Last Thursday, the aspens here in the San Juan mountains were still green. As if on cue Friday, they began to burst into their final golden stage of the summer…until they were matched only by the candlelight that marked another year for the King of the Blues.
The 17th annual Telluride Blues and Brews Festival began in earnest Friday night with Jimmie Vaughan and the Tilt-a-Whirl Band, with incredible lead vocalist Lou Ann Barton. "Boom", "Yes, Indeed", and little brother Stevie Ray’s "Texas Flood" got the dust kicking up early in Town Park.
George Thorogood and the Destroyers closed out Night One with some help from slick slide guitarist Elvin "Bad Boy" Bishop and Chicago tenor sax mad man Eddie Shaw.
Day Two, aka Microbrewery Tasting Day (ie, "The Brews"), could not have disappointed if it tried. One of the two jewel discoveries for me of the weekend got it started…
JJ Grey & Mofro. This is a great band that flies expertly in a whole lot of different direction. I heard a lot of Allmans influence, some Tower of Power, and vocals that reminded me a lot of Kimock in his early live Zero days.
Next up…Big Easy-style from Galactic with special guests Corey Henry (trombonist for the real Treme Brass Band) and percussionist Cyril freaking Neville. Best set of the weekend, and one of the best sets I’ve ever seen. This was the stuff that made New Orleans great.
Saturday closed out with the new power couple of the blues scene, Derek Trucks & Susan Tedeschi. The first time I ever saw Derek play, it was just a mile from this stage in a sweaty basement bar. He was 16. Now, he’s a legacy member of the Allman Brothers, and the keeper of the fiercest and most sophisticated licks this side of his occasional bandmate, Warren Haynes. Mrs. Tedeschi-Trucks just constantly reminds me of a young Bonnie Raitt, and I can’t come up with a better compliment than that.
Sunday brought out the second revelation…Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears. Seriously, if you like all things cool, especially in the funk/soul vibe, you will really dig these guys. Then it was back to the Louisiana swamps with piano legend Allen Toussaint, who has not lost a thing since I first saw him at Jazz Fest in NOLA a couple decades ago.
This ridiculously entertaining weekend ended with the King. B.B. King. On his 85th birthday. With a cake. And 9000 people singing Happy Birthday as the sun set into the canyon. Tough to top that.