Monday, September 5, 2011
2011 D.C. Blues Festival with Preston Shannon
A powerful thunderstorm Saturday morning left folks here in D.C. afraid that the 23rd Annual D.C. Blues Festival was going to end up more wet than wild. But thankfully the weather was nice by the time fans headed to the Carter Barron Amphitheatre in northwest Washington to check out the event, this year featuring a line-up headed by the "King of Beale Street," Memphis Bluesman Preston Shannon.
Before I get into the show, first a word about the Carter Barron, which is run by the National Park Service. Having grown up within a mile of it, it is a place very close to my heart, and I am sure it means a lot to a number of other people as well. Summertime in the 1960's and 1970's, anybody and everybody played there, including Bruce Springsteen, Earth, Wind and Fire, Ray Charles, The Four Tops, The Temptations, Rufus and Chaka Khan, Return to Forever, Nancy Wilson, Cannonball Adderly and Donny Hathaway. And those are the ones I can remember!
Nowadays, the shows are more sporadic, and that's a shame. The amphitheatre is nestled inside of a wooded section of Rock Creek Park, and it's still a great feeling communing with nature and hearing great music at the same time.
And you can't do better than a free blues show like this one, which also featured harmonica player Grady Champion, harmonica player Anthony "Swamp Dog" Clark and his All Stars, Nadine Rae and her All Stars, and the D.C. Blues Society band featuring Sister Dr. Ayaba Bey. The event is put on each year by the D.C. Blues Society.
But rather than talk about how good the music was, I'll let you hear for yourself. I guess we'll go in order of line-up. Starting it off was the D.C. Blues Society Band:
Next on stage, the "funk blues" of Anthony "Swamp Dog" Clark and his All-Stars, who in February went to Memphis to represent the D.C. area in the 2011 International Blues Challenge:
Clark's group also did the "Swamp Dog Shuffle:"
Next up, Nadine Rae and her All-Star Band, who you'll see her introduce at some point during this video:
Grady Champion, a former rapper who won the 2010 International Blues Challenge, followed:
Then, the headliner, the Grammy-nominated (his album, "All In Time" received three nominations in 2000) "King of Beale Street" Preston Shannon. To me, his version of "Purple Rain" brought back memories of a 1984 Prince concert:
He also came out with this Rolling Stones cover:
Delivering this Stax medley, the man didn't let anyone forget he was from Memphis:
His show also had this nice Albert King/Stevie Ray Vaughan slow blues piece:
Later that evening, Shannon played a concert party at the American Legion Post on Sligo Avenue in Silver Spring. His set included "The Clock," a song he said that Isaac Hayes once told him should be a hit:
During a break, Shannon talked about his Grammy nominations, among other topics:
At the party was a buddy of Shannon's, Memphis Gold, who recalled good times the two had spent together in Memphis. Memphis Gold also talked about an upcoming fund-raiser he plans to hold in Chicago for Jim O'Neal, co-founder of Living Blues Magazine, who has recently been ill:
Also at the party was Dr. Ayaba Bey, who had fronted the D.C. Blues Society band at the Carter Barron. She talked about her background singing jazz in New York, and the difference between singing a small club as opposed to a large concert hall, auditorium or amphitheatre:
As you can see, it was a good day in D.C.