Saturday, October 13, 2012

To the Carolina Downhome Blues Festival: Thank you!

Warmest welcome, Blues fans...

Hope you enjoyed last weekend's fabulous Carolina Downhome Blues Festival in Camden, S.C. - it was fantastic and is always a great experience for me - and I hope you.

Our good friends and Blues supporters and promoters deserve a round of thanks for another great event - the 16th! - so please allow me a moment to share my thanks to the folks that help bring this wonderful event to the Midlands of South Carolina (and who help me help them with promotion for it - so happy to do it!), which I hope you will echo when you get a chance.

Kershaw County Fine Arts Center and staff, including Jane Peterson; Gary Erwin; Danny Riddick; Bill Rosier and Freg Ogburn of the Kershaw County Current; as well as the City of Camden, venue owners and operators; the fine folks of Camden and Kershaw County, including the school district for supporting Blues in the Schools; and ALL the fantastic artists who played this year, with a tip of the hat to those who come each year and bring their own musical stamp to such great event. The Carolina Downhome Blues Festival is so friendly, accessible and low-key - it is truly nice to feel as if we are Camden residents for a weekend. Makes me tempted to make it full-time!

Here is a preview (now a review, because I wanted it to debut in the paper for the event) I was asked to write by the Current. The piece is about our vast array of local talent (either born and bred here, or imported and adopted!). The viewpoint was chosen because we have so much to be proud of and boast about right here in sunny South Carolina.

I hope you enjoy it, and that you find time to experience these musicians and the Midlands of South Carolina if you are from afar... as ever, thanks for tuning in to the Blues Moon blog and radio show.

Clair DeLune
POB 5591 Columbia SC 29250
Facebook: Blues Moon Radio

Downhome Blues invades Camden

Clair DeLune, Blues Moon Radio;  special to the Kershaw County Current


Blues music style, early in its history, was limited from change by geography. The physical and fiscal difficulties of travel kept outside influences from affecting music in different areas of the country. The roots of Blues, which came from African griot storytellers and drummers, was a starting point up and down the eastern part of the country, with different areas developing different styles of Blues.

Over a hundred years later, mountains and rivers no longer present boundary challenges - although many present-day musicians claim gasoline prices might affect the same “grounding” -  thus, music has become much more blended by exposure to differing musical styles from travel and the advent of television, radio and electronic means of transmission of music, such as streaming internet radio, video and music downloads.

Despite an explosion of exposure to musical influences, there remains a “downhome” South Carolina-based geographical Blues connection with many of the artists appearing October 4-6, 2012, at the 16th Annual Carolina Downhome Blues Festival in Camden, South Carolina.

There are a few Palmetto natives, which is to be expected, and we’ll have some adopted sons as well. Frequent visitors who rank as Palmetto pals will round out our geographical look at performers; but let’s not forget to see and welcome our neighbors, who share proximity with a Palmetto border. In addition, it is always good to welcome visitors who bring styles from faraway climes, who can go back home and brag about having received some of our world-famous Southern Hospitality.

All in all, there is a lot to see and hear at this year’s festival.

Born and bred:

RUSTY DAVIS hails from the center of Camden, in the center of the Palmetto state. Who better to start with than the owner of a renowned guitar shop, who has provided more than a few guitar greats an introduction to the fret board? Davis has played in bands from his days in Columbia as a young man; as a duo, with Patrick Davis, his son who is a successful singer/songwriter in Nashville; and solo. Davis, who is quiet and unassuming offstage and prefers to let his guitar do the talking, will knock you out with his clean, righteous slide and riffs that will give you chills. Solid playing with clean note-by-note clarity is the byword for Rusty Davis. A must-see for players and fans alike.


Another fine guitar-picking native is Blythewood’s own John Hartness. While it might appear that Hartness mixed up his early guitar influences, which include Robert Johnson, Big Bill Broonzy, John Lee Hooker, Doc Watson and Chet Atkins, what emerges is a respected blend of music known as Country Blues.  Later influences turned into mentors. Hartness credits a fellow Palmetto State native, Mac Arnold (former Muddy Waters guitarist), for his encouragement to enter the music business. Hartness’ steely slide and deeply resonant vocals on “Burying Ground Blues” will provide another reason, should you need more, to be glad you are in Camden and not sleeping in your grave.


If your life has its ups and downs, then do not miss Miss Wanda. She brings you up when she gets down with the Blues. If there are chairs in a venue she plays, they are rendered unnecessary because this South Carolina pearl of a girl sweeps people off their feet when she sashays into the audience and takes people by the hand to dance with them. From ballads to Bluesbusters, the Upstate siren thrills audiences with a range that is rare in performers today. Johnson is the toast of Europe, but we proudly proclaim her as pleasingly Palmetto born.


Two hometown heroes for the price of one: The Mobros pack a lot of punch in their combined thirty-something years on earth. Still teens, these Camden born-and-raised brothers will pull no punches when it comes to delivering a knockout performance. See them while you can still catch them at a small, intimate venue. Later you’ll brag you did.

Adopted and adored:



Described as a “one-man honkytonk blues band, working it out on guitar, drums and vocals,” Lucky could be perceived as efficiency in action - that is, if your attention were not riveted by how great he is. An undeniably authentic, itinerant songster who left home as a very young teen and worked odd jobs as he traveled all over America before perching out in the country near Lake Murray, he tells a tale in each of his song - very often from his own experiences. Influences range from Furry Lewis to Johnny Cash, his unique blend of talents and quirky outlook on such far-flung topics as hoe cakes or fabulous babes who could “make a bulldog break his chain” make for a performance you will never forget.

There are two types of people in this world: Lucky fanatics and those who have yet to have his indelible stamp on them for life. Be sure you “get Lucky,” too.



Just before the last major resurgence of the Blues, Jeff Liberty came to Columbia via a tour of duty at Ft. Jackson. It might be said the military provided much-needed defense of the Blues by lending us this man’s talents. At a Blues jam at the old Blues hangout, Beulah’s in the Vista in Columbia, people were awed and slack-jawed as Liberty bent guitar strings and made them scream at red hot speed. The military took our Liberty, as they had given it, but after leaving the service and spending time gaining more blistering chops in New Orleans, St. Louis and Memphis, the award-winning Liberty returned to the Palmetto State and hung his low-slung hat in Lexington, much to the pleasure of all of us here who appreciate fiery, electric powerhouse Blues guitar accompanied by gritty vocals.


Shrimp City Slim traveled from Chicago to Charleston, and what would the South Carolina Blues scene do without him? If paying dues to the Blues were equated with gunslinging, this keyboard dazzler would be two-handing it, both as a performer at each year of the Carolina Downhome Blues Festival, and as one of its originators and talent coordinators. Shrimp City Slim can be likened to Little Brother Montgomery or Sunnyland Slim. Shrimp City Slim entertains with a smile, a twinkle in his eye and dancing fingers on the ivories that produce upbeat ditties that bounce between wry observations, comedic commentary and the occasional flat-out Blues lament. Chicago-born but Charleston-blessed, the Midwest’s loss is the Palmetto State’s gain. Look for his freshly-released CD, “Rio Angie.”


Balancing the professional day job with life as a professional songwriter and musician is not easy, but Marv Ward makes it happen as if it were like falling off the proverbial log. Perhaps doing so is what drove him to religion, making him the Right Reverend Marv Ward. Or perhaps it is just the value of his music that attracts people to him in droves, like a preacher attracts his flock. From his teen years opening for major acts like Vanilla Fudge to his country and Blues roots, Ward has run the gamut in his music career, but has always kept strumming. Three CDs to his credit, he enthralls a crowd with his lyrics and intricate playing, with the occasional high lonesome wail, which might come from his Virginia roots. The good news, Virginia, is that there is still a Santa Claus; the bad news is that we stole Rev. Marv from you... and we plan on keeping him.


Palmetto Pals - our honorary residents:

ROBERT LIGHTHOUSE (Sweden) - close your eyes and you will believe Robert Johnson is serenading you.

BEVERLY GUITAR WATKINS (Atlanta) - Dr. Feelgood’s forceful guitarist broke the glass ceiling for women guitarists in the 1950s by playing behind her head and with her teeth better than the boys could. She hasn’t lost a bit of verve and vigor since.


From elsewhere around the globe:

For the bargain price of $15/night, you have the opportunity to wander at leisure among a plethora of places to see a number of major label and independent talents play a wide array of styles. Linger and lounge for a local or hoof it to the next venue for talent from across the country or the world. Stop and eat, or swing through and catch them all. Make your selections by geography, style, proximity, distance or just by sheer whimsy... you cannot go wrong at the Carolina Downhome Blues Festival.

TAD WALTERS DUO (North Carolina)

"DETROIT BLUES PARTY" featuring Harmonica Shah, Emanuel Young, and Howard Glazer (Detroit)
PETER KARP & SUE FOLEY (New Jersey/Canada)

Clair DeLune is music historian, writer and professor who will teach Music of the Carolinas for USC’s Southern Studies Department this spring. She has produced and hosted a roots radio show since 1990. Join her on Facebook at Blues Moon Radio.

9/21/2012 Special to the Kershaw County Current

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