Photos courtesy of the Winthrop Rhythm & Blues Festival

Grammy winners Los Lonely Boys make their first appearance in Winthrop on Sunday.

By Marcy Stamper

It’s time again to soak up high-spirited music and to boogie with friends at the 31st-annual Winthrop Rhythm & Blues Festival, from Friday through Sunday (July 20-22).

As it moves into its fourth decade, the celebrated festival is highlighting exciting new talents and audience favorites for three days and nights of danceable, powerful music with a contemporary sound to appeal to blues fans of all ages.

The festival is a crowd-pleasing mix of blues, funk, zydeco and acoustic music, with enough energy-charged, rock-infused acts to get everyone up and dancing.

The festival is excited to feature Los Lonely Boys as headliners, in their first appearance in Winthrop on Sunday afternoon (July 22). The trio of brothers from Texas are known for blending blues-rock and soul.

Discovered by Willie Nelson and made famous through his Farm Aid concerts, Los Lonely Boys are blues phenoms who’ve recorded and toured with Carlos Santana. Their hit single “Heaven” went double-platinum, earning them a Grammy for best pop performance.

After a rough spell — a serious accident and the loss of their mother — Los Lonely Boys dedicated themselves to writing uplifting music. “We want to create music that’s about the love and the energy and the spirit that we all carry as people,” they said.

The festival also welcomes “guitar goddess” Samantha Fish for a return performance on Saturday night. Fish, a creative and original blues guitarist known for her soulful vocals, blends the best of musical genres from Mississippi blues to raw, scrappy rock and Americana.

Still under 30, Fish has garnered so many awards that she’s already become a legend in contemporary blues. “She’s a rocking blues guitar-slinging performer,” backed by a first-rate six-piece band, said Jimmy Smith, who launched the Winthrop festival 31 years ago and serves on the board of the Winthrop Music Association, the nonprofit that’s run the festival for more than a decade.

Artists new to the festival include the Pimps of Joytime, Dirty Revival, the Welch-Ledbetter Connection, and the California Honeydrops.

The Pimps of Joytime are vocal and instrumental virtuosos who mix soul, funk, punk, Afrobeat and rap in “effortlessly groovy beats.” Dirty Revival will bring their “genre-bending mashup” — where soul meets hip-hop and ’70s funk — to the beer garden on Friday night.

The Welch-Ledbetter Connection matches Chicago blues singer Mike Ledbetter with Boston guitar virtuoso “Monster Mike” Welch to create cutting-edge blues and soul.

The California Honeydrops deliver renditions of soul icons like Sam Cooke and Marvin Gaye with their own twist, mixing street-style soul with jug-band style, building an intimate connection with their audience.

Friday night and Saturday start out mellow with the acoustic act of Brett Benton & Gordon Townsend. The award-winning duo deliver Delta blues with fiery finger-picking and slide guitar, plus a healthy dose of stomping and hollering.

The festival is bringing back a Sunday-morning gospel show, led by veteran festival emcee Lady “A.” She’ll be joined by award-winning gospel singers and an all-star band. Later on Sunday, catch Riding with the King, a one-time-only tribute to B.B. King by top-notch musicians from Seattle.

Look for Curley Taylor & Zydeco Trouble, who bring their invigorating sound from the heart of Louisiana Creole country all the way to Winthrop.

Samantha Fish, known for her soulful vocals, has been called a “guitar goddess.”

Also on the roster are Too Slim & the Taildraggers, the Northwest favorites who’ve played at every Winthrop festival but one. In fact, Too Slim was there at the beginning, when he joined forces with Smith to launch an outdoor blues festival in the Methow, which has since become the largest and longest-running festival in the state, said Smith.

The festival opens Friday night with a special concert in the beer garden, with proceeds donated to local food banks and other nonprofits. “It’s a beefy line-up. For $20, you can get yourself a whole lot of music,” said Smith. Musicians will also meld their talents in jams in the beer garden on Saturday and Sunday nights.

Tickets are $20 for the Friday-night beer garden. Full-weekend passes are $110 in advance and $120 at the gate. Sunday-only tickets are $60. Tickets are available at The Wine Shed in Winthrop and online. For a complete schedule, festival info and online tickets, visit

Camping at the Blues Ranch is sold out.