The 34th annual Mississippi Valley Blues Festival was held Friday and Saturday July 5th and 6th at Murphy Park at The Bend in East Moline, Illinois.

If one went looking to a Blues festival for some sin, one would found little here that could be considered sinful, even in sentiment.

A casual listen to The Front Porch Sessions, the new album from The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band, will likely prompt some confusion.

There’s that deceptive name, which purposefully disguises the Indiana-based trio as something larger. And there’s the fact that the guitarist/singer/songwriter Reverend (born Josh) is augmented ever so lightly on the record by his bandmates – wife Breezy on washboard and Maxwell Senteney on drums. The Big Damn Band sounds downright small.

And then there’s the laid-back-country-blues style, which masks the difficulty of the Rev’s playing. If you didn’t know that Peyton simultaneously plays both the bass and lead lines on his guitar, you’d swear there was at least one more member of the Big Damn Band. It doesn’t seem possible, for example, that there isn’t an upright-bass player on “Cornbread & Butterbeans.”

The announcement came 10 days after the final notes of the 2015 Mississippi Valley Blues Festival should have filled LeClaire Park: There would be no 2015 Mississippi Valley Blues Festival.

Citing financial difficulties, on July 15 the Mississippi Valley Blues Society (MVBS) said that it had canceled the festival. This followed a decision in February to move the blues fest from its traditional Independence Day weekend to the Labor Day weekend, and to reduce it from three days to two - changes designed to lessen the chance the event would be flooded out of LeClaire Park, to give the blues society the opportunity to raise more money, and to cut costs. The board was sharply divided on both the date-change and cancellation votes.

There are several cruel ironies here.

The cancellation comes a year after the Blues Foundation honored the festival with a Keeping the Blues Alive award for U.S. festivals, citing the Quad Cities event as "one of the longest-running, most-prestigious blues festivals in the world."

And there was no Fourth of July flooding in LeClaire Park this year, and the weather was rain-free and just about perfect. Had the festival happened at its normal time - as it had for the past 30 years - the MVBS would very likely have shored up its financial position significantly. "It would have been the best weather we've had in 16 years," said MVBS Board Member Ric Burris.

Instead, the organization now faces an existential crisis. Will the MVBS be able to put on a festival next year - as its president and many board members hope to? How will the group rebuild its board and fundraising efforts in the wake of this year's cancellation? And would a Mississippi Valley Blues Society without the blues fest be a shell of its former self - or could it perhaps be a stronger organization more focused on its education programs and smaller concerts?

The River Cities' Reader is proud to present the official guide to the 2014 Mississippi Valley Blues Festival, taking place July 3 through 5 on Second Street between Main and Ripley streets in downtown Davenport.

Here you'll find the complete festival schedule, new interviews with six of the performers, older interviews with four additional artists, biographies (from the Mississippi Valley Blues Society) of all 27 acts, and more: ticket and general information, a letter from the Mississippi Valley Blues Society president, and biographies of workshop and BlueSKool presenters who won't be performing on the Tent or Bandshell stages. You can also pick up a copy of the official blues-festival guide in the June 26 issue of River Cities' Reader.

More information and tickets are available at the Mississippi Valley Blues Society Web site.

George Thorogood's parents encouraged him to pursue a music career, but to hear the guitarist/singer/songwriter tell it, they didn't have much choice. They didn't see any more-conventional options to point him toward - and they were just glad he wasn't following in the tracks of his brothers.

"My older brothers, they were real terrors," Thorogood said in a recent phone interview. "They were like the Dennis Hoppers and the James Deans of the Delaware area on their motorcycles. ... My parents almost wept when I told them I wanted a guitar for a Christmas present. They were so pleased they couldn't see straight. And once they saw me perform once or twice, they said, 'This is what he's destined to do. All he has to do is stay with it long enough to get good at it.' And they also said this to me: 'George, you can't work.' That's true. I can't. I'm not good at it. Could you imagine Tom Petty working in an accountant firm? ... Some people are cut out to do what it is they do."

And, Thorogood added, it wasn't merely a hunch his parents had about him being a natural performer: "They didn't think it. They knew it. ... You know your own children."

Of course, 40 years into the career of George Thorogood & The Destroyers, it's more than clear Thorogood's parents were right about their son.

If you're of my generation - the generation that, as grade-schoolers, used to stay up long after bedtime to watch the early years of Saturday Night Live - there may be two names you most associate with your early exposure to blues music: Jake and Elwood.

Yet if you, too, became a fan of John Belushi's and Dan Aykroyd's famed Blues Brothers act through the duo's SNL appearances, their 1978 album Briefcase Full of Blues, and their 1980 feature film, the one to thank for your youthful blues immersion shouldn't be Jake or Elwood (or John or Dan). It should be Curtis.

Described by Blues Revue magazine as "one of the most down-to-earth, soulful, honest singers ever," and a harmonica player who is "rollicking, funky, and electrifying," Curtis Salgado has been at the forefront of the blues scene for decades. Included among Salgado's considerable credits are his many years of professional partnership alongside five-time Grammy-winner Robert Cray, his headlining of blues festivals from San Francisco to Thailand, and his 2010 and 2013 Blues Music Awards for Soul Blues Male Artist of the Year - the latter of which Salgado received after successfully battling lung cancer, which he was diagnosed with in 2012.

Check out the liner notes for Briefcase Full of Blues, though, and you'll see that Salgado is also the man that the album is dedicated to, making him the de facto reason many of us knew the lyrics to "Soul Man" before entering high school. (Also check out the name of Cab Calloway's character in 1980's The Blues Brothers movie. It's Curtis.)

"Belushi told me that Aykroyd was trying to get him into the blues, but he wasn't biting," says Salgado during our recent phone interview. "And then when he saw me, he got it."

If you're one of your parents' 11 children and are looking for something rewarding and fun to do with your 10 brothers and sisters, there are actually a number of options to choose from. You could, for example, form a football team. Or a soccer team. Or a field-hockey team.

Or, you could do what the children of East Moline's Charles and Barbara Westbrook did: You could form your own band.

"We did all of it," says Delores Westbrook-Tingle of her and her siblings' ensemble the Westbrook Singers, who began performing together in 1975. "I mean, some of us just played instruments - we had a couple of drummers, keyboard players, a guitar, a bass guitar ... . So when we actually started, all 11 of us, we had all our musicians and the vocalists, as well." She laughs. "We were pretty much self-contained."

Nowadays, however, the official number of full-time Westbrook Singers stops at four; after seven performers either moved from the area or retired from the group, the current lineup consists of Delores, brother Gary, and sisters Brenda Westbrook-Lee and Cynthia Westbrook-Bryson. Yet given the gospel quartet's smooth, stirring vocals and harmonies that clearly come from lifetimes of practice together, no one who has heard the group in its numerous concert and festival sets, CDs, or televised specials for the Quad Cities TV station WQPT could argue that they're getting only four-11ths of a great thing.

In an ideal world, Jarekus Singleton would probably still be playing basketball.

But performing at the Mississippi Valley Blues Festival in support of his Alligator debut - Refuse to Lose, released in April - ain't half-bad, either.

Singleton grew up in a musical family, playing bass at his grandfather's church starting at age nine. "It was a family thing at church," the 29-year-old said in a recent phone interview. "I knew I was musically inclined, but I didn't really know the significance of what I was doing. I was doing it to help the church out. ... Music was always the foundation of everything, because that was what our family leaned on."

But Singleton loved basketball and pursued a pro career. After the 2006-7 college season, he was named the NAIA national player of the year, averaging 24.7 points and 6.3 assists per game for William Carey University. He then played professionally in Lebanon.

"Anything that I do, I kind of get obsessed with it," he said. "I was really focused on basketball."

Roy Book Binder considers last year's The Good Book to be his most important album. And he never thought it would happen.

"I didn't really want to make any more records," he said in a recent phone interview. "I didn't want to do any more covers of [Mississippi] John Hurt and this one and that one. I figured, 70 years old coming up, why bother? ... I kept telling people, 'When I write enough songs, I'm going to put out an album.' I never thought I'd really do it."

But, he said, there was another pull, the simple fact of getting older: "If I don't make my mark soon, I ain't ever going to make it."

He said he had two good songs, and "I did a live album [2005's Live at the Fur Peace Station] just to get them out before I died, you know?"

When people would ask about a new album, Binder said, he'd pay lip service to the idea: "I kept saying it would be out in the spring, but it never was. Then finally I said, 'It's really going to be out in the spring.'"

But when he returned home in the winter from his annual six-month trek around the country, his wife asked him how it was going. "I got out my notebooks and my pads," he said, "and I had like three and a half songs written, plus the two that I put on the live album ... ." Then, during a visit to the Caribbean, "the songs came to me."

The resulting record, he said, will likely be his legacy.

It's about 15 minutes into my phone conversation with jazz vocalist Margaret Murphy-Webb. She's energetic and engaging and boasts an infectious laugh, and every once in a while she calls me "baby," which I like a lot. And then, knowing that the artist is pursuing a music degree at Chicago State University after nearly 30 years of performance, I ask her if, because of tuition and other costs, she has to supplement her income with any additional jobs.

"Oh, baby, you don't know!" she exclaims. "I'm a Chicago police officer! August 1 will be my 20th year!"

I actually did not know this (nor, for the record, would any other visitors to MargaretCMurphy.com, where that information is noticeably absent). I apologize for my ignorance and ask if it's cool to mention her career in print, and she says, "Oh yeah! I just assume people know, but I try not to tell people. That's dirty laundry." She laughs. "But they don't boo me when they know I'm a police officer!"

Of course, I'm betting that the musician doesn't ever deal with booing, given her gorgeous phrasing and vocals, and her presence that the late, great jazz saxophonist (and Murphy-Webb's former mentor) Von Freeman said "reminds you of Betty [Carter] and Billie [Holiday] in that, from the moment she steps onto the stage, she has the audience enraptured."

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