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Roots on Ninth

While I haven't yet had the opportunity to stop at the All People's Grill on Guess Road in Durham to catch the standing Saturday night gig of Cool John Ferguson--a man that Taj Mahal has called "one of the five greatest guitarists I have heard in my career"--it's impossible not to notice that he packs them in week after week. But Ferguson will probably have to miss this Saturday night's All People's Grill performance. You'll find him instead at Charlie's Neighborhood Bar & Grille on Durham's Ninth Street at 9 p.m., hosting a show and introducing some of the performers for the next day's second annual Roots on Ninth street Festival.

Ferguson is on the roster of the Music Maker Relief Foundation, one of the local nonprofit organizations involved with Roots on Ninth, and he'll be joined by other MMRF artists when the Ninth Street shopping district is turned into an all-ages music hall from 1 to 6 p.m. on Sunday, May 4. (Ninth Street will be the scene of the festival's main stage, with stages also on neighboring Markham Avenue and Perry Street.) It's a wide-ranging bill, featuring such veterans as blues harpist George Higgs; guitarist, singer and North Carolina Folk Heritage award winner John Dee Holeman; gospel duo the Branchettes; versatile and expressive vocalist Captain Luke (with equally versatile and expressive accompaniment from Ferguson); and the intriguingly named Drink Small, a self-described "blues doctor" and former member of the Spiritualaires who toured with Sam Cooke, the Harmonizing Four and the Staple Singers in the '60s. And from the young body/old soul category is ex-Blue Rag Abe Reid, who'll be making, as he likes to call it, "antique punk" with his band the Spikedrivers.

There will also be clowns, face painters, balloon artists and other time-honored kid pleasers, so this is a true family event. Plus, the festival is free, and it doesn't get any family friendlier than that. The event happens rain or shine. For the festival schedule and more information, visit; for more on the Music Maker Relief Foundation, visit

  • Roots on Ninth

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