Media Life: Auburn blues fest features Kenny Neal, Big Brother

By: Gus Thomson/Media Life
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The blues are back in an outdoor setting for a second straight year at the Northern California Blues Festival in Auburn. El Dorado County promoter Jason Haxton is fielding a strong lineup for the Regional Park festival Aug. 5 and 6. Blues guitar player-singer Kenny Neal will headline the Saturday finale. His specialty is Louisiana swamp blues but he’s liable to shift into jazz or rhythm and blues mode at the drop of a bass pedal. The festival will also be bringing Big Brother & the Holding Company to Auburn. The Bay Area band will be topping the Friday-night lineup. The undercard is always the place to find some gems for blues purists and Haxton is providing the opportunity with a lineup that includes national touring blueswoman Carolyn Wonderland, Dennis Jones, Mick Martin & The Blues Rockers, the Jeff Watson Band with Daniel Castro, the Soulshakers, the Caravan of Blues All-Stars, Todd Morgan & The Emblems and Population 5. Racehorse remains on move Catching up on a Media Life mention from March 2010, it now looks as if plans for a statue for legendary racehorse Noor in Grass Valley have been squelched. Noor was a thoroughbred that outran some of the best – beating not one but two U.S. Triple Crown winners in 1950. Owned by Willits’ Charles Howard, who owned and helped make Seabiscuit a champion in the 1930s, Noor beat Triple Crown winners Citation four times and Assault once. The over-achieving stallion was inducted into the U.S. National Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 2002. Buried at Grass Valley’s Loma Rica Ranch after retiring, Noor was set to be immortalized in a statue at the site but funding never materialized for Nevada City sculptor Judy Vargas to start the process. Redding’s Charlotte Farmer, who had led the sculpture drive, now says she plans to have Noor’s remains removed to Kentucky and a location where racing fans can better appreciate the memory of the horse. Auburn stop for Train Those “Hey Soul Sister” guys Train are playing the Thunder Valley Casino July 24 but did you know that it’s not their Placer County debut? Back in the late 1990s, before the Club Car had taken over the bar space, Downtown Auburn’s lively Smoke Shop played host to what was then an unknown, unheralded Bay Area band. Party on the river And finally, last Friday’s Party in the Park was being described as the start of the summer festival season in the area and it looks as if it’s going to go out in style next Sept. 16-18. Those are the dates to pencil in for the fifth annual American River Music Festival on the banks of the South Fork of the American River in Coloma. The lineup includes The James McMurtry Band, Truth and Salvage, Blame Sally, Ryan Shupe and the Rubberband, the Band of Heathens and Elliot Randall and the Deadmen. Media Life’s Gus Thomson can be reached at or (530) 852-0232.