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Lucerne Blues Festival # 21

19 dicembre 2015 by Luca Lupoli in Special

Nelle foto di Luca Lupoli: Lil’ Jimmy Reed e Murali Coryell

Introducing his concert, Billy Branch told the audience that the Lucerne Blues Festival (5/13 november 2015)  is the best festival on this side of the world, meaning the other side – from the American perspective – of the Atlantic Ocean. It would be difficult to disagree with such statement. The Lucerne Festival is thriving and has survived other festivals around the continent that were compelled to close their doors due to various factors, last but not least financial uncertainty. One of the reasons behind this festival’s success is the quality and the variety of the sets: not only Chicago Blues, but also Mississippi “downhome” Blues, Zydeco, Rhythm’n’Blues and a look to what Europe may offer. Among the highlights of this year, there were three classic Chicago outfits: Toronzo Cannon Band, Shawn Holt and the Teardrops, Billy Branch & the Sons of the Blues. The first one, 47 years-old guitar player and singer Toronzo Cannon, has been developing a personal sound reminiscent of Albert King’s time through a strong guitar-led set of mid-tempo and slow blues. A famous South-Side Chicago club, Theresa’s Lounge, has been his cradle and Toronzo is now among the most rewarded Chicago Blues artist. Signing for Alligator Records closes a sort of circle and opens new ways for new opportunities. Shawn Holt is the son of a Blues legend, the late Magic Slim, and he’s keeping high his family name with energetic blues, much in his dad’s tradition. History tells us that the offspring of great Bluesmen has often been considered with unveiled skepticism, but Shawn – very resounding in “Talk to me baby” – is a real bluesman in his own right. Three-time Grammy Nominee Billy Branch is known worldwide not only to be one of the best harp virtuosos around, but also a socio-cultural activist. Billy has been working on Blues in schools programs for decades and as such, he has been teaching Blues and the world around Blues to a couple of different generations in USA and abroad. His concerts are always entertaining: The Sons of the Blues are terrific, Dan Carelli on guitar and Ariyo on piano support Branch’s awesome playing, and the rhythm section shapes the groove in a brilliant way. This is easily one of the best Chicago Blues set we can find in these days. Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials deserve similar accolades: the nephew of J.B. Hutto – Lil’s hats are a tribute to his uncle – strikes a balance between devastating slide guitar revels and well-crafted slow Blues, full of pathos. Less celebrated than the above artists, guitarist and singer Lil’ Jimmy Reed was one of the surprises of this festival edition. Half a way between Mississippi downhome and Chicago blues, delivered unvarnished guitar solos and evocating, husky vocals: his version of “Hoochie Coochie Man” was true to the best Blues tradition. Bob Hall, a piano star of the British Blues era, refined the gruff soulfulness of the leader. Wee Willie Walker and Vaneese Thomas comes from the Soul district: Walker rightly defines himself as a Soul survivor because he was, for the good and the bad, a Goldwax artist. More recently, he played with the Butanes, a soul-blues powerhouse from Minneapolis. Vaneese Thomas, the daughter of Rufus Thomas and sister of Carla Thomas, started to be known by Blues audiences at large only recently despite a remarkable curriculum and a terrific voice. European tours should bring to both of them the visibility they deserve: they both come from the old school and this was heard during their concerts: uncommon intensity, flare and passion, whatever they sing sounds terribly good. The King of Cajun Zydeco Blues, Major Handy and the Louisiana Blues Band delivered a truly enjoyable set – “Te Na Ni  Na Nu, Zydeco Feeling, Come On Home, I’m a Hog For You Baby” – that was appreciated even by the most reluctant Bluesheads. Worth to be noted the presence of a fine guitarist already seen in Lucerne: Lil’ Buck Sinegal.



Murali Coryell – another blessed son – is slowly emerging as an outstanding Blues artist: his voice has improved and his guitar supplies powerful yet fluid leads. Murali also expresses a sort of musical and personal empathy all along his concerts which is really hard to find nowadays. Low Society is a rock-Blues outfit led by Cathy Lemon, whose voice could be more fashionable in another contest. Lead guitarist Sturgis through his slide work tried to bring this concert closer to the Blues. In the Casino Club, other good concerts and responsive audience: Marco Marchi’s guitar and the Mojo Workers – Harp -Tuba and drums – cooked old-style Blues with a distinctive approach from Piedmont tradition to Delta Blues. Travelling Brothers is an excellent Spanish group – winner of a European Blues contest – playing in several different styles. Inevitably, the results are a bit confusing.

Luca Lupoli


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