Case of the blues this weekend

What: The 8th Annual Maine Blues Festival When: Friday, Saturday and Sunday Where: At 13 businesses in Naples Cost: Free on Friday and Sunday. An admission bracelet is required on Saturday; the cost for a bracelet is $13 if purchased prior to the event and $15 on Saturday.

What: The 8th Annual Maine Blues Festival
When: Friday, Saturday and Sunday
Where: At 13 businesses in Naples
Cost: Free on Friday and Sunday. An admission bracelet is required on Saturday; the cost for a bracelet is $13 if purchased prior to the event and $15 on Saturday.

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

NAPLES – Blues musician Pat Colwell can make some comparisons, some observational notes, between playing the blues and politics.

After all, Colwell served as house majority leader and speaker of the house in Augusta from 1996 to 2004.

“If politics doesn’t give you the blues, nothing will give you the blues,” he joked during an interview on Tuesday evening.

“No, really, I served my time in politics. I am proud of what I was able to accomplish,” he said.

The die-hard democrat said if people of all party affiliations wrote and performed a song together there would be a whole lot of working in harmony.

The history lesson aside: Colwell has been playing the blues a lot longer than his political career lasted. He was performing in jukebox joints at the tender age of 14. Later, he played at clubs up and down the East Coast. When he would return to Maine to visit family, his much younger brother Robert Colwell would sneak off with his guitar.

For more than two decades, the siblings have been performing the blues together as the Colwell Brothers and the Soul Sensations.

The Colwell Brothers have been a part of this weekend’s Maine Blues Festival since it started eight years ago.

“We always get offered better paying jobs for this weekend. But, it is such a great sense of community that we make sure we are always in Naples for Father’s Day weekend,” he said.

“What a wonderful community Naples is to welcome all these strange musicians,” he said.

“I tell you what: People should get out of their houses, off their couches, and go to Naples for the most fabulous time. There will be almost-around-the-clock music,” he said.

Colwell is excited to share tunes from the band’s new album, “Guilty Pleasures,” which has songs derived from a place of celebration, including the gender bender song about a woman who rides a white Harley Davidson while her boyfriend sits behind and holds on.

“We dig the roots up, and left the dirt on ’em,” he said, adding that most of the songs on the latest CD were done live in the studio during the first or second takes. The band avoided computer enhanced sounds, and tried to return to the sounds of the old Memphis blues albums.

The Colwell Brothers got their invitation like so many other musicians performing this weekend from Blues Festival organizer Kevin Kimball.

“I’ve known Kevin for a long time through democratic politics,” he said.

“He has been such a wonderful thing happening there in Naples. It is a native blues festival. There are some great blues musicians in this state,” Colwell said.

“It is a beautiful little town. Naples is a great place,” he said.

Another longtime participant of the Blues Festival, Ron Gill, agrees with Colwell that there couldn’t be a better venue.

“Naples is a beautiful place. The people are friendly and inviting,” Gill said.

“You can get around by walking or taking the shuttle bus. You don’t have to leave a place because there are different bands every hour,” he said.

Gill is both a musician with the band the Poke Chops & Other White Meat and an avid volunteer.

He attended the first Blues Festival eight years ago. As a recent transplant from Colorado, he checked it out and started networking. Gill told Kimball he would do whatever was needed to help out.

Now, he not only delves into some Southern Cajun zydeco, but he also coordinates the masters of ceremonies for 13 different stages.

“I basically manage the people who act as the master of ceremony. I help them keep track of the time, get on the microphone to announce the band that is finishing and starting. I keep a schedule together and a sponsor list so people are organized, and have things to say in between the bands,” he said.

Gill recommended spending some time in Naples this weekend.

“For listening to the live music, it’s great. It’s affordable blues. It’s 12, 15 bucks to get in – you cannot beat that,” Gill said.

“It’s all Maine music. You have super accomplished people who have played all over the world. You have excellent musicians that have never strayed far from Maine. You have people like me from ‘away’ who’ve come here to stay,” he said.

Festival co-founder Michael Bray said the organizers had always intended for the event to be an annual thing, but “we were pleasantly surprised at how supportive everyone was.”

Additionally, there is a domino effect for area businesses.

“It stretches out our business season.

It took what was historically not a busy weekend, and turned it into of the busiest. It’s great for local business,” Bray said.

As the past president of the Maine Blues Society, Kimball has connections to line up the talent, he said.

“Kevin had his finger on the pulse of blues musicians and blues bands. Every year, we get more and more people wanting to perform. Kevin usually sprinkles in a few new ones, and we have lots of returnees to the festival,” Bray said.

Despite the connotation, blues can be quite uplifting.

According to Gill, everything is good at the Maine Blues Festival.

“We have never had a bad day at the festival. Playing music is never a bad day,” Gill said.

Colwell said the blues has the tendency to move a crowd.

“There is the blues that makes you feel good, and get people onto their feet and dancin’. Then, there is the low-down blues when you cannot pay your rent, and your woman is with your best friend.

Hopefully, the blues can make people feel a little better,” he said.

“Music is such an important part of people’s lives. I love to make people joyful with our songs,” Colwell said.

To preview or download a copy of the schedule for the three-day event, go to and click on events and venues at the top of the page.

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