The schedule

FRIDAY, MAY 4

12:30 p.m., Debbie Davies Band — The frontwoman for this blues trio sings in a low growl and bends the hell out of her electric guitar strings in the style of the late Albert Collins, the man with whom she played for five years before releasing her solo debut Picture This on Blind Pig in 1993. —Wade Tatangelo

2:30 p.m., Michael Burks — A double threat with a rich, expressive voice and the ability to squeeze a barrage of sounds from his Gibson Flying V, Burks is one of the most exciting soul/blues men to hit the national scene in recent years. A pedestrian songwriter but first-rate performer, Burks is at his best when he takes a standard like "The Thrill is Gone" and stretches it out into a monster jam infused with piles of tasty guitar solos and sweaty, cathartic cries. —WT

4:30 p.m., Sugar Ray & The Bluetones — Frontman Ray Norcia is an expert harmonica player and a singer who draws praise for his countrypolitan, Charlie Rich-style phrasing. The Bluetones have survived (in different incarnations) since 1979 and are known to sprinkle their citified blues with a bit of metropolitan swing and jazz. —WT

6:30 p.m., Dave Mason — Many former rockers have skewed toward the blues later in their careers. And so it is with Mason, who's a more formidable guitarist than most folks realize. A co-founder of Traffic in the '60s, he penned the classic-rock staple "Feelin' Alright" and as a solo act scored a Top 20 acousti-pop hit in '77 with "We Just Disagree." The guess here is that he'll mix his more high-profile material ("Only You Know and I Know") with some straight blues and flesh the whole thing out with a lot of guitar solos. —Eric Snider

8:30 p.m., George Thorogood & the Destroyers — Here's another not-exactly-blues-band that nevertheless will bring plenty of bluesiness to the proceedings. Thorogood specializes in razory boogie-rock with serrated slide guitar work. During the band's heyday in the '80s, Thorogood & the Destroyers were regarded as one of the most entertaining acts on the arena circuit. "Bad to the Bone" is firmly entrenched in the classic-rock lexicon. —ES

SATURDAY, MAY 5

11:00 a.m., EG Kight — This Georgia blueswoman with a taste for jazz is an ace acoustic picker and vocalist (think a Southern-fried Bonnie Raitt) who writes decent originals while capably covering everything from Duke Ellington's "I Ain't Got Nothin' but the Blues" to the Allman Brothers' chugging rocker "Southbound." —WT

12:30 p.m., Watermelon Slim — From honky-tonk and Western swing to Delta and Chicago blues, Watermelon Slim (Bill Homans) works a variety of American musical styles to create a rowdy roadhouse mash-up. A master of Dobro slide guitar and mean harp blower, Homans is a former trucker, scholar and Mensa member from Oklahoma. He blends salty originals with chestnuts like Slim Harpo's "Got Love if You Want It" on the new Watermelon Slim and the Workers studio album The Wheel Man. "A one-of-a-kind pickin 'n' singin' Okie dynamo," reads an endorsement from legendary Atlantic Records producer Jerry Wexler. —WT

2:30 p.m., Eric Lindell — Born in 1969, Lindell is a former skate punk who turned his attention to the blues and spent hours soaking it up in San Francisco. In '99, after a brief stint in New York, he found a home in musically fertile New Orleans, and his music has adopted much of the city's feel. His is a kind of boho blues that sits well with the jam-band crowd. —ES

4:30 p.m., Lil' Ed & the Blues Imperials — He's among the last of a breed: the true house-rockin' Chicago bluesman. Fifty-two-year-old Lil' Ed is a genuine wild man on stage, with a full bag of crowd-pleasing histrionics at his disposal. He's a big-beltin' singer and a take-no-prisoners guitarist who doesn't restrict himself to the usual Chi-town shuffles, but includes lots of boogie and gritty funk. As a kid, Lil' Ed learned from a great source — none other than Windy City legend J.B. Hutto, his uncle. It would seem that he learned his lessons well. —ES

6:30 p.m., Koko Taylor & Her Blues Machine — The Queen of the Blues is crowding 80 years old, but, as her most recent album bears out, she still has a voice that can knock down walls. Raised in small-town Tennessee, Koko moved to Chicago's South Side, where she rubbed elbows with the likes of Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf. In 1963, legendary blues songwriter and producer Willie Dixon heard her in a club and was knocked out by the raw force of her voice. He helmed a number of Taylor albums and singles for the Chess label, most notably "Wang Dang Doodle." She's been a beloved figure ever since and has been nominated for five Grammys. —ES

8:30 p.m., Dickey Betts & Great Southern — There's a bad rumor going around that the man behind classics like "Rambling Man," "Blue Sky" and "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed" got the boot from the Allman Brother Bands in 2000 because he could no longer hack it as a musician. Having witnessed Betts perform several times since then, all I can say is that it must have had more to do with the bad blood between him and Gregg Allman than any deterioration as a performer. Betts and his outstanding Great Southern band played in 2005 at RibFest in Vinoy Park and sent the crowd home smiling with a set that included a hard-hitting "Statesboro Blues," a dreamy "Elizabeth Reed," and honey-kissed versions of "Blue Sky," "Jessica" and "Seven Turns," the latter being a Betts original recorded with ABB in 1990 that ranks with the best of their early-'70s output. —WT

SUNDAY, MAY 6

1 p.m., Walker Smith Group — With a smooth yet soulful voice that recalls Robert Cray, Smith plays urban blues with a funky, pop sensibility that's immediately endearing. —WT

2:30 p.m., Nora Jean Bruso — A fave on the festival circuit, Bruso possesses a mammoth blues bellow with a concrete-cracking rasp. Although her career started in 1976, it has the earmarks of blues singers of yore. She was reared in the Mississippi delta town of Greenwood and got discovered in Chicago when her aunt showcased her in several clubs she was promoting. In the early '90s, Bruso took five years off to raise her young sons, then returned to the stage with a vengeance. —ES

4:30 p.m., Guitar Shorty — In 1957, 17-year-old David William Kearney, reared in Kissimmee and living in Tampa, landed a gig as a featured guitarist and vocalist in Walter Johnson's 18-piece orchestra. The club owner dubbed him Guitar Shorty. Willie Dixon caught him in Tampa and brought him to Chicago to cut a single for Cobra Records. Not long after, Guitar Shorty joined Ray Charles' road band. He's enjoyed a long and steady career; his fiery playing, infused with a rock wail, has a real contemporary feel. —ES

6:30 p.m., Percy Sledge — See main feature.

8:30 p.m., Jerry Lee Lewis — As a serious fan of both his pioneering, boogie/rock hits from the 1950s ("Great Balls of Fire," "Whole Lot of Shakin' Going On)" and his heartbreaking country material from the 1970s/early '80s ("Middle Age Crazy," "Thirty Nine and Holding"), I would probably be content to just witness The Killer get behind the piano, mutter a few words and deliver a set of hillbilly ballads concluding with his eccentric-yet-poignant rendition of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." After all, the hard-living legend is 71 years old, so it's doubtful he'll be hand-standing on the piano, knocking the bench across the stage or screaming at the crowd about sin and redemption — but ya never know. —WT

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