Abertillery Blues Rock Festival Friday 12th July 2013


This gem of a festival is returning for its ninth year… once again in the majestic setting of Abertillery Park, deep in the valleys of South Wales under the shadow of the Arael Mountain. The now familiar tradition of a big top circus tent and comparing supplied by Bob and Norm from GTFM; famous or is that infamous for their Monday night blues show who last night previewed the line-up for what is going to be a fantastic weekend of music from Friday 12th to Saturday 13th July with TEN confirmed acts and a special mystery band to be announced in May…

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Another great Abertillery Blues Rock Festival line-up and a mystery guest which is all very intriguing and adds to a sense of excitement and anticipation so all very intriguing – the waiting game may be for the final act to be announced BUT that sold not stop you getting your ticket NOW as the line-up is already very exciting with a mix of local, national and international bands already lining up to entertain you. In addition to the bands the beer tent will keep you refreshed and once again Rhymney Brewery will be supplying Festival Ale; in addition to the beer tent will be food and hot beverages available throughout the weekend and camping once again as been laid on very near to the festival grounds. All this for a weekend ticket costing £40 (Friday and Saturday tickets are also available separately) and camping at £10 for the weekend including motor-homes.

The music will be provided by:-

Vincent Flatts Final Drive – The band originated in Birmingham, and from the sound they create you would be forgiven for thinking Birmingham, Alabama – not the West Midlands famous city! They blend together an energetic Southern Rock style with a swirl of ZZ Top all mixed into the blues cocktail shaker with a generous slug of Jack Daniels.

Mick Pini Band – Mick performing live is a genuine real deal he does not use pedals or effects, just plays his rare 54 Strat that strikes every emotion as he makes the guitar sing, squeal, weep and moan, this is smoking blues from a real master.

Jo Harman and Company – Is stoking up a musical storm and her reputation is growing which has been further enhanced by her debut CD Dirt On My Tongue Jo is a comet on the rise and will delight the crowds with her stunning rootsy blues voice and world-class band they will create a perfect storm of music that will have the festival seeing a real star of the future.

Headliner for Friday is the ever popular – Mud Morganfield returning to the festival by popular demand. Bringing to the festival authentic Chicago Blues, Larry “Mud” Morganfield, eldest son of the legendary Muddy Waters, who was naturally drawn to music from a very early age. close your eyes and it is difficult to distinguish between father and son so everyone is going to be treated to a legendary end to the first night of Abertillery Blues Festival.

Shrewsbury 2013

With less than a week to go and tickets going fast what better way of dispelling the late winter blues than Theatre of Blues Festival in Shrewsbury Friday 5th and Saturday 6th April
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The first Festival at Theatre Severn, was a resounding success as the review published in Blues Matters shows; definitely one of the many highlights was the talented young singer/guitarist Blues Boy Dan who was for me the find of the festival; what will they be pulling out of the hat this year? Blues Boy Dan will be making a special appearance at the festival this year following the recent news coverage in The Standard
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5th April – Friday Night at The Lion Stage, The Lion HotelGetting the festival of the a flying start at 7pm – is the talented Jenna Hooson
The Legendary Slack Alice and headlining a quality evening of live music is the award-winning who are without doubt one of the UK’s most exciting and original crossover blues band 24 Pesos.

6th April – Saturday 2pm – 11.30pm. at Walker Stage, Theatre Severnopening the day of exceptional live music are The Drivetones a local band who always pleases, followed by the delightful Bex Marshall fresh from her successful tour of U.S.A.
the ebullient and energetic Tim Aves & The Wolfpack will certainly energize and delight the audience with blues straight from Chicago town. Fuschi 4 bring their own funk blues to the proceedings they definitely wow! festival audiences when ever they play. Dani Wilde will certainly add some glamour combined with her gorgeous voice and beautiful guitar playing and the band are excellent musicians in their own right this will certainly up the tempo even further. The topping the evening of is the Six-string Svengali himself all the way from Texas Buddy Whittington what a finale to a line-up that will definitely thrill and delight you. Live music at its best.


Rag Mama Rag – Review @ Barry – March 2013

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Another evening of Acoustic delights at West End Club Barry, local acoustic artist Cal Newman got the proceedings going and the atmosphere warm before ‘Rag Mama Rag‘s’ set which promised from the off to be a little bit different as there was an array of instruments on the stage and a pair of musicians. Ashley Dow, (Henderson Acoustic Guitar, National & Dobro Resonator Bottleneck Guitars, Weissenborn Acoustic Lap Steel, Ukulele and Vocals) with Deborah Dow, (Harmonica, Washboard, Percussion, Spoons and Backing Vocals); they utilised the full plethora of instruments during the two set show demonstrating their skills and how each instrument adds something to the party of Country Blues or Back Porch Blues. This duo takes you back to a period when music was played to entertain without a myriad of effects and is Americana from the 1920’s and 1930’s with their mix of Mississippi Blues, East Coast Ragtime, White Country, mixed in with other regional styles delivering a mix of covers and their own compositions.

This accomplished duo did a great version of Skip James’ ‘Hard Time Killin’ Floor Blues’ along with a range of songs from their wide ranging repertoire. The enthusiastic audience participation during a real sing-a-long number ‘No Matter How She Done It’ helped to create a great atmosphere. The second set opened with a Hawaiian Guitar 1860’s instrumental, ‘Rally Round The Flag’, displaying the intricacy of this instrument played with a steel bar creating its own unique sound. All the songs were performed with enthusiasm wit and passion but like their name ‘Rag Mama Rag’ was ragtime tunes which suited their instruments and voices so well as demonstrated in ‘The Hesitation Blues’ by Rev Gary Davies and the great audience participation by the very willing crowd at The West End Club who definitely had fun during the well known and much loved ‘Jitterbug Rag’. The set was very interesting and thoughtful & well structured with a mix of Americana styles including an Appalachian tune, hill music often gets neglected in many musicians set lists, the great dance number ‘Little Liza Jane’; was such fun to listen to and more acoustic acts should explore this rich vein of songs and tunes.

Once again Mike Duggan achieved a great live music event, with a packed room, great act, good choice of beers at the West End Club looking forward to the next gig already – Derrin Nauendorf with Rick Foot at The West End Club on Friday 19th April – contact Mike or on 07561143114.

A preview of what you can enjoy on the 19th April 2013:-

Chris Farlowe and Norman Beaker Band

Norman and his band started with a R ‘n’ B number, a great version of ‘My Baby’s Got The Blues’; as ever Norman Beaker and his band provided the perfect backdrop for Chris; demonstrating why they are so popular and reflected in the packed house at the Beaufort ballroom where this was a road trip of nostalgia for many, with music from their youth.

The first set was a great mix of blues and Rock n’ Roll including Little Milton’s ‘Ain’t No Big deal On You’; a song penned especially for him by Mike D’Abo’s ‘Handbags and Gladrags’ for many the definitive version! Chris and Norman provided plenty of banter between numbers, engaging the audience and ensuring that this was wall-to-wall entertainment. They slowed the tempo down with great lead breaks from Norman and his guitar that suited this arrangement of ‘It’s Tough on Me, It’s Tough On You’ The band was a tight cohesive unit with their individual sounds shining through, Dave Baldwin on keys, provided a stylish melding into the guitar chords giving a depth of tone, and when released he gave the band, along with the superb saxophonist, Kim Nishikawara, a delightful alternative to guitar lead breaks that with some other artists can on occasions can become tedious and appear to be fillers of time. This is never the case with The Norman Beaker Band who use every moment to prove why Blues, Rock and Rock N’ Roll are timeless and never boring but a mix of tones, tempos and musical textures. The Rhythm section is the strong backbone of this band provided by John Price (Bass) and Steve Gibson (Drums) who may be in the background but they enable everyone else to soar to the heights and create the sound that had everyone’s feet a tapping and singing along with pure enjoyment.

The evening was a master class of what made the music of the sixties so fabulous including Chris Farlowe’s awesome arrangement if John Lee Hooker’s, ‘Stormy Monday Blues’ which wowed the audience as they drew breath collectively; and the audience participation during Small Faces ‘All Or Nothing’ was enjoyed by all and by now Chris had the crowd eating out of his hand with is witty asides, banter and above all his voice. Towards the end of the second set to everyone’s delight ‘Out of Time’ who everyone associates with Chris Farlowe, this was Number 1 in the charts when England won the World Cup in 1966, had everyone singing along creating a great atmosphere that is synonymous with live music of this excellence.

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Popular demand will surely see Chris Farlowe & The Norman Beaker Beaker Band back, as they show no sign of wanting to stop gigging and ‘The Voice’ is as strong as ever to hold the audience spellbound once again with every note, gesture and every song of this very difficult act to follow!
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Robert Cray – St David’s Hall, Cardiff –

Robert Cray – 6th March 2013 – St David’s Hall, Cardiff

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A packed audience filled the tiers that surround the stage at St David’s Hall, with its beautiful acoustics that swirls the sound around and around. The evening opened with Jon Allen, an acoustic act that played mainly self-penned numbers, this young man opened with an impressive set contrasting with the act to follow, it is no wonder he has had airplay on Radio 2 and Jools Holland has said “One of the most amazing voices I’ve heard this year”, with his wonderful finger picking style and voice that did captivate the audience that was waiting for Robert Cray. Robert started the evening off by interacting with the large audience with a reference to Cardiff and he held the majority of the audience in his hand from the first note in his familiar ‘picking strat’ style. The Hammond B provided the bedrock accompaniment and the rapport between them was excellent with Jim Pugh affectionately known on stage as Pastel Motif; the other band members providing the rhythm section were bare-footed Richard Cousins (Bass) and Les Falconer (drums). Robert played the favourites from his thirty-five year Grammy award-winning career, including ‘Strong Persuader’, ‘I Guess I Showed Her’ and ‘Smoking Gun’; with some great solo’s from Mr Pugh what a great sound he produces on the Hammond B. The one thing you can be certain with Mr Cray he always produces a consistent sound, with the songs delivered professionally and with a style that demonstrates why Robert Cray is so popular and loved throughout the world, where the vocals and guitar work using the minimum of effects is spot on. He is smooth and seductive and the audience listened with pure pleasure as he delivers his mix of rhythm and blues, pop, soul, traditional blues and a twist of rock, his music will never be boring. This was certainly demonstrated in ‘Sitting On Top Of The World’ with its times squealing high notes and an emotional guitar solo demonstrating how he shakes various styles, in a cocktail shaker of sound producing his own instantly recognisable style, this will certainly have pleased the Robert Cray fans in the audience.

Overall, I was to be fair in the minority, though I did notice people leaving early but felt rather underwhelmed by the concert which felt a little flat and old-fashioned blues, since I have been spoilt by all the modern exciting acts I have seen throughout the U.K. Robert Cray did receive a standing ovation from the audience at the end of his set and again after the encore so the majority went home delighted to be entertained by a master of the fender whether using the Telecaster or Stratocaster.

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All photographs – copy right Liz Aiken 2013

Catch him at these venues in the U.K.

Tonight – 13 March – Cadogan Hall – London
14 March – The Anvil – Basingstoke
15 March – Bridgewater Hall, Manchester
Last night UK Tour – 16 March – Sheffield City Hall, Sheffield

Katie Bradley She’s Ready (2012)

Celebrating International Women’s Day with Katie Bradley

Katie Bradley

This is an album that is alive with pure joy of excellent blues music that truly reflects the live recording of Katie Bradley’s, ‘She’s Ready’. This is a début CD of 8 tracks that take you on a roller-coaster of highs and lows, combining a mix of clever re-arrangements so that they fit into Katie’s style and self-penned tracks.

Katie fronts the band, showcasing her strong melodic vocals and playing blues harp, the rest of the band are not mere background to her voice but a quartet of top-drawer musicians, Paul Jobson, Keys & Vocals (Chaka Khan) and (Geoff Achieson & Soul Diggers); Sam Kelly, Drums, (Station House); <a href="http://www.facebook.com/pages/Joe-Sam-Bass-Player/101692133233144″>Joe Sam, Bass (Gary Moore); and virtuoso guitarist Dudley Ross which all bring something special to the tracks.

The self-penned ‘I Hear a River’ is gorgeous with beautiful lyrics articulated by Katie’s soulful vocals that sends shivers down your spine; it is not surprising that this has been nominated for The Kevin Thorpe Memorial Prize; by Blues on The Marsh internet radio programme. This CD is receiving lots of airplay which is no surprise with tracks like ‘Damn Your Eyes’; and an interesting arrangement of ‘Hound Dog’; and will assure that Katie is definitely ready to have a successful future and should be gracing festivals and venues all over the country, as she delivers songs with a range of emotions from up-beat through to mellow blues. She never overpowers the lyrics but delivers with a clarity and delicate touch that tugs straight at your heartstrings.

This is the CD to sit back, relax and let the music wash away the strains of the day.

Bluesdoodles gives this CD a doodle rating of

Chantel McGregor – Review Borough Blues Club event 2nd March 2013

With a packed and excited house once again Chantel worked her charm with the audience at Borough Blues from the first note she sang and chord played everyone sat back to be entertained. The band provided the rhythm section, a solid mastery provided by Rich Ritchie (bass) and Keith (drums) who played there instrument of choice with style and little bit of magic, Ritchie introducing some funky sounds and the thwang of the bass strings being slapped on his five string bass providing style and tonal depth. Whilst Keith McPartling was not a metronomic backline or the drummer that want’s to dominate, his playing was a paced, superbly timed and judged percussive performance, at times he had a surprisingly gentle touch for such a hard hitter. The band is complete with axe-woman extraordinaire Chantel, the bubbly young Yorkshire lass whose smile and delightful turn of phrase would brighten up anyone’s day.

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Chantel’s set included lots of tracks of her début acclaimed album ‘Like No Other’, and for many this was an opportunity to purchase their own signed copies, but for many others in the audience are eagerly awaiting a follow-up album, whose songs are currently being written. It is Chantel’s exceptionally busy gigging up, down and across the U.K. that is, unsurprisingly, slowing the process down! Opening the evening with ‘Fabulous’ she set the club alight with the cheerful lyrics, and a display of jaw-droppingly good guitar playing and this was just the first song of the evening. An interesting instrumental ‘Pink Sky’ was included in the first set, this was full of musical textures and tones that had snippets of chords and rifts from a variety of sources whilst absolutely Chantel’s own in style and flair, this instrumental gave her the freedom to soar with her guitar to places beyond your imagination, but she knew when to bring it to a close, so that like Goldilocks’ porridge the instrumental is just the right tempo and just the right length. Whatever song she is playing – whether her own compositions or well loved covers – she delivers them with ease making the whole guitar playing look simplicity itself; when we all know it is a display of virtuosity playing that is not self-indulgent but inclusive so no long overplayed lead guitar break, but a band that are a single unity keeping shape and delivering music you really want to listen to and enjoying each other’s skills and talents. Chantel delighted the crowds with requested numbers and despite no acoustic with her played acoustic style on electric with a stellar cover of ‘Bruno Mars, Grenade‘. This is what makes sets from Chantel so interesting you do not get the same covers, same set lists she changes and adapts to the audience. No wonder she sells out, people feel engaged with her, they love the way she remembers them and includes songs they love and a Chantel gig is a two-way, no, a three-way conversation Chantel witty asides and the audiences responses and delight and then the main conversation the live music which touched hearts, minds and souls of the audiences lifting the spirits on a cold March evening.

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Marcus Bonfanti – Calm Before The Storm Tour 2013

What a brilliant tour – see my review below here are the dates and venues to catch Marcus on excellent form – go see some truly great live music :-

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Do not miss out on seeing Marcus live when he visits Scotland 27th February – 2nd March 2013 – beautiful video from The Globe Hay-on-Wye earlier on in the tour, click link below:-
Marcus Bonfanti – Hay-on Wye
Beautifully filmed by Black Mountain Films

The Globe at Hay-on-Wye, a bijou venue that is unique and quirky, this converted chapel is at the cultural heart of ‘The Town of Books’, with its comfortable chairs in a random layout gave the ideal setting for Marcus, his guitars and distinctive voice as part of his Calm Before The Storm Solo Acoustic tour. As ever it was a confident start by Marcus as he stepped onto the stage which was lit up with drums and a symbol that formed a bright backdrop to the opening number that was simple in its format of voice and blues harp.

Marcus provided the audience with a strong set that showcased his guitar skills and introduced us to tracks from previous recordings and the much awaited new album due Spring 2013, including many favourites. He started on his Galaxy acoustic guitar with ‘Devil Girl’, followed quickly on by a  track from his forthcoming CD, ‘Blind Alley’; there is no doubt this prodigious talent is growing with stronger lyrics combined with powerful guitar, revealing the true real heart and soul of Marcus, with that distinctive mix of sweet and sour, summed up in the line ‘little sip bitter wine’. With a deft guitar change and relaxed interchange with an audience that had instantly warmed to this young man of the blues with his friendly open style; he launched into ‘Jezebel’ on his Telecaster, this change of tempo and style is what makes his solo act so vibrant fresh and live, using the great acoustics in this converted Chapel to his advantage; he made the guitar zing and his voice soar in perfect harmony as they reverberated throughout the building with warmth and depth.

Marcus always entertains with his musicality, friendly interaction with the audience with songs that included ‘Honey’; ‘Hard Times’ with such relevant lyrics for now mixed in with some gospel for good measure demonstrating his great versatility.  ‘The Girl I Knew’ was including in his repertoire for this tour, and ‘Bittersweet’ , that won Marcus the British Blues Award, Songwriter of the Year 2012; the tempo changed again as he introduced another two new songs, ‘My Baby Don’t Dance’ showing his skills with slide guitar ‘Bang of a Gun’, like many of his songs the title drives the song and captures the tempo. The evening all to quickly came to an end with ‘Give Me your Cash’ which had been showcased by Paul Jones when promoting this eagerly awaited solo tour. Of course this wasn’t the last as an encore followed as light follows day with the poignantly wistful song ‘Sweet Louise’. Marcus  certainly won new fans tonight.

To sum up the gig in one word ‘powerful’ in a sentence; charismatic powerhouse mesmerizing the audience with his powerful, entertaining modern British acoustic blues.
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Shrewsbury 2012 – Review and Photographs

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all photographs copyright Liz Aiken
Blues Matter reviewed the festival that last year took place on a snowy Saturday afternoon in early February 2012, the festival got under-way with one of the hottest and original acts on the circuit Babajack. The innovative percussion from Becky Tate who uses a combination of an African Hand Drum, Djembe and the Cajon (Spanish for box) on which Becky sits with aplomb combines with her great voice with its vibrancy that Trevor Steger on Guitar (including Wine Box Guitars made by Trevor) and Marc Miletitch (Double Bass) build on to create the BabaJack sound. The set is a mix of self penned numbers including strong tracks from their much-anticipated third album “Rooster”; and their own arrangements of traditional blues from Sleepy John Estes, Blind Willie Johnson et.al. BabaJack manage to conjure the deep south, traditional music. The use of the African drum also brings deep African rhythms evocative of heat, and raw emotions of slavery taking the blues back to its roots…… This band has a rootsy style that is drenched in the essence of the blues what a fantastic sound they create. The afternoon was crammed with acts, and next up was a young man from Shrewsbury, Blues Boy Dan with his Acoustic guitar blues harp and a stomp-box made from a shortbread tin covered in fabric! He delivered an accomplished set of well-known classics and his voice shone through with a fantastic range accompanied with skilful acoustic guitar playing. This young man is a blues-man in the making and will be heard on the festival circuit very shortly as talent shines through as he includes his own take on these classics. Then a contrast again, Andre and Dermont from Rhythm Zoo who organised the festival, have definitely thought about the sound and tempo as they mixed up the acts, repetition was not going to happen today. Northsyde stormed the stage next full of energy and life as the musicians support Lorna up front the second female lead vocalist if the day. Once again the set was a clever mix of Northsyde favourites such as Allman Brothers, ‘Whipping Post’, ‘Mercy’ and new tracks from their much-anticipated album including ‘Rocking Chair’……. Last act of the afternoon section was Dave Arcari bring to the stage his punk acoustic blues, bold sound from his National Resonators including his electric resonator. His slide playing is magic and as he leaps around the stage his energetic performance leaves the audience gasping for breath. This Scottish wizard of the blues is a bit like Marmite you either love or hate him and today he made some new fans and the crowd loved the tracks including ‘Devil’s Left Hand’, title track of his latest album and ‘Got Me Electric’. With a short break everyone gathered their thoughts and sat down for a well-earned rest and a catch up with the musicians who were all in the foyer all to happy to talk to fans both new and old. Rhythm Zoo opened the evening session producing a strong set with the third female lead vocalist Andrea Jones, who added loads of energy despite the stress of being integral in the organising of this exciting new festival. Andrea’s powerful vocals were supported by four strong musicians, a solid rhythm section comprising Dermot (Drums) and Dave (Bass); Carl (Guitar) and John on Flute and Saxophone making this band just a little bit different. They certainly lived up too their slogan ‘keep it blue, keep it zoo’; this was blues with confidence and animal magnetism. Andrea was witty and warm introducing the numbers with relevant anecdotes great set full of original material and a beautiful cover of Robert Cray’s ‘Playing In The Dirt’. For their encore they invited Blues Boy Dan to join them on the stage, now brandishing an electric guitar for a mini jam – ‘Shake You Money Maker’ demonstrating that his talents stretch beyond the acoustic fitting the band as neatly as a glove.

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all photographs copyright Liz AikenBlues Boy Dan - Shrewsbury 2012 - DSC_0264l
Jon Amor strode onto the stage with Jon Amor Blues Group this set upped the tempo for the evening with a selection of numbers off their excellent album. The polished performance showed that all of Jon’s catalogue now belongs to The Jon Amor Blues Group, the band members Doherty brothers Chris (Bass) and Dave (Rhythm Guitar) and Si Small (Drums) complimenting each other creating a bluesy sound. ‘Juggernaut’ and ‘Repeat Offender’ from their début album had the festival rocking on their collective feet. Once again a great set at a fast pace with Jon letting the music do the talking and keeping the talking between songs to the minimum. Now with a festival hum around the theatre Big Pete from Netherlands introduced his band, he is a blues harpist with extraordinary talent and a lightness of touch. The set included self-penned numbers, traditional blues all performed with style, probably the most traditional act so far, a pleasant contrast to the more modern blues sounds that had preceded Big Pete. He was anything but staid as he varied the pace of each number from long-drawn out slow blues through to high-octane 12 bar-blues that got the dancers dancing and we heard the first drum solo of the day. This was a classy performance from a great band and superlative harpist delivering quality harp-inspired blues with very colourful style of harp playing from Big Pete, embellished by his smooth vocals.
All too soon the last act of the day Big Joe Louis and his Blues Kings, including Little George Sueref (Harp) took to the stage. What a sound Big Joe Louis produces, something very special that sets him out from the rest. There is an innate authenticity about his act. He delivered all the favourites you would expect from this accomplished showman including ‘Catfish Blues’ delivered in Big Joe Louis own indomitable style making the song truly his own. The audiences were delighted dancing with the great rhythm being offered whether Big Joe Louis renditions of old favourites or his own penned offerings. This band was the icing on the amazing cake of sound that went into making Theatre of Blues such a success. The sound and lighting were fantastic and the brilliant MC Lionel Ross who did a sterling job as last-minute MC introducing and thanking the bands. Above all great to see people out supporting and keeping blues music live, that is what it is all about. I am positive 2013 Theatre of Blues will be bigger and better if that is possible but on the evidence of this year as the standard has been set very high indeed anyway. Liz Aiken

Bentworth Blues Festival Friday 17th – Sunday 19th August 2012

This is a gem of a festival, set in the heart of Jane Austen Country, the focal point is The Star Inn, Bentworth, acoustic sets and the legendary Barry Pethers Jam sessions in the bar, with stages on The Green and in the Beer Garden. The ale, beers and lagers are all excellent, with food available with a tasty bar-b-que set up in the beer garden.

There is camping available close to the festival site and local Bed & Breakfasts that will make you very welcomed.

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Review Bentworth 2012
Earlier start to the festival this year with the music on the green from 1.15, the acoustic set delivered by John Walsh provided a wonderful backdrop whilst eating a delicious lunch. Bentworth Blues Festival this year provided the perfect antidote to anyone who has the post Olympic blues and want to retain the feel good positive atmosphere for a bit longer. The Friday bands were all playing on the green whilst the garden ‘dried out’ following a deluge earlier in the week, yet another sign of the impact that the wet 2012 summer has had on outdoor events. The sun was shone throughout the weekend of the festival and created the archetypal British summer scene, ice-cream, good real ale, excellent music and the shade provided by a spreading oak tree. The gentle bluesy summer afternoon theme was maintained by Bob Hall on keys accompanied by Dave Peabody on guitar – what a delightful duo, the perfect remedy to the stresses of work. The young man Lewis Cohen followed with a delightful compilation of favourite blues numbers including ‘Diving Duck’ and ‘Deep river Blues’, interspersed with some great gospel numbers. Lewis is an accomplished acoustic guitarist with the perfect voice to complement the playing creating perfect harmony. This was delta blues sung with passion, what more could anyone ask for on the opening afternoon of a blues festival. Then a dramatic tempo change came about when Sugar Mama strutted onto the stage. This young band from the West Midlands certainly produces a real wow!! factor sound, including some innovative slide guitar on ‘Make Your Money Maker’ at times very reminiscent of Johnnie Winter’s style. This young band produces a raw sound but the timing and delivery is confident and very tight, producing creative medleys of a wide range of classics, with lead guitarist Sam Anderson reminiscent at times of Alvin Lee, finishing of this accomplished headlining set with dancers bopping with a great take on ‘Sympathy For The Devil’. This band had definitely imprinted itself in the minds of the new members of the crowd. What an ending to the first night, the festival was delivering yet again finishing on a high, high note.
Saturday saw sun-shining the BBQ fired up and the promise of 11 hours of great music delivered by nine acts across the three Bentworth stages. “Bad Influence” got the show on the road, with Val Cowell delivering both vocally and as rhythm guitarist on a great set that included a great take on the iconic Etta James’, “I’d Rather Go Blind” that was full of emotion and heartfelt delivery of the powerful lyrics. This band is so very good at what they do delivering Rock Blues professionally with tight performances that bring out the best in all the component parts of the band. Wonderful choice to open an action packed day as they showcased there versatility with great covers mixed in with the numbers form their new CD ‘Carousel’ and for their fans a selection from their back catalogue. The next band was a great contrast on the green a rip-roaring Rhythm and Blues Band lead from the front by American singer/guitarist Franck Ash. They produced a perfect combination for a Sunny British festival, tasty guitar licks and pleasing vocals, the band produced their own distinctive sound with funky overtones driven by the verve and energy of SRV influenced artists. The ever popular ‘Barry Pethers’, (Bass player with Ben Poole Band) followed with a Saturday afternoon jam in the bar that was never going to be large enough as everyone wanted to be in on the action and catch Barry’s friends who included Ben Poole himself, young Welsh guitar-man Luke Doherty and a string of popular artists this is a jam session of the highest standard!. (Matt next year this needs to be outside…). For those who could not shoe-horned themselves into the bar they were in for a treat as Trevor Burton Band was playing in the garden and they delighted the crowd with some great takes of classic blues and Rock n’ Roll including ‘Monster of Disaster’, another band hitting the right tempo and sound for this friendly, laid backed festival. Short breather, time to top up the beers or buy an ice-cream and then watch the trio that is ‘Papa George’, Sam Kelly (Drums) & Pete Stroud (Bass for second time today, first he was playing with Bad Influence) take to the stage on the green. Great authentic deep south blues with Pap Georges great voice, National guitar and the ability to weave medleys of well known songs a highlight being a great version of ‘Divin’ Duck’. Sam as ever delivers his own inimitable style of driving drumming that rumbles, growls and skitters throughout without ever dominating, a tribute to his superb style and timing which combined with the Pete’s accomplished Bass to provide a powerful rhythm backdrop that allowed Papa George to showcase his voice combined with steel and slide – nuff said this is a class act anyone who says covers are boring haven’t heard this dirty deep down “sarff” take on ‘Honky Tonk Women’. Just as it couldn’t get better Val Cowell was invited to join the trio adding further depth to the vocals with Pap George changing to a Gibson electric on numbers including a delightful slow blues number ‘Cleansing My Soul’. Once again an overlap with the choice of acoustic ‘Claire Free’, entertained in a very busy bar whilst in the garden the ever popular local band ‘The Mustangs’. Both acts pleased the crowds with a laid-back Claire showcasing her beautiful voice and soulful blues guitar playing showing a different side of Claire if you have only caught her fronting her Blues band before. In The garden The Mustangs were delivering a high energy set and the first blues harp player of the day, the self penned numbers were strong and versions of Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters etc.. pleased the dancing crowds. ‘Prohibition Blues’ was appreciated by a fully participating audience demonstrating prohibition at The Star Inn was never going to be on the menu! Next up on the stage on the green were “The Richard Clarke Band” the penultimate band of the day. They provided a change from the other acts as Richard delivered numerous pieces covering a wide range of genres, Stevie Wonder was the favourite and his spin was evident on all the performance – this is a young band to be watched. He invited Barry Pethers to join him bringing his own percussive style of bass playing , as the evening turned into a bit of a jam David Rapheal (Harp) and Ben Poole joined the band, this was a confident, laid-back youngster enjoying performing the blues and making the most of an appreciative festival crowd, I am positive we will be seeing and hearing a lot more of this young man and his band. Now for the much awaited, Bentworth festival favourites who were headlining this year ‘Northsyde’. Lorna Fothergill on vocals who had borrowed a fetching top hat as Saturday is Hat day at Bentworth and a wide array of hats were on display throughout the day including a group of festival goers representing the group ‘The Village People’. As ever a confident high octane set was delivered with new songs interspersed with favourites from their back catalogue including “Get The Funk Out”, a great rendition of “Hard Shoes” and even some from ‘Funkydory’ days many had been requested by fans and with the complex and numerous lyrics tested Lorna’s and the band’s memory skills to the full. This is a band that would energise any audience and the Bentworth crowd needed no encouragement to get on their feet, sing-a-long and enjoy this superb set. After a number of encores eventually the stage went quiet and Saturday at Bentworth was over for another year, but there was still Sunday….
Sunday afternoon started in the garden with a suitably chilled out set delivered with aplomb by ‘Kyle & Shaw’ what a great acoustic duo the highlight for me was the brilliant, piedmont style picking combined with a great tribute to Mississippi John Hurt this was the ideal antidote to the high jinx’s and energy of the previous evening. Local band ‘Sonny Rat and The Resonators’ delivered to a sun drenched audience on the green a mix of Bluegrass/country blues with the festival in a chilled-out mood. In the bar was an exciting young man from Yorkshire, ‘Blues Beaten Redshaw’, and for me the find of the festival – what a talent. His self-penned acoustic numbers, centred on life in his home county included witty and sometimes quite deep lyrics. He quickly built a rapport with the appreciative audience, and his skills on his home-made diddley bow was simply breathtaking, look out for this spell-binding precocious talent near you, with his gruff voice and rough rootsy guitar style complimenting each other. In contrast in the garden was ‘Steve Brookes Band’ delivering a strong afternoon set of festival favourites and giving everyone the chance to dance and show off their shirts.. as Bentworth Sunday is crazy Shirt Day!!!
The ever popular ‘Robin Bibi Band’ followed, Robin sporting a SRV hat as ever delivered accomplished guitar playing. For one young man Robin made it a birthday to remember not the cake but the opportunity to get on stage with his blues idol and assist in playing a tune, a magic family friendly moment of the weekend. Robin is the consummate profession delivering Fleetwood Mac, Stevie Ray Vaughan, BB King and self penned tracks adapting to the crowd and the mood of the event he finished the set by walking through the crowds and even visiting the next act in the bar much to the amazement of ‘Tommy Allen & Johnny Hewitt’ whilst performing ‘Pride and Joy’. Without pausing for breath Tommy continued to deliver in a hot, packed and steamy bar top quality electric blues accompanied by awesome harp playing by Johnny. The duo then became a trio as the wondering Bass player of the festival Barry Pethers joined them. A great set from a quality duo. Another festival favourite followed in the garden ‘Five Field Holler’ a local Hampshire band who delivered their own distinctive take on blues-rock melding styles together so that you get a hint of Chicago, funk and a bit of swampy rock played with passion and vigour. The tracks came thick and fast bringing a real feeling of the blues as the heat from the sun was mellowing and the shadows lengthened. The final international act of the festival before the customary end of festival jam was Canadian, ‘Andre & The J Tones’ on the green performing their last gig of a successful U.K. Tour this five piece included an excellent horn section delivering blues with a touch of swing. Whilst the set wasn’t pure blues including some pop numbers it was the perfect dancing end to the festival, as most of the crowd took to the floor to dance the evening away – well almost the end. Everyone crammed into the garden to join Jules Benjamin and friends for the customary Bentworth Sunday jam. Jules was joined by many friends including Tommy Allen, Barry Pethers etc.. a great finale to another Matt Williams extravaganza that had delivered in every sense of the word – even the weather was perfect in what has been a very dreary wet summer…
Liz Aiken