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'Solid Blues' features a talented lineup

"Solid Blues" is a revue, a musical event where a mixed group of performers all have their own spotlights.

What makes "Solid Blues" such a success, however, is the manner in which the musicians joined each other's sets, showing considerable affection for each other and demonstrating formidable skills without getting in each other's way.

Joe Krown, who used to attend the University at Buffalo and has lived in New Orleans for a couple decades since then, was first onstage.

He called up the ghosts of "Big Easy" pianists James Booker and Professor Longhair with performances of "Junco Partner" and "Tipitina," respectively, that hewed to the basic melody lines and rhythms laid down by the originators while tossing in his own, highly individual, instrumental filigrees.

Krown then left the stage for the North Mississippi Allstars, who opened their portion of the show with an acoustic guitar rendition of "Will the Circle Be Unbroken."

Gradually the trio moved into overdrive, reeling off Bob Dylan's "Masters of War" and then jumping into an electric-powered piece with Krown joining in.

Then, Krown left the band on their own as they cruised through an extended version of R. L. Burnside's "Snake Drive."

After the intermission Charlie Musselwhite, the legendary harmonica player, was backed up by the Allstars in a set that showcased Musselwhite's incredible chops.

During tunes like "Strange Land," "Black Water" [a post-Katrina lament] and "Church Is Out," the master musician unveiled a repertoire of tonal shadings [crooning, wailing, and punching] that was truly impressive.

His small suitcase was filled with different harps in different tunings, an arsenal into which he would dip with incredible facility multiple times during the course of one song.

Then, Mavis Staples joined Musselwhite, the Allstars and Krown onstage for the true highlight portion of the evening, running through a set of tunes from her latest album ['We'll Never Turn Back"] and a mixture of by-now standards, like Robbie Robertson's "The Weight."

Staples' gutsy contralto has plenty of power left despite nearly half a century of singing gospel and pop songs.

Like Etta James and Aretha Franklin, Staples is a true vocal treasure who deserves to be acclaimed as the soulful queen she is.

Her forceful renditions of the civil rights anthem, "Eyes on the Prize" and "Down in Mississippi" were moving enough to send shivers down this listener's spine.

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