Abertillery Blues Rock Festival Friday 12th July 2013

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

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

The music will be provided by:-

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

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

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

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

Jock’s Juke Joint Volume Two – CD Review

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Jock’s Juke Joint Volume Two, is a compilation of delight across all eighteen tracks providing the perfect showcasing of the depth of talent in Scotland that sadly for the rest of us in the British Isles we rarely get to see live. Listening to this CD is the best use of seventy minutes I have had for a long time as I was introduced to band after band and left wanting more – this mix would be a top festival line-up for a blues festival that would bring real delight to all. The overall reflection of the CD is quality blues with the harmonica showcased at the highest standard throughout combined with great vocals, guitar playing and the bedrock rhythm section.

Each of the eighteen tracks on the CD is there for a reason and fits in with the preceding and following so there are no harsh juxtapositions, this is not though a bland mix of safety each band is bringing to the party something different so this is a casket of jewels that shine bright with all the colour, glints and shines that each jewel brings to the collection. I never write about every track, but rules in my book are made for breaking so we are going to have a snippet about every track….

Opening with a feel good party song kick starts the event as Blues ‘n’ Trouble get the proceedings under way. The opening lick of The Kennel Wages‘, ‘Fighting Over You’ is infectious combined with the blues harp/vocals provided by Danny Williams; this is quickly followed by Wang Dang Delta‘s, ‘Shutting Out The World’ with the beautiful piano of Alan Sunderland and as the notes fade away we have a change of tempo and up jumps The 4 Al’s, ‘Jam’al’ with this instrumental jump jive dancing number that is just pure energy. Cynthia Gentle And The True Tones, ‘You Just can’t Win’, well I can when listening to a voice like Cynthia’s with natural tones that soar above the instruments and is pure pleasure. We have been treated to such a wide variety and this is only track five!

Next up is a clever slow number, Binsness Bluesboys, ‘Crawdad Hole’ that highlights a marriage made in blues heaven when it is got right, and boy do they get it right! The interplay between the Sax and Harp wow what could follow this! But this being Jock’s Juke box it has the perfect follow-on with Jed Potts and The Hillman Hunters, takes us out of Scotland and to the Mississippi Delta with a match made in heaven between the skilled guitar work and the vocals and immaculate drumming, I really do want to hear a live set from this band. This CD manages to cover all the blues scene with the inclusion of folky-blues from John Alexander followed by swing from Baby Isaac and the second female vocalist (incidentally this is the only band I have heard before having reviewed their CD for Blues Matters, which I thoroughly enjoyed). Yet, there is no feeling off ticking of the various strands of the genre the album flows naturally as it showcases the plethora of talent Scotland has to offer.

Now we are half way through a river flowing with quality blues with a mix of still, turbulent, troubled and murky waters blended to please. The harp playing on track ten by the talented Richard Young a Englishman now living in Scotland shines out ‘Confidence Man’ is stellar and combines with his glorious vocals. Then a complete contrast with The Lynsey Dolan Band, ‘Do Right Man’, with her sultry blues, late night voice that melds in with the music creating a complete package, a real marshmallow moment. Then as you would expect another change of tempo with a big Rock n’ Roll sound that makes you want to dance the night away from The Blueswater with great female backing vocals on ‘Should I Be Good or Bad’. Leah follows with a dirty guitar and silky smooth voice creating an ambience on ‘Lost In Night’ of a nightclub, that is not on the right side of town but definitely worth going to hear this voice. A duo, Hot Tin Roof, that has a great acoustic lay-backed interplay follows with ‘Maybe Baby’ bringing down the tempo so we can all draw breath again.

The home-straight starts with track fifteen and a modern take on the blues but true to the tradition is Earl Gray and The Loose Leaves, with great vocals and a Americana/hill country sound with interesting echoing chorus line, this track certainly made me sit up, listen and enjoy. ‘Dear John’ brought to the proceedings by Dougie Burn is a quiet track with soaring harp playing and a display of even more of the talent that has been the link between the majority of the acts on this clever compilation. The Black Diamond Express, has a percussive feel to the rendition of ‘Never Was a Lass So Fair’, with its folk feel and would be at home in any Ceilidh, definitely bring I dollop of Celtic style blues to the party, very clever. All too soon it is the closing song, the party is drawing to a close, and we are treated to a beautiful bluesy song from Fraser Spiers and Lewis Hamilton, with a combo of harp and sharp guitar playing they collude with each other to bring a sweet harmonious instrumental .
I have never really been a fan of compilations but thanks to Duncan Beattie I am a convert, as I always feel that they promise more than they deliver – not in this case can’t wait to hear volume 3,4…. and will definitely be exploring Scottish blues and adding more of this artists to my CD collection. My further plea is we would love to hear you live in Wales and England – so take the high or low road out of Scotland and share your talent with us.

Bluesdoodles gives this CD a doodle rating of
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Chris Farlowe and Norman Beaker Band

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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All photographs – copy right Liz Aiken 2013

Catch him at these venues in the U.K.

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

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
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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

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

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

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