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Dr. John brought his New Orleans sounds to the waterfront on Sunday. // Photo by Scott Cunningham
Dr. John brought his New Orleans sounds to the waterfront on Sunday. // Photo by Scott Cunningham

Sunday at the Safeway Waterfront Blues Festival: Great day for some music

By SCOTT CUNNINGHAM // New Orleans, funk, blues: Day 3 brought a bit of everything

With perfect weather for being outside, Sunday brought out some huge crowds to the 2016 Safeway Waterfront Blues Festival and the music lineup was just about as good as it gets.

Spokane-based Too Slim and the Taildraggers put on rock-solid mid-afternoon performance on the Blues Stage. Tim Langford (Too Slim) has managed to assemble a solid group and delivered a hard-driving set.

Langford has built a well-earned reputation as a strong guitarist and his band was tight. The set was one of the more hard-driving of the festival so far, their sound a pumped-up mixture of electric blues with pounding bass lines.

I had to squeeze in one last dose of Zydeco at the end of the day and caught part of Chubby Carrier's set back at the Front Porch Stage. His laid back, danceable sounds provided a great opportunity to just sit down and take in his sweet sounds.

Carrier did tell me that he loves Portland and the Blues Festival. He usually is here on alternating years, but is so well-received that the fest brought him back this year despite being here just a year ago. Look for a new album from the Grammy-winning artist perhaps as early as next year.

JJ Grey // Photo by Scott Cunningham

As a side note, if you haven't gotten enough of a Zydeco fix yet, you can catch Curley Taylor and Zydeco Trouble performing Wednesday evening at the East Portland Eagles Lodge. He'll be there as part of the Cascade Zydeco Association's ongoing Wednesday series.

Being a huge New Orleans guy, Dr. John's set was the one I was personally most looking forward to this year. While he didn't disappoint, his performance wasn't as strong as I've seen him in the past.

His version of Big Chief, with its instantly recognizable bass line, strayed far from the the original lyrically, venturing into the unrecognizable. He is the Night Tripper, though, and the rest of the set made up for this one weak spot.

Right Place, Wrong Time and Such a Night were both strong, as should be expected from such standards. Mack the Knife, found on his 2014 tribute album to Louis Armstrong, was a real treat, as was I Walk on Guilded Splinters combined with Gris Gris, both songs from his debut album back in 1968.

In my festival preview piece, I mentioned that JJ Grey and Mofro could be the sleeper, crazy good set of the festival. Not to go all self-congratulatory, but I think I called this one right.

Grey was phenomenal and his band was absolutely terrific as well. I can guarantee that no other performer had as much fun on stage as Grey did yesterday and he was truly appreciative of how well received his music was.

Power blues might be the best description of his music as it contains elements of Texas and East Coast high octane, but subtly laced with elements of New Orleans.

Grey's harp and guitar playing were top notch, as were his vocals. Where he really shined, however, was in his authenticity. Grey is one of the few performers who can make a festival set feel as intimate as a small club. His ability to connect with an audience is something to behold and the crowd Sunday loved every minute of his set.

Liv Warfield wrapped up the festivities on the Brewery Stage and threw down one heckuva party. Funky and upbeat, she rocked out with a tremendous backing band and backup singers.

Soulful and powerful, Warfield was as strong as I've ever seen her. Her vocals were right where they needed to be to capture her emotional essence and an extremely appreciative crowd went right along with her as she reached deep into herself.

Zach Kasik, bass player for Too Slim and the Taildraggers // Photo by Scott Cunningham

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Kim Sanders

When will JJ Grey be back???

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