Hot Springs Blues Festival


Zoie Clift


The 15th annual
Hot Springs Blues Festival is set for Hill Wheatley Plaza, Sept. 1-3. Hosted by
the Spa City Blues Society, the event features a wide scope of award winning
artists. 4,000 people made the trek to last year’s festival.

The week begins with the
Spa City Blues Society’s weekly blues jam on Wednesday, August 31, at The Ohio

A festival kick-off party
will be held the next night (  Sept 1- at the same venue) from 8 -midnight with
special guests The Stella Vees from Lexington, Kentucky. Known for their
rhythmic appeal, melodic arrangements, and the Chicago and West
Coast-Blues-inspired sounds, the group has been gaining attention since
their original formation in 2001. The Stella Vees have competed several times in the International Blues
Challenge in Memphis, Tennessee, and host an annual jam session at W.C. Handy
Hall during the competition. The band consists of Jason ‘Juke’ Lockwood on
guitar and vocals, Mark Hoekstra on harp, Tim Dennison on bass and Steve
Parrish on drums. 

On Friday, September 2, from
3 – 5 harmonica player Lee Oskar and guitarist Joe
Pitts conduct individual one-hour harmonica and slide guitar workshops. With
over 42 years in the music industry, Oskar shares his expertise with
attendees during the workshop. The workshops are held across the street
from the festival at The Star Gallery.

At 6, Hot Springs’ Salt and
Pepper  take to the stage to kick
off the weekend. Band members are Eddie Mobley on vocals, Larry Womack
on guitar and vocals, Tony Nardi on keyboard, organ and vocals, and Steve
Danger on drums and vocals. Following them is 2011 International Blues Challenge Solo/Duo winner Georg Schroeter
and Marc Breitfelder. The duo are performing as a full band for the
festival. Hailing from Kiel, Germany, Schroeter and Breitfelder were the first
Europeans to win the Solo/Duo Competition at the International Blues Challenge.
Through their music, they showcase their  rock and roll
and R&B sound. In the past several years, Schroeter and Breitfelder have garnered
several awards including German Blues Awards in 2010, and the German and Baltic
Blues Challenges in 2009.

After this, the 2011 International Blues Challenge Band
winners, The Lionel Young Band, 
take to the stage to perform. Band members include Lionel Young on
vocals and violin, Jay Forrest on drums, Kim Stone on bass, Ricardo Pena on
guitar and keyboard, Dexter Payne on horns and woodwinds, and Andre Mali on trumpet. Members of the band first debuted their sound in 1997
with the release of their first albumAs The Sun Goes Down. The album helped
the band achieve the title of Best Blues Band during Westword’s Best of Denver
Awards in 1996-1997. In 2011, after their success with the International Blues
Challenge, the Lionel Young Band released On Our
Way To Memphis – the IBC Sessions. 
Young also won the Solo/Duo competition at the 2008 International Blues
Challenge, the only performer to ever win the competition at both the solo/duo
and band levels.

The 2008 International Blues
Challenge winners Trampled Under Foot headline Friday night’s festivities.
Consisting of lead vocalist/bassist Danielle Schnebelen along with her
brothers, guitarist Nick Schnebelen and drummer Kris Schnebelen, the band
members of Trampled Under Foot combine a sultry blues vibe with a rhythmic
groove. Strongly influenced by their parents, Trampled Under Foot have received
rave reviews for their music. Art Tipaldi, Senior Contributing Editor with
Blues Review Magazine recently stated, “The first time we heard the band
Trampled Under Foot we were totally blown away. TUF is a ‘must-not-miss’ type
of band. The on-stage chemistry between these siblings is unrivaled. If you get
the chance to see TUF, run, do not walk, to see them.”

Danielle Schnebelen’s strong
vocal presence, Nick Schnebelen’s influential guitar riffs, and Kris Schnebelen’s
steady and rhythmic drum beats are imminent throughout the tracks on all four
albums released by the trio. The band have received numerous awards in the past
several years including the 2009 award for Best Blues Band at the Pitch Music
Awards. Guitarist Nick Schnebelen won the 2008 Albert King Award at the International
Blues Challenge, recognizing him as the “most promising guitar player” in the
competition that year. Currently, Trampled Under Foot can be seen performing
around the country in promotion of their latest release Wrong Side of the Blues.

On Saturday, September 3,
festivities continue with more afternoon workshops. Sherree Hughes, Lee
Oskar and EG Kight will host individual workshops from noon until 3. Unknown
Legends Musicians Relief Fund Co-Founder Sherree Hughes will speak on relief
funds and foundations. Lee Oskar will conduct his second workshop for the
festival as he delivers experience and insights on negotiating the shark filled
waters of the music business. EG Kight will present a workshop on the basics of
blues songwriting.

Starting at 4, Hot
Springs’ Blues Fusion takes the stage. Following this the
father/son duo Zak and Greg ‘Big Papa’ Binns take the stage. Though Zak & ‘Big
Papa’ Binns continue to play music with blues band The Brethren, the duo
showcase their own originality through their individual sounds. The duo has a
style similar to The Black Keys and the North Mississippi Allstars.

The John Calvin Brewer Band is next with John Calvin Brewer, guitar and vocals; Miranda
Brewer, vocals; Shannon Sabbatini, bass; Stephen Avary, drums; and ‘Chicago Bob’
Lowther on keyboards.  

International touring and
recording act The Joe Pitts Band take the stage following Brewer. Consisting of
Joe Pitts on guitar and vocal, Jimmy Lynn on bass and vocals and Lance Womack
on drums, the band represented the Spa City Blues Society in the Best
Self-Produced CD competition at the 2011 International Blues Challenge. Shortly
after introducing the band through their official debut release in 2008, One
Night Only, many listeners and reviewers were quick to compare the Joe Pitts
Band to the likes of Cream and the Jimi Hendrix Experience. The success of the
debut would lead to much larger success with the additional releases of 2009’s One
More Day and 2010’s Ten Shades of Blue. Ten Shades of Blue has been a recent
Pick to Click selection on Bill Wax’s show on XM Radio’s Bluesville. With the
success of their music, the Joe Pitts Band have gained fans worldwide. Touring
in areas such as Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, France and across North
America, The Joe Pitts Band have become an international phenomenon in just a
very short period of time.

Dublin, Georgia’s
 EG Kight Band will take to the stage for their set after Pitts. Called a ‘gutsy-blues
gal and a fine writer’ by Blues Revue magazine, singer/songwriter EG Kight is
known for her authentic sounds in the blues genre. Performing alongside
legendary musicians including Brenda Lee, Greg Allman, and Taj Mahal.

Closing out the festival
isharmonica player Lee Oskar. Oskar is best known for his stint with the
seminal rock and blues band that brought fans such hit songs as ‘Low Rider’, ‘Cisco
Kid’ and ‘Why Can’t We be Friends’.
Oskar has been defined by several
outlets as being one of the ‘best rock, blues, and soul harmonica players’ of
all time. In 1976, he won the award for #1 Instrumental Artist of the Year
by Billboard, CashBox, and Record World. In addition to his skills as a
musician, Oskar is also a renowned painter.

Lawn chairs and blankets
are welcome though no coolers or other outside containers may be brought into
the festival grounds. There is a $5 per person per day admission for the

Once the festival ends blues
hounds can continue getting their fix of blues music at the Spa City Blues
Society’s Official After-Parties. Each evening of the festival, from 9:00 pm
until 1:00 am, The Big Chill and The Ohio Club host official after festival
shows. For further details, check


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