Last night at Fort Dupont Park you could hear the blues travel from country crossroads to city streets to the charged atmosphere of a southside Chicago club.
In the country were Bowling Green John Cephas and Phil Wiggins. Cephas' guitar and Wiggins' harmonica recalled such early roadside attractions as Blind Boy Fuller and Sonny Terry. The guitarist alternated chunky baselines with gentle finger-picking patterns, while Wiggins stayed on top of each tune with his chugging cross-harp runs.
The sound of the city came alive when Washington street singer Flora Molten appeared. She strummed her steel guitar in bold, broad strokes, clapped the cymbals at her feet, and sang a small part of her daily repertoire in a frail but moving voice.
Guitarist Louisiana Red took the blues indoors and plugged it in. He won the crowd over instantly with a slow boogie and spent the rest of the set working closely and profitably with Howlin' Wolf's former guitarist Hubert Sumlin.
Finally it was J. B. Hutto's thrashing slide guitar and coarsely textured blues that sustained the crowd in the chilly night air. Several people shouted "Preach to us" when the guitarist embarked on a particular searing solo. They cheered him on when the sermon was delivered letter perfect.
The blues festival continues tonight with an appearance by the venerable Chicago pianist Sunnyland Slim.