Suburban homesick blues

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The Independent Culture
It is hardly on the scale of New Orleans's Jazz & Heritage Festival or Chicago's Blues Festival or even, come to that, the star-studded events that have grown up in the likes of Gloucester and Colne, Lancashire. But as of this bank holiday weekend the capital at last has something billing itself as the London Blues Festival. Modest though the event split between the Blackheath Concert Halls and the Watermans Art Centre, Brentford is, the promoters have managed to assemble a roster that should offer something for just about everybody. The raw sound of Chicago is represented by Junior Wells, the flamboyant harmonica ace who played a large part in defining it, and Koko Taylor, the belter who has enjoyed the title "Queen of the Blues" for almost as long as anyone can remember. And there is even the primitive slide of octogenarian Homesick James to remind audiences of the idiom's roots in the fertile Mississippi Delta. But there are a few new faces to ensure that the blues does not remain the preserve of the crusty academic. Sherman Robertson, the versatile guitar player and singer who has played with the late King of Zydeco, Clifton Chenier, in addition to appearing on Paul Simon's Graceland album, has won a good deal of airplay with a soul-styled approach that sees ballads interspersed with the traditional 12-bar format. Meanwhile, the much younger fellow Texan, Tutu Jones, is winning rave reviews for an apparent readiness to extend the genre without surrendering to the influence of rock. No such reticence afflicts The Hoax, the British blues-rockers leading the home representation. After a seemingly non-stop tour and a debut album produced by Mike Vernon, they have drawn comparisons with the likes of the Yardbirds and the early Stones.

The London Blues Festival starts at the Watermans tonight and runs until Monday. For details telephone 0181-463 0100 (Blackheath) or 0181-568 1176 (Watermans)