Photo courtesy of Tim & Michelle Burge for the Winthrop Rhythm & Blues Festival The Winthrop Rhythm & Blues Festival stage.

Photo courtesy of Tim & Michelle Burge for the Winthrop Rhythm & Blues Festival
The Winthrop Rhythm & Blues Festival stage.

By Don Nelson

Nearly nonstop music starts Friday night (July 15) and continues through the weekend as the 29th annual Winthrop Rhythm & Blues Festival takes over the expansive Blues Ranch just west of Winthrop.

If you can only make it for one night, consider Friday. The usual array of top-tier talent will begin taking the stage at 7 p.m. in a show that benefits The Cove’s food bank. Admission for that night is $10 or free with a festival pass.

Scheduled to appear Friday are emcees Stan Street, Lady “A” and Polly O’Keary, Ben Hunter and Joe Seamons, the Rose City Kings, Grace Love and the True Loves, and perennial favorites Too Slim & the Taildraggers closing the show.

The music starts at 11 a.m. on both Saturday and Sunday (July 16–17). Shows both days are expected to carry into the early morning.

Headlining acts this year, scheduled for Saturday night, are Robert Rudolph and the Family Band, and The Fabulous Thunderbirds featuring Kim Wilson.

Randolph has toured worldwide with other famous acts playing what is described as “a funky secular version of a relatively obscure style of pedal steel guitar playing called sacred steel,” from the genre’s church music beginnings.

The Fabulous Thunderbirds “and Wilson, an original founding member, have become an institution among blues bands since launching in the 1970s. They had two blues-rock crossover hits in the 1980s, “Tuff Enuf” and “Wrap It Up.”

Also on the schedule are:

• Brothers Dave and Phil Alvin, who play a wide range of styles including rock, alt country, punk, folk and rockabilly.

• Allen Stone, a noted R&B vocalist who has achieved top spots on several musical charts.

• Christone “Kingfish” Ingram, who is only 17 but has already made a big splash with his music that is steeped in the traditional Mississippi Delta blues.

• Wee Willie Walker, a long-time blues phenomenon who was recently nominated for three 2016 Blues Music Awards, playing with The Randy Oxford Band’s Allstar Slam.

• Ben Hunter and Joe Seamons, a Seattle-based duo that covers a wide range of musical styles with their band, The Guilty Ones.

• Too Slim & the Taildraggers, an iconic blues band that originated in the Pacific Northwest and has developed an international following.

• Seattle-based soul singer Grace Love, accompanied by her nine-piece band, the True Loves.

• Randy Hansen, another Seattle musician noted for his Jimi Hendrix tribute.

• Portland-based blues band the Rose City Kings.

• The Hot Wired Rhythm Band featuring noted blues vocalist Polly O’Keary.

• Nathan Lane, who brings a three-piece band that explores acoustic blues, amplified juke joint hill country, and 1950s uptown blues mixed with 1960s soulful R&B.

The award-winning festival, the longest-running blues event in Washington state, is presented by the nonprofit Winthrop Music Association. Admission is $90 in advance or $100 at the gate. Camping is available for $45.

There also will be food and craft vendors, portable showers and a beer garden at the Blues Ranch venue.

For complete information about the festival schedule, ticket purchasing and camping, visit www.winthropbluesfestival.org.