The annual Real Blues Festival Of Orange County is Southern California’s only grass-roots festival for the Blues. Presented by the Orange County Blues Society, this year’s event was held on September 8 at Malone’s in Santa Ana, California and ran from 12 noon to 7:15 p.m. The festival’s fourth-year line-up included: the Alastair Greene Band with special guest Frank “Paris Slim” Goldwasser and the Chase Walker Band, Crosscut Delux, Peach and her Blues Band with special guest Mark Sells (in for Joey Delgado), Rod Piazza & The Mighty Flyers and, of course, the Real Blues Festival founder Orange County-based bluesman harpist/vocalist Papa J (and friends).
Upon entering Malone’s once again memories began to flow. Your rather reclusive writer recalled his first experience out in the field attending last year’s festival at this very location (thanks to the cajoling of sexy sidekick Mary Sparks) . This year, however, was a little more special as the OCBS would also be celebrating the 63rd birthday of its founder “Papa J” Hudson whom everyone would later see was still not showing his age. The music began at approximately 12 noon when the opening act, Crosscut Delux would take the stage.
They got right to the job of warming up the initially intimate audience as other attendees were still making their way from church to the bar. There would soon be a mix of mankind—male and female, young and old, men in hats and gals in flats, seniors and señors and all fans of the blues. The band got moving with their take on Jesse Stoner’s twelve-bar blues bit “Shake, Rattle and Roll”. They also shined with such covers as Muddy Waters’ “Walking Through The Park” and Buddy Guy’s “She’s a Superstar”.
Other highlights of the event included (but were not limited to) The Chase Walker Band. This trio of tuneful teens gave the youth of today a good name. (But don’t tell their peers because, ya know, it’s not “cool” or “fresh”, “da sh*t” or [fill in the blank] to be praised by parental types). How cool is it to make like the early Beatles in Hamburg and play a bar where your friends aren’t even old enough to get past the bouncer? (Be careful though, guys; you know what happened to George Harrison in Germany. If not, take five and go do your history homework!)
But seriously, folks, these guys might not be old enough to drive the band’s van but they’re obviously old enough to rock. They opened with an as yet unnamed instrumental that they “just made up” and moved on through a collection of covers including: ZZ Top’s “Jesus Just Left Chicago”, Hank Williams’ “Jambalaya (On the Bayou)” and an original tune or two including their original ballad “Too Many Days Ago”. (Just remember, boys, when you get rich and famous don’t forget your friendly neighborhood prognosticating penman who promoted you ‘way back when”.) In the words of “Papa J” Hudson: This group “is what the OCBS is all about. They are the ones to keep this art form alive!”
Up next was Alastair Greene. Your rockin’ reviewer wrote about his CD previously but this was the first time “live”. Greene and guest Goldwasser played “some blues, rock and blues rock” and it all worked well. Noteworthy numbers here included the John Wayne-inspired “T’Other Way” the fan favorite “Drunk Again” and an obscure Muddy Waters tune titled Rambin’ (sic) Mind”. Greene was inspired to play with his guitar hero Goldwasser and it showed.
Papa J & Friends took the stage next. While Greene (Alan Parson project) may indeed be a hard act to follow, they pulled it off. After all, as Papa J said: the group is called “’Papa J & Friends’ because I like almost everybody”. Yes, and apparently everyone in the audience liked him, too.
They performed their usual brand of smokey-tinged tunes including their renditions of Sam Cooke’s “Bring It On Home to Me”, Albert King’s “Laundromat”, William Clark’s “Pawnshop Bound”, Bobby Troup’s “Route 66” (made popular by Nat King Cole) and the still apropos (in California) “Summertime” by Rodgers and Hammerstein.
Other musically mentionable moments included performances by Peach and her guest Sells. The live performance added something to her music not found on her CD. Their cover of the twelve bar standard “Sweet Home Chicago” by Robert Johnson and Grand Funk’s “Some Kind Of Wonderful” had spontaneity to it. So too did her own original off-the-album offerings “Someone Else Is Steppin’ In” and “It Meant Nothing”.
Last but certainly not least, was Rod Piazza & The Mighty Flyers. Piazza fell to the task of re-energizing the audience and closing the show. The band won over the audience with such songs as “I Don’t Play” and “Sugar”. Piazza made it work –joking and hawking his CDs and T-shirts one minute and putting on the polish the next.
All in all, it was yet another memorable festival with performances that were raw and exciting that couldn’t be heard elsewhere. (There was even free Birthday cake! Happy Birthday, Papa J!) The Real Blues Festival Of Orange County 4 was once again raw, real and fun!
My name is Phoenix and . . . that’s the bottom line.