by Mike Corrigan

This weekend, the desert jumps to life as one of the Inland Northwest's premium blues festivals puts the "ritz" in Ritzville. That's right kids, it's time for the Ritzville Blues, Brews and BBQ Festival once again, a day-long cavalcade of local, regional and national blues artists set up outdoors and in six different indoor locations in the heart of the farming community's three-block historic business district. The event is open to all ages, and features -- in addition to all the great music -- lots of good food (remember: barbecue) and lots of good drink (they don't call it a blues, brews and BBQ festival for nothing).

Now in its ninth year, the festival has a glorious history. After a nearly disastrous first season (where organizers discovered that country radio probably wasn't the best place to blow their entire advertising budget), the festival took off thanks in no small part to the high caliber of the featured headliners. Over the years, Joe Louis Walker, Junior Wells, Magic Slim and the Tear Drops, James Cotton, Geno Delafose, Charlie Musselwhite, Tommy Castro, and Rod Piazza and the Mighty Flyers, and Bo Diddley have all made trips out here, putting Ritzville on the map as the site of one of the most popular and respected blues festivals in the West.

This year, the outdoor stage will feature six major acts, including Steve Freund, Sista Monica, Snooky Pryor, Little Charlie and the Nightcats, Pat Coast and Out of the Blue and the festival's featured headliner, Roomful of Blues, a nine-piece blues/jump band from Providence, Rhode Island. Roomful of Blues has recorded and toured tirelessly for decades and eschews the familiar Chicago blues approach for a horn-dominated style that owes more to jazz leanings and late-'40s blues masters like Roy Brown and Big Joe Turner.

Also on tap are 25 other artists, including local and regional favorites such as Junkyard Jane, Charlie Butts and the Filtertips, Laffin' Bones, Sammy Eubanks, Phat Baby Dave & amp; the Painkillers, Papa Glen and the Border Run Blues Band, Blue Tattoo, Don Millard, and the Longnecks.

Northwest Winterfest @ Spokane County Fair & Expo Center

Fridays, 5-8 p.m., Saturdays, 4-8 p.m. and Sundays, 3-6 p.m. Continues through Jan. 1
  • or