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CD Review: Downchild's I Need a Hat 

The Deal: Canadian import is the real thing.

The Good: For the past 40 years, Downchild has been churning out blues from an unlikely hangout – Canada. But the inspiration is purely American: Jimmy Reed, Muddy Waters and Albert King. The title cut is a tongue-in-cheek poke at musicians who need a gimmick to stand out. But front man/guitarist/harp man Donnie Walsh never needed any props and doesn't now. Letting Dan Aykroyd play harp on one cut may pull in some Blues Brothers fans, (Downchild is said to be the model for Aykroyd and Belushi's band) but it's Walsh's greasy slide and Jimmy Reed-style vocals on "You Don't Love Me" that make it a standout. Walsh hands out an even nastier slide on "Rendezvous." But the best trick that Downchild pulls off is making even the nastiest blues sound smooth. Not smooth in the homogenized sense, but effortless and natural. The band sounds like a funkier version of Roomful of Blues at times, with Memphis Horns trumpeter Wayne Jackson injecting a dose of soul on "Somebody Lied" and playing snaky counterpoint on "These Thoughts Keep Marching."

The Bad: That the band doesn't tour more extensively in the U.S. This stuff needs more exposure down this way.

The Verdict: Use liberally every day and pray they come to a town near you.

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  • On Saturday, Oct. 21, hundreds gathered at Camp North End on Statesville Avenue for Charlotte's first black alternative music festival. We captured some of the bands in action on stage, but mostly we surveyed the grounds as fans, families, vendors and more lounged around the sprawling, colorful Camp North End site. It was a great day of music, food, fun, and sweet, autumn sunshine. (Photos by Mark Kemp)
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