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Billtown Blues Association Announces 2024 Lineup

The 34th Annual Billtown Blues Festival officially begins Friday, June 21st at 6 p.m. The music continues at 12 noon on Saturday, June 22nd offering world class blues music from twelve performances. All festival detail including ticketing options, onsite camping accommodation, a link to our host hotel in downtown Williamsport, and our downtown bus service detail, is available at

There is a certain tradition in place with the Billtown Blues Festival, beginning on Friday at 6 p.m. when the Uptown Music Collective Blues Band once again sets the vibe for the next two days. The band will deliver an energetic rousing display of blues music showcasing their UMC educational experience. The UMC has, from the beginning, included the history of and foundational impact of all modern music derived from the blues art form as part of their teaching curriculum.

Next up on Friday, from Pittsburgh PA, is Soulful Femme. Although well-known across PA and beyond as a dynamic duo, Soulful Femme will be performing in band format joined by rhythm section Ronnie Biggs and Brice Foster. Steve Wellons on vocals and Cheryl Rinovato, guitar are the principals, each with individual impressive resumes. As often happens in the blues community, the two met at a blues society function, went on to the International Blues Challenge (IBC) in Memphis which has set the stage for their continued success both performing and recording. Their newest release, Attitude, was produced by Albert Castiglia. World renown Tommy Castro states, “Soulful Femme is a unique act! Cheryl’s guitar style compliments Stevee’s voice, their songs are well crafted and I’m a FAN!”

Returning to Billtown is Tas Cru from “way up” in New York State. Tas is part of the Billtown family having performed twice before and participating in two Master Classes for the Uptown Music Collective students. When presented with an offer to return in 2024, Tas responded with “I’m Thrilled! Tas is a past “KBA” (Keeping the Blues Award), recipient presented by the Blues Foundation in the education category. Tas has offered years of service teaching and helping others learn about the blues art form. His mission statement includes, “There is nothing more important that I do as a blues performer than blues education!” Tas is also a highly regarded songwriter, entertainer, delivering robust, audience engaging sets wherever he lands. He has generated 5 releases in the past 7 years with “Riffin’ The Blue” his latest.

Closing Friday night will be the flamboyant, effervescent, roof shaking, fasten your seatbelts! Annika Chambers and Paul Deslauriers. Annika and Paul look back to Memphis TN and the International Blues Challenge in 2018 when they first met. Not only did their music click – but “they “clicked and eventually married. Annika is a Houston TX native and two-time (2019 and 2022) Blues Music award winner for Female Soul Blues. Her “Kiss My Sass” release garnered a debut on the Billboard Blues chart. Canada native, Paul is a multiple Maple Leaf awarded artist: Entertainer of the year, Electric Band, Solo Artist, Guitarist….to mention just a few of his honors. Paul took 2nd place in 2016 at the IBC’s in Memphis.

Saturday’s first two performance sets are saved for the BBA’s own IBC local challenge to be held March 9th at the Pajama Factory. The winners, as judged by a slate of BBA members in the band category and the solo/duo category are guaranteed to perform in the Billtown Blues Festival. Both winners become eligible to compete in the prestigious International Blues Challenge in Memphis TN in January 2025.

The 2023 IBC winner, Houston based, Mathias Lattin will follow. Mathias came home from the IBC’s not only as the overall band winner, but also honored by the panel of industry professionals with the Gibson Guitar Award. Mathias at just 20 years old, is perhaps the youngest winner in IBC history for both awards. After two attempts prior at the IBC’s with the Keesha Pratt Band in 2018 and Brazilian bluesman Chris Crochemore in 2022, stepping up as frontman with his own band in 2023 was the ticket for success.

Music was not necessarily a no-brainer for Mathias, being the grandson of NBA Hall of Famer, David, “Big Daddy” Lattin. He has the stature and drive, but, instead chose a path of music educated at the Kinder High School of Performing and Visual Arts. BBA President, Dave Strickler, witnessed Mathias’ winning performance while at the IBC’s in 2023, and within seconds requested we pursue Mathias for the Billtown Blues Fest. And so, it is.

Mathias may be one of the youngest and considered an “up and comer” to the Billtown Blues Festival stage, following him is an artist who first began performing in 1967. Duke Robillard along with Al Copley both drawn to the early “jump blues” sound of the 40’s and 50’s formed the legendary “Roomful of Blues”. Soon they assembled a horn section which created the famous “Roomful Sound”. They drew in elder fans already familiar to the heavy horn driven sound, but also exposed their own generation and younger to the “big band” sound which was all about dancing. Quickly becoming New England legends, the Rhode Island based musicians went world-wide in short order. Duke led this powerhouse band for the next twelve years. Roomful is responsible for spawning the careers of many early band members including Greg Piccolo, Ronnie Earl, Curtis Salgado to mention a few. Robillard has excelled in all components of the music world as guitarist, vocalist, songwriter, bandleader, studio sideman, producer, label owner and educator. And for kicks he also hosts a weekly radio show. Guitar Player magazine states, “Robillard’s ability to play across the spectrum of blues is legendary. Few players can move stylistically from Texas to Kansas City to Chicago’s West Side, but Robillard makes it seem easy.” Grammy nominations and multiple BMA nominations are part of Robillard’s impressive resume.

New Orleans based Jason Ricci returns after just two years to the Billtown Blues Fest stage. Ricci is at the top of his game and at the top of the list of world class masters of the blues harmonica. After hearing the power of his latest release Beyond the Veil along with Billtown festival fan requests another live Billtown festival stage performance was in the making. Reading the biography of Jason Ricci is an amazing read. From growing up in Portland ME he went wherever he needed to go to find and learn from his idols and soon to be mentors. Despite challenges galore, countless hurdles to overcome, but always rooted in his music, Ricci has shown incredible strength, endurance and wisdom. His current band “The Bad Kind” tours world-wide, with Ricci also offering support to New Orleans B3 master Joe Krown, Kenny Wayne Shepard, and JP Soars’s The Gypsy Blues Revue when called upon. Joining Jason on this third trip to Billtown will be Kaitlin Dibble, singer, songwriter, guitarist and Jason’s wife. Beyond performing Ricci gives back by way of his online YouTube harmonica lessons, product reviews, addiction awareness videos, stories and more. Jason Ricci is one of the most influential and celebrated harmonica players touring today.

Alligator Records recording artist Carolyn Wonderland will be making her first trek to Billtown. The Texas guitar slinger and vocalist has stepped out on her own after three years with John Mayall joining the impressive palette of others who served that coveted role: Eric Clapton, Mick Taylor, Peter Green, Walter Trout and Coco Montoya. Her personal recording catalogue includes 10 self-produced releases and four produced by multiple Grammy winner Ray Benson from Asleep at the Wheel. Her Alligator release, Tempting Fate was produced by Americana icon Dave Alvin. Alligator states, “Her spine-chilling, soul-deep singing matches her guitar prowess note for note. And she has a knack for writing songs that sound like instant classics.” Her journey to Alligator slates Carolyn as the only guitar-lead female band leader among Alligator Record’s over 50 years of signings. For the “Genuine Houserockin’ “ label this speaks well of her command of the guitar…then there is that voice! The Boston Herald says of Wonderland, “…a dollop of Janis Joplin, a slice of Stevie Ray Vaughan…a seething-hot Texas singer-guitarist.” Carolyn is twice nominated with Blues Music Awards for Song of the Year, “Fragile Peace and Certain War”, and Contemporary Blues Female Artist.

As our luck would have it, Greensboro North Carolina’s Bob Margolin will be in the Northeast the week before the Billtown Blues Festival while performing with The Weight Band. There are multiple variations to this story, but…. with Muddy Waters in a pinch for an immediate guitar replacement in 1973, someone introduced him to Bob Margolin. Little did Muddy know that Bob had studied his music as part of his self-education of the blues. When the interview happened, it included a few tonally perfect, well-placed notes and Bob landed the job. He played with Muddy around the world for the next 7 years. Bob soaked in every note, every nuance of Muddy’s technique. Infused with Bob’s own style, Margolin delivers a spirited, heart-felt performance. You can sense the reverence he still holds today for the precious time spent with Muddy Waters 50 years ago. One will hear the closest living sound today of Muddy Water classics as well as Bob’s own material as a clever and gifted song writer. Along the way, in 1976, when The Band’s Last Waltz was created and Muddy Waters was invited to join, Muddy chose Bob Margolin to be by his side. While there Bob also joined in with The Band and the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. Today, various incarnations of The Last Waltz tours, world-wide as well as The Last Waltz film feature Bob Margolin. Bob is proud to say he plays every song on the Gibson archtop guitar he played next to Muddy in the original Last Waltz. It is fitting that Bob celebrates his 50th year with his Vizztone Label release titled simply “Thanks!” Backing Bob, from Birmingham AL is Skylar Saufley and his band. Bob Margolin speaks of Skylar and his band as a unit who knows just what to do. Approaching the blues with a “less is more” simplicity allowing the music to tell the story. “Bob Margolin continues to stretch his boundaries on every recording, which is just part of what makes him a national treasure.” Bill Mitchell, Blues Bytes.

Closing the festival on Saturday is Bywater Call. This seven-piece monster band from Toronto Canada first traveled south of the border in 2022. Relatively new-comers to blues audiences, formed in 2017, the group has carved deep waves world-wide, both from their hi-energy performances as well as their stellar recordings. The band’s mission is to leave behind an exciting, powerful, and moving experience for all listeners of their music. Meghan Parnell (vocals) and Dave Barnes (guitar) are the driving force behind what is labeled Southern Soul, Roots Rock. Despite their short tenure the band has multiple Maple Blues and Independent Blues nominations under their belt. During a main-stage performance at the Moulin Blues Festival, word spread throughout Europe with immediate calls for return performances. Various European media tag Meghan as one of the best singers in blues and roots today. Rounding out the band are Bruce McCarthy (drums), Mike Meusel (bass), John Kervin (keys), Stephen Dyte (trumpet) and Julian Nalli (tenor sax). Blues Magazine says, “the powerhouse voice of Meghan Parnell and the slide guitar mastery of Dave Barnes form the basis of Bywater Call. Where things are still somewhat civilized on the record, Meghan goes completely wild live vocally. What a set of lungs and concrete vocal cords this woman must have!” Blues Magazine.

Music gates for campers and music only attendees open at 5 p.m. on Friday. With music starting at 6 p.m. until 10:30 p.m. Saturday gates open at 11 a.m. with music from 12 noon until 10:30 p.m. The festival’s host hotel is the Genetti Hotel in downtown Williamsport offering special festival lodging rates. Bus service is also offered between the Genetti to and from the Festival on both days.

Tickets are on sale now with discounted “early bird” pricing until Saturday, March 9th. All ticketing, (credit card and by check), general festival and onsite camping information is available at Local ticket outlets for cash sales opened Wednesday, May 1st.

Press Release