By Larry Nager
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Pounding pianos, soulful singers, gritty guitars - no matter what flavor blues you prefer, at $3 a day ($5 for a two-day pass), the Queen City Blues Fest at Sawyer Point is the summer's best bargain.
The festival is internationally known for its Piano Stage, a showcase that's unique to the festival scene. This year's stars include Saffire's Ann Rabson as well as local favorites Big Joe Duskin and Ricky Nye.
But this year's fest doesn't neglect guitar fans, especially those who prefer their blues unplugged.
Rory Block is one of the greatest acoustic blues players on the planet, equally adept at fleet-fingered syncopated ragtime and deep, throbbing Delta blues.
Annie Raines' partner Paul Rishell isn't far behind, managing the difficult double play of being both a master of acoustic blues and a pretty hot electric blues player.
The fest features a true American blues icon - Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, 79, a legendary Oklahoma guitarist/fiddler and contemporary of the father of modern electric blues, T-Bone Walker. Brown also has a swinging jazz-based blues guitar style, best personified in his signature tune, "The Okie Dokie Stomp."
There's a heavy T-Bone influence on this year's show, with two other guitarists - both California based - also inspired by the blues great. Junior Watson is a veteran of such groups as Canned Heat and the Mighty Flyers, while guitar whiz Rick "LA Holmes" Holmstrom is a member of the current Mighty Flyers. But Holmstrom is no traditionalist. His latest solo album mixes his classic blues tones with techno touches and electronic beats.
But the most unusual blues/roots guitarists on this year's fest are the Campbell Brothers - Chuck, Phil and Darick. Part of the recent sacred steel movement that includes jam-band hero Robert Randolph, the Campbell Brothers play Southern African-American gospel music on pedal and lap steel guitars, creating a unique gospel/blues fusion.
Lovers of great blues singing haven't been neglected this year.
Friday's headliner is the great Bobby Rush, a veteran of the Southern soul/blues club and theater scene known as "the Chittlin' Circuit."
Saturday, the fine Texas soul/blues singer Darrel Nulisch brings his band to the main stage.
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