Bluesberries, beer and blues in Norcross: Bluesberry and Beer Festival, 2016


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Every year, the city of Norcross ,, GA, which neighbors Atlanta but maintains its small-town charm,, hosts a blues festival with a blueberry theme called Bluesberry. There’s always plenty of beer available, so now it’s the Bluesberry and Beer Festival. Yes, you can buy blueberry beer along with other blueberry-flavored treats But the real treat is the music, by some of the very best local talent from the prolific Georgia blues community.

This year, things started out with Scene of the Crime. These young people are only in their teens, but they have been performing since 2012. It has always been obvious that they had talent,  but over four years they have developed into a  confident and professional group.  The lead singer, in particular, is literally growing into his role. . Atlanta has a history of fostering great young talent,.. Acts like Cody Matlock, Truett Lollis, and The Georgia Flood, who all started in their early teens (and are still in their teens or early 20’s today.) Scene of the Crime is one of the best of the most recent crop. Their version of “Whipping Post” was a show stopper.

Next, and one of the highlights of the festival for this reviewer, was Beverly “Guitar” Watkins, who at 77 years old continues to sing powerfully and play the guitar with the best of them. The crowd loved her and, as usual, were completely wowed to see this little, elderly woman play the guitar behind her back like Jimi Henndrix during her original number, “the Blues is All  Right For You.”  Ms. Beverly is a pure joy to watch and hear, even after a career that has stretched for 60 years, beginning when she joined Piano Red’s band in her senior year of high school!

Following Watkins was The Real Deal Blues Band, who were new to us. They were excellent, with a great vocalist and harmonica player, and indeed, lived up to their name, delivering piping hot Chicago-style blues.

Next up was Cody Matlock,  who performed with a great band that included John McKnight on drums and Tony Eric on bongos am truly sorry I could not get all the names of  the band members, or all the other  great musicians who performed with artists at the festival. They all deserve recognition but I just could not identify who they all were. )

At any rate, Cody’s band was marvelous and so was he. This young man deserves to be well-known everywhere.s. He has everything he needs to be recognized – he is young, strikingly handsome, well-spoken and immensely talented. As mentioned above, he is another artist who started performing at a very young age and thus has experience far beyond what one would expect from a 20-year=old. He and the band delivered a very solid set of covers and original material, including a mind-blowing cover of “It’s A Man’s Man;s World.”

That led to The Cazanovas, who traditionally close the show at the Bluesberry Festival. I have written several articles in which I said that The Caanovas are the best band in Atlanta, and that is still true. Danny Vinson is an amazing guitarist and Maurice Nazzaro is a powerhouse vocalist and harmonica player. They have a great drummer backing them up and my personal favorite bass player, Jacob Holliday. It was a great set of covers and original songs and while I would have loved to have heard more of Nazzaro’s inspired harp playing, they had the crowd up and dancing and a good time was had by all.

Bluesberry is always one of my favorite blues festivals. Congratulations to Norcross for another great job! The Bluesberry Festival was delicious!