By Jessica Isaacs | [email protected]
“Cool Mountains, Hot Blues.” That’s the name of the game at the 14th annual New River Blues Fest, which is brought to us again by the High Country’s favorite blues duo, the King Bees.
Slated for Sunday, Sept. 4, the festival will feature headliner Beverly “Guitar” Watkins and a host of other internationally acclaimed performers.
The King Bees themselves, “Hound Dog” Baskerville and “Queen Bee” Zamagni will play, as well. They also promise another all-star lineup and another can’t-miss experience.
“The festival started as us trying to bring something unique to the High Country. We’re in old-time bluegrass mode here, and we like to offer something different that you won’t see anywhere else other than the New River Blues Festival,” said Baskerville. “It started as us giving back to the people we’ve toured with — our mentors, our teachers, our friends and people we’ve built relationships with — so it was our turn to bring them to our home and showcase a music with great history.”
The fun takes place on the grounds of the River House Inn in Grassy Creek, just north of West Jefferson.
“We started it in Todd and it has grown, so we have moved it to the River House and it has become our home,” Baskerville said. “It’s a gorgeous setting. Mountain meadow, a sparkling river and world class blues — that’s sort of become our theme.”
If you don’t know the King Bees, it’s time to get acquainted.
“The King Bees are an American roots band, which means we basically have license to play American roots music, southern blues, R&B, swing, rockabilly and roots rock and roll,” said Baskerville. “We have made our reputation and been known for our work in the blues for going on 30 years. Our music is roots, and blues is in that rubric.”
Much as the King Bees do, the festival aims to showcase a variety of forms, facets, inspirations and interpretations of blues music.
They’ll share the stage this year with headliner Beverly “Guitar” Watkins, a Georgia Music Legend Award winner who’s been featured in press outlets like CNN, The Oxford American and The Wall Street Journal.
“Beverly is a 76-year-old African American woman who is just the baddest guitar player out there,” Baskerville said. “She’s a world famous blues artist and we’ve had the pleasure of working with her on numerous occasions over the years.”
The lineup also boasts:
- Jontavious Willis, “the future of Blues,” a 20-year-old deep blues phenomenon that has been mentored by blues legend Taj Mahal and will make his first North Carolina appearance at the New River Festival
- Ike & Val Woods, Grammy-nominated, world traveling, soul-rocking veterans of the Deep South music scene
- Donald “Bluez Emperor” Woods, a versatile musician, master of many instruments and heir to a family of Cajun Zydeco music royalty
The weekend of fun and legendary blues will begin with a kick-off jam session with the King Bees and friends in a free event in “the sky room” at Black Jacks Pub and Grill in West Jefferson from 7-9:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 3.
The festival carries on with gates opening at noon and music starting at 1 p.m. at the River House Inn on Sunday, Sept. 4.
Get your tickets online in advance at $17.50 or buy them at the gate for $20.
For tickets and other information, visit newriverbluesfestival.info.
Stay tuned for updates by following the festival on Facebook.
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