Punchy drums, thrumming bass, and soulful lyrics return to Rentiesville this Labor Day weekend for the 21st annual Dusk ‘til Dawn Blues Festival .
Three stages host 10 bands per night. More than 200 musicians from regional, national and international renown are performing. Audiences will hear some 50 sets of music over the weekend.
This year’s event is subtitled “Homecomings and Reunions.” Event organizer Selby Minner, wife of the late blues artist D.C. Minner, said she chose this phrase because the event is a way to bring people together.
“The reason I love to do this festival is because it means a lot to a lot of people. That’s what makes it fun,” she said.
The event attracts artists from all over the country and abroad.
“We needed one particular weekend to pull people together from our music community, people we consider our family. It’s good for us and good for the music,” Minner said.
Many artists are coming from out of state for the festival, including the legendary bassist “Broadway” Jimmy Thomas of Los Angeles, Calif. He agreed “Homecomings and Reunions” is a fitting subtitle for the event.
“I’ve been playing professionally for 56 years,” Thomas said. “I like getting to see a lot of the old guys that I’ve known a long time. That’s important to me, to be able to talk about the old days.”
Singer/songwriter Peter Karp and Canadian award winning artist Sue Foley are also among the headliners. Their first collaborative CD, “He Said - She Said,” debuted in 2010. It explores the early days of their relationship as adapted from a year and a half of e-mail letter correspondences.
“We met in 2006 at the Ottawa Blues Festival and it was kind of unmemorable for both of us,” Foley said.
A few months later, Karp, from New Jersey, approached Foley, from Ottawa, Canada, and asked her to sing with him in a duet for his upcoming album.
“We met again in a studio, but the duet was so terrible, it never made it on the record,” Karp said. “But we realized that even though we sounded really bad, we’d had a lot of fun. We started writing to each other after that. I was on the road doing my thing, but for about a year and a half, we corresponded through e-mails.”
This year will be Karp and Foley’s first appearance at the Dusk ‘til Dawn Blues Festival.
“I like the fact that it’s going to be an all-nighter. We have a set at 11 p.m. and a set at 2:30 a.m. It sounds like it’s serious,” Foley said.
Besides attracting the big names in blues music, Minner said the festival also celebrates regional talent.
“Our event is a way of helping people find the great music that’s around here,” she said. “We know how to dig musicians out of the woodwork and showcase them. People from out of state can come get a sampler of what great music we do here.”
Calvin Youngblood hails from LeFlore County. His band, Calvin Youngblood and Triple Mass, were together for 15 years.
“We played the festival five or six times,” Youngblood said.
He returns to the festival this year with a new rhythm section, Cold Front.
“I enjoy the festival. It’s real laid back, not like playing a club gig,” he said.
Although the festival may be laid back, the bar is set high for performers.
“It took me awhile to find players who were beefed up enough to play at Rentiesville. You have to really be able to play the blues,” Youngblood said.
Besides offering great music, the festival has plenty of activities for young fans, too. Children under 12 get free admission to the event and are welcome at The Kids’ Village. This year’s attractions include conga drum circles, stick puppets, crafts, face painting and a pottery wheel. On Saturday night, kids get a free harmonica and a teacher will be on hand to give lessons.
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