Chesapeake Blues Fest
" The Blood Warms"

Tiny dynamo Lydia Pense, with her latest incarnation of Cold Blood, was the highlight of Chesapeake Bay Blues Festival held May 16 and 17. This festival has been in existence since 1998 on the bay with a view of the Bay Bridge in Annapolis, Maryland. By far the most professional sounding unit of the weekend, Cold Blood presented Pense's vocals as she has never sounded before. It was a blast to watch Pense lead her crackling band for their one-hour-long magical performance. Needless to say, Cold Blood's performance was all about Funk and Soul, but their opening number had the Blues-based crowd mesmerized as they ripped through a killer version of "I Just Want To Make Love To You."

After the performance Lydia told me that they have not visited the east coast in about twenty-five years, which is a shame as Lydia and Cold Blood would be a welcome addition to festivals and clubs throughout the country as well as worldwide. They were that good. The crowd never danced harder all weekend long.

There was a long line of fans that had purchased the latest Cold Blood CD, Live Blood, on Many told Pense that she was the main reason they had attended the festival. It was also cool to see how much vinyl Pense's adoring fans brought along for her to autograph. Catch this band live, you won't be disappointed. Also, check out their current recording that just burns! Kudos to the Cold Blood two-piece horn section that often sounded like a full-blown ensemble!

Blues-based rockers Jonny Lang and Los Lonely Boys headlined the two days. Even though the festival bills itself as a celebration of the Blues, not all of the artists are strictly Blues groups. The Saturday schedule included The Chesapeake Bay Ladies of Blues featuring Deanna Bogart, Sugar Blue, Davy Knowles and Back Door Slam, Lonnie Brooks, Ana Popovic, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. Los Lonely Boys closed out the first day. On Sunday, Albert Cummings kicked things off followed by Zac Harmon, Hubert Sumlin with the Nighthawks, Lydia Pense & Cold Blood, Shemekia Copeland, Blood Sweat & Tears, and Lang. Saturday's personal favorite was Sugar Blue. He had the always-killing Rico McFarland on guitar and the mighty bass-playing Ilaria Lantieri. Blue looked marvelous and tore it up on harp as he marched through many tunes from his wonderful 2007 disc Code Blue, and brought down the house with a rousing version of "Miss You," which harkened to his days with the Rolling Stones.

Another big hit of the day was the seventy-five-year-old Lonnie Brooks, who never sounded better. Lonnie was very much on his game, had impeccable timing on his guitar, was dead-on with his vocals, and just wailed. Lonnie's son, Wayne Baker Brooks, also warmed up the crowd before his daddy hit the stage and performed a tasty short set as well. Alligator Records, or someone, should pick up Lonnie for a new CD. This legend deserves to be heard much, much more and, judging by this performance, Ronnie is more than ready and able to deliver a killer recording. It was also cool to see Sugar Blue and Ilaria Lantieri looking on from the crowd and thoroughly enjoying Mr. Brooks' sizzling set.

Sunday's favorites were Hubert Sumlin on guitar with local heroes the Nighthawks. Sumlin looked dynamite and often played dizzying guitar with the Nighthawks providing the perfect accompaniment. Shemekia Copeland followed and performed a smattering of tunes from her current Telarc release, as well as songs from her Alligator catalog. Copeland was (as expected) hot and it was good to see New York City locals Jeremy Baum on B3 and Arthur Nielson on guitar. Both sounded sharp.

Festival CEO and President Hooker, a true lover of Blues music, first organized the fest in 1998. It was an immediate hit bringing in more than 13,000 people to the park in two days. Since their maiden voyage, it has become one of the biggest music festivals in the mid-Atlantic region.

Hooker isn't trying to make money from the festival. Hundreds of people volunteer while Hooker books and runs the event with his daughter Sarah. Each year they donate all of the net profits to various charities. Whether he makes or loses money, he promises a baseline contribution to one or two charities. Proceeds from this year's event will benefit the Special Olympics of Maryland, Camp Face, and We Care and Friends. Camp Face helps children with facial disabilities build up confidence, and We Care and Friends helps fund drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs. Over the years, Hooker raised approximately $800,000 for various charities, an amazing accomplishment.

Hooker put the festival on hiatus in 2003 and 2004 and "retired" in 2005. He's now brought it back as a biannual event. I hope we don't have to wait another two years for the next Chesapeake Bay Blues Fest, but until then, keep checking out for updates. This festival is one of the most scenic and well programmed fests in the northeast. Bob Putignano is a contributing editor at BluesWax. You may contact Bob at: web site: Bob Putignano: