By Ann McCreary
The Winthrop Rhythm & Blues Festival will open Friday (July 17) with the song “Wildfire,” written and performed by Pateros resident Brittany Jean.
The festival will then move into a weekend of R&B stars with headliners Elvin Bishop, The Paladins and Bobby Rush.
The festival, now in its 28th year, is considered one of the best blues festivals in the country. In recent months it was named “Best U.S. Blues Festival” at the Memphis-based Blues Foundation’s Keeping the Blues Alive Awards.
It also won the Grand Summit Award from the Washington Festival & Events Association and was named the Best Festival by the Washington Blues Society.
Elvin Bishop headlined the inaugural festival 28 years ago. Bishop has been performing his electrified front-porch blues for more than 50 years, and is as vital and creative an artist today as he was when he first appeared in 1965 with The Paul Butterfield Blues Band. Bishop was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in April.
The Paladins from San Diego, California, are the preeminent blues/rockabilly band in America. Founded in the 1980s, they have recorded nine studio and three live albums, and built a reputation as one of the country’s hardest-working live bands. After a decade-long hiatus, The Paladins are reuniting for a handful of North American and European appearances.
Grammy-nominated bluesman Bobby Rush makes a return appearance at this year’s festival, offering a combination of grit and soul that has been his trademark since the 1960s when he performed with Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter and other blues giants. Rush just received the Blues Foundation awards for BB King Entertainer of the Year and Best Male Soul Vocalist.
Making their Winthrop debut, the California Honeydrops don’t just play music, they throw parties. Drawing on musical influences including Bay Area R&B and Delta blues, the Honeydrops bring energy and infectious dance-party vibes to their live shows. They will perform both Friday night under the Big Top and Saturday on the main stage.
Kenny Neal, also making a Winthrop debut, brings Louisiana roots and music learned from his father, legendary Louisiana singer and blues harmonica master Raful Neal.
Perennial favorite Tim “Too Slim” Langford and his Taildraggers will play Friday night for The Cove Food Bank fundraiser in the Big Top, and then close the main stage on Sunday.
Acoustic blues guitarist Mary Flower brings a lusty mix of rootsy, acoustic-blues guitar and vocal styles that draw from ragtime, swing, folk and hot jazz.
Joining the lineup are Studebaker John, performing Chicago blues guitar and harmonica; Curley Taylor & Zydeco Trouble with hard-driving zydeco beats and bluesy vocals; Seattle’s alt-blues rockers Ayron Jones & the Way; virtuosic young guitar slinger Samantha Fish; the Northwest blues chanteuse Duffy Bishop; and special appearances by Seattle bassist/vocalist Polly O’Keary, Seattle blues belter Lad “A,” and Mississippi-based harmonica ace Stan Street.
Festival admission is $90 in advance and $100 at the gate. Camping is available for $45.
Friday night’s show benefits The Cove Food Bank in Twisp. Admission is $10 or free with a festival pass.
For more information, tickets and camping, visit www.winthropbluesfestival.org or contact www.TicketTomato.com.