Saturday, August 2, 2003

Thumbs up: Blues Fest

Summer treat

Queen City Blues Fest has grown into one of Cincinnati's top go-to festivals, and with the addition of a gospel stage the last two years, it offers more for everyone.

No longer in the shadow of the annual jazz festival, the blues fest brings America's indigenous music to the riverfront at Sawyer Point each summer, and seems to get bigger and better each year. Last night, this afternoon and evening, the festival is offering some 35 hours of music on three stages. Internationally known for its Piano Stage at the Arches, the fest mixes top national blues men and women with Cincinnati's own rich mix of talent, including Big Joe Duskin and Sweet Alice Hoskins. It's only fitting since some of the earliest recordings of great blues hits were made here in Cincinnati.

Last night's headliners included top blues guitarist Rory Block and old-school Mississippi bluesman Bobby Rush, self-styled "King of the Chitlin' Circuit." Among today's top acts are guitarist Rick Holmstrom, blues legend Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, Darrel Nulisch and the Campbell Brothers. Brown, 79, an Oklahoma guitarist/fiddler, is known for his signature tune, "The Okie Dokie Stomp." Nulisch, a seasoned Texas soul/blues singer, brings his band to the main stage at the Procter & Gamble Pavilion. The Campbell Brothers - Chuck, Phil and Darick - offer one of the more unusual attractions today. They play southern African-American gospel music on pedal and lap steel guitars.

On the Gospel stage last year, the irrepressible Blind Boys of Alabama kept the Gospel tent crowd on its feet throughout, and this year's closing gospel act will be the Blind Boys of Mississippi.

Congress was in a cooperative mood and named 2003 the year of the blues. Queen City Blues Fest has been doing its patriotic part for years, many of the early years unheralded, but it kept on keeping on, and offered one of the best bargains in this region. This year, for the first time ever, it will charge a small admission fee, $3, but it remains a heckuva deal. Food booths make available fitting blues food such as ribs, pulled pork and the like. For more information, go at online. The Blues Fest is great at keeping the summer good times rolling.

Thumbs down: Disrupters
Unfair gas taxes, aging interstates
Thumbs up: Blues Fest
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