Limestone City Blues Festival Headliners

Limestone City Blues Festival Headliners

Entertainment Reading Limestone City Blues Festival Headliners 7 minutes
Albert Cummings 

Albert Cummings

Albert Cummings writes, plays and sings the blues like nobody else. He has played with blues legends BB King, Johnny Winter and Buddy Guy. The Massachusetts native learned the requisite three chords on the guitar from his father, but then switched to playing banjo at age 12 and became a fan of bluegrass music. In his late teens he encountered the early recordings of Stevie Ray Vaughan and was floored by the virtuosity. While in college in 1987 he saw Vaughan perform and he returned to the guitar with a new outlook and resolve.  

The whiz-kid carpenter began his ascent to masterful blues rock guitarist at age 27 with his first public performance on guitar. Soon he was on the Northeast blues circuit with his band, Swamp Yankee. In 1998, he walked into a Northeast Blues Society open ham, which led to Cummings’ winning the right to compete in the Blues Foundation’s 1999 International Blues Challenge. That in turn led to an opportunity for his to work with Double Trouble, the late Stevie Ray Vaughan’s rhythm section. So taken with Albert’s fire and passion were bassist Tommy Shannon and drummer Chris Layton that they volunteered to play on and produce his solo debut recording, From the Heart. No less a giant of the blues than B.B. King dubbed Cummings “a great guitarist.” 

In 2008, Cummings recorded his first live album, Feel So Good, at the historic Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. The audience was so enthralled and supportive they became part of the performance in a way that’s rarely heard. Guitar Edge magazine said “The blues is best served up lice, with an enthusiastic audience and a killin’ band and that’s exactly what guitarist Albert Cummings does on his new Feel So Good. Cummings effortlessly shifts from chimney subdued stylings to raucous roadhouse raunch to soaring yet stinging lead lines, driving his audience to frenzy in all the right places.” Music Connection called it “one of the best live albums recorded in a long time. 

Crystal Shawanda  

“This is a new blues woman on the scene with fantastic chops and a command of songs. She is a valuable addition to the blues world, destined for wide recognition.” — Steve Daniels, Big City Blues. There’s a tendency these days to try to pigeonhole any artist that attempts to breach the boundaries. Chalk it up to the restrictions of radio playlists or the media’s attempt to strictly define musicians by the music it believes artists ought to be making, creative instincts be damned. Nevertheless Crystal Shawanda opted to defy those demands and chart her own path forward. Initially signed to RCA in 2007, she hit her stride as a country singer and songwriter when she scored a top 20 hit with her song “You Can Let Go” and subsequently tallied sales of over 50,000 copies of her debut album Dawn of a New Day and subsequently debuted in the Billboard Top 20. Nevertheless, she began to realize that the blues had captured her muse, and with that, she left the label, shifted her stance and began recording albums that reflected her love of blues and her natural affinity for that sound. 

The critics all agree. “Shawanda is a real deal blues artist who isn’t dabbling in blues so much as channeling it,” Steven Ovadia wrote in Elmore Magazine. JD Nash of American Blues Scene raved, “Not only does Shawanda capture KoKo Taylor’s southside growl, but after a brief slow down for breath, morphs into a primal scream that would grab Janis Joplin by the shorthairs.” Bill Wilson, writing in Reflections in Blue, concurred. “Crystal Shawanda is every bit the real deal. This is an incredibly powerful piece of work.” 

Still, Crystal is hardly what one might call an overnight sensation. “I grew up with blues music and I used to jam with blues musicians when I was still living in Canada,” she recalls. “It’s funny. After moving to Nashville the second time in 2000, I was discovered while actually playing the blues —the music made by Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Big Mama Thornton, Janis Joplin. But when I was offered the record deal to make country music, it felt like the opportunity of a lifetime, and so I took it and ran.” 

She followed her stint at RCA with an independent effort Just Like You, garnering Canada’s prestigious Juno Award in the process. She also had the distinction of performing at President Barrack Obama’s inauguration festivities in 2013. She’s since made her name as a motivational speaker and currently serves as board member of the not-for-profit Nike 7 charitable foundation. 

“I veered towards the blues because that’s the music I love to sing,” Crystal says in retrospect. “It feels so natural, the kind of music I was meant to sing. It’s a beautiful release. It’s like letting a bird out of a cage. This is what I’m supposed to do. This is how I fly.” 

Dione Taylor
Dione Taylor
Dione Taylor is a pastor's daughter, born and raised in a family she describes as “really connected to the gift of song."  She began playing the organ at age 4, and at age 10 became musical director and organist at The Shiloh Assembly Church (Apostolic) in Regina. Taylor received two Voice Scholarships upon high school graduation. 

Dione attended the University of Regina, where she majored in Voice (Classical and Opera). She then enrolled in the jazz program at the Humber College of Applied Arts and Technology, where she received the college's Thomas Kehoe Memorial Award for Outstanding Vocal Performance, graduating with honors from the program in 2003. While completing those studies, she entered the “Jazz and the New Generation” program, an international competition for jazz students, and was selected as of one of six students to participate. Led by Dr. Billy Taylor, the program was sponsored by The Kennedy Center in Washington D.C.  

In June 2004, two weeks after releasing her debut CD, she was invited to participate in a concert celebrating Black Music Month in the United States at the White House for President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush. Less than a year later she performed alongside other stars for Queen Elizabeth II, the Duke of Edinburgh and Joni Mitchell at the Saskatchewan Centennial Gala of the Arts. Other notable appearances include the 2005 Nightlife Jazz Tour, the Women's Blues Revue at Toronto's famed Massey Hall and the 2005 Festival International de Jazz de Montreal. In November 2006, Taylor performed “The Weight” for Robbie Robertson of The Band at the Governor General's Performing Arts Awards Gala in tribute and recognition of his Lifetime Artistic Achievement Award. Dione was nominated for a Gemini Award for her rendition of Oscar Peterson's “Hymn to Freedom,” which she performed alongside Oliver Jones at the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame Gala. Taylor is also the recipient of the Governor General's Performing Arts Award Mentorship Program. 

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