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Smokin blues

Waterfront fest bends notes for the food bank
by: Courtesy of Waterfront Blues Festival Get your blues fix — and support a good cause — by watching 125 world-class performers, including Lucinda Williams (above), at the Waterfront Blues Festival July 1-4. Don't miss the musical workshops, dance instruction and the fireworks finale on Independence Day.

The Safeway Waterfront Blues Festival is, without a doubt, the best musical bang for your buck every year in Portland. For a mere $10 donation - and two cans of food if you're so inclined - you can see a full day of some of the world's finest musicians, and help out the Oregon Food Bank, which supplies numerous pantries and soup kitchens around the state.

The festival is the charity's chief fundraiser, according to Jean Kempe-Ware, Oregon Food Bank spokeswoman.

'This is what fills the coffers as we start our new fiscal year,' Kempe-Ware says, noting that the food bank hopes to raise $650,000 through the blues bonanza.

More than 100,000 folks from around the world are expected to attend the Waterfront Park fest, which features 125 performers as well as musical workshops and dance instruction, she adds.

Here are a few highlights of this year's festival, which runs from Friday, July 1, through Monday, July 4 - shows start at 1:15 p.m. on Friday, and 10:15 a.m. the other three days, and wrap up around 11 p.m., with a fireworks finale on Independence Day:

Rebirth Brass Band

A funny thing about New Orleans brass bands, you almost never hear them on commercial radio, yet invariably they are among the most popular acts at any festival, bringing generations of listeners to their feet. Rebirth is one of the best such bands ever. Don't miss them when they play at 8:15 p.m. Friday, July 1, on the First Tech Stage.

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Robert Cray

Cray's smooth-as-silk soulful vocals and his clean, slicing guitar lines have always distinguished him sonically from the rougher members of the blues pack. Oh, by the way, Cray and Portland bluesman Curtis Salgado partly inspired the John Belushi/ Dan Ackroyd Blues Brothers characters. Cray plays at 9 p.m. Friday, July 1, on the Miller Stage.

Lucinda Williams

The word 'Americana' was invented for artists like Williams, whose broad range includes down 'n' dirty blues, romantic ballads, compelling country and righteous rock. From 'Passionate Kisses' to 'World Without Tears,' few songwriters have so consistently called 'em as they've seen 'em with such eloquence. Williams plays at 9 p.m. Saturday, July 2, on Miller Stage.

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Buddy Guy

He's one of the last living links to the golden 1950s and '60s Chicago blues era, and any guitarist worth his or her salt - including Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughan - has spoken reverently of Guy's fluid fingers, graceful dynamic attack and old school showmanship. Guy performs at 9 p.m. Sunday, July 3, on Miller Stage.

And the local stars …

Speaking of Williams, her old housemate and bandmate from Austin, Rich Layton, who calls Portland home now, will take the First Tech stage with his band The Troublemakers at 12:45 p.m. Saturday, July 2. Layton says his band lives at 'the crossroads of twang and tremolo."

'It's the sound of an East Texas roadhouse, harmonica-fueled and swampified,' he says.

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Courtesy of Rich Layton • Rich Layton and Lucinda Williams, both performing at this year's Waterfront Blues Festival, got their start busking Austin street corners and dive bars for tips.

Another local harmonica-driven powerhouse, Franco Paletta and The Stingers will kick off the festival on the same stage at 3 p.m. Friday, July 1.

'Basically we'll be opening the festival with a set of music consisting of songs off our CD, 'Can't Kick Love,' a few tunes that will be on our next CD, and some songs we bring some new life to,' Paletta says.

Meanwhile, Portland's Duffy Bishop Band features her husband Chris Carlson on guitar as well as Dean Mueller on bass, Kelly Dunn on drums, and Brad Ulrich and Jon Goforth on saxophones. Portland singers Ellen White and Lady Kat as well as Lady A from Seattle and the great guitarist Fiona Boyes from Australia will join Bishop. The group plays a blues cruise on the Willamette at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, July 3.

'One of the greatest things about the festival is how musicians mix and mingle to create new shows just for the (festival), getting to work with people that are usually all working their own dates during the year,' Bishop says.

On that note, Bishop says her hubby will be part of the T Bone Walker Tribute led by guitarist Franck Goldwasser playing the Miller Stage at 5:30 p.m. on July 4.

She will be belting out a tune with Tim 'Too Slim' Langford, during his set starting at 6:15 p.m. the same day on the First Tech stage.

'We are looking forward to the four days of incredible music to revel in,' she says.

Local blues fans should be familiar with scene stalwart The Norman Sylvester Band Review, which will play at 5:15 p.m. July 1 on Miller Stage. The band features LaRhonda Steele and Sarah Billings on vocals with horns by Renato Caranto and Peter Moss, and will play its latest originals. Sylvester has been part of the festival since its inception in 1987.

'Then, it was a local blues showcase of our stellar Portland blues scene,' he says. 'The fans are always awesome!'

For a full lineup, visit waterfrontbluesfest.com.