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Canton Blues Fest

Free Festival Noon to 10:30 p.m. Eric Snow YMCA Parking Lot

2020 Headliners: Sugaray Rayford and Lil' Ed & the Blues Imperials

The Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce is excited to announce the headliners for the 2020 Canton Blues Fest. This annual outdoor blues festival, now in its 19th year, will take place at the Eric Snow YMCA Parking Lot located directly across from the Eric Snow YMCA between 3rd & 4th St. NW and McKinley Ave and Dewalt Ave NW in downtown Canton on Friday, June 5, and Saturday, June 6, with headliners taking the stage nightly at 8:30 p.m.

Hotel Change for 2020: The McKinley Grand is closed for renovation, so we have moved our hotel headquarters to the Holiday Inn Belden Village (4520 Everhard Rd NW, Canton, OH 44718). They will be honoring a special event room rate for Canton Blues Fest attendees. When making a room reservation, mention the Canton Blues Fest to receive a discounted rate.

FRIDAY, JUNE 5: Sugaray Rayford
SATURDAY, JUNE 6: Lil' Ed & the Blues Imperials

Opening acts Heather Newman and Annika Chambers will take the stage at 6:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, respectively.  The jam-packed lineup features 18 unique blues acts on two stages, with live music running daily from noon to 10:00 p.m. Visit Facebook.com/CantonBluesFestival for event details.

Friday Headliner - sugaray rayford

“Sugaray” Rayford is an American Soul blues singer and songwriter. He has released Six albums to date and was awarded “BMA Soul Blues Artist of the Year” in 2019.

Sugaray Rayford was nominated for a Grammy Award for his critically acclaimed album, Somebody Save Me, which was released this past March on Forty Below Records.

It marks the latest in a series of honors awarded Rayford during the past year alone, including nods for “Soul Blues Male Artist of the Year” at the 40th Blues Music Awards, a pair of 2019 Muddy Awards for “Best Performance” and “Best Recording,” and a win for Blues Blast’s “Best Blues Band.”

The accolades also follow a stream of critical kudos. Downbeat called Rayford a performer with “a soul-blues voice that has an emotional strength.” Albumism raved “A sound that’s undeniably fresh and inspired. Living Blues hailed him as “a soul singer who brilliantly weaves blues, jazz and gospel inflections into his soaring songs.” Blues Music Magazine agreed, describing Somebody Save Me as “an outstanding showcase of Sugaray Rayford’s great talent.”

Rayford himself may be best described by this lyric from “The Revelator,” the new album’s opening track: “I’m a freak of nature / I ain’t no honeybee / I’m an unknown creature / The like you’ve never seen.” Indeed, at 6’5” and 300 pounds, this cigar chomping’ ex-Marine sings with a voice that comes across like a force of nature. His magnetic personality and old school vocal approach brings to mind such legends as Muddy Waters, Otis Redding and Teddy Pendergrass, he captivates his audiences with dance moves reminiscent of the legendary James Brown.

Friday Opener - heather newman

Heather Newman has been breathing fire ever since her 2017 debut and the release of her album, "Burn Me Alive" through Vizztone Label Group. With the win of two 2018 Blues Blast Music Awards for the "Best New Artist Debut" and the "Sean Costello Rising Star Award" as well as her 2019 Blues Music Award nomination for "Best Emerging Artist" adding wood to the fire flaring in their path, there is little to stop this ragingly powerful roots band.

The band released their second album Rise From the Flames through Vizztone in the summer of 2019, where you can hear the strong leading melodies on guitar, piano, and organ, Heather’s steady grooving bass lines lock in with deep rooted beats.

This group produces a one of a kind medley of various styles such as soul, funk, blues, and rock, with a killer original set. Heather’s ever flowing, sultry, emotional vocals makes every show exciting and unique, keeping her loving fans coming back for more.

Saturday Headliner - Lil' Ed & the Blues Imperials

In Chicago, a city overflowing with unrivaled blues talent, world-renowned Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials have been standing tall for almost 30 years. The band’s big sound, fueled by Lil’ Ed’s gloriously rollicking slide work and deep blues string bending, along with his rough-edged, soulful vocals, is as real and hard-hitting as Chicago blues gets. The Chicago Sun-Times says, “Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials are the hottest purveyors of bottleneck boogie to come out of Chicago since Hound Dog Taylor.”

Lil’ Ed Williams comes to the blues naturally. His uncle, Chicago slide guitar king and master songwriter J.B. Hutto, taught him how to feel, not just play the blues. Nine albums and thousands of performances later, Lil’ Ed is now universally hailed as a giant of the genre. Lil’ Ed and The Blues Imperials—bassist (and Ed’s half-brother) James “Pookie” Young, guitarist Mike Garrett and drummer Kelly Littleton—have remained together for nearly 30 years (an extraordinary feat for any group), the band fueling Ed’s songs with their rock-solid, road-tested, telepathic musicianship.

The Big Sound Of Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials is the musically electrifying, emotionally intense and downright fun new album from the band Guitar Player calls “a snarling boogie-blues machine…they blow down the walls.” The CD features Lil’ Ed’s incendiary playing and playful, passionate singing, with the ragged-but-right Blues Imperials cooking like mad alongside him. Produced by Williams and Alligator president Bruce Iglauer, it is a tour-de-force of authentic, deeply rooted Chicago blues. Williams wrote or co-wrote all but two of album’s 14 songs, the other gems written by Uncle J.B. The Chicago Reader says the band’s music “is a soundtrack for dancing and celebration infused with a sense of hard-won survival. Williams attacks his lyrics like he attacks his guitar: with bare-bones intensity that makes each word sound like a matter of life or death.”

They have played the Chicago Blues Festival multiple times, and have appeared at The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, Portland’s Waterfront Blues Festival, The Tampa Bay Blues Festival, The San Diego Blues Festival, The Pennsylvania Blues Festival and dozens of other festivals around the country. Satisfying worldwide demand, they have performed at festivals in Canada, Great Britain, France, Spain, Sweden, Denmark, Poland, Japan, Australia, India, Turkey and Panama.

Saturday Opener - ANNIKA CHAMBERS

2019 Blues Music Award for Soul Blues Female Artist of the Year gives us Kiss My Sass, her third studio album. The recording takes you on a journey that spotlights Annika’s exceptionally dynamic and powerful voice, a crack band band that smokes through the entire record and the tight uptown arrangements by Producers Larry Fulcher, Richard Cagle and Tony Braunagel. This Sass and Soul project also features duets with Ruthie Foster and Canadian Paul DesLauriers and pays honors to Texas blues women Angela Strehli and Carolyn Wonderland.

CHAMBERS, like so many powerful vocal artists, can trace her love of music back to early childhood. “I grew up singing in the church,” she says. Not that she had to tell us. Citing the gospel influences of Yolanda Adams, Shirley Caesar, Dottie Peoples and Whitney Houston, you can’t help but feel the Spirit moving through the entire room when Annika throws herself into the heart of a song.

It was during her two tours of duty in the US Army that Chambers realized the gift she had. “One of my colonels heard me singing, and he said, ‘Why don’t you sing the Anthem for one of our ceremonies?’” She was an immediate hit and became their first choice for all their music events, joining the gospel choir and even winning the talent show on her base. From there, Chambers became part of a touring band making the rounds through Kosovo and Iraq, providing a welcome lift for the troops’ morale. She also planned special events, concerts, dances and karaoke nights, always doing her part to infuse the good time music into their lives.

The word continues to spread on this rising star as festivals from South America, Europe and right in her own backyard (Minnesota Bayfront Blues Festival, Las Vegas Blues Bender, Gloucester Blues Festival, Mississippi Delta Blues Festival)race to feature Annika Chambers in their lineup.

A full-time music career can keep a person busy and yet Annika Chambers always finds time to give back to her community. Chambers has a deep passion for supporting and inspiring the next generation of musicians. When performing, she’ll often shift the spotlight to local youth musicians and she also donates time speaking in classrooms about the legacy that is the blues.

Blues Fest Schedule:

4:30 – 6:00 PM: ALAN GREENE BAND
12:00 – 2:00 PM: SAM HOOPER GROUP
2:30 – 4:00 PM: NATE LUPI

Back Porch Schedule:


4:00 - 4:30 PM: J. J. VICARS
8:00 - 8:30 PM: BLUES MEETS GIRL
6:00 - 6:30 PM: R & D DUO
8:00 - 8:30 PM: IAN PENTER

For more information or questions, please contact Andrea Hartman, event manager, at (330) 458-2054.

For sponsorship information for this or our other downtown events, please contact Chris Gumpp at (330) 458-2055.

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