YES! Weekly Presents the 2009 Carolina Blues Festival
This year’s Carolina Blues Festival, the 23 rd annual fete put on by the Piedmont Blues Preservation Society on Saturday at Greensboro’s Festival Park, has something for everybody.’ We’ve got contest winners, local heroes, piano heroics, guitar wizardry and a couple bona fide legends all gracing the stage. As usual there will be plenty to eat and drink, fun activites for the kids and (hopefully) loads and loads of sunshine. Bring some sunscreen. Bring a lawn chair. Bring some cash for souvenirs and beers. Then let the whole bluesy afternoon unfold into the evening, when headliner Cyril Neville will take the stage to close out the festival.
Cyril Neville with Monk Boudreaux headline CBF’ By: Brian Clarey
Before Cyril Neville makes his way to the Carolina Blues Fest, he will do what he always does on the first Sunday in May: Close out the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival with his brothers on the fairgrounds’ main stage. Cyril Neville, of the Valence Street Nevilles, is the percussionist for the legendary Neville Brothers band, the youngest and most outspoken of the First Family of New Orleans Music. He’s also a dynamic solo artist in his own right, singing about New Orleans cookin’ and Rosa Parks with the same passion and style. His slot at the Carolina Blues Festival marks the first time a Neville has graced the stage at this event. But before there was Cyril — before, even, the legendary Neville brothers picked up instruments and branched off the thriving New Orleans R&B scene — there were the drums and tambourines, the legacy of the Mardi Gras Indians. That’s where Monk Boudreau comes in. Maybe you’ve heard about the Indians, the New Orleans street tradition that dates back to the 1800s. As the story goes, escaped slaves on Louisana’s sugar plantations found allies in the Native American tribes in the area. As a tribute to this relationship, African Americans began constructing elaborate headdresses and costumes, roaming through the streets of New Orleans inorganized tribes, chanting, drumming, singing and, sometimes, fighting.It’s the reason why some of the toughest guys in New Orleans are goodwith a needle and thread. The rhythms of their songs harkenback to Congo Square, the section of the city where slaves, pirates andpreachers celebrated and traded on Sundays, in the process creating NewOrleans music. And Monk Boudreaux is a brother from way back.His father was a member of the Creoles and the Wild Squatoolas BlackIndian tribes in the 1940s and ’50s, when the culture was at somethingof a nadir after an era of violence in the ’20s and ’30s. Boudreaux gothis start with the Golden Eagles in the ’60s, and had risen to thetitle of big chief before hooking up with childhood friend Big Chief BoDollis of the Wild Magnolias, a collaboration that would bring MardiGras Indian music to prominence outside the confines of New Orleans’hardest streets. Boudreaux and Dollis, with the WildMagnolias, performed on stage at the very first New Orleans Jazz Festin 1970, and they began recording their sounds in 1973, the seminalwork The Wild Magnolias with one of my favorite singles ever, “Handa Wanda.” Boudreauxis one of the last links to the oral traditions and customs of theIndians. He still teaches the up-andcomers how to sew suits, danceunder the Claiborne Avenue overpass. By 1976, Boudreaux,Dollis and the Wild Mags had aided in the resurrection of Mardi GrasIndian culture in New Orleans. Another big chief by the name of Jollywanted to organize a summit of sorts to make a recording of this music,and he wanted his nephews, whom he had been training in Indian rhythmsand chants, to participate. His nephews, brothers Art, Aaron, Cyril andCharles, were kind of busy: Aaron was singing ballads like his idol,the Tan Canary Johnny Adams; Charles was playing avant jazz in NewYork, Cyril and Art had formed the Meters and were burning up the ’70sfunk scene. The brothers had never recorded together before. The result was the album Wild Tchoupitoulas, whichbrought the song “Hey Pocky Way” into the popular culture and containedone of Cyril’s first songs, “Brother John.” An unintended consequenceof the recording was the formation of the Neville Brothers band. MonkBoudreaux still sews Indian suits, still parades on Mardi Gras Day andon St. Joseph’s Day, which in Mardi Gras Indian culture is called SuperSunday. Cyril Neville left New Orleans after Hurricane Katrinafor Austin, Texas, but he still performs in New Orleans and around theworld with his brothers and in various solo projects. But whenthe two take the stage at the Carolina Blues Festival, expect to hearsome of those old-school Indian chants and rhythms and prepare to feellike you’re back in Congo Square.
Steady Rollin’ Bob Margolin brings his blues from down the streetBy: Jordan Green
Steady Rollin’ BobMargolin performs his own set and performs with Diunna Greenleaf &Blue Mercy at the Carolina Blues Festival on Saturday.
You know him from The Last Waltz, MartinScorsese’s documentary of the Band’s 1976 farewell concert. He’sstanding beside the regal Muddy Waters as the blues master shouts“Mannish Boy.” Waters is an elder statesman, and Margolin theunderstudy is a smidge younger than the pantheon of rock starsassembled to see the Band off; he’s also playing in a purer form thanmost of them. He looks at once cocky and scared shitless. Youmay not know that after Waters’ band folded and the elder blues man’shealth failed, Margolin found nourishing audiences in sleepy backwatersin Virginia and North Carolina before whom to continue his vocation,that he stayed in Greensboro because of a woman who is now his wife,and that he’s settled on a piece of land outside High Point in DavidsonCounty.
Over along career that continues to bring accolades and the rewards ofcollaborating an evolving cast of blues players, the gruff-speaking butgenerousspirited Margolin doesn’t mind talking about The Last Waltz. Infact, he’s posted an account on his website, “with long and completeanswers, that basically tell everything I know.” (It was an honor to beincluded, he writes, noting that “friends and folks at my gigs say, ‘Isaw you on TV!’ Then, they’ll tell me that I looked… happy, nervous,angry, calm — however they would have felt.” Fans in search ofrock-and-roll lore won’t be disappointed by Margolin’s account. Hementions a reputed “backstage cocaine room” and an encounter in the“green room” with a smiling, joint-bearing Neil Young, who says, “We’reall old hippies here.”
Margolin notes that film of Young’s performance “revealed a white rock up his nose, which was edited out frame-by-frame for the movie.” This anecdote is similarly fascinating:“California governor Jerry Brown popped in and invited Bob Dylan to gettogether with him sometime. Dylan, relaxed and outgoing until thegovernor arrived, instantly turned sullen and distracted, barelynodding without looking at Brown. The uncomfortable governor soon left,and Dylan laughed just before he was out of earshot and reverted to hisfriendlier mode.” The Boston-born Margolin writes that “all through the’80s I ran up and down the highways, mostly in Virginia and NorthCarolina” playing one-nighters with his own band after he left Waters’employ. They played for appreciative crowds in venues that are nowlargely forgotten — Desperado’s in Washington, DC; the South Main Caf’in Blacksburg, Va.; the Nightshade Caf’ on Tate Street in Greensboro. Speakingby telephone from his home outside of High Point while monitoring arepair man’s progress fixing a hot-water heater, Margolin tells me: “Ididn’t make records because I didn’t have to. I enjoyed playing musicwithout any commercial considerations mostly for nice people in bars.It wasn’t until the end of the eighties or the early nineties that Irealized that to survive as a blues musician I needed to get out on anational or worldwide scale. I was dragged kicking andscreaming into the nineties. I had to learn how to be a songwriter andhow to record better. Which is probably a good thing.” Notwithstandingthe onset of the internet and the cratering of the music industry,Margolin’s approach to music doesn’t seem to have changed much. Heexpresses appreciation for the healthy turnout at a gig last month atthe Zion Bar and Grille in Greensboro. “There was a tornadowarning,” Margolin recalls. “We expected to get our asses kicked prettybad, and we didn’t. It was a good crowd of blues lovers out there. RoyRoberts and Ray Burnett were some of the musicians that got up andjammed, besides the local band that I have.” Margolin performs oftenwith Matt Hill, a young Greensboro blues guitar player who has beenmaking waves of late. The onetime Muddy Waters sideman’s role as anambassador across the ages is not lost on him. “The deep blues music iskind of like a club for guitar players, and the older ones aregenerally encouraging to the younger ones,” Margolin says. “I’ve hadsome older musicians be really nice and really helpful to me, and I tryto pass that on.” Margolin will be performing his own set at theCarolina Blues Festival, and joining Diunna Greenleaf & Blue Mercyfor their set. Margolin met Greenleaf, a Houston blues singer, about 10years ago while he was hosting a blues jam on Memphis’ Beale Street. “Shegot up on stage,” Margolin recalls. “We became really good friendsreally quickly. We actually call each other on the phone every dayinstead of e-mailing or twittering. It’s an old-fashionedfriendship.” Margolin turns 60 on Saturday at the blues festival. “Itwill be good to spend it with my good friend and my neighbors,” hesays. “I’m kind of looking forward to that.”
After almost 40 years, the Nighthawks have come to embody blue-collar blues By: Ryan Synder
You don’t often hear of bands hitting their prime after more than 35years of recording and performing, but the Washington DC-based blueswarriors the Nighthawks are doing just that. Coming into theirperformance at the 23 rd Annual Carolina Blues Festival, their first atthe festival in 10 years, the four-piece touring dynamos are riding thecrest of one of the most successful albums of their careers. They’vemaintained a stable lineup, though they have witnessed some alums gooff to even greater notoriety, and built a reputation as one of thehardest working acts of any stripe. With their 26 th album to date among numerous solo efforts, American Landscape has performed very favorably among the various official and unofficial blues charts. It has landed at No. 8 on the Living Blues rankings, while multiple tracks have peaked as high as No. 2 on BB King’s “Bluesville” on Sirius/XM Radio. The album’s title itself is a fitting handle, as its content runs the stylistic length of the entire American blues spectrum. With but two original tracks, both by bassist Johnny Castle, American Landscape isn’tnecessarily a cover album. It is, however, an honest and forthrighttake on some of the band’s major influences and favorite trackstempered by years of performing, from the prominent to the obscure.With reworked material by Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, Ike Turner, Marvin Gayeand even a new take on the theme from “The Andy Griffith Show,” thealbum shows the simultaneously rugged and refined chops of Castle,vocalist and harmonica player Mark Wenner, drummer Pete Ragusa and leadguitarist Paul Bell. Founding member Wenner says that this may verywell be the strongest the band has ever been in its 37year existenceand though each member’s pedigree indisputably supports that assertion,one can only wonder where they might be today had a certain lineupaddition worked out for the long term. When original lead guitaristJimmy Thackery decided to leave the band in 1987 after tiring of theirpersistent touring, several musicians were brought in to serve in theinterim. Among them were Steuart Smith, James Solberg and BobMargolin, but one in particular went on to leave an indelibleimpression on the blues world. Also working as a member ofDickey Betts’ band Great Southern, Warren Haynes was asked to fill inon lead guitar for the Nighthawks. Great Southern’s down time came justat the right time and Haynes obliged the request. “Jesus, hewas amazing,” said Wenner. “Between being an incredible guitar playerand singer and just being a super great guy, I would have loved to havehim in the band.” Haynes went on to spend a month touring with theNighthawks and an offer was made to make him a permanent member, but heinstead honored the commitment to work with Betts once Great Southernpicked back up. Since then, greats like Danny Norris have worn the leadmantle until Bell settled in five years ago. He’s not exactly a freshface, however, as he’s sat in with the band repeatedly over the entirelength of their existence. “Since Paul’s been here full-time,the Nighthawks have been kicking some serious butt,” Wenner said. “Ireally think this is the best work we’ve done in years.”
The Nighthawks will perform at Greensboro’s Carolina Blues Festival at 5:45 p.m.
Burleson uses brushes on snare and easel By: Ogi Overman
The natural convergenceof art and music manifests itself in many ways, but none moresignificant than when the artist and the musician are one and the same.And while Jim Burleson makes no claim of being either, the proof is inthe pudding. A drummer by avocation, Burleson’s contest entry for theposter for this year’s Carolina Blues Festival presented by YES! Weekly was the handsdown winner. Asa career employee of the General Services Administration, Burlesonplayed in numerous bands around the Washington, DC area. But when thedigital era dawned and the GSA chose him to train as a graphic artist,he quickly realized that he had a knack for that side of the creativeledger as well. “I’ve always been able to draw,” he said, “and graphicdesign seemed rather natural for me. My staff and I created book coversand marketing brochures and various illustrations, and it was not ahard transition into creating original art.” So when Burleson, nowretired from the GSA and living in Mocksville, picked up his copy of YES! Weekly afew months ago, the proverbial light went off in his head. “I saw thead for the poster contest for the blues festival and said, ‘Gee, I likethe blues and I like art, let’s see what I can do,’” he smiled. “I knewthere was going to be some real competition because there are someamazing artists around here, so I’m really honored to have won. Plus,I’ve seen some of the posters from years past and it’s very flatteringto even considered be in that league.” Burleson created theposter using the Adobe Illustrator software program. “I started on itone afternoon, put it aside for the evening and finished it the nextmorning,” he disclosed. “It actually came together pretty quickly.” Burlesondiscovered Mocksville years ago visiting relatives in Spruce Pines andMarion, and when he’d put in his time at the GSA, he and his wife of 36years, Sandy, were only too happy to get out of the politically drivenenvironment and head south. “I couldn’t stand the DC rat raceany longer,” he admitted. “It’s not good for your psyche. Back then theinterstate ended at Mocksville and we’d always pull off and eat atMiller’s Restaurant. We’d always loved North Carolina, so it was not ahard choice to decide to retire here.” Now with some time on his hands,and still a relatively young 58, Burleson is able to pursue both hiscreative outlets with renewed passion. “I dabble in acrylicsand watercolors and pastels, but I’m not as good at computer-generatedstuff,” he said. “I’d like to get back to doing art again, of allkinds. And I plan on keeping up with my drumming.” Thecontest-winning poster is primarily in earthtones and features aguitarist, bordered by a vertical and horizontal fretboard, and adrummer. “Well, I had to get a drummer in there somehow,” he grinned, almost sheepishly. “You gotta have a drummer.” Indeed.
Paul Burleson, poses with his winning artwork for the Carolina Blues Festival.
Landon Spradlin Blues Band: Blues Challenge winner By: Keith T. Barber
At the tender age ofeight, Landon Spradlin got his first guitar. Elvis and Little Richardwere his heroes back then. At the tender age of 55, Spradlin and hisband won the PBPS Blues Challenge. He moved back to southernVirginia two years ago from the Dallas-Fort Worth area (Blues FinishingSchool, as he likes to call it) and began to focus on his faith andsharing God’s word through music. His online profile fromlivebluesworld.com sums it up perfectly: “I’m to an age where I’m notchasing the ring at the merry-go-round, I’m letting it find me,” hewrites. “So goes the circle of life, so goes the blues.” Butthe spry 56-year-old can still hold his own on stage, and so can hisbandmates. “I just got the best players in the area I could find to putit together. I just called people I knew who liked where I was comingfrom musically,” Spradlin said. Drummer Phil Riddle gets immenserespect from some of the finest jazz drummers in the business, saidSpradlin. “We won the blues challenge last year, and werepresented Greensboro in Memphis at the International BluesCompetition, and there was one drummer who plays with the world’s bestblues musicians. He was flipping out over Phil’s drum playing — he wassmitten,” Spradlin said. Bassist Danny Farmer knows how to lay down “agreat bottom end” and has the most life experience of anyone in thegroup, Spradlin added. “The parts are interchangeabledepending on people’s schedules,” Spradlin said. “Sometimes we playthreepiece, and then for the larger gigs we add several veryaccomplished keyboard players in the area.” Keyboardist James Pacejoined the Blues Band during a recent gig at the Blue 5 in
Roanoke.Craig Motley played keyboards with the band during the InternationalBlues Competition in Memphis, and Steve Edmonds, an accomplishedkeyboardist from Danville, often joins the band at area gigs. Spradlincites playing the Dallas Guitar Show the past 11 years, along withplaying at Madison Square Garden and jamming with Eric Clapton’s rhythmsection in London as some of the high points of his 31-year bluescareer. But winning last year’s PBPS crown ranks up there nearthe top of Spradlin’s list of career achievements. “It was a realaffirmation and a great encouragement,” he said. Pastor of a church inGretna, Virginia, Spradlin has five children who all sing, playinstruments and write songs, including his eldest daughter, Judah — anaccomplished blues singer in Savannah. They represent thecontinuation of a musical tradition he hopes lives forever. “I’m reallyconsidering starting a family publishing company,” he said.
The Landon Spradlin Blues Band performs at 2:45 p.m. on the main stage.
Bump & Logie: Blues Challenge winner’ By: Keith T. Barber
Winner of Best AcousticDuo at the 2008 PBPS Blues Challenge, Bump and Logie is the duo ofWilliam “Bubba” Klinefelter and Lorenzo Meacham. The two talentedmusicians began their careers playing bars and clubs in their nativeGreensboro in the mid- 1980s, and eventually joined forces. “Wecrossed paths many times playing in different band situations,”Klinefelter said. “I would be on one side of town playing in a nightclub and he would be on the other.” Klinefelter, also known as “Big Bump,” has taken a three-pronged approach to his collaboration with Lorenzo or
“Logie.”Klinefelter, a guitarist, has played with the band, the Stun Gunz,since 1985. When Logie was added to the mix, Klinefelter created Bump& Logie and the After Hours Blues Band — the electric version ofBig Bump & Logie. When Lorenzo isn’t singing and playingacoustic guitar, it becomes Big Bump & the Stun Gunz. To furthercomplicate matters, Klinefelter’s wife, Shiela plays the bass in hisband and has branched off to form Ladies Auxiliary. Chuck Cottonaccompanies Big Bump & Logie on the drums. He’s one of the anchorsof the group and frequently plays with Bob Margolin. Big Bump, Logie,Shiela and Chuck are all recipients of the festival’s Keeping the BluesAlive Award. The multi-talented Logie plays acoustical guitar andwashboard and sings most of the band’s songs. It is his signature soundthat helps define the various groups he and Bubba bring to the localmusic scene. “Logie can shout the blues and he can sing theblues,” Klinefelter said. “He’s got a voice that can do a lot ofdifferent styles from gospel to country or whatever he wanted to do. Hecan bring it forth. He’s good at working the crowd and getting theaudience participating in whatever’s going on onstage. He can singeverything from children’s songs to old smoky bar room songs. He’s verycharismatic, he’s got a great blues voice and good at making up lyricson the spot.” Bump & Logie haven’t recorded an album since their1999 record After Hours, but Klinefelter said he’s “tossingaround” a few new song ideas. He’s most proud of a song he co-wrotewith Pinetop Perkins entitled, “I’d rather quit her than hit her,”which made it on to Perkins record that was nominated for a Grammy.
Adrian Duke brings keyboard talents to this year’s Blues Festival’ By:’Brian Clarey
The New Orleans influence at the Carolina Blues Festival has becomesomething of a tradition, and this year Adrian Duke straddles thedivide between the North Carolina heartlands and Louisiana bayoucountry. Duke, of Chapel Hill, has performed on piano and Hammond B3organ all over the Carolinas and has even played before the Queen onher recent trip to the US. But he’s been known to commune with theghosts of New Orleans boogie-woogie piano — Mr. Eddie Bo, the legendaryJames Booker and the man born Henry Roeland Byrd, but better known topiano freaks as Professor Longhair. On his CD Live in New Orleans, Duketackles classics like “Lil’ Liza Jane,” “Iko Iko” and “Tipitina.” Buthis repertoire doesn’t begin and end in the Crescent City. Duke’s bodyof work mines the entire South and even plumbs some big-city sounds aswell. His latest, Adriatica, features covers of classics like“Cabbage Alley” from the Meters, “Lucky Old Sun” by Louis Armstrong“Will it Go Around in Circles” by Billy Preston and “Kid Charlemagne”by Steely Dan, all intoned with a tin-pan baritone that is seriouslyquirky. This is Duke’s first performance on the Carolina Blues Festival stage, so all we can guarantee is that the set will be hot.