Michael Arnone's 19th annual New Jersey Crawfish bash was the best renewal of this event I've attended over the years. The weather cooperated as the only rain came after the funky Meters closed out the outdoor stage on Saturday. Saturday night Tab Benoit tore it up for the campers in the after hours show with Mitch Woods sitting in on piano. Fans of Rosie Ledet were disappointed that she didn't make her scheduled appearances Sunday on the main stage and the dancehall but Leroy Thomas did a good job filling in for her.
Little Freddie King, who is enjoying a high point of popularity with a cover story on this month's OffBeat magazine, played a hard hitting set of electric blues. After Bonerama's outstanding performance, which featured a topical new song, "Hard Times," the Nappy Brown Orchestra might have felt like the Blues Brothers band waiting for Jake and Ellwood to show because Nappy was nowhere in sight. Eleven songs into what was a fine fill-in set Nappy's limo finally pulled up to the stage, but the aged R&B giant was so ill he couldn't even stand up once he got on stage. He sang the first song literally lying down on the stage, and amazingly his voice was strong and clear even as he appeared to be in severe physical distress. The band started to go into another tune but Brown told his band leader to play "Worried Life Blues" instead. Brown's rendition of this song about accepting the peace of death after a hard life was one of the most powerfully moving blues performances I've ever witnessed. It took everything out of him, because Brown was unable to make it through the next song, his set-closing signature tune "Nightime is the Right Time." Brown had to be helped off the stage by his band and was attended to by EMS personnel in full view of the audience before being whisked of to the hospital for treatment. His attempt to go on with the show was a supremely heroic gesture and we can only thank him for the ultimate sacrifice and pray for his recovery.
Meanwhile Railroad Earth put on an enjoyable show for the large number of fans who came to see them on the main stage. Railroad Earth demonstrated its connection to the music of Louisiana when violinist Tim Carbone joined Allen Toussaint's New Orleans R&B group for a spirited jam. Toussaint suggested that Carbone could join his group after they finished.