BLUES & BEYOND: Golden years

WRFG celebrates five decades, Jontavious Willis joins high profile friends, McTell fest names headliners

#1 Julie Dexter
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HAPPY ANNIVERSARY: Renowned jazz vocalist Julie Dexter headlines WRFG’s 50th anniversary shindig July 15.

Although the name of this column is Blues & Beyond, those words also describe the wildly eclectic programming of community radio station WRFG.

Known for their extensive blues programing five days a week from 6AM-10AM (a double dose of two hour shows under the umbrella of Good Morning Blues), other broadcasts at 89.3 also feature soul, jazz, world, gospel and Celtic music, in addition to a smorgasbord of public affairs information. All the hosts volunteer, which means they love what they do and that joy of sharing music is evident in their personalities. RFG has become an iconic and integral fixture of the Atlanta roots community over the course of five decades.

That’s quite a milestone for a non-commercial entity which exists largely on listener donations. So now it’s time to party.

Join them in July to celebrate WRFG’s Golden Jubilee, fifty years of “independent community broadcasting” through thick, thin and even a pandemic. The event is at the Rialto Center for the Arts, Sat., July 15, and features local soul diva Ruby Velle, renowned jazz singer Julie Dexter and Afrobeat from Mausiki Scales and the Common Ground Collective. While none are blues per se (the annual Labor Day Blues Barbeque, Mon., Sept 4, this year, covers that genre), they all reflect the colorful diversity that has kept WRFG’s sound so unique over the decades.

The fun starts at 5 p.m. but arrive early to check out the WRFG memorabilia in the lobby. End time is 8:30PM.

In other WRFG news, longtime blues voice Rich Petit reminds us that “WRFG is re-airing all 50 episodes of its award-winning documentary series Living Atlanta, an oral history of life in the segregated city from the start of WW1 through the end of WW2. Close to 200 people were interviewed for the series, including bluesmen Buddy Moss, Frank Edwards, Roy Dunn, and Blind Willie McTell’s wife Kate McTell. The series, which began on WRFG in Nov. 1979, repeats through September 22. Air time is every Wednesday through Friday from 4:00 - 5:00 p.m. More info is at”

Up and coming Greenville, Georgia bluesman Jontavious Willis, who has worked with Keb’ Mo’ and the legendary Taj Mahal, gets another high profile showcase, this time guesting on singer Tracy Nelson’s new album, Life Don’t Miss Nobody, released last month. He sings and plays resonator guitar on her sizzling cover of Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Your Funeral and My Trial,” joining stars such as Willie Nelson, Marcia Ball, Irma Thomas, Charlie Musselwhite and others who assist on thirteen slices of Nelson’s blues, soul, and gospel.

Two impressive headliners for this fall’s Blind Willie McTell Music festival in Thomson, GA — dubbed by the promoters as “a small festival with a big personality” — have been announced. Accurately described as a one-two punch, New Orleans based pianist Jon Cleary with his Absolutely Monster Gentlemen band and GRAMMY® nominated singer/songwriter Shemekia Copeland are both scheduled for the Sept., 23 date. Tickets are on sale now at

The Atlanta Blues Society reminds us that the deadline to sign up for the annual Atlanta Blues Challenge, held August 20, is July 22. To apply for the Challenge, complete and return the 2023 Atlanta Blues Challenge Application to ABS Email. All details are here.

Stay cool with these hot July events.

Sat., July 1


MUSICAL MOVING TARGET: The prolific David Romano and his Outfit play July 1. Photo credit:

Daniel Romano’s Outfit, The Dirty Nil, Small Reactions, The EARL — Canadian singer/songwriter Romano is a lot of things, but lazy is not one of them. He has delivered over 15 albums since 2010’s debut, a musical moving target shifting from Americana to indie rock and into peculiar folk. Much of it hasn’t connected on a larger scale but he’s out there swinging and at worst he’s interesting. Romano’s harder power pop rocking fellow countrymen The Dirty Nil make for an enticing bill. — Hal Horowitz
$20-22. 8:00 p.m. The EARL, 488 Flat Shoals Ave.NE, Atlanta, 30316. 404-522-3950.



SMOOTH MOVE: King George and others deliver contemporary silky soul July 1. Photo credit:

Southern Soul/Blues Celebration, Cadence Bank Amphitheater at Chastain Park — West Love, Sir Charles Jones, Pokey, King George, JWONN … If these names mean anything to you, this is the place to be. This gathering of ultra-smooth soul artists often work a fair amount of hip-hop and programmed beats into their music which is miles away from the more rugged soul/blues of classic artists like Little Milton. Heavy on romance and double entendre sexy come-ons, the acts bring personality and showmanship to music that often sounds predictable and overly slick. Still, it’ll be a crowd pleasing show and if the weather holds up, a romantic evening. — Hal Horowitz
$45-100. 8 p.m. Cadence Bank Amphitheater at Chastain Park, 4469 Stella Dr., 30327. 404-233-2227.

Fri., July 7


TALENTED TWOSOME: The Ries Brothers don’t need a band to handle their rock and soul July 7. Photo credit:

The Ries Brothers, Smith’s Olde Bar — It’s the “Rock & Soul” tour, which adequately describes the style of these Florida based brothers. The talented twosome creates all the music, which amazingly sounds like a full band. They received a major visibility boost opening for G Love and David Shaw of The Revivalists, two acts who share their soulful groove. — Hal Horowitz
$10-15. 8:00 p.m. Smith’s Olde Bar, 1578 Piedmont Ave. NE, 30324. 404-875-1522.




Tues., July 11


SUMMER FUN: Trevor Hall and his band bring the sunshiny vibes July 11. Photo credit:

Trevor Hall and the Great In-Between, The California Honeydrops, The Eastern — For two decades, South Carolina born Hall has trafficked in a breezy, sunshiny, summery style of pop, meshing reggae with world music. His breathy voice and hippie-ish vibe captured a jammy audience, with their Birkenstocks, twirl dancing and patchouli oil. Arrive early for the openers (who could also be headliners) whose upbeat sweet soul, mellow blues and effervescent pop should go down well with Hall’s audience. Note the early start time. —Hal Horowitz
$35-37. 6:45 p.m. The Eastern, 777 Memorial Dr. SE., Atlanta, 30316.



Wed., July 12


LOOKING BACK: Son Volt reprises their Trace debut July 12. Photo credit:

Son Volt, Peter Bruntnell, Variety Playhouse — Even though Jay Farrar’s longtime band just released its tribute to Tex-Mex legend Doug Sahm, they have oddly decided to follow that with the Tracetour, commemorating the almost 30 year anniversary of their 1995 debut. Son Volt’s first was arguably their finest, most focused work, especially given a constant stream of increasingly less interesting albums and snoozy shows over the decades. Singer/songwriter Bruntnell hasn’t released new material for a while, but his subtle, melodic, ringing Americana doesn’t age. — Hal Horowitz
$27-199. 8:00 p.m. Variety Playhouse, 1099 Euclid Ave. NE. Atlanta, 30307. 404-504-7354.



BOOGIE MEN: The legendary Little Feat play funky roots music July 12. Photo credit:

Little Feat, Rob Hickes & Trey Hensley, Atlanta Symphony Hall — They’re back after raves for the “Waiting for Columbus” tour, now updated to the “Boogie Your Summer Away Tour.” Little Feat, with only one original member (veteran pianist Bill Payne) but a whole lot of energy for a bunch of old(er) dudes, continues to give the people what they want. That would be plenty of ‘70s “Dixie Chicken”-era oldies, most from the frustratingly brief Lowell George-led days. Regardless, the boogie vibe will be pumping and most of the crowd will be singing along to Feat’s golden era non-hits. The wildly talented openers’ country and bluegrass makes for a spirited evening of organic rocking. — Hal Horowitz
$39-99+. 8:00 p.m. Atlanta Symphony Hall, 1280 Peachtree St., 30309. 404-733-4900.



Thurs., July 13


TWANG QUEEN: Don’t miss the pure country of Hannah Dasher July 13. Photo credit: Jeremy Ryan

Hannah Dasher, Eddie’s Attic — Georgia born and bred Dasher is a veteran songwriter who penned tunes for high profile country artists like Brad Paisley. She’s been a solo act for a while though and with her powerful, twangy voice and terrific songs, like her most recent “Ugly Houses,” she should attract a larger audience soon. Catch her now in this intimate venue before she does. — Hal Horowitz
$20. 7 p.m. Eddies Attic, 515-B N. McDonough St., Decatur, 30030. 404-377-4976.




SWEET ROOTS: Veteran Americana singer/songwriter Caleb Caudle plays songs from his recent album July 13. Photo credit:

Caleb Caudle, Eddie’s Attic — Why not stick around after Dasher’s show (with a separate admission) for Caudle’s homey, folksy tunes and stories? He’s been doing this professionally for fifteen years, has a strong catalog filled with terrific, flowing songs enhanced by his easy going, casual vocals and a flair for sweet, rootsy melodies. He’ll be playing selections from 2022’s Forsythia album. — Hal Horowitz
$20. 9 p.m. Eddies Attic, 515-B N. McDonough St., Decatur, 30030. 404-377-4976.





Fri., July 14


GET RIPPED: Veteran cowpunks Dash Rip Rock still bring the frazzled energy July 14. Photo credit:

Dash Rip Rock, Cow Punk, Sea Shanties, Smith’s Olde Bar — These raunchy Bill Davis-fronted hard rocking twangsters have been tearing up clubs since the mid-80s, although only hardcore fans know they are still releasing new albums including this year’s appropriately titled Cowpunk. Fasten your seatbelts as they charge through tongue-in-cheek rave-ups like “Let’s Go F**k in My Truck” and the witty anthem “It Ain’t a Party ‘Til Somebody Dies.” It’ll be tough for the openers to whip up enough energy to compete with the headliner’s frantic, sweaty intensity. — Hal Horowitz
$15. 9:00 p.m. Smith’s Olde Bar, 1578 Piedmont Ave. NE, 30324. 404-875-1522.



MIGHTY LIKE A ROSE : Everything’s coming up roses for Americana singer/songwriter Caitlin Rose July14. Photo credit:

Caitlin Rose, The Kernal, The EARL — Nashville based singer/songwriter Rose’s somewhat retro pop with indie tinges is similar to those of Courtney Marie Andrews’ who assisted on Rose’s newest album, 2022’s wonderful Cazumi. She crafts subtle yet edgy folk pop that’s creative and doesn’t go where you think it might, especially when the guitars start revving up. The Kernal’s melodic countrypolitan rocking makes a great double bill. — Hal Horowitz
$20-25. 8:30 p.m. The EARL, 488 Flat Shoals Ave.NE, Atlanta, 30316. 404-522-3950.




Sun., July 16


PLAY THAT FUNKY BLUES MUSIC, WHITE BOY: Join other blues friends as Funky Bluestar plays July 16. Photo credit:

Atlanta Blues Society Gathering & Jam, MoonShadow Tavern — Funky Bluester handles the roots rocking for this month’s meet, greet and eat gathering of blues lovers and those who want to be. — Hal Horowitz
$free. 3:00 p.m. MoonShadow Tavern, 3976 Lawrenceville Highway, Tucker, 30084.




RAVE ON: Hear the Krickets sing July 16. Photo credit:

The Krickets, Eddie Owen Presents: Red Clay Music Foundry — Not to be confused with Buddy Holly’s band, these three women harmonize much better than any insects. The threesome’s sweeping “swamp folk” (their description) and roots pop sparkles and shimmers. And, when their voices combine into one is riveting. They also won a 2016 IMA (International Music Association) Folk Song of the Year award for “Cool Cool Water.” It has been a while since they released an album, but 2020’s “These Games” single was one of their finest, most moving tracks yet. — Hal Horowitz
$25-30. 8:00 p.m. Eddie Owen Presents: Red Clay Music Foundry, 3116 Main Street, Duluth, 30096. 404-478-2749.


SHE’S BACK: Indie folk rocker Jessica Lea Mayfield returns July 16. Photo credit:

Jessica Lea Mayfield, Melanie MacLaren, Eddie’s Attic — For a while, it seemed that Mayfield was going to be the new Americana “it” girl, thanks to an endorsement from The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach and a well-received album of Elliott Smith covers. But her last full release was back in 2017 where she moved to a tougher indie rock approach balanced with the hushed vocals and spare songs that put her on the map. Perhaps she will introduce new material on this rare date. — Hal Horowitz
$22. 6 p.m. Eddies Attic, 515-B N. McDonough St., Decatur, 30030. 404-377-4976.





THE MILLER’S TALE: Get revved up with Scott Miller’s energized roots music July 16th. Photo credit:

Scott Miller, Eddie’s Attic — The V-Roys’ mid-’90s heyday has long time ago passed, but that roots rocking band’s name is always cited whenever its frontman Miller is mentioned. He has been solo for decades and his last album of originals is now six years old. Miller’s taut combination of folk, bluegrass and country with a bit of a rockabilly vibe has been compared to early Steve Earle. He always delivers live, making this highly recommended. — Hal Horowitz
$20. 8 p.m. Eddies Attic, 515-B N. McDonough St., Decatur, 30030. 404-377-4976.



Wed., July 19


I SAY FURTADO: Watch banjo master Tony Furtado shred July 19. Photo credit:

Tony Furtado, Eddie’s Attic — Acclaimed banjo master turned searing guitarist seemed unstoppable from the mid-90’s to the mid-00s. His albums captured the best of Americana with terrific songs, intricate playing and a sound that appealed to the jam community as well as those more attuned to bluegrass/blues roots. But he sort of fell off the map and seemed to put the brakes on whatever momentum he had acquired. It’s great to have him back, even solo, to hear what he’s up to and watch those fingers fly. — Hal Horowitz
$20. 8 p.m. Eddies Attic, 515-B N. McDonough St., Decatur, 30030. 404-377-4976.





Fri., July 21-Sat., July 22


TOMMY GUN: Get mesmerized by Tommy Emmanuel’s sizzling six string prowess July 10. Photo credit:

Tommy Emmanuel CGP, Richard Smith, Variety Playhouse — There are few purely instrumental acoustic guitarists who can transfix an audience solo, but Australia’s Emmanuel is surely one of them. His remarkably dexterous six-string abilities will leave you bug-eyed, but never to the detriment of the song as his notoriously creative Beatles’ covers display. His musical talents and gregarious personality can easily fill a thousand seat house. This time, you’ll have two chances to catch him. Don’t miss either.—Hal Horowitz
$49-265. 8:00 p.m. Variety Playhouse, 1099 Euclid Ave. NE. Atlanta, 30307. 404-504-7354.



Sat., July 22


NEILSON SCHMEILSON: Hang tight as Tami Neilson lets loose with her sassy self July 22. Photo credit: Sophia Bayly & Moore

Tami Neilson, Riverside Park — She’s bold, brassy and bigger than life. Rockabilly/country singer Neilson doesn’t just perform, she dominates the stage, prowling and cavorting while belting out her vivacious ditties with a voice that can power a locomotive. A little retro but with a contemporary flair, she growls, howls and prances with a swagger that lets you know she’s in complete control. In short a force of nature. And the price is right. — Hal Horowitz
$free. 7:00 p.m. Riverside Park, 575 Riverside Rd., Roswell, 30075.770-641-3705.



WHO LET THE DOGG OUT?: It’s the return of the irrepressible Swamp Dogg July 22. Photo credit:

Swamp Dogg, Rod Hamdalah, Solid State Radio, The EARL — Who knew the now 80 year old, legendary Swamp Dogg (born Jerry Williams) is still touring, let alone playing small clubs. But here he is, in his crazed, raunchy glory, a sort of tamer version of Rudy Ray Moore. Instead of Moore’s schlocky party funk, Dogg works in a more psychedelic soul and even country mode, best epitomized by his biggest hit, 1970’s garage heavy Southern R&B semi-classic “Total Destruction to Your Mind.” Unless you’re a fan, it’s likely you haven’t heard either of Dogg’s two recent albums, one of which lauded the qualities of Auto-Tune. It’s impossible to predict what the always eccentric Dogg will deliver live, but it’s a good bet it’ll be something you’ll tell your friends about the next day. — Hal Horowitz
$20. 7:30 p.m. The EARL, 488 Flat Shoals Ave.NE, Atlanta, 30316. 404-522-3950.





Sun., July 23


AMERICA’S FINEST: The facial hair will be flying as ZZ Top and Lynyrd Skynyrd take the stage July 23. Photo credit:

ZZ Top, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Ameris Bank Amphitheatre — It’s the, get ready for it, “Sharp Dressed, Simple Man” tour, as the combination of these long in the tooth American rock veterans guarantees a sellout. Gibbons and Beard hold down the Top fort but the current Skynyrd lineup has none of the band’s original members. That won’t make much difference since there will be few surprises when Top and Skynyrd trawl through their hits and popular album tracks as the likely well-oiled crowd sings along. Perhaps if they join together for a few tunes, that might push the needle into the red as a once in a lifetime event. — Hal Horowitz
$39-354+. 6:30 p.m. Ameris Bank Amphitheatre, 2200 Encore Parkway, Alpharetta, GA. 30009. 404-733-5010.



Tues., July 25


NO WORDS: Acoustic instrumental guitarist Hayden Pedigo plays July 25. Photo Credit:

Hayden Pedigo, The EARL — Kudos to the EARL for expanding their approach and booking this young, extraordinarily talented, somewhat avant-garde, instrumental, acoustic guitarist. Pedigo hails from Texas so there is a bit of Americana dusted into his style which never gets too experimental or artsy. Think early Leo Kottke and you’re close to Pedigo’s often laconic approach. Hopefully the usually noisy room will chill out for this performance which will likely lean heavily on his new album, wittingly titled The Happiest Times I Ever Ignored. — Hal Horowitz
$15. 8:00 p.m. The EARL, 488 Flat Shoals Ave.NE, Atlanta, 30316. 404-522-3950.



Wed., July 26


KEEPS ON CHOOGLIN’: Hear John Fogerty’s hits from the source July 26. Photo Credit:

John Fogerty, Cadence Bank Amphitheater at Chastain Park — No need wondering what you’ll get as Fogerty, now 78, hits the stage for another summer romp. All the Creedence hits will be trotted out along with his solo Centerfield material for an evening where everyone leaves with a smile. He’s remarkably energetic for his age and is the ultimate entertainer, despite the fact that he’s been cranking out “Proud Mary” at almost every show (except for the period when he wouldn’t play his CCR material) for nearly 54 years. Still, there’s nothing like hearing it from the source. — Hal Horowitz
$31-117+. 8 p.m. Cadence Bank Amphitheater at Chastain Park, 4469 Stella Dr., 30327. 404-233-2227.



Fri., July 28


SHOOTOUT WITHOUT BULLETS: Singer/songwriters compete to see who is the fastest draw, July 28. Photo credit:

Eddie’s Attic Bi-Annual Open Mic Shootout, Eddie’s Attic — This twice annual event of up and coming singer/songwriters is now in its 25th year. Look no further than previous winners such as Shawn Mullins, Tyler Childers and Jennifer Nettles to know you might be getting a glimpse of the next Americana superstar. Or maybe not. Regardless, it’s surely worth checking out, but be aware, this is usually a long night after which you may not want to hear an acoustic guitar for a while. — Hal Horowitz
$20. 8 p.m. Eddies Attic, 515-B N. McDonough St., Decatur, 30030. 404-377-4976.



Sat., July 29


JELLY ROLLS IN: Hip-hop and country collide when Jelly Roll performs July 29. Photo credit:

Jelly Roll, Struggle Jennings, Caitlynne Curtis, Josh Adam Myers, Ameris Bank Amphitheatre — Only a few years ago, most would have been hard pressed to find any country music fan who had even heard of Jelly Roll. Now the heavily tattooed singer/songwriter and rapper sells out sheds around the country. The Nashville based country rocker is taking his “Backroad Baptism Tour” to the people who identify with his raw, often stirring and personal lyrics of triumphing over a myriad of life hurdles including drug addiction. He will likely perform a good portion of his rugged and impressive new album, Whitsitt Chapel. — Hal Horowitz

$74-134+. 7:00 p.m. Ameris Bank Amphitheatre, 2200 Encore Parkway, Alpharetta, GA. 30009. 404-733-5010.




Sun., July 30


BROTHERLY NOIR: The Ruen Brothers play music from their new album July 30. Photo credit:

The Ruen Brothers, Eddie’s Attic — Seems like every tour has to have a name these days. This one is dubbed the “Ten Paces Tour,” which not so coincidentally happens to be the title of the Ruen Brothers’ new album. The siblings were born and raised in the UK, but have moved to the States, which makes sense since their music is steeped in Western noir. Part folk rock, part quirky country, their press release uses the word “cinematic” to describe a sound that, with their yearning vocals, might fit well in a Tarantino flick. Offbeat and cool. — Hal Horowitz
$14. 6 p.m. Eddies Attic, 515-B N. McDonough St., Decatur, 30030. 404-377-4976.

Please send upcoming blues events to consider for CLs Blues & Beyond concert calendar to