Guatemala’s 'blues ambassador' revisits Swannanoa roots

From Staff Reports
Black Mountain News | USA TODAY NETWORK
Carlos Funk has an repertoire of originals & early classics.

Tuesday nights are Blues Night at Blind Lemon’s, a lakeshore music club and restaurant in the mountains of Guatemala. There, American ex-pat owner Carlos Funk and visiting musicians hold forth beside beautiful Lake Atitlan, bringing an authentic taste of the blues to the Mayan highlands of San Marcos.

Funk has deep roots in both the blues and the Swannanoa Valley. His annual visit with family gives area music lovers a chance to hear this talented performer at White Horse Black Mountain, this year at 8 p.m. Friday, May 25. Tickets are $10 advance/$12 door.

 Funk (aka William Freed) was in college when he discovered the Lovin’ Spoonful. The band’s music carried echoes of pre-war country blues and jug band music which called to the young player. But he never really got to the heart of the tradition until the first-ever Blues Week at the Swannanoa Gathering in the early ’90s. That experience changed the direction of his life, and he set off in pursuit of the blues.

“In this particular pursuit, you never actually get there, but you have so much fun on the trip you don’t care," he has said.

Along the way he’s developed a clean, precise, but highly rhythmic guitar style and a vocal delivery that expresses the passion, pain and humor inherent in the blues. He has an extensive repertoire of original songs and early blues classics from the likes of Robert Johnson, Mississippi John Hurt, Blind Willie McTell, Tampa Red, and of course Blind Lemon Jefferson, whose name graces Carlos Funk’s San Marcos establishment.