Blues on the Farm ~ The Headliners
Friday 20th June – Royal Southern Brotherhood
Saturday 21st June – King King
Sunday 22nd June 2014 – Big Dez
Friday night the crowds had been fed a diet if superb music and as the sky darkened the anticipation was electric as everyone waited for Royal Southern Brotherhood to step on the stage.
This was for many the first opportunity that they have had to hear the band live and at Blues On The Farm you could get right up close to see the action and interaction between the five musicians on-stage. On drums the dynamic, energetic talented Grammy award-winning Yonrico Scott, he has played with an array of artists that read like a Who’s Who of the musical lexicon of the twentieth century including Stevie Wonder, Whitney Houston, Ray Charles, Sammy Davis Jr., The Allman Brothers Band, Susan Tedeschi, Gregg Allman, The Supremes, and The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. His drumming is a loose jazzy style that provides a bedrock of sounds and freedom that allows the drums to ebb and flow through and over the music in perfect time. Strengthening the rhythm section on bass is Louisiana born Charlie Wootton who when not playing with RSB, like all five of them, has his own projects, and his bass solo mesmerised the crowds with the dexterity and tonal reach of his bass playing as he danced his fingers up the fret board and danced around the stage. Up front and lean are the trio of grammy award winner Cyril Neville (Vocals & percussion) bringing to this music fest that is RSB style, panache and some Southern Soul that so personified The Meters where he backed the music and poetry of his brother Art; the guitarist Mike Zito who brings inventive guitar work as the guitar and him become one flowing with music, passion and fire; and the lead guitarist and vocalist Devon Allman, making the Gibson sing bringing stunning blues rock guitar evoking sounds from the past with a twist of modernity solo’s that bring the whole band into a homogeneous whole. The set included numbers from their own albums and the latest RSB album Heartsoulblood. The highlights of this stunning set were Magic Honey with Cyrille’s vocals made the crowd hold their collective breath not wishing the track to end; Running Water; ‘Groove On
During the set there was the guest appearance of Hamilton Loomis who brought his blues harp to the jam and generating a real party atmosphere on the stage as the Blues on the Farm temperature rose. The encore included the re-working of Rush’s famous and instantaneously recognised track Working Man; wow is the only word to sum up this varied multi-textured sound from a band that is full of virtuoso musicians. These are individual musicians who independently have created solo albums and albums with other groups, they know how to ply their trade and what could be a clash of ego’s is in fact a collective who respect and value what everyone brings to the sound that is Royal Southern Brotherhood, creating great music that is fresh and lively and a joy to listen to.
Saturday, longest day of the year and the sky was dimmed rather than darkened as King King British Blues Award winning Band, were announced by Julian Moores, the crowd erupted as the ever popular frontman in a kilt Alan Nimmo who lights any festival fire entered the stage, with tonight on wurlitzer Hammond Organ the Dutchman Bob Fridzema who also provided backing vocals along with Wayne Proctor who provides the rocky Blues drumming that sets the tone of the band no wonder he has won British Blues Awards, combined with bassist Lindsay Coulson this is the platform that allows Alan to stand out front showcasing his wonderful vocals and guitar skills that leave you hanging on every note. It is no wonder that in many people’s eyes they are Britain’s best blues band, delivering polished performance of quality blues playing they do just keep getting better and better. The set included many of the numbers from their latest CD Standing in The Shadows interspersed with what have become King King classics that the fans expect. There was no standing in the shadow as they lifted the roof of the marquee and Alan engaged with the lively Saturday night audience who had enjoyed the hot day in the sun sampling the renowned delights of the famous BOTF beer tent. From the current album another fine live rendition of the Scottish rock singer-songwriter Frankie Miller’s, Jealousy that leaves the spine tingling as Alan pours buckets of emotional tension into the vocals and through the guitar strings along with two other fantastic tracks that were highlights for me A Long History of Love with vocals and award-winning Wayne Proctor drumming that shows the journey and Alan’s vocals ebb and flow like a tidal wave of lyrical out-pourings that are picked up and reflected back by his guitar and the keys this song could go on all night and the audience would still be delighted and Can’t Keep From Trying. Alan makes his guitar weep the performance is always super-charged as he represents an array of feelings from despair to confusion and the musicians around him build on this so that the atmosphere of the live music sound is taut with everybody’s collective reaction to the experiences they have gone through. Added into the mix were tracks fans in the audience just want to hear including Heart Without a Soul and Old Love which he did and he even with a master class in crowd control got the excited festival crowd to quieten down so that as the sound went down the magic went up. What a finale to the longest day of 2014 as the notes died away the crowd dispersed knowing first light was only a few hours away and another day and another headliner beckoned for the festival.
Sunday’s last act, last headline of 2014 the hours of Blues of The Farm 2014 were few… still there is next year and the festival ended on a high note with French band Big Dez. The only band I had not seen live or even heard a CD so was looking forward to what they had to offer. This six-piece played with a style that refused to be boxed in yes, Phil Fernandez on guitar more than doff’s his hat at Albert Collins combined with vocals that were easy on the ear and delivered a real electric blues sound. They delivered a set that echoes their latest album Wet Paint, that covers a palette of blues styles so they retain your interest and on stage with him were Bala Pradal on keys and Marc Schaeller (blues-harp) and on rhythm & slide guitar Rodolphe Dumont; the back line consisted of Bruno Maurin Bass and Karim Bouazza on drums providing solidity and ensured every track had shape and form. Big Dez is out front with his spectacular guitar work full of control and hidden depths of passion and a voice that carries the lyrics. The set was a mix of styles and was not just an opportunity to sell is latest CD, his seventh with the band, who ply their trade, with selection of tracks from their various albums, including Anywhere Please from their 2009 album Late Live!; released the same year as with sponsorship of Blues Sur Seine, the band represented France at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tennessee. Big Dez is full of blues energy that sparks between him and the band and the excellent rhythm guitarist Rod has the skill to spark off the guitar work of Big Dez and add layers of musical interest. Plying their trade around Paris they have developed a style that will not be boxed in this is not Blues set in aspic there is an open door in which they have welcomed funk, jazz and soul combined with lyrics that are full of wistfulness, regret and yearning a perfect cocktail that is Big Dez and French electric blues swizzled and stirred with Texan style and Chicago Ice they deliver self penned numbers that have licks and chords that makes the mouth water. The hardy festival goers left happy with the blues but left wanting more so come back and do a few more festivals blues of this calibre deserves to be heard blues numbers that included Lazy Star, You Can Smile,Ace Up Your Sleeve and a great version of Booker T’s Green Onions.
So the headliners from over the Pond, British award-winning band and from across the channel and did the festival proud with three different acts showing that blues is open to musical interpretations that all have one thing in common they play with your emotions and deliver great music leaving you wanting more.