Savannah Music Festival review: Delta Guitar Slingers with Michael Burks, Lucky Peterson & Sherman Robertson

Michael Burks

There were vicious storms and even hail blowing through the Savannah area just before 5 p.m. today, but there was still a packed house at the Morris Center for the Delta Guitar Slingers, featuring Michael Burks, Lucky Peterson, and Sherman Robertson.

I’m no expert on the blues, but I was most struck by the differing styles of the three headliners. Burks — the only one besides the bassist and drummer who stayed on stage the whole 90 minutes — is rock steady, with a sharp, strong voice and little extraneous movement as his fingers fly. His vocals were a little understated, even as he sang “another man was sleeping in my bed” while kidding occasionally with one particular couple seated a few feet from the Morris Center stage. Sherman Robertson joined Burks and the band after about 30 minutes — Robertson’s slightly raspy and even occasionally velvety 62-year-old voice was a striking contrast. So too was his playing, as he jumped early on from the stage and played amidst the audience after riffing his way through a version of B.B. King’s “Worry, Worry”: “Someday baby when the blood is real cold in my veins . . . ”

It was probably wise that Lucky Peterson’s appearance was saved for last. His expressive face, his sudden jerks and starts and stops, his radiant smile — all those combined with his brilliant guitar work to captivate the crowd. Peterson left the stage too and sat on it for a moment — and then sat in someone’s lap — and continued to vary the pace and volume dramatically. He put the guitar down, climbed back up and attacked the organ, which had been left empty when Peterson came onstage. He plays the keys with the same versatility that he shows on the guitar. The set came to a close with a rousing version of “Stand By Me,” which Robertson came back on stage for.

I saw the third of four shows by the Delta Guitar Slingers. There were some complaints about the sheer volume of the two shows Saturday night, but the early show Sunday sounded great from my odd but effective vantage almost directly to the left of the musicians.