2005 Tampa Bay Blues Festival

FRIDAY, MARCH 18

1-2 p.m., DAMON FOWLER Young phenom no longer, though still young, firebrand singer/guitarist Fowler has dodged the dreaded flame-out and become a budding national blues act.

2:30-4 p.m., JANIVA MAGNESS Los Angeles-based and Motor City-raised, Magness walks the line between uptown blues chanteuse and down-and-dirty belter.

4:30-6 p.m., TINSLEY ELLIS A true road dog that has played incessantly in these parts, it's been awhile since the Atlanta-based singer-guitarist has performed in Tampa Bay, where he's developed a loyal following over the years.

6:30-8 p.m., COCO MONTOYA After stints as a drummer with Albert Collins and guitarist with John Mayall, Montoya formed his own band in '93 and has evolved into one of the biggest draws on the circuit. He's highly regarded as a scorching player, soulful singer and a top-notch entertainer.

8:30-10 p.m., JIMMIE VAUGHAN He'll be forever known as Stevie Ray's older brother, but even when his younger bro' reigned as a guitar god, Jimmie Vaughan forged a successful and distinct career. Long a linchpin of the Fabulous Thunderbirds, his style is understated and retro-cool.

SAT., MARCH 19

11:30-12:15 p.m., JIMMY GRISWOLD The Tampa Bay singer-guitarist, a Connecticut transplant, has a self-professed versatile style. He's a former sideman of the late, beloved Rock Bottom.

12:30-2 p.m., TAB BENOIT The well-traveled singer-guitarist from small-town Louisiana blends his blues with swamp-rock and Cajun spices.

2:30-4 p.m., ROY ROGERS & THE DELTA RHYTHM KINGS See accompanying story.

4:30-6 p.m., BILLY BRANCH Although he graduated from University of Illinois in 1969 with a political science degree, harmonica player Branch made his blues bones in cutting contests in hardscrabble Chicago juke joints. But his higher education continued to influence him: Branch founded the Blues in the Schools program, which brings the joys of America's premiere roots music into the classroom.

6:30-8 p.m., SAVOY BROWN A change of pace for the fest. Savoy Brown was among the flagship bands in the '60s British blues movement that gave us Zep, Clapton, Beck et al. They're fronted by singer, guitarist and charter member Kim Simmonds.

8:30-10 p.m., ROBERT CRAY In the late '80s, when rock radio let a few blues and/or black artists into its midst, Cray scored a handful of hot-selling records. His semi-stardom quickly ended, but he's been able to parlay his glimpse of mainstream success into a steady blues career. Silky-voiced, and with a spare, spiky-toned guitar style, Cray is more an R&B performer than straight bluesman.

SUNDAY, MARCH 20

1-2 p.m., TOMMY MCCOY The veteran Bay area singer-guitarist cut his new album, Angels Serenade, in upstate New York in the studio of none other than former Band drummer/singer Levon Helm. Band keyboardist Garth Hudson also contributed to the sessions. The effort is more roots-rock than blues.

2:30-4 p.m., LAVAY SMITH She's been called "a cross between Marilyn Monroe and Bettie Page," her singing style influenced by Billie Holiday, Dinah Washington and Bessie Smith. Her band is called the Red Hot Skillet Lickers. What with all the Strat slingers crowding the stage over three days, a sexy vixen like Smith is a nice addition to the lineup.

4:30-6 p.m., ERIC SARDINAS With his long, braided hair and brooding looks, Sardinas looks every bit the high-handed guitar shredder. But he's touted as an artist who can give up the "Delta dynamite."

6:30-8 p.m., SHEMEKIA COPELAND A Tampa Bay Blues Fest favorite, Copeland always turns up the heat with her big, bawdy voice. She released her debut album in 1997 at age 18, and has already won four W.C. Handy awards.

8:30-10 p.m., LITTLE FEAT If you wanted to split hairs, you could argue that the Feat is not a blues act, but hey, festival-goers will already have been treated to many generous hours of the pure stuff. Little Feat has played the festival before, and gone over extremely well. The veteran band's brand of funky rock and deeply intuitive musicianship is a fitting capper for a marathon musical event.

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About The Author

Eric Snider

Eric Snider is the dean of Bay area music critics. He started in the early 1980s as one of the founding members of Music magazine, a free bi-monthly. He was the pop music critic for the then-St. Petersburg Times from ‘87-’93. Snider was the music critic, arts editor and senior editor of Weekly Planet/Creative...
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