Celebrating the blues

Plus, new discs from Becky Chace and Mary Ann Rossoni
By BOB GULLA  |  October 9, 2007

The seed of a new festival in Providence has begun to germinate, thanks to Mark Millof, a blues enthusiast and musician with a vested interest in the local blues scene. We spoke by e-mail about this weekend’s inaugural Hi-Hat Davol Square Blues Festival.

Can you tell me about how this festival idea came about?
We live in the middle of the Jewelry District. In a conversation I had last year with [then-Jewelry District Association president] Michael Hogue, I suggested we do a blues festival in the neighborhood. There was no celebratory thing that defined our neighborhood. I lived for 10 years on the East Side. Throughout the summer, streets get closed and everybody from the neighborhood comes out to have fun. I was looking for this in the Jewelry District. We identified a good location late this past spring, and in talks with the city I quickly realized I was starting too late to get it done by summer. Also, to fulfill the city requirements for safety and sanitation, I would need about $10,000 and I had no sponsors. I approached the Hi-Hat as a venue. They were interested, but didn’t want to pay all of those bands. I had assumed everyone would play for the fun of playing, which is essentially how it’s turned out.

What’s your take on the local blues scene?
The blues scene in Providence is pretty remarkable. Rhode Island is a blues mecca in its own right. You’ve got guys like Thom Enright, Tommy Ferraro, Keith Munslow, and John Mac working in town. Vic Foley, who’s absolutely one of the best electric blues guitarists alive working in the area. People like Paul Geremia are always playing in the area, a giant in the world of acoustic blues. Young bands like Low Anthem have a blues-based feeling. And you have a fair number of clubs that will offer the blues.

Tell me about your band, Sit Down Baby!
We do roots/pre-war blues and originals. It’s kind of a rough sound, which we like. Our other guitarist, David Tippett, worked with people like Robert Lockwood Jr. during the ’70s and intersected musically with many major names. Our drummer, Richard LaGuardia, is a classic New Orleans drummer. Our new bass player, Jayson Baker, was in a touring roots band during the ’80s. I’ve been playing acoustic blues since I was 13. I play predominantly slide — acoustically I’m dedicated to my 6- and 12-string National Tri-Cones. As an artist — I teach at RISD — I’m very binge-oriented and tend to focus on specific things that I’m fond of. I didn’t start playing electrically till about five years ago, to keep up with my son Harry, an extraordinary bass player. He’s in the Providence-based Grow.

Ed Mcguirl + Jimmytown Juke + Crown Trout + Buffalo Sensation [Aka Big Beulah] + The Faculty + Sit Down Baby! + Grow + Vic Foley Blues Band | October 14 | The Hi-Hat, 3 Davol Sq, Providence | 3 pm | 401.453.6500

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