the audience.
Also packing a big Chicago punch, from the Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon bands and Magic Slim & the Teardrops is guitarist John Primer. As the title of his Atlantic Recording says, he’s “The Real Deal.”
Eddie Shaw & the Wolf Gang. Gary Erwin reminds us that “. . . this is one of the last great Chicago blues bands. Eddie Shaw, Howlin’ Wolf’s bandleader, has kept the group together since Wolf’s passing in 1975.” This is a no-brainer.
From Fort Lauderdale, Joey Gilmore brings old school stylings and soulful vocals to the stage. I’ve never seen him before, so you can bet I’ll catch one of his shows.
A new twist for 2012 is the Take You Downtown Blues Series at the Mad River Bar & Grille, a great old brick church that’s a pub now. All shows are $10, cash only and seating is first come, first served. Shows include Bobby Radcliff, Rich DelGrosso & Jonn Del Toro Richardson; Eddie Shaw & the Wolf Gang; Shrimp City Slim & Swamp Pop Shelly; Jarekus Singleton Mississippi Blues Band; John Primer & Shrimp City Slim; Robert Lighthouse and the Blues Buckets; and Daddy Mack Blues Band.
My Gotta Go Picks
The headliners notwithstanding, here are my Gotta Go picks:
• J Edwards Band. Love this guy. He’s representing Lowcountry Blues Society at the International Blues Challenge (IBC) in Memphis.
• Sarah Cole & the Hawkes. I saw Sarah at a Women in Blues Festival in Wilmington, N.C. Who says girls can’t play guitar?
• Rickey Godfrey. Another act you have to catch live. Blind from birth, he burns up the keyboard and his Telecaster.
• Gail Storm. A true interpretor of classic blues and jazz, with a little boogie piano thrown in, just for fun.
• Juke Joint Johnny. The lowcountry’s own harmonica wizard. And Drew ain’t bad either!
• Scissormen. Over the top and outta the box! Raw and rockin’. Don’t miss these guys.
To really know which acts will get your mojo working, you want the complete schedule in front of you. So, for venues, times and acts, download your own flyer.