Rogue Valley Blues Festival hits Ashland this weekend

    Ashland will have the blues once again this weekend during the 8th annual Rogue Valley Blues Festival which lasts from Jan. 18 through 20. — —

    While many artists conform to the standard interpretation of the well known musical style, several, such as recent Macarthur grant recipient Corey Harris, have brought a different flavor to the genre.

    As Harris is fond of saying, “blues is just the blueprint.”

    Harris’ blend of African-rooted musical traditions, which begins with blues but incorporates reggae and jazz as well, has caught the attention of many blues aficionados in recent years including Martin Scorsese, who featured Harris in his segment of the PBS special “The Blues” which followed the musician to Mali where he played with Ali Farka Toure.

    Harris has played in a variety of well known venues such as the Montreux Jazz Festival, London’s Royal Albert Hall and New York’s Lincoln Center and shared the stage with acts like BB King, Tracy Chapman, Natalie Merchant, the Wailers, Burning Spear, The Dave Matthews Band and Ben Harper. He will headline Friday evening after the duo Nathan James and Ben Hernandez, the winners of the 2007 International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tenn.

    Paul Sprawl will be opening Friday’s show with his unique combination of bottleneck and percussive guitar techniques, tapping, harmonica, insightful songs and stories of being on the road. He performed in Ashland last June at the Briscoe Art Wing’s Midsummer Art and Music event.

    Saturday evening’s dance begins with local favorite AnnieMac. The band draws on old-school RB riffs, deep soul, and emotion-inspired lyrics for hard-edged originals and highly danceable covers.

    Next up is the Ty Curtis Band from Portland. A fairly new band headed by 20-year old Ty Curtis, the band has opened for Curtis Salgado, the late Paul DeLay and Lloyd Jones, among others, and has performed at the 2007 Waterfront Blues.

    Headlining Saturday evening’s dance is Sugar Pie DeSanto. DeSanto made her recording debut with Johnny Otis in 1955. In 1959 Sugar Pie recorded “I Want To Know” on Bob Geddins, Sr.’s Veltone label. The song rose to the No. — slot in Billboard Magazine charts and earned her a contract with Chess Records, one of the great blues labels of that era.

    DeSanto toured with James Brown in the 1960s as his opening act which, after you’ve witnessed Sugar live, explains everything.

    DeSanto has performed with Jackie Wilson, Gladys Knight, Smokey Robinson the Miracles, Rufus Thomas, Carla Thomas, Patti LaBelle and many more. In 1999, she received a Bammie for Outstanding Blues Artist. In 2003, she was honored as a Blues Legend by the California Music Awards. Far more than just a great blues singer, DeSanto is a first-class soul singer, a commanding jazz stylist, an uproarious comedienne, a show-stopping dancer and an expert tunesmith.

    On Sunday evening the young people hit the stage in a showcase of the Next Generation of the Blues. The Ben Rice Blues Band returns for a third performance at the Rogue Valley Blues Festival. The dance floor was hoppin’ the last two times they came.

    Also on Sunday is Yesterday, the winner of last year’s Under 21 Band Contest. The band also came in second at the Jackson County Fair’s band contest last July.

    Opening the evening are guitarists TJ Moore (age 13), Gunnar Roads (age 13) and Jumpin Josh (age 10) with members of the Ben Rice Band backing them. All three guitarists have been performing solo and in bands for several years, and have performed at several West Coast blues festivals.

    In addition to the evening performances, there will be free shows throughout the weekend at Alex’s and Standing Stone in Ashland and at the Avalon Bar and Grill in Talent.

    — Grayson Berry contributed to this report.

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