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.
What a fabulous year for music at Bluesdoodles HQ. I have enjoyed listening to all the recorded music sent. Liz makes a note (must do better in 2017 and review more! I have started a new hopefully more organised system!).
One Hundred and Forty-eight reviewed. What an array of music from Folk to Metal Rock to Blues. The genre to everyone at Bluesdoodles HQ is unimportant, that is a marketing tool it is whether the music vibes hits our collective DNA. Liz, Kevin & Othello a very discerning Bandana wearing Labradoodle.
Below are the album covers of the recorded music we reviewed throughout 2016 – click on the cover to be taken to the review. Every recording has something special. remember the doodle paws rating is subjective. This is the view of the reviewer you may differ I am pretty sure that your album of the year will probably be different from Bluesdoodles. It is how we hear and enjoy music differently that makes listening to music something very special.
Love recorded music – live music has that special edge – read the Pick of the Gigs we travelled to in 2016 HERE. Make sure you support live music throughout 2017.
2016 has seen many miles on the clock, dark roads and festivals and venues that make the trip worthwhile. The live music we have heard has been reviewed thanks to the winning combination of my trusty note taker and the driver of the car Kevin Hewitt and my Camera capturing the moment that memories are made of. We also need to include our faithful hound Othello our Labradoodle who loves his music and Bandanas. Sometimes my trip planning can be faulty classic example South Wales to Salisbury to Derby and home to Blackwood, South Wales. The bonus was we did get to see both Alan Nimmo aka King King and Stevie Nimmo that weekend and eat fabulous cake thanks to Sandy and Paul Gregory at Cup Cake Heaven. The rewards of listening to have been amazing and the music tremendous – hot loud and live. Forever etched in my memory bank will be the Friday evening phone call and a trip across the Atlantic. Before we get to that let’s roll the year back to January 2016.
Started the year with bands that play at the opposite ends of the music spectrum Oysterband 3 and RavenEye and then the annual trek to Skegness for a weekend of musical fun and meeting up with old friends and making new ones. Another wild weekend of cold weather and hot music. As ever the music is mashed up from Crazy World of Arthur Brown, Catfish and the magic of seeing Rebecca Downes, one to catch on stage her voice is spellbinding and The Della Grants rising to the occasion on the main stage. (Friday – Saturday – Sunday reviews)
January warmed us up for a hot music fuelled February. The first visit to the new Cardiff venue Tramshed; it proved to be a great venue that delivered music throughout 2016; for The Cadillac Three who were stunning combined with a new band for us and a find of 2016 Whiskey Myers who delivered one of the strongest sets of the weekend at the end of the year at Planet Rockstock. This was quickly followed by King King opening for the mighty Thunder at Colston Hall. King King just keep improving another gig of the year would be the winning combination of Dan Patlansky and King King later in the summer. The glories of February continued with Runrig at Colston and then the first time we would see Devon Allman live starting at The Flowerpot, Derby courtesy of Raw Promo a venue that consistently put on music that thrills. The second time was at The Scene in Swansea, both competing to be the gig of the year. Could the momentum of the first two months continue in 2016 yes it can we were on the road to prove it.
March saw the winning combo of King King with support from Laurence Jones at The Globe, blues and rock collided this is the highest standard of British R n’B and then back at the Tramshed a hot night with Jack Savoretti entertaining and delighting the jam-packed house. A quick visit to Bristol Jazz & Blues Festival and Ian Siegal with his band opening his celebration of touring with a band for twenty-five years. The enthusiasm to deliver his wild Rock n’ Roll music cocktail infused with country, blues and hill country music swampy, moody and surprisingly refreshing.
As the weather warmed the gigs increased with so many bands touring in April. Welcoming compelling prog rock from Karnataka at The Globe and Canadian bluesman J W Jones to The Garage in Swansea and rockers The Sheepdogs to The Globe saw the red Maple leaf fluttering with musical pride over Wales. The Sound Garden was hushed as Chris Cornell held the audience enraptured with his sell out solo acoustic show and Colston Hall. A first for us was a trip to Sheffield for HRH Blues Festival weekend what an array of talent that just played the blues with heart, soul and a helping of rock. Ten Years After acoustic was a sight to see and a joy to listen as was their headlining electric jamboree.
At the start of May, we said farewell to Fish at Robin 2 and across the land a performer that will be missed from the circuit. Gov’t Mule at the 02 Academy, Bristol was a scorcher wow we just can’t get enough of Warren Haynes at Bluesdoodles HQ. The Tunnels delivered with stellar guitar playing from Simon McBride, and then a double act full of anecdotes laughs and stunning music as the wayward sons Ian Siegal & Jimbo Matthus entertained. The final of the trio of Tunnel delights was the effervescent JJ Grey & Mofro. The journey of the year followed, and I will not live this down for a while. We can see both the Nimmo brothers perform this weekend journey looks fine to me the non-driver of the Bluesdoodles team. So stage one Wales to Salisbury fortified by two delicious cakes celebrating Introvertigo and Reaching For The Light from Cupcake Heaven in Salisbury as King King & Dan Patlansky performed at The Civic Centre. Up early next day for a cross-country jaunt to Derby and the winning combination of Ben Poole opening for Stevie Nimmo and a finale with Aynsley Lister joining in – what a top-notch weekend. Plus some Prog rock Yes in Bristol and Magnum in Cardiff, May played out in every musical style.
June nearly half way through the year and Bonnie Raitt certainly bringing a ray of musical sunshine to Colston Hall. Brightening June with high energy entertaining nights of music were Vintage Trouble at Tramshed and Kaz Hawkins Band at The Convent. Soulful. delights at The Tunnels from JJ Grey & Mofro. The festival celebrating a Silver Jubilee, Blues On The Farm was not so much a festival in the midsummer sun but more of a deluge of water and mud thankfully drowned out by the glorious selection of acts that kept smiles on out faces and the thought of British Summertime in our hearts. Festivals for Bluesdoodles is meeting friends and discovering new and interesting acts and those we just never tire of hearing play. These included Ian Siegal; King King and Stevie Nimmo Trio. New discoveries were Sari Schorr and The Engine Room, Debbie Bond and Thorbjorn Risager & The Black Tornado. A first and quite possibly the last time I will hear the bagpipes played in a Blues band; Dr. Schwamp definitely delivered a musical feel good vibe.
A first for me in July I was asked to act as interviewer/link person for a celebration of women in music. Sisters definitely bought blues and friendship
to the Convent. A scary but definitely fun night. July also meant a local festival and a trip up a mountain. Firstly taking us back to a mellow Blues explosion that shaped the 1960’s and beyond was Joe Bonamassa at Colston Hall. Two days later and we had sunshine and wet and cold just had to be Steelhouse Festival, near Ebbw Vale, South Wales. The rock was varied loud and very good. The mountain thundered its roar of approval. With so many highlights, laughs with friends. Bands that
caught attention who I had not seen play live before were Bigfoot, Vega, Von Hertzen Brothers. Into the mix add RavenEye, Dirty Thrills, The Answer, Thunder and The Dead Daisies the festival was musical mayhem and fun.
With the summer upon us, highlights of August were hearing Devon Allman and his band for the second time and LaVendore Rogue with their special music mix-up with hints blues. punk/rock and always quality. Off to Old Bush Blues, where Matt once again opened the pub and grounds to bands that just want to entertain. This is a weekend to kick off your shoes and enjoy yourselves. With Chris Farlowe, Northsyde, jammings sessions that left you breathless, any excuse to taste the real ale again!
Autumn, life is in a spin as Liz won a competition on Planet Rock Radio, a weekend to Boston to see the Dead Daisies play in Worcester. The excitement and delight will take many months to wear off. What a weekend from taking off at Heathrow until we landed back home. What laughs and adventures, staying in the same hotel as The Daisies, going to the gig on the tour bus and the AAA passes. This was a magical few days filling many pages in the music memory diary. Could any gigs compete as the year drew to a closes yes they could! Sari Schorr playing The Tunnels followed by Mike Zito at TheScene, Swansea with Albert Castigalia opening and kicking up a Blues storm. These two acts definitely kept live music hot and exciting as the year tumbled into October.
For me it has to be one of 2016 best events The Tubes in Cardiff, what a musical spectacle, myriad of costume changes, music energy and lyrical messages. Pure platinum entertainment. The nights were dark but the music and the warmth and light to cheer the shortening days. Saxon in Bristol another highlight even the gig of the year if it hadn’t been for that trip to Boston! Then two amazing nights by artists whose vocal power and emotional intensity always capture my musical soul. Ian Siegal celebrating twenty-five years on the road with his band and Beth Hart celebrating her wonderful album Fire On the Floor. These two are my absolute highlights of the year. when artists have that fire in their performance it is a real privilege to be in the audience. In the midst of the gigs, we went to the 3rd UK Blues Challenge at Robin 2 organised by UK Blues Federation. The four acts were superb, Rebecca Downes, Wille and The Bandits, Dove and Boweevil and Kaz Hawkins Band. On the night the judges agreed that Kaz Hawkins delivered, winning the challenge and will in 2017 represent Britain for the fist time at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis and will sing in the European Blues Challenge. Great opportunity to be heard and noticed. The emotion was raw and the blues deep when Walter Trout visited Tramshed in Cardiff. A trio of acts closed November as The Planet Rock Roadstars. We saw them at The Globe & The Tunnels as two British bands blues rockers Federal Charm and young rising star Aaron Keylock were joined by SIMO from Nashville Tennessee. SIMO stole the show they were superb with high-octane music that flowed with a cascade of notes and beats. Closing out November Black Stone Cherry at St Davids Hall, Cardiff. A sit-down venue seems wrong for BSC. But it worked. The first half acoustic the second portion rocking BSC with tracks from Kentucky played loud sending through the rafters and out into the night. The final act though was for Alter Bridge supported by Gojira and Volbeat. Volbeat stole the show the heaviest band I have seen this year but one I will definitely go again too.
December started with Planet Rockstock, what a weekend friends, laughs rock and the seaside of Porthcawl always a winning combination. Stage two delivered those wow must see them again moments with JoanOvArc; Tequilla Mocking Bird and Lazuli. With a French Horn played the first time for me outside of an orchestral piece. Lazuli delivered progressive horn, chapman stick and so much more. Broken Witt Rebels fulfilled my expectations and more looking forward to seeing them in 2017 as they open for King King. The other highlights of the weekend were seeing SIMO again and Stone Broken, A Thousand Horses and Whiskey Myers they rocked. Hitting the notes once again with their irascible brand of Rock n’ Roll the Dead daisies re-ignited the excitement of September. What a difference a year makes as Inglourious returned and they were glorious full of confidence the crowds were ecstatic. Closing the festival Black Stone Cherry left everyone on a Winter rock fuelled high.
Once again 2016 confirmed that from January to December music will always take Bluesdoodles on a rollercoaster of musical highs.
We attended fifty-seven gigs; five festivals and 1 UK Blues Challenge. Notching up a few many miles and hearing a myriad of notes, chords and voices having listened to and watched over One Hundred and Sixty acts.
What a fabulous year for music at Bluesdoodles HQ. I have enjoyed listening to all the recorded music sent. Liz makes a note (must do better in 2017 and review more! I have started a new hopefully more organised system!).
Album Highlights 2016
One Hundred and Forty-eight reviewed. What an array of music from Folk to Metal Rock to Blues. The genre to everyone at Bluesdoodles HQ is unimportant, that is a marketing tool it is whether the music vibes hits our collective DNA. Liz, Kevin & Othello a very discerning Bandana wearing Labradoodle.
Album of 2016
Now this was difficult almost impossible with so many contenders With Thirty-Six albums with the Ten-Doodle Paw accolade considered throughout December. what a delight to play and listen to them all again. The final choice is mine, yes it is subjective and has changed there are many that have not been mentioned that will continue to be regularly played and enjoyed in the House of Bluesdoodles
I wrote when I reviewed in September that it was a contender for album of the year I was right. The fire in the album burns brightly from the floor to the heavens. Beth Hart, Fire On The Floor has gathered together a dozen tracks that flow and warm up the speakers with a raw, charismatic and open delivery of intensely personal emotionally driven lyrics. Fire On The Floor is a majestic album and will burn brightly long after 2016 fades into a memory.
Ride Or Die, is a journey full of colour and texture in the tone. With flashes of blue and twists of granite rock and country green woven into a musical tuned magic carpet. This is an album that takes you on a journey full of anguish, hurt, pain and the pleasures of living life where you Ride or Die whatever your journey remember hope will be present.
Roots wither and die whether music or plants without green shoots. Red Dirt Skinners are an imaginative duo creating beautiful shoots of glittering music that will ensure roots/country music will continue to thrive Behind the Wheel. With this, their fifth album, the duo with the unique combination of acoustic guitar, drum and saxophone have made a noise that pleases all who listen.
All twelve tracks have a purpose and in addition to the new arrangements and musicianship we have the blending, and mixing of British traditional music and blues in many guises and the common heritage of themes, lyrics and melodies the two traditions share.A definite for your acoustic collection. I recommend close the curtains block out the world, sit back and be absorbed into the music and the power of the lyrics.
Celebrating twenty-Five years of playing live with the band a trio od CD’s celebrate the enigmatic and varied tones that the wandering troubadour Ian Siegal delivers and delights.This is the Opus Majus of an artist who whether playing solo, as a duo or with a band electric or acoustic always entertains and the box set does just that. You would be Hard Pressed to find a better collection and this is a trio of delights that will never be sent to Quarantine
The energy flows in a studio album that has a live, raw edgy feel and at the same time everything has its place and has been considered. Kentucky has a flow, no songs feel forced or put in as a filler this is Black Stone Cherry entertaining through the medium of brilliant rock grinding, demanding and immensely listenable.
The combination of powerful lyrics, blues guitar of such purity it makes you weep and a Nimmo’s vocals we can be sure The Sky Won’t Fall when there is music of this magnitude being created. The album is a mix of tones, texture and tempos. Seven tracks in and you are Still Hungry for more music. This is power-driven rock-blues of the highest order. A track that would work well if stood out alone, surely this will get acres of radio play. It is full of smokey riffs, power and rocks your socks off!
Introvertigo with its carefully crafted lyrics that blend urbane wit and honest observation, this is blues pertinent to today’s lifestyles, not so much whiskey and women more the corruption of power and social interaction. Ten tracks there are no fillers every number is full of strength and tonal power but there is not an off note or lyric. This has been achieved by production that keeps the live heat flowing from guitar and vocals.
There are three that really made us sit up and listen:-
Inglorious – Self-titled album reviewed late January. We are licking our lips and tuning our ears for the follow-up album early in 2017. Inglorious are stupendous live getting better with every performance the expectations are very high for 2017!
Broken Witt Rebels – Georgia Pines Reviewed in February. A perfectly formed EP leaving you wanting to hear more. An album with Huge Guitar Riffs and vocals that delight. Fingers-crossed a full album is out soon consolidating the marker they set down in 2016.
Sari Schorr and The Engine Room – A Force Of Nature, Reviewed in August.Sari Drives the Blues, bringing a wealth of experience from life, influencing her songwriting and vocal delivery. Looking forward to Sari playing live in 2017 and hopefully will be back in the studio very soon.
RavenEye – Nova – Frontiers Music s.r.l The album’s name NOVA is a perfect reflection of the explosion of recognition that RavenEye has achieved in such a short time. The band is a rock explosion they certainly have suddenly brightened the firmament of the British rock scene and will be shining their Supanova Rock for many years to come.
Kaz Hawkins – Feelin’ Good an album full of Kaz sparkle and joy. Having won the Blues Challenge organised by UKBluesFederation. We wish you well as you head for the 34th International Blues Challenge in Memphis in 2017. This is the first time that British Blues has been in the challenge. Then she will be representing British Blues in Denmark at the European Blues Challenge a busy start for 2017.
Rockstock 2016 officially starts on Friday 2nd December, but if you have a Planet Rock Golden Ticket then you have an extra injection of music with four bands getting Trecco Bay rocking on Thursday. The honour of starting the proceedings fell to local band Mojo Sinners, with a set that with its heavy drum beat allows the guitar of David Williams to swirl and rise. With a new E.P. out in January, we were treated to a preview with the track Jester. They delivered a short set opening a weekend of rock that will roll.The next two act’s music remained as a weekend highlight as the last notes faded away on Sunday. French progressive rock with twists of Eastern promise provided by Lazuli creating an atmospheric opening with an eclectic mix of instruments including a Chapman Stick and French Horn. Quite different for a Rockstock weekend and definitely music that excites the inner progressive. The keyboard orchestration combined with Geddy Lee-like vocals made for a great 3-D sound. If you like Prog you will love Lazuli with a rush of emotions as the all too short set was very impressive. Definitely want to see the band with a longer set on a larger stage. Next, in contrast, was a young blues-rock band making quite a name for themselves in the West Midlands and beyond, the Broken Witt Rebels. Hitting the ground running with their single Low which sounded great live they immediately engaged to crowd getting them to join in the rollercoaster ride that was to follow including title track Georgia Pine. What a voice!! Really goose-pimply raising the hairs on the back of your neck. There is a strong hint of Rival Sons about this band which is no mean thing. They had numerous technical problems on stage – but you wouldn’t have noticed such was their professionalism these are definitely going places. Can’t wait to see them supporting King King early 2017. Closing the night were Tax The Heat delivering a class act with a typically intense rocky set punctuated with great riffs and licks. The crowd were now in the mood for rock that would keep them warm as they went out into the cold night air. They certainly raised the heat in bringing a very impressive first evening of music at Planet Rockstock to a close and certainly whetted the appetite for what was to follow in the coming three days.
Last year Wyatt rode from London To Rockstock overnight raising £40,000 for CALM. If that journey sounded tough Wyatt set himself and epic ride this year. Wyatt cycled nearly 1,100 miles across the UK in just under seven days! On Friday 25th November 2016, Wyatt set off on an incredible 1,100-mile journey across the UK, with the aim of raising £40,000 for CALM. He achieved the goal and in fact his ride motivated people and he raised over £70,000 for Campaign Against living Miserably CALM.
Now for the main event, this is the proverbial long-lasting delicious aural stick of rock. On the outside vibrant red stickiness that is Planet Rock that come together to Trecco Bay, South Wales in December to play rock live to the Planet Rock family. The Red layer are the DJ’s Wyatt, Paul Anthony, Darren Reddick and of course the Hairy Bikers. That is not all there is a huge dedicated hard-working team that deliver lights, sound, backstage support and at the heart of the team Jon Norman, Mr Rockstock himself. The sugary white layer are the family that congregate to spend the first weekend in December to sing Rockaoke, compete in the Quiz, partake or listen to the DIY Band and above all to hear live rock music and meet up with old friends, make new ones and have fun. The lettering that runs through are the thirty-three bands that will be delivering Southern Rock, Hard Rock, Classic Rock bands that are new and old favourites like every seaside event there is something for everyone.
Opening tonight were Stone Broken and the first of the women to play the festival this year across both stages. Drummer Robyn Haycock flashed her winning smile and then drummed with her heart on her sleeve. The vocals have a rocking snarl as Rich Moss fronts a band with attitude, style and energy playing large stages higher up the running order will be the norm for a band that definitely isn’t broken. Friday night the heat of rock kept the icy chill from the outside world at bay. Then the opening night like the closing night provided a strong billing. On with the music, and A Thousand Horses, the first Southern Rock fuelled band of the festival. The music was faultless what a stunning festival set. Michael Hobby’s vocals were like honey drip, drip, dripping onto a vat of moonshine. The rock hardened as Phil Campbell’s Bastard Sons were back to entertain with Lemmy’s spirit, not for the last time to join us over the weekend. The Motörhead numbers certainly hit the spot with the crowd. Their rendition of Ace Of Spades delighted a crowd whose excitement was getting hotter with every rock chord played. The rock unfurled more delicious music with the first and definitely not the last all woman band of the weekend as Girlschool entertained with a mix of numbers off their new album and classics from the past like Race With The Devil.The anticipation and excitement was now fever pitch as The Dead Daisies returned to Porthcawl once again tonight to headline with their hot-tempered brand of rock n’ roll. With numbers from Revolucion and their current album Make Some Noise, noise was certainly made by the festival crowd. What an opening night the depth and breadth of rock on display for every taste. The highlight tonight was A Thousand Horses, first time I have heard them live and they really impressed.
Early doors on Saturday for Stage 2 as Haxan brought the darker side of rock before Bad Touchprovided the shades of their rock with rock n’ roll and southern rock. The afternoon was full of bands people will want to see on the main stage and culminated with Darren’s DIY Band. Early evening and The Colour of Noise a multi-talented rock band picked up the stick of rock and opened an evening where the rock was loud and varied. They were followed by Amorettes the girls were certainly rocking across the festival in 2016 with a hefty set of heavy rock. Opening with We Will Bring The House Down; they certainly did. As they say Keep it hot Keep it heavy. For me, the only stand out act tonight on the weakest evening of the weekend was Whiskey Myers. They delivered Southern Rock guitar warmed by the southern sun and roughened with the stinging moonshine. There is an infectious beat as country collides with hard rock via the Blues. Southern dialect fills out and warms the lyrical vocals. The delta meets the open road of adventure with all the possibilities of a rock beat drums set the route and the guitars explore the by-ways of expectations. They took us to a party in the empty barn before harvest. The urgency was slowed with gentle riffs and the dance foot tapping beat. The fiddle was hot as a square dance was imagined. Now the audience were heating up. The title track of their new album Mud was given an airing as the fender was really strung on stage! Taking us on southern tour Louisiana/Texas border riffs with glass slide slithering across the six strings as fishing in the bayou is explored. The percussion was infectious and the Cowbell rock tango was beguiling. Wow! The acts did not excite me but like any family what delights one member leaves another unmoved and Planet Rockknows how to weave together a rocking melody of styles.
All too soon it is the last day and like all good treats, the best have been saved for us so much rock music left to hear from 11am until midnight. Every band played with verve, delivering thrills and spine-tingling moments. It is those moments that make live music so special and festivals have an intensity as the music flows and sweetens the very air we breathe. Every player deserves a mention but space is limited. These are my highlights of the day and yes, yours will be different no one is wrong or right. What we enjoy is subjective it is the difference in our tastes that makes the Planet Rock family full of interesting conversations and the opportunity to find new bands and new sounds.
With two all-women bands Joan Ov Arc and Tequilla Mockinbyrd on stage two’s bill the rock was flamboyant and exciting Main Stage next year could be dominated by women who are stirring the rocky pool with music that rings with a clarity that excites. The closing act of the afternoon SIMO is a force field of guitar and vocals that thrills. This is a trio full of power and they unsurprisingly blew the roof off. JD Simo went for it with an energy that burns up the stage and audience as he delivered an opening couple tracks off the current album, Let Love Show The Way and then it merged into a jam with a whirling shapes of tones and textures. This is rock burning with Nashville fire simply mesmerising.
With a few minutes to draw breath before the baton is taken over by the Main Stage and the last mouthful of rock to enjoy and savour. Jackaman opened the evening; her vocals have a searing purity with a gritty edge. A lighter rock with the only saxophone of the festival as funky tones wove into the musical textures of Rockstock 2016. They were followed by the Finnish Von Hertzen Brothers who entertained with prog rock with attitude. The interaction between lead/rhythm guitars upped the tempo. The set was eclectic full of interest, creating a great atmosphere that was continually building. Tonight without the keys, the band still managed to create the Von Hertzen sound. Next up were Inglorious. Stepping out on stage the journey this band has been on since playing their first live set at Rockstock 2015 has been amazing. They played the rock from the self-titled album Inglorious as we wait for the follow-up album early next year. What a difference a year makes Nathan was full of his usual confidence and vocals that can fill the largest auditorium. Nathan James has real charisma a front man that loves being centre of attraction. What has changed for the better is the interaction between the band, less standing on the monitors more playing of the guitars. The sound created was rocky and we all loved hearing Breakaway, High Flying Gypsy with its great bass/drum duo to close the number out. The Atmosphere was electric, excited we wanted more music. Following that the penultimate set of the weekend Ricky Warwick & The Fighting Hearts, fast British heavy rock. The lyrics were powerful as the rock cascaded from the stage. All too soon the finale, and what a final act for us tonight as we had the last bite out of the stick of Planet Rock. Black Stone Cherry took to the stage auditorium packed, hot and excited. Unfortunately, vocals were muffled for another headlining act was poor. But like British Lion the night before; Black Stone Cherry had their own sound engineers and had removed the infill speakers at the front of the stage to create more space. That said, the show they put on was electric and punctuated with favourites such as and Me and Mary Jane, Shakin’ My Cage from Kentucky album raising the excitement of the packed venue to fever pitch… BSC win more fans of their distinctive rock every time they play and tonight was no different as the mighty headliners bout the show to an end. Here’s to Rockstock 2017!