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The 9th annual Kent Blues Fest will draw top acts to the city on Friday.
The festival will return to 23 venues in downtown Kent, from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Admission is free to every show.
"Northeast Ohio has some of the best musicians in the country and that includes its blues players," said Daryl Rowland who will play with BC Hudson at Belleria. "I would mention Butch Armstrong, Roger Hoover and the Kidney Brothers (also set to perform). But there are many more. Austin Walking Cain, John Mosey, the list goes on."
This year's lineup includes the likes of the Eric Clapton tribute band Evolution at Hometown Bank Plaza, harmonica phenomenon Jarred Goldweber and the Park Brothers at the Zephyr Pub and the Armstrong Bearcat Band at Water Street Tavern. Glenn Schwartz, former James Gang guitarist, will sit in with Armstrong.
"I gave Butch Armstrong guitar lessons when he was 14 years old," said the 77-year-old guitarist. "I was in James Gang with Joe Walsh when he came to see me play. I was playing at this big arena there at Hullabaloo (club), he came to see me and I gave him guitar lessons."
Schwartz played with Tom Petty and Walsh, of The Eagles, last month at Quicken Loans Arena, and over the years has played with B.B. King and Albert King.
"I'm looking forward to playing for them on Friday," said Schwartz, who was invited back to play the fest after packing the house last year.
Rowland, a native of New York City, played with B.B. King at a club called Dan Lynch's, where he also played with the Holmes Brothers and Johnny Copeland.
"As a teenager, I was able to go to clubs and see some of the best jazz, blues, and classical performers, in relatively small venues," Rowland said. "I didn't know it at the time, but I was exposed to remarkable improvisational musicians who left a lasting impression on me."
Rowland was a writer and producer for TV programs such as "Mad About You" and "Chappelle's Show."
"I started out in New York, where I realized that sitcoms were essentially where pop culture gets to help process what our nation's values are," Rowland said. "It's just entertainment, but even TV shows play a role in shaping how people see the word. What's acceptable, what's absurd."
Rowland teamed up with Hudson, a native of northeast Ohio, when he moved to the area with his wife a few years ago.
"Daryl has a very unique New York blues playing style," Hudson said. "He's a very traditional Albert King, Muddy Waters blues player. We anticipate each other so well and we both add color to the music in the same way."
Rowland has played in The Juke Hounds, Goodfellas and 8 Volt Hot Rod with Hudson. He's currently putting a new band together to explore improvisational roots and original music.
On Friday, he will join 31 other blues acts at Kent Blues Fest. The duo will play traditional blues from the 50s and 60s, with some originals, including crowd favorite "Beautiful Girl."
"Our goal is to play the good notes at the right time and to leave the other ones out...and to never play the a tune the same way twice," Rowland said.
This is the third festival of 2017 presented by the Crooked River Arts Council, at the heels of "Kent Beatlefest" and "Reggae Jam" with "Kent Round Town Music Fest" to follow later this year.
Updates and a venue map are available at kentbluesfest.com.