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

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  1. […] Bentworth Blues 2012 – this is a special festival music fans owe a huge debt of gratitude to Matt Williams and all his team who run this musical cornucopia every year. The festival has moved to The Old Bush, Callow End, a different location with the same quality three days of beer, music, and friendships. Northsyde, with charismatic singer Lorna Fothergill upfront with hats now the ubiquitous ‘Bobble Hat’. The band is synonymous with this event returning every year with the set lighting up the marquee, until 2020 when live music was silenced.To quote Bluesdoodles – 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… […]

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