The annual D.C. Blues Festival is one of my last hurrahs of the year when it comes to blues. After that, it starts getting too cold for festivals. You can catch individual acts at clubs, but it’s just not the same as the musical smorgasbord available at a festival. I’m sure you can relate.
Anyway, this year’s festival at Carter Barron Amphitheatre in northwest D.C. provided enough good music to hold me for a while. The headliner was Sugar Ray & the Bluestones, a New England-based band that has backed Roosevelt Sykes, Big Walter Horton and J.B. Hutto. Also playing was Sista Monica Parker, who has shared the stage with luminaries such as the Neville Brothers, Ray Charles, Little Milton, Etta James and Koko Taylor and Lionel Young, who fronts his award-winning band with an uncommon lead instrument, the violin. Two D.C. area favorites, Clarence “the Bluesman” Turner and the D.C. Blues Society Band with singer Ayaba Bey, were also on the bill.
The Bluetones pretty much highlighted the blues festival with a performance of “Evening,” the title song of their 2011 album, a project that secured four nominations in the 2012 Blues Music Awards, including Album of the Year:
A former Marine, Sista Monica is known as “The Lioness of Blues” in Europe. She cut her teeth singing in the choir of the church she attended in her native Gary, Indiana. I can definitely hear that influence here:
Lionel Young is a classically-trained violinist who has played with the Pittsburgh Opera-Ballet Orchestra, as well as other orchestras. He is the first and only person to win both the solo/duo and the band competition at the International Blues Challenge, winning the former in 2008 and the latter in 2011. He also played the 2012 D.C. Blues Festival’s after-party, where this performance with singer Nadine Rae was shot:
We didn’t shoot video of Clarence “the Bluesman” Turner or the D.C. Blues Society Band at this year’s festival. But we have plenty of them from past years.
Here’s Clarence at the College Park Blues Festival last November:
And here’s the D.C. Blues Society Band featuring Ayaba Bey at the same event:
Hey, I don't have to tell you it was a fun festival with good performers. Let us know what's going on in your area. Contact us at email@example.com