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Ventura County Blues Festival: Hot blues with a family feel

Ventura County Blues Festival
Ventura County Blues Festival
Courtesy of Casey Reagan

The 9th Annual Ventura County Blues Festival was held on Saturday, April 26 at Moorpark College in Ventura, California. The big blues bash began at 11 a.m. and ran past 7 p.m. Your rockin’ writer and his femme fatale photog arrived uncharacteristically early in time to catch opening remarks by host actor-musician Mickey Jones (Trini Lopez, Bob Dylan, The First Edition and FX’s TV series “Justified").

Ventura County Blues Festival
Courtesy of Mary Sparks

The event opened appropriately enough with an a cappela duet of the "Star Spangled Banner." After which the opening act, Ventura County Blues Society Band Challenge winner Lightnin’ Willie and his backing band, took the stage. The day was now officially off to a good start with a healthy dose of blues and blues rock numbers.

Regular readers know yours truly rarely ventures to venues such as this but when he does he prefers to enjoy himself. So don’t expect an in-depth analysis or a perfect playlist. It’s all about the overall experience and not a detailed documentation. Just be happy to hear highlights, mmmkay?

Ah, but the surprise show-stealer was yet to come. Michael John and The Bottom Line, fronted by Ventura County Blues Society founder and frontman Michael John, took the stage next. Apparently the boys in the band missed an old show business adage: “Never work with children or animals.”

After a song or two the John and company brought on perhaps the cutest albeit not yet most talented member of the tuneful team—Mikey Mo’s son and Michael John’s grandson—two and a half year-old Dylan Angelo Basowski. Little Dylan stole the show as he sang along with grandpa to “Talk, Talk, Talk” which was written by his daddy Mikey Mo. Three generations performing the blues on one stage.

The surprises continued as guest star Alastair Greene, taking time off from his solo career and work with the Alan Parsons Project, came aboard to tear it up on guitar. The blues kept a-comin’ with John Marks and Joey Delgado of the Delgado Brothers as the audience continued to grow.

Indeed the audience was an interesting amalgam of young and old, and assorted races from all different places. There were men in hats and gals with tats. There were barefooted dancers and military lancers, ladies in boots and short-shorted coots all blown away by the blues as BMA nominee Karen Lovely added her vocal talents to the mix moving from powerful and energetic to sultry and soulful.

Festival fan favorites Jimmy Thackery & The Drivers were up next after a stage reset. They had a strong instrumental presence. Coca Montoya also appeared as the stage took on an unexpected blues rock guitar hero quality.

Soul songstress Sista Monica Parker was, in the words of able-bodied assistant and official schmoozer Mary Sparks, worth the price of admission alone.(OK, press doesn’t pay to get in but had we paid Sparks remarked that Parker’s professional performance was worth the money.)

Indeed, Parker put plenty of contemporary comments and social media references into her songs to keep the kids in the crowd happy. Yeah, she put some Chicago-style blues too. Parker was blues-soul with just the right amount of “school ya” attitude.

The night also included performances by California-based record label Delta Groove Records’ very own Delta Groove All-Star Blues Revue with Sugarray Rayford and Kid Ramos and the famous Kim Wilson’s Blues All-Stars featuring Fabulous Thunderbirds front man and blues singer Kim Wilson. Overall, the 9th Annual Ventura County Blues Festival was a sweet mix of hot blues and summery breezes.

My name is Phoenix and . . . that's the bottom line.

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