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Keeping the Blues Alive at Sea: Mediterranean Part 2


by Kevin Wierzbicki

Smooth Sailing for Joe Bonamassa's Blues Cruise

Kusadasi harbor sign
Kusadasi harbor sign

There was still plenty of fun to be had during the second half of this year's sailing of the Keeping the Blues Alive at Sea: Mediterranean cruise and fans were loving every minute of it. The popular blues festival at sea began on August 23, 2022 and ran through August 28, taking place aboard the Norwegian Cruise Line ship Jade as she sailed from Athens to Mykonos, Greece and Kusadasi, Turkey. The call at Kusadasi came at about the half-way point in the cruise and many fans went ashore to shop for Turkish carpets or take a tour of the ruins of the ancient city of Ephesus. Back on the ship lots of music remained to be heard.

Elles Bailey
Elles Bailey

One of the things about having so many artists on a cruise is that they have a chance to collaborate with each other, something their on-shore schedules don't allow for. Marc Broussard, for example, who played a set featuring covers of Bobby Womack's "Harry Hippie" and Stevie Wonder's funky "Higher Ground" also brought on vocalists Elles Bailey and Jade MacRae during his set. MacRae in turn had the cruise's superstar, Joe Bonamassa, appear for one song during her set. Fans got lots of similar surprises during the cruise, although some collaborative shows were announced in advance, such as a late night event called Campfire Sessions with Tommy Emmanuel, Keb' Mo', Samantha Fish and Jackie Venson. Another treat featuring Keb' Mo' took place when he joined Ana Popovic for numerous song during her powerful set in the ship's Stardust Theater. That was only natural since he is the producer of Popovic's latest album as well as the co-writer of many of its songs.

Marc Broussard
Marc Broussard

If fans chose to stage hop around the ship they could take in shows like the James Hunter SIx playing soulful, '60s-inspired R&B-flavored rock, hear Lakota John sing and tell stories about his North Carolina homeland or take in a concert by teenage phenom Toby Lee who played songs from his latest album Aquarius, rocking like Bad Company one minute and turning in a slowed-down and sublime cover of the chestnut "Kansas City" the next. Early risers could check out an Acoustic Mornings show in the ship's atrium, an intimate venue where the Cold Stares played an impressive set. Even though their set was unplugged the band rocked hard on "Cannonball," a cut from their first album, and turned in an emotional cover of the Allman Brothers Band standard "Whipping Post."

The Cold Stares
The Cold Stares

Fans also could indulge in things like a Hohner Harmonica clinic, a wine-tasting session, a screening of the Joe Bonamassa movie "Guitar Man" and take the commemorative poster that everyone was gifted to one of two autograph sessions to have it signed by their favorite artists. All artists except Bonamassa were at the autograph sessions; while Joe is always amiable to fans he is just too big to put himself in that situation with thousands of fans. Bonamassa did give cruisers a chance to experience something really unique though; a taping of his podcast Live from Nerdville. Joe's guests for the show, which took place in the ship's Stardust Theater, were Tommy Emmanuel, Marc Broussard and longtime English scenester Terry Reid. Reid got especially animated when telling stories of long ago shows with the Rolling Stones. The edited version of the podcast will air later this year.

Terry Reed
Terry Reed

The third sailing of the Keeping the Blues Alive at Sea: Mediterranean will take place August 17-22, 2023. Santorini, Greece has a special significance to Joe Bonamassa as he has recorded a couple of albums there; the cruise will sail from Athens to Santorini and Dubrovnik, Croatia. Most of the lineup will be announced later but already known to be joining Joe are Christone "Kingfish" Ingram, Blackberry Smoke, Jimmy Vivino and Kirk Fletcher. Cabins can be booked here.

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