Today I decided I would see as many artists as possible.
There were a lot of preferred sets, scattered around the festival site. I needed to be nimble to cover the required territory (well nimble for me anyway).
We arrived at the site on ‘Barry’s Bus’ just in time for The James Cotton Blues Band. Grammy-award winner, Blues Hall-of-famer, he has played with the likes of Sonny Boy Williamson and Muddy Waters. As you would expect, a crack band (four-piece only) and vocalist completed the outfit. At a rich age, Cotton can still play that harmonica. (Photos by Jim Jacob)
Time for a quick lunch (Cajun chicken wrap – tasty), a coffee and a fill at the free water dispensers. I then ventured back to the Crossroads tent for Jimmie Vaughn, a Texas troubadour (brother of Stevie Ray).
In transit, I caught two songs from Passenger (Mike Rosenberg) who was playing at the Busker stage of all places. A huge crowd had assembled and he was working it beautifully. (I saw him at a free lunch time set at Federation Square in Melbourne a while back). A very engaging performer.
Austin-based Jimmie Vaughn provided his style of Texas blues, as authentic as you could get. A cover of Webb Pierce’s “I Ain’t Never” was an early highlight. Lou-Ann Barton is a blues singer and long-standing collaborator with Vaughn and she was on stage relatively early in the set.
On the way to see K T Tunstall, I watched two songs from Devendra Benhardt – for some strange reason I was reminded of The Kinks.
A big crowd for Tunstall at the Delta stage. The last twenty minutes of her set were good – inventive and effective use of a loop machine, a cover of an Atoms For Peace (Thomas Yorke from Radiohead) song and the finale, her award-winning and hit song “Suddenly I See” which she mentioned she wrote after listening to Bo Diddley and Patti Smith on the same day.
Gregg Allman was playing tonight. So seeing his son Devon (in the guise of The Devon Allman Band) seemed a highly appropriate build up. I saw him last Bluesfest as part of Royal Southern Brotherhood (with Cyril Neville and Mike Zito) and it was a great set then and I really like their album released around the same time. Today he was tremendous, with a young, powerhouse unit. Looking a little like a young Jeff Bridges, he showed his guitar prowess and powerful voice. The third song “I Want Your Heart” was delivered as a slow, soulful ballad. “Until The End Of Time”(?) ramped it up considerably. A Royal Southern Brotherhood number “Left My Heart In Memphis” is glorious, one that I’ve heard on CD many times before. “Don’t Set Me Free”, then a blues-based “Back To You” followed, with the finale being a rocky “No Woman, No Cry”. The second guitarist was named Bobby Schneck Jr, a tremendous young talent. A tremendous sixty minutes with the Allman pedigree on display and this for me was a highlight of the festival.
By 5.45pm my iPhone Bluesfest app. was on high alert. Above were my choices. I stuck with Robben Ford as his was the only act of the three I hadn’t seen. Ford started with Allen Toussaint’s “Everything I Do Gonna Be Funky” and set the scene for the part of the set I witnessed. A beautiful fluid player of smooth, funky blues. His new album coming out is A Day In Nashville (which he recorded in a day, in Nashville!).
Cuban pork ribs followed – delicious and spicy but served in a white bread bun which detracted from the fare.
Now we had noticed that the organic doughnut stand has had continuous lines for all three days to date. Listening to the strains of Playing For Change while lining up – very pleasant. The doughnut was delicious as was the accompanying coffee.
I had predicted a big crowd for Gregg Allman, but I had not taken into account the John Butler Trio and Dave Mathews Band double bill at the Mojo tent. This attracted a huge following, leaving Allman’s set at the Crossroads stage decidedly pleasant. Looking like an imperious monk from a pulpit behind his Hammond B3 organ, he proved again his terrific, soulful voice and breadth of strong material on which he could call. A delightful “Stormy Monday” early, other highlights were “Ain’t Wasting Time No More”, “Sweet Melissa” and “I’m No Angel”. Guest spots from Warren Haynes and Devon Allman rounded out the proceedings. Thoroughly enjoyable.
What followed was a couple of instrumentals from Jeff Beck, a quick peek at the end of Larry Graham’s set and seeing War start their routine before heading to Barry’s bus.