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5 ways to put the blues back in your Bluesfest

By Chrissy Steinbock on July 9, 2015

Looking through the Bluesfest lineup you wouldn’t be alone if you’re finding it tricky to get yourself a good dose of the Blues. I’ve done some digging though and what I’ve seen is there’s definitely some fine blues to go out and hear at this year’s festival. Here’s a little cheat sheet with 5 shows not to miss.

Marcia Ball  / July 17th / 9pm / Barney Danson Theatre

Treat your ears to a trip down to the Gulf Coast with Texas-born, Louisiana-raised Marcia Ball and her rollicking, groove-heavy piano blues. Ball delivers feel-good party tunes and soulful ballads in equal measure spinning tales of love and trouble all with a sense of fun. If you like boogie woogie, zydeco, or just a good time this is a show to see.

Sample track: “The Tattooed Lady and the Alligator Man”


Larry McCray / July 18th / 5pm / Bell Stage

Raised on a steady diet of the 3 Kings (B.B., Freddie and Albert) with some classic rock and R&B on the side Larry McCray developed his distinctively soulful take on the blues. For more than 20 years, the Michigan-based bluesman has been bringing his warm baritone, smooth sound and fiery rock licks to true blues fans.

Sample tracks: “Soulshine”


Philip Sayce / July 12 / 7pm / Bell Stage

Philip Sayce is the guitar hero you haven’t heard of yet. He plays his blues heavy through a rock filter with touches of psychedelia. Born in Wales and raised in Toronto, as a teenager Sayce cut his teeth playing in some of the city’s renowned jam sessions where Jeff Healey found him and invited him join his band. In addition to his five solo albums, the hard-working guitarist has toured with Melissa Etheridge, opened for ZZ Top and Deep Purple and played Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festival. This’ll be a show to remember.

Sample track: “Black Train”


Ronnie Baker Brooks / July 9th / 8:15 / Monster Energy Stage

Blues is the family business for Ronnie Baker Brooks, son of Chicago bluesman Lonnie Brooks whose brother Wayne also plays blues guitar. Ronnie grew up steeped in the Chicago scene at its peak, surrounded by the music of Buddy Guy, Muddy Waters and B.B King. Just as those players reinvented the style for urban life Ronnie is taking blues into the future, infusing his playing with Southern soul, hip hop vocals and funk rhythms.

Sample track: “Hit me on the Hip”


The Danson Jam Sessions July 16-19th

A new addition this year, the jam sessions are a sign festival organizers have heard the complaints of blues fans loud and clear. Jam sessions are great because the house band is always made up of really solid players and you never know what will happen next. Musicians embrace the chance to stretch out, have a little friendly competition with their solos and just jam like they did when they were starting out. The Barney Danson theatre will be transformed into a blues bar for the jams with a cabaret style setup and bar service. The sessions will also feature guest appearances by some big names in blues including Marcia Ball, Larry McCray, Andrew Jr. Boy Jones and Lurrie Bell.

Ottawa Bluesfest got underway on July 8, 2015 and will continue until the 19th. Click here for full lineup and ticketing info.