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Livin' With The Blues In Salina 2003
Page 1

Written by Dave Glackin
Photos by Dave Glackin

  The Sixth Annual Blues Masters at the Crossroads festival was held in Salina, Kansas, on October 17th and 18th, 2003. Once again, Chad Kassem opened the doors of Blue Heaven Studios so that 400 lucky fans of the blues could see and hear some phenomenal artists perform a tremendous range of blues styles each night. The intimate setting and great acoustic of the wooden interior of this old cathedral may be unique among blues festival venues. The concerts started before 7:30 each night and lasted well past midnight. The wildly enthusiastic crowd got the chance to meet the artists up close and personal in the basement of the church throughout the two evenings.

 

Chad Kassem continues to be an unwavering supporter of the blues, pouring some of the profit from his Acoustic Sounds mail-order business into a world-class concert hall and recording environment. At Blue Heaven, Chad has recorded aging black blues musicians, many of whom have been under appreciated and treated poorly by the industry, in state-of-the-art analog and digital sound, preserving their artistry forever. The meaning of his work has become especially poignant, as many of these artists have since passed away.

 

John Weston opened Friday night's show, working the crowd up with his one-man-band performance on harmonica, guitar, and vocals. The fact that he only started playing professionally 15 years ago is amazing. At age 76, John was the oldest performer in this year's festival (which is an unusually young limit as Chad's festivals have gone). John's daughter Carla Robinson accompanied him on electric bass and high-hat.

 

Next up, Lurrie Bell sweated up a storm with his brand of rockin', joyful blues. He took a lot of high-energy solos during his set, with Mookie Brill on bass and Willie "Big Eyes" Smith on drums. Lurrie is the son of Carey Bell, and grew up around many of Chicago's blues greats.

 

Tom "Mookie" Brill provided able accompaniment on the acoustic bass during many of Friday and Saturday night's acts. How he got his nickname while growing up in Brooklyn remains a mystery.

 

Willie "Big Eyes" Smith made the music's foundation absolutely pop for Lurrie Bell. It was clear why he has been involved in so many Blue Heaven projects, and backed many of the acts during this festival.

 

Harmonica great Carey Bell learned from masters including Big Walter Horton, Little Walter Jacobs, and Sonny Boy Williamson II. His harmonica style really wowed the crowd, and he showed them why he keeps getting invited back to Blue Heaven Studios for performances and recording sessions. He really put in an unforgettable performance.

 

Eddie Tigner replaced Johnnie Johnson on piano, and provided some great blues piano backing for Carey Bell.

 

"Steady Rollin'" Bob Margolin, who backed Muddy Waters for seven years, played some very tasty guitar licks with Carey Bell and others on Friday night. His guitar work has received wide acclaim, and the reason why became crystal clear on Friday night.

 

After intermission, Fernest Arceneaux kicked up a zydeco storm with his moves on the accordion. He is reportedly little known outside of Louisiana, but Chad appears to be working on fixing that problem.

 

Fernest was accompanied by Warren Prejean on the rubboard. Warren was happily doing his thing with no muss, no fuss, and proved to be the most photogenic musician of the evening.

 

Fernest was backed by Paul "Lil' Buck" Sinegal on guitar, who was billed in the festival literature as the "world's finest zydeco guitarist." Sinegal just quietly laid back and did his thing, but always gettin' the job done.

 

Nappy Brown closed out Friday night with some truly sizzling showmanship. Nappy went out into the audience and got up close and personal with some of the women, begging them to "let me squeeze your lemons, baby!" This guy sure didn't act like he was 74. Nappy flat-out owned Blue Heaven Studios while he was on that stage. He even rolled around on the floor and moaned. To say that he had the audience's attention is an understatement. Nappy, who got royally ripped off by the record companies in the fifties, showed that nearly fifty years later he still has the fire and vocal chops of a world-class performer.

 

Nappy was backed by many of the artists mentioned above, as well as Mark "Kaz" Kazanoff on sax. Kaz's expressions were a perfect counterpoint to Nappy's out-there style.

 

Whew. So much for the first night. How could Chad possibly top that? Well, he showed us on Saturday night, which seemed to have an even higher energy level and an even more enthusiastic crowd. The wick was definitely turned up one more notch.

Alvin Youngblood Hart kicked off the evening with his brand of acoustic folk blues or so-called country blues. This was my favorite performance of the festival ... his traditional style really hit me where I live. (I even forgot to take photographs for awhile.)

Whew. So much for the first night. How could Chad possibly top that? Well, he showed us on Saturday night, which seemed to have an even higher energy level and an even more enthusiastic crowd. The wick was definitely turned up one more notch.

 

Click here for page 2

 

David L. Glackin, 2004
All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
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