With a new venue, new partners and benefiting organizations, the blues returns to Pittsburgh with the Blues and Roots Festival, July 21 and 22, at the Syria Shrine Center in Cheswick.
Also making a return is Bernard Allison, a guitar master who learned at the feet of his legendary father, Luther, and who performed at the old Pittsburgh Blues Festival three times in 2007, 2012 and 2014.
Allison picked up the guitar at age 10. Listening to Luther’s collection of Howlin’ Wolf, T-Bone Walker, and Lightning Hopkins while his father was away on tour, he garnered the same influences and the same passion. Along the way he also became an accomplished slide guitar player, having learned the technique from the late, great Johnny Winter.
In addition to Allison, the two-day festival will feature a number of national and local performers as well as a Tribute to the Legendary Women of the Blues: Etta James, Sista Monica Parker, Bessie Smith, Koko Taylor, Dinah Washington and Marva Wright—their signature songs will be performed by local women of the blues—Nicole Beli, Joy Brown, Jeanie Shook, Freddye Stover, Stevee Wellons and Jill West.
Ron “Moondog” Esser, who produced the old Blues Festival which ended in 2015, brought back this leaner, meaner version last year after pleas from longtime blues fans.
Like last year, the festival proceeds will benefit the Autism Society of Pittsburgh and Band Together Pittsburgh, a nonprofit Esser and musician John Vento formed that uses music to enrich the lives of individuals on the autism spectrum and their families.
And while the festival is steering clear of “high-priced” acts, the performers who are coming are, like Allison, The Gathering Field, John Nemeth, The Rhythm Aces. They’re are all high energy and high quality, and none more than headliner Walter Trout.
Originally from New Jersey, Trout spent the bulk of his early performing career in Europe. He moved to California in the early 1970s, and after stints with Percy Mayfield, John Lee Hooker, Joe Tex and Canned Heat, he was invited join guitarist Coco Montoya in John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. After leaving Mayall in 1989, he formed his own band and continue to tour Europe. He did not release his first U.S. album until 1998.
Since then, Trout has released 16 albums, including the award-winning Luther’s Blues, Battle Scars—which chronicles his successful fight against liver disease, and last year’s We’re All In This Together, which featured guest all-stars Randy Bachman, Joe Bonamassa, Robben Ford, Eric Gales, Warren Haynes, Sonny Landreth, Charlie Musselwhite, John Németh, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Joe Louis Walker, Edgar Winter, Mike Zito, John Mayall and Trout’s son Jon, who had fronted his band while he was ill.
The Blues and Roots Festival will feature both a Pavilion Stage and a Festival Stage. The music begins at 1:30 p.m. both days. Day passes are $20 in advance, weekend passes, $35. Day passes at the gate are $26. Children 16 and under are free.
The Syria Shrine Center is located just off Rte. 28 at 1877 Shriners Way, Cheswick. For more information visit www.pghbluesrootsfest.com.
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