If our line up for the 20th Annual Blind Willie McTell Blues Festival on Sat., May 18, 2013, doesn’t impress or excite you, perhaps a visit to the artists’ Web sites will. Many of their sites feature interviews and sound clips.
Arguably the two finest Americana musicians working today, Buddy Miller and Jim Lauderdale come to the McTell Festival touring behind their latest release, Buddy and Jim, the critically acclaimed new duets record. As of this writing, this disc sits at No.1 on the Americana Radio Charts. The two-long time friends are touring together as a duo for the first time.
Known for his brilliant guitar playing and poignant songwriting, Buddy has released several critically acclaimed records and has produced albums for artists such as Robert Plant, Patty Griffin, Richard Thompson and Shawn Colvin. He is working with T Bone Burnett producing the music of ABC’s hit show “Nashville.” Buddy and his wife Julie released their last together Written In Chalk on New West Records just before Buddy teamed up with Mark Ribot, Bill Frisell and Greg Leisz for the Majestic Silver Strings. He most recently toured as the band leader for Robert Plant’s Band of Joy, and prior to that, he led the ensemble for the world tour of Robert Plant and Alison Krause
Jim is a Grammy® Award winning performer who is among Nashville’s “A” list of songwriters, with songs recorded by artists such as Patty Loveless, Shelby Lynne, George Strait and the Dixie Chicks. Each week he hosts the popular Music City Roots from the Loveless Barn in Nashville, and is the subject of a new documentary directed by Australian filmmaker Jeremy Dylan called “The King Of Broken Hearts.” Jim, who frequently collaborates with legends like Ralph Stanley, Elvis Costello and Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter, is also a critically acclaimed solo artist with a dozen or so releases, including his latest Carolina Moonrise. Jim came and played our festival a few years back and it’s a great honor for us to welcome him back to Thomson.
In addition to making music together, Buddy and Jim also co-host “The Buddy& Jim Show,” on satellite radio. Each week Buddy and Jim invite artists to Buddy’s home studio in Nashville, where they tape performances and in depth interviews with a wide variety of artists and friends. The two-hour show airs on SiriusXM Outlaw Country Channel 60 Saturdays 10 pm ET.
Buddy and Jim are frequent musical collaborators on stage and in the studio. They join forces annually for the Americana Honors and Awards show, which Jim hosts while Buddy leads the all-star band. Both artists have taken home multiple wins over the past several years at the Americana Honors and Awards show.
Tab Benoit is the latest in the who’s who of standout guitarists that have played in Thomson at McTell fest….a Cajun man who’s definitely got the blues. A guitar player since his teenage years, he hung out at the Blues Box, a ramshackle music club and cultural center in nearby Baton Rouge run by guitarist Tabby Thomas. Playing guitar alongside Thomas, Raful Neal, Henry Gray and other high-profile regulars at the club, Benoit learned the blues first-hand from a faculty of living blues legends. The nightly impromptu gigs were enough to inspire Benoit to assemble his own band – a stripped down bass-and-drums unit propelled by his solid guitar skills and leathery, Cajun-spiced vocal attack. He took his show on the road in the early ‘90s and hasn’t stopped since.
Over the past two decade plus, Benoit has built his career, recording, touring, and actively promoting his native Louisiana around the world. He has collaborated on many guitar-oriented projects with the likes of Kenny Neal, Jimmy Thackery, and Debbie Davies (all three McTell fest alums). He also has recorded with other top Louisiana players including his regulars, bassist Carl Dufrene and drummer Darryl White, plus, Big Chief Monk Boudreaux, Cyril Neville, Brian Stoltz and George Porter.
Benoit dug further into his roots in 2006 with the release of Brother to the Blues, a recording that encompasses not only his trademark Cajun blues but also traditional country and vintage R&B. Joining him on the project are members of the cult blues/R&B/rock combo Louisiana LeRoux, veteran country songwriter Billy Joe Shaver, Americana pioneer Jim Lauderdale and Cajun fiddler Waylon Thibodeaux. Brother to the Blues received a GRAMMY® nomination for Best Traditional Blues Album. In 2007, Benoit won the dual awards of B.B. King Entertainer of the Year and Best Contemporary Male Performer at the Blues Music Awards (formerly the W.C. Handy Awards) in Memphis.
Benoit and his rhythm section are an atypical guitar trio, not content to play riff after mind-numbing riff. They serve the songs, Benoit singing with great passion and fun, playing wonderfully executed solos, over the solid foundation of bass and drums. We are fired up about his first visit to Thomson and know he’ll be a highlight of the day.
Eric Lindell and the Sunliners, featuring Anson Funderburgh
Eric Lindell is an American singer-songwriter, born in California, who has come to national prominence after relocating to New Orleans. This will be his first visit to the festival.
Lindell first hit the national music scene with his 2006 Alligator Records debut, Change In The Weather, loaded with unforgettable original songs. With his musical roots planted in Northern California, Lindell’s music blossomed when he moved south. His combination of sweet, blue-eyed soul with foot-stomping R&B, swamp pop, funk and blues won him critical and popular acclaim across the country, with great reviews and features in Relix, The Chicago Sun-Times, Harp, Guitar Player, Down Beat, The New Yorker, The New York Press and many other national and regional publications. The New Orleans Times-Picayune said, “Eric Lindell has arrived. He channels Van Morrison with his irresistible soul…not a moment is wasted.”
As he has toured the U.S., his fan base has grown, and in 2008, Lindell released Low On Cash, Rich In Love, a collection filled with solid grooves, insightful lyrics and one emotionally rich song after another. In 2009, Lindell released Gulf Coast Highway, which represented the music of New Orleans and the surrounding region, by working with a host of New Orleans musical talent including Galactic drummer Stanton Moore and bassist Robert Mercurio.
Lindell’s musical style borrows from 1970s blues-rock, soul, and R&B. His style has also been called “blue-eyed soul”; common shorthand used for Anglo blues singers. This time out he’s touring with the Sunliners, featuring a McTell fest favorite, Anson Funderburgh. Anson played our event early on with Sam Meyers and his band the Rockets, and is recognized as one of the best Texas blues guitarists working today.
Georgia songwriter, Randall Bramblett, is one of the finest musicians working today. A multi-instrumentalist, mostly known for his keyboard and sax playing, he also plays guitar and sings in a wonderful style that is uniquely Southern. He first found fame with then super group Sea Level, formed in the 70’s with several members of the Allman Brothers, and has been working consistently since then in a variety of settings….sideman to Steve Winwood, touring with his band, writing and recording tunes covered by the likes of Bonnie Raitt, among others.
He has played our event several times…with his combo and twice in collaborations with Chuck Leavell. His band will also feature renowned Athens guitarist Davis Causey, Michael Steel on bass and vocals, and one of the finest drummers working today, Gerry Hansen.
His latest release, The Bright Spots, will be out this spring, we’ve heard an advance copy, and festival goers are in for a treat as he unpacks these new tunes, as well as digs deep into his past catalog. Be there for this powerful set of southern roots-rock at its best.
Fans of our festival know that we’ve hosted a wide variety of roots music artists…not strictly “blues” players, but musicians who represent the very best in American music today. The Revelers are just such a combo. The Revelers were formed by the founding members of The Red Stick Ramblers (who have played here twice in years past) and The Pine Leaf Boys — described as “two groups at the vanguard of the Louisiana cultural renaissance”. What you’ll hear is Cajun, Country, Blues and Zydeco as it combines into a powerful tonic of roots music that’s sure to get you dancing and moving.
The individual members are in high demand, having performed and recorded with Natalie Merchant, Linda Ronstadt, Preston Frank, Mamadou Diabate, Cedric Watson and Tim O’Brien, among others. Though relative “youngsters”, as a group they play with southern soul, loaded with great empathy and depth that reflect years of making music. Simply put, The Revelers will get the place jumping on May 18.
The Crosstie Walkers come from Thomson (mostly), have been involved with the festival since its inception and have a sizable fan base in our area. Playing their own tunes and a couple of timeless covers, the core quintet will expand the original lineup this year with special guests on organ/piano and pedal steel among others. The Walkers have limited their appearances in the past few years, occupied mostly with raising their families, but had to be included in this special roster, celebrating 20 years of bringing the best in American music to this part of Georgia.