Robert Cray – St David’s Hall, Cardiff –

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

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

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

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All photographs – copy right Liz Aiken 2013

Catch him at these venues in the U.K.

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

CD review – Jo Harman – Dirt On My Tongue

Dirt On My Tongue Album Cover

Amazing début CD, there are some albums you listen to and say – that’s nice upload onto you MP3 player and never care whether you hear it again, Jo Harman’s , ‘Dirt on Your Tongue’, is MOST definitely not one of those. It is a beautifully constructed CD that works well listening in order and the individual tracks stand out when played as part of a random stream. This is a collection of wistful lyrics sung with stunning clarity displaying the full range of Jo’s exquisite singing voice, which starts on a high and soars into the stratosphere with each track having its own unique shape and tone.

I have now listened to it a number of times and with each play little complexities and subtleties display themselves, and the stand out track changes depending on your mood from ‘Heartstring’ with its strong beat contemporary foot tapping music that is energetic music to dance too, through to the thought-provoking ‘Fragile’ with the opening words “I am a long way from Janice…” a harmonious combination of her voice and piano, that would be at home in Jazz Clubs across the land. Whilst ‘I don’t Live Here Anymore’, is a confessional song that could be dismal and depressing not so here as Jo has given it Country overtones that work.

The voice is the highlight of this album, but this would not work so well if it was not for the talented musicianship provided by Steve Watts piano and Hammond stylings and Phil Mulfords upright bass combined with superb song writing skills by Jo Harman and her partner in crime, Mike Davies.
This is an album that is a little bit gospel, little bit blues, little bit Soul, little bit classic, little bit jazz; it is the complete mix a fusion of sound that makes a complete sound that will become instantly recognizable as Jo Harman’s magic touch as the album, ‘Dirt on Your Tongue’ will soon be on everyone’s lips as she should receive airplay across the networks with this stunningly elegant collection of songs delivered with commitment and passion. Album of 2013 if not the decade… go listen, go buy and get out and see Jo Harman perform these tracks live.

Bluesdoodles gives this CD a doodle rating of

international womens day

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

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

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

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Gwyn Ashton: CD Review – Radiogram


Gwyn Ashton the sizzling blues-guitar man has done it again with his sixth album ‘Radiogram’ is another awesome CD that makes you want to listen to it time and time again, the album works whether listening in track order or random and the tracks stand out in a crowd when merged in a random play with the other music you have upload/downloaded etc. Radiogram makes you really sit-up and listen from the off, when instead of a clean digital sound you hear that sound from the past, bringing back a wealth of memories of joyous anticipation that crackle as the needle hit the grooves in the vinyl and sound emerges! This is stylish blues that drives a rock n’ roll sound that is modern fresh and looking forward not harking back to another year through rose-tinted spectacles; again Kev Hickman is on the drums providing the perfect foil for Gwyns luscious voice and vibrant guitar sound along with plethora of high-profile guests including Don Airey (Deep Puple, Whitesnake, Black Sabbath), Kim Wilson (Fabulous Thunderbirds), Robbie Blunt(Fabulous Thunderbirds), Johnny Mastro (LA’s Mama’s Boys), Mark Stanway (Magnum, Phil Lynott), and Mo Birch (UB40, Go West, Culture Club). The production is quality but it is the music that counts not who is guesting and this delivers above the collection of great players from the rock world, as demonstrated on the opening track ‘Little Girl’ with its glorious display of slide guitar. This is followed with track after track of surprises and delights, every track has its own strengths and little quirky bits right through to the last ‘Bluz For Roy’; what a stunning finale with its blues guitar work of the highest standard what a fantastic way to end this album, show blues is a modern sound that is for pleasure for me that will win Gwyn fans far and wide. ‘Dog Eat Dog’, starts of with a powerful beat from Kev on drums followed by clean guitar work that has a zing to it when joined by the vocal sit all becomes a little bit dirty a powerful combination of sound; which along with ‘Angel’ are the two most standard rock blues tracks on the album, without being boring they both have the sound that makes this album stand out from the crowd. ‘Fortunate Kind’, hints of a country sound which really suit the lyrics and the longing in his voice, but this is no country ballad is has been given that distinctive and instantly recognisable Gwyn Ashton sound, which is layers and layers of tones, complex guitar work, funky and strong rhythm to combine with a live sound that makes you want to crank up the volume and enjoy living.
‘Radiogram’, is a fascinating mix of raw and delicate, intricate and simple, rock and blues, that reminds you why you love rock/blues music, this is no power-driven guitarist Gwyn knows he can play and uses this to provide subtlety when required and complexity of chords on a another track creating a whole wall of sound that keeps you engaged and above all entertained from beginning to end.
This album should launch Gwyn’s reputation and name far and wide across genre’s so that everyone who loves amazing guitar playing combined with strong lyrics and voice should be buying his music and going to so him live as his live-sound is as good as his recording, there is no excuse he is touring up and down the country get out and see quality live music that has a truly authentic sound and pick up a CD at the gig rather from the usual vendors of music..
Radiogram Track listing:
1. Little Girl
2. Don’t Wanna Fall
3. Let Me In
4. Fortunate Kind
5. I Just wanna Make
6. Dog Eat Dog
7. Angel
8. For Your Love
9. Comin’ Home
10. Bluz For Roy

Bluesdoodles gives this CD a doodle rating of

In the meantime listen to this – ‘Little Girl’

Shrewsbury 2012 – Review and Photographs

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

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

Oysterband – February 2013

Oysterband with June Tabor, at Parc & Dare Treorchy – 23rd February 2013
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Once again Parc & Dare a gem of a venue in the heart of the Rhondda Valley is playing host to a class act, The Oysterband on the last night of their eighteen month Ragged Kingdom Tour featuring June Tabor. This is a night of farewells as June Tabor leaves guesting with them; but that was an integral part of this tour. This is also the time that “Chopper” will be playing with the band ending a 24 year association and will leave a huge gap and we are informed the new Oysterband post Ray Cooper will be different and we all look forward to hearing and seeing the new band very soon. This is a band that produces a very full interesting sound using array of instruments both acoustic and electric and confounds being placed in any genre. They have their own sound and take on their own music and when they re-arrange songs from a wide variety of sources, my term for them is “Folk with Attitude!, Rock with compassion”.

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The scene was set with the Oysterband members minus vocalist John Jones the music started to play and June took centre stage, the early numbers showcased the power of her voice as she led the band, with several witty hot political asides delivered in an open manner bringing stage and audience closer together with the harmony humour brings. John then joined the stage with his accordion and vocal talents bringing a complete package of vocal textures of warmth, high, low and mellow notes delivered by the two vocalists imparting, sorrow, hope and joy that makes the band’s performance an emotional roller-coaster of life’s highs and lows. This is not ‘folk’ music stuck in the past, looking back at life with rose-tinted glasses this is tales of reality of tears and lost chances. The covers chosen are interesting and bring out the best of the individual talents and collective whole as demonstrated when they delivered Velvet Underground’s ‘All Tomorrow’s Parties’; Ian Telfer’s fiddle adding a haunting quality. Then came a perennial favourite ‘I’ll Take You Over the Water’, and the wonderful harmonisation of John and June during, ‘False True Love’. The highlight amidst the vast array of delectable tunes was the ‘Bells of Rhymney’ with John’s voice soaring up to the Edwardian theatre’s rafters and out into the valley’s night air; tonight with audiences who had experienced the pain of the 1980’s in the heart of the ex-mining district of South Wales and a stone throw from Rhymney itself where Idris Davies was born this poem is the best known of his verses from his 1938 ‘Gwalia Deserta’ literally ‘Wasteland of Wales’ this song touched the hearts and souls of many. Found and set to music by Pete Segar and kept alive by this magical band, who have bought it home and the audiences re-acted with tumultuous applause feeling the emotion and the poignancy of the song being sung in this theatre tonight. To bring the first dynamic hour to an end the band led by June Tabor sung a cappella – what a heavenly harmony of 6 voices delivering the power of the voice as the most amazing musical instrument, ‘ Banks of the Sweet Dundee’. . The second set opened with anticipation and no one was disappointed as one great song followed another with a glorious mix of cello, fiddle, acoustic/electric and bass guitars voices and the percussive delight of drumming; gives the sound a three-dimensional texture with greater depths of tone. With conversation that informed, delighted and warmed the audience to the band as June Tabor introduced ‘Son of David’ a traditional song that would have been lost without the oral traditions of the Gypsy that saved this treasure like many others for us to enjoy today. Joy Division’s ‘Love will Tear Us Apart’ was given the Oyster treatment which they recently played on Jools Holland, winning them even more fans. Only at an Oysterband event would you hear from the stage Gaelic, Welsh and English and songs from far and wide all too soon the night was drawing to an end and John Jones gave emotional farewells to first June Tabor who I am sure will be back and then to ‘Chopper’ who has delighted audiences for the best part of a quarter of a century, the standing ovation given to him was full of respect, love and fellowship as we wished him well on his ventures in his solo career. The band played on with an added frisson of emotion as they launched into ‘Native Son’ with audience participation and the atmosphere went up another notch and Parc and Dare was really partying and then they left the stage and all you could here was the demand for more no-one wanted this moment to end. The band came back on and did a stunning encore ‘The Dark Eyed Sailor’; Bob Dylan’s ‘Seven Curses’ and to end this evening a fitting Gaelic a cappella number reminding us of the power of the voice an end to a truly magnificent gig the musicians left the stage leaving Ray “Chopper” Cooper to take a final bow as part of team Oysterband.

Abertillery Blues Rock Festival – reviewed

Abertillery  Rock Blues Festival 2013Abertillery Blues Rock Festival will be returning for it’s ninth year on Friday 12th and Saturday 13th July with an amazing weekend of live music.

Line-up will be announced soon – early confirmation is on Saturday 13th July – the Kings of Rockin’ Rhythm & Blues, The Nightporters, together again marking 20 years since the band formed.
Ticket Prices:- (discounts for Blues club Members)                                                           Friday – £25 ——– Saturday – £35 ——– Weekend – £40

Held under a marquee in the picturesque setting of Abertillery Park, this year’s festival brings you the very best in British and International Blues.Previous festivals have had great line-ups as demonstrated in Blues Matters Magazine Reviews demonstrating why this should be a reserved date in your 2013 diary,

2011 Festival:-

Abertillery Blues Festival, got underway in the majestic setting of Abertillery Park , deep in the valleys of South Wales under the shadow of the Arael Mountain. The now familiar tradition of a big top circus tent and comparing supplied by Bob and Norm from GTFM, famous for their Monday night blues show. The festival showcased a selection of local bands, including The Hideaway Trio who started the 2011 show off and then Saturday afternoon, Bluesey Susie, who bought talent and style with her great voice that is both smooth and raunchy delivering old favourites and self-penned straight-edge traditional blues. Pat Grover and the Hawks delivered a great set with slide guitar strong vocals this was blues that took you on the hobo train ride. Luke Doherty Band this new line-up with vocals provided by Paul Morgan provides the perfect backdrop to allow Luke Doherty to concentrate on his guitar skills producing a brilliant sound that excites the crowds. Now he needs to develop a set that includes more than covers delivered in his inimitable high speed blues style.
Around this strong local backbone great bands from England and beyond delivered a fantastic weekend. Giles Robson and the Dirty Aces, a combination of great musicians and songs produced a dirty sound that whilst evocative of the past was contemporary and relevant, as they showcased their latest CD “Crooked Heart of Mine”. The highlights of the set included, ‘The Mighty Incinerator’, ‘Solidor’ with Giles providing an emotive harp solo and giving the band a break as they left the stage and Ian Jennings swapped his double bass for electric bass with fuzz pedal providing a different but strong bass line for ‘Ain’t Dead Yet’. This band definitely is one that gets your foot tapping and dancing along to the strong blues tempo. The encore was ‘House of the Rising Sun’ re-arranged with the distinctive Dirty Aces signature and it worked. Never The Bride with their effervescent stage presence delivered a selection of Rock Ballads. With their larger than life sound ‘The Living Tree’ and ‘April Rain’, they bought rock to the valleys pleasing the crowds and got the festival a buzzing and a talking. Friday closed with The Hamsters, making a welcome return as part of their farewell progress across the country went through an eclectic mix delivering a selection of there extensive back catalogue including a self penned track which was a mix of song titles and band names with the riff indicative of Tom Principato’s guitar style. As ever superb Hendrix covers, some traditional blues and rock & roll overall a great festival set.
Eugene Hideaway Bridges, bought a touch of Texas sun and magic. ‘Never Alone’, delivered as a capella was haunting and spellbinding captivating the audience. Very much a crowd pleaser, he uses clever changes of tempo between straightforward blues and more soulful numbers. Whilst delivering a mixed-up set from his extensive back catalogue.
This was followed by the surprise of the weekend, Hokie Joint, one night only Ian Siegel would be guest singer for the band! With no set list and no rehearsal the guys strode and strutted onto the stage. This was jamming at the highest level and gave credence to the expression living on the edge… Fortune favours the brave and with Ian knowing only two of Hokie’s tracks demonstrating the skilful song-writing of this dynamic, modern and exciting British blues band. Thus, ‘Back Where We Are Going’ and ‘The Way It Goes Sometimes’ were given the Siegal touch ……. The whole audience, whether Hokie, Siegal fans or seeing the artists for the first time were blown away by a demonstration of blues at its best; a delightful mix of covers and originals this was jamming, performing and musicality at the highest level.
To close the festival Mike Sanchez built on the energy that Hokie and Ian had instilled into the festival crowd. Mike was as ever enthusiastic, energetic and not only got the feet a tapping, but suddenly the chairs were folded away and the dancing began. There is no argument that this flamboyant front-man pounding the piano keys, licking up and down the scales resembling a whirling dervish of the piano, making this performance highly charged and delivered at break neck speed, and bringing the festival to a rousing finale. This festival bought music and sunshine to the valleys, and the numbers increasing this year.
As with all festivals its is the hard work of the organisers, stewards and bar staff that make the weekend a success and there is no doubt that Abertillery is lucky to have a great team making this event happen every year. So for another year the music fall silence and the hard work starts to make next years another positive event, feedback has been that this was one of the best yet… looking forward to 2012 already.
Liz Aiken
Slide Show – 2012 copyright all photographs LizAiken

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For 2012 – Blues Matters were back and delighted by the musicianship they heard and the friendly vibe they experienced over Friday 13th and Saturday 14th July 2012.
Opening 2012 were local band J Alexander and The Blues Devils playing a solid set of traditional and ever popular blues numbers, taking a chance by singing Muddy Waters, ‘Forty Days and Forty Nights’ with the long wet summer and St Swithin’s day just around the corner… The tempo was pushed up by Cornwall’s, Devil’s Creek, a confident mix of covers and own numbers with their rockier take on the blues so in the first two acts the Rock & Blues element of the festival had been met. What a great start to the evening and crowds were enthusiastic about the bands and waiting in anticipation for the next two bands as the evening flew by, next the McMahon brothers from Aberystwyth stormed onto the stage raising the temperature with atmospheric and stellar guitar playing that is the hall mark of Virgil and The Accelerators. This is a young British band which has taken its influences from Stevie Ray Vaughan and modified the sound with influences from Joanne Shaw Taylor and The Hoax creating their own take on the blues which continues to develop as they relentlessly improve their musicianship and stage craft. The comments from the audience were complimentary as jaws dropped at the quality and precision of the guitar playing supported by brilliant percussion and solid bass playing, the audience was captivated. Finally, Vintage Trouble what an ending to a brilliant opening night, this band hits all the right chords and gets the crowds up, dancing and feeling good about themselves. Vintage generated a real unique ‘party atmosphere a real contrast to the typical 2012 summer festival weather yes, it was pouring down outside of the marquee! They took the roof off the place and had the audience feeding out of their collectively talented hands. Charismatic lead vocalist, Ty Taylor, built an amazing rapport with the crowds with up tempo blues soul music with great songs including ‘You gotta believe me’ with enthusiastic audience participation.

Saturday was full of promise with a great mix of local, solo, young and famous artists and bands so the anticipation was high. Opening an afternoon session is always daunting and local band Panic Station were certainly up to the task with their mix of covers and own tracks showcasing blues musicianship they certainly kick started the proceedings getting people into the marquee to hear the music and soak up the atmosphere and the pleased the locals with self-penned ‘Rocking Down the A48’, the highway 49 of South Wales. For the next solo artist no stage is either too big or daunting as he fills it with his gigantic presence and personality of solo artist, Dave Arcari, love him or hate him this guy has bucketfuls of talent and is in my opinion, with his high octane stage presence, a Scottish Wizard of the resonator. His set was full of verve and energy and showcased his talent on the slide guitar with a selection of his tracks including ‘MacPherson’s Lament’ he is magic and as he leaps around the stage his energetic performance leaves the audience gasping for breath. Steve Roux and The Brass Knuckle Blues Band changed the tempo yet again with their brass instrument section and opening with an instrumental ‘You’re Gonna Need Me’ got the crowds swinging and swaying, the horn/sax section adding an extra dimension to the proceedings. The sound is very full rounded off with Steve’s slick guitar licks and soulful voice. This was a band where the whole was greater than the sum of the individual parts and great afternoon festival set, pleasing the crowds and raising the spirits. Next up strutting the stage was Dani Wilde Band, with Dani showcasing her guitar skills throughout the set, ably accompanied by her brother Will with superb blues harp playing and Stuart Dixon on lead/rhythm guitar. As a band they produced a set of controlled professional musicianship of the highest order, with Dani’s vocals providing the icing of a rich cake of musicianship. The title track of their latest CD ‘Juice me Up’ – demonstrated the great interchange between Stuart and Dani, during what overall was a great set delivered with real authority by Dani, leading the band from the front. They are definitely growing from strength to strength they certainly gave, aptly as their previous CD, ‘Shine’ to the festival.
Jon Amor Blues Group, the band members complimenting each other creating their own distinctive sound were the penultimate act. The band took the opportunity to showcase of two new tracks that may be included on their next CD due to be recorded very soon, ‘Wayfarer’ and ‘Good Thing Back’ As ever this band delivered a polished British blues set of the highest order and the members of the audience who had not heard Jon Amor before were blown away; they certainly gained a few fans at Abertillery. 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. All too soon it was the last act and eagerly awaited by everyone as there was a definite surge to the front to hear The Zombies. They took us back to the ’60’s and early 70’s with a selection of their classics spanning fifty years. Rod Argent delighted the fans with an excellent display of keyboard work, and the appreciative crowds really enjoyed the set. They haven’t lost their voices after over fifty years, and were formed before the Rolling Stones. This was a headlining act that took many of the audiences down a road of nostalgic memories and the fans enjoyed the set immensely. Overall the running order of the festival worked really well with the atmosphere growing and moving on an upward spiral to a crescendo on each day. Yet again a fantastic festival with everyone saying roll on Abertillery 2013….
Liz Aiken

2012 saw
“IT’S not like Cardiff at all.” The precipitous hills and brooding clouds over Abertillery Park gave Vintage Trouble frontman, Ty Taylor, a whole new outlook on Wales as the band headlined the opening night of Abertillery Blues and Rock Festival.

2012 saw Vintage Trouble – a brilliant band as highlighted in Wales On-Line review – ”
“IT’S not like Cardiff at all.” The precipitous hills and brooding clouds over Abertillery Park gave Vintage Trouble frontman, Ty Taylor, a whole new outlook on Wales as the band headlined the opening night of Abertillery Blues and Rock Festival”. Read more: Wales Online

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

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

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

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