Paul Carrack @ St Davids Hall April 2014

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Another packed house at St David’s Hall for the Man in The Hat, Paul Carrack accompanied by a 7-piece band including Sax; Guitar, Bass, Keys and a two drummers with different styles and sound that complemented each other. Tonight they delivered a selection of tracks from his long career from Mike & The Mechanics, The Squeeze and up to today with numbers from his latest album. Three numbers, three guitars and a broken string…then change tempo and Paul moved onto his electric piano but nothing broke the rhythm and quality of the music. Large percussion section of double set drum for this track 4 providing a delightful percussive back drop a real crowd pleaser. Back on guitar now re-strung we heard the equivalent of lead and rhythm guitar with the drums providing  a solid curtain of percussion which was overlay-ed by mournful sax, and tinkling keys and soaring up this crescendo of sound was Paul’s vocals. Then a Squeeze number reminding us if we needed reminding what great songs they produced in their day. Throughout the set Paul demonstrated his versatility and skill where playing guitar, keys or the wonderful sounding electric piano all combined with his melodious vocals that served to emphasise and gave an emotional colour and depth to the words.
With some great covers weaved in to the mix including a Bobby Bland number, (If Loving You is Wrong) I Don’t Want To Be Right and as all his family are great fans a Brenda Lee number I’m Losing You Now re-done for Paul Carrack’s latest album, personally I preferred Brenda’s version.

Just as the audience were settling in their seats and getting comfortable Paul upped the tempo with some audience participation with some clapping this ensured engagement and livened the atmosphere and swiftly followed by a Bruce Springsteen number If I Should Fall Behind introduced by Paul as ‘a great ballad’. Guitar, vocals and very dylanesque harp by this charismatic front man who held the audience in the palm of his hand from the front row and high into the gallery at St David’s Hall.
The myriad of guitars used meant that there was a change in tone and an opportunity to see as well as hear part of the Paul Carrack collection.

As we were in Cardiff, Paul was then joined by local friend Andy FairWeather Low Paul Carrack - St Davids Hall - April 2014 - DSC_0171lWide Eyed and Legless bringing the house down, with great guitar playing from Andy bringing that high-octane energy to the stage. By the end of the evening Paul had got the crowds to their feet dancing the night away and singing their socks off creating a great atmosphere. There is something energizing about an audience up out of their seats….the crowds loved it and felt part of the show. Andy rejoined for the encore with the classic Amen Corner number ‘Paradise’ another great night of entertainment at St David’s Hall.

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Review – Bentworth Blues Festival August 2013

Celebrating the fantastic Bentworth Blues Festival and Bluesdoodles 100th posting…
This year prior to the festival, there were giant hurdles of bureaucracy that Matt Williams landlord of The Star Inn had to jump over to bring the delightful palette of sounds that is the unique come-back again draw of this festival. He surmounted the obstacle and once again the festival was delivered with the efforts of his whole team and the marvellous musicians who entertained us throughout the weekend delivering the whole range of blues music this was live music at its best, musicians enjoying playing and an appreciative audience whatever the weather threw at us.

This review cannot adequately cover all 29 acts that performed on the three stages, The Green, Garden and Bar what it hopefully achieves will be a flavour of the talent on show and the vitality of the event that is a sell out every year and attracts music lovers from across the land who camp in the allocated spaces nearby and those less hardy myself included who stay in local B&B’s and then there are the people who can simply shut their front door and stroll through the charming village to hear music on their doorstep. The weekend is truly a celebration of live music, good fun, meeting old friends and of course Matt Williams all this makes Bentworth Blues Festival that little bit special and keeps people returning.

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Opening the proceedings was the talented King Rollo with a complete acoustic set that got the early doors crowd into festival mood, the perfect accompaniment to the first pint of the weekend.

Friday saw a mix of bands and solo artists, acoustic and electric including Split Whiskers, Fran MacGillvery & Mike Burke and Will Wilde; though their approach to the blues was different the common link between the three was that they all had women bass players who kept the rhythm as part of the engine house of the band.

Split Whiskers managed to deliver many blues standards with a twist of whiskers magic making them come alive and delight in these tunes and lines all over again, this was a band that was a little bit different with a custom-built steel guitar that had its own unique sound. Fran McGillvray & Mike Burke set was a contrast with a great laid-back sound, created by the combination of Fran’s vocals, Mike’s silky guitar licks and beautiful lyrics with the three-dimensional sound completed by the percussive Djembe sound provided by Roger Nunn. The set was a perfect showcase of their style of country blues with tracks from their latest CD “Some Luck” and old favourites. Will Wilde delivered a powerful set with Stuart Dixon (Guitar) Victoria Smith (Bass) & Richard Newman (Drums) providing a great, solid accompanying foundation allowing Will’s powerful combination of vocals and searing harmonica-dominated blues to shine through – what a set. Harmonica playing that ranged from the raw to the gentile, teasing and caressing every displayed emotion as musical pictures were painted that reflected the lyrics. There is no doubt that every time I see this band they get better with a mix of tracks from their forthcoming album ‘Raw Blues’ and some covers. Not the normal string of covers which included a stonking rendition of Buddy Guy’s ‘Smokin Dynamite’ and Earl Thomas ‘ Soulshine’. This band is not just about Will’s talent, with the great emotional lead breaks delivered by Stuart Dixon adding an extra layer of sound that was incorporated to create a complete vibrant sound. Also on fire during the afternoon was Guy Tortora and his band in the bar who had to cope with a stand in bass player as the bass player was stuck in the accident tailback on the motorway which also delayed Stuart Dixon. Laurence Jones Band on the Green bought to the event youthful delivery of high energy blues whether playing self-penned or his covers delighting everyone as he strutted his guitar playing skills with a confidence and a swagger of a young man who loves the music he is playing and wants to entertain you. From youth to experience “Serious Blues“ fronted by drummer Sam Kelly, delivering that funky style, with layers of complexity with the fluidity of a jam creating an exciting and very listenable sound in the bar whilst Blues Associates set themselves up in the garden delivering an eclectic set that got everyone dancing and was a real change from the rest of the bands during the day back in the Garden. The sky’s were darkening as night fell and the last two bands of the first day – Stuart James Band with his rock-blues power trio approach blew away the crowds as they partied the night away with Bentworth festival stalwart Jules Benjamin bringing the first day’s proceedings to an end entertaining everyone and leaving us all very satisfied and already looking forward to the next day as we went humming to our beds from the selection of brilliant tunes we had heard over the last 12 hours.

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On Saturday, the weather was going to challenge us but started off fair as the Dave Raphael Band delighted everyone on the Green with a great set of traditional blues, including numbers by Koko Taylor. This was a great authentic sound ably complimented by Dave’s laid back vocals and harp playing. With the combination of great grooves and rhythms I really enjoyed the set, and then there was the twist in the tail as Dave took to the keys with a blues/reggae approach that woke everyone up ‘Bleggae’ a first for Bentworth. Saturday - Bentworth Blues Festival - August 2013_0063l Saturday is traditionally ‘hats day’ and there was a wide array of decorated hats that brightened the proceedings from Sombreros to Top Hats every shape and size was on display. “Red House, the first band in the Garden, certainly knew how to entertain and got the audience participating with lots of dancing this early on the afternoon, they were fun to listen to as they delivered for me a first at a blues festival Pink Floyd’s ‘Another Brick In the Ball’ given the “Red House” Rock n’ Roll treatment and it worked. This was cider driven west country blues that worked well on a Saturday afternoon in the sunshine with a pint in your hand. Now the festival was hotting up as the next three acts were simply brilliant all delivering the blues with passion and all with their own distinctive interpretation of this genre. Kick starting the trio of delights was Ben Poole and his band, a class act and his CD “ Let’s Go Upstairs” showcased throughout the set is certainly one to add to your collection if you enjoy clean, solid and intuitive guitar playing. This is a complete band with an engine house of driving rhythm delivered by Craig Bacon (drums), Barry Pethers (Bass) and adding further depth of tone that complements and adds to the guitar there was Sam Mason on keyboards, and the sultry backing vocals courtesy of Amy Eftekhari. This is a band that delights on lots of levels and just gets better, and Ben is surely master of his own destiny now. He has managed to get the mix of vocal, lead guitar breaks and the showcasing of the band right. He does have clever tricks that work as he does not overuse them and he can definitely play guitar with one-hand as or even more competently than many using both hands. He may sing ‘They Call Me Mr Pitiful’ he is definitely not – this act was SENSATIONAL! Phew who could follow that power guitar demonstration – Clare Free could in the Garden with her own characteristic take on the blues with a style that uses emotions and a gentle touch making the guitar sing in perfect harmony with her voice. This is not a sickly sweet rendition it is full of sugar and spice and the music and lyrics are important to Clare as she introduces her songs which are a delightful mix of re-worked classics and self-penned songs, producing the perfect late Saturday afternoon set. Her band work with her so that the sound is complete and, if I have a comment it is ‘Clare believe in yourself, you are a really good guitar player producing a pleasing sound that is missing from the circuit – we want to see you playing at more gigs now you are back in the U.K’. The final act in my trio of delights is Bentworth festival favourites Northsyde; expectations were high on the Green, with a deputy drummer Joachim Greve the rest of the band Jules Fothergill, guitar; Ian Maurico, bass and fronting the band full of fizz and style is Lorna Fothergill. They ripped through a funky, bluesy rocky set with old favourites and tracks from there brilliant 5* new CD ‘Storyteller’s Daughter’ They are certainly one of the best live acts around confidently delivering their style which is so pleasing on the ear and Lorna’s interaction with the crowd is fantastic as she swapped hats to be part of hat day at Bentworth. Expectations were high and they delivered and to sum it up I overheard someone say “Wow that lady can sing!” The rest of the evening was a triplet of Bentworth stalwarts, these are acts that know what the festival goers want, a party to dance the night away to great music this was achieved by Pethers and Friends – an awesome jam of quality musicians having fun in the Bar, local band Five Field Holler from Hampshire in the Garden with their own 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 band also act as deputies for bands throughout the weekend, and more importantly ensure that the sound is perfect for the bands and the crowds and a brilliant job they do every year. They are soundmen extraordinaire who play jolly good entertaining blues. Ending the evening are the young guns who bring a party-like frenzy to the stage ensuring a feel good feeling at the end of the evening that energising combination of great music, fun, dancing clapping and happy people. Sugar Mama strutted across the stage, this youthful band from the West Midlands play favourites that bring back memories and are a sure bet the evening ends on a high; despite the rain and wind nothing could dampen the delighted festival goers.

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Sunday, sun was shining and spirits high – this was ‘Shirt Day’ so lots of gaudy prints and T-shirts that never normally see the light of day all adding to the fiesta feel. Sometimes tradition becomes stained and boring but Kyle and Shaw opening the proceedings on a Sunday is one tradition that really works. This laid back acoustic duo are just what everyone needs after a red-hot Saturday evening and heads need the gentle caress of this simple blues played well. ‘Andre and the J-Tones’ made a welcome return and the full sound they achieve with the addition of a superb horn section, they may not be the purist’s band but they are just the thing for the dancers and foot-tappers to delight in. The highlights of Sunday were two acts whose approach to the blues are different ‘BluesBeaten Redshaw‘, who combines a charming mix of Northern banter and blues songs from his new CD along with others. The audience warms to him as he interacts in an open and honest way including eating cheese and biscuits from a member of the audience’s picnic which he reckoned was just perfect with his Guinness. A great foot-stomping number reaching a furiously fast rhythm with his banjo ‘Rollin’ & Tumblin’, a really different version. He walked and charmed his way through the audience including serenading an appreciative dog. He saved his skills on his home-made diddley-bow until the end, when Barry Pethers joined him for lessons, but he soon realised he was not going to out play the master who was simply breathtaking. Look out for this spell-binding precocious talent near you, with his gruff voice and rough rootsy guitar a delicious combination of musicality. The only point is he needs to broaden his repertoire so that he has plenty of tunes in his back-pocket because audiences will always want more. The other act was Paint It Blue, a young five-piece band who deliver the blues with plenty of soul creating a freshness of sound. Vocalist Hannah Robinson has a beautiful voice and is ably supported by a quartet of skill on Bass, Blues Harp, Guitar and Drums. The whole band mesh together delivering music that fits together like a perfect-fitting glove. This is a comfortable sound that makes you want to listen to more, no wonder they are in demand at Blues Clubs and Festivals they bring real magic to any event. They delight in what they sing and play and in return the audience appreciate the music this is truly dancing blues. I have wanted to catch this band ever since I heard their début CD which was a really good listen but as ever live music gave us a little bit more. Loved their version of ‘My Babe’ and their self-penned numbers; with the intricate drumming in combination with the subtle accurate harp playing they deliver true authentic blues. As ever the stars that stole the show on Sunday were ‘Babajack‘, today in duo form with the effervescent Becky Tate on Percussion and Vocals and Trevor Steger on Guitar and Harp this is a winning combination full of style, energy and blues given a distinctive twist taking the sound back to Africa with the use of raw percussion courtesy of the Djembe and Cahon combined with home-made wine box guitars and with the clever use of the harp to blend the music together. The sound created is fantastic but it is Becky’s voice that soars above delivering the lyrics with passion this is a band that delight in each other’s skills and truly understand the essence of the blues. They delivered a set that was all the shade of emotions, a musical equivalent to all the colours of the rainbow. This was an opportunity to showcase the tracks we all love including Leadbelly’s ‘Gallows Pole’ and the new stuff from their forthcoming much-anticipated album ‘Running Man’. Bentworth was rewarded with the first live rendition of the title track which is definitely a little bit special. The rest of Sunday past with a wall of sound including blues soul delivered by ‘Soul Alliance‘, skillful playing by ‘Ivan McCormick’ and then the Big Jam at the end – leaving everyone happy with the scope of music they had heard and penciling into their diaries next year’s festival.

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Abertillery Blues festival Saturday 13th July 2013

Saturday, the second day of the festival, was to provide twelve hours of solid entertainment. The show got under-way at Midday with a trio of local performers,

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starting with festival regular opening as an Acoustic duo Gordon Wride and Simon Gregory with an homage to early blues especially Robert Johnson. The Sam Andrews Band followed – today in a cut down format of a trio with Sam on slide guitar accompanied by Glen Dee on Acoustic Guitar/Bass and Leila Dee who had a lovely voice. This was a short but excellent set portraying their skills and proved to be popular with everyone arriving at the festival. They were quickly followed by The Breeze, who describe themselves as Southern Rock coloured Blue and straight out of the Newport Swamps. Their re-arrangements of Lynyrd Skynyrd numbers got the afternoon festival folk up on their feet and dancing, it was hot enough to be in the Southern States of USA. The band was tight and the vocalist’s voice suited the music they were delivering with a grizzly tone. This band knew how to entertain; this is a quality pub band that would delight the crowds wherever they played and their take on Led Zepplin’s classic ‘Rock and Roll‘ certainly gave everyone something with which to sing the afternoon away.

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With an efficient change of bands, the Marcus Bonfanti Band stepped up onto the stage in the mid afternoon heat. Did this slow the enthusiastic Marcus down? – no of course not. We were treated to a typically barn-storming performance which may not have raised the temperature on this hot July afternoon but did thrill the crowds with great self-penned numbers from previous albums and his recently released album “Shake the Walls” with the clever and relevant re-naming of ‘Alley Cat‘ to Valley Cat. Yet again he gave a fantastic performance and as ever his deep luscious vocal shone through, it is so easy to forget his guitar playing skills, I really do think he is underrated as a guitarist and plays in the top league of U.K. Artists today. The stand out song in this all too short set was ‘Honey‘ it was simply sensational, and the last song of the afternoon from Marcus was fittingly ‘Gimme your Cash‘ as he reminded the delighted audience that he had CDs for sell. There was then a change in the programme as Grainne Duffy and her band were delayed due to an accident causing massive tailbacks on the motorway.

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So a local duo from Ystrad Mynach took to the stage ‘Henry’s Funeral Shoe‘. As ever they produced a very full sound for a two piece pleasing their many fans and delighting those who had not met the brothers with ‘Gimme Back My Morphine’, with Aled’s great slide combined with his distinctive gravelly voice and as ever from Brenning on drum a solid rhythm combined with displays of frenetic performances there is more that a hint of Keith Moon in his performance. His antics and animated attack on the drums provides an entertaining backdrop for Aled. There was good use of effects combined with controlled feedback that was effective and was always in keeping with all of the self-penned numbers including a favourite with many ‘Dog-scratched Ear‘. This was a lively set that refused to be put into a straight jacket of traditional blues and was definitely full of rock energy combined with an edginess when something a little bit different is being experienced.

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After an unavoidable delay Grainne Duffy and her Band arrived, they were on stage in lightening quick time, with Grainne looking relaxed and as fresh as a daisy she went straight into her first number; a true professional, and any frustration in the crowd due to the wait was melted away as soon as they heard her sing her first note. Grainne, truly is the nightingale of the blues circuit at the moment with a clarity and superb articulation no mumbling of words when Grainne is on stage, her band provide her with more than just a solid platform they provide form, shape and texture that her voice can weave around creating a soulful sound that is magical. The set was a mix of tempo’s and opportunity for audience participation, a tribute to Bobby ‘Blues’ Bland and her now signature rendition of ‘I would Rather Go Blind’; the only disappointment with the crowds was that, due to time constraints, her set was curtailed and Grainne and her band had to leave the stage far too soon!

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Next to grace the stage were the re-formed Nightporters at the start of their short 2013 tour, this was a fantastic high-energy set of Rock n’ roll/Rockabilly music whose roots are drenched in the blues, producing an infectious racy beat and rhythm with the interplay between double bass and lead guitarist was entertaining enough to make you miss a beat in your dancing as the double bass was wielded across the stage to be used as a prop without missing a beat. The set included lots of favourites including ‘Shake Your Hips‘ & ‘Rolling and a Tumbling‘ that got the crowds participating by dancing on the grass, this was a high-octane band who were also extremely tight and every member interacted and added another layer of interest. Nightporters have been missed on the blues scene and it is great they are back again with some 50’s Memphis / Chicago blues tradition including the suits, harmonica, cleanish guitar sounds, no sophisticated effects pedals, upright bass and putting on a show. This was just the right band for this slot in a fantastic mix and varied approaches to the blues.

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Now followed the two top acts, many were waiting in anticipation for The Blockheads to take them back down memory lane to their teens. There is no doubt that Ian Dury is missed and this is a tribute to the great lyrics, what a songsmith, that he produced and keeps the music live and fresh. All of the songs people wanted to hear were included in this dynamic expose of a very British eclectic mix of styles creating their own distinct sound. Opening the set with ‘Sex, Drugs & Rock n’ Roll’ they had the audience eating out of their hands as people whistled and sang along creating a real summer festival after a hot day in the sun feel. Yes, we had classic after classic including ‘What a Waste’, ‘Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick‘ and ‘Reasons To Be Cheerful‘ and yes we had lots of reasons to be cheerful with an electric atmosphere great music and still an act to follow, they would have to be good to keep the crowd on its high that The Blockheads had produced.

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Lucky Peterson Band featuring Tamara Peterson… there was a palpable sense of anticipation, few people seem to have heard of Lucky Peterson and for those who had it was courtesy of albums and You Tube! No one should have been surprised by the quality of the headline act as Lucky has been preforming since the age of five and is the son of James Peterson so Blues is in his DNA and flows through his blood. Many of the festival goers were asking the question who could follow the Blockheads who had had the crowds eating out of their hands.. we soon had the answer Lucky Peterson Band. His band opened the proceedings which was to become a roller-coaster of musical delight. Canadian Shawn Kellerman took the front with his white Fender, with his choppy guitar playing, searing licks and provocative ripping blues straight from the hot southern States at its best; accompanied by the Rhythm section comprising of Tim Waites on his six string Bass and Cuban drummer Raul Valdes. The festival crowd were already enthralled when Lucky Peterson strolled on the stage and took his place behind the Hammond we were now going to enter the Church of the blues. This consummate professional calmly dealt with technical gremlins and got the lead changed on his mike – this was blues that soared over the valleys and melted in the hot evening breeze spreading and weaving its magic. Lucky Peterson had now shown his double threat stunning Hammond Organ playing and his powerful voice and the audience knew they were listening to the headlining act of the weekend that had just got even better! This was not the end as there were soaring mountain heights of musical delight still to be heard as Lucky stepped away from the keys and picked up is cool blue Epiphone; whose strap line is performance is our passion and Lucky Peterson was living proof that this guitar delivers a wonderful sound. This was going to be the set of broken strings Shawn, was playing with 5 strings, he had dug out a new string from bag and was looking for an appropriate moment to re-new the string when snap went the same string on Lucky’s guitar as he continued to sing from the front of the stage a distinctive, delightful version of ‘Little Red Rooster’ with a medley of blues favourites interspersed. What power to the voice as he sang without a microphone across the festival crowd as clear as a bell, with the Welsh always glad to sing-a-long and participate howled and barked into the clear night sky. Returning to the stage with the band filling in with its amazing combination of funk bass playing that was the best of the festival and there had been some amazing bass players; metronomic drumming and the glorious blues lead breaks from the guitar. Lucky resumed his seat at the keys and invited his wife Tamara to join him on stage as the evening just got better with her soaring funky vocals giving the late shift of the festival a high-octane boost. Then in a flash it was all over and the they left the stage… still always next year clear the diary as I am positive the team at Blaenau Gwent Council will be wanting to celebrate their 10th anniversary in style.

Abertillery Blues Festival 12th July 2013

Bob and Norm  - Abertillery Blues Festival - 12 July 2013_0312l On a very warm Summer’s evening, the 9th Abertillery Blues Festival was officially opened with Bob & Norm from GTFM Bluesshow announcing the first act of the weekend, Mick Pini Band.

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As ever Mick delivered a display of quality blues guitar playing, this was no blues power trio it was a quartet of fine musicians with Jools Grudgins playing quality keys that blend, inspire and added depth to the sound and a very solid rhythm section, Drums and Bass. A highlight was Mick’s rendition of ‘Catfish Blues‘ giving it a funky edge with great guitar licks and superb key playing by Jules. This was a band that understood each other and they bounced of each other perfectly forming a complete unit delivering a rocky guitar driven blues sound that was perfect to get the festival up and going with an enjoyable act with a set of great blues standards given the distinctive “Pini” treatment including ‘All Along The Watchtower‘ and ‘West Side Blues‘. Abertillery 2013 was up and running at a high-speed and quality from the off.

Mick Pini  - Abertillery Blues Festival - 12 July 2013_0070lMick Pini Band members

Mick Pini – Guitar & Vocals
Micky Barker – Drums
Paul Pryor – Bass
Julian Grudgings – Keyboards

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Then the stage was taken over by the ebullient character Vincent Flatts with his own take on Southern Rock, this may not be the blues but boy was it fun on a hot summers evening as he entertained the crowd with a combination of hard-hitting riffs and clear vocals delivering a bourbon-infused combination of tunes from their latest album and a wide range of artists. This got the crowd dancing and foot stomping, Vincent Flatts heard the sound of a Saxophone off-stage in the crowd and invited him on stage, this was a surreal first for Abertillery as an unknown guest musician from the crowd joined the act on stage and jammed as they did a number or two, this was no set up the band didn’t know him and having played a couple of tunes he left the stage. This was a great set – how can other bands follow the high-octane, bourbon fuelled act that is Vincent Flatts. With a brief break that gave the crowd time to fill our glasses and enjoy the cooling night air that seemed to have invited every gnat in Wales to come and enjoy the musical vibe!

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The next band, Jo Harman and Company has been receiving a lot of positive publicity regarding her latest CD “Dirt On My Tongue”. This was her first live performance in Wales so expectation was high. The Company are a tightly formed mix of musicians who provide Jo with the musical foundation so that her voice can soar into the rafters at any location. Jo has a powerful voice which takes you on an emotional journey of hopes and loss, love and tears. The Bobby Blues Bland number ‘Ain’t No Love‘ was a great choice and a fitting tribute to the great bluesman himself and she thoroughly enjoyed the impromptu singing as much as we did listening to her. The great licks provided by Scott McKeon, whose guitar skills are without doubt a little bit special whilst on the bass Phil Mulford’s skills added interest to each and every number also in the Company was Steve Watts on drums and Martin Johnson on keys. Jo Harman leads the band and they interact with her creating a very special bond which shows through as they play to please the crowd and not to build up their own egos. The set was populated with numbers from her excellent CD proving she can perform live as well as in the studio, in fact the live sound as ever added a little bit extra it had an edgier less polished feel, making them classier.
Jo may not have been everyone’s idea of the blues, though for some she was the act of the weekend or at least Friday night but she is a singer/writer who can perform and charm and whose reputation is growing all the time. She certainly made lots of new friends and fans at Abertillery. It was a great set delivered with lots of passion; Jo certainly deserves all of the positive publicity that she has been getting recently. All too soon the shadows were lengthening and it was getting darker and the last act of the evening was stepping onto the stage:-

Jo Harman and The Company - Abertillry 2013 - DSC_0286lJo Harman & The Company Members:-
Jo Harman – Vocals
Steve watts – Keys
Martin Johnson – Drums
Scott McKeon – Guitar
Phil Mulford – Bass

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Mud Morganfield with his backing band that are a talented group that deliver time and time again with tight playing and perfect timing and rhythm. The band consists of Mike Hellier (Drums); Double Bass; Ian Jennings, Blues harps-man Steve West Weston, guitar ? And Keys?. Together they delivered yet again at Abertillery scintillating authentic Chicago blues. Mud sings with a clarity stripping back the vocals so that the legacy of his father Muddy Morganfield shines through with clarity. The song that summed the set up was ‘The Son of The Seventh Son‘; no wonder he has been nominated in four categories of the Living Blues Awards. No one can have any complaints about the quality of the blues delivered by Mud and his friends. His performance delighted a delirious crowd as some great Muddy waters standards were sung across the marquee and beyond with the ghost of Muddy Waters echoing the words back from the Welsh hillsides.

Mud Morganfield - Abertillry 2013 - DSC_0454lMud Morganfield & Band Members:-
Larry Williams (Mud Morganfield) – Vocals
Ronni Busack Boysen – Guitar
Eric Ranzoni – Keys
Steve West Weston – Blues Harp
Ian Jennings – Double Bass
Mike Hellier – Drums

George Thorogood & The Destroyers June 2013

George Thorogood and The DestroyersSt David’s Hall 26th June 2013

Opening the proceedings to an excited and enthusiastic audience was Big Boy Bloater; this he partly did with an energetic set of self-penned numbers, he did engage with the audience but what he failed to do was crank up the energy. I also felt that Big Boy Bloater missed a self-marketing opportunity to build a new fan base from the audience waiting to hear George Thorogood & The Destroyers. On the plus side he does have a big personality and this came to the fore when introducing some of the songs that he felt passionate about like ‘Insanely Happy’ where the true depth of skills in the band were showcased.

Then after a short break the packed auditorium was electric with anticipation and excitement and then the show began with a dramatic entrance and it didn’t take long for the crowd to be bopping along to some great lead breaks and licks, this was musicianship of the highest order. George is a real showman with a great mix of self-penned and cleverly re-arranged blues classics with some heavy dollops of pure class Rock ‘n’ Roll! The lighting effects were very dramatic with the video images of fire, flames matching the beat and heat of the music it was going to be a hot and steamy event at St David’s Hall tonight. The unique take of some ‘Chess Records‘ classics was impressive; this is how these numbers should be covered bringing dynamic live experience to well-known blues numbers. This is blues that is not staid and stuck in a rut but free-flowing rhythm that makes you want to get up and dance!

The use of the backdrop videos were skilful and relevant at times you could have been at an avant-garde film festival! But this was a show with blues and George Thorogood taking centre stage nothing was going to silence him! George introduced the band with a video backdrop of each member of The Destroyers of course, this collective wealth of talent are: Jeff Simon (Drums) aka The Timekeeper; Billy Blough (Bass) aka Dr Martini; Jim Suhler (Guitar) aka Tex and Buddy Leach (Sax) aka Cincinnati Kid. Lonesome George delivered a stellar performance of his acclaimed number ‘I Drink Alone‘, also in the set list was John Lee Hooker’s, ‘House Rent Blues‘ a delicious version with George on his own on the stage, what set the number alive: firstly it was not a dull recital of the lines secondly, by dynamic interactive playtime with enthusiastic audience participation, making you want to head straight to the bar. The band rejoined the party with the clever chorus video back drop in perfect timing between the music and video as the words ‘one bourbon (some interesting bourbon brands on display), one scotch and one beer; and finally the caption Keep Calm & Drink Beer all this excitement made the audience whoop and yell with pure delight. George Thorogood’s selection of songs gave a variance in tempo and mood as he slid through the widest of blues genre including some Johnny Cash with ‘Early One Morning‘. As with many guitarists there was the change of guitars, tonight this worked so well as each had a different sound enabling George to play slide and in his words bring some sophistication to the proceedings with is stunning white Gibson guitar as he delivered his biggest hit ‘Bad to the Bone’. George the powerhouse and the centre, right and left of the stage, left the stage giving Jim Suhler, a superb guitarist in his own right, the opportunity to come forward and play a quite magnificent solo, reminding me of what an act he had been at Carlisle Blues Festival 2012 with his own band ‘the Monkey Beats’; then with a cheer George was back on stage sans guitar and delivered a great version of Howlin’ Wolf’s, ‘Tail Dragger ‘with a heavy bass/rhythm line bringing a little funk into the proceedings.

This was a truly fun evening, great atmosphere, great live blues music that was centre stage of the visual and audio show at all times proving that the blues is fun and shouldn’t ever be stagnant regurgitation of the same old product. St David’s Hall was the ideal setting for George’s first visit to Wales and we are all hoping he will come back very soon.

LizAiken Photography has more photographs click here

Mike Sanchez Band @ The Met Abertillery 8th June 2013

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Mike Sanchez and his U.K. band does not have a set list they let the music flow and the crowd is welcomed to shout out the numbers that are special to them creating an eclectic and inclusive set of blues, rockabilly and rock and roll delivered with style by Mike and his band of superb musicians. You cannot avoid being taken in by Mike’s giant warm personality with buckets loads of charisma that is natural and you know he is enjoying bringing joyful live music entertainment to you. The numbers ranged from Little Richard, John Lee Hooker, Fats Domino, etc… The supporting cast to the luscious piano delivered by Mike were his regular U.K. Band comprising of Drums, Mark Morgan; Double Bass, Nick Whitfield and Guitar, Tom Bull provided a clean/tight back-drop for Mike with the combination of fine musicianship that was balanced and created a whole. There is no doubt that the double bass, Nick’s weapon of choice provides a special timbre to this style of music and Nick delivered top drawer double bass throughout the evening and the solo interludes demonstrated why this instrument provides a tone electric bass however played simply cannot deliver. Tom Bell produced some wonderful guitar licks delivered with a subtlety that made them a delight delivered with a twang and whole lot of soul, Tom made the guitar strings purr in a delightful contrast to Nick’s double bass strumming. Half way through the set out strode Sarah Wynne, Mike’s wife of one week, who took over the vocals and the tempo definitely went up a notch or two, enabling Mike to show everyone what a talent he is as a keyboard player and the chemistry between the two of them was electric.

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By the end of the night, The Met @ Abertillery was a rockin’ and a rollin’ with lots of audience participation as they took to the space at the front of the stage to dance the night away creating a tremendous live event feeling, that makes live music so intimate and special. Mike, who played the local festival in 2011, gave a great plug for Abertillery 2013 and a lucky person in the audience won two weekend tickets; and Mike even hinted to delight of his many fans listening tonight that he could be at the festival n 2014! He then went straight into great rendition, with his own twist and musical turns, of Welsh rock star Dave Edmunds ‘Deep In The Heart of Texas’; delivering the approval of the audience. Also included was a clever, entertaining medley of great classics that was Mike’s version of ‘Name That Tune!; the medley included ‘Whole Lotta Love‘; ‘Boom, Boom,Boom‘; ‘Shake Your Hips’; finishing off with Mike playing the Maracas ‘Bo Diddly‘; this was pure fun to watch, hear and be part off. Mike’s expressive face made Howlin Wolf’s ‘How Many More Times‘, fresh and alive this is how covers should be performed; not as an exercise to show off the riffs, chords and beats that you have learnt but as a celebration of a classic number. To end the show he had the audience eating out of his hand, loving every moment as he took random request after request, his repertoire is quite staggering. Wow! What a brilliant evening everyone was truly entertained.

Liz Aiken Photography has more photographs click here

Ian Siegal and The Mississippi Mudbloods @The Garage, Islington

Ian Siegal and The Mississippi Mudbloods @ The Garage, Islington 8th May 2013

The support tonight was provided by a micro version of Dave Migden & The Dirty Words, comprising Dave accompanied by guitarist Joe Gibson, and what a fine duo they make delivering some superb covers including Taj Mahal’s ‘Fishing Blues’ interspersed with stripped back versions of numbers from ‘Killing It’, their recent acclaimed CD; with Reverend Jack Crow being quite sublime in this pared back acoustic version. This was a great performance including some new tracks demonstrating once again why they are storming the circuit at the moment and were definitely an ideal opening act, with Dave’s voice and their own unique and stylish take on the blues, for the only UK gig of Ian Siegal and The Mississippi Mudbloods. This was a sizzling evening which started on top form as the band opened up with ‘Picnic Jam’; featuring Luther’s slide guitar skills and great harmonising interplay between Ian and Luther. And layered on top of this wall of sound is Ian’s voice what a start to a set that just got better and better with the bar being constantly raised as they just played to ever higher standards. This is a band that enjoys the music and interplay between them and they never forget that it is audience they have to please so this is not a self-indulgent performance but one that takes the crowd with them who enjoyed every note and would have been happy if there had been no curfew and the band could have played on through the night.

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The performance of ‘I am The Train’, which has developed into a great live number and is simply just fantastic and shows why this track has been nominated in the 2013 British Blues Awards, shows why the song has become synonymous with the latest album ‘Candy Store Kid’; This format with Luther on guitar allows Ian freedom that is not always available in the trio format, so his voice can really dominate and the extra guitar gives another layer of sound and when Luther plays the slide there is a rawness that slinks and slithers you all the way back to the darkest depths of a dirty prehistoric swamp… with the support of a superb rhythm section comprising Cody Dickinson (drums) and Carwyn Ellis (bass) to complete the sound sketching that draws you ever deeper into the darkness of a swampy bayou; as evidenced by the low down dirty rendition of ‘King Fish’. Then my head almost exploded as an old Siegal favourite ‘She’s Got The Devil in Her’ hit the airwaves; which has appeared on many a live set list and always performed differently as the story and musical techniques are developed – tonight was a simply superb version – for me it was sex on a guitar! The ending of for me an all too short set was a jam with Luther being experimental with the creative use of feedback creating a hauntingly effect an resulted in an unexpected creative finish. The evening would not have been complete without Ian; finishing with a moving tribute to Big George a truly fine Glaswegian bluesman, who has been an important part of Ian’s life; ‘Take a walk in The Wilderness’. The encore a clever rendition of ‘Hard Pressed’; with various tunes threaded through including Prince’s Sign of The Times; and closing with a beautiful version of ‘Forever Young’… phew what a fizzing evening of music which delivered the full gamut of emotions, the atmosphere was hot and steamy and everyone was energized by a great event of live music.
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There is no doubt that the music played tonight by both acts is blues that is relevant modern and the sound of now, it is not trying to recreate a sound of yesteryear but taking the genre to places that need to be explored. This is music that is a live sound thus firmly rooted to the original bluesmen and women who toured and played to live audiences using equipment and techniques available; think what their talent would be producing if they had the resources available in the twenty-first century! I am pretty darn sure it would be very different from the traditional and dare I say it often bluesy Blues being produced by bands that are scared to loosen the apron strings of ‘blues tradition….

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Missed this brilliant gig – Ian Siegal and The Mississippi Mudbloods are back in UK later this year appearing at various venues including at Gloucester Guildhall, 7th November 2013 The Flowerpot, Derby on 8th November 2013, courtesy of RAW Promo and Carlisle Rock & Blues Festival 8 – 10th November 2013, which includes two performances including the Mudbloods unplugged.

King King @ The Flowerpot, Derby – 27th April 2013

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The Flowerpot, Derby is a brilliant venue that combines some fantastic real ales with exceptional live music acts that appeal to the crowds that turn up to be entertained. King King, the main act of the evening, were supported by a young band Devlin Blue who hail from Lincoln, and are currently studying music in Guildford. They are a talented trio who delivered mainly self-penned rocky numbers with a hint of blues, but what makes them stand-out from the crowd is the combination of the lead taken by the bass player who had a lovely voice supported by Dave Devlin who played excellent lead guitar, showing the potential skills in this raw but exciting new band.

Then King King raised the temperature and Alan Nimmo was on fire tonight producing the exciting guitar work combined with the great interaction with his band his regular rhythm section Lindsay Coulson (Bass) and Wayne Proctor (Drums); and tonight Bob Fridzema (Keys) together delivering an accomplished mix of the trademark King King heavy blues sound and the venue was buzzing from the off. Kicking off this musical magical mystery ride was the ever popular ‘Don’t You Get The Feeling (You’ve Been Had)’ followed quickly by the first track from their much acclaimed second album, ‘Standing in The Shadows‘, ‘Long History of Love‘. As ever the whole evening was an accomplished performance from a band who can be depended on to deliver, track after track of glorious blues with an edge of jazz and funk; no wonder they are so popular, with the voice, rhythm and great banter making the show inclusive and such fun. It is Alan as the Red kilted Glaswegian that binds the group together and his chatter delights the crowds, as typified by his vocals on Frankie Miller’s ‘Jealousy‘; a quite brilliant rendition of and a fitting tribute to the great man. The crowd responded to the great music commenting “Class Act” and they “Just gets better”

As ever included in the set was one of their signature tracks, ‘Old Love‘ but tonight King King was joined by Dave Devlin; who matched Nimmo at every riff and the crowd watched on spell-bound as they saw this young man shine and Alan so willing to share the limelight of the moment as the sound was taken down to near silence and the chords plucked on the electric guitars; everyone will remember it was at The Flowerpot; courtesy of Raw Promotions that they heard this raw young talent play with Alan Nimmo.

All too soon it was goodnight Derby; then the encore and a great cover version of Heavy Load; during this great version, if you closed your eyes you would be forgiven for thinking that the combination of Paul Rogers and Paul Kosoff were on stage; but no once again it was Alan Nimmo and King King delivering what they do best quality. Like all good acts they left the crowds wanting more and they are assured of another packed house when they return to Derby.

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Babjack meets Dave Arcari @ Re-con Club, Malvern on 20th April 2013

Dave Arcari -  Malvern April 2013_0160l Dave Arcari arrived with an impressive array of string instruments Banjo, his solid electric is a National Resolectric Junior, a shiny Silver National Style O and the one I describe as the black beast which is more precisely a National Delphi; both of these have been custom-made for Dave by National so they produce that Arcari sound the trade-mark of artist who in his own words delivers ‘Fucked Up alt. Blues! Delivering some exciting tracks from his excellent new album “Whisky In My Blood” including the fantastic track ‘Cherry Wine‘ showing a gentler side of Mr Arcari well know for his hell raising guitar playing and stage presence. Included in this opening set of an evening celebrating Trevor Steger’s 50th birthday in Babajack’s hometown, was some of Dave’s classics including Blind Lemon Jefferson, ‘Hangman’s Blues’ and ‘Stagolee‘.

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As ever Dave played like a lightning storm heating up the Re-Con so the temperature was definitely tropical rather than a mild British spring evening and the crowds were loving it. What made tonight’s performance was Trevor and Becky joining Dave with a fantastic performance of Johnny Cash’s ‘Blue Train‘ As the video demonstrates that this was a collaboration that produced a stellar performance and everyone was delighted, excited and entertained, this is a live music moment that though captured on camera you really needed to be there to get the full on effect of the energy and good-time vibe they produced.

Now for Babajack’s showtime tonight a new addition forming a trio with the addition to the line-up; electric bass player – Adam Bertenshaw; storming the stage as on home turf they were at their confident best full of energy, vim and vitality. The crowds were enthralled and delighted as Becky delivered heart stoppingly beautiful vocals whilst providing the trade mark out of Africa percussive rhythms courtesy of the stomp box, African drum and the cahon combined with the 2013 British Blues Awards nominated harmonica player, who also plays acoustic guitar and wine box guitar which he makes himself and provides great vocals Trevor and providing a layer underneath this was the bass addition provided by Adam. It is no wonder that Babajack is so popular where ever they play. No Babajack set is complete without their trademark songs from previous albums including ‘Money’s All Gone; Death Letter’s Blues’ and ‘Gallows Pole’; this is not a band trapped in the rut of tradition every rendition is given the Babajack treatment giving the songs a modern and exciting edge whilst remaining true to the very soul of early blues music; understanding what made the likes of Leadbelly so very special. Trevor’s vocals are always a delight and tonight there was a roughness perhaps picking up the gravel tones of Dave Arcari, and demonstrating why there is such a great synergy between these talented artists; this was especially apparent on ‘Burn All The Bridges‘ and definitely added another tier of emotion to this powerful song.

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Not only has Trevor been nominated for the British Blues Awards; but the title track of their last album ‘Rooster Blues‘ has been included in the final voting round of the Kevin Thorpe’s 2013 Award for Original Song – so Babajack will be celebrating long after Trevor’s 50th birthday is a distant memory. as well as old favourites interspersed throughout the set was tracks from their much-anticipated new album “Running Man”; this was an opportunity for Becky to thank all the contributors to making the album possible, this was received with a cheer as so many supporters were standing enthralled by the music at this sell-out show. A work song, ‘Hammers and Tongs’ was a duet with Becky on vocals and Trevor on harp, not a guitar in sight using a chain gang style, was effective and was for me the highlight of a wonderful set. Another new song from forthcoming album “Running Man”, ‘Falling Hard‘; followed by a dramatic rendition of ‘Skin and Bones‘. What an evening of full-on entertainment which included a rousing birthday song to Trevor; an end to a fantastic evening of music at The Re-Con in Malvern but  I am positive Babajack will be celebrating throughout 2013…

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Derrin Nauendorf & Rick Foot @ West End Club Barry

Derrin Nauendorf and Rick Foot – 19th April 2013 – West End Club, Barry

Before the show, I had a quick chat with Derrin:

What was your first musical memories growing up in Australia?
My source was my Father’s vinyl collection BB King, Led Zepplin, Jimi Hendrix, it was all down to his good taste, opening my eyes and ears to blues and blues-based music.

Other than your Father’s Vinyl’s, who were your early musical influences in Australia?
Australia has a rich source of musical talent including Jeff Lang, Chris Wilson, Geoff Achison and Tommy Emmanuel, and in the days prior to the internet it was much harder to link up; but these three great guitarist; singer/songwriters showed me that I could make a living out of the music I loved.

Did you always want to be a musician?
Once I picked up a guitar yes! I felt an immediate connection; I started off on electric when I was 15 and lucky for me it came easy, I naturally seemed to understand the guitar and developed my skill splaying in bands playing blues/rock for 5/6 years; at 16 I dreamed of being the ‘White Aussie Jimi Hendrix’. Then I found acoustic when I was 23 and this felt right, this is what I wanted to work with the acoustic guitar spoke to me and let me explore the areas of music that I connected to and spoke to people. The acoustic expresses feelings and personally the electric guitar cannot compete.

Who influenced your song-writing?
My song-writing has been influenced by many people and music and lyrics heard whilst travelling been about my own experiences; to name them all would look like a list but the two that definitely are at the top of the list of influences are Bob Dylan and Richard Thompson.

Are you considering bringing the Dylan project that you were involved with last summer to the U.K?

NO! in one word, it was great fun and sold lots of tickets and was very, very popular, we all had a great time, Ian Parker myself and Spanish guitarist Miguel Banon. The trouble with the project ironically was it was too popular; and we could quickly be tagged as the Dylan cover specialist and that would then be what audiences would expect from me every performance.

How Do You View the Current Live Acoustic Blues Scene in U.K?
The circuit is vibrant with plenty of good acts; and the use of social networking and the internet makes it easier to find gigging venues that are thriving and to connect with both established and new audiences that appreciate my style of delivering the blues. Having toured the U.K. since arriving here from Melbourne 10 years ago, I am busier than ever so no complaints from me; you do have to adapt with changing times and good promotion is vital with the growing importance of all the strands of social media.

Last Year also saw a new CD; how does this differ from your previous albums?
Yes, Distant Empires, this is different from my previous albums, it is less of an introspective on personal experiences it is more outward looking. Writing an album is a long process and has a world perspective and has been a good challenge. When writing for a new project I tend to get the chorus and music then build around this, though during the process the chorus often gets modified! The finished result is my latest album ‘Distant Empires which is a little bit different.

What plans do you have for the future?
Well going to take couple of months off over the Summer and then start touring with a band later this year, touring as a duo has been great fun but feel that it is time to change.

Now on with the live music event review.

The evening was kicked started by a stylish upbeat solo performance by the ever popular local talent John Lewis, who always delivers a foot stomping and lively set with his mix of self-penned and a selection from his vast lexicon of tunes that are the very best from Rock n’ Roll/Rockabilly discography of the 1950’s & 60’s. He has a wonderful tenor voice which brings passion and verve to the set, combined with skilled traditional engineering skills when his faulty amp played up a kick quickly resolved the issue and the show was back on track. This is what a supporting set should be great music, entertaining repartee and being left wanting more, whilst looking forward the main event of the show.

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A quick change-over and Derrin Nauendorf and Rick Foot were on centre stage, and from the off the audience knew this was going to be an evening of fine musicianship, with Derrin demonstrating the power of the acoustic guitar; he certainly uses the whole instrument getting a great percussive note out of the wood at the sides which amplify the words and emotion of this singer/songwriter’s superb songs. Adding to the emotion is the superlative Double Bass playing of Rick Foot whether plucking or using the bow, Rick gets every ounce of emotional tension out of the instrument as the growl and oft mournful notes grip your very soul and tug at your heartstrings. This is a duo that delivers a full sound that makes you feel good about live music and certainly gets those endorphins going – so it was no surprise to me that spell-checker gave me the option of endorphins for Nauendorf, a really fitting suggestion. The two sets delivered a mix of Derrin’s self-penned work from previous albums and his latest Distant Empires’ which since its release in October 2012 has been receiving critical acclaim; and into this heady mix some interesting covers.

‘Ghost Town’; gave Rick foot the opportunity to use the bow on his double bass creating such haunting sounds that perfectly complimented Derrin’s beautiful guitar skills and melded in and accentuated the lyrics and Derrin’s melodic voice. The other sparkling gems included ‘Shipwrecked’ and ‘History Repeating’ & ‘New World Order’ from Distant Empires, demonstrating how this album is different from previous recordings with outward looking lyrics and shows that Derrin’s skills are growing developing and changing. This is not an artist in a rut that he has formed and frightened or unable to get out, which is why every live performance is different and he will always put in something different and unexpected – tonight it was in the second set with an acoustic version of Rolling stones; ‘Wild Horses’; as Derrin said “Stones for a Tenner!” Also it was an opportunity for the audience to have a sing-a-long which was enjoyed by all. The next surprise was the totally mind-boggling awesome acoustic Hendrix/Pink Floyd medley. The Duo started with ‘Voodoo Chile’ which then melded into ‘Another Brick in The Wall’ and back to ‘Voodoo Chile’; illustrating what it is possible to accomplish by an acoustic duo when in the hands a pair of master musicians – wow the audience loved this.

What made this evening of live entertainment so special was the interplay between Derrin and Rick throughout the set served as an object lesson in musicianship of the highest order, which they combined with warm, friendly interaction with the appreciative audience. Then they were both happy to chat with the audience and sell the CD; one thing for certain this Duo is welcome to come back to Barry very soon; this may have been the first time the duo had played in South Wales but I am sure it will not be the last!