On any given weekend there is a blues festival somewhere in our region this summer. Henderson, Ky., had its W.C. Handy Blues & Barbecue Festival from June 13 to June 20. One of the Festival's highlights was an opening day concert by Foree Wells & the Walnut Street Blues Band. This event was in conjunction with the dedication ceremony of a new wall mural in the John F. Kennedy Community Center. The ceramic bas relief depicted the life of W.C. Handy "The Father of the Blues." Handy lived in Henderson before the turn of the century. During Foree's performance he was asked to play "St. Louis Blues," which he had to improvise a little for he knew only one verse.
Jim O'Neal, the founding editor of Living Blues magazine and producer of Rooster Records, was there to hear and meet Foree. Jim is interested in releasing Foree's studio tapes on his Rooster label. Foree has been recording his music with the band at Audiovisions on Lexington Road and needs just a little more time to work on the vocals before it will be ready in August. All of the songs are originals, including a potential hit called "Midnight." Jim commented that he liked the band and thought they were having fun performing together. On his way to the festival, Jim tried to pick up Earl Forrest in Memphis. That could have been a special reunion for Foree once played guitar in Earl's band. Earl is an accomplished musician on drums and piano, as well as a songwriter whose credits include the classic "Next Time You See Me." Foree said he is dedicating this release in honor of Grady Thompson who was a sax player who performed with Foree.
Some of the other local bands that performed at the festival included MR2 Blue and Metropolitan Blues All-Stars for a "Picnic in the Park" concert on June 16 in Central Park. Lamont Gillispie & the Homewreckers were featured at the Riverbend Blues Blast on June 18 at the riverfront along with Chicago bluesman Jimmy Johnson.
Kenlake State Resort Park near Hardin, Ky., will host the Hot August Blues & Barbeque Festival on Sunday, August 29, in their amphitheater. The lineup includes Anson Funderburgh & the Rockets with Sam Myers, Mike Griffin & the Unknown Blues Band, A.C. Reed and the Sparkplugs, Metropolitan Blues All-Stars and Honey Boy Edwards, who did a nice performance of Mississippi Delta blues at the last Chicago Blues Festival. The tickets are $10 in advance, with the proceeds going to Needline. Call 1-800-325-0143 if you want tickets or need more information.
Now let's talk about our own Waterside Art and Blues Festival that was held over the Fourth of July weekend. Why is it always the hottest weekend of the summer for this event? I hope next year the stage will be moved back to the east side near the Kingfish so people can sit on the cool grass instead of frying on the asphalt of the parking lot.
The Homefront stage under the tent was a big success, entertaining enthusiastic audiences with acoustic music in the afternoon. These performances will be broadcast over WFPL later this year. Saffire – the Uppity Blues Women know how to tickle their audience with their engaging style and lyrics. It was great to see Gaye Adegbalola back at industrial strength after her bout with cancer. Andra Faye McIntosh is a fine addition to the trio, playing a multitude of instruments, including guitar, mandolin, upright bass and fiddle, plus doing some unforgettable vocals such as "Shake the Dew From the Lily." When it comes to the keyboards, Ann Rabson can play with the best. The highlight of Saffire's evening set was their stirring rendition of the Ray Charles classic, "Drown In My Own Tears." Saffire's CDs and T-shirts were the hottest items at the KYANA Blues Society's booth Saturday night.
H-Bomb Ferguson detonated the start of Saturday evening accompanied by the Medicine Men. H-Bomb has American Indian ancestry for his father was a fiery Black Indian preacher from Charleston, South Carolina. The band administered a lot of R&B potions, including "Midnight Hour," "I Had a Dream" and "I Cried Over You." They cut their sets a little short for they had a two-night gig up the road at Captain's Quarters. I wonder what those uppity folks thought of H-Bomb's yellow wig? Maybe he wore a blue hairpiece to be more nautical.
Watch out for a new release by H-Bomb on Earwig Records titled "Wiggin Out." The CD is due out in early August and is an infectious mix of ballads and blues that only the unique big-voiced piano pounder can do.
Two directors of the KYANA Blues Society were joined in matrimony at 11:00 a.m. on Friday, July 16. Brenda Jones and Pen Bogert were the bride and groom for a small informal ceremony at the steps of the kiosk in Willow Park. Pen has been the editor of the newsletter, Blues News, plus spearheading the research for the Blues Legacy Project. Brenda, who moved back to Louisville from Nashville, has been helping Pen on the research and editing the newsletter. Best wishes to a true blue couple.