Tribune Likes Otis Taylor with Anne Harris at 2014 Chicago Blues Festival

By Kevin McKeough, Special to the Chicago Tribune

"The Chicago Gospel Music Festival still is two weekends away, but someone forgot to tell a few performers at this past weekend’s Chicago Blues Festival. 'Amazing Grace,' rather than 'Sweet Home Chicago' or some other blues cliché, was the song heard most often from the Petrillo Music Shell in Grant Park.

"Aaron Neville sang an ethereal version of it Sunday evening, and Chicagoan Anne Harris played the anthem as a haunting violin instrumental Friday. It just went to show that blues is more an expression of deep emotion than any one musical style, and the headlining acts who performed on the Petrillo stage Friday through Saturday explored a wide range of feeling, from despair to determination to exultation."
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"Earlier Friday [June 13, 2014], Otis Taylor showed how the blues can move forward even as it draws upon its past. Alternating between guitar and electric banjo, Taylor played hypnotic drones instead of standard blues chords, and his husky singing recalled the blues’ origins in field hollers and work songs.

Guest guitarist Alvin Youngblood Hart, a blues star in his own right, added short, searing solos, and Harris literally bent over backwards to deliver keening fiddle solos. The music ranged across acoustic blues, Afropop, Hendrix and Harris’ Celtic instrumental interludes, which felt right at home amid the blues in their longing and exuberance."

Read the full festival review.