The 10th Annual Winter Blues Festival is truly one of the best ways to warm up a frigid New England winters night!

With Little Charlie Baty (guitar), Jason Ricci (vocals/harp), Nick Moss (vocals/guitar), Joe Moss (vocals/guitar), Rick Estrin (vocals/harp), Sugar Ray Norcia (vocals/harp), Michael “Mudcat” Ward (bass), Sonya Rae Taylor (vocals/guitar), Ryan Taylor (guitar), Jesse Williams (bass), Bruce Bears (keys), Mike Law (bass), Neil Gouvin (drums), and Chris Rivelli (drums); how could it not be a phenomenal night!

The organizer for this string of events, Nick David, has brought together a phenomenal line up and to a line of venues that should be on everyone’s lists of places to visit!

Each of these artists deserves, and will get, their own individual review. I’m excited to put those reviews together for a later posting. This review however will be for the event itself.

Sonya Rae Taylor opened the event with her soulful and rocking blues. Having had the chance to see her and Ryan Taylor together at the North River Blues Festival in mid-2018, I was anxious to see them again. They did NOT disappoint. Between a hot guitar and a soulful voice, Sonya Rae Taylor is truly a rising star who needs to be watched!

The main event started off with a bit of “Django” with Jason Ricci and Little Charlie Baty (formerly of Little Charlie and the Nightcats with Rick Estrin) lighting up the night and setting the stage for a truly phenomenal FOUR HOURS of near constant music!

Jason moved into some of the classics that are sure to please be kept it in his own style of driving harp and a soul on fire flying into the mic. His close out for his set was with one of my absolute favorites of his, “The Way I Hurt Myself”, which left me in tears as it nearly always does. The honest pain and history that comes into the way he absolutely attacks the lyrics and notes is nothing short of miraculous. And I defy anyone to not feel the emotion and pure inner rage and sorrow that comes through.

Bringing up Nick Moss (of the Nick Moss Band feat Dennis Gruenling) through the set with Charlie and Jason, you were given a good feel for the blend of Chicago tradition and new groove that is keeping the Blues alive and well.

Up next were the brothers Moss. Nick and his brother Joe came out in force and paired off in a fluid and hard driving Chicago/Delta sound. With Joe bringing a more modern soul vibe, Nick brought the history of soul and they built on each other in a beautiful display passion and talent honed by hard work and practice. They landed their set with a tribute to the West Side Chicago Blues that the late Mike Ledbetter leaned into.

Once again I was left in tears hearing and seeing the passion of two men who lost a brother in life and in music, who were playing their hearts out for all of us to witness, and to help those grieving the unbelievably unfair and untimely loss of Mike Ledbetter. The music built into a raucous and towering sound that surely reached the clouds and played out for our lost friend to hear.

After this emotional moment there was a brief break while the setup was switched around again, this time setting up for the phenomenal Rick Estrin. If you’re not familiar with Rick, then all I can says is that you’ve simply got to check this guy out. He’s earned his status as a name and talent to be burned into everyone’s memory!

Pulling on the memory and styles of the 40’s, 50’s, 60’s of Blues he truly brought to life the memory of the legends of Howlin Wolf, Muddy Waters, Little Walter, and so many more.

His stories about listening to the records of these great artists while he was a child and knowing that the feeling came over him at that young age, it is something you can’t help but to smile and laugh along with. Rick is a great story teller both in spoken word and in music.

To see Rick and Charlie play together again, it’s like seeing two old friends pick up right where they left off on that stage.

Wrapping up the night was Sugar Ray and Charlie Baty. Their jazz and lighter side Blues are something to behold. They bring in a bluesy feel with a jazz current and find the songs that will make you smile. Taking a stand against the constant barrage of negative news and events that comes at us all the time, these two gentlemen took a stand on that stage and put everything into bringing smiles to the audience like an invisible shield against the mayhem of the world outside.

The 10th Annual Winter Blues Festival truly felt like a tonic against the cold of the world and the wind at the Blue Ocean Music Hall in Salisbury MA.

The venue is a beautiful stage setting with a great dance floor and great seating throughout. The place was packed but by design and care they have ensured great acoustics from whatever vantage point you choose and also made movement through the crowds and seating a simple and easy experience.

I’m looking forward to my next visit to Blue Ocean and to writing a full individual review of this fantastic venue all its own!

Make sure you keep an eye out for Nick David and his next productions and his own concerts as well! And be ready for the 11th Annual Winter Blues Festival in 2020!!