Old Bush Blues Festival 2015 ~ Formerly known as Bentworth Blues

Howlin' Mat  - Old Bush Blues- August 2015_0017lOld Bush Blues Festival
@ Old Bush, Callow End. Worcestershire
2 1st – 23rd August 2015

 

 

It may have been the inaugural Old Bush Blues Festival at Callow End, Worcester, but it is in fact another Matt Williams extravaganza with a little (well lots of help from Karen and his many friend)this is Old Bush Blues formerly known as Bentworth Blues!

Slide show of the weekend more at Bluesdoodles Photography

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The festival was wall to wall music across three areas from midday Friday through to 11pm Sunday. There was music to suit festival goers who wanted to chill, dance and have a thoroughly great time. This review is a snapshot of all the fun and delight in hearing music live catching up with friends and making new ones; there was always a glittering of magic over Bentworth and this Matt has miraculously managed to transfer to his new pub The Old Bush. This is a new location but the positive Matt vibe is shining strong overcoming every obstacle thrown at him first re-locating the festival and the British summer weather over the three days, rain, hot sun, clouds and then the mini whirlwind that ran through the festival on Saturday followed by a deluge and the power going out the stage going dark but all was overcome and the festival was a roaring success. The bar is well stocked, the food delicious whilst the bands playing in the bar had a cosy alcove and the music floated across the throngs into every corner and crevice. The two outside stages were close together, great for moving between when the weather was inclement, the only tiny downside was you could hear the sound check of the next band occasionally when the act was playing on the adjacent stage, a minor irritant that never dampened the music.

 

The highlights on Friday from chatting to people as we missed the opening day were two old Bentworth favourites Five Field Holler who always run the sound desks and show their talents on stage and making sure every band has the sound just perfect and Trafficker so now Tommy Allen and the boys have a new home.

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Saturday was a bright summers day and the tones of Luke Doherty’s guitar playing with his band opened the proceedings delighting the crowd with a mixture of Blues standards and some new material off his latest album Six Strings and A Stetson warming the crowd on a sunny afternoon once again. To make a festival work the music needs to be varied and Matt has woven together an interesting mix as Lucy Zirins not in her usual solo guise but with her new band her Southern Company and they mix her stylish acoustic guitar with double bass, keys, fiddle and drums which add texture complimenting Lucy’s songwriting. The tracks from her debut album Chasing Clocks had an authenticity as the Southern Company all worked on the album. Her performance was faultless with a calm charisma that warms the audience and the smile is infectious we are all looking forward to her forthcoming EP especially after hearing some live this afternoon Falling To pieces in particular is a gem and we all celebrated her airing on Paul Jones’ Radio 2 programme with a live rendition of Morning Light. Today the shiny Tallulah guitar may have been left at home she was missed but we loved Lucy and the band.
The music played on The Mustangs now picked up the beat on the other stage and they had the crowds on their feet and dancing to blues that hits your shoe-tapping, hip-swaying inner soul. They played a mix of classics and numbers off their albums to a very high standard full of high energy guitar and harp driven melodies of R n’B that rattles and rolls. While the stages were re-organised we had an entertaining set in the bar from Lenny James and the Gator Squad, then back out into the sunshine to listen to a trio who enthralled with their brand of the blues and the lead breaks were definitely ear entertainment; fitting in with the vibe of this happy laid back festival.
Now an act that many had been waiting with anticipation for all weekend The Blues Duo, Tommy Allen & Johnny Hewitt as they sat down to entertain with Chicago inspired blues that rolls of the guitar and harp across the stage and drifted throughout the festival site. As we all sat back to enjoy the music no-one expected what was to happen next the clouds filled in the blues skies, there was a calm then a mini twister tore through the site taking marquees and parasols and then the torrents of rain the music played on a bit of tempestuous weather was going to dampen our fun then it went silent as the power failed and the music stopped. No it didn’t! Within minutes Tommy had an acoustic guitar and they played on with no mics the stage was dark and the music took on an authentic feel as the staff tried to find out what was the problem with no quick solution the acoustic theme continued with Dan Sowerby in the Bar as the trio delivered the set in an unlit bar but nothing was going to silence the Old Bush Blues and the hand pumped beer still flowed from the tap.
Having lost less than an hour of electric music the festival picked up the schedules with a barnstorming and appropriately re-named Electric, formerly known as Sugar Mama.  As usual this power trio hit the ground running with verve and electric energy the music zinged and the captivating performance of Sam Anderson on guitar re-energised the festival. This was tempestuous playing the perfect antidote to the idiosyncratic weather thrown at us during the day. The set was powerful delivered at a furious, but controlled pace. Baby Please Don’t Go came alive, all the covers given the Electric treatment including Summertime Blues; Alien Alien in between self-penned numbers. Everyone was on their feet ready to party then we had the added bonus of Ross Barnes on Saxophone a young talent to look out for.
Northsyde - Old Bush Blues- August 2015_0151lThis is a perfect festival band and with Northsyde to follow we were in the mood to party.  This band are like an institution at Bentworth and like all good traditions it was continuing at Old Bush Blues.  Lorna’s vocals were full of passion as her tongue curled around the lyrics and then they were sung with a purity that raised the roof; the band are a complete item no wonder they have multi-nominations once again at this year’s British Blues Awards. Jules on guitar plays sweet licks, dynamic riffs and the lead breaks mesmerize as Lorna’s voice has a break, the rhythm section Ian on bass and drummer Haydn provide the ground from which Lorna and Jules can fly. Matt distributed bobble hats (a favourite fashion accessory of Lorna’s) to the dancing crowds, we certainly didn’t need them with the temperature rising with every note delivered they definitely added to the festival vibe. The music flowed with Hard Shoes, their sublime version of the Allman Brother’s Whipping Post, and the extended version of Statesbro’ Blues added to the emotive festival atmosphere. As the clock ticked on the set finished far too soon as the closing notes of the title track of their latest album Story Teller’s Daughter faded away the stage fell quiet and then the whoops and cheers began – what a show. Bringing the Saturday night to a close was the festival’s MC and all round entertainer Jules Benjamin Saturday certainly was a roller coaster ride but the music won through, live up close and fantastic and there was still Sunday  to come.

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Sunday and we all wanted more music and the opening duo of Kyle and Shaw retain their established slot opening  the last day of the festival an acoustic duo who deliver music that is soothing and intriguing as they find songs with a difference those not often heard . The set hits the right spot as we sip our coffee, have the first pint of the day and build ourselves up for the feast of music on offer. Danny Kyle is a skilled guitarist and vocalist building the tension and emotion in the lyric driven songs and the bass line from Pete Shaw is the perfect punctuation a bluesy act that fits the festival like a glove. Now for a solo act that is different, nothing quiet and laid back as Yorkshire man Blues Beaten Redshaw entertains with tales, guitar, banjo and his Diddly Bow. This is music that has a rough edge with hints of country and his own unique in-your-face delivery making him a crowd pleasing favourite.  Not everything went to plan first one then a second string pinged on his banjo and then without missing a beat he used the banjo as a prop to keep time and continued delivering the music. He melded classics together creating a melody that explored the origins of the blues and made the songs come alive with his unique act that does truly entertain. If you love electric blues Chicago 9 certainly hits the right notes but they never set the marquee alight.
Whereas Catfish in the Bar certainly did and everyone I spoke to said they should be back next year on a stage where more people could get to hear this act that knows how to get the best out of classics giving them a new lease of life. What set them above others who play Born Under A Bad Sign and other such classics is hard to define in words the musicianship was first class above all they played with that essential and often elusive ingredient “feel” and understanding and pure enjoyment of the genre.  Matt Long on guitar shredded the notes and put them back together as a true blues number with superb keys from Paul Long and between them they shared vocal duties each selecting songs that suit their vocal tone and delivered an accomplished set. The studio album, So Many Roads is very good but live they have a special magic They played some stupendous, formidable numbers delivered with panache, energy and passion, the band of the day for me, and running a very close second was Will Wilde the next band up. He plays harmonica with tone and style that are quite unique and the band just gets better. He is a harmonica player that squeezes every note and tonal effect out of the harp to produce music you want to listen to.  He can play a guitar decently too, it was abandoned when tuning went awry, and he simply picked up the harp and continued. On The Road Again is a Will Wilde cover that is becoming a signature number on his live sets with tracks from his current album, Raw Blues and some new songs including Jealous Woman. He and the band may have arrived late but made up for it by producing the musical goods on the stage.  With a quick break and change of stage the four-piece Voodoo Sheiks picked up the music baton, they launched into a set full of tracks from their latest album Voodification. This was a set that the dancers liked and the crowds tapped their feet in time with the Chicago driven blues set and were just what the Doctor ordered on an early Sunday evening as the shadows began to lengthen.  With just three acts left people’s thoughts began to turn to the journey home later that night or on the Monday as the campers prayed the rain would stay away.
Howlin’ Mat – (yes Mat with one not two t’s) an entertaining solo act entertained in the Bar and the second Diddly Bow of the day was introduced. His take on Little Red Rooster has a real rough edged, earthy and dirty sound that Mat delivers with a smile and really does hit the sweet-spot. He has great banter and connects with the audience and with Matt who joined him on the bongo drums adding an unexpected and different vibe to the set. The set was a mix of Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker and Howlin’ Wolf all given the Howlin’ Mat treatment with accomplished and stylish guitar playing. Back out into the beer garden for Andre Bisson and the first trumpet of the festival, the horns certainly add a tonal texture to the music and a layer of musical colours to the sound.  With their unique mix of blues, soul and pop classics they always are a crowd pleaser bringing a warm atmosphere to the closing hours of the weekend. Their version of I Heard It Through the Grapevine has a warmth of delivery as Andre sings the lyrics and adds layers of guitar riffs and licks. They are a perfect band to close a festival as they play music we love to hear that is always pleasing to the ear. Old Bush Blues though has one more act as people start to pack up it is Jules Benjamin and friends who serenade the festival as he is joined by many of the musicians that have played throughout the weekend.

Slide show of the weekend more at Bluesdoodles Photography

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Well Done Matt and your team you pulled it off and we are now on the countdown to year two at The Old Bush Callow End.

Slide show of the weekend more at Bluesdoodles Photography