Every year in March there is a 2-day music event at Northside Tavern in Atlanta, which is like no other. It is an event that honors M. Frank Edward and benefits his estate. Mr. Frank was a beloved blues man in Atlanta who died in 2002. Many of the older musicians and attendees remember Mr. Frank and many of us never knew him but at the Chicken Raid, named after one of his songs, we all feel that we know him. Nothing keeps a spirit alive like music and stories shared by friends.
We are never able to attend both days and I can only mange about seven hours, so this is just a peek at this great festival, which started at 2 pm Saturday and lasted until late at night, only to start again Sunday afternoon.
Stephen “BluesDude” Duncan started things off outside on “the patio,” which is an area open to the air with a stage and tables and chairs. here is very little space between musicians and listeners, You could say “intimate.” The BluesDude has never sounded better than he did Saturday. He skillfully used his banjo and his singing to play everything from Flatt and Scruggs to Ralph Stanley to Dylan.
Then Mateo Alexander and his band performed some of his awesome original songs and Jacob Holliday made his first of many appearances during the evening, this time on upright bass. Mateo is a very personable performer and his band includes Jake and Tennessee John on harmonica and also vocals on one song, so you know it was a good show. Two shows in and I have not stopped smiling. In fact, I smiled for 7 hours straight!
The next group was called “Cypress Knees.” Who in the world could that be? It turned out it was our good friend Ross Pead with Jake and Tennessee John. Ross named the band after the swampland near his home in Waycross, GA. (“I live somewhere else,: he said, “outside of Atlanta there’s a country called Georgia…”) More great music, more smiling.
Then we moved inside and The Breeze Kings took the stage. They play at Northside every Thursday night and are one of the best groups in Atlanta. For this performance lead man Carlos Capote was losing his voice, so there were more fantastic instrumentals and Jim Ransome capably took the lead with his amazing guitar skills.
Next was an extra joyous performance. Lola and Eddie Tigner performed their popular dueling pianos. Not only do we love Lola, but Mr. Eddie just had an extended stay in the hospital and in rehab. He’s 98 years old and to see him back and sounding great was the best kind of wonderful.
My beloved Beverly “Guitar” Watkins was next. I got to talk to her and my friend Sol for a few minutes before the show and was so surprised to learn that they toured together years ago when Sol was jut stating out! Ms. Beverly was also very sick a few months ago but she is fully back now and said she will be celebrating her 78th birthday at Northside next month. She was performing backed by Eddie Tigner on piano and Albert White on guitar, and Sol on bass! Within moments she had so many people upfront dancing, taking photos and videos that I mostly couldn’t see her but I caught glimpses of her with the guitar behind he back, dancing. She is the most amazing woman I know.
I was seriously flagging by then but we had to see Chickens and Pigs. I don’t know how you would classify Chickens and Pigs, but it’s not blues. Anyway I love Jeff Evans’ humorous lyrics and laconic delivery. They play the Chicken Raid every year. I was glad I was there because Jeff told a story about his sister looking fo a Christmas gift for him and finding my two blues books on Amazon She bought them for him, not knowing he knew me! (that happens a lot.) So he dedicated a song to me for saving him from getting socks, “And they’re good books too,” he said. It was one of my favorite call-outs.
There wee a lot more people we wanted to see, but I was so tied. Maybe next year i will sleep until noon and see if I can make the whole show. But I hope this gives you a taste of the great music and the camaraderie that makes this such a wonderful event, and that you will come out when it comes around next year!
Many of the musicians play often at Northside Tavern and elsewhere around town so keep you eyes and ears open for them!