The blues has a long and significant history in the fabric of American culture, and on August 13, a traveling festival will celebrate this enduring style of music with a kickoff at East Providence’s Bold Point Park.
The Backroads Blues Festival will have a stacked lineup, led by established artist Kenny Wayne Shepherd and living legend Buddy Guy, as well as newcomer Christone “Kingfish” Ingram. It is the first stage of the first edition of the festival which is envisaged as an annual event.
The festival was created by Shepherd and his team as a follow-up to a blues documentary and album he released in 2007 called “10 Days Out: Blues from the Backroads”. The inspiration came from a festival Shepherd attended as a child and eventually became a part of.
“I grew up going to the BB King Blues Festival every year,” he said. “I have so many fond memories of my childhood seeing the greatest artists in blues music touring at the time. Everyone from BB King, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Etta James, Joe Cocker, Buddy Guy, Robert Cray , Jimmie Vaughan, etc. Then I got into it and I’ve done it many, many times over the years, there just hasn’t been anything like it since for people, so I wanted to resurrect that and create a traveling blues festival with the best blues talent available.”
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For the first festival, he said, there was no better choice than Buddy Guy, “the king of modern day blues and the real direct link to that authentic Chicago blues era of guys like Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf that so many love.”
“So you got me, which is sort of the next generation,” Shepherd added. “Then you have ‘Kingfish’, which is the next generation, so it’s the full spectrum of what’s going on in blues music today. It’s a killer band, and we couldn’t have better start to the inaugural year.
Along with the festival, this year marks the 25th anniversary of the release of Shepherd’s second album, “Trouble Is…” which features his biggest hit, “Blue On Black”, and he and his band performed the entire live album in select markets and preparing special releases in support of the anniversary later this year.
“It’s not pop music that changes every five to 10 years and then you seem stuck in an era,” he said. “It’s timeless music. Obviously, it’s a monumental record for us. It still holds the record for the longest number-one blues album in blues chart history. ‘Blue On Black’ at the time also set the record for the most consecutive weeks at number one in rock chart history What’s amazing to me is that it’s still going strong and still sounding great today today than 25 years ago.”
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As for new music, Shepherd said he and his band have already made nearly two albums of material, after the pandemic interfered with plans to release an album in 2020. He said fans can expect a new record in the first half of 2023.
If you are going to …
What: Backroads Blues Festival
When: August 13, 6 p.m.
Where: Bold Point Park, 555 Waterfront Drive, East Providence
Tickets: $40 general admission; $49.50-$175 reserved seats