Labor Day looms, and in St. Louis, that means plenty of blues to go along with picnics, pork steaks and ice-cold brew. The annual Big Muddy Blues Festival runs Saturday through Monday on Laclede's Landing, and, as usual, the event features a who's-who of local blues acts spiced with such national acts as Bobby Parker, Otis Clay (pictured), Michael Burks and Mighty Sam McClain.
It's a kind of Mini-Me approach to the BMB Fest's glory days in the early '90s, when there were plenty of national acts -- as well as an admission price for music in an enclosed area on the Landing. But when the fest went to a free-admission policy back in 1997, local bands had to fill in the gaps left by the bigger, more expensive acts. But, given the depth of talent on the local blues scene, that's not a problem. In fact, listeners now get an annual chance to check out the state of perennial faves such as Big George and the Houserockers, Leroy Pierson, Bennie Smith, Steve Pecaro and the Soulard Blues Band, all in one place.
Add great blues and R&B artists such as Clay, one of the linchpin artists of Memphis' famed Hi Records label, and Parker, an underrecorded master guitarist and singer from the Washington, D.C., area, and you have an interesting yardstick by which to gauge our local heroes. For a complete look at the lineup for each of the five stages, check out the festival's Web site: www.bigmuddyblues.com.