In 2015, Bluesfest director Peter Noble promised that this year’s line-up would foresee their biggest marriage of genres to date, and with everyone from Brian Wilson to Kendrick Lamar due to make an appearance he’s certainly delivered. But with such mastery expected to be flowing across the Tyagarah Tea Tree Farm in such a short space of time, things can get a little overwhelming. So we’ve narrowed it down to 10 acts you simply cannot miss.
From 2016’s answer to Otis Redding, to a BB King endorsed, contemporary guitar god, these 10 musicians are a must see for those who have an insatiable case of the heart breaking, guitar manipulating, psyche sophisticating blues, and want to be cured by the best the festival has to offer. As Noble so perfectly put it “There are just so many discoveries to make”.
Bluesfest is back and bigger than ever! Amongst the deluge of great artists there are a select few we say you can’t afford to miss at Bluesfest 2016.
10. Shakey Graves
Alejandro Rose-Garcia, better known as Shakey Graves, is no newbie on the Americana scene. With a day dedicated to him in Austin, Texas, and a self-made, one-man band setup, he’s enthralled audiences over the US with his hobo-folk charms that exude authenticity, and at time freneticism. The best way to fall in love with Graves’ compositions is in a live setting, and he’ll be making his Bluesfest debut this year, on the back of his latest record And The War Came. With his pre-loved suitcase kick drum, semi-acoustic hollow body, poignant lyricism, and Jeff Buckley aesthetic he will surely break and mend a few hearts around the Byron area.
9. Con Brio
Every good festival should include a slice of supreme soul, and Bluesfest have triumphed with this year’s line-up featuring Con Brio – a smooth sailing, jazz inflicted, soul funk band. Fronted by James Brown reincarnation Ziek McCarter, the group utilise a bombastic horn section, slinky guitar tones, dynamic beats, and rich, intrepid vocal gymnastics in order to get people dancing, and panties droppin’. Since the 2015 release of EP Kiss The Sun, these bright stars have been burning a hole through the San Francisco music scene, and will no doubt bring the same sultry energies to Aussie shores this March.
8. St. Paul and the Broken Bones
Despite the rise in Soul acts on this year’s bill, newcomers St Paul and the Broken Bones are some of the best this generation has to offer, and they’re bringing all their Sam Cooke, Otis Redding style preachin’ to the Tea Tree Farm this March, for us Aussies to soak up and melt into. Their debut LP Half The City (2014) garnered them critical acclaim, saw them embark on extensive tours worldwide, and open for The Rolling Stones, giving ex bank teller, turned vocalist Paul Janeway all the crooner credibility needed. With their second full length record in the pipeline, we may even be subject to a taste of some decadent new tracks.
7. Tedeschi Trucks Band
Grammy award winning Blues Rock supergroup, Tedeschi Trucks Band, have been making waves and astounding audiences on the blues scene since their formation in 2010, and the release of their debut LP Revelator. Featuring husband and wife duo; singer, songwriter, and guitarist Susan Tedeschi, and the man Rolling Stone slated the 16th greatest guitarist of all time, Derek Trucks, together the pair have created a slide soaked, horn heavy concoction that echoes the sounds produced by Delany & Bonnie during their days with Skydog. This 11 piece troupe are sure to slap us Aussies into a foot stompin’, blues coma before the end of their Bluesfest stint.
6. Lucky Peterson
Discovered by Willie Dixon at the age of 5, Peterson is as his name suggests, one lucky son of a gun. At 51, Peterson is already a blues veteran whose signature sound merges vehement vocals, with an endless flow of ferocious blues riffs, and licks – all whilst maintaining an on stage sassiness on par with that of Buddy Guy’s, and a spiritedness equal to that of Santana’s. With the release of his latest LP The Son of a Bluesman in mid-2014, we festival goers are sure to be treated to a round of deluxe, guitar ridden showmanship.
5. The Pierce Brothers
With earthy harmonies draped in harp, driving beats, and didgeridoo, Australian duo, Jack and Pat Pierce have brought together a hefty cocktail of contemporary folk, and bluegrass. With musicianship as tight as their bond, they’ve toured worldwide, rapidly making a name for themselves as some of Australia’s most authentic, and underrated performers. Their latest EP Into The Dirt seen them catapult into the ARIA Top 10, and sign with Sony Music Europe. Their sonorous energies are enough to ignite a few flames throughout any festival crowd, and will surely get a few feet stompin’.
4. Jackson Browne
As one of the foremost songwriters of the 60s and 70s, majority of the baby boomers attending Bluesfest would already be well acquainted with Browne’s extensive repertoire. Renowned for his cathartic storytelling, and Californian tones, this is the ideal opportunity for Gen Y’s to dip their toes into the world of a real troubadour, whose career has spanned more than four decades, and influenced some of the world’s most celebrated artists.
Released in 2014, his latest studio LP Standing In The Breach revisits the themes of love, and politics in a way that closely simulates 76’s The Pretender. Browne’s authentic nature is still running strong, and bearing witness to a music legend perform his classics, and new tracks alike, there is bound to be more than a few festival goers leaving with a head and heart full of inspiration, courtesy of the man whose songs defined the generation of change.
3. Jason Isbell
Dubbed the greatest songwriter of his generation, by John Mayer, and many musicians and critics alike, Country crooner Jason Isbell channels his inner James Taylor with each word sung. He is a poet who puts blood, and life into each of his tracks, managing to remain both timeless and contemporary. He will make his anticipated return to Bluesfest this March with a stack of new songs under his belt, having released a chart topping LP Something More Than Free, in July last year. Isbell carefully caresses both the heart and mind, with the confronting and relatable nature of his songs, along with his flair for guitar. He is the ultimate present-day troubadour, who can knock you into his world of words with ease.
2. Joe Bonamassa
A friend of mine once said “while most guitarists have women line up outside their dressing rooms, men line up outside of Joe’s, wanting to talk gear” and that statement alone is enough to indicate how well Bonamassa knows his stuff. Endorsed by the legends, Bonamassa was playing alongside the king of the blues, Mr BB King, by the time he was 12 – he lives, and breathes all things guitar and guitar paraphernalia, the man is practically a guitar himself.
With the majority of his releases topping the Blues charts, including 2014’s Different Shades of Blue, his music has become the Holy Grail for modern guitar geeks. He has taken the jump blues to a new level of sweet, screechin’ tones, electrifying vocals, and suits galore, and with his upcoming record Blues of Desperation on the horizon, witnessing Bonamassa perform some new, and old tracks in all his sophisticated glory will no doubt be a festival highlight.
1. Blind Boy Paxton
Although a festival open to a variety of sounds, Bluesfest is essentially still just that – a BLUES festival, and that is why independent artist Jerron ‘Blind Boy’ Paxton with all his Blind Lemon Jefferson, Screamin Jay Hawkins style finesse is our #1 must see performer of this year’s line-up. Inspired by old Cajun and country blues, the 27 year old guitar slinger seamlessly emulates the sounds of the original bluesmen, while maintaining a witty sense of self.
Close your eyes and you could be sittin’ on a front porch, in the Mississippi Delta back in 1932, listening to the most unrefined, gut wrenching truths music has to offer. Paxton’s pre WW2 inspired charisma is an instant transportation back to where the blues began, and you’d be a fool to miss him in action.