Blind Willie McTell himself might even be proud of the line up at the 13th annual blues festival that bears his name. The event named after the Happy Valley native musician is set for May 20 in its traditional location off Stagecoach Road, north of Thomson.
Georgia native Chuck Leavell, pianist for the Rolling Stones and formerly of the Allman Brothers Band, is headlining the event. Also in the lineup is the Randall Bramblett Band from Athens; guitarist Sean Costello from Atlanta; the country blues/ragtime guitar duo of Steve James of Austin, Tex. and Del Rey of Seattle, Wash.; Mississippi's Robert Lockwood, Jr. and Thomson's Crosstie Walkers.
The festival's lineup is one that broadens its normal horizons while at the same time has more ties to Mr. McTell than in the past, according to Don Powers, Activities Council of Thomson member and one of the festival's organizers.
"(Mr. Leavell) of course is connected with the Allman Brothers, and if the Allman Brothers ever had a song that they are most recognized for, it's The Statesboro Blues which was written by Willie McTell. So it's a good connection," he said, adding that Mr. Lockwood is also an artist from the same era as Blind Willie.
Mr. Leavell hails from the Macon area. The 2004 inductee into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame will take some time off from touring with the Rolling Stones to play in the McDuffie County festival. He has recorded and toured with big names like Eric Clapton and the late Beatle, George Harrison.
Attendance at the festival has been growing in the past few years, and Activities Council members hope this year will be no exception. They are banking on the diverse lineup to bring music fans from all over the Southeast to McDuffie County.
"I think the lineup will bring some people in that are not die-hard blues fans," Mr. Powers said. "And in particular, having Chuck Leavell and the Randall Bramblett Band will be the draw for bringing in people who just may have otherwise not come to the festival because they think it's pure blues."
Beverages and traditional southern food such as ribs, chicken, fish and Cajun food will be available at the festival. Carry in food and drink will not be allowed. Also, there will be no passes out of the festival.
Today is the last day to purchase $20 advance tickets for the Saturday show. They can be purchased at the Depot as well as online at www.blindwillie.com. Children 12 and under will be admitted free of charge. The gates open at 11 a.m., and the music starts around noon.