The 9th annual San Diego Blues Festival took place at the Embarcadero Marina Park Park in downtown San Diego. The park is a beautiful location for an outdoor music festival. Views of downtown San Diego, the San Diego Marina, Coronado Bridge and Coronado Island. The park itself has lots of trees for shade and a large lawn to spread a blanket and enjoy some wonderful music.
The San Diego Blues Festival is an annual fundraiser for the San Diego Foodbank. The annual festival has raised over $950,000 and 14 tons of donated food for the Jacobs & Cushman San Diego Food Bank. The festival has featured artist such as Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, Tommy Castro, Mavis Staples, Nikki Hill, Tab Benoit and the late, great Candy Kane over the years, as well as many local San Diego bands.
The lineup this year was no different. Opening the afternoon was National City’s own, The Sleepwalkers. The band incorporates blues, rockabilly, cumbias from its Latino heritage and rock into its music. They have been a staple in the San Diego music scene for over 25 years.
Another San Diego staple is the up and coming Whitney Shay. Shay is constantly on the go, if she’s not playing gigs, sometimes more than one a day, in San Diego, she is off to Europe or South America. As a matter of fact joining her on stage at the festival this year was an amazing guitaris she met while touring in Brazil, Igor Prado. Shay is also the 2019 winner of Artist of the Year and Best Blues Album of the Year from the annual San Diego Music Awards.
Black Market III is fronted by the husband-wife duo of Scottie Blinn and Roxanne Coverdale-Blinn. They are based out of San Diego as well but spend about 9 months of the year on the road. They are well know on the European Blues Festival circuit.
Chris James and Patrick Rynn, San Diego transplants from the amazing blues town of Chicago. Chris and Patrick met 30 years ago and have since recorded multiple albums together and traveled all over the world. James is also a world-renowned blues historian.
Curtis Salgado, who has performed as a part of the Robert Cray Band and Santana as a harmonica player had the crowd on thier feet from his opening gospel number to his last blues song. Curtis met and tutored John Belushi and was the inspiration for Belushi’s character in the Blues Brothers. Salgado has 18 Blues Music Awards nominations and has won 9 of them, including Soul Blues Male Artist of the Year four times and the coveted B.B. King entertainer of the Year Award in 2013.
Probably one of the most talked about and anticipated bands this year is led by sisters Rebecca and Megan Lovell, Larkin Poe. They did not disappoint . Rebecca plays guitar and in true rock star fashion is all over the stage. Megan plays the lap steel guitar, but she isn’t sitting when she does it. She too is all over the stage. These sisters use classic rock influences and infuse it with roots and American styles to have a sound all their own. They have used other organic percussive sounds like doors slamming, stomping on hardwood floors and the thumping of dresser drawers in their music. Larkin Poe were big winners at the recent 2019 Independent Blues Awards. Taking home Artist Of The Year, Best Modern Roots Band, Gateway Artist, Best Modern Roots Album — Venom & Faith, Best Contemporary Blues Song — “Good and Gone” and Best Modern Roots Song — “Ain’t Gonna Cry”.
Eric Gales has overcome a lot, nearly dying multiple times from substance abuse. Eric is now recovered and shares his story in both words and music on the stage. Gales picked up the guitar at the young age of 4 and copied his older brothers. By the time he was 16 years old he had his own recording contract. After being sidelined for many years because of his addicitons, Gales mounted his comeback in 2017 with his Middle of the Road CD featuring artists like Gary Clark Jr., Lauryn Hill, and Christone “Kingfish” Ingram.
Closing out the day was the legendary bluesman, Taj Mahal and the Phantom Blues. Mahal, is an internationally recognized blues musician who folds various forms of world music into his offerings. A self-taught singer-songwriter who plays the guitar, banjo and harmonica, Mahal has done much to reshape the definition and scope of blues music during his 40+ year career by fusing it with nontraditional forms, including sounds from the Caribbean, Africa and the South Pacific. Watching Mahal perform on stage I could easily see the influences of Muddy Waters and B.B. King on the 77 year old performer. Taj Mahal has won numerous awards including three grammys, a Lifetime Achievment award from the Americana Awards & Honors and has been nominated four times for the B.B. King Entertainer of the Year Award, winning it in 2018. In addition to that award he also won for best acoustic artist, album, and contemporary male blues artist, with a nomination for best song.