The Atlanta Blues Society presented the first annual Georgia Roots and Blues Festival on Saturday, October 1 and it was a dream come true for the Society and for Georgia blues lovers. It took place at Mable House Barnes Auditorium in Mableton on an absolutely perfect day. The auditorium offers seating at tables, in bleachers and on the lawn, and people took advantage of all forms to comfortably relax and enjoy the incredible music and delicious food (especially the barbecue and greens, which were amazing both to eat and to smell.)The lineup for this event was the best I have ever seen, with one phenomenal act after another and never a dull moment or less than amazing act.
A caveat: It was a long day and I may get a couple of acts out of order. If so, I apologize. But i promise not to leave anyone out!
The performances started at 10:30, when No Solution played for only a scattering of people, mostly at the tables in front of the stage. That is awfully early for most blues people! But No Solution did a great job as always. These young people are bright talents and a clear hope for the future of the blues, as are the next group who played, The Georgia Flood. These boys just keep getting better as they mature. Brooks Mason has now reached the ripe old age of 19 while his brother Lane Kelly is all grown up in his 20’s. They have always been phenomenal musicians, and they continue to wow with Brooks’ amazing guitar, Lane’s strong bass, and for this show Pete Maier providing perfect beat throughout.The brothers have spruced up their look, too, and they just could not have been better.
While the boys were on stage, Carlos Capote of the Breeze Kings was teaching some lucky kids basic harmonica, and they got their own harmonicas to take home. How awesome was that? And after that workshop, there was a blues dancing class where quite a few couples whirled around the small stage!
But back at the big stage, Voo Davis took his turn to entertain, and entertain he did. Not only is Voo a great singer and guitar player with a couple of very good musicians backing him up, he is one of the most engaging people you could ever meet. He soon left the stage to wander among the audience and have various audience members help him play slide by plucking the strings. A lot of people got to be musicians for a minute but I did better because I got a big old hug! If you love blues musicians, they love you back.
After Voo came Tas Cru and The Tortured Souls. Cru played a relaxed and enjoyable set with some amazing harp, always a big plus, and no sign of torture from any of them.
Next the stage filled up with talented women. Diane Durrett, Caroline Aiken, and Donna Hopkins, backed up by Melissa Junebug on drums, hands, and face, took the stage. They were also accompanied for a bit by the fabulous flute player from Dear Watson. Frank Latorre, who played harmonica with many greats including Johnny Winter, bravely was the only man onstage although I noticed he stayed off to the side. The three vocalists took turns doing their own songs and it was just such an overwhelming show of talent.
The ladies were followed by Georgia’s beloved Delta Moon. Their show featured many favorites, including “Hellbound Train,” and “Black Coffee” and one of my favorite songs,”You Gotta Move,” which showed off Tom Gray’s unique slide guitar style to perfection. The band looked and sounded great, as always.
The John Pagano band was next and woke everybody up with their energy. As always, they sounded great doing Pagano’s original material and bass player Tony Hosri was a whirling dervish on stage. Meanwhile, Shiloh Bloodworth just keeps on keeping that beat. Pagano also came out into the audience and played to some people upclose and personal, including yours truely. He also brought one of his amazing students up on stage to play guitar, eleven-year-old Logan who had everyone stunned by his talent.
The John Pagano Band also backed Big Bill Morganfield at Morganfield’s request, and that worked perfectly. Morganfield showed once again that he may be Muddy Waters son but he has his own share of talent and showmanship.
The headliner of the show, who closed out the evening, was Jarekus Singleton. Unfortunately, your reporter missed his performance. But from the videos and photos and what my friends tell me he simply proved once again what an incredible talent he is and why he deserved to be the headlliner of such an unbelievable lineup.
The Atlanta Blues Society, Mable House Amphitheater, and every single one of the performers deserve tons of praise or putting on in incredible festival just bursting with talent and good feeling. I can’t wait until next year’s festival!
All Photos by Sandra Richardson and Emily Hallock