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Get the blues: Festival adds Friday night show to lineup

The upcoming Blind Willie McTell Blues Festival, a Thomson trademark for a dozen years, has enhanced the growing interest in quality musical experiences in the CSRA.

The festival, scheduled Friday and Saturday, May 20 -- 21, continues to attract more regional visitors each year, said Don Powers, member of the Activities Council of Thomson which sponsors the event.

"This area is gathering some steam in regard to regional entertainment," said Mr. Powers, who noted about 1,200 local as well as out of state fans attended last year's Blind Willie McTell Blues Festival.

In support of the growing regional awareness of American music, the festival will for the first time feature a Friday night event. The John Hammond Trio will kick off Friday's entertainment starting at 7 p.m. in the 800-seat Imperial Theater in Augusta. Headliner Marcia Ball, the Texas recording artist who impressed last year's crowd, will take the stage at 8:30 p.m.

Saturday's traditional festival is located outside Thomson in the large field on Stagecoach Road near Ga. Hwy. 17. The day's entertainment will feature an impressive roster of some of the top blues players in the country while also paying tribute to Thomson's blues legend Blind Willie McTell, who was born in 1901 and is buried in the Happy Valley area of McDuffie County.

Blind Willie and his music have made an impact not only locally, but across the country as well. Despite losing his vision in childhood, William Samuel McTell earned status as one of the most accomplished guitarists and lyrical storytellers in Blues history, according to a biographical sketch by Turner Simkins, ACT board member.

While he was talented and appreciated during his lifetime, Blind Willie was never truly successful by today's standards. His lasting accomplishment has been his gift to future generations as his influence continues to educate and influence others about the true American art form, according to Mr. Simkins.

A talented array of artists will perform their own versions of the music inspired by Blind Willie. Friday's show will feature Ms. Ball and her expressive style of blues, boogie and ballads. Also on Friday, Mr. Hammond will present some of his songs from among his 25 albums.

The doors to Saturday's festival will open at 11 a.m. with music starting about noon.

Delta Moon, the "local" band, is up first. Voted Atlanta's Best Overall Music Act in 2003, the group was also named Atlanta's Best Blues Band in 2002, 2003 and 2004.

The South Carolina band, Blue Dogs, will perform next, presenting their unique brand that features shades of roots music, rock, blues, bluegrass, country.

Anthony Gomes will demonstrate his energetic style about 2:50 p.m., followed by Pat Donahue, known as one of the greatest finger pickers of today. As the leader of the Prairie Home Companion band on National Public Radio, Mr. Donahue does not schedule many concerts, and his appearance in Thomson is an honor, Mr. Powers said.

Maria Maldaur will perform next showcasing the American root music influences that have brought her fame.

Little Charlie and the Nightcats will anchor the Saturday festival as the final event. One of today's most successful bands, the Nightcats are a festival favorite and will play their original take on blues/swing/jazz and beyond, festival officials said.

Tickets are available from Thomson-McDuffie County Tourism, 706-597-1000, or the Imperial box office at 706-722-8341.

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Web posted on Thursday, May 19, 2005


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