“The blues is the blueprint,” says blues and reggae musician Corey Harris, who will take over as the Artistic Director of the Port Townsend Country Blues Festival in 2009. “You can go from that blueprint and build whatever house you want," Harris says. "That’s something that we as black Americans have given to the world: the concept of the blues. But at the same time, I’m of a different generation. I didn’t ever have to go to the back of a bus. If I was out on the road, I wouldn’t have to camp in my car because they wouldn’t let black people in the hotel. So I’m trying to represent what my tradition is, and then represent my individual self in the contemporary moment."
“Corey is in a perfect position to continue the tradition of the blues at the Port Townsend Country Blues Festival,” says outgoing Artistic Director Phil Wiggins, who will continue in his role through the 2008 season.
“He has such a strong connection to the blues, and is able to move freely between the root music of all the different countries that make up the African diaspora.”
The Port Townsend Country Blues Festival is known nationally as a week-long, total-immersion experience that passes down the skills, sounds, stories, laughter, and pain of the authentic bearers of the acoustic country blues tradition. Nights feature intimate faculty-led house parties and night-long jamming, dancing, and special events. The Festival culminates on Friday and Saturday with mainstage and club performances at Fort Worden and in the venues of downtown Port Townsend.
Harris currently resides in Charlottesville, Virginia. He polished up his blues-playing while living in Cameroon, studying Pidgin English on a Watson Fellowship. He burst onto the United States scene in 1995 with his debut recording, Between Midnight and Day, an exploration of rural blues styles. At the time, however, few really grasped the scope and range of Harris’ musical persona.
After street-busking and taking small gigs near his home outside New Orleans, it quickly became clear that he couldn’t be pigeonholed as simply a blues musician. He’d grown up listening to gospel, funk, Motown, jazz, reggae and R&B, and by the time he moved to New Orleans, he was well on his way to becoming a connoisseur of African music, as well.
His CDs include Between Midnight and Day, Fish Ain’t Bitin’ , Greens from the Garden, Vu-Du Menz, Downhome Sophisticate, Mississippi to Mali, Daily Bread, and 2007’s Zion Crossroads.
Centrum Artistic Directors select the faculty for Centrum’s festivals and set the tone for each gathering. Harris joins violist Helen Callus (The Port Townsend Chamber Music Festival), Dirk Powell (The Festival of American Fiddle Tunes), Rebecca Brown (The Port Townsend Writers’ Conference) and John Clayton (Jazz Port Townsend).
The 2008 Port Townsend Country Blues Festival will feature, as faculty and performers, John Cephas, Phil Wiggins, Mike Dowling, Ari Eisinger, Rick Franklin, Robert Jones, John Miller, Louisiana Red, Del Rey, Mike “Lightnin’” Wells, Warner Williams, Elijah Wald, Jerron Paxton, Terry “Harmonica” Bean, Curley Cooke, Ted Howard, Steve James, Suzy Thompson, Arthur Migliazza, Daryl Davis, Judy LaPrade, Jay Summerour, Allan Holmes, Alison Chase Radcliffe, Resa Gibbs and Shirley Smith.