Blues Shone Bright at Bristol Jazz & Blues Festival 2017
Colston Hall was buzzing to the sound of live music from the Foyer, through The Lantern and into the Main Stage. Bristol Jazz & Blues Festival has become a regular event in music lovers diaries from Bristol and beyond with its sparkling mix of Jazz & Blues.
Bluesdoodles dipped into the weekend for a Smörgåsbord of blues on offer, from Sari Schorr to Mud Morganfield and we had listening fun and the magic of live music, festival delights of food, beer and meeting and making friends.
The Lantern shone bright as Lorna took the vocal lead for Northsyde and their distinctive blending of blues, funk twisted with the free flow of blues jam tradition weaving in the Allman Brothers and a rocky edge…………………….
No gentle warm up with Sari and her band, she hit the ground running and the tension power and sheer beauty of live music just kept coming. The set list was dominated by tracks from her critically acclaimed debut album Force Of Nature. The album title perfectly describes Sari’s voice it is a true force of nature. Read more HERE
Triple Blues Power Saturday.
Whilst we waited we were treated to Bristol based Elles Bailey in the Foyer deliver blues with power and emotion not surprisingly the applause was warm and loud after every number.
Robben ford was the first act on the main stage today, as blues touched the soul of Jazz we heard a trio on top form as Jonny Henderson’s Hammond and Evan Jenkins drumming provided the support for Robben’s vocals and glorious guitar.
No one would argue, Robben Ford was on fire this afternoon for the Bristol Jazz &
Blues Festival. This was a masterclass in blues guitar playing full of timing, emotion and the soul that makes blues blend and bend around the lyrics. Read More HERE
With a short gap, we had time to eat and chat and listen t the music flowing through the venue this is what a festival is all about what every the weather the music is the force that binds us all.
The next double helping of blues from two renowned artists Kirk Fletcher former lead guitarist of The Fabulous Thunderbirds. Followed by Mud Morganfield, bringing to Bristol the legacy of his father Mud Morganfield.
Kirk Fletcher– The set was smooth a cocktail of blues guitar with a new song included with Kirk exploring the eternal question Wish I Had The Answer. This is blues that is full of the whole palette and warmed the hall up for the second helping on the double bill Mud Morganfield………..
The blues were hollered up in every shade with lead breaks and play from all the instruments in turn as hooks for Mud’s vocals as he delivered his father’s catalogue of classics. Mud Morganfield is the legacy that keeps the legend live on stages across the world. We definitely got our Mojo Working, as we met the Seventh Son and left with the Backdoor Man. Read More HERE
Bristol Lantern shining on Singing Divas Northsyde & Sari Schorr
Colston Hall, returns with the Bristol Jazz & Blues Festival. The venue is awash with music, a chance to catch up with friends and chill in the foyer with an array of free spectacular shows. Tonight The Lantern shone bright as Lorna took the vocal lead for Northsyde and their distinctive blending of blues, funk twisted with the free flow of blues jam tradition weaving in the Allman Brothers and a rocky edge.
Tonight, Lorna was resplendent in Black Top Hat and flowing wig, by the end of the set both were dispatched to the wings and the cropped urchin beauty was revealed adding a vulnerability that is counter intuitive to the strong vocals. With a collection of Northsyde defined numbers the set list played to the combined strengths of the band, Lorna up front with vocals that curl and turning lyrics into an angst-ridden journey through the melody. The grounding of the melodies are defined by the powerhouse of a rhythm section, Hayden Doyle on drums and the distinctive bass lines of Ian Mauricio. Yes, you were right left-handed Ian has the stringing on his bass upside down. Pulling the rhythm together and building complexity is the wizardry of Jules Fothergill’s guitar explosions of licks, and hooks for Lorna’s vocals to build on and exploit using her vocal range from growl to pure soprano. With an outing of Mr Sistabish from the hotly anticipated fourth album due out this Summer, we had funky Cherry Picking, and Mercy – the live track from Storytellers Daughter. Tonight melded into the music adventure Living Colour, Stevie Wonder and with Denny Ilett entering the fold adding another layer of guitar as he played with Jules they were having fun. This made Northsyde’s signature cover Whipping Post rather special for their first trip down the M4 to Bristol. The interplay between Jules and Denny was unforgettable in its majesty. What a start to a night dominated by vocals that soar above the band. Short break, and Sari Schorr and The Engine room filled the Lantern with blues that rock with the dynamic energy and power of charisma being shared across the audience so that everyone is touched by the gentle dignity that is Sari Schorr.
No gentle warm up with Sari and her band, she hit the ground running and the tension power and sheer beauty of live music just kept coming. The set list was dominated by tracks from her critically acclaimed debut album Force Of Nature. The album title perfectly describes Sari’s voice it is a true force of nature. Sari leaps into the vocals shaping and building the lyrics, every song she has a tale that you want to follow. Yes, she has confidence in the lyrics and her vocal prowess, more importantly, is her unwavering confidence and joy with the Engine Room the band that surrounds her. With Innes Sibun on guitar, we are in for a pyrotechnic display, controlled and wild and cool under the pressure of the amp blowing during the first outing of Black Betty tonight. With no guitar on stage, it was Anders Olinder’s keys that seamlessly took over with chords that filled the Lantern. The Engine Room are an organic force that works around the demands of the song and Sari, with a rhythm section that fills out the melodies with textures as the two Kevin’s collaborate, O’Rourke on drums and Jeffries in charge of the bass line.
Sari Schorr opened with Ain’t Got No Money the set continued to build and flow, with a preview of what is to come in the highly anticipated second album we heard Cat & Mouse, a highlight of the set and really whets the appetite for more Sari live and recorded. No subject is taboo for Sari, with Domestic Abuse explored without judgement with emotionally charged Damn The Reason. With Sari, the voice is an emotionally charged instrument combined with theatrical movements of hands and swirling dance steps the tension builds as though you are listening through Sari’s whole being. Heroin and addiction is explored with Aunt Hazel and we visit Oklahoma. Closing with Ordinary Life, Sari in the introduction praises her musicians, record label but above all the audiences that gives her the stage to sing from. Ordinary lives are anything but ordinary, with the melody that is gentler and at times Sari sings A Capella with a vulnerability as we are all special we are all looking to find our true potential. Sari with the Engine Room has definitely found hers we want to hear that voice perform over and over again. The interpretation of every song is special full of energy if languid with pathos and Innes guitar matches the mood wild and reflective he is always entertaining and his solo lead breaks are a feat to behold every time.
The encore, was Black Betty as we should have heard it the first time, with the stupendous Innes Sibun solo written by him and with the darkness of vocal tone Black Betty is reworked and always a Sari spectacular and now her signature number. Tonight we heard high-octane blues of the highest quality and what a voice, what a guitarist to have both in the same band takes blues-rock to a different level.
Bristol Lantern shining on Singing Divas Northsyde & Sari Schorr, once again Bristol Jazz and Blues Festival delivers music that is special.
Blues Joins The Jazz Party in Bristol Festival 2017
From the 16th – 19th March Colston Hall is buzzing with lovers of live music with a mix of Jazz and a sprinkling of shimmering Blues.
People flock to the Lantern, Main Hall and while they wait can sip a coffee, enjoy refreshment to the acts playing in the foyer. Opportunity for Bristolians to meet friends and gain a musical Spring to their ears. Did I mention dressing up in finery and Jiving it all happens over this joyous weekend.
If you think you know jazz and blues, you’re probably wrong! If you love music, you’ll love Bristol International Jazz & Blues Festival. We’ve dipped into every genre and traversed the globe to bring you a line-up dedicated to the incredible musical legacy of jazz and blues.
A Trio of Blues Acts will excite with the energy and musicianship.
Thursday 16th March – The Lantern: Colston Hall
Double Bill: Sari Schorr & The Engine Room and Northsyde
New Yorker Sari Schorr with the her Engine Room is taking the world by a storm. Her Album Force Of Nature. With a voice that jolted legendary blues producer Mike Vernon (think Mac, Clapton and Bowie) out of retirement, it’s not hard to see why. The Engine Room is a musical powerhouse featuring the legendary blues guitarist Innes Sibun.
Northsyde has a vocalist Lorna, a true singing phenomenon and a Storytellers Daughter fronting the band. Completing the Northsyde quartet guitarist, Jules Fothergill and longtime friend Left-handed Ian Mauricio’s unusual style (he strings the bass upside down) combined with Haydn Doyle’s forceful grooves give the band a sound unlike anyone else on the rock and blues circuit today. Left-handed Mauricio’s unusual style (he strings the bass upside down) combined with Doyle’s forceful grooves give the band a sound unlike anyone else on the rock and blues circuit today. Bluesdoodles loved Story Tellers Daughter.
Robben Ford five-time Grammy nominated stage and studio legend back to his earliest roots as a performer, playing blues on hs current album Into The Sun; showcasing his distinctive guitar style that ensures Robben stands out from the crowd this weekend in Bristol.
What a stunning combination the voice of Mud Morganfield the first-born son of Muddy Waters – undisputed King of Blues – was naturally drawn to music from an early age but it wasn’t until three years after his father’s death that he decided to pursue it as a career. He’s been wowing audiences worldwide with his charismatic brand of Chicago blues ever since. Mud is a tribute to his father’s memory and a fantastic songwriter in his own right. He’ll spend much of 2017 in the studio working on a new album, but not before doing us the honour of gracing our stage with his talent.
The guitar of Kirk Fletcher, creating licks, riffs and lead breaks infused with blues and darkened with soul. Raised on gospel and R&B, but equally influenced by the likes of Hendrix and Steely Dan, a rich mix of sounds informs the depth and quality of tone you can hear in both his guitar and his voice today.
Kirk spent three years as lead guitarist for legendary blues-rock band The Fabulous Thunderbirds before going solo and has now released one live and three studio albums with a fourth hotly anticipated and on its way. We’re extremely excited to welcome him.
“Kirk is hands-down one of the best blues guitarists in the world.”Joe Bonamassa
Tonight Celebrates the long tradition of women vocalists and the blues. Five members of the Blues Sisterhood UK hit the stage at The Convent. This consisted of the five acts and a Q&A session between each act all streamed live via Netgig. Without weeks of planning, hours of rehearsals tonight was the outcome of short collaboration and run through. Achieved by women supporting each other and producing the goods, two hours of music and smiles. Massive thanks to the dual forces of Matt Roberts at The Convent and the powerhouse that is Kaz Hawkins without this collaboration tonight’s unique celebration of the blues would never have happened.
The sound check ensured that the three drum kits, four guitars, three bass guitars, keyboards and five vocal mics were ready and waiting for the show to begin on the stroke of nine when the Convent stage went live on air. The logistics in place for the night was going to be a rollercoaster of energised music celebrating women, blues, and rock.
Tonight was all about celebrating female vocalists and their contribution to the contemporary British blues scene. A wall of sound started the fiesta with all the artists on stage, the three drum kits merged the guitars blended and the groove was deep in this mass 12-bar jam. Kaz started off the vocal jam as the five women vocalists sang I Believe, the baton passed onto to Olivia, Andi, Lorna and then Victoria and back again. Wow! this was music that raised your heart beat capturing the community of music that binds us all. We had the pure joy of stage magic in action. With the acts leaving the stage, Bluesdoodles had the first interview session with Kaz. The first band wasHusky Tones with Victoria combining vocals and drums, everyone knows Victoria is in charge as she joyously points drums sticks first at Chris Harper on guitar and bassist Matthew Richards. With a mix of blues slow, and fast this as a set that left you wanting to hear more. Husky Tones certainly gives blues a lift with style and smiles, closing with a new track, potentially the title track of their new album, they certainly gave the show Momentum. Then from the first duet of the evening singer Olivia Stevens of Ruby & The Revelators. Olivia calmly walked on stage joining Frazer Wigg on keys. The contrast worked well with a stripped down take on the blues. Olivia’s vocals were full of emotional tone and texture adding layers of blues power. Her set of four songs was a mix of originals with Shattered Not Broken particularly capturing the sorrow and the hope of the blues.
The music empowering women to continue growing in strength whatever life throws at them. Next up a complete contrast as rock band Eve’s Secret took to the stage. With Bluesdoodles interviewing their up-front vocalist Andi Hall before they started their set. Rock is the next door neighbour of the blues and the links are strong. Andi Hall fronts the band as a rock diva with her bassist Jeanette (Tig) Kirkham and the two women joined by guitarist Bruce Drummond and drummer Dermot Hall. The rock flared out of the stinging guitar and hard-hitting drums and Andi’s vocals powered through the three tracks, including Bad, Sad, Glad. There was definitely an air of the bad vibe, the music they played was definitely not sad and they were definitely glad to be rocking out at The Convent tonight. The tempo changed as theNorthsyde duo Lorna and Jules, sat side by side on stools. Jules on acoustic guitar and Lorna with her voice. The power seared through the night air with vocal colour, emotional texture and empathy with the heart and soul of the music. This was a delightfully different dimension to Northsyde. A marvelous acoustic duet with Lorna and Jules playing in complete stripped down harmonies. The acoustic vibes of the Allmans reshaped poured out as the blues from the porch recreated this was definitely a set you wanted to hear more of. Laid back, musical and dipped deep into the essence of the blues.
Up last and definitely not least was Kaz Hawkins Band with her larger than life stage presence. Vocals that wrap around you, drenching you in layers of emotions, from the travails, joys and hope of life. Gospel meets Blues with buckets of soul Kaz supported by her band that combines deft touches of guitar from Nick McConkey his solos contrasting with Kaz’s vocals. The rhythm section brothers, drummer Peter Uhrin and Janny on Bass. There couldn’t be a better act to wind up the fiesta celebrating women in the blues. Even with a short set Kaz’s energy, class and joy she shares when performing shone through. What a phenomenal performance as she sang Soul Superstar. Kaz is a superstar. With all the sisters joining Matt and Bluesdoodles on the sofa for a group hug and short chat the bands congregated on the stage. The jam kicked off with the drums and proceeded to gather momentum as the vocalists re-joined and the closing minutes were full of smiles, camaraderie and the shared joy of live music.
Throughout the evening each of the vocalist took turns to answer questions from Liz, Aiken, Bluesdoodles. Providing an insight into inspiration, the role of the newly formed Blues Sisterhood UK it was a friendly, fun and informative interludes between the main focus of the even the glorious music. Tonight, was an impromptu celebratory festival of the Blues Sisterhood and it went not just very well, it exceeded expectations in brilliance, companionship and the power of coming together through the Blues.
Sisters Bring Blues and Friendship To The Stage
Big Thank you to Eric Hobson for some of the photographs used – check out his website HERE
Any nuns in the house wished that their wimples had bobbles so that they could join in the fun that is Northsyde, a band with bucket loads of blues attitude delivering music their way. From the Alter to the Bar – The Convent was alive with the sound of Northsyde. As ever the band was led from the front by vocalist extraordinaire Lorna Fothergill, tonight she definitely meant business her trademark bobble hat had not one but two bobbles. Lorna is more than a singer as she bends the band around the sumptuous notes that filled the rafters. The rest of the band are a well-honed trio of musicians a rhythm section that funks up the line when necessary and then with a twirl of a drum stick kicks in rocky blues, Haydn Doyle and Ian Mauricio are in perfect harmony. That leaves the guitarist Jules Fothergill, his skills are awesome whether finger-picking using plectrum or slide the sound cascades from the guitar filling in and augmenting the spaces around Lorna’s intense vocals.
The set was strong with tracks from their albums including the critically acclaimed current Story Tellers Daughter; added into the mix was Northsyde’s versions of some specially chosen songs; including what has become a Northsyde signature track – Whipping Post by The Allman Brothers. This is special for two reasons the way Lorna sings the lyrics combined with the perfectly timed and quite beautiful guitar solo from Jules. For me the tracks that showed Northsyde at their very best were Hard Shoes, one of my favourites; the title track of their current album and Cherry Picking.
What makes Northsyde stand out from the crowd is the passion and energy as they captivate the crowd with songs that wind around your emotions and seep in to your musical DNA.
Northsyde always excites, tonight at the convent the volume was turned up to ten and the alter shook with delight no-one was drowning tonight we were energised and entertained. The gig may have been a ‘secret gig’ at The Convent; there is no doubt that the word will spread and those that missed out hearing them live will dash to catch the sound on Netgig.
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.
If you are not familiar with Northsyde or in their previous incarnation as Funkydory get out and see them now they are simply awesome as a live band. This latest recorded offering “Storyteller’s Daughter”; is the next best thing as they have captured in the studio the raw heady energy of a live performance and in addition there is a bonus of two live tracks ‘Mercy‘ and ‘Northsyde‘. Lorna Fothergill’s vocals drive the band forward with powerful, emotive, pitch perfect articulate and clear vocals. The band is a collective of fine musicians who blend and bend their talents to showcase Lorna’s voice and their own skills; whilst the superlative guitar playing of Jules Fothergill with spine tingling riffs is brought to the fore from the first track of the album ‘More’ – and having listened to the first track you are left breathless with delight wanting more and more and this is delivered over the next ten tracks. The band have the opportunity to shine while Lorna sits out on ‘Messing Around‘, with the melodic riff’s from Ian Mauricio’s fretless bass joined by precision guitar from Jules and the skillful drumming prowess of Hayden Doyle. This is a band that plays and delivers the music they enjoy – a mix of rock, funk, blues which they capture to create a quite unique sound. This album also shows that they are purveyors of excellent songs where the words stand out as they are delivered with clarity and the talented musicians ensure the music and the voice are in touch with each other whilst still having freedom that gives the whole CD a fresh free-flowing feel. The album is full of gems that have a variety of tempo’s and musical textures from ‘Can’t Stop The Bullet’, opening with a beautiful Julesesque riff in which he makes that guitar sing then wham straight between the lines there is Lorna’s voice, throaty and pure as she pours out “I Can’t Breathe” ; it truly takes your breath away then on quieter more controlled restrained numbers the blending of gentle guitar work and the soulful contemplative tone of Lorna’s vocals so that her singing has a prayer-like quality on ‘No Rocking Chair‘. This track is about despair but this is no droning monotone it is pure music with the blending of bass and clever use of delicate symbols for Hayden highlighting the essence of the song. This is definitely one of my albums of the 2013 and the live tracks really give the album that live feel.
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.
all photographs copyright Liz Aiken
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
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.
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…