Now in its fourth year, the Chicago Bluegrass & Blues Festival has grown into a formidable, two-weekend showcase of contemporary twists on American roots music.
Last Saturday the festival featured its bluegrass lineup (the Del McCoury Band with David Grisman, Bill Nershi, Joe Purdy and more) at an additional downtown venue, the Auditorium Theatre. This weekend the fest hunkers down in its birthplace, the trusty, musty Congress Theater, with a rewarding marquee of modern roots-rock: headliners Drive-By Truckers and Dawes, plus breakout locals such as Joe Pug, Bailiff, the Shams Band and more.
Are those really blues bands? For most of these acts, the blues are a starting point, a flavoring, a distant blood relation. The Foo Fighters and the Eagles are playing this spring's New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, so perhaps we shouldn't quibble about matching acts to event names.
Taylor Goldsmith, lead singer-guitarist for Dawes, has led his band to great acclaim by sticking to a solid formula of 1970s, Laurel Canyon-inspired, slightly countryish soft-rock styles. But he's nothing if not versatile.
"I'm in Los Angeles right now, rehearsing for a fund-raiser thing my friends are putting together. I'm doing a couple of standards," Goldsmith said, chuckling, during a recent phone conversation. "I'm singing 'What Kind of Fool Am I?' and 'That Lucky Old Sun' -- the Ray Charles version."