Musicians, music lovers weather snow for Marietta concert

MARIETTA – The ballroom at the Lafayette Hotel was filled with melodious blues tunes Friday evening as the 22nd annual River City Blues Competition kicked off with a friendly, non-competitive event between two bands from both sides of the Ohio River.

Chris Sutton with C&S Railroad from Huntington and the Sean Carney Band from Columbus gave blues lovers an exciting prequel to Saturday’s festivities.

Sutton said he was excited to be back in the area and said that while he is looking forward to being a judge during the contest, he’s glad he’s not participating.

“There’s no pressure against other musicians,” he said. “We get an hour and 15 minutes to play; it’s the best room I’ve ever played.”

Sutton said in the past, he’s not been able to play with the band as a whole; it’s been solo, duo or trio, but not with everyone. Bandmate Bill Galloway said it was great to perform with the entire band.

“It’s my first experience with Marietta blues,” Galloway said. “I’m enjoying the fact that we’re not here to compete. There’s no expectations. We can have a good time and enjoy the atmosphere.”

Aaron Reynolds, 28, of Marietta said this year is his first time experiencing the blues competition. He said he’d been thanking those with the Mid-Ohio Valley Blues, Jazz and Folk Music Society.

“I just thank them; they bring good music into this area. That’s something this town needs,” Reynolds said.

Reynolds said he had just learned the event was the largest and oldest blues competition in Ohio.

“The event continuing (for so many years) makes it even more valuable; that’s wonderful,” he remarked.

Mary Ann Osborne, a board member for the society, said the event was fun.

“Music for all and all for music, no matter what genre,” she said.

Though she didn’t have a tally for the total number of people in attendance, she said turnout was really good despite the snow.

Kim Branham, 56, of Point Pleasant said her husband is in the C&S Railroad band.

“I typically don’t go out on gigs,” she said. “I consider that his employment.”

Despite this, Branham said she was excited to attend the event and would be at the competition on Saturday.

“Anything affiliated with the blues society, I attend,” she said. “It’s a top-notch event. It’s really enjoyable to attend…There’s fabulous local music; you don’t have to travel to a large city or out of state to hear bands that are this good.”

Sean Carney, the 2007 International Blues Challenge winner, also performed with his band.

Carney said he was happy to be back in Marietta and loved that he could come back to the event that helped him get international recognition.

“It’s kind of like coming home,” he said.

He said the cool thing about the blues organization was that it had no exclusions.

“It’s one of the few organizations that have no geographical boundaries or exclusions,” he said, adding that the Italian band performing in the contest Saturday is one he has been coaching.

“They’re pretty excited,” he said.

Carney said though he’s often on tour in both Europe and the U.S., he tries every year to make it back to the competition.

“It feels great to be back,” he said. “I try to get back every year for this event. I love the organization and the people here. I love the event and I love Marietta.”