Concert Preview:
Saturday’s Down-Home Country Blues Fest


For the 20th year in a row, Centrum is proud to present the “Down-Home Country BluesFest,” an eclectic gathering of traditional blues artists, in concert at McCurdy Pavilion on Saturday, August 6 beginning at 1:30 p.m.

  • Reserved Seating – $33/$24/$18; Patrons under 18 admitted FREE.

Tickets on sale now.

The 2011 lineup features a diverse mix of styles and performances, including guitar/piano prodigy Jerron Paxton, master storyteller and guitarist Guy Davis, and the trance-blues sound of guitarist Otis Taylor. The set also includes the legendary boogie-woogie pianist and Chicago master Erwin Helfer, West Virginia veteran bluesman Nat Reese, and singer/songwriter Pura Fé, slide guitarist and founding member of the internationally renowned a capella group, Ulali.


Los Angeles-based Jerron Paxton plays guitar, banjo, piano, harmonica, and washboard. While there are few young African American musicians learning country blues in the communities from which it arose, there is a definite increase in younger black musicians learning and playing blues in much the same way that young white people did forty years ago – by listening to recordings and personally experimenting on their instrument. Jerron Paxton is a supreme example of this, a young man from Watts with a huge repertoire of prewar blues and rags, and an uncanny ability to channel the spirit of pre-war guitar and piano blues music.


Guy Davis is a musician, composer, actor, director, and writer, but most importantly, Guy Davis is a bluesman. Guy has dedicated himself to reviving the traditions of acoustic blues and bringing them to as many ears as possible through the material of the great blues masters, African American stories, and his own original songs, stories and performance pieces. Guy’s passion for this music is rooted in the stories and music of his family. It is his storytelling set in an acoustic blues framework that sets him apart from his contemporaries.


With Otis Taylor, it's best to expect the unexpected. While his music, an amalgamation of roots styles in their rawest form, discusses heavyweight issues like murder, homelessness, tyranny, and injustice, his personal style is lighthearted. "I'm good at dark, but I'm not a particularly unhappy person," he says. After playing in several bands and on his own, Otis decided to leave music behind in 1976. After a long hiatus, Taylor returned to music in 1995. During the 2000s, Taylor has released a slew of well-received albums. Otis Taylor's sound is a unique and potent hybrid of Delta-inspired country-blues and traditional folk and mountain music. He is also a self-described practitioner of ‘trance blues’.


Erwin Helfer is a Chicago boogie woogie innovator and master, who has been forging his own piano music legacy. Born in 1936, Erwin has been playing and performing for over forty years. The sounds and personalities of past boogie woogie and blues pianists have nurtured Erwin's musical growth. His way of playing the piano is timeless with its power and impertinence of youth paired with the expertise and humorous wisdom of age, mellowed and ripened not in barrels but in blues joints, jazz clubs and concert halls in the States, Europe and Asia.


Nathaniel H. ‘‘Nat’’ Reese was born March 4, 1924, in Salem, Virginia. When he was four, Reese’s family moved to Itmann, Wyoming County, where coal jobs were plentiful. In 1935, the family moved to Princeton where Reese heard a rich musical mix from big-name jazz musicians, local black musicians, and performers on such radio broadcasts as the Grand Ole Opry. He learned to play instruments, including guitar, piano, organ, bass, and string harp.

Reese worked in the coal mines after classes at Genoa High School. For two years, he played jazz and blues on Bill Farmer’s Saturday night show on radio station WHIS Bluefield. He attended Bluefield State College for two years, then left to serve in the U.S. Army during World War II. During and after his college years, he was part of a dance band that played jazz, polkas, and blues throughout the southern coalfields.

His recordings include ‘‘Just a Dream’’ and ‘‘West Virginia Blues by the West Virginia Blues Man.’’ Among his honors are the 1988 John Henry Award and the 1995 Vandalia Award. He was inducted into the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame in 2009.


Pura Fé plays acoustic lap slide guitar. Her soulful voice and acoustic lap steel carry the ancestral message of the ‘Indigenous World’ and the missing history that unified and separated the blood ties of Black and Indian people of the South. Pura Fé resurrects the Indigenous (Native American) influence on the birth of the Blues.

Pura Fé is a founding member of the internationally renowned a capella trio, Ulali, and is recognized for creating a new genre, bringing Native contemporary music to the forefront of the mainstream music industry.