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Mattea, 'Idol' winner to headline levee concert series

Chip Ellis
Charleston Mayor Danny Jones (center) announces the lineup for this summer's Live on the Levee series, along with "Mountain Stage" executive producer Adam Harris (left) and City Councilman Tom Lane.
Chip Ellis "Mountain Stage" host and FestivALL director Larry Groce (left) and Ron Sowell applaud during Monday's announcement. Sowell's band, the Putnam County Pickers, will reunite for the Aug. 23 concert.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- "American Idol" winner Kris Allen, '90s chart-topper Edwin McCain and West Virginia native Kathy Mattea headline Charleston's 10th Live on the Levee season.

The announcement was made Monday morning before a small crowd at Haddad Riverfront Park's Schoenbaum Stage.

Live on the Levee Committee Chairman Jim Strawn, Music Committee Chairman Adam Harris, Charleston Mayor Danny Jones and Live on the Levee creator and longtime City Councilman Tom Lane were in a celebratory mood and proud of the growth of the summer series of Friday-night concerts.

Strawn, who also emcees the free concerts, said, "When we first started, we pulled a hay trailer down here for a performance for 30 people, maybe. Now Live on the Levee has become very much woven into the fabric of Charleston."

Charleston City Manager David Molgaard pointed out recent improvements to Haddad Riverfront Park, which this year includes handrails to ease travel up and down the amphitheater steps and a newly added boat dock, which will offer electric hookups for boaters for a $100 seasonal fee.

Harris, executive producer of West Virginia Public Radio's "Mountain Stage," said that every year he says this season is better than the last, and so far, he's always been right.

This year's schedule is a mix of genres with several high-profile local bands and regional acts sharing the stage with nationally known performers like Allen, McCain and Mattea.

Continuing a recent theme, Live on the Levee also features the return of a notable local band, like last year's Crazy Jane reunion. This year, '70s-era group the Putnam County Pickers will come together to play a show in August.

"Mountain Stage" bandleader and Putnam County Picker Ron Sowell said he and the surviving members of the band had talked about getting together for some time.

"But after we lost Rusty Wells to cancer a couple of years ago, we really thought we needed to get it done," he said.

According to Sowell, the band hasn't performed together since 1980, but has already started rehearsing for their Aug. 23 show.

"We thought it would be a great thing to do," he said, then laughed. "And then we asked ourselves, 'What are we thinking?'"

Sowell said the band would include John Kessler, Ammed Solomon, Greg Harmon and Sowell's ex-wife, Sandy Sowell.

Lane said he was proud of how Live on the Levee had evolved from featured entertainment sponsored by the city to a musical centerpiece supported by local businesses.

"I think it's going to be a great summer," he said.

All shows start at 6:30 p.m. with the headlining act taking the stage around 7:30 p.m. The schedule is:

May 24: The Voodoo Katz with 600 lbs. of Sin (followed by fireworks)

May 31: Toothless Ruth with Relative Obscurity

June 7: Mother's Nature (opening ceremony for West Virginia Special Olympics Summer Games)

June 14: Root Bound and Juicy (West Virginia Biker Bash weekend)

June 21: Kathy Mattea (part of the West Virginia Sesquicentennial and FestivALL Charleston)

June 28: The Esquires with Dugan Carter and Full Flavor

July 5: The Recipe with The Boatmen

July 12: Kris Allen with The Ryan Kennedy Trio (followed by fireworks)

July 19: West Virginia jazz great Butch Miles with the Boy Scouts Jamboree Jazz Band

July 26: Sacred steel-style gospel group The Campbell Brothers with the Carpenter Ants

Aug. 2: High Voltage with InFormation

Aug. 9: Blues du Jour with Rubber Soul

Aug. 16: Edwin McCain and Chaz Humley and the Effects (Sportsfest and West Virginia Games weekend)

Aug. 23: The Putnam County Pickers with Ryan Cain & the Ables

Aug. 30: Acoustic Syndicate with Comparsa

For the third year, Moses Auto Group is the title sponsor of Live on the Levee. Other sponsors include Brewer & Co.; Mardi Gras Casino & Resort; Terradon Corp.; Suddenlink; Highland Hospital; Recovery Sports Grill; BBL Hospitality; JP Morgan Chase Bank; CB Hall Insurance Agency; Amherst Madison; Charleston Marine; Yuengling Lager; GAI Consultants; AARP; Strayer University; C&H Taxi; Silling Associates; Bowles Rice; Wesbanco; Devonshire; Coventry Health Care; Red Carpet Lounge; Charleston Newspapers; Barnes Agency; Ear Nose & Throat; Fast Signs; Bridge Road Bistro; Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation; Putnam County Bank; United Talent; Sears Monument; West Virginia Lottery; nTelos; Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield; and Mountain State Medicine & Rheumatology.

Reach Bill Lynch at lynch@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5195.


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