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Inaugural Reading Blues Fest set for October 6 thru 8

Inaugural Reading Blues Fest set for October 6 thru 8

READING, PA — You cannot get enough of the blues. It is a musical genre that grabs your heart and soul and simply will not let go.

The Boscov’s Berks Jazz Fest has staged numerous blues concerts over the years that have captivated audiences.

Here is the great news: The same people who bring you the Jazz Fest – Berks Arts Council and general manager John Ernesto — are presenting the inaugural Reading Blues Fest this October 6 thru 8.

For ticket information, please visit

Kenny Neal plus Samantha Fish will be performing Friday, October 6, at 7 p.m. at the DoubleTree by Hilton Reading Grand Ballroom.

One of the strongest modern proponents of Baton Rouge swamp blues, Neal is a second-generation southern Louisiana bluesman who is cognizant of the region’s venerable blues tradition and imaginative enough to steer it in fresh directions.

His dad, harpist Raful Neal, was a Baton Rouge blues mainstay whose pals included Buddy Guy and Slim Harpo. At age 13, Neal was playing in his father’s band, and at 17, landed a job playing bass for Buddy Guy.

Kenny Neal’s sizzling guitar work, sturdy harp and gravelly, aged-beyond-his-years vocals served him well, launching a length and prolific career that delivers the blues like no one else can.

Neal and his band of brothers (Darnell Neal on bass and Fred Neal on keys) are back on the road and better than ever. They are joined by longtime drummer and friend, Bryan Morris and new addition to the band, Alphonso “AG” Guillory on horns.

Whether one leans towards the blues, opts for Americana or ignites some special fervor by playing with a garage band, there’s a common bond that suggests a reverence for the roots. Looking back towards an earlier template — no matter what the genre — proves the point that appreciating what came before can be a stepping stone for what comes next.

Guitarist Samantha Fish knows that all too well, and it’s been evidenced in the music she’s made her entire career. She made a name for herself as one of relatively few female blues guitarists but she prefers to be measured on her own merits rather than as a female musician. While she’s well known as a purveyor of blues, having been lauded by such legends as Buddy Guy, the Royal Southern Brotherhood and Luther Dickinson, her real love is simply raw, scrappy rock and roll.

It’s little wonder then that when it came time to record her new album, Chills & Fever (2017), Fish ventured off in another new direction, one she was exploring for the first time in her career. She traveled to Detroit and joined forces with members of the Detroit Cobras, a band whose insurgent ethic has made them darlings of the Midwest punk/blues scene.

Teeny Tucker’s Women in The Blues Presentation with Robert Hughes and hosted by Michael Cloeren will take place at noon on Saturday, October 7, at the DoubleTree by Hilton Reading Amphitheater.

Tucker is a dynamic blues singer and songwriter as well as a lover of blues history. She was born into blues royalty as the daughter of Tommy “Hi-Heel Sneakers” Tucker.

Teeny, known for her soulful, bluesy and unique stylistic renderings, has appeared on the same bill with B.B. King, Koko Taylor, Etta James, Buddy Guy, the Holmes Brothers, Robert Cray, Keb’ Mo’, Deana Bogart, Kenny Neal, Bobby Rush and John Mayall.

Women’s in The Blues Presentations create educational and performance platforms that actively engage audiences, recognizing the historical influences and facilitate immersion in the Women in The Blues genre.

Women in The Blues, A Michael Cloeren Productions presentation, is a two-part program that features the very best international touring female artists in the world.

The first component will be an interactive educational conversation with Tucker. This format allows an up close and personal dialogue that examines the historical influences on today’s music that was created from the real-life journey of the participating artist.

Culminating the two-part presentation will be a concert by Tucker.

Cloeren, who is hosting the event, is founder and producer of the Pennsylvania Blues Festival at Split Rock Resort in Lake Harmony, PA.

Robert Hughes is a guitarist who performs with Tucker.

The Philadelphia Blues All-Stars is a special ensemble for Reading Blues Fest billed as Abe’s by Chef Alan’s Afternoon Blues Party featuring Philly-based blues artists Mikey Junior, Deb Callahan, Kevin McCann and Dave Holtzman that will take place on Saturday, October 7, at 2:30 p.m.

Mikey Junior’s amazing skills on diatonic and chromatic harmonicas combined with muscular vocals make him an exciting presence on today’s blues scene.

His infectious personality and absolute command of his medium leave little doubt the blues is in good hands with his.

Philadelphia’s blues vocalist and songwriter Deb Callahan grew up in the Boston area but has been a mainstay on the mid-Atlantic music scene since the late 1990s. During this time, she has gained a reputation for writing creative blues, soul and roots influenced original music and using her powerful, expressive voice to deliver an exciting live show.

Blues Revue has referred to her as the next Bonnie Raitt and raved: “Philly’s Deb Callahan has the pipes, the songs and the raw talent to graduate to the next level.”

Guitarist and vocalist Kevin McCann is the band leader of the Bucks County, PA-based The Little Red Rooster Blues Band while Dave Holtzman is a harmonica player and a vocalist for the band.

Since their formation in 1988, The Little Red Rooster Blues Band has become one of the Delaware Valley’s premier blues bands, consistently delivering their own brand of blues through interpretations of traditional Chicago blues and West Coast jump blues, always combined with a crowd-pleasing, high-energy performance and a whole lot of fun.

The Robert Cray Band plus opening act Blind Boy Paxton will take the Santander Performing Arts Center stage on Saturday, October 7, at 7 p.m.

Cray has been bridging the lines between blues, soul and R&B for the past four decades, with five Grammy wins and over 20 acclaimed albums.  

The Blues Hall of Famer brought blues back to the charts in the 1980s via songs that defined blues themes but added modern and personal twists.

The Cray Band’s beginnings brought the sounds of its mentors into the mainstream, taking the music of John Lee Hooker, Etta James and Albert Collins to a larger, younger audience. But no one knew how broad the band’s audience would be until the Cray Band opened the ears of rock radio programmers who put the band in heavy rotation on mega rock stations across the nation in the late 1980s.

During the 1990s the Cray Band was featured in concert with artists like Eric Clapton, the Rolling Stones, John Lee Hooker, B.B. King and Bonnie Raitt, Years later the blues plays on for Robert Cray.

Jereron “Blind Boy” Paxton is a vocalist and multi-instrumentalist whose style draws from blues and jazz before World War II and was influenced by Fats Waller and “Blind” Lemon Jefferson.

Paxton has earned a reputation for transporting audiences back to the 1920s and 1930s and making them wish they could stay there for good. Playing guitar, banjo, piano and violin among other implements, Paxton fully assimilates the blues of Bessie Smith and Lonnie Johnson.

Paxton performed to a soldout audience for the Lead Belly Tribute at Carnegie Hall in 2016 along with the likes of Buddy Guy, Eric Burdon and Tom Paley.

Paxton appeared in the American Epic documentary episode on American music that aired on PBS on June 6.

The VIP Sunday Blues Brunch on October 8 (10 a.m. buffet, 11 a.m. show) at the DoubleTree by Hilton Reading Small Ballroom will feature the Slam Allen Blues Band.

Slam Allen is one of the most dynamic and original blues and soul artists on the scene today.

More than just a singer, writer, and guitar player, Slam connects with his audience like entertainers from a bygone era. Think Otis Redding, B.B., Albert, and Freddie King, with a blend of Wilson Pickett, James Brown, Sly Stone and a little George Benson and Jimi Hendrix thrown in — making a Slam show a unique musical experience. 

As a solo performer, Slam is the recipient of the prestigious Master Blues Artist award from the New York Blues Hall of Fame and a 2016 Blues Music Award Nominee.

Slam spent nine years (2001-2010) as the lead singer, lead guitarist and band leader for the legendary harpist James Cotton.

Now on his own, and internationally recognized as a seasoned touring veteran, Slam is dedicated to forging his own legacy in the blues and soul world. With seven original albums under his belt, Slam is here to bring back what the music world is lacking — the love and uplifting honesty that makes for a powerful and entertaining musical experience. 

Bill Wax, the Sirius XM Bluesville founder who is the chairperson of the board of directors of The Blues Foundation, will be the keynote speaker on Sunday, October 8, at 1:30 p.m. at the DoubleTree by Hilton Reading Amphitheater.

Alexis P Suter Band with the Berks Horns will be hosting the After-Party Blues Jam on both Friday, October 7, and Saturday, October 8, at 11:30 p.m. at the DoubleTree by Hilton Reading Grand Ballroom.

Suter is a blues singer and songwriter, best known for her nomination for Best Contemporary Blues Female at the Blues Music Awards in 2017 and her nomination in the Koko Taylor Award category at the 2015 Blues Music Awards. She and her backing band have released six albums.

Suter artfully blends the lines between gospel and blues music. Suter generally gets lumped into the blues category, but little about the Brooklyn-born singer is easy to categorize. Her music merrily straddles genres.

Suter and her band have been the opening act for Bo Diddley, Dickey Bets, B.B. King, Coco Montoya, Etta James, Buddy Guy, Allen Touissaint, Emmylou Harris, Johnny Winter, Elvis Costello and for the 20-year reunion of the Muddy Waters Band. She has been a featured artist in over 50 blues and roots festivals nationwide.

The Berks Horns — Mike Anderson on the sax, John Loos on the trombone and Rob Diener on the trumpet – have performed with numerous headliners in Berks Jazz Fest concerts over the years.

Joining them on Friday night October 6 will be Mikey Junior, Deb Callahan and more.

Joining them on Saturday night October 7 will be Callahan, Kevin McCann, Dave Holtzman and more.

Jonny Lang plus opening act Dana Fuchs Duo featuring Jon Diamond will be performing in the Reading Blues Fest finale on Sunday, October 8, at 4 p.m. at the DoubleTree by Hilton Reading Grand Ballroom.

Lang is an American blues singer, songwriter, guitarist and recording artist. He has five albums that charted on the top 50 of the Billboard 200 chart and has won a Grammy Award for Turn Around, released in 2006. His latest album is Signs, released this year.

It is hard to believe that at 36 years old Lang has already had a successful career for two decades.

Easier to believe when you learn he released his first platinum record at 15 — an age when many young people are just beginning to play music. No flashy re-hasher of classic blues licks, even at that early age Lang was a full-blown artist with a style of his own. Also, setting Lang apart from the wunderkind crowd was a 15-year-old voice that sounded like a weathered soul shouter.

The Dana Fuchs Duo features Fuchs on vocals and Jon Diamond on guitar.

At a blues jam in New York City, the upcoming Fuchs met Diamond, an established guitarist who had toured with Joan Osborne and W.C. Handy Award winner Debbie Davies, and they immediately recognized their musical chemistry. The pair began writing intensively, putting together a solid body of original songs.

Fuchs played the role of Janis Joplin in the off-Broadway hit Love, Janis and Sexy Sadie, a powerful blues singer, in the Julie Taymor film Across the Universe.

The Reading Blues Fest is collaborating with the annual Arts Festival Reading that will be held Saturday, October 7, and Sunday, October 8, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the GoggleWorks Center for the Arts.

The Arts Festival Reading will present Blind Boy Paxton in a free (with Arts Festival ticket) show on Sunday, October 8, at 1 p.m. at the new Sly Fox Stage at the GoggleWorks.

In addition, local/regional bands will be performing at various restaurants.

The Bluesmasters featuring three Berks County musical giants — bassist/vocalist Bennie Sims, pianist/vocalist Cliff Starkey and saxophonist/vocalist Erich Cawalla — will be playing at the kickoff luncheon on Friday, October 6, at 11:30 a.m. at the Peanut Bar Restaurant.

Also on Friday, October 6, the Deb Callahan Duo will play in the DoubleTree by Hilton Reading Arrival Party at Cheers Bistro at 5 p.m. and Blues at the Hen will be at 7 p.m. at The Speckled Hen Cottage Pub & Alehouse.

On Saturday, October 7, Blues at the Hen will be at 4 p.m. at The Speckled Hen Cottage Pub & Alehouse and the Dave Mell Blues Band will entertain on Blues Night at 7:30 p.m. at the Peanut Bar Restaurant

On Sunday, October 8, Josh Taylor’s Next Gen Blues will perform in the noon Blues Brunch at Sofrito’s Gastric Pub/Reading.

Reading Blues Fest is a project of Berks Arts Council, a local arts agency whose mission is to cultivate, promote, and support the arts in our community through collaboration, education, and presentation. In addition to the Reading Blues Fest and Berks Jazz Fest, Berks Arts Council presents the Bandshell Concert Series, Fast Lane Art, the Pagoda Awards, administers the Pennsylvania Partners in the Arts grant program, and provides art exhibition and marketing opportunities for local artists. Visit them at