Six groups to catch at this year’s Tucson blues fest

The 2022 Blues Heritage Festival on Saturday, Oct. 29, will showcase the genre’s multigenerational glory, from a young local band of blues enthusiasts who got together as teens a few short years ago to the internationally-acclaimed powerhouse duo of husband and wife team of Annika Chambers and Paul DesLauriers making their Tucson debut.

The festival runs from 11 am to 7 pm Saturday at the historic Steam Pump Ranch, 10901 N. Oracle Road in Oro Valley. Tickets are $30 in advance through or $35 at the gate, with discounts for Southern Arizona Blues Heritage Foundation members. It’s free for those 18 and younger.

Here’s the schedule and who’s who of the 2022 festival roster:

The Sugar Thieves started out as a duo in 2006.

Courtesy The Sugar Thieves

  • 11:15 am, ZNora. This Tucson trio helmed by founding frontman and guitarist Adrian Negrete met as teens at the Blues Heritage Foundation’s 2019 Youth Music Showcase at Monterey Court and haven’t slowed down since. In addition to playing Tucson’s usual blues suspects, including Hotel Congress and Chicago Bar, ZNora has toured throughout Arizona and New Mexico, covering classic blues and their own originals with contagious youthful energy and what festival organizers described as “the skill and depth of much older musicians.”
  • 12:15pm, The Sugar Thieves. What started out as a duo in 2006 out of Phoenix is ​​now a powerhouse band with a killer rhythm section and a growing resume that includes sharing the stage with Taj Mahal, BB King, Willie Nelson, The Flaming Lips, The Blues Brothers, Lucinda Williams and Robert Cray. The band is making their first Blues Festival appearance in a number of years.
  • 1:30pm, Tom Walbank and the Ambassadors. Walbank tops many Tucson blues lovers best-of lists, from his whiskey-stained vocals to his killer guitar and harmonica chops. He brings his longtime band The Ambassadors and influences from John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters to his rough-hewn blues style that has landed him on 20 albums and taken him to international blues competitions.
  • 2:45 pm, Carvin Jones Band. When guitar great Eric Clapton calls you an “up-and-coming blues player,” you can rest assured Phoenix blues guitarist Carvin Jones is gonna put on a terrific show. For the past 25 years, Jones has toured internationally, proving that Clapton’s praise was not unwarranted.
  • 4 pm, Annika Chambers and Paul DesLauriers. Houston soul and blues singer Chambers and Canadian blues guitarist DesLauriers turned a chance meeting at the 2018 International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tennessee, into a romance and musical partnership. The couple, who married in 2019, bring a blend of Chambers’ soulful blues and DesLauriers’ more rock-influenced blues that turns your seat into a place to hold your bag, not your butt when they are on stage.
  • 5:45pm, The Coolers. Tucson’s eight-piece blues dance band marks its 13th year of getting audiences on their feet. They are repeat offenders at the Southern Arizona Blues Heritage Foundation festival with a repertoire that covers everything from Delbert McClinton, Etta James and Aretha Franklin to New Orleans jazz, funk, soul and groove.

Contact reporter Cathalena E. Burch at [email protected]. On Twitter @Starburch


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