WEST POINT • Jeremy Klutts likes using one particular word to describe the acts performing Friday at the Black Prairie Blues Festival - “phenomenal.”
Klutts, the festival director, has put together a three-group lineup with regional recognition and national prestige for the 24th edition of West Point’s annual music event.
The artists are:
• West Point’s own Mookie Wilson and the MOCs, which has developed a following in north Mississippi.
• The Eric Gales Band, led by its guitar-playing namesake and 2019 Blues Music Award winner.
• Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band, a 2019 Blues Music Award nominee.
The festival, which honors the legacy of blues performers from Northeast Mississippi, starts at 6 p.m. in the gymnasium on the former Mary Holmes College campus.
Klutts, who’s in his 11th year as director, likes having a lineup with fewer bands so they can play longer.
“We used to have five or six acts, and they’d play only an hour,” he said. “I learned my lesson. We’d usually lose about 50 percent of the crowd about 11 o’clock. We decided to start a little later and let these guys play an hour-and-a-half set, and shorten it to three acts. It seems to work out a whole lot better.”
Taking the stage first will be West Point’s homegrown bluesman and his all-star ensemble of local musicians, the MOCs (Musicians On Call). Mookie Wilson performed in the festival’s first year when it was called the Howlin’ Wolf Blues Festival.
“We’ve got some good blues artists here in the Golden Triangle, so we try to have at least one local act,” Klutts said. “Mookie is a real good friend of mine, has been for a long time. He’s a phenomenal artist from here in West Point.”
The Eric Gales Band will follow Wilson about 7:30 p.m. The Reverend Peyton Big Damn Band will come on around 9:15.
“Eric Gales and Reverend Peyton, they don’t make it around these woods very often,” Klutts said. “That’s what we try to do, get one local act and a couple more from outside.”
Gales, a Memphis native who began his recording career as a teenager, has released 18 albums and has done collaborations and tribute work with other artists.
“He’s a phenomenal guitar player,” Klutts said.
In 2017, Gales released the album “Middle of the Road,” which was a comeback for him after years of struggling with drugs and alcohol. His latest album on Provogue/Mascot Label Group, “The Bookends,” came out in February.
Gales returned to his hometown in May to accept the 2019 Blues Music Award for Blues Rock Artist of the Year. Other nominees for the award included Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Z.Z. Top’s Billy Gibbons, who released a solo blues album in 2018.
Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band is a three-piece country blues band from Indiana. The band has released nine albums and one EP.
The band’s latest album off its own Family Owned Records, “Poor Until Payday,” hit No. 1 on the iTunes Blues Chart and peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard Blues Album chart. “Poor Until Payday” was a 2019 Blues Music Award nominee in the Blues Rock Album of the Year category. The award went to Gibbons’ “The Big Bad Blues”
Reverend Peyton is considered one of the world’s foremost country blues finger-style pickers.
“They’re huge. I think they play about 300 shows a year,” Klutts said. “You’ll hear some Delta blues, lot of slide playing. (Reverend Peyton) is a phenomenal player.”
The blues festival takes place the day before West Point’s Prairie Arts Festival.
Advance music festival tickets are $20 and can be purchased at three Golden Triangle locations: Growth Alliance in West Point, Jack Forbus Insurance in Starkville and the Columbus Arts Council. Tickets are also available online at blackprairiebluesfestival.com/shop.
Tickets are $25 per person at the door.