Arts & Entertainment, City Life

Award winning blues artists set to appear at Bob Sykes BBQ and Blues Festival

Thousands have turned out each year for the annual Bob Sykes BBQ and Blues Festival in downtown Bessemer.

An award-winning lineup is set for the 10th Annual Bob Sykes Barbecue and Blues Festival, scheduled for Saturday, April 27 at DeBardeleben Park in Historic Downtown Bessemer. The annual event, so-sponsored by Bob Sykes BBQ and the city of Bessemer, will combine the best of blues music and food. The event is from 12 to 8 p.m., rain or shine. Gates will open at 11 a.m. Visitors can bring a chair or blanket and set-up your spot for the day. Since 2010, the event has been filled with thousands of festival goers, including international visitors. Attendees of the festival range from youth to adults.  The festival has been chosen for numerous years as one of the top food festivals in Alabama. “Each year the festival grows and we couldn’t do it without our sponsors and the support of the community,” said Van Sykes, Bob Sykes BBQ’s second generation owner. “The Bob Sykes BBQ and Blues Festival has been a great event for the city of Bessemer,” said Bessemer Mayor Kenneth Gulley. “It brings visitors to our city from across the state, southeast and even internationally. We’re proud that this festival will continue to be held in Bessemer and we’re looking forward to many more great years of barbecue and blues music in downtown Bessemer.” There is something to do for the entire family including a large kids corner with activities and games. Children twelve and under are free with a ticketed adult. Besides great music and barebecue the festival offers a variety of booths including arts and crafts, outdoor exhibits, and a diverse selection of vendors selling tempting offers. General admission tickets can be purchased at or visit Bob Sykes Bar B Q Restaurant. The festival will give a portion of the proceeds to Red Mountain Grace that provides apartments to patients receiving long term medical care at hospitals throughout the city of Birmingham. Since 2010, the festival has provided funding for local charities including Children’s of Alabama, Bessemer Education Enhancement Foundation, Clay House, Hands On Birmingham, Ady’s Army and Latch and Live Foundation. 2019 Music Line-Up 12:00pm National Anthem performed by Aretta Woodruff Aretta has been singing and performing since the age of 7 beginning in her family church. She has opened and performed with several names such as Denise LaSalle, The Love Doctor, Jeffery Osborne, Floyd Taylor, the late Bobby Blue Bland, Bobby Rush and a host of others. Aretta has performed at several major festivals including Birmingham’s City Stages as well as concerts and charitable events. Some of her influences are Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin, Patti Labelle and Yolanda Adams. The silky and smooth sounds of Ms. Aretta have dazzled audiences all over the southeast U.S. for about 20 years. The song “Give Me Your Love” was the title of her 2007 CD. Aretta performs regularly with her own band, the Revue Band. In 2018 she was inducted into the Alabama Blues Hall of Fame. 12:15-1:15pm 2Blu with Bruce and George 2BLU “duo” is George Dudley on guitars and Bruce Andrews on vocals and harp. George honed his guitar chops in the 70’s in New England while Bruce worked out his musical style in the Deep South. The two met in 1994 and found the Blues to be common ground and they’ve been playing and writing ever since. When asked to describe their original music Bruce says “We sure love Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy, but we don’t try to imitate them. We just do what we do and hope to pay homage to those icons in our performance.” Our original music reflects our faith, our sense of humor and our personal struggles; lyrically, we just try to be honest and transparent. Musically, we are solidly rooted in American music with emphasis on the blues. 2BLU has been to the International Blues Challenge (IBC) in Memphis four times as a duo and twice as a full band. They were duo IBC FINALISTS in 2008 and 2018. 1:30pm-2:30pm The Roadhouse Blues Band 1275539047/10217540281480318/?type=2&video_source=user_video_tab Roadhouse Blues Band was founded by guitarist Johnny (Bondo) keyboard player Henry (Main) and the late Michael Handley vocals in the early 1990’s. Scott Purser was added on vocals and harmonica and they became Mr. Gips house band. Michael Carpenter would jam with the house band when he was in town and when he wasn’t playing with his own band or performing solo. The band had disbanded, no longer playing at Gip’s Place. in 2016 Michael wanted the Band to start up again playing the real Blues. He asked his friend Norman Johnson his Bass player for the past 15 years to join the band. Norman had played with Dwight Houston’s Jazz Band On Purpose and with Michael for several years in and out of the studio so he agreed to come on board. Johnny found the last key element of the band, a young drummer Candarious (CD) an extremely gifted percussionist who loved the Blues. After 9 months of rehearsal they hit the road traveling South Carolina, Virginia, Mississippi and Georgia’s Atlanta area and here in Alabama. they are as they say Blues Outcasts because they don’t do R&B they do BLUES and Hill Country 2:45-3:45pm The Lucky Losers They simply can’t lose with their take on down. home, joyful, blues drenched, blues rocking. BLUES MUSIC MAGAZINE, TOM CLARKE, OCTOBER 2018 Described as “the finest light skinned female blues vocalist in the U.S” (Real Blues/2010), fiery Dallas born entertainer, Cathy Lemons has a velvet voice with a gritty edge and the rebel conviction of a woman risen from the ashes. New Jersey native, Phil Berkowitz, “has earned renown as one of the West Coast’s most distinctive harp players, as well as for his sharp, resonant tenor” (Living Blues/ 2018). In July of 2014, Cathy and Phil combined their talents to become The Lucky Losers. Based In San Francisco and accompanied by a dynamic three piece ensemble, they deliver a truly signature sound, marrying vintage soul, swing, and blues together with a splash of Americana. In the span of four years, The Lucky Losers have produced three chart topping albums with world renowned producer, Kid Andersen. Their first album, “A Winning Hand,” was nominated for “Best Traditional Blues Album” by Blues 411 and made The Roots Music Report’s “Top Blues Albums of 2015”. Their second album, “In Any Town,” was nominated for a total of SEVEN awards. Their third album, “Blind Spot,” released in May of 2018, is comprised solely of original material. Critics from around the world gave the album five star reviews. Downbeat, Making a Scene, and The Roots Music Report, all included “Blind Spot” in their notable year end lists. To honor their outstanding work, The Independent Blues Awards nominated The Lucky Losers for “Best Independent Blues/Soul Artist,” “Best Independent Blues/Soul CD,” and “Best Independent Blues/Soul Song” in 2018. 4:00pm-5:00pm Dexter Allen Dexter Allen, born in Crystal Springs, MS. the son of musical Pastors Lee and Ruthie Allen, was raised on a farm and grew up understanding that life can still be wholesome with only the bare necessities. Dexter began playing the bass guitar at the age of 12 for his father’s gospel group traveling around the central Mississippi area. His sweet blend of Blues, R&B, Soul and Funk landed him a deal in 1995 when he teamed up with Airtight Records, a local independent label, to share his musical and writing talents. He caught the eye of living blues legend Bobby Rush who made him the lead guitarist in his worldwide touring band. Dexter’s unique style landed him the 2008 Jackson, Mississippi Music Award for Male Vocalist of the year. Earlier in 2008, he put out his first CD where he plays guitar, bass, keyboards and sings.In 2009 he won the Mississippi Music Awards Entertainer of the Year honor. In 2011 Dexter released his 2nd CD titled “Bluezin for Life”, going back to his roots with a host of deep Mississippi blues originals. In 2013 Dexter was cast in the James Brown movie “Get On Up” where he played one of Mr. Brown’s musicians. Over the years Dexter has developed a passionate, driving guitar style in the vein of Buddy Guy, Muddy Waters, Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page. In 2014 Dexter was signed to Deep Rush Records, the label of icon Bobby Rush, where he released the CD titled “Bluez Of My Soul” that made many chart appearances worldwide. In 2015 Dexter released another CD on the Deep Rush label titled “Trilogy Of My Blues” which continues to sell worldwide and delight fans all across the globe. His live show at the Ground Zero Blues Club takes a page out of a classic old blues show, carrying on a custom that traces back to 1920s Delta pioneer Charley Patton: good, old fashioned showmanship that makes people want to be in Dexter’s presence. 5:15-6:30pm Ghost Town Blues Band Recently headlining the blues stage at The Montreal Jazz Festival, Beale Street’s latest success story, 5-time Blues Blast Music Award Nominee and International Blues Challenge Runner-up is Ghost Town Blues Band. Not your grandpa’s blues band, their live show has been captivating audiences in the U.S., Canada and Europe with their “second-line horn entrance,” cigar box guitars and electric push brooms to Allman Brothers style jams and even a hip-hop trombone player. The band’s stage show and energy is unparalleled and has been called the best new live blues show in the world. Horns, harmonies and homegrown instruments combined with an energetic and roots rich festival set makes Ghost Town Blues Band one of the “must see live bands on the festival scene today.” Both Andrew McNeill behind the drums and Matt Karner on the bass guitar are a punishing rhythm section behind multi-instrumentalist/frontman Matt Isbell with raunchy cigar box guitar licks and raspy “Dr. John-like, whiskey and gravel- soaked vocals.” With the addition of Trombonist Suavo Jones, Cedric Taylor on B3 and Taylor Orr on lead guitar, the grooves go from fresh to funky as the band gains more notoriety in the blues festival and jam circuit. Ghost Town Blues Band has performed all across US and Canada at over 100+ festivals and will perform more than a half-dozen international tours in Canada and Europe in 2019. “GTBB shows what can happen when the past is distilled through young sensibilities, voices, and instruments. This is 21st century blues at its best.”                        -Living Blues Magazine
  • 2019 B.B. King International Entertainer of the Year Nominee – Maple Blues
Awards (Canada)
  • 2018- #4 Billboard Blues Album Chart
  • 2018 Tennessee Music Award Winner “Best Blues Band”
  • 2018 3-Time Blues Blast Music Award Nominee
6:45-8pm The Keeshea Pratt Band The Houston based, award winning Keeshea Pratt Band possesses the skill and artistry reminiscent of old school Motown; a rarity among bands of any genre today. The 8-piece musical collective, lends its energy and passion to traditional blues, contemporary blues and offers a preview to the future of blues. The musical artistry and dexterity of The Keeshea Pratt Band allows it to journey unapologetically across the genres of classical, jazz, Southern rock, soul, gospel, and country and back again. Keeshea Pratt is the siren featured on the microphone with soaring and soulful lead Mississippi inspired vocals. She is supported by a talented and diverse group of singers and musicians representing 5 states (Texas, California, Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi) and Japan. The female Japanese trumpeter is nestled in the 3 piece horn section that produces thrilling chorded in sync rhythms that rival those of big bands. The makeup of this phenomenal band is Music Director, Bassist and Vocals, Shawn Allen, Brian Sowell (Lead Guitar & Vocals), Dan Carpenter (Saxophone), Misaki Nishidate (Trumpet), James Williams III (Trumpet), and Nick Fishman (Drums) In January 2018, The Keeshea Pratt Band secured first place in the Band Division for the 34th Annual International Blues Challenge held in Memphis, Tennessee. The polished professional soul stirring toe tapping performances assured the judges that The Keeshea Pratt is primed to headline major festivals and concert stages as a noteworthy authority on the blues scene, nationally and internationally