Bluesdoodles Live Shows in England 2017 – Throughout 2017 Liz and Kevin travelled to hear good music to share on Bluesdoodles. Bristol was the number one city we visited not surprisingly as it is just across the Severn from South Wales. So behind Door Six, we are re-visiting the live music that made our feet tingle and ears buzz. Live music invigorates and is a great night out, meeting up with friends sometimes listening to bands for the first time. This could be they are a young up and coming band or one you have only heard the music captured in a studio. Whenever and wherever you are listing to live music supporting musicians and having fun it is a special memory moment. Coming up behind other doors will be Gigs in Wales and Festival fun that made 2017 such an enjoyable year.
Tonight Bad Touch Headline The Tunnels Majestically. The third night of the first headline tour was a phenomenal success but as Stevie Westwood said, tonight is not about one band as he praised the two acts that set The tunnels alight for the Headliners. Opening the night local band Flowerpot and then Mollie Marriott, live music doesn’t get much better.
Flowerpot, an all-women outfit have been gaining the momentum of attention by opening for acts visiting Bristol and headlining their own shows. This young band full of raw energy had seven numbers to showcase their own brand of grungy, punk-driven rock. The music was not hewn from a particular vein of rock. The band had their own sound and energy that flowed from the classy drumming from Jess which defined the shape of the music that allowed Morgan on Bass pick up the rhythm and rock as her flowing and at times revolving hair orchestrated her sound. Pulling the sound together Ellie on guitar provided the melodic chords and riffs for Steph on vocals to hook onto. Up front Steph on vocals controlled the band and had the audience captured as they listened to the lyrics that had something to say as we heard about snails, loser girl and a debut of a new number Bruised. After their raw, eclectic and blistering set, we were left not battered and bruised or trailing along at a snail’s pace but ready for the next two acts as The Tunnels filled and the temperature raised by Flowerpot.
Mollie Marriott with her critically acclaimed album Truth Is A Wolf was the next band. Quick change round and the band was on stage. A complete contrast to Flowerpot. The raw intensity was replaced by a softer more malleable sculptured rock. Mollie’s voiced captivated with its purity from the first note of her opening number Run With The Hounds with the organ looped in so the full sound achieved on the album can be heard live. Tonight surrounded by her band Mollie warmed the crowded venue with her winning smile and a vocal range that captured the depth of the lyrics and topics covered.
The rhythm section was solid and the lead guitar giving Mollie the chords, melody and hooks for her vocals to soar. Early in the set, she slipped in a new number Nobody To Love and if this is what is going to be on the follow-up album I am counting down the days. One of the highlights of the too short set was Broken, the power, emotion and passion shined from Mollie’s face through to the vocal delivery. We all connected with the feeling of being broken after a failed relationship and hurting people close to us. In this case Mollie’s daughter and her relationship with her. In the set was title track Truth is a Wolf and the rockier number King Of Hearts later in the set sleazier, dirty and filled the venue with another side of multifaceted Mollie. Vocals coloured the stage along with a band that flexed its muscles as she blended rock with jazz, blues and soul a sonic landscape full of texture and tone. Dressed in Black with White guitars and bass the monochromatic visuals contrasted with the music. Mollie has a famous surname as the daughter of Steve. Tonight she conquered the venue, with her own name Mollie Marriott, and an act to see live. Her voice is better live than in the studio. The voice is warmer and more personal as the lyrics on the numbers take on emotional meaning. She was in total control of the stage as her final number Control finished an accomplished set and we were now in the mood for Bad Touch.
The excitement fizzed like a can of shaken pop as Bad Touch exploded on the stage on their first headlining appearance in Bristol. The crowd were hot for their spectacular feel-good sound captured on the album Truth Be Told. We were definitely not disappointed as they opened with Take Me Away. Yes, we were taken away on the rollercoaster of a band on fire playing the music they love to an audience that was up to be given the Bad Touch treatment from this effervescent five-piece. The first all-male band of the evening and they knew the audience as already hot for live music so no warm-up numbers for the band they were straight in with high voltage music with a ringing sting that excited The Tunnels tonight. The set definitely elevated them to the deserved headline status one this tour with the hefty heavy/southern rock influences and bags of attitude this is a band that knows how to party. All the musicians understand their role and play to each other’s strengths. With the power of a rhythm section that lays now a depth of sound that grounds the sound as George Drewry’s drumming is timely, powerful and into this he mixes when required a subtleness, a gentle touch. Joining his rhythmic tones is Michael Bailey on bass with his hair flowing, and moving in time with the deep southern hot chords. The guitarist adds the next layer that smarts and stings cajole and weeps as Rob Glendinning takes the lead with stylish slide or plectrum lead guitar work that is simply stupendous. Daniel ‘Seeks’ Seekings adds with top-drawer rhythm guitar work filling in and drawing out the guitar. This quartet is loud and full of imposing attitude and sound. How do you top that? Easy add Stevie Westwood into the vocals as vocals frontman and the glossiest, curly mane of hair and that cheeky waxed moustache, He steps into the frontman role with a swagger, style and talent. Phenomenal!
We have the musicians on stage, full of vim and swagger now for the music. They delivered with a mix of old and new we all were touched with their majestic interpretation of Rock N’ roll Norfolk style tonight. The set list was the perfect blending of fast, faster furious and the breather we all need. Not once did the band lose control of the sound they are so good at delivering. Stevie’s vocals perfect for the genre and the quality of the backing vocals take the sound to another level. We shared a Sweet Little Secret with the band and delighted as the guitarist played off each other both with their confident cool, arrogant swagger that fills the stage with a six-string punch. Highlights – every number played. Those that stood out Wise Water and great to hear Down one of their earliest numbers that morphed seamlessly into Lynyrd Skynyrd’s classic Can’t You See. Down it doesn’t appear on any album must be a contender for the much anticipated follow up to Truth Be Told. A definite keeper for the forthcoming album is the new song aired tonight I Belong that makes full use of Rob’s ace slide work. Something Someone took the tempo down with an acoustic ballad as the Stevie and Rob duet and then the band return picking up the beat and building the energy for the last few numbers of the set. We were rocking and singing along to a perennial favourite My Mother Told Me. With one of their signature tracks Take Your Time they ruled it as the favourites flowed with Outlaw and closing with the might The Mountain. What a great atmosphere generated as we wanted the band to play on this was a night to remember. We had two more numbers as the encore-closing with the single from the album 99% that got them noticed by Planet Rock and others closing the night leaving us on a high. But before that, a special moment as Mollie Marriott returned to duet with Stevie and the band on Baby Get it On Tina Turner’s classic given the Westwood/Marriott treatment. What a night! Tonight Bad Touch Headline The Tunnels Majestically
Tonight Bad Touch Headline The Tunnels Majestically
The Milk Men Bringing Full Phat Blues To Your House
The Milk Men Bringing Full Phat Blues To Your House. This debut album produced by guitarist Adam Norsworthy is rich and creamy blues. Adam taking time out of driving wild horses with The Mustangs is now on a milk float with talented musicians. The Milkmen are Adam joined by Jamie Smy, vocals, Mike Roberts on drums and the son of Mick Green, Lloyd on Bass. This is no pedestrian milk float that The Milk Men are in charge of it is fully charged electric with a British fill as they deliver Full Phat Blues.
This debut is full of originals written by Adam or Jamie & Adam together. With a couple of tasteful covers, No Particular Place To Go, by Chuck Berry, Robert Johnson’s Dust My Broom and The Score by David Amy.
Opening with Make Mine A Double Adam’s smooth guitar hooks and builds up the tempo and then the vocals. Gruff full of swagger and attitude The Milk Men from the off are bringing a distinctive sound. Fresh and modern yet full of retro pizazz as they hark back to the gold top times of British R n’ B. This is a collision of Wild Horses of the open sea and land as Mustangs collide with Pirates.
The album walks you at a fast pace from the days of Johnny Kidd & The Pirates up the escalator to Dr Feelgood grooves then throwing in a heavy sound of rocking blues shaping the lyrical melodies around Rod Stewart. The Milk Men having absorbed the flavours shake the riffs, grooves and lyrics together creating Full Phat heavy blues with a twang of modernity, whilst never falling far from the rooted certainty of British interpretation of electric blues.
This is an album that makes you feel good, foot-stomping smiling with delight as those hands demand to be clapped. This is personified by Real Good Lookin and is returned to throughout the dozen tracks. Get down a groove with a funky hip-swaying milkshake on a Pocketful of Pennies. What does stand out is the smooth interaction between vocals and instruments. The guitar playing is sharp and the flow is balanced. No overlong self-indulgent solos this is a band playing music to be enjoyed.
The highlight of this smooth and tasty album is In The City. Sharp guitar opening syncopated and controlled, allowing Jamie’s vocals to power off the energy from Adam and the boys. As the album closes Dust My Broom reminds us of the heritage that the band is drawing from as we have an energised version leading into Wicked Lies to close the debut album. Slowing the tempo, changing the texture of sound we are left waiting to hear more music from The Milk Men.
Live Music Came Outta The Swamp to Play The Louisiana
Live Music Came Outta The Swamp to Play The Louisiana. Who came outta the swamp? It had to be Big Boy Bloater and the Limits bringing Luxury Hobo to Bristol tonight. Opening the Friday live music delight was Ruzz Evans, flying solo tonight. His rockabilly guitar-fueled the energy. Creating that end of the week vibe. As he showcased numbers form his two albums with some spicy instrumentals. Ruzz set the scene for Big Boy Bloater with his energetic mix of Rock n’ Roll, Bo Diddley and a twist of Country.
The room was full with a dark and atmospheric upstairs at The Louisiana, Bristol. Nothing subtle about these hard-edges hard-hitting blues. Bog Boy really got the crowd going with his unique interaction with the audience full of smiles, stories and the raising of his can with a hearty cheer. A real gruff voice with lyrics that were as clear as a bell booming out. The Limits supporting provided a rhythmic base for the melodies of his guitar to fly. Creating a harmonious and heady mix of British R & B.
The drumming was superb from Matt Cowley, with a different drum set creating a distinctive and contemporary sound even with judicious use of a cowbell on the nearest thing to a title track of the current album Luxury Hobo Blues. The bassist Steve Oates add a throaty growl and rhythms that shaped the sound that was being created building the tension. Every note curling around the guitar of Big Boy Bloater.
Big Boy Bloater has a distinctive style. He exudes confidence as he explores the darker side of thinking. Never dampening the mood whether singing about murder or neurosis. This is due in no small part to his easy conversation with the audience sharing insights behind the numbers. With another song from Luxury Hobo. I Got The Feeling Someone’s Watching Me. He instills the gothic horror movie, with tension and the feeling that something is just about to happen. Great song, fantastic vibe live music that excites, intrigues and energises.
Now he may have a new album out early this year but the heart of the set was five new numbers. Forewarning his fans that another album is around the corner that is if these songs are representative going to be exciting with more Big Boy Bloater stories to be told.
A true story kicked this part of the set-off. Love and betrayal explored on She Didn’t Even Buy a Ticket. The drugs that keep us going are explored on Pills and on Unnaturally Charming a deep and heavy number with the slide that adds to the mood as we look into a murder’s mind. Then a highlight of the evening a wonderful shuffle with The Saturday Night Desperation Shuffle.
Time we were now deep in the clutches of the music. With Rocket Surgery a perfect way of addressing some technology gremlins we moved on to Robot Girlfriend.
Yes, Friday night we were Insanely Happy listening to the music that made you want to dance and smile. Far too soon it was the last song. Few minutes silence and then the encore It Came Outta The Swamp. What a highlight to leave us with. What a night of music to kick-start the weekend.
Now, this is live music and sometimes the band brings gremlins into the venue. Tonight BBB was beset with technology gremlins including his vintage amp deciding it needed a rest. The consummate professional, keeping the vibe going with quips and working through the issues. This did not dim the enthusiasm of the audience. This is live music we like the unexpected. Tonight, everybody went home happy having heard some brilliant contemporary blues-tinged R n’ B.
Four Excited Bands Talking About 4th UK Blues Challenge
Who are the four excited bands talking about 4th UK Blues Challenge? They are Zoe Schwarz Blue Commotion; LaVendore Rogue, The Rainbreakersand Elles Bailey. There will be a fifth band joining the quartet of superb bands. The fifth band will be announced shortly after the Great British Rhythm and Blues Festival taking place at Colne 25th-27th August. The Jessica Foxley Unsigned bands who will be playing on the main stages have now been selected. From these Eight bands one will be chosen to join the bands already announced to take part in the Challenge on the 10th September. Find out who the eight bands that are in with a chance HERE.
While we all wait in anticipation as to which band are joining the four who have already been nominated read about the bands and what they said when Bluesdoodles spoke to them.
Tell us what it means to Zoe Schwarz Blue Commotion to have been nominated to participate in the challenge with the chance of representing the UK in Hell, Norway and Memphis U.S.A in 2018?
ZSBC: Firstly, the fact that the number of our peers nominating is so large gives real credibility to the artists involved, so we are also proud about that. We are also proud to be nominated as we see it as a recognition of our original music, concept and style. We don’t write the songs to any kind of formula or to fit in with any cliche or pre-conceived ideas of what defines blues in 2017.Read more…..
Tell us what it means to LaVendore Rogue to have been nominated to participate in the challenge with the chance of representing the UK in Hell, Norway and Memphis U.S.A in 2018?
LVR: We’ve been to hell and back a few times over the years, and playing in the states has to be a dream of any UK musician, so it’s an honour to be considered for the UK British Blues Challenge – we’ve been working hard over the last few years, and it’s great to see its been recognised by the UK Blues Federation. Read More …
Tell us what it means to The Rainbreakers to have been nominated to participate in the challenge with the chance of representing the UK in Hell, Norway and Memphis U.S.A in 2018?
RB: We were overwhelmed to have been nominated, especially when we don’t really consider ourselves to be a blues band as such. We think it shows willingness from the scene to accept the new approach to the blues that some of the younger bands of today are displaying. Obviously we would be thrilled to go through to the European and American challenges especially as we are hugely influenced by a plethora of bands from the states!Read More….
Tell us what it means to Elles Bailey to have been nominated to participate in the challenge with the chance of representing the UK in Hell, Norway and Memphis U.S.A in 2018?
EB: Love the fact that European Challenge at Hell – didn’t know it existed on Earth. I am chuffed to bits to be performing in the Challenge this year. I am a newbie on the scene over the last twelve to eighteen months I have been quickly accepted in the Blues community. It has just exceed my expectations, definitely delighted to be performing in Liverpool and looking forward to seeing the other acts. It is definitely going to be a great night. Read More…
More about The UK Blues Challenge
What is the UK Blues Challenge (UKBC)?
An annual event organised by the UK Blues Federation (UKBlues) at a different location in the UK at which a number of bands/acts compete in front of a panel of judges drawn from across the blues spectrum. The winning band/act is invited to represent the UK at the following year’s International Blues Challenge (IBC) in Memphis and European Blues Challenge (EBC) which is held in a different European country each year.
We are very pleased that this year’s event will take place at the legendary Cavern Club in Liverpool on Sunday 10thSeptember 2017 starting at 16.00. More details can be found and how to buy a ticket for the event HERE. UKBlues is excited to be bringing the blues back to the Cavern sixty years on!
How are the contestants in the UKBC chosen?
As an Active Member of the EBU meeting the EBU’s laid down criteria (see EBC rules here) and the sole UK Affiliate of the Blues Foundation, UKBlues are honoured to be invited to create and manage the selection process to choose the band or artist who will represent the UK at these prestigious events each year.
The first stage of the process this year saw a panel of more than 250 people from across the blues spectrum in the UK which included members of UKBlues, all UK based Active Members of the EBU, members of the Independent Blues Broadcasters Association, festival and gig promoters, writers (both online and print media), musicians, fans and blues supporters etc. being invited to submit the three UK acts that they felt would best represent the UK at the EBC and IBC.
Members of this panel were asked to place their choices in order (first, second, third) and points were awarded according to the position in which the acts are placed by you.
The 4 top scoring available acts after this process was complete were invited to participate in the UKBC where the contestants will perform in front of a panel of judges who will use the same criteria to award points to the contestants as are used at the EBC and IBC.
In a new departure this year, a fifth band will be invited to participate which will be selected from the bands who have been invited by Jessica Foxley Unsigned to play at the Great British Rhythm ‘n’ Blues Festival which takes place in Colne over the August Bank Holiday weekend – These bands are, generally, under the radar and being selected to play at Colne is a big step up for them.
The band will be chosen by a panel of representatives of the Jessica Foxley Unsigned project and will be chosen on the strength of their performance at Colne.
The winner of the UKBC will be invited to represent the UK at both the 2018 EBC and IBC.
What are the selection and judging criteria?
When making their selections, the members of the panel are asked to bear in mind the following EBC rules which apply:
The leader of the band must have the nationality of the country he/she represents.
At least 50% of the members of the contestant bands must reside in the country they represent.
Acts who participated in a previous edition of the EBC, but did not win, may compete again after a period of 3 years.
Bands of which half or more of the musicians participated in a previous EBC with another band, may compete again after a period of 3 years.
Bands of which less than half of the musicians participated in a previous EBC with another band, may compete again after a period of 2 years.
Contestants at the UKBC, EBC and IBC are expected to perform at least 50% original music in their set and they are awarded points using the following criteria as laid down by the EBU:
Skegness Solid Live Music
More Blues than Rock in 2017
January drawing to a close, Christmas lights a fading memory. Then your calendar clicks around to Butlins, Skegness for the Great British Rock & Blues Festival, the next year of musical journeys begins. This year the emphasis is on Blues, Rock has fallen if not silent but reduced to a whisper this year, upsetting some and definitely changing the balance and feel of the weekend.
The Introducing Stage got the show underway from 4pm Friday until the early hours of Monday morning. The gaps were minimal the music quality, meeting of friends chatting about what stood out and having fun was the order of the day. The grumble about the lack of rock was justified. The title of the weekend is Rock & Blues so you would expect a balanced mixture. Everyone who knows me knows that I love my Blues of every hue, but I love the energy of Rock, the power of Rock and energy of the stage shows and this year this injection of power was missed. Without the balance of Rock and Blues, we didn’t have the contrast of razor-sharp, sparkling blues guitar and the full-on power chords and stinging licks of granite fueled rock.
Bluesdoodles, Liz Aiken enjoyed the weekend visiting the stages catching acts, missing others. With four stages this was a hectic few days. Starting off with the highlights across the days on Introducing Stage, run by Steve Stanley, of Solid Entertainments with the help from Paul Stiles and the Blues In Britain Team to hand out the voting disks. The Skeggie road takes us to Centre Stage – designated as ‘The Rock Stage’ by the Butlins programming team. The journey continues with a visit to Jaks with its late night sessions jams and a distinctive atmosphere, organised by Blues Matters. Finally, our travels and weary feet take us to Reds, 2017 the Blues stage. The programming was without argument patchy by the Butlins team what was good was very good, interspersed by mediocre and poor. The Road was definitely a Blue cobbled street rather than a rocky trail throughout the 2017 weekend. Let’s hope this is a transition year and next year the balance between Rock and Blues is restored. There are so many young exciting bands on the circuit that would be delighted to entertain the Skeggie crowds.
Now, for the music. GT’s Boos Band got the show under way and they were one of the thirteen excellent bands who delighted the crowded area at the heart of the Skyline Pavilion. The bands played for the chance of performing on a stage at Butlins 2018, decided by public vote. The three successful bands this year were Friday Night –Tom Walker Trio, Saturday, Southboundand the final finalist on Sunday was Greg Coulson Band. The competition was tough every band bought an interpretation of blues and rock that shows the depth of live music in the UK today. Tom Walker Trio, played a set that sparked including originals and an interesting, entertaining interpretation of Joe Bonamassa’s John Henry. Hitting the authentic blues spot Backwater Roll certainly pleased the audience in a packed area. Saturday night showed that this stage is getting more popular every year as the place to find new festival gems that you will want to see live again. Southbound were great on the night with a live performance showcasing the power of the rhythm section as they delivered their distinctive Blues Rock with a bucket of soul sound thrown in for good measure. Matt Edwards Band with Stuart Dixon on bass impressed as did their 2015 album Four Berry Jam. Matt has a voice that makes you listen and his guitar playing has an infectious tone. Amy Eftekhari’sperformance of Somewhere Over The Rainbow got the crowds purring with delight. Then it was Sunday two performances really stood out and on another day Elles Bailey would have won. Her vocals have power and the addition of Nick Garner on harp added another dimension to this class act; for me the winner of Sunday night. But the popular vote went to Greg Coulson, who delivered by surrounding himself with excellent musicians and a confident stage presence on the day. His experience as keyboardist with The Selectors shone through combined with strong numbers from his forthcoming debut album. This was party music that lit up the Introducing Stage.
Centre Stage is where queues form every night long before the doors open. At least now they are entertained by the adjacent Introducing Stage. This year designated The Rock Stage for the first time had one certainty rock would be hard to find. Friday night opened with one of last year’s winners Sugarman Sam & The Voodoo Men. Wow, the transition to main stage fitted the band perfectly with a strong set. The music was hefty blues-rock, punctuated with authentic blues licks that curled around the rhythm section. Sugarman Sam, is growing as the new number She’s A Woman demonstrated. The following act was Eric Sardinas & Big Motor highly anticipated and deeply disappointing in the delivery. Yes, a string did break, but why the length of time off stage, as so many said surely someone of this calibre should have a spare guitar tuned for slide, do a different number or have a guitar tech. It was left to the bass player, Paul Loranger who held the fort not once but twice as Sardinas left the stage and flounced off again. What the band played was good but the flow of the set was disjointed and definitely an off night for this colourful performer of Rock-blues.
Saturday with two sessions the afternoon opened by Texas Flood another winner from 2016. What a winning Rock n’ Roll set. Texas Flood definitely washed away any cobwebs with a rip-roaring high octane set that rocked. This is the rock we want to hear at Skeggie, but why the early timing? It was not as if the evening bands were that exciting. The energy was high, the timing sharp they certainly did Wales proud! The interplay between guitar and bass was sharp and entertaining. Closing the afternoon the Helen Hardy Band entertained. A good R n’ B band the covers we know and flowed through the auditorium as Saturday afternoon drew to a close. Saturday night. Kenney Jones & The Jones Gang, may not be classic rock but this was a band that delighted the crowds with songs from his vast back catalogue. Kenney Jones, the drummer who was the heart of three of the great bands The Small Faces, Faces and The Who. The crowd sung along with delight to Itchycoo Park and more. Leafhound, a rock band were well received with Luke Rayner’s guitar sounding superb, the most underrated of the weekend. (Bluesdoodles spent most of the time in Reds and Jaks this just didn’t rock our boots)
Last day of the festival with a feeling of the night after the day before. The last of 2016 Introducing Stage winners the Rainbreakers started things off. This is a band that never rains on your parade but brings a ray of sunshine Once again proving what a great launch pad the introducing stage is as they also stepped into Centre stage limelight delivering a storming set. The testimony to this was the queue for the merch as people wanted to get their hands on the latest E.P. Rise Up. This was R n’ B with attitude, full of tasty riffs and delicious licks in the eclectic selection of numbers. A class act with loads of potential to be a name on everyone’s lips. Popa Chubby Band closed out the afternoon with his own brand of Blues and R n’ B with his trademarked lead breaks, held together by a solid rhythm section. The crowd really warmed to him many hearing him for the first time. Definitely class blues BUT definitely not Rock as Poppa described his music as Working Class Blues. The night was not about rock but there were three acts that delighted the audiences. Kicking off the double celebration of the Rocking Blues was Laurence Jones with his new line-up. He built the energy, excited the packed house, the guitar was sweet. Laurence full of confidence gained from years of touring and playing live across Europe and the UK. The set was one-hundred percent Laurence with ribbons and bells as he showcased his latest album Take Me High. That is definitely what he did he took us high in to a dazzling blue encrusted music with the edge of rock With Joanne Shaw Taylor up next we were going to be in for a Wild ride. Reflecting her current album, the set was full of deep blues riffs and licks that curled around the audience with a sensuous and stylish flow. The interaction between Joanne and her bassist Luigi Casanova adds energy a visual focal point. Then she breaks away and soars into her renowned guitar solos that hit the spot where musical memories are made. Tonight, was the best I had heard her vocals the balance was perfect so voice and guitar were in balanced harmony. Closing out the festival on Centre Stage was Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel where many re-lived memories and reminded many of the sound track of their youth.
The weekend selection at Jaks was vast, full of delights and festival gems plus the fun of Saturday afternoon Jam. Ranging from the gently harmonious blues from Fran McGillivray to the dynamic sounds of blues with a punk attitude and sassy energy from the Husky Tones as this duo caught your attention. With a new album out soon this is a band we will be hearing lots of as they ask Who Will I Turn To Now? Closing the night as the other stages fell silent we danced into the early hours with The Revolutionaires led by the charismatic and energetic Ed Stephenson. Saturday afternoon is all about the Jam which two young men, Mikey Maclennan and Steve Liddle ran with style as unfortunately Jam stalwart Gary Boner from Roadhouse was unwell following a recent operation. Everyone wishes Gary a speedy recovery and a hearty welcome back to Skegness 2018. Saturday evening was a night of magic live-music. With two of the acts for many the bands of the weekend. Firstly Catfish who played a blinding set. Deep emotional blues full of verve and style as Matthew Long with his voice and guitar dominated the stage capturing the audience so that no-one was tempted away. Catfish’s rendition of Make It Rain was stunning and the emotions were charged and there were tears of joy as the passions of the audience and the band connected. Their new album, out 28th January, Broken Man will be a hit of 2017 there is definitely nothing broken about this band. How do you follow that with Dom Pipkin & The Ikos and some New Orleans infused music. Closing the night and welcoming in Sunday were LaVendore Rogue. A band that is like marmite with the supporters outweighing those who cannot connect to their interpretation of the blues. Mixing up the set with old Hokie Joint numbers and tracks from the debut album, Light Up With they definitely shone music into our soul tonight. Sunday evening, without Roadhouse they pulled a blinder by filling the gap with Ash Wilson. The anticipation was high, many had seen him play dual guitar in the Sean Webster Band. On stage he was joined by Bob Fridzema and Roger Inniss who played on his debut album, Broken Machine. Joining him on drums tonight was Wayne Proctor sitting in for his brother Phil Wilson who was otherwise engaged playing drums with Laurence Jones on Centre Stage. The set was mature, accomplished a quality performance of R n’B from everyone on stage. We heard covers like My Babe done the Ash way. Ash’s vocals are strong at times sounding like molasses with the bass drum the heartbeat like cotton popping in a sun-drenched field as he Holding Hands was sung. The Revelator a Jesse Davey number picked up the tempo. There was a pure synergy between these top drawer blues musicians a delight to behold and listen to. Be delighted to see him on the Blues main stage next year. Following this Will Johns & Friends, with Mikey Maclennan once again coming to the rescue as stand-in drummer. He met Will and the band a few minutes before stepping on Jaks stage with them to play a festival set. What a brilliant job he did. Very entertaining with witty repartee, brilliant guitar with a fantastic tone. What a high quality set of blues. The festival had one more act as the clocked turned into Monday, Jaks was packed as everyone squeezed a few more musical memories out of The Great Rock & Blues Festival 2017. Kris Barras Band, who delivered blues rock with power and a force to be reckoned with. Another live act that delivers every time building on the studio sound heard in their current album Lucky 13. Blues Matters once again delivered music that will hold many memories and hats off to the DJ Clive Rawlings who each year acts as the glue that held the sessions together.
Reds this year was coloured with Blues of every hue and shade. With Friday and Saturday dedicated to firstly to the harmonica and then to Alligator Records. Opening the festival for Reds was A Harmonica Explosion, a night where this German folk instrument was re-shaped in tone and playing by Southern States Blues musicians to be forever connected. Blues and harmonica are a perfect pairing. Opening the night was Giles Robson Band, a very entertaining set engaging the audience who were delighted to participate when asked. The music was an explosion of blues harp as we stepped on board the steam train and followed Giles on a ride full of tonal twists and turns of the blues-harp. Later on in the evening he was joined by three more renowned harp-players Magic Dick, who for some reason was not on top form, James Harman beset with frustrating technical issues so his harp was silent for far too long and the cream of the night a musician on fire Billy Branch. When they all played together at the end of the evening we were treated to a harp firework display. The acoustic set from Martin Harley opening on Saturday afternoon was a melodic delight as he explored the tonal ranges of his lap Weissenborn guitar. The covers took us deep into the Delta full of acoustic twists and turns gently kick-starting a harmonious Saturday in Reds turned Blue. The tempo then changed and Reds was packed as loyal fans of Nine Below Zero were once again caressed by the band that knows how to deliver. The only disappointment was this set was on in the afternoon many felt it suited an evening slot. The music drew you in the blues was delivered and everyone left with a deep sigh of contentment. The evening was a celebration of all things Alligator. With a first for Skeggie a Q&A session with Bruce Iglauer President and founder of Alligator records. Lots of interesting questions and we all gained an insight into how a blues label works. Three blinding sets unfurled showing the diversity of electric blues. Marcia Ball got the Alligator Party rocking turning Reds into a Roadhouse for this Blues Spectacular. Proper Chicago blues played by a wonderful group of musicians who with a smile opened up the joy of the blues and entertained. Marcia Ball sung like an angel accompanying herself on the piano with the musicians that pulled together to showcase the sound they just love to share with everyone who listens. Blues is heavenly when played this well. The harmonious and interesting combination of drum shuffles, sax, keys and the power of vocal lyrics was infectious with the guitar pulling the show together. Wow! How do you follow that? Easy when you have the depth of Alligator artists to choose from. Next up blues with a difference a trio, Moreland and Arbuckle. All eyes are focused on Moreland with his cigar box guitar and Arbuckle’s, harp and vocals. A high octane band playing Roots music that rocks you to your core. Electrifying raw delta infused music that gets the adrenalin pumping feet tapping and you get a warm feel good glow as the music surges through your veins. Closing tonight we headed deep into Southside Chicago for authentic urban blues with Toronzo Cannon. Having learnt his craft in the competitive and demanding Windy city club scene it takes a special blues magic to rise above the crowd. Toronzo has that with style and a flourish as he melds smooth vocals and stinging guitar chords. With a mix of his own numbers with strong lyrics and a couple of covers; what a dynamic end to an evening that enveloped you in Chicago Blues and so much more.
Sunday at Reds was a mixed package for me opening with Lil Jimmy Reed featuring Bob Hall on Keys this was the perfect blues smoothie for early Sunday afternoon. Followed by Paul Jones and Dave Kelly as a duet Sunday was a smooth affair. The evening was a mix David Knopfler on acoustic guitar, disappointed, The Blues Band as ever delivers British blues with style and aplomb. Closing the night is Jamie Williams and The Roots Collective; this is blues infused with English Folk and roots music. Closing the festival on Reds they delivered a stylish set that didn’t for me shout out the blues. Not a celebration but a party we all enjoyed.
There were many highlights of every Blue hue the strongest stages over the whole festival weekend were Jaks and the Introducing Stage. The night celebrating Alligator Records was a combination of brilliant blues drenched music. The three young bands who won The Introducing Stage Sugarman Sam & The Voodoo Men, Texas Flood and The Rainbreakers, all added a shine to the festival. Memories of 2017 will be many and all tinged in blue rather than rock. The acts that you should run to see again are Catfish, LaVendore Rogue, Ash Wilson, the winners of the Intro Stage and Elles Bailey. Joanne Shaw Taylor in this form is a force to be reckoned with, Marcia Ball , Moreland & Arbuckle, Toronzo Cannon and the harp supremacy that is Giles Robson.