NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

PortWatch

July 5, 2013

Music on the Merrimack

BluesCruise season pays tribute to local legend, celebrates New Orleans

With summer sailing full steam ahead, the time has come to hit the river and get the blues.

A local tradition for more than 20 years, the Newburyport BluesCruise is about to begin its 2013 season on the Merrimack River with its first New Orleans River Cruise.

“I think there is a pent-up demand for the New Orleans culture here,” BluesCruise producer Joe Laite said. “I think there is a healthy demand for New Orleans vibe happening here.”

Set for tomorrow, the New Orleans River Boat BluesCruise will feature Henri Smith’s “Friends and Flavours,” which includes saxophonist Amadee Castenell along with an all-star band that will play swing, funk, R&B, Latin, Cajun, calypso and, of course, the blues.

“It’s going to be one heck of a riverboat party,” Laite said. “It’s our first New Orleans-themed cruise, and based on the popularity of New Orleans culture, New Orleans food and New Orleans music, I think it’s a great addition to our roster of BluesCruises.”

Laite and company will also be prepared when Yankee Homecoming hits Port in late July, with the Yankee Homecoming Festival BluesCruise on Saturday, July 27. Laite himself will play guitar for Shor’ty Billups and the Foxxx Band. Widely acclaimed as the “Statesman of the Blues,” the 81-year-old Billups was a member of Wilson Pickett’s original band and has enjoyed a musical career spanning more than six decades.

“(Billups) is a consummate showman in the old blues tradition, with bright suits and a matching hat, and he has an amazing energy,” Laite said.

The BluesCruise will wrap up the summer on Saturday, Aug. 31, when Grammy Award nominee James Montgomery hosts the Labor Day Festival BluesCruise with the BluesCruise All Star Band, featuring Laite, Alizon Lissance, Sergio Bellotti and Michael “Mudcat” Ward.

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