JOE LOUIS WALKER
by Christian Morrow
Courier Staff Writer
Some of us are old enough to remember that before he was a renowned solo artist, back in the early 1970s Billy Price was the front man for one of the tightest big blues bands around—The Nighthawks.
Well, you younger blues enthusiasts will be in for a treat when Price and The Nighthawks reunite for this year’s Pittsburgh Blues Festival at Hartwood Acres, July 19-21. But you don’t have to wait until their penultimate Saturday night performance, because this year’s free Friday lineup may be one of the best ever featuring The Slide Brothers and Big Sam’s Funky Nation.
Inspired and endorsed by the much younger Robert Randolph, The Slide Brothers decided to stretch out beyond the exclusively sacred music they’d been playing, and everyone is better for it.
If that’s not cranked up enough, Big Sam’s Funky Nation out of New Orleans will get everyone on their feet for the Friday finale. Quick review from Oregonian writer Ryan White: “tight enough (and hot enough) to turn coal into diamond.”
Saturday’s lineup is nothing to sneeze at either, starting off with vocalist Gina Sicilia, followed by another dose of New Orleans with Blues Festival favorite, guitarist Eric Lindell. Then, it’s time to get old school with Joe Louis Walker and his signature blues/rock sound.
Winding up the July 20 show is Los Lonely Boys, the Texas power trio of brothers whose “Texican Rock & Roll” features acclaimed covers of John Lennon, Blind Faith and The Doors as well as their own Grammy Nominated hits.
The final night’s lineup starts with newcomer D.J. McPherson, followed by Price and The Nighthawks. Closing the weekend’s festivities is another Louisianan, Tab Benoit, whose Cajun-influenced stomping rhythm and hot guitar leads have entertained festival patrons in the past.
As always, proceeds from the festival benefit the Greater Pittsburgh Food Bank. Admission is $35 per day for Saturday and Sunday. Admission is free Friday with the donation of a bag of non-perishable food items. Children under 12 are free every day.
Afternoons will feature local bands, food and merchandise vendors, and a kids’ activity tent. Parking at Hartwood as also free. Tickets can be purchased in advance by calling the Blues Hotline at 412-460-BLUE, or by visiting www.pghblues.com.