Grammy Award-winning blues musician Alvin Youngblood Hart finds himself traveling to New Orleans to play music quite often these days. He has to. New Orleans is where his heart is. Or more specifically, it’s where his girlfriend lives.
No stranger to Louisiana music, he opened for legendary late bluesman Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown early in his career, forging a personal and musical connection that Hart said still influences his particular brand of country blues. He’ll take the stage with his band Muscle Theory in the Blues Tent this year, his first Jazz Fest appearance since 2004, and it’s a show he said his trio has been looking forward to.
“There’s so much going on at Jazz Fest,” Hart says. “There are so many people there of a like mind. Everybody’s energy is going in the same direction, for the most part.”
With Jazz Fest drawing in hundreds of thousands of music enthusiasts from all corners of the globe, Hart said he can reach audiences he never dreamed of from the Blues Tent’s stage.
“Maybe eight out of 10 people never heard of you before, and if they like it, that’s a really good thing,” he says. “We’re trying to reach as many as we can, and Jazz Fest is the best way to do it.”
Like many Jazz Fest performers, Hart plans to immerse himself in the New Orleans music scene outside of the Fair Grounds, returning to his old stomping grounds at the Maple Leaf on Oak Street.
“I’m doing a gig with Johnny Vidacovich and Luther Dickenson from North Mississippi Allstars the Thursday night before our show,” he says. “We did one last year and it was kind of crazy. By the time we got out of there, the sun was coming up.”
Hart said he plans to bring some of that late night intensity to Jazz Fest, even though he will be playing in the heat of the day.
“It’ll be pretty much stuff from a couple of my records and some stuff from some other people. It’s going to be a fairly loud and rockin’ set.”