West Bank Blues Festival
@ Whiskey Junction & The Cabooze, June 29, 1997
Reverend Raven & the Chain Smoking Altar Boys
Larry McCray
Magic Slim & The Teardrops
Chubby Carrier
Junior Wells

Photos copyright by Tom Asp, all rights reserved.

The rain continued falling on Sunday so they moved this "outdoor" festival inside. The first three acts performed at the Whiskey Junction and the final two at the Cabooze. This was a great way to round out a fun-filled blues weekend. Reverend Raven & the Chain Smoking Altar Boys, from Wisconsin, kicked things off with some high gear, classic Chicago blues. The "Reverend Raven" plays a very good guitar in a traditional 1950's style reminiscent of Jimmy Rogers. The keyboard player fit right in with the Whiskey/Joint/Cabooze crowd as he "rode" a motorcycle seat in place of a normal stool. These guys were a pleasant surprise, starting off the day with some good down-home Chicago blues.

The "Delta Hurricane," Larry McCray, blew into Whisky Junction and almost stole the day with his phenomenal guitar playing. His intense guitar driven performance was punctuated with great versatility, inspiration and originality. He easily switches between rock oriented blues, funk, and impassioned southern blues. He displayed a full, soul flavored voice and his version of the Allman Brothers' song "Let Your Soul Shine," was outstanding.

Magic Slim and The Teardrops took the stage next with new guitarist in the group, James Wheeler. Wheeler, long time Chicago blues guitarist, played with Otis Rush, The Impressions and most recently Mississippi Heat. He joked at one point after a stellar guitar solo, "I don't have an attitude, I'm just that damn good." He was joined by Al Kirk on drums and bass playing brother to Magic Slim, Nick Holt, who did his usual walk in the audience and sang in his "sweet" sounding deep voice. After a few songs by the band, Magic Slim took the stage and ripped into his rough-sounding, Chicago bar-room blues that is unequaled on stage today. He plays pure, unadulterated raw blues guitar and has a gruff voice seasoned by years of smoke filled bar rooms. Besides songs from his most recent album "Scufflin'," you can always count on Magic Slim delivering the crowd pleasing "Mustang Sally" and "The Blues Is Alright."

The crowd now moved over to the Cabooze for the final two acts of the day. Rockin' Zydeco player Chubby Carrier and the Bayou Swamp Band dished out their own brand of Louisiana Zydeco. Zydeco music is characterized by highly danceable, infectious rhythms that features the distinctive sounds of the accordion and rub board. The rub board is like an old wash board that is hung over the shoulders like a vest and played with spoons. Carrier's music is on the fringe of traditional Zydeco with more of a rocking, jazzy, swamp pop flavor. After a few rousing songs Chubby said, "Put on your party attitude because I'm ready to get busy." The sax, bass, and rub board players had a neat little choreographed dance step going that was fun to watch. When they launched into the spicy "Who Stole the Hot Sauce" the dancing started to get out of control on the packed dance floor.

This music is so exciting and gets any crowd intensely involved. During his encore Chubby was like a puppet master pulling the hidden strings on the audience. As he started jumping up and down the crowd followed right with him, it was near pandemonium. During his set, my daughter asked, "what kind of music is this and where can I hear more of it!"

Junior Wells closed out the weekend with one of his better performances. He was keyed up and in a fun mood - looking sharp and sounding in fine form. Junior has to be the best dressed blues performer on stage today. Tonight was no exception with his all white suit and hat, black shirt with white collar and cuffs and one "lonnnnng" white tie. He also had enough gold and silver jewelry to open a store. Junior's nine-member band opened the set and then introduced him as the "legendary Mississippi sax", and "Godfather of the blues." The sounds of Junior's harp and vocals could he heard as he made his way to the stage through the packed crowd. Throughout the show he was giving us a moderate dose of his trademark vocal smacks, clucks, pops and "yeows," and didn't let them get out of hand. His emphasis was on his music and he was sounding real good tonight. He never plays enough harp for me but what he did play was right on the money.

Junior has a liking for good guitar players (he spent over two decades playing with one of the best in Buddy Guy), and one of his newest band members is a young guitar sensation from Florida. 27 year old Albert Castiglia has been playing guitar since he was 14 and was literally plucked out of a garage band to go on the road with Wells. What an opportunity! He is making the most of it and after the show Junior says he gets certain feelings about musicians that usually turn out to be correct. He has one of those good feelings about Albert and was keeping a watchful eye on his playing during the show.

Junior did his usual "That's Alright Mama," "Messin' With The Kid" and "Got My Mojo Working," as well as the Merle Haggard song, "Today I Started Loving You Again," and transformed this country tune into the blues. His final walk about the packed room, playing harmonica on the remote mike, put the finishing touches on a fun weekend of outstanding blues.

Mailbox E-mail Ray Stiles at: mnblues@aol.com

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