Beverly “Guitar” Watkins, Shrimp City Slim
A Dough Re Mi Pizzeria
Feb. 15

With a capacity crowd of spirited locals and curious visitors, the music room inside the Dough morphed into a roadhouse juke joint on Monday evening as Atlanta-based blues lady Beverly “Guitar” Watkins headlined one of the most anticipated gigs of the 2010 Lowcountry Blues Bash. A longtime favorite among festgoers, Watkins, 71, rocked hard on her customized electric six-string all night.

Shrimp City Slim and his combo — Silent Eddie Phillips on guitar and Rockin’ Adam Parrott on drums — warmed things up with an early-evening set of standards and originals, including a closing rendition of Muddy Waters’ “I Got My Mojo Workin’,” replete with a noisy and excited call-and-response with the crowd (and a rumbling drum solo from Parrott). Slim (a.k.a. Gary Erwin, the Blues Bash organizer himself) and the guys stayed on stage as they introduced Watkins for the first of two sets — both for which they served as backing band.

Inconspicuous in the crowd, save for her black leather britches, the petite Watkins looked more like a sweet grandmother in attendance than the star of the show. On stage, however, her rockin’ persona took hold of the audience. She quickly got into a groove with the backing trio. From the initial introduction (“Good evening! Y’all ready to party?”) through her first set, Watkins was instantly likeable. She grinned and howled, leaning into surefooted solos with warm funkiness. She shared the spotlight a lot, too, shouting, “One more time!” at Phillips and Slim.

Her voice could be gentle and soulful or guttural and ferocious from verse to chorus. Some of the slower tunes leaned into gospel stylings, while most of the set stomped with roadhouse swing and ’50s-style guitar licks along the rockabilly lines of Carl Perkins and Scotty Moore.

Watkins showed no signs of fatigue. She still has plenty of chops, and she looked like she had a blast on the big stage with Slim’s band. Her audience enjoyed it all.

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