Tremblant International Blues Festival
" July 9th-11th, 2010 "

The Festival Impresses - Again

How many Blues festivals are you aware of that run for ten days consecutively? The Tremblant International Blues fest does and is chock full of world class Blues-based artists. Plus over the two weekends of Saturdays and Sundays the music flows non-stop for twelve hours (1:00pm-1:00am) at various stages and venues, and there's no charge for any of this! Yes, you heard right It's all for free. I would be remiss if I didn't mention that this all takes place in a very picturesque mountain village where the cool winds blow, and it's just about a ninety-minute car ride from Montreal and about eight hours from the New York City area.

On the first night, Monster Mike Welch opened the festival in fine fashion with a delightful set that was only hampered by a misty rain. Welch's keyboard player Julien Brunetaud (from France) was also a pleasant surprise on piano and some driving B3. Both Welch and Brunetaud obviously have a lot of admiration for each other trading off solos without either one trying to overburden their tasty solos and also added color with their rhythmic support when each artist stepped out to solo. The rain subsided when Canadian born Anthony Gomes and his very fine band took to the stage. Gomes proved to be an excellent crowd pleaser with excellent stage presence, powerful vocals, and explosive guitar. Gomes is also very soulful, and funky, and it was great to see Anthony doing what he does best, that is playing Blues-based music again! All in all, this was a neat way to kick off the festivities, and good thing it wasn't a late night as Saturday & Sunday's schedule was full and deep with talent.

My first stop on Saturday was checking out the Australian Mason Rack whose grungy approach echoed George Thorogood. In fact Rack also covered Thorogood and other self-penned tunes that captivated his audience. Over at one of the main stages Monster Mike was at it again, this time with Julien Brunetaud as the leader. Julien's set was a bit jazzier and gave more opportunity for Brunetaud to show off his vocal skills. Welch fell in the pocket extremely well, and it was good to see Mudcat Ward on bass, too. Nice set from this French/American collaboration that worked well for a Saturday afternoon delight.

A little later the tireless Welch was found sitting in with the Canadian Joe Murphy. Murphy hails from Halifax, plays guitar, harp, and sings, and obtains a keen appreciation of Chicago blues music, expectedly and once again Monster Mike fit in like a glove.

At the VW main stage the thirty-two year old Kenny Wayne Shepherd band roared, and delivered one of the best Blues-rock shows I have seen in quite some time. KWS and his band were enjoying the large Canadian crowd, and made note of the very pretty Quebec ladies in the crowd. With that said, their thirty-minute-plus encore started with Slim Harpo's "I'm a King Bee,' segued into Peter Green's "Oh Well," which was rip-snorting, intensely energetic and captivating. Eventually the band (sans Kenny Wayne) left the stage, and Kenny mesmerized yours truly and the crowd with an improvisational guitar exploration that eventually morphed into "Voodoo Child, Slight Return." Typically I am not a fan of Hendrix covers, but this KWS band version worked extremely well for me, and for the crowd who was begging for more. (By the way, Roadrunner/ Loud & Proud Records recently announced the signing of four-time Grammy nominated, American Blues/rock guitarist Kenny Wayne Shepherd to a worldwide, multi-album deal. Shepherd is working on his Roadrunner/Loud & Proud debut projects, which include his first live album and a new studio album.) All in all, this was a two-hour set that I suspect ran longer than expected. So by the time I ran over to the other main stage at Place St-Bernard I only got to see part of the closing number by Sherman Robertson (who sounded great) but was too brief to report on. Sunday's highlights started with John Nemeth's solid set of a mixture of Blues and soul where it was good to see Bruce Bears on the keyboards. John's entire band displayed sharp skills throughout their performance. Nemeth is an interesting performer who seemingly has a bright future, especially with his soul repertoire, which is where I feel he excels and stands out with a unique signature sound.

Guitar master Roy Rogers was outstanding in his trio configuration, Roy and his small band rarely disappoints, and this performance was particularly strong. Roy showed no signs of slowing down from his recent physical episode, and delighted the crowd with his dazzling guitar work and raw (yet very tasty) energy.

I was really looking forward to seeing Les Dudek but found his concert to be lackluster. A lot of this is attributed to the limits of performing as a trio, which lacked color and depth, and I found Les' set not very memorable. Dudek covered Dickey Betts' "Ramblin' Man" from the Allman's "Brothers and Sisters" recording that Les actually played on, that I found to be uninspiring, and considering Dudek's impressive list of sideman credits (Steve Miller, Boz Scaggs, Maria Muldaur, the aforementioned Allman Brothers Band, and others,) I had expected a whole lot more.

So there you have it, another impressive edition of the Festival International Du Blues De Tremblant, their seventeenth year. May there be many more. This world class Blues fest is definitely worthy of much more attention considering the depth of performers assembled by Brian Slack of the Montreal Blues Society, and the beautiful setting of Tremblant.

A road trip to this festival would be a worthwhile investment of your time, and once again; there's no charge. For more information checkout: Special thanks to Public Relations and Communications Supervisor Station Mont Tremblant - Intrawest Catherine Lacasse who once again made my stay at Tremblant another very memorable visit, and for bringing me back for another year, thank you Catherine!

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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