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Arkansas Blues and Heritage Festival - 2008

By Dorothy L. Hill - Posted on December 23rd, 2008

Tagged:

When? Wed 08/10/2008 - Fri 10/10/2008

Where? Festival area Toon mij een kaart

The 23rd Arkansas Blues & Heritage Festival (aka King Biscuit) was held on October 9, 10 and 11 in Helena, Arkansas, a town of substantial blues significance.  Sunshine Sonny Payne still holds forth across the street from the main stage on Cherry Street at his post on radio station KFFA where he has hosted a daily broadcast, “King Biscuit Time,” since 1951 after joining the station in 1942.  Although Helena is now an impoverished town, many blues legends either called it home or used it as a base for various periods during its heyday of juke joints while they toiled in the cotton fields by day.  That spirit hovers in the atmosphere and each year the festival brings to town close to 100,000 blues fans from around the world to recapture that essence.  Although many of the legends have long since passed away leaving a rich blues legacy, this festival continues to showcase the old-timers alongside the younger generation who carry on the tradition.
 
Upon my return home, a friend asked me to sum up the festival with three highlights to which I responded, “Eddie Turner, Eddie Turner, Eddie Turner!”  Turner imparts a creative perspective uniquely rooted to blues but unconstrained by the traditional blues system and the audience was with him all the way this day.  He told his story on guitar and his vocals flowed with chilling imagery.  His rap-styled vocal delivery of “Blues Fall Down Like Rain” segued into blistering intense refrains on slide guitar ending with a shouted “blues falling down with a pain.”  On “Rise” Turner’s dirge-like melody penetrated with starkness on guitar as he took a measured approach to the vocals with the refrain “rise.”  This extended tune featured Turner interacting with bassist Jimmy Trujillo in an engaging exchange and drummer Recard Rivera adding to the excitement with an extraordinary solo.  This was definitely the most creative act of the entire festival.

 

 


 

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