Delbert McClinton's
" Sandy Beaches Cruise #18"
January 8 - 15, 2012

This was my second Sandy Beaches Cruise and Delbert's eighteenth edition. Last year's lineup and performances were very solid; there were some artists changes for 2012, that made this year's experience stronger than my previous sailing. Most days there was music starting at noon that ran into the wee hours, so it was nearly impossible to cover each and every performance, but I saw a great deal of outstanding shows. Highlights included the McCrary Sisters, Teresa James, Marcia Ball, Joe Ely, Lee Roy Parnell, Seth Walker, Gary Nicholson, Wayne Toups, Big Joe Maher with Anson Funderburgh, Nick Connolly, Eric Lindell, and, of course, Delbert McClinton. The weather was great so I spent most of my time hanging at the outside Pool Deck stage. On the first night one my last year' favorites Wayne Toups & Zydecajun started the festivities and did not disappoint. Closing the first night was Delbert's band and they roared (more about both of these performances later).

Day Two began with we cruisers in church (sort of) with the McCrary Sisters, who vocalized in beautiful fashion, and with solid energy. Gary Nicholson's band performance (the only time I saw him as a bandleader) was breathtaking, one guest artist after another sat in. To my delight one of my favorite guitarists, Anson Funderburgh, sat in with Nicholson's group and, man, it was so great to hear him play again. Colin Linden, Kevin McKendree, Steve Mackey, Tom Hambridge, and others laid down (at times) frenzied grooves. Other guests who graced Nicholson's performance included Lee Roy Parnell, Seth Walker, and Delbert's horn section making (for me) one of the best shows I witnessed on stage, but hey, this is only the second day of the cruise.

Later that evening I went to see Big Joe Maher at the indoor Ocean Bar. Maher not only had McKendree and Mackey in tow, but also had Anson Funderburgh on lead guitar. This mighty unit performed for four straight nights, and I made sure to check-in on them every night. (You can read more about my coverage of Maher's band in an upcoming issue of Blues Revue.)

Day Three: Seth Walker continues to grow artistically and called onto his producer, Gary Nicholson, to join him on stage on the title track of his most recent 2009 disc Leap of Faith. Also sitting in with Walker were Raul Malo and Jimmy Hall, who chimed in with what could easily be called the anthem tune for the cruise, "More Days Like This (and More Nights Like That)." Walker's songwriting is very catchy, easily accessible, and his lyrics stay with you, which is impressive. Look for Walker's next recording, Time Can Change, in May, and you can listen to the new tunes at his site. By the way, the dynamic duo of McKendree and Mackey (who seemingly played with everyone) rounded out Walker's band. Delbert's performance this same day was also superlative. He was in outstanding form and his band impressed from beginning to end. Words cannot speak clearly enough about how creative McClinton still sounds, and how his band continues to rework and make his current and old favorites sound fresh.

Day Four: This was a shorter day of music as we arrived at St. Bart's and took time to go ashore. Wayne Toups and his band were (as usual) powerful and went into orbit when Lee Roy Parnell joined in and performed two Allman Brothers classics, "Ramblin' Man" and "Midnight Rider." I always felt that the Toups band had that southern soul edge, which is unique for a zydeco band, so Parnell's tune choices were more than spot on and perfect. Great call Mr. Parnell! Needless to say- the crowd adored this segment.

Day Five: This was another shorter day of music as we arrived at the delightful St. Kitts, which had its own West Indies groove. I did not catch a lot of music this day but made sure to (for the fourth night in a row) to check out Big Joe Maher with Funderburgh blowing the roof off the Oceans Bar. What a band, with Maher's excellent vocals and drumming, with the tireless (always talented) McKendree on keys, and the likewise gifted Mackey on bass. I have to say that every time I see Eric Lindell and his band he continues to impress especially with their exuberance and youthful energy. Day Six: Toups started the day with a bit of brandy at noon; he said he had started drinking at 10:45 a.m.! Nonetheless they impressed. I ran inside to catch the annual pianorama and got to see Nick Connolly (who also sang impressively) and Red Young, plus Kevin McKendree and his eight-year-old son Yates McKendree, who sparkled with a wicked right hand. Let's just say that the apple has not fallen far from the tree, and that Yates (who garnered many photos) handled his role like a pro, didn't flinch, and looked completely composed. Later that evening, I checked out Joe Ely, whose set also intrigued.

Last Day: I caught Teresa James' very soulful performance. For those who are not hip to James, you should be, she possesses great vocal pipes and plays solid piano; her band didn't disappoint as well. My final observance was the always captivating Marcia Ball, who was in high gear on their evening outdoor recital. Her band (aided by Red Young on B3) seemed invigorated by the cooler weather that rolled in as we approached Florida, and high winds. Mingo Fishtrap's horns also joined in making Ball's performance tight, mighty, and strong. I hope that I can return for next year's nineteenth edition of Delbert's Sandy Beaches Cruise, as this cruise has now become the highlight of the year for me. Details for 2013 are already formulated with band confirmations at the SBC site. By the way, it was great to finally meet Karen Leipziger of KL Productions, whose husband Dennis Taylor toured and recorded with Delbert until his intimely passing in 2010. Special thanks to Delbert's wife, Wendy Goldstein, the entire Delbert staff, and to my good friend and now retired Don Wise, who has played powerful and soulful sax with Delbert for over twenty years. If you have never been on a Delbert cruise, think about it, and start saving your hard-earned bucks for 2013, you will not be disappointed with the outstanding music, great boat amenities, and the loyal fans, some of whom return year after year, after year. No one can argue why, as once you cruise with Delbert and his friends, you'll be hooked too!

Bob Putignano a senior contributing editor at BluesWax. He is also the heart of Sounds of Blues at Bob maybe contacted at:

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