2012 Festival International Du Blues De Tremblant
" 19th Edition July 6 - July 15, 2012 "
Mont-Tremblant, Quebec

It's now nineteen years that Tremblant has been putting on their blues festival. How many festivals do you know that run for ten days? How many blues festivals carry on for ten days? This is my third consecutive visit to this festival, which is becoming one of my favorite festivals to attend. Why? Excellent programming, multiple stages, and a gorgeous setting. And it's also a nice break from the warm and humid weather that lingers in the area where I reside around the New York City vicinity. This year my stay was for three days of non-stop music and once again I wasn't disappointed. Day One: I saw the Bart Walker Band earlier in the week at the Montreal Jazz Festival and needed to imbibe some more from this talented youngster, who also employs a extremely talented quartet, first and foremost Reese Wynans. Yes, that Reese Wynans, who played with Stevie Ray Vaughan, Tab Benoit, Joe Bonamassa, Buddy Guy, Joe Cocker, Albert Collins, Gary Nicholson, Anthony Gomes, Dickey Betts, Larry Carlton, John Mayall, Delbert McClinton, Charlie Daniels, and countless others, including Marcia Ball, with whom Wynans sat in on B3 during her set. More about that a little later. Walker's band once again did not disappoint; this kid has got all the goods, he sings well, writes solid tunes, covers the masters well, and plays guitar as if his most recent performance will be his last. Great guitar energy from Walker, who does not fall in to the usual guitar traps by overplaying and doesn't turn-up the guitar volume as some of his rocking blues peers do. By the way Walker also covers two Anthony Gomes tunes on his debut recording Who I Am and it just happened that Gomes was my next Tremblant stop, where I found Gomes performing solo. Having seen Anthony perform in this exact setting three years ago, I made it my business to check him out again as he is a very charming performer, knows how to work the crowd, and (I suspect) that it's somewhat rare catching him performing an entire set by his lonesome. By the way, Gomes' latest recording (that also features the aforementioned Reese Wynans), Up 2 Zero, is his welcome return to the blues world that has been embraced with strong critical reviews.

I rearranged my travel plans so that I could get a chance to see Italian guitarist Enrico Crivellaro, who was making a somewhat rare North American appearance, this time performing with his old buddy David Rotundo. My rescheduled plans were well worth my efforts as Rotundo ignited the stage with his sharp vocals and harp playing. Rotundo is also one of the best on-stage performers as he knows to turn up the heat by utilizing his band to maximum effect. Crivellaro was very much on his game and the audience was having a great time especially when Rotundo ran through the crowd, and it was obvious that the band and audience was having a blast. By the way, when I was checking into my hotel the receptionist asked me if I knew of Crivellaro. "Of course," I said, and the receptionist told me that he had seen Enrico (without Rotundo) the prior day, and went on to say he was extremely impressed. I told him, "You are speaking to choir!" Still at Day One, with one more show to take in. Marcia Ball, who is one of the classiest festival performers on the scene, knows how to organize her set, hires a crack band (nice to see Mighty Mike Schermer on guitar), and delivered the entire enchilada to the mostly French-Canadian fans. Midway through Ball's set, Mr. Wynans dropped in on B3 (Reese is no stranger to Ball having appeared on her Grammy-nominated Roadside Attactions), which added more ooze to Marcia's tantalizing set.

Day Two: It was a much lighter schedule being that it was on a Monday but, nonetheless, out the door I rolled to catch Anthony Gomes again, who was playing solo again and figured who knows when I might see him again in this kind of setting? I was pleased! On to Dawn Tyler Watson performing as a duo with Paul Deslauriers in front of a packed crowd and it was a joy to watch these two pros captivate the crowd and myself. Watson is a heck of a singer and I thoroughly enjoyed this performance, though I'd have to say that I would prefer to see Watson perform in a larger setting (especially with horns) as this lady can belt it out with the best of them, but no complaints with their intimate set, which (like Gomes) had a captivating glow to it. One more show to go with the Royal Southern Brotherhood, which is kind of a super group consisting of Cyril Neville, Mike Zito, Devon Allman, and the outstanding drummer Yonrico Scott ex of the Derek Trucks Band. There has been quite a bit of buzz going on with this band, but I definitely did not connect with their debut recording and found their live performance to be somewhat of hodge-podge as I didn't feel the group cohesively gelled together.

Day Three found me enjoying Johnny Sansone's duo performance (He later performed with Monkeyjunk). Afterwards I caught a glimpse of Conor Gains, who impressed with his sharp fretboard work. The Ontario-based Gains should be on your watch list as he's just eighteen years young and has already raised eyebrows performing at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis. The aforementioned Monkeyjunk was next and it's no wonder that this Ontario-based trio was awarded the best blues album of the year at the Juno Awards. As mentioned earlier in this report, Johnny Sansone also sat in with this tight and smart unit that enthralled the audience. Closing the night out was Popa Chubby from my neck of the New York City woods. The old saying goes that it's hard to be a star in your hometown, and being that Chubby performs regularly nearby to me, I have kind of overlooked his talents. Long story short: Chubby blew the roof off the stage this night! He performed flawlessly in a tight power-rock unit with outstanding attack on guitar. He also understands when and how to change tempos and moods and literally blew me away! Chubby's second song, an instrumental blues tune, sent shivers down my back, and he later followed it with a stunning and riveting version of "Hey Joe." Chubby's set was extremely memorable and a powerful way for me to conclude my stay in Tremblant.

Thanks to the Tremblant staff for having me back again. I thoroughly enjoyed my stay, musically, aesthetically, and for the cooler mountain-air weather. Brian Slack who does most of the bookings told me they are already gearing up for the twentieth edition next year, so you might be wise from time to time to checkout their Web site to see what they have in store for their lineup that will mark a major achievement of supporting blues music in the mountains of Quebec. Be there if you can, you will not be disappointed, thus far I've always left Tremblant wanting for more and suspect you will too.

Bob Putignano a senior contributing editor at BluesWax. He is also the heart of Sounds of Blues at www.SoundsofBlue.com. Bob maybe contacted at: bob8003@yahoo.com

Bob Putignano: www.SoundsofBlue.com