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Live Review: The Ponderosa Stomp

Live Review

Venue: Rock N’ Bowl, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA

A satisfying roots gumbo is served up in The Big Easy.

Across two long nights – performances start at 6.30pm and finish close to 4am – The Ponderosa Stomp gathers many of the unsung heroes of American music. There are blues and soul singers, swamp pop and Tex-Mex combos, rockabilly veterans and garage rockers, all ably backed by superb bands lead by Los Angeles’ Deke Dickerson (rockabilly), Memphis’ The Bo-Keys (soul) and Lafayette’s Lil Buck Sinegal (blues).

Friday night’s Stomp sees a dozen different performers take the stage, while Saturday’s features 14. The Stomp is run with precision so changeovers are fast and no time is wasted, which means you get a lot of music for your buck. And what fabulous music it is...

As it would take an essay to detail all the artists who performed, the focus is on the few who truly stand out. Billy Boy Arnold is, aged 80, one of the last of the Chicago blues singers still working – and he remains a truly great performer. At the Stomp conference (held during the day and featuring music historians hosting Q&A sessions with artists) Arnold speaks of taking harmonica lessons from the original Sonny Boy Williamson in Chicago and playing on the street with Ellas McDaniel (Bo Diddley) in his early teens. He also recalls recording sessions at Chess Records and Vee-Jay. In concert Arnold sings and blows harmonica with the verve and agility of a man half his age.

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