Savannah Music Fest Recommends 

Living Legends of The Blues

Ever since his tenure with the immortal Muddy Waters ended, “Steady Rollin” Bob Margolin has made a name for himself as a champion of the last remaining artists from the golden age of electric blues. Though insistently aligning himself with these aging giants can sometimes border on tailgating, the truth is that Margolin is an above average guitarist and singer in his own right, and is almost fervent about preserving the history and integrity of the blues for future generations.

He serves as the anchor in this All-star lineup, but the real draw will be a chance to see and hear some of the folks who actually wrote and cut the tracks that defined the genre, and helped give birth to rock and roll: 93-year-old Pinetop Perkins literally helped invent piano blues, and is still going strong; Willie “Big Eyes” Smith was probably the baddest drummer Muddy ever had; and in 2006, vocalist Nappy Brown is the closest thing you’ll find to Howlin’ Wolf or Big Joe Williams. These shows are sold out – however, one can often purchase tickets from individuals near the door the night of the event. Sat., 7 pm & 9:30 pm, Orleans Hall.

Emmylou Harris

From her earliest days as doomed country-rock pioneer Gram Parsons’ muse, to her star-making turn as Bob Dylan’s backing vocalist on his #1 Album Desire (1976), through her subsequent collaborations with Dolly Parton and Linda Ronstadt (on the best-selling Trio LPs), and eventual artistic rebirth courtesy of producer –and professional artistic rebirth facilitator– Daniel Lanois (see her glorious, indelible, Grammy-winning LP Wrecking Ball) Emmylou Harris has stood apart from the rest of her contemporaries.

Initially viewed as a wonderful and inimitable interpreter of other people’s material, she has only recently begun to come into her own as an impressive songwriter. Her reputation for choosing sidemen with the potential to break out on their own would be intact on th basis of her former Hot Band member Ricky Skaggs alone, but with stellar talents like Buddy and Julie Miller sharing the stage with her and lending their chops to her own repertoire, she’s scaled to new heights of transcendence.

Admittedly not for everyone, Harris’ ethereal approach to blending folk, rock, country and ambient music into her own brand of Americana is like sweet, sweet nectar for those of us who dig what she does. She has only recently resumed headlining gigs since breaking a hand last summer during a stint as a featured guest on the devotional Elvis Costello’s shed tour, and there are rumors this gig may introduce a new crop of backing musicians. Hopefully Buddy Miller will still be among them. This show is sold out – however, one can often purchase tickets from individuals near the door the night of the event. Sat., 7:30 pm, Lucas Theatre.

Bela Fleck & The Flecktones

What the late Vassar Clements was to the fiddle, Bela Fleck might just be to the banjo. A restless searcher who combines incredible chops and a wide-ranging musical vocabulary with a determination to push the envelope and expand the horizons of those who’ve chosen to play this percussive stringed instrument (primarily relegated to bluegrass), Fleck has proven that there is not only room for the banjo in both classical and jazz, but in the rock idiom as well.

A hero to jam-band fans for his elastic, improvisatory embellishments, he’ll be joined at this gig by longtime kindred spirits –and top-shelf players– Victor Wooten on bass, “Future Man” on synths, throat singing and percussion, and Jeff Coffin on clarinet and saxophone. This show is sold out – however, one can often purchase tickets from individuals near the door the night of the event. Sat., 9 pm, Trustees Theatre.

The Atlanta Symphony with André Watts

Sick and tired of being sick and tired of Savannah not boasting its own symphony anymore? Well, put your money where your mouth is and console yourself with perhaps the farthest thing from what my dear Grandma RubyDawn used to call a “booby prize.” namely, a rare visit from the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.

Wait. That’s not enough? How about a guest appearance by none other than André Watts? Known across the globe as one of the finest classically-trained pianists alive today, he also carries the important distinction of being the first African-American keyboardist to achieve such international acclaim.

It’s hard to fathom that the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra has never played Savannah before, but this appears to be the case. Between their multiple Grammy wins for outstanding concert and studio recordings, and Watts’ incredible touch, this would seem to be the can’t-miss classical event of the year, let alone of the this festival. Roberto Minczuk conducts, and Watts offers up his take on Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 in A Major, Op. 92, Rossini’s Overture from “The Barber of Seville,” and Rachmaninoff’s Concerto No. 2 in C Major, Op. 18. Call 525-5050 for tickets. Sun., 3 pm, Johnny Mercer Theater.

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Jim Reed

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