Ottawa Bluesfest (long)
Tue Jul 8 01:09:25 EDT 1997
Since both Greg Greene and Pat Hertel have put in their loonie's worth,
here's mine. I'm no reviewer -- this is a *very* subjective summary of
what was, for me, an incredible weekend.
This year's Bluesfest was exceptional -- a minor disappointment, only two
blueswomen in the initial Friday to Sunday lineup, Suzie Vinnick to open
Friday evening and Deborah Coleman mid-afternoon Saturday (although there
are some women musicians in the larger ensembles). The addition of an
'all Canadian' Thursday evening included two more women -- Kingston's
Georgette Fry and Ottawa's own (and my good friend) Andrea Karam. As Greg
reported earlier, it was rainy, but our Canadian (and especially our
Ottawa) bluesmen and women did us proud. I was doing my volunteer evening
for the fledgling Ottawa Blues Society, so I was in the tent for the
entire evening and didn't see the performances, but I sure could hear the
music and the enthusiasm of the albeit small crowd.
Friday evening started out showery again, but the sparse crowd built
through the evening and there was a good number there (and the rain had
pretty much stopped) by the time headliner Luther Allison came on. I saw
Luther here two years ago when he was the 'last-but-one' act, and Buddy
Guy was the headliner. Luther may have been a lesser-known bluesman
around these parts then, but he was a whole lot better known after his
blistering set! Buddy's show that night was pretty exceptional too --
Luther was a 'hard act to follow', literally. This year, Luther was the
headliner, and he's as good as ever. Maybe Eric will post a review of the
Luther & Buddy show he saw Saturday night in Montreal ... Eric?
Earlier Friday evening, Little Georgie and the Shuffling Hungarians -- one
of my Festival highlights this year. A combination of the weather and the
supper hour kept the crowds down, but that didn't stop Georgie, the
Hungarian Horns, the Amazin' Rhythm Dicks and the lovely 'George-O-Lettes'
-- these folks did their best to drive away the rain and warm up the park.
George visited us later at the Blues Society tent, and entertained us with
hilarious stories. I just have to go down to Syracuse some Saturday night
and see their show at Styleen's Rhythm Palace.
Saturday and sun arrived together. Lotsa sun ... way too much sun for some
of us, who didn't apply the sunscreen as liberally as we should have. In
a previous post, Greg reported on the Saturday lineup and Pat chastised
him for his omission of Long John Hunter. I'm with Pat on this -- Long
John Hunter was my Saturday highlight. Neither Pat nor Greg mentioned
Jumpin' Johnny Sansone, who was on just before Long John. Johnny's a
crowd pleaser -- no 'warm-up' from the band, Johnny's right out there
from the beginning -- first on harp, then on accordion. The children
who've seen Johnny perform at previous Bluesfests (some adults too!)
moved up as close a possible, and he didn't disappoint -- lots of goodies
thrown to the audience at the end of his set, even a few CDs this year.
Sunday arrived and a sunny day it was. (BTW, Pat *was* on the grounds for
part of the Montreal Jubilation Gospel Choir's set so, on this particular
Sunday anyway, he did the next-best thing to goin' to church!)
Sunday had lots of highlights for me: Roomful of Blues -- Sugar Ray's
velvet voice, those wonderful horns, Chris Vachon on guitar -- it was pure
pleasure. Speaking of guitar ... I wanted to hear this 'lean' guitar
of Anson Funderburgh that I've been reading so much about. Oh boy -- I'm
a fan. And Sam Myers was superb. Our own Tony D -- we're fortunate to
hear him pretty often and I think we forget how good Tony really is, until
he's in the middle of an exceptional guitar lineup like we had at this
year's festival, and he's such a natural part of it.
My last Sunday highlight -- my *best* Sunday highlight -- my Festival
highlight -- Sherman Robertson (hey Brian, bet you're not surprised!).
He had Ottawa blues fans *on their feet* in the second song -- nobody else
got the crowd standing and dancing so early in a set! Sherman has that
voice, that wonderful voice, and of course he's the 'lone star guitar
slinger'. We had lots of guitar this weekend, and Sherman was, IMHO, the
best. It was great to see Deborah Coleman invited to join him for the
final couple of songs. Only one thing wrong with Sherman's set -- it
should have gone on all night!
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