Review: Worthenbury Blues and Roots Festival – 03 July 2010
Posted on: Thursday, Jul 8, 2010
THE 6th WORTHENBURY BLUES & ROOTS FESTIVAL – 3 JULY 2010
The detailed planning of its indefatigable organisers consistently guarantees the success of the Worthenbury Blues & Roots Festival. An imaginative line-up of artistes is always backed up by the provision of commendable real ale options and tasty food. The added bonus on this occasion was a beautifully sunny day, which undoubtedly lifted the atmosphere even higher for the packed attendance.
Another winning aspect of the festival is the juxtaposition of the main and acoustic stages and the continuous alternating activity at those two focal points. Chief organiser and MC, Pete Evans, greeted the assembled throng warmly before introducing the opening act, Rhythm Zoo, an up and coming band from the local area. They delivered a nicely varied set that included a fine version of “Stormy Monday”, Shemekia Copeland’s “Never Going Back To Memphis” and an excellent original number, “Hook Line And Sinker”. The band, expertly fronted by the sultry-voiced Andi Jones, who chatted engagingly between songs, also boasted the talented Sophia Perruzza on saxophone.
First up on the acoustic stage, from that legendary hotbed of the blues, Llanrhaeadr ym Mochnant , was Martin Everson, a one-man-band, who accompanied his vocals on guitar, rack harp, hi-hat cymbal and bass drum. His entertaining set comprised numbers from a range of old bluesmen including Jesse Fuller, Bill Broonzy and Leadbelly and ended with a splendid version of “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out”.
The main stage then welcomed the London-based Dave Jackson Band, a power trio who performed a heavy set of blues rock, combining excellent original compositions with fine cover versions that included “When The Levy Breaks” and “Ain’t No Love In The World”. Dave Jackson delivered powerful vocals and rippling guitar work and was backed by the very effective rhythm section of Drew Ormrod on drums and Janet Clare Jackson on bass guitar.
Back on the acoustic stage, a lower-intensity local trio, Terraplane Blues, delivered a lovely set that ranged from Muddy Waters’s “I Can’t Be Satisfied” through numbers by Skip James, Robert Johnson and Broonzy to Casey Bill Weldon’s “You’d As Well Let Her Go”. Ian Johnson provided the backdrop on double bass while Ian Edwards and Paul Barnard sang and played acoustic guitar (and harp) and slide guitar respectively. Had there been one, Ian Edwards would have won the prize for sartorial elegance hands down, as he braved the considerable heat on and off stage immaculately clad in a smart suit and a tie.
Headlining the afternoon session on the main stage were The 44s, a high octane threesome from Leicester: “2bad” Jim on guitar and vocals, Paul “Slim” Williams on drums and Mark Kennedy on bass guitar. They hit the stage running and produced a relentless set of North Mississippi Hill Country music, starting with an RL Burnside number and dashing through “Skinny Woman”, “She’s Gonna Take Sick And Die One Of These Days” and “Shake Your Hips”. It was a musical fusion of heavy metal and bluegrass and the crowd loved it as they mirrored the band’s energy on the ‘dance floor’. The band completed their bristling set with a terrific, bouncing encore.
The evening session kicked off with a fine set from The River Devils, fronted by Blues ‘n’ Trouble stalwart Sandy Tweeddale on vocals and guitar, with Angus Rose (keyboards), Jeff Lynne lookalike Rod Kennard (bass) and Andrew Samson (drums), together they delivered a high-energy hour, highlights of which were “Tennessee Whiskey”, a tune from the last Blues ‘n’ Trouble album co-written with Tim Elliot, and “Find My Baby”, a L’il Ed & The Blues Imperials song, with obligatory slashing slide work from Tweeddale, whose guitar work was most impressive throughout the set, with Rose’s keyboards the perfect foil.
Martin Everson returned to the acoustic stage with a couple of Jimmy Rogers songs, complete with yodelling, Charley Patton’s “Banty Rooster” and Tim Lowther Peterson’s “Back Door Business” – another marvellous set by the man from the Powys Delta.
Unfortunately Sean Webster did not make it due to a serious accident at work, and the planned replacement, Scott McKeown, also failed to turn up due to car problems. However with Sean’s rhythm section on site – Tom Latham (bass) and Phil Wilson (drums), they were able to step into the slot accompanied by Phil’s brother, Ashley Wilson, on guitar and vocals – well done to the lads for that, and they delivered a spirited rocky set, highlights of which were a Hendrix-style take on Howlin’ Wolf’s “Killing Floor” and a really nice “Little Wing”. The boys got into a SRV feel for the strutting “Glow”, with Ashley Wilson’s guitar work impressive.
The final event on the acoustic stage was a splendid second appearance by Terraplane Blues, which included excellent renditions of “Last Fair Deal Going Down” and numbers by the Hokum Hotshots, Mississippi Fred McDowell and Sleepy John Estes. It will be no surprise if their performance at the festival leads to an appearance at the Worthenbury Village Hall before too long.
A highlight of the day for many, and the act that got the dancing area in front of the stage full, was the Bluesinthenorthwest Blues Band, an idea by promoter Pete Evans, to get some of the regular musicians from the monthly jam at The Red Lion in Malpas together to perform – the stellar line-up including Tommy Allen and Neil Partington (vocals and guitars), Johny Hewitt (vocals and harmonica), Ken Peace (harmonica), Steve Brown (bass), and a second turn on the drums for Phil Wilson, gallantly stepping into the band at the very last moment! A rousing hour was mainly uptempo, highlights being Lester Butler’s “Automatic”, from The Red Devils era; a funky “Black Cat Bone”, featuring brilliant guitar from Neil Partington, and Tommy Allen leading the boys home on “Back Door Boogie”, with audience participation. A top set, and an inspired idea.
If ever a band were suited to close a festival on a gloriously sunny summer’s day, before a, shall we say ‘relaxed’ crowd, it must be the mighty Cadillac Kings, and once again they were on top form, delivering their customary mix of blues and swing to the dancing masses in front of the stage. This band simply have it all – the supreme songwriting of Mike Thomas, the top musical prowess of main soloists Gary Potts (harmonica), Mal Barclay (guitar) and Henri Herbert (keyboards), and one of the best rhythm sections around with ‘Uncle’ Roy Webber (drums) and Paul Cuff (stand-up bass).
This was a ‘greatest hits’ set for sure . . . well, you know what I mean . . . highlights being the brace of James Harman tunes, “Stranger Blues” and “Icepick’s Confession”; Roy’s vocal turn on the Texas shuffle of “Tell Me Why”, with the band’s great guitar player Mal Barclay featuring on “T-Bone Boogie”. Elsewhere we had the band dedication to Bernard Matthews on “Who’s Bin Lickin’ My Chicken”, and the cover of Champion Jack Dupree’s “Shake Baby Shake” . . . all great stuff, and a fantastic end to a truly memorable day.
The best ‘little’ festival in the UK for certain now, and it is just getting better and better . . . well done to Pete, Paul and Ian and all the volunteers who helped out . . . can’t wait for 2011!
LIONEL ROSS and GRAHAME RHODES
Pictures from Grahame Rhodes and used with permission – check out the bluesinthenorthwest.com photo archive on Flickr for the full set.