25-Aug-91 Great Woods Center for the Performing Arts, Mansfield MA
(" Great Woods Blues Festival")

Show Review from the Boston Herald, 26-Aug-91:

Guitar Heroes Electrify Blues Fest
By Greg Reibman

It was advertised as a day of blues but could just as easily been billed as a day of Fender Stratocasters.

For the most part, yesterday's Great Wood's Blues Festival featured a parade of guitar heroes; from opener Ronnie Earl to showstopper Robert Cray. And just as the blues comes in many hues, so did the each artist's guitar work.

Also featured in the nine-hour marathon show, were Los Lobos, Danny Gatton and Koko Taylor. Taylor was not only the only woman on the bill but also the only featured non-guitar player. But even Taylor's gutsy rumble-tumble vocals were accompanied by James Johnson's and Eddie King's ringing guitars.

Local hero Earl - who was also the festival's emcee - was the early star. Watching the former Roomful of Blues member play can be an emotional rollercoaster ride: At one moment his ax weeps tenderly. At the next, it soars with exuberance.

Earl was accompanied by the equally talented Broadcasters and veteran vocalist/harpist Sugar Ray Norcia. While not the best of singers, Norcia has his won unique Las Vegas-style and appeal.

The other local act was Luther "Guitar Junior" Johnson, whose full-tilt boogie owes a debt to his Chicago blues roots. Gordon Beadle's honking sax sparked the set, although Johnson's barroom blues seemed a little out of sorts in the bright afternoon sunshine.

Critically acclaimed fret-burner Danny Gatton was up next and turned out to be the day's biggest disappointment. Although he included now-familiar stunts like playing guitar while pouring beer over the strings and then playing some more while toweling up the mess, he never soared over a set that relied too heavily on rockabilly and Beatles' covers.

That set the stage for Taylor, who guarantees a good time whenever she performs.

Taylor payed homage to everyone from Willie Dixon ("Evil") to Ted Nugent ("Hey Baby"). Then she took it over the top for the 6,000 fans with her signature tune, "Wang Dang Doodle."

To some, Los Lobos may have seemed like the odd band out at a blues festival. But the Los Angeles-based roots-rockers established their credentials early with the crunching guitars on "I Walk Alone" and "Can't Understand." The group's Hispanic roots were exposed during a few hyperdrive Tex-Mex dance tunes. Sandwiched in between the accordion and fiddle-drive songs, was "Angel Dance," a soaring guitar-driven rave-up that had an Irish rock feel, like a good U2 song. It was the best song of the day.

After Los Lobos' joyful carnival atmosphere, Robert Cray took over with his usual soulful, classy act. Cray plays with such finesse that he alway makes it look easy. But the mournful "Things You Do For Me" and the exhilarating "Right Next Door" were anything but standard.

Cray's horn section - Wayne Jackson and Andrew Love - added zest to several songs. But ultimately it was Cray's guitar and all the day's other guitars that put the biggest smiles on fans' faces.