day kicked off again with a pure act of Chicago class
when 76 year old James Yancey Jones better known as Tail
Dragger arrived at The Crossroads Stage. A growling
vocalist, he was given his moniker by Howlin’ Wolf and
has sung with most of the Chicago legends. Backed by The
Allstars he went on an extended audience walkabout
belting out classics including I asked For Water and I’m
Then to a
set of pure pleasure at The Front Porch when Ester Mae
Smith, Angela Taylor and Della Daniels better known as
The Como Mamas from Como Mississippi sang some
absolutely amazing a capella gospel which had the
audience swaying and clapping in unison. Wonderful
On to the
Juke Joint Stage next to hear Detroit born but
Mississippi based blues diva J J Thames. What a singer
she is belting out superb soulful southern blues backed
by a great band with an excellent brass section.
Porch then featured Mud Morganfield son of Muddy Waters
and no stranger to the UK in recent years. His band
leader was Rick Kreher one of the last members of Muddy
Waters’ Band and also featured Studebaker John on harp.
Standout tracks from many of his father’s back catalogue
included She’s 19 Years Old and 40 Days and 40 Nights.
Juke Joint Stage another offspring of a famous father
Zakiya Hooker, daughter of John Lee took to the stage
with her late father’s guitar and played 3 acoustic
numbers before a quick outfit change and the appearance
of her band produced some more upbeat numbers. Let Me
Love the Pain Away stood out and the amusing Put On Your
Big Girl’s Panties.
Town Harp Showcase then graced the Front Porch featuring
three of Chicago’s finest harp players Lamont Harris,
Omar Coleman and Russ Green backed by the busy Tom
Holland on guitar and Dave Forte on bass and Luca
Chiellini on keys both from the Toronzo Cannon band.
Each harp player had their own set before all through
jammed brilliantly on Two Headed Woman... a great
the Juke Joint Stage The Queen of The Blues, 77 year old
Denise LaSalle looked wonderful and despite being in a
wheelchair after triple bypass surgery last year really
turned on the style. Inheriting her title after the
death of Koko Taylor her stand out tracks were Down Home
Blues and Someone Else Was Steppin’ In.
visit to the main stage to see Ronnie Baker Brooks was
quite emotional following the recent death of his father
the legendary and much loved Lonnie Brooks. Indeed,
prior to the start of his set a short dedication to
Lonnie was shown on the large main stage screen and his
guitar and boots and his famous white Stetson were
positioned at the front of the stage.
played his heart out on a succession of tracks backed by
a superb brass section. Come On Up, Times Have Changed
(the title track of his recent CD), Born in Chicago and
the final climax Sweet Home Chicago when he was joined
by his guitar playing brother Wayne Baker Brooks,
guitarist and producer Jellybean Johnson and Billy
Branch brought everyone to their feet.
changed but not the quality when the beautiful Rhiannon
Giddens took the stage. Since she left the traditional
roots, folk, blues string band The Carolina Chocolate
Drops she has won many awards including a Grammy for her
solo work. Accompanied by her talented regulars, Dirk
Powell on guitar, keys and anything else at hand, Hubby
Jenkins on Mandolin and Banjo, Jamie Dick on Drums and
Jason Sypher on bass, the amazingly gifted Rhiannon
mainly on violin and banjo absolutely mesmerised the
audience. She has the voice of an angel, faultless and
clear and was the star of the weekend. Performing songs
from her new CD Freedom Highway, she was joined by
Justin Harrington on rap vocals on Better Get It Right
The First Time. The other stand outs were At The
Purchaser’s Option, The Love We Almost Had, We Could Fly
and the title track.
chosen to finish the festival Gary Clark Jr. was someone
I’d been told can blow hot or cold. Well as if inspired
by the two previous acts, he certainly blew hot on this
occasion. There is a certain arrogance about him as he
slowly walks around the stage, dark glasses in place but
once he got into his groove, the audience went wild.
rhythm section of Johnny Radelat on drums and Johnny
Bradley on bass kept things going, he shared his solos
with the yellow kaftaned mohican King Zapata, an
excellent guitarist in his own right. It was a superb
set and a brilliant way to finish the festival with the
highlights being Bright Lights Big City and When My
Train Pulls In. These two tracks and many of the acts
reviewed can be seen on YouTube.
been a brilliant festival but as is the case with so
many acts it was impossible to see all of them and sadly
due to circumstances acts like Big Bill Morganfield,
Coco Montoya, Guy King and William Bell were missed.