The blues are not about sadness; they are about soulful freedom. They capture the essence of the player’s environment and express it through music. This approach has become the mission of Charleston-based duo The Cotton Blue Band.

The band name comes from the indigo and cotton grown on Edisto Island, which, even after four albums, remains the biggest influence on the band. “You sit out on your porch and you hear the frogs and wildlife making their beautiful wildlife sounds; you feel a part of it. You see how beautiful it is, and I want to express this,” says lead vocalist and guitarist “Gator” Rob Posey.

For bass guitarist “Detroit” Debbie Pasek, playing their style of blues is more about “the beauty of the marshes, ocean, gators, and swamps.”

Cotton Blue have their own extensive list of collaborators, including John Lee Hooker, Bill Wharton, Dan Akroyd of the Blues Brothers, and Deborah Coleman. Stevie Ray Vaughn once told Posey he was a “real blues man” (he considers this the best compliment he’s ever received).

Songs off their latest album, Edisto Island Mystery Tour, are heavy with harmonicas and strong rhythms.

This year marks the second time Cotton Blue have graced the festival’s stage at the request of series coordinator Gary “Shrimp City Slim” Erwin, who’s featuring both local and international blues acts.

The band’s live shows regularly feature a high-energy, audience-interactive atmosphere. Posey has been known to walk into the crowd and grab a beer bottle or lady’s shoe to play slide guitar solos. Drummer Keith “Barefoot Willie” Windham occasionally keeps the beat while playing on various bottles and cans in the room. “It makes us happy when people get up out of their chairs,” says Pasek.

Even though the scenery of Edisto Island remains the biggest influence on their music, the band claims it’s not what all the songs are about. “We write about love, hard times, and good times as well,” says Posey.

Quoting a line by Muddy Waters, he adds, “If there is a hole in your soul, blues will patch it up.”

COTTON BLUE • Piccolo Spoleto’s Early Bird Blues • $10 • May 31, 4-7 p.m. • Cumberland’s, 301 King St. • 554-6060

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