Friday, May 16, 2014

Doheny Blues Festival returns this weekend

My concert preview was originally published in The Orange County Register on Thursday, May 15, 2014.

Gregg Allman, the Doobie Brothers and guitar legend Buddy Guy headline the annual event.

Buddy Guy returns to Doheny Blues Festival this weekend
Blues fans aren’t the only concertgoers excited by the arrival of Doheny Blues Festival, Orange County’s beachfront bash returning to Dana Point this weekend (May 17-18, 2014).
This year’s lineup features one of the most diverse musical casts in the history of the annual festival, with a mix of veteran artists (Gregg Allman and Buddy Guy, above, headline on Saturday, while the Doobie Brothers and Gov’t Mule close things out on Sunday) and celebrated newcomers (the Americans, John Nemeth, Vintage Trouble and Ruthie Foster for starters).
“The selection of artists took a bit longer this year because we are always seeking the proper mix of blues artists, music legends and up-and-coming acts,” said Rich Sherman, president of Lake Forest-based Omega Events, which puts on the event.
“And given our 17-year history, we know that the fans want to see strong headliners, and so we were very patient in trying to pair Gregg Allman and Buddy Guy on Saturday, along with the Doobie Brothers and Gov’t Mule for Sunday. These are four of the busiest acts in music, and the old adage of ‘patience pays off’ certainly rang true this year.”
Another celebrated artist coming to Dana Point is Keb’ Mo’. The singer-songwriter will be celebrating the 20th anniversary of his self-titled debut, as well as the rich songs that fill his newly issued album Bluesamericana. Released April 22 on Kind of Blue Music, the disc debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard blues chart and No. 2 on the Billboard folk chart.
“The response I’m getting from the record … this was like ‘wow,’” Keb’ Mo’ said. “I had no idea. I just know I learned a lot from recording The Reflection (his previous album). I always tell people The Reflection was not as well received as this one (Bluesamericana), but I think it’s a very good record. And while making that record, I was told it was like a college course for me ... because I had to really work at some things that I hadn't worked at before. I think this record is a really great result of all the work I put in at Reflection to bring myself to another level, of efficiency, to be a communicator and really put a point over.”
On Bluesamericana, Keb’ Mo’ handles lead and backing vocals, as well as guitar, bass, keyboards and even banjo. Often celebrated as the modern-day ambassador of the blues, he said his focus is strictly on making the best music he can.
“I’m just concerned about making a good album. That’s my only concern, whatever it is,” Keb’ Mo’ said. “If it’s blues, I want it to be good. If it’s a poppy song or a country or folk song or an R&B song, I want it to be good. I want the subject matter to be relevant, and I want people to be inspired by it in some kind of way.
Many of the songs on Bluesamericana deal with challenges Keb’ Mo’ and his wife, Robbie, faced in their marriage. “Do It Right” and “I’m Gonna Be Your Man” are among the songs that tackle those struggles. His songs are delivered via a distinctive blend of tuneful blues, folk and Americana.
“The great thing about it is we came out the other side of it really strong,” Keb’ Mo’ said of the challenges chronicled on the album. “It’s new for me to come out the other side of a big crisis in a relationship because I was the one who tended to run.”
In addition to Keb’ Mo’, other acts slated to attend include rock ‘n’ soul sensation Vintage Trouble and Chicago blues icon James Cotton.
“People throw the phrase ‘living legend’ around too often, but there is no question that James truly is one,” Sherman said of the 78-year-old harmonica king. “His new recordCotton Mouth Man has an incredible list of special guests, many of whom are at Doheny this year (Allman, Haynes, Ruthie Foster, Keb’ Mo’) ... so who knows what’ll happen?”
As for Vintage Trouble, anyone who caught the group at Coachella last year or while opening for The Who or Rolling Stones over the past few years knows the Los Angeles quartet’s style.
“Vintage Trouble can play in front of any crowd and slay them, and we’ve seen that over the past two years at many festivals and concerts,” Sherman said. “We are thrilled that they are playing Doheny this year. ... it’s hard to call Charles Bradley a newcomer when he is 65 years old, but (since) he was fairly unknown until his solo record debut at age 60, then he’s just been killing the festival circuit the past few years. They call him the ‘Screamin’ Eagle of Soul,’ and I am personally thrilled to have him coming to Dana Point this year.”
Who: Gregg Allman, Buddy Guy, John Nemeth & the Bo-Keys and others Saturday; The Doobie Brothers, Gov't Mule, Vintage Trouble, James Cotton Blues Band, Keb' Mo' and others Sunday
Where: Doheny State Beach, 25300 Dana Point Harbor Drive
When: 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Saturday, 11:15 a.m. to 8:45 p.m. Sunday
How much: Prices range from general admission ($60 for single day; $110 for weekend pass) to Gold Passes ($225 for single day; $425 for weekend pass). Visit the Doheny Fest website for more details.

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