FESTIVAL ‌ The Bonterra Lowcountry Blues Bash: From A to Z 

Charleston's annual celebration of authentic blues music kicks off this weekend in and around downtown. This year's blues players are listed here in alphabetical order:

Abe Reid & The SpikeDrivers — Hard-driving, guitar heavy blues 'n' roots trio from N.C. with "a modern approach to Delta blues." (Wed. Feb. 15 and Thurs. Feb. 16, Pour House)

Carey Bell — Chicago blues harmonica veteran Carey Bell Harrington — a talent among the last of a great generation of blues harmonica players —was mentored by Big Walter "Shakey" Horton; sideman to Robert Nighthawk, Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, and others. In 1969, Bell made his debut album for Delmark. In the '70s, he served in the bands of Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon. His latest disc, Good Luck Man, is a hot-burning jam session with a full band. (Tues. Feb. 14, Cumberland's; Wed. Feb. 15, Charleston Co. Library)

Bottles & Cans — This "raw and ready urban blues quartet" from Savannah is backing singer/guitarist Eddie Kirkland and several other visiting artists on stage during the festival. (Wed. Feb. 15, Cumberland's)

Nappy Brown — Born in Charlotte, N.C. in 1929, Napoleon "Nappy" Brown came up singing in blues and gospel groups. In the 1950s, he began working with the Savoy label, scoring several hits on the Billboard R&B charts. He wrote and recorded a hit titled "Night Time Is The Right Time," best remembered as a hit for Ray Charles. Currently based in Columbia, S.C., Brown continues to tour and perform at festivals and blues events around the world. (Fri. Feb. 10, Cumberland's; Sat. Feb. 11, IOP Rec. Center)

Ann Caldwell — Popular local solo artist, music producer, and ensemble vocalist. A regular on the lounge and club scene, Caldwell handles anything from Billie Holiday and Diane Reeves to gospel and Motown. Soulful blues, torch songs, jazz standards, and gospel greatness. (Wed. Feb. 15, Med Deli)

Cat Belly — Atlanta-based trio led by singer/guitarist Stewart Brown (formerly of local act The Hollywood Squares) and featuring bassist Wayne Mitchum, drummer John Etheridge, and local guests. Cat Belly features Brown's "most soulful singing and acoustic and electric guitar work ... a music that goes beyond the artist and his individual merits, grounded in Brown's Southern roots in R&B and blues." (Fri. Feb. 10, The Map Room)

Corey Harris & The 5X5 Band — Blues musician and musical anthropologist Corey Harris was the subject of Martin Scorsese's film Feel Like Going Home, an episode in the PBS series The Blues. On his 2002 release, Downhome Sophisticate (Rounder), he and his band blend U.S. blues, African pop, rock, and electronica. On the brand new LP Daily Bread and live collection Live at Starr Hill, they expand further into "world-music" territories. (Thurs. Feb. 16, The Pour House)

Cotton Blue Band — This trio from Edisto Island — fronted by guitarist, singer, and harp player Rob "Gator" Posey and bassist Debbie "Detroit Debbie" Pasek — plays hot Bayou boogie, or as they put it, "twangy blues and folk from the wet underbelly of the Lowcountry." (Wed. Feb. 15, Mimi's Cafe; Thurs. Feb. 16, Sunfire Grill; Sat. Feb. 17, The Map Room)

Heaven Davis — The blues "diva" vocalist takes part in the "Lady Sings the Blues" event alongside Shelley Magee & the Bad Deeds. (Fri. Feb. 17, Cumberland's)

Delta Moon — This Atlanta-based blues and R&B quintet — guitarist Mark Johnson, vocalist Kristin Markiton, lap steel player Tom Gray, bassist Phil Skipper, and drummer Scott Callison — plays a sultry, swingin' mix of pop-rock, boogie, and slide guitar blues. The new album is titled Howlin'. They open for Tinsley Ellis on 2/18. (Sat. Feb. 18, The Pour House)

Drink Small — This soulful Carolina singer and guitarist has been belting out the gutbucket blues since his early days with the Spiritualaires and the Vee Jay label in the late '50s. Known as "The Blues Doctor" and "the Real Deal," Small plays a Yamaha hollow-body six-string named Geraldine. (Sat. Feb. 11, Cumberland's; Sun. Feb. 12, Circular Cong. Church; Mon. Feb. 13, Charleston Co. Main Library)

Chris Duarte — Young electric guitarist Chris Duarte emerged from the Austin blues-rock scene in the 1990s. He and his band are currently stirring up trouble with a pile of Delta blues on a new disc titled Romp (the second Zoë/Rounder release from the Chris Duarte Group). "I know I have a long way to go," says Duarte. "It's all about exploring more in music and seeing what else is out there. That's what eggs me on. And making people feel good. There's nothing like it when you get on stage and move an audience. It's an incredible feeling." (Fri. Feb. 10, The Pour House)

Duwayne Burnside & The Mississippi Mafia — Guitar-driven country blues. Miss.-based guitarist Duwayne Burnside — son of the late, great R.L. Burnside and an adjunct member of the North Mississippi Allstars — makes it back to town behind a hot new album titled Under Pressure, produced by ex-Squirrel Nut Zippers guitarist Jimbo Mathus (of The Knockdown South). The disc features a version of Albert King's "I Got the Blues" and an expansive, soulful take on his father's "Bad Luck City." (Fri. Feb. 17, The Pour House)

Tinsley Ellis — Atlanta native Tinsley Ellis specializes in a style of electric blues that connects the dots between the soulful Delta blues of Muddy Waters, the shronk of the Stax sound, the Southern-fried Texas blues of ZZ Top, Johnny Winter, and Stevie Ray Vaughan, and the classic British Invasion rock of Clapton, Beck, and Townsend. He fronted popular Atlanta act The Heartfixers before splitting for a solo career in the late '80s and releasing a number of albums on the Alligator and Capricorn labels. The singer-guitarist's latest effort — a live album titled Highwayman (Alligator) — follows last year's moody, minor-key collection, The Hard Way (Telarc). (Sat. Feb. 18, The Pour House)

George Stancell & The Wonderful Ones — Singer/guitarist George Stancell is a talented and confident Milwaukee-based musician and bandleader who plays a Stax-influenced blend of rock, R&B, and blues. He and his band recently released an album titled Gorgeous George. (Fri. Feb. 10, Sticky Fingers; Sat. Feb. 11, Charleston Co. Library; Sun. Feb. 12, IOP Rec Center)

Graham Whorley & Iridescent Sol — Led by local guitarist and vocalist Graham Whorley, this local quartet plays soulful jams on tunes influenced by a wide array of styles. Playing as part of the "Blues Relief Fund Benefit" from 4-8 p.m. (Sun. Feb. 19, Bowen's Island Restaurant)

Scott Holt — One of the strongest blues men on the circuit. This weekend, blues singer-guitarist and longtime Buddy Guy sideman Scott Holt headlines a special show demonstrating his hot chops and vast collection of guitar licks. Holt, a native of Tenn., played with Guy through the '80s and early '90s before releasing his first proper solo album, Messing With the Kid, in '98. Expect some rumbling electric blues-rock sounds in the vein of Stevie Ray, Hendrix, and Billy G. (Sat. Feb. 11, A Dough Re Mi)

Big Ron Hunter — Winston-Salem-based blues singer Ron Hunter — of Big Ron & The Have Mercy Blues Band — plays a mix of jazzy blues and soul. (Fri. Feb. 10, Cumberland's; Sat. Feb. 11, IOP Rec. Center; Sun. Feb. 12, Charleston Co. Library)

Jony James — Guitarist James leads a rockin, NYC-based trio through some Albert King-style jams and tunes. (Thurs. Feb. 16, Cumberland's)

Johnny Mac & The BootyRanch — Longtime Charleston musician and bandleader Rev. Dr. Johnny Mac (a.k.a. John McIver) calls his hard-working rock trio's bluesy sound "a sinfully delicious cornucopia of aural sensations ... a heady mixture of rhythm and blues, funky grooves, and low-down in the street rock 'n' roll." The guitarist's versatility allows him to cover all the bases — from traditional Chicago and Delta blues to Texas-style electric riffery (a la Billy Gibbons and Stevie Ray) to Southern-fried funk. (Sat. Feb. 11, Wild Wing-MP)

Miss Wanda Johnson — Originally from Anderson, S.C., this charismatic soul and blues singer has a strong voice, writes fine original material, and possesses a stage charm that can win over any audience. Her brand new album (to be released next week) is titled Natural Resource — a collaborative effort with Shrimp City Slim — and is a full-length follow-up to '03's Call Me Miss Wanda. Slim and his band will be backing Johnson during her performances this week. (Fri. Feb. 17; Mills House; Sat. Feb. 18, Mills House)

Jonathan Kalb — Based in New York, this electric blues singer/guitarist and longtime bandleader is back in the states after a decade of work in Europe; he's worked with the likes of Steve Miller, B.B. King, Bo Diddley, Soloman Burke, and others (Fri. Feb. 10, Mimi's Cafe; Sun. Feb. 12, IOP Rec Center; Mon. Feb. 13, Med Deli; Mon. Feb. 13, Mimi's Cafe; Tues. Feb. 14, Med Deli)

The King Bees — A rockin' trio from Boone, N.C. who released piles of material on Tramp Records. The Bees plan to play their sets, as well as a few backing sets behind harmonica player Carey Bell. (Fri. Feb. 10, Cumberland's; Sat. Feb. 11, IOP Rec. Center; Sun. Feb. 12, Mimi's Cafe; Mon. Feb. 13, Mimi's Cafe)

Eddie Kirkland — Jamaican-born singer/guitarist Eddie Kirkland, 83, has recorded with John Lee Hooker and toured with Otis Redding ... and played guitar while standing on his head on TV's Don Kirshner's Rock Concert! Kirkland grew up in south Alabama and relocated to Detroit in the '40s. In the '50s and '60s, he recorded with various Motor City bands and musicians, developing a raucous R&B sound and a lively performing style. By the late '60s, he was situated back South in Macon, Ga. His latest disc is a sultry 'n' soulful, 12-song disc titled Booty Blues. (Wed. Feb. 15, Cumberland's; Thurs. Feb. 16, Charleston Co, Library)

Juke Joint Johnny — Johnny is known among locals as the "Harmonica Beast of the Southeast." (Fri. Feb. 10, Med Deli; Fri. Feb. 17, Med Deli)

Li'l Brian & the Zydeco Travelers — Based in Houston, this hot combo — led by young accordion player and singer Brian Terry —specialize in "Creole zydeco with an irresistible twist," adding deep funk grooves, strong harmony vocals, and even a touch of hip-hop. (Fri. Feb. 17, Wild Wing Cafe—MP)

Randy McAlister — Considered by some fans as the "new king of Texas harp," this blues man is known for his work with Danny Cochran, Hash Brown, Smokey Logg, Texas Slim, Chuck Rainey, and John Street. True roadhouse blues. (Thurs. Feb. 16, Three Lions Pub; Fri. Feb. 17, A Dough Re Mi; Sat. Feb. 18, Cumberland's)

Wes Mackey — A Lowcountry "one man band" (he plays guitar and bass pedals with his feet) doing some delightfully genuine blues. "A delightful personality and genuine bluesman." Solo and with drums. (Thurs. Feb. 16, Lowcountry Seniors Center; Fri. Feb. 17, Sticky Fingers; Sat. Feb. 18, Mills House; Sun. Feb. 19, Mills House)

Ed "Porkchop" Meyer — A veteran piano player and vocalist originally from Chicago, this local player plays regularly and "digs deep into the blues" at the Blind Tiger and other Charleston venues. (Sun. Feb. 12, Cafe Suzanne; Sun. Feb. 19, Cafe Suzanne)

Motherless Chillin' — Carolina duo of harmonica and acoustic guitar. Jeff Liberty and Mike "Naz" Nazarenko concentrate on some muscular, lowdown blues in this spin-off from their electric band. (Sat. Feb. 11, Med Deli; Sat. Feb. 18, Med Deli)

MyT2 — Local acoustic duo that "gets into swing and blues." (Sat. Feb. 11, Mills House)

Nick Moss & The Flip Tops — Chicago-based electric guitarist Nick Moss and his band, The Flip Tops (guitarist and harp player Gerry Hundt, pianist and bassist Bob Welsh, bassist Dave Woo, and drummer Victor Spann) play regularly at Buddy Guy's club Legends and continually impress critics and fans with a "mastery of the classic Chicago sound." As Moss puts it, "I'm not trying to reinvent the wheel, or trying to bring things into the new millennia. I'm just playing what was handed down to me and do it justice." Their latest disc is titled Count Your Blessings. (Sun. Feb. 19, A Dough Re Mi)

O.J. Hardy & J.W. Gilmore — A pair of swamp-blues players who regularly play the Blues bash and Piccolo Spoleto's blues series. Guitarist/singer Steve "O.J." Hardy is known among locals for his blue-eyed soul and straight-up electric blues. Tall-standing harp player and singer Gilmore leads a Florida-based electric blues and R&B quintet called The Blues Authority. (Sat. Feb. 11, Mimi's Cafe; Sun. Feb. 12, Cumberland's)

Robert Paige & The Holy City Sinners — Singer-guitarist Robert Paige spent a lot of time playing rhythm and slide guitar in the popular Atlanta blues-rock band The Urban Shakedancers before relocating to Charleston two years ago. Eager to form a tight "powerhouse quartet" capable of playing authentic, traditional Delta and Chicago-style blues, he quickly assembled The Holy City Sinners with sax player Matt Kearney, drummer Josh Kohl, and bassist Daniel Jones. The electric-blues quartet has stayed busy gigging around the scene and performing. (Fri. Feb. 10, Mills House; Thurs. Feb. 16, Mills House)

Dan Phelps — Local cat playing acoustic blues, soul, and rock styles — recently back in town from a jaunt in the U.K. (Tues. Feb. 14, A Dough Re Mi; Thurs. Feb. 16, Med Deli)

Michael Pickett — Award-winning, Toronto-based acoustic bluesman. (Fri. Feb. 17, Mimi's Cafe; Sat. Feb. 18, Mimi's Cafe; Sat. Feb. 18, Cumberland's)

Porter-Batiste-Stoltz — Crescent City funk/blues power trio Porter-Batiste-Stoltz (a.k.a. "PBS") is comprised of some of New Orleans' most vital musicians — bassist George Porter Jr. (of the original and resulting versions of The Meters), drummer David Russell Batiste Jr. (of the Funky Meters, Orkestra From da Hood), and guitarist Brian Stoltz (the Neville Brothers, The Funky Meters). (Tues. Feb. 14, The Pour House)

Russ Wilson & The Mighty Mighty Men — Dapper, Krupa-esque, singing drummer Russ Wilson (of the Bob Margolin Band, The King Bees, and Highway 61) leads his feisty, swingin' ensemble through classics and originals. (Fri. Feb. 10, Mills House; Fri. Feb. 10 A Dough Re Mi; Sat. Feb. 12, Sticky Fingers)

Shelley Magee Blues Band — Strong Carolina blues singer from Columbia with a "seismic stage presence." Backed by husband and harmonica player Mike "Naz" Nazarenko (of Elliott & The Untouchables), and guitarist Jeff Liberty. They take part in the "Lady Sings the Blues" event alongside Heaven Davis. (Fri. Feb. 17, Cumberland's)

Shrimp City Slim — The group at the heart of the Blues Bash, featuring keyboardist Shrimp City Slim (a.k.a. Gary Erwin), guitarist "Silent" Eddie Phillips, bassist Jerome Griffin, drummer Lamont Garner, and sax player Mike Kincaid. "Exuberant blues with a coastal flavor." Slim's new solo album is titled Dark Road Piano. (Sun, Feb. 12, Cumberland's; Fri. Feb. 17; Mills House; Sat. Feb. 18, Mills House)

Smoky Weiner & The Hot Links — The longtime blues-rock staple in Charleston — led by singer Andy "Smoky" Weiner — who combine swing, blues, rock, and wit. Playing as part of the "Blues Relief Fund Benefit" from 4-8 p.m. (Sun. Feb. 19, Bowens Island Restaurant)

Super Chikan & The Fighting Cocks — Clarksdale, Miss.-based singer/guitarist James "Super Chikan" Johnson, 54, was 19 years old when he started making music on a two-string guitar called "the diddly-bow." His nickname was a result of chasing chickens on the plantation, talking to them, and reporting back to everyone what they were saying to him. His small-combo, good-humored blues has a funky touch. The Fighting Cocks include drummer Dionne Thomas and bassist Harvell Thomas. The latest disc is titled Shoot That Thang (Rooster Blues). (Fri. Feb. 10, Charleston Co. Library; Sat. Feb. 11, Cumberland's; Sun. Feb. 12, IOP Rec Center)

Sweet Daddy Cool Breeze — This combo from Massachusetts — led by singer and harp player Wally "Sweet Daddy" Greaney — play a hot style of Chicago-style boogie and blues "that will blow you away." (Sat. Feb. 18, A Dough Re Mi)

Tommy Thunderfoot & The Accelerators — Led by long-haired electric guitarist Tommy Thunderfoot, this local blues-rock trio plays with a riffy style in the vein of Stevie Ray Vaughn & Double Trouble. Playing as part of the "Blues Relief Fund Benefit" on 2/19 from 4-8 p.m. (Sun. Feb. 12, A Dough Re Mi; Sun. Feb. 19, Bowen's Island Restaurant)

Too Blue — This versatile blues duo from Savannah, Ga. features Jeff Beasley and Ray Lundy on guitars and vocals doing a front porch jam session act filled with old Chicago and Delta standards. Their latest disc, The Promised Land, includes several original tunes as well as classics by Muddy Waters, Woody Guthrie, Howlin' Wolf, Little Walter, and others. (Thurs. Feb. 16, Mills House; Thurs. Feb. 16, A Dough Re Mi)

Beverly "Guitar" Watkins — This rockin' singer and guitarist has been at it since her teens in the '60s. A unique recording artist in her own right and a world traveler, Watkins recuperated from surgery for lung cancer at her home in Atlanta last year. She joins Shrimp City Slim's band on stage for something of a "welcome back" show. (Fri. Feb. 17, Mills House)

The Wiyos — Young acoustic trio from New York playing their interpretations of old blues, Tin Pan Alley, and vaudeville standards. The act "plays great vintage blues and writes spellbinding original songs." (Sun. Feb. 19, Charleston Co. Main Library) —T. Ballard Lesemann


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