Cephas & Wiggins
Friday · Cincy Blues Fest (Sawyer Point)
For over a quarter century, Washington, D.C., natives John Cephas and Phil Wiggins (performing at the Blues Fest on Friday at 9:20 p.m. on the Arches Acoustic Stage) have extolled the virtues of a Blues genre known as Piedmont (a style popularized by Blues Olympians Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee) in their eponymous acoustic guitar/harmonica duo. Although there is a nearly 25-year gap in their ages (guitarist Cephas is 74; harpist Wiggins is 50), the pair play with a synergistic intensity that has earned them acclaim from some of the most respected Blues journals in the world. Cephas and Wiggins first met at the Smithsonian National Folklife Festival in 1976, forming the Barrelhouse Rockers with Wilbur "Big Chief" Ellis on piano and James Bellamy on bass. The band dissolved after Ellis' death in 1977, but Cephas and Wiggins decided to soldier on as a duo. During the '80s, Cephas & Wiggins toured and recorded everywhere but America, performing across Europe, Africa, South and Central America, China, Australia, New Zealand and Russia (making them among the first Americans to play Moscow's Russian Folk Festival), and releasing a string of albums overseas. In 1987, C&W signed with Flying Fish and released their first album in the U.S., the home-recorded Dog Days of August, which won the duo the W.C. Handy Award for Best Traditional Blues Album. In 1996, C&W signed with renowned Chicago Blues label, Alligator Records, and have since released a trio of acclaimed albums (1996's Cool Down, 1999's Homemade and this year's Somebody Told the Truth). In addition to their musical endeavors, both Cephas and Wiggins are accomplished actors, both having been featured in the documentaries Blues Country and Houseparty and in numerous stage productions. Wiggins appeared in the John Sayles film, Matewan, and Cephas was awarded the National Heritage Fellowship, widely recognized as the most prestigious honor bestowed upon traditional American artists. Cephas & Wiggins are proof positive that the Blues is much more than a simple musical style.
It's a state of being. (Brian Baker)
palebeneaththeblue with Janestory and The Humbuckers
Friday · BarrelHouse
Dayton's Rhonda Everitt debuts her solo act, dubbed palebeneaththeblue, and her Electronica/Dance-flavored EP Hologram (produced by Washington, D.C.'s Blake Althern) on Friday. A lot of Hologram was written while she was recovering from a life-altering motorcycle accident that shattered her leg two years ago. The EP is not only a real departure from Everitt's usual band, A Pretty War, but also a departure from the area's many and varied musical genres. Not a lot of people do Electronica/Dance around here (Hungry Lucy, as well as some of Abiyah's more recent work, spring to mind as exceptions), but Everitt finds real freedom in those genres and takes the opportunity to inject a heart and smarts into the mix. The songs on Hologram are sometimes angry, sometimes philosophical and very, very literate. One cannot help but make the connection between her near-crippling accident and her move toward dance music: Everitt simply wants to shake her ass again, and she wants you to shake your ass along with her. But she also wants you to think. She ably accomplishes both goals as she possesses a musical and lyrical vocabulary that most dance divas only wished they possessed. (Dale Johnson)
Saturday · Cincy Blues Fest (Sawyer Point)
No, not the cowboy with the stuffed horse. This Roy Rogers (playing at the Blues Fest Saturday at 7:45 p.m. on the main stage) has spent the past three decades amassing one of the most impressive Blues résumés on the planet, including entries as an acclaimed slide guitarist, an accomplished sideman and an in-demand producer. Rogers began playing guitar in the early '60s at the age of 12. By 16, Rogers had graduated to the Blues and began exploring the Delta form as a playing style. In the '70s, he was part of the acoustic duo Rogers & Burgin and by 1980 he had founded the Delta Rhythm Kings, becoming a favorite on the San Francisco Blues circuit. After touring extensively with the legendary John Lee Hooker's Coast to Coast Blues Band, Rogers self-released his debut solo album, Chops Not Chaps, in 1986. Over the next dozen years, Rogers would become renowned for producing a quartet of albums by John Lee Hooker (including his 1989 Grammy-winning smash The Healer), playing on the soundtrack to the Dennis Hopper film, The Hot Spot, producing Folk icon Ramblin' Jack Elliott's album Friends of Mine, and releasing a series of duet albums (with Norton Buffalo) and solo albums (including his well received Slide Zone in 1994 and his first two for the Virgin imprint, Pointblank). Earlier this year, Rogers joined the impromptu All For One Band (featuring The Dead's Mickey Hart, Phil Lesh and Billy Kreutzman, as well as Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek, Boz Scaggs and Norton Buffalo) at a fund-raiser for Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry. And this month marks the release of Rogers' first ever live album, recorded at the Sierra Nevada Brewery and available through Rogers' Web site (www.roy-rogers.com). Happy trails, indeed. (BB)
Tuesday · Riverbend Music Center
For the love of moody Punk and black mascara, do you need any additional incentive to attend the Curiosa Festival beyond the triumphant return of The Cure? One listen to Robert Smith's latest epic, entitled simply The Cure, is proof enough that Punk's dark romantic is back with a vengeance and in full control of the creative maelstrom that distinguished the band's earliest and most visceral albums. But for those who like to dabble on the lesser-known end of the spectrum at these affairs, Curiosa offers a stellar support selection.
· Former Hole/Smashing Pumpkins bassist Melissa Auf der Maur, whose debut solo effort, Auf der Maur, is considerably better on repeated listens than a lot of fast-forwarding critics have reported. Auf der Maur joined Courtney Love's Hole in 1994 after the death of bassist Kirsten Pfaff and remained with the band for five years. She left to pursue her own career but was further sidetracked by an offer from Billy Corgan to replace D'Arcy Wretzky in the Pumpkins in 2000. After the Pumpkins' demise in 2001, Auf der Maur took a year-long sabbatical from music to return to her photographic studies. Her solo album was completely self-financed and was finished before she approached labels about releasing it.
· Cooper Temple Clause, hailing from Reading, England, and brimming with influences ranging from the Glam thunder of Mott the Hoople and T. Rex to the heavy Rock riff wrangling of Led Zeppelin to the Brit Pop sheen of Oasis to the Electronic experimentalism of Radiohead. CTC offers the best chance for one of the most unexpectedly powerful performances of the festival.
· Mogwai, Glasgow's favorite instrumental sons, pulsing with the nearly improbable extremes of concussive guitar fury and textural ambient subtlety. Last year's Happy Songs for Happy People was a brilliant evocation of everything Mogwai has always done to a strange perfection.
· Interpol, whose 2002 release, Turn On The Bright Lights, was widely hailed as one of the top albums of the year with its blend of a Punk aesthetic with an Electronic foundation and a Pop affection. The NYC quartet will likely be previewing material from their forthcoming sophomore full-length, Antics. (BB)