Pocono Blues Festival
JOE PLASKO/TIMES NEWS Mavis Staples headlined Sunday night at the 19th Annual Pocono Blues Festival.
The 19th Annual Pocono Blues Festival battled the elements this weekend, but those who turned out were treated to another tasty menu of American blues, soul and rhythm and blues.
The festival features two main stages as well as a tent stage, providing continuous music for fans, whether they are hard core blues aficionados or casual listeners.
Juke Joint Friday Night in the tent stage included Jimmy "Duck" Holmes, Johnny Rawls and Lady Bianca to kick off the festival.
With the heat soaring to sweltering levels on Saturday, Big Boulder Ski Area had the antidote in the form of some real cool blues.
Saturday's bill showcased a wide spectrum of the music, ranging from the juke joint R&B of Theodis Ealey, the soulful singing of Barbara Carr, the stinging guitarwork of Marquise Knox and Johnnie Bassett, and even the Cajun-flavored zydeco accordian of C.J. Chenier.
Others who got a workout on Saturday included Wanda Johnson, Ray Roberts, A.J. Diggs, Chick Willis and Veronika Jackson.
The headliners of the Chicago Blues Legends highlighted Saturday night, and blues enthusiasts got a major kick from seeing the array of legendary talent that took to the stage for the All-Star jam session.
Pinetop Perkins, who turned 97 years old on July 7, is considered one of the world's finest blues pianists and took his turn at the keyboards, joining 78 year-old Hubert Sumlin, who played with Howling Wolf and influenced many of rock'n'roll's biggest names, such as Eric Clapton, as well as Willie "Big Eyes" Smith (74) on blues harp, Bob Stroger on bass and "Steady Rollin'" Bob Margolin, who once backed Muddy Waters, on guitar.
It was truly a once in a lifetime experience to see all of these blues greats gathered on the same stage, and they all seemed caught up in the moment as well.
Sunday's afternoon thunderstorm caused some shuffling in the line-up, as Alabama Mike had his main stage set halted, although he did perform later on the tent stage. The Campbell Brothers, Homemade Jamz and the Joe Krown Trio, featuring Walter Wolfman Washington, Russell Batiste and Krown, also entertained. Diana Braithwaite canceled out prior to Sunday due to another commitment.
The rain delayed the start of the set by The Fabulous Thunderbirds by 40 minutes, but once the band took the stage, it was worth the wait. The Thunderbirds orignated from Austin, Texas and are still fronted by founding member Kim Wilson on vocals and harmonica.
The Thunderbirds, who last played at Pocono in 1998, have achieved mainstream rock success, thanks to radio play of their hits "Tuff Enuff" and "Wrap It Up", but they still remain true to their blues roots. In addition to Wilson, the current line-up includes guitarists Johnny Moeller and Mike Keller, bassist Randy Bermudes and drummer Jay Moeller.
Wilson demonstrated he can still sing and play up a storm, particularly during an extended blues harp workout, and the guitarists were given plenty of room to showcase their licks.
The Thunderbirds got to preview some songs from their upcoming album, a collector's version of which was available at the festival. Songs like "Satisfied" and "Hold Me" from that disc help their own with other bluesy fare such as "She's Tuff", as well as their signature hits.
Headling Sunday's bill was Mavis Staples of Staple Singers fame, and the sun was shining brightly by the time she took to the main stage.
A member of the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Winner, Mavis displayed her gospel side with numbers such as "Wade in the Water" as well as rocking out with covers of The Band's "The Weight" and Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Heard A Song For Everyone". She also performed some songs from her upcoming album, which she said was produced by Jeff Tweedy of Wilco.
Mavis' last appearance at Bluesfest was in 2004, and she promised the crowd she would return again soon.
Michael Cloeren, festival founder and producer, estimated the 19th Bluesfest attracted over 9,000 fans for its three days despite the extremes in weather. That is close to the total of last year, he said.