Written by Jim Bille
Jun 09, 2012 at 08:00 PM
ImageWhenever you think of Canton, Ohio you most likely think of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but each June you should be thinking about the Canton Blues Festival. This has got to be the best thing to hit Canton since Jim Thorpe played for the Canton Bulldogs back in the 1910’s.

 For eleven years now the city has been hosting this great festival featuring regional, national and world class musicians. I made it up to Canton a couple of weeks ago to take in my first blues fest and can say that I came away a fan of this party.

This year’s headliners for the two day event were John Mayall Blues Breakers alums Walter Trout and Coco Montoya. Trout along with his veteran band headlined the Friday night show and Montoya was the main event on Saturday. 

Trout has won some pretty heavy accolades for his latest hard-core blues roots release,’ Blues for Modern Daze’ and it was easy to figure out why after realizing that most of the album was featured during his set.

Image“The Sky is Fallin Down” from the new album was a driving doomsday number that had the crowd jumping even with its apocalyptic warning clearly stated by Trout at the beginning of the song when he introduced it as a song about the end of the world.

Another notable song featured Friday night was “Blues for My Baby”, a slow straight up cryin blues number that feature some incredible work by Trout as well as some pretty stupefying keyboards by Sammy Avila.

As mentioned, both Trout and Montoya were featured in John Mayall’s band for a number of years playing side by side so when Trout invited Montoya on stage Friday night for reunion of sorts the musical result was amazing.

Montoya and Trout stood toe to toe playing note for note as they sparred back and forth in a guitar bout that ended up in a draw as both virtuosos were equally matched. Although it’s hard to beat either one of these performers’ shows individually this matchup was the highlight of the festival for sure.

Coco Montoya headlined Saturday nights show with his crisp and blistering blues and had the crowd worked up as much as the evening before. Montoya’s guitar work was pristine as he maneuvered through his set with incredible ease and polish.

Image“How Do You Sleep at Night?” from Montoya’s “Dirty Deal” release in 2007 featured some mind bending guitar work. It was a slow, sharp, pointed, and cutting blues number that soared over downtown Canton.

Montoya’s interpretation of Buster Brown’s 1959 hit “Fannie Mae” was a treat. This song has been recorded by many artists and Coco Montoya’s take on it is among the best.

“Hey Senorita”, an obscure song by an equally obscure doo-wop band, “The Penguins” was a hit in 1955. Montoya’s version had a Los Lobos twist to it and had the crowd dancing in the streets.

All in all, the Canton Blues Festival was a great event. I travel to my hometown area of Canton at least once a year and will definitely mark the 2013 date down. If you feel the need to visit the Pro Football Hall of Fame you need to plan it around this party for sure.