Review: Lymm Festival Blues Night at The Cruising Club, Lymm – 3 July 2008

Posted on: Monday, Jul 7, 2008

As in previous years, this year’s Lymm Festival Blues Night was a sell-out. The attractive billing featured Stockport-based blues band, Atlanta Roots, supported by Tommy Allen and Johny Hewitt in acoustic mode.

The duo set the ball rolling with a cracking set, with Tommy Allen on acoustic and resonator guitars (and bass drum) and Johny Hewitt on harmonica. They shared vocal duties and, in a varied programme, delivered excellent versions of Elmore James’s “Coming Home” and “Steady Rolling Man”, the latter complete with wonderful Sonny Boy Williamson-style ‘naked’ harp. They followed an upbeat shuffle and a bouncing boogie with a fine, bluesy version of “Proud Mary”, with Tommy Allen excelling on slide-driven resonator. They rounded things off with some enthusiastically entered audience participation on Jimmy Reed’s “You Don’t Have To Go” and “Memphis Nights”. It was a great start to the evening and another impressive performance by this rapidly developing double act.

The only downside to the early proceedings was the need to close the club’s windows following a complaint from a neighbouring resident that the volume was too high. Someone suggested that perhaps Sooty was unable to get to sleep; but that notion was quickly dismissed when it was confirmed that he had long since moved away from the area.

MC and event organizer, Dave Sawyer, then explained (or was it a post-hoc rationalisation) that, in order to comply with the gardening theme of the festival, he had deliberately chosen Allen and Hewitt for their blues roots connection and the name of the headlining band, Atlanta Roots, reinforced that line of thought. In response, Barry Lord, lead singer of the band, observed that the level of humour for the evening had now been established.

Atlanta Roots opened their account with an energetic rendition of Humble Pie’s “Natural Born Woman” with all members of the band except drummer, Charlie Whitehead, sharing lead vocals, including bass guitarist, Jim Ensor, while Barry Lord added to the mix on harmonica. Other than a splendid version of Brownie McGhee’s slow blues, “Sporting Life”, the rest of the first set almost exclusively comprised non-blues numbers – ostensibly, to avoid an early bedtime for the largely non-blues-oriented audience. It was nevertheless an enjoyable set and included Bob Dylan’s “She Belongs To Me”, The Traveling Wilburys’ “Handle Me With Care” and Tom Petty’s “You And I Will Meet Again”.

The second set opened with the catchy “For Some Time” and featured a brilliant solo from guitarist, Greg Ainsworth, who then delivered a terrific version of Peter Green’s “Watch Out”, taking the vocals and sharing superb lead guitar riffs with slide guitarist, Bill Worthington. John Lennon’s “Come Together” was interpolated between “It Hurts Me Too” and “Help Me” as a ‘respite’ before the blues re-emerged with “Hoochie Coochie Man” and Carey Bell’s “What My Mama Told Me”. An encore was very appropriately demanded and provided in the form of The Beatles’ “I Saw Her Standing There”.

It was a very entertaining evening, which combined good music with humorous banter, including an on-going mock battle between Barry Lord and members of the Warrington and District Neil Diamond Appreciation Society, whose intermittent requests for “Sweet Caroline” and “I’m A Believer” were contemptuously rejected.

Lionel Ross

[photograph of Barry Lord and Greg Ainsworth by Gill Fox]

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