Kaz Hawkins Brings European Blues Challenge Trophy Back Home
Saturday the 8th April 2017 was a big day for blues in the UK because of events many miles away in Horsens, Denmark, the venue for the 7th European Blues Challenge organised by the European Blues Union (EBU) in conjunction with the BluesKartellet of Horsens, a town described by its mayor, Peter Sorensen, as ’a city of music – with streets of blues’ and a city ‘known throughout Denmark for its concerts with renowned artists, festivals and major events’.
For the first time in the event’s history, the European Blues Challenge was won by the UK with Northern Ireland’s Kaz Hawkins Bandbeating off some stiff competition, particularly from Belgium’s The Bluebones who were placed second. The event saw acts from some 21 European countries competing over two nights at the Forum in Horsens, a venue which, in the past, has played host to many major names including the Rolling Stones, Madonna and Paul McCartney.
In an emotional acceptance of the trophy, Kaz first thanked the UK Blues Federation for making it possible for her and her band to take part in the International Blues Challenge, which took place in Memphis, Tennessee in late January and where the band reached the semi-finals, as well as the European Blues Challenge.
She also expressed her gratitude to the event organisers and to the judges for ‘getting’ her music which is so much a reflection both of her and her life.
In addition to the trophy, the band will also have the opportunity to play at a number of top European Blues Festivals as well as enjoying a considerably raised profile on the European Blues scene.
Kaz’s acceptance speech was full of emotion, warmth and the power of the blues.
Before the results were announced on Saturday night, The European Blues Union announced the winners of the Blues Behind the Scenes Awards for 2017 which saw the Award for Production going to veteran and legendary producer Mike Vernon whose career spans many decades working with many great artists including John Mayall and Eric Clapton on the iconic Beano Album as well as many other major names over the years. Recently he has come out of semi-retirement to produce a number of albums for 21st century blues artists as well as putting together his own band with which he is touring.
Accepting the Award, Mike commented that he was knocked out to receive it but also very proud. He confirmed that he had no intention of stopping yet suggesting that if John Mayall is still touring in his 80s there was no way he (Mike) was going to quit!
Earlier in the day at the General Assembly of the European Blues Union, Dave Raven, award winning blues broadcaster, Chair of the UK’s Independent Blues Broadcasters Association and Treasurer of the UK Blues Federation, was elected to the Board of the EBU, the first time that the UK has been represented on this board and another big step towards blues in the UK being better represented in Europe.
For the UK Blues Federation (UKBlues), Ashwyn Smyth – Chair – said: ‘ We are both thrilled and very grateful that Kaz and her band have done us and blues in the UK so proud. Whilst the winning was down to Kaz and her band, we are so happy that we were able to facilitate them taking part in both Challenges and the win in Denmark is the cherry on top of the cake and can only serve to raise the profile of the blues in and from the UK!”
Bluesdoodles send our congratulations to Kaz Semi-finalists first in Memphis and now the Winner in Europe.
Kaz Hawkins Kicking Up A Music Storm At The Tunnels
Outside as the March wind blew through Bristol, we knew that the hot sirocco of a vocals storm was brewing in The Tunnels as Kaz Hawkinsand her band hit the stage. Kaz is riding on a blues fuelled crest of a wave as she embarks on a mini British tour and they were tight and hot across a set that made us laugh, cry and be awash with the emotional power of live music. Fresh from a solo trip to Nashville and the band reaching the semi-finals of the International Blues Challenge with the U.K. having a band showcasing British Blues for the first time at the event.
Tonight, it was as we all expected a rip-roaring performance from the band who grow from strength to strength. The rhythm section brothers bassist Ján and drummer Peťo Uhrin provide more than a solid base. The rhythms were deep and adding another layer of drama into the mix is the fiery fender displays from guitarist Nick McConkey. His tasty licks and hooks are a feature of the Kaz sound providing the perfect accompaniment for the full-on power of Kaz.
The set was full of firm favourites from her debut album Get Ready and her latest Feelin’ Good with numbers that mix up the blues with funk, country, and Celtic soul, every number sung as if for the first time from the heart. Every song is a special moment for everyone who had turned out to The Tunnels on a Thursday night. Those who missed her tonight in Bristol missed a night of live music fireworks. As Kaz sung Believe With Me, we all believed in the music being delivered this is blues with an extra shot of high-octane energy. As Kaz arranged her signature petticoats as she sat behind the keys to sing This Is Me, dedicated to everyone searching for inner strength and a pray for all of us to love ourselves for who we are. Like all of Kaz’s numbers, the emotions are raw, personal and hit your spine with honesty and soulfulness. Kaz’s songwriting is always aspired by real people, I Saw A Man, about a homeless man Kaz met in London, but always dedicated to Belfast man Norman the intensity of the lyrics are added to by the drumming of Peťo using felted drumsticks, the beat is muffled beating out the endless repeating rhythm as if walking the streets as Kaz narrates the tale hitting the high notes with perfect pitch and howling with pain and then the deep colour of her powerful voice adding to the drama.
Tonight was a time for smiling as well as tears with fans flying in from Belfast and an old friend from school days seeing after a long time no wonder Belfast Time was included in the mix. But Kaz is more than the power of her vocals it is her ability to connect with people. As she shares fears and bad times of her life along with celebration of hitting two out of three life goals, making a career in Music, being a non-smoker both ticked off and now she embarks on becoming fit under the supervision of her personal trainer. Kaz laughs with you and at herself, with a wardrobe failure her hair would not behave, first losing the scarf and then escaping the pins. This is Kaz, a real person who wants you to find the power of life through her songs.
A song that always brings a smile and tonight we all enjoyed singing on Hallelujah Happy People a real highlight of her set as is Feelin Good, a great rearrangement of this classic. With a great emotional lead break from Nick as the first half finished we were all feeling good in the presence of Miz Kaz.
Opening, the second set was a Kaz solo with her acoustic guitar a song she recently wrote in the Bluebird Café in Nashville, The River That Sings. Dedicated to Alabama legend Tom Hendrix and the wonderful stone wall, taking over thirty years to complete in memory of the 600 miles his Great, great Grandmother walked. As the notes faded and the applause filled the venue the boys came back on stage.
Her teenage years were difficult and the cleansing power of the emotional Believe in Me and the songs inspired by ex-boyfriends, Drink With The Devil and Can’t Afford Me put them firmly in their place out of Kaz’s life. We had soul with Soul Superstar and a flick of the legendary petticoats and the wide smile that warms The Tunnels. The night closed with Kaz’s re-working of I Just Want To Make Love To You, and then the encore with Shake that allows Kaz to display the full vocal range and colour of her voice. Kaz Hawkins Kicking Up A Music Storm At The Tunnels as she took her turn on the drums, reaffirming this is not an act to miss.
With the love of Kaz’s warm heart and the power of her vocals ringing in our ears we collectively wish her and the band every success as they go off to The European Blues Challenge in Denmark.
KAZ: We didn’t expect to win because as much as I am bluesy the songs aren’t 12 bar blues. We went in not realising what was wanted, that was the frightening part. Then there were all the judges some I knew others I didn’t and no one was giving anything away. It was pretty daunting, it was run strict and I didn’t dare put a foot out of place so that added to the tension because everyone knew their place and what to do. We done the performance, I kinda burnt myself out with nerves, I am not a good one for these kind of things so I came out fighting fire and pretty much exhausted myself by the third song. So when I did the ballad I had to pretty much kick myself up the arse and say get a grip you have two songs to go calm down if you want this you have got to fight for this. We went into the ballad there was so many things happening, I remember afterwards Nick saying, not experienced anything like it his hands started to sweat up and couldn’t play the guitar, well he did obviously. I had never sweated as much. So when it was announced we had scattered out for a smoke, hanging round the merch table, the bathroom really pretty much decided we weren’t winning. When Ashwyn, called out Kaz Hawkins I physically punched Janny, on the back of his neck just a reaction of disbelief (Kaz laughing as she recollects the night). I honestly didn’t think we would get through. The competition was tough, I really thought Wille and The Bandits were going to win they had put up such an outstanding set. As were Rebecca and Lauren we were all so nervous. So when it was announced I really couldn’t think anything at all other than except I haven’t got my belt on and I was being called to the stage. I run up as you know I depend on looking my best off stage with my hourglass figure chuckling and there I was just after a smoke lippy hanging off me. Then next minute had to make my way to the stage it was a surreal moment. Then trying to get from the merch stall to the stage when my name was called out, people just launched on me, pulling me and it was just crazy. Then we got on stage and we had to do all the procedures, me and the boys kept looking at each other in disbelief. Once I started singing it dawned on me what had just happened we opened up with Feelin’ Good that just set it off. I could let it rip, let go of all the tension and just perform. We had already got through, I can remember dropping down at one point I was still scabbed on one knee two months later because I had dropped that hard, I think it was just exhaustion.
Don’t forget we were mid-tour when the challenge this was happening, so we had been on the bus for week/two weeks before we were exhausted but match fit.
BD: What were the challenges following the win, Crowdfunding and organising the band to play first in Memphis with all the added expectation of the first British Band to play at The Blues foundation International Blues Challenge (IBC) with all that expectation and the forthcoming European Blues Challenge (EBC) in Horsen Denmark. Getting the band into competition rather than touring mode etc.
KAZ: Having already done the UK Blues challenge we were in that competition mindset. It was only then we realised that there would be different timings. We thought we would do in Memphis exactly the same as in Wolverhampton but found out the quarter finals were only Twenty-five minutes then if you got through the semi-finals were thirty minutes and if made it to finals it was a twenty-minute set. When we got home it was rehearsals and plan three different sets so that was the hard thing trying to give our best in that space of time. Thirty minutes is a great time it’s perfect don’t need anymore but any less and you have to start to sacrifice your great songs. The crowdfunding was running alongside the rehearsals and we were constantly thinking about it. We were in the zone for it. We were all raising money as well, begging the fans. The problem with the crowdfund was that it became, I felt I like I was begging I came up against a few rows on Facebook about bands should pay for themselves and do stuff like this. I don’t think people understood the gravity of what we were about to do, the pressure that was upon our shoulders. When you go somewhere like that, we had no idea what we were walking into in Memphis no one had been before. What I did was contact a load of people that I already knew had performed. I went into obsessive research mode, which is what I do on any challenge. So I chased up people who I had known over the years which came in handy, lots of contacts that I had, lots of blues sisters who had performed gave me great insights from Lucy Hammond to Hatz Ftiz & Cara Robinson and everybody who were giving me tidbits of information. Then I went into radio mode and sourced out lots of radio shows that were promoting the IBC’s around the world. I ended up listening to Vinny on The Couch who runs his radio show from Rum Boogie Café on Beale Street. What was freaky, about three weeks before we were due to go he bought on about four/five of the IBC judges on this two hour show I am sat listening to it over and over again and I hooked up on Beale Street when this woman said Dave Raven said to get in touch with you, I am Suzanne Swanson. I just screamed in the middle of Beale Street and just said oh my God! You saved my life because you are the reason I could plan this trip. Everything she had said on the radio interview, because she has been a judge and has just got a blues award from the foundation for her photography. I had no idea who she was, how well known she was how much she contributed to the Blues Foundation, in the end me and her became best friends during the IBC. When I told her how I had listened to the interview she started crying in the middle of the street. I can’t believe it, I am just so glad I put it out there and someone took heed. This was what it was constantly about, the after effect of all my research. For whoever wins next UKBlues challenge, the advice I would give them is hunt down anything and anybody who knows about the IBC. You can get it from the most unlikely places. Because when we landed there I realised that there were a lot of bands that didn’t have that information. We were streets ahead with knowledge, we hit the ground running. It was thanks to all that research I had done. BD: You will have to write a book Kaz: Ha Ha Jesus Christ Liz, A friend wants to do a documentary I say to her if you got a ten hour day.
BD: Tell us about the Memphis experience and reaching the Semi-finals. Was the Blues different in Memphis and how many other Europeans were competing in the heart of the roots of Blues.
KAZ: I think we are full on ready, if anything it has prepared us definitely. I wasn’t really nervous, not even nervous I was apprehensive about Memphis because everywhere we went we could hear twelve-bar blues and I was kinda worried Oh! I was kind of worried, my god we are not going to go down here you’re not Blues. But I had a good talk with David, he is my rock, for the first time felt a little bit inadequate, as we artists do, these are my songs and about to go into a competition. I never wrote these songs to compete with David said to me “Kaz you just have to keep the end in sight, and the end is exposure to further your career. If you don’t win it doesn’t matter”. We did go over there to fight for it, but we didn’t think we had a hope in hell of winning and to make it through to the semi’s was unreal. The talent was just off the scale but I think it prepared us, a lot of it was a shock of what happened. So we are definitely given us heads up for the European Blues Challenge.
BD: Is the Blues scene over there stronger and deeper than here, you were saying the people playing were stupendous
KAZ: We have it too but there on a much bigger stage it is much larger it is just so daunting over there with 288 acts from around the world. It is not just up and down England, Scotland, Wales & Northern Ireland. This is the Best of the Best of Blues around the world. What we did realise was so many societies say California had maybe twenty Blues Societies sending acts there were so many. In one of those interviews, I listened to one of the judges said some societies will send a band that is not of the calibre of touring bands. We knew going in there were different levels, the local band that jams for the sake of blues, then you have a proper gigging circuit bands, then you would have the professional bands who are touring like us. We were confident we knew our stuff. How it worked it was about the music, the blues not about talking. I heard a great quote “If you want to be a favourite on the next Justin Bieber jump into the audience with your guitar. If you want to impress the Judges stay on the stage”. So I stayed on Stage!
BD: Kaz Hawkins and your Band did do Well taking UKBlues Federation Challenge winner to Memphis and leaving a semi-finalist
KAZ: The start was with two-hundred & eighty-eight bands at the beginning. With Forty-Four making it through to the Semi-finals. With twelve competing in the challenge final. So reaching the semi’s was massive I am so proud of us. People got what we were about. There were two quarter-finals, on the second night how many in for us. On the first night we were one of the bands from about one-hundred miles away filled the room with their fans they were loud and rooting for them So when we came on afterwards I was sort of oh hell and just did our stuff. On the second night, I didn’t even realise until I got off stage and went outside for a smoke apparently they had been queueing down the frigging street to get in. The doorman went to me didn’t you see the queue I said no I told you last night people would want to come back and see you so word had spread really really fast. We were branded we had our coats on, we were giving out badges and business cards, CD’s to everybody we met. That is what each society was doing handing out freebies. People got to know and recognise us by what we were wearing.
BD: How Many European societies were over in Memphis, if you know?
KAZ: Not sure I know there was bands from, France, Norway, Germany, Sweden Met bands from Switzerland and Germany who we will be up against at the European Blues Challenge so have an insight. We are now going to the Europeans as Semi-finalists having met the Challenge in Memphis
BD: Memphis itself as an experience must have been amazing
KAZ: I cried Liz. We went to Hard Rock Café, you know it takes a moment to get your bearings. We were heading down to Beale Street Hard Rock is first. I didn’t realise it was Beale Street that I was looking at. We went into the Café sat down it was empty except for another man and his wife who was in the Challenge. You must say challenge not competition I was corrected when I said Competition. I am going for a smoke, went out the other door, and there was a horse and carriage I looked to my left and saw Beale Street I was wow actually here. I ran back in and said come on guys we can’t just sit here, Beale Street is right there. They laughed and said we know Kaz. Why didn’t no one tell me, it was one of those stupid blonde moments. We then walked out crossed at the lights and hit Blueside Café first one on the left as you know I had written Hallelujah, Happy People about Memphis so for me to hit that street. I had been singing about happy people who sing the blues It was just surreal to actually to be there. We arrived there two days early and it was empty there really wasn’t many people no really anybody from the IBC. They had blocked the street off in preparation for the IBC. ‘Cos they open it in the week but close it at weekends, so it was all closed down street was empty you could walk down the middle of the road. It was surreal everywhere you looked it was merchandise and tourist stuff it was early afternoon and music was blasting out onto the street so you instantly knew you are in Blues Mecca.
BD: Denmark is round the corner the last of the three challenges that started back in Wolverhampton last November.
KAZ: We are ready, the fans have been so on board that pushes us forward. I am comfortable I sort of got the nod from Blues Foundation you did all right. That gives you so much. Flights and hotel are all booked so organised for Denmark. Have a nice hotel directly facing the venue. The only thing in Memphis we were about twenty minutes outside so we had to hire a car etc. all eats into the cost. In fact takes us longer to get to Denmark we have an eighteen hour layover! All crazy but will be fine. We have a great slot and feeling very positive playing on the Saturday line-up half way through the evening. We do feel that we are going over with a real chance to bring the trophy home for UKBlues Federation and blues fans across the UK & Northern Ireland.
BD: So once you have finished the trio of Challenges, what is planned for the rest of 2017 for Kaz Hawkins.
KAZ: New solo album away from the band. It is just because things have been so hectic I can get kinda manic with it all so taking time out for me and my music. I am doing couple of dates here in Northern Ireland in July, one massive one, a dream come true for me, singing in Belfast Cathedral. Release date for solo album is 22nd July. Will be performing with Sam York and the band is off the road July. We hit the road with a big European Festival still a secret and Great British Rhythm & Blues Festival which look so exciting the new look for the festival. Then UK and European tour with the band. I am off to Nashville next month to play the Bluebird Café then back for weekend touring in England then back and the next day off to Boston lecturing at Boston Uni, as I am still doing my own stuff.
BD: So glad you had a good and successful time in Memphis and now off to Horsen, Denmark good luck and be wonderful if Kaz Hawkins can bring the trophy home.
Bluesdoodles, thanks, Graham Whittington of Lens Art Photography for sending a selection of the superb photo diary of Kaz and the band in Memphis.
In addition UKBlues and the British Blues Archive are working with the British Blues Exhibition and Early Blues.com who have agreed to migrate some of their relevant online content to further enhance the brand new and comprehensive resource afforded by this new venture.
This unique partnership will create an unparalleled central resource and reference point for historical material relating to blues in the UK online and forms part of UKBlues’ stated aim to seek to provide educational material and facilities to widen knowledge of the blues in the UK and to assist those also seeking to do the same.
Ashwyn Smyth, Chair of UKBlues said: ‘We were thrilled and honoured when Peter Harvie, joint founder of the BBA, approached us to suggest an amalgamation. The BBA has a wealth of material of all sorts and Peter’s approach came as our webmaster, Alan White, was in the process of setting up an Education section of our website following our decision to seek to develop this aspect of our activities. So this was a great idea that came at the perfect time.
To then have the British Blues Exhibition and Early Bluesoffer to work with us to further enhance this was the icing on the cake and we thank board members Darren Weale and Alan White for their generous co-operation.
The Board of UKBlues is hugely excited about the possibilities that these new partnerships and co-operations afford us as an organisation but, more importantly, the blues as a whole in the UK. They also serve to reinforce our mission to become a focal point for the blues in the UK.’
Peter Harvie of the British Blues Archive said; ‘We at the British Blues Archive are delighted to be joining UK Blues. The work being done by the British Blues Archive and UKBlues complement each other and the bringing together of our strengths has created in one place a tremendous resource, the place to go to for information, history, interviews and insights on British Blues. We at the British Blues Archive are tremendously excited about the amalgamation and are looking forward to new projects ahead with UK Blues’.
A reminder that, following the 3rd UK Blues Challenge held at the Robin 2, Bilston on 12th November 2016 and won by Kaz Hawkins Band, the UK Blues Federation (UKBlues) has put in place a crowd funding campaign to help with the band’s costs attending the International Blues Challenge (IBC) in Memphis, USA between 31st January & 4th February 2017 and the European Blues Challenge (EBC) on 6th, 7th & 8th April 2017 in Horsens, Denmark.
The band have estimated that they face costs in excess of £8,000 to travel to and from and participate in the two Challenges and UKBlues is seeking to raise funds to help the band to cover at least some of these costs.
Thank you to everyone who has been so generous as now we are early halfway to the target . Donate Here the campaign runs until 15th January 2017
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‘ This was an excellent evening and our thanks go to everyone involved, the bands, the judges, the sponsors and all the team at the Robin 2 who made us so welcome and worked so hard to make the event such a success. The feedback we have received has been great and it is clear that those who attended thoroughly enjoyed the very fine musicians who played for them. I hope that we have laid the foundations for future UK Blues Challenges and that it will become one of the must-attend events of the blues year.
This was a night that celebrated the best in UK blues and demonstrated only too clearly the quality and range of the talent that is all too often unsung in this too frequently ignored musical genre. The event also raised funds which we, UKBlues, can use to further our aims and to make a contribution towards the Kaz Hawkins Band’s costs attending the two Challenges.’
Multi award-winning Kaz Hawkins is Northern Ireland’s very own blues and soul darling. The Belfast-born singer-songwriter is fast becoming a performing icon across UK & Europe with the United States temptingly beckoning her over. Her high energy, original shows with her 1950s style swing-dress-meets-Dr Martens look and ability to closely connect with her public contribute to making Kaz one of today’s most popular blues artists in the UK and Ireland, as she continues to play to full houses.
Kaz has been compared to Etta James & Janis Joplin to name but a few. Mixing the genres of music for over 20 years, she finally found her niche in roots and blues, bringing a fun, inspiring & hopeful message with her new debut album ‘Get Ready’ self-released in August 2014, featuring Kaz’s deep, powerful voice, original songwriting and soulful tracks. ’Get Ready’ wooed both the public and the critics, winning the Blues Matters! Magazine Writers’ Poll Best Studio Album of 2015 in September.
In a hat trick during the same month, Kaz accepted the prestigious Barry Middleton Award for Emerging Artist at the British Blues Awards (the first ever Northern Ireland recipient) and also received the Pure M Award for 2015 All-Ireland Best Female Act at a ceremony in Dublin.
Kaz’s stellar rise to success will be no surprise to the Northern Ireland’s music friends and blues fans over the world she has been wooing for years with her deep, powerful voice, original songwriting and soulful tracks. No mean feat for the 43-year-old funky grandma, who owes surviving a life of physical and emotional hardship to music and a larger-than-life personality that doesn’t take setbacks lying down! Kaz has now rebranded full-time as KAZ HAWKINS BAND. Guitarist Nick McConkey has been with Kaz 4 years and has been a crucial part of the bands direction. With the addition in 2015 of brothers Pete & Jan Uhrin on drums and bass KHB as they are now known, release their ‘Feelin’ Good’ album and UK tour on 28th May at Belfast Empire Music Hall.
Kaz has worked tirelessly for different charities and is Arts Ambassador for EastSide Arts Belfast in which she lectured students at Boston University on how she used music to survive trauma.
2016 UK Blues Challenge The Winner IS….. that will have to wait a moment since there are four acts to listen to first. Tonight is the third UK Blues Challenges that decides the band that will be representing the UK at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis and The European Challenge in Denmark in 2017. Tonight is the second time that the Challenge has been under the auspices of the UKBlues Federation and what a success tonight is, thanks to sponsorship from the award winning, crowd pleasing Upton Blues Festival and the support from The Robin 2, Bilston with superb sound, lighting and the support staff who ensured there was food, drinks and a welcome on the doors.
The running order tonight, Wille and The Bandits; Dove and Boweevil; Kaz Hawkins Band and Rebecca Downes, four acts that show the depth and diversity of blues across the UK in 2016. The bands were from across the country from Cornwall to Norfolk; Belfast to Birmingham and they knew how to play live in a way that would challenge the judges as to who had the winning combination of originality, vocal talent, musical interpretation and more. Without the judges there would have been no challenge, no winners so the Federation owe them a big thank you to Becky Tate, Kayla Brox, Peter Noble, Alex Butler, Oliver Carpenter, Mark Housley and Ruth Etheridge. The task we set them was a challenge in itself as every band was different with music that delighted the crowds. The judges listened hard, danced to the music enjoyed the Blues and after much thought, they marked each band and a winner was found. Before that, there were four bands to listen to and enjoy.
With Ashwyn Smythe the chair of the Federation getting the evening underway as compare, the lights were shining and the crowds expectant as Wille and The Bandits opened the proceedings. The band have their own rocking interpretation of the blues. The sound is hearty, rooted in tradition with lap slide, guitar upright bass and drums that beats out a sound full of originality and confidence. This is blues stretched and reformed, with a selection from their new album, Steal out in January 2017 and old favourites including Gypsy Woman ensured the audience was engaged from the beginning and the audience showed their appreciation – what a start – had the night peaked too early?
Following on, we were treated to Dove and Boweevil. Lauren Dove floated as she blended roots, soul and the taste of the east as the beats and rhythms floated around the Robin 2. Opening with Lady Lavoo, from their current album This Life; a song that is full of swampy beats and the sound has a mystical dark sound suiting Laurens vocals and Mark ‘Boweevil’ Howes guitar. The five piece enthralled the audience though at times the vocals got lost among the instruments.
Third band of the night raised the energy levels as Kaz Hawkins twirled like a whirlwind across the stage. The energy was electric and the vocals spellbinding. Kaz, takes the lyrics, squeezing the emotions out so that the audience is drawn and captivated by the soulful blues. The petticoats were swished the red gloves thrown into the audience, yet, if Kaz had stood perfectly still it would have been the voice that is full of charm and depths that hit your musical soul. The band are a trio of talent with the solid rhythm section providing the perfect platform and Nick McConkey’s guitar work is stunning. In the mix we heard the song dedicated to her daughter, Because I love You which one of my favourites. The audience cheered, clapped, stamped their feet as they showed their love to Kaz Hawkins’ take on the blues.
How to follow that with the energy levels were so high, emotions so stretched easy close the night with Rebecca Downes. With her trademark leopard skin coat she took up the microphone and sung the blues. Rebecca belted out the vocals soaring above her band all eyes were focused on her she was charged with an electricity and glowing energetic fire. Again, the blues was threaded with rock, soul and jazz that gave Rebecca’s blues a depth of tone and interest she is a blues vocalist who delivers the music she loves and believes in. The band once again played to Rebecca’s tonal strengths so the voice got hotter and the coat was discarded. Rebecca owned the stage and had the audience in her hand and purring with delight.
As Rebecca Downes and her band left the stage and silence fell, what a night of live music four different and superb acts. All gave the blues a touch of difference shaping the music and delivering with energy and love. Now the scores were counted, the raffle drawn and we waited and discussed our favourites and who we thought the winner would be…
Watch this space the date and venue of the 4th UK Blues challenge will be announced by the UK Blues Federation soon. Support the blues and check out the page www.ukbluesfederation.com
2016 UK Blues Challenge delights Bilston The Winner IS….. Once again congratulations to the winner Kaz Hawkins
The UK Blues Federation (UKBlues), is a pan-UK Federation that has been established to promote and support Blues in and from the United Kingdom in all its forms and styles.
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UK Blues Federation are delighted once again to be organising the challenge. UK Blues Challenge 2016 at The Robin 2 Bilston, where four exciting acts are performing for the opportunity to represent the U.K. at the European Blues Challenge 2017. The Challenge takes place at The Robin 2 Bilston on Saturday 12th November 2016 – Tickets available £10 in advance. The successful act will travel to Norway to represent the U.K. at the 7th European Blues Challenge 2017.
The popular four acts performing in front of a panel of judges selected from the UK Blues scene (in alphabetical order) are:-
Tonight Celebrates the long tradition of women vocalists and the blues. Five members of the Blues Sisterhood UK hit the stage at The Convent. This consisted of the five acts and a Q&A session between each act all streamed live via Netgig. Without weeks of planning, hours of rehearsals tonight was the outcome of short collaboration and run through. Achieved by women supporting each other and producing the goods, two hours of music and smiles. Massive thanks to the dual forces of Matt Roberts at The Convent and the powerhouse that is Kaz Hawkins without this collaboration tonight’s unique celebration of the blues would never have happened.
The sound check ensured that the three drum kits, four guitars, three bass guitars, keyboards and five vocal mics were ready and waiting for the show to begin on the stroke of nine when the Convent stage went live on air. The logistics in place for the night was going to be a rollercoaster of energised music celebrating women, blues, and rock.
Tonight was all about celebrating female vocalists and their contribution to the contemporary British blues scene. A wall of sound started the fiesta with all the artists on stage, the three drum kits merged the guitars blended and the groove was deep in this mass 12-bar jam. Kaz started off the vocal jam as the five women vocalists sang I Believe, the baton passed onto to Olivia, Andi, Lorna and then Victoria and back again. Wow! this was music that raised your heart beat capturing the community of music that binds us all. We had the pure joy of stage magic in action. With the acts leaving the stage, Bluesdoodles had the first interview session with Kaz. The first band wasHusky Tones with Victoria combining vocals and drums, everyone knows Victoria is in charge as she joyously points drums sticks first at Chris Harper on guitar and bassist Matthew Richards. With a mix of blues slow, and fast this as a set that left you wanting to hear more. Husky Tones certainly gives blues a lift with style and smiles, closing with a new track, potentially the title track of their new album, they certainly gave the show Momentum. Then from the first duet of the evening singer Olivia Stevens of Ruby & The Revelators. Olivia calmly walked on stage joining Frazer Wigg on keys. The contrast worked well with a stripped down take on the blues. Olivia’s vocals were full of emotional tone and texture adding layers of blues power. Her set of four songs was a mix of originals with Shattered Not Broken particularly capturing the sorrow and the hope of the blues.
The music empowering women to continue growing in strength whatever life throws at them. Next up a complete contrast as rock band Eve’s Secret took to the stage. With Bluesdoodles interviewing their up-front vocalist Andi Hall before they started their set. Rock is the next door neighbour of the blues and the links are strong. Andi Hall fronts the band as a rock diva with her bassist Jeanette (Tig) Kirkham and the two women joined by guitarist Bruce Drummond and drummer Dermot Hall. The rock flared out of the stinging guitar and hard-hitting drums and Andi’s vocals powered through the three tracks, including Bad, Sad, Glad. There was definitely an air of the bad vibe, the music they played was definitely not sad and they were definitely glad to be rocking out at The Convent tonight. The tempo changed as theNorthsyde duo Lorna and Jules, sat side by side on stools. Jules on acoustic guitar and Lorna with her voice. The power seared through the night air with vocal colour, emotional texture and empathy with the heart and soul of the music. This was a delightfully different dimension to Northsyde. A marvelous acoustic duet with Lorna and Jules playing in complete stripped down harmonies. The acoustic vibes of the Allmans reshaped poured out as the blues from the porch recreated this was definitely a set you wanted to hear more of. Laid back, musical and dipped deep into the essence of the blues.
Up last and definitely not least was Kaz Hawkins Band with her larger than life stage presence. Vocals that wrap around you, drenching you in layers of emotions, from the travails, joys and hope of life. Gospel meets Blues with buckets of soul Kaz supported by her band that combines deft touches of guitar from Nick McConkey his solos contrasting with Kaz’s vocals. The rhythm section brothers, drummer Peter Uhrin and Janny on Bass. There couldn’t be a better act to wind up the fiesta celebrating women in the blues. Even with a short set Kaz’s energy, class and joy she shares when performing shone through. What a phenomenal performance as she sang Soul Superstar. Kaz is a superstar. With all the sisters joining Matt and Bluesdoodles on the sofa for a group hug and short chat the bands congregated on the stage. The jam kicked off with the drums and proceeded to gather momentum as the vocalists re-joined and the closing minutes were full of smiles, camaraderie and the shared joy of live music.
Throughout the evening each of the vocalist took turns to answer questions from Liz, Aiken, Bluesdoodles. Providing an insight into inspiration, the role of the newly formed Blues Sisterhood UK it was a friendly, fun and informative interludes between the main focus of the even the glorious music. Tonight, was an impromptu celebratory festival of the Blues Sisterhood and it went not just very well, it exceeded expectations in brilliance, companionship and the power of coming together through the Blues.
Sisters Bring Blues and Friendship To The Stage
Big Thank you to Eric Hobson for some of the photographs used – check out his website HERE
Bluesdoodles listens to music recorded and live from across the genres. Bluesdoodles reviews all albums received with an open-mind and will always look for the elements that make the music stand out from the crowd!. The albums we award 10 doodle paws too, for us have a special connection, and acknowledge like all reviewers our scoring is subjective. Between 1st April and 30th June 2016 Bluesdoodles reviewed 33 albums that reflect the depth and breadth of music being recorded in studios around the world. Remember albums not included on the lists are still excellent; definitely worth listening to and purchasing especially go see music live at venues near you support music and the artists who travel the roads so we can hear music full of passion and the special ingredient of a live performance.
This is the second quarter of 2016 and all of these will be in with a shout for the Bluesdoodles Dozen of 2016.