Over the past 25 years, Peter Noble and the organisers of Bluesfest have impressed audiences worldwide with their indomitable line ups, and with Blues royalty such as Buddy Guy, Gregg Allman, Jeff Beck, Santana and even the almighty King of the Blues, Mr B.B King himself, having previously graced the stages, it’s no revelation that the 2015 artists have a whole lot to live up to! But the Blues, like a powerful drug, has soaked up the sadness of thousands of people for decades and has in turn given us a seductive mixture of mastery, emotion and funk… a mix that is more than evident in these 10 prodigious musicians due to perform at this year’s festival!
10 artists you can’t afford to miss at Bluesfest coming up in April – an exciting and eclectic mix of talent.
10. Phil Wiggins & Dom Turner
For those attending Bluesfest in the hopes of hearing some low down dirty blues, look no further then this phenomenal Mississippi Delta Blues power duo consisting of America’s own harmonica virtuoso Phil Wiggins, and Australia’s Dom Turner (Backsliders) on guitar and vocals. After first coming together for a string of East Coast USA critically acclaimed performances, the pair are preparing to release their debut album Owing The Devil A Day’s Work in early 2015. So it’s inevitable that Bluesfest attendees are bound to be treated to a few new songs, and are guaranteed to be wafted into a world of strong vocals, howlin’ guitars and heart aching harp vibrations. These two Blues Brothers are an act to watch out for!
9. Nikki Hill
With a magnetic blend of blues, rock, rockabilly and soul, Nikki Hill has secured her place as the new queen of rock n roll. Her 2012 self-titled EP resulted in a sudden and impassioned group of followers worldwide – a group that has continued to blossom since the 2013 release of her debut LP Here’s Nikki Hill. Hailing all the way from North Carolina, Nikki is making her way back down under for Bluesfest this April, and is sure to wow audiences with her sultry and robust vocals which parallel an early Tina Turner, and her retro style to match. Nikki Hill is exactly what the world of modern Blues needs, an independent women marking her territory by singing her way into a genre dominated by males – a tremendous talent who is not to be missed!
8. Jeff Lang
Having released two contrastive LPs (I Live In My Head A lot These Days & one with his other project, Maru Tarang) in the past year, Australian troubadour Jeff Lang has proved he is an unparalleled talent, and having been influenced by the likes of Blind Willie Johnson, Neil Young and Jimi Hendrix, it comes as no surprise that this slide guitar master has transformed his own unique concoction of blues, rock and “disturbed folk” into something rather delightful. At 45 years of age, Lang is no newbie to the Bluesfest scene, but now with an even greater catalogue of songs behind him, this year’s crowd are in for a rare treat. A treat that will consist of twangy vocals, poetic lyrics and a touch of improvisation. Keep a close eye on this one, for he is sure to blow your mind into a state of bluesy oblivion.
7. Karl S Williams
Since the 2013 release of his debut LP Heartwood, Australian crooner Karl S Williams has been creating waves with his raw, shaky and overtly earthy vocals. Reminiscent to that of Son House, Williams has intertwined the best of folk and the delta blues to create a peculiarly enticing sound to match his equally as idiosyncratic look… a look and sound that is guaranteed to have audiences feeling a rare form of intimacy that sets him aside from the rest of the blues acts in this years’ Bluesfest line up. Williams is still excitingly new to the music scene (with only 1,592 likes on Facebook, and no Wikipedia page) but will without doubts acquire a hoard of new fans by the end of his Bluesfest stint. An exquisite talent whom truly writes and performs from the soul. Karl S Williams is a name to remember as he is a luminary in the making, and is set to take the world by tempest.
6. Ruthie Foster
As one of the few female blues performers in this year’s line up, Ruthie Foster is most definitely the standout, with rich, cavernous vocals that emulate the great blues, gospel and soul performers of the 1950s-60s. With latest album Promise of a New Day being nominated for a Grammy (her 3rd nomination in a row) it comes as no surprise that Foster is known for bringing her audiences to a simultaneous state of rapture and poignancy with her heart-felt lyrics and textured vocals. So those planning to attend Bluesfest in April, come prepared, for you won’t be leaving with dry eyes!
5. G. Love and Special Sauce
In 2014, after almost 8 years since their last live performance together, the original line up of Philadelphia based band G. Love and Special Sauce released their LP, Sugar, a perfect mixture of their trademark eccentric sound; a sound that infuses the riffs of the early Chicago bluesmen, funky R&B style vocals, and old school Hip Hop lyrics, all of which help to create a relaxed rock n roll ambience. And with all embracive influences such as John Lee Hooker, Lou Reed and Bo Diddley, it’s not hard to see where their unique music derived from. This prodigious band full of musical visionaries are not too be missed, and there’s no denying that this year’s Bluesfest crowd will be treated to a set truly out of this atmosphere.
4. Justin Townes Earle
Between constant touring, numerous rehab stints and new found sobriety, the multifaceted 33 year old, son of country-rock legend Steve Earle, has highlighted his undisguised, raspy blues voice on new alt-Americana LP Absent Fathers released January 13th. Being the companion album to Single Mothers, Earle’s critically acclaimed 5th studio album that made it to #37 on the Rolling Stones 50 best albums of 2012 list. Absent Fathers had a whole lot to live up to, but with its breezy and emotive storytelling, fans have been given a glimpse into the personal struggles and times of clarity in Earle’s life, making it not only one of his greatest releases, but the best of years for his Bluesfest comeback!
3. JJ Grey & Mofro
7 years since they last graced the Bluesfest stage, JJ Grey & Mofro are making their long-awaited return in 2015, and will be bringing along their amalgamation of Otis Redding and Lynyrd Skynyrd influenced electric blues, funk, soul, country and swamp rock – a sound that is truly their own. In their latest release This River (2013), JJ channels into an intense Gregg Allman style vocals, and with the band in full tow, each song sets a luxuriate new tone; tones that are sure to bring crowds into a state of euphoria. 10 years in the making, JJ & Mofro have taken their music worldwide, and oh boy are we grateful for their return to Australian shores this April.
2. Pokey Lafarge
In 2013, American crooner Pokey LaFarge and his band of 5, released their latest self-titled LP, and began to acquire quite a strong fan base. From appearing on major soundtracks to securing 3 nights at Off Broadway, this group of peculiar talents are bound to have a few more admirers by the end of their Australian visit. With a combination of flamboyant outfits, Country Blues, Jazz bars and Western Swing, Pokey Lafarge and his entourage have embodied the best of traditional Americana, and will whirl your imagination back into the 50’s with their timeless sound. Lafarge recites, wails and quavers on top of the dazzling harmonica, saxophone, bass and trumpets that make up the sounds of the unique band… so, if you’re looking for something strange and delightful at Bluesfest this year, be sure to check out these old world charmers.
1. John Mayall
With a career spanning over half a century, most would know of the legendary godfather of the British Blues, Mr John Mayall whom founded the legendary John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers in 1963, which went on to become a major platform for copious Blues greats such as Eric “God” Clapton, Jack Bruce, Mick Taylor, Peter Green and Mick Fleetwood. But for many, the man is a mystery, and people deserve to know just a little bit more about this lean, clean, bluesy machine! To date Mayall has released over 50 albums, and in 2013 after celebrating his milestone 80th birthday, produced, recorded and released his latest LP A Special Life, which features an inordinate mix of inexhaustible blues riffs from the extraordinary Rocky Athas, and from Mayall himself an array of strapping vocals, harp blowing, and piano playing. And now in 2015 this music legend is making his Bluesfest comeback (with numerous sideshows) and there’s no doubt he will be rockin’ the Blues into each and every soul that witnesses his spellbinding performances! So, for a taste of what the Blues are truly all about, let this hoodoo man take you to musical heights you didn’t know existed!
I don’t know about y’all but all this Bluesfest talk has made me eager to go… who wants to shout this gal a ticket? … Anyone? … ANYONE?
Bluesfest is Thursday 2nd April – Monday 6th April
For more about emerging Blues + Rock n Roll artists, why not check out our writer’s blog, Ultraunderground.
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