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Blues, Views & BBQ Festival, Levitt Pavillion, Westport, CT – 9/25

Backed by a pristine view of Long Island Sound, the Blues, Views & BBQ Festival maintained a family-friendly atmosphere as serene backdrop for the devil’s music. So paintball and bouncy houses nestled up against the beer and barbecue tents. The crowd was greeted by Manny and The Mojomatics and local acts Eran Troy Danner and Black and White. By mid-afternoon the sun was appropriately boiling for New Orleans transplant Bryan Lee’s swamp rock.

The festival’s setting made Popa Chubby nostalgic, “Westport, Connecticut? I only used to get arrested in places like this.” A flurry of notes became Jimi Hendrix’ “Hey Joe”, then it was genres be damned with Otis Redding’s “I’ve Been loving You Too Long” a swerve into Neil Young’s “Motorcycle Mama” and a sing-along to Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”.

The big man also played a couple from his latest The Fight Is On – “Steelhorse Serenade” a classic rock instrumental (“Dedicated to all you bikers.”) and “Noisemaking Love Machine” – a great song that contained a bit too much information. He closed his hour-and-forty-five minutes with more Hendrix – “Little Wing” and managed the tricky balancing act of offering a wide variety of musical styles while staying true to his urban blues roots.

Lil’Ed and The Blues Imperials closed the evening with leader Ed Williams, dressed from his spangled, pillbox hat down to his sneakers in fire engine red. He remains a joyous amalgam of his mentor/uncle, JB Hutto and Elmore James, with the stage moves of vintage Chuck Berry. Staples like “Hold That Train” and “Don’t Call Me” led to a well-received romp through the crowd and a pint of ale for the front man. Though it wasn’t all bashed out party rockers, “It’s A Beautiful World” and his take on Billy Joe Shavers’ “Tramp On Your Street” showed a depth of vocal delivery and a view of the Imperial that should be showcased more often.

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