The weather was very hot and humid. Sunday's early-day performances were interrupted by one serious thunderstorm. Food vendors were aplenty. Davenport set up a water station that was popular (that free water probably prevented heat exhaustion for many festivalgoers). The festival was not on the banks of the river this year (flood related) but it was very close and you could access the riverwalk if you wanted to. The trains pass by at frequent intervals right alongside the music stages, adding a unique element to this festival site.
The Mississippi Valley Blues Society does a class-act festival and they have added features to their festival over the last several years. One of these is Blues Skool with youth-oriented art and music programs provided throughout the entire weekend. The kids also have their very own bandstand and it was great to see the next generation of blues musicians play it up. Another feature of this festival is the photo exhibit, displayed inside the train station. It was great to go inside and see some of these pictures that result from all those flashing cameras that click away at any festival. One other tent area featured the music workshops. Two stage areas ran concurrently … the bandshell and the tent.
Odetta is folk blues and her talking voice and her singing voice are both gigantic. Odetta has a beautiful soul. She does folk blues unlike anyone else. She was honored with the RiverRoad Lifetime Achievement Award and received a Key to the City from Davenport at this festival for her 50 years of music. Sterling D. Plumpp, Poet, wrote a poem for Odetta and it was read during this ceremony. The audience sang "This Little Light of Mine" along with her and it was memorable. She returned to the stage after her show to sing "CC Rider" with Henry Butler.
Other acoustic/folk blues I enjoyed were Roy Book Binder, Honeyboy Edwards and Corey Harris. Roy Book Binder is a storyteller and a musician and he did both during his show. I went to one workshop that featured Honeyboy Edwards. He answered questions, told stories, and played his guitar "straight key". He has a book out about his life and those sold out quicker than a snap of a finger. Corey Harris played solo and also paired up to play with Henry Butler. Corey rocks … acoustically and bluesey that is!
Harps - Carey Bell was my favorite. He played more than two hours. He started out each song by first saying "hi" to the crowd. Carey's music was lively and rich sounding. He has a happy harp.
Charlie Musselwhite also had an excellent show. He has a distinct sound to his blues music that I liken to Latin music sounds. He played a new blues tune that was inspired from a trip to Brazil. Charlie has a melancholy harp with jazzy undertones.
I, along with many other adults, sat in on the harp lessons (Sat & Sun) in the kids' tent (Blues Skool). All of us 'kids' had fun trying to learn the train and whistle from Billy Branch and from David Berntson. Billy Branch also put on a wonderful show. I think he has a fun harp.
John Primer played Chicago blues and gave the festivalgoers terrific dancing music. (I danced my way through the weekend). Steven Bell has a giggling harp and his music is fast and lively and sounds great.
Jerry McCain was very animated. 100 degrees and he jumped and hooted and jigged and danced his entire set. He played good harp and put on a terrific performance.
I also enjoyed, greatly, the Ken Saydak Band. Ken (piano) has two band members with him ... a harp and a drum. Ken's music is very peppy and very danceable! The other great piano I heard was Henry Butler. His blues music hints at his roots in classical and jazz music.
I caught portions of other shows … Big Bill Morganfield, Scott Ainslie, Roy Hytower and Rose Ledet Zydeco. At this festival, many of the performances overlap and run concurrently so I had to pick and choose. I mostly selected performers I have not yet seen and/or seldom come to our metro area.
If you want to see more about this festival, you can head on over to: http://www.mvbs.org/ on the web to view pictures, see the entire line-up, and learn more about this very impressive blues society.
This review is copyright © 2001 by Judy Cedar, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission. For permission to use this review please send an E-mail to Ray Stiles.