Join us for the largest country blues gathering in the nation! Concerts feature players and music from regions where pre-war country blues were formed — Piedmont, the Delta, Mississippi Hill Country, New Orleans, Texas and more. Immerse yourself in the African – American history and traditions from which blues has grown.
Acoustic Blues Showcase
- Andrew Alli
- Roy Book Binder
- Daddy Long Legs
- Del Rey
- Christopher Davis-Shannon
- Pat Donohue
- Mary Flower
- Jimmy Duck Holmes
- Chaz Leary
- Ethan Leinwand
- Cary Morin
- Brian Farrow
- Craig Ventresco
- Jontavious Willis
ANDREW ALLI – HARMONICA
Andrew Alli is a 29 year old Richmond, Virginia native. Always passionate about music, he stumbled upon the blues while taking up his first instrument; the harmonica. He instantly fell in love with the blues and all of the history that comes with the harp.
Andrew developed his style of playing by studying from the harmonica greats including: Little Walter, Big Walter Horton, Sonny Boy Williamson II, and Junior Wells. Co-fouding “Andrew Alli and Last Night’s Blues Band”, with drummer, Charles Hibbler in 2012. The band had a particular interest to the Chicago and Delta styles of blues.
With Drummer, Charles Hibbler, Bassist Ken Kellner and Guitarist Mike Burgess, “Andrew Alli and Last Night’s Blues Band” won the title of 2013 River City Blues Society, Blues Challenge Champions! They represented Richmond in the International Blues Challenge, down in Memphis, Tennessee.
Andrew also has had the privilege to tour with folk musicians Tim Barry and Josh Small during a US, European, and Australian music tour. The Richmond Folk Festival has featured Andrew for 3 years teaching harmonica lessons and performing.
ROY BOOK BINDER – GUITAR
Singer-Songwriter-Storytelling-Bluesman…Roy Book Binder has been rambling around the world for the past 45 years! He gave up his Greenwich Village “pad” in the early 1970’s and lived in his “Tour Bus” for the next 15 years criss-crossing the US and appearing at festivals throughout Canada & Europe.
Book Binder, travelled with the legendary Rev. Gary Davis in the late 60’s….. The Book, recorded his first solo acoustic Blues album in the 70’s, which was the first to receive 5 stars in DOWNBEAT magazine! In the late 80’s ‘The Book’ was part of Bonnie Raitt’s East Coast Tour, which included an appearance on The Grand Old Opry which led to almost 30 appearances on NASHVILLE NOW’s, Ralph Emory Show! In the 90’s he often appeared with JORMA KAUKONEN (who recorded 2 of Roy’s songs)
Last Aug. 19th, THE GOOD BOOK, Roy’s latest release of all original songs, reached #3 on AirPlayDirect’s Americana charts! #1 was Guy Clark & #2 was the late Townes Van Zandt. Folkdj.org had Roy in the top 3 artists for July.
DADDY LONG LEGS – HARMONICA
Originally from St Louis, Missouri, Daddy Long Legs is a harp-blowing, blues-bellowing, blues hollerer who blurs any definition by age or color. He growls, barks, yelps, and wails without sounding like an imitation of anyone or anything. This is simply pull-the-cord-and-let-the-snot-fly blues.
“Hands down Daddy Long Legs is the best blues harmonica player this writer has ever seen or heard. His playing is so pummeling and soulful it just saws you in half… He blows the harmonica as if breathing life and soul into Delta bluesmen long dead…” – TheDeli NYC
“Daddy Long Legs pummels audiences with rootsy rock n roll, country blues. It’s a night ride on a runaway train through Northern Irish punk, God’s country revival meetings and Quatermass’ pit,” wrote Cara Gibney of No Depression magazine. Daddy Long Legs said he reckons learning to play the harmonica basically became an unhealthy obsession for him. “I would play for 12 hours a day trying to imitate the greats like Sonny Terry and Little Walter until I began to develop my own style. It’s really addictive once you start going and I haven’t put it down since.”
Daddy Long Legs plays in a jumping hotbed of genres and styles but it was Howlin’ Wolf who he considers his largest influence. “I’m very influenced by his style of singing, harp playing and stage presence. He was one of the first blues greats that I got into in my early 20’s and from there I started listening to Charley Patton, Son House and Robert Johnson.” He is also influenced by gospel roots, “I’ve been a big fan of Gospel music for many years now. There’s a lot of soul stirring savagery, wild singing and playing and some very fast tempos. I put a lot of those elements and ideas into my song writing too so old gospel records are a great source of inspiration for me.”
I started playing guitar when I was four. At the age of thirteen I was introduced to the world of traditional acoustic music, when a friend and I stumbled into a concert at Folk Arts Rare Records in San Diego. About 20 people were sitting on the floor under the record bins listening to a kid named Tom Waits play his original songs.
Lou Curtiss, proprietor of Folk Arts and artistic director of the San Diego Folk Festival suggested I quit wasting my time playing “Stairway to Heaven” and listen to some Memphis Minnie. He put me on stage with Sam Chatmon when I was fourteen, and introduced me to Lydia Mendoza and Howard Armstrong. Lou gave me recordings that still influence everything I do on solo acoustic guitar. I soaked up country blues, stride piano, classic jazz and hillbilly boogie. It was a musical education hanging around the record shop.
Thirty years later, I became fascinated with the ukulele. I try to play the same kind of complicated rhythmic blues and ragtime on four strings as on six. I expect a lot out of the little instrument.
I play solo concerts world-wide and also present a concert/lecture on women musicians called Women In American Music. I also collaborate and tour frequently with Steve James, Suzy Thompson and Adam Franklin. My website is http://delreyplays.com/.
I have contributed to projects in honor of The Mississippi Sheiks, Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Johnny Cash and occasionally write about music for various publications, including Acoustic Guitar.
My most recent release is just me, singing with uke and guitar; it’s called Solo. All albums available from Hobemian Records.
CHRISTOPHER DAVIS-SHANNON – UKULELE
Christopher Davis-Shannon’s music is the essence of honest simplicity. Bringing together influence ranging from Fats Waller to Chet Baker, he creates an atmosphere that will instantly transport you back to jazz clubs, and speakeasies of the early 20th century. Not Content being labelled a traditionalist, he forges ahead breathing new life into old classics, weaving together a sound that is enjoyed by both young and old.
As a multi-Instrumentalist, songwriter, and educator, based in Philadelphia, Davis-Shannon maintains a steady tour schedule with his own music as well as a sideman for various acts. He brings to the stage not just the pure joy of music, but a vast knowledge of the history behind the songs that he holds close to his heart. His intricate instrumental work and plaintive vocals are infused with soulfulness which cannot be faked, and a respect for his predecessors which is rarely equaled.
A modern vagabond he has toured the world as a performer on stages from New Zealand to New Orleans, from Las Vegas to New York City. At his young age he has had the pleasure to share the stage with such greats as Pete Seeger (The Weavers), Franny Beecher (Bill Haley and His Comets) and is at home playing a house concert for five people or at a 2500 seat theatre.
Mike Batchelor at Kettle Pot Tracks may have said it best: “Christopher writes good songs, plays the crap out of them, and smiles every second he’s doin’ it. Let this guy into your lives a little, and be better for it!”
Pat Donohue’s musical tastes are eclectic. Though he considers himself foremost a folk guitarist, Pat’s influences are rooted in bluesmen Blind Blake, Robert Johnson, Charlie Parker, Duke Ellington, Muddy Waters and Miles Davis. He manages to blend jazz and blues with folk, and the mix is seamless. Over the years he has captivated audiences with his unique original compositions, dazzling instrumentals and humorous song parodies.
Honors include a 2005 Grammy for his participation on Pink Guitar, a compilation of Henry Mancini tunes on acoustic guitar, several Minnesota Music Awards, and the title of 1983 National Finger Picking Guitar Champion. His original tunes have been recorded by Chet Atkins, Suzy Bogguss and Kenny Rogers.
Pat has also been a featured performer at major music festivals including the Newport, Telluride and Philadelphia Folk Festivals. Pat joins a legendary list of notables, as The Martin Guitar Company recently introduced a Custom Signature Edition Series OM-30DB guitar designed to his specifications.
An internationally known and award-winning picker, singer/songwriter and teacher, Mary Flower relocated from Denver to the vibrant Portland, Oregon, music scene in in 2004 She continues to please crowds and critics at folk festivals and concert stages domestically and abroad, ones that include Merlefest, Kerrville, King Biscuit, Prairie Home Companion and the Calgary Folk Festival, among many.
A finalist in 2000 and 2002 at the National Fingerpicking Guitar Championship (Top 3 both years), a nominee in 2008 and 2012 for a Blues Foundation Blues Music Award, and a many times a Portland Muddy Award winner, Flower embodies a luscious and lusty mix of rootsy, acoustic-blues guitar and vocal styles that span a number of idioms – from Piedmont to the Mississippi Delta, with stops in ragtime, swing, folk and hot jazz. Flower’s 10 recordings, including her last four for Memphis’ famed Yellow Dog Records — Bywater Dance, Instrumental Breakdown, Bridges and Misery Loves Company — show a deep command of and love for folk and blues string music. For Flower, it’s never about re-creation. Her dedication to the art form is a vital contribution to America’s music.
JIMMY ‘DUCK HOLMES’ – GUITAR
Jimmy ‘Duck’ Holmes is a deep-roots folk blues musician who plays in the blues tradition described as American-primitivism, a repetitive and monotone style that is ethereal, gritty and rough. There are many sophisticated pickers but the primitive school had always been at the core of blues, conveying the most important element – the feeling.
Holmes was influenced by Jack Owens and Skip James who were part of the Bentonia School of blues musicians, influenced by Henry Stuckey. Holmes is one of the oldest active purveyors of the Bentonia country blues tradition.
Holmes was recorded by several people, including Alan Lomax during the 1970s, but did not release his first album until 2006 on the Broke and Hungry label. Bentonia blues is often played in Open E minor and Open D minor, with a peculiar mournful, listless tonality. It’s unique and distinct and was largely conﬁned to the past until Jimmy ‘Duck’ Holmes stared to record again.
Holmes is also the proprietor of one of the oldest juke joints in Mississippi, the Blue Front Café in Bentonia on the Mississippi Blues Trail. Holmes parents, who were sharecroppers, opened the Blue Front Café in 1948, the year after he was born.
Dick Waterman, who managed Skip James in the 1950s and says of Holmes, “it is haunting to see the similarities between them.”
Though comfortable in all forms of our diverse American musical heritage, Washboard Chaz Leary has achieved dominance and international recognition in acoustic country blues. He has played professionally with an impressive array of world-class musicians, both on the stage and in the recording studio. His reputation as a consummate musician and performer – along with a delightful stage presence has brought him countless excellent reviews and wide popularity.
Originally from New York, Chaz lived in Boulder, CO from 1975-1997, and played with a wide variety of bands including the legendary Ophelia Swing Band, Prosperity Jazz Band, BBQ Bob & Washboard Chaz, Judy Roderick and the Forebears, and Bleecker St. During this time, Chaz was a two time finalist in KBCO’s Boulder songwriting contest.
Upon arrival in New Orleans in December 2000, Chaz established himself as a seasoned musician, forming his Washboard Chaz Blues Trio with Ben Maygarden on harmonica and Roberto Luti on slide guitar. Shortly afterward, Chaz joined Alex McMurray and Matt Perrinne on sousaphone to form the Tin Men, one of New Orleans’ most unique and recognized bands. Since then, Chaz has also played with the cream of New Orleans musicians, including the New Orleans NightCrawlers, The Iguanas, Tuba Fats, Royal Fingerbowl, The Jazz Vipers, the Tin Men, The Palmetto Bug Stompers and Washboard Rodeo.
Chaz has shared the stage with Bonnie Raitt, John Hammond, Taj Mahal, Anders Osborne and Corey Harris among others. He has opened for many blues greats, including Muddy Waters, Robert Cray, Doc Watson and Keb Mo. Chaz’s musical talents have been featured on over 100 recordings, including John Hammond’s 1998 Grammy nominated “Long as I have You” He has played festivals and clubs from coast to coast, including the Bottom Line in New York City, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, Telluride Blue Grass Festival, the American Music Hall in San Francisco and Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Denver. He has played successful International tours, with his band Bleecker St. in Germany, in Holland and Germany with David Booker, and in Japan with Chris Mule. His Blues Trio and Tin Men have performed in Japan and all over Europe. Chaz is also a featured performer in the wildly popular Playing For Change, appearing in videos with Keith Richards, Keb Mo and members of the Grateful Dead, among others.
ETHAN LEINWAND – PIANO
Ethan Leinwand is a St. Louis-based blues pianist and preservationist. A student of the music’s rich history and varied regional styles, Ethan presents personal interpretations of many of the great (and forgotten) old-time barrelhouse masters. He specializes in St. Louis pre-war piano blues, Texas barrelhouse, Deep South barrelhouse, early Chicago boogie-woogie, and good-time hokum stride. His influences include: Jimmy Yancey, Henry Brown, Little Brother Montgomery, Peetie Wheatstraw, Aaron ‘Pinetop’ Sparks, Albert Ammons, Black Bob, Cooney Vaughn, Professor Longhair, and Carl Sonny Leyland.
Though it’s a tradition rarely championed, the piano has played a tremendous role in the history and development of the blues. In his performances, Ethan teaches this story, connecting tunes with the pianists, regions and environments whence it came. Ultimately, a more complete history of the blues emerges.
Originally from Middletown, CT, Ethan has spent time living in New Orleans and Brooklyn. He moved to St. Louis in the summer of 2014, and, connecting with the city’s thriving blues community and its deep piano blues heritage, has quickly become a mainstay. In addition to his solo work, Ethan plays in multiple projects, include The Bottlesnakes (piano/guitar duo with Nick Pence) and The St. Louis Steady Grinders (with vocalist Miss Jubilee).
Cary Morin brings together the great musical traditions of America and beyond like no other. With deft fingerstyle guitar and vocals that alternately convey melodic elation and gritty world-weariness, Morin crafts an inimitable style often characterized as acoustic Native Americana with qualities of blues, bluegrass, jazz, jam, reggae, and dance.
Crow tribal member and son of an air force officer, Morin was born in Billings, Montana. He spent the bulk of his youth in Great Falls, where he cut his teeth picking guitar standards at neighborhood get-togethers, before relocating to Northern Colorado. There his musical career hit the ground running with The Atoll, a band he founded in 1989 and that toured nationally, gaining a devoted following. Later, he achieved international acclaim with The Pura Fé Trio, for whom the single “Ole Midlife Crisis,” which Morin wrote and performed with Pura Fé, placed at number 17 on France’s iTunes blues chart.
Morin’s stage credits also include Tribe at the Celebrity Theater in Phoenix, and co-authorship of Turtle Island, a 50-member production that played two consecutive years to sold-out audiences in Northern Colorado. With the Red Willow Dancers, he was a guest of the internationally renowned Kodo Drummers, performing at their 1998 Spring Festival and additional dates in Japan. He has produced or performed on over 15 recordings, and has toured across the US, as well as Japan, France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Spain, Belgium, Denmark, and the UK. Morin’s performances have reached millions on national TV in Japan, France, and the UK, as well as on national radio in the US (NPR’s Beale Street Caravan), UK (BBC’s Whose London), France (RFI), Switzerland, and Belgium.
For two consecutive years (2013 and 2014), Cary won the Colorado Blues Challenge Solo Championship. He was also nominated for Aboriginal Entertainer of the Year and Best Blues CD in the Aboriginal People’s Choice Music Awards. In 2013, he received a lifetime achievement award from the Fort Collins Music Association (FoCoMA) and won the Colorado Fan Favorite Poll in the blues category for his second solo release, Streamline.
BRIAN FARROW – VIOLIN
Brian Farrow is a multi instrumentalist who has always been a lover of music. From enthusiastically bouncing in the backseat of his father’s car to Bone Thugs n’ Harmony or trying to get the pitches right to the Earth Wind and Fire tunes his grandfather burned for his mom. Brian was fortunate to have a family that exposed him to great music (Wynton Marsalis, Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, etc), eclectic friends to introduce him to the diversity of the aural world (Berlioz, Umm Kulthum, Cachao) and a curiosity to explore further into those the sounds, artist stories and the histories they outline.
Brian has been able to able to explore these musics through local groups like the trad jazz based Capital Focus Jazz Band headed by David Robinson, the the hardbop inspired Krewetet headed by Alvin Trask, arabic folk experimentalist Huda Asfour, bluesman Jonny Grave, the R&B stylings for Tara Trinity, middle eastern composer Wanees Zarour, and nationally as a member of the Traditional Appalachian inspired Hackensaw Boys, the Grammy Award winning Dom Flemons the American Songster and live as a featured artist with the Boston Children’s Choir and the Grammy Award winning Old Crow Medicine Show.
Brian was born in Omaha, NE, raised in the DMV, and now resides in Washington D.C. He started playing guitar and piano in middle school and, because of Montgomery County’s strong music programs at the time and strong support from teachers like Chuck Orifici, Everett Williams, and Ronald Frezzo, was able to make his musical interest applicable to school. He went on to Richmond Montgomery and Clarksburg high school to perform in musicals, marching band, high level school choirs, the Montgomery College Jazz Band and in the Montgomery County Youth Choir. He graduated high school with cords from the International Thespian Society and the Tri M Music Society. He went on to Howard University to major in Jazz Studies under Jazz Band Director Fred Irby, arco bassist Jeffery Kazala, , and jazz bassist Steve Novasel and University of the District of Columbia under Judith A. Korey’s jazz program and Allyn Johnson’s UDC Jazz band.
Brian’s musical journey has taken him to the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage, The Hamilton in DC, the Rococo Theater in Lincoln, the Red Butte Garden Ampitheater in Salt Lake City, the Chatauqua Amphitheater in Boulder, the George Eastman Museum in Rochester, the Gillioz in Springfield, the Bijou Theater in Knoxville, City Winery in Nashville and Chicago, Joe’s Pub in Manhattan, Thalia Mara Hall in Jackson, the Paradiso in Amsterdam, before President Barack Obama and beyond.
You can hear Brian as a member of the Clara Barton Sessions, a recording of DC folk tradition musicians that released an album commemorating the revitalization of the Clara Barton Museum, Elena y Los Fulanos forthcoming album, or on Dom Flemon’s forthcoming black cowboy album under Smithsonian’s Folkways label.
CRAIG VENTRESCO – GUITAR
(from a review by Pete Madsen, Acoustic Guitar magazine)
If you ever wandered through San Francisco metro stations during the mid-1990s, you may have heard what you thought was the ghost of Blind Blake playing ragtime guitar. In fact, the music echoing through the tunnels was coming from the guitar of Maine native and transplanted San Franciscan Craig Ventresco.
Ventresco’s unconventional musical direction was set during early childhood, when he fell in love with old 78-rpm recordings of early ragtime and jazz. When other kids were listening to Led Zeppelin, Ventresco was searching through dusty bins for rare sides by such obscure artists as Billy Murray, Arthur Collins, and Will Denny. “I love all kinds of music from the turn of the century – ragtime, waltzes, marches,” he explains. “I wasted every dime I’ve ever made on old records.”
Much of the material he plays was not originally guitar music. The rags of pianist Scott Joplin are obvious examples, but Ventresco also draws inspiration from horn players, accordionists, and even the American Quartet, a best-selling vocal group that scored hits during the 1910s and ’20s with such popular songs as “Casey Jones,” “It’s a Long, Long Way to Tipperary,” and “Over There.”
Ventresco’s playing stands out by virtue of his aggressive sound. Using only a flatpick (to set up an attack that can’t really be duplicated with a naked thumb or a thumbpick) and the ring finger of his right hand, Ventresco manages to sound like three guitarists, and he achieves a brawniness lacking in the approach of many fingerstyle guitarists who play similar material.
JONTAVIOUS WILLIS – GUITAR
Every generation or so a young bluesman bursts onto the scene. Someone who sends a jolt through blues lovers. Someone who has mastered the craft for sure, but who also has the blues deep down in his heart and soul. At the age of 21, bluesman Jontavious Willis may be the one.
“That’s my Wonderboy, the Wunderkind,” Taj Mahal said after inviting Jontavious to play on stage in 2015. “He’s a great new voice of the twenty-first century in the acoustic blues. I just love the way he plays.”
Hailing from Greenville, Ga., Jontavious grew up singing gospel music at the Mount Pilgrim Baptist Church with his grandfather. At the age of 14, he came across a YouTube video of Muddy Waters playing “Hoochie Coochie Man” and was hooked. That’s when he set his course on the blues. All types — Delta, Piedmont, Texas, gospel. As a fingerpicker, flat-picker and slide player. On guitar, harmonica, banjo and cigar box. And four years later he was playing on Taj Mahal’s stage.
Currently Jontavious is finishing his studies at Columbus State University, majoring in sociology. But on most weekends you can find him playing a small house show, up on the main stage or posting music videos for his friends and fans around the world.