News Column

Pop Ferguson Festival features area's top blues acts

June 13, 2014

By Derek Lacey, News-Topic, Lenoir, N.C.

June 13--LENOIR -- The brainchild of band leader, guitar player and songwriter Terry VunCannon, the band Lawyers Guns and Money has accomplished more in its three years than many bands ever do.

The Blues/R&B trio of VunCannon, Steve Headen on bass and Mike Thomas on drums has performed all around North Carolina, especially from Winston-Salem to Wilmington and down to Asheboro.

But perhaps their biggest performance was the one that won them the Piedmont Blues Preservation Society's "Blues Challenge," rated the top band in the contest that featured more than 200.

"Any time I've been in a band lucky enough to win the blues challenge I look at the whole year as a celebration," VunCannon said.

The band's performance at the Pop Ferguson Blues Heritage Festival is an extension of that celebration, and the band is excited to get to play the festival for the first time, he said.

"This weekend, we're going to hit hard with a tight show," VunCannon said. "We like to go from one song to another, keeping the action rolling."

The band will play some originals and some traditional blues and R&B covers, and will play its roughly 45-minute set on the stage at the square downtown Saturday afternoon.

Band profiles:

Pop Ferguson and the Original Pop Ferguson Blues Review Band

Clyde "Pop" Ferguson, the namesake of the festival, is a North Carolina legend, and Lenoir resident. Ferguson has played the blues as a traveling musician nearly all his life and plays traditional blues with his son Clyde Jr. Ferguson learned to play the guitar in secret, practicing behind a woodshed and learning from the radio and area blues musicians.

Bryan Anderson

Bryan Anderson, a bassist, songwriter and producer, brands his own sound: "groove music." It blends smooth jazz, old school funk, Latin rhythms and island vibes. He's got six solo projects under his belt, and has influenced bassists like James Jamerson, Larry Graham and Gary King. Originally from Baltimore, Anderson now resides in Charlotte. Reviews have called him a "foremost bass player," calling his music authentic, and urging listeners to be prepared for the unusual.

John Dee Holman

A Hillsborough native, John Dee Holman is a first-rate bluesman, a pioneer of Piedmont Blues who has inspired countless musicians and played at Carnegie Hall, the National Folk Festival and toured overseas. Holman has recorded albums with artist like Taj Mahal and Cool John Ferguson. Currently based in Durham, Holman's latest album, "You Got to Lose, You Can't Win All the Time," came out in 2008.

Phil Wiggins

Phil Wiggins, a premier blues harmonica player, learned the basics of the instrument on a plastic harmonica. He's played with many great blues musicians, including Wilbert "Big Chief Ellis," and his partner in the band Cephas and Wiggins, John Cephas, whom he produced numerous albums with. As Clyde Ferguson, Jr. puts it: "Phil Wiggins is the icon of icons, he is that man that has been noted by all the historic noting folks."

Vonna

Based in Greenville/Spartanburg, S.C., and named after lead singer Vonna Lawter, the band came together in 2008, and plays a diverse offering of everything from blues to country to rock. Each member of the band plays multile instruments, with Chris Newton on guitar and vocals, Jeff Downs on bass and vocals and Tim DeLisle on percussion.

Lawyers Guns and Money

Greensboro-based Lawyers Guns and Money performs a soulful repertoire of everything from blues to R&B, rock and roll and their original sound, which utilizes plenty of instrumentals, lap steel, lead guitar and strong vocals. The band recently won the Piedmont Blues Preservation Society's "Blues Challenge," rated No. 1 band in the contest that featured more than 200. The trio is comprised of Steven Headen playing bass and vocals, Mike Thomas playing drums and vocals, while Terry VunCannon is on guitar and lap steel.

5:17

Taking its name from 2 Corinthians 5:17: "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new," the gospel band features Robin Hudler on vocals, Bob Woods on lap steel, Frank Winkler on bass, Monroe Franklin on lead guitar and Danny Wilson on vocals and rhythm.

Sweetbriar Jam

The "ingredients" of Sweetbriar Jam blend young and talented musicians Sawyer Whitman on banjo, Kaitlyn Caldwell on bass, Dalton Caldwell on mandolin, Nicholas Seymour on guitar and Sarah Seymour on vocals to produce a unique bluegrass/gospel sound straight from Lenoir.

Strictly Clean and Decent

The Strictly Clean and Decent trio of Patrick Crouch, Kay Crouch and Ron Shuffler will be joined by two Caldwell County greats for this year's festival, Carolina Ray Whisnant and Cecil Palmer, both 80-year-old accomplished guitar players. The pair will join Patrick Crouch on the mandolin, banjo and dobro, Kay Crouch on the guitar, flute, piano or tin whistle, and Ron Shuffer on the upright bass.

Darryl Corley

Playing a blend of Americana, folk, bluegrass and originals, Corley is a Western North Carolina-based singer/songwriter, and his musical journey has led him to perform with many musical greats, including the likes of New Grass Revival and Doc Watson.

Other bands playing include Anointed, Silver Star and Donnie Felton.

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(c)2014 the News-Topic (Lenoir, N.C.)

Visit the News-Topic (Lenoir, N.C.) at http://www.newstopic.net/

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