Published on July 13th, 2014 | by TLV News0
Oxford Blues Festival Returns July 17-19 for 5th Year: “Outdoor Blues & BBQ”
by Rebecca Long
This article originally appeared in The Local Voice #207.
To download a PDF of this issue, click here.
It’s that time of year again: Oxford Blues Festival is back for its fifth year! This year’s rain-or-shine festival will take place July 17–19 on the grounds of the Walton-Young Historic House, next to University Museum on the idyllic Ole Miss campus. On Friday and Saturday, ticketholders will have the opportunity to visit H.C. Porter’s Blues at Home exhibit inside University Museum for no charge—admission to this exhibit of striking Blues photographs is usually $5).
Purchase your tickets for the festival online and save: One-day general admission (GA) tickets are $10 in advance ($15 day-of), or a GA weekend pass can be purchased in advance for $25 ($30 day-of). One-day VIP tickets are $75 in advance. The festival is free for children ages 12 and under.
This year’s theme is “Outdoor Blues & BBQ.” Food vendors will be on site featuring BBQ and pulled pork by one of Oxford’s new restaurant additions, Louisiana Rub-Down (located on Highway 30). Coolers are allowed at the festival for a small $5 fee, but no glass will be allowed. All attendees will have access to free bottled water—stay hydrated! Festival organizers are encouraging people to bring lawn chairs or blankets, in case seats run out (as they have in years past)—don’t worry, you’ll still be able to see the stage!
VIP ticketholders can expect a buffet of Blues-themed food on Thursday night—food that’s mentioned in Blues songs, like grits (mentioned in Big Bill Morganfield’s “No Butter for My Grits” and Little Milton’s “Grits Ain’t Groceries”) and catfish (referenced in “Fishin’ Blues” by Taj Mahal and the traditional “Catfish Blues,” popularized by Robert Petaway and later Jimi Hendrix). That’s just a couple of the items on the Blues buffet—check out oxfordbluesfest.com for a full list. VIP tickets also include complimentary food and drink on Friday and Saturday.
The festival kicks off the evening of Thursday, July 17 with live music by The Jeff Jensen Band from 7–10 pm. VIP ticketholders are invited to a “Meet ‘N’ Greet” with Jensen at 6 pm, and will have access to a Blues-themed food buffet. Jensen, a member of the Blues Foundation since 2004, has lived in Memphis since 2011, and has played over 450 shows with harmonica legend Brandon Santini. Jensen recently performed with Buddy Guy, who recorded his 2001 Sweet Tea album at—you guessed it—Sweet Tea Studios in Oxford.
Friday Blues Panel Discussions are free for all to attend, and will be moderated by DeWayne Moore (Executive Director of The Mt. Zion Memorial Fund). Moore will ask questions of the panelists, and will chair audience Q&A sessions at each panel.
At noon, the “Blues Visual Artist Panel”, new to this year’s festival, will feature artisan Alan Orlicek who has engraved headstones for beloved Bluesmen like James “T-Model” Ford and Tommy Johnson, to name a couple. Moore will ask Orlicek about how he got involved in doing artwork for these markers. Oxford-based artist Chandra Williams will also participate and will answer questions about how art can educate and transform communities. And Euphus “Butch” Ruth, accomplished Delta photographer, will convey his love for film and for the Mississippi Delta by discussing his activity in the 90s, when he was most active in Blues photography.
At 1:15 pm, the “Blues Scholar Panel” will begin. Guest Mark Camarigg is the Publications Manager for Living Blues magazine and will soon publish a book of interviews from British magazine Blues Unlimited. Blues scholar Scott Barretta will also speak; Barretta is head writer and researcher for the Mississippi Blues Trail (with Jim O’Neal) and is the host of the award-winning Highway 61 radio show. Barretta is also the former editor of Living Blues magazine and author of Mississippi: State of Blues and The Conscience of the Folk Revival, among other works. Moore plans to discuss with Barretta what the next step is for the Blues Trail.
At 2:30 pm, the “Blues Musicians Panel” will feature several musicians from this year’s festival. Moore plans on soliciting opinions from the musicians about what it’s like to write Blues music these days, when the genre has changed so much over the years. He also wants to hear about their experiences playing Blues outside of Mississippi.
On Friday, music will begin at 4:10 pm, with “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and Libby Rae Watson will take to the stage after the National Anthem. In 1978, Watson helped coordinate the talent for the first Delta Blues & Heritage Festival in Greenville, Miss. It was during this time she met former Mississippi Sheik Sam Chatmon, who became her mentor.
Next up on the roster is the Eric Hughes Band. Hughes, born and raised in Memphis, formed the Memphis Blues Society in 2005 and served as its first president. In 2007 his band won Memphis’ “Battle of the Blues” and represented the city in the International Blues Challenge. Living Blues magazine once called Hughes “a guaranteed crowd-pleaser.”
Following Hughes on stage at the Oxford Blues Festival will be Crystal “Redd Velvet” Tucker, with Big Daddy’s Badass Band. Though she received formal training as a classical vocalist, Ms. Velvet once said, “Way down deep in me was blues and soul. And what’s in you has got to come out!”
Headlining Friday night is Tas Cru, who was awarded the “Keeping the Blues Alive” award by the Blues Foundation in January of this year. In addition to Cru’s four studio Blues albums, he released Even Bugs Sing the Blues, an album of original Blues music for kids, which Cru donates to schools and other groups for fundraisers. Expect Cru’s new album Keep the Money to release this fall.
Saturday’s line-up starts with The Bluez Boyz featuring internationally appreciated vocalist Effie Burt. Born and raised in Oxford, Burt has been performing since the age of 13 and has graced stages from Beale Street to Jamaica. If you’ve never heard her sing, get ready to be blown away!
The Zediker Boys are our neighbors Matthew and Charlie Zediker, from Water Valley, Miss. The brothers, ages 12 and 16, have been playing music together for three years, and they are working on their debut album as the band The Magic Apples. They have been described as “Unique, heavy, fuzzy, metal, blues…like Black Sabbath in a coffee house.”
Silas Reed ‘N’ Da Books was formed in 2008 in Oxford, and “SRB” has been playing shows and growing their sound ever since. Front man Silas Reed and fellow band members travel from rock to jazz to blues, hop on the soul train, and head through R&B to get back home. Every SRB show is a great show!
Zach Tillotson and Cameron Kimbrough perform next as a duo. Tillotson is a talented local multi-instrumentalist who is a member of the bands FadeToBlaq, Mopbucket, and Swampfoot. He also plays music solo and has begun to record his originals. Cameron had an extensive career drumming for Lightnin’ Malcolm and is the grandson of Hill Country great Junior Kimbrough. (He is the son of Kenny Kimbrough.)
The Blues Doctors, comprised of Adam Gussow on harmonica and Alan Gross on guitar, are Mississippi-based Blues veterans. If you haven’t yet heard Roosters Blues House, their debut album released last year, it’s worth a listen. For 25 years Gussow partnered with Sterling “Mr. Satan” Magee as the duo Satan and Adam. For over ten years, Alan Gross played guitar in a band with Mississippi bluesman Terry “Harmonica” Bean.
Oxford-based Cadillac Funk will play next; the self-titled album released earlier this year lets a listener know that though funk is his main voice, frontman Andrew Yurkow is steeped in the blues, having grown up in Indianola, Miss.
Big Joe Shelton was exposed to a wide range of music at a young age, and around age 20 he befriended “Big” Joe Williams (nine-string guitar king). Shelton spent time in Chicago in the 70s, soaking up the blues, before he returned to Mississippi. Expect to see him performing with his four-piece band at the festival.
And, last but not least, Mr. Sipp, “The Mississippi Blues Child,” is headlining Saturday night. Born Castro Coleman in McComb, Miss., he has been playing the guitar for thirty years —since the age of six. In this year’s International Blues Challenge, he won “Best Band” representing Vicksburg Blues Society, and he won the “Gibson Guitar Award.” A video of Mr. Sipp’s full performance at the IBC is available on YouTube, and when I watched it I was blown away. He’s an animated entertainer whose showmanship is second only to his guitar playing. Upon watching another short video I understood why he had been chosen to headline the music on Saturday night: everyone should appreciate his show!
More than anything, the Oxford Blues Festival is a happening for the entire community to enjoy. Festival organizer Darryl Parker says, “There’s going to be something for everybody.” The ticket prices are reasonable, and the event is conveniently located in town. Nightly music ends around 10 pm, allowing festivalgoers to head to the Square for a show or a few drinks afterwards. So make your plans to spend the weekend of the 17th listening to the Blues in the shade with a BBQ sandwich in your hand—you can’t get much more “Mississippi” than that!
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