Once again Blues rules Callow End. Matt Williams and his amazing team turn the country pub into a weekend of blues, and friendships with a musical hug. This small but perfectly formed festival reaches out a welcome warmer than a summers day, smoother than a good single malt and with more fizz and pizazz than any gin on the well-stocked- shelves. (NOTE: to self must go try those gins very soon). For the many regulars, Friday is a time to catch up with old friends, for those visiting the festival for the first time whether on their own or in a group will soon find themselves part of the Old Bush music powered clan. At the heart of the festival is the ever-present smiling jovial Matt Williams, he is the power that steers the festival on an even keel from start to finish.
Friday Delights – Old Bush Blues 2018 Sunshine and Blues Perfection
Midday Friday and the soundmen were ready, it was lights camera action as Crossfire, fired up and got the festival off with a set that raised our pulses, pleased our ears as we watched on in wonder as 14-year-old prestigiously talented Marcus Praestgaard-Stevens strutted his stuff. Joining him in his electric fired blues are Alice Charlotte Armstrong on vocals and a rhythm section (Gary Walker, drums & Eddie Masters on Bass) that controls the vivacious youngsters. This band will be the starting step on what possibly could be a glittering career there is a charisma and stage charm about this young gunslinger. A start to the festival raising the expectations of what is to unfold. One, an unexpected bonus was later in the afternoon Crossfire Lite in the bar as Marcus and Alice played a beguiling and entertaining set in the bar. A last minute replacement and they went down well as the depth of talent of these young musicians shone through. Matt when choosing the band has an uncanny ability to pick UK Blues Federation invited bands for the annual challenge. This year was no exception with two bands appearing. The amazing Friday night headliner Greg Coulson. Plus, the band that if they had not been playing Belgium would have headlined Saturday but had an earlier spot for this ever popular band Catfish. Into the mix add in two of last year’s challengers Robert J Hunter Band and Elles Bailey during Fridays cascading flow of blues. Robert and his band delivered a set of hard-hitting blues numbers that rock. The set was tight, animated and got the dancers moving as the growing crowds enjoyed the third band of the afternoon. Whilst Elles and her fabulous band entertained with a set showcasing her superb album Wildfire and new numbers promising the next will be a winning mix; including Medicine Man. Blues is a genre that stretches, influencing deep into the musical lexicon. Elles brings blues that is lively country Nashville flavoured contemporary with a whizz to every controlled note delivered. Elles vocals curled around the garden stage with a party feel this is superb music that touches soulfully every listener. Music that gives you a hug making you smile with joy. If you love a tight, solid blues trio that makes you want to get up and dance then Gary Harper and The Bush Pilots are the perfect fit. The musicians are recognisable as they all have played in Vincent Flatts. Perfect fit for Friday at OBB really hit the blues spot. Closing out Friday night with style a band that knows how to brighten the day with pure entertainment Greg Coulson. Greg and his band deliver a fusion of sound pure class rock n’ roll with soulful blues. With Greg behind his keys or guitar singing with a smile, you are guaranteed an energetic performance. A fitting finale for day one of OBB 2018. With songs from his current album, What’s New, we heard the live versions of Stich Me Up and 10/10. He played a tribute to the late Walter Becker of Steely Dan with his own number Someone To Be There, into the set he also dedicated a number to the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin. Greg’s show connects with the audience as they want to dance and feel the Coulson vibe thrill their musical DNA.
Othello’s Saturday Debut – Old Bush Blues 2018 Sunshine and Blues Perfection
Old Bush Blues, is a small but perfectly formed, family friendly dog-friendly extravaganza. So Bluesdoodles, boss Othello decided it was time to hear the music live for the first time. He was amazed he loved it. Approving of the music though a bit uncertain about the clapping. The BBQ was a sure-fire winner when combined with lots of strokes. Now onto the music that played on OBB Hats Saturday, it is a tradition to decorate your hat and have immense fun today. To OBB regular bands, Five Field Holler and Northsyde ensured we would be partying with music. Opening the day of music with the sun bursting from behind the clouds the skies were as blue and bright as Cryin’ Out Loud with their traditional blues. Five Field Holler, the trio this year is well known as the rest of the festival they are the soundmen. With Tristan O’Kelly left in charge, the band got their revenge by threatening to ask for a change in levels after every song. They get your feet tapping and your blues vibe is fully satisfied with this set. The whole festival was waiting with anticipation for Catfish returning to OBB, an early slot this time as off to Belgium after the show. What a blinding festival set, with tracks from Broken Man. Including the title track and crowd-pleasing Make It Rain. For me, this is a number that, despite its popularity, I find the guitar solo is too long and less would be so much more. The new album promises to deliver a different Catfish with Leading Me On and Ghosts providing a glimpse. This set brought Saturday alive with music that stretches the blues into rock, lyrics that are reflected and rocky upbeat numbers such as Break Me Down. Matt Long once again makes his PRS sing with blues that rocks and shines brighter than the sun. The guitar temperature rose by a few more degrees as Jules Fothergill joined Matt on stage for a hot blues jam. Scrumptious guitar pleasure. If you wanted to hear blues that soothes the bar will deliver. Dr Blue certainly cooled the musical heat with his stylish delivery after Catfish and before the vocal storm that is Gerry Jablonski. The band from Scotland delivered a full on heavy blues that rocks with harmonica that electrifies the sound. This is a high octane blues that shouts out with quality and set a solid base as the shadows lengthened and Northsyde hits the OBB stage once again. The crowds done their bobble hat as Lorna ‘Bobble Hat’ Fothergill hit the stage to entertain. The band is a funky joyous rock that is fed by the blues. With Jules Fothergill’s Gibson curling the notes that stretch and flow across the stage. The deep rhythms provided by Haydn on drums and Ian on his upside-down bass all provide that deep inner funk every festival needs. Centre stage and the powerhouse of the band is vocalist Lorna. She howls out the lyrics, sighs with emotive despair as she swirls around the stage. We knew we were in for a treat with songs from their albums including those from Funkydory days. Yes, Lorna tied us to the Whipping Post and made us wear Hard Shoes. Tonight’s performance was as ever superb, but there were times when Lorna’s voice lacked its normal depth of power the delivery perhaps was just that less energetic. Yet, her delivery of Back in Black was spellbinding. Her singing of Today I Sing the Blues as a tribute to Aretha was quite a number as Jules & Lorna were in perfect harmony. A small observation about a set that once again had the festival dancing and singing. Many asked how can you follow that. With another band with a husband and wife on guitar and vocals. Paddy Maguire Band. The band delivered a hothouse of hard-hitting electric blues. Jenna’s vocals match the scintillating guitar with its power and range. This was a belting set closing out Saturday. The jam added depth with Marcus, Tristan, Lorna and others joining this exciting set.
Sunshine Sunday – Old Bush Blues 2018 Sunshine and Blues Perfection
Old Bush Blues, has a slower more relaxing feel for Sunday afternoon. Keeping traditions opening with Kyle and Shaw this acoustic duo is warm and soothing as the music washes over with a Sunday embrace at the Church of traditional blues. We then heard a set that delivered a bagful of memories for many as New Amen Corner & Mike D’Abo played out the sound shape of hits from the sixties and seventies. Hits from Amen Corner, Manfred Man, Small Faces and more this was an upbeat journey down memory lane. Spikedrivers, always deliver a layback, yet upbeat blues with a western swinging percussive flow. OBB have seen many trios but The Spikedrivers are different. It is not about electric power but percussive tempos. The trio complements each other playing styles creating blues with intense feeling. Ben Tyzack’s sublime guitar work, with scintillating slide, the percussive work and bass playing from Constance Redgrave and completing the deep rootsy driven rhythms is Maurice McElroy on drums. Wow, this is music to everyone’s Sunday afternoon ears. Following this is an ultimate demonstration of slide guitar and acoustic rootsy blues from Martin Harley with tales interspersing a stylish set. His signature Weissenborn, a traditional Hawaiian lap guitar is a joy to your ears creating a complex palate of tonal structures. Sunday afternoon vibes have soothed away the stresses and any lingering hangovers from Saturday’s revelries. As the shadows grew and the sun cooled the music heated up as did the hot Pizza’s available to be devoured. The last two acts before the closing jam with Jules were energetic approaching blues from different directions. First, up Stone Mountain Sinners, Country Southern fueled blues with Sarah Warren’s vocals once again heard across the carpark and into the garden. This is dancing good time joyful music perfect before Troy Redfern cranked up the speakers as his high energy deeply blues set pleased the festival. Troy has upped his game delivering old blues favourites with a twist and contemporary turn he delivers blues of the midnight shade. Loud, dirty and driven by the devil.
All that is left to say we all had a wonderful weekend Matt, thanks for preserving not letting bureaucracy pulling you down and standing up and making sure this popular festival continues and lives to play live music for another year.
This family-friendly festival, with camping only five minutes walk away with a permanent toilet block and showers and such fantastic value for money. The beer will be tasty, served in a glass, with staff picking up empties and serving you with a smile. Food hot from the BBQ and this year the handmade pizza’s Sunday evening were delicious. A hearty Bluesdoodles congratulations once again to Matt Williams and his wonderful team. Othello loved it too, thanks for the water in bowls I enjoyed them every slurp. Live music was interesting the clapping was strange but it was fun meeting all the people and the doggies.
Many will now be on the countdown to August 2019 when come rain or shine they will know a warm, hospitable welcome is waiting for them at the Old Bush Callow End and the gnomes will once again be dancing to the rhythms of the blues… Plus over £1000 raised for MacMillan Nurses with Brave the Shave!
Last word form Matt… until 2019