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Ed Williams of The Revivalists
Ed Williams of The Revivalists

2018 Waterfront Blues Festival: Day 2 Wrap

By SCOTT CUNNINGHAM // All the highlights from the second day of the 2018 Waterfront Blues Festival

Under blues skies and warmer temperatures, the second day of the 31st Annual Waterfront Blues Festival heated up in a big way yesterday with blistering sets from Beth Hart and The Revivalists.

Earlier in the day, however, Jimmy "Duck" Holmes laid down a magnificent demonstration of why he's one of the absolute best acoustic blues cats around. He didn't record his first album until 2006, but a lifetime of blues instruction from the likes of Henry Stucky, Skip James, and Jack Owens makes him the heir to the unique sounds of these Bentonia Bluesmen. What a treat to get to see him up close on the Oregonian Front Porch Stage.

On Wednesday the Proven Ones played a wonderful set and the band members were back yesterday in slightly different configurations, including a great set on the FedEx Crossroads Stage featuring the guitar work of Kid Ramos.

What I failed to realize on Wednesday was that it was the first time the band had played a public set. I got a chance to talk with band members Brian Templeton and Jimi Bott and they've just released their first album, which was recorded at Bott's studio here in Portland. I'll take a listen and put up a review at some point this summer.

Alan Hager and Curtis Salgado

Speaking of local acts, the Bayou Boyz laid down a great set of some classic covers. My favorite was the Dr. John staple Right Place, Wrong Time with Steve Kerin doing a pretty decent Mac-style vocal on the song. They had the crowd dancing and moving around, which was pretty impressive in the afternoon heat.

Hopefully you also got a chance to catch the very talented Mel Brown B-3 Organ Group featuring Saeeda Wright on vocals. The band is comprised of some of the best musicians in town: Mel Brown (drums), Louis Pain (organ), Dan Balmer (guitar), and Renato Caranto (sax). You can catch the band every Thursday at the Jack London Revue here in Portland.

When the schedules for this year came out, I was really, really disappointed to see that Beth Hart shared the same time slot with Curtis Salgado and Alan Hager. Both artists are deserving of a slot that doesn't compete with another major draw.

Salgado and Hager have just released a wonderful album titled "Rough Cut", which is full of stripped down blues music, a genre Salgado easily grasps although his bread and butter leans more closely to soul. I got a chance to chat with Curtis before their set and was delighted to hear that the two are starting to make money off of the album and have been receiving some fairly nice royalty checks in the mail.

Beth Hart's set can be summed up in one word: WOW!!

Beth Hart

I've been a big fan of hers for a long time, but haven't had a chance to see her live until last night. I knew her set was going to be good, but I wasn't prepared for how good it was. In fact, I'm pretty certain there won't be another set as full of power and emotion as hers was.

If you saw her performance, you'd agree that there probably isn't another female blues artist right now that packs the punch that she does. She has perfect control over the dynamics and range in her vocals, not an easy feat considering she can effortlessly go from a quiet pleading part to raging, primal screams in a few beats.

Hart was just at Revolution Hall last fall and hopefully she'll swing back through town next year. Here's an early call for her to play the Crystal Ballroom, a venue that would be a perfect fit for her.

Another big surprise was the fact that a lot of people left after Hart's set. I suppose I can forgive them if they were thinking the rest of the night couldn't possibly be any better.

I'll stop just short of saying that the set from The Revivalists was better in any objective sense. It was different, but just as good. The band formed some 10 years ago in New Orleans and have found a winning combination in fusing alternative rock with undercurrents of New Orleans funk.

They are still riding a huge wave of success from their 2015 breakout album "Men Amongst Mountains" and the smash single from the album Wish I Knew You. The song was the last of their set and was spectacular, bringing the crowd to their feet for a giant dance party and extended ovation.

But wait, that's not all, as they say. After The Revivalists I had one more stop to make at the Front Porch Stage to catch McKinley Moore and his tribute to Otis Redding. Earlier in the day, Moore had put in a solid set on the main south stage featuring the same material.

But, classic soul is meant to be enjoyed in the dark and the more intimate setting was the perfect backdrop for him and the material. Moore has a great command of Redding's material and he was magnificent with Try a Little Tenderness and Sitting on the Dock of the Bay.

McKinley Moore

A cozy dance party was a perfect way to wrap up my day.

Some of the artists on my agenda for today are the Too Loose Cajun & Zydeco Band, Sister Mercy, Chubby Carrier, Seth Walker, and The Mavericks. Also, don't forget that tonight has the first after-hours show at the Marriott with Nikki Hill and Marc Broussard.

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