Sunday, July 20, 2008

Blues on the River Festival

Saturday night, we played the Blues on the River Festival on the beautiful Kaskaskia River in Evansville, Illinois. The festival used to be held in Sparta, but was moved to a new location and has been well supported by the village of Evansville. We had a blast, and so did the folks who attended!

Melissa Neels, out of St. Louis, played a great set prior to ours. We saw her a few years ago at a festival and were really impressed. She dropped out of playing live for a little while because of work obligations, but has returned to the stage in fine form. She has a new CD coming out in August, and I can't wait to hear it. She reminds me a little of Susan Tedeschi. In addition to being a great player and singer, she's a really nice person.

We played pretty good, although it was a bit strange to be so far from the audience. We were on the second story of a 2-story barge/stage. Our old pal Robbie did the sound and did a great job. I got a break from the heavy lifting and played a Fender Deluxe in the backline and got a pretty good tone. I was a little worried in that I had lost my voice completely a few days earlier due to the "summer cold" thing, and although I was only about 80% back by the time of the gig, I had enough to limp through it. I played OK, although I chunked a couple of licks....which if you've seen me play, you know is nothing new! We played almost all originals material, although I slipped in a couple of covers at the request of some of the fans there.

The headliner was Billy Peek, who used to play with Chuck Berry and Rod Stewart among others. He did a fine job, too.

It was great to see Debi Jo and all her kin (there's a bunch of them). They are the sweetest folks! Also saw Dave from STL Blues Net. It's a wonderful site and won an award not long ago from the Blues Foundation. It's easy to see why. The hospitality was outstanding, the food was GREAT and the location was beautiful. They're already planning on being back there next year and I think they'll have an even bigger turnout. I'll post pictures as soon as I find some!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The Spirit of Jesus....

A few years ago I shared a bill with Daniel "Slick" Ballinger. At the time he was a real "up and comer" on the Blues circuit. He had just signed with Oh Boy records and his debut CD was coming out. He was touring with Blind Mississippi Morris and "lighting 'em up" at festivals across the nation. When I met him, I was struck by what a quiet, shy, polite kid he was.....until he got a hot mic in front of him. Then the spirit "took over" and he became a real Blues Dynamo.

His set was electric, as he channeled the spirit of the blues. As he was called back for an encore....he channeled the Holy Spirit. I wasn't surprised, not long after that, to hear he walked away from his Blues career, and was dedicating his life to the Lord. He traded the Blues clubs and juke joints for pulpits, but he still did his thing with his 335, and the spirit still took control of him.

The other day, a friend sent me a video of him "preaching" at a Knoxville, TN area church. known simply as Daniel takes the stage about 40 minutes in. The ironic thing is that it wasn't that much different from his Blues shows. This brings to mind the clash of the sacred and the profane in Blues, and in life. Although Slick was never profane, in any sense of the word, he was always in touch with the Spirit. He simply felt moved to fully give in to the Spirit of Jesus, as opposed to "the spirit" of Jesus AND the blues, and he channels that spirit as well as anyone I've ever heard.