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Great Soul and Blues on Kentucky Lake

For 33 years, the Kenlake Hot August Blues Festival has been bringing great blues to a most unlikely place, the shores of Kentucky Lake at Kenlake State Resort Park near Hardin, Kentucky. Although there is no extensive record of blues in the area, the location is an inspiring one, with its stage set in front of the lakeshore, the iconic Aurora Bridge and a flotilla of boats in the background. With a state-owned resort hotel less than a mile from the festival site, accommodations are easy for performers and attendees alike. On the hill above the amphitheater seats, guests enjoy a wide variety of food and dessert trucks, as well as the festival store, which sells festival shirts, posters and records and compact discs of the performers.

For 2022, the Kenlake festival booked three African-American bands, which is notable in this era where so many blues festivals book all-white or predominantly-white lineups, and often including many artists that play genres other than blues. The opening band, A Different Sound was from Paducah, and while competent, they did not live up their name, as they were primarily a cover band. They were followed by Hill Country legend Duwayne Burnside, the son of the late R. L. Burnside, who gave the crowd an hour-long set of authentic blues. Behind him came Lexington, Kentucky-based bluesman Tee Dee Young, an artist with whom I was unfamiliar, but one deserving a lot more attention and acclaim. His band was quite impressive, and his voice and original compositions stood out. Toward the end of his set, people were on their feet dancing in the seats. By that point there were several hundred people in the amphitheater, and the hot day had cooled off. It was a pleasant end to an exciting day of blues.

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