The Reel Blues Fest Tribute to Honeyboy Edwards - Live Review

By Bill DeTellis
November 2010

The Reel Blues Fest presented a special tribute to legendary acoustic Delta blues guitarist David “Honeyboy” Edwards. Honeyboy, who at age 95 is Robert Johnson's last living disciple, is one of the last of the original acoustic Delta blues players. Over his many years he has been involved with and played with almost every major blues legend including: Howlin’ Wolf, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Muddy Waters, Charlie Patton, Big Joe Williams, Sonnyboy Williamson, Peetie Wheatstraw, Sunnyland Slim, Little Walter and Magic Sam. He has won numerous awards, most recently a Grammy for best traditional blues album in 2008 and a lifetime achievement Grammy in 2010. The show opened with Erin Harpe and the Delta Swingers, who had just come off a first round win in the Boston Blues Society blues challenge (which they ultimately won.) The choice of them to open the show could not have been more fitting because of their mastery of traditional blues, especially the Delta blues that Honeyboy came from. The band consists of Erin Harpe on acoustic guitar and vocals, the great harp player Rosey Rosenblatt, Bob Nisi on drums and Jim Countryman on bass. They ended their set with a song called “Virtual Booty Machine” from another band Erin plays in called “Love Whip,” when the very attractive Ms Harpe got off her chair and shook her booty to the joy of those in the house.

From there it only got better. We were then treated to a blues lovers’ dream when the following artists proceeded to come onto the stage one by one, starting with James Montgomery, to marvel the audience with great blues music. Those who appeared were: Brad Whitford (Aerosmith) and his son Graham, Mike Carabello (Santana), Barry Goudreau and Sid Hashian (both formerly of Boston and now Ernie and the Automatics), David Hull (Aerosmith, Joe Perry, James Montgomery), Uptown Horns (Rolling Stones, B.B. King, J. Geils), Doug Bell (Bellevue Cadillac, 7 Grammy nominations), Grace Kelly (18 year-old saxophone phenom) and Desiree Bassett (17 year-old guitar phenom).

A highlight of the evening was seeing 18 year-old Graham Whitford on guitar, 18 year-old Grace Kelly on sax and 17 year-old Desiree Bassett on guitar standing toe to toe with the legends in the room and playing their hearts out. It was a thrill to see young people involved in our beloved blues and we look forward to others like them keeping the blues alive well into the future. The night ended when the legend himself, Honeyboy Edwards, came out and played with his two band members, Michael Frank and Rocky Lawrence, and showed us what the old Delta blues is all about. One of the songs they played was “Sweet Home Chicago” which is credited to be written by Robert Johnson, but many say was actually written by Honeyboy Edwards himself.

One of our own local legends, James Montgomery, was the organizer of the night's events. He is one of the founders of The Reel Blues Fest along with Woods Hole Film Festival founder, Judy Laster. They founded The Reel Blues Fest to provide medical care to musicians and independent film makers who are in need. Musicians who have supported The Reel Blues Fest in the past include: members of Aerosmith, Jim Belushi, Delbert McClinton, Dr. John, Dickie Betts, Koko Taylor, Robert Cray, James Cotton and Shemekia Copeland. James Montgomery deserves much credit for taking time from his busy schedule to help his fellow musicians.

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