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Bluesman Mac Arnold returns for Asheville gig at the Grey Eagle

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4/29/2011 - Bluesman Mac Arnold returns for Asheville gig at the Grey Eagle
by Jedd Ferris

ASHEVILLE -- Mac Arnold has been dishing out authentic blues for more than 40 years. The South Carolina native left his old home place in 1965, when he moved to Chicago and landed a coveted gig playing bass for Muddy Waters.

In years following, Arnold played alongside John Lee Hooker, B.B. King, Otis Redding and Bill Withers. He then moved to Los Angeles, where he played on the set of "Soul Train" and the comedy hit "Sanford and Son."

Now back at home in the South, Arnold still plays old-school blues the way he learned it from the masters, fronting his own band Plate Full O' Blues.

"We play real blues with a little bit of a twist," says Arnold. "I enjoy it more now, because I'm not a sideman, anymore. Now I'm up-front, and I have to do a lot of thinking to keep things exciting."

Arnold, who won a Blue Music Award last year for his work on the album "Muddy Waters Authorized Bootleg: Live at the Fillmore Auditorium," has become a regular on the Asheville music scene. For the fifth consecutive year he'll be hosting his annual Cornbread & Collard Greens Blues Festival in town at The Grey Eagle tonight. The show is an annual benefit for Arnold's nonprofit I Can Do Anything Foundation.

"We wrote a song called 'I Can Do Anything' to encourage kids to stay in school," he explains. "It's a way to be a part of the community, and based on that, we formed the foundation to support music and arts in public schools."

On Friday, Arnold's band, which includes Danny Keylon on bass and vocals, Austin Brashier on guitar, Max Hightower on keys and harmonica and Mike Whitt on drums, will be joined by Chuck Beattie. The show will also feature opening acts John Hartness and Matt Walsh.

The show is also a CD release party for Arnold's new live album, "The Blues Revival," which was recorded at The Grey Eagle at last year's Cornbread & Collard Greens Blues Festival.

There's a reason food tends to be a running theme in Arnold's musical offerings. When he's not on the road delivering his gritty soulful sounds, he's an organic farmer in Pelzer, S.C., on a farm that's been in his family since 1947.

"I've got corn peeking out of the ground right now," Arnold says.

After his show at The Grey Eagle, Arnold will next perform in the area at the Lake Eden Arts Festival in Black Mountain in May

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