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Pickin' on the blues: Fargo Blues Fest returns for 24th year this weekend

Eric Gales headlines the first night of the Fargo Blues Festival. Sten Thorberg / Special to The Forum

The blues is a language and besides the human voice, it’s most often articulated through guitar.

The Fargo Blues Fest, which returns for its 24th year this Friday, July 26, and Saturday, July 27, features no shortage of awesome axemen slinging different styles. Here’s a look at some of the featured six-string pickers you’ll see this weekend.

Eric Gales

Born in Memphis, Tenn., Gales comes from the hotbed of the blues, but his inspiration comes from Seattle. While he’s naturally a righty, as a child he learned to play the guitar left-handed in the style of Jimi Hendrix and soon became a prodigy himself. Jimi’s influence stuck as he has been tabbed as one of the guitarists on the "Experience Hendrix" tour. Gales even played Woodstock, swapping licks with Carlos Santana at the 1994 25th anniversary concert.

Sonny Landreth


Sonny Landreth will close out the 2019 Fargo Blues Festival on July 27. Robley Dupleix / Special to the Forum

Originally from Mississippi, Landreth settled down in Louisiana and his swampy style of playing seems right at home. Influenced by not just rock and blues but the Creole music of zydeco, his slide guitar playing has earned him the name “King of Slydeco.”

Popa Chubby

Popa Chubby plays the Fargo Blues Fest. Special to The Forum

Born Theodore Horowitz, the Brooklyn-bred guitarist cut his teeth covering 1960s classic rock like Hendrix, The Rolling Stones and Cream. Those styles stuck and Chubby still cranks out an electric blend of rock and soul.


Reverend Peyton

Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band. Special to The Forum

Looking like something from “O Brother, Where Art Thou” and playing with the ferocity of a punk act, Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band is a new sound for the Fargo Blues Fest. Raised on the finger-picking style of blues legend Charlie Patton, and backed by a drummer and his wife, fiery washboard player Breezy, Peyton digs deep into Americana for some high-energy rock and holler.

Lil’ Ed

Lil' Ed leads the Blues Imperials. Special to The Forum

For more than 30 years, Ed Williams and his longtime band, the Blues Imperials, have tapped into the boogie of Chicago blues. Known for his outfits, which are as flashy as his playing, and his charismatic and entertaining stage show, Williams has become an ambassador for Southside blues.


Reverend Raven

Reverend Raven. Special to The Forum

Another Windy City-bred guitarist, Raven packed up his gear and headed north to Milwaukee years ago. The guitarist adapted the Chicago sound to a more laid-back vibe in and landed on a style of blues that is smoother than Wisconsin cheese.

If you go

What: Fargo Blues Fest

When: Music starts at 2 p.m. Friday, July 26, and noon Saturday, July 27

Where: Newman Outdoor Field, 1515 15th Ave. N., Fargo

Info: Tickets are $30 for a single day or $45 for a two-day pass; or 218-287-7775

Fargo Blues Fest lineup

Friday, July 26:

2 p.m. — The Knotties

3 p.m. — Bluedog Blues Band

4:15 p.m. — Reverend Raven

5:30 p.m. — Rick Estrin & The Nightcats

7 p.m. — Popa Chubby

9 p.m. — Eric Gales Band

Saturday, July 27:

Noon — Heart & Soul

1:30 p.m. — Harper & Midwest Kind

3 p.m. — Brandon Santini

4:30 p.m. — Lil' Ed & The Blues Imperials

6 p.m. — Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band

8 p.m. — Sonny Landreth

Related Topics: MUSIC
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