This is the latest in our first-person view of the Tremblant International Blues Festival, happening now in the beautiful Mount Tremblant, Canada! Charlie, a good friend of the American Blues Scene and dedicated blues fan, is reporting from the trenches.
The weather up here just keeps getting better!! Another day of sunny skies and 80 degrees. Wherever you’re reading this, I hope you’re having the same. Since the legs had finally recovered from hiking Cap 360 on monday, wednesday started with a 15 mile bike ride along the Rouge River. Everyone biking, roller blading, canoeing the rapids (though the rivers are low as the area needs rain) or just walking was smiling away.
I made it back to the mountain for the Doug Watson R&B Revue. Raised in Chicago surrounded by blues legends like Albert Collins and John Lee Hooker, he now makes his home in Waterloo, Canada, because he said he found it much cleaner there. Harp player Big Pete Temple and sax man John MacMurchen took some great solos and together sounded like a full horn section. Guitarist Chris Latta also had several shining solos. Latimore’s “Let’s Work It Out” drew a big response, and they then embarked on a medley of tunes, with snippets of “My Girl”, “Soul Man”, “Sittin’ On The Dock Of The Bay” and others. He played his friend Bobby Rush’s “Catfishing”, urging folks to go just down the hill and catch Bobby’s acoustic set when he was done, as that’s where he was headed. “Let the Good Times Roll” was a perfect set closer.
The son of a Lousiana preacher, 78 year old Bobby Rush showed he can deliver in a stripped down setting. Backed by 2 guitarists from his band, he delivered an hour of great blues, bawdy tales and smoking harmonica. Several audience members became props for his stories, and he rewarded them all with albums at the end. He lamented in a funny way how he and other artists had been ripped off of their riffs, even positing that “Come Together” was “Baby You Don’t Have To Go” turned around. A sexy tale about meeting up with an old fling his father had warned him about years before, had to be cut off when it got to him being tied up slathered in 3 buckets of lard and a baseball bat appearing. Would love to hear the end of that one! He also got a loud laugh when he said the blues was not only about people leaving, but sometimes staying too long. Tongue in cheek, he mentioned that Willie Dixon had offered him “Hoochie Kooche Man”, but he declined the song, saying, “Give it to Muddy Waters.” We all know how that ended! More stories, “40 Days” and “Too Many Drivers” brought the incredible set to a close. Can not wait to see the full band tomorrow night.
Making his third appearance in two days, Johnny Sansone was backed by everyone’s darlings, Monkeyjunk, who warmed up the crowd with 2 of their songs, “Devil I Know”, and the title track of their first album, “Tiger In Your Tank.” Focusing on tunes from his latest “The Lord Is Waiting And The Devil Is Too”, Johnny showed he’s one of the best harmonica players, singers and songwriters on the scene today. Echoing many artists’ sentiments, he told the crowd he’d played 20 festivals in the last 3 months, and this was by far the best. With Matt Sobb’s bayou beats, Tony D.’s tasty slide and Steve Marriner’s assortment of regular and baritone guitars, songs like “Invisible, Down, Sinking Ship” and Johnny And Janey had the audience throbbing along with the band. 2012 BMA Song Of The Year, “The Lord Is Waiting And The Devil Is Too” brought it all home for everyone. While festival spokesperson and Canadian TV personality Norman Brathwaite was playing for a packed crowd at the VW stage at the bottom of the hill, how could a harp player skip Charlie Musselwhite? Celebrating 50 years in the business, the multiple BMA winner (around 20 at last count), showed everyone what the real deal is. And as Charlie said several times, “I Ain’t Lying”. Blasting off right out of the gate with “River Hip Mama”, he never took his foot off the gas pedal. His interplay with guitarist Matt Stubbs seemed telepathic at times, and Matt got standing ovations for solos several times throughout the night. While most harp players use 2nd postion to play along to a song (don’t even think of my being able to musically explain that!), Charlie favors 6th position, which enables him to add many more flatted nuances to his tunes. His songs ran the whole gamut of blues, from a Brazilian flavored number to old standards of his show like “The Blues Overtook Me”, “I’m Just A Bad Boy”, “You Know It Ain’t Right” and “Church Is Out”, that had everyone shuffling and partying along. He got several laughs and cheers when he told one woman yelling at him in French–I don`t know what you`re saying, but it sounds good to me, and another time remarked–You sound like real blues fans to me. He closed with the instrumental he first recorded in 1966, “Christo Redemptor”, his ode to the iconic statue of Christ that towers above Rio de Janerio. When he finished, church was out indeed. We’d just witnessed a master at work. On the way home with a HUGE smile on my face!