Acoustic blues is a remarkable and unique sub-genre of the blues. It’s haunting, powerful, and inspiring — all at once.
This week on Acoustic Tuesday, I’m talking all about acoustic blues. To kick things off, I’ll cover the top 5 blues festivals I’m excited about in 2020.
Additionally, I’m featuring Brendan from Heartbreaker Guitars in Las Vegas, talking about Gary Houston’s historic poster art, and the impact of Blind Lemon Jefferson on acoustic blues music.
As always, you can watch Acoustic Tuesday at 10 am every Tuesday in these four places:
- Acoustic Life YouTube channel
- We Play Every Day Facebook Community
- Get show notes emailed directly to your inbox.
- Listen to audio-only below or in iTunes
This Week on Acoustic Tuesday
This week’s focus is, again, on the blues. Specifically, I want to zero in on acoustic blues.
Acoustic blues is special for a variety of reasons…
- it’s the origin of blues as we know it today
- technically challenging and enjoyable
- it’s a foundation for many acoustic genres.
Like all Acoustic Tuesday shows, this episode is designed to inspire you. So, if you’re feeling ready to explore acoustic blues, be sure to watch the full video!
Top 5 Blues Festivals for 2020
Keep in mind, these blues festivals are in no particular order, but I did want to include a good regional spread. If you’re looking for a blues festival near you, be sure to visit Blues.org to find a festival.
1. Chesapeake Bay Blues Festival (Annapolis, MD) – May 16-17
For all my friends on the east coast, be sure to check out this festival. While I have never been, it looks like there’s plenty of acoustic blues and the headliners have been KILLER in the last couple of years!
2. Mississippi John Hurt Homecoming Festival (Carrolton, MS) – Maybe October of 2020
Mississippi John Hurt transformed acoustic blues with his fingerpicking style. What better way to celebrate the man than attending his festival! For last year’s festival, Taj Mahal curated the lineup!
3. Port Townsend Acoustic Blues Festival (Port Townsend, WA) – July 2020
For an awesome experience in a beautiful area, you don’t want to miss out on this acoustic blues festival. From the looks of it, there are lots of opportunities to meet other guitar geeks at this festival!
4. Waterfront Blues Festival (Portland, OR) – July 2-5
Going on 32 years old, this blues festival is a must-see for acoustic guitar geeks. From famous acoustic blues acts to innovative electric blues players, you don’t want to miss this historical festival on Portland’s waterfront.
5. Chicago Blues Festival – June 5-7, 2020
While Chicago isn’t the birthplace of the blues, it certainly boasts a strong history. Featuring a dedicated acoustic blues stage, the Chicago Blues Festival is an unforgettable experience that you, your friends, and your family should certainly enjoy this year.
Heartbreaker Guitar Newscast
Coming at you from Las Vegas, I’m featuring Brendan from Heartbreaker Guitars to give you the latest info in the guitar industry.
In this episode, Brendan features TWO Heartbreaker Guitars of the Month. He’ll introduce Richard Hoover from Santa Cruz Guitars and Rick Turner of Rick Turner Guitars.
Brendan asked these two master luthiers to create two guitars — one acoustic and one electric — that are made of the same reclaimed wood.
This newscast is a story of friendship, a story of reclamation, and a story of artistry. As always, you don’t want to miss this segment of Acoustic Tuesday!
Gary Houston: Putting The Blues in Posters
If you’re looking for an artist that can transform the vibe of certain artists into visual art, look no further than Gary Houston.
While there are plenty of artists who design posters, Gary’s art stands out in the industry.
Fortunately, Charlie Parr introduced me to Gary’s work a few weeks back…and now I can’t stop looking at it!
While I love the art, I feel rather unqualified to talk about its merits…BUT, I LOVE the artistic approach Gary takes.
In the video, he talks about not being able to draw himself “out of a paper bag.”
Now, I don’t know about you, but that sounds like me on any given day of practice.
Some days are better than others, but the important thing is that all artists feel this waxing and waning of progress.
If you want to learn more about Gary Houston or order some of his art, here’s a link to his website.
Blind Lemon Jefferson: An Innovator
For my featured artist of the week, I’m going way back in time — all the way back to the early 20th century.
As for innovators in the acoustic blues genre, there’s a name that stands out: Blind Lemon Jefferson.
Jefferson has one of the most driving styles I’ve found in the acoustic blues genre. Here’s what I mean by that…
Jefferson punches out the rhythm and propels the song forward while singing and filling with melodic flourishes.
If you’re looking for some old-school inspiration that is sure to get you feeling the blues, please do check out Blind Lemon Jefferson.
In Jefferson’s “Black Snake Moan,” you can hear that he fills space all the time, whether he’s doing rhythm, singing, or doing melodic runs.
For the best way to listen to Blind Lemon Jefferson, you NEED to get this box set of his complete catalog. It contains all of the recordings and is well worth the money!
Tracy and I, with a bunch of friends, go to the PDX Waterfront Blues Festival every year. It helps that we live here, hahaha. An interesting thing to know is the underlying cause of the festival – its the main fund raiser for our local food pantries! It raises thousands of dollars each summer. Amazing how generous and supportive musicians are 🙂
For your hockey shirt collection you need a Christmas vacation Griswold blackhawks hockey jersey
The Chesapeake Bay Blues Festival is at Sandy Point State Park, about two miles from my home, so I’ll be there and maybe we can meet.
If you go on a weekday, please take the time to cross the Bay Bridge (in the background of the video) and visit the factory of PRS guitars on Kent Island, about five miles away. Paul Reed Smith makes wonderful custom acoustic guitars as well as the electric models he’s world famous for, and PRS is one of the largest guitar makers in America.
Call ahead for an appointment and take a couple of friends and a cameraman with you. You could get a good segment for your show.
Blind Lemmon Jefferson picture:
I went to the Chicago Blues Festival last year for the first time. It was awesome as you described. I’m making plans to return this year!
I realize that you’re talking about Blues Festival, But my band, Ocotillo Rain and Thunder is the opening act for the Marana Bluegrass Festival. I’m a new member to TAC and hoping we can get some Local Guitar geeks to come out. It is in March.
for more info go
Tony, enjoy Acoustic Tuesdays and TAC. In 1961 in Orillia, Ontario, Canada the Mariposa Folk Festival was started and includes everything acoustic including blues workshops and stage. When it started in 1961 everyone loved it, it featured Canadian artists. However, 3 years later the small town found it was disruptive and they had to find new venues. They floated around other southern Ontario sites. In the 70’s it landed in Toronto on the Island. In about 73/74 I attended and was drawn to the small blues stage after watching amazing guitarists walk around a join groups to jam. When the performance on the afternoon stage started I was drawn to it and watched a few acts. Beside me was a musician with his guitar and we exchanged a few pleasantries. After one act the MC said that there was a musician present who was not known as a blues artist but who had just put out a blues song we should hear. He called James Taylor to the stage to play Steamroller Blues. The guy beside said, nice talking to you and went up on stage. I had no idea that I had been standing and talking to James Taylor, whose music I just recently discovered. The Mariposa Festival is back in the Orillia area and is a must for anyone close to Southern Ontario.
On reflection, James Taylor was at the first Mariposa Folk Festival on Toronto Island in 1970. That must have been the year I encountered him. He play that evening on the main stage.