The Chocolate Bayou Festival, Featuring Angie Stone

This two-day fest serves up one of the best buffets of music styles in the city. Among the locals, you've got your top-shelf zydeco in Step Rideau, your red-hot blues in fiery guitarist Sherman Robertson, your sizzling R&B/funk in former Prince/Mavis Staples sideman Rick Marcel, your mellow-cool smooth jazz in saxman Kyle Turner and your soul-saving gospel in Bridgette Taylor. All that, and the Latin orchestra Caliente, plus a renowned national headliner on each day.

The R&B career of Saturday headliner Angie Stone is now heading toward its third full decade. She has showcased her powerful voice in nearly every venue you can think of, from tiny clubs to arenas to Broadway (she did a stint as Matron "Mama" Morton in Chicago). This summer, she's playing a few scattered dates to help promote a forthcoming Greatest Hits Live release, which will feature the best of her three albums for J Records. That trio of discs -- 1999's Black Diamond, 2001's Mahogany Soul and last year's Stone Love -- established the South Carolina native as one of neo-soul's leading ladies.

Sunday headliner Lalah Hathaway was born a soul royal -- Daddy was the incomparable and tragic Donny, and Mama was the classically trained singer Eulaulah -- and the smoky-voiced chanteuse seemed poised to be one of the biggest R&B stars of the last decade when she signed with Virgin in 1990 and released a critically acclaimed debut. But she didn't follow up that album until four years later, and after that waited five years more to team up with Houstonian Joe Sample for 1999's smooth jazz foray The Song Lives On. And then it was another half-decade before last year's Outrun the Sky emerged on Sanctuary. Hathaway's no slacker, though -- between her own albums she was offering up her singing, arranging and piano talents to friends such as Me'Shell N'DegéOcello, Mary J. Blige, Grover Washington and Wayman Tisdale. And despite her sporadic releases, she has lots of rabid fans. Her Web site ( has a thriving message board, and Hathaway also ladles out a delicious blog. (Click on "Gumbo" for her trenchant observations on various reality shows and gems like this: "I'm thinking of changing my name to iLalah. 'i' is the new black."

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Dan Leroy
John Nova Lomax
Contact: John Nova Lomax