Marty Clear

Marcia Ball plays Bradenton Blues Festival

Local music fans are still buzzing about how great the 2013 Bradenton Blues Festival was. Now the 2014 festival looks as though it could be even better.

Organizers announced the lineup for the third annual edition of the festival, which is set for Dec. 6 on the Riverwalk. The headliner is Marcia Ball, probably the biggest name the festival has ever featured.

Just like last year, though, there's not a weak link in the entire lineup. Other acts scheduled thus far are Jimmy Thackery and the Drivers, Little Ed and the Blue Imperials, Bill Branch & The Sons of Blues, Samantha Fish, EG Kight, Doug Deming and the Jewel Tones with Dennis Gruenling, and Dave Muskett.

The only returning act from the 2013 festival is Doug Deming and the Jewel Tones with Dennis Gruenling, a nationally acclaimed, Bradenton-based band that tinges its blues with rockabilly. Last year they played on a side stage, between the acts on the main stage. This year they'll be on the main stage, and Muskett will play the "tweeners."

As in past years, artistic director Paul Benjamin has put together a lineup that explores an array of blues genres.

Ball is one of the most acclaimed piano players in blues. She's Texas-born but there's a New Orleans flavor to her music.

Little Ed and the Blue Imperials play fiery Chicago blues. They're known for their high-octane live shows.

Kansas City's Fish is just 22 years old, but she's one of the hottest guitarists in blues. Local blues fans got to see her a few months back at the Florida Blue Blues and Music Festival in Sarasota.

Thackery co-founded the Nighthawks in Washington, D.C., and recorded some 20 albums with them. He formed the Drivers in the 1990s.

Chicago blues harp player Branch formed Sons of Blues in the '70s. He's been nominated for several Grammy Awards and has won an Emmy.

Kight, who's known as the "Georgia Songbird," is celebrated as a major blues vocalist. Her style crosses genres of blues, pop and jazz, but has a distinct Southern feel.

Tickets for the Bradenton Blues Festival go on sale March 1 and are $30 in advance; $40 at the gate, $25 per person for groups of 10 or more, $20 for students, and $10 for children ages 5-12. Children under 5 are admitted free. Reserved front-of-stage seats are available for $75 per person. Tickets are available online and at Keeton's Office & Art Supply, 817 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton. For more information and to buy tickets online, go to BradentonBluesFestival.org.

It's probably a good idea to get your tickets early. They've sold quickly in the past two years and, as the festival's reputation expands, they're likely to sell even faster.

Marty Clear, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-708-7919. Follow twitter.com/martinclear.

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