As promised, here’s a closer look at the first day of the 2010 edition of the Chesapeake Bay Blues Festival that took place this past weekend in Annapolis, Maryland. We’ll cover day two of the festival in a separate post later this week, in addition to posting photos from both days on our gallery page soon.
We may have missed the festival’s opening parade and performance from the Mummers South Philly String Band (who the organizer admits have nothing to do with the blues, but were on the bill just because he likes them), but made it to our seats in time to catch a few songs from the Barbara Blue-sounding Patty Reese, who was joined for part of the set by special guest Nadine Rae. Wichita boys Moreland and Arbuckle followed (that’s Aaron Moreland on the cigar box guitar while Dustin Arbuckle handles vocals and harp), kicking off with two numbers from their new album Flood before they started the crowd to boogieing with a fine collection of roots rock music that included some nice instrumentals and a particularly rousing rendition of the traditional “John Henry.”
The “2 Man Wrecking Crew” of Cedric Burnside and Lightnin’ Malcolm succeeded in wrecking the place (and “that’s for doggone sho'”, as Burnside – the grandson of the famous R.L. Burnside – likes to say) with their strong Hill country blues, combining Malcolm’s distorted guitar stylings with Burnside’s powerful drums. Next up with Atlanta blues rocker and often Eric Burdon-sounding Tinsley Ellis, followed by a younger-than-expected incarnation of the legendary Yardbirds.
Composed of only two original members (Jim McCarty on drums and Chris Dreja on rhythm guitar) joined by newer additions Andy Mitchell on vocals and harmonica, David Smale on bass guitar, and Ben King on lead guitar, the British blues-rock band had no trouble recreating that classic Yardbirds sound on such tunes as “Drinking Muddy Water,” “Train Kept a ‘Rollin’,” “Smokestack Lightning,” “Shape of Things,” “For Your Love,” and “Dazed and Confused.”
Making her seventh appearance at the Chesapeake festival, Shemekia Copeland opened with the hit “Sounds Like the Devil” before getting funky with “Givin’ Up You.” Other highlights of her set included the title track from her Never Going Back album, “Has Anybody Seen My Man?,” “Who Stole My Radio?,” and a tribute to her father, the late, great Texas guitar-slinger Johnny Copeland, in “Ghetto Child.” I would have liked to have gotten a few more photos of the band, but Copeland’s commanding presence made it difficult to move the camera to anyone else.
Headliner Buddy Guy may have brought the day’s first rain, but most of the 5,000-6,000 in attendance for the festival’s ninth run didn’t seem to mind, as Buddy gave a true gem of a performance. Opening the set with “Nobody Understands Me But My Guitar,” Buddy then moved on to a few blues classics, from “Hoochie Coochie Man” and “She’s Nineteen Years Old” to “Someone Else is Steppin’ In (Slippin’ Out)” and “Damn Right I Got the Blues,” as well as the title track from his latest album Skin Deep. Buddy stepped into the crowd himself for “Drowning on Dry Land,” followed by a more weather-appropriate “Feels Like Rain” upon his return to the stage. After recounting a brief history of the blues through a half-musical, half-spoken medley of “Boom Boom/Strange Brew/Voodoo Child,” Buddy closed his set and a great day of music with the always popular “Mustang Sally.”
On a side note, the festival organizers did an especially nice job both keeping the program on schedule and helping attendees to pass the time between sets with videos of past years’ performers and crowds, as well as interviews with the leaders of the charities that have benefitted from the festival. Like any good festival, there are also a good number of craft and merchandise tents to take in, along with plenty of beer and tasty food, including barbecue, crab cakes, and jambalaya, to whet your appetite.
Next time around, we’ll take a similarly detailed look at Sunday’s festival action, from the legendary Chicago sounds of Bobby Parker and Big Bill Morganfield to 2010 Blues Music Award top nominee Joe Louis Walker, the big band tones of Bonerama, and the hot Texas blues of Jimmie Vaughan and Lou Ann Barton.