The Activities Council of Thomson announces the lineup for the 19th Annual Blind Willie McTell Blues Festival, to be held on Sat., May 19, 2012. The annual one-day fest has a large fan base from all over the Southeast and will be held at the regular festival site on Stagecoach Road, 300 yards off Washington Highway, north of Thomson, Ga. The schedule has been posted.

The event is held each year to bring great music and musicians to the rural South and to pay tribute to country blues legend McTell, a Thomson native son, born and buried in the Happy Valley area of McDuffie County. The small-town feel and exceptional quality of the music presented year in and year out makes the McTell Festival a special event indeed. The organizers strive to feature artists who offer the best in American music, focusing on the styles of Americana, folk, gospel, rock, blues and all its variations…players that our smaller market can support; music played by folks at the top of their game.

This year’s line-up is still being finalized as we go to press, but it’s already loaded with the likes of the great singer and headliner Delbert McClinton, blues legend James Cotton, the acoustic country blues of Guy Davis, the southern soul of the Randall Bramblett and Geoff Achison Band, and locals Mama Says.

Delbert McClintonDelbert McClinton, a Texas born singer, has been making music all of his life. In addition to being an electrifying vocalist, he’s a songwriter, harmonica player and pianist. Equally as well known is the top-notch touring band he travels with—all of ‘em road warriors and first-class musicians. A favorite all over the world, Delbert has recorded over 20 albums during his long career, winning a Grammy for his duet, “Good Man, Good Woman,” with Bonnie Raitt in 1991 and another in 2006 for “The Cost of Living” album, released in 2005. He was inducted into the Texas Heritage Songwriters Hall of Fame in March 201l. Some may remember that McClinton’s last appearance at Blind Willie six years ago was cut short by heavy rain and lightning, so we are quite happy to bring him back to Thomson again for a full set.

James Cotton was born in Tunica, Mississippi, in 1935 and is one of the greatest blues harmonica player—ever! His most notable musical associations were with the early combos of Howlin Wolf and Muddy Waters during the 1950s. Cotton is still recognized the world over as one of a few of the originals, those responsible for the bluesy sounds associated with the city of Chicago. Of note are Grammy awards he won in 1977 as part of a Muddy Waters album, “Hard Again,” produced by Johnny Winter. Cotton has also been nominated three additional times, winning a Grammy in 1996 for his album, “Deep in The Blues.” He has won many WC Handy awards, annually given out to top blues performers, culminating with his induction into the Blues Hall of Fame in Memphis in 2006. It is Cotton’s first appearance here in Thomson, following in our tradition of honoring the older players such as the late Hubert Sumlin and Pinetop Perkins, to name a couple.

Rounding out the lineup in 2012 will be the Randall Bramblett and Geoff Achison Band. Bramblett, a Georgia native who lives in Athens, and guitarist Achison, who comes all the way north from Australia, play together routinely and presenting both of them in this combo will be something new for the fest: they have appeared solo in the past. Bramblett consistently releases first-class original music and has been a part of Southern musical scene since the early ‘70s. Achison and Bramblett recently released a live album, “Jammin in the Attic,” recording at the venerable Atlanta music hall, Eddie’s Attic. Also appearing is Guy Davis, who played in the 6th Annual McTell Festival and is back again this year. If you are unfamiliar with his music, he’s a great country blues player, playing in the acoustic style rooted in the early South of the 1900s. Opening the festival this year will be a CSRA local combo, Mama Says, a funk-blues outfit who regularly gig around our area and have a good local following.

The McTell Fest is happy to welcome Cory Chisel, along with his band, the Wandering Sons, to the 2012 lineup. Chisel, the son of a Baptist preacher, comes south from Appleton Wisconsin, where he has been making regional, and now national, waves for the last few years. With a sound steeped in Americana and roots music, this band continues our tradition of giving artists who are breaking out some visibility in our part of the world, as well as giving our fans something a little different than straight blues.

Chisel records for RCA and his latest release, Death Won’t Send a Letter, released in 2009, garnered critical acclaim throughout the US and Europe. Chisel was named the “Artist of the Year” at the 2010 Wisconsin Area Music Industry awards.The group’s song “Born Again” was named the “Record of the Year.”

As in years gone by, an array of vendors will serve traditional Southern food and beverages: ribs, chicken, fish, Cajun—great dishes that go hand in hand with the music that will be on tap that day. Carry-in food and drink is not allowed.

Children 12 and under are admitted free. Advance tickets will be $25.

Tickets will go on sale in mid-March and will be available the Thomson-McDuffie County Chamber of Commerce office, as well as on this website.

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