Wednesday, December 11, 2013
By Ray Routhier firstname.lastname@example.org
Chubby Carrier calls zydeco music "the blues sped up."
CLUB CRAWL VENUES AND PERFORMERS
PERFORMANCES BEGIN at 9 p.m. Saturday. Festival wristband required.
• Main and Limerock streets: Juke Rockets
• Main and Summer streets: Sideways Highways
• Main and Museum streets: Bad Daddys
• Main Street at Key Bank: The Sensations
• Trade Winds Red Jacket Restaurant, Main and Park streets: Pam Baker
• Trade Winds The Keel, Main and Park streets: Blue Steel Express
• Landings Restaurant and Lounge, Park and Commercial streets: Dave Keller
• Waterworks Restaurant and Pub, Main and Lindsey streets: Blind Albert Blues Band
• Time Out Pub, Main Street at Public Landing: Brave New Blues upstairs; open blues jam with Poke Chop downstairs
• Rock Harbor Restaurant, Main and Limerock streets: DW Gill Blues Band
• Navigator Restaurant, Main and Summer streets: Mark “Guitar” Miller
• Myrtle Street Tavern, Main and Myrtle streets: Eric Green
• Amalfi on the Water, South Main and Water streets: Matt and The Barnburners
• Trackside, Park and Pleasant streets: Pat Pepin
• Cafe Miranda, Main and Oak streets: Zack Pomerleau
• Rockland Cafe, 441 Main St.: Rock City Blues Band
11 a.m. to noon: Randy Oxford Band
12:15 to 1:15 p.m.: Albert Castiglia
1:30 to 2:35 p.m.: Royal Southern Brotherhood
2:50 to 4 p.m.: Rick Estrin and The Nightcats
4:15 to 5:20 p.m.: Tribute to Koko Taylor featuring The Blues Machine, Nora Jean Wallace, Melvia "Chick" Rogers and Jackie Scott
5:35 to 7 p.m.: Tab Benoit
11 a.m. to noon: Charlie A'Court
12:15 to 1:20 p.m.: Anthony Gomes
1:35 to 2:45 p.m.: Ana Popovic
3 to 4:15 p.m.: John Mayall
4:30 to 6 p.m.: Chubby Carrier and The Bayou Swamp Band
So it makes sense that Carrier and his Bayou Swamp Band, with their infectious brand of foot-stomping, body-shaking Louisiana music, are among the headliners at this year's 19th North Atlantic Blues Festival in Rockland.
The others include blues guitarist Tab Benoit, another Louisiana native of French heritage but more in line with traditional blues music, and British blues legend John Mayall.
Mayall is the man whose band, The Bluesbreakers, at times featured Eric Clapton, Mick Taylor of The Rolling Stones and three founding members of Fleetwood Mac. So the fact that he's essentially the third highest-billed performer (according to the schedule, anyway) says a great deal about the festival's power to attract major blues musicians.
"I had played in Maine before, but I've always wanted to play the festival," said Carrier, 45, who is based in Lafayette, La. "I've toured and recorded with Tab before, so this will be like a reunion."
One of the festival's longtime organizers, Jamie Isaacson, thinks the festival has endured for 19 years in large part due to its location. Maine is known for having appreciative blues audiences, and the festival is known among musicians as a very cool gig to get in the summer.
"Maine has a strong committed audience (for blues music) that has been growing for decades. The artists who play the festival always comment that Maine has the best audience," said Isaacson. "We have no problem getting blues musicians to Maine. The musicians love coming to Maine -- plus, we feed them lobster."
And, Isaacson said, the festival is helped by having an "intimate setting" where there is no large barrier between stage and audience. He said artists are always available for handshakes and autographs.
The festival includes performances on the main stage all day Saturday and Sunday. On Friday, downtown Rockland venues will host blues shows all night. On Saturday night, Main Street will be closed to vehicles so a "club crawl" consisting of some 20 venues can host regional and local blues acts. The club crawl is free to people with a festival wristband.
Besides the three headliners performing this year, other big-name blues artists who have played the festival in the past include Robert Cray, Shemekia Copeland, Keb' Mo', Otis Rush, James Cotton, Elvin Bishop, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Little Milton and Bo Diddley.
Carrier, who plays a 37-pound accordion (and needs to go to a chiropractor weekly) grew up in a zydeco family that includes several professional musicians. He played zydeco professionally as a teen in Terrance Siemien's band before forming his own band in 1989.
Zydeco has the same basic musical structure as the blues, Carrier says, and like the blues, it comes out the American South. But although he plays a lot of blues festivals, he admits that zydeco is unique and distinctive from other forms of blues, just as you might categorize modern blues or traditional blues or electric blues.
In fact, Carrier is a big believer that zydeco should have its own category at the Grammys. It did, for about four years, and Carrier and his band were the last recipients of the award for best zydeco album, in 2011. After that, the Grammy folks cut down the number of categories.
"Zydeco music has been around longer than the Grammys, and it's a real American form of music. It's playing instruments from your heart and soul; it's passing down a music from generation to generation," said Carrier. "I play it, my daddy did, and my granddaddy did."
Though Carrier is proud of zydeco traditions, his albums are by no means filled with zydeco standards that have been done over and over again. He makes a habit of taking all sorts of songs and putting his own mark on them.
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