Listen Up: Summer Festival Season’s Top Ten Attention-Grabbing Acts

Text and photos by Arnold Goodman

Since May, I have been lucky enough to see some great music in some great settings—from Windsor, ON to Detroit, MI to Charleston, SC to New York, NY to Hunter Mountain, NY to Wilmington, DE to Bergenfield, NJ and Memphis, TN. I not only got to hear many great acts but also got to spend time with them and learn where they developed some of their musical ideas. Some of these acts I have seen many times in the past, some I had not seen in many years and some I saw for the first time.


Todd Wolfe, Todd Wolfe Band, Saint Andrew's Hall

The Todd Wolfe Band performed in Detroit at Saint Andrew’s Hall, a legendary venue. This was the first time I saw Wolfe in a large space (he was opening for Gary Clark, Jr. at a sold-out show). Wolfe’s three-piece band (Wolfe on guitar and vocals, Justine Gardner on bass and Roger Voss on drums) won the crowd over, roaring with their own brand of blues rock, playing all original material featuring great guitar work by Wolfe.


Danny Bryant, Walter Trout, Popa Chubby, Webster Hall

I saw Danny Bryant for the first time at New York’s Webster Hall, backed by the Walter Trout Band and Trout’s son, Jon (and in the big surprise of the night, Bryant jammed with Popa Chubby). Bryant’s guitar tone and playing are as good as advertised (his publicist, Peter Noble, a man who knows good music, recommended him to me). A must-see!


Jarekus Singelton, Riverfront Blues Festival, Alligator Records, Refuse to Lose

Jarekus Singleton, who I first saw at Wilmington’s Riverfront Blues Festival, seems to be the hit of the blues festival circuit, which he’s rocking in support of his recent album, Refuse To Lose (part of his new deal with Alligator Records). This Mississippi native has some of the same energy as many of his predecessors and is an electrifying guitar player—catch him if you can!


Paul Oscher, Muddy Waters, Riverfront Blues Festival

I have seen Paul Oscher many times over the years, including with Muddy Waters in 1968. And if anybody has Waters’ sound down, it’s Oscher. At Riverfront, he played not only harp, but also guitar and keyboards, in addition to singing. Paul Oscher is the blues.


The Kinsey Report, Donald Kinsey, Windsor Bluesfest International

Although I hadn’t seen them in over 20 years, I had the good fortune to see the Kinsey Report three times this season—at Riverfront, Windsor’s Bluesfest International and B.B. King’s in New York. Brothers Donald, Ralph and Ken Kinsey, along with Andy Ogrodzinski, were as good as ever, dishing out their own version of the blues. However, especially given that Donald played with both Bob Marley and Peter Tosh, the Kinsey Report is much more than a blues band.


The Jimmys, Jimmy Voegeli, Windsor Bluesfest International, Tinsley Ellis

I’d never heard of Madison, WI’s the Jimmys before I saw them at Bluesfest. Led by Jimmy Voegeli on keyboards and vocals, they upstaged Dave Mason and blew the crowd away with their swing blues (Voegeli also got up to jam with Tinsley Ellis). Watch out for the Jimmys, a band on the move.


Bobby Rush, Windsor Bluesfest International

I have seen Bobby Rush many times over the decades and he never disappoints. At 77 years old, he played to the Bluesfest crowd with the energy of a teenager. A true American treasure. Do not miss him!


Kim Simmonds, Savoy Brown, Bergen Performing Arts Center, Goin' to the Delta, Rock 'N' Blues Festival

Kim Simmonds has been performing continuously with Savoy Brown since 1965 (I’ve been seeing him since 1968). The Rock ‘N’ Blues Festival at New Jersey’s Bergen Performing Arts Center included Rare Earth, Vanilla Fudge and Edgar Winter, paying tribute to his brother, the late, great Johnny Winter. Along with songs from his new album, Goin’ To The Delta, Simmonds played many of his hits, as well as a cover of “Highway 61 Revisited” with Edgar, dedicated to Johnny.


Dickey Betts, Beale Street Music Festival, Duane Betts, Andy Aledort, Great Southern, Dickey Betts and Great Southern, the Allman Brothers

Over the years, I have seen Dickey Betts with both the Allman Brothers and Great Southern. This version of Great Southern (with his son, Duane, and Andy Aledort) has the authentic sound of the Allmans. Betts and company were the highlight of Memphis’ Beale Street Music Festival. We won’t have the Allman Brothers around much longer, but Dickey Betts & Great Southern will keep the music alive.


Ironing Board Sam, Americanafest NYC, Music Maker Relief Foundation, Lincoln Center

Beverly “Guitar” Watkins and Ironing Board Sam played the Music Maker Relief Foundation set at Americanafest NYC. I was looking forward to this show all summer, and it was the first time I had the chance to see either of these artists. The show started off with a panel discussion that provided real insight into the work of the Foundation. Then, both Sam and Watkins put on a great show. This was true Americana.


While these were my top ten attention-grabbing performers of the summer, you can submit your top ten top to Keep supporting live performance and keep saving American music!

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  1. Nice to see recognition of a great player with a huge talent for his writing, playing, performing, and ability to attract top notch team of players…..Jimmy comes out of the heartland of America; among the best in dairy production worldwide….His family of farmers not only raise world-class dairy cattle, but get top credit for originating the World Dairy Exposition in Madison, Wis….Producers show up at the EXPO from all corners of the earth once a year, then stop down to hear THE JIMMYS at their favorite local pub, Toffler’s, after hours…Even though Voegeli’s talent has him playing all over the Blues world, Jimmy and the band never forgot their local allegiance to the local scene….Blues legend, Bryan Lee, from The Old Absinth House in New Orleans, showed up last winter to jam with THE JIMMYS at Toffler’s……Then world-class “Monster of Hammond B3”, Jazz great Tony Monaco did a gig called Where Jazz meets the Blues with our guys at the Brink Lounge in Madison, Wi….The joining of these two great Hammond organ players from different musical worlds nearly brought down the roof, as they say…..Well deserved attention to a musical great, Jimmy Voegeli…