Diamond Roots 

Singers Betty Wright and E.C. Scott headline Pittsburg's Black Diamond Blues Festival.

The East Bay has summer music fests galore, but the Black Diamond is worth seeking out. Now in its sixth year, the city of Pittsburg's Black Diamond Blues Festival digs a little deeper than most for its kicks. It's named for the old African-American neighborhood that sprang up in the post-WWII years, when the Camp Stoneman army base flourished and night spots on the chitlin circuit, like the Paloma, the Colony Club, and Brent's Soul Food Café; presented Earl King, Freddie King, and other blues and R&B acts.

That legacy lives on in the annual downtown outdoor event (Saturday and Sunday, May 25-26, 12:30-7 p.m., on Railroad Avenue between 3rd and 5th streets), organized by city officials Marilyn Lewis and Pat Meadows. "I used to host a blues radio show on KEGR, 97.7 cable FM in Concord," says Meadows, "so I have a rapport with the musicians."

Black Diamond's lineup of talent is impressive. On Saturday, '70s singing sensation Betty Wright ("Clean Up Woman," "Where Is the Love?") makes a rare appearance. Explains Meadows: "After she made several hits, Betty decided to start a family and retired from show business, but now she goes out on the road part-time from her home in Miami." Audience favorite E.C. Scott headlines the Sunday show for the third year in a row. The Oakland-bred former gospel singer, with her band Smoke, injects her blues with a shot of hip-hop. The supporting acts are strong, too. On Saturday: blues and gospel diva Sista Monica, the Bay Area Blues Society with Chocolate Thunder and David Thompson, Raymond Victor, jump-blues fanatics Steve Lucky & the Rhumba Bums with Miss Carmen Getit, and the Black Diamond Blues Band. Sunday performers include Louisiana native Larry Garner, singer-guitarist Phil Guy from Chicago ("the most brittle tone allowed by law"), Shane Dwight Blues band, J.C. Smith Blues Band, and a student group, Pride of Pittsburg. All that and Cajun food, too. 925-252-4842 or www.blackdiamondbluesfestival.com


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