Hot wheels, smooth sounds

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 2, 2006

Classic rides, classic blues and the sweet scent of barbeque: they were all part of the second annual Sweet Gum Bottom Blues Fest in downtown Greenville last Saturday.

 Aficionados from near and far brought their vintage roadsters, classy coupes, sleek convertibles, cute &#8220bugs” and sturdy pickups to show off to the admiring crowds.

 Barbecue chefs were busy cooking spare ribs, brisket and chicken to vie for the title of Grand Champion of the  inaugural Blues and ‘Que Cook-off. &#8220Even if I wasn't at all hungry, just the smell of that barbeque makes my mouth water,” laughed Marianne Russell as she served as ticket-taker.

The Smokehouse, sponsor for the cooking competition, served up barbeque sandwiches to help satisfy those ‘que cravings.

The Greater Greenville Service League gals and their mates offered plenty of fried green tomato sandwiches, smoked turkey legs, fried dill pickles, baked sweet potatoes and a variety of treats to satisfy sweet tooths.

Kids got to bounce, tunnel and slide their way through an assortment of inflatable rides. Many sported the talented work of face painting artist Jacqui Sport. Caricaturist Bill Jackson drew plenty of funny faces for visitors to take home as a free souvenir of the fest.

First and foremost, Sweet Gum Bottom Blues is a celebration of blues music, in all its incarnations. As performer Junior Thomas said, &#8220Blues music comes in a lot of different forms. And it's not all sad and slow.”

Thomas and his band proved that point as they played plenty of &#8220jump blues,” up-tempo numbers that made audience members pat their feet, nod their heads and get into the blues groove.

Topper Price, with his mop of dark curls and slow drawl, amused listeners with his own quirky, heartfelt take on the blues.  Harmonica master Jerry &#8220Boogie” McCain, 77 years young, a lively ham in black leather with diamond rings sparkling in the moonlight, proved you will, indeed, &#8220remember the Boogie.”

Local musicians, from Rock Killough to The Blue Light Specials' William Watson and Jeff Cummings and Sweet Lovin' Daddy's Eric Fennell, also put their individual stamp on the blues they played, be it acoustic, country, or electrified.

Though it was acoustic country blues music they played, it was an absolutely electric moment that afternoon when Grammy Award winning artist Keb'Mo' took the stage with young Gary Clark Jr. (Greenville's Brian Williams also joined in on a song or two).

Keb'Mo' wasn't officially on the performance schedule, but everyone was hoping the artist, who is in town to film his role in &#8220Honeydripper,” would decide to drop in at the fest and play a few tunes.

&#8220I was at my hotel, just eatin' a few soda crackers, when they called me and said there was barbeque down here. We hadn't had any dinner, so I said I was comin,'” the laid-back performer told his audience with a broad smile.

Blues, barbecue, good food, good fun: a great day, and night, in downtown Greenville.