MEMORIAL AUDITORIUM—The organizers call it a blues festival, but if it's the woke-up-this-mornin', 12-bar variety you seek, head elsewhere. Instead, the one-night Raleigh Blues Festival would be better (and more alliteratively) labeled the Raleigh Rhythm & Blues Blast, just with an addendum of old-school soul.
To wit, last year's festival included Clarence Carter, preceded by Bobby Blue Bland in 2012. Perennial festival favorite Latimore leads the bunch this year. The 74-year-old soul man once gave Gladys Knight and the Pips' 1971 hit "If I Was Your Woman" a sex change. His "If You Were My Woman" built from a breathless, sexy growl to a sweaty, howling finish, with Barry White-style moans and groans shot through the middle. But it's 2007's "My Give a Damn Gave Out" that stirs the crowds of late. It relates the tale of a woman who locks out her no-good man who "just couldn't keep that thing in his pants." Keep your eyes on the crowd, and you'll see some I've-been-there testimony.
It's hard to understand why Maurice Wynn hasn't risen to become recognized as one of soul music's greats. His slinky, soulful guitar and mellow vocals recall Clarence Carter's early work. He frequently brings his smooth Southern stuff to Gwendolyn's night club in Raleigh, while his records are staples of the club's Juke Joint Fridays.
Mel Waiters, Theodis Ealey and The Klass Band round out the vintage soul offerings, but there's some young blood in this year's mix, too. Although his mainline is R&B, Louisiana's Terence Kimble., or T.K. Soul, jostles the lineup with his "Zydeco bounce." Meanwhile, an overall-clad Sir Charles Jones flaunts all his roots on "Country Boy," a country, crunk and soul ode to collard greens, cornbread, pickups and pig pickings.
The Raleigh Blues Festival obviously has enough repeat business to keep it going for these last seven years. Perhaps they should consider calling it by a more proper name, though. Hell, they might even drag a few new, younger souls into the room. —Grant Britt