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Bradenton Blues Festival lineup announced

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B Shemekia_Photo by Sandrine Lee_61

Blues queen Shemekia Copeland will headline the Bradenton Blues Festival Dec. 7, 2013. Photo by Sandrine Lee provided.

Following the same basic formula that made its first year a huge success, the Bradenton Blues Festival returns to Riverwalk the first Saturday in December with another eight acts culled from across the country and representing the many styles of the blues.

Realize Bradenton announced the lineup Tuesday and executive director Johnette Isham said she aims to sell all the approximately 3,300 tickets available in advance. She and the rest of the festival organizers were hoping for 800-1,200 people last year when about triple that number came pouring through the gate.

“We’re feeling fabulous going into the second year,” Isham said. “We were a little overwhelmed by the sold-out crowd last year but now we’re ready.”

In December, there will be guitar slingers, horn players and harmonica blowers performing on the big stage overlooking the gorgeous Manatee River. But don’t expect any of the highly talented fellows who dominate the lineup to eclipse headliner Shemekia Copeland. Despite being only 33-years-old, a baby in the blues world, she has already earned the title “Queen of the Blues.”

The daughter of late Texas blues guitarist and singer Johnny Copeland, she has emerged during the past decade as the top vocalist in her field, earning a slew of Blues Music Awards and performing at the White House last year with the likes of Mick Jagger and her pals B.B. King and Buddy Guy.

Having Copeland on the Bradenton roster, like Grammy-nominated singer Ruthie Foster last year, is guaranteed to generate interest from the international blues community. For most beginning blues festivals landing Foster or Copeland would be difficult. Not for Bradenton.

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Doug Deming

Realize Bradenton, the city’s non-profit organization that spearheaded Riverwalk and produces the blues festival, partnered with Paul Benjamin from the start. A veteran festival producer who helms the North Atlantic Blues Festival held every summer near his home in Rockland, Maine, he laughed when asked if there were any problems booking Copeland.

“Being friends with her, it was piece of cake,” Benjamin said. “It was done in a couple of hours. Normally it takes a while, it can be a week or 10 days. But when I told her December in Florida, it was done immediately.”

Veteran Chicago saxophonist Eddie Shaw and the Wolfgang, the next generation blues-playing siblings of Trampled Under Foot, contemporary electric blues guitarist Anthony Gomes, singer and harmonica player John Nemeth, Mississippi soul-blues man Johnny Rawls and rock-informed guitarist Albert Castiglia round out the roster of acts from across the country.

Last year, Bradenton Beach resident Damon Fowler’s super group Southern Hospitality (see Ticket cover story) represented the local scene at the festival. In December, it will be his friends from Doug Deming and the Jewel Tones with Dennis Gruenling.

Detroit native Deming relocated to Bradenton about three years ago when he could no longer watch his hometown crumble around him and wife Claudia. Since then, the singer, guitarist and songwriter has continued to tour nationally behind his latest release “What’s It Gonna Take” (Vizztone Label Group) while also building a strong local following with shows at places like Cork’s Cigar Bar, Cortez Kitchen and The Blue Rooster. The latter venue in Sarasota is where you can find Deming and band playing some sizzling jump blues starting at 9 p.m. Thursday.

“I’m thrilled,” Deming said of his upcoming gig at the Bradenton Blues Festival. “Getting a chance to play an event of that size with that much attention in my hometown, it works for me on two ways: It puts my name on a nationally-known event and it really raises my profile locally.”

In addition, the Bradenton Blues Festival is again offering something that will excite fans of Harry Potter. Mary GrandPré, the celebrated illustrator of the mega-selling book series about the world’s most famous boy wizard, has signed on for a second year to create a limited-edition festival poster.

“We’ll auction the original work to raise funds for Realize Bradenton’s youth music programs,” Isham said.

December 7, Bradenton Riverwalk, 425 Third Ave. W., Bradenton; $30 in advance, $40 at the gate, $25 per person for groups of 10 or more, $20 for students, $10 for children ages 5-12, children age 4 and younger will be admitted free; 681-0708; bradentonbluesfestival.org.
Last modified: March 20, 2013
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