As far as we can recollect from both our own attendance over the years and the listing of past performers on the event’s website, the Chesapeake Bay Blues Festival never had the honor of having B.B. King play their stage during the festival’s dozen year history. But with this year’s event taking place just days after the death of the beloved King of the Blues, you can imagine that there were plenty of memories being shared and tributes being paid to the blues great during the 13th offering of the festival that took place last weekend on the shores of Sandy Point State Park in Annapolis, Md., from Buddy Guy and a now-16-year-old Quinn Sullivan‘s performance of “Sweet Sixteen”, Gregg Allman dedicating his opening song of “Statesboro Blues” to B.B. (after the band entered the stage on King’s “Playin’ with My Friends”), and Jarekus Singleton talking about how B.B. served as an inspiration to him and countless others from Mississippi, to Tommy Castro & the Painkillers’ take on King’s “Bad Luck” and the Chesapeake Blues Band’s back-to-back salute in the “The Thrill is Gone” and “It’s My Own Fault”. Perhaps the most poignant of the moments was Charlie Musselwhite’s offering of his “Christo Redemptor” instrumental as “a tone prayer to B.B.”, who Musselwhite went on to praise by saying “I hope that someday they make a national holiday for him.”
While those kinds of sentimental notes helped to ensure that this festival will be one attendees long remember, we’re happy to report that neither they nor the rains that occurred each afternoon did much to dampen the spirit of the rest of the weekend, which also included some fine performances from the Queen of the Blues Shemekia Copeland, guitarist and singer Jonny Lang, the soulful grooves of Austin’s Mingo Fishtrap, Blues Hall of Famer and recent double Blues Music Award-winner – for B.B. King Entertainer of the Year and Soul Blues Male Artist – Bobby Rush, and Beth Hart, among others.
Here are a few more of the highlights from the weekend, which again proved to be another impressive one not only in terms of the acts the organizers were able to bring in to a single stage, but also in raising money for a number of worthwhile charities.
– Tommy Castro & the Painkillers doing the title track from their latest album The Devil You Know, along with a great extended version of John Lee Hooker’s “Serves Me Right to Suffer”
– Bobby Rush blowing and singing his way through “Ride in My Automobile”
– Buddy Guy closing out the festival with a terrific set that began with a few of our favorites in “Damn Right I Got the Blues” and “Five Long Years”, later stepping out into the audience for “Steppin’ Out, Slippin’ In”, and returning for a Muddy Waters/Junior Wells medley of “Hoochie Coochie Man/Nineteen Years Old/Hoodoo Man/Early in the Morning”, eventually ending on songs that included “Feels Like Rain” and “Meet Me in Chicago”
– Beth Hart delivering the bad-girl song “Trouble” off her new album Better Than Home
– Gregg Allman continuing a rain-filled start to his set with “I’m No Angel”, “Don’t Keep Me Wonderin'”, and “Come & Go Blues” on organ before switching to guitar for Muddy Waters’ “I Can’t Be Satisfied”
– Shemekia Copeland belting out a powerful “Married to the Blues” during her 11th appearance at the festival, as well as visiting a few songs from her father Johnny “Clyde” Copeland in “Pie in the Sky” and “Ghetto Child”
– Charlie Musselwhite doing “River Hip Mama”
– Jonny Lang kicking off his set with “Blew Up the House”, later diving into a slow, burning cover of Muddy Waters’ “Forty Days”
– a diverse Sunday morning set from a Chesapeake Bay Blues Band featuring Dean Rosenthal, Tommy Lepson, Robert Frahm, and current/past members of The Nighthawks Mark Wenner, Jan Zukowski, and Mark Stutso that included classics like “Little Red Rooster”, “Walking By Myself”, and “Stand By Me”
– a soulful, energetic performance from Mingo Fishtrap, fresh off an appearance at the New Orleans JazzFest, with originals like the groovy “Too Far Gone” and covers such as Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer” and Joe Cocker’s “Space Captain”
Look for more photos from the festival in our BluesPowR Gallery soon!