Blues fest line-up has fans buzzing

tab benoit
Back by popular demand, Tab Benoit will take the Prairie Dog Blues Festival stage Friday, July 26 at 11 p.m. Tab has been playing guitar since he was a teenager and was inspired by many living blues legends.
The Steepwater Band is an American rock band formed in Chicago in 1998 by the trio of Jeff Massey (second from left), vocals/guitar; Joe Winters (far right), drums; and Tod Bowers (second from right), bass. Eric Saylors joined the group as a second guitarist in 2012. The band took their name from a cargo vessel that Massey sighted in a port on Lake Michigan.

By Correne Martin

For the past 16 years, Prairie Dog Blues Festival President Todd Yeomans has brought to St. Feriole Island a line-up of established blues and roots artists who are known and loved worldwide. He has also searched high and low to find the up and coming artists who blow the roof off the stage in Prairie du Chien and leave fans wanting more.

This year is no different.

In fact, Prairie Doggers—as fans are affectionately called—have been raving about the line-up for the 16th annual festival since it was announced this spring. This year’s event is July 26-27.

The blues fest is committed to bringing the best entertainment in the business to Prairie du Chien. If you join the crowd and hit the island next weekend, you will find yourself grooving to all forms of music, from Chicago blues to west coast jump, hard-driving Mississippi hill country blues, New Orleans horns and Texas boogie, zydeco, gospel and plenty of blues rock. In no time, you’ll be howling alongside the Prairie Dog pack.

This year’s lineup includes:

5 p.m.—Annie Mack
7 p.m.—Hadden Sayers
9 p.m.—Kelley Hunt
11 p.m.—Tab Benoit
Friday Beer Tent—Cash Box Kings

12:30 p.m.—Left Wing Bourbon
2:30 p.m.—Bryan Lee
4:30 p.m.—Watermelon Slim & the Workers
6:30 p.m.—Toronzo Cannon
8:30 p.m.—Lamont Cranston Band with Bruce McCabe
10:30 p.m.—The Steepwater Band
Saturday Beer Tent—Altered Five

“That’s one heck of a line-up! Well done!” Aaron Williams said on the Prairie Dog Blues Festival’s Facebook page.

“Some great music on this year’s line-up,” Annette Parbs Starnes added.

Lloyd Lacasse also commented, “Always love to see Tab [Benoit]…it’s been years since I’ve rocked to Lamont Cranston, and the video you posted for The Steepwater Band has me begging for more.”

The headliners for 2013 are both coming back to the Prairie Dog Blues Festival stage by popular demand. Tab Benoit will take the stage Friday night at 11 p.m. The Steepwater Band will headline Saturday night at 10:30 p.m.

Straight off of his 2012 release of “Legacy: The best of Tab Benoit,” this one-of-a-kind musician comes to the festival as one of the most anticipated artists. According to reviews on his website, “Benoit embodies the strange cultural mix of people and cultures in Louisiana. In the way that he plays, in the focus of his songs, in the way he mixes and matches textures and influences, he seems to be holding a mirror up to Louisiana’s difficulties with its own history, with its own dwindling resources, with its battles against the natural forces of water, of wind, of erosion. Yet, Benoit never lets himself become prisoner to empty slogans or to the overworked blues cliché.”

A guitar player since his teenage years, Benoit got his start appearing at the Blues Box, a music club and cultural center in Baton Rouge run by guitarist Tabby Thomas. He played guitar alongside Thomas, Raful Neal, Henry Gray and other high-profile regulars at the club, learning the blues first-hand from a faculty of living blues legends. He formed a trio in 1987 and began playing clubs in Baton Rouge and New Orleans. He began touring other parts of the south two years later and started touring more of the United States in 1991, and he continues to this day.

Benoit was inducted into The Louisiana Music Hall of Fame in 2010.

Most recently, he was nominated by the Blues Foundation for the 2013 Blues Music Awards’ Contemporary Blues Male Artist of 2013. At last year’s Blues Music Awards, he took home three honors: the Contemporary Blues Male, Contemporary Blues Album, and B.B. King Entertainer of the Year.

In a time when old-fashioned rock and roll is coming back in style, The Steepwater Band is a cut above the rest of the field. The band was formed in Chicago in 1998 by the trio of Jeff Massey (guitars and vocals), Joe Winters (drums), and Tod Bowers (bass). Former Healing Sixes guitarist Eric Saylors joined Steepwater as second guitarist and backing vocalist in 2012.

Over the past 15 years, the band has quickly progressed from covering blues tunes to writing their own music. Their influences include the Allman Brothers Band, Free, Cream, Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones, and Humble Pie, in addition to blues artists such as Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson, and John Lee Hooker.

The band’s most recent album, from the fall of 2011, “Clava,” is described as “crackling with gritty energy and featuring strikingly direct lyrics.” Steepwater worked on this album with Producer Mark Ford, ex-Black Crowes guitarist. This album has been touted as one of the best rock albums to hit in 2011.

Steepwater has performed at festivals, on cruises and on tour with the likes of Bon Jovi, Cheap Trick, Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Doobie Brothers, .38 Special and many more.

For those unfamiliar with the name of Steepwater, you might be familiar with the band’s sound, as it has had its share of air-time on TV. The series “Deadliest Catch” used their song “Another Cold Letdown.” Nissan Motors has been using the song “Black Cat’s Path,” for a long-running national advertising campaign, from 2004 to present, for their full-size Titan pick-up truck. And Chicago Cubs Baseball (WGN) has used the song “The Stars Look Good Tonight.”

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