Review: Warrington Rhythm and Blues Festival – Part 1

Posted on: Tuesday, Jun 1, 2010

Warrington Blues Fest

The Pyramid: 29 May 2010

The second Warrington R&B Festival, run by the excellent team from Warrington Borough Council with assistance from Dave and Shirley Sawyer, and backed by their many sponsors, including Dawsons Music. The two stages featured a healthy array of North West-based talent, and some nationally known names.

The event once again attracted an excellent turnout, who were suitably fed and watered all day – with the real ale main bar being very well subscribed! The main hall featured five acts, with a smaller room being used for the acoustic stage.

Down at Antone’s

Opening up the main stage were the Chester / Wirral / Liverpool five-piece, Down at Antone’s, with original members Neil Partington (lead vocals and guitar) and Ken Peace (harmonica) joined by Glen Lewis (keyboards), Steve Brown (bass) and Nick Lauro (drums). For me, their uptempo blend of jazzy grooves, funk and blues was as good as anything on the day.

They were down to business on a rousing “Ridin’ In The Moonlight”, with Neil Partington’s great vocals and guitar, with Ken Peace’s customary big-toned harmonica, to the fore. The pace kept changing with the rumba of “Poor Boy”, the slow blues of “Cross Your Heart” – with Glen Lewis soloing, and a new song added to the set, the New Orleans romp of Chris Kenner’s “Sick And Tired”.

Other highlights were a Latin-flavoured groove on Kenny Burrell’s “Chitlins Con Carne”, with some tasty stuff going on from the rhythm section of Steve Brown and Nick Lauro, and a truly swinging version of Lowell Fulson’s classic “Reconsider Baby”.

For the last part of the set, Ken Peace was replaced by guitarist Paul Starkey, who is part of Forty4 – the same line-up but with afore-mentioned substitution. Together they played the Derek & The Dominoes tune “Got To Be A Better Way”, and a glorious “Old Love”, the Robert Cray and Eric Clapton song, with superb vocal from Neil Partington and blistering guitar work from him and Paul Starkey.

A well-merited encore saw the rockin’ “The Shape I’m In”, from Messrs. Bramhall / Bramhall / Benno, with Ken Peace back on stage – a great end to a top opening set!

The Escape Committee

Next up were local band, The Escape Committee – by no means a blues band, but a very skilled and entertaining rock outfit, again fronted by Peter Frampton (lead vocals and guitar), George Glover (keyboards), John Gibson (bass) and John Wright (drums).

I was very impressed by these guys last year and a similar set thoroughly entertained the crowd, kicking off with the smooth “Never Make Your Move Too Soon”, and the Ray Charles classic, “Unchain My Heart”.

Frampton is a fine, fluid guitarist and great singer, with the keyboard fills of Climax Blues Band man, George Glover, the perfect foil. Others standouts in the set were a really nice “I Shall Be Released”, a most unusual “Little Red Rooster”- played as an uptempo shuffle – and the long, rambling “Long Time Gone”, written by the legendary David Crosby.

The band took it right down for a sweet “Georgia On My Mind” and returned to the blues for the chestnut “Key To The Highway”. For an encore they rocked out on “Sweet Little Lisa”, an Albert Lee tune if I’m not mistaken. Well done to them again, another great set.

Big Blues Tribe

The Midlands-based Big Blues Tribe brought a lot of fun to the stage – the eight-piece band blend a mix of high energy blues, ska, soul and more, brass driven – and always look as if they are having a great time in the process.

Fronted by livewire vocalist Oliver Carpenter, and his occasional trumpet playing, the other featured instrumentalist is fluid guitarist Jon Pegg and also the larger-than-life singer Beth Naylor – with the rock steady bass of Chris Lomas guesting.

They kicked off the set with a driving “Let The Good Times Roll”, changing pace, a lot, with Paul Rodgers “Muddy Water Blues”. Possibly the standout of their hour was the uptempo ska tune, “I’m In A Mood For Love”, with some funk thrown in for good measure on Billy Preston’s “Will It Go Round In Circles?”.

Another treat was a gospel take on Randy Newman’s timeless “Guilty”, with the more uptempo “I Ain’t Mad At You” firing on all cylinders. A good, fun band, made for festivals, and hugely entertaining – well done to them!

The Tommy Allen Band

Hot foot from the acoustic stage, singer and guitarist Tommy Allen led his trio – Chris Lomas (bass) and Mickey Barker (drums) – through his customary rocking set, with the added bonus of the great Johnny Hewitt on harmonica – his partner in an acoustic duo.

Tommy’s customary fretwork fireworks of course dominated, but with plenty of space for Johnny Hewitt’s magnificent playing – now surely as good as any harmonica player in these shores? His tone is just unbelievable, and it was a privilege to see him in action.

The set contained a mix of Tommy Allen’s own songs and some choice covers – kicking off with the rocking “Texas Love”, with a fine “Read Me My Rights”. The slow blues of “Rock Steady” saw some marvellous solos from both principal players, with Hewitt’s harmonica absolutely on fire! Another standout was the band’s high-energy take on Robert Johnson’s “Walking Blues”.

Tommy’s “Living In The Belly Of The World” shows what a fine writer he is, and it was back to some classic blues on “Too Much Alcohol” – a very apt tune for an all-day blues festival! As the set came to a close the band rocked out on “Back Door Boogie”, and encored with Tommy’s ‘anthem’, the epic “Memphis Nights”.

As an aside, all four of these fine players can be seen at the regular Malpas Blues Jam at the Red Lion, next one is on Thursday, 10th June – all players and spectators welcome!


Warrington Blues Fest

Warrington Blues Fest



June 1st, 2010 at 08:07
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My colleagues in Down at Antone’s also commented on the slick organisation backstage. Everyone was lovely and friendly – admin staff, security, sound and everyone else involved. Vicky looked exhausted at the end of the day.