By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Steve Brennan
By Joseph Hess
By Allsion Babka
By Kelsey McClure
By RFT Music
By Christian Schaeffer
By Gabriel San Roman
The Big Muddy Blues Festival has suffered more than its share of setbacks this year, including some severe funding cuts the event's budget reportedly has dropped from $120,000 to $85,000 and the cancellation of originally scheduled headliner Ike Turner due to illness. And though the 2007 edition of the festival will have only three stages instead of five, there's still going to be more music than any one person can absorb and so some judicious picking and choosing would seem to be in order.
Saturday's mainstage activities begin with St. Louis' own Big George Brock and the Houserockers, featuring the energetic showmanship of harmonica player and vocalist Brock, and a band whose raucous and rough approach would be equally at home in both a Mississippi juke-joint and a big-city blues bar. Other notable mainstage acts on Saturday include the often underrated singer and guitarist Joanna Connor and Big Sam's Funky Nation, a New Orleans outfit led by a former trombonist for the Dirty Dozen Brass Band that shares the DDBB's proclivity for horn-driven, second-line funk.
On Sunday, Mississippians Terry "Big T" Williams & Wesley "Junebug" Jefferson will kick things off with their own twist on electrified country blues, while veteran British multi-instrumentalist and singer John Mayall has been recruited to fill the closing slot originally intended for Turner. Add a diverse selection of local blues and soul acts, and you've got two days of free music that should be well worth the trip downtown.