Review: Bangor on Dee Blues and Real Ale Festival – 23 to 24 Apr 2011

Posted on: Thursday, May 19, 2011

Bangor on Dee Blues & Real Ale Festival April 23rd/24th

This was the the 1st  blues festival organised by The Buck House Hotel in Bangor on Dee, the picturesque old village in north east Wales and with glorious weather, 25 real ales and 8 excellent acts, a great weekend was had by the packed attendances on both days.

Opening up in the large marquee in the hotel car park on Saturday was Steve “Pablo” Jones who may be known to many as the resident artist at Colne whose outstanding paintings are becoming very collectable. Steve is a multi-talented man and is a very accomplished musician being a member of Welsh bilingual roots and rock band Karac. However, it is as an acoustic guitarist that he has been attracting attention and he gave a great opening set of covers and self penned rootsy songs including Remember me and Through His Eyes and a wonderful interpretation of  Norweigan Wood. He also played bouzouki on some tracks and finished up playing a great harmonica blues backed by Tommy Allen on guitar.

Following on was the main act of the day Austin “Walkin’ Cane” from Cleveland Ohio who was making his 1st tour of the UK. He had been seen by the “Blues in the North West” away team at The King Biscuit Festival in Helena Arkansas last October.
Austin plays a National Resophonic in a superbly traditional style combining some Delta blues covers with his own excellent self penned tracks which perfectly demonstrate his wonderful baritone voice which on occasions has a definite Blind Willie Johnson feel to it.

Playing tracks off his last cd Murder of a Blues Singer ( based on a discussion he had with one of his mentors Robert Junior Lockwood on the death of Robert Johnson) he opened with High Rent Lemon Girl which was followed by the fast tempo Step it up and go. Further self penned tracks Graveyard Town and Georgia Moon followed before a delve into Robert Johnson’s song book followed with Ramblin’ on My Mind and Walkin’ Blues.

A brief story on how he obtained his moniker then followed ( he has an artificial left leg) and this was the perfect introduction to Arthur Crudup’s Look Over Yonder Wall taken from his 706 Union Ave cd. The haunting Murder of a Blues Singer was then followed by an excellent Broonzy’s Can’t Be Satisfied.

His final track was the lively Devil’s Backbone, a song about the Natchez Trace, the old Native American road that runs from north east Mississippi across the state to Natchez in the south west.

After terrific applause an encore was demanded and so he finished with a lively version of his favourite old blues tune, Fishin’ Blues.

Local favourites Tommy Allen and Johny Hewitt then gave a rousing set of Chicago Maxwell Street style blues with Tommy on kick drum , snare and hi-hat and moving between electric guitar, resonator and mandolin backed up by Johny’s phenomenal harp playing.

They really got the enthusiastic crowd going with their own Backdoor Boogie and then moved into Sonny Boy Williamson’s Eyesight to the Blind. Tommy then sang a cappella on a great new song, See my Little Baby backed by Johny’s sensitive harp before Johny featured on vocals on their much requested version of Nine Below Zero.

This duo really are turning heads with their authentic but personalised style and finished off their set at a high tempo with Little Walter’s Can’t Stop Loving Her.

They remained on stage for the final set of the evening when they were joined by the remainder of the Tommy Allen Band, Chris Lomas on bass and Mickey Barker on drums and Austin “Walkin’ Cane” who was now armed with a Stratocaster. They then set about producing one of those memorable jams that top quality musicians are capable of at the drop of a hat.

Walkin’ Cane led the session starting off with a nice shuffle that warmed up the band leading into Keep on Teasing Me before they upped the tempo with Wolf’s Killing Floor.
The set got better and better with Walkin’ Cane’s clean and fluid guitar combining superbly with Tommy’s richer blues tone. Johny Hewitt was given centre stage on a number of tracks playing superbly on a slow blues Working the Mood.

The set eventually came to an end after 2 encores with Shake Your Moneymaker and Walkin’ Cane demonstrating superb slide guitar.

Sunday’s line-up threw up one of the pleasant surprises of the weekend  when 18 year old Dan Owen from Shrewsbury aka Bluesboy Dan took the stage. Opening up on a well used Gibson acoustic guitar he demonstrated a lovely feel for the blues but when he opened his mouth, the whole audience collectively went …wow. He possesses a voice to kill for. A little bit of Tom Waits with a touch of Ian Siegal and a spot of Joe Cocker for good measure.

He played a good mix of numbers with blues classics Got My Mojo Workin’,  Yank Rachell’s Diving Duck Blues, Little Red Rooster, Stormy Monday and a superb version of Buddy Guy’s Skin Deep. However, the highlite was Springsteen’s Atlantic City which drew a standing ovation.

It was really pleasing to hear excellent acoustic blues backed up by a voice that no 18 year old should have, and it proved that you don’t have to be electric and rocky to be appreciated – a young man with a future.

Local favourites Terraplane Blues then produced a wonderful set of pre and post war acoustic blues. The trio made up of Ian Johnson on double bass, Paul Barnard on Dobro and Ian Edwards on guitar and harp included in their set such classics as Leroy Carr’s Midnight Hour Blues, Mississippi Fred McDowell’s You Gotta Move and Robert Johnson’s Last Fair Deal Gone Down.
They also dedicated their version of Ma Rainey’s See SeeRider to the sadly recently deceased Ben Andrews who had inspired them greatly some 10 years ago with his version of this classic.

Midlands based 5 piece Mumbo Jumbo fronted by vocalist and trumpet and washboard player Oliver Carpenter then took the stage for a lively, often frenetic and very entertaining set of jazz drenched blues with a hint of soul and even calypso.

The band featuring Remi Harris on lead guitar, Chris Lomas on bass and ukelele, Mickey Barker on drums and Abby Brant on keyboards and vocals, really raised the tempo with some cracking covers and self penned tracks. Highlights were Bessie Smith’s Send me to the ‘Lectric Chair, The Blues Will Take Me Back and Abby on lead vocals on In My Defence.

Closing the show was going to be difficult as by now the glorious sunshine of earlier had led to a rapid drop in the temperature and so it was a shivering Rip Roaring Success who managed to keep the audience very much on their toes with a great set of country influenced swing featuring Russ Williams on guitar and vocals and his sister Lucille on double bass and Nicole J. Terry on country fiddle.

Whilst not a blues band, they have really captured very accurately the feel of the Hot Club of France and mixed it with Hank Williams and Louis Jordan to produce a fabulous end product that will enhance any festival both musically and visually. Top tracks were Hank Williams’ I’m Satisfied with You, Louis Armstrong’s Ding Dong Daddy from Dumas and Jeepers Creepers. Great stuff.

The event was a great success with the Saturday a sell out and Sunday, whilst not a sell out, was also very well attended. The music had been excellent on both days and the selection of real ales had, coupled with the great weather, convinced the organisers that this would be a regular event on the blues calendar.


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