2018 Lineupfor the Blind Willie McTell Blues Festival
New West recording artist J D McPherson is out working behind his 2017 release, Undivided Heart and Soul, which Rolling Stone includes in its list of the best 40 Americana releases of 2017. Additionally Guitar World ranks the disc in its Top 10 Roots albums of last year
As we developed this year’s lineup, his name kept surfacing and folks who had seen McPherson and his band live promised that we would be “stunned” by how good they are on stage. A concert reviewer summed it up for us concerning his retro live sound… ”It is at once honorific and respectful, faithful in intent and execution, but also just a little bit cockeyed, a little bit chaotic and disorderly. It is within these two extremes—between the deferential and the discourteous—that gives McPherson’s music the distinctive charm—a charm glowing with retro influence.”
An Oklahoma native, now working out of Nashville, McPherson will join the stellar lineup on the Cayamo Cruise in February, then on the Europe for 6-7 weeks, before returning to the US in the spring. You don’t want to miss this set.
After launching her recording career in 2009, Samantha Fish quickly established herself as a rising star in the contemporary blues world. Since then, the young singer-guitarist-songwriter has earned a reputation as a rising guitar hero and powerful live performer.
The New York Times called Fish “an impressive blues guitarist who sings with sweet power” and “one of the genre’s most promising young talents.”
Fish recorded her latest offering Belle of the West in the relaxed, rural creative atmosphere of the legendary Zebra Ranch Studios in the North Hills of Mississippi with producer Luther Dickinson, with whom she worked previously on her 2015 album Wild Heart. The studio team included some of the region’s most iconoclastic musicians, including Dickinson and the Squirrel Nut Zippers founder Jimbo Mathus. Her live show is not to be missed!
Amy Helm has been making music for most of her life. She’s already won widespread praise as a singer, songwriter and live performer, first as a member of the celebrated alt-country collective Ollabelle and subsequently for her extensive work with her father, the Band’s legendary drummer and musical icon Levon Helm, who passed away in 2012. Her mother is songwriter Libby Titus and her stepfather is none other than Donald Fagen. We’d guess that she certainly has not lacked for inspiration around the house.
Helm has developed into a deeply soulful, expressive singer-songwriter with a writing style that draws deeply from American musical traditions. A decade as a supporting musician prepared her completely, before testing the waters as a solo artist. Her first album released in 2015 was titled Didn’t It Rain, and she has recorded her second effort, produced by Joe Henry. She’ll be here at the festival with her combo, the Handsome Strangers.
It has been quite a while since multi-instrumentalist Kenny Neal has played McTell Fest. After hearing him at Blind Willie’s in Atlanta and on the strength of his second disc, Big News from Baton Rouge, he was one of the first artists the Activities Council ever booked for the festival back in year six. He’s back this year as our “tip-of-the-hat” to one of our favorite past performers, who can sing and play with the best of America’s blues musicians. Twice nominated for Grammy’s, he’s experienced continued success and critical acclaim since that time. During his 37 years as a front man, Neal has performed in Europe, the Middle East, Australia, Japan, eight African countries, the Caribbean and South America. If you are new to his music, we are sure you’ll be satisfied.
The first artist we booked for the 25th McTell Fest was Randall Bramblett …. and for good reason. He’s played here several times, both solo and with Chuck Leavell, his Southern fan base is very strong and loyal and finally, he’s recognized throughout the music world as a singer and songwriter without peer. A Georgia treasure is what he is.
He’s been working the road behind his 11th solo album and his latest New West offering, Juke Joint at the Edge of the World, fronting his quartet where his artistry is in full display. Over his long career, the multi-instrumentalist has shared the stage on one instrument or another with Bonnie Raitt, The Allman Brothers Band, Steve Winwood (16 years), The Band, Roger Glover, Gov’t Mule and Widespread Panic among others. His long catalog of songs has been covered by artists such as Raitt, Gregg Allman, Bonnie Bramlett, Hot Tuna, Delbert McClinton, Bettye Lavette and many more. As is usual, perhaps the band will bring in a few special guests like the Megablaster Horns or guitarist Davis Causey for the show. We hope so and cannot wait.
The Randall Bramblett Band
Jerron ‘Blind Boy’ Paxton, one of the most talked about young country blues players around, will return this year. He was here a couple of years back and was just great. His stage show and showmanship is so original, whether he’s playing guitar or banjo or fiddle or harmonica! We are proud to bring him to the home of Willie McTell on the occasion of our festival’s 25th Anniversary.
If you really want to read a great description of Paxton and what drives him, click on http://www.thecountryblues.com/artist-reviews/jerron-blind-boy-paxton/, a great piece that says way more than we could about the incredible talent that is Jerron Paxton.