Carolina Downhome Blues Festival October 4-6, 2012
Carolina Downhome Blues Festival
BY KEVIN OLIVER
Now in its 16th year, the Carolina Downhome Blues Festival transforms Camdenâ€™s downtown area into a mecca for blues fans of all kinds. Notable for the wide range of artists featured and the pub-crawl layout of the performances, a night at this festival gives one a chance to sample an extensive menu of blues styles at various venues all within easy walking distance of each other.
Every year, the Downhome Blues Festival snags a couple of significant names in the blues world, and this yearâ€™s notable names include Peter Karp and Sue Foley, The Chris Oâ€™Leary Band and Beverly â€œGuitarâ€ Watkins.
Beverly â€œGuitarâ€ Watkins
Sue Foley and Peter Karp couldnâ€™t be more different, but they share certain things that make their partnership work. Foley was a blues guitar powerhouse in the â€™90s, working out of Austin and recording for the Antoneâ€™s and Shanachie labels. Her career was momentarily sidetracked when she became a parent and moved back to her native Canada. Karp labored in various music and video production projects and bands for years in the New York City area and beyond, but his solo career was put on hold in the mid â€™00s when his wife was diagnosed with cancer. Foley and Karp had met and even tried recording together at one point but it was only after a long series of email exchanges that the pair decided to work as a duo, recording and releasing He Said-She Said in 2010. They followed it up with this yearâ€™s Beyond the Crossroads, a powerful, full-bore blues album that combines all the electric energy of Foleyâ€™s guitar-slinging greatness with a mature blend of songwriting from both participants.
The Chris Oâ€™Leary Band might not be a household name, but Oâ€™Learyâ€™s previous employer Levon Helm certainly is; as the singer for Helmsâ€™ Barnburners for six years, he definitely learned a few things. Chief among them is an appreciation for a cross-section of American music; Oâ€™Learyâ€™s own bandâ€™s repertoire encompasses boogie, blues, rock â€˜nâ€™ roll and more â€” not too different from Helmsâ€™ original group, The Band, at times.
Beverly â€œGuitarâ€ Watkins might look like somebodyâ€™s grandmother, but how many
septuagenarians do you know who can play guitar one-handed behind their backs? Her solo debut didnâ€™t happen until 1999, but the Georgia legend is a welcome addition to this yearâ€™s lineup, and sheâ€™ll have Charlestonâ€™s Shrimp City Slim helping her out on stage at two of her three weekend performances.
The sleeper event of the weekend might just be the intriguingly billed Detroit Blues Party. Named after a Glazer tune that lives up to its title, the three featured artists â€” guitarists and vocalists Howard Glazer and Emanuel Young, along with aptly named harp slinger Harmonica Shah â€” have played and recorded with each other in various combinations, all of which incorporate elements of the funkier side of electric Motor City blues. Watching the trio trading licks on the same stage will certainly be a treat.
Other notable visiting acts include the Texas blues of Randy McCallister; Travis Moonchild Haddix, from Ohio; Robert Lighthouse, from Sweden; and Floyd Callen, another Texas act.
The strength of the Downhome Blues Festival is always its strong lineup of local and regional talent, and this year that contingent includes the Tad Walters Duo and the Bill Miller Blues Band, both from North Carolina; the Jeff Beasley Duo, from Georgia; and Marshall Ballew, out of Tennessee. The Palmetto State, too, is well represented, with one-man blues band Luckyman Beall; Rev. Marv Ward Duo; Camden native Rusty Davisâ€™ eponymous band; Columbiaâ€™s Jeff Liberty; Wanda Johnson; and another Camden-based band, The Mobros.
The Carolina Downhome Blues Festival Runs Thursday through Saturday at various venues in downtown Camden. Tickets are $10 on Thursday, $15 on Friday and Saturday; weekend passes are available for $35. Children 16 and under are admitted free with paid adults. For a complete schedule, visit bluesbash.com/camden.