Review of 2011 – Lionel Ross
Posted on: Monday, Jan 2, 2012
REVIEW OF 2011
The past twelve months have delivered a classic mix of pleasure and sadness. Dealing with the bad news first, in addition to the legendary blues performers admirably lauded by Grahame in his wonderful review of the year, we were greatly saddened by the loss of the much-loved Ralph Wareing in July. Ralph, together with his partner Kath Whinyates, arranged blues gigs and a highly popular annual festival in Guisborough. He will be sadly missed but very warmly remembered by his many friends in the British blues fraternity.
On a happier note, John and Lorraine Welsh continued to promote a top class programme of blues gigs in Liverpool. Phil Bates set the ball rolling in February with a marvellous acoustic performance at Liverpool Marina, which was also the venue for excellent gigs featuring The Blues Gang and John O’Leary’s Sugarkane in March, with locally-based Steve Wright starring on lead guitar for both outfits. Garston Royal British Legion hosted Mark Flanagan, best known as the guitarist in the Jools Holland Rhythm & Blues Orchestra, who confirmed that he is an accomplished perfomer in his own right fronting his talented trio.
The Legion also welcomed the unconventionally brilliant Hokie Joint in June before the Motives, featuring singer/guitarist Matt Taylor and keyboard maestro Jonny Dyke, delighted a packed house back at The Marina. In October, Rev Doc and The Congregation stunned the same audience with a superlative delivery of Chicago blues, only to be matched in the final gig at Fogherty’s Function Room by the fabulous Cadillac Kings to complete a memorable year. Liverpool also enjoyed a superb show by the Ben Waters Trio in the Rodewald Suite of the Philharmonic Hall.
On the festival front, Nick Westgarth triumphed yet again at his Carlisle extravaganga. Pick of the very tasty crop were Jim Suhler & Monkey Beat, Earl Thomas backed by Paddy Milner & The Big Sounds, Marcus Malone and his band, featuring the magnificent guitarmanship of Stuart Dixon, the breathtakingly vibrant Revolutionaires and two excellent acoustic sets by Chris James and Al Hughes.
The Worthenbury Festival was another very enjoyable occasion, with the aforementioned Hokie Joint at their boisterous best and impressive contributions from the Martin Harley Band and Liverpool’s own Forty4. This year’s surprise package was ‘Blues Boy Dan’ Owen, a last-minute replacement on the acoustic stage, who blew everyone away with his powerful vocals and excellent guitar playing.
The Boogaloo weekend at the Norton Grange on the Isle of Wight also unearthed a relatively hidden gem in the form of Stompin’ Dave, who delivered a delightful acoustic set supported by The Producers’ bass player, Dave Saunders.
CD-wise, my favourite in the year was Big Pete’s Choice Cuts, which sees Pieter ‘Big Pete’ van der Pluijm returning to the blues after his brief detour to the world of soul with MOCT. The album includes a splendid choice of numbers, including compositions by Albert King, Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter and William Clarke and guest appearances from Kim Wilson and a host of guitar masters.
Other contenders were The Producers’ London Blues, Marcus Malone’s Let The Sunshine In, The Legendary Rhythm and Blues Revue (featuring Tommy Castro and many others), Paul Cox and Charlie Fabert’s That’s What We Were Born For and Muddy Waters – An All-star tribute To A Legend, which is permeated by the terrific harmonica playing of Charlie Musselwhite and includes contributions from, among others, Koko Taylor, Buddy Guy and John Hiatt and a magical rendition of “I Can’t Be Satisfied” by Keb’ Mo’.
Finally, I offer deep thanks to Ken Peace and Grahame Rhodes for their incredible efforts in maintaining this priceless website and to the promotors and organisers of blues music in our region for the pleasure that they bring to the blues-loving public.
A happy, healthy and prosperous new year to all.
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