Doug MacLeod is a multiple container of special talents: storyteller, guitar master, powerful singer with the distinguished look of a mature lawyer. The first talent also hides a sensitiveness about social matters – in this specific case abuse in the family – that marks the title of his last album “Break the Chain”. Doug’s concerts are always a cruising experience through the past 50 years of Blues as he played with the Gotha of the Blues, from George Harmonica Smith, Pee Wee Crayton, Big Mama Thorton etc… This is an artist you should miss under no circumstances. The beauty of the Lucerne Blues festival has been the capacity, throughout its 23 years of existence of proposing almost unknown, regional artists like Cookie McGee and BirdLegg with the Eastside Kings, who played real – down to earth – Blues music, miles away from mainstream Rock’n’Blues. While Cookie is a composed lady with a red Gibson in her hands, BirdLegg is a harp goblin with tremendous stage presence. The Eastside Kings wisely managed to back these two unpredictable artists whose authenticity collected broad recognition from the audience. Talking about stage presence, Annika Chambers got tons of it! With the Igor Prado Band at her feet, she delivered a wild, jaw-droppin set of Blues, plenty of sexual allusions, where sophistication was not at home. However, like many blueswomen and bluesmen of the past she came up from the church singing gospel music. Not sure they let her in again! Later on she honed her vocal skills in the Army, in Kosovo and Iraq. Supported by a sturdy band, she made a lot of men, and some women I guess, dreaming in Lucerne. Grady Champion sings, plays guitar and harp with equal assurance. He comes from Rap and Hip-hop and at the age of 48 is considered one of the best promises in the Blues music. It sounds weird, but this is also part of the Blues musical environment, you need to be at least 50 years old to be taken seriously. In this sense, Grady is an accomplished talent, with good songwriting and a lot of energy because he won the International Blues Challenge in 2010 and recently signed for Malaco. Lucerne is one of those festivals in which you can see artists that otherwise you would hardly find hanging around: Classie Ballou, an eighty years old Swamp-Blues guitarist and singer from Louisiana, former Excello artist, is one of them. His concert was beyond technical performance or intensity, it was about the history and the roots of the Blues, deep down in Louisiana. Both in their thirties, Monster Mike Welch and Mike Ledbetter are a young duo who promises great Blues in the decades ahead. The first was the Sugar Ray Norcia Bluetones guitar-axe for many years and the latter one sung and played guitar in the Nick Moss Band for seven years: together they deliver a powerful urban Blues marked by Monster’s guitar fluid and devastating tone while Ledbetter is haunting the audience with his incredible Opera voice. The collaboration of Anthony Geraci on keyboards helps them to fulfill the promise of much and more Blues ahead. Don Bryant is a Memphis style soul singer in the wake of voice masters like Otis Clay who died not long ago and O.V. Wright. Bryant got renewed fame through his new album Don’t Give up on Love a long way after his first album Precious Soul recorded in 1969. However, he spent most of his life being a songwriter for Hi Records. The Bo-Keys are the perfect outfit for him and a jump in Soul music was more than welcome after tons of Rock’n’Blues. Producer Scott Bomer was on bass. The fact that Tom Holland regularly tours with harp legend James Cotton is a proof of quality: Tom and the Shuffle Kings serve raw Chicago Blues, where Tom’s impeccable guitar work and warm vocals lend the set a burst of intense, heart-melting performance of classic Blues. Omar Coleman on harp kept the sound stripped down and murky.
Robert Kimbrough Sr. was probably the artist raising the highest expectations at this edition of the festival. The fact is that his father Junior Kimbrough is sorely missed after several years from his untimely death and has left a vacuum in the Blues scene. Robert is a Bluesman true to himself and his roots, loaded of internal fury, who can give an important contribution to the Blues of the next decade. Let’s hope that his father’s example can lead him in the right direction for a long while. Anson Funderburgh and the Rockets feat. Big Joe Maher. Anson is easily one of the best American guitar players regardless to the music style: his phrasing is delicate, almost a whisper and bring memories of the great guitarists of the past such as T-Bone Walker and Pee Wee Crayton. Big Joe Maher’s thunderous voice and subtle drumming makes of good match with Anson. In my most loved files, I have a nice photo of me and Kid Ramos, taken in Cognac, France, around 2005. In that land, David (Ramos’ first name) played a terrific solo in a sultry version of “I’ll play the Blues for You” with the late Finis Tasby on vocals in one of the peak moments of the whole festival. The Orange County guitar master has been playing in the most famous Blues band of the last three decades: Fabulous Thunderbirds, James Harman Band, Mannish Boy, the 44s and the Los Fabulocos because David is equally proficient in country and tex-mex music. In such a mess of beauty and excellent music, in 2012 David was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer that was ultimately defeated in a couple of years. A fighter and a survivor, Ramos is one of the top Blues guitar player in the world. His Lucerne concert, with a great support from Big Pete on harp and Anthony Geraci on keyboards, Jim Bott on drums and Scott Campbell on bass, brought his music back in the spotlight.
From above Big Pete and Cookie McGee