My highlights of the year

Posted on: Friday, Dec 25, 2009

Andalucia 079

I always find this really hard to do.  How can I be expected to come up with a list of my favourites for the year when I can’t remember what has been released this year, what I have listed to this year and what shows I have been to this year.  Note to self – must keep better records.  So here is a quite arbitary post about what I can remember based upon a dodgy 47 year old brain and my iTunes stats.


I can’t mention live highlights without mentioning the Arkansas Blues and Heritage Festival – the main stage acts not as stunning as last year but still a brilliant event and a fabulous week.

I give lots of credit and thanks to the two local festivals that I attended.  Worthenbury is always great – a chance to kick back with a lot of friends in the beautiful countryside and great music.  The first Warrington festival was also a brilliant one day event.  Again, a superb atmosphere with some fantastic performances from some north west favourites – the real ale bar was also interesting – a few casualties though.

In the clubs then I think that I enjoyed The Backbones at Liverpool Marina as much as anyone else.  A great band – great performance, great playing and they were having a lot of fun.  My gig pick for 2009.

I was lucky enough to be able to see a great performance by Mud Morganfield in a completely packed Overton Village Hall promoted by the Worthenbury team.  It was a little like a tribute act to Muddy but as Mud is Muddy’s son (still with me?) I can completely forgive.  A commendation for the excellent Big Joe Louis and the Blues Kings for brilliant backing.  As good as any American band that I have ever seen – in fact better than most.

I can’t move on without mentioning my mates the Cadillac Kings who are at the peak of their game right now with a stunning lineup – they have been terrific each time I have seen them this year.


Not too much has stood out for me this year.  I make my twice weekly commute from Chester to Altrincham with a friend and on my days to drive, I often randomly play songs from the BLUES category as that gives a great selection of old and new, good and not so good.  When doing this random play, I find that the older records, the classics, are the ones that I enjoy the most.  But anyway, let me pick a couple of great records from this year.  My top pick is probably The Soul of John Black, not pure blues but very bluesy indeed.  Not yet reviewed formally but much played is an excellent release by Californian group The Aces – No One Rides for Free.  It’s a balls to the wall tough record featuring a low tuned guitar in place of a bass guitar – a la Hound Dog Taylor.  Along with the Red Devil-like approach, the CD also features some Mississippi Hill Country style grooving.

As usual, I have listed to a lot of non-blues.  I have especially enjoyed some of the individual tunes and mixes available over at Funky 16 Corners – highly recommended for funk and soul lovers.  Leeds band The New Mastersounds feature in my list for their excellent 2007 release 102%.  I see from their website that they have just release a new record last month – that’s now on my post Christmas pressie list.

My iTunes most played list shows a fair smattering of Funky16Corners mixes and The New Mastersounds.  Riding high as the most played blues I can see Sean Costello (I played and played the song “Anytime you Want“), The Insomniacs, Cedric Burnside and Lightnin Malcolm, Dr. John and 13 feat Lester Butler.  All great stuff.


Since preparing this post I received the CD called III from New Orleans drummer Stanton Moore.  It’s not new, it’s a couple of years old.  I bought it on the recommendation of ace French blogger Ben Felten, over at Musical Ramblings.  I haven’t played anything else since.  If you like rootsy funky New Orleans music then this CD comes highly recommended.

Playing Live

This year I did a few gigs with my old mate Neil Partington from Down at Antones – the most enjoyable was a very informal little gig at the tiny pub The Cheshire Cheese in Frodsham- no big stage, no big expectation = relaxed band having fun – just as it should be.


I don’t really make resolutions as actually I’m not that good at keeping them – just check out my waistline for evidence.  This year I plan to attend as many decent jam nights as possible and at each to sing a tune or two, I’m not a very good singer but I have always enjoyed the experience (much more than any audience that have heard me).  I also plan to up the gain on my Spanish – it’s going OK but I’m not improving much these days – maybe I should combine the two and write a blues song in castellano.

Final word

I can’t depart without thanking the many bands that have entertained, the promoters who have tirelessly kept the whole scene moving plus the fans for buying CDs and attending live music with so many other things to be doing with their time and money.  Finally a big thank you to all the readers and contributors, without you this site would be a pointless chore.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!



December 25th, 2009 at 00:08
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It looks like Grahame and I had very similar views on the live shows. I can’t believe that I forgot that excellent show by Andy Fairweather Low.

Please feel free to add your highlights of the year as a comment to this post or, if you have more to say, please email to the usual address or use the contact us function. For longer text I will make a separate posting like the ones for Grahame and me.




December 25th, 2009 at 10:12
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Nice piece Ken . . . . almost sure The Aces album was reviewed though! Decent pic of the ‘younger’ Grahame . . . lol . . . see ya soon!



December 25th, 2009 at 10:17
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You’re right of course. Sorry for the error, I thought that it was still in the draft-awaiting-publication list.



December 26th, 2009 at 10:41
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Highlights for me must include Geoff Achison at Warrington, Andy Fairweather Lowe at Southport, the wonderful Eric Bibb at Burnley, John Jorgenson also at Burnley and If I’m allowed a little self indulgence, Erik Mongrain at Poulton, not blues but an amazing guitar player. Thanks to all the musicians who played at and everyone who attended a towerblues or Wyre Blues gig. Happy New Year to all



December 26th, 2009 at 10:50
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Hi guys, belated xmas wishes to you all, I wasn’t really in a fit state on xmas eve to post anything and I didn’t have my puter sawitched on yesterday lol ::::

Most of my highlights seem to come in the second half of the year with the exception of some good gigs at my local “The Academy” there I saw and thoroughly enjoyed “The Jalapeno’s” “Rhythym Zoo” “Smokehouse Blues” “Tommy Allen and Johnny Hewitt” “Down At Antones” “The Cadilac Kings” to name but a few ::
I enjoyed Maryport, but not as much as previous years, Eric Burdon was good but didn’t really make up for the disapointment in the non apearance of Taj Mahal ( probably the main reason I bought a ticket in the first place )best bits for me were a blistering set by evergreens “The Blues Band” an awesome performance from Deborah Bonham, and three wonderful gigs from the very talented young man that is Jay Tamkin ( yes I watched all three of his gigs, he was that good )John Mayall really disapointed me, don’t get me wrong he’s iconic, I love him to bits, but this current band line up is weak compared to the Buddy Whittington one :: another highlight of Maryport was attending the guitar workshop of Dave Kelly, next time you see the Rolling Stone list of top 100 guitarists, ask yourself the question, “Why is Dave Kelly not in there ” ??

On to Colne, people I speak to seem to think the rock and blues offering at Colne is getting worse each year, sorry I don’t agree : There were enough good performances over the weekend to justify shelling out £95, namely Mick Taylor, The Blues Band (again ) Deborah Bonham (again)Miller Anderson was out of this world and probably delivered the best set of the weekend, The Animals with Spencer Davies and Miller Anderson on board had the place rocking at 2pm, wonderful sets from The Stumble,Wilko Johnson,Paul Lamb and the Kingsnakes, Paul Lamb with Johnny Dickenson along with Dave Kelly on the acoustic stage, a cracking set from Junkhouse dog down at the Admiral Lord Rodders ( I love that pub ) and lots of other higlights too, I had an excellant weekend in Colne, and a great pre festival party in the rugby club on the thursday night, where people meet up each year !!

Another great night was The Blues Band again ( I’m a fan havn’t you guessed ha-ha )at Pacific Road back in October !!

Arena gigs ( MEN ) from Crosby, Stills and Nash, and Pearl Jam ( not blues I know ) but still excellant gigs, from 2 bands I adore !!

Saving the best to last, The Llandudno gig last month featuring JOE BONAMASSA was just something else, and for me “The Ballad of John Henry ” has to be the album of the year

Last but by no means least, it was great to meet Ken and Grahame in the Academy in Buckley at long last, I don’t get too much time to travel to many gigs, but hopefully that will improve in 2010



December 26th, 2009 at 11:20
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My neighbour was at the Bonnamassa gig in Llandudno; he also said that it was stunning.



December 26th, 2009 at 11:21
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Nice pieces Alan and Jimbo . . . and all the best to you guys! Nice to meet your goodself Jimbo at The Academy, what a marvellous venue to have within walking distance! See both you guys hopefully in 2010!



December 26th, 2009 at 14:55
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Whoops! I should point out that Eric Bibb & John Jorgensen were at Colne Festival not Burnley. A couple more things have come to mind. Joe Bonamassa’s Live at The Albert Hall and Jeff Beck “Performing this week – Live at Ronnie Scotts” DVDs & great shows by Dave Kelly and Woody Mann. Also the Tony Auton Band at this years Fleetwoodstock festival