BEST BLUES UNDER THE SUN
Sunshine Blues Festival brings big names together
The Tedeschi Trucks Band headlines the Sunshine Blues Festival Friday, Jan. 18, at Centennial Park in Fort Myers. Ask blues singer/guitarist Susan Tedeschi about the Sunshine Blues Festival, and she immediately says, “It’s gonna be fun! It’s gonna be really good.”
That’s both a promise and declaration.
The festival, which takes place in three Florida cities on three consecutive days, (Friday, Jan. 18, in Fort Myers; Saturday, Jan. 19, in Boca Raton; and Sunday, Jan. 20, in St. Petersburg) boasts a line-up that reads like a Who’s Who of contemporary blues musicians.
The idea for the festival was her husband’s, blues slide guitarist Derek Trucks, Ms. Tedeschi says, adding he was inspired by the Allman Brothers Band’s annual Wanee Festival at the Spirit of Suwannee Music Park in Live Oak, Fla.
Mr. Trucks played the Wanee Festival as a member of the Allman Brothers, and the Tedeschi Trucks Band has also played the event.
Big Sam’s Funky Nation “His idea was to get some friends to play together, some blues acts,” Ms. Tedeschi says. “Try it out, see how it goes, see if people like it.”
The couple, who live in Jacksonville, wanted to give something back to the state, she says.
The first concert of this inaugural festival takes place in Centennial Park in downtown Fort Myers. Like the Wanee Festival, it will have two stages to accommodate several acts that will perform throughout the day and into the night. The Tedeschi Trucks Band will close the show, but an exact stage time has not been announced.
The line-up includes Big Sam’s Funky Nation, a lively New Orleans funk band led by Big Sam Williams, formerly the trombonist for the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. Ryan White of The Oregonian describes the band as “tight enough (and hot enough) to turn coal into diamond.” It has played at Bonnaroo, South by Southwest and the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Fest, and Big Sam has a recurring role in the HBO original series “Treme.” His 2010 album is “King of the Party,” and his 2012 EP, “Funky Donkey,” features various mixes of that song.
Tedeschi Trucks Band Blues guitarist Sean Chambers, whose music has been described as a “no-frills blend of Chicago, Texas and Delta styles played with an understated sense of ferocity” by Living Blues Magazine, toured with Hubert Sumlin, has recorded and toured with his own band, the Sean Chambers Band, and recently joined Blackfoot as lead vocalist and guitarist.
Jaimoe, drummer and founding member of the Allman Brothers Band, will be performing with his own group, Jaimoe’s Jasssz Band. Prior to the Allman Brothers, Jaimoe played with artists such as Otis Redding and Sam and Dave. The group’s most recent album, “Renaissance Man,” reflects its eclectic taste.
Sonny Landreth “Jaimoe’s band is awesome,” Ms. Tedeschi says. “His Junior Mack is a great singer and a fabulous guitar player when it comes to blues.”
Blues guitarist Sonny Landreth will also perform. “He’s one of the best slide guitarists — other than my husband — on the planet,” Ms. Tedeschi says. “And he’s a sweetheart of a guy.”
Mr. Landreth, who lives in Louisiana, has performed with Eric Clapton, Mark Knopfler and Little Feat. His most recent album is “Elemental Journey.”
The Wood Brothers: Oliver and Chris Wood Bobby Lee Rodgers will play the Sunshine Blues Festival with his group, the Bobby Lee Rodgers Trio. The former guitarist and lead singer for The Codetalkers, Mr. Rodgers first performed solo at Wanee Festival in 2009 and has been invited back ever since. He plays his guitar through a Leslie cabinet and a vintage guitar amp, creating a sound that’s part guitar, part organ.
British blues guitarist/singer Matt Schofield is also part of the lineup. “Anything But Time,” his 2011 album, was named Album of the Year at the British Blues Awards and the No. 1 blues album of 2011 by Mojo magazine. The Matt Schofield Trio consists of Jonny Henderson on Hammond organ, Evan Jenkins on drums and Mr. Schoefield on guitar. In 2011, Mr. Schofield won the British Blues Guitarist Award and Mr. Henderson won the British Keyboard Player Award.
Walter Trout was a member of John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers and also of Canned Heat. He’s performed behind such artists as John Lee Hooker, Big Mama Thornton and Joe Tex. Mr. Trout’s 2012 album, “Blues for The Modern Daze,” was nominated for Best Blues Rock Album for a Blues Foundation Award. And a recent BBC Radio 1 Top Guitarists Poll listed him at No. 6.
“He’s a blues guy who’s been around a long time,” Ms. Tedeschi says about Mr. Trout. “He has a big following.”
California blues guitarist Joe Louis Walker, whose style Ms. Tedeschi compares to that of Robert Cray, has recorded more than a dozen albums. His most recent, “Hellfire,” was released by Alligator Records in 2012. He was inducted into the New York City Blues Hall of Fame last year, receiving the Legendary Blues Artist Award.
The Wood Brothers are stand-up bassist Chris Wood of the jazz trio Medeski, Martin and Wood, and guitarist Oliver Wood. They released “Live: Volume One: Sky High” in 2012 and “Smoke Ring Halo” the year before that. The duo performs a unique take on American roots music, combining jazz, folk, bluegrass and country. Ms. Tedeschi likens it to what Woody Guthrie and Robert Johnson might sound like if they performed together with Willie Nelson.
“The two of them together are awesome,” she says. “They have wonderful harmonies, the way siblings do, and are great songwriters/storytellers. They’re pop/folk/blues and kind of soulful. Really addicting music. I could listen to them all day.”
And of course, the Tedeschi Trucks Band headlines the Sunshine Blues Festival. The husband-and-wife musicians have enjoyed highly successful solo careers; joining forces and creating a band together just compounds the talent.
A child prodigy whose parents named him after Eric Clapton’s Derek and the Dominos, Mr. Trucks was performing slide guitar onstage at the age of 9 and headlining by the time he was 11. He’s performed with Bob Dylan, John Lee Hooker, Eric Clapton and Buddy Guy, among others, and is the youngest musician named on Rolling Stone’s list of Top 100 Guitarists of All Time (he’s No. 16).
Mr. Trucks led his own band, the Grammy Award-winning Derek Trucks Band, before he was invited to join the Allman Brothers as a permanent member. (His uncle, Butch Trucks, is a founding member and drummer for the group.) He agreed, as long he could continue to lead his own band.
He and Ms. Tedeschi put together the Tedeschi Trucks Band in 2010, combining Trucks’ slide guitar with Tedeschi’s soulful singing and guitar playing.
Ms. Tedeschi was also musical from an early age. At 10, she was an understudy for Annie in the Broadway musical “Annie.” She joined a gospel choir while studying at Boston’s Berklee College of Music and established herself in the city’s blues scene after graduating. Her 1998 breakthrough album, “Just Won’t Burn” went gold and earned her a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist. She’s opened for acts such as John Mellencamp, Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones, and she was a member of the Grateful Dead in 2002.
The Tedeschi Trucks Band harkens back to groups from the late ’60s/early ’70s — think Delaney and Bonnie and Friends (which included Eric Clapton, George Harrison, Dave Mason, King Curtis and both Duane and Gregg Allman) and Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs and Englishmen tour (whose large ensemble included Leon Russell and Rita Coolidge).
“I love the music of that era,” Ms. Tedeschi says. “We draw inspiration from it.”
In addition to Ms. Tedeschi and Mr. Trucks, the 11-piece band consists of George Reiff on bass guitar; Kofi Burbridge on keyboards and flute; Tyler Greenwell and JJ Johnson on drums and percussion; Mike Mattison and Mark Rivers on harmony vocals; Kebbi Williams on saxophone; Maurice Brown on trumpet; and Saunders Sermons on trombone.
Their first album as the Tedeschi Trucks Band, “Revelator,” won a Grammy for Best Blues Album of the Year. Rolling Stone called it a masterpiece and gave it four out of five stars.
The couple performed at the White House along with Mick Jagger, BB King and Buddy Guy, and a week later played with Eric Clapton, Keith Richards and others at the Apollo Theatre in a tribute to bluesman Hubert Sumlin.
In 2012, the Tedeschi Trucks Band released a two-CD live album, “Everbody’s Talkin’,” which includes covers of Stevie Wonder’s “Uptight,” Elmore James’ “Rollin’ and Tumblin’,” John Sebastian’s “Darlin’ Be Home Soon” and live versions of some songs from “Revelator,” including “Bound For Glory,” “Midnight in Harlem” and “Love Has Something Else to Say.”
The band recently played at the United Nations along with Herbie Hancock, Stevie Wonder, Chaka Kahn, Wayne Shorter and Ron Carter, among others, for International Jazz Day.
“We had an amazing 2012,” Ms. Tedeschi says. “It was surreal, just amazing, to be invited to the White House, never mind get to see BB (King) and Buddy (Guy). It was just a magical experience for both of us.”
The band’s is working on a new album that might be released in the fall.
Performing and touring with her husband gets Ms. Tedeschi “out of wife mode and into musician mode,” she says, adding that can be “interesting” as well as good for the relationship. The marriage was a lot more work before, because they weren’t together all the time, she explains.
“Now it’s a lot easier,” she says. “We’re not on the phone all the time.”
They play music, she says, not for the fame, but simply because they love it. “At the end of the day, it’s about the work you do, the talent and the care and effort you put into it. It’s not about what you get from it. If you can pay your bills and do what you love, (that’s great.)”
The Sunshine Blues Festival, she hopes, will become an annual event.
“We’ll see how it goes, if the people like it,” she says. “It’s a very energetic line-up. If people are in the mood to have some fun and hear some great music, it will be a great day.” ¦