Review: The Worthenbury Blues & Roots Festival

Posted on: Tuesday, Jul 10, 2012

Saturday, 30th June, 2012

Bowling Bank Farm, Worthenbury, North Wales

For the eighth consecutive year Worthenbury was the site of one of the finest blues festivals in the North West. However this year the adverse weather condition threatened to put a dampener (no pun intended) on the event.

Thankfully due to excellent work by both organisers and volunteers a marquee was put in place and the event went underway under the shelter of the large structure.

With eight acts throughout the day the event was yet again an amazing success. Proceedings were kicked off by the English guitarist Tom Attah  whose first set of the day consisted of a select number of covers but his self penned number ‘Can’t Wait To Get Back Home’ was my personal highlight.

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The second act was an act was an artist who has made several trips to  Worthenbury in the past and has been a hit every time. The Australian singer-songwriter Rory Ellis, whose superb first set consisted of a number of tracks of his new album ‘Twisted Willow’, including ‘The Woodstore’ and the comical ‘TooFat To Do That’, and as always the set was interlaced with the stories behind each song.

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The first electric set of the day came from the superb Lyndon Anderson Band (Lyndon Anderson – vocals, harmonica; Davey Dormand – guitar; Christine Wilson – bass; Kev Hodge – drums) whose upbeat and diverse set had the crowd energised and contained a wide variety of tracks including an impressive cover of ‘Low Down Dirty Shame’ as well as a wonderful cover of ‘Telephone Blues’.

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After this upbeat set it was the turn of Worthenbury regulars Tommy Allen and Jonny Hewitt to take to the stage, and who once again they proved that they must be one of the best acoustic duos in the country at the moment. Tommy Allen (guitar, vocals and drums) provided the perfect backing for Jonny Hewitt to show his incredible harmonica ability as they powered through their set including tracks such as ‘Nine Below Zero’ and ‘Going Down Slow’.

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The next band to hit the stage was The Brass Knuckle Blues Band –  this ultra-tight band consisted of Steve Roux (guitar, vocals), Bernie Fox (drums), Rob Vick (bass), Cliff Chapman (keyboards), Steve Grainger (alto sax), Jon Gooding (tenor sax), Tom Edwards (trumpet). They played an emphatic set including their superb rendition of Albert King’s ‘You’re Going To Need Me’  as well as a tremendous cover of ‘Black Cat Bone’ as well as some self-penned numbers to great applause from the crowd.

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As Tom Attah began his second set he was joined by the vocal and harmonica abilities of Franny Eubank. The duo kicked of the evening in classic style as they played energetic covers of ‘Sitting On Top Of  The World’ and ‘Help Me’, but the highlight of the set was the cover of the classic Muddy Waters track ‘Hoochie Coochie Man’.

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The next band to take the stage certainly raised the temperature – Northsyde –  this blues/funk band really are a great live act, with the line up consisting of Jules (guitar) and Lorna Fothergill (vocals), with Ian Maurcio on bass and Hayden Doyle on drums. The band played over an hour of funky blues including tracks off their two studio albums as well as an interesting cover of Phil Collins ‘In The Air Tonight’ and their own superb rendition of ‘Whipping Post’. Guitarist Steve Wright – who joins Jules Fothergill in the John O’Leary Band – sat-in for the last four numbers, contributing some stinging solos.

Rory Ellis took to the stage for his second set of the day and played a number of other tracks off his earlier albums including ‘Waiting For Armaguard’ and ‘Road Of  No Return’, and on request played some songs from his first set  to enormous praise from the audience.

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The Eddie Martin Big Band hit the stage as the penultimate act of the day. With a stellar band featuring Eddie Martin (guitar, harmonica and vocals), Mike Hoddinott (drums), Tony Caddle (bass), and The Little Big Horns featuring Patsy Gamble (saxophone), Andy Gillams (trombone), Steve Trigg (trumpet), Who played an accomplished set including tracks off Eddie Martin’s new album ‘Looking Forward, Looking Back’, as well as accomplished covers of such songs as ‘Hideaway’ and ‘Play The Blues For You’.

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As darkness set in it was time for the headline band which this year came in the form of Big Boy Bloater & The Limits, who featured Big Boy Bloater (guitar, lead vocals), Mike Powell (bass), Matt Cowley (drums, percussion) and Matt Empson (Keyboards). They played many of their well known tracks including ‘Double Whammy’ and ‘Leonard Cohen’ and many other tracks off their latest self-titled album, before rounding off the set with ‘Bear Cat’.

Overall despite the dreadful ‘summer’ weather the 8th Worthenbury Festival was yet another great success, and has firmly established itself as one of the finest blues festivals in the North West and massive congratulations is in order for all the organisers and volunteers who helped ensure that this festival was yet another great event.

Words: JOHN TAYLOR

Pics: GRAHAME RHODES

(Footnote: Organiser and promoter Pete Evans dedicated the festival to the memory of the late Michael Burks and Mojo Buford – two blues giants who had performed at Worthenbury and Overton-on-Dee)

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