HARVEST TIME FESTIVAL 2011: FROM SOFT COTTON TO HARD STEEL

19 August 2011 No Comments by The Northern Standard

The story of the blues and the history of its people unfolds in the line-up at this year’s Harvest Time Rhythm & Blues festival in Monaghan.
Boo Boo Davis from Drew, Mississippi in the heart of the Delta, one of few remaining blues musicians who sang the blues based in cotton fields in the Mississippi Delta, was one of the sharecroppers who sang loudly to help pass the gruelling hours of work.
Boo Boo, who is one of the main acts performing at the Marquee in Monaghan this year, developed his loud, bellowing voice based on the singing he heard in the fields as a young boy.
In the 1920s the blues left the fields and went to church. Hundreds of different churches opened up, it were the only places of sanctuary the ‘Blacks’ (African-Americans) had. Within these walls the blues developed into gospel, known then as the devil’s music — but it was God’s music first!
Sharrie Williams’ unique style of “rockin’ gospel blues” is surrounded by strong and powerful vocals and arrangements with songs that grab your soul. Sharrie touches souls with her talent and passion for her music, combined with her smoky, sexy and imitable style.
Out of church, heading to the industrial north went over two million people, which was the largest migration of people in the world, even today! It was on the streets and clubs of Chicago that the first electric blues sounds were heard from the great Muddy Waters. The blues had left the church and went to the bars and juke joints. On Saturday 3rd September, Muddy’s his eldest son, Mud Morganfield from Chicago, performs at the Marquee. “He is so similar to his father’s vocal style and energy that it is downright spooky,” is how one pundit summed it up.
The south-western states took this electric blues and created the Texas sound. In the late 1960s and early 1970s the blues scene began to flourish, particularly in the clubs of Austin. The diverse style placed particular emphasis on powerful lead guitars, and Smokin’ Joe Kubek and Bnois King bring their scorching Lone-Star State blues with their twin frontman line-up to the Marquee to finish up the Saturday night show.
Later on in the 1980’s, jump blues was revived by internationally renowned bands such as Roomful of Blues, a swing revival big band. Duke Robillard was one of the founder members, creating this new energised sound which was Duke’s calling card — jump, swing and blues! Sunday gives you the chance to catch his groovin’ sounds. B B King himself has called Duke “one of the great players, one of God’s guitarists”.
The festival closes with the new generation of torch bearers of the blues, Michael ‘Iron Man’ Burks. Burks stands tall as a major contemporary blues artist, and is poised on the brink of major stardom. A fierce flamethrower guitar slinger and an exciting soulful singer, his music has phenomenal firepower. He plays with a decidedly urban, contemporary blues style, and a soul-infused vocal style that suggests some down-home cooking. He is the proof that the blues is alive and well, especially in the skilful hands of this Iron Man!

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