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Music resounds throughout festival PDF Print E-mail
Written by DAVID DUPONT Sentinel Arts & Entertainment Editor   
Monday, 09 September 2013 10:27
For music lovers sampling everything from the buffet of sounds at the Black Swamp Arts Festival is impossible.
The broader a listener’s musical palate, the more difficult it gets. Festivalgoers who want to see the art, will do well to put on their “travelin’ shoes,” to quote headliner Elvin Bishop.
That the event has three stages strategically positioned around the event with many Main Stage acts appearing twice, even three times, makes it easier, but also means you’re always missing something.
Still those who missed Andrew “Jr. Boy” Jones on Saturday afternoon on the Main Stage, could join him on the Family Stage in the Youth Arts Village at the very un-blues hour of 11 a.m. Sunday morning.
“Turn to page 13 of your hymnal,” the veteran bluesman told the crowd. Later on Sunday The Slide Brothers offered true gospel testifying and virtuoso steel guitar playing.
They had their own contingent of supporters who brought the church to the Family Stage.
With all that music, it’s possible to miss the show that has people buzzing the next day, and it’s not necessarily the marque name that delivers.
This year, though, it was.
The cliche would be that the 70-year-old Bishop played like a man half his age. But as energetic as he was, and he was that, his show demonstrated the show business savvy of a veteran.
Even though he’s admitted he doesn’t possess the most mellifluous of voices, he knows fans want to hear him put his stamp on songs as raw and grizzled as it is.  He sang of the glories of New Orleans and the evils of the boll weevil and, of course, trouble with women. He and the band chanted about dancing with the moon above and “the music nice and loud.”
Well, the music certainly was that, but the moon remained hidden behind the overcast — its lost.
Bishop has put together a crack band of veterans. Drummer Bobby Cochran maintained a steady backbeat kick that cut through the night straight to listeners’ nerve centers. Trombonist Ed Earley delivered brassy growling commentary from stage right. Bob Welsh on second guitar helped evoke Bishop’s 1960s involvement in the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. He and the leader traded blues licks, and then executed intricate unison passages.
Introducing “Party Till the Cows Come Home,” Bishop told the audience they hadn’t heard the song in awhile unless they’d gotten out their eight-track tape players.
Then Bishop gave fans a chance to get up close as he strolled from the stage into the audience, doing his version of the bluesman’s bar walk.
And after one encore, when it seemed he’d done all he could, he summoned Jones from the wings and they surfed over steady wave of the blues progression, closing out the set with a blast of the blues.
At the end Bishop declared the Texan the winner, but the winner was the audience.
“I’m proud to be part of this line up because the rest of those guys sounded great,” Bishop said.
The weekend had other highlights for this listener.
In no particular order.
•    Ruthie Foster’s Friday set got the hallelujahs started early. Her music defies category, except her own, “spirit music,” she calls it. She has a rousing gospel voice and tight, rocking trio to back her.
She made me a believer when she performed here in 2009. This set was different. She seemed looser, certainly more loquacious. She really brought new energy to the tracks from her “Let It Burn” CD, and got the crowd on its feet with her originals.
•    I was glad to catch a good part of the set by Tom Gorman with friends and family including offspring Sam and Anna, long-time collaborator Tom Del Greco and bass player B. Brian Baddour. Gorman said they’d pulled it together just a few hours before, but it had the ease of people who’d been playing together for years. The harmonies were had a natural singing around the piano feel and really animated the original tunes.
•    The festival has featured a multitude of styles, but I didn’t think there’s ever been a calypso band until this year. Kobo Town was a great way to start. Drew Gonsalves brings a thorough knowledge of the genre, from its roots through its more contemporary iterations, adding his own personal voice. In a festival featuring some strong horn playing his trumpet and trombone brass section was a standout, even adding a few dance steps.
•    Local chanteuse Morgen Stiegler focused on more pop material, including a version of Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” in her Acoustic Stage set. I love the small stages, but I’d love to see her get the prestige of playing the Main Stage as well.
•    The Acoustic Stage was the perfect place to appreciate Diana Chittester, a singer-songwriter from Cleveland. She’s a dynamic performer, whose voice cuts through a large space. But in the intimate space of the Acoustic Stage, the listener gets to see and hear up close her striking guitar technique.
Chittester expressed her admiration of the festival and said she’d gladly return every year.

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