Friday night eve of the Spring Solstice and solar eclipse happened but the promise of quality live music from the Oysterband beckoned with their own folk rock musical menu.
The first gig of the tour since John’s operation, another cancer survivor, and tonight every fan celebrated the Oysterband’s front man’s return to the stage in fine voice.
The atmosphere was full of expectation in a busy venue tonight and the energy went up to sparking static electric as the members of the band strode through the audience; with the fans forming a guard of honour as the band walked towards the small stage soon they were ready instruments picked up the set was about to begin. Opening a strong set of Oysterband classics and from current album Diamonds On The Water; everyone was delighted to hear the opening classic Native Son, quickly followed by another favourite By Northern Lights again reflecting the other natural phenomenon that Wales had recently experienced the Aurora as far South as the Brecon Beacons. The whole place was now in high spirits singing and dancing in harmony with a band that entertains but above all wants you to have fun, engaging with the music and soaking up and understanding the poetic and meaningful lyrics.
The charisma from all the musicians oozed off the stage and this energy and connection with each other and the audience focused through the power of John Jones upfront who was enjoying every moment of being back on stage delivering the music he loves. The title track of their current album, Diamonds on the Water was beautiful with the harmonized vocals; the whole sound they produce is a melding and meshing of tonal layers, with Adrian Oxaal on cello adding a depth of melancholy and fill in the mid-range of tone. The whole boisterous crowd were immersed in the sound and sang along to all the lyrics and joined in creating a great atmosphere in this cozy venue in Uplands, Swansea.
There was a change of tempo as we were treated to a trio of Irish Folk instrumentals with the stylish bow of Ian Telfer, who makes the four strings of the fiddle resonate across the venue, the irony of a Scotsman playing Irish music in Wales was appreciated by Ian and the audience. With John back on the vocals we heard a song they wrote in celebration of 200th anniversary of Thomas Paine so relevant for this pre-election period with All That Way For This featuring Dil out front with his glittery green snare and audience participation. The pace picked up with Here Comes The Flood as we were treated to an array of favourites including Mississippi Summer a Si Khan number with Alan Prosser playing solo. The crowd just wanted more and more music and the Oysterband kept delivering, their folk rock world music with all its musical twists and turns in which every track tells a story that you just want to have the plot unfolded in front of you. Steal Away from Diamonds On The Water album is rarely played live but tonight we fell in love with a version that hit the rafters. With the fading chords of Santiago it was time for the gig to end, normally bands leave and return but the layout of the stage makes this impossible so they stayed and we heard a rousing rendition of Meet You There before they picked up their instruments and joined the crowds to sing the last number and then march through the appreciative clapping and cheering audience out of the venue to the back stage area.
This was a gem of a gig and The Garage was appreciative that musicians of such caliber had bout their dynamic sound to Swansea on a Friday night.
The new self-titled album from Gill Landry will be released through ATO Records on 22nd June. The 10-track album was fully produced and mostly engineered by Landry and recorded in what he calls, “a ramshackle, shanty-ass apartment on the south side of Nashville.” Landry gathered various friends and musicians on his nonstop travels alone and as a multi-instrumentalist and songwriting member of Old Crow Medicine Show.
These artists include Laura Marling, who duets on ‘Take This Body’, songwriter Robert Ellis, Nick Etwell of Mumford & Sons and Odessa Jorgensen, who lends harmonies and fiddle to a number of tunes. Landry will tour the UK as special guest to Laura Marling in April/May. Listen to Landry’s duet with Laura Marling below…
Gill Landry ft. Laura Marling – Take This Body:
Louisiana native, Gill Landry, is a singer-songwriter, multi- instrumentalist, adventuresome photographer, hitchhiking gentleman, self-taught painter, shade tree mechanic, and then some. It would take a novel to tell his tale. From hustling the streets of Paris to hitchhiking America on day labor and daydreams, he’s slept beneath bridges with his brothers and in the beds of lordy estates. After cutting his musical teeth in New Orleans and chewing up half of America, he started writing songs about it; interpreting life from the curb up.
Gill’s self-titled third album is his first on the ATO label, but he is not new to the family. He’s played guitar, banjo, pedal steel, and been a contributing songwriter in Old Crow Medicine Show since 2004. Although Gill’s music is influenced by some of the same sources as Old Crow, from Dylan to old delta blues songsters, his music is very much his own. As one reviewer put it, “Landry’s too sharp a storyteller, too tuned-in a craftsman, too real, to find himself on the wrong side of suspicion. Like Tom Waits, John Prine, Steve Earle… Landry is down-to-business believable. His songs carry their own persona, and though they may be creepy and otherworldly at times and nasty and grubby at others, they’re familiar while remaining at arm’s length.”
After working through some more classic broken-hearted love songs on his first two albums, Landry says, “I tried not to come at this one from the point of how things could or should have been, or should be, but rather searched for sweet understanding and surrender to what is or was, and moving forward with compassion and kindness without harsh judgement to the reasons for this crime or that misstep.”
Award-winning British songwriter, Ian Siegal, embarks on a 12-date UK tour at the Chester Live Rooms on Tuesday March 17th. The tour is in support of his new album One Night In Amsterdam, his first full-band live album which was recently released on CD and vinyl by Nugene Records on March 9th. The limited edition vinyl edition of the album can be ordered HERE. The new album includes a free bonus track Hard Pressed – available to those who purchase the CD and vinyl edition.
While Siegal’s 2014 album Man & Guitar showcased the award-winning British songwriter as a solo acoustic troubadour, One Night In Amsterdam flicks the power switch, marking Siegal’s first live album with a full-throttle electric band. Chalk up another first for the man who Mojo called, “One of the most innovative, gifted and engaging blues performers on the planet today.” For additional information about the UK tour and the new album, click here
Tonight we had a different mix The Unthanks always love to surprise as they refuse to be corralled into pure folk genre. Raevennan Husbandes was there to open and support The Unthanks not once but twice at the beginning of both sets; this arrangement balanced the concert so that the interval was in the middle. It is a re-mixing of the normal that worked, we had the chance to chat with the friendly songbird Raevennan and buy her debut EP Box of Innocence before finding our seats and enjoying her unique acoustic approach to folk more beatnik and afro-centric than barn dance – with her standout voice that made the hair at the back of your neck tingle with delight. Tonight was a showcasing of their latest album, Mountain Air creating an atmosphere of mists, another place and time and above all else the shadow of sadness and regret present in so many folk songs.
The Unthanks, with the Grand Piano, and ensemble of musicians filled the stage but centre of everyone’s attention were The Unthanks sisters, Rachel & Becky as they rework Northumbrian folk with moody, musical orchestrations. Tonight we saw the wonderful interplay between the musicians on stage and the music soared across St David’s auditorium, but I felt something was missing a bit of fizz could be nerves or the setting not comfortable, but this did not prevent the quality of the music shining through as the night went on they connected with the audience and especially after an amusing tale of making pots in Cardiff and the offer by Adrian McNally, writer , producer and pianist of perhaps raffling them which was decided as a bad idea as they were not so good they relaxed and the show hit a new high.
Opening with Hawthorn and Madam we heard the wonderful combining of melancholy and perfect instrumentation with the interpretation echoed by vocals trumpet and piano. There is throughout the renditions of traditional, self-penned songs a bleakness of moors and open spaces of the harshness of life, this though is never a dirge as the luscious sound from the quintet of strings, bass and trumpet adds a warmth like the sun peeping out from behind the cloud adding silver to a leaden sky.
Rachel’s, Last Lullaby is an uplifting song that engages and absorbs the listener as the first half is then closed with a ten minute number the title track of the album Mountain Air with its scarcity of words but fullness of sound with a glorious crescendo on the piano leaving the audience full of eager anticipation for the second set.
Refreshed, re-introduced to Raevennan, The Unthanks were soon back on stage picking up the folk fest that everyone was enjoying in Cardiff. Opening the second set with Gan To The Kye a traditional song given the Unthanks treatment everyone was happy that they had lots more of The Unthanks to enjoy tonight Wow is a simply description of Out Of The Blue this is an astounding re-interpretation of the Robert Wyatt song, intense sounds the viola intensifying the bristly feeling of a civilian returning to his house that had been bombed the emotional effects where thick in the musical air.
We were treated to Unthanks version of Starless, also covered by King Crimson. All too soon the encore was played with a trio of treats that fitted the mood finishing with and Adrian McCully number Last; with rapturous cheering, foot stamping and standing ovation Cardiff thanked the Unthanks and hopefully this is not the last time they cross the border into Wales.
Died For Love
Mount The Air
Gan The Kye
Out Of The Blue
The Globe was full the scene was set and Laurence Jones stepped on-stage to a resounding cheer, he just keeps getting better and better, his vocals soar above the impeccable guitar sound he produces on every song, what a fabulous young artist. The rhythm section provides not just a solid base but artistry and a depth of sound that bounces off the dancing fingers of Laurence over the frets. Roger Inniss is becoming a double act with Laurence as they bounce of each other’s music and the cheeky watching over Laurence’s shoulder adds such entertainment value that you are entranced by both of the dancing hands across their chosen guitars. Miri Miettinen the drummer all the way from Finland is the perfect backdrop for the extroverts up front with a perfect tempo and drumming that has texture and form counterbalancing the dancing melodies from Laurence. Tonight we heard something new, something old and definitely something blue with Good Morning Blues the Leadbelly number he will be playing at the Leadbelly festival on the 15th June in the Albert Hall. The tempo went down with an inspiring and emotionally drenched version of Whisper in The Wind, from his album Temptation dedicating the number to Tony his beloved uncle and were we in for a bass moment of magic thanks to Roger and his six-string. We heard stories as he engaged the audience with his youthful exuberance to life and above all guitar playing as delivered whether playing Hendrix or his own tracks like Stop Moving The House. Forty minutes were far too short for this band and a young man whose stage presence is growing in stature along with his vocal tone they are still playing second fiddle to his dazzling guitar playing, his fans will stay loyal and new ones were made tonight. With all the touring he is planning in 2015 I know he will be back in Wales on 10th July at Beaufort Theatre so a chance to see a longer set full of his soon released album, Whats It Gonna Be. For the rest of the tour dates see the TOUR.
What a fabulous energizing set that warmed The Globe as the packed house were pumped up with adrenalin fuelled music still pumping through their veins and now a breather before King King conquers Cardiff.
The venue was hot, packed noisy and excited as the multi-ward winning, and undoubtedly one of the best British blues bands on the current scene, the foursome were off ready to entertain. They started with a storm in the shape of Hurricane from their forthcoming third album Reaching For The Light, available for pre-purchase while they are on the current tour. This was pure King King combo with Lindsay Coulson playing bass guitar accentuating Alan’s scintillating guitar chords, the distinctive crescendo of cymbal and drum combination delivered with poise and control by Wayne Proctor the granite bed rock of the band this duo deliver every time picking up the tempo and creating perfect shapes for the music. This is then melded together and developed with layers of colour with the combination of Bob Fridzema’s skills with his hands skipping across the keyboard and the dancing feet across the pedals as the sound soared up high and across this old cinema. Up front the fourth link in the musical puzzle that is King King Alan Nimmo with his harmonious and powerful vocals that makes the words sing whether on tracks like More Than I can Take with its funky edge or ballads and the guitar playing is six-stringed enchantment.
Tonight we heard rock/blues that is King King’s special interpretation of the blues that is sharp and modern, every album has had a different sound and the third album has an edgy heavier sound, this is the combination of drums played by Wayne with considered purpose so that ever drum beat adds to the musical story unfolding across the tracks complex rhythms and delightful fills from his cymbals, he never dominates but is always present. This creates a slightly more menacing sound at times and certainly adds excitement on tracks like You Stopped The Rain dedicated to Alan’s brother Stevie. The musical interplay between the four musicians is a joy to behold this is entertainment and stagecraft fused together so that whether you are hearing tracks for the first time or repeatedly they always have a special captivating energy. Alan Nimmo knows that with a twinkle in his eye, a swirl of his Red Kilt he has all our attention and then with a deft pluck of the strings, caress of the fret and that mellow Glasgow accent he has everyone eating out of his palm. When he sings we have the luscious cherry on top of the sweetest musical cake that is for me simply perfection when he sings Frankie Miller’s Jealousy, the audience agreed as you could cut the atmosphere with a knife, it is so powerful as it connects to your musical backbone my King King moment of the night. Tonight they delivered a stunning set that encompassed every moment of the amazing King King discography tonight with the added delight of new tracks that we will grow to love as much as Old Love Alan’s signature song as the guitar falls quieter and quieter most of the audience stays silent but there always has to be one whose conversation is their centre of attention but that is unfortunately the negative part of the live music experience. We loved singing along we loved being King King’s echo we wanted more but Sunday curfew won the day. Tonight King King Rocked the roof of The Globe in Cardiff, catch them live on the tour you will not be disappointed this is a knock-out; sell-out tour so get those coveted tickets now! TOUR DATES
Setting the evening of live music at The Robin 2 on this sunny Monday evening was acoustic solo performer Tone Tanner who did his personal take on a selection of standards including Freddy King; Leadbetter, Rory Gallagher and into this mix some self-penned numbers.
Ali Clinton Band upped the tempo as a trio of rock musicians with Ali up front on guitar and vocals , drummer and keys; the guitar sound from Ali was impressive, when you see this dynamic young artists impressive playing experience it all becomes clear as having played the guitar since the age of 7 he was playing with Irish legend Pat McManus and having his first album appearance on “2PM” then at the age of 16, playing guitar for Uli Jon Roth’s band the experience gained touring UK & U.S.A. Is self-evident as he confidently fronted the band and engaged the audience.
This is a band that is full of young raw talent with Owen Thomas on drums and Paul Rahme on keys; this is a trio that will just grow and grow as they hone their skills and deliver an E.P. reflecting the talent displayed whether delivering covers or some of Ali’s self-penned numbers. The rendition of Queen’s; Crazy was excellent and his fitting tribute to Johnny Winter delivering a fine version of Medicine Man on a Firebird as well true respect for a great artist. This is a guitar talent to watch and a band that should be heard live at venues across the land.
Then as the shadows lengthened Layla Zoe and her band stepped onto the stage for the last night of her very successful first U.K. Tour and the crowd was excitedly awaiting her the voice they had heard so much about on the social network buzz. Layla opened with a spine-tingling gospel A Capella; O Lord I Want You To Help Me the audience were instantly hooked into the music and just wanted to sit back, listen and be entertained. Layla captivated the audience, she was mesmerizing with her sexy curvy dancing during the numbers and her firebrand hair swishing and swirling as Layla sung her way into everybody’s heart and soul. It is not surprising that she is known as Canada’s Lady of the Blues, with her expressive voice that winds itself around the words and then emotionally engages with the music, picking up the beat twirling the song into a complete package that ebbs and flows from the stage across the auditorium and fades into the night air. She has an eclectic sound mixing up gospel, rock soul but always the blues in every shade flowing through the tracks with the help of her talented band Hardy Fischoetter, Drums andGregor Sonnenberg completing the rhythm section and to her right Jan Laacks on guitar.
The musicianship was perfect providing the backdrop and breathing space for the star of the show Layla and her voice. It is far to simple to say she is a Janis Joplin yes her voice has the power and she has an engaging stage presence but the reality is Layla is a songbird that sings with fire in her belly, compassion in her heart and engages your brain with some poignant and angry lyrics, with reference to inequality and corporation dominance products of today’s society. Layla was the Queen Bee on the Robin 2 stage she was in charge of the band and the audience who were putty in her hands.
The venue on a Monday night was only half full a tragedy that so many people missed the opportunity to hear the live performance of Layla as she sang a selection of tracks from her sixth and highly acclaimed album The Lily; the title track, The Lily is emotionally charged and sent shivers across your emotional radar as she sang about how she wanted to be remembered and always the music lives on. This was the highlight of the evening and with that she was emotionally drained leaving the stage so that the band could be centre stage and show the audience there collective talents as the band jammed together. Then Layla was back at the front of the stage with They Lie and then a lengthy number which you never wanted to end as she bent the notes, a memorable rendition of It’s A Man’s World, that so suited Layla Zoe’s vocal range.
Then all too soon it was the closing track of the night with a sexy blues number ‘Rock and Roll Guitar Man, from herSleep Little Girl album Layla teased the guitarist as she explored the riffs he was playing as together they made live music that was interactive, grown-up and fun, blues that howled and made you feel alive. If anyone says to you blues is boring or staid send them to Layla, Rock & Roll guitar man on You Tube they will have to reassess their description of the blues. This was a show that was full of music and life in the fast lane as the guitar echoed her vocals with mimicry and a mix of tenderness and sex appeal. Layla is full of life and energy that can belt out a number and then quieten a phrase down so the potency of the lyrics seeps into your bones. The band and Layla left the stage and the roar for an encore was truly meant, and Layla stepped back onto the stage finishing the show as she begun alone on the stage and did a sensational A Capella version of The Beatles, Let It Be like I have never heard before, what a talent, thank you for travelling across the channel to truly entertain us, come back very soon we want to hear you again and those that missed you this time will want to find out why you have caused such a stir… Thank you the first lady of the blues……
Dark clouds and a crack of thunder did nothing to dampen the spirits of the ever lengthening queue outside Scala gigging venue conveniently placed just a few minutes walk from Kings Cross. The majority in the waiting crowd seemed to be here to listen to Quimby, who Ian describes as Art-Rock, but where were all the London fans of Ian who had the opportunity to catch this double-header of delight?
Ian Siegal with his electric band, the Dutch group Rhythm Chiefs who are the dynamic and brilliant guitarist Dusty Ciggaar, Danny van’t Hoof playing funky laid-back bass and keeping the band tight and providing perfect structure from the back drummer Rafael Schwiddessen.
This is a sublime quartet of talent who meld and deliver a sound that is full of tonal texture and lyrical depths that refused to be caged by a genre they are above that as they deliver class music. The set list was a walk through several of Ian’s albums delivered with something a little bit special, the guitar sound of Dusty who gave each track a fresh appeal, this is what makes listening to a band so magical as it is never the album reproduced as the artist re-interprets his own work. It was fantastic to hear again ‘Sugar Rush’, ‘The Revelator’, ‘Brandy Balloon’, ‘Kingdom Come’ tracks from Meat & Potatoes and Broadside as well as Candy Store Kid ‘I am The Train’. The track of the set was an electric version of ‘Gallo Del Cielo’, we are used to hearing this at solo shows; or on his new live album Man & Guitar; with the audience in still emotional silence as the tale unfolds. Tonight it was electric in every sense with Dusty and his baritone guitar stealing the show this fabulous song still ends with a tear in your eye as the emotions through the lyrics and the music that accompanied them who added empathy and raw emotion so that there should have been not a dry eye in the house. Unfortunately, the noisy chatter that had become so noticeable in the quieter sections become a murmuring of buzzing wasps that should have been swatted… Ian asked for quiet but we didn’t get it so no encore a real disappointment. I know most of the audience were here to see Quimby but respect costs nothing…
Quimby, a Hungarian band formed in 1991, deliver music that can be slotted into alternative but that is a home of many who are just different. Quimby deliver musical art, sculptures of sound that build from a strong percussive base, with trumpet, keyboard, bass, guitar and a strong vocals.. a megaphone is used to great artistry as well. This is a band that is individual creating a sound that only strong musicians would have the confidence to deliver, tonight this was achieved by the collective talents of Tibor Kiss (Vocals, Lead Guitars) Livius Varga (Vocals, Percussion) Szilárd Balanyi (Keyboards, Vocals) , Ferenc Gerdesits (Drums), Ferenc Mikuli (Bass) and József Kárpáti (Trumpet). This is a band to see live as they interact with each other and the audience delivering track after track that all have a different emphasis as the instrumentation and focus is varied. The lyrics may have been in Hungarian, the music transcends language barriers and spoke of emotional depths, irony, joy and sorrow. I would have loved to have been able to understand the spoken interludes as the audience who could laughed and sighed as they could interact with the message.
This did not stop this gig of two halves being full of delight and when they tour UK again I will be off to see Quimby and enjoy music that is artfully sculptured so that they cross cultural and linguistic barriers with a set list full of Quimby variations of tempo, music and art.. including their take on the blues with Ventilátor blues and Turning to the blue and some of their hit Halleluja and a couple with English tiles.. I’ve got a Girl; Son of the Bitch and Nice Day – it was more than a nice night it was an evening full of music that made you sit up listen and enjoy.
Celebrating the fantastic Bentworth Blues Festival and Bluesdoodles 100th posting…
This year prior to the festival, there were giant hurdles of bureaucracy that Matt Williams landlord of The Star Inn had to jump over to bring the delightful palette of sounds that is the unique come-back again draw of this festival. He surmounted the obstacle and once again the festival was delivered with the efforts of his whole team and the marvellous musicians who entertained us throughout the weekend delivering the whole range of blues music this was live music at its best, musicians enjoying playing and an appreciative audience whatever the weather threw at us.
This review cannot adequately cover all 29 acts that performed on the three stages, The Green, Garden and Bar what it hopefully achieves will be a flavour of the talent on show and the vitality of the event that is a sell out every year and attracts music lovers from across the land who camp in the allocated spaces nearby and those less hardy myself included who stay in local B&B’s and then there are the people who can simply shut their front door and stroll through the charming village to hear music on their doorstep. The weekend is truly a celebration of live music, good fun, meeting old friends and of course Matt Williams all this makes Bentworth Blues Festival that little bit special and keeps people returning.
Opening the proceedings was the talented King Rollo with a complete acoustic set that got the early doors crowd into festival mood, the perfect accompaniment to the first pint of the weekend.
Friday saw a mix of bands and solo artists, acoustic and electric including Split Whiskers,Fran MacGillvery & Mike Burke and Will Wilde; though their approach to the blues was different the common link between the three was that they all had women bass players who kept the rhythm as part of the engine house of the band.
Split Whiskers managed to deliver many blues standards with a twist of whiskers magic making them come alive and delight in these tunes and lines all over again, this was a band that was a little bit different with a custom-built steel guitar that had its own unique sound. Fran McGillvray & Mike Burke set was a contrast with a great laid-back sound, created by the combination of Fran’s vocals, Mike’s silky guitar licks and beautiful lyrics with the three-dimensional sound completed by the percussive Djembe sound provided by Roger Nunn. The set was a perfect showcase of their style of country blues with tracks from their latest CD “Some Luck” and old favourites. Will Wilde delivered a powerful set with Stuart Dixon (Guitar) Victoria Smith (Bass) & Richard Newman (Drums) providing a great, solid accompanying foundation allowing Will’s powerful combination of vocals and searing harmonica-dominated blues to shine through – what a set. Harmonica playing that ranged from the raw to the gentile, teasing and caressing every displayed emotion as musical pictures were painted that reflected the lyrics. There is no doubt that every time I see this band they get better with a mix of tracks from their forthcoming album ‘Raw Blues’ and some covers. Not the normal string of covers which included a stonking rendition of Buddy Guy’s ‘Smokin Dynamite’ and Earl Thomas ‘ Soulshine’. This band is not just about Will’s talent, with the great emotional lead breaks delivered by Stuart Dixon adding an extra layer of sound that was incorporated to create a complete vibrant sound. Also on fire during the afternoon was Guy Tortora and his band in the bar who had to cope with a stand in bass player as the bass player was stuck in the accident tailback on the motorway which also delayed Stuart Dixon. Laurence Jones Band on the Green bought to the event youthful delivery of high energy blues whether playing self-penned or his covers delighting everyone as he strutted his guitar playing skills with a confidence and a swagger of a young man who loves the music he is playing and wants to entertain you. From youth to experience “Serious Blues“ fronted by drummer Sam Kelly, delivering that funky style, with layers of complexity with the fluidity of a jam creating an exciting and very listenable sound in the bar whilst Blues Associates set themselves up in the garden delivering an eclectic set that got everyone dancing and was a real change from the rest of the bands during the day back in the Garden. The sky’s were darkening as night fell and the last two bands of the first day – Stuart James Band with his rock-blues power trio approach blew away the crowds as they partied the night away with Bentworth festival stalwart Jules Benjamin bringing the first day’s proceedings to an end entertaining everyone and leaving us all very satisfied and already looking forward to the next day as we went humming to our beds from the selection of brilliant tunes we had heard over the last 12 hours.
On Saturday, the weather was going to challenge us but started off fair as the Dave Raphael Band delighted everyone on the Green with a great set of traditional blues, including numbers by Koko Taylor. This was a great authentic sound ably complimented by Dave’s laid back vocals and harp playing. With the combination of great grooves and rhythms I really enjoyed the set, and then there was the twist in the tail as Dave took to the keys with a blues/reggae approach that woke everyone up ‘Bleggae’ a first for Bentworth. Saturday is traditionally ‘hats day’ and there was a wide array of decorated hats that brightened the proceedings from Sombreros to Top Hats every shape and size was on display. “Red House, the first band in the Garden, certainly knew how to entertain and got the audience participating with lots of dancing this early on the afternoon, they were fun to listen to as they delivered for me a first at a blues festival Pink Floyd’s ‘Another Brick In the Ball’ given the “Red House” Rock n’ Roll treatment and it worked. This was cider driven west country blues that worked well on a Saturday afternoon in the sunshine with a pint in your hand. Now the festival was hotting up as the next three acts were simply brilliant all delivering the blues with passion and all with their own distinctive interpretation of this genre. Kick starting the trio of delights was Ben Poole and his band, a class act and his CD “ Let’s Go Upstairs” showcased throughout the set is certainly one to add to your collection if you enjoy clean, solid and intuitive guitar playing. This is a complete band with an engine house of driving rhythm delivered by Craig Bacon (drums), Barry Pethers (Bass) and adding further depth of tone that complements and adds to the guitar there was Sam Mason on keyboards, and the sultry backing vocals courtesy of Amy Eftekhari. This is a band that delights on lots of levels and just gets better, and Ben is surely master of his own destiny now. He has managed to get the mix of vocal, lead guitar breaks and the showcasing of the band right. He does have clever tricks that work as he does not overuse them and he can definitely play guitar with one-hand as or even more competently than many using both hands. He may sing ‘They Call Me Mr Pitiful’ he is definitely not – this act was SENSATIONAL! Phew who could follow that power guitar demonstration – Clare Free could in the Garden with her own characteristic take on the blues with a style that uses emotions and a gentle touch making the guitar sing in perfect harmony with her voice. This is not a sickly sweet rendition it is full of sugar and spice and the music and lyrics are important to Clare as she introduces her songs which are a delightful mix of re-worked classics and self-penned songs, producing the perfect late Saturday afternoon set. Her band work with her so that the sound is complete and, if I have a comment it is ‘Clare believe in yourself, you are a really good guitar player producing a pleasing sound that is missing from the circuit – we want to see you playing at more gigs now you are back in the U.K’. The final act in my trio of delights is Bentworth festival favourites Northsyde; expectations were high on the Green, with a deputy drummer Joachim Greve the rest of the band Jules Fothergill, guitar; Ian Maurico, bass and fronting the band full of fizz and style is Lorna Fothergill. They ripped through a funky, bluesy rocky set with old favourites and tracks from there brilliant 5* new CD ‘Storyteller’s Daughter’ They are certainly one of the best live acts around confidently delivering their style which is so pleasing on the ear and Lorna’s interaction with the crowd is fantastic as she swapped hats to be part of hat day at Bentworth. Expectations were high and they delivered and to sum it up I overheard someone say “Wow that lady can sing!” The rest of the evening was a triplet of Bentworth stalwarts, these are acts that know what the festival goers want, a party to dance the night away to great music this was achieved by Pethers and Friends – an awesome jam of quality musicians having fun in the Bar, local band Five Field Holler from Hampshire in the Garden with their own 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 band also act as deputies for bands throughout the weekend, and more importantly ensure that the sound is perfect for the bands and the crowds and a brilliant job they do every year. They are soundmen extraordinaire who play jolly good entertaining blues. Ending the evening are the young guns who bring a party-like frenzy to the stage ensuring a feel good feeling at the end of the evening that energising combination of great music, fun, dancing clapping and happy people. Sugar Mama strutted across the stage, this youthful band from the West Midlands play favourites that bring back memories and are a sure bet the evening ends on a high; despite the rain and wind nothing could dampen the delighted festival goers.
Sunday, sun was shining and spirits high – this was ‘Shirt Day’ so lots of gaudy prints and T-shirts that never normally see the light of day all adding to the fiesta feel. Sometimes tradition becomes stained and boring but Kyle and Shaw opening the proceedings on a Sunday is one tradition that really works. This laid back acoustic duo are just what everyone needs after a red-hot Saturday evening and heads need the gentle caress of this simple blues played well. ‘Andre and the J-Tones’ made a welcome return and the full sound they achieve with the addition of a superb horn section, they may not be the purist’s band but they are just the thing for the dancers and foot-tappers to delight in. The highlights of Sunday were two acts whose approach to the blues are different ‘BluesBeaten Redshaw‘, who combines a charming mix of Northern banter and blues songs from his new CD along with others. The audience warms to him as he interacts in an open and honest way including eating cheese and biscuits from a member of the audience’s picnic which he reckoned was just perfect with his Guinness. A great foot-stomping number reaching a furiously fast rhythm with his banjo ‘Rollin’ & Tumblin’, a really different version. He walked and charmed his way through the audience including serenading an appreciative dog. He saved his skills on his home-made diddley-bow until the end, when Barry Pethers joined him for lessons, but he soon realised he was not going to out play the master who was simply breathtaking. Look out for this spell-binding precocious talent near you, with his gruff voice and rough rootsy guitar a delicious combination of musicality. The only point is he needs to broaden his repertoire so that he has plenty of tunes in his back-pocket because audiences will always want more. The other act was Paint It Blue, a young five-piece band who deliver the blues with plenty of soul creating a freshness of sound. Vocalist Hannah Robinson has a beautiful voice and is ably supported by a quartet of skill on Bass, Blues Harp, Guitar and Drums. The whole band mesh together delivering music that fits together like a perfect-fitting glove. This is a comfortable sound that makes you want to listen to more, no wonder they are in demand at Blues Clubs and Festivals they bring real magic to any event. They delight in what they sing and play and in return the audience appreciate the music this is truly dancing blues. I have wanted to catch this band ever since I heard their début CD which was a really good listen but as ever live music gave us a little bit more. Loved their version of ‘My Babe’ and their self-penned numbers; with the intricate drumming in combination with the subtle accurate harp playing they deliver true authentic blues. As ever the stars that stole the show on Sunday were ‘Babajack‘, today in duo form with the effervescent Becky Tate on Percussion and Vocals and Trevor Steger on Guitar and Harp this is a winning combination full of style, energy and blues given a distinctive twist taking the sound back to Africa with the use of raw percussion courtesy of the Djembe and Cahon combined with home-made wine box guitars and with the clever use of the harp to blend the music together. The sound created is fantastic but it is Becky’s voice that soars above delivering the lyrics with passion this is a band that delight in each other’s skills and truly understand the essence of the blues. They delivered a set that was all the shade of emotions, a musical equivalent to all the colours of the rainbow. This was an opportunity to showcase the tracks we all love including Leadbelly’s ‘Gallows Pole’ and the new stuff from their forthcoming much-anticipated album ‘Running Man’. Bentworth was rewarded with the first live rendition of the title track which is definitely a little bit special. The rest of Sunday past with a wall of sound including blues soul delivered by ‘Soul Alliance‘, skillful playing by ‘Ivan McCormick’ and then the Big Jam at the end – leaving everyone happy with the scope of music they had heard and penciling into their diaries next year’s festival.
Saturday, the second day of the festival, was to provide twelve hours of solid entertainment. The show got under-way at Midday with a trio of local performers,
starting with festival regular opening as an Acoustic duo Gordon Wride and Simon Gregory with an homage to early blues especially Robert Johnson. The Sam Andrews Band followed – today in a cut down format of a trio with Sam on slide guitar accompanied by Glen Dee on Acoustic Guitar/Bass and Leila Dee who had a lovely voice. This was a short but excellent set portraying their skills and proved to be popular with everyone arriving at the festival. They were quickly followed by The Breeze, who describe themselves as Southern Rock coloured Blue and straight out of the Newport Swamps. Their re-arrangements of Lynyrd Skynyrd numbers got the afternoon festival folk up on their feet and dancing, it was hot enough to be in the Southern States of USA. The band was tight and the vocalist’s voice suited the music they were delivering with a grizzly tone. This band knew how to entertain; this is a quality pub band that would delight the crowds wherever they played and their take on Led Zepplin’s classic ‘Rock and Roll‘ certainly gave everyone something with which to sing the afternoon away.
With an efficient change of bands, the Marcus Bonfanti Band stepped up onto the stage in the mid afternoon heat. Did this slow the enthusiastic Marcus down? – no of course not. We were treated to a typically barn-storming performance which may not have raised the temperature on this hot July afternoon but did thrill the crowds with great self-penned numbers from previous albums and his recently released album “Shake the Walls” with the clever and relevant re-naming of ‘Alley Cat‘ to Valley Cat. Yet again he gave a fantastic performance and as ever his deep luscious vocal shone through, it is so easy to forget his guitar playing skills, I really do think he is underrated as a guitarist and plays in the top league of U.K. Artists today. The stand out song in this all too short set was ‘Honey‘ it was simply sensational, and the last song of the afternoon from Marcus was fittingly ‘Gimme your Cash‘ as he reminded the delighted audience that he had CDs for sell. There was then a change in the programme as Grainne Duffy and her band were delayed due to an accident causing massive tailbacks on the motorway.
So a local duo from Ystrad Mynach took to the stage ‘Henry’s Funeral Shoe‘. As ever they produced a very full sound for a two piece pleasing their many fans and delighting those who had not met the brothers with ‘Gimme Back My Morphine’, with Aled’s great slide combined with his distinctive gravelly voice and as ever from Brenning on drum a solid rhythm combined with displays of frenetic performances there is more that a hint of Keith Moon in his performance. His antics and animated attack on the drums provides an entertaining backdrop for Aled. There was good use of effects combined with controlled feedback that was effective and was always in keeping with all of the self-penned numbers including a favourite with many ‘Dog-scratched Ear‘. This was a lively set that refused to be put into a straight jacket of traditional blues and was definitely full of rock energy combined with an edginess when something a little bit different is being experienced.
After an unavoidable delay Grainne Duffy and her Band arrived, they were on stage in lightening quick time, with Grainne looking relaxed and as fresh as a daisy she went straight into her first number; a true professional, and any frustration in the crowd due to the wait was melted away as soon as they heard her sing her first note. Grainne, truly is the nightingale of the blues circuit at the moment with a clarity and superb articulation no mumbling of words when Grainne is on stage, her band provide her with more than just a solid platform they provide form, shape and texture that her voice can weave around creating a soulful sound that is magical. The set was a mix of tempo’s and opportunity for audience participation, a tribute to Bobby ‘Blues’ Bland and her now signature rendition of ‘I would Rather Go Blind’; the only disappointment with the crowds was that, due to time constraints, her set was curtailed and Grainne and her band had to leave the stage far too soon!
Next to grace the stage were the re-formed Nightporters at the start of their short 2013 tour, this was a fantastic high-energy set of Rock n’ roll/Rockabilly music whose roots are drenched in the blues, producing an infectious racy beat and rhythm with the interplay between double bass and lead guitarist was entertaining enough to make you miss a beat in your dancing as the double bass was wielded across the stage to be used as a prop without missing a beat. The set included lots of favourites including ‘Shake Your Hips‘ & ‘Rolling and a Tumbling‘ that got the crowds participating by dancing on the grass, this was a high-octane band who were also extremely tight and every member interacted and added another layer of interest. Nightporters have been missed on the blues scene and it is great they are back again with some 50’s Memphis / Chicago blues tradition including the suits, harmonica, cleanish guitar sounds, no sophisticated effects pedals, upright bass and putting on a show. This was just the right band for this slot in a fantastic mix and varied approaches to the blues.
Now followed the two top acts, many were waiting in anticipation for The Blockheads to take them back down memory lane to their teens. There is no doubt that Ian Dury is missed and this is a tribute to the great lyrics, what a songsmith, that he produced and keeps the music live and fresh. All of the songs people wanted to hear were included in this dynamic expose of a very British eclectic mix of styles creating their own distinct sound. Opening the set with ‘Sex, Drugs & Rock n’ Roll’ they had the audience eating out of their hands as people whistled and sang along creating a real summer festival after a hot day in the sun feel. Yes, we had classic after classic including ‘What a Waste’, ‘Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick‘ and ‘Reasons To Be Cheerful‘ and yes we had lots of reasons to be cheerful with an electric atmosphere great music and still an act to follow, they would have to be good to keep the crowd on its high that The Blockheads had produced.
Lucky Peterson Band featuring Tamara Peterson… there was a palpable sense of anticipation, few people seem to have heard of Lucky Peterson and for those who had it was courtesy of albums and You Tube! No one should have been surprised by the quality of the headline act as Lucky has been preforming since the age of five and is the son of James Peterson so Blues is in his DNA and flows through his blood. Many of the festival goers were asking the question who could follow the Blockheads who had had the crowds eating out of their hands.. we soon had the answer Lucky Peterson Band. His band opened the proceedings which was to become a roller-coaster of musical delight. Canadian Shawn Kellerman took the front with his white Fender, with his choppy guitar playing, searing licks and provocative ripping blues straight from the hot southern States at its best; accompanied by the Rhythm section comprising of Tim Waites on his six string Bass and Cuban drummer Raul Valdes. The festival crowd were already enthralled when Lucky Peterson strolled on the stage and took his place behind the Hammond we were now going to enter the Church of the blues. This consummate professional calmly dealt with technical gremlins and got the lead changed on his mike – this was blues that soared over the valleys and melted in the hot evening breeze spreading and weaving its magic. Lucky Peterson had now shown his double threat stunning Hammond Organ playing and his powerful voice and the audience knew they were listening to the headlining act of the weekend that had just got even better! This was not the end as there were soaring mountain heights of musical delight still to be heard as Lucky stepped away from the keys and picked up is cool blue Epiphone; whose strap line is performance is our passion and Lucky Peterson was living proof that this guitar delivers a wonderful sound. This was going to be the set of broken strings Shawn, was playing with 5 strings, he had dug out a new string from bag and was looking for an appropriate moment to re-new the string when snap went the same string on Lucky’s guitar as he continued to sing from the front of the stage a distinctive, delightful version of ‘Little Red Rooster’ with a medley of blues favourites interspersed. What power to the voice as he sang without a microphone across the festival crowd as clear as a bell, with the Welsh always glad to sing-a-long and participate howled and barked into the clear night sky. Returning to the stage with the band filling in with its amazing combination of funk bass playing that was the best of the festival and there had been some amazing bass players; metronomic drumming and the glorious blues lead breaks from the guitar. Lucky resumed his seat at the keys and invited his wife Tamara to join him on stage as the evening just got better with her soaring funky vocals giving the late shift of the festival a high-octane boost. Then in a flash it was all over and the they left the stage… still always next year clear the diary as I am positive the team at Blaenau Gwent Council will be wanting to celebrate their 10th anniversary in style.
As ever Mick delivered a display of quality blues guitar playing, this was no blues power trio it was a quartet of fine musicians with Jools Grudgins playing quality keys that blend, inspire and added depth to the sound and a very solid rhythm section, Drums and Bass. A highlight was Mick’s rendition of ‘Catfish Blues‘ giving it a funky edge with great guitar licks and superb key playing by Jules. This was a band that understood each other and they bounced of each other perfectly forming a complete unit delivering a rocky guitar driven blues sound that was perfect to get the festival up and going with an enjoyable act with a set of great blues standards given the distinctive “Pini” treatment including ‘All Along The Watchtower‘ and ‘West Side Blues‘. Abertillery 2013 was up and running at a high-speed and quality from the off.
Then the stage was taken over by the ebullient character Vincent Flatts with his own take on Southern Rock, this may not be the blues but boy was it fun on a hot summers evening as he entertained the crowd with a combination of hard-hitting riffs and clear vocals delivering a bourbon-infused combination of tunes from their latest album and a wide range of artists. This got the crowd dancing and foot stomping, Vincent Flatts heard the sound of a Saxophone off-stage in the crowd and invited him on stage, this was a surreal first for Abertillery as an unknown guest musician from the crowd joined the act on stage and jammed as they did a number or two, this was no set up the band didn’t know him and having played a couple of tunes he left the stage. This was a great set – how can other bands follow the high-octane, bourbon fuelled act that is Vincent Flatts. With a brief break that gave the crowd time to fill our glasses and enjoy the cooling night air that seemed to have invited every gnat in Wales to come and enjoy the musical vibe!
The next band, Jo Harman and Company has been receiving a lot of positive publicity regarding her latest CD “Dirt On My Tongue”. This was her first live performance in Wales so expectation was high. The Company are a tightly formed mix of musicians who provide Jo with the musical foundation so that her voice can soar into the rafters at any location. Jo has a powerful voice which takes you on an emotional journey of hopes and loss, love and tears. The Bobby Blues Bland number ‘Ain’t No Love‘ was a great choice and a fitting tribute to the great bluesman himself and she thoroughly enjoyed the impromptu singing as much as we did listening to her. The great licks provided by Scott McKeon, whose guitar skills are without doubt a little bit special whilst on the bass Phil Mulford’s skills added interest to each and every number also in the Company was Steve Watts on drums and Martin Johnson on keys. Jo Harman leads the band and they interact with her creating a very special bond which shows through as they play to please the crowd and not to build up their own egos. The set was populated with numbers from her excellent CD proving she can perform live as well as in the studio, in fact the live sound as ever added a little bit extra it had an edgier less polished feel, making them classier.
Jo may not have been everyone’s idea of the blues, though for some she was the act of the weekend or at least Friday night but she is a singer/writer who can perform and charm and whose reputation is growing all the time. She certainly made lots of new friends and fans at Abertillery. It was a great set delivered with lots of passion; Jo certainly deserves all of the positive publicity that she has been getting recently. All too soon the shadows were lengthening and it was getting darker and the last act of the evening was stepping onto the stage:-
Mud Morganfield with his backing band that are a talented group that deliver time and time again with tight playing and perfect timing and rhythm. The band consists of Mike Hellier (Drums); Double Bass; Ian Jennings, Blues harps-man Steve West Weston, guitar ? And Keys?. Together they delivered yet again at Abertillery scintillating authentic Chicago blues. Mud sings with a clarity stripping back the vocals so that the legacy of his father Muddy Morganfield shines through with clarity. The song that summed the set up was ‘The Son of The Seventh Son‘; no wonder he has been nominated in four categories of the Living Blues Awards. No one can have any complaints about the quality of the blues delivered by Mud and his friends. His performance delighted a delirious crowd as some great Muddy waters standards were sung across the marquee and beyond with the ghost of Muddy Waters echoing the words back from the Welsh hillsides.
Mud Morganfield & Band Members:-
Larry Williams (Mud Morganfield) – Vocals
Ronni Busack Boysen – Guitar
Eric Ranzoni – Keys
Steve West Weston – Blues Harp
Ian Jennings – Double Bass
Mike Hellier – Drums