Wednesday, September 08, 2010

7th Blues Fest hits high note

San-Diego-based blues singer Candye Kane
performed at the Marquette Area Blues Fest on
Sept. 5.


Four nationally-known artists-- Robert "Chick" Willis, Teeny Tucker, Candye Kane and Ronnie Baker Brooks-- grabbed the attention of fans attending the Marquette Area Blues Fest on Sept. 4 & 5.

Held at Mattson Lower Harbor Park, the 7th annual event also featured six local and regional acts as well as several thousand appreciative fans.

Despite unseasonably chilly weather, Willis and Tucker capped Saturday's performances with two hot shows, while Kane and Brooks fired up the crowd on Sunday as slightly warmer weather prevailed.

Although he has performed around the country, Willis told the crowd his Blues Fest gig was his first visit to Marquette. "I thought I was coming to Canada," he joked.

Willis made a commanding presence, clad in a white suit and cowboy hat with an orange tie and matching shoes.

"If I'd known you had this type of weather, I'd have dressed better," he told the crowd.

The blues veteran began his career touring with his cousin Chuck in the mid-1950s.

Willis played an lively set of originals and covers for the Upper Peninsula audience.

He performed a take on "I Can't Stop Loving You," kidding the audience that every "light-skinned" person should know the words. A Don Gibson composition, the song was recorded by Ray Charles.

A Georgia native, Willis added another Charles' classic, "What I'd Say," for good measure.

Willis left the stage several times to play his Fender guitar while walking through the crowd, never missing a beat as he was getting his picture taken and being patted on the back.

The 75-year-old Willis earned a standing ovation for his 90-minute set which included stellar versions of "Hoochie Coochie Man" and "Rib Shack Blues Cafe."

Tucker, whose father Tommy gained fame for the 1964 pop hit "Hi-Heel Sneakers," has been performing at major blues festival since 1996.

Backed by an eight-piece band, including three back-up singers, Tucker put her stamp on "Hound Dog." Made famous by Elvis Presley, the song was originally recorded by Big Mama Thornton, one of Tucker's influences.

Then the Dayton, Ohio, native delved into the autobiographical with "Make Room for Teeny."

Oozing enthusiasm, Tucker and her band delivered a jamming version of "Built for Comfort," the blues classic written by Willie Dixon. She turned to original material for "Ain't That the Blues," a song about a blind 12-year-old foster child.

The singer referenced her father in "Daughter to the Blues" as she continued to enthrall the audience. Tucker's big sound and sultry voice made Etta James' "At Last" her own.

Fans were standing and dancing for "Poison in My Coffee," an original number about a lottery winner whose husband is trying to kill her.

She returned to the classics for a rousing version of "Whole Lotta Shaking Goin' On." Tucker explained Big Maybelle originally recorded the song two years before a version by Jerry Lee Lewis sold a million copies.

Tucker ended her set with her anthem "Keep the Blues Alive," Bob Dylan's "Gotta Serve Somebody" (during which she left the stage to dance with the audience) and "I'd Rather Go Blind," another salute to Etta James.

Candye Kane's inspirational live show, meanwhile, provided the back drop as she explained how music helped her beat pancreatic cancer.

Diagnosed with the disease in 2008, she has since been declared cancer free and even released a new compact disc entitled "Superhero."

Kane sang a powerful version of the title song, telling the crowd it was the first number she composed after being released from the hospital.

The San Diego-based singer was backed by her son Evan Caleb on drums, Kennan Shaw on bass and critically-acclaimed guitarist Laura Chavez.

Kane followed with a rollicking take on "White Trash Girl," telling the audience her father was in prison when she was growing up in east L. A. and that her mother taught her to shoplift to survive.

Despite her dysfunctional childhood, Kane said people can create their "own destiny with the power of words." In fact, Kane said she used her songwriting ability as a tool to help heal herself.

To drive the point home, Kane performed "Hey! Toughen Up," "Ik Hou Van Je (I Love You)" and "You Need Love."

Brimming with personality, Kane quickly developed a rapport with the audience.

She smiled her way through "200 Pounds of Fun" and claimed "I Put a Hex on You" which she wrote with Chavez, also had a positive message.

"You have to let your anger go," Kane advised.

Kane performed "Estrogen Bomb," saying she was happy being over 40 because she was "hot and cold at the same time."

A teenage mother, a former worker in the adult entertainment industry and a divorcee, Kane said everything bad which happened in her life prepared her to challenge cancer.

She played "Who's Been Sleeping in My Bed?" as an encore, and called to the stage again, performed "Toughest Girl Alive."

Kane said a woman about to kill herself changed her mind when she heard "Toughest Girl Alive" on the radio, the miracle being not so much that a suicide was prevented, but that the song was broadcast at all.

Headliner Ronnie Baker Brooks kicked off the festival's final set with "Born in Chicago."

A Windy City native, Brooks has become increasingly popular since he emerged with "Golddigger" in 1998.

Son of blues legend Lonnie Brooks, the guitarist and singer urged the audience to participate in some "soul clapping" for "I Just Want to Make Love to You," the classic Muddy Waters song.

Brooks followed with a ferocious version of Stevie Ray Vaughan's "Crossfire," supported by Carlton Armstrong on bass and C. J. Tucker on drums.

The young guitar hero also spotlighted some of the original material from his latest CD, "The Torch."

The trio put a blues groove to "A Long Goodbye," "See You Hurt No More" and "If It Don't Make Dollars, Then I Don't Make Sense."

With Brooks leading the way, the band stretched out on "Stuck on Stupid" and "Take Me Witcha," sending the audience into a Sunday night frenzy.

While all four major acts impressed the crowd, there were other highlights:

--Marquette's Flat Broke Blues Band played a few new songs from their forthcoming CD.

--Kraig Kenning performed the Beatles' "Come Together" with help from the audience.

-- Moreland & Arbuckle used a homemade "cigar-box" guitar on some of their songs.

Whether they came from local or regional artists or the nationally-known acts, this year's Blues Fest had plenty of high points to go around.
Candye Kane with Fan

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