Today the Activities Council of Thomson, Inc. announced the lineup for the 16th Annual Blind Willie McTell Blues Festival, to be held on Saturday, May 9th, 2009. The annual one day fest, voted by Southeastern Tourism writers as one of the top small cultural events in the Southeast, will be held at the regular festival site, on Stagecoach Road, 300 yards off Washington Highway, north of Thomson, Georgia. The event is held each year to bring great musicians to the rural South, as well as pay tribute to country blues legend McTell, a Thomson native son, born and buried in the Happy Valley area of McDuffie County. The small town feel and exceptional quality of the music presented year in and year out, makes the McTell Festival a special event indeed. This year's lineup includes Chuck Leavell, Buddy Miller, Hubert Sumlin, Randall Bramblett, Chatham County Line, Willie "Big Eyes" Smith, and the Crosstie Walkers.
After 15 years of presenting our country's best blues musicians, the Council Board has decided to begin to broaden its approach regarding the styles of music that attendees hear at each year's event. Annually, the lineup will feature artists who are best we can find in the styles of Americana, folk, gospel, rock, as well as blues. The organizers of the event are sure that our festival fans want the absolutely best lineup of artists that our smaller market can supportâ€¦.music by folks at the top of their game. Again, that's what will be presented in Thomson on 2009
We are honored and quite happy to present two of the absolute finest musicians working today; Buddy Miller from Nashville TN, and Georgia's own Chuck Leavell, who appeared at the festival in 2006.
Miller is a multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and a fine vocalist and has supported a succession of acclaimed performers. The list begins with his wife Julie (a noted singer and songwriter in her own right), and then in prompt succession, Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle, Lucinda Williams and most recently, Alison Krauss and Robert Plant and their acclaimed Raising Sand tour. He records his music - in his home studio filled with vintage gear - and releases it separately under his name or Julie's or both (as with Written in Chalk, slated for release in March on New West Records). His last solo release, the critically acclaimed Universal House of Prayer, was Miller's 1st full gospel disc and was nominated for a Grammy in 2004.
Chuck Leavell is no stranger to Georgia music fans and appeared at the 13th Blind Willie festival. Since that appearance he's continued his work as pianist (as well as musical director) for the Rolling Stones. He participated in "Shine A Light", Martin Scorcese's great documentary film of the Stones during their world tour of 2006. He's recently released a solo disc, "Live in Europe". Chuck's a Georgia Music Hall of Famer, a member of the Rolling Stones, former Allman Brother, founder of Sea Level, session ace, environmentalist, tree farmer, and on and on and on! He'll be joined this year on stage by Randall Bramblett, who'll also do a set of his solo material with the Randall Bramblett Band. While Bramblett may not be a household name, he is legendary within music circles for his songwriting and musicianship. He released a pair of acclaimed solo albums in the mid-â€˜70s, then joined the jazz-rock outfit Sea Level, becoming their principal songwriter and vocalist. From there, Bramblett embarked on a path as a big-league, musical utility man (primarily sax and keys) and landed on the speed dial of some of the greatest names in rock history, including Traffic, Steve Winwood, Levon Helm and Bonnie Raitt. Since organizing the current band line-up, Bramblett has released four CD's on New West Records
The rest of the artists in this year's lineup are equally as impressive as our headliners. Guitarist Hubert Sumlin, who turns 77 this year and still going strong, will be in Thomson, joined on stage by Willie "Big Eyes" Smith. Sumlin appeared here some years back and has had a remarkable run since then. In 1949 at the age of eighteen he became Howlin' Wolf's lead guitarist, a position he held down for the next twenty-five years, except for a brief six-month stint in Muddy Waters' band. He has played with Pinetop Perkins, Willie Dixon, The Rolling Stones, Chuck Berry and countless others. He counts among his biggest fans Jimmy Page, Carlos Santana, and John Mayer as well as Keith Richards and Eric Clapton, both of whom play on About Them Shoes, Sumlin's latest, nominated for the 2006 Grammy for Best Traditional Blues Album.
Smith, best known as the longtime drummer in the Muddy Waters Band, is nominated for Blues Awards this year in two categories, best drummer and best harmonica. He and his combo will play a short set and then wind it up with Sumlin in true Chicago fashion.
Americana and bluegrass up and comers, Chatham County Line, are no strangers to Thomson, having played our smaller Depot concert series twice. We decided this year that they would be a perfect fit as we broaden the approach to the music presented at the festival. Their sound is entirely original, filtered through a traditional "crowd around the mike" stage show that is guaranteed to create grins and leave you wondering how four musicians can play together that tightly. Recording for YepRoc Records, they've toured constantly in support of their fourth disc, IV, voted one of the top 100 discs of 2008, by the Americana Music Association.
Thomson's own Crosstie Walkers will also be on the bill in 2009. They are currently writing and developing new material for a planned 2009 CD, their 4th independent effort and they will be showcasing music from their nearly twenty years of playing together.
As in years gone by, there will be an array of vendors serving traditional Southern food and beveragesâ€¦..ribs, chicken, fish, Cajun, great dishes that go hand in hand with the music that will be on tap that day. Carry in food and drink will not be allowed. Children 12 and under are admitted free.
Advance tickets for the Saturday afternoon show will be $20. Tickets will go on sale in early April and will be available locally at the Depot office, as well as, on line at www.blindwillie.com. For information call McDuffie County Tourism @ 706-597-1000, or visit www.blindwillie.com.