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The Oak Barrel fest is a cooperative effort between event organizer Sponsor Hounds and Downtown Roanoke Inc.
John Ambrosino Cityrat
Bernard Allison played the 2011 Big Lick Blues Fest and is second on the Oak Barrel fest bill.
Jimmy Thackery headlines Oak Barrel fest.
Kevin Selfe is originally from Roanoke and is now making a name in Portland, Ore.
Courtesy Nicholas Critelli
Moonshine Society opens Oak Barrel fest at noon.
Thursday, September 12, 2013
It’s a well-known fact of the blues world: A blues man has got to ramble.
That urge took Kevin Selfe from his hometown of Roanoke to Portland, Ore. And Selfe has navigated that city’s strong blues scene very well.
Some six years after heading west, he and his band, the Tornadoes, are perennial winners at the Cascade Blues Association Awards. And that’s no joke — other winners have included Curtis Salgado (a singer/harmonica player and Robert Cray associate whose dark sunglasses inspired John Belushi’s and Dan Ackroyd’s getups in “The Blues Brothers”) and Too Slim & The Taildraggers.
The Tornadoes won four of the awards last year, including the band’s third consecutive Traditional Blues Act honor, a feat that landed the band in the CBA Hall of Fame.
Two months later, Selfe signed with national blues label Delta Groove, and his debut disc on that imprint, “Long Walk Home,” hit No. 15 on the Billboard blues albums chart in July. The disc spent two months in the Living Blues Chart, as well.
On Saturday, Selfe returns to Roanoke with the rest of the Tornadoes — drummer Jimi Bott and bassist Allen Market. The occasion is the Oak Barrel Blues Festival, the latest entry in Elmwood Park’s blues fest history.
The Big Lick Blues Festival had preceded it, but after festival sponsor EventZone lost its contract with the city, it did not put on an event this year. Before that, it was the Taste of the Blue Ridge Blues and Jazz Festival. Selfe knows that old event well, having served on its board, including a spell as its entertainment chair.
Selfe booked such acts as Eddy “The Chief” Clearwater, Guitar Shorty and James Cotton. Selfe even backed Clearwater during his festival set, a time that Selfe remembered as one of his career highlights.
“I had a lot of fun times running that festival,” Selfe said by phone from Portland on Tuesday. “Just some of the best musical moments in Roanoke that I can remember were part of that Taste of the Blue Ridge.”
The Oak Barrel fest is a cooperative effort between event organizer Sponsor Hounds and Downtown Roanoke Inc. On its website, the groups promise blues, bourbon (hence the Oak Barrel name), beer and barbecue. The music lineup features some familiar acts and an opener that is new to the Roanoke Valley.
Jimmy Thackery, whose Stratocaster licks have remained fiery in several Roanoke appearances over the past few years, headlines the event. Bernard Allison, a powerful singer and guitar slinger who played the 2011 Big Lick Blues Fest, is second on the bill. Selfe precedes them with a set scheduled for 2 p.m. Moonshine Society opens the event at noon.
Pete Ragusa, a former mate of Thackery’s in The Nighthawks, is in the drum throne for the Moonshine Society.
“This is one of the strongest lineups that I’ve seen in a long time,” Selfe said.
He and his band have performed for the past few years at Portland’s Waterfront Blues Festival, which he said draws about 125,000 people annually. Selfe said many of his fellow Portlandians are impressed when he tells them that the Oak Barrel Festival will feature both Thackery and Allison .
“I’m really honored to be a part of it this year, especially being the first one of the Oak Barrel Blues Festival,” he said.
Selfe advised blues fans not to sleep on Moonshine Society and its singer, Jenny “Black Betty” Poppen.
“That girl can really sing,” Selfe said. “I’ve watched some of their YouTube videos, and she’s amazing.”
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