SPRING HILL — They'll be singing the blues down at the lake, lamenting about things like lost love, betrayal and being down and out. But the Lake House Bluesfest also promises to be an uplifting musical venture, a pull yourself up by your bootstraps offering to feed the soul and the less fortunate.
The inaugural event, pulled together by Annette Doying of the newly formed Winding River Productions, features a noteworthy lineup of local talent — six blues bands playing mostly original tunes from afternoon till night against the backdrop of scenic Hunters Lake.
"It's a beautiful setting, but not a lot of people know it's there. It's a hidden gem — like a lot of the musicians in our area," Doying said. "The Nature Coast has a concentration of very good blues musicians that are well-known among national blues aficionados, but are under-appreciated locally."
A $10 general admission ticket gains entrance for those wanting to chill out in a lawn chair or a blanket laid out on the sloping lawn. Or you could pony up $25 for VIP seating. Those who are able are also asked to bring a nonperishable food item to donate to two local charities — People Helping People and the First United Methodist Church's food pantries.
Headlining the event is Julie Black, a soulful singer and talented songwriter from New Port Richey who's been on the rise for a while. Black has been busy wrapping up her latest album, Follow the Muse. But she is also getting some well-deserved attention from the music establishment for a song called Heartless Man Blues that she co-wrote with her friend and fellow singer and songwriter Shaun Murphy.
According to her website, Murphy, who has performed or recorded with Eric Clapton, the Moody Blues, Little Feat, Bruce Hornsby, Meat Loaf and Bob Seger, is being considered for three Grammy nominations this year — Best Traditional R&B Performance, Best Blues Album for her 2012 release of Ask for the Moon and Best American Roots Song for Heartless Man Blues, one of a batch of tunes Murphy and Black wrote together.
"It's very exciting," Black said. "Songwriting is a big part of who I am — a labor of love — and seeing these things unfold and moving in this direction is very cool stuff for me."
As is the opportunity to debut one of her new tunes at the Lake House Bluesfest.
"It's a real nice stage, right in the middle of nature," said Black, who will perform from 8:30 to 10 p.m. "There's a couple of different angles the event highlights and I like that. The organizers are truly embracing the broad span of blues music — blues, rock and swing. It also supports local food banks and comes at a great time with Thanksgiving and the holiday season."
Franc Robert and the Box Car Tourists are well-known in the area, playing about 90 gigs annually throughout the state, most recently the St. John's Blues Fest in Palatka. Robert said he is more than happy to be warming up for Black and bringing a taste of the band's Mississippi juke joint sound to the Lake House Bluesfest from 7:15 to 8:30 p.m.
"I'm really glad to be a part of this — giving back to the community that helped me," said Robert, who is from Montreal but calls New Port Richey home. "It's helping out the local food bank and that's great — especially having been a gift recipient in the past as a struggling artist. This is payback for all those that helped out in the past."
Also performing on stage — Blue Rooster Down (2-3:15 p.m.), The Company Swing Band (3:30-4:30 p.m.) , Cruzin' for a Bluzin,' (4:45-5:45 p.m.) and Lazy Boy & the Rockers (6-7 p.m.).
Other offerings include a classic car cruise-in, a silent auction, food trucks, beer and wine sales, about a dozen vendors selling wares and activities for children, including story time with an altruistic theme sponsored by the Hernando County Library System and the surprise appearance of some well-known and colorful action heros.
Representatives from People Helping People in Hernando and the First United Methodist Church's food pantries will also be on site to collect donations and give information on the charitable services they provide such as local food banks, weekly Sunday meals, supplemental groceries for seniors and donations of food for children whose primary meal is often at school.
Those who go will have a chance to make a little music themselves, joining with members of the Pine Island Drum Circle, who will be putting percussion instruments in people's hands between band sets.
"That will really add a nice vibe in between shows," Doying said, adding that she is hoping to host a similar event in the spring. "I'm keeping my fingers crossed on the weather for this one. I think it will be a fantastic day for the community and a fabulous event."
Michele Miller can be reached at [email protected]