Live review: The North Wales Blues & Soul Festival at Kendrick’s Field, Mold: 31st July & 1st/2nd August
Posted on: Tuesday, Aug 4, 2015
The North Wales Blues & Soul Festival took place over last weekend in the very pleasant surroundings of Kendrick’s Field, just outside Mold town centre, and a much-improved crowd on last year’s inaugural festival, were able to enjoy an evening and two full days of great blues and soul acts, comprising local North West bands and some national names from further afield.
Blues In The North West were not represented on the Friday evening, but talking to the Anglesey duo, Burning Black – Steve Blackstone and Russ Cowburn – on Saturday, the lads were well pleased with their set and again, nice to report, numbers were up. Also appearing on Friday were The Hexmen, Waterbear, and headliners, the London-based David Sinclair Four.
North West outfit, Yes Sir! opened proceedings with their high-energy vintage r&b on Saturday to warm an ever-growing crowd up, and they were followed by the fast-rising Chester/Liverpool-based outfit, 3Kings, who were winning the audience over with their excellent take on the North Mississippi hill country blues, before a mid-set deluge sent most running for cover. The band comprise Ken Peace (harmonica & vocals), Neil Partington (guitar & vocals) and Lance Donnelly (drums).
It was soul-time next for the Macclesfield-based band, The Screaming Beavers, who had a good few up dancing to their punchy set of classic soul covers. Veteran blues harmonica player Simon ‘Honeyboy’ Hickling and his band made the journey up from the Midlands, and delivered their customary uptempo blues & r&b set, featuring excellent guitar from Bob Wilson – a stand-out in the set was a cracking “Too Many Drivers”.
It’s impossible for me to be impartial when reviewing The Cadillac Kings – one of my favourite bands; but the lads having driven up on the day from Essex and London, delivered a quite cracking hour! Front man and vocalist Mike Thomas is without doubt one of the best writers on the UK blues scene, with lots of new, original tunes – and musically they deliver from the cracking guitar of Mal Barclay, to the top notch rhythm section of Paul Cuff (bass) and Roy Webber (drums), and the N’Awlins inspired piano work (and accordion!) of Tim Penn. Just to pick a couple of tunes out – a vocal for Roy on The Fabulous Thunderbirds “Rock With Me” and a rip-roaring romp through “Betty Lou”. The ultimate good-time band and just made for festivals!
The music took a rocky swing with the next act, the returning John Verity Band, with the ex-Argent guitarist opening up with a blues ‘double’ in the shape of “Help Me” and “Double Trouble”, then featuring the big Argent hit, “Hold Your Head Up”. The day’s headliners saw the Eddie Martin Band deliver a hugely impressive set, featuring his brand new outfit. The Bristol-based Eddie Martin has long been a class act, and demonstrated his terrific electric and acoustic slide playing . . . a stand out being the terrific “Underwater Woman”. A superb end indeed to a great day!
Arriving a bit late due to the joys of the Chester to Mold bus, the Alex McKown Band were in full flow with their rocking blues. The young man from Glossop in Derbyshire continues to garner acclaim and he, and the band, are definitely ones for the future! Next up were the very excellent Matt Wolff Band from the Stockport/Manchester area . . . and what a breath of fresh air they were . . . with their lovely country-tinged Americana. A couple of highlights were the sweet “The Kids From Balintore”, and “Blow Wind Blow” . . . a real nice set guys, well done!
The North West-based Midnite Johnny Band upped the tempo, with some tough rock blues. The band are fronted by American guitarist John Morano, played tracks from their album, “So Complicated”, with the outfit also featuring the ex-10CC drummer Paul Burgess in the ranks. One of the highlights of the whole weekend followed, with the ever-so-classy Birmingham four-piece Brothers Groove, returning to deliver a quite superb hour of funky blues and grooves . . . starting with a sublime “Cissy Strut”, and also the epic minor-key blues of “Another Girl”. A doff of the cap to Shaun Hill and the guys . . a great band!
Colin Hinds returned from last year, with his band now titled Hinds Baked Blues, and a very well received set comprised lots of classic blues, starting with Robert Cray’s “The Forecast (Calls For Pain), through to a BB King tribute in the shape of “The Thrill Is Gone”, and a nod to Free with the ace “Ride On A Pony”. It was soul time again next with Clem Curtis & The Foundations – the veteran singer, a sprightly 75 years young, rolled back the years with the original band’s big hits and also a set of soul classics that had the area in front of the stage turned into a big dance floor.
To have possible the most in-demand blues rock outfit in the land close your festival was a major coup for the organisers and King King showed again what a truly class outfit they are with a quite blistering hour. The band comprise Alan Nimmo (lead vocals and guitar), Lindsay Coulson (bass), Bob Fridzema (Hammond organ and vocals) and Wayne Proctor (drums and vocals). Treats a plenty of course, with lots of songs from the relatively new “Reaching For The Light” release and a great Fabulous Thunderbirds cover with “Wait On Time”. They dipped back to the last album for the glorious “Long History Of Love”. Due to a time curfew the band’s set was never going to be long enough, but was as enjoyable as ever, to round off a great weekend.
Mention must go to all the volunteers who made the weekend run smoothly and for Mold Town Council and the support of many sponsors, and of course all caterers, bar staff, and soundman Charlie Broadhurst and his crew, who also worked tirelessly all weekend. Let’s hope the festival can return again in 2016, bigger and stronger!
(Clem Curtis & Alan Nimmo pictures: Gareth Moules)