2017 Lineupfor the Blind Willie McTell Blues Festival
Working out of Nashville, TN, The Wood Brothers are surely one of today’s brightest lights in Americana/roots/folk music. And if you’ve never seen them live, you are in for some kind of treat. After pursuing separate musical careers for some 15 years, Oliver and Chris Wood performed together at a show in North Carolina in the early 2000’s, with Oliver sitting in with Martin, Medeski & Wood following Oliver’s band, King Johnson’s opening set. “I realized we should be playing music together,” says Chris.
They released their debut studio album, ‘Ways Not To Lose,’ on Blue Note in 2006. You’d be forgiven at the time for expecting it to be something of a side project. Chris Wood already had legions of devoted fans for his incomparable work as one-third of Medeski Martin & Wood, while his brother Oliver toured with Tinsley Ellis before releasing a half-dozen albums with his band King Johnson. Almost a decade later and with drummer Jano Rix added as a permanent third member, it’s become quite clear that The Wood Brothers is indeed the main act.
In January of 2017, The Wood Brothers released “Live at The Barn”, recorded at the late Levon Helm’s studio in Woodstock NY. Check out http://www.bassplayer.com/artists/1171/the-wood-brothers-live-at-the-barn-out-jan-13/61085 for a great review of the disc as well as the special connection they developed with the late icon, Helm. If you are new to the band, this live set would be a good way to get prepared for their set at McTell Fest.
The Wood Brothers
From Austin Texas, Mingo Fishtrap returns to McTell Fest to deliver another blistering set of soulful music, Texas style. Festival fans tell us that Mingo is one of the strongest, most fun bands we’ve had in Thomson. Led by singer and guitarist Roger Blevins, their funky style of soul-blues is not to be missed.
From the Boston area, Sugar Ray and The Bluetones, who opened the festival a few years ago, are back with their Chicago style of electric blues, led by Ray Norcia on vocals and harp. Nominated this year, both individually and as a combo, for 10 !! Blues Music Awards, the band will again feature ‘Monster’ Mike Welch on guitar.
Possessed with a rich timber on both vocals and harmonica, a keen ear for melody, and an unerring feel for the blues, New England’s Sugar Ray Norcia has carved out a niche for himself on the blues circuit—festivals and cruises and night after night in clubs. Norcia has the ability to blend styles—Chicago blues, Kansas City swing, and swamp blues—into one funky musical stew.
And his band, the Bluetones, is a huge reason Norcia can take in so much musical territory. The lineup is stellar…no other word to describe it: Mike Welch on guitar, Anthony Geraci on keys, Michael “Mudcat” Ward on bass, and Neil Gouvin on drums. Geraci, Ward and Gouvin have been together as Norcia’s backing combo for more than a quarter-century, during which time they’ve pulled double duty behind Ronnie Earl as The Broadcasters. Like Earl, Norcia is capable of taking full advantage of that powerhouse band’s skill set.
Sugar Ray & The Bluetones
We’re happy to have Alvin Youngblood Hart do an acoustic solo set at 2017 McTell Fest. This is his first visit to Thomson. Hart, who is one of the world’s foremost practitioners of country blues, was born in Oakland, California, spending some time in Carroll County, Mississippi, in his youth, where he was influenced by the Mississippi Country Blues performed by his relatives. Bluesman Taj Mahal once said about Hart: “The boy has got thunder in his hands.”
His debut album, Big Mama’s Door, came out in 1996. In 2003, Hart’s album, Down in the Alley, was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues Album. In 2005, Hart received a Grammy Award for his contribution to Beautiful Dreamer – The Songs of Stephen Foster.
Hart was featured in the 2003 Wim Wenders film The Soul of a Man, which was featured in Martin Scorsese‘s film series The Blues. Hart was also featured in the documentary Last of the Mississippi Jukes.
In the past few years, Hart along with friends Jimbo Mathus and Luther Dickinson formed The South Memphis String Band. They recorded two albums, with the first, Home Sweet Home, earning a nomination for “Best Acoustic Album” at the 2011 Blues Foundation Music Awards.
Alvin Youngblood Hart
McTell Fest welcomes Canadian singer, songwriter and guitarist Joey Landreth and his Trio in 2017. Through the years, the Festival has established a tradition of presenting some of the world’s best guitarists and we can honestly say that Landreth is one of the most unique and talented working today. Joey formally toured as part of the Bros Landreth and this is his first trip down south with the Trio.
Born and raised on the Canadian prairies, Joey Landreth has grown up with a guitar in his hands. Working as a side man through his teens and early twenties Joey grew up on the road, playing music across genres from gospel to country. At twenty-five Joey joined forces with his older brother as they worked on their first independent project, The Bros. Landreth. The band was immediately successful, winning a Juno with their first album, among other awards across multiple genres.
In 2016 Joey is launching his solo career. With the rare ability to write great tunes, sing with the best, and yet seriously blow audiences away with his guitar proficiency, Joey’s career as an independent artist is expected to rise to great heights quickly.
Joey Landreth Trio
Rounding out the lineup for the 2017 Festival is the Marcus King Band. Marcus grew up a short distance from Thomson in Greenville SC and the guitarist is touring behind his new album, produced by Warren Haynes.
“Marcus is the first player I’ve heard since Derek Trucks to play with the maturity of a musician well beyond his age,” Haynes says. “He’s very much influenced by the blues, but also by jazz, rock, soul music, and any timeless genres of music. You can hear the influences, but it all comes through him in his own unique way. He has one of those voices that instantly draws you in, and his guitar playing is an extension of his voice and vice versa.”
King was brought up on the blues, playing shows as a pre-teen sideman with his father—bluesman Marvin King, who himself was the son of a regionally-known guitarist—before striking out on his own. Ever the multi-tasker, King bounces between several instruments, handling electric and acoustic guitar — as well as pedal and lap steel — while driving each track home with his soulful, incendiary voice.
He’s got a full schedule this year (http://www.marcuskingband.com/tour/), playing in the US and Europe. Marcus is great new talent who we’re glad to have kicking off the show on May 6.