Bishop, Pawns and Kings of the Blues

The Doheny Blues Fest showcases a seldom heard scene

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I was delighted when AlvinYoungbloodHartreturned to his country blues roots (and true calling) with 2002's DownintheAlley,an inspired collection of traditional acoustic tunes and covers by such giants as Son House, Skip James and Leadbelly, recorded in a scant three days. Alleywas a particularly welcome return to form, coming as it did on the heels of Hart's previous, disappointing effort, a surprisingly mundane, rock-based affair misleadingly titled StartWithYourSoul.Hart is among the few youngish black performers left keeping the old-time blues flame burning; we need him now more than ever in these Kenny-Wayne-as-bluesfest-headliner times. And if this frequently posed keeper-of-the-torch proclamation comes as a pressurized albatross to Alvin, well, better to have him keep it real under fire than to generate lesser experiments in the name of "artistic growth" (reetttch!). Speaking of which, hey, 'Blood: it's been three years since your last album and five since we heard any new original tunes from ya—get back to work, ya bastid!

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JimmyThackeryis a guitarist who's frequently and unfairly lumped in with such blues-rockers as Walter Trout, Tinsley Ellis and Gary Moore; in fact, he's of a rarer and more dignified breed. Early on, Thackery paid some valuable dues with the Nighthawks, a D.C.-based touring unit that backed the elite of the old school back in the '70s. The fledgling picker learned his lessons well, accounting for the tense, down-home vibe that hallmarks Thackery's playing, even when he's shredding full-tilt. He's an odd duck who somehow manages to work both sides of the aisle; flashing meltdown licks to please the meathead contingent while remaining tasteful enough for those who prefer their blues on the less gauche, Shepherd-ized side. Yessir, I like him!

EIGHTH ANNUAL DOHENY BLUES FESTIVAL AT DOHENY STATE BEACH (OFF DANA POINT HARBOR DRIVE), DANA POINT, (949) 360-7800; WWW.OMEGAEVENTS.COM. SAT.-SUN., 11 A.M. $40-$150; CHILDREN, $10.

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