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Madison Does the Blues Half-Right

The 5th Annual Madison Bluesfest
Olin Park
Madison, WI
Aug. 24, 2002
Bobby Rush
Bobby Rush
Irma Thomas
Irma Thomas

Review and Photos by Terry Mayer

You couldn't ask for a better day, bright sunshine, not too hot, a cool breeze off the lake and great music in the park. Blues to be exact. The 5th Annual Madison Bluesfest kicked off the second day event with Big Time Sarah. The Mississippi born blues singer sang with the conviction and heart of a Chicago blues native with Delta roots. Starting off with a melody of "Good Golly Miss Molly." "Tutti Frutti" and "Whole Lotta Shakin' Going On," Sarah won the crowd over with her big time voice and straight talk. She prompted members of the audience to come up and cop a feel of her rather large breasts and ass while proclaiming that she gets men to do whatever she wants them to do as she kicked into "Mojo Working."
Big Time Sarah was one of the few artists at the Bluesfest that actually sang the blues. North Mississippi AllStars took the main stage after Sarah, but fell flat with an alternative blues sound. Big Time Sarah The trio included brothers Luther and Cody Dickinson who's father is best known for his piano playing on the Rolling Stones Sticky Fingers album. They produced more of a southern rock beat rather then a down home blues sound.
Pinetop Perkins was up next on the main stage. With none other then famous harp player Carey Bell giving Pinetop a great opening intro. Bell's emotional playing touched everyone's soul. You hear his raw emotion, as well as see it in his tearful eyes. Few play with his sincere emotion. Pinetop Perkins, one of the last true Mississippi bluesmen left today, joined Carey midway through his set. The 89-year-old bluesman still tickles the ivories in a way that would make Harry Connick, Jr. turn green with envy. Pinetop's past reads like a history of the blues from playing with Muddy Waters, Sonny Boy Williams, and Earl Hooker. Pinetop's set was short, but powerful, and everyone in the crowd new it was something special as they listened to one of the true founders of the genre.
Bobby Rush's turn on the main stage came next. He's a cross between Rick James and James Brown. His charisma bleed deep into the crowd. Breaking up his set with comments about his wife being with someone in the audience and forgetting her panties along the way. Rush was more of a 70s funk act than a true bluesman. Pinetop Perkins Irma Thomas, the soul queen of New Orleans was a great mid-day selection. A soul diva whose voice is every bit as powerful as her current counterparts such as Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey. Her personal definition of class and elegance won the audience over in seconds and was appropriate opener for none other than Chicago favorite Buddy Guy.
Guy took the stage with enough cheers and applause that would drown a whale shark in the deep blue sea. With an electrifying stage presence that surpassed rivals half of his age, Buddy played from the heart with "Feels Like Rain" and the classic "How Blue Can You Get." As an early innovator of the electric blues guitar, Guy displayed all the tricks his guitar would allow before pissing it off.
Rounding off the day's festivities was Lyle Lovett. Why, Lovett? Filling in for the recently canceled appearance of Aretha Franklin, Lovett was a questionable replacement by the promoters. Why not have a true bluesman like Buddy Guy finish the day? He certainly has enough star power. Lyle Lovett just didn't fit in. His twangy good natured music isn't bad in itself, but a bit of a stretch for this event. Lyle Lovett would have been better at Country Thunder or Jamboree rather than here today. While a lot of people left after Buddy Guy's performance, just as many came for Lovett's substitution of the blues. Maybe the people who left after Guy's set were onto to something.
Lyle Lovett
Lyle Lovett
Buddy Guy
Buddy Guy
Carey Bell
Carey Bell
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