Preview 6-13-09 Alexander City, AL

June 11, 2009

There are two reasons that many in Alabama consider the Alex City Jazz Festival one of the state's best music festivals -- eclectic lineups of nationally known musicians and the fact admission is free.

This year's musical roster features one of the hottest blues artists in the business, Grammy Award nominated Susan Tedeschi. Other performers include Austin, Texas-based alternative country band The Gourds, New Orleans staple The Radiators, New Orleans blues and zydeco player Sunpie Barnes, guitarist Kent DuChaine and Alabama's own Robin Hill Band.

"This is the 19th year of the festival, and I'm proud that we've managed to keep it a free festival by having all the work done by volunteers from the community," said Ralph Frohsin Jr., the organizer who has been its guiding force.

He said he was particularly proud that in a time when money was scarce, the community still supported the festival generously enough so that it could remain a free one.

"I think it really says how much the community blesses this event," he said. "The community has really been behind it."

With past artists ranging from Marcia Ball to Los Lonely Boys, the festival has become more popular almost every year. Froshin said it grew from one night to two days, which he thinks has encouraged more people to come to Alex City. And having the festival on the lake for the second night makes it more convenient for people to travel to it, he said.

"We get a lot of people coming from Auburn University and from Montgomery when it is at the lake. In fact, it is almost two different crowds now," he said. "The first night in Alex City is probably about 75 percent local on Friday and 25 percent people from the surrounding area, but on Saturday, those numbers are pretty much reversed."

The biggest performer this year may be Tedeschi. Despite Grammy nominations in 2000, 2003 and 2006, many critics believe her current release, "Back to the River," is her breakout recording and may take her career to a whole new level.

While most at the festival will simply be enjoying performers such as Tedeschi, The Gourds and The Radiators, Frohsin and other volunteers will not only be working this festival, but are already planning the next one.

Next year will mark the Alex City Jazz Festival's 20th anniversary. Frohsin said he and others already are working with the Alabama Department of Tourism, which has declared 2010 "the year of the small town," to make the festival special.


What: Alexander City Jazz Fest

When: Friday and Saturday. The Friday lineup will feature Kent DuChaine at 6 p.m., Sunpie Barnes at 7:30 p.m. and The Radiators at 9:30 p.m. Saturday's lineup features The Robin Hill Band at 6:30 p.m., The Gourds at 8 p.m. and Susan Tedeschi at 10 p.m.

Where: Friday's show is at Tallapoosa Street Park in Alexander City; Saturday's show is at Lake Martin Amphitheater

Cost: The concerts are free


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