Annual Pittsburgh Blues and Roots Festival heating up the summer | TribLIVE.com
Valley News Dispatch

Annual Pittsburgh Blues and Roots Festival heating up the summer

Mary Ann Thomas
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Courtesy of Jayson Carpenter
Tommy Castro & the Painkillers headline the Pittsburgh Blues and Roots Festival July 27-28.
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Courtesy of Merri Cyr
Dana Fuchs is among the featured performers.

The Pittsburgh Blues and Roots Festival, scheduled for July 27-28 at the Syria Shrine Center in Cheswick, delivers again with a lineup of blistering blues talent.

Those on the bill include national marquee acts Tommy Castro & the Painkillers, “Across the Universe” fame and Joplin-esque vocalist Dana Fuchs, Joe Grushecky and the Houserockers, as well as players on the autism spectrum.

Castro is a veteran musician, songwriter and performer who has released 15 albums. Billboard describes the band as playing “irresistible contemporary blues-rock” with “street-level grit and soul.”

Other acts include CJ Chenier & The Red Hot Louisiana Band and Vanessa Collier. Local and regional favorites will take the stage as well, including Bill Toms & Hard Rain, Jill West & Blues Attack and a Tribute to the Legendary Women of the Blues.

Proceeds from the two-day festival, with tickets starting at $25 in advance for a day pass, benefit the Autism Society of Pittsburgh and Band Together Pittsburgh.

Although the blues and roots festival is known for bringing in national acts, the event, which benefits an autism charity, also features musicians and other talent on the spectrum sprinkled throughout the concert schedule, including Soul Raydio, featuring Shailen Abram on keyboards.

“It’s not a disability,” says producer Ron “Moondog” Esser of Frazer, promoter and owner of the iconic Moondog’s blues club in Blawnox. “They are differently abled people who sometimes choose not to be bothered with us.”

Esser and West Deer musician John Vento of the Nied’s Hotel Band are among the founders of Band Together, a community-based nonprofit that uses the power of music to enrich the lives of individuals on the autism spectrum and their families.

“You talk about something snowballing,” Esser says of Band Together and the success of the on-the-spectrum musicians.

The Legendary Women of the Blues was so popular last year that Esser decided to do it again.

This year’s lineup will include Nicole Belli, Jeanie Shook, Stevee Wellons, Ja’Sonta Roberts and Lyndsey Smith.

“The tribute will feature some of Pittsburgh’s finest vocalists, all with their own unique styles, blending together to perform songs ranging from Etta James, Dinah Washington, Beth Hart to Susan Tedeschi,” says Cheryl Rinovato, musical director and guitarist.

Mary Ann Thomas is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Mary at 724-226-4691, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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