26th Bluesfest Gaildorf

Bluesfest Gaildorf website states: “Turning the Koch River into the Mississippi….” Well that certainly sets expectations high!

And by no means I had any reason to be disappointed, after a weekend of great performances with a line-up of true blues artists. The festival terrain is great with a special tent for food and drinks. Beer is sold in real glass, that contributes to the pleasure of drinking and a clean environment, without all the plastic waste that you normally see on festivals.

Tekst, foto’s en video’s: Edwin Birkhoff. (Let op: alle foto’s, video’s en teksten op deze website zijn auteursrechtelijk beschermd. Het is niet toegestaan deze zonder voorafgaande toestemming te gebruiken, af te drukken of te publiceren.)

Day 1
The opening act is provided by the French guitarist and singer Nico Duportal with his new band “The Sparks”. Duportal plays old style blues with a Lousiana Rhythm and Blues, Rock ‘n Roll and Swing flavor. On July 12th the new single “Sweet Brown Eyed Woman” of their new upcoming album “Dog, Saint and Sinner” is released.


While the tents on the festival terrain slowly fill up Duportal lays down a very solid, soulful, interactive and interesting show.

Looking around the audience it seemed that Guy King was new for many. Israelian King who moved to the US and ended up in Chicago where he plays in lots of famous clubs for the past years. Being a gifted and versatile guitarist with a very nice voice he soon stole hearts from everybody. With the exceptional band behind him he shows he has Blues in his blood and some Jazz in his fingers while a plays long and interesting solos. King’s performance is an absolute highlight of the festival.


Another Chicago Blues man, Blues harp virtuoso Billy Branch and his Sons Of Blues showed their experience and presented the audience with a very solid performance. 5th of July was the release date of their new Album “Roots and Branches – The Songs Of Little Walter”. It is clear that Branch is not just any harp player but one who is influential, leading and innovative. While the audience still has to practise a little on some of the lyrics it really doesn’t matter for a great performance of ‘I Got my Mojo Working’.


While the audience is now all fired up after three great shows Sugaray Rayford is preparing himself to go on stage. Expectation is again high and therefore it is somewhat disappointing that it takes a couple of songs before Sugaray is in a good mood after having to deal with some technical problems on stage. But as soon as the problems were taken care of, a swinging and expressive show was presented, that went on and on. Sugaray didn’t care too much for the official time schedule. Of course with lots of bluesy soul, but not just, also with a surprising ‘Comfortably Numb’. But the real energy is shown in ‘Big Legs, Short Skirts’.


Obviously his great band with Alastair Greene – Guitar, Drake ‘Munkilaid’ Shining – Keyboards, Aaron Liddard – Saxophones, Giles Straw -Trumpet, Allen Markel – Bass and Lawell Jones – Drums contributed to the success of the evening.

Day 2
German Kai Strauss is opening the second day of the festival. Special guest is British harp player Paul Lamb. Where it seems somewhat unnatural for Strauss who comes across a little more serious, Lamb brings a lot of energy into the tent.

To compare? Look at the beautiful ‘Highway Blues’ by Strauss and compare that to ‘Ya Ya Blues’ by Lamb.



Second up is Hamilton Loomis. Also these Texans are new to most of the audience. They have a very refreshing funky sound. A beautifully balanced and enthusiastic band that gives a splendid show. (Fabian Hernandez – Saxophones, Keyboards, Vocals Mike Meade – Bass and Will Morris – Drums) One might say it is very smooth and ‘American’ but the way they move around stage, it all seems to come natural, with some saxophone solo’s and a very solid and funky rhythm section. Listen to “Cloudy Day’.


On the other hand there is this Rock based Bluesy sound where Loomis plays a little of harp in It Ain’t What It Ain’t’.


Loomis is very much influenced by Bo Diddley so it is not a surprise at all that ‘Before You Accuse Me’ appears on the band’s playlist.


Kenny Wayne Shepherd has been on the wish list for Bluesfest Gaildorf for a long time. He just released his new Album “The Traveler” that is still Blues oriented but probably is best described as a mix of contemporary Blues and Rock. It also certainly sometimes shows elements that are a clear cross-over to Pop like the opening track ‘Woman Like You’, which is also the opening for the night.


Also on the new album Shepherd now sings on more of the tracks then before. With Noah picking up the guitar it gives a great mix to the show. Listen to ‘I Want You’


Five songs of the new album are being performed tonight. For me the Joe Walsh cover ‘Turn To Stone’ is one of the best tracks of the album. No surprise for me that this one is on the playlist as well. Amazing how he turned this into something of his own, in the typical style of Shepherd.


I hear a lot of people say that he has changed and now is one of “these stars” that does no longer connect to the audience. Although I can understand and this is criticism that you hear about him and some others, but when I listen to ‘King Bee’ and his version of ‘Oh Well’ there is no doubt in my mind… he connects to me.


Mike Zito brings his Big Blues Band (Lewis Stephens – Organ, Piano, Terry Dry – Bass, Matthew Johnson – Drums, Tom Holland – Guitar, Eric Demmer – Saxophone and James Boulet – Trumpet) to the stage as well as special guest Whitney Shay.

And what a show is presented! It goes on and on in a true Blues party. The audience goes wild and want them to go on forever. Of course that is impossible, but they manage to play a long and interesting set of well balanced blues arrangements, with a great mix between guitar solos and magnificent horn section solo’s by the excellent Demmer and Boulet.



What certainly contributes to the great show is the performance of Whitney Shay with her energy and beautiful voice. Amongst others in classics such as ‘The Midnight Special’


All camera batteries are empty (including my own after standing in from of the podium for two days) but luckily enough I was able to capture some of the finest Blues moments during this beautifully organized Bluesfest in Gaildorf. It sure was a great party for me and listening carefully to some of the others around, nobody was disappointed.

From now on I will always remember Gaildorf as Gaildorf on the Mississippi and forget about Koch river forever.

Thanks to all the great people of Gaildorf who make this work. They are all volunteers and they deserve a grand applause.

About Bluesfest (source: www.bluesfest.de)
Compared with the history of the blues it´s a very short period, in which this type of music has achieved influence on the cultural life in the Gaildorf area. The history of the Gaildorf bluesfestival goes back to the seventies of the last century and is connected to a lot of famous names – Great bluesmen and blueswomen from the States and from the European continent meet each other every year here in Gaildorf – at least every other year, when we´re arranging our great bluesfestival. They´ve made the Gaildorf Bluesfestival a Mekka in the region of Southern Germany.

Many big bluesfestivals all over the world meanwhile are arranged by organizations and local governments that can count on a staff of paid people. Although all the organization and work for the Gaildorf Bluesfestival is on a complete voluntary basis, we don´t have stand back behind these festivals. It´s good to know that during the recent years we could trust in a crew which did and still does the whole organization work in their leisure time.

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