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    Billtown Blues finalized 2024 festival lineup

    By NCPA Staff,


    Hughesville, Pa. — The 34th Annual Billtown Blues Festival kicks off on Friday, June 21. This year’s festival boasts a full weekend of world-class blues performers–and of course, lots of fun.


    In accordance with Blues Festival tradition, the Uptown Music Collective Blues Band will set the vibe as the initial performer, kicking off Friday’s festivities at 6 p.m. The band will deliver an energetic rousing display of blues music showcasing their UMC educational experience.

    Next up on Friday, from Pittsburgh Pa., is Soulful Femme. Although well-known across Pa. and beyond as a dynamic duo, Soulful Femme will be performing in band format joined by rhythm section Ronnie Biggs and Brice Foster. Stevee Wellons on vocals and Cheryl Rinovato, guitar are the principals, each with individual impressive resumes. As often happens in the blues community, the two met at a blues society function, went on to the International Blues Challenge (IBC) in Memphis which has set the stage for their continued success both performing and recording.

    Returning to Billtown is Tas Cru from “way up” in New York State. Tas is part of the Billtown family, having performed twice before and participating in two Master Classes for the Uptown Music Collective students. When presented with an offer to return in 2024, Tas responded with, “I’m thrilled!” Tas is a past Keeping the Blues Award recipient, presented by the Blues Foundation in the education category. Tas has offered years of service teaching and helping others learn about the blues art form.

    Closing Friday night will be the flamboyant, effervescent, roof shaking, Annika Chambers and Paul Deslauriers. Annika and Paul look back to Memphis, Tn., and the International Blues Challenge in 2018 when they first met. Not only did their music click – but “they “clicked” and eventually married. Annika is a Houston, Tx., native and two-time (2019 and 2022) Blues Music award winner for Female Soul Blues. Her “Kiss My Sass” release garnered a debut on the Billboard Blues chart. A Canada native, Paul is a multiple Maple Leaf awarded artist: Entertainer of the year, Electric Band, Solo Artist, Guitarist, just to mention just a few of his honors. Paul took 2nd place in 2016 at the IBC’s in Memphis.


    Jersey Shore band, The Cadillac Cats, and solo artist Shippensburg resident, Nick Andrew Staver have been selected the winners of the BBA’s Annual Audition Concert. Both winners will appear on Saturday, June 22, and are now eligible to participate in the International Blues Challenge in early January 2025 in Memphis.

    Saturday kicks off with Audition Concert band winners The Cadillac Cats. The “Cats”, a collaboration of seasoned players Urie Kline, on drums, Garrett Gaetano, on bass, Shawn Strickland, on harmonica, Blair Mitcheltree, on guitar and Becky Wool, on lead vocals, are well known throughout the region for their high energy, thoughtful performances. The band is now focused on expanding their awareness throughout PA. and surrounding regions.

    Following will be solo winner Nick Andrew Staver. With three releases under his belt since 2014, Nick is now established as a prolific songwriter and accomplished guitarist. His vocals are captivating as he sings about his experiences drawing listeners into his lyrical stories.

    Next up, will be the 2023 IBC winner, Houston-based, Mathias Lattin. Mathias came home from the IBC’s not only as the overall band winner, but also honored by the panel of industry professionals with the Gibson Guitar Award. Mathias, at just 20 years old, is perhaps the youngest winner in IBC history for both awards. BBA President, Dave Strickler, witnessed Mathias’ winning performance while at the IBC’s in 2023, and within seconds requested we pursue Mathias for the Billtown Blues Fest. And so, it is.

    Following Mathias is an artist who first began performing in 1967. Duke Robillard, along with Al Copley, were both drawn to the early “jump blues” sound of the 40’s and 50's and formed the legendary “Roomful of Blues.” Soon they assembled a horn section which created the famous “Roomful Sound.” They drew in older fans already familiar to the heavy horn driven sound, but also exposed their own generation and younger to the “big band” sound which was all about dancing. Quickly becoming New England legends, the Rhode Island-based musicians went world-wide in short order.

    New Orleans-based Jason Ricci returns after just two years to the Billtown Blues Fest stage. Ricci is at the top of his game and at the top of the list of world class masters of the blues harmonica. After hearing the power of his latest release, Behind the Veil, along with Billtown festival fan requests another live Billtown festival stage performance was in the making. Despite challenges galore, countless hurdles to overcome, Ricci has shown incredible strength, endurance and wisdom. His current band, “The Bad Kind,” tours worldwide. Joining Jason on this third trip to Billtown will be Kaitlin Dibble, singer, songwriter, guitarist and Jason’s wife. Beyond performing Ricci gives back by way of his online YouTube harmonica lessons, product reviews, addiction awareness videos, stories and more. Jason Ricci is one of the most influential and celebrated harmonica players touring today.

    Next up, Alligator Records recording artist Carolyn Wonderland will be making her first trek to Billtown. The Texas guitar slinger and vocalist has stepped out on her own after three years with John Mayall joining the impressive palette of others who served that coveted role: Eric Clapton, Mick Taylor, Peter Green, Walter Trout and Coco Montoya. Her personal recording catalog includes ten self-produced releases and four produced by multiple Grammy winner Ray Benson from Asleep at the Wheel.

    As our luck would have it, Greensboro North Carolina’s Bob Margolin will be in the Northeast the week before the Billtown Blues Festival while performing with The Weight Band. It is fitting that Bob celebrates his 50th year with his Vizztone Label release titled simply “Thanks!” Backing Bob, from Birmingham, Al., is Skylar Saufley, and his band. Bob Margolin speaks of Skylar and his band as a unit who knows just what to do. Approaching the blues with a “less is more” simplicity allowing the music to tell the story. "Bob Margolin continues to stretch his boundaries on every recording, which is just part of what makes him a national treasure," said Bill Mitchell of Blues Bytes.

    Closing the festival on Saturday is Bywater Call. This seven-piece monster band from Toronto Canada first traveled south of the border in 2022. New-comers to blues audiences, formed in 2017, the group has carved deep waves world-wide, both from their high-energy performances and their stellar recordings. The band’s mission is to leave behind an exciting, powerful, and moving experience for all listeners of their music. Despite their short tenure the band has multiple Maple Blues and Independent Blues nominations under their belt. During a main-stage performance at the Moulin Blues Festival, word spread throughout Europe with immediate calls for return performances.

    The 34th Annual Billtown Blues Festival officially begins Friday, June 21 at 6 p.m and the music continues at 12 p.m. on Saturday, June 22. Friday music gates for campers and music only attendees open at 5 p.m., with music from 6 p.m. until 10:30 p.m. Saturday gates open at 11 a.m., with music from 12 noon until 10:30 p.m.

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