The 27th annual Blind Willie McTell Music Festival is set for Sept. 25. The event is to be held off Stagecoach Road, and typically draws around 2,000 attendees both local and from out of town.
The line-up this year includes the North Mississippi Allstars, Son Volt, the Pine Leaf Boys, Blair Crimmins and the Hookers, and Todd Albright. The Blind Willie McTell Music Festival, once called the Blind Willie McTell Blues festival, is so named because it’s more reflective of the American roots music scene, not just blues. For the organizers, it has become harder and harder to field an all-blues line-up.
“The music of McTell, though generally known as a piedmont blues style, was not just blues. He played and performed all sorts of music…anything that his audience at the time wanted to hear,” says Don Powers, one of the festival’s organizers.
Bands like the North Mississippi Allstars and Son Volt can be classified as Americana artists, but the music of both is inherently connected to the blues. The Pine Leaf Boys and Blair Crimmins and the Hookers fall along those lines as well. However, Detroit-based Todd Albright is a blues player who is directly influenced by the music of Blind Willie McTell.
Whether Blues, Americana, or something in between, it is shaping up to be a good show. On Friday, September 24 as a pre-festival concert, the Randall Bramblett Band is performing on Railroad Street, outdoors at the Depot. Admission is free, and those planning on attending are urged to bring chairs.
It will be a great time to check out the restaurants in downtown Thomson and support other vendors. This event is sponsored by the Thomson-McDuffie Tourism-Convention and the Visitors Bureau in conjunction with festival organizers.
During the 2019-2020 school year, UGA students working with the Archway Partnership recommended that the council apply for several grants, one of those being from the National Endowment for the Arts. The Council received this grant amounting to $10,000 which will be used for the 2022 Blind Willie Music Festival. Organizer Don Powers says that the money will be used to bring in bigger acts and will help grow the festival.
“We’re a small festival in a rural community,” says Powers. “Underwriting to keep at it year after year is critical. “ The Blind Willie McTell Music Festival is run by the Activities Council of Thomson—a non-profit organization that works year-round to organize the festival. Of course, it would be impossible without the volunteers that make it happen.
(Georgia Kate Kent is a Thomson High School graduate and a recent graduate of the University of Georgia. She is a summer intern with the UGA Archway Partnership.)