Japan Blues Carnival
courtesy of M&I Company
This year' fifteenth edition of Japan's
largest blues festival looks to be a barnburner with Chicago blues king Buddy Guy
headlining a strong lineup at Shibuya On Air East and the outdoor Hibiya Yagai Ongakudo.
Emerging from the Baton Rouge, Louisiana blues scene, Buddy Guy followed a long string of
aspiring bluesmen, heading north to Chicago in 1957 to make his name. Taken under wing by
mentor Muddy Waters, Guy was soon recording as Waters' sideman and releasing his own
singles for the seminal blues label Chess. Early songs like 1960's "First Time I Met
the Blues" showcased Guy's wailing vocals and incendiary whammy-bar guitar licks
which were to earn him a hero's status with rock monsters Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix. A
fertile '70s partnership with harmonica player Junior Wells was followed by a long fallow
period in the '80s when Guy couldn't even obtain a record contract. He ultimately
reemerged with the '90s blues revival to take his rightful place on top of the heap,
earning three Grammies along the way.
Next on the bill is Mississippi-born, Chicago-raised Carl Weathersby, a soulful blues
artist and Vietnam vet who did stints as a policeman and prison guard before embarking on
a career in the blues. Working as harmonica player for Billy Branch's Sons of Blues from
1982 to 1996, Weathersby finally issued his first solo release, Don't Lay Your Blues
on Me (Evidence), which won a nomination for Best New Blues Album in '96. His
subsequent releases, recorded with New Orleans musicians David Torkanowsky on piano and
Herman Ernest III on drums, have been equally well received.
Keeping with the Blues Carnival's mission of introducing up-and-coming artists, this
year's lineup features North Dakota native Shannon Curfman, the 15-year-old blues rock
phenom who recently created a stir with her debut album Loud Guitars, Big Suspicions
Filling out the bill are domestic talents guitarist Shun Kikuta who will be appearing with
singer Nellie "Tiger" Travis, the Uchida Kantaro Trio, Fusanosuke Kondo and
Yoshiki Kojima, and Tokyo-based expat bluesman Georgie Pie.
Japan Blues Carnival takes
place at Shibuya On Air East on 5/24 and Hibiya Yagai Ongakudo on 5/27-28. See listings for details.