Saturday, December 4, 2010

Legendary Blues Cruise Pacific Report

By Daphne Kilburn 
Some have called it a “Blues Woodstock At Sea” while others just call it amazing, year after year. The Legendary Rhythm & Blues Pacific Cruise sailed October 17-24, and numerous Washingtonians enjoyed the cruise. We sailed from San Diego, to Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta, and Mazatlan, with a two-day sail back to San Diego.

Teach You A Lesson
Several Washington-based blues artists were the line-up, with Grant Dermody performing harmonica with Eric Bibb’s acoustic guitar genius. Randy Oxford returned to host the jams, and his trombone sounded a more exciting blues repertoire than ever before. Grant and Randy were warmly received and hung out with blues fans on the week-long journey.

Crossing That RiverThis year’s cruise was very smooth compared to last year’s, when the ship was out-running a hurricane and didn’t make its three ports of call. This time, however, there were permit issues with Cabo Wabo, the Sammy Hagar’s famous joint in Cabo, so Larry McCray and Grady Champion did sets on the ship just before we sailed from Cabo. Champion was this year’s International Blues Challenge band winner.

Live! Down The RoadFan favorites this year included Marcia Ball, Coco Montoya, Tommy Castro and Elvin Bishop. The Lowrider Band, Smokin’ Joe Kubek with B’nois King, Wayne Baker Brooks, and Café R&B thrilled the audiences in the various venues with their unique styles. All of them seemed relaxed yet refined, searing their blues into the hearts of the nearly 1,300 fans on board the M/S Zaandam of the Holland America Line. Fans got a dose of every type of blues, from funk and soul, to the deep South. Piano Bar hosts Eden Brent and Leon Blue created their own soulful and steamy blues. Rev. Billy C. Wirtz put a comical twist on the blues with hyperactive hilarity and intimate story-weaving by way of his own creations, as well as remembrances of old blues blasts.

I heard only a couple of complaints aboard ship, mainly focused on the sound system in the Piano Bar or the amps blowing on a stage. Raves and accolades were abundant when it came to the performers. The musicians were accessible and available through autograph parties, constant mingling, CD signings and presence in the Bluesin’ Bazaar.

Second WinterThe once-in-a-lifetime, take-your-breath-away appearances by Edgar and Johnny Winter left many fans wanting more. For the first time in over 30 years the two brothers came together to perform and complement each other’s talents, closing out the last performance of the week with Edgar displaying synthesizer perfection on “Frankenstein” with Johnny’s band. As they left the stage we could hear them comment that this was the first they had played it together ever !

Tin Can TrustLos Lobos had a definite following of lifelong fans as well. Their sound, was classic and engaging. Three decades of performing has brought about an evolution in their music, and no one could sit still.

Reservation Blues

Touted as “Chicago’s premier blues showman” by the Chicago Tribune, Eddy “The Chief” Clearwater ripped through some amazing guitar riffs and bluesy funk, with a loud and flamboyant stage presence. He even renewed his marriage vows in a ceremony officiated by the ship’s captain, immediately after the Blues Cruise Awards Ceremony. Some may remember him as “Guitar Eddy,” the self-taught left-handed guitarist’s music career dates back to sometime around 1948, but his songwriting is a timeless merging of blues and rock.

MercyKelley Hunt’s performances on this year’s cruise led to her CD “Mercy” flying off the table in the Bluesin’ Bazaar. Her website best describes the intent of the album, with “rich veins of political and social commentary threading throughout”. It was later just plain exciting to see this piano blues woman sit next to Marcia Ball and do what only they can do on the keyboards. She is quite accomplished as a guitarist, songwriter, and singer. “Mercy” was her fourth CD release back in 2008 but has found a fresh audience of late; she’s back on tour this month!

Live In EuropeTommy Castro’s Legendary Rhythm and Blues Revue spotlighted Santa Cruz favoriteSista Monica, onboard without her band this year. Larry McCray was, again, magnetic, drawing people into his guitar exploits time and timeagain. Elvin Bishop’s Hell Raisin’ Blues Revue and Kim Wilson’s Blues All Stars gave us an even deeper exposure to some blues artists we might not have been exposed to otherwise, along with old friends like John Nemeth and Kid Andersen.

Lost In The OzoneFinally, there was Commander Cody. His boogie woogie is priceless, his stories of blues history and other anecdotes were captivating. He was gracious toward the fans, and compatible onstage with other greats as he conducted a Boogie Woogie workshop with half a dozen other keyboard specialists. Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen debuted in 1967, and he showcased some of his original art on the cruise, too.

The folks at Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise are negotiating the continuation of the Pacific cruise after October of 2011, the official word remains that October 2011 could be the last of these amazing cruises on the left coast. This could mean an even tougher task of making the reservation list for the January dates out of Fort Lauderdale each year. We’re all keeping our fingers crossed and keepin’ the blues alive while we await word from Roger Naber and his team. In the meantime, visit the LRBC web site at On behalf of a grateful and satisfied blues cruisin’ fan base, it’s time to listen to all those new CDs we brought home.

No comments:

Post a Comment